Monday, August 03, 2009

Review of Holmes' Apostolic Fathers

Timothy Sailors, who presented in the Working with Biblical Manuscripts unit at the SBL Int. in Rome recently has written a review in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.07-08 of Michael W. Holmes (ed.), The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. 3rd edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007. Pp. xxv, 806. ISBN 9780801034688.


Many of the critical observations in this review apply equally to other editions of the Apostolic Fathers (including the Loeb edition), though in some areas, Holmes offers marked improvements upon these. The serious student will still need to consult Lightfoot for fuller discussions and textual evidence.18 Moreover, more detailed introductions will have to be sought elsewhere: either in the Loeb edition, in the (recent or recently augmented) Sources chrétiennes volumes, or in commentaries on individual Apostolic Fathers (especially those in the Kommentar zu den Apostolischen Vätern series). Holmes has nevertheless met the need for a reliable, single-volume critical edition of the Greek texts of the Apostolic Fathers with English translations. His revision commends itself in many ways as the standard hand edition of this corpus.


  1. I like the format of Holmes' 3d edition very much. It is small and compact, but still very much readable. The 2d edition was bigger and did not lie flat.

  2. I found the tone of Tim Sailor's review a little strident in its correction of details, especially given the nature of the book and the positives mentioned (good text, excellent apparatus, good ET [with translation notes], good brief introductions, better than Loeb, etc.).

    With book reviews of course we generally discover as much about the author of the review as the author of the book.

  3. There are two problematic features to this review. First, "good" is an unhelpful word. "Good" does not say much and it sets you up for saying what is "bad" which is not IMO the objective. Descriptive words are better (good = thorough, concise, informative, factual, rigorous, nearly-exhaustive, entertaining); the review should allow the reader to make their own judgment by descriptively analyzing the content. Judgment statements on the book should reflect on how the text will affect the discipline/its audience. Second, only incorrect facts should be cited as errors/infelicities. If someone's terminology or presuppositions are different (anachronistic, confessional, non-consensus), that is not an error.

    Having said that, Sailors thoroughly interacted with Holmes' edition, and obviously has a extensive knowledge of the subject matter. I think that few scholars spend the time conducting a review such as was done here, and I learned a great deal from reading it.

  4. CA: "I think that few scholars spend the time conducting a review such as was done here"

    I agree. Some reviews are almost similar to what is on the backcover.

  5. I absolutely agree that robust reviews are necessary and desirable; and in many ways this is a good example of that. My comment about the "tone" is also hard to substantiate objectively. How do other people feel about the tone?

  6. Stephen Carlson wrote:
    "I like the format of Holmes' 3d edition very much. It is small and compact, but still very much readable."
    --credit for the format goes to James Ernest and Baker Academic (who even conducted some focus groups to get feedback re font choice and format). Baker came through big-time on this one.

    Christian Askeland wrote about the review: "I learned a great deal from reading it."
    --and so did I!

    Finally, thanks to Tommy for posting this--much appreciated.

  7. Timothy B. Sailors8/05/2009 7:55 pm

    I suppose I'd might as well chime in.

    Thanks are ultimately due Mike for having produced such a useful work of scholarship.

    And I hope that point isn't lost on readers of the review.

  8. I chose the same font, Gentium, for my monograph on Jude. I like it very much.

  9. Yes, Gentium is my favorite Greek font, though the new SBL font is also pleasing on the eye.