Journal of Sacred Literature, 4th series, vol. 10 (January 1867) pp. 489-491; 5th series vol. 2  (October 1867) pp. 222-3

[January 1867.]

Notices of Books.

Ante-Nicene Christian Library : Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. Edited by ALEX. ROBERTS, D.D., and JAMES DONAI.DSON, D.D. Vol. I., Apostolic Fathers. Vol. II., Justin Martyr and Athenagoras. Edinburgh : T. and T. Clark.

WE have already advertised our readers of this very important and seasonable project, and now we are able to tell them of the issue of the first two volumes. Vol. I. is translated by the editors and the Rev. F. Crombie. It contains the epistles of Clement, Polycarp, and Barnabas, the epistles of Ignatius, spurious and genuine (including the longer and shorter texts of the seven, the Syriac text of three, and the nine undoubted forgeries), the epistle to Diognetus, the pastor of Hermas, the fragments of Papias, and the martyrdoms of Polycarp [p.490] and Ignatius. The translations are accompanied by introductions and notes, and the volume closes with indexes of subjects and texts of Scripture. The two recensions of the seven epistles of Ignatius are printed in parallel columns, which will enable any one to compare them with very little trouble. The divisions into chapters are adopted throughout, and, in the case of the epistles, the subjects of the chapters are indicated. The whole are printed in a clear and legible type on good paper, and the external appearance is attractive.

The description of the first volume will apply, mutatis mutandis, to the second, which has been translated by the Revs. Dods, Reith, and Pratten. It contains Justin's genuine works, viz., the two apologies, the dialogue with Trypho, the discourse to the Greeks, the hortatory address, the treatise on the sole government of God, and various fragments. These are followed by the martyrdom of Justin and others, the apology of Athenagoras and his treatise on the Resurrection, and indexes of subjects and texts.

We believe these two handsome volumes will cost subscribers half a guinea ; it is therefore necessary that a very large impression should be disposed of to cover the outlay. That the demand for the whole series will be great we believe, and we are sure that if it were not, the fact would be a disgrace to us as a nation. The editors are more than competent----they are men of known learning and ability, and have already proved their profound interest in this branch of literature. They have the additional and rare recommendation of being honest, and therefore they will not admit forged rubbish because it pretends to a great name, nor will they tolerate the abominable principles of translation which have been too often exemplified in versions from the Fathers, and which have resulted in mere parodies of the Fathers in a Romish dress. Translators of these writings seem to have felt that they were so much raw material which could be wrought up for party purposes ; or they have tacked on to them the most impudent frauds as genuine. There are inconsistencies and follies enough in genuine patristic writings, but why should the fictions and lies of other men be laid upon them. We call them fathers, forsooth, we had better say godfathers, for they have had to stand sponsors and give names to the spurious offspring of every monkish or sacerdotal brain that might come in their way. Their genuine productions even have been so disfigured and disguised, that if they could rise from the dead they would not know their own children.

Thanks to modern researches, learning, criticism and enterprise, Englishmen will now be able to see for themselves the Fathers restored as far as possible to their primitive state ; they will learn what doctrines those earliest Christian writers and bishops preached, and they will know that all the parade and pretence about them being zealous advocates of forms and ceremonies, vestments and sacerdotalism, and all that sort of thing, is supported by the thinnest and flimsiest shadow. We advise the curious to read the epistle of Clement, bishop of Rome in A.D. 96, and to compare it with the last encyclical letter of Pio IX., [p.491] Pope of Rome in A.D. 1866. If this does not open their eyes, they may be assured that they are hopelessly blind.

After what we have said of the editors of these two volumes it is superfluous to add that they have done their work well. We would only venture to urge, and with some earnestness, that the indexes of subjects and of texts should be made as copious as possible.


[October, 1867.]

Notices of Books.

Ante-Nicene Christian Library. Edited by Rev. A. ROBERTS, D.D., and JAMES DONALDSON, LL.D. Vol. III. Tatian, Theophilus, and the Clementine Recognitions. Vol. IV. Clement of Alexandria. Vol. I. Edinburgh : T. and T. Clark.

THIS is really a great national work, and its value and importance will become increasingly apparent. There is no collective English edition of the Ante-Nicene fathers ; several of them have never been translated into our language at all, some only partially, some very inaccurately, and some very well. We wanted something on a level with the learning and accomplishments of the age, and the projectors of this noble series are endeavouring to supply the desideratum. The editors are men of standing, and we may be sure they will do their part as well as they can. True they cannot do everything, and they therefore avail themselves of the services of translators, who are judged competent. Still the difficulties are great, and when all has been done that could be done there will be some things left imperfect. We think it would have been well to prefix to each author a complete list of all the works assigned to him, whether extant or not. The translation of fragments as well as entire works is adopted very properly. The occasional notes and Scripture references might have been made a little more numerous ; and in cases like that of the Recognitions, where very diverse recensions of the text exist, the circumstance should be clearly explained. There is a Syriac text of the Recognition, shorter than the Latin, and otherwise important, and it has been published, but it is not mentioned in the edition before us. Curiously enough, this Syriac ends in chap. i. of book iv. of the common text, very near indeed to the place where one at least of the German critics, previously to its discovery, decided that it ought to end. As some may wish to [p.223] note the precise place where the ancient Syriac text concludes, we add that the last sentence corresponds with that on p. 282 of the English version, thus rendered : "We acted in the same way at Tyre, and Sidon, and Berytus, and announced to those who desired to hear further discourses that we were to spend the winter at Tripolis."

Knowing the extreme difficulty of translating much that is read in these old documents, where style and clearness seem to have been lost sight of, we congratulate the gentlemen occupied upon the work on their success as a whole. In Clement of Alexandria, other obstacles have fallen in the way, but the editors have prudently resolved that Latin should take the place of English in a few cases where our sense of delicacy might be offended. Hitherto there has been no English version of Clement, but his works are so rich a mine for the Christian student that we sincerely rejoice to see the present instalment of a complete version.

We trust the enterprize will be crowned with the abundant success it deserves.


[Note to the online text: the Journal became defunct after 5th series vol. 2, in 1868, and never reviewed more of the ANCL]

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