Toward a “Loeb” Patristics Library

Tony SigAt least for me, the Loeb Classical Library is most helpful not for the facing English translation, the introduction, or the notes; helpful as these are. It is the widely available and mostly affordable access to an original language text. The rest is the cream. And despite their reputation among “real” classicists as texts for hacks and grad students, they are inestimably helpful to, for instance, biblical and theological students, or to priests and hobbyists, or indeed to hacks and grad students.

But alas, there is nothing like this for the study of historical theology, excepting those few early fathers found in the Loeb (Whose use is rather negated by the fact that one must purchase half a shelve’s worth of books just to get The City of God or Philo’s works). There are, however, similar works in both German and French; namely the Fontes Christiani and the Sources Chrétiennes. What’s more — and here I mean the Sources Chrétiennes because I don’t know about the FC — these very often are not just a text but a critical text with apparatus and sometimes commentary. This allows for them to be useful for academic citation.

Now English does have a series that produces texts like this, the Oxford Early Christian Texts, but not only are these texts obscenely expensive, the series makes no aims whatsoever at being a patrology.

I would at least like to assert, though, that it would make a great foundation with which to produce a Patrologia Maior. Forget doing an exhaustive patrology, hell, even a hand-held bi-lingual edition of Minge would work even if it is much less than desirable.

I can’t be the only person who thinks this, right? How handy would a “Loeb” Patristics Library be? Indeed something like the whole combination of Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge Commentaries, and Oxford Classical Texts would be pretty sweet. And how could such a thing not but increase interest in studying patristics in the original languages?



  1. Loeb does actually publish some of the fathers. Augustine and Basil come to mind. Just not many of them…


    1. I did mention that in the post, but yes, definitely not enough to be useful. (Plus, isn’t City of God something stupid, like 12 volumes?)


  2. That would be sweet. As a non-scholar who enjoys finding Loebs in used bookstores, theological equivalents would make make my wasted weekend afternoons much more enjoyable.

    You should get a hold of the Loeb people, they could totally publish them in, like, blue covers.


  3. Harvard University Press is now publishing a number of series similar to their Loebs. The Vulgate Bible with English translation was the first volume in their new Dumbarton Oaks Medieval library. Blue covers are already being used for the I Tatti Renaissance libray which now numbers over 50 volumes. Upcoming publications include two series for Sanskrit and Jewish texts.

    A Patristic library would be possible but serious financial support would be needed to fund the publications along with a dedicated general editor to oversee the recruitment of translators. It is possible, there just needs to be sufficient resources in place.


  4. I purchased some nine volumes of the Fontes Christiani series last year, when I first discovered that they could be purchased through abebooks. They are quite handsome and sturdy, though of course you need to know Greek/Latin or German.

    I am always surprised that St. Irenaeus is so unavailable–I purchased the 5 volume set and have started going through it very, very slowly. He is so important for early theology, and seems such a target for so many of our contemporaries, it seems odd to me that Adversus Haeres is so hard to come by.

    I still found the availability of the Fontes Christiani volumes very hit or miss. They are sometimes also available at the German Amazon site.


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