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A dazzling collection of facts
on 4 January 2013
This is a huge collection of facts about religions and dynasties throughout the known world around the time of the birth of Jesus. You will learn for instance something about the rivalries of the different factions in the Chinese court, or who murdered whom to attain power in the various power bases of the Near East, or ditto for India and so on. And of course, with considerable repetition, the various rivalries between individuals vying for power in Rome. Some may enjoy this and much of the information given does contribute to forming a picture of what life might have been like then. Personally, I found a lot of this rather tiresome. Is it really relevant to the title of this book to hear in some detail how (potential) emperors murdered their rivals or were in turn themselves murdered? To know what kind of beard so-and-so had, or the robes some particular empress our courtesan wore, or what actual sacrifices they offered, or the names and numbers of rivals they had executed, doesn't really tell me much about the actual story of the birth of the large-scale religions.
And then: when one finally gets to the moment when Christianity is in the process of being founded, not primarily by Jesus but by Paul it is argued, the book sort of rushes to an end. As in a sense it must: because that greatest of the world religions had not truly beeen 'founded' at the death of Peter and Paul. From my own sketchy knowledge, the actual foundation of Christianity was a lengthy process extending over the 300-400 years subsequent to the birth of Christ, including the process by which Christianity became the virtual state religion of the Roman Empire. It was only after that period that the basic of tenets of Christian doctrine had finally been established and the canonical version of the New Testament decided on and alternative versions supressed; a highly significant development.
A worthwhile book, no doubt, and one which stimulates my curiosity. But I would like to read something which gave more a sense of insight, or interpretation, of all of those historical facts. WHY is it that Christianity won through in a way that so many of its rival religions did not? There are many hints on the relevant issues, but no truly convincing interpretation or explanation here.