Today I found myself wondering just what the early Christians would have to say on various controverted passages in Scripture, passages where modern issues cause us to look urgently at the text. If Theodoret’s Commentary on Romans is any guide, not much: but I would like to know, all the same.
This naturally caused me to think about the Inter-Varsity Press series, the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. These take the catena approach to commentary, as is natural and sensible.
The volumes in this series are rather pricey, I recall, which is unfortunate. This material ought to be online, surely? It is slightly sad to read the following comment in the introduction to the series:
We have chosen and ordered these selections primarily for a general lay reading audience of nonprofessionals who study the Bible regularly and who earnestly wish to have classic Christian observations on the text readily available to them.
Yes, but how will this audience ever access the product? My only access to any of it vanished with Library.nu.
Now I was wondering just how the volumes were assembled. We all know that the catenas have not been critically edited, and even accessing them is not a trivial matter. There is some discussion of this in the general introduction (PDF) to the series, which appears to be in the Genesis I-II volume:
[We] identified these classic comments by performing global searches of the Greek and Latin patristic corpus. They have searched for these texts in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) digitalized Greek database, the Cetedoc edition of the Latin texts of Corpus Christianorum from the Centre de traitement electronique des documents (Universit. catholique de Louvain), the Chadwyck-Healey Patrologia Latina Database (Migne) and the Packard Humanities Institute Latin databases. We have also utilized the CD-ROM searchable version of the Early Church Fathers, of which the Drew University project was an early co-sponsor along with the Electronic Bible Society. …
Having searched Latin and Greek databases, we then solicited from our Coptic, Syriac and Armenian editorial experts selections from these bodies of literature, seeking a fitting balance from all available exegetical traditions of ancient Christianity within our time frame. To all these we added the material we could find already in English translation. …
[We] supplied to each volume editor a substantial read-out [=print-out] of Greek and Latin glosses, explanations, observations and comments on each verse or pericope of Scripture text. …
TLG and Cetedoc are referenced more often than Migne or other printed Greek or Latin sources for these reasons: (1) the texts are more quickly and easily accessed digitally in a single location; (2) the texts are more reliable and in a better critical edition; (3) we believe that in the future these digital texts will be far more widely accessed both by novices and specialists; (4) short selections can be easily downloaded; and (5) the context of each text can be investigated by the interested reader.
Note that the searches were carried out by computer specialists, rather than scholars. The editors also say that only a fraction of the material assembled was used, as is natural.
I think we may be fairly confident, therefore, that ancient catena material was not used.
It’s still a good project. Would that I could access it!!