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The Early Church

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The early Church by James L. Papandrea is not what I was expecting. I did however enjoy the read and learned lots of new names and stories that go with them.
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I was genuinely looking forward to reading this, even though I was already aware that this was a book published by Ave Maria Press, who is a Catholic publishing company for the Catholic Church. I have read a large number of religious and Church books in my time and Religious Education, however, I was surprised at the tone Papandrea set within the pages. 

The Early Church is first in a series of books, published by Ave Maria Press, which aims to 'reclaim' Catholic History and share "the true history of the Church" and "correcting the record in the wake of half-truths and noble lies" although failing to mention remotely which lies in particular, or where this history is being 'reclaimed' from.

Very much akin to Oxford University Press "A Short Introduction" series which cover a variety of subjects The Early Church is a very short (160 pages in total) introduction to the topic, albeit from a very subjective viewpoint.

The book itself is very well researched and set out to be as informative and as entertaining as the subject allows. This in itself would be a welcome to many a reader in the subject of the early Church, however Papandrea's attitude towards the subject is what lets this book down. What could have been a great introduction to the subject which would allow even those who are interested in the history of the early Church an educated glimpse of those early days when the original Jesus Movement was still but a seed. What we, unfortunately, are given is an unenlightened, sneering and narrow-minded description of how everyone else is wrong but him. This certainly does not do the book, nor the Church, any favours!

The Early Church is one of the most important developments of the First Millenium, regardless of whether you believe or not, the fact that the Church exists and the power it holds is something everyone is very much aware of and the historical aspects of The Early Church are put forward in such a way that can be easily understood by any reader, and that's certainly of high value in this day and age of mobile phones and short attention spans, however, the book often lapses into phases of pure silliness when it comes to anything the author sees as 'disagreeable, willing to denounce any other writing that is not contained in the New Testament, with particular regard to the Gnostic Gospels (who Papandrea seems to have a particular venom towards), is certainly not something many Religious Scholars would approve of, and slandering those who persecuted the Christians in the First Century as "hateful pagans" isn't going to put him on anyone's Christmas Card list. 

As I said from the start, I was really looking forward to this, it's in my personal field of study and interest, however, being dealt with by a condescending and narrow-minded author really leaves me reaching for something more informative.

As Mike Aquilina, the author of the books' introduction says "It takes a subtle, discerning, and modest hand to write truly Christian history." 

If only.
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The Early Church: St. Peter. The Apostles, and Martyrs by James Papandrea comes in at 160 pages and is therefore a very very concise rendering of Early Church History.  With no footnotes (I was reading an ARC), how is a non-academic reader to know how trustworthy a rendering it really is. For an academic to write without footnotes and to make the bold claim, “Reclaiming Catholic History” on the cover I expect an author to address that with some academic detail. The books intro states that the author addresses “mythconcecptions”  but he does not call these out in the book and gives only vague background and calls the reader “to be the judge” but without having sufficient background information from reputable sources to make that decision.

In the end a popular reading of Early Church History with a “Catholic” emphasis. If you are intereste
d in a more balanced understanding of history with more detail check out the works of Mark Noll and use his footnotes and references to dig deeper.

#TheEarlyChurch #NetGalley
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As I read “The Early Church: St. Peter, the Apostles, and Martyrs,” by James L. Papandrea, I was reading an exciting family history. Names I have heard many times became attached to stories of the real people who were part of the Church’s beginnings.

Papandrea’s background is theologically rich and deep, yet, “The Early Church” was very approachable, The author has a sense of humor and allows his personality to shine through, as well. Despite the complex history of the early church, this account was easy to follow due to the way the book was organized chronologically. Readers will easily see the cause and effect that is such a natural part of history.

Within this concise history, the author includes the heresies the early church had to overcome, as well as the major players in the ups and downs of the early church, including martyrs, early popes, philosophers, and politicians. What stood out the most to me was the way these people and the hurdles they faced came alive.

“The Early Church,”  provides a deeper understanding of how we moved from Jesus and the Apostles to the Church as it is today. “The Early Church” is just the beginning of the “Reclaiming Catholic History” series. I look forward to seeing how the books in the rest of the series build on this informative, and at the same time entertaining book.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the Church Fathers and the first 3 centuries of Church History. I give it a hearty 5 stars and look forward to reviewing the 2nd book in the series, “The Church and the Roman Empire (301–490): Constantine, Councils, and the Fall of Rome” by Mike Aquilina. “The Early Church” will be released on November 22, 2019. Until then you can pre-order your copy so that you get it as soon as it is available.

Thank you to NetGalley and Ave Maria Press for providing me with an ARC of ”The Early Church” in exchange for an honest review.
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Most of us know little about the early years of the Church. We know there were persecutions, we know Constantine made Christianity legal in the Roman empire. Those of us who remember some church history might remember a few Popes, something about the fate of the Apostles and, perhaps a heresy of two.

The fact that we know little about this important time is part of what m akes Papandrea's short book so wonderful. In an engaging easy-to-read style we'll learn the facts: how the Church grew from the Apostles, how the New Testament grew from documents circulated in Apostolic times, and how the Sacraments became codified. Heresies are covered clearly, showing how they came to be, where they went wrong and how orthodox doctrine came to be defined because of the battle against them.

In addition to a great main narrative, the author also tackles many questions we and other Christians ask about this time.

Written in clear language accessible to high schoolers and above, this is an essential introduction too Church history.
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