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A New History of Early Christianity

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  97 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
The relevance of Christianity is as hotly contested today as it has ever been. A New History of Early Christianity shows how our current debates are rooted in the many controversies surrounding the birth of the religion and the earliest attempts to resolve them. Charles Freeman’s meticulous historical account of Christianity from its birth in Judaea in the first century A. ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Yale University Press (first published 2009)
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Jim Coughenour
Dec 18, 2009 Jim Coughenour rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europeanhistory
I picked up this "new history" of early Christianity with moderate expectations. I've long been interested in both historical studies of the life of Jesus and the development of Christian thought, even though I am no longer a believer in any sense. When I flipped through Freeman's book at Books Inc., it had the look of a decent synthesis of recent scholarship – which (in contrast to Christian theology) is always changing and often fascinating. I didn't expect to do much more than dip into it her ...more
May 22, 2015 Charlie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: early-church
I despise the word "new" in book titles. It just emphasizes it more when the book becomes dated. However, this book is something new and worth consideration. Freeman's approach is openly secular. I would not say that he is hostile to Christianity, but he does not shy from giving opinionated assessments not often found in surveys. For example, he offers historical scenarios as alternatives to the claim of Christ's resurrection. He is also less than impressed with Paul of Tarsus. Over 100 pages de ...more
Lauren Albert
I am interested in the cultural history of religion, particularly in ancient times and the middle ages--the interactions between pagans, Jews, Christians and Muslims, for instance. Freeman's book is very much a theological history of early Christianity. This doesn't interest me particularly. But it also caused a problem because his detailed discussions of the gospels and how they differed from each other was difficult for me to follow since I have little knowledge of the New Testament.

If you are
John Sweeney
Mar 11, 2011 John Sweeney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a good look from a secular viewpoint but many of the assertions and references to events are undocumented so it's hard to track down where he came up with some of his information.
Mar 25, 2014 Franz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful and enlightening book! This is the book on the history of early Christianity that I have wanted to read for years…nay, decades. I have read several books and essays about the first couple of centuries, especially the period during and just after the lifetime of Jesus. Confirming most of what I’ve read, Freeman’s scope is much larger and includes the life and death of Jesus, the controversies surrounding his resurrection, and the development of Christianity all the way to the 6th ...more
May 26, 2017 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three stars means "I liked it". A comprehensive survey of the evolution of Christianity during the first five centuries, including the most influential figures and the key events that led to the establishment of catholic orthodoxy. Accessible to the layman, however a basic knowledge of Greek and Roman history may help in understanding the subject matter relative to its historical and political context.
Nathan Albright
Jan 15, 2016 Nathan Albright rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is clear that the author of this book has a great interest and knowledge of the ancient world. It is also clear, from reading the book, that the author comes from a humanistic perspective that values Athens far higher than Jerusalem, and that seeks for space to hold the Bible in ill repute because it fails to meet the levels of rhetoric of classical Greek (which ought to be additional evidence that it was written in the modest circumstances it claims) and because of a desire to find contradic ...more
Mei Yue
Jan 20, 2013 Mei Yue rated it really liked it
Shelves: christianity
As long as Greek Culture was affecting the spreading of various schools of Jesuit Missionaries, there were ancillary changes in the spreading of gospel. John was critical person who wrote the life of Jesus in an convincing crsis but all four main gospels in the New Testaments were just telling the silmilar stories. From the days of Jesus' spreading his gospel, there was one version in which the Christians could have believed in but as time went by, there were variou schools of gospels under the ...more
Aug 08, 2011 Juan-Pablo rated it really liked it
The discussion in this forum on the authority of an agnostic historian (as Freeman is) seems more relevant than it should be. Most reviewers complain that he gives "unlikely" explanations to some events in the life of Jesus. The resurrection, as it is expected, is given special attention. Of course the most unlikely explanation of all is that he actually resurrected, so any other theory would be, from a (history) reader point of view, more likely. The discussion is interesting, but the conclusio ...more
As long as there are books, the rise of Christianity is one of those topics that will never stop begetting more books. There’s so much we don’t know and can’t know and everybody’s got opinions.

The focus of this particular book is the development of the Church as an institution with a theology distinct from its Jewish roots and Greek and Roman surroundings. It is at its most fanciful in the early chapters that cover the Passion through to the codification of the New Testament. Later chapters are
Aug 28, 2010 Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Caveat: I picked this off the end cap at the local library because I liked Ehrman's "Jesus, Interrupted" (another end cap find, which I grabbed because of the allusion to the book/movie "Girl, Interrupted"---yes, that's how I select books). If you hated that book, then there's a good chance you'll hate this one.

I gather this can be a contentious book, but it's a great survey of an improved understanding of Christianity. The first few chapters cover much of the same ground as Ehrman's "Jesus, Int
William Poe
Aug 07, 2012 William Poe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed Charles Freeman's book. I have literally read everything written by Bart Ehrman, and so far, only Freeman is similar in his ability to take great amounts of historical material and scholarly research and distill the information into a readable, comprehensible, and enjoyable read. Nothing fascinates me more than the history of early Christianity. Freeman follows are clear line from the earliest believers in Jesus to the interfaces with "pagan" philosophy and culture on through the ...more
Philip Zyg
Feb 04, 2012 Philip Zyg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now this is one of the most extraordinary books around, at least for readers with a passion for ancient history and philosophy. If you strive to understand what Christianity really was at the beginning and what it became at various stages throughout the centuries, this is the essay for you. Although the author professes himself a Christian, there's no trace of ideology in here, no attempt at preserving long-held dogmas or "universal" truths. Naked facts are presented clearly, sources are mention ...more
Broad survey of the first six centuries. Strong on names and places, artifacts and manuscripts. Weak on interpretations.
Jul 14, 2016 Beth added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Moving this to my "officially abandoned" shelf. The type on this books makes it too difficult to read, though the text is not especially dry. Perhaps I'll pick it up again in time.
Mar 06, 2016 carelessdestiny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: diversions
This is so well written that it made me feel as if I was interacting with the historical figures whom I'd never really thought of as real people before.
Stephen A. Potts
Stephen A. Potts rated it it was amazing
Jan 03, 2016
Mike rated it liked it
Mar 20, 2014
Christine rated it really liked it
Oct 26, 2016
Arthur Blair
Arthur Blair rated it liked it
May 22, 2012
Efranken rated it it was ok
Jan 24, 2017
Kristian Purcell
Kristian Purcell rated it really liked it
Sep 03, 2015
Charles D Kausler
Charles D Kausler rated it it was amazing
Dec 01, 2014
Lance rated it really liked it
Aug 07, 2012
David rated it it was amazing
Feb 26, 2012
Quartermush rated it it was amazing
May 08, 2017
Ryan rated it it was amazing
Jan 02, 2014
Hans Kerrinckx
Hans Kerrinckx rated it really liked it
Jun 13, 2016
Wilson rated it it was amazing
Dec 17, 2010
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Charles Freeman is a freelance academic historian with wide interests in the history of European culture and thought. He is the author of the highly acclaimed Egypt, Greece and Rome, Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean. He has followed this up with The Greek Achievement (Penguin 1999), The Legacy of Ancient Egypt (Facts on File, 1997) and The Closing of the Western Mind, a study of the rela ...more
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