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.