As previous reviewers have likely noted, this book is the final installment in a trilogy. After reading the second installment, The Catholic Perspective on Paul, I said to myself, "I'll be a Catholic by next Easter." Easter has not come yet, but I am enrolled in RCIA, strongly considering entering the Catholic Church. Like the previous volumes, The Eternal City has a lot to offer someone from a Protestant background "feeling" his way towards Catholicism.
The central question of the book is, "What does Rome have to do with salvation history?" Dr. Marshall answers well, with a presentation that includes both the big picture as well as details that add color. For example, did you know a good case can be made that the Catholic Church was prophesied in the book of Daniel? Dr. Marshall addresses this issue in chapter one. And did you know that there was a close, if often strained, relationship between the Jewish people and the Roman Empire, even before the time of Christ? Dr. Marshall lays out an eye-opening account of both the inter-testamental period and the time of the Gospels in chapters two through four.
The rest of the book explores Peter and the Papacy (chapters five through seven), the destruction of the Jerusalem temple (eight), the reign of the Emperor Constantine (nine), and the fall of the Roman Empire (ten). Highlights of the second half include an intriguing exposition of the book of Revelation and an interesting approach to explaining/critiquing the Eastern Orthodox schism based on Augustine's distinction between the City of God and the City of Man.
Chapter ten is a fitting conclusion. After arguing that God intended the Church to be founded and centered in Rome, Dr. Marshall admits that Rome is not our final home: Heaven is.
The book is an enjoyable read. The momentum grows as the story of salvation is told. Very, very rarely did I wonder if the argument might be forced (and those occasions could have been due to my own ignorance more than anything else.)
If you are interested in learning more about Church history from the Catholic perspective, consider The Eternal City, as well as Dr. Marshall's other books. But be warned: you might find yourself saying, "I'll be Catholic by next Easter."