Allen Brent: Political History of Early Christianity, (London: Clarke-Continuum, 2009).See


Mark Edwards, Christ Church, Oxford,

‘Allen Brent is one of the boldest and most seminal historians currently writing about Christianity in the ancient world. In his works on Hippolytus and Ignatius, he has already displayed his magisterial learning and his ability to shed new light on the history of ideas by the investigation of social and cultural backgrounds. If he is not one to be carried away on a bandwagon, he is also not one to neglect a theory merely because it is difficult or because it has become dangerously fashionable in other disciplines.  His aim in the present book is to examine the relation between metaphysical theories and their political contexts, with a broad remit in the interpretation of the terms “metaphysical” and “political”. The introduction promises an astute engagement with such figures as sociologist Peter Berger, intellectual historian Quentin Skinner and the virtuoso of the social sciences, Max Weber. In his opening chapter he plunges dauntlessly into the thickets of New Testament scholarship, doing ample justice to the arguments of those who deny an eschatological character to the original preaching of Jesus, but showing at the same time that their attempts to cast Jesus as an ascetic teacher for the present world exaggerates the significance of non-canonical texts and is patently motivated by contemporary interests.  The writing is characteristically lucid, the scholarship impeccable, the argument brisk but incisive; if this chapter is an augury of the rest, we can expect another distinguished addition to a corpus of scholarship that is already impressive.’