Visual Patristics Tool

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Matthew | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, Oct 4 2015 11:39 PM

This thread is really a continuation of a prior thread, but the subject matter has changed sufficiently that a new thread was warranted. The old thread can be found here:

It appears there is interest in Faithlife developing a visual tool or interactive resource for Patristics. Others will surely offer their perspectives, but I envision the starting point would be entering the name of whomever I want to study. For example, I might type in the name Irenaeus. The tool/resource would autocomplete the name for me, as it would pull from a predefined list. I would then be taken to a map that would include an icon representing Irenaeus. The placement of the icon would indicate the geographic area in which he was active to the best of our knowledge. When I move the mouse over the icon, I would be presented with basic biographical information about him, even if that information is only our best guess. If I click on the icon rather than just moving my mouse over it, I would be shown more in-depth information. This might include:

1. A list of extant writings (hyperlinked, of course).

2. An indication of what language(s) those works were originally written in to the best of our knowledge.

3. A list of individuals with whom he directly interacted (i.e., if he wrote a letter to, against, or in response to someone, that person's name should be listed and hyperlinked to more information about that person whenever possible).

4. Links to resources such as dictionaries and encyclopedias where I can find more in-depth biographical information.

5. Whatever other stuff we can come up with that might be helpful.

Now, let's go back to the map for a minute. There should be an option to show other fathers or important figures who were (at least roughly) contemporary with whomever is being studied. These contemporaries would each have their own respective icons placed in appropriate geographic locations, although their icons would be a different color to distinguish them from the “main” person being studied (in this case Irenaeus). I would be able to get quick mouse-over information from the contemporaries, pull up more information by clicking on them, or set one of them as the new primary subject of my study. To help get the big picture of what was going on at the time, major churches or cities might also be included on the map, all of which would could be clicked on for more information (or at least for a link to Factbook). The map should also include a link to open the Timeline tool. If I am studying Irenaeus, the Timeline should open to let me see what other events were taking place during his life.

This concludes my basic suggestion and begins my more advanced pie-in-the-sky suggestion that is probably much less likely to happen (or at least would take much longer to implement).

A while back I had suggested a Patristics Topical Index ( I would like to suggest it again, and then I would like to suggest that it be integrated with the Visual Patristics Tool I just described. Rather than the starting point being a person, the starting point could be a doctrine or topic. If I search for “fasting,” the map would be populated with icons for all the fathers who appear on the Index under that entry. I would still have the basic mouse-over biographical information, but I would also then be able to jump directly to what a given person had to say about the subject. Logos is all about integration, and there are two main advantages I see to integrating these two tools:

1. It would allow users to study topics by region. For example, I could easily read what was being said about a topic in Syria and compare that to what was being said in Egypt.

2. It would facilitate studying a doctrine's development over time. The map could have filters to only show writers who lived during a specified time period. It would be possible to look at everyone who had something to say about a subject in the second century and then compare that to what was being said about the same subject in the fifth century.

My apologies for the lengthy post. Feedback, criticism, suggestions, improvements, etc. are welcome!

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 5 2015 12:12 AM

Some of the information you envision in this tool, I would envision appearing in the Factbook as I would prefer to have authors treated in the same manner in the Factbook regardless of their denomination or time period.

Other portions, especially the regional span of particular theological positions, I would prefer to see in a separate tool showing the geographic center of the various theological schools in the early church.

I do generally support the ideas presented here.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Matthew | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 5 2015 12:38 AM

MJ. Smith:
Some of the information you envision in this tool, I would envision appearing in the Factbook as I would prefer to have authors treated in the same manner in the Factbook regardless of their denomination or time period.

Fair point. I am all for linking this to Factbook and did not mean to imply that a significant amount of new material be written (Why reinvent the wheel?). I was thinking more along the lines of blurbs and concise summaries and then linking to the primary sources. For the tool to be useful to someone who lacks an extensive knowledge of patristics (and I include myself in that), having at least some information available about the various fathers within the tool would be important and could serve as a launching point for further study in the Factbook. Having some kind of blurb might also be helpful when looking at contemporary figures if you wanted to quickly get a feel for who else was active at the time.

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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 5 2015 7:47 AM

There's one of these new features that would be particularly useful for me right now. That would be a visual tool to help me understand where the various Patristic authors and theological schools are placed in space and time. You can use the timeline for chronology, but it doesn't show the geographical relationships. For me, at least, a tool that was based on a map, rather than a linear timeline, would be more useful. Appropriate starting links off of this tool would be nice, but I don't think they need to be extensive.  For example, if I click on Athanasius on a map, being sent to a Factbook entry for him would be adequate for me.

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SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 5 2015 10:42 AM

I fully endorse Matthew's suggestion, and I think that it would have tremendous value not only to Verbum customers, but also to most Logos customers.

“I want you to know how the people should behave in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” - 1 Timothy 3:15 (EOB:NT).

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Veli Voipio | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 5 2015 11:05 AM


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