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

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  1,522 ratings  ·  111 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 Publishers (first published January 1st 1978)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,628)
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Andrew
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
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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
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DeborahMichael
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.
Ryan
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
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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.
E. Melure
This is a fantastic book of Church History for those that find history difficult. Beginning from the time of Christ and going through the Renaissance, this telling focuses on the people of history. Granted, in the Medieval Period it gets pretty dates/places/names like other history books, but before and after that section, Gonzalez tells interesting summaries of the people we hear about all the time. It's not just a "so-and-so did this at this time, then so-and-so killed him and took over in thi ...more
Scarlett Sims
Ok, so probably each of the chapters in this book could be its own book. This is a very basic introduction to the history of Christianity. I think every Christian should read this book, because there are so many things that people don't realize. I also think every non-Christian should read this, because they can also be ill-informed on the topic. There was lots of stuff in here that I didn't know, and you get a good picture of the cultural climate in which Christians lived for the first 1500 yea ...more
Carrie
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.
Hunter
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
Neil
I read this book for an online course; I might not have read it otherwise. I must say I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. I do enjoy reading about the history of Christianity, but some books are duller than others and I did judge this book by its cover. Silly me!

The author does a nice job discussing the early history of Christianity up until the Reformation. I do not think he holds anything back as he discusses the faults and foibles of the Church, but neither is he super-negative a
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Christopher
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
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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
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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
Andre
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
Joshua Briggs
I appreciate the work Dr. González put into this. I've heard him say he put this together as a primer to help the protestants in Latin America connect more with their Christian history. However, my biggest complain about this book is how Dr. González freely puts in his own bias and interpretation. At times it reads more like his own thoughts on Christian history, rather than an actual history book.
Wayne
This is a brief history of Christianity from the beginning through the middle ages. Given the time period involved, the time spent on any one period has to be brief, however, it is a very good overview of our some of our current doctrine developed. There were many differences of opinion about Jesus and his teachings. This book helps explain how the whole story evolved.
Barry
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
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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
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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
Lisa
As an undergraduate textbook this was a huge hit with my students. It is weak on world Christianity, but so are most textbooks. Really readable and great at combining theology and stories of practical Christians. My students said they planned on keeping it as a resource book.
Debi
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
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Timothy Browning
My first school book knocked out. Nice.

Here's the story of Christianity up to the reformation. At first it was awesome, but then terrible people started taking over. But there were still awesome guys too and maybe, like, three awesome gals too.
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
James
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
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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
Grayson Gilbert
A very broad, general work on church history that touches on the important events from the Patristic era up to the forerunners to the Protestant Reformation. If you're looking for something basic to give an outline and not go terribly far in depth, this would be a perfect introductory book on Church History.
Ashley
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.
Josiah
Not quite finished yet, but it does seem to get bogged down in details about the different orders of monks and popes and the timeline is a bit scattered. It's gonna be a challenge to finish, a shame since it started so well!
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  • Documents of the Christian Church
  • The Christian Tradition 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition 100-600
  • The Protestant Reformation
  • An Introduction to the Old Testament
  • The History of the Church: From Christ to Constantine
  • Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity
  • Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine: A Companion to Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology
  • Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther
  • New Testament History
  • Christian Theology: An Introduction
  • The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform
  • Backgrounds of Early Christianity
  • The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died
  • Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers: Focusing Concern and Action
  • Early Christian Fathers (Library of Christian Classics)
  • The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism
  • The Orthodox Church
  • The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God
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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...

Other Books in the Series

The Story of Christianity (2 books)
  • The Story of Christianity: Volume 2: The Reformation to the Present Day
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 Volume 1: From the Beginnings to the Council of Chalcedon Church History Mañana: Christian Theology from a Hispanic Perspective

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“What good is it for you to be able to discuss the Trinity with great profundity, if you lack humility, and thereby offend the Trinity? Verily, high sounding words do not make one holy and just. But a life of virtue does make one acceptable to God. Were you to memorize the entire Bible and all the sayings of the philosophers, what good would this be for you without the love of God and without grace? Vanity of vanities. All is vanity, except loving God and serving only God.49” 0 likes
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