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Backgrounds of Early Christianity

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  493 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Having long served as a standard introduction to the world of the early church, Everett Ferguson's Backgrounds of Early Christianity has been expanded and updated in this third edition. The book explores and unpacks the Roman, Greek, and Jewish political, social, religious, and philosophical backgrounds necessary for a good historical understanding of the New Testament and ...more
Paperback, Third Edition, 672 pages
Published August 19th 2003 by Eerdmans (first published September 1st 1987)
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Martha Anne Davidson
Over the past few years, I have used Everett Ferguson's Backgrounds of Early Christianity as a general reference for my studies of Margaret Fuller and the American Transcendentalist movement. I finally decided to read the textbook from cover to cover. Quite a reading experience! The book provides a wealth of information on the Greek, Roman, and Jewish cultural background to Christianity, examining the philosophical and religious backgrounds that are so important to the Transcendentalists, but al ...more
Hunter Quinn
Oct 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must-own for any Christian. You *will* understand the NT better after reading this book. Jesus' world comes to life in these pages. From Greco-Roman history to Jewish debates on the Sabbath, Ferguson leaves no stone unturned (literal stones - there are fascinating descriptions of archeological discoveries). I see myself regularly returning to this book. ...more
Bruce Morton
Sep 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Everett Ferguson has a command of the ancient sources and a thoroughness that makes his study a high water mark. Nothing better exists.
Jeremy Manuel
May 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Backgrounds of Early Christianity by Everett Ferguson is a really informative book. It also happens to pretty much be a textbook. I would place this above other textbooks though. It is a bit of a thick book and one that is maybe best used as a reference, but I also felt that this actually would be somewhat accessible and maybe even more useful than some textbooks out there. Maybe this is just because I really enjoy history, but I found it very interesting to get a picture of the historical backg ...more
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A thorough, organized, and insightful exploration of the Greco-Roman and Jewish backgrounds to the New Testament and the first generations of Christians. Lots of primary source quotes (some quite lengthy), and plenty of pictures of artifacts, locations, and inscriptions. Ferguson is also good about citing specific verses on which the topic under discussion may have some bearing. Having to read the book for a class meant that I had to rush through large portions of it faster than I would have lik ...more
Apr 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Qualified 4. Depending on the purpose for reading the book the rating changes. It's written like a very accessible text book. It's clearly scholarly in its subject matter, thoroughness and analysis of the very large amount of factors that surrounded the first centuries of Christianity. However, the readability was very easy for a non-academic to digest, if they can get through the sheer volume of information. The information was broken into smaller digestible chunks by topic, almost small articl ...more
May 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This textbook, geared toward university or seminary level education, is a broad and helpful overview of the political, historical, cultural, and religious backdrop of the New Testament. If the topic is unfamiliar to you, then this is much more than an adequate introduction. Even if you are fairly well read on all or most of the areas that are covered, it is an invaluable summary.

The book as a whole can be quite daunting, so my suggestion would be to read the sections that you find most interesti
Tyler Eason
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Helpful reference book on a lot of aspects of life, culture, and customs of the period surrounding the NT.
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bible-background
A very helpful and highly detailed book on New Testament backgrounds.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loaded with Helpful Historical Information

Any serious student of the New Testament will find gold nuggets throughout. To the teacher of the New Testament, an essential resource.
Kristen Fort
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Very informative work of history. Using it as research for the historical fiction half of a writing project.
William Alderman
Dec 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read around 450 pages of the book. Great introduction to New Testament backgrounds.
Philip Taylor
Mar 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: new-testament
I have read portions of this book. It has great detail but will probably put most readers to sleep. This is history written in a way to turn me off history. I will use this as a reference only.
Mei Yue
Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Nowadays we are able to go to church and sit down comfortably to attend our mass. But to remember our former christian brothers and sisters who had to confront much adversities in order to reach God's gospels with their stern faith, we are very lucky that we just have to go to our church on Sundays without compacting the paganism which was strongly advocated in those days of Greek and Roman culture, with the Roman emperors' strong deprecation on the idea of Christianity.
As I am still reading the
This book took me months to get through. While it has a wealth of information, it's basically a textbook, and it reads that way, which makes it easy to put down and pick it up later - but also difficult to wade through.

It covers all aspects of the several hundred years around the first century Christians, giving background on society and culture, other religions, and the philosophy of the day. All in all, a worthwhile read, but you've really got to want to get through it.

Jan 03, 2008 rated it liked it
This was a required text for my Paganism class but I loved it! Many of the later sources are from the bible and it made me understand the roots of christainity and Judism. (wasn't awsome enough to make me get up early for church!) ...more
Margaret Sankey
Oct 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly documented with the latest (as of 2003) scholarship, this is the comprehensive survey of the Early Christian world, from the pagan background to the many gnostic gospels and Church controversies.
Feb 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
So essential to add books like these to your diet if you really want to be able to digest the scriptures and remove some ambiguity and see it as it is, true and alive and set in real time and space. Great book.
Apr 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A good reference book
Jeff Noble
Backgrounds of Early Christianity by Everett Ferguson (?)
William M. M.
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A vast compendium of knowledge that never gets dull. Really puts you in the first century world.
R. Fox
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biblical-studies
As good as it gets in a one-volume background to the NT.
Jon R. Jordan
Incredibly helpful and accessible background studies for early Christian works.
Jonathan Huggins
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Very profitable for understanding the world of the New Testament. highly recommended.
Oct 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A basic reference that I return to time and again.
Ken Smith
Nov 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-seminary
Ferguson is very thorough and gives readers a helpful view into the culture of the period he covers; an appropriately exhaustive text. It is very helpful for Roman Civ and Biblical students alike.
Joshua Centanni
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Kind of a bear to sit down and read straight through, but I think it's a great reference source. I'm sure the bibliographies at the end of each section will be useful in the future. ...more
Sep 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: reference
There's a lot of murkiness when Christians start talking about the practices and beliefs of the ancients. I use this one often when I want a scholarly answer. ...more
Feb 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Jul 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
Oh my goodness. this was a long read, but informative. Maybe I should pick it up again.
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Madison Mega-Mara...: Backgrounds of Early Christianity by Everett Ferguson 1 4 Aug 07, 2012 10:41PM  

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