Thursday, June 21, 2012
Review: The Shaping of Christianity: The History and Literature of Its Formative Centuries
The Shaping of Christianity: The History and Literature of Its Formative Centuries by Gerard Vallee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book epitomizes the phrase "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." The author himself is clearly out of his depth and lacks the requisite knowledge and experience to adequately discuss the topic which he has taken up and provides the reader with just enough to confuse and mislead him (or her).
Vallee seems to rely excessively upon secondary sources, and not very good ones at that. His use of primary sources is sparse at best and most of those few citations he does provide for us seem to have been lifted directly from the secondary sources he uses rather than taken up by himself from a personal, firsthand reading of the actual primary sources. As a result, Vallee's treatment is generally shallow and distorted and overly reliant on a single position on certain contentious issues.
Happily, his treatments of most subjects and individuals he covers are so brief that he can't do much damage to the mind of the uninformed reader. Most of the book reads like a badly-written, ill-informed encyclopedia entry; the rest reads like a badly-written, ill-informed undergraduate term paper. The entire book is badly-written and ill-informed.
In short, if you are looking for an introduction to the formative/Patristic period of Christianity, this is not the book you're looking for.
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