I am enjoying my summer, partly because of the extra time I've had with my son and my wife, but also because it give me a chance to read more. And that means more book reviews. So here is the latest in this summer of the book review: Hubertus Drobner's The Fathers of the Church. A Comprehensive Introduction (Siegfred S. Schatzmann translator).
This is the translation of Dr. Drobner's introductory textbook on patristics. That is, of course, the place to start. It is not intended as a replacement for the multi-volume patrologies like Quasten's (to name the best of the English language patrologies- even if it is beginning to get dated), but is intended for those starting the study of the Fathers. As a single volume (and despite the sub-title), it is impossible to go into the detail that a multi-volume work can, but Dr. Drobner covers the highlights. He discusses the most important writers and the most important works in a clear and precise way. The translation is an excellent one which enhances the readability of this textbook.
The main value of this book to me is twofold. First, it takes into account recent scholarship in a systematic way. Given the fact that many of the accessible resource works are getting a little long in the tooth, I appreciate the attempt to keep up to date with the important scholarly development over the past few decades. This is particularly true with the (albeit brief) discussion on the apocryphal writings which is getting to be a scholarly industry in its own right.
Second, I appreciate the up-to-date bibliographies appended at the end of each sub-section; bibliographies which were updated in the German second edition and supplemented by an ancillary updated English bibliography (Complete to 2006). It is very helpful to know what recent editions are out as well as translations in order to guide one's studies.
When this book came out earlier this year, the early reviews I've seen lauded it as an essential first resource for patristics. After reading it, I agree that it is an excellent starting point for studies in patristics. Indeed, while I borrowed this book from my wife's college library, I intend to add it to my own library in the course of the next few months. Can we say Christmas present!? I know you could.