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Manuscript Evidences for Ante-Nicene Fathers


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#1 Brad D.

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Posted 12 October 2014 - 11:01 AM

I am not entirely sure of the best place for this, so I am sticking it here.  I have a friend who is beginning to look at the writings of the Church Fathers.  Her primary concern is manuscript evidences, and how we can (or cannot) know the authenticity of the writings.  With Scripture, there is such voluminous manuscript evidence that her fears are abated.  However, with the Fathers, there are lots of concerns about authenticity and corruption.  I cannot seem to find a good book or website to refer her to.  Does anyone know of a good reference to help her understand the path these writings have taken since their creation?

 

Brad



#2 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 12 October 2014 - 12:40 PM

I can see that those who are not Orthodox might think in this way but Orthodox Christians do not think in this way. The Church is guided into truth by the Holy Spirit according to Christ's promise and the Church directs itself through - indeed, consists in -  Holy Tradition. The writings of the Holy Fathers are part of Holy Tradition because they are a criterion of truth. In other words, the Church has what is called the consensus patrum which means that the writings of the Holy Fathers which are part of Holy Tradition are those which are believed everywhere by all in all times. St Vincent of Lerins and St Irenaeus of Lyons helped formulate the Church's mind in this matter. We Orthodox Christians do not require authentication of the Holy Fathers' writings - it is enough that the Church has accepted them. To query their authenticity (as opposed to scholarly research) would imply doubt as to the wisdom and probity of the Church.



#3 Ben Johnson

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Posted 12 October 2014 - 04:05 PM

I am not entirely sure of the best place for this, so I am sticking it here.  I have a friend who is beginning to look at the writings of the Church Fathers.  Her primary concern is manuscript evidences, and how we can (or cannot) know the authenticity of the writings.  With Scripture, there is such voluminous manuscript evidence that her fears are abated.  However, with the Fathers, there are lots of concerns about authenticity and corruption.  I cannot seem to find a good book or website to refer her to.  Does anyone know of a good reference to help her understand the path these writings have taken since their creation?

 

Brad


 

This is an excellent question.  Unfortunately, I do not have any leads yet. I tried Google but only came up with how the Church Fathers support the manuscripts of Scripture rather than anything about the manuscripts of the Church Fathers themselves.   I tried going to the Library of Congress’s website and searching the following subject headings:

  1.  Fathers of the Church – Criticism and Interpretation.
  1.  Fathers of the Church – Manuscripts.

So far I only came up with three works, and it looks like none of them are in English.  I will try to ask a couple people I know.  Sorry I could not be more help, but I am interested in the question.



 



#4 Kosta

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Posted 12 October 2014 - 05:06 PM

Historical scholars many times will date works by the content of their writings in terms of the historical period.   Ante-Nicene Fathers that quote from John, " The only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father..."  would indicate a date of prior to 250ad.  

 

 Mentions of the docetist heresies will tend to be prior to 200 ad.  A Father which quotes from an uncanonical scripture usually is early etc. 

 

Of course sometimes the type of papayrus its written on can be carbon dated or figured out etc. 



#5 Kosta

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Posted 12 October 2014 - 05:10 PM

I can see that those who are not Orthodox might think in this way but Orthodox Christians do not think in this way. The Church is guided into truth by the Holy Spirit according to Christ's promise and the Church directs itself through - indeed, consists in -  Holy Tradition. The writings of the Holy Fathers are part of Holy Tradition because they are a criterion of truth. In other words, the Church has what is called the consensus patrum which means that the writings of the Holy Fathers which are part of Holy Tradition are those which are believed everywhere by all in all times. St Vincent of Lerins and St Irenaeus of Lyons helped formulate the Church's mind in this matter. We Orthodox Christians do not require authentication of the Holy Fathers' writings - it is enough that the Church has accepted them. To query their authenticity (as opposed to scholarly research) would imply doubt as to the wisdom and probity of the Church.

 

 

Very true. Most, including the protestant sects take the epistle of Peter to be written by Peter. Using the method of the person in the OP one would have to discard the epistle of Peter for being written long after his death (which it was).  But this is not the criterion of what makes it authentic, that its seen as carrying the tradition preached by Peter is enough.


Edited by Kosta, 12 October 2014 - 05:12 PM.


#6 Loucas

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Posted 12 October 2014 - 05:42 PM

I would have to concur with Andre, proof or authenticating the writings, and in many cases not writings but sayings of the Holy Fathers and Mothers of the Orthodox Church is unheard of within the Church. As far as is there a place to find the references? Well how about right here? monachos.net? Have you been anywhere on this site accept this forum? I find some of the questions posed in various forums here clearly show the peron asking has not first read the abundance of Holy wealth on this web-site. Tell your friend to go to the Patristic study section of monachos.net, start there. Also just about any and every Orthodox web-site and certainly all Orthodox book publishing have lives of various Saints.The book that your friend seeks is called the Philokalia and is rich in the teachings of the Holy Fathers. May the prayers of the Holy Fathers and Mothers take the doubt out of your hearts and replace it with Faith.



#7 Ben Johnson

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Posted 16 October 2014 - 07:45 PM

Brad:

     I stopped by a catholic seminary about thirty miles away.  It has a library which includes a good collection pertaining to the Eastern Church.  I could not find any single works that wrote of dating the Church Fathers and textual criticism.  The closest I could come is looking at the introductions of a set entitled, The Ante-Nicene Fathers:  http://www.amazon.co...howViewpoints=0.   The introduction to each author writes of manuscripts.  Your friend may have to start with that set, and then search the evidence of each individual author.

     Also remember that during Church debates of the past, the Church Fathers were quoted, so if there are not early manuscripts around, there could be early quotations of the Church Fathers.



That is the best I can do for now.


Edited by Ben Johnson, 16 October 2014 - 07:47 PM.


#8 Brad D.

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Posted 17 October 2014 - 05:22 PM

I can see that those who are not Orthodox might think in this way but Orthodox Christians do not think in this way. The Church is guided into truth by the Holy Spirit according to Christ's promise and the Church directs itself through - indeed, consists in -  Holy Tradition. The writings of the Holy Fathers are part of Holy Tradition because they are a criterion of truth. In other words, the Church has what is called the consensus patrum which means that the writings of the Holy Fathers which are part of Holy Tradition are those which are believed everywhere by all in all times. St Vincent of Lerins and St Irenaeus of Lyons helped formulate the Church's mind in this matter. We Orthodox Christians do not require authentication of the Holy Fathers' writings - it is enough that the Church has accepted them. To query their authenticity (as opposed to scholarly research) would imply doubt as to the wisdom and probity of the Church.

 

Great reply my friend.  Do you have any specific references for St Vincent of Lerins or St Irenaeus of Lyons regarding these things?



#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 October 2014 - 05:33 PM

That would take some research which I haven't time to do.



#10 Brad D.

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Posted 17 October 2014 - 05:37 PM

Brad:

     I stopped by a catholic seminary about thirty miles away.  It has a library which includes a good collection pertaining to the Eastern Church.  I could not find any single works that wrote of dating the Church Fathers and textual criticism.  The closest I could come is looking at the introductions of a set entitled, The Ante-Nicene Fathers:  http://www.amazon.co...howViewpoints=0.   The introduction to each author writes of manuscripts.  Your friend may have to start with that set, and then search the evidence of each individual author.

     Also remember that during Church debates of the past, the Church Fathers were quoted, so if there are not early manuscripts around, there could be early quotations of the Church Fathers.



That is the best I can do for now.

 

I own this set!  :)  This is an interesting subject, and not one I have really considered before.  I studied textual criticism of the Bible, but never the Fathers.  Interesting stuff!



#11 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 October 2014 - 07:46 PM

When you say you studied 'textual criticism of the Bible', whose textual criticism would that be? I know you have not mentioned the expression, 'interested in Orthodoxy', but I find that, commonly heard from heterodox, very odd: Orthodoxy being the fullness of the truth, how could someone say they are 'interested' in it? Either the truth is something to be embraced or not.



#12 Brad D.

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Posted 17 October 2014 - 07:58 PM

Hello Andreas:  It sounds like you may not be familiar with the term "textual criticism".  I would refer you to Google to have a better understanding of what I am referring to, and thus why your reply does not appear to make full sense with the subject we are discussing.  Once you have read a bit, I am confident you will find that Orthodoxy has most certainly engaged in textual criticism.  And, as you said, I have not really spoken in reference to Orthodoxy as a whole anywhere in this thread, and so I am unsure where you are headed or where you have come from in that regard.



#13 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 October 2014 - 09:03 PM

There is no reason why I should be familiar with 'textual criticism' since it is not an Orthodox concept. We have recourse to the commentaries on Holy Scripture of the Holy Fathers, not to western heterodox scholars.



#14 Brad D.

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Posted 17 October 2014 - 09:23 PM

That is interesting...even your scholars talk about the importance of textual criticism, and their approach to it.  Here is just one link to a recording on Ancient Faith Radio you might like to listen to: http://www.ancientfa...ch_to_the_bible

 

Actually, Andres, textual criticism is a tremendously Orthodox thing to do.  In fact, it is an essentially Orthodox practice.  Again, I would encourage you to study the term.  It is apparent you do not know what we are talking about.  

 

I'll give you a short cheat sheet:  Textual Criticism is the practice of evaluating various manuscript traditions of a text (be it Scripture, the Fathers, or Dr. Seuss), in order to discern the original wording of the text.  Any Bible you have in your home...albeit Greek, English, Spanish, or any other is the certain work of the process of textual criticism.

 

You have no commentary that tells you whether the Alexandrian, Caesarian, Byzantine, or Western textual traditions are the correct rendering.  Textual Criticism is the study of these things, in order to give you every single Bible you have ever read (especially your Greek one).



#15 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 October 2014 - 09:37 PM

Dear Brad D - please consider what you are saying. You, who are not Orthodox, tell me, an Orthodox of very long standing, trained in Orthodoxy by a venerable Greek Orthodox bishop, that I don't know what I'm taking about. I don't claim to be a fount of knowledge, but I do know that when it comes to approaching Holy Scripture,  we should refer to the Holy Fathers, and not to Google or even some American Orthodox radio programme.



#16 Phoebe K.

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Posted 17 October 2014 - 09:59 PM

Andreas,

 

Textual criticism is a very wide turn which covers a range of methods of interpreting and understanding the biblical texts.  Approaches such as canonical criticism, looking at the text in the context of the book in which it is and the whole cannon of the bible, or narrative criticism looking at a passage within the narrative.  These two forms can be found in the texts of the fathers, the form of textual criticism which is rarely found in Orthodox theology is the historical and archaeological, which tend to be more of the interest of Protestant scholars.  All other forms of criticism are compatible with Orthodox theology if used with care as all western understandings of theology should be.

 

We must be careful in the use of theology however two forms of textual criticism (those being narrative and canonical) underpin the way most of our priest write their sermons and present in a lot of the writings of the fathers.  These forms of textual criticism would be part of the training within an Orthodox theology as they along with some other underpin how we understand what we are reading.

 

To some extent we engage in textual criticism whenever we read in that we analyse the text we read now within the context and from what we know.  This is what in essence textual criticism is, just the academic community have felt it neccery to codify and spend time ananlising how we analyse things.  We just tend not to use the western terms even if we are at times in essence doing the same thing, I have come to this conclusion looking at how it is done and referring to my theological training, I will try to remember to ask my Priest once he is back from his latest academic trip.



#17 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 October 2014 - 11:03 PM

My understanding is that in Orthodoxy, textual criticism is limited to determining the veracity of the text itself, and in the case of Holy Scripture, the Church has been using a received text for very many centuries. Textual criticism as interpretation is a western notion. If I am wrong, perhaps those who would say otherwise will refer us to authoritative Orthodox sources which say that textual criticism as interpretation has currency in the Church.



#18 Olga

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Posted 17 October 2014 - 11:39 PM

The first port of call for the Orthodox textual interpretation of scripture and patristic writings must be the hymns and prayers of the Church, and in the visual language of canonical iconography. Without a thorough grounding in these, in what they express and proclaim, "textual criticism" is fraught with danger.

 

Far too many people, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, attempt to analyse scripture and patristics outside of the above context, to their detriment.



#19 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 18 October 2014 - 05:08 PM

That is interesting...even your scholars talk about the importance of textual criticism, and their approach to it.  Here is just one link to a recording on Ancient Faith Radio you might like to listen to: http://www.ancientfa...ch_to_the_bible

 

Actually, Andres, textual criticism is a tremendously Orthodox thing to do.  In fact, it is an essentially Orthodox practice.  Again, I would encourage you to study the term.  It is apparent you do not know what we are talking about.  

 

I'll give you a short cheat sheet:  Textual Criticism is the practice of evaluating various manuscript traditions of a text (be it Scripture, the Fathers, or Dr. Seuss), in order to discern the original wording of the text.  Any Bible you have in your home...albeit Greek, English, Spanish, or any other is the certain work of the process of textual criticism.

 

You have no commentary that tells you whether the Alexandrian, Caesarian, Byzantine, or Western textual traditions are the correct rendering.  Textual Criticism is the study of these things, in order to give you every single Bible you have ever read (especially your Greek one).

Forgive my butting into this debate, but on this one point I feel I must contribute something. 

 

The categorizing of texts into text-types such Alexandrian, Byzantine, Caesarian, and Western (the latter two being debatable) is  essentially not the way the Church looks at the scriptures, that is not to say such is wrong especially when looked at as a loser tradition rather than a set text-type but it is a western scholarly way of looking at the Scriptures as a text not the Church's way of reading the Scriptures. Remember the Church pretty much uses the "Byzantine text type" exclusively, we do not look to textual criticism for the "correct" readings. Secondly the Church understands the Scriptures as being part of the wider Holy Tradition not as being alone, and therefore interprets them within that Tradition with the Mind of the Church, hence the need for an exact text is not as great as for Protestants who have to interpret the Scriptures using their own surmisings.

 

 Also it is incorrect to say Textual Criticism gives us every bible we ever read, Orthodox Greek bibles are not products of Textual Criticism nor are those in Slavonic, Georgian, Syrian, ect... The only exception which could be made is the Patriarchal text but I highly doubt it can in reality be said to be the product of Textual Criticism at least by western academic standards. 



#20 Brad D.

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Posted 19 October 2014 - 09:55 PM

Remember the Church pretty much uses the "Byzantine text type" exclusively, we do not look to textual criticism for the "correct" readings.

 

Hi Daniel!  In order to come to the accepted text of the Byzantine type, the Church still had to work through the multitude of variants.  No two manuscripts are identical.  So, in order to even arrive at a "Byzantine text type", the accepted texts had to be arrived at.  That is why I am saying that they have, of course, engaged in textual criticism.  






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