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Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  441 ratings  ·  94 reviews
The Fifth-Century Political Battles That Forever Changed the Church

In this fascinating account of the surprisingly violent fifth-century church, PhilipJenkins describes how political maneuvers by a handful of powerful charactersshaped Christian doctrine. Were it not for these battles, today’s church could beteaching something very different about the nature of Jesus, and t
ebook, 352 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by HarperCollins e-books
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Honestly, I struggled a bit to get through this. The history is convoluted, involving dozens of religious, civil and military leaders over hundreds of years, and the intricate political machinations are dizzying and difficult to keep track of, not to mention the complicated theological disputes about the Trinity, Christology, and Mary. Dr. Jenkins includes maps at the beginning and several appendices that list the dramatis personae, briefly explain the outcomes of the several councils, and defin ...more
William Poe
Another good read on the history of Western culture through the lens of Christianity. Jenkins covers a huge amount of information that I cannot keep straight without referencing the material. What struck me was just how violently Christians attacked one another over the smallest variation in whatever was the "orthodox" view of the moment. Any study of the history of Christianity will lead one to realize just what a human-constructed faith it is, and how detrimental it has been to the development ...more
Jun 27, 2013 Wealhtheow rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wealhtheow by: Cera
This book details how the political maneuverings in the 5th century affected what is officially thought and taught about Jesus. It's all quite complicated and bloody, filled with armies of monks marauding across Europe and the Middle East, and all over philosophical differences so slight I can hardly keep them straight. Alas, this book delves deep into convoluted details of theology, which I could not possibly care less about, and so I gave it up on page 23. I skimmed forward and found that vari ...more
James (JD) Dittes
Who was Jesus? Was he God? Was he a man? As a Christian, I tend to wait for "all of the above" before answering. Yet this Christology, which I take for granted, came at the cost of many lives and centuries of debate, schism and reconciliation.

Jenkins wades into 5th-century Christian history, a time at which the church should have been consolidated into the Roman Empire but was instead riven with factionalism over the nature of Christ. Eastern churches, based in Alexandria--and later Antioch--pre
I had seen a review of this book, and duly checked it out of the library; who knew that Church controversies of the 5th century could be so interesting, and so much fun to read? If one thinks about how the Church decided what was normative in belief at all, one imagines conferences with debate teams, with everyone working out their differences amicably. Who knew that the process looked more like a poorly run political convention? But in a world where it was sincerely believed that believing the ...more
In the plethora of current works on non-orthodox early movements from the likes of excellent scholars such Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagel (plus the absurd novels of Dan Brown and his imitators, which I shutter to mention in the same sentence), there has been precious little recent consideration of the establishment of Christian orthodoxy from a historical perspective. Into that breach steps Philip Jenkins with his interesting and readable //Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Em ...more
The formative years of Christianity, when malicious political maneuvering, murder, mob incitement, mayhem, martyrdom, and armies of militant monks split the church, and emperors and empresses helped determine the beliefs we take for granted today. This eye-opening read that would have horrified Jesus might serve, if we let it, as a warning about the deadliness (and the soul deadening effects) of our very human attraction to the fun and righteous sport of intolerance. hummm our current trend towa ...more
I am absolutely fascinated with the Roman Empire. Probably because that's where my ancestors lived – my family comes from all over Italy, some were Italian Jews, most were Italian natives, and I always wonder who we were. Am I related to any gladiators? Were my ancestors Christian or pagan? What did they do for a living in Rome? The questions are endless. I like thinking about it. I wish there was some way I could know.

This book was about the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire and all of the
While it is good to learn about the post-First Council of Nicea history of the Catholic Church (back when “Catholic” meant basically everybody who was Christian), with all its colorful clerics, Emperors, Princesses and barbarians who affected the development of same, as well as the various Christian Heresies which read like hair-splitting on the sub-atomic level, I guess I was looking for more of a philosophical exploration of the ramifications of the Heresies themselves. What does it really mea ...more
Dec 14, 2010 Cornflower rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians in the pews
Recommended to Cornflower by: My Anglican priest
Jenkins has a very folksy way of going about describing the machinations of the 4-6th centuries, honing in of the religious controversy between mono- and dyophysitism within Christianity, and the political climate during those centuries. He does so by acknowledging the Christian struggles of the first threee centuries (when the question was whether Jesus was divine), and some of the consequences of those centuries (too briefly mentioning the relation between non-orthodox Christians and Islam in ...more
I've been reading a lot of books recently about the Bible and the early Church. This book talks about what happened after Constintine made Chritianity a legal religion within the Roman Empire and how it developed during the next 300 or 400 years. But mostly it is about the battles within the Church about what people were supposed to believe.

I'm a history buff, and for me this is a totally new era of history and a new subject.I wanted an overview and to some extent I got one.

There is a lot of rea
I can't praise Philip Jenkins enough! In Jesus Wars, he takes one of the most complex, abstruse questions in the history of the Western World and make it clear enough for the average joe in the fifth pew to understand. Wow! What an accomplishment! At the same time he clarifies the subject of Christology, he presents these dusty ideas and arguments with the passion and fascination that they held for the early Christians of Alexandria and Antioch. These concepts may seem trivial or overly academic ...more
Ben Mcfarland
In Jesus Wars, Philip Jenkins casts some light on a dark corner of history that has always intrigued me: the years from 400-700 AD when the Roman empire fell, the Byzantine empire continued, the creeds solidified, and Islam began to rise. This period definitely isn't Medieval -- and it definitely isn't Roman. Yet important things happened, just with a theological focus that came later to seem pedantic and hair-splitting. Of all people, Philip Jenkins is uniquely qualified to comment on this beca ...more
This is a good book. I admit that I was extremely skeptical when I first saw it, assuming it to be some sort of modern nonsense on how Constantine created Christianity or something like that. However, when I saw that the Philip Jenkins is indeed an academic historian with serious credentials, I decided to give the book a read. I am glad I did, because I now have a single volume popular history on the late antique church councils and the politics that surrounded them that I can pass on to others ...more
Ron Tenney
I just finished this book. I saw Larry Larson reading in the cruise and it peaked my interest.
This is a part of history that has never held much interest for me. So I came in with zero background. I must say that the names, dates, councils and factions are a bit overwhelming. The author does put in a few appendices that are very useful. You might as well mark them as you will be going back to them often.

One Nature? Two natures? What was the nature of Jesus Christ? How was he actually related t
Phil Scovis
A book on fifth-century religious councils has so much potential to be a boring lecture. Instead, this book is a sort of historical soap-opera, written with a modern perspective of horrified fascination. Some alternative counterfactual histories are considered: Egypt becomes the seat of the Catholic papacy, and Rome a backwater of schismatic sects. The outcome so easily turns on long-forgotten political issues, there is the lurking suspicion that modern Christian doctrine is arbitrary or acciden ...more
Darla Stokes
If I'd quit reading after the first third of the book, I'd have given it 4 stars.

I find religion fascinating, and the title of this book was intriguing enough to make me pick it up.

Was Jesus a man or a god or some combination of both? The answer to that question was, for quite a long time, a matter of not just salvation, but of life and death. Likewise the question of whether Mary could be called the "mother of God" or not.

All the sides had reasonable theological arguments to support their cla
A kind of prequel to his outstanding The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia — and How It Died, an historical account of Christian churches in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and points east, Philip Jenkins, professor of history at Baylor University and Co-Director for Baylor's Program on Historical Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion, has produced an equally outstanding and well-written account of the l ...more
Charlie Mcelvy
This is a fantastic, thorough, and fairly neutral historical run through the 3rd-6th centuries of the Christian church. Focusing on the seven critical ecumenical councils of the Church, the events leading up to & surrounding each of them, and the key persons involved in forging this history (and its evolving theologies). Primarily focused on the Christologies that divided the church multiple times (and yet still today), the author takes you on a convoluted, but well-articulated series of eve ...more
Um relato nem sempre exato mas fascinante sobre os primeiros séculos da igreja católica . Frente a uma história oficial que focaliza nos martírios cristãos e na ortodoxia católica, Guerras santas lembra que os dogmas da igreja foram em primeira lugar escolhas políticas dos imperadores e dos patriarcas. Além do Cristo, os verdadeiros fundadores da cristianismo aparecem sendo Constantino , Teodosio e Marciano.
Nindyo Sasongko
Jenkins is always profound in rewriting history. His talent in story-telling makes this book easy to read, yet still provokes us to place our world in a world full of disputations. This book poses us to reality of what was happening surrounding the Christological dogma. Profound!
I learned a ton about Christology from this book - that is the study of the nature of Christ for all you non-theologians like myself. This is a nice back door way to get some basic theology while ostensibly reading history. The Christological aspect has practical implications as a devotional work for those who approach the book from the perspective of a practicing Christian - again such as myself. While the subject matter may seem to be a rebuff to religion in general pointing to violence engend ...more
3.5. Overall an great, readable, and nuanced historical narrative that explores in detail the social forces that led to the eventual acceptance of the Chalcedonian Creed as the defining statement about how the divine and human relate in the person of Jesus. It is valuable to have a study that appreciates the best points of both sides of a historical divide and excels at showing how contingent so much of history is. Philip Jenkins is one of my very favorite historians because he has opened my eye ...more
Dave Courtney
The title is self explanatory: Jenkin's is looking to show how 9 people (Patriarchs, Queens and Emperors) decided what sort of Christian doctrine would win out in the end as the world moved towards our current age. In his conclusion he suggests that history shows us that it was the most unlikely doctrinal stances that remained to conquer the modern age. Of course a quick glance at the appendix reveals a larger list of characters who are inevitably enveloped in this historical narrative (and one ...more
Jenkins reviews in great detail the history of Christian doctrinal infighting from the first century through the middle-ages, and even currently. The complex issues of Christology are addressed comprehensively by mashing up the various theological councils from the fourth though seventh centuries and their resulting creeds. It seems that one faction's heresies are another faction's orthodoxies. The winning and so called orthodox doctrines adopted by the church (or, at least the western half of t ...more
This is a vigorously objective account of the fifth century ecumenical church councils, with the primary emphasis on Chalcedon. It is ecclesiastical history written in the way that a modern journalist would report the inside workings of a hard-fought political campaign. The author describes the Chalcedonian Council as it it were a particularly raucous Party Convention. Gives an "insider look" at the issues and personalities involved, at the forces that shaped and determined the outcome, that gav ...more
Who was Jesus? Was he God? Was he man? Some kind of combination of the two? Just a couple weeks ago (while I was in the midst of reading this book), the worship leader at our church said, "Jesus, fully God and fully man." Before reading this book, I probably would have said, "Well, of course, obviously, terribly hard to understand how that is possible but true just the same." Now having read this book, I wonder how many other doctrines of the faith, we (I) just take for granted as having always ...more
Richard Williams
the book brings up a big issue. organization. why do i read books? what do i expect to get out of a book? why is it important to organize your reading so that you can remember it?

from the top down.
big overall organization, in this book, chronological.
big take home themes, here, that doctrine is deeply effected by history, in particular: people, power, personalities.
the smaller themes, which build up the book: the major doctrinal disputes and the people who did them, the major cities.

the problem
Lawson Stone
I found this book engaging and stimulating. The writer takes a tone almost of the investigative journalist exposing scandal, and I feared I was about to be "Bart Ehrman-ed" but the writer uses this tone mainly to keep the reader's attention through some very…byzantine…narrative. Probing beneath the style, I found the discussion very helpful for sorting out the various currents of thought surrounding the debates between Nicea I and Nicea II (325-787). the shades of distinction among various appro ...more
My favorite line is on Page 234. After describing how angry Alexandrian Christians remained in the eighth century about the Chalcedonian Council of the fifth century, Philip Jenkins remarks, "In any theological struggle, the first thousand years are always the bitterest."
One is thankful for Jenkins' deadpan humor when reading "Jesus Wars." It relieves what can otherwise be some rather heavy wading. I don't know about you, but I'm not very up on my fifth century history, and I found myself gettin
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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
More about Philip Jenkins...
The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global 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 The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade Laying Down the Sword

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“In any theological struggle, the first thousand years are always the bitterest.” 3 likes
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