Monique Alexandre: A living history of French patristics

  1. Lemma
  2. Monique Alexandre: O istorie trăită a patristicii franceze
  3. Romanian
  4. Stavinschi, Alexandra
  5. Orthodox gnosiology - Patristic studies - Scientific theories and disciplines > Religious studies - Key thinkers - Ecumenism and dialogue - Education, Science and Orthodoxy - Westernism and anti-westernism
  6. 24-1-2017
  7. Bădiliţă, Cristian [Author]. Monique Alexandre: A living history of French patristics
  8. Stiinta dragoste credinta. Convorbiri cu patrologi europeni. [Science faith love. Conversations with European patrologists]
  9. Alexandre, Monique - Early Church Fathers - Philo of Alexandria - St Gregory of Nyssa - Septuagint - France
    1. 15-54
    1. This is the opening dialogue of Cristian Badilita’s book on Science, love and faith. It is an extensive conversation between the author and Monique Alexandre, one of the most valued experts on Philon of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa and the Septuagint. She starts off with a concise outline of the history of patristic studies in France, from the humanists, and then down through the 17th and 18th century, with a focus on the work of the jansenist Lenain de Tillemont (1637-1698), the Latin and Greek Patrology of the 19th century, and through the 20th century monumental publications by Paul Lejay şi Hippolyte Hemmer ― Textes et documents pour l'étude historique du christianisme (1904-1912, 20 volumes) and later Aimé Puech’s Histoire de la littérature grecque chrétienne (1928-1930). However, in Alexandre’s view, it was only from the 50's onwards that patristic studies have received unprecedented attention, which has completely reshaped them. She mentions a number of factors that might have contributed to this renewal, insisting on Jean Daniélou’s work within the Saint Jean Baptiste Circle, who crucially established ties with the anglican Oxford school. After the fall of Berlin’s wall in 1989, contacts with the East have been resumed. She also shares her views and her memories of some of the most influential personalities of the 40's and 50’s: Henri de Lubac, Henri-Irénée Marrou, Jean Daniélou and Urs von Balthasar. In what follows, Monique Alexandra provides many details about the French school, who played an important role in the recent discoveries (Papiri, manuscripts, sometimes whole libraries) and the renewal of patristic studies. She also explains how she developed an interest in patrology. She evokes the atmosphere of Marrou’s seminars, where other fine patrologists were trained, such as Marguerite Harl and Michel Spanneut. She then talks about how she was influenced by Pierre Nautin (1914-1997), a truly remarkable researcher who was often treated with mistrust by the scholarly community, about the philosopher Pierre Hadot, and about André-Jean Festugière (1898-1982). She also seeks to clarify what tools patrologists should possess and what their cultural horizon should encompass, given that patristics lies at the crossroads between several disciplines. According to her, it is crucial to have good Hellenistic philological skills, apart from being familiar with paleography and codicology. In addition, they are bound to have a clear overall view of the history of the Greek, Latin and Oriental Christian literature, and a good knowledge of late antiquity, of the history of events and mentalities, of the literature, and of the pagan philosophies that defined the context where Christianity developed. Monique Alexandre is also encouraged to talk about the relevance that the Fathers of the Church might have in today’s society. She illustrates in great detail how such a research can and should be carried out. Afterwards, she talks at length about the readings that have had a great impact on her outlook, which suggest that an interdisciplinary approach of the patristic texts ought to be particularly fertile. In Badilita’s view, such an approach is indispensable to refresh the European humanist culture. They resume the interview with a debate on eschatology. Later on, she is invited to talk about her personal preferences, and about the courses she gave at the Sorbonne university about the literature of the first centuries Christian martyrs, then about the spiritual, asketic literature, and about the literary genres that should receive more attention. Monique Alexandre is then challenged to consider the need to study the Fathers from the point of view of the believers. The French academic context, which requires such a disjunction, has demonstrated that this is possible, although the scholars who avoided a clear theological stance, such as Peter Brown or Eva Nipszicka, have often been criticized for their approach. She points out that at Sorbonne and in other State Universities, such as the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Section V (Religious Sciences), founded in 1868, patristic studies are not linked to any religious confession. There is an exception in Strasbourg, due to the peculiar history of Alsace. At Paris-IV, patristics, which is part of historical studies, is mainly treated as a literary subject. The approach is, above all, cultural. The purpose is to identify the plural, secular, biblical and Jewish heritage, to scrutinize the texts from a linguistic, literary point of view, in their historical context, and to gauge continuities and discontinuities. However, Alexandre is well aware that despite adopting this approach, researchers should by no means ignore the spiritual content and the theological references of the texts under scrutiny. When asked about the major difference between the theological and non-theological approach, she emphasises that the study of the Early Christian texts, whatever the approach, requires philological, literary and historical attention. However, in the departments of theology ,patristics is often taught through translations. By contrast, at Sorbonne the approach is different, it always starts from the original text; in the theological institutes the aim is to provide tools to understand the faith. Therefore the focus there is on theological texts and their relationship to contemporary theological issues (Christology, ecclesiology, hermeneutics ...).