"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Church of the East

Most people know little about Eastern Christianity in its "Byzantine" expressions (a term nobody used until Gibbon popularized it: those whom we today call "Byzantine" understood themselves to be Romans), but they know even less about Eastern Christians who were beyond the boundaries of the Byzantine or East-Roman Empire. This is especially the case with the Assyrians, otherwise known as the Church of the East--that is, east of the imperial boundaries, in places that today include Iran, Iraq, and further into Asia down the Silk Road. At one point in its history, this church was enormous, and had communities all throughout Asia. Gradually those were lost, and today the Church of the East is a tiny shell of its former self.

The history of its rise and fall has come in for increasing scholarly attention in the last four years alone. In 2006, we saw the publication of Christoph Baumer's The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity (I.B. Tauris, 2006).

Then two years ago this month, the prolific historian Philip Jenkins published his The Lost History of Christianity: the Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How it Died (Harper, 2008).

Now, Routledge has just put into print The Church of the East: A Concise History by Wilhelm Baum and Dietmar Winkler (Routledge, 2010). 

I look forward to seeing this book reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies next year.

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