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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Decoding Early Christianity: Truth and Legend in the Early Church
Houlden, Leslie, editor

Oxford: Greenwood, 2007 pp. xi + 140. $49.95


Description: The extraordinary success of The Da Vinci Code has dramatically intensified interest in the mysterious origins of Christianity. But in fact there has always been huge curiosity about a wide range of contentious issues concerning Jesus and early Church history. Who was the 'real' Jesus? How much do we really know about his disciples? What is written in the 'secret' early Christian writings, such as the Gnostic Gospels? How did the Church Fathers decide which beliefs were heretical and which weren't? Who were the first Popes and how did they take control of the early Church? Decoding Early Christianity addresses all such questions, separating truth from legend, and showing how the early Church Fathers and Popes interpreted competing views and traditions to produce, over time, an approved and codified view of Jesus and his followers, and developed an accepted liturgy with which to worship him. Expertly written by a team of highly distinguished authors, it is a clear and engaging exploration of fact and fiction for anyone who wants to be reliably informed on the subject. The authors show how speculative fancies arise from a mixture of tenuous evidence and wishful thinking, and bring the issues back to the solid - but no less extraordinary - evidence in the main canon of the Gospels and the Acts. After Leslie Houlden's Introduction, which briefly explores the nature and context of the different issues, nine chapters, each written by an expert, tackle the evidence.

Subjects: Methods, Historical Approaches, History, Early Church Origins

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Review by Robert M. Bowman Jr.
Published 8/9/2008
Citation: Robert M. Bowman Jr., review of Leslie Houlden, ed., Decoding Early Christianity: Truth and Legend in the Early Church, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2008).


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