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Out of the Mouth of the Lion, or The Church in the Catacombs Review by Donna CamposEmma Leslie
Salem Ridge Press LLC
4263 Salem Drive
Emmaus, Pennsylvania 18049
Emma Leslie, whose actual name was Emma Dixon, was a prolific Victorian children's author who wrote over 100 books during her lifetime (1837-1909). Originally published in 1875 by the Religious Tract Society, Out of the Mouth of the Lion is one of seven books in her Church History Series. It is a fictional story that is set during the early years of the Christian church, and it tells about a family traveling through the seven cities of Asia Minor mentioned in Revelation. Blended in with the fictional characters and happenings are actual historical characters, including John, Jesus Christ, and Paul. This 261-page, softcover book includes an "About the Author" page, a list of important dates, including the Apostle John writing Revelation in AD 96, Marcus Aurelius becoming emperor of Rome in AD 161, and the martyrdom of Polycarp in AD 166), a "Historical Notes" page that gives brief explanations of Marcus Aurelius, Polycarp, and Melito, a map of the seven churches of Asia Minor, and a Preface by the author that suggests additional resources The book includes 22 chapters and seven illustrations.
Written for ages 12 to adult, the book is educational and historical, well suited for older students desiring a full understanding of the early church and the lives and times of the first Christians. The story takes place between AD 161 and 166, when Christianity was illegal in the Roman Empire and persecution persisted by the will of the people rather than a particular political stronghold. As the story unfolds, some characters come to know Christ and discover what it may cost to follow His teachings. Lives are lost and eternity gained as individuals are drawn to the church and the life-changing story of Jesus Christ, often because of the willingness of His followers to make the ultimate sacrifice. Throughout the book, definitions and Scripture references are included at the bottom of each page as footnotes. Wonderful descriptions draw the reader into the various scenes. For instance, there is a detailed description of the crowds pressing in to attend the Colosseum events, particularly the sacrificing of Christians. Moments of pre-death praise and worship are beautifully portrayed as Christians gather together to support one another. The deaths of martyrs are presented in general terms but are still definitely more appropriate for older children.
This book has drawn me into historical fiction, and I am now setting out to complete the additional books available by Emma Leslie. Out of the Mouth of the Lion will open minds to the realities of early church history and what it meant to be willing to die for Christ. The presentation of individuals coming to know Him because of the peaceful willingness of His followers to follow Him, and Him alone, is a tremendous example to Christians today. We often lose sight of our call to bring others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The various descriptions of the many false gods worshiped in Rome provide further understanding into how ungodly and polytheistic the world had become. I really appreciated the explanation of early Christians who could not deny Christ because He bought them with His own blood, as it was enlightening and encouraging and should be presented to children. A reference to the apostle John and his exile to Patmos references religion as being so much more meaningful than it generally is today: ". . . for religion was no outside affair, to be put on and off at will, like a garment, but was regarded as the chief object of life, to which all others were subservient." Discussion on this alone would make this book a fantastic educational tool, as too often today religion is not much more than a hobby or social club for some people. There is also wonderful praise regarding the position of wife and mother, as well as the special duties of husband and father. Various trades predominant in certain cities are also noted; even the dye extracted from shellfish and used to color the purple cloth of royalty is mentioned.
This book is definitely mature in subject matter, as it includes illness, death, and the horrors of martyrdom. It should be read carefully beforehand by parents of younger students. A very thoughtful comment on dying grace is included on page 253 and should be considered more deeply by older students and adults. Parents should be mindful of many teaching opportunities within these pages; a wealth of information is to be had, along with discussions with older students. I really enjoyed the definitions included throughout the book, but I wish that a full list had been included at the end of the book in a brief dictionary form, as it would lend itself to quick references. Since it is not included, I encourage you to have an excellent dictionary on hand throughout the reading of this book. You will need it to gain full advantage of all that this book has to offer.
Out of the Mouth of the Lion, or The Church in the Catacombs has been an enlightening book for our family. It would be an excellent addition to any home school library, but particularly for a Christian home school library, as it will further your child's understanding of living for Christ.