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Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom Paperback – October 24, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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"This book is a must read for anyone assaying to deal with Constantine in the foreseeable future; it is a valuable correction of the tendentious views that frame the first Christian emperor. Leitharts work is a welcome contribution to Constantine scholarship and should find its place in responsible library collections. Scholars will want to get their own copy, and many classes will be enriched by the addition of this book to the list of required readings." (James R. Payton, Jr., Calvin Theological Journal, November 2012)
"In Defending Constantine [Leithart] has done the historian, theologian, church leader, and layman a great service by providing an enjoyably readable historical-theological-conceptual look at this critical era of church history." (Michael Philliber, Touchstone, January/February 2012)
"Defending Constantine demonstrates the enduring relevance of the "Constantinian moment" of the fourth century. While recent scholarship has focused mainly on the negative results, Leithart swings the pendulum back, reminding us of all the good that God brought about from this contested period of history." (Trevin Wax, Christianity Today, March 2011)
"Here is an excellent scholarly and fair treatment of Constantine." (Christian News, November 15, 2010)
"This erudite work will be of interest to academic seminarians and theologians, as well as those seeking a historically sound Christian interpretation of Constantine." (Matthew Connor Sullivan, Library Journal, December 2010)
"Leithart has written an important book that does more than help us to better understand the complex human being who bore the name of Constantine. . . As a pacifist I could not want a better conversation partner than Peter Leithart." (Stanley Hauerwas, Christian Century, October 19, 2010)
"For a generation that thinks it approves of those who challenge the conventional wisdom, it can come as quite a shock when someone actually does it. In this book, Peter Leithart takes up the daunting challenge of defending Constantine, and he does it with biblical grace, deep wisdom, profound learning and scholarship that has let the clutch out. This is a magnificent book." (Douglas Wilson, senior fellow of theology, New Saint Andrews College, Idaho)
"An excellent writer with a flair for the dramatic, Peter Leithart is also one of the most incisive current thinkers on questions of theology and politics. In this book, Leithart helpfully complicates Christian history, and thereby helps theologians recover the riches of more than a millennium of Christian life too easily dismissed as 'Constantinian.' If the Holy Spirit did not simply go on holiday during that period, we must find ways to appreciate Christendom. Any worthwhile political theology today cannot fail to take Leithart's argument seriously." (William T. Cavanaugh, Research Professor, Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, DePaul University, Chicago)
"There have been of late a splurge of populist history books damning Constantine the Great as the villain of the piece. Almost without exception they have drawn their picture of this most complex and complicated of late-antique Roman emperors from secondhand, clichéd and hackneyed books of an older generation, adding their own clichés in the process. Constantine has been sketched luridly, as the man who corrupted Christianity either by financial or military means. At long last we have here, in Peter Leithart, a writer who knows how to tell a lively story but is also no mean shakes as a scholarly historian. This intelligent and sensitive treatment of one of the great military emperors of Rome is a trustworthy entrée into Roman history that loses none of the romance and rambunctiousness of the events of the era of the civil war, but which also explains why Constantine matters: why he was important to the ancient world, why he matters to the development of Christianity (a catalyst in its movement from small sect to world-embracing cultural force). It does not whitewash or damn on the basis of a preset ideology, but it certainly does explain why Constantine gained from the Christians the epithet 'The Great.' For setting the record straight, and for providing a sense of the complicated lay of the land, this book comes most highly recommended." (John A. McGuckin, Columbia University)
"Too many people, for far too long, have been able to murmur the awful word Constantine, knowing that the shudder it produces will absolve them from the need to think through how the church and the powers of the world actually relate, let alone construct a coherent historical or theological argument on the subject. Peter Leithart challenges all this, and forces us to face the question of what Constantine's settlement actually was, and meant. Few will agree with everything he says. All will benefit enormously from this challenge to easygoing received 'wisdom.'" (N. T. Wright, University of St. Andrews, Scotland)
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Top Customer Reviews
If you read one book on Christian history, Christianity and politics, or Christianity and culture this - this book should be the one: it's THAT good! Don't let the academic topic of the book fool you: this book has radical implications for every thinking Christian and every church.
"Constantine," as Leithart reminds us, "has been a whipping boy for a long time, and still is today." His name is identified with tyranny, anti-Semitism, hypocrisy, apostasy, and heresy. While experts in the field of early Christianity now believe that Constantine was a genuine Christian who earnestly tried to apply his faith to his role as Emperor, many other scholars and laymen incorrectly continue to claim otherwise.Read more ›
But the problem with the book, it seems to me, is that it's a little bit of a bunch of things. It's part historical narrative; indeed, most of the chapters start out with an account of a particular section of Constantine's life or the Roman background. It's part historical argument; Leithart objects to how many scholars, Christian and non-Christian, have attacked Constantine. And it's part theological argument. Each of these has some really nice insights, but ends up unable to convince, and that's too bad, because I really would like to be convinced of some of this.
The historical narrative seems straightforward. In fact, sometimes it just reads like summary. This happened, this happened, this happened, then this happened. What emerges is a problem with sources that lies underneath some of that smooth narrative.Read more ›
Leithart's nicely footnoted work presents a convincing case for Constantine's genuine conversion. Constantine, having no model of a post-advent, Christian, civic ruler, brought about remarkable cultural changes. Leithart specifically focuses on the end of sacrifice. Moderns think sacrifice is something found only in a secluded, jungle tribe, but in fact, sacrifice was a cultural norm prior to Constantine. In addition to reviewing the Roman history, Leithart attempts to put Constantine's reign in a larger context of Christian history. God has a purpose for His church. The impact of His church in history is more evident by studying characters like Constantine.
Admittedly, Leithart's book is over this home-schooling mom's head at times - especially as the book turns from history to polemic. The shortcomings are really mine, however. He didn't translate all his Latin phrases, and my high school Latin is rusty. He also refers to a variety of Christian movements that I struggled to keep identified. A glossary for groups like Sabelians, Nestorians, Meletians and Donatists might have been helpful to those of us who aren't as well versed in church history as perhaps we ought to be.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Warning! This horrible book of false history by Leithart has been completely debunked. In response to Leithart's folly, a group of scholars wrote a book replying to his false... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Productive Reader
Running against contemporary assertions, Leithart makes a good case for Constantine as a legitimate Moses of the Christian Church. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Kindle Customer
At last a balanced portrayal of the life of one of the greatest men to walk this earth. Yoders lies are put to rest.Published 10 months ago by robert poverello
Provides details of an overlooked period. Last chapter really sums up how the Blood of Christ replaces all pagan sacrifices and all combat rituals (gladiators)Published 13 months ago by Kindle Customer
Why is Constantine considered a saint, when he always tolerated cults, and allowed the building of pagan cult temples in Constantinople, and was not even baptized until late in his... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
Written to an academic audience. Get a dictionary by you side so that you can understand what he is saying. Read morePublished on December 27, 2013 by rjc
I used to be a fan of Leithart’s writing. Even a few years ago when he openly attacked Reformed theology in *The Baptized Body,* his writing was cogent and impressive. Read morePublished on November 24, 2013 by Jacob