A New History of Early Christianity Hardcover – 25 Aug 2009
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'[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'.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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 ...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In spite of a discouraging start, with a silly theory about the resurrection, the book is a highly readable analysis of the progress of the Church in late Antiquity. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Peter Marchant
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 24 months ago by antonio
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 morePublished on 8 Jun. 2014 by Maverick
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 morePublished on 20 Mar. 2014 by michael pearson
Very disappointing. Freeman chose an interesting subject and used it to attack Christianity. He has a clear agenda. Read morePublished on 9 Jan. 2014 by Toby
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 morePublished on 3 Jan. 2013 by S. G. Raggett
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 morePublished on 18 Jun. 2011 by Mrs Brown
History, it is said, is a chaotic mix of contingence and necessity. With one exception, I may add: the history of revealed religion. Read morePublished on 30 Mar. 2011 by Sceptique500
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