IVP’s Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture

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.[1]


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.[2]


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!!

  1. [1]Introduction, p.xv.
  2. [2]Introduction, p.xiii.

6 thoughts on “IVP’s Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture

  1. To be fair, the individual series books in paperback are cheaper than the hardback edition, and I think they also sell an electronic version to universities.

    I teeter back and forth on these. A lot of the chewy goodness of individual works is lost by this particular kind of catena format, some very important stuff is relegated to summarization, and there seems to be a consistent downplaying of elements that conflict with IVP’s version of mere Christianity. But it does seem to be well-intentioned, and both invites readers to find out more and gives them works to start with. Also, their selection is quite broad.

    But yeah, even the paperback is pricy, which has discouraged me.

  2. Well, they do have the 300-some dollar electronic version of the whole series, which I suppose is a volume discount. But I’d want to know whether their software is annoying or not, and how can you tell before you buy it?

  3. I didn’t know about that, in truth. That would be better than rows of paper volumes.

    The software would certainly be annoying. They always are!

  4. The cd-rom version of the set can be found on Amazon for £177. However, I cashed out on the hardbacks, as I thought it was an investment for ministry.

    For instance, OUP’s excellent one volume commentary used to be available on cd-rom which I picked up for £5. However, it refuses to run on 64bit Windows 7 as far as I can tell. Better minds than I might be able to force Winodws into some sort of emulation mode, but I haven’t been able to.

    There’s always the Catena Aurea, available online here:


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