19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
First century zeitgeist,
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This review is from: And Man Created God: Kings, Cults and Conquests at the Time of Jesus (Hardcover)
This is a fascinating study of the religions in the known world at the time of Jesus. The book sticks fairly rigidly to those few years while Jesus was alive, but travels widely from Europe to North Africa to the Middle East, Pakistan, India and China. The sheer range and variety of it is impressive.
Covering so many different religions and ideas could have made for a very dry and boring book, but the author makes it live by using the stories of some colourful individuals as a framework on which to hang her points.
It quickly becomes apparent that there was a certain 'zeitgeist' of the time, in that similar ideas keep recurring in different religions in different places. Many of these recurring ideas ended up in Christianity as we know it today.
Another interesting theme is how the intellectual elite, on the one hand, and the masses on the other, viewed and used religion. I was intrigued to learn how the rapid expansion of the Roman Empire in the years before Jesus created the environment in which certain ideas could flourish.
I have only one small criticism: the book claims that it will explain how the tiny Jesus cult triumphed over more poular religions, but I don't feel it achieves this aim. What it does explain very eloquently is why Christianity was attractive enough that it lasted until the time of Constantine. But by 312 AD Christianity was only followed by a small minority of the empires's population. The book does not explain at all how it went from there to becoming the world's most popular religion.
Overall a very readable and informative book, and covering content which is not easily found elsewhere. Recommended.