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The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World's Largest Religion

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  353 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
Celebrated religious and social historian Rodney Starktraces the extraordinary rise of Christianity through its most pivotal andcontroversial moments to offer fresh perspective on the history of the world’slargest religion. In The Triumph of Christianity, the author of God’sBattalions and The Rise of Christianity gathers and refines decadesof powerful research and discover ...more
ebook, 512 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by HarperOne
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Jan 11, 2014 Phil rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: church-history
I can't say that I'm a fan of this book, even though it has enjoyed some popularity. Two things have tended to put me off. First, the book tends to rely heavily on secondary sources and, even with that, its historical inaccuracies are reasonably common. This is not just complaining about a disputed interpretation or two, but facts that are simply not right. I've returned the book, so I don't have an example at hand, but I know that I winced through the ancient period with Stark. I'll also note t ...more
Byron Fike
May 11, 2017 Byron Fike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A well researched and thoroughly documented survey of the growth of Christianity from a small band of Jesus followers to a religion that now makes up more than 40 % of the people on earth today and "growing more rapidly than that of any other major faith." Stark challenges many of the often repeated myths associated with the spread of Christianity. In particular he presents a much more positive understanding of the crusades, maintains that the "Dark Ages" were "one of the most inventive times in ...more
Santeri Marjokorpi
Vaikuttavin kirja, jonka olen vähään aikaan lukenut. Maailmankuvani muuttui tätä lukiessa. Stark käy läpi koko kirkkohistorian Jeesuksen ajasta nykypäivään ja käyttäen sosiologian keinoja hahmottelee sitä, miten pienestä juutalaisesta lahkosta tuli maailman suurin uskonto, joka yhä kasvaa. Samalla hän kumoaa massiivisen määrän harhaluuloja, myyttejä ja propagandaa, jota kristinkunnan historiasta on esitetty. Esimerkiksi Starkin mukaan varhainen kristinusko ei ollut pelkästään köyhien uskonto vaa ...more
Mar 17, 2016 Kent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A myth-busting book, Stark challenges some of the main planks of what we "understand" about church history. I already had a taste of this when I read his challenge to the universal negative perspective on the Crusades, God's Battalions.

Some of the myths he seeks to debunk in The Triumph of Christianity:
--early Christianity appealed primarily to the poor and powerless;
--early Christianity was primarily a male affair (he argues precisely the opposite);
--Constantine made Christianity the state
Michael Jones
Definitely read this if you have been sold a bill of goods by Voltaire and Gibbon in their interpretation of history. This book is a huge myth buster!
Max Evans
Sep 05, 2013 Max Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book, but not as much as I thought I was going to. It might be that there wasn't as much new information in it as I thought there would be. However, that being said there were many parts of this book that I did very much like.

Dr. Stark says that this book is an expansion of an earlier book called the "Rise of Christianity" he wrote in the 90's. He said that he felt more qualified to write this book now than he did then. In the first section he starts talking about who Christ was as
Jun 07, 2017 Alecia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolute must-read for every modern Christian!
Aug 01, 2012 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've noticed that whenever people discuss the merits and demerits of Christianity, the discussion almost inevitably returns back to some of the same themes: what about the Crusades? Or the Inquisition? Or the Church's insistence to suppress knowledge? And usually, the questioner has the sympathetic Christian trapped. Some of these themes, among others, are the "wild card" that trumps the merits of Christianity.

This is why I am thankful for Rodney Stark's recent work "The Triumph of Christianity"
Feb 22, 2014 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rodney Stark loves being a contrarian. And The Triumph of Christianity is no exception to that rule. While the book summarizes much of what he's written elsewhere, it's still a fun, breezy exercise in myth busting. Here are a few spots where Stark's juices get flowing:

"The major result triumph of many unrelenting scholarly attacks on the historical reliability of the New Testament has been to frustrate the attackers because again and again scripture has stood up to their challenges." (p. 55)

Radoslav Vician
May 16, 2017 Radoslav Vician rated it it was amazing
Seldom have I read such a complex research on Christianity. Amazing book.
Eric Masters
Some very interesting concepts, perfect for discussion among a group- though ultimately I think the author missed the mark. When discussing what was supposed to be the central topic (how Christianity spread and came to power over the last 2000 years) the book was interesting and well-written; however, much of the book is given over to pseudo-historical conjecture presented as history. Stark excoriates other academics for the use of the phrase "must have been" but relies heavily on "would have" a ...more
May 08, 2013 Artyom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title also could be, a grumpy old man's guide to Christianity. Oh and pretty much everything Stark writes in this book, he has written elsewhere. Just a gathering place of old ideas of the author. Full of sweeping generalizations, cherry-picked arguments that confirm his reading of history, and nearly every historian or sociologist the author writes about is "wrong." Which is not to say that the book is not interesting, or some of the arguments he makes are totally wrong. They are just not s ...more
Jan 14, 2017 Susan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While it isn't all bad, it also shows why it is imperative to truly identify and consider one's own biases before writing a history book. Some of the things he posits as absolute givens are in fact in dispute, and show his bias.
Jacob Van
Dec 22, 2013 Jacob Van rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rodney Stark is one of America's best sociologists of Religion. In The Triumph of Christianity Stark seeks to answer "How was it possible for this obscure Jewish sect to become the largest religion in the world?"

I'd give the book 5 stars if it wasn't for a clumsy critique of Biblical "literal inerrancy" and a flippant interpretation of a few Biblical accounts. Otherwise, this book is profound and ground breaking. Stark disproves a lot of things we think we know about history. Below is a summary
I've long been a fan of Rodney Stark, starting with his influential book The Rise of Christianity. This book covers similar ground, but expands to travel through all of church history. It is perhaps a sort of magnum opus, since readers familiar to Stark will see things he covered in other of his books too. But basic church history this is not, instead you could call it church history through a sociologist's eyes.

Or perhaps, everything you think you know about how Christianity grew is wrong!

Jul 11, 2015 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Basic one stop Rodney Stark. Rodney Stark was an atheist and earlier in his career, a fairly bland sociologist. However, after studying the Early Church he became a Christian and has written in a very wide field that essentially consists of all Christian history.

His best work is far and away the stuff found in The Rise of Christianity. I cannot recommend that book for the layman because of the first 76 pages are mostly sociological blather, but when you get to the later chapters, I confess tears
Chris Walker
Dec 17, 2016 Chris Walker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first encounter with Rodney Stark - he came highly recommended from a friend.
I enjoyed his willingness to take on several of the assumptions that have been held for many years about the growth of Christianity, its supposed opposition to scientific progress and the impact of the Reinassance and Enlightenment. It's fair to say that I had held many of those assumptions myself, so I appreciated the counter arguments and evidence presented to support them. Stark is learned and persuasive
Jun 30, 2015 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, Stark makes some fascinating general points about the rise and spread of Christianity and supports his claims with what seems, at least some of the time, to be a wealth of carefully logged evidence sourced through novel techniques like counting the ratio of Christian-to-Roman surnames in ancient cemetery ruins.

Stark argues that, contrary to its popular association with poverty and meekness, early Christianity substantially over-recruited the privi
Nov 05, 2012 Brent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the third Rodney Stark book that I've read, and although was excellent, I'd rank this as the best because of the larger scope of the book. It is obviously a book based on Mr. Stark's academic work, but is very readable to non-sociologists. You're can't be thin-skinned when reading this if you are a practicing Christian. One cringe-worthy topic was pathetic church governance/clergy throughout much of the Middle Ages. The failure of the Catholic Chu ...more
Jackie Jacobsen-Côté
This was a really interesting book - really focusing on how Christianity moved from being a forbidden, outsider's religion to the big player it is today. What was really fascinating to me were the details of ancient Roman life, the nature of cities and society, and an interesting argument that Christianity was not the religion of the poor initially - it only took hold because wealthy individuals flocked to it and influenced others.

Also interesting was the debunking of several myths, two of which
May 22, 2013 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book labels Constantine as a "mixed blessing." Overall, my impression is that this is a generally fair-minded work - including a very helpful, very convincing statistical model describing the growth of the Christian population within the Roman Empire during the first four centuries.

The work traces the "rise of Christianity" from a persecuted minority cult to religion of the Roman majority. Narratives concerning the "rise of Christianity" often culminate - as does this work, with the enthro
Denes House
Aug 16, 2016 Denes House rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gripping, well-told, and thoroughly-researched

I'm a sucker for "everything you thought you knew was wrong!" books, and The Triumph of Christianity is a perfect example. I'm still grappling with his understanding of who Jesus was, and how the early Christian movement made its mark. Stark is not a Christian, but has made it his life's work to figure out how Christianity became the world's dominant religion. Along the way, he debunks many of the myths that have accumulated in academic and popular c
Erik Graff
Nov 05, 2013 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: liberal Christians
Recommended to Erik by: Kelly Kingdon
Shelves: religion
I was given this by a houseguest from Manitoba. A first glance made me hesitant. Judging by the dust jacket and prefatory materials, the suthor was Christian and conservative. The book being a gift and church history being of interest, I gave the thing a try. I'm glad I did.

Rodney Stark is indeed conservative. His book is to conventional church histories what Schama's book was to conventional studies of the French revolution. In other words, he's a revisionist. His conservatism amounts to a powe
Myth-busters for Christian history, arguing...

...the real motivations for the Crusades were not colonialist dreams of slaughter or financial gain
...the dark ages were not actually dark, but inventive. The mythical renaissance and enlightenment periods created a straw man out of medieval times.
...the basis for science is the Judeo-Christian belief in a rational Creator.
...the Spanish Inquisition was quite temperate and opposed the witch trials throughout Europe.
...the inevitability of increased s
Roy Howard
Sep 16, 2013 Roy Howard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a first rate history by a premier religious and social historian. Americans in general are largely ignorant of history. The consequence of this ignorance is repeated failures to learn from the experiences of our ancestors. When Donald Rumsfield left public office with head bowed in humility the last words he said in this speech to a graduating military students were "read more history." Yes, that's ironic but it's also true. "Read more history" may be an admonition to Americans; it's als ...more
Jeff Gabriel
Jun 10, 2015 Jeff Gabriel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This sweeping history was a surprising and informative look at the influences and events which shaped the Christian religion and faith over the centuries. It covers a lot of time and so only focuses on major influences, but each is interesting and presented with numerous details and well researched references.

The most surprising elements are Stark's take on the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. He has written separately on the Crusades- but I think I got the gist in this shortened take. In b
Jun 20, 2012 Nehe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite thorough and provocative. It was 'the Victory of Reason' on steroids, or perhaps similar yet different spin on some of the previous work.

I was hesitant to trust some of the conclusions as the author has been publishing more books than journal articles lately. He himself often appealed to latest scholarship, though he rarely cites journal papers but other books.

I got the sense that some of the latter chapters were a bit 'sloppy' compared to the first half of the book. Some points in the thi
Jun 03, 2015 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read. Some parts weren't new (thanks, GCC); I encountered other parts for the first time and didn't always find his writing compelling. I realize this isn't a peer-reviewed journal, but I can't turn off the scientist, so, here we go.

I didn't like Stark's myth-busting tone and wish that his arguments had been constructed more carefully and with proper treatment of dissenting views. I get it that history is really complicated and often obscured by historians' personal agendas or cultur
Joseph Simmons
Over the last several years I've heard many outlandish historical assertions that were either sympathetic or hostile to Christianity as it has grown and spread from the birth of the Christian era until now; these are not new or esoteric, you've heard them too, if not actually made some yourself.

Stark spends nearly 500 pages (including 75 for notes & bibliography) addressing these oft heard assertions in ways that were, honestly, sometimes, shocking to me. What I love about Stark is that he d
Thomas Achord
Aug 10, 2016 Thomas Achord rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stark always makes for an enjoyable, enlightening, and surprising read. He has a knack for writing history in a seamless, causal manner. His work always appears well-researched and argued. His aloof skepticism shows through at times, but he pulls no punches when tackling modernity's myths and faux narratives that distort Western heritage.

His main argument throughout the book seems to be that Christianity was a force - material or supernatural - that overcame the shallower visions of mankind and
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Rodney Stark grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota, and began his career as a newspaper reporter. Following a tour of duty in the U.S. Army, he received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, where he held appointments as a research sociologist at the Survey Research Center and at the Center for the Study of Law and Society. He left Berkeley to become Professor of Sociology and of Compa ...more
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“In fact, all known societies above the very primitive level have been slave societies—even many of the Northwest American Indian tribes had slaves long before Columbus’s voyage.46 Amid this universal slavery, only one civilization ever rejected human bondage: Christendom. And it did it twice!” 3 likes
“IN 1710, THE ENGLISH FREETHINKER Thomas Woolston (1670–1731) expressed his confidence that religion would vanish by 1900.1 Voltaire (1695–1778) thought this much too pessimistic and predicted that religion would be gone from the Western world within the next fifty years—by about 1810.” 1 likes
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