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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thorough Statistical Analysis of the Rise of Christianity, 3 July 2007
By 
George R Dekle "Bob Dekle" (Lake City, FL United States) - See all my reviews
A lot of historical scholarship consists of perceiving historical phenomena and then working out plausible explanations for the phenomena. Such explanations are largely untested, but they often become accepted as "historical truth" when they are little more than "just so stories." The example from the final chapter of Schlesinger's "huge upswell" of popular democracy during the era of Andrew Jackson is a case in point. Going back and counting the votes from previous elections shows that the voter turnout in the Jackson era was actually lower than many previous elections.

It is all well and good to devise hypotheses to explain historical events, but they should not be accepted as truth unless they can be tested. Stark undertakes to test a number of historical hypotheses relating to the rise of early Christianity, and does so through statistical analysis. This entails a lot of spadework, but the results are worthwhile.

A lot of Stark's findings validate many of the hypotheses of previous scholarship, and this should lead to no controversy. A lot of his findings invalidate the hypotheses of "cutting edge" Biblical scholarship, and this should mean that Stark's book won't be profiled on prime time television.

Some of Stark's more interesting findings are: (1) Orthodox Christianity, not "Gnosticism" or some other "Lost Christianity" was the original form of the religion. (2) "Gnosticism" was a loopy, lunatic fringe blend of paganism and Christianity. (3) Orthodox Christians did not persecute paganism into oblivion. (4) Pentecost most likely did not result in 3,000 newly baptized Christians, but simply 3,000 wet Jews and pagans. (5) Paul did not invent Christianity and actually had very little to do with the spread of Christianity throughout the Empire. (6) Paul was much more successful in converting Jews to Christianity than in converting Gentiles. (7) Hellenized Jews provided large numbers of Christian converts during the first four centuries of Christianity.

Stark's writing, as always, is entertaining, educational, and thought provoking.
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