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BOOK REVIEWS General and Miscellaneous A History of Christianity. By Owen Chadwick. (London: George Weidenfeld and Nicolson. 1995. NewYork: St. Martin's Press. 1995. Pp. 304. $35.00.) Sir Owen Chadwick is a former Regius Professor of Modern History in Cambridge University and the author ofseveral highly acclaimed books.The present book has won the praises ofJaroslav Pelikan,the respected Sterling Professor of History inYale University, who has reviewed it for the History Book Club.This reviewer has been reluctant to put himsetf at odds with two such distinguished members of the scholarly community, but has been compeUed to find this book seriously flawed.The author is obviously not addressing himseU to feUowhistorians or anyone else with a professional interest in the subject.There is no annotation, little use of primary sources, and only a very brief bibUography No scholar should be faulted for addressing the general reading pubUc, but, unfortunately , the needs of the general reader are not met very weU either. Any attempt to present the history of Christianity Ui ca. 150 pages of text— about one hatf of the space provided by the book's 304 pages is taken up by photographs—is fraught with many difficulties.The book meets the chaUenge weU in that it is weU organized, weU balanced, and free of bias. But it is, of course, not a very complete account, as one can readUy see from the index. Given the ambitious scope of the book and the severely limited space, it is not surprising that many important aspects or events are mentioned only Ui passing rather than considered in depth. Many readers wUl be offended by the condescendingly simplistic, inappropriately coUoquial, and annoyingly careless style of the book.We find sentences such as these: "The bishops liked government to shut the mouths of the minorities on the committees" (p. 64) or "They [the bishops] were also more powerful because the people gave them more and more money and land" (p. 94).We read about a "hubbub of faiths" (p. 20), people "going Christian" (p. 61), men who wanted "to get away from the rat-race" (p. 72), other men "big in the church"(p. 90), laws"in a mess"(p. 1 1 1), and Luther being"deep in the Bible"(p. 202). Grammatical errors abound: there are run-on sentences, would-be sentences without verbs, and dangling phrases. Errors of substance, too, can be found. In the discussion of the Donation of Constantine the dependency of that forged document on the Actus S. Silvestri 281 282BOOK REVIEWS is not acknowledged; furthermore, it is mysteriously identified as "a document ... in the legal texts of France" and erroneously assigned to the first haU ofthe ninth century rather than to the second haUofthe eighth century (p. 58). The question whether or not Athanasius wrote the Life ofSt. Antony has long been laid to rest; it is therefore quite inappropriate to question Athanasius' authorship (p. 64). Geography receives only rninimum attention; there are only two maps, one showing the spread of Christianity Ui the tlurd century (p. 40), and the other showing the distribution of reUgions in Europe in 1570 (p. 203)· Chronology, too, is given insufficient attention; the Chronology at the end of the book (pp. 286-293) is only a partial compensation for this weakness. The numerous illustrations—they are not numbered—, many in color, have been selected with care and are of high quality. Unfortunately, readers wUl be disturbed even in theU enjoyment of these beautiful illustrations by the captions , which often partake of the same weaknesses as the text. In general, then, this book is a disappointment. Chadwick has underestimated the intelUgence and educational level of those who might be interested in his subject.Those who may be looking for a book simUar in purpose and scope but more substantial and more pleasing in style should turn to The OxfordIllustrated History of Christianity, edited by John McManners (Oxford University Press, 1990), to which, incidentaUy Chadwick has contributed a very fine chapter. Hans A. Pohlsander State University ofNew York at Albany Asceticism. Edited by Vincent L. Wimbush and Richard Valantasis. (New York: Oxford University Press. 1995. Pp. xxiii, 638. $125.00.) This monumental...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 281-282
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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