Ante-Nicene Christian Library ---- Three reviews from The Athenaeum (1868-70) 


[No. 2120, June 13, 1868: p. 830]

OUR LIBRARY TABLE. 

Tertullian against Marcion.----The Writings of Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, Vol. I. (Clark's Ante-Nicene Library.)

THESE two volumes are the work of different translators, the former proceeding from Dr. P. Holmes, the latter from R. E. Wallis. They form the seventh and eighth of the entire series of which they are by no means the least important. To translate Tertullian's Latin into readable English is not an easy task, but we congratulate Dr. Holmes on the success with which he has performed it. He has selected the best edition, and consulted Semler's useful one, not neglecting the Abbé Migne's inferior reprint. Useful notes are given by the translator, which increase the value of the volume. A "preface" and an "introductory notice" are prefixed, respecting Tertullian, which are the least satisfactory parts of the work, containing the translator's unnecessary assertion of attachment to the orthodox faith, and showing his unacquaintance with the most recent literature respecting Tertullian and Marcion. We do not attach the same importance to 'Tertullian against Marcion' which the translator does; nor can we look upon the early heretic against whom the fiery and severe African father launched his invectives in the same dark light. Champions of the orthodox faith, like the Montanist Tertullian, do harm as well as good to the cause of truth, as their zeal carries them beyond discretion.----The introductory notice which the translator of Cyprian's epistles and treatises prefixes is brief and modestly written. Though it gives no just idea of what Cyprian did for the Church, it is more to our taste than Dr. Holmes's more pretentious but not more scholarly essays. In the epistles of Cyprian, the bishop, as the successor of the apostles, appears as the vicar of Christ to the Church, and though possessing supreme power in the Church, is to do nothing without the counsel of his presbyters. The complete realization of the episcopate is first seen in these epistles; and therefore the advocates of episcopacy owe more to this African father than to any other early writer. Mr. Wallis's version is literal and good, too literal perhaps at times. But he states expressly that he aimed at an exact rendering in preference to a fluent English one. Had we been in his place, we would have omitted occasional words and phrases which are superfluous in English, however appropriate in Latin. Thus, in the sentence of the first epistle,----" In such a place as this it is delightful to pass the day in discourse, and, by the study of the sacred narratives, to train the conscience of the breast to the apprehension of the divine precepts," the words of the breast might have been dispensed with.----The series of the Ante-Nicene Library is a most useful one, and deserves success. The present volumes have fallen into tho hands of competent and conscientious translators, whose knowledge of ecclesiastical Latin is sufficient. We hope that the succeeding Fathers may be entrusted to scholars equally fitted for the work, alive to its difficulties, and careful in its execution.


[No. 2173, June 19, 1869: p.823]

Ante-Nicene Christian Library. ---- Clement of Alexandria, Vol. II. The Writings of Tertullian, Vol. I. (Edinburgh, Clark.) 

THE ecclesiastics of the second and third.centuries were uncritical men, as the literature of their period attests. Justin Martyr used another Gospel, probably that "according: to the Hebrews," as much as the synoptists, if not more. He looked upon 'The Acts of Pilate' as authentic, and believed the Sibylline books inspired. Irenaeus cites 'The Shepherd of Hermas' as Scripture; while Clement of Alexandria uses it as a sacred document. The epistle of Barnabas was commonly accepted as the work of St. Paul's companion. Origen even reckoned it canonical, as did Clement sometimes. The latter styles its author, together with Clemens Romanus, apostles; and he comments on the epistles of Jude and Barnabas, with the 'Apocalypse of Peter,' as on canonical works. He thinks 'The Preaching of Peter' to have proceeded from the apostle himself. The epistle to the Hebrews he considers a Greek translation made from St. Paul's Hebrew original by Luke. Tertullian supposed that the Book of Enoch was an ante-diluvian work, which, after being lost in the Flood, may have been restored by Noah, the author's descendant. Ana what did he know about St. John, except that the last of the apostles, when cast into a furnace of oil, came forth unhurt, and was banished to an island? The letters of Ignatius were accepted as authentic. The Apocalypse was assigned to Domitian's reign. There was, it is true, some discrimination among these early writers, but it was neither sufficient nor thorough. They were not able to sift the large pseudonymous literature of the second century and assign it to the rightful authors. Yet this was most important. How many volumes, dissertations and disputes would have been spared had authentic information respecting the Christian literature of the second century been transmitted! The work of Church historians would have been vastly facilitated, and Biblical critics mightily helped, by a few correct notices respecting the writings of the apostolic Fathers, the Clementine literature, the pseudo-Petrine, 'The Gospel according to the Hebrews,' and the writings of St. John. Meantime the field is perplexed and thorny. We fear that it will be a meeting-place for polemical theologians in future times, instead of being surveyed with the calm impartiality of historical criticism. There is some hope, however, that Hilgenfeld, Ritschl, Steitz, and Koestlin may throw new light on it.

The two volumes of the Ante-Nicene Library before us are the eleventh and twelfth, containing portions of Clement's ("Alexandrinus") and Tertullian's works. The 'Stromata,' or miscellanies of Clement, except the first book, are in one; a number of Tertullian's minor treatises in the other. The English version is usually faithful, giving the general sense correctly. For ordinary readers it is sufficient. The translators of Tertullian and Clement must have found it by no means easy to grapple with their authors and put them in intelligible English; but they have succeeded in bringing them within the apprehension of attentive readers. For critical purposes it is still necessary to consult the originals, especially as the translators have given the true meaning in all cases. And they might certainly have made their English less rugged without detracting from its fidelity to the Greek and Latin which it is meant to represent. The reader would be greatly benefited by a brief statement, at the beginning of each treatise, of its object and contents. In the volume of Tertullian the want of such heading is palpably felt. Thus, Scorpiace, antidote for the scorpion's siting, is a defence of martyrdom against the Gnostics, as might have been indicated. De Spectaculis is the sole heading of the treatise on public games. In the table of contents it is translated on the spectacles, which is ambiguous. The treatise Apologeticus has no English heading, but is merely called Apology in the contents.

As to the volume of Clement, we notice that the third book of the 'Stromata' is given in Latin, not in English. The reason of this proceeding the editors do not state, though it may be easily inferred. There are more inexact renderings in Clement's Miscellanies than in Tertullian's treatises, though the latter are more difficult. Dr. Donaldson himself should have translated some of the more important works in the series, in which case we might have had versions in all respects satisfactory. As it is, some have not fallen into the best hands; nor does it appear certain that he has exercised all the inspection which he might have done in his editorial capacity. But the Library of the Ante-Nicene Fathers is a great boon; and many will thank the spirited publishers for it. An ample and practical encouragement should be their reward.


[No. 2234, August 20, 1870: p. 236]

The Ante-Nicene Christian Library.----XV. The Writings; of Tertullian, Vol. II.----XVI. Apocryphal Gospels, Acts, and Revelations. (Edinburgh, Clark.)

THE second volume of Tertullian in English contains all his polemical works except the treatise against Marcion and the Adversus Judaeos; the former of which has appeared already, the latter being reserved for a future volume. The translator of this Latin Father seems fully alive to the difficulties of his task, and competent to deal with them successfully. His version is excellent; while the notes he has subjoined must prove a valuable help to the reader. It is but seldom that we differ from his opinion as to the meaning of a phrase or sentence.

The sixteenth volume of 'The Ante-Nicene Library' consists of three parts, giving Apocryphal Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, and Apocalypses. The translator prefixes a brief Introduction of eighteen pages, containing some account of the documents of which each part is made up. Mainly compiled from Tischendorf, it is rather meagre. We are not distinctly told, either in the title-page or Introduction, from the text of what edition the English is made. Neither has the translator informed his reader that the Apocryphal Gospels had been already translated by Mr. Cowper. The allusions to this scholar are few; though it is not difficult to see that he has helped Mr. Walker in a variety of ways, both in the translation and notes. Here a little generosity might have been shown.

The version is literal and usually correct, while two good indexes increase the value of the volume; bu.t the Introduction is too brief, and is hardly accurate in several places. The translator is no critic; nor is he versed in the literature of the subject; and he should, therefore, be careful in following his source. He says that Tischendorf ascribes the Apocalypse of Paul to the year 380 upon pretty good evidence. Yet the Leipzig Professor assigns it to the year in which Theodosius died, i.e. 395, very much by conjecture. Mr. Walker also asserts that the two MSS. of it, used by Tischendorf, seem to be copied from the same original; whereas the Milan one was copied from that of Munich. For the Apocalypse of John, Tischendorf used three MSS. belonging to St. Mark's Library at Venice, not three Vienna MSS., as Mr. Walker makes them. The account given of the pseudo-Matthew's Gospel is in some respects, better than Mr. Cowper's; in others, inferior. Mr. Walker is right in thinking the original to have been in Latin; but he does not speak of a date, as Mr. Cowper does. Neither mentions that it is anti-Montanistic and anti-Manichean. Both St. Jerome and Innocent I. may have been acquainted with the work. We regret that no English translator of the Apocryphal literature has given a good critical estimate of the documents; nor has Tischendorf himself said much that is satisfactory or sufficient in relation to their composition, country, age, and character. Thilo or Neander might have discussed such topics ably; but the great Church historians of Germany have passed away, and their successors seem incapable. The translator should have given all the pieces contained in the volumes of Tischendorf, and the additional documents incorporated in Cowper's 'Apocryphal Gospels; and if another edition be called for we recommend the division of the volume into two and the enlargement of the Introduction. In the mean time, scholars are expecting a new and improved edition of Tischendorf's 'Apocryphal Gospels,' as well as an extension of his Hague prize essay on the 'Apocryphal Writings,' now put of print. These will furnish fresh materials for a fuller knowledge of an interesting branch of literature. We observe that Messrs. Walker and Cowper alike conclude their prefaces with a flourish about the gulf that separates the apocryphal and canonical writings of Christianity, which a critical study of the latter along with the early literature of the second century contained in the so-called Apostolic Fathers and the Clementines might possibly modify. It is easy to extol "the unapproachable simplicity and majesty of the canonical writings," and we should be the last to refuse assent to their high and sacred character; but the "impassable gulf" between the Epistle of St. Jude, for example, and Clement's to the Corinthians, is not patent to view. Scripture is dishonoured by the very praises of some of its advocates.

[Reviews not signed, but by Samuel DAVIDSON]


This page has been accessed by ****** people since 24th March 2003.


Home About these pages