What Would Casey Kasem Do?
Wednesday May 10th 2006, 7:55 am
Filed under: Patristics

A visitor named Simon tells me that I should post my “top ten books on early Christianity…No, make that twenty!” Well, I could call him on a technicality because he never said “Simon says.” But I won’t, because I can’t resist his temptation. So I publish this list, with all the usual disclaimers: I do not, of course, endorse everything every author says in every one of these books; nor do I necessarily root for their favorite football teams. I, after all, am a Pittsburgher. Not all of these books are, strictly speaking, books on the Fathers. But these are the books whose scholarship on the Fathers has (in the words of my pre-teen kids) rocked my world.

1. The Spirit of Early Christian Thought by Robert Louis Wilken.

2. The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries by Rodney Stark.

3. The Church of the Fathers by John Henry Newman.

4. The Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers by Louis Bouyer.

5. The Celebration of the Eucharist by Enrico Mazza.

6. In Procession Before the World: Martyrdom as Public Liturgy in Early Christianity by Robin Darling Young.

7. The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600), vol. 1 in The Christian Tradition by Jaroslav Pelikan.

8. Face to Face: Portraits of the Divine in Early Christianity by Robin Margaret Jensen.

9. The Christians as the Romans Saw Them by Robert Louis Wilken.

10. Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought by Luigi Gambero.

11. An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine by John Henry Newman.

12. Easter in the Early Church: An Anthology of Jewish and Early Christian Texts by Raniero Cantalamessa.

13. Patrology (four volumes) by Johannes Quasten.

14. Fathers of the Church by Hubertus Drobner.

15. Early Christian Doctrines by J.N.D. Kelly.

16. The Theology of Jewish Christianity by Jean Danielou.

17. In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity by Oskar Skarsaune.

18. Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition by Robert Murray.

19. Letter and Spirit: From Written Text to Living Word in the Liturgy by Scott Hahn.

20. Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words by Rod Bennett.


18 Comments so far
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Great list. Thanks Mike! BTW — The latest catch phrase for pre-teen kids is Tweens. They’re in beTween being little kids and teenagers. :-)

Comment by Maureen 05.10.06 @ 8:22 am

faciendi plures libros nullus est finis, frequensque meditatio carnis afflictio est. But I’m afraid I’ve never been able to take the advice. Excellent list, many thanks Mike. I can see some severe credit card damage coming my way…

Simon.

Comment by Simon Crouch 05.10.06 @ 9:11 am

Simon,
I know what you mean with the “severe credit card damage coming” your way. I thought the same thing! Although, I don’t think my wife would like it too much. I’ll just tell her that Mike Aquilina said that they are a must have! ;-)
I don’t think she’ll buy it though.

Comment by Danny Garland Jr. 05.10.06 @ 10:59 am

Yeah, Mike Aquilina’s wife only approved it on the installment plan!

Comment by Mike Aquilina 05.10.06 @ 1:00 pm

[...] Mike Aquilina offers his top twenty list of best books on early Christianity: [...]

Pingback by Pontifications » Blog Archive » Best Books on Early Christianity 05.10.06 @ 3:50 pm

Thanks for the list Mike. I’ll have to selectively see what I can do about reading some of that. How’s that for qualification. ha. I’ll pass this along to my friends who read far more than me. Pax vobiscum.

Comment by + Alan 05.11.06 @ 9:13 am

[...] On Mike Aquilina’s recommendation, I bought and read The Spirit of Early Christian Thought by Robert Louis Wilken.  I read it in five days (admittedly, I wanted to give it someone by the end of the week, but I would have read it that fast anyway).  I don’t think I’ve torn through anything that fast, with the exception of some of Frank Sheed’s books. [...]

Pingback by Defensor Veritatis » Blog Archive » The Spirit of Early Christian Thought 06.02.06 @ 6:35 pm

Mike,

Thanks for the list. I’ve always found Henry Chadwick’s books quite good, especially his Early Church. Not quite from a Catholic perspective, but in my opinion quite friendly to the cause. One of the more readable patristics texts, at least at an introductory level.

Comment by jamie 06.08.06 @ 1:13 pm

I would rather see a top 20 books written by church fathers.

1 Clement
Augustines Confessions, city of God
Origen (there’s a compliation call Spirit and Fire which is a good starting point, btw Origen is amazingly insightful, for someone I wrote off as a nut before i read)
Ambrose, his letters are really interesting, especially his correspondece with the empororer.

Comment by matthew 06.13.06 @ 9:40 pm

I compiled these as a book instead.

Comment by mike 06.13.06 @ 9:53 pm

[...] In his top 20 books on the early church, Mike Aquilina recommended In Procession Before the Word: Martyrdom as Public Liturgy in Early Christianity by Robin Darling Young. I picked it up at the IU library today and have read just a few pages. One of the notes pointed me to another book which piqued my interest – The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity by Jon D. Levenson. Does anyone know anything about this book? (Mike, did you ever read this?) [...]

Pingback by Eating Words » Of Reading Many Books There Is No End 06.29.06 @ 3:34 pm

[...] Bloggen The Way of the Fathers har laga ei topp 20 liste over bøker om tidleg kristendom. Her finn ein materiell for lang tid framover. Eg kan nemne at 17. plassen er gjeve til ein nordmann, Oskar Skarsaune, professor på Menighetsfakultetet i Oslo. Her er lista: [...]

Pingback by Katolikken » Blog Archive » Topp 20: bøker om tidleg kristendom 07.14.06 @ 3:03 pm

[...] Mike Aquilina has posted his top 20 books on the early church. Looks like a great list. He’s obviously Catholic, but nobody’s perfect. Just this morning I ordered his book on the Holy Grail, which looks very promising. Anybody have any more recommendations? I should add that CPA recommends Early Christian Writings. [...]

Pingback by Top 20 Books on the Early Church « Eating Words 10.31.06 @ 4:45 pm

I checked on Amazon and found that Wilken uses the trendy CE/BCE system of dating. I won’t subsidize that. Does that make me a bigoted, narrow-minded fool? So be it. There are enough good books I haven’t read for me to delve into one by an author whose judgement is immediately suspect. Somebody else is going to have to rock my world.

Comment by John Kavanagh 02.22.07 @ 1:36 pm

Unfortunately most of these recommendations seem to radiate apologetics not full and complete scholarship.

Comment by Proctor S. Burress 02.12.08 @ 6:06 pm

Proctor: Really? Most? I see Protestant as well as Catholic authors and at least one agnostic. And all but one of the authors has substantial credentials for “full and complete scholarship” — whatever that means (and why both “full” and “complete”?). Have you read the books you’re dismissing? If not, you should be ashamed. If so, you need to read again.

Comment by Mike Aquilina 02.12.08 @ 11:32 pm

Thank you very much for the lists. I hope to get them soon and start reading them. Shalom!

Comment by Adadzie, Godwin Delali 04.24.09 @ 10:44 pm

Thank you, Mike, for this list. Thanks for filling in the comment to Proctor as I found that information very important and am certain others did. You are a good man, Mike! I always trust your information!

Comment by Terry Fenwick 11.25.10 @ 7:26 pm



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