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A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years Hardcover – 24 Sep 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1216 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; 1st Edition edition (24 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713998695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713998696
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 7.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 222,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A triumphantly executed achievement. This book is a landmark in its field, astonishing in its range, compulsively readable, full of insight even for the most jaded professional and of illumination for the interested general reader' --Rowan Williams, Guardian

'a prodigious, thrilling, masterclass of a history book. MacCulloch is to be congratulated for his accessible handling of so much complex, difficult material' --John Cornwell, Financial Times

'Magnificent ... alive with detail and generous in judgement ... MacCulloch is at his most moving when he fills in one of the gaps in the West's understanding of history'
--Richard Holloway, The Times

About the Author

Diarmaid MacCulloch is Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University. His Thomas Cranmer (1996) won the Whitbread Biography Prize, the James Tait Black Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize. He is the author most recently of Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490 - 1700 (2004), which won the Wolfson Prize for History and the British Academy Prize. His six-part television history of Christianity airs on BBC television this autumn.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By C. Ball TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
I'm what you might call a slightly bewildered agnostic, but I've always had a particular interest in Christianity. So much of its own history - fragmented, argumentative and hypocritical - has always seemed to be at odds with much of Christ's core message, and I've never quit understood how so many Christians can fail to see that contradiction in their own faith's history. But this book, which is surely destined to become a classic in the field, goes a long way to explaining why Christianity has had so many schisms, so many sects and splinter groups, reformations and counter-reformations.

It is an immense book, and justifiably so - such a complicated history, ranging across the entire globe and spanning more than two thousand years, could scarcely be anything less, but it rarely flags or fails. It is a difficult history to tell, particularly when the major Churches begin to establish themselves - the early African churches, the Ethiopian Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church - and it becomes impossible to tell the full history in any meaningfully chronological way.

But it's well-worth the challenge, particularly in the areas not usually focused upon in the West - such as the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches. I personally found it particularly interesting to see the history of Christianity as a whole and how all the different Churches that seem so far apart relate and respond to one another; and particularly how the various trends in religious attitudes and behaviour have evolved and changed over the centuries.

It's hard to tell MacCulloch's own position from this book, and that's another mark in its favour. If I had to tell, I'd say the overall tone is one of fond and perhaps somewhat bemused affection, tempered with a healthy dose of enlightened scepticism. It makes for a lively and engaging read, although not one to be entered into lightly.
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195 of 203 people found the following review helpful By C. Harris on 19 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book goes with a TV series, but it is not the over-illustrated coffee-table type book you might expect. On the contrary, it is long (1150 pages) and scholarly, though not dauntingly so. The style is readable and engaging, and the book provides an excellent overview of the history of Christianity. It begins with Judaism and Greek philosophy, giving the background to religious thought in the Roman period. It then covers the origins of Christianity, before going on to trace its development and the varying forms it took as it spread over the world. The mainstream of Catholic / Protestant /Orthodox Christianity is well covered, but the book is particularly good on the odd corners of Christianity, such as the sects that took hold in China and India.
The tone is mildly sceptical, but respectful, so believers and non-believers will find nothing to object to, and both will learn much about what Christianity actually is.
Highly recommended.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Philip A. Shand on 27 April 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After all the plaudits which have been heaped upon this book, it seems presumptious of me to say anything. When I first saw it in a bookshop, I was overawed by its size, but after reading one particular review I was convinced that I should attempt it. The amazing amount of information is presented in an accessible form and it is a joy to read. There is a comprehensive bibliography; in some cases, one has the feeling that bibliographies are added to lend credibility to what may be a dubious 'agenda' to the book, but here that is not the case. Unfortunately, without access to a university library, it can be more tantalising than helpful. The illustrations are carefully chosen, and do their purpose:they illustrate the text appropriately. Perhaps my most positive comment is to say that no-one need, or should, be detered by the size; it would not be possible to do justice to the subject in anything less.
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84 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Bevan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 9 April 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This vast and almost encyclopaedic new history of the Christian faith is an incredible achievement, and a really absorbing read, despite its length (over a thousand pages). Its intriguing subtitle - `The First Three [sic] Thousand Years' - gives you an early clue as to one of its great strengths: an ability to take an unusual angle on its subject that reveals fruitful new perspectives. In setting the Christian faith firmly against a backdrop of Judaism's origins in the flight from Egypt of the Israelites (characterised, in line with some of the latest scholarship, as a weak and disparate grouping bound by common social, rather than ethnic, bonds), MacCulloch helpfully roots Christianity in humble and marginal beginnings. In his closing musings, he urges it to rediscover those roots after near enough two millennia of ambiguously successful Church/state collaboration that has arguably betrayed the founder's vision as much as, if not more than, it has enhanced it.

And those twin themes of faithfulness to Jesus' prophetic vision and its betrayal are in constant interplay in the intervening chapters. As a self-described `candid friend' of Christianity, MacCulloch is not shy of confronting the faith with a few home truths as to its shortcomings, as he roams far and wide, exploring in depth the dynamic of power and humility.
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