I’m reading Diarmaid MacCulloch’s A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, an amazing and magisterial work. (The subtitle is correct: to grasp the early Christian movement, we need to have a grounding in the Jewish, Greek and Roman histories and cultures of the time.)
It’s way beyond my competency to review this work. Besides, I’m on page 108 right now; only over 900 pages to go… But I do want to point to the wit and insight with which MacCulloch writes, as he does in other books of his with which I am acquainted (The Reformation; Thomas Cranmer: A Life). Take, for example, these words about the Greek pantheon of gods (p. 32):
The pantheon portrayed in both Greek myths and the Homeric epics can hardly be said to exemplify virtue: the origins of the gods in particular make up an extraordinary catalogue of horrors and violence. Hesiod’s Theogony named the first divinity as Chaos; among the divinities who emerged from him, representing the cosmos spawned out of chaos, was Gaia, the Earth. Gaia’s son Ouranos/Uranus (the Sky) incestuously mated with his mother and had twelve children. whom he forced back into Gaia’s womb; Gaia’s youngest son, Kronos/Cronus, castrated his father, Ouranos, before in turn committing incest with his sister and attempting to murder all their children. How unlike the home life of the Christian Trinity. Matters only marginally improved in the generation of Zeus. If one were coompleting a school report on the behaviour of the Olympian gods, it would have to include commetns on their lack of moral responsibility, consistent pity or compassion.
‘How unlike the home life of the Christian Trinity’—just delightfully slipped in. Absolutely sheer unadulterated gold!! This book is well worth the asking price for the wit alone.