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A Short History of Christianity [Paperback]

Stephen Tomkins
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

19 Aug 2005
Worshipped by 2 billion Christians (and revered by 1.3 billion Muslims), Jesus Christ is the most famous human being ever. Yet how did this man from an obscure backwater in the Roman Empire achieve such extraordinary acclaim? How did religion founded in his name grom to become the most powerful on earth? What has been its relationship through history with that other giant of religions, Islam? In this fast-paced and entertaining book, journalist and historian Stephen Tomkins sets out to provide the answers. Beginning with the life of Jesus, he presents a warts-and-all portrait of the key people, events and movements in Christian history. For every debauched pope, murderous crusader and hate-filled inquisitor, there are glorious examples of heroic self-sacrifice, spiritual enlightenment and social transformation. Despite setbacks and conflict, the church has continued to change and grow, with the result that, at the start of the 21st century, its centre of gravity is moving south into sub-Saharan Africa and South America. The author ends by looking to the future, for the story is far from over. All those wanting to understand where Christianity is going need to learn where it has come from, and in this book they will find a lively and informative guide.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Lion Books (19 Aug 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745951449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745951447
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 275,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

STEPHEN TOMKINS has a PhD in Church History at London Bible College and a contributing editor to the Ship of Fools website. He is the author of John Wesley: A Biography (Lion, 2003) and Paul and His World (Lion, 2004).

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First Sentence
A little less than 2,000 years ago, a man appeared in the Roman province of Judea claiming to be a teacher from God. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars maybe i'm stupid 16 Aug 2007
I may not be as cultured as the other reviewer, but I found this book interesting and accessible. I haven't read many books on this theme, but I am now prompted to explore further. An easy read, and well worth a few quid.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Money well spent 8 Nov 2007
I can't compare this to other works on the history of Christianity because I've never read any... which demonstrates, perhaps, that this book is attractive and accessible to people who don't normally pick up that sort of thing.

I found it a useful and entertaining overview. It put my vague and half-understood notions about the history of the faith into context and I now feel as though I have some sort of framework in which to find out more.

It was also, in places, extremely funny. Money well spent.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An entertaining and informative romp through the history of Christianity; entertaining as Stephen Tomkin's humour shines through and informative as many aspects I was unaware of were discussed, albeit briefly [it is a *short* history!:] The information on the 20th Century was particularly interesting to me as it was an area I did not have much knowledge in, even if I did know some of the names.
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4.0 out of 5 stars excellent view of two thousand years history 7 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Fast moving, amusing, informative, encouraging and enjoyable read. Always left you wanting a little bit more about test particular period of Church history!
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All you need to know is a compact presentation 8 Mar 2007
By wizard_chef - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Stephen Tomkins was a writer for Monte Python, but he also has strong credentials as a religious scholar. Thus, his presentation displays his dry wit, making the reading a pleasure. OK, maybe he does pick some of the most bizarre characters of Christian history, but there they are! The history of Christianity is indeed bizarre, and Tomkins makes this abundantly clear in his presentation. This is a must read for most Christians who want a short read and quick understanding of the history of their faith. If you expect Tomkins to sugar-coat the past, don't buy this book. If you don't know much about the history of Christianity, be prepared!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars who says history has to be boring? 24 Dec 2006
By J. Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Not many authors can get cover blurbs from a serious theologian like J. I. Packer and from ageniius like Terry Jones from Monty Python. It's indicitive of how well Tomkins walks a narrow line-getting history in a readable, concise format, and writing succinctly with wit. Simply put every minister needs a copy of this book. Tomkins boils events down into the barest narrative, yet he holds the essentials.

He writes short chapters that cover several hundred years in a jump or he discusses one great individual. When you need to brush up the basic set of facts and how they influenced the development of the culture-perhaps for a sermon or class, perhaps to answer a question from a parishioner, this book is incredibly useful. If you have someone who is growing in faith and they are curious about church history, this is a book that is accurate and will not put them to sleep or overwhelm them with its erudition.

I highly recommend this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FROM CRUCIFIXION TO THE 21 st CENTURY 29 Mar 2008
By E. E Pofahl - Published on Amazon.com
In the book's Preface the author, Stephen Tomkins, writes "So, whatever the cover may have led you to believe, this is not a history book." He defines his book as "This is the story of how we came to be who we are." This work is more story than history.

The book's comments about early Christians are interesting. The author states that "What set Jesus apart from other executed messiahs was resurrection. . . ." "These first Christians were Jews; they worshipped in the Jerusalem temple and local synagogues as well as in their own homes." The text further notes that "Twelve years after the first Easter, Christianity was still in every sense a movement within Judaism." Interestingly, as Christians were persecuted, they fled spreading the gospel wherever they went thereby greatly contributing to the dissemination of Christianity beyond Jerusalem.

The text traces the progress of Christianity through centuries in storybook manner very briefly covering the activities of St. Augustine, Charlemagne, Luther, Calvin, Pope Benedict XVI and others. Much of the first millennium involved politics as governments in Europe, North Africa, Asia Minor had involved the church as governments sought to extend and consolidate their control over territory. Muhammad's 610 AD vision is noted. Limited detailed coverage is given for the millennium covering this era. In general, throughout the book if the reader is interested in any particular era they may want to seek other sources.

Coverage of the Reformation and beyond is a little more detailed. The activities of Luther and Calvin, etc are briefly covered along with the Age of Reason and beyond. Especially interesting is the book's coverage of the twentieth century which involved two World Wars and the Cold War plus the establishment of the World Council of Churches (WCCO). The rise of new Catholicism and Pope John Paul II is briefly but interestingly covered. Author Tomkins notes that in the 1960s church attendance by Americans peaked while in Korea Catholicism increased threefold and Protestantism ten fold.

In the third millennium, the text notes, "Muslims in general tend to see the west as Christian . . . the great division is between those who want coexistence and those who want victory."; therefore "The historic conflict between Islam and the Christian west, after four quiet centuries, (has) returned to the prominence it maintained for a millennium." In conclusion the author notes "As in recent centuries, Christians have successfully fought slavery, industrial exploitation and then racial segregation, so significant numbers of Christians in the west now are mobilizing against the greatest institutional evil of today, world poverty.

As the author noted, the text is a story book not a history book, but it does give the reader a limited overview of Christianity. Most useful is the Glossary of terms given at the end of the book. For the interested reader who has no previous knowledge of the subject this book is a good place to start.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Personal Awareness 1 Mar 2012
By F.B. Parkhurst - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you want to or need to deepen your understanding of Christianity this is a great book. The vast majority of "Christians" I know and this would have included myself, by birth, don't have any depth of understanding what the history of Christianity is. I read this book to broaden my perspective of spirituality, specifically Christianity, and I was successful. At first I was appalled at how bloody and lacking in spirituality that history was. As I have digested the book more, I developed a deeper and more profound understanding of Christ teachings. It has made me more comfortable with my personal relationship with the New Testament. It has allowed me to see through a lot of the interpretations, in effect giving me a bath to cleanse me of a number of Christian myths. This is helping me to deepen my spirituality. The book is very easy to read and will definitely broaden your world view. I have wanted to do this for a long long time and I thank Mr. Tomkins for his work.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Success, Mr. Tomkins! 14 Jun 2007
By Gregory E. Foster - Published on Amazon.com
First, please note the slightly wry Review Title here.

Now to the review of this fascinating, and "successful" little book. I have tried for years to digest historical, religious-related or oriented material, to not much success, as it bogs down and becomes so mundane that I cannot focus on it further and "give it up".

The past couple years I have read a lot about the Knights Templar, early Christianity from Jesus' time until about 500 years later. Personally, I seek the early "pure" (as I refer to it) Christian orthodoxy (or whatever one wishes to refer to it as), before it was transferred to Rome, and re-worked and twisted into something completely different than what it originally was supposed to be.

In the process of reading this book, I was very pleased with what Tomkins has to say "before" Rome, and also everything he says "about" Rome, and also, everything after that. Here we have an incapsulated, and 100-year or so, stepped history from the beginnings until today, right up to 9-11. This is fascinating to get this kind of overview, and I was most intrigued throughout this journey of 250 pages or so. It "snagged" me in several places, pricking my interest, and leaving me wanting to "know more" about certain eras, sects, etc. So, my reading list just got a little longer! And that is certainly OK!

Thus, the "Success" in the review title. Mr. Tomkins has succeeded very well (with others, too, I'm sure) in pricking my interest, and enlightening me, and making me want to go further in deeper readings of some of this material. So, he has certainly done his job, at least in my case, and I consider myself thankful to him for his enlightenment.

As a closing, might I also add that Mr. Tomkins is very clever in his writing style, adding just the slightest wry, humorous edge to his words, making this history so easy to get through.

If you're curious, by all means grab yourself a copy of this fascinating little book and do enjoy! ~operabruin
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