Saturday, January 05, 2008

Patristic Greek

There's an excellent new resource for reading early post-apostolic Christian texts: A Patristic Greek Reader by Rodney Whitacre, Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry.

To quote Mike Aquilina's recommendation on the back cover: "This is more than a book. It's an opportunity to learn Greek from a superlative teacher and to learn Christianity from the greatest ancient masters. Dr Whitacre's anthology is unique, a model of both pedagogy and mystagogy. The Spirit has been leading the churches to 'return to the sources,' and A Patristic Greek Reader is a beautiful beginning for that journey."

The text provides all the resources needed for someone who has completed a beginning Greek course (at the level of, say, Wenham's Elements of NT Greek). Additionally, translations are provided for all texts so one can even use it for a sampling of patristic texts if one does not yet have a beginning fluency in New Testament Greek. Readings include selections from the Didache, Clement, Ignatius, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Chrysostom, and Symeon among others.

Dr Whitacre selects texts focusing on three themes: the person of God, the plan of God, and God's pattern for life. To quote from the introduction:

'A great deal of energy in the early church was spent in discussion of the person and character of God, that is, the mystery of the Trinity--both the unity of the Godhead and the characteristics of each of the divine persons. Included here is also the teaching about the two natures of Christ, both divine and human. The second general theme, the plan of God, is also discussed in many of the writings. They reflect profoundly on the salvation that has been accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus, they try to understand the relation between Israel and the church in God's work in history, and they develop further the church's understanding of the cosmic dimension so God's plan, already touched on by Paul (e.g., 1 Cor 15:20-28; Eph 1:10). Many of the writings are also concerned with the third theme, God's pattern of life for the people of God. The forms which life in Christ should take, both on the personal and the corporate level, are frequently discussed. This theme includes the patterns of relationship within the body of Christ as well as with those outside the body. The nature of the sacraments and the institutional structures that are appropriate for the people of God also come under the corporate dimension of the this third theme. On the level of the individual we find teaching about love, prayer, asceticism, and holiness of life.'

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