Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years

This remarkable book is a superb work of history. It is very well written, and an absolute delight to read. It is also comprehensive, as its title suggests. Just to give an idea of the scope of the book, the first chapter is titled "Greece and Rome (c.1000 BCE - 100 CE)", and the twenty-fifth and final chapter is titled "Culture Wars (1960-Present)."

In the course of reading this book, you will get a sweeping tour of world history. It is a tour from the perspective of the Christian religion and its ancient sources, but this encompasses all of the history of the world surrounding the Mediterranean basin and the Red Sea, intersecting with that of Asia at large. It encompasses all of the history of the colonial era and the globalization era - all that has come to pass since the European Age of Discovery.

Since the Roman Church's version of Christianity is such an important foundation of Western civilization, thanks to the Church's reformatting of Western European society in the medieval period, you will learn much about the origins of social customs and cultural patterns in the West. These habits are taken for granted today and have global reach, an impressive legacy for an institution that might conceivably have succumbed to Germanic Arianism, or been reintegrated into the Eastern Empire, had Justinian's successors had their way. Historical outcomes often hinge on unlikely twists of fate, and you will encounter plenty of them in this book.

You will also learn about the history of the ancient Christian sects which existed outside of the Roman orbit - and which survive today in Eastern Africa and in endangered status in the Middle East. If your knowledge is mostly of Western history, this will be eye-opening. There is much more to the story of Christianity than that of European so-called Christendom.

The author is an Anglican Christian, but he writes with sympathy and frankness about all of the sects of his religion. He is also an adept word-smith, filling this volume with many a trenchant and evocative phrase. Read this book, and you will get a grand tour of Christ-worship, from its obscure beginnings among a Jewish splinter group, to its opening up to Universality, its Constantinian alliance with imperial power, its ambitious claim on the souls of the whole race, its struggles with changing belief structures in modernity, and its eventual global spread, now existing in greatest strength in parts of the Earth far from the lands of its origins. When you are finished, you will have a deeper understanding of all of history as a result.

Year: 2011
Author: Diarmaid MacCulloch

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