Some similar themes in early African Christianity have also been explored by Francois Decret, whose French work will be available in English in late 2008 under the title Early Christianity in North Africa (Wipf & Stock).
Four areas of strength in Oden’s work are particularly noteworthy. First, supported by his years of studying Patristic texts, he makes a winsome case for Africa’s significant theological legacy. Chapter two is particularly compelling and could serve as an introductory essay to a multi-volume work. On a personal note, though I was initially skeptical of Mark’s historical relationship to the Egyptian church—dismissing it as “Coptic tradition”—Oden’s repeated use of first to eighth-century sources, which place the evangelist in Egypt, won me to this view (pp. 18, 97, 125, 158-159, 194). Second, by raising more questions than answers, the book is a stimulating invitation for scholars, especially African students, to “dig beneath the sands” (pp. 39-40) and engage Africa’s theological legacy. An exercise that should strengthen the present African church, as noted, it also provides a basis for meaningful dialogue with African Muslims (p. 39). Third, the final “Literary Chronology” (pp. 157-197) was helpful and further supports Oden’s overall thesis. A great resource for students and professors, it almost reads like a narrative genealogy—a device used in the Scriptures, but also one that connects with many of Africa’s cultures. Finally, Oden ably engages