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Die Patristik in der Fruhen Neuzeit: Die Relekture der Kirchenvater in den Wissenschaften des 15. bis 18. Jahrhunderts.

Gunter Frank, Thomas Leinkauf, and Markus Wriedt, eds. Die Patristik in der Fruhen Neuzeit: Die Relekture der Kirchenvater in den Wissenschaften des 15. bis 18. Jahrhunderts.

Melanchthon-Schriften der Stadt Bretten 10. Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog, 2006. 424 pp. index. n.p. ISBN: 3-7728-2263-6.

This volume contains seventeen papers delivered at an international conference held in 2003 under the title "Die Patristik in der fruhen Neuzeit. Die Relekture der Kirchenvater in den Wissenschaften des 15. bis 18 Jahrhunderts." Though the title suggests a narrowed focus, the contributions to the volume range widely in terms of their subjects and their understanding of the term Patristik. Consequently, while certain themes are common across a number of contributions, as a whole the volume is diffuse, and lacks any integrating set of questions or conclusions.

The topic itself is a substantial one, as the influence of the church fathers was fundamental in the early modern era to the development of humanism, Catholic and Reformation theologies, as well as philosophy. This is well demonstrated in the volume. A number of articles treat the influence of the fathers on the theological work of the Reformers, especially on Melanchthon. Christoph Burger, "Gegen Origenes und Hieronymus fur Augustin: Melanchthons Auseinandersetzung mit Erasmus uber die Kirchenvater," H. Ashley Hall, "Melanchthon and the Cappa-docians," and Markus Wriedt, "Schrift und Tradition. Die Bedeutung des Ruckbezugs auf die altkirchlichen Autoritaten Melanchthons Schriften zum Verstandnis des Abendmahls," all treat the degree to which Melanchthon interacted with the church fathers in the development of his own theology. To a surprising degree, Melanchthon turned to the church fathers, in particular Augustine, for support for his theology of Word and sacrament. While selective and critical, as demonstrated by Burger's article, Melanchthon's use of the church fathers differed in particular from Luther's approach. Kaarlo Arffman's article, "Der Ausspruch Augustins 'ego uero euangelio non crederem, nisi me catholicae ecclesiae conmoueret auctoritas' in der Rezeption Luthers," shows the varying, and often skeptical, relationship of Luther to even so fundamental a figure as Augustine. Luther shifted from a critical engagement with the inconvenient dimensions of Augustine's thought, to a dismissal of those parts of Augustine's thinking that in Luther's view did not comport with the authority of scripture. One of the interesting dimensions of the use of the church fathers in the Reformation was the degree to which they continued to influence theology despite the turn away from tradition to scripture as the norm for belief. As Anthony N. S. Lane's contribution, "Justification by Faith in Sixteenth-Century Patristic Anthologies: The Claims that Were Made," demonstrates, even so key a doctrine as justification was undergirded by reference, albeit highly selective, to the writings of the fathers. The anthologies are interesting examples of the influence and use of the fathers in the theological controversies of the Reformation era. Of course this use was largely instrumental, since it rested mostly on the strategy of defeating your opponent on their own terms. As Lane notes, these anthologies are not reliable guides to what the fathers had to say about justification.

Less is made in the volume about the connection of the fathers to humanism, though one of the most interesting contributions deals with this theme, Mark Vessey's "'Vera et Aeterna Monumenta': Jerome's Catalogue of Christian Writers and the Premises of Erasmian Humanism." Vessey seeks to demonstrate that Erasmus's Christian humanism was more Christian, and indebted more directly to his reading of the church fathers, in particular Jerome, than recent work by Lisa Jardine and Istvan Bejczy suggests.

A pair of contributions in the volume demonstrate the engagement with the church fathers well past the age of Reform. Torsten M. Breden, "Leibnizens Augustinusrezeption in der 'Theodicee,'" and Scott Mandelbrote, "'Than this nothing can be plainer': Isaac Newton Reads the Fathers," both show the engagement of a later intellectual era with patristic writings, though the more philosophical and critical use they made of the fathers represents the changing intellectual landscape.

As a whole, the volume contains such a diversity of contributions that many different scholars will find something of use or interest. However, the volume lacks any real integrating theme or commentary. For the most part the contributions do not speak to one another; neither the introduction, which is overly brief, nor the sequencing of the papers serve the purpose of providing a larger perspective. There are two more programmatic essays in the collection, Thomas Leinkauf, "Beobachtungen zur Rezeption patristischer Autoren in der fruhen Neuzeit," and Gunter Franck, "Die Kirchenvater als Apologeten der naturlichen Theologie und Religionphilosophie in der fruhen Neuzeit," but they are situated toward the middle of the volume, instead of at the beginning where they would provide some modicum of overview. In addition, there are a couple of contributions that, while intriguing, do not have much to do with the theme of the volume: Wilhelm Schwendemann, "Melanchthon, Maimonides und Averroes. Aristoteles-Rezeption und--Exegese gegen religiosen Fundamentalismus," and Ralph Hafner, "Grammatologie des Himmels. Barthold Heinrich Brockes und das Testamentum Levi." Their inclusion adds to the sense of disjointedness that accompanies the collection. So, while the volume provides a wealth of material for further pursuing the general topic, it does not make much of a contribution in pulling the theme into focus, or providing a more comprehensive view that would assist in sorting out themes and suggesting further paths for research.


Nebraska Wesleyan University
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Author:Hayden-Roy, Patrick M.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 22, 2006
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