“The Holy Fire – the story of the early centuries of the Christian Church of the near east” by Robert Payne.
This book was written by a western author whose history I cannot seem to discover. I found this little gem at the Coptic Orthodox bookstore in Melbourne at the Donvale headquarters and I thought to give it a try. Firstly, there are a few points to be aware of. The author is not a theologian or Church historian, and for that matter I do not know if he is even Orthodox. Secondly, the book as the preface carefully shows contains incorrect assumptions and to put it bluntly errors as far as the Orthodox Church is concerned – this ammounts from the fact the author clearly concentrates on certain aspects of the lives of the Fathers without considering others; for example, was Mr Robert Payne too kind when dealing with Origen or did he simply pass over too quickly contreversial areas of his life? (I’ll let you decide) Thirdly, the book first appeared in 1957 at a time when there was simply no books on Orthodoxy or the Church Fathers readily available in English.
So I guess by now you may be wondering why this book should be considered as a good read? The answer lies in the question -simply because it is one excellent read! The author recreates with vivid realism a wonderful historical portrait of some of the great Fathers of the Orthodox Church – St Clement of ALexandria, Origen, St Athanasius, St Basil the great etc… Written with a passion and romantic stlye this book has the ability to captivate modern folk with a love for the Fathers of the Church, and despite its unfortunate mistakes in places it achieves its purpose with such force that it is nothing short of inspirational. If you want to be inspired and want a book to place you in the early Christian centuries then this book is well worth a place on the bedside table.
This book is available through St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood New York and can be ordered online…
(If you read this book please leave some feedback!)