Harvard University Press takes pride in publishing the third edition of a work whose depth, scope, and wisdom have gained it international recognition as a classic in its field. Harry Austryn Wolfson, world-renowned scholar and most lucid of scholarly writers, here presents in ordered detail his long-awaited study of the philosophic principles and reasoning by which the Fathers of the Church sought to explain the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation.
Professor Wolfson first discusses the problem of the relation of faith and reason. Starting with Paul, who, differentiating between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world, averred that he was not going to adorn his teachings with persuasive arguments based on the wisdom of the world, Professor Wolfson describes the circumstances and influences which nevertheless brought about the introduction of philosophy into matters of faith and analyzes the various attitudes of the Fathers towards philosophy.
The Trinity and the Incarnation are Professor Wolfson’s next concern. He analyzes the various ways in which these topics are presented in the New Testament, and traces the attempts on the part of the Fathers to harmonize these presentations. He shows how the ultimate harmonized formulation of the two doctrines was couched in terms of philosophy; how, as a result of philosophic treatment, there arose with regard to the Trinity the problem of three and one and with regard to the Incarnation the problem of two and one; and how, in their attempts to solve these problems, the Fathers drew upon principles which in philosophy were made use of in the solution of certain aspects of the problem of the one and the many. In the final part of this volume, entitled “The Anathematized,” he deals with Gnosticism and other heresies which arose during the Patristic period with regard to the Trinity and the Incarnation.
No one can open [The Philosophy of the Church Fathers] at any point without gaining a better understanding of what the fathers were saying in the philosophical language of their times. It is a great book.
This large and handsome volume will be welcomed as an impressive addition to the study of the Church Fathers and a major contribution to estimating the philosophical presuppositions which underlie their treatment of the problems connected with the Trinity and the Incarnation. Dr. Wolfson comes equipped for his formidable task not only by his knowledge of ancient philosophy but also in particular as the author of a special study of Philo and his influence upon the thought of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The new book of Dr. Wolfson is a welcome contribution to the study of Christian antiquity and of the history of Christian thought. The strength of Dr. Wolfson is in his skilful analysis and his comprehensive erudition. He has a perfect command of the primary sources, and handles them with competence and discretion.
Obviously, no summary can begin to do justice to an encyclopedic work where every word is measured. We have concentrated on one aspect of a work that is at once an indispensable tool for the theologian, philosopher, classicist and historian of ideas.
- 668 pages
- 6-1/8 x 8-3/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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