My doctoral students are frequently asking—- “but what French theological and exegetical works are worth reading and using?” I usually point them first to the classic works of great scholars like C. Spicq, or Feuillet, or Rigaux to mention but three, and of course there are many of my contemporaries in the SNTS who I can commend highly, such as the work of Daniel Marguerat which I value highly. My friend Larry Hurtado has a recent post which is quite helpful in pointing us to French sources on early Christian prayer and devotion to Jesus. Here is what he says….
In the recent hubbub about being about to consult works on NT/Christian Origins in languages other than English, some have granted that German might be useful, but have questioned how much there is in French. As I’m having to consult some key French works for the essay I’m currently working on (“Jesus in Early Christian Prayer”), I thought I’d respond with some specific examples. Granted, there aren’t as many French-speaking scholars as there are English or German-speaking ones, but there are enough works to make it important to be able to consult them. The ones I’ll cite also happen to be additional examples of older works that still deserve attention.
Adalbert Hamman, La Priere, I: Le Nouveau Testament (Tournai: Desclee, 1959), remains essential for any research on prayer (and associated concepts) in the NT. Volume 2 of his work, La Priere, II: Les Trois Premiers Siecles Paris/Tournai: Desclee, 1963), takes the study on through numerous extra-canonical texts of the second and third centuries CE, producing what is still the widest and most thorough discussion of early Christian prayer available.
Here’s another classic work: Jules Lebreton, Histoire du Dogme de la Trinité, des origines au concile de Nicée (2 vols.; Paris: G. Beauchesne, 1910-1928). As with Hamman’s study, Lebreton’s gives text-by-text analysis, beginning with the NT and continuing on through the pre-Nicene period. Each volume is ca. 700 pp., and so the resulting work is thorough and detailed, with copious interaction with scholarly work available at that time. Vol. 2 is not to be overlooked by NT students. It includes chapter-length discussions of material that is golden and hard to duplicate: e.g., the section on “Christ in early Christian Prayer” (pp. 201-42). Vo. 1 was translated (but in somewhat abridged form, omitting a lot of the footnotes): History of the Dogma of the Trinity, Volume 1: The Origins (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1939).