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Pratscher, Wilhelm [Hrsg.]
Die Apostolischen Väter. Eine Einleitung.
Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2009. 283 S. 8° = UTB M 3272. Kart. EUR 24,90. ISBN 978-3-8252-3272-6 (UTB); 978-3-525-03637-2 (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht).
This new, comprehensive treatment of the Apostolic Fathers pro-vides a full, but very accessible, introduction to these texts. The so-called ›Apostolic Fathers‹ constitute a collection of somewhat miscellaneous texts, all probably from the period shortly after the time of the New Testament. Wilhelm Pratscher, as editor of the book provides a useful introductory essay on the corpus of the Apostolic Fathers, sketching how the collection has been treated in the past, and which texts have been included. The first to make such a collection was Cotelier in 1672, and since then various editions of ›the collection‹ have been published, expanded over time as new texts have become known (e. g. the Didache, whose text was not discovered until the 1880s). Pratscher has decided to treat all the possible texts to be included in the collection here, including not only the texts which are almost always included (1 & 2Clement, Didache, Ignatius, Barnabas, Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Hermas) but also some texts which are sometimes not treated (Diognetus, the fragments of Papias found in various disparate sources, and the small tradition ascribed to Quadratus in Eusebius).
Each ›text‹ here is discussed in full detail by a separate author. Each of the authors is clearly a specialist in the text concerned, often having written extensively on it in earlier publications: thus Draper treats the Didache, having written numerous articles on the text already; 1Clement is treated by Lindemann, the author of the Handbuch zum Neuen Testament on the text; 2Clement and Diognetus are discussed by Pratscher and Lona respectively, the authors of the Kommentar zu den Apostolischen Vätern (KAV) volumes on those texts, Körtner writes here on the fragments of Papias, having published a full monograph on the topic earlier, Dehandschutter writes on Polycarp, having published extensively elsewhere, etc. The treatment of each text covers very similar ground in each case, though the editor has clearly not imposed a uniform pattern on the contributors and each is given the freedom to develop his own approach, appropriate to the text in question. Nevertheless, each chapter treats issues about the textual tradition of the text, the possible date and authorship of the text, as well as highlighting par-ticular issues associated with each individual text. The contents of each text are summarised, with a clear summary also given of the main theological ideas reflected in the text. A good list of further reading, reasonably comprehensive but not overwhelming, is provided at the end of each chapter. Certainly the information here is very valuable for any wishing to engage in further reading on each text. (Although uniformity in presentation has not been imposed artificially, it is slightly unfortunate that references to the key manuscript, Hierosolymitanus 54 [containing a collection approximating to the ›Apostolic Fathers‹] is here referred to in different ways: most refer to it as ›H‹, but Draper on the Didache uses ›H54‹!).
Inevitably in a book of this nature, some corners have to be cut at times: not every disputed issue can be treated fully and some-times results have to be stated when a fuller discussion and argument might be possible in a longer treatment. Thus it is stated and assumed here that the Didache is dependent on earlier, pre-redactional synoptic traditions (rather than the synoptic gospels themselves as argued by some today); a fairly ›traditional‹ resolution of the issue of the authenticity and date of the letters of Ignatius is presumed and given here (though the existence of alternative views are noted, albeit fairly briefly); the issue of the integrity of the so-called letter to Diognetus is said here to be fairly open; it is assumed as almost a ›given‹ that the identity of the ›opponents‹ implied in 2Clement can be taken as some kind of ›Gnostics‹ etc. There is clearly no space to debate every such issue in detail, and interested readers will be able to discover from the further reading (if they get into it) that some of these issues are perhaps not quite as clear cut as may appear at first sight. Nevertheless, for many readers, perhaps using a volume such as this as their first entry into a consideration of the text, such clear, concise treatments are invaluable and pro-vide a clear and helpful way of orienteering oneself into the issues which these texts provide in scholarly discussions.
For those with little prior knowledge of the details of the texts in question, this volume provides an excellent introduction to the texts concerned and the various issues which they raise in contemporary scholarly debates. Particularly valuable is the decision to treat the maximal number of such texts, including e. g. the Papias fragments (not of course extant as a single ›text‹!) and the tradition of Quadratus. The volume is concluded with a more general essay by Ulrich on the Apostolic Fathers, seeking to find common ground between the various texts, not only on formal grounds (e. g. all are probably from the first half of the second century, and do not make any pseudonymous claim to be by a famous New Testament figure – though that is not to say that they may still be pseudonymous: e. g. some of the letters attributed to Ignatius are widely held to be ›inauthentic‹), but also in terms of their theologies, their christologies etc. He also raises some interesting issues at the end about what questions might arise in relating these second century texts to the 21st century.
In summary this book can be thoroughly recommended for any wishing to engage with these fascinating, but often under-studied, texts. The clarity of the approach, and the comprehensive nature of the treatments, will be invaluable for a wide range of readers, both specialists and non-specialists alike. As such, the volume also fits very well into the UTB series for which it is a worthy and valuable addition.