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Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years [Paperback]

Diarmaid MacCulloch
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 22 2011
The New York Times bestseller and definitive history of Christianity for our time—from the award-winning author of The Reformation and Silence

A product of electrifying scholarship conveyed with commanding skill, Diarmaid MacCulloch's Christianity goes back to the origins of the Hebrew Bible and encompasses the globe. It captures the major turning points in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox history and fills in often neglected accounts of conversion and confrontation in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. MacCulloch introduces us to monks and crusaders, heretics and reformers, popes and abolitionists, and discover Christianity's essential role in shaping human history and the intimate lives of men and women. And he uncovers the roots of the faith that galvanized America, charting the surprising beliefs of the founding fathers, the rise of the Evangelical movement and of Pentecostalism, and the recent crises within the Catholic Church. Bursting with original insights and a great pleasure to read, this monumental religious history will not soon be surpassed.
 

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Review

Praise for Christianity

“Immensely ambitious and absorbing.”
—Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

“A landmark contribution . . . It is difficult to imagine a more comprehensive and surprisingly accessible volume than MacCulloch’s.”
—Jon Meacham, The New York Times Book Review

“A prodigious, thrilling, masterclass of a history book. MacCulloch is to be congratulated for his accessible handling of so much complex, difficult material.”
—John Cornwell, Financial Times

“A tour de force: it has enormous range, is gracefully and wittily written, and from page one holds the attention. Everyone who reads it will learn things they didn’t know.”
—Eamon Duffy, author of Saints and Sinners

“MacCulloch brings an insider’s wit to tracing the fate of official Christianity in an age of doubt, and to addressing modern surges of zeal, from Mormons to Pentecostals.”
—The Economist

“A triumphantly executed achievement. This book is a landmark in its field, astonishing in its range, compulsively readable, full of insight even for the most jaded professional and of illumination for the interested general reader. It will have few, if any, rivals in the English language.”
—Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

“A well-informed and—bless the man—witty narrative guaranteed to please and at the same time displease every single reader, if hardly in identical measure. . . . The author’s prose style is fluent, well-judged, and wholly free of cant. . . . You will shut this large book with gratitude for a long and stimulating journey.”
—The Washington Times

“A tour de force . . . The great strength of the book is that it covers, in sufficient but not oppressive detail, huge areas of Christian history which are dealt with cursorily in traditional accounts of the subject and are unfamiliar to most English-speaking readers. . . . MacCulloch’s analysis of why Christianity has taken root in Korea but made such a hash in India is perceptive and his account of the nineteenth-century missions in Africa and the Pacific is first-rate and full of insight. . . . The most brilliant point of this remarkable book is its identification of the U.S. as the prime example of the kind of nation the reformers hoped to create.”
—Paul Johnson, The Spectator

About the Author

Diarmaid MacCulloch is a fellow of St. Cross College, Oxford, and professor of the history of the church at Oxford University. His books include Suffolk and the Tudors, winner of the Royal Historical Society���s Whitfield Prize, and Thomas Cranmer: A Life, which won the Whitbread Biography Prize, the James Tait Black Prize, and the Duff Cooper Prize. A former Anglican deacon, he has presented many highly celebrated documentaries for television and radio, and was knighted in 2012 for his services to scholarship. He lives in Oxford, England.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History Speaks for Itself Aug. 26 2010
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
The reader, when taking on anything by British historian Diarmaid Macculloch, will invariably encounter some well-developed and coherent arguments. This study on the history of Christianity over the last three millenia is no exception. It investigates in enormous detail a number of critical trends and developments associated with its emergence, from its prophetic origins centuries before the birth of Christ in Palestine to its current transforming presence worldwide. Here are some interesting aspects of Macculloch's work that make it an outstanding piece of scholarship for all inquiring minds:
A. Christianity is both a spiritually complex and historically dynamic religion which, in its many forms, continues to profoundly impact on all cultures of the world;
B. The prophetic utterances of old announced the coming of Messiah to deliver the Jewish people from the hand of the oppressor. It is that message, originally intended for the Jew, that became the essence of the Christian gospel, through the death and ressurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, and spread to the four corners of the globe over two thousand years;
C. Along the way, there are many special defining moments that will come as a bit of a shock to some of us accustomed to seeing history as a straight-line progression going from East to West. It is Macculloch's belief that various branches of Christianity, in the form of the Nestorian and Miaphysite movements, moved east into Asia over the centuries following Christ's ministry and the founding of the Jerusalem Church. The historical record shows that these monastic movements made extensive inroads into cultures as faraway as India and central China;
D. Everything that is remotely Christian is discussed as part of the ever changing face of Christianity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years very interesting but heavy going. You really need to be interested in the subject to justify the purchase.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By Eric R Fisher TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Maccullogh's prize-winning history needs no encomium from me. Instead I will excoriate his publisher Viking/Penguin for the shoddy cheap binding of the book. As I read through the book, pages just fell out of the spine. Hardback in name only, the glued spine is no more durable than the cheapest paperback. I glued clumps of pages (chiefly the illustrations) back in five locations. This isn't the first Viking publication I have had which behaved this way. I would ask reputable authors to select another publisher or to specify a quality binding in their contract.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This is a book I wanted very much to like, but, while it is worth reading, it proved disappointing in a number of respects.

The title alone is interesting - reflecting as it does the many ideas and beliefs of Greeks and Hebrews which became woven into Christianity - because it puts Christianity, quite properly, into a longer term, pre-Christian history rather than the naïve notion that Christianity arose suddenly, "out of whole cloth," as it were, almost like something not of this world.

I had heard an interview with the author on CBC Radio, and he said several intriguing things. I especially liked his explanation of Jesus's calling his follower, Peter, a rock, a concept which taken literally is one of the great assumptions of Roman Catholicism and its being headquartered in Rome, the legendary site of Peter's martyrdom. The author said it was intended as sarcasm, and that idea immediately humanizes Jesus with a sense of humor.

After all, we all know from Sunday school classes of years ago that Peter had denied knowing Jesus, not just once but three times. Hardly the character you'd describe as a rock providing a secure foundation.

Someone who could offer that kind of anecdote had to be worth reading.

And there is much in the book readers will enjoy or from which they will learn.

I do think the vast scope of the task of summarizing efficiently three thousand years of developments somewhat eluded the author. My instincts said he gave too many words to some things and too few to others.

There are a great many names of relatively unimportant figures in this book which seem tossed in almost out of some desire for completeness. At the same time there are figures or events or movements which are treated in a cursory manner.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating May 17 2010
By Wyn TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I received the first DVD in the series for a review and I so glad it was the first one that I received. This is a history of the Christian church not of Jesus nor the gospel. The first DVD follows the Christian church as it heads East rather than West. There were so many things that I didn't know like the fact that the Church of the East was headquartered in Baghdad and that it had send missionaries and established churches in China as early as the 7th Century, long before Western Europe was Christianized. The photography was excellent, interviews with Arabic church leaders were in English so there was no confusion with the translation, and maps were displayed which helped to place the activities in perspective. Living in the West and hearing only about Western Christianity means that I never really even thought about how the early Jewish/Christian church headed East because Rome was killing Christians. The host, David MacCulloch was easy to understand
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