"Raised on Christian Milk" by John David Penniman

Raised on Christian Milk Food and the Formation of the Soul in Early Christianity John David Penniman

Publication date:
02 Aug 2017
Yale University Press
352 pages: 235 x 156 x 27mm
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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