The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis by the esteemed scholar Ilaria Ramelli is the most important book on universalism and the Church Fathers to be published in the past hundred years. It is not an easy read. The Latin quotations and some of the Greek quotations have not been translated into English (why?!), and the book is tediously repetitive. Ramelli would have benefitted from a ruthless editor. But that being said, The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis is a remarkable achievement.
The scholarly reviews are finally starting to get published. From what I have seen, they have been mainly positive and in one case, quite negative (see below). The big question is, who is competent to review the entire monograph, given its breadth? Most patristic scholars specialize in specific writers or periods, but Ramelli covers the entire patristic corpus, including Syriac authors! Such is her erudition. As I recently wrote to an editor at a well known publisher, what is needed is a collection of essays by various experts, each reviewing one section of the book. The editor agreed but expressed doubt it would ever happen. Sigh.
One non-scholar on the net has accused Ramelli of throwing spaghetti up against a wall to see what might stick. At best, the charge is unfair; at worst, irresponsible. Ramelli is a scholar of the highest caliber. Few can match her academic accomplishments. But she is not infallible. I’m sure that scholars will challenge (and indeed already have challenged) some of her more controversial theses. That’s the way the game is played. What her book will do is force historians and theologians to go back to the sources and read the Church Fathers more deeply and carefully. I imagine that many of her readings will stand up under critique and some will not. I am particularly keen, for example, to see how scholars receive her presentation of St Maximus the Confessor’s eschatology.
The longest review I have so far come across is by Michael McClymond, published in Theological Studies. I find it odd that McClymond was asked to write the review, given that he is not a patristic scholar. He specializes in Jonathan Edwards and modern Christianity (see his impressive curriculum vitae). But he is working on a book on universalism, so I suppose that is the reason why he was invited. McClymond scores several points against Ramelli, but clearly her monograph lies outside his scholarly competence. Caveat emptor.
Theological Studies also gave Ramelli an opportunity to respond to McClymond. Here is her rejoinder:
One thing for sure: future studies in patristic eschatology will now be dated “before Ramelli” and “after Ramelli.”
Unfortunately, The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis is exorbitantly expensive. The good news is that Ramelli is writing a popular version of her tome for Wipf & Stock. It is slated for publication sometime before the return of Christ in glory, after which all books on universal salvation will be unnecessary.