[K:NWTS 22/1 (May 2007) 47-48]

Book Review

Claudio Moreschini and Enrico Norelli, Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature: A Literary History. Volume One: From Paul to the Age of Constantine. Volume Two: From the Council of Nicea to the Beginning of the Medieval Period. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005. 455 pp. (v. 1); 754 pp. (v. 2). Cloth. ISBN: 1-56563-606-6. $99.95 (set).

This set presents the reader of English a translation in two volumes of a three-volume original. The series title, Storia della letteratura cristiana antica greca e latina, includes Da Paolo all'età constantiniana (1995) and Dal concilio di Nicea agli inizi del Medioevo (2 volumes, 1996). Moreschini and Norelli offer a survey of the church fathers and other early Christian literature (including poetry, monasticism, liturgy and historiography). They present individuals (or works), a short biography (or background sketch), written corpus with brief descriptions of individual contents, bibliography and special studies. However, the bibliographies and specialized studies are not exhaustive (or even thorough) and fall short of the standard found in Quasten's magisterial Patrology. Particularly irritating is the failure to cite the English translations of patristic works found in the Fathers of the Church series which began publication in 1947 (note the omission on page 436 of volume 1 and page 724 of volume 2—as well as throughout where that series is reflected in a given author's corpus).

To the credit of our authors, they have extended the range of coverage beyond volume four of the famous Quasten set (four volumes from the 1st to the 5th centuries—Chalcedon [451] to be specific). Thus we have outline treatment of eastern and western figures to Leontius of Byzantium (fl. 6th c.) and Isidore of Seville (ca. 560-636). [Our text, 2:529, misprints the date of his birth as 520.] Hence we have a helpful survey of Christian history and writers into the early 7th century—a survey more extensive than that of the standard church history dictionaries.

The authors are straightforward in their analysis of the career as well as the theology of the individuals treated. If there is a hint of Roman Catholic bias, this is not surprising, as most survey treatments of patristics come with this orientation—John McGuckin, The Westminster Handbook to Patristic Theology and Everett Ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity excepted. The treatment reflects modern discussion (to about 1994) and uses the best contemporary primary text editions of the writings in question. All of this gives the English-only reader a taste of the now-famous Italian school of early Christianity and patristics—which includes the noted Angelo Di Berardino and Manlio Simonetti.

All in all, a useful set to place alongside Quasten and the standard dictionaries of the early church (Ferguson, above, 2-volume second edition, 1997) and Angelo Di Berardino, Encyclopedia of the Early Church (2 volumes, 1992).

—James T. Dennison, Jr.