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French Works: Et voila!

September 21, 2011

In the recent hubbub about being about to consult works on NT/Christian Origins in languages other than English, some have granted that German might be useful, but have questioned how much there is in French.   As I’m having to consult some key French works for the essay I’m currently working on (“Jesus in Early Christian Prayer”), I thought I’d respond with some specific examples.  Granted, there aren’t as many French-speaking scholars as there are English or German-speaking ones, but there are enough works to make it important to be able to consult them.  The ones I’ll cite also happen to be additional examples of older works that still deserve attention.

Adalbert Hamman, La Priere, I:  Le Nouveau Testament (Tournai:  Desclee, 1959), remains essential for any research on prayer (and associated concepts) in the NT.  Volume 2 of his work, La Priere, II:  Les Trois Premiers Siecles (Paris/Tournai:  Desclee, 1963), takes the study on through numerous extra-canonical texts of the second and third centuries CE, producing what is still the widest and most thorough discussion of early Christian prayer available. 

Here’s another classic work:  Jules Lebreton, Histoire du Dogme de la Trinité, des origines au concile de Nicée (2 vols.; Paris: G. Beauchesne, 1910-1928).  As with Hamman’s study, Lebreton’s gives text-by-text analysis, beginning with the NT and continuing on through the pre-Nicene period.  Each volume is ca. 700 pp., and so the resulting work is thorough and detailed, with copious interaction with scholarly work available at that time.  Vol. 2 is not to be overlooked by NT students.  It includes chapter-length discussions of material that is golden and hard to duplicate:  e.g., the section on “Christ in early Christian Prayer” (pp. 201-42).  Vol. 1 was translated (but in somewhat abridged form, omitting a lot of the footnotes):  History of the Dogma of the Trinity, Volume 1:  The Origins (London:  Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1939).

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2 Comments
  1. G. Firmin permalink

    Je me permettrais de préciser qu’il n’est nullement besoin d’être “french speaking” : je suis personnellement incapable de parler anglais (disons, avec un “Anglo-Saxon”), mais je lis beaucoup d’anglais “documentaire” (une langue qui n’est pas celle de la littérature ni de la “vie réelle”) — je parviens même à suivre quelques blogs — et il m’arrive de traduire des “scholar works”, assez bien j’espère… Il en est bien sûr de même pour toutes les langues, et il est évident que l’espagnol ou l’italien sont aussi des langues qui ont des chercheurs d’aussi haut niveau que ceux qui s’expriment en anglais ou en allemand.

    • I agree entirely. One needs only to be able to consult/understand/engage the relevant scholarly works, with a dictionary. It’s not a matter of fluency. And I agree that there are sometimes (less frequently, however) key works in still other languages, which may mean that one needs to work up some elementary ability. E.g., with my Spanish I am usually able to make intelligent guess about the few works in Italian that I’ve needed to consult.

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