"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).

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity

It is extraordinarily exciting to be able to report the publication this week of a monumental reference work by one of the leading scholars of Eastern Christianity, John McGuckin, who holds twin academic appointments at Union Theological Seminary in New York and Columbia University.  McGuckin is the author of another recent and indispensable introductory work, The Orthodox Church: an Introduction to its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture

also published by Wiley in hardcover in 2008 (and reviewed most favorably in 2009 in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies), and released in paperback only two months ago.

McGuckin has published many previous volumes on patristic theology, the mystical chapters of the desert Fathers, Origen, the Byzantine tradition, St. Gregory of Nazianzus (a highly acclaimed intellectual biography), St. Cyril of Alexandria, and the Transfiguration of Christ.

Now under his expert leadership, we have a new publication that no self-respecting seminary or scholarly library will want to want to miss. I can safely say that in advance of reading this work based not only on McGuckin's stellar reputation for superlative scholarship but also the equally stellar reputation of Wiley-Blackwell, one of the most respected and influential mainstream academic publishers today. It is a very significant and encouraging sign that a major publisher like Wiley-Blackwell is paying so much attention to Eastern Christianity as to publish a two-volume, 872-page
Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity (Wiley Blackwell, 2011).
This is, as you can see, no small volume. It is in fact two large and substantial volumes that has brought together numerous scholars on hundreds of topics. 

The publisher provides us with the following blurb, saying this book is
  • An outstanding reference work providing the first English language multi-volume account of the key historical, liturgical, doctrinal features of Eastern Orthodoxy, including the Non-Chalcedonian churches
  • Explores of the major traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy in detail, including the Armenian, Byzantine, Coptic, Ethiopic, Slavic, Romanian, Syriac churches
  • Uniquely comprehensive, it is edited by one of the leading scholars in the field and provides authoritative but accessible articles by a range of top international academics and Orthodox figures
  • Spans the period from Late Antiquity to the present, encompassing subjects including history, theology, liturgy, monasticism, sacramentology, canon law, philosophy, folk culture, architecture, archaeology, martyrology, hagiography, all alongside a large and generously detailed prosopography
  • Structured alphabetically and topically cross-indexed, with entries ranging from 100 to 6,000 words
The publisher has also provided a very lengthy table of contents, which is accessible here

You may be sure that this enormous work will receive a level of attention commensurate with its size and the significant event that is its publication. In addition to a lengthy review in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies,  there will be several opportunities in the coming months on this blog to review and discuss The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which all who care about Eastern Christian realities will want to order at once, and encourage--nay, demand!--every serious library to order today.

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