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A New History of Early Christianity

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  62 ratings  ·  11 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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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
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
John Sweeney
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.
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
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
Mei Yue
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
William Poe
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
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
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.

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Broad survey of the first six centuries. Strong on names and places, artifacts and manuscripts. Weak on interpretations.
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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
More about Charles Freeman...
The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean AD 381: Heretics, Pagans and the Dawn of the Monotheistic State The Greek Achievement: The Foundation of the Western World Holy Bones, Holy Dust: How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe

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