One of the classes I am taking this summer is on Ancient Greek Civilization. It's been a great class so far with some interesting reading. Last week I had to turn in a paper concerning how best to use the Greek historian Herodotus as a source.
If you're not familiar with him Herodotus mainly concerning the history of the Persian Wars in ancient Greece. In addition to that he has some great stories from the various Greek poleis that he visits or hears second-hand. There are critical editions of the text that you can buy, but I found that the Perseus Project's version are good and provide you both with a couple English translations as well as the Greek text. What is really nice if you're doing higher-level research is that Perseus allows you to click on a Greek word and it takes you to a Lexicon entry for that word. What really comes in handy is that the lexicon can show you other places that the word is used in any other Greek literature. For example, I was making a point in my paper concerning Herodotus' ideas of democracy and tyranny. I was able to them compare a particular word he used and see that Thucydides used the same word in a passage on tyranny, but used it in a slightly different way. It was a great comparison that would have been very difficult without the Perseus Project's cross-referencing ability. If you haven't read Herodotus, it's an interesting read. Just get a good translation. Some of the older ones try to make it sound like Herodotus was from Elizabethan England. Also, if you're doing any research in ancient history the Perseus Project from Tufts University is a good place to go for primary source material.
This summer I have a stack of books I'm going through. I have to read several on historical research methods and several on ancient Greek civilization. The more interesting ones I'll bring up here on the blog. The first book I'm going to mention though is from my "want to read" pile and not my "have to read pile." It's a new release from John Wiley. John is a former student of mine. I had him in a early church history class a couple of years back. So, it's really exciting to see him write a short piece for Kindle on the early church. This e-book consists of biographies of key early church leaders. He focuses on Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Perpetua & Felicity, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Origen, Athanasius, the Cappadocian Fathers (& Mother), and Augustine.
For a biographical piece I was a little surprised he delved into the texts of these leaders as much as he did. It was really nice to see that. So often, especially in textbooks or even biographical pieces, the real meat is skipped over or dealt with in such a sanitary way that you don't capture the essence of the person or their writing being discussed. Wiley is able to make each of these sketches personable.
It's also a practical book, as Wiley jots down after each bio a brief "church history tip." There is a lot of things we often get confused with if we do a survey of church history (people with similar names, what each leader was best known for, etc.). In these tips, Wiley often gives a brief way for us to remember little things like that. He also includes a separate paper as an appendix to the work in which he traces the rise of single bishop leadership in the church's first several centuries. That obviously has immediate application in how we think about church polity in our time.
As I write this, "The Early Church" is free on the Amazon Kindle bookstore. You can follow this link to get to it. What is really interesting to me is that he is planning two more short biographical works - one on key Reformers and one on Dispensationalists (which I can't think of another accessible work that deals with that particular topic.) Keep these on your radar!
This was written by Greg Moore. You can find more about John Wiley at his blog.
Mark Stevens is a former seminary student himself and currently researches and teaches in the area of theological studies.