Christoph Baumer has done an excellent job of introducing to the general reader the history of this extraordinary church, whose dioceses once stretched across Asia from Egypt to China and from the Caspian Sea to southern India. The book is written in a very readable style, but is underpinned by rigorous scholarship. The subject-matter is well organised, and because the book is properly indexed, with illuminating notes, readers can nearly always find what they are looking for. The colour photographs and maps are excellent, and include some memorable images.
Most importantly, for a book that was first published in German, the quality of the English text is excellent. In this respect Baumer's book compares very favourably with Wilhelm Baum and Dietmar Winkler's 'The Church of the East' (RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), its closest rival, which is marred by a dreadful English translation that the publishers should never have allowed to see the light of day. As a historian of the Church of the East, I regularly need to consult both books, and while Baum and Winkler's book is a useful source of information, Christoph Baumer's book can be read with both profit and pleasure. Baumer is particularly good on the interaction between Christianity and other faiths, and most readers will enjoy his meditations on the spirituality of the Church of the East and the encounters across the centuries of its missionaries with Zoroastrians, Manicheans, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Moslems.
Baumer and his publishers (I. B. Tauris) should both be congratulated on this book.
Readers might be a little bit skeptical when see that the topic deals with an European writer. But all doubts are gone already after the first side of the text. One can understand that the writer is open minded and non inclined to any of the sides. And there are many sides in the book. A broad survey of the origin of monotheistic religions from the Mediterranean to China. The church of the East is of course in focus but we are all the time able to get the whole picture with all important interreactiones. Baumer has a very nice style that allows this difficult and abstract topics to be described in a readable manner.