"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).

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cambridge History of Christianity

For those of you impecunious enough to pass by the hardcover editions of the last decade, never fear: Cambridge University Press has just last week brought out very affordable paperback editions of their well-received nine-volume Cambridge History of Christianity. After beginning with the scene-setting first volume, The Cambridge History of Christianity (Volume 1), you will immediately want to jump to the Cambridge History of Christianity (Volume 2), which is edited by the Orthodox scholar Augustine Casiday, whom I have twice interviewed on here about his other books.

About this volume the publisher tells us:
This volume in the Cambridge History of Christianity presents the 'Golden Age' of patristic Christianity. After episodes of persecution by the Roman government, Christianity emerged as a licit religion enjoying imperial patronage and eventually became the favoured religion of the empire. The articles in this volume discuss the rapid transformation of Christianity during late antiquity, giving specific consideration to artistic, social, literary, philosophical, political, inter-religious and cultural aspects. The volume moves away from simple dichotomies and reductive schematizations (e.g., 'heresy v. orthodoxy') toward an inclusive description of the diverse practices and theories that made up Christianity at this time. Whilst proportional attention is given to the emergence of the Great Church within the Roman Empire, other topics are treated as well - such as the development of Christian communities outside the empire.

After this, if you don't want immediately to buy the intervening volumes, then jump ahead to volume 5,  The Cambridge History of Christianity (744pp). This volume, edited by Michael Angold, is devoted to Eastern Christianity. About it the publisher tells us:

About this volume the publisher tells us:
This volume brings together in one compass the Orthodox Churches - the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople and the Russian, Armenian, Ethiopian, Egyptian and Syrian Churches. It follows their fortunes from the late Middle Ages until modern times - exactly the period when their history has been most neglected. Inevitably, this emphasises differences in teachings and experience, but it also brings out common threads, most notably the resilience displayed in the face of alien and often hostile political regimes. The central theme is the survival against the odds of Orthodoxy in its many forms into the modern era. The last phase of Byzantium proves to have been surprisingly important in this survival. It provided Orthodoxy with the intellectual, artistic and spiritual reserves to meet later challenges. The continuing vitality of the Orthodox Churches is evident for example in the Sunday School Movement in Egypt and the Zoe brotherhood in Greece.

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