Monday, April 27, 2009

Martiniania- A New or Old Direction?

I've been reading Clare Stancliffe's admirable book on Sulpicius Severus as a hagiographer; a book which I should have read years ago, but I accidentally ran into while trawling around the shelves of Trinity College, University of Toronto. A lot of my off the cuff musings which I featured in my commentary seems on the right track, but I think Stancliffe's book will deepen what I'm doing with the Life of St. Martin.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit, though, that I didn't realize that Sulpicius Severus' Life of St. Martin appears to have been a pretty controversial piece and that he felt he had to defend his portrait in several letters and, later, in a set of Dialogues. The fact that we have even monks from St. Martin's own monastery who questioned Sulpicius' picture of St. Martin gives an interesting sequel to the Life and I think it may be a story, if only for completeness sake, also needs to be told.

At the same time, I've been thinking about a new direction for my translation. So, it seems only to make sense to translate these other letters and Dialogues as well as the bits out of the Chronicle which features St. Martin and maybe even Gregory of Tour's discussion of St. Martin. I still don't know what I'd do with it, but it might be an interesting project.

What do you think?


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Call for Submissions- Patristics Carnival XXIII

Welcome to Patristic Carnival XXII_. This month, we're still here at hyperekperissou. (If there is anyone, anyone, who'd like to host, let me know. Please!)

The guidelines remain the same as the Modest Proposal entry back in November, 2006 and my additions in August, 2007.

The last day of submission will be April 30th and the postings will be up in the week of May 4th.

Remember you can offer submissions on the carnival site or the dedicated e-mail (


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Book Review: Paula Fredriksen, Augustine and the Jews. A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism

I first ran into this book through some favourable reviews in patristic blogsphere late last year. Given the bad press that Augustine gets in many circles, it was nice to see a favourable reading of a writer who has been very influential for me. I was intrigued and intended to see if I could get a hold of the book at the university library at which I have borrowing privileges. Given that this book only came out last year, I expected I`d have to wait a little while, since there is lag time between publication and the library bureaucracy of a modern university getting the book onto the shelves. So, when I saw this book in our local Chapters and I had a fifty dollar gift card burning a hole in my pocket, I couldn't resist. And I'm glad I didn't. This is a superb book.

Dr. Fredriksen's main thesis is that Augustine's theological insights into the problem of the Jews for Christians may have saved Jewish lives in antiquity and in the Middle Ages. While she concedes that Augustine could be use as vituperative rhetoric about the Jews as any of his predecessors, contemporaries or successors, his involvement in anti-Manichean apologetics forced him to develop a comparatively favourable view of the Jews, at least as a theological category. The Manichees, like most Gnostics, exploited the anti-Jewish rhetoric characteristic of many early Christian authors and went even further than Marcian in their rejection of the whole Jewish religious edifice including the Old Testament. Augustine, as an ex-Manichee and, thus, interested in the issue, argues not only that the Old Testament was necessary to the Christian exegete because it made the crucial prophecies for the coming of Jesus, but he insisted that the Jews themselves were necessary because they provided an independent, even hostile witness to these prophecies and, indirectly, to the truth of the Christian gospel. While Augustine accuses the Jews of reading their scriptures as too literal and 'fleshly', their witness was simply too valuable to eliminate that community.

Frederiksen argues that this view proved to be influential into the Middle Ages and, at the very beginning of her book, notes an example of how this Jews as witness doctrine saved lives. She cites the account of Rabbi Ephrem of Bonn, who, in 1146, amid the preaching of the Second Crusade in the Rhineland, praised the efforts of St. Bernard of Clairveux, who preached to the potential recruits for the Crusade that, while it was right to go to war against the Muslims, the Jews along the way should be left untouched because their witness for the truth of the Gospel was too valuable to lose.

Frederiksen unpacks this argument in an extremely careful manner, working her way through the major Augustinian texts with great care and detail. She charts the details of St. Augustine's evolving thoughts from the early days of his conversion to his magnum opus, the City of God. This careful theological analysis is among the best I've seen in patristics and shed so much light not only on Augustine's views on the Jews, but also his theological evolution. For Augustine specialists, this would justify reading this book carefully.

As a fringe benefit, Frederiksen also gives an admirable analysis of of the religious situation in the Roman Empire during the Roman period. Her discussion of the position of Jews and Christians in the Roman Empire is detailed and insightful. I've blogged on this subject recently, so I won't add much to it (See the Christian Problem), but I've found these early introductory passages very useful. I wonder if she might overstate the accommodation of Jews to Roman religious/civic values, but that seems to be the academic fashion these days just as the fashion in previous generations was to view Jews as completely separated from Roman values. I suspect that the truth lies somewhere between.

Quibbles aside, I believe this is an important book in many respects and expect/hope that it will become more so over time. As an analysis of the resources which St. Augustine provides for dealing with the perplexities of Christian-Jewish relations, it is timely and well-argued. As an analysis of St. Augustine's theological development, it is detailed and scholarly. As an evocation of how Jews and Christian interacted with their surroundings, it is well-researched and insightful. The theologian, the patricist, the Jewish scholar and classicist would all find great benefits in consulting this excellent work.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Christos anesti!

" After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, and going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. HIs appearence was like lightning, and his clothes were white as sonw. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucifed. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said."

From the Gospel According to Matthew 28, 1-6

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Patristics Carnival XXII- March, 2009

Here is the new Carnival, my Easter gift to my readers. I hope you enjoy it.

New Under the Tent: New Patristic Blogs And Announcements.

William R. Huysman from the Banana Republican blog has launched a new patristics blog- Catholic Patristics

The Research News in Late Antiquity Blog announces the 5th Archbishop Iakosvos Graduate Student Conference in Patristics held at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology on March 19-21, 2009. I know its too late, but the program is posted which I thought might be of interest.

Also a little late, but interesting. Mike Aquillina on the Way Of the Father blog posts a program for a patristics conference at Duquesne University which happened at the end of March. He follows it up with an account of the conference.

Front Gate: Introductions to the Fathers
Nothing new this month.

The Midway: Articles on the Fathers

Mike Aqullina on The Way of the Fathers blog announces his new book, Angels of God and reports on the Duquesne University patristics conference.

Roger Pearse on his self-named blog discusses a find of Coptic manuscripts from 1910, how patristic authors discussed inerrancy and notes errors in J.A. Cranmer's edition of patristic catenae.

Weekend Fisher on the Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength blog considers Origen on textual scholarship of the Bible.

Polycarp on The Church of Jesus Christ published what was to be a week-long series on the Creeds and which he was pleased to described to me as his "meager contribution". You can judge for yourself how meager it is. (NB: I've included two April entries here because they go with the set). He also considers St. Hippolytus and the Roman Baptismal ceremony in the 3rd century AD. He completes his series on the theology of Marcellus of Ancyra with part two.

Chris DeVidal on his self-named blog warns us not to blindly follow the Church Fathers. There is extensive discussion, so make sure you follow up on the comments.

H. T. Lewis on A History of the Christian Church blog outlines the geographical centres of patristic theological activity, provides an overview of the Patristic period , investigates the rise of the apologists, considers Constantine and theological debate and discusses the following key patristic figures: Cyprian, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Athanasius, Origen and the Cappaodocian Fathers.

Thomas on the Faith and Reason blog discusses offers an introduction to a series on the Church Fathers intended to bring the contemporary church back to its roots. He continues his discussion with St. Clement of Rome (part one and two) and St. Ignatius of Antioch (parts one, two, three four (actually in April, but it makes sense now).

TurretinFan on the Alpha and Omega Ministries continues a controversy on Athanasius and an (allegedlly) spurious quotation from his works. He continues his discussion of 'peddling imitation patristics.

The webmaster on the Nicene Truth considers St. Gregory Nyssa on the relation between the persons of the Trinity. He also considers the appeal St. Athanasius has for Protestants.

Alice C. Linsley on the Just Genesis blog considers the Church Fathers on the Tree in the middle of the Garden.

TurretinFan on his Thoughts of Francis Turretin blog accuses Catholic apologists of misquoting Gregory the Wonderworker. He also gives an index of the Fathers of the Church: New Series.

fatherstephen on the Glory of God for All Things considers patristic exegesis using the example of St. Ephrem Syrus on Ninevah and Sodom.

Allen Yeh on the Scriptorium blog considers whether heresy is good the church.

Fred Sanders on the Scriptorium blog remembers the birth of Anglican theologian/patricist, Henry Barclay Swete.

biblicaleschatology on the Biblical Eschatology blog considers whether the early Church taught about the Rapture.

Benjamin Steele on the Marmalade blog considers the state of the world at the time of St. Augustine. He continues his discussion with a consideration of the Early Roman Catholic Church.

Andrew on his Theology of Andrew blog considers Mariolotry and what he regards as a very stupid statement by Philip Schaff.

Joseph S. O'Leary on his self-named blog considers St. Augustine in light of the scholarship of Jean-Luc Marion and continues a discussion on Plotinus' influence on St. Augustine.

Marwil Llasos on his self-named blog discusses Tertullian and his views on Mary in light of hostile (Protestant) criticism.

Camden Bucey on the Reformed Forum blog posts a podcast featuring an interview of Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin.

Clinton on the Summa Philosophiae blog considers the theological method of Thomas Oden.

Soraida on the Spensor, Edmond- Books blog discusses patristic theology in Spenser's allegory.

John of AllFaith on his self-named blog considers the Early Church and where it might have gone wrong from a Messianic Jewish perspective.

Taylor Marshall on the Canterbury Tales blog investigates the question of whether the Church Fathers considered a theory of evolution.

orrologion on the orrologion blog gives a brief bibliography on online resources for reading the Fathers in an Orthodox manner.

The Reformed Reader considers Peter Brown's understanding of Augustine and Pelagius' respective positions on children.

Alan Kurshner on the Prewrath Rapture Dot Com blog considers why the Church shifted away from a millenialism after the 4th century AD.

The Courting the Mystery blog embarks on a Patristics Abbreviations Project with the abbreviations for Athanasius, Origen and Cyril of Alexandria.

Sister Macrina on the A vow of conversation blog catalogues patristic audio-books.

Ben C. Smith on Thoughts on Antiquity concludes and gives an index to his monumental canon series. This is a huge achievement and well-worth reviewing!

Phil Sumpter on his Narrative and Ontology blog asks what biblical exegetes can learn from Origen.

The Marketplace: Book Reviews

cburrell on the All Manner of Thing blog reviews the first volume of Quasten's Patrology.

Albert McIlheney on the Christian Book Reviews blog reviews Mike Aquilina's Signs and Mysteries.

Exhibition Place: Biographies of the Fathers

Andy Wilkes on the a man breathing blog considers St. Ignatius of Antioch.

The Saint Barnabas' Blog considers the life of St. Cyril of Jerusalem.

Matt on the grace and peace blog considers the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste.

The Rodeo: Patristic catenae

Asiya on the Noor of Knowledge blog offers a patristic catena to support Muslim convert's intention to wear the hijab. Not that she (I think) expects the argument to work necessarily.

saltedwithfire on the Incendium amoris blog offers a patristic catena on the Songs of Songs.

Will R. Huysman on the Catholic Patristics starts off his new blog with a series of patristic catenae on a series of topics. Here is the summary entry.

The Very Rev'd G. Richard Lobs on Father Rick Lobs Eclectic and Eccentric Blog offers a patristic catena on infant baptism.

The Foreign Exchange Tent: Translations and Summaries

Roger Pearse on his self-named blog continues translating letters of Isidore of Pelusium and give commentary in one, two, three and four parts.

The Talmudic Tabernacle: Christianity and Judaism in the Ancient World

Derek on the Messianic Jewish Musings blog considers the role of tradition (here Rabbinic thought) for Messianic Jews.

The Apocryphal Aisle: Christian Apocrypha
April DeConick on The Forbidden Gospels blog muses on a substitute for the term Gnostic- transtheism or supratheism, follows up her discussion and settles on transtheism.

That's it for this month. Happy Easter.

Christ is Risen!