Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Book Review Wednesday!
I'm reading this book that is hot off the presses: "Ecclesiastical History" by Eusebius of Caesarea. It's only 1,700 years old. This is what academics call "fresh scholarship."
I'm reading Eusebius because he was one of the first church historians. Writing in the 4th century, his goal was to produce a written record of all the events that had taken place in the Christian faith from the time of Jesus to the time of his life. Modern historians constantly refer to Eusebius in their efforts to reconstruct the early history of the faith.
One of the more interesting parts of "Ecclesiastical History" is Eusebius' description of the Holy Scriptures. He goes through and names what books should be considered part of the Holy Scriptures for Christians. That's right, even into the 4th century the early church was still discussing what should be in and what should be out.
So what should be in? The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all make the varsity squad; they're in. Eusebius mentions some of the other gospels (Thomas, Peter, etc.) but says that nobody really believes what they say. The letters of Paul (Romans, Galatians, Corinthians, etc.) make the cut. So does 1 John and 1 Peter. Interestingly, 2 and 3 John are looked down upon, and so is 2 Peter. Jude is barely given any credit. James is called into question. (I have to make one editorial comment: Both the fundamentalists who say the Bible is the inerrant word of God and the cynics who say the Church covered up the other gospels should read Eusebius).
What I find fascinating is the Book of Revelation. Eusebius says that the church could go either way on Revelation. It's weird, he says, but it's also got some good stuff. Eusebius records that half the church is for it, and the other half against it. Go figure.
All of this is to say that the Bible wasn't leather-bound and printed with red letter ten years after Jesus died and rose again. The Holy Scriptures have a history that is wrought with intrigue, debate, and prayer.