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The Lost History of Christianity: The…

The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the…

by Philip Jenkins

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Jenkins does a grand job os illuminating the lost history of the eastern church. Western Christianity has been overly-smug in its (our) opinion that we evangelised the world, and that we stood alone against the Muslim tide. Jenkins tell the story of how Christianity and Islam coexisted and fed each other. Thought provoking and engaging. ( )
  AmishTechie | Jun 28, 2017 |
I am disappointed with the author's style: much to much repetition, and the line of the book meanders all over place and time. It would have been more informative, and more readable, if it had chosen a specific line and kept to it. Either trace the history, century by century, and cover the various patriarchies and archbishoprics in that order; or cover each region. Jenkins repeats over and over how ill-informed western people are about the history of the Eastern Church. Well, a justified assessment: but why reiterate it in every chapter?
I would say that this book is "too academic", due to the level of detail in place names and people. As has been said above, the readers are not familiar with this territory, yet the maps (thankfully there are some maps!) are repetitive and do not include details such as the names of regions. Cities by name without context do not help the reader enough. It's still too cumbersome to look up each strange placename in Wikipedia! But this book is not academic. Jenkins does not approach it as a formal historian's work. He mixes "likely" with factual details. In many places it's not clear which are his conclusions and which are deduced from the historical details.
So, I put the book down after reading two-thirds of it.
I am hoping for a better experience with "Jesus Wars".
  calbookaddict | Jan 2, 2014 |
Not really what I was hoping for, nor what it's advertized as. Most of the book, I would say, is taken up with a) complaints that Europeans and their descendants know too little about the churches of the East and b) attempts to make the history of those churches 'relevant.' You know what? I would much rather have an actual history of them than an argument that we don't have a history of them - which is self-evident, and ignorance of these churches must be the reason most people would read this book; and an actual history than an explanation of why we should 'care' about that history. You know why I care? I'm curious, and it's interesting. The history which is told in this book is repetitive and rambling. On the up-side, at least he's trying, and he can write quite well in bite size chunks. But there's no attempt to link the chunks together. Too bad- hopefully Jenkins, or someone else, will actually try to write a solid history of what really is a crazy interesting time. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
To speak of Christianity is almost necessarily to turn our imaginations toward Western Europe, where Christianity flourished for centuries in the midst of religious wars, social turmoil, and even Islamic competition for economic and military power. However, the “thousand-year Golden Age” referred to in the subtitle of Philip Jenkins’ book refers not to the West, but the various Christianities that arose all over northern Africa, the Levant, the Middle East, and the far East. Instead of the Latin that dominated the West, Christianity in the rest of the world was conducted in a number of languages, including Syriac and the Koine Greek of Saint Paul. While Jenkins looks at Christianity in various parts of the East, he largely clumps them together as “Syriac-Nestorian,” referring to the language and Nestorianism, a brand of Christian theology long considered a heresy in the West but that held on in the East.

Jenkins spends most of his time talking about Christianity in different parts of the Eastern world, instead of, as the subtitle hints, telling us “how it died.” This is much more a book, in fact, of how these communities flourished and lived side-by-side with people of other religions. We get vignettes of how, in the East, Christians lived next to Jews and especially Muslims for centuries. Around the thirteenth or fourteenth century, however, Muslims – who almost always were the power-holding elites in these regions – began to grow increasingly intolerant toward religious minorities. Why? Jenkins never really says. He offers a number of explanations, which I believe were meant to be the heart of the book, including the marginalization of certain languages, and the rise of a powerful, political Islam, but he never makes it seem like he is convinced of any of them.

I found this to be a confusing, or rather confused, book that wasn’t aware of what it wanted to say. It would have been much better with a different (sub)title, and a thesis – any thesis. Instead, the reader gets a mishmash that tries to convey the importance of Christianity in the East and to some extent succeeds. But if you want an explanation of why Christianity survived in the West, but was nearly totally decimated in the East, you won’t find much of an explanation here. I might suggest this to someone for whom the Christian East is a wholly new concept, but there are sure to be better resources out there than what this book has to offer. ( )
1 vote kant1066 | Jun 13, 2012 |
Excellent book; a must read for anybody interested in the history of Christianity outside of Europe. The information provided on the Coptic, Assyrian, and Ethiopian churches is just awesome. The tracking of the decline (and, in some cases, disappearance) of the Eastern Churches under Islam is very, very interesting to read. Fair, well-documented. ( )
  davidpwithun | Sep 16, 2011 |
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A lost history revealing that, for centuries, Christianity's center was actually in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, with significant communities extending as far as China.

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