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Lebreton, Jules

LEBRETON, JULES

Theologian and church historian; b. Tours, March 20, 1873; d. Neuilly-sur-Seine, July 6, 1956. He entered the Society of Jesus at Canterbury, England, in 1890. Following his juniorate he taught Greek and Latin for four years (189599). He completed his studies in philosophy and theology in Jersey, Fourvière, and Canterbury, and was ordained in 1903. In the meantime, he had presented two theses on Latin syntax to the Sorbonne for the doctorat ès lettres and received his degree in 1901. The first thesis, Études sur la langue et la grammaire de Cicéron (Paris 1901), remains a valuable contribution to its field. The solid training in classical philology and its method as well as that in theology was to stand him in good stead in his future career. In 1905 he was appointed a professor of dogmatic theology in the Faculty of Theology at the Institut Catholique in Paris, and two years later the new rector, A. Baudrillart, gave him the chair of the history of Christian origins in the same faculty, a post that he held, apart from a long illness (191217), until his retirement in 1943. In 1910, with L. de Grandmaison, SJ, he founded the scholarly Recherches de Science religieuse, to which for over 30 years he contributed his invaluable Bulletins on the history of Christian origins. He was a frequent contributor also to Études and other journals. Among his numerous books and articles, several must be given special mention. His magistral Les Origines du Dogme de la Trinité, v. 1 Les Origines (Paris 1910), appeared in the midst of the Modernist crisis and demonstrated that sound and objective historical and theological criticism could be combined with uncompromising orthodoxy. In 1927 the sixth edition appeared under the new title Histoire du Dogme de la Trinité: des Origines au Concile de Nicée, v. 1 Les Origines. The second volume, De saint Clément à saint Irenée, was published the following year. Other preoccupations prevented the continuance of the work as originally projected. In 1931 Lebreton published his La Vie et l'Enseignement de Jésus-Christ Notre Seigneur (2 v. Paris 19th ed. 1951), which immediately took its place as one of the leading scholarly works on Our Lord. He collaborated with J. Zeiler on the first two volumes of Fliche-Martin, Histoire de l'Église [L'Église primitive and De la fin du second siècle à la paix constantinienne (Paris 1934, 1935)], a work that marks an epoch in ecclesiastical historiography. Among his later contributions are Lumen Christi. La Doctrine Spirituelle du Nouveau Testament (Paris 1947), Tu Solus Sanctus. Jésus-Christ vivant dans les Saints. Études de Théologie Mystique (Paris 1948), the article "Contemplation dans la Bible" (Dictionnaire de Spiritualité 2.2:16451716), and the article "Jésus-Christ" (Dictionnaire de la Bible, Supplément 4:9661073). There is a complete list of all Lebreton's publications, including translations of his books into other languages to 1950, in Mélanges Jules Lebreton 2:446477. His work throughout reveals a phenomenal breadth and depth of learning, meticulous accuracy, and an attitude that is critical but at the same time reverent and strictly orthodox.

Bibliography: Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, Tables générales 15 v. (Paris 190350) 2:292527. r. d'ouince, "Le Père Jules Lebreton (18731956)," Études 290 (1956) 274280. Mélanges Jules Lebreton, 2 v. (Recherches de science réligieuse 3940; 195152).

[m. r. p. mcguire]

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