Raised on Christian Milk


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Food and the Formation of the Soul in Early Christianity

John David Penniman

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A fascinating new study of the symbolic power of food and its role in forming kinship bonds and religious identity in early Christianity

Scholar of religion John Penniman considers the symbolic importance of food in the early Roman world in an engaging and original new study that demonstrates how “eating well” was a pervasive idea that served diverse theories of growth, education, and religious identity. Penniman places early Christian discussion of food in its moral, medical, legal, and social contexts, revealing how nourishment, especially breast milk, was invested with the power to transfer characteristics, improve intellect, and strengthen kinship bonds.

John David Penniman is assistant professor of religious studies at Bucknell University. He has published articles in Church History,Marginalia Review of Books, and the Journal of Early Christian Studies.

“In this engagingly written study, Penniman pulls off an exceptionally tricky balancing act as he insists on the degree to which ancient Christians understood the noetic to be shaped by material and corporeal practice.”—Jennifer Glancy, Le Moyne College

 “Penniman’s fascinating study explores how Paul’s metaphors of milk, meat, and solid food were engaged by Christian authors of the first four centuries CE to articulate their views of Christian identity, spiritual formation, and social belonging. A fine analysis of how food practices in the “real” world intersected with early Christian writers’ deployment of food imagery to further their diverse theological visions and pedagogical aims.”—Elizabeth A. Clark, Duke University

Raised on Christian Milk is an impressive, well-written book that shows how the rhetoric of food in antiquity encompasses spiritual, educational, and caloric nourishment.”—Laura Nasrallah, Harvard Divinity School

“John Penniman’s account of early Christian food symbolism, focusing particularly on the Pauline trope of milk opposed to solid food, offers an insightful interpretation of ancient “eating well” that by turns satisfies and stimulates the scholarly appetite.”—Andrew McGowan, Yale University

“This focused, original, and readable study will be of interest to scholars studying Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, the role of motherhood and breastfeeding in early Christianity, and early Christian formation.” —Carol Poster, Anglican and Episcopal History

“Elegantly written and carefully theorized, Penniman’s study speaks to the power of ‘dead’ metaphors to come back to life when their material side is taken seriously.”—Dana Robinson, Ancient Jew Review

Raised on Christian Milk is a focused and valuable postcritical study.”—R. Alan Streett, Catholic Bible Quarterly

“We are left wanting to explore further. . . . There is a freshness of approach which, throughout, surprises and opens up new ways to think about familiar topics.”—John Binns, Church Times

“This is a splendidly written book about an exciting and intricate topic that opens further avenues for future studies. Penniman's work is a very important contribution to the growing number of carefully constructed, comparative studies that engage with the complex fabric of (late) antique religious cultures.”— Lennart Lehmhaus, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Raised on Christian Milk is more than a story; it is a methodological template for understanding how early Christians fashioned the Christian self.”—Shaily Patel, Journal of Orthodox Christian Studies

“With an agreeable prose flowing with crystal clear precision, he succeeds in an exquisite account of what it means to ‘eat well.’. . . With methodological finesse, he successfully affirms the symbiosis of food and spirit. The book not only keeps its promises: it outlines a threshold from where to envision new ones.”—Marie-Ange Rakotoniaina, Reading Religion
ISBN: 9780300222760
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
352 pages, 6-1/8 x 9-1/4
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