The Story of Christianity: Volume 1: The Early Church to the Reformation (Story of Christianity)
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The Story of Christianity: Volume 1: The Early Church to the Reformation (The Story of Christianity #1)

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  1,036 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Sheds light on the major cultural and theological currents shaping the church during this period.
Paperback, 448 pages
Published July 18th 1984 by HarperCollins (first published January 1st 1900)
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Tyler Velin
I was a little nervous in the beginning as Gonzalez quickly disregarded the apostle John as the writer of Revelation. I thought this was setting the page for a rather liberal recitation of Christian history, but to my delight, I was proven wrong. Gonzalez does a great job of presenting an extremely large scope of history in an easy to read and engaging manner. I think overall he did a great job of presenting the highs and lows of the movements, while still providing a healthy balance.

I think he...more
For a very general introduction to the early history of the Church up until the Protestant Reformation, I would recommend this book. But only as a primary introduction.

Its chief virtues are that it is highly readable (high school reading level) and easy to understand; the chapters are brief and generally well-organized; it also provides a basic orientation of Christian history within the context of the larger "secular" history. For these reasons, I would recommend it to anybody remotely curious...more
Two nice things to say: Easy to read. No technical historian language at all. No footnotes or endnotes. Also, the section on Catholic missionary expansion into the new world was fascinating and often neglected. WHO KNEW MISSIONS DIDNT BEGIN WITH WILLIAM CAREY? Surprise! Catholics were overseas missionaries a full 300 years before Carey including India and China!

Other than the above, the book is blatantly anti-Catholic throughout. If you are interested in specifics let me know and I can send pag...more
David Withun
By far the best introduction to the history of Christianity that I have yet read; definitely the most fair, balanced, and unbiased, a real rarity in a field filled with competing confessional "scholars." This book is the place to start if you're interested in the history of Christianity. I only have two complaints: 1. he includes the typical baseless conjecture about the ministry of women in the early Church and 2. once the book gets out of the early Church, the author focuses almost exclusively...more
Mme. Bookling ~
Jun 07, 2007 Mme. Bookling ~ rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: any historian
I had never before read church history. I was really impressed with this book. Joel taught it at a class I took, and I had no idea how fascinated I was with religious society throughout history. Though seemingly obvious, it was so spiritually freeing to think that at one time there were no church "norms" and that everyone was once a heretic--based on who was in leadership. It frees me to question my faith openly and deal with my doubts honestly.
Marguerite Harrell
I am reading this for Wednesday night class with my wonderful church family. I am looking forward to learn a lot from this book and class too. I do have the second volume of this book as well.

12-18-2013, I just finish reading this book.

It is a very educational book and I do want to learn more. I am looking forward to read the Second Volume this coming Fall 2014 with my church family.
In a more linear fashion, Mr. Gonzalez moves the reader through the history of the early church, the Middle Ages, and up to the Reformation. He gives the reader a good sense of the historical background in which church history happened, and there is a good mix of general and church history.

One difficulty in writing any book of history is in the choosing of the contents. It is impossible to write about everything and every person, but Mr. Gonzalez has done a nice job of focusing on major charact...more
Carrie Walker Nettles
This is a great history book! Rather than breaking history down into unpalatable, terse facts, dates, and names, it keeps to the narrative of time and integrates movements to help readers better see the larger picture.
For someone such as myself who knew little about church history (and not much more about history in general), this was a really good introduction. It definitely prioritizes readability/brevity over depth, and I suspect spending some time in the suggested "further readings" would be worthwhile if one wanted a more thorough understanding. This prioritizing would be a bigger problem if he had failed, but he definitely manages to get across the flavor of events in an engaging manner (granted, I don'...more
Sep 19, 2007 DeborahMichael rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: those who love great chroniclers and real history
i love justo! this history book really reads like a story, quite painless. he is honest and i respect that about him.
This book is a general survey of the history of the Church from the primitive era until the beginning of the Reformation. Gonzalez is a very capable scholar, and writes in a style which is accessible, not only to the scholar, but to the laymen a well. Overall, I found the book engaging and thought provoking.

Gonzalez's treatment of the primitive church is extremely well written. He does a very good job of delineating the social and cultural issues that were at play during the development of the...more
Ben Peltz
For a long time, the Protestant paradigm was that the church had been completely corrupted somewhere around the time of Constantine, and that Christian history was completely fallen until the Reformation, over 1000 years later. This book does away with that myth, and does an excellent job of demonstrating some of the continuous strains that bind contemporary Christianity with orthodox Christianity throughout the millennium and a half preceding the Protestant Reformation.

Its strongest points are...more
Joel Wentz
Don't let the size of this tome intimidate you. I'm amazed at how readable this volume is, as it truly feels like you are being swept up in the vast story of the Christian church. Gonzalez is probably fairly criticized for brushing over significant events and people, but I see these as necessary steps for achieving the sheer synthesis of information that this book presents. By using short chapter divisions, and quickly covering vast swaths of history, the reader is able to grasp a sense of the m...more
I have seen this book a bizillion times and thought about purchasing a bizillion more times. It appears to be the standard work (or working its way towards that) in Seminaries. I am borrowing it from a friend in our Church and am impressed with it thus far. It is extremely readable and chock full of great information. I was a little suspicious originally because it was published by Harper and wondered why a book with this "clout" in evangelical seminaries was not published by Baker Academic, Zon...more
Ben Dyer
An excellent summation of the entirety of the Christian church from Acts 1 to the Diet of Worms. This book feels at once overbearingly lengthy and very shallow in the depth of material, though this is naturally going to happen in a book that attempts to cover 1,500 years of human history in less than 500 pages.

And yet, it reads well and I found the material endlessly fascinating. It's very easy to draw parallels between the old and modern churches, watching as Christianity morphed from a hope fo...more
Greg Baughman
This, with its companion volume (The Story of Christianity: Volume 2: The Reformation to the Present Day), comprises a good initial orientation to Church history. These heavy volumes (each over 500 pages) are a good overview of the depth and breadth of Church history. Gonzalez does an excellent job of calling attention to minority and non-western branches of the church. Despite its length, it still feels brief. Augustine, arguably the most influential theologian in the church, gets a mere 12 pag...more
I've become more interested in church history lately, though generally I'm not that interested in reading history type books. So I thought I would give this one a try.
I was pleasantly surprised to find it easy and interesting reading. In spite of the size of the book, the story kept me turning pages and moving along in the history of Christianity from the time of Christ.
It did get confusing with pope rivalries happening during the Middle Ages and more than 1 pope being in power at one time and...more
Alex Mauck
This was an exceptional work on the development of Christianity from the giving of the Great Commission to the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. As an overview, it covers all of the major developments within the church for that 1500 year period. It has great depth and continuity, recognizing the important transition points that will come into play later on and pointing back to prior events where it is helpful to do so. Gonzalez also has a knack for giving just the right amount of historical ba...more
Jul 27, 2011 James added it
A fairly good read. If I could excise one thing, it would be the recurring section in several chapters that does little more than list the popes of the era in question. They aren't covered in enough detail to know much about them, but there is enough text to annoy those looking for a dynamic narration.

Reading other reviews, I'm not sure what people were looking for "in other places." Christianity didn't take substantial hold in Africa. In China, it existed but didn't last long. Perhaps other rev...more
Brian Watson
I would give it 3.5 stars. It's a basic overview of Christianity from the birth of the church to about 1500. Gonzalez doesn't deal much with theology here. He doesn't discuss in detail how theology (good, bad, or indifferent) motivated certain historical events. Sadly, he didn't deal with the influence of the Bible itself on theology. More specifically, he didn't say how the lack of the layperson's ability to read the Bible for himself or herself negatively affected Christianity. He should have...more
These are great volumes to read if you are interested in a scholarly work into the history of christianity that is still easy to follow.
Alexis Neal
A surprisingly readable history. Gonzalez is right to title his volume The Story of Christianity, as his style is closer to prose than it is to the usual dry and lifeless writing of most history texts. The organization is a bit confusing at times--not precisely chronological, but grouped by periods and then thematically within the period--but with so many moving pieces, there really isn't a better way to present the information. All in all, it's a great introduction to the history of Christianit...more
A reliable, thorough, balance and readable introduction to church history. The two volume format allows Gonzalez enough space to give each topic the treatment it deserves without being impossibly long -- chapter lengths are quite manageable. More satisfying and useful than some of the single volume surveys I've read. Has been my go to reference both for personal study and for teaching. A good balance between retelling events and tracing theological development. Very limited references but the su...more
An easy to read survey of the history of Christianity from the early church up through the reformation.

I was especially intrigued to learn about the early church living and growing within the Roman empire and the ebb and flow of persecution, how the church changed after Constantine, the rapid spreading of controvery and the growing need to cannonize what was to be considered scripture and much much more. I definitely learned a lot about the church and the history of Christianity by reading this...more
Paul Kurtz
This book, along with it's second volume, provides the best overview of Christian history I have come across.
Gonzalez somehow covers nearly 2000 years of church history in only 95 pages - quite a remarkable feat in itself. This book offers a great uber-basic introduction and outline to church history, but you better have your iPhone in hand as you read, or else you will remain relatively clueless about most major happenings. It is perhaps most helpful for constructing a chronology of significant figures and developments, and since you can read it in such a short period of time I definitely think it is...more
It's an excellent read, though I think I prefer Ferguson's organization.

Possible error: At location 5806, Gonzalez refers to the meeting called in 1059 by Pope Nicholas II (1059-1061) that gave the cardinals (rather than the Roman people) the power to elect the Pope as "the Second Lateran Council." This was not the Second Lateran Council; the Second Lateran Council was the meeting called in 1139 by Pope Innocent II (1130-1143) in the wake of the death of Antipope Anacletus II (1130-1138).
J. Wallace
Good book that discusses the early history of Christianity and many of the characters who played a part in the “chain of custody”. I also discuss this topic in my book, “Cold Case Christianity” (Chapter 13: Were They Accurate?)

Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels
Sean Higgins
I only read the first nine chapters, through the 2nd century, in preparation for a message, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. More dates would have helped make things a bit clearer, but maybe that's what made it feel more like a "story" (hence the name of the book) than a timeline. Everybody likes a story.

I own the book because I was assigned to read it in college or seminary. I'll be going to back to it again with more eagerness when I want more on other centuries.
The story of Christianity in this book is told with honesty and dimension. When I wonder, How could the authority of the Church have overlooked what was happening? I turn to Gonzalez who captures the relationships between leaders, countries, theologians, and lay people around the globe.
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Justo L. González, author of the highly praised three-volume History of Christian Thought and other major works, attended United Seminary in Cuba, received his M.A. at Yale, and was the youngest person to be awarded a Ph.D. in historical theology at Yale. He is one of the few first generation Latino theologians to come from a Protestant background. He helped to found the Association for Hispanic T...more
More about Justo L. González...
The Story of Christianity: Volume 2: The Reformation to the Present Day The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day A History of Christian Thought, Vol. 1: From the Beginnings to the Council of Chalcedon Manana Church History

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