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The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden…

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World (2018)

by Bart D. Ehrman

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54. The Triumph of Christianity : How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World by Bart D. Ehrman
reader: George Newbern
published: 2018
format: 10:22 Libby audiobook (~288 pages equivalent, 353 pages in hardcover)
acquired: library
listened: Sep 25 - Oct 4
rating: 4

From Litsy, Oct 5: I really enjoyed this book on audio. Nothing crazy or controversial, but a nice summary of the history of Christianity from a tiny sect to an empire-wide religion of the underclasses, to the empire's official religion. Eventually more than half the empire was Christian

Among the things I learned: 1. Christians weren't really persecuted all that badly 2. Rejection of other gods may have been the most important thing in its spread, because it meant it eliminated other religions 3. Before Constantine, Christians argued elegantly for freedom of religion. Under Constantine they won this! But then they persecuted... 4. Maybe Christianity originally spread as an eastern mystery cult. 5. It was really small a long time.


This was a really nice supplement to my NT reading, as he goes into Paul and Acts, and into the contextual Roman history. He doesn't make any arguments on the question of Pauline Christianity or the possible James/Peter/Paul tensions, but only acknowledges some of the thinking and possibilities. He also spends some time talking about the various religious conventions of Rome and how Christianity mixed in. And he spends a lot of time on emperor Constantine (who first openly permitted Christianity in 321, summoned the First Council of Nicaea in 325, and converted to Christianity upon his death in 337. He was the first Roman emperor to convert.).

It was interesting to get a sense of how the religious acceptance evolved overtime. First on, religious grounds, Christianity was unique in that it (apparently slowly) made converts, but those converts than stopped practicing all other religious rites, so as it spread, what we call paganism lost followers. This hadn't happened previously because Judaism didn't really spread, and in general, if you honored one rite, there was no need to forgo any other rites or beliefs. That played some role in anti-Christian tensions.

And, Rome official acceptance evolved in interesting ways in the 4th century. Diocletian persecuted Christians. Constantine first persecuted them, then as a ruler supported Christianity. Julian grew up Christian, and then persecuted them as an emperor. Theodosius persecuted pagans. ( )
1 vote dchaikin | Oct 13, 2018 |
Books narrative stops centuries before the crusades ( )
  unlikely | Jul 19, 2018 |
Few people today have heard of the Essenes, a Jewish sect prominent in the first century CE. Yet another such sect, with far fewer adherents at the time, would go on to become the predominant religion in the Roman Empire within a matter of centuries, and eventually one of the world's most prominent faiths. In this book, Bart Ehrman sets out to explain the social, economic, and political contexts which enabled twenty Christians to become millions. There's not much that's new by way of argument here, but as a synthesis of the most recent scholarship on the topic written in an accessible, if workmanlike, manner, it's useful. I could see this being of particular utility in an undergraduate classroom. ( )
1 vote siriaeve | Jul 18, 2018 |
How did a backwater Jewish sect comprising one charismatic leader and twelve disciples grow to become the predominant religion in the Roman Empire through the conversion of 30 million people in four centuries? According to Early Christianity historian Bart Ehrmanit was due to Paul's missionary trips and Constantine and subsequent emperors. The author provides and an easily read and well-referenced treatise on the rise of Christianity. ( )
  John_Warner | Jun 20, 2018 |
Ehrman examines the historical record using primary and secondary sources to explain what factors led to the growth of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. Turn out Constantine didn't have that much to do with it after all. Along the way, Ehrman offers a fair bit of information about the way Christianity spread in the centuries between Christ and Constantine, much of it about different aspects of Roman society. ( )
  nmele | Mar 22, 2018 |
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Reading about how an entire culture’s precepts and traditions can be overthrown without anyone being able to stop it may not be heartening at this particular historical moment. All the more reason to spend time in the company of such a humane, thoughtful and intelligent historian.
added by danielx | editNew York Times, Tom Bissell (Feb 17, 2018)
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In The Triumph of Christianity, Bart Ehrman, a master explainer of Christian history, texts, and traditions, shows how a religion whose first believers were twenty or so illiterate day laborers in a remote part of the empire became the official religion of Rome, converting some thirty million people in just four centuries. The Triumph of Christianity combines deep knowledge and meticulous research in an eye-opening, immensely readable narrative that upends the way we think about the single most important cultural transformation our world has ever seen - one that revolutionized art, music, literature, philosophy, ethics, economics, and law.… (more)

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