- Die Patristik in der Frühen Neuzeit: Die Relektüre der Kirchenväter in den Wissenschaften des 15. bis 18. Jahrhunderts
This volume contains seventeen papers delivered at an international conference held in 2003 under the title "Die Patristik in der frühen Neuzeit. Die Relektüre der Kirchenväter 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 für Augustin: Melanchthons Auseinandersetzung mit Erasmus über die Kirchenväter," H. Ashley Hall, "Melanchthon and the Cappadocians," and Markus Wriedt, "Schrift und Tradition. Die Bedeutung des Rückbezugs auf die altkirchlichen Autoritäten Melanchthons Schriften zum Verständnis 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 [End Page 1239] 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 István 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 'Theodicée,'" and Scott Mandelbrote, "'Than this nothing can be plainer': Isaac Newton Reads the Fathers," both show the engage ment of a later intellectual era with patristic writings, though the more philosophical...