Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Quaeritur: What is the Best of the Manuals? (Follow-Up 2)


Quaeritur: Do you have any familiarity with Migne's course, "Patrologiae Cursus Completus?" Is it any good? Is it authoritative at all?

Respondeo: Migne's work is an extrensive collection of the writings of the Church Fathers and other contemporary ecclesiastical writers. It is not really a "course" (i.e., manual) as we understand it today. I do not think anyone has ever read all 169 volumes of the Series Graeca or all 221 volumes of the Series Latina, even Migne himself, since it is just humanly impossible to do so (nearly 400 large volumes in ancient Greek and Latin in tiny print). It is rather a reference work. As such, it does have "authority" (apart from the theological authority of the Fathers themselves) insofar as:

(1) It provides a relatively good and reliable text of the Fathers in their original language(s)

(2) It provides a standard method of citing them (for example, for Augustine's De civitate Dei, Book X, Ch. 1, the citation would simply be "PL 41, 279", which means "Patrologiae Cursus Completus Series Latina, Tomus 41, column 279"). This method of citing the Fathers is universal for all the volumes in both Greek and Latin series of the Cursus.

Of course, it was published long ago (mid 19th Century) and there are many, more recent, and better critical editions of many of the texts. Yet the Patrologia is still the best (and only) complete collection of the writings of the first 12 centuries of ecclesiastical writers.

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