Ancient -- Building God's House in the Roman World: Architectural Adaptation among Pagans, Jews, and Christians by L. Michael White

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Building God's House in the Roman World Architectural Adaptation among Pagans, Jews, and Christians. By L. Michael White. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, for the American Schools of Oriental Research. 1990. Pp. XVIII, 211. $27.50.)

This volume may be considered, in my opinion, a very important contribution to the history of the primitive and early Church, especially in regard to the Church as building. The bibliography on this subject, particularly with relation to the Christian community in Rome, comprises a long series of titles; and with respect to other cities of very early Christianity, apart from Dura-Europos, which is dealt with in many works both large and small, towns such as Antioch have been thoroughly investigated; in the case of Antioch special attention is due to Andre Marie Jean Festugiere's Antioche paienne et chretienne. But the very special feature of L. Michael White's book is to stress, with a large apparatus of critical information, the connection between early pagan, Jewish, and Christian places of worship. Architectural adaptation is the principle, but architecture goes hand in hand with other forms of religious syncretism or, more so probably in the case of Christianity, of highly valuable eclecticism. Rightly for the Roman world is to be understood that ecumene of political, administrative, and military government unified under the leadership of Rome as capital of the Empire. Yet, as is well known, the Oriental part of it transcended, by and large, even the realm of the Hellenistic conglomerate of states to allow Jewish and then Christian penetration of the Caucasian regions--Georgia, Armenia, and then Persia, Ethiopia, and farther remote enclaves in Asia, Africa, and the Arabian peninsula. Whether through the witness of monuments still existing or through the testimony of written texts, inscriptions, and other archaeological finds, the reconstruction of this world done by Dr. White in his solid chapters is impressive first of all for its accuracy; secondly, it is very instructive in comparative methodology. This is perhaps the moment to recall that the author had already published a prior volume; n his words, "The present study is based on the collection of archaeological and documentary materials first assembled in the author's Yale dissertation and now published separately under the title Christian Domus Ecclesiae and Its Environment" (p. xi) (with the subtitle A Collection of Texts and Monuments in "Harvard Theological Studies," Vol. 6, in association with the American Schools of Oriental Research

Minneapolis: Aussburg-Fortress, 1990

). So the environment of the Christian Domus Ecclesiae is given here in the exposition of God's house in the early adaptations among pagans, Jews, and Christians from Dura-Europos to Roman Brittany. A sample of the whole matter is given in these words of the introduction: "It cannot be forgotten ... that on the same street at Dura two other cultic facilities were found that had been renovated from private houses. …

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