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The Cambridge History of Christianity. Vol. 5: Eastern Christianity.

Edited by Michael Angold. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006. Pp. xx, 722. 106 [pounds sterling] / $180.

Scholars owe a debt of thanks to the editor of this impressive work. Michael Angold, professor emeritus of Byzantine history at the University of Edinburgh, has done a magnificent job of touching on the highlights of Eastern Christianity in its many forms, including the Oriental churches not in full communion with the Eastern Orthodox churches. Chapters on the Copts, Melkites, Nestorians, and Jacobites make this volume a comprehensive history. There is also an excellent review of dissent movements in Russia, especially the section on the Old Believers.

What is lacking is a better treatment of the missionary activity of the Orthodox and the Oriental churches. This lack is due in part to the date with which this volume commences, A.D. 1000. By then, missionary activity was over for Constantinople and the Nestorians. It would have been more useful for the study of Eastern Christianity if the volume had started with an earlier date, perhaps A.D. 500 or 600. A search of other volumes in the series, however, fails to give one the impression that this lacuna will be tilled. Even in the 1,000 years surveyed, missions and evangelization do not feature prominently. St. Stephen of Perm gets adequate coverage, as does the linguist Nicholas Ilminski, but Macarius Gloukharev and Nicholas Kassatkin are not even mentioned. St. Herman of the Alaska mission is noted, but the mission itself and the work of John Veniaminov are notably absent. This is all the more surprising because in later life Veniaminov, under the monastic name Innocent, became metropolitan of Moscow in 1868. Those interested in Orthodox missions will need to look elsewhere.

This volume is, however, a valuable addition to our knowledge of the Eastern churches. The historical scope of the twenty-four chapters (divided into four parts) is impressive, as are the credentials of the scholars contributing to this volume. Having multiple authors means that there is some overlap of subject matter, but this actually adds depth for the reader who wants to study only a particular period. The work is primarily historical; theological discussions are at a minimum in most of the chapters, which is understandable in a work of this scope. To have included the earlier period of Byzantine history, as well as the theological controversies during that time, would have made a much longer volume. Perhaps to have divided the work into two volumes and included more material would have been justified, especially when one looks at the treatment the Western churches receive in the other books in this series.

These comments need to be balanced by an honest appreciation of the tremendous usefulness this volume will have for students and researchers. The bibliography, handily divided according to the chapters, runs to seventy-nine pages. This reviewer found the works listed a valuable resource. Those teaching in this area will undoubtedly assign reading from Eastern Christianity to orient students to the key historical issues.

James J. Stamoolis, mission educator and consultant, has written Eastern Orthodox Mission Theology Today (Orbis Books, 1986).
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Author:Stamoolis, James J.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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