Popular Patristics Series, cont’d

This post follows on another in which I listed the volumes of the Popular Patristics Series published by Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, indicating the contents of each volume and the texts translated where indicated. Two volumes have since been added to the series.

37. Mark the Monk — Counsels on the Spiritual Life [volumes one and two combined in one volume]
Volume 1: Translation, Notes, Introductions by Tim Vivian; foreword: Rowan Williams
Volume 2: Translation, Notes, Introductions by Tim Vivian and Augustine Casiday
Works: [Vol. 1:] A Letter to Nicholas; Nicholas’ Response to Mark; On the Spiritual Law; Concerning Those Who Imagine That They Are Justified by Works; On Repentance; Concerning Fasting; The Mind’s Advice to its Own Soul; [Vol. 2:] On Melchizedek; A Monastic Superior’s Disputation with an Attorney and Discussion with His Fellow Monks; On the Incarnation: A Doctrinal Treatise Addressed to Those Who Say That the Holy Flesh Was Not United with the Word but Rather Partially Clothed It, Like a Coat. Because of This, They Say, the Person Wearing the Garment Was Different from the Garment Being Worn; Concerning Holy Baptism; Appendix: Jerome the Greek, “Works Useful to Every Christian”
Texts: Georges de Durand, Marc le Moine. Traités I. SC 445, and Marc le Moine. Traités II. SC 455.

38. St Basil the Great — On Social Justice
Translation, Introduction, Commentary: C. Paul Schroeder; foreword: Gregory P. Yova
Works: To the Rich, I Will Tear Down My Barns, In Time of Famine and Drought, Against Those Who Lend at Interest; Appendix: The Pseudo-Basilian Homily On Mercy and Justice
Texts: Yves Courtonne, ed. and trans. Saint Basile: Homélies sur la richesse: edition critique et exégetique (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1935); PG 31.


  1. Kevin, if you have time would you make a list for this newbie (just vol. numbers would be fine) that would be a roughly chronological read? Thanks.


  2. Dana, here’s the order (roughly chronological) in which I keep the volumes shelved at home:

    17. St Irenaeus of Lyons — On the Apostolic Preaching
    20. Melito of Sardis — On Pascha
    22. Hippolytus — On the Apostolic Tradition
    29. Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen — On the Lord’s Prayer
    32. St Cyprian of Carthage — On the Church – Select Treatises
    33. St Cyprian of Carthage — On the Church – Select Letters
    10. Saint Ephrem the Syrian — Hymns on Paradise
    4. Saint Athanasius — On the Incarnation
    5. Saint Basil the Great — On the Holy Spirit
    30. St Basil the Great — On the Human Condition
    38. St Basil the Great — On Social Justice
    2. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem — Lectures on the Christian Sacraments
    12. St Gregory of Nyssa — On the Soul and Resurrection
    23. St Gregory of Nazianzus — On God and Christ: The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius
    21. St Gregory of Nazianzus — On God and Man: The Theological Poetry of St Gregory of Nazianzus
    36. St Gregory of Nazianzus — Festal Orations
    27. Four Desert Fathers — Pambo, Evagrius, Macarius of Egypt, and Macarius of Alexandria: Coptic Texts Relating to the Lausiac History of Palladius
    28. St Macarius the Spiritbearer — Coptic Texts Relating to Saint Macarius the Great
    1. Saint John Chrysostom — Six Books on the Priesthood
    31. St John Chrysostom — The Cult of the Saints
    7. Saint John Chrysostom — On Marriage and Family Life
    9. Saint John Chrysostom — On Wealth and Poverty
    37. Mark the Monk — Counsels on the Spiritual Life
    13. St Cyril of Alexandria — On the Unity of Christ
    19. Jacob of Serug — On the Mother of God
    26. Barsanuphius and John — Letters from the Desert
    34. St Gregory the Great — The Book of Pastoral Rule
    25. St Maximus the Confessor — On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ
    11. St Isaac of Nineveh — On Ascetical Life
    8. Saint Germanus of Constantinople — On the Divine Liturgy
    3. Saint John of Damascus — On the Divine Images
    24. St John of Damascus — Three Treatises on the Divine Images
    35. Wider Than Heaven: Eighth-century Homilies on the Mother of God
    6. Saint Theodore the Studite — On the Holy Icons
    18. On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies
    14. St Symeon the New Theologian — On the Mystical Life. The Ethical Discourses, Volume I: The Church and the Last Things
    15. St Symeon the New Theologian — On the Mystical Life. The Ethical Discourses, Volume II: On Virtue and Christian Life
    16. St Symeon the New Theologian — On the Mystical Life. The Ethical Discourses, Volume III: Life, Times, and Theology

    It could perhaps use some fine tuning, but it is essentially correct. I hope you find the list useful!

  3. Thanks again. I’m not after the “fine tune”- as I said, I’m a newbie. If given a choice, most often I read things chronologically, so this will certainly be helpful.

    One of the things that sort of “clinched the deal” on Orthodoxy for me was reading the Apostolic Fathers (Fr. Louth’s compilation/translation for Penguin). I’m having fun and deriving spiritual benefit in discovering the rest of the Fathers.


  4. Kevin… this series is based all too often on corrupt Western editions. SVS lacks the resources to do a proper job (most of its money goes to pay staff in a high COL area), indeed, the place is merely a vocational school for priests… it’s no centre of scholarship. This was a bit slipshod, Kev… Indeed, are you encouraging newbies to read the Fathers? That’s like handing a loaded AK to a two-year-old. Certainly, you know how contradictory the Patristic deposit is! Be careful with the Fathers… you may encourage some toddler to dabble in things beyond them.


  5. An addition, if you will. Did you note that the introduction to one of these was written by the heretic Rowan Williams? For shame, Kev… you should have noted that and warned people off of the squiffy scholarly apparatus. Now, some newbie is going to think that Rowan Williams (and the Episkies in general) are kosher.

    Does this deserve a trip to the woodshed? Perspiring minds want to know!


  6. First thing we do, let’s forbid all people learning English literature to read Shakespeare, Chaucer, or any other great writers. Much safer to read secondary and tertiary sources.

    Uh huh. Yeah.

    The kind of people who are likely to get into trouble doctrinally with the Fathers are just as likely to get into trouble doctrinally watching Saturday morning Christian kiddie cartoons. Actually, more likely, with the cartoons. If you know something is serious, important, and ancient, you’re more likely to give it due attention and wrestle with it. Easy-peasy secondary and tertiary sources often over-simplify, and lead the student to believe that there isn’t any more depth than what is presented, and that therefore Christianity is obviously stupid or outmoded.

  7. Vara, I’ve looked at the editions used, having in fact listed them in these posts, and they’re actually the best available for the various sources. Sometimes, they’re older editions, but that’s simply because no one has put together a modern critical edition. I don’t know who told you that, but it’s wrong. Also, the translations are not subsidised or otherwise initiated by SVS. The Press simply publishes them, when the editor decides that they’d make a good addition to the series. And it’s a good series.

    And no, I don’t think a brief foreword by Rowan Williams is enough reason to reject the book. It may as well have been written by the local grocer, it’s so bland. And while the translation of St Mark’s writings is by a couple of Anglicans, who no doubt solicited a person they esteem to write the Foreword, we can ask ourselves: why are we Orthodox not translating all these things ourselves?

    Yes, it’s better to work in the originals. And yes, everyone needs guidance from others in reading the Fathers (which I’ve discussed before at length here). But no, I don’t think they should be sequestered and kept from translation just because some people might mess up with them. They could just as easily (and have, judging from the number of heresies in the history of the Church) have screwed up through reading the Fathers in Greek, too. There’s no guarantee.

    But it is a great little series of small paperbacks that, for those who want pocket-convenient translations without too much annotation, good for getting readers familiar with the Fathers.

  8. Kev…

    I disagree, and strongly so. Friends in Russia tell me that many of these translations into English are made from corrupt editions. Migne is particularly bad and full of such. A canonist friend of mine warned me that “young eldership” is the worst thing to afflict the Church in Russia, and he noticed it here when he was on a visit.

    That is… newbies shouldn’t even touch the Fathers. They lack spiritual maturity and Orthodox groundedness. Kev, you know that the Fathers are contradictory. These fools take the Fathers as Gospel… when they are not. If the introduction was bland… why even print it? To be blunt, I NEVER read such in “popular” editions. Print the material straight-up and without addition, I say. In any case, no one at SVS is competent, any road… they’re not the MDA or Thessaloniki. Need I mention Paul Meyendorff or Bradley Nssif… “Liturgical fundamentalism”… and you want to take these poseurs seriously. I repeat, there is no one at SVS who can hold a candle to people such as Profs Osipov, Narochnitskaya, and Deacon Andrei Kuraev.

    In short, there is too much reading of the Fathers by spiritually immature konvertsy. They have to be pulled down to earth for their own good (in the words of St John of the Ladder, by the way). Don’t touch the Fathers unless your elder or confessor advises it. They’re spiritual dynamite… especially in the hands of poorly-formed ex-Episkies. It’s like a chainsaw… very useful in the right hands… downright dangerous in the wrong ones.

    No doubt, I’ll be excoriated for saying the above… but it must be said, and I wish that the bloviators would put half as much effort into good works as do in worthless “spiritual reading”. THAT would be something, wouldn’t it?


  9. Why should you be excoriated? You’re exactly correct.

    My post, however, didn’t deal with any of those things, nor does it recommend these to every reader, which I wouldn’t do. The lists that I put up were specifically to detail what is included in each of these volumes, primarily as an aid to scholarship (which is a different kettle of fish with its own problems). I studiously avoided all value judgments in this particular listing. And I do think these are valuable tools for scholarship, and a needed corrective to much that passes for “Patristic” samplers these days.

    The “popular” format is, I think anyway, a reference to the size: small paperbacks, and inexpensive. And they are indeed useful in the right hands. Those hands needn’t be denied them, either.

    And as I said above, none of these volumes are produced by SVS names. Their press is the publisher, and Behr is the editor, but the translators are all from elsewhere, as far as I can tell.

    And, again, look at the texts that I list as the editions used. Your Russian friends will agree that some are in fact very good, while some are certainly not, but are the only published texts available to anyone. Sometimes that is Migne, which is absolutely a mixed bag. He collected (in the days before copyright) the best editions published in his own day, sometimes the only editions still available. It was a great and ambitious work, but more noble in its intention than in its execution. It’s riddled with spelling errors and such, but these are recognizable to anyone familiar with the languages involved. Even so, most of the books I noted above are based on more recent critical texts of much higher quality than the Migne editions.

    Anyhow, I do agree with you. The usage of these volumes by a young Christian as some kind of canon-totting encyclopedia was not something I was thinking of, as I hadn’t thought of that. For those with approval, and who therefore are likely more level-headed, they are helpful tools, particularly when used in conjunction with the originals (which is how I first encountered them and found them to be of such use, though not perfect).

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