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Dictionary of Early Christian Literature (Herder & Herder Books) Paperback – January 1, 2000
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Siegmar Doepp is Professor of Classical Philosophy at the University of Gottingen in Germany. Wilhelm Geerlings is Professor of Church History, Patrology, and Christian Archaeology at the University of Bochum in Germany. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
There have been many reference books put out on the market over the past few decades on the work of the early Christian church. Much research has gone into the development and exposition of scholarship of the time of Jesus and the first generations of the church after Christ. There is a fascination with getting things `accurate' and `historically correct', terms that have a variety of meanings that can be ascribed to them contextually, and thus lots of `histories' and other works have been published.
I must confess I buy more than my fair share of these, partly because I get the world's most generous discount at the Christian Theological Seminary Bookstore, and partly because such books go out of print so quickly. Fortunately, the `Dictionary of Early Christian Literature' is likely to be available for some time to come.
Even so, unless you are a scholar, it might not be the kind of book you'd want for home use. It is a good reference, and if your intention is to build a significant library in Christian thought, this book would be a good addition. However, for the novice and casual reader, particularly one who really cares to concentrate on the Bible itself, this book can be found in a library and be useful. Do request that your local library add this volume to their acquisitions.
`The Dictionary offers compact and precise information as well as an updated bibliography in an easy-to-use alphabetical arrangement. Articles on authors provide a brief description of their lives, a presentation of their works, and an assessment of their influence on the Christian tradition. Other articles deal with types of works and their particular characteristics.'
In using this dictionary, one can search literature from the early church history period by title (occasionally it is a bit tricky, as one must know the standard English name), author, or genre. It does pull in articles on non-Christian items that are of importance to understanding the literary, philosophical, and theological mind of the time. For instance, there is an article on the Sibylline Oracles, not a Christian source of knowledge at all, but an important reference for the world of the time, so much so, that the Sibyl was considered one of the non-Christians to have had Christian insight in foretelling the coming of Jesus.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of this book, besides the handy, short biographical and curriculum vitae information on each of the major and many minor writers of the first eight centuries C.E., is the wealth of bibliographic information. Each article concludes with significant bibliographic data, including both original text in current and `standard' versions, analyses, translations, and further scholarship.
A good example is the article on Irenaeus of Lyon. The entry begins with a section of one column on basic biographical details - birth, education, career, travels, and death. The second section, three columns long, is on the works of Irenaeus, giving titles, dates and basic topical information for each work. The third section, again one column in length, explores more generally the basic lines of the theological thought of Irenaeus. Following this, there are two-and-a-half columns of bibliographic material.
Each article, large or small, is signed by the author. These authors are listed in the front together with their home university. The book is laid out in a double-column format for easy reading, and wonderfully had the good planning to include an index that includes major article heading in bold.
The major editors are Siegmar Dopp (professor of classic philosophy at the University of Gottingen) and Wilhelm Geerlings (professor of church history, patrology, and Christian archaeology at the University of Bochum). This represents German scholarship methodology at its finest in many respects - concise, well-organised, thorough. This book, published in 1998, is actually the successor volume to the standard German scholarly introduction to patristics, Berthold Altaner's Patrologie handbook. That handbook was begun (out of early works) in 1938, and continued through various editions into the late 1970s.
A useful resource in many ways, but again the caveat - it is a bit expensive, and unlikely to become the favoured bedside reading.