This year my theological reading topic has been the trinity. I haven’t read nearly as much as I intended so far this year. So when I ran across this book I picked it up to try and get back on track.
Eagle in Flight is about Athanasius, the 4th century bishop of Alexandria. Athanasius is important to all the major streams of Christianity. The Roman Catholic church considers him one of the four main ‘doctors of the church’. Protestants point to his list of the books of the New Testament as one of the early confirmations of the New Testament canon. Eastern Orthodox point to him as the ‘Father of Orthodoxy’.
He was a participant in the council where the Nicene Creed was written. He was bishop during the several severe persecutions after Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of Rome. And ended up spending 17 years over five different periods being exiled from Alexandria. I was unaware how much in the years after Constantine that the Christian church was persecuted.
Part of that persecution was from internal battles with Arians. Athanasius is one of the most important figures in defending the Trinity, especially that Jesus Christ was fully god and not created or adopted.
The Athanasian Creed, one of the universal creeds of the church and primarily about the doctrine of the Trinity, was named in honor of him, but it was not written until a couple of centuries after he died.
This novel was written about a decade ago. It is still in print, but was only recently added to Kindle. I picked it up a couple of weeks ago when it was free. But its regular price is only $2.99.
I often have a hard time with historical fiction because most of the time it is hard to know when the fiction stops and the history starts. That is the case here. Athanasius is a character in history that we know a fair about about but we do not know everything. Little things are usually what irritate me about historical fiction. Like the fact that in this book he is referred to as being a redhead. Athanasius was born in Egypt. His parents might have been Greek but either way there are very few redheaded Greeks or Egyptians. Maybe there is some documentation about him being redheaded but I could not find any in my brief searching.
Another issue is that I think that this book has a bit too much modern feel to the characterizations. It is too individualistic and occasionally verges on modern Evangelical thinking. I assumed at first it was written by an Evangelical but that seemed less likely the further I went in the book. I could not find a bio of the author but looking at her other books I assume she is Roman Catholic.
On the whole though, I really liked this book. I read it quickly and straight through. If you are interested in Christian history this is a good way to get some sense of what was going on around the time of Constantine and during the point when the cannon and the doctrine of the church were being confirmed.
If you are Protestant you will realize the importance of the church and Apostolic succession to the early church. And pretty much all readers will be struck by the honor given bishops.