Weijenborg Reinhold ,
Recensione: P.C. CHRISTOU, Hetlenike patrologia. Tomas B': Grammateia tes periodou ton diogmon. (Christianike grammatologia, 2, B'),
Antonianum, 56/1 (1981) p. 238-240
The Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies, which recently has been erected in the Vlatadon Monastery at Thessaloniki (Greece) in the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, publishes under the direction of the Rev. Professor P.C. Christou, well-known for his patristical and historical studies and text editions, a Greek History of Christian Literature. For this History Professor Christou himself has written the second part, to which he has given the title Greek Patrology. Of this latter he presents now the second volume, which, with the exception of the New Testament probably reserved for the first volume (this did not reach us), treats the Christian literature of the time of the persecutions, that is that of the three first centuries.
The Author divides the volume in ten parts. In the first (p. 23-104) he examines the church orders, symbols of faith, liturgical and poetic Christian texts of the period. In part II (p. 105-198) he treats Gnosticism in its various forms and in part III (p. 199-348) the apocryphal literature.
Then he studies in part IV (p. 349-456) the Apostolic Fathers, in part V (p. 457-522) the martyrological literature and in part VI (p. 523-632) the works of the Apologetes. The montanistic and monarchianic literatures are considered in part VII (p. 633-648), their orthodox counterparts in part VIII (p. 649-756). The Alexandrian school, especially Clemens of Alexandria and Origen, is studied in part IX (p. 757-928), the writers of the Asiatic regions (Palestine, Antiochia, Minor Asia) in part X (p. 929-993). The ten parts are subdivided in chapters, to each of which the Author adds a list of the relative text editions and studies. As he finished already in 1972 the overall redaction of the present volume, these bibliographical lists only exceptionally mention items which did appear after that date. The volume, very well printed on glazed paper, is enriched by 34 illustrations of ancient monuments and codices. It is closed by an index (p. 995-1002) both of the ancient writers or works and of the various subjects treated.
This volume of the Greek Patrology of Prof. Christou commands great respect and merits serious consideration. It is less voluminous and more modern and readable than the classic History of ancient christian literature of Adolf von Harnack (4 volumes, Leipzig 1893-1904). In its serene presentation of the matter and its narrative philological and theological exposition it resembles more the Patrology of Johannes Quasten (3 volumes, Utrecht-Brussels 1949-1959) than the instructive and abridging Patrologie of Berthold Altaner and Alfred Stuiber (eighth edition, Frei-burg-Basel-Wien 1978). The general outlook of the volume is in accordance with the ecclesiological standpoints of the Greek Orthodox Church. So the Author begins the book with the statement (p. 9): « The cult society, which was founded by the disciples of Jesus, was not an uniform one, but constituted an unique, typically loose, complex of independent communities ». He states (ibid), that the apostle Paul liked to bind these communities together by means of a common tie with Jerusalem, the cradle of Christianism, but that, after the persecution of the Jews against Paul and the destruction of Jerusalem rendered impossible the realisation of this ideal, the local churches saw themselves as Greek « cities [poleis] » in the classic sense of this word. To us this theory on the beginnings of Church order seems weak, not only because the cities in Greece in the first times of Christendom were far from being « administratively, economically and politically self-sufficient », as the Author suggests, but also because the major cities of the Empire, such as Rome, Alexandria, Corinth, Thessalonica and other, were completely interwoven with and dependent ugon the structures and traffics of the Roman Empire, which had its only effective and true center in Rome.
Notwithstanding this and some other reserves, which concern not only the rather closed Greek Orthodox theology of the Author, but also his not sufficiently justified, at times sweeping confidence in the trustworthiness of his sources, especially of the Ecclesiastical History, attributed to Eusebius of Caesarea, we recommend this volume to every scholar desirous to augment his knowledge of the doctrines of the Fathers and of their interpretation in modern Orthodox thought. Certainly the bibliographical notices, added at the end of the chapters, are not always free of errors and misprints, but they are in general very useful, also because the Author signalizes several works originating from the Greek, Slavonic, Rumanian, Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish areas, which in similar manuals are often neglected. Particularly useful might prove not only the tables of contents, which the Author gives of the single patristic works, but also the lists of apocryphal literature (p. 205-207), of gnostic documents, preserved in the Chenoboskion (Nag Hammadi) and other codices (p. 116-118), and of the most important antignostic works (p. 118-120). It finally seems noteworthy that the Author meritoriously interpretes Irenaeus, Adv. haer. 3, 3, 2 in the sense: « All Christians, who are coming to Rome, ought to see to it, that they go to the community, which maintains the tradition from pope Linus till Eleutherus, and not to the flourishing conventicles of the heresiarchs » (p. 650; cf. p. 707). But we think he should emphasize at this point that Irenaeus sees these Christians as representatives of local Christianities seeking for help from that Roman Church, which conserved the relics and the tradition of the two principal Apostles and Martyrs.