For the first time a noted historian of Christianity explores the full story of the emergence and development of the Marian cult in the early Christian centuries. The means by which Mary, mother of Jesus, came to prominence have long remained strangely overlooked despite, or perhaps because of, her centrality in Christian devotion. Gathering together fresh information from often neglected sources, including early liturgical texts and Dormition and Assumption apocrypha, Stephen Shoemaker reveals that Marian devotion played a far more vital role in the development of early Christian belief and practice than has been previously recognized, finding evidence that dates back to the latter half of the second century. Through extensive research, the author is able to provide a fascinating background to the hitherto inexplicable “explosion” of Marian devotion that historians and theologians have pondered for decades, offering a wide-ranging study that challenges many conventional beliefs surrounding the subject of Mary, Mother of God.
Stephen J. Shoemaker is professor of religious studies at the University of Oregon, specializing in the history of Christianity and the beginnings of Islam. He lives in Eugene, OR.
“Mary in Early Christian Faith and Devotion is almost the only recent attempt at any¬thing like a comprehensive study of the development of the cult of the Virgin in late antiquity. . . . [Shoemaker] brings together more than twenty years of studies . . . to argue for a new version of how Mary emerged in these early centuries as a focus for Christian devotion.”—Rachel Fulton Brown, First Things
“Shoemaker wears his formidable learning lightly and presents his material in a fresh, engaging manner that invites rather than intimidates . . . Shoemaker has given an excellent example of how to examine historical issues in antiquity afresh.”—Sr. Maria del Fiat Miola, Ancient Jew Review
"This work furthers the field and is a must-read for graduate students and professors interested in the cult of the Virgin Mary and the origins of piety and devotion to her."—Paul Brazinski, Reading Religion
“Shoemaker’s book is very learned, yet is readable and entertaining. It deserves a wide readership and should be of interest to many outside the narrow field of Early Christian Studies.”—Carole M. Cusack, Religion
“This original book will inform the narrative of the development of Marian devotion for generations to come.”—Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook, Anglican and Episcopal History
“Well-documented and scholarly . . . [Shoemaker] traces the complex historical process that saw the Mary of the Bible become the Mary of manifold devotions in the first five centuries of the Christian era . . . Fascinating.”—Leonardo De Chirico, Credo Magazine
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