Late but Still Nice to Read: “Artifacts” Review
In the post today I received a copy of a review of my book, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins (Eerdmans, 2006), the (generous-sized) review published in Bibliotheca Orientalis 70 (2013): 3-4. It is a bit of a surprise to have a review just appearing, given that my book was published in 2006. But I have to say it’s very nice to have such a positive review (by Jürgen K. Zangenberg, Leiden University Institute for Religious Studies).
Zangenberg affirms my emphasis in the book that earliest Christian manuscripts offer valuable data beyond the texts that they contain for wider historical questions about early Christianity, agreeing that these manuscripts should be regarded “on equal level with archaeological finds and objects,” as direct evidence of the “visual and material culture” of early Christianity. He accurately summarizes the contents and main lines of argument of the book, noting rightly that it draws on earlier scholars (e.g., Erich Dinkler, Eric Turner, C.H. Roberts, Kurt Treu, Harry Gamble, Robert Kraft, Eldon Epp, and numerous others, including more younger people such as Kim Haines-Eitzen) as well as my own investigations.
Given the effort that went into the book, it’s very encouraging to read that Zangerberg regards it “one of the most important recent books in the field of early Christian codicology,” and “simply a must for everybody interested in early Christianity and the New Testament!” Even if the review came out seven years after the book was published, it’s still nice to have it. (And this illustrates how long it can take for the scholarly world to take account of, and form a judgement of, a scholarly book. As someone one said of God’s wheels of justice, the scholarly assessment of a work can grind slowly.)