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A New History of Early Christianity Hardcover – 25 Aug 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (25 Aug. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030012581X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300125818
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 752,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'[Freeman] surveys a surprisingly diverse range of early Christian communities, differing from one another in doctrine, devotional observances, and attitudes toward pagan philosophy. But in the narrative that he presses most insistently, Freeman recounts how small and politically marginal bands of Christians - subject to savage persecution - transformed into an imperially powerful church serving Roman emperors (notably, Constantine and Theodosius) and persecuting heretics unwilling to embrace the creeds those emperors helped to hammer out.' --Bryce Christense, 'Booklist'

''A New History of Early Christianity' is a masterful book, and a pleasure to read. Freeman narrates the development, diversity, and spread of Christianity with originality and verve. It is a story that brims over with fascinating accounts, intriguing quotations from figures in the ancient Mediterranean, and illuminating historical analysis. It is also a crucial resource for our understanding of ongoing cultural negotiations of religious and political spheres, all these theologico-political paradoxes that face us now more than ever. I do not think there exists a miore engaging and illuminating history of early Christianity than this one.' --Ward Blanton, University of Glasgow

'Even those who are adherents to Christianity may be puzzled by the tensions which exist in its primary sources, and this meticulous attempt to probe its origins and development is to be welcomed. Charles Freeman embraces the different kinds of approaches and positions which are found in the ancient texts, Christian and otherwise, painting a vivid picture of the nature of Christianity in all its diversity in the earliest centuries of its existence.' - Christopher Rowland, author of 'Christian Origins'. 'This is a bold and imaginative historical synthesis which fills an important need. For the first time, Freeman makes the complex story of Christianity's birth and early development available in concise, lively, eminently readable form. A tragic story in many ways, but a great pleasure to read.' - Richard Rubenstein, author of 'When Jesus Became God'. --Christopher Rowland, author of 'Christian Origins'; Richard Rubenstein, author of 'When Jwesus Became God'

About the Author

Charles Freeman, a popular historian and specialist on the ancient world and its legacy, is the author of numerous books including 'The Closing of the Western Mind'.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
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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