Semi-Random Thoughts: Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine and Books

08 Jan

Now that I’m removing pain-killers from my diet I find myself wanting to post more (this may end tomorrow when I find out how much I have waiting for me at work) but I’m still having some issues sitting for long periods which is having an impact on my finishing more technical stuff such as my Cameron review. This may actually be a good thing in the long run as I’ve been scribbling notes on a pad while reclining but it’s not doing much for getting the post out. When I’m doing serious work, I perform at my best sitting upright, balanced, focused on my computer, keyboard and whatever references I’ve surrounded myself with. I don’t consider a post such as my recent one on Ambrose to be completely non-formal but it was based on, mostly, one reference and composed more of my impressions than a load of facts. For much of it I was leaning back with my keyboard on my lap. So today I’m going to throw out a few things that I’m looking into and hope I don’t bore everyone to death.

As I began looking into my Christianity reading project I decided to begin by reading a bit more on Jerome, Ambrose and Augustine, then work backwards. I’m now thinking this is the wrong approach. The primary impacts of these three are on what came after rather than their output reflecting what came before. My very rough idea of these impacts could be summed up as; Augustine impacting future doctrine; Ambrose impacting Church organization and the role of the bishop and; Jerome impacting asceticism. I am certain that the previous sentence is an extreme oversimplification however I also think there’s some truth at its core. In many ways Jerome may be the most interesting as he was something of a contemporary fringe figure who gained importance as time went on. I’m afraid that once I start reading him I’ll find myself following up with all the stuff I have on asceticism, monasticism, desert fathers, etc. This is fine but it’s not the “start at the beginning of the 5th century and work backwards” method I originally had planned.

I’ve read a bit on each of these and have more on my shelves. The question I’m asking myself at the moment is how much of their source material; their writings, letters, sermons, etc., should I read? For Jerome and Ambrose this may not be that big of a deal. There’s a good amount of source material out there but not so much that I can’t go through a fairly high percentage of it. Augustine is another issue. I’ve read his Confessions and City of God. The first seven volumes of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series consists of his material. This is several thousand pages. How much of this do I need to read? (I don’t expect an answer here) I imagine that On Christian Doctrine, his various works on will and grace, and his stuff against the Donatists will be on my list. What about On the Soul, On Patience, On Virginity, etc.? I’ll figure it out. Hopefully I won’t figure wrongly.

Kudos to my friends who are getting smarter (see footnote 1 for details). This year several of my gifts have been cards for booksellers. Yesterday I used a couple of them to order some Symmachus and Libanius. I have two more which I’m going to hold off on using for a bit but at this moment I’m looking at Macrobius’ Saturnalia and Emperor Julian. I have to come up with some pretty distinct thank-you’s so they remember this for next year. Or maybe I just need to schedule major surgery every year around Christmas.


Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Blogology, Books, Religion


Tags: , , , , ,

8 responses to “Semi-Random Thoughts: Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine and Books

  1. emilymorganhuffman

    January 8, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Reblogged this on emilymorganhuffman and commented:
    Just Another Blog for my Youth’s fiction book, notes for private

  2. Michelle Ziegler

    January 8, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    I don’t know a great deal about these men but surely part of Jerome’s appeal is as translator of the bible. This would give him prominence and influence in his translation. Isn’t he also the author (or credited author) for the most popular martryologies which set the church calendar. Surely some like Bede would give Jerome’s commentaries more weight as the translator of scripture.

  3. Curt Emanuel

    January 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    For me his promotion of asceticism was his largest impact, despite the Vulgate translation. To that point the idea of people removing themselves completely from the world was pretty controversial, even among Christians. Jerome had a big role in changing that perception.

  4. Larry Swain

    February 3, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Hey Curt,
    I really recommend starting with a history of early Christianity before digging into specific patristic writers. I recommend W. H. C. Frend’s history, I think called Rise of Christianity. 25 years old now, but a great scholar, readable book for a mind like yours and mine, only covers the first 600 years, but highly detailed and plenty of primary texts cited. And its one volume unlike the excellent but multi-volume Pelikan hisory of Christian thought. Just my .02.

  5. Curt Emanuel

    February 4, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Thanks Larry,

    Frend is very good. I won’t guarantee it was the first book on Christianity I read but it was definitely one of the early ones, probably 10-15 years ago. It’s usually the first book I recommend to someone, depending on their interest – certainly the best overview even if it is over a thousand pages.

  6. Anonymous

    February 4, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Cool beans….wasn’t sure if you had tackled it before taking on those big guns. He has a few others that aren’t as read but you might find useful, one on the Donatists and one on the Monophysite controversy.

    Re: Augustine, I think you’ve got the majority of the big ones. As a general reader Confessions, City of God, On Christian Doctrine, Enarrationes on the Psalms is prob key, the Retractions always interesting. After that I think it depends on your interests: I’d read his letters to Jerome, homilies on the gospels. I’m interested in source material, so I’m often looking at his Anti-Pelagian works and On the Trinity….but I think it depends on what you are interested in looking at.

  7. Curt Emanuel

    February 4, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    He has a new sourcebook coming out this spring too. I hold off until I see the TOC before buying it.

    I find the road to Orthodoxy very interesting so I read pretty much everything I can find in the sources on heresy. And there’s a lot of it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: