- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Routledge (August 6, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415240425
- ISBN-13: 978-0415240420
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,727,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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'Let us die that we may live': Greek homilies on Christian Martyrs from Asia Minor, Palestine and Syria c.350-c.450 AD
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Johann Leemans is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of Theology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
Wendy Mayer is a Research Fellow in the Centre for Early Christian Studies, Australian Catholic University.
Pauline Allen is Director of the Centre for Early Christian Studies and General Secretary of the International Association for Patristic Studies.
Boudewijn Dehandschutter is Professor of Patrology and Ancient Church History at the Faculty of Theology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
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It is worth giving a list of what exactly is translated -
Basil of Caesarea - Homily on the Martyr Gordius, Homily on the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste
Gregory of Nyssa - Homily on Theodore the Recruit, First Homily on the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste
John Chrysostom - Homily on the Holy Martyrs, Homily on Julian the Martyr, Homily on the Martyr Babylas, Homily on Pelagia Virgin and Martyr
Asterius of Amasea - Homily on Phocas, Ecphrasis on the Holy Martyr Euphemia, Homily on Stephen the First Martyr
Hesychius of Jerusalem - Homily in praise of Stephen the First Martyr, Homily in Praise of Saint Procopius
The translators of these homilies - Johan Leemans, Wendy Mayer, Pauline Allen and Boudewijn Dehandschutter - are leading experts on early Christianity. They select some nice examples of Christian oratory. I was especially pleased to see some writings of Hesychius of Jerusalem finally translated into English.
Why is this book important? Firstly, it shows that the origin of the 'Cult of the Saints'. Originally the veneration was for martyrs. Many of the martyrs commemorated in this volume died during the Great Persecution, while some others died in earlier persecutions. As opportunities for martyrdom faded the veneration would shift to monks and holy bishops. The writers of the homilies aren't really interested in providing biographical details so the translators provide whatever biographical information is known.
Secondly, this volume shows how widespread and well established the 'Cult of the Saints' was. You have authors from Antioch/Constantinople, Cappadocia and Jerusalem in this volume. You could easily have a similar companion volume of Latin authors with a just as wide geographic distribution. There is no argument about what these authors are doing. Everyone takes the veneration of saints for granted. Apparently Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Asterius of Amasea and Hesychius of Jerusalem didn't get the memo that veneration of the saints wasn't Biblical.
If you are interested in the early church then this book is for you. It is scholarship at its best. The translators aren't trying to push their own agendas (which is refreshing) but let the early Christian authors speak for themselves. The translation is in lively prose that is easy to read and, best of all, it is affordable!
I also recommend 'The Cult of the Saints' by John Chrysostom published by SVS press as a companion volume.
I do find one fault with the book, however. In its introduction, the authors treat these accounts from a uniquely sociological perspective, viz., without any reference to faith. For scholars, these accounts may simply be a new form of literary genre that was created in response to a sociological disturbance among early Christians; for others, these accounts may be "crisis literature" created in response to a governmental threat. And yet, for many, these accounts reflect the stories of saints in whom we see Christ and models of strong faith and Christian living. I personally fall into the last category and would have therefore enjoyed an introduction that did not diminish my view of these lives of the martyrs. Nonetheless, I cannot fault the authors, because I cannot force them to have faith. They did an excellent job with this book, even if they wrote from a purely academic perspective.
I highly recommend this book to everyone.