Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World” as Want to Read:
The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  1,419 ratings  ·  213 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
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 13th 2018 by Simon & Schuster (first published September 5th 2017)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Triumph of Christianity, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Craig Amason Probably comparable. I have not read Stark's book. Ehrman has a blog where he referred to Stark on numerous occasions while he was writing this book.…moreProbably comparable. I have not read Stark's book. Ehrman has a blog where he referred to Stark on numerous occasions while he was writing this book. Another good source is this article on Religion News Service:
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,419 ratings  ·  213 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World
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 ...more
Clif Hostetler
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
Tim O'Neill
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...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 ...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
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
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Christianity went from a tiny sect to official religion of the Roman Empire in the span of about three centuries and claims the allegiance of 2 billion people today or about a third of humanity. This is a big story and Erhman a former Christian but currently, a nonbeliever traces this momentous revolution without appealing to the supernatural claims of the faith to show how this happened historically. Tells a fairly good story about this impressive feat in terms an outsider can understand.
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
Dan Graser
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...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.
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Eric Wojciechowski
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 ...more
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 ...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
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 ...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 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
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Ginger Griffin
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dee Eisel
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
The Triumph of ChristianityHow a Forbidden Religion Swept the Worldby Bart D. EhrmanSimon & SchusterChristianPub Date 13 Feb 2018I 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 ...more
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Early Christianity has always interested me. This is definitely a scholarly work so you get different perspectives on the rise of Christianity, but what interested me the most was the slow but organize growth that eventually overtook the Roman Empire. Christian were typically converted pagans (not Jews as I previously thought) and most growth happened by friends sharing the Gospel with friends (not missionaries as I previously though, although there were some). The tight knit nature of small ...more
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this book because I heard the author interviewed on NPR & it sounded so interesting. I was not disappointed. I mean really, how did a small, provincial sect of Jewish group calling itself Christianity convert the Roman Empire? This book explains so much, good & bad. It also dispels a lot of myths about both paganism & Christianity of the time. Mr Ehrman is a scholar of early Christianity but, his book is very readable for the lay person.
James Easterson
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read most of Ehrman’s books and they have informed me quite well. I agree with his take on most everything, however the most important thing he contributes to me personally is his knowledge and the fact that he does offer his take on these subjects which I’m sure can very even among the experts. It allows me to consider his view as opposed to some other possible interpretation. It helps inform my own view of how the world is put together. Thank you for this book and all the others you ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation
  • That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation
  • The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?
  • The Immoral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power Over Christian Values
  • God: A Human History
  • The Ape that Understood the Universe
  • Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World
  • The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
  • Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today
  • A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith
  • Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
  • The Lost Art of Scripture
  • The Remarkable Life of the Skin: An intimate journey across our surface
  • God: A Biography
  • The Gnostic Gospels
  • Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia
  • The New Testament: A Very Short Introduction
  • Why Religion?: A Personal Story
See similar books…
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
“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
More quotes…