"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, May 3, 2013

East-West History and Relations

Robert Taft recently gave an interview about Orthodox-Catholic relations, especially in the new papacy of his fellow Jesuit. You can read that here. Attentive readers will note that much of what is said here has been said elsewhere by him, but it bears repeating.

Taft also mentions a new book by another important historian, Robert Louis Wilken, whose earlier book, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God (Yale UP, 2005) I used in a course several years ago.

Wilken has written numerous books and done important historical work on pivotal figures and crucial issues such as John Chrysostom and the Jews: Rhetoric and Reality in the Late 4th Century (U Cal Press, 1983).

Wilken's latest book, which Taft praises, is The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity (Yale UP, 2012), 416pp.

About this book we are told:
How did a community that was largely invisible in the first two centuries of its existence go on to remake the civilizations it inhabited, culturally, politically, and intellectually? Beginning with the life of Jesus, Robert Louis Wilken narrates the dramatic spread and development of Christianity over the first thousand years of its history. Moving through the formation of early institutions, practices, and beliefs to the transformations of the Roman world after the conversion of Constantine, he sheds new light on the subsequent stories of Christianity in the Latin West, the Byzantine and Slavic East, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
Through a selected narration of particularly noteworthy persons and events, Wilken demonstrates how the coming of Christianity set in motion one of the most profound revolutions the world has known. This is not a story limited to the West; rather, Christian communities in Ethiopia, Nubia, Armenia, Georgia, Persia, Central Asia, India, and China shaped the course of Christian history. The rise and spread of Islam had a lasting impact on the future of Christianity, and several chapters are devoted to the early experiences of Christians under Muslim rule. Wilken reminds us that the career of Christianity is characterized by decline and attrition as well as by growth and expansion. 
Ten years in the making and the result of a lifetime of study, this is Robert Louis Wilken’s summa, a moving, reflective, and commanding account from a scholar at the height of his powers.

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