Christianity and the Transformation of the Book: Origen, Eusebius, and the Library of Caesarea

Christianity and the Transformation of the Book: Origen, Eusebius, and the Library of Caesarea

by Anthony Grafton, Megan Williams
     
 

When early Christians began to study the Bible, and to write their own history and that of the Jews whom they claimed to supersede, they used scholarly methods invented by the librarians and literary critics of Hellenistic Alexandria. But Origen and Eusebius, two scholars of late Roman Caesarea, did far more. Both produced new kinds of books, in which parallel

Overview

When early Christians began to study the Bible, and to write their own history and that of the Jews whom they claimed to supersede, they used scholarly methods invented by the librarians and literary critics of Hellenistic Alexandria. But Origen and Eusebius, two scholars of late Roman Caesarea, did far more. Both produced new kinds of books, in which parallel columns made possible critical comparisons previously unenvisioned, whether between biblical texts or between national histories. Eusebius went even farther, creating new research tools, new forms of history and polemic, and a new kind of library to support both research and book production.

Christianity and the Transformation of the Book combines broad-gauged synthesis and close textual analysis to reconstruct the kinds of books and the ways of organizing scholarly inquiry and collaboration among the Christians of Caesarea, on the coast of Roman Palestine. The book explores the dialectical relationship between intellectual history and the history of the book, even as it expands our understanding of early Christian scholarship. Christianity and the Transformation of the Book attends to the social, religious, intellectual, and institutional contexts within which Origen and Eusebius worked, as well as the details of their scholarly practices—practices that, the authors argue, continued to define major sectors of Christian learning for almost two millennia and are, in many ways, still with us today.

Editorial Reviews

Bryn Mawr Classical Review
With forays into library history, papyrology, and reception studies, this book is multi-faceted, erudite, and inspiring in its scope.
— Scott Fitzgerald Johnson
Choice
Grafton and Williams demonstrate how, in late antiquity, when the papyrus scroll and the codex were both being used to create books, Christian scholars Origen and Eusebius pioneered techniques such as the use of parallel columns, multiple colors, and complex tables to create new forms of scholarship that would inspire future intellectuals and in turn lead to the supremacy of the codex. In this lively and accessible volume, readers learn of the conception and execution of Origen’s Hexapla, a philological tool in six columns for studying the Hebrew Bible, and how Eusebius used his position as a Christian bishop to develop a major research center at Caesarea, where books were collected, copied, and created. Grafton and Williams argue that rather than ignoring difficult, often conflicting, non-Christian sources, Origen and Eusebius critically engaged and quoted these sources, thereby setting intellectual precedents that would be emulated by later scholars such as Jerome, Bede, and Erasmus.
— T.J. Bond
Commonweal
A fascinating exercise in intellectual history that highlights the crucial role books played in the rise of Christianity...Thanks to the stories so ably told in this work, one realizes that scholarship in the name of truth is a very ancient calling in Christianity.
— Lawrence S. Cunningham
New York Review of Books
Christianity and the Transformation of the Book is a highly enjoyable and successful collaboration between a distinguished senior scholar and a very bright young historian. Drawing on a wealth of recent writing on the cultural setting of early Christianity (much of it inspired by the seminal work of Peter Brown), Grafton and Williams bring their own distinctive insistence on the centrality of innovations in book production and book distribution to the formation of momentous new patterns of thought...The book succeeds in placing Origen and Eusebius firmly and illuminatingly against a world in which Christianity had not yet triumphed, and they convey vividly the intellectual daring involved in these pioneering attempts to articulate and define Christianity alongside and against the Jewish and the classical worldviews. In the process they provide a reminder--salutary and timely, from a European perspective, in an increasingly aggressive secularist climate--of how much Jewish and Christian thought patterns have contributed to shaping some of the most fundamental assumptions and directions of Western culture.
— Eamon Duffy
Library Journal - Library Journal
In a collaborative effort, Grafton (history, Princeton Univ.) and Williams (religious studies, Univ. of Montana, Missoula) give an in-depth and thoroughly researched treatise about the impact early Christian scholars had on the formation of books as we know them today. Focusing primarily on Origen and Eusebius, the authors explain how these two scholars of late Roman Caesarea changed the way that books, research, and analysis in the ancient world were conducted and produced. In fact, Grafton and Williams go on to say, "We in the modern university owe a great debt to this particular strand of the Christian intellectual tradition." And it is this "intellectual tradition," with its emphasis on documentary evidence, that their book so carefully and completely examines and explores, not just with textual analysis but with several illustrations as well. While this is a very valuable resource for those involved or interested in a comprehensive study of the ancient Christian world and ancient scholarship, it is rather daunting for the lay reader owing to its focused area of study. Highly recommended for specialized university collections. Wesley Mills, Empire State Coll., SUNY at Rochester Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674023147
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
11/28/2006
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are saying about this

There's an uncanny seventeen-hundred-year time mirror nested at the core of this marvelous little volume, as Williams and Grafton,
luminous and deft as ever, burrow deeper and deeper toward the genuine bibliographic and scholarly ethos of Origen and Eusebius and assorted other Early Church Fathers, discovering there--lo and behold!--masters of mindbendingly scrupulous, if at times decidedly quirky, erudition. Nos pères, nos semblables!
Lawrence Weschler
There's an uncanny seventeen-hundred-year time mirror nested at the core of this marvelous little volume, as Williams and Grafton,
luminous and deft as ever, burrow deeper and deeper toward the genuine bibliographic and scholarly ethos of Origen and Eusebius and assorted other Early Church Fathers, discovering there--lo and behold!--masters of mindbendingly scrupulous, if at times decidedly quirky, erudition. Nos pères, nos semblables!
Lawrence Weschler, Director, New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU and author of Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences

Meet the Author

Anthony Grafton is Henry Putnam University Professor of History at Princeton University.

Megan Williams is Assistant Professor of History, San Francisco State University.

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