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We Look for a Kingdom: The Everyday Lives of the Early Christians Paperback – March 1, 2007

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A fascinating and highly informative account of the lives of early Christians, bringing to our attention aspects of the early Church often overlooked. --James Hitchcock
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 457 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586170791
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586170790
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,262,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
It is amazing that this book has not been reviewed prior to now. It is, perhaps, the best work I have seen in this genre and a solid addition to any student of Church or Roman history. The interplay of the growing Christian religion within the context of the Roman empire is a fascinating topic. Many works on the topic provide such a high-level view of the development that they do not provide the more detailed cultural background required to provide a good base on the topic. It is as if many recognize the importance but they lack the well rounded grasp of ancient Roman cultural eccentricities to come to any conclusions.

In this ground-breaking work, Mr. Sommer divides the subject into two major portions - first the Roman cultural background, then the Christian experience and influence within that culture. Having, for some time, believed that the Christian influence was particularly strong in the Roman military leading up to the conversion of Emperor Constantine, I was especially pleased with the details on the Roman military culture and the early Christian views on military service. Mr. Sommer owes a great deal to earlier works such as Militia Christi: The Christian Religion & the Military in the First Three Centuries. Translation of Militia Christi Die Christliche Religion Und Der Soldatenstand in d but is able to summarize that work in a more accessible form. Mr. Sommer is a good teacher and communicator and has done a fine job of condensing so much material into such a well organized package. His background in historical theology is clear in this work and helps to make it essential reading for anyone interested in doctrinal development or Church history.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book, thinking I might be able to use it in an undergrad history course I teach annually. I thought it might complement Wilken's stellar "Christians as the Romans Saw Them" and Sordi's "Christians and the Roman Empire." Hopes were especially high because Ignatius Press has a good reputation--they're the English-language publishers for Ratzinger's books, after all!

So I'm shocked and appalled that Ignatius would publish this book, which reads like a B- college paper. Many of the sweeping generalizations would be hilarious if the author weren't apparently serious. A personal "favorite" is on p. 14, where Emperors "Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero" are all lumped together: "all four died violent deaths in the midst of widespread public revulsion." Claudius was no saint, but what historian on this planet equates him with the other three? and what reputable scholar would ever dream of suggesting that his death (presumably by poison, administered by relatives with an eye to seizing power) is comparable to (e.g.) Caligula's murder by the Pretorian Guard? If a college student made such a ridiculously innacurate statement in a term-paper, I'd cover the page with red ink!

But page after page is simply riddled with statements like this one, over-simplistic, banal, and misleading. Take p. 22: "by the time of Augustus the pontifex maximus was the most important religious figure in Rome, which might be why Augustus took this office for himself." Did the author never learn in school that Julius Caesar had been pontifex maximus until his death, and Augustus seems quite obviously to have wanted to continue the notion that future rulers of Rome would hold that office too?
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We Look for a Kingdom: The Everyday Lives of the Early Christians
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