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The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died
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The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  621 ratings  ·  124 reviews
In this groundbreaking book, renowned religion scholar Philip Jenkins offers a lost history, revealing that, for centuries, Christianity's center was actually in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, with significant communities extending as far as China. The Lost History of Christianity unveils a vast and forgotten network of the world's largest and most influential Christia ...more
Hardcover, 315 pages
Published October 28th 2008 by HarperOne (first published October 1st 2008)
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[Name Redacted]
I have a complicated relationship with Philip Jenkins. I was incredibly impressed by his book The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, but his books on pre-Reformation history contain some difficult and distressing errors. Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way contains a few out-of-left-field examples of his antipathy towards Mormons, Shakers & other non-Protestant, non-Catholic Christian groups. This book, "The Lost History", is likewise plagued by some odd i ...more
Dec 22, 2008 Terence rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Terence by: New shelf at the library
This is an interesting look at the eastern arm of the Christian church, which survived for a thousand years under non-Christian polities (largely Muslim) and, arguably, flourished up through the 14th century AD. Only because of the vagaries of history (or the inscrutable machinations of God, depending upon one's point of view) did Western and Orthodox Christianity survive, that survival feeding the myths that the heterodox sects were suppressed by the Romans and that there were no Christians of ...more
Justin Evans
Not really what I was hoping for, nor what it's advertized as. Most of the book, I would say, is taken up with a) complaints that Europeans and their descendants know too little about the churches of the East and b) attempts to make the history of those churches 'relevant.' You know what? I would much rather have an actual history of them than an argument that we don't have a history of them - which is self-evident, and ignorance of these churches must be the reason most people would read this b ...more
I've never read a history that so thoroughly convinced me that everything I thought I knew about a topic was wrong. The history of Christianity I was taught ran through Europe. Yet much of the populations Asia, the Middle East, and northern Africa were Christian for a hundreds of years, if not a millennium. And then they died out. Jenkins discusses the growth and death of these church communities in broad strokes with fairly detailed examples to help make his point. While Islam was Christianity' ...more
Back in the Dark Ages, when Sister Mary Floretta taught Church History at St. Joan of Arc School, I never heard about the Eastern, Asian or African churches that are the subject of this book. What is worse, they were never mentioned in my college courses on the history of the early church. How could all this history have happened and nobody saw fit to tell us about it? Well, that is one of the topics discussed in this well written, highly informative history. Not only does Jenkins give us the wh ...more
David Bales
Brilliant book about the "lost history" of Christianity; one of my year's top ten best. Once, Christians were the majority from North Africa all the way to India--and had sizable communities beyond, even to China. By the 8th century, Nestorian Christians had established settlements in China, and Christianity was the majority religion in the Middle East until the coming of Islam, and for centuries afterward. Jenkins pieces together how many Islamic traditions were borrowed from Christianity and J ...more
A remarkable study of history that was largely unknown to me--like most people I associated the History of Christianity predominantly with Europe. It was amazing to learn the the Persian Empire of the first 500 years of the CE was just as amenable to the spread of Christianity as the Roman Empire. The book also includes thoughtful analysis of the decline and "extinction" of faiths and their survival and resurgence. Highly recommended.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book about the forgotten history of the Christian church from Palestine to China. Because most of the churches throughout Asia were eventually extinguished, many modern Christians do not realize that nearly half of Christendom in the year 1000 AD existed outside of Europe. Places like Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, Mesopotamia (Iraq), Persia (Iran), Turkmenistan, Armenia, India, China and more had a strong Christian presence and thriving intellectual tradition.

After outlining
Ed Cyzewski
A must-read for Christians who want to learn about a relatively unknown segment of Christian history. This book is particularly helpful in establishing many of the core beliefs of western Christianity in the broader and ancient roots of the church. For example, many liberal scholars say that the canon and the theology of Christ was changed as a result of Constantine's meddling, but the church east of Constantinople, all of the way to Japan, recognized a similar list of biblical books and general ...more
Frank Peters
This was a good and useful book to read. As the author points out (more than once), the knowledge we have of church history largely ignores everything outside of the west, and certainly ignores those labelled as non-Orthodox who shone in the East for a millennium and more. These Eastern Christians: Syriac and Coptic speaking Nestorians and Jacobites were the focus of the book. I am very happy that their history is in print in English, even in this abbreviated form. While I am very happy that I r ...more
Filled a massive hole in my church history -- the early church spread to the east as well as the west and thrived there for 1000 years. Because that part of the world is so different now, and because the book of Acts focuses on Christianity's spread west, we have an overly Euro-centric view of church history. Some helpful thoughts also on how Christianity takes root in some cultures and why/how it died in others. Jenkins is often referenced by Christian authors, but this is a history work not a ...more
Very different view of the history Christianity than is commonly learned in the US and Europe. As Roman/Latin Christianity followed the contours of the old Roman empire, so Nestorian and Jacobite (and other types) followed the contours of the old Persian empire all the way along the Silk road into India, China, and even Japan, and also down the Nile into Ethiopia. For the 1300 years after Christ, Christians were more numerous, more organized, more scholarly, and even more successful missionaries ...more
As with other books he has written, Jenkins writes this book with flair. Yet apart from style, the actual content of the book is nothing new. It's value lies in reminding us of the ancient Christian movements in Asia and Africa, but the value is mitigated by Jenkins bias toward relativism. Reminiscent of Bart Ehrman, Jenkins treats orthodox Christianity as a mere historical accident, while treating Nestorianism as a fully legitimate expression of the faith. There are certainly things to be learn ...more
Sorqaqtani Beki
The author ignores the survival of the native Christian traditions of Ethiopia (63% Christian!) and Kerala, India (a healthy remnant community). Of course, to acknowledge them would further weaken his political blathering that mostly reduces to "Fear Islam! Yes, they were ok to live under sometimes, but then they WIPED CHRISTIANITY OFF THE MAP!" I mean, yes, that's mostly what happened in the near-and-middle east, in the dark-and-middle ages, but the book was 1/3 history and 2/3 political rantin ...more
Dominic Foo
As challenges grow, contemporary Christians can indeed learn lessons from past experience. One involves the idea of success in a society in which religions use worldly prosperity to prove spiritual claims. Many successful global-South churches teach a gospel of prosperity, telling believers that their faith will bring worldly success. Such a doctrine might well be dangerous if Muslim regimes and forces won conspicuous victories while Western influence declined. Global-South Christians are also a
Shaun Liu
This is an excellent introduction to the story of Nicene Creed Christians who prospered outside the borders of the Roman Empire, a story that many readers in the West are unaware about. I'm particularly fascinated with his careful myth-busting of modern claims that there were numerous equally-authoritative Christianities which were subsequently crushed by a repressive Roman Catholic Church; the Church of the East, independent and rejected by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, living under Musli ...more
Moses Operandi
I knew almost nothing about the Christian churches of the East, as far east as China long before Marco Polo. Jenkins' book is a fascinating tale of the rise and death of those churches. His musings about the relationship between Christianity and Islam could be a book of their own; in this one they seem unfocused and distracting. That said, they helped me understand the Byzantine complexity (har har) of the Middle Eastern church that defies simple explanations of its fall.
Adam Shields
Short Review: The cover of the book is a stylized map of Africa, Europe and Asia all connected by Jerusalem. This map made sense when the three continents were roughly equal in Christianity. To the east Christians stretched to China and India and had significant communities of Christians that were probably numerically more than the Christians in Europe in the 6th century. But with the rise of Islam and then later Mongols there was both significant persecution and times of relative tranquility bu ...more
I was very excited when I started reading this book. The topic is very interesting; namely, that, though the Western model of Christianity is currently dominant, for a thousand years after the flowering of Christianity, the Christian churches of Asia & Africa were as powerful & influential as the Western church, simply put Christianity spread East as well as West.

Unfortunately the author (Jenkins) writes from a secular, pluralistic perspective--which assumes religions belong to the priva
The Lost History of Christianity is a book that made me realize even more how little we know. It was fascinating to learn about so many different Christian churches throughout history. I also found it interesting and sad considering all of the turmoil and persecution of Christians in countries right now that I didn't even know had Christian churches.

At the end he talks about how we have faith that God directs history and although "permits his chosen people to suffer defeat and dispersal, for re
This came highly recommended, and I'm glad I read it. However, it had some downsides.

First, the history that it covers is fascinating: it's true that I have only in the last couple years (by people who recommended this book) heard anything about how much the church grew in the Middle East and Asia before the rise of Islam (and even after). I never knew that the Gospel went much east of Armenia, except some vague references I've heard to a church started by Thomas in India. It's a story we don't
As a professional student of church history, it isn't often that I find a book that radically revises my understanding of Christianity. This one did. My mental map and timeline of Christianity has been expanded. Jenkins should be commended for an usually fresh work.
An eye opening book. I had little idea of the history of the Eastern Church, of its richness, power and Thousand year endurance against so many odds. It is a great loss that so many of their works have been lost to history but due to Philip Jenkins excellent work a new generation is learning of this Church and its Golden Age. One cannot but help to develop a new respect for the Assyrian, Armenian, Coptic and Syrian Churches that exist today under the threat of extinction from Islamic radicals an ...more
Jenkins asks all the right questions, though his answers can be a bit off.
I really enjoyed this history and learned so much. The Lost History of Christianity is an excellent introduction to an obscure subject which the church in America never touches on. The author Philip Jenkins says that much of the information presented in this work is little known except by a few scholars.

This book eradicates the often held belief that Christianity is a Western religion. In fact Christianity was well matured in the Middle East, North Africa, and East Africa (Nubia and Ethiopia) b
from John: Reading this book was a "why has no one ever told me this before?" kind of experience!

For starters, Jenkins makes the point that those who want to get as close to what the original church was like need to study the Churches of the East (Jacobite, Nestoria, Syriac, Coptic...). These churches were at the council of Nicea, pursued missionary ventures around the world, and were extremely influential - and they weren't Greco-Roman! In fact, they flourished for hundreds of years on the same
Brad Belschner
Mind-blowing. I was of course aware that the Church used to exist in the Middle East and Asia, and that at some point it was wiped out...but I never directed my full attention to this subject before. Initially Asia was the centre of Christianity, both culturally and numerically. It was only around ~1300 that the tide clearly turned, and Europe began to lead. And it was only as recent as 1915-1925 that Christianity was exterminated in the Middle East--before WWI, Christians were more common in th ...more
This book has me from the intro. Fascinating. Isn't the library great?
This book is valuable for a number of reasons. First it is a fascinating look into the extremely robust and viable tradition of an evangelistic, eastern, and (according to Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) heretical Christianity. I thought that I knew quite a bit about church history in its broadest sense, but there were large amounts of information in this book that I had never heard of related to the scope of missionary activ
Mark Sequeira
A great book. While it poses some controversial ideas about the universality of the visible church and about heresy, there is much to learn and to hold your attention. A pretty quick read for a 'history' book. Always puzzles me why we would call Mary the 'Mother of God' as that seems ludicrous and close to blasphemy even though as a defence of Jesus' deity, I get it. Less so how the whole iconoclast controversy ended with the church's approval to use/pray to icons considering our connection to J ...more
The Lost History of Christianity turns the common view of history portrayed by Tertullian’s famous quote about “the blood of martyrs being the seed of the church” onto its head. For it was Tertullian’s own church tradition that all but vanished before the Muslim invaders (p 34). I enjoyed this book for several reasons:

1) I was surprised to learn that, in relative terms, the Middle East is only recently “Muslim” (less than 100 years). This was accomplished in very recent history “by carnage on a
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Philip Jenkins was born in Wales in 1952. He was educated at Clare College, in the University of Cambridge, where he took a prestigious “Double First” degree—that is, Double First Class Honors. In 1978, he obtained his doctorate in history, also from Cambridge. Since 1980, he has taught at Penn State University, and currently holds the rank of Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of the Humanities. He is a ...more
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