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The Triumph of Christianity: How a Small Band of Outcasts Conquered an Empire

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,723 ratings  ·  251 reviews
From the New York Times bestselling authority on early Christianity, the story of how Christianity grew from a religion of twenty or so peasants in rural Galilee to the dominant religion in the West in less than four hundred years.

Christianity didn’t have to become the dominant religion in the West. It easily could have remained a sect of Judaism fated to have the historic
Audio CD, 15 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Simon Schuster Audio
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George Sr. The book agrees in large measure with Stark's basic premises, but disagrees with some of Stark's conclusions. For instance, Stark attributes a degree …moreThe book agrees in large measure with Stark's basic premises, but disagrees with some of Stark's conclusions. For instance, Stark attributes a degree of Christianity's success to the fact that Christians ministered to the sick (pagan and Christian alike) during epidemics despite the danger of death presented by the practice. Ehrman thinks this practice hindered growth due to the fact that lots of Christians died in the process of ministering to stricken victims of epidemics. Both are very good books, and I'd recommend reading them both.(less)
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Growing up, I recall hearing many times that the fact that Christianity spread from a small religion to a global one is "proof" that it is the "right" religion. After all, would God have allowed it to grow and flourish if it were false? Even at a young age, this "proof" seemed tenuous at best. At that point, I didn't even know there were other religions in the world other than Christianity, Judaism, or "Satanism" (those who did not accept God at all were considered Satanists because being "again ...more
Clif Hostetler
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Bart Ehrman has a knack for turning facts from the academic study of Christian history into history books for popular audiences. He makes the subject personal by beginning this book by saying that he can understand how fourth century pagans must have felt when everything they understood about the gods was being taken away from them by the growing Christian religion. He explains how he started out as a conservative fundamentalist Christian and that his religious convictions were lost because of h ...more
Tim O'Neill
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
It's a mark of a good work of history when it changes the views of someone who knows the subject well, but this one has done that on several points for me. This is far from the first book which has tackled how Christianity went from a tiny Messianic Jewish sect to a marginalised and often persecuted saviour cult and then to the religion that conquered the Roman Empire and the western world. This is a subject that can stir up both triumphant apologism and vehement condemnation - with smug Christi ...more
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book fascinating. It tells the early story of how Christianity became one of the major world religions. Ehrman challenges the notion that the cause was Emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity and that the real reason is that the religion spread by word of mouth in small social networks. He presents his findings by using ancient source material and data. A very readable book. ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
I was a little disappointed with Ehrman's The Triumph of Christianity: How a Small Band of Outcasts Conquered an Empire to be honest. It was less interesting than How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee perhaps because of the conjectural nature of the subject, or because of the somewhat redundant points repeated ad nauseum throughout the book. Admittedly, I may not be the best audience for this book, having already read quite a bit about late antiquity and being mo ...more
Nice try in theory, falls well short in reality

This was a book tough to rate.

I generally like Ehrman. I generally think that mythicists unfairly belittie him, though I disagree with some specifics of his own supporting material offered for a historic Jesus.

The idea of the book isn’t new, but presented in popularizing form from a knowledgable New Testament scholar, promised to be good, possibly very good.

But, it fell short. Short enough in some ways that I took fairly detailed notes at chapter
Michael Austin
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fun, insightful, and somewhat frustrating book to read. The frustration comes from its length, which was not longer than most of Bart Ehrman's other books, but was, by my estimation, at least twice as long as it needed to be in order to make his case. This is not a reflection on the case he was making, just on the amount of repetition and filler that went into the making of it.

The actual case is pretty simple (and owes a lot to Rodney Stark's calculations in _The Rise of Christianity_
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
This is one of Bart's best books in a while since he is not simply talking about his favorite topic (the Bible) from just a slightly different angle. This one is an exploration of what happened after the Bible was written, namely, how a handful of Christians became two to three million Christians by the time of Constantine's conversion early in the fourth century. I found his explanation of the cultural context the most fascinating--what it meant to be a pagan, how religion was defined by ritual ...more
Todd Stockslager
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spiritual
Atheism, compounded daily

In "pagan" (more on that in a moment) Rome, the early Christians were considered atheists because they refused to worship the pantheon of Roman gods. This 180-degree twist in passages from contemporary documents quoted by Ehrman gives an ironic impetus to his historical examination of how Christianity grew from tiny Jewish cult to world-changing religion of empire over its first 350 years of existence. The answer lies in the messenger , the message, the method, the milea
Dan Graser
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In his latest book, Bart Ehrman turns his attention to the unique success of the christian religion at a time when there were several competing worldviews and examines why it was christianity that ended up with the lion's share of adherents. While believers point to the ultimate truth of their message as the main catalyst, non-believers frequently cite imperial pressures from the likes of Constantine (even though they usually mean Theodosius). After profiling the two most important important his ...more
Susan O
Ehrman's latest book, The Triumph of Christianity, is not a literary form of a victory dance. He makes this clear from the introduction, explaining what we all know, that in any conflict where some person, organization, or nation, triumphs, there are always losers. In his book, he doesn't try to assess whether or not the triumph was a "good" or a "bad" thing in the context of history, just that it was.

Ehrman covers roughly the first 4 centuries of the common era, from the death of Jesus and the
Daniel Chaikin
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
53. The Triumph of Christianity : How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World by Bart D. Ehrman
reader: George Newbern
published: 2018
format: 10:22 Libby audiobook (~288 pages equivalent, 353 pages in hardcover)
acquired: library
listened: Sep 25 - Oct 4
rating: 4

From Litsy, Oct 5: I really enjoyed this book on audio. Nothing crazy or controversial, but a nice summary of the history of Christianity from a tiny sect to an empire-wide religion of the underclasses, to the empire's official religion. Eventu
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
My giving this 2 stars doesn’t necessarily mean it was a bad book, but it was definitely not what I was hoping for and not exactly what it purported to be. I’m a nonbeliever but I love history and really enjoy reading about how Christianity was practiced in the ancient world— I’ve enjoyed reading Marcus Borg and How Jesus Became God by Ehrman was a really fascinating and compelling read. This, unfortunately, was not.

What I did find fascinating was the exploration of what it meant to be a pagan
Aug 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ehrrman’s book covers the first four centuries of Christianity that followed upon the death of Christ and convincingly argues that its remarkable spread was due to natural historical conditions, that favored its development. If conditions were different, as they might well have been, it could have died out, as many other religions and cults did. Some other movement might well have taken its place. Ehrman, then, is not interested in making a case for any kind of miraculous guidance; he doesn’t de ...more

“The ancient triumph of Christianity proved to be the single greatest cultural transformation our world has ever seen.” (p. 4)

As a longtime enthusiast of ‘extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds,’ I had hopes that I might enjoy Bart D. Ehrman’s book, The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World. I was wrong. Although it was marginally informative, it was too overwhelmingly boring for that to matter much.

Recommendation: Don’t waste y
Jul 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Few people today have heard of the Essenes, a Jewish sect prominent in the first century CE. Yet another such sect, with far fewer adherents at the time, would go on to become the predominant religion in the Roman Empire within a matter of centuries, and eventually one of the world's most prominent faiths. In this book, Bart Ehrman sets out to explain the social, economic, and political contexts which enabled twenty Christians to become millions. There's not much that's new by way of argument he ...more
Alan Tomkins-Raney
3.5 Stars. Well organized and researched, and clearly explained, this is a scholarly study in history; it is not theology. In fact, the author is frequently quite sympathetic to the ancient pagans. It is very informative, but it was for me a bit dry and repetitive at times, so I'm giving it three point five stars. That being said, it is a very good examination of how Christianity went from twenty or so followers immediately after Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection to thirty million (half the p ...more
Mary Anne
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well-presented history of the beginnings of Christianity. Refreshingly, there is no polemic and no apology. As the author states: if it were not Christianity, then there would be something else.
The book provides a view of the church that helps us understand that it does not hold the absolute monopoly on spirituality. Christianity is more a church of Paul than it is a church of Christ.
Dec 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A historical look at how a small Jewish sect of less than 30 people grew into the large scale Christianity we see today. Factual and objective. It isn’t preachy but details the events in history that allowed the followers of Jesus Christ to go from hiding in houses to large scale churches through the Middle Ages, renaissance to the modern day mega church
Eric Wojciechowski
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beginning with the conversion of Constantine (the same subject where the book returns in the end), Ehrman takes us then backwards to the oldest Christian writings we have, the letters of Paul. Although the Bible has many, there are only seven that appear authentic (the rest being later forgeries using Paul’s name). The authentic letters of Paul were directed at his budding church, authored somewhere around 50AD. Although Ehrman notes that this is relatively shortly after Jesus’ death, what he do ...more
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ehrman has written an interesting, balanced and nuanced analysis of the rise of Christianity. By distilling the latest scholarly insights, he creates an account which is highly credible and accessible to those interested in the subject.

A key and interesting theme throughout the book is the religious world of late antiquity, and how this affected the development and growth of Christianity. Immediately, Ehrman debunks the idea of ‘paganism’, for the religious landscape was much for diverse than th
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I grew up in a religion founded on the premise that a universal apostasy characterized the entire sweep of Christian history between the death of the original apostles and the calling of Joseph Smith--and that the creeds of the existing Christian denominations are all "an abomination" in God's sight. Needless to say, the story of Christianity's rise was a major hole in my religious literacy.

Ehrman's book fills in that gap nicely. He makes no assumptions about how familiar the reader may already
Nov 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Ehrman's always entertaining style depicts very vividly the cultural climate of the first centuries of Christianism. I would recommend reading Dr. Ehrman books even to most fundamentalist Christians, even though he very adamantly admits to his atheistic beliefs, you can always get valuable knowledge no matter what you believe in. ...more
Barbara H
Today I listened to NPR for one hour to an interview with this intriguing, intelligent man. Once an evangelical Christian, he considers himself a "Christian Atheist". He is a professor of religion in North Carolina. I think he makes good sense.
Greg Williams
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book asks the question "How did a small handful of the followers of Jesus come to convert an unwilling empire? . . . How does a religion gain thirty million adherents in three hundred years?" The author starts with an in-depth look at the apostle Paul, his conversion, his message, and how he evangelized pagans. He makes the point that we can't overestimate Paul's contribution to Christianity's success. He writes: "One can argue that, without Paul, Christian history as we know it would not h ...more
Ginger Griffin
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
So how did Christianity grow in the ancient world? By subtraction as much as addition, it seems.

The vast majority of people in the early Roman Empire were polytheistic. They worshiped hundreds of gods, and new cults were arising all the time. Christianity probably wasn't any more successful at gaining followers than other religions, but it had one big difference: It was monotheistic, requiring converts to give up the traditional gods they had previously worshiped. As a result, Christianity erod
Dee Eisel
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I’ve read plenty of Dr. Ehrman’s books now, and I know some things he’ll say in almost every one. When the pool of primary sources is small, there’s bound to be some repetition - I’ve long come to terms with that! But I was pleasantly surprised to find that large sections of this history were new to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the read.

Ehrman tells the story of how Christianity progressed to become the dominant religion of Europe, west Asia, and north Africa. He details the story of Constantine
Kelly Sedinger
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bart Ehrman is a favorite author of mine. His writings about religion (primarily the history of Christianity and various issues with its central texts) are invariably fascinating, and I'm always excited to see a new book of his at the library. This is no exception. Ehrman's focus is on the question of how exactly Christianity went from a handful of adherents in 30 CE to millions just a few centuries later, on its way to becoming the dominant religion of the Western world.

There are a lot of answe
Eric Wurm
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not theology. This is not a devotional work. There are no adjurations to accept the living Christ, nor to reject such an imploration as nonsense. This is a work of history. It is about the evidence of how and why Christianity came to be the most dominant religion in human history.

An eminent scholar on the history of Christianity, its texts, and its evolution, Bartrand Ehrman never fails to deliver a sincere and impressive study of his subject matter. Having read the bulk of his work, I
Michelle Kidwell
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing

The Triumph of Christianity
How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World
by Bart D. Ehrman
Simon & Schuster
Pub Date 13 Feb 2018
I am reviewing a copy of The Triumph of Christianity through Simon & Schuster and Netgalley:
In this book the New York Times best selling authority on Christianity explains how Christianity grew from around twenty Peasants in rural Galilee, to the dominant religion of the west in less than four hundred years.
In this book we are reminded that the earliest Christ ...more
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Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. He came to UNC in 1988, after four years of teaching at Rutgers University. At UNC he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

A graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois), Professor Ehrman received both his Masters of Div

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“The word “cult” comes from the Latin phrase cultus deorum, which literally means “the care of the gods.” A cultic act is any ritualized practice that is done out of reverence to or worship of the gods. Such activities lay at the heart of pagan religions. Doctrines and ethics did not.” 1 likes
“Philosophers talked a lot about how people should act toward one another, as members of a family, in relationships with friends and neighbors, as citizens of a city. Good behavior was part of being a worthwhile human being and a responsible citizen. But it generally was not a part of religious activities.” 1 likes
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