Despite all the talk of books and scholars below… THIS is where it’s at… it’s the PEOPLE’S CHURCH, it’s not dead and lifeless paper n’ ink spilled by overweening and hubristical scholars. One of these ordinary believers counts more in the balance than ALL of the scholars mentioned below. That’s the way it is…
I sent this to a friend… she asked me what books to read on Church History. God love me, the best stuff’s in Russian, but she’s got no facility in it. Therefore, I racked my brain and came up with this:
OUCH! Most of the works that I rely on for Church History are in Russian. Ostrogorsky’s The History of the Byzantine State is available in English… you need to have a handle on the story of the Christian Roman (“Byzantine“) Empire to have a handle on “Church History” per se. Vasiliev’s History of the Byzantine Empire is a must, along with Fyodor Uspensky’s History of the Byzantine Empire (both available in English). Another good work is The Eastern Orthodox Church: Its Thought and Life by Benz. Why Angels Fall: a Journey through Orthodox Europe from Byzantium to Kosovo by Victoria Clark is a good read… not always spot-on, but a rollicking read, and not purely Western pabulum. That’s not to mention the crackpot History: Fiction or Science? by Anatoly Fomenko… it’s a complete utterly nutters theory. It’s something that one has to read to have a good sense of what’s completely crackbrained… it’s sheer flapdoodle and nonsense from stem to stern (like all overeducated intellectual phonies, Fomenko’s utterly humourless… he’s a credentialised mathematician dabbling in history… he performs the miracle of making SVS look PROFESSORIAL by comparison).
As for online sources, go to pravoslavie.ru, stick to the Russian side and run a “machine translation” (the English side is contaminated by HOOMies)… too much of the English translation online in “Orthodox” websites is done by HOOMies such as Nectaria Rees… and they leave things out! A warning to the wise.
My question to you… “What do you consider an indispensable read for the non-specialist in English on the topic?” I’m an internet journalist, NOT a scholar… so, as Toad said to Frog, “Will you still be my friend?” I need some help with this one… I wanted to refer her to the Tolkaya Bibliya (the fully-annotated version of the Synodal translation), but that’s only in Russian. We’re paying dearly for sucking up to godless “Evangelicals” (a Russian bishop called them “Christian atheists”… and he was RIGHT) and their arrant nonsense. Be good… “Yes, I have no bananas”… that’s why I’m asking you…
Here’s one reply:
Definitely, the Ostrogorsky, I would’ve mentioned that, too. A neighbour who’s also a Byzantinist recommended it highly as well. I’d also recommend W H C Frend, The Rise of Christianity. That’s good for up to the Arab invasions, which is the formative period for all the major doctrines, so she’d learn a lot from that. It covers all the personalities and controversies in sufficient depth to get a clear picture of the topic. It’s written in a direct and clear, not too high, not too low style and it’s occasionally humorous. Frend was an excellent scholar, both a historian and archaeologist. He’s that old style of Anglican scholar, from a lost world of integrity in scholarship. Of course, there’s always Eusebius, the Ecclesiastical History. Eusebius is still a great read. Penguin has a nice paperback edition, and there’s a nice illustrated edition edited by Paul Maier, for those who would prefer more maps, etc. Those are for the very early stuff, of course, just up to the fourth century. However, Eusebius really is indispensible. His is the first church history, after all!
I’d also recommend the Louth (Greek East and Latin West) and Papadakis (The Christian East and the Rise of the Papcy) volumes in that SVS Press (I know, I know, but these two are good) The Church in History series. The other two volumes are awful (Kesich and Meyendorff) and one should avoid them. Nevertheless, the Louth and Papadakis are very helpful and are excellent in correcting the self-serving lies published in Catholic and Protestant (church and other) histories. People seem not to be writing single volume Church History books anymore, unfortunately. On the other hand, you get things like the Ware or McGuckin books, which are transparently presentations of pet theories and whatnot, and quite light on the actual history. Another in the same vein as Virginia Clark is William Dalrymple, From the Holy Mountain. He goes to the places that St John Moschos visited way back when, and describes the generally grim state of Christianity in the various Middle Eastern hellholes that those places have become. He’s a lively writer, though, so it’s a good read. That’s about all I can think of!
I also got this:
The first (history) part of Ware’s Orthodox Church is OK (NOT the second part on the teachings). Strangely enough, two weeks ago, a person who wanted a short brochure, not a book, on the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, asked me the same thing. There’s just nothing, except Cold War propaganda (from both sides). The Wikipedia entry on the history of the Russian Church is, as usual, SVS crap (they seem to control Wikipedia). However, ALL of Bishop Alexander Mileant’s stuff on the internet is brilliant… he has a very good one on the teachings of the Orthodox Church.
This is a good example of the level of correspondence that passes between my Cabinet and me. That’s quite unlike Rod Dreher, who’s an idiosyncratic American Rightwing loner, who writes from his own selfish and cramped perspective. One has to feel sorry for those contaminated by Sectarian thought as he is; they simply don’t have a feeling for the fullness of life because they don’t exercise the full communitarianism of Real Christianity (they believe in the crackbrained individualism and individual salvation of the Sectarians).
There IS a REAL Church… and Rod Dreher, Freddie M-G, Terrence Mattingly, and the HOOMies do NOT represent it.