When Jesus Became God illuminated an era for me. Rubenstein managed to convey an epic struggle, both between paganism and Christianity, and within Christianity. Christians were divided between those who saw Jesus as a man with whose holiness and kinship to God elevated him and made him a model for mankind and those who saw him as wholly divine. Arius and his followers felt that the humanity of Jesus brought him closer to them--wheras Athanasius and his followers believed this view of Jesus was heresy. This book conveys the political struggles between these bishops and their allies, and between the bishops and emperors, and the religious struggle among priests, christian emperors, and laity to define the nature of Christ. As someone raised as a born-again Christian, I was amazed at how much controversy there was on the nature of Christ more than 300 years after the birth of Christianity--further, it was very interesting to read how engaged people were in the religious conflict of the time. They were engaged enough to have pitched street battles between mobs--Alexandrians took their religious conflicts seriously. I saw many parallels to religious and ethnic conflicts today. For example, persecutions by the Roman state divided those christians who tried to collaborate or flee and those who suffered--similar to the experience people of occupied countries in World War II, who faced similar problems after that conflict ended. Although not someone who normally reads books on religious topics, this was one I could not put down. This book is a page-turner--really vivid and alive. At the end, I had a deeper understanding of the roots of Christianity and the power of faith to change empires such as Rome.
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