Friday, July 04, 2014

The Patristic Reader project

I am pleased to announce today the start of a new project from me.

As you can tell by my recent post on blog statistics, one of the most common searches that leads here is for 'Geoffrey Steadman', and I continue to be a great fan of his Greek and Latin Texts with facing vocabulary and commentary.

When I first came upon these I examined the possibility of doing the same for Patristic texts, but at the time I was put off by certain difficulties and the labour. Recently I have returned again to this idea, and found the situation changed. Namely, I am feeling much more competent in Greek, there are more useful digital tools available to me, and I have benefited from some very clear instruction from Steadman about his own processes. This, along with tackling a short text first as a test, has given me renewed enthusiasm and confidence about the whole endeavour.

So I have released a first sample text, of Basil of Caesarea's Epistle 361.

This is a proof of concept of what I'm doing and where it will go. The commentary aspect is very light on in this first sample, I will admit, but I expect that it will be considerably developed in my next one.


My aim is to provide a set of resources that will aid readers approaching Patristic texts for the first time, (or the hundredth time!) In my opinion and experience Classical programs tend not to deal with these texts, while Koine programs are often inadequate for the rigours of reading Church Fathers. Furthermore, there is considerably less in the way of supports and helps to readers of these texts. This project will help bridge that gap.


The texts follow very close Steadman's layout. I am to provide accurate vocabulary notes on each page that will minimise time spent flicking back and forth to dictionaries, etc., and facilitate a faster reading of the text. Furthermore, grammatical notes help the reader with more unusual forms and constructions. In later, full-length texts I will include more commentary, as well as an introduction to the text.


The texts that this series will utilise are Church Fathers from the 2nd to 7th centuries. In every case I will draw upon editions that are in the Public Domain.

I have a long list of texts ready to work on. My intention is to begin with shorter texts, and then work on longer ones, as this is a more productive process. I will also tend to favour more mainstream and influential texts. The focus will primarily be Greek to begin with, but Latin texts are also in my scope, beginning with some Cyprian.

When can I expect to see more?

I produced Epistle 361 both as a sample for interested readers, as well as to familiarise myself with the workflow process. I had intended to do several more epistles and release them as a volume together, but problems with selection and obtaining texts has moved me to start elsewhere.

On current projections, I should have some full-length texts available towards the end of this year, and hopefully print volumes around the same time. The first two works will (very likely) be:

Vol 1. The Martyrdom of Polycarp, and Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis
Vol 2. Ad Ablabium (On not three Gods) by Gregory of Nyssa

I have already commenced work on the first of these, and am making good progress. The text of Perpetua will be the Greek edition, not the usual Latin version.

You can expect major announcements on this blog, of course, but I have set up a specific site for this undertaking, which will also be where to go for files, resources, etc.; that site is Patristic Readers.


Jonathan H said...

How exciting! How do you see this complementing Whitacre's "Patristic Greek Reader"?

Seumas Macdonald said...

Hi Jonathan.

Whitacre's book is a very fine piece, it is more of a guided anthology that provides a selection of texts and aims to introduce readers to Patristic texts and their Greek usage.

What I am working towards is not a single volume that is a sample of various texts, but multiple volumes that each provide a complete patristic text that can be read all the way through.

I think this will complement Whitacre's quite well, since it does not replicate Whitacre with yet another anthology volume, but will provide one option for students (and probably a scholar or two) who want to read individual texts at length, but would appreciate some help towards more rapid comprehension.