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

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,839 Ratings  ·  132 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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Aug 18, 2010 Andrew rated it liked it
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
Tyler Velin
Sep 24, 2012 Tyler Velin rated it really liked it
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
Alex Stroshine
Sep 07, 2015 Alex Stroshine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, for-regent
This is a fantastic account of early Christianity to the eve of the Reformation. It is highly readable, balanced and accompanied by pictures and maps. Justo Gonzalez writes aware that some voices in the Christian Church have tended to be quieter than others and as he recounts the Christian faith's remarkable history he brings to light the contributions of these neglected saints, such as women. Also, he helps set the context for why certain individuals or groups acted the way they did. For instan ...more
Sep 19, 2007 DeborahMichael rated it it was amazing
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.
A narrative history that presents the people, dramatic events, and ideas that shaped the first fifteen centuries of the church's life and thought - including major events outside of Europe, such as the Spanish and Portuguese conquest of the New World. This is one of the books for a Spring 2016 course at Brite.
Jan 19, 2014 Ryan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
David Withun
Jun 10, 2012 David Withun rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Mike Jorgensen
Jun 27, 2016 Mike Jorgensen rated it really liked it
I read these out of order, but enjoyed the both. Gonzalez writes very well. The chapters are quick and easy, yet provide plenty of information. The only thing I would ask is that he back up some of his claims with annotations and footnotes. Without these, it is hard to recommend for academic work or research. That being said, at 500+ pages it is definitely an intermediate-level resource.
Jun 19, 2016 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A reliable, thorough, balanced 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. A good balance between retelling events and tracing theological development. Very limited references but the suggested reading lists after each section are helpful.
Mme. Bookling ~
Jun 07, 2007 Mme. Bookling ~ rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 15, 2015 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic-history
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.
Apr 21, 2016 Rylan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a generic overview of Christian history, Gonzalez hits the mark. For those beginning to take interest in the Church's roots, this book is a good starting point,

Gonzalez does leave some important information out of his book; however, though he may expound on them in the next volume, I am unsure. He dismisses St. John the Theologian as the author of Revelation, and he seems to oversimplify complex issues, which leaves some readers scratching their head at times.

There is also a factual error,
E. Melure
Oct 26, 2014 E. Melure rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Aug 06, 2011 Carrie rated it really liked it
Shelves: church-history
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.
Oct 15, 2015 Drake rated it really liked it
This is a very well-written overview of the first 1,500 years of church history. The book has the admirable trait of being extremely informative and yet avoids getting bogged-down in too many details. Gonzalez does indeed write as if he is telling one big "story," and his fast-paced style keeps this story interesting rather than sounding dry. However, there are certain points where he will stop long enough to examine particular events and people that played a large role in shaping the course of ...more
Jan 23, 2014 Hunter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 25, 2015 Derrick rated it really liked it
The two-volume work is tough to review. Writing general introductions to so vast a topic as the history of Christianity is a sure invitation to please no one. One can certainly tell that Gonzalez' strength lay in Reformation and post-Reformation Christianity. As such the second volume is stronger than the first, which while generally good and very readable, nonetheless falls prey to certain caricature and sweeping judgments (more than once in the first volume Gonzalez does a drive-by shooting of ...more
Brian Collins
Apr 23, 2016 Brian Collins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
González's history of Christianity is an excellent survey of church history. His style is engaging, the chapters and chapter sections are brief, and the is largely accurate. González is not an evangelical, so the reader will want to be discerning. For instance, I found him too open to the idea that there was not settled orthodoxy in the earliest history of the church. But in general I found his telling of the Christian story to be fair and accurate. Volume one ends just prior to the Reformation.
Jan 22, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Potter's School Classical Track Year 3
Shelves: history
Love this book -- so insightful and comprehensive, yet so easy to read.

Ch.3:The church in Jerusalem was made up of two groups: Hebrews and Hellenists (Jews open to Hellenistic influences). They kept the Sabbath, went to Temple, fasted two days of the week to express sorrow for sins, and broke bread in celebration of resurrection on first day of week (later, as more Gentiles join the church, the Monday service divided into "service of the Word" (bible passage read and interpreted for both the cat
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
Apr 12, 2008 Christopher rated it liked it
Shelves: church, history
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
Ben Peltz
Dec 30, 2011 Ben Peltz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity
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
Joel Wentz
Dec 15, 2013 Joel Wentz rated it really liked it
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
Jan 27, 2010 Andre rated it really liked it
Shelves: church-history
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
Jan 22, 2015 Joshua Briggs rated it liked it
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.
Jul 21, 2014 Wayne rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 17, 2014 Barry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: church-history
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
Ben Dyer
Feb 21, 2014 Ben Dyer rated it really liked it
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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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 MA at Yale, and was the youngest person to be awarded a PhD 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 Theol ...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

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“The notion that we read the New Testament exactly as the early Christians did, without any weight of tradition coloring our interpretation, is an illusion. It is also a dangerous illusion, for it tends to absolutize our interpretation, confusing it with the Word of God.” 1 likes
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