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A New History of Early Christianity [Kindle Edition]

Charles Freeman
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The relevance of Christianity is as hotly contested today as it has ever been. A New History of Early Christianity shows how our current debates are rooted in the many controversies surrounding the birth of the religion and the earliest attempts to resolve them. Charles Freeman’s meticulous historical account of Christianity from its birth in Judaea in the first century A.D. to the emergence of Western and Eastern churches by A.D. 600 reveals that it was a distinctive, vibrant, and incredibly diverse movement brought into order at the cost of intellectual and spiritual vitality. Against the conventional narrative of the inevitable “triumph” of a single distinct Christianity, Freeman shows that there was a host of competing Christianities, many of which had as much claim to authenticity as those that eventually dominated. Looking with fresh eyes at the historical record, Freeman explores the ambiguities and contradictions that underlay Christian theology and the unavoidable compromises enforced in the name of doctrine.

Tracing the astonishing transformation that the early Christian church underwent—from sporadic niches of Christian communities surviving in the wake of a horrific crucifixion to sanctioned alliance with the state—Charles Freeman shows how freedom of thought was curtailed by the development of the concept of faith. The imposition of "correct belief," religious uniformity, and an institutional framework that enforced orthodoxy were both consolidating and stifling. Uncovering the difficulties in establishing the Christian church, he examines its relationship with Judaism, Gnosticism, Greek philosophy and Greco-Roman society, and he offers dramatic new accounts of Paul, the resurrection, and the church fathers and emperors.

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"'This book will help us to new understandings and insights... It makes the events of this early period clear and accessible, and succeeds in showing how the Church developed its character and identity.' (John Binns, Church Times) 'Freeman writes very well and he always takes the trouble to read deeply in the scholarly literature. This book is a rattling good read and you'll encounter all sorts of fascinating facts and stories.' (Jonathan Wright, Catholic Herald) 'This book brilliantly evokes the intellectual excitement and spiritual ferment when a sect of enthusiasts was turning itself into a church.' (Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman)"

About the Author

Charles Freeman is a specialist on the ancient world and its legacy. He has worked on archaeological digs on the continents surrounding the Mediterranean and develops study tour programs in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Freeman is Historical Consultant to the prestigious Blue Guides series and the author of numerous books, including the bestseller The Closing of the Western Mind and, most recently, Holy Bones, Holy Dust. He lives in the UK.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 5482 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (27 Oct. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003AU4E4U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #329,861 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb 14 Feb. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is another great book by Charles Freemen and a perfect compliment to his fantastic book 'The Closing of the Western Mind'. It explores the development of christianity as a political and social force through the roman period, and onwards, which played such a key role in shaping the medieval world of Europe and parts of Africa and subsequently a large part of the the modern world. It also shows the way in which christianity was changed and reshaped when it was adopted by Constantine and the later emperors, and that many of the elements that underpin so much of christian thinking (such as the Nicene creed), the nature of Jesus as divine being and human being etc, are the products of political compromise and infighting, that forced later theologians to go through a absurd theoretical hoops to explain. Freeman also discusses the origins of the very odd attitude that christianity has towards sex, largely the product of a group of deeply misogynistic men (St Paul, Ambrose and Augustine and a good few others). The book is not unsympathetic to christianity, it recognises its progressive elements as well as the truly reprehensible stuff. It would be good if believers read this, it would give them a good understanding of the origins of their own belief system I think.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's just history 8 April 2010
In this book Freeman simply treats Christianity as a professional historian would any other subject. Which means using the latest and best research possible, and filling the gaps in that research where necessary with clearly indicated reasoning and best guesses. It would take a very small mind indeed for even a committed Christian to object to this book simply because it isn't based on the assumption that his own faith is correct. Thoughtful Christians will find this book just as interesting as those atheists and agnostics who appreciate Christianity's historical importance.
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39 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Bright Lantern in a Murky Night 31 Dec. 2009
A Bright Lantern in a Murky Night

Not since I read Theology at Cambridge some years ago have I experienced such an intellectually and spiritually refreshing approach to the origins of Christianity. How many authors are prepared to face the challenge of taking a genuinely historical view of the tangled beginnings of Christianity? Charles Freeman patiently and lucidly uncovers the complex and contentious upheavals of the first five centuries when isolated groups of Christians were both struggling with their own understanding and competing with the different emerging beliefs of other groups, while intermittently facing political persecution and the insidious dangers of political patronage.

Freeman's enquiry takes as a starting-point the historian's observation that the emergence of Christianity has been probably the most important influence on western civilisation in the last two millennia; his account also accepts that this transforming movement undoubtedly had its origin in historical events in the first century AD. The crucial question, however, is "How much can we know about those events and how much do their details matter in evaluating the subsequent development of a theology and church structure?" He does not set out to undermine Christianity in this book, rather, to shine a light on its foundations and, given that Christianity makes unique claims about its historical founder, to offer the historian's tools for uncovering the evidence about him.
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29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
By Dog trainer (failed) VINE VOICE
Here's another boy, like Hitchens and Dawkins, who is heading straight to Hell in a handcart, and who will die roaring.

Mr Freeman seems to be allowing for the possibility that some at least of the early Church Fathers and Bishops were sociopaths, bullies, brawlers, graspers, corner boys, crap artists, flimflam men, carpet baggers, potential participants on The Jeremy Kyle Show, or any combination thereof. Pick of the crop from these bruisers would seem to be Saints Paul, Jerome and Augustine - a formidable triumvirate of head-the-balls with whom you would not like to have a drink, and to whom you (most emphatically) would not want to introduce your girlfriend.

Fair enough, one or two of the nascent Church's leaders might have been a bit dodgy in terms of the stuff Jesus is supposed to have banged on about: love, good deeds and giving up riches or whatever - sure didn't his brother James try to keep that stuff going after the Crucifixion but there was no market for it even in those days, in fact he bought the farm because he wouldn't catch himself on. And maybe when Constantine turned the tide in their favour they were a tiny bit unsympathetic to the opposition, lost the rag a couple of times and instigated a few persecutions, massacres and whatnots, defiled and/or wrecked a shrine or two, destroyed the odd magnificent library collection, stifled curiosity and intellectual progress for a wee while, even encouraged and exploited a cult of credulity, but this is all part of life's rich pageant surely, and, anyway, worse things happen at sea, get over it. That was then and this is now, and if the secularists who hold sway so abusively today can't grant believers the tolerance and right to live that believers never granted them ...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars It's a very interesting and sistematic book, It deal ...
It's a very interesting and sistematic book, It deal with a little known history, how the present christians' beliefs were accepts and others were rejected.
Published 13 months ago by antonio
3.0 out of 5 stars No such thing as an objective account of history
This book is well written, and the author comes across as a thoroughly decent person. It's not a rant from an angry atheist, but takes a respectful tone toward people of faith. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Maverick
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarification of the New Testament and Subsequent Events
The author dives straight into the Gospels, the Acts and the Epistles. The confusing world of the First Century AD is discussed, with the differences and quarrels between the... Read more
Published 18 months ago by michael pearson
1.0 out of 5 stars A New History of Early Christianity
Very disappointing. Freeman chose an interesting subject and used it to attack Christianity. He has a clear agenda. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Toby
3.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts
Freeman's work is useful for understanding the development path of orthodox Christianity. The Christianity of the gospels is seen as focused on a Kingdom of God that was expected... Read more
Published on 3 Jan. 2013 by S. G. Raggett
4.0 out of 5 stars David son of Saul? (p.9 hardback)
This book is readable and interesting. For the general reader it covers a lot of history in a short time and gives a good guide at the end for further reading. Read more
Published on 18 Jun. 2011 by Mrs Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, albeit incomplete
History, it is said, is a chaotic mix of contingence and necessity. With one exception, I may add: the history of revealed religion. Read more
Published on 30 Mar. 2011 by Sceptique500
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and easy read...
As a Irish Christian - I can't call myself Roman Catholic anymore due to my no longer accepting the "virgin birth" to mention but one reason - I have been interested in this... Read more
Published on 19 Jun. 2010 by James Burke
4.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and easy to read
If you thought you knew about the origins of Christianity, you may be surprised by the evidence given in this book. Read more
Published on 10 Jun. 2010 by Mr. M Errington
1.0 out of 5 stars A huge disappointment
Charles Freeman has a good writing style and the book is very readable. Apart from that it's very disappointing. Read more
Published on 20 Feb. 2010 by H. A. Weedon
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