Monday, May 07, 2018

Review of Drake, A Century of Miracles

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: H. A. Drake, A Century of Miracles: Christians, Pagans, Jews, and the Supernatural, 312-410. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xvi, 312. ISBN 9780199367412. $35.00. Reviewed by Michael Stuart Williams, Maynooth University (
his book by H. A. Drake is aimed at a semi-popular audience, and is a showcase for his most valuable qualities: an engaging style, a patient awareness of the complexity of the evidence, and a desire to recapture the human element of late-antique Christian belief. It will appeal to anyone wanting to know why fourth-century Christianity is worth studying. Drake does an excellent job of showing how Christianity was remade in this period by the pressures of imperial and episcopal politics. His focus is on a particular Christian rhetoric of legitimation which explained the achievements of Constantine and his successors by the interest of God in their affairs; which permitted the apostate emperor Julian to be written off in hindsight as no significant threat; and which proffered the minor miracles performed by ascetics as proof of God’s presence in the world. But it is not strictly a book about miracles; and for me it fails to capture what is distinctive about miracles in the fourth century.


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