Should we update Quasten?

In my last post I mentioned how Quasten’s Patrology is becoming rather out of date.  For me, the most annoying thing is that I find myself looking at works thinking “that would be interesting to translate”, only to find that translations have come along since he wrote.

Looking at Amazon I discover that it is published by Thomas More Publishing, who turn out to be an imprint of Ave Maria PressThis website lists their imprints, which include “Christian Classics”, the name that appears inside my own copies.

After a bit of thought, I wrote to the general enquiries email at Ave Maria Press, asking that they pass the email to the directors.  I asked whether they do, in fact, own Quasten; whether they have considered updating it; or whether they would consider it.

Would it really be such a big task to improve the book?  The bibliographies of translations could be updated, perhaps, relatively easily, with the assistance of l’Année Philologique and the internet.  Probably most of us could do this, given some secretarial assistance, and it might be interesting to do.  Much of the text doesn’t really need changing.

But then again I mainly use volume 3, on Greek writers.  Volumes 1 and 2 are thin, and really in need of expansion, particularly in the light of the Nag Hammadi discoveries.  This element really requires a professional scholar.

Revising Quasten is not “research”, so I can foresee problems in finding a scholar willing to do it.  “Research” is everything, in the current climate, and those who fail to publish it find their jobs at risk.  But surely we ought to be able to do something?

What sort of changes, I wonder, would we make to Quasten, if we could?

3 Responses to “Should we update Quasten?”


  1. Lewis Ayres

    Cambridge University Press have under contract a complete revision of Quasten – much of which is 50 or more years old – as ~The Cambridge Patrology in 6 vols. edited by Angelo Di Beradino, Lewis Ayres and Thomas Graumann!

  2. Lewis Ayres

    I add to my earlier comment that the first volume, for example, makes virtually no useful mention of modern studies on “Gnosticism”, while the 4th century coverage now misses 30-40 years of modern study of the Trinitarian controversies. There is, in fact, a huge amount to be done and the new volumes will be commissioned from scratch.

  3. Roger Pearse

    That is most interesting – thank you! I heard some years ago something rather vague about a CUP Patrology, but I never heard more and presumed that it was a dead project. I am delighted to learn more.

    It is based on Quasten, is it? That is good, if so. Although certainly the first volume of Quasten is quite hopeless, and wasn’t that good even when new, so I would imagine it is in need of a completely fresh start.

    Do you know when this is likely to come out? I admit that I shall certainly be an early purchaser and reviewer.

    I’m a little wary about what the content might be like, because I have the “volume 5″ book, and in some areas it wasn’t really that good. I remember reading one section which seemed like someone yattering on about a specialist research interest in an unsatisfactory way (viewed as research) instead of remembering the general reader who is looking at a volume of this nature for orientation. (Then again it had a super section on the catenas, although that could have done with being edited by someone who would say “what?” and “explain this a bit more clearly”)

    Quasten had two great merits, to someone coming to an area for the first time: he included verbatim quotations in English, which gave you a feel for the author; and he included older translations, in various languages, and not just the latest translation in some language or other. And he always recorded whatever existed in English translation. Vol. 5 did not do this, and nor did the Italian volumes. This made it perceptibly less useful to a good proportion of its possible readership. There is a great risk of presuming that this volume will only be for specialists. It was Quasten’s glory that he managed to transcend that. To read him was a liberal education; at least, I found it so.

    I would like to think that the new book had room for people like me — enthusiasts –, as well as specialists. Is anyone looking out for us?



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