Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam” as Want to Read:
A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  40,895 ratings  ·  1,368 reviews
Over 700,000 copies of the original hardcover and paperback editions of this stunningly popular book have been sold. Karen Armstrong's superbly readable exploration of how the three dominant monotheistic religions of the world - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - have shaped and altered the conception of God is a tour de force. One of Britain's foremost commentators on rel ...more
Hardcover, 460 pages
Published March 2nd 2004 by Gramercy Books (first published January 1st 1975)
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 A History of God, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Imran I think some writers give such statements based on secondary sources than primary source like (Quran in case of Islam). The writer might have used…moreI think some writers give such statements based on secondary sources than primary source like (Quran in case of Islam). The writer might have used sufi sources, where they emphasise God's being most merciful over anything.

You are right that they is no such thing as forgiveness for Satan in Quran.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  40,895 ratings  ·  1,368 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Leslie
Dec 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
Whew. I thought I'd never finish this book. But two months later, I somehow managed to get to the end. Now, what to say about it?

I started this book knowing a moderate amount about the history of Christianity, a small amount about Judaism, and much too little about Islam. I relied heavily on my previous knowledge of Christianity and Judaism to make sense of Armstrong's extremely dense, often repetitive, and (to use her favorite word) esoteric prose. I found it a real challenge to kee
...more
Paul Bryant
A MAJOR PROBLEM WITH RELIGION

(You may have already thought of a few, but this is my current thing.)

Religious thought is metaphorical and the constant danger is that the unlettered will take the metaphor literally. For instance, the Holy Trinity in Christianity - sorting out a satisfactory formula expressing the relationships between God the Father & Jesus the Son & the Holy Spirit presented hideous problems which took around 300 years to resolve and - it seems to
...more
April Sheridan
I still can't decide if it's good or not. That's that problem with being kinda dumb.
Jan-Maat
This is at once a very simple and a very complex book. Simple in its argument, complex in the array of detail marshalled to tell Armstrong's story.

Her view, it seemed to me, was firstly that monotheism was wide spread - well beyond the limits of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam but that there was always a tension between two basic ideas within that belief across all these religions. On the one hand a faith in an objective reality of something like an old man with a beard out there so
...more
John
Feb 23, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: religion
This is one of those books that make me feel woefully deficient in a certain subject. Having never taken a comparative religion class, and in fact bordering on an antiestablishment stance when it comes to organized religion, I can only conclude that this book was not the place to start.
The first couple of chapters which reviewed mankinds evolution from a polythesim to the monothesims of Judiasm, Christianity, and Islam were interesting, and for me blessedly linear and understandable. Fro
...more
Camille
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
If I could give a book six stars, I would give them to this book. I feel like I learned something new on nearly every page.

This book is truly a history book on a grand scale. It reminds me of the type of history Will Durrant wrote, where he would take a period of time and write extensively about all the facets of history within that time. Armstrong, on the other hand, takes just one facet of history and writes extensively about it over a long (4000 year) period of time. Reading it has allowed m
...more
Riku Sayuj
The Tendencies of Religions

A facebook conversation:

Started with this post, with the following Ambedkar quote:

"The Hindus criticise the Mahomedans for having spread their religion by the use of the sword. They also ridicule Christianity on the score of the Inquisition.

But really speaking, who is better and more worthy of/>
"The
...more
Margitte
Aug 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, 2015-read
I haven't finished reading the book. I still plan to though, but not in one sitting.

The official blurb:
'Over 700,000 copies of the original hardcover and paperback editions of this stunningly popular book have been sold. Karen Armstrong's superbly readable exploration of how the three dominant monotheistic religions of the world - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - have shaped and altered the conception of God is a tour de force. One of Britain's foremost commentators on religious affairs, Armst/>'Over
...more
Jan
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Karen Armstrong is a former Catholic nun and studied at Oxford. Her book, The Spiral Staircase, is a good description of the struggles that led to her leaving the convent.

There have been several good books written on the historic Jesus Christ, but very few on the historic God. As other reviewers have noted, this is a somewhat scholarly book, which it would have to be if one wanted to thoughtfully trace back man’s evolving beliefs on God. And, yes, over a sweep of 4,000 years, evolving is clear
...more
Kaelan Ratcliffe▪Κάϊλαν Ράτκλιφ▪كايِلان راتكِليف
May 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who enjoy watching humans have a crack at an unanswerable question.
Nuances Of The Religious Tradition

This was a great book that seriously, seriously bolstered my understanding of the history of God, and has ultimately ignited an interest in me to read further books on the more specific areas of religious practice (there is a massive 'further reading' section at the back that I look forward to raiding). As such, I had a number of things I wanted to say in my review, yet, I think a quick bit of advise would suffice as an alternative.

Unless you're m
...more
Jay Delorenzis
Dec 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a phenomenal book. I've read this about 3 times. It has completely opened my mind about how religion works in the world. Karen Armstrong uses mind-numbing details to make her case as how the Bible became written and how we are to regard it. At the same time, we can have a personal relationship with that Being we call God. Religion is something purely human-made about a phenomena that is undeniable--God exists and He can exist purely for the benefit of the individual, however he or she de ...more
[Name Redacted]
Oct 22, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: religion
Karen Armstrong has no background in history nor in the academic study of religion, and it shows. This book's approach to the three Abrahamic religions is overly simplistic, presenting only Armstrong's often-erroneous views of these three prominent religions with almost no grounding in historical fact. She picks and chooses which sources to cite in accordance with her own biases and agenda, and it is clear that however much distance she might put between her life as a nun and her life as an armc ...more
Eric_W
Apr 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
I know I'm an atheist and all, but I still enjoy Armstrong. Wrote this review several years ago:

Rarely does one come across a book that is recognized as erudite, essential, and readable simultaneously. Karen Armstrong's The History of God has brilliantly analyzed the rise of fundamentalism as a reaction to the emphasis on logos of the Enlightenment as opposed to mythos that had been essential to one's view of the world. "The economic changes over the last four hundred years have been
...more
Drake
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this is an excellent summary of the history of the idea of God in Abrahamic religion, and I highly recommend it, I cannot give it five stars for third reasons. First, the author is overly generous in her assumptions concerning the literal interpretation of myth. For example, she asserts that the creation myths of Sumeria, Canaan, and Egypt were not intended to explain the origins of the world. Second, in her attempts at syncretism she sometimes overlooks very real, significant and extremel ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Karen Armstrong does an outstanding job of describing the rise of the world's three most important religions besides Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. It is a daunting undertaking which she absolutely masters from end to end. I keep saying this in reviews, but with all the slander of islam in on Fox, CNN, TF1, etc and the long history on anti-Semitism particularly here in Europe, it is critical for truly understanding and interpreting our modern world to understand where The Big Three came fr ...more
David
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
The most comprehensive, exhaustive, and fascinating study of the Abrahamic religions and how they have changed over a few thousand years. Of definite interest to both religious and non-religious folks. Absolutely fascinating, but be warned: it is very dense, well-documented and cited, and reads much like a textbook (though a very engaging one). Over 100 pages of endnotes, a glossary, extensive bibliography with annotations for further reading, and fortunately, copious amounts of space in the fro ...more
Tom Ippen
May 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, religion
This book would be difficult to process for anyone who didn't have at least some background in religious studies. It was recommended to me as a great way to "jump in" to the history of Abrahamic religions, but Armstrong's sources and references are obscure and complex. Beyond that, this book is bursting with tons of fantastic comparisons between Abrahamic and Eastern beliefs, and the level of detail in documenting every theological change, movement and debate for the last few millennia is incred ...more
Adrian Stumpp
Aug 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Armstrong, a former Catholic nun, traces the histories of Christ, Yahweh, and Allah from their common roots to the present, taking brief excursions along the way to explore some of the more interesting and eccentirc sects that have sprung up and usually been exterminated with extreme prejudice along the way. She points out, for example, that all three trace their claims of Truth back to a single man, Abraham, who believed in a god named El, who is none of the three major monotheistic deities of ...more
Barry
This book by Karen Armstrong covers the development of the world's three major monotheistic faiths. Although I am incredibly interested in the subject, this book was a tough read for me. It is very dense with information and I probably ended up skimming the text more than I should have. I'll most likely end up re-reading it some time down the road to gain a greater appreciation of the subject.

Arun Divakar
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
You are plagued with this feeling at times which can most aptly be described as nagging. At times of mental or physical idleness, there is this thought that slowly seeps into your mind and like an ink stain spreads all over you. I thought that once the review for this book was typed and posted, I had gotten done with it but it was not to be. There was still a clamor in my mind that I might not have done justice to the book with the review I put in. Things came full circle when a friend who happe ...more
S.Baqer Al-Meshqab
Mar 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction-2017
A History of God by Karen Armstrong
How Men interpreted Divinity for the Last Four Thousand Years

A History of God unveils the quest of humans to understand the purpose of creation and the mastermind behind it since the ancient times of Abraham's Canaan until the birth of Atheism in the 20th Century. Armstrong mainly discusses Judaism, Christianity, & Islam, being the most influential monolithic religions to reveal that over the course of time they have been divided into several branche
...more
Mitch
Nov 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
First of all, this book's title is misleading. It is not a history of God. It is a historical retelling of many men's interpretations of the idea of the monotheistic God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Still, "The Idea of God: A History" would not have sold as many copies.

The Bible says God created man in His own image. Karen states as fact the exact opposite: Man created God in his own image, then re-created him a lot of times in response to changing historical and cu
...more
Ryan
Jun 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of the most informative, relevant, and fascinating books I've ever read. It was by no means an easy read. But for the amount of education you get out of it, the read is well worth it.

The author traces the history of monotheism (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and shows not only their interconnectedness, but also their literal unity. The detail in the exploration of the history of monotheism was indeed comprehensive - but also appropriate as it shows how religion has developed f
...more
Joseph
May 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
tough read esp the middle part

but basically liked the end because:

(1) for believers - you'll see how the conception of GOD changes through time and it's sort of inevitable ( however real GOD is and can be). We fit GOD into our needs

(2) for atheists - that even at the end of the day when you remove GOD from your life, you'll end up filling that emptiness with sth else. Basically you still need that spiritual stuff there in your brain (whatever you call it)
...more
Judy
Jun 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Question: Can you distill a history of the way in which humans have understood and experienced God over the past 4,000 years into one volume? Answer: Apparently, yes. This is a fascinating look at the religious developments and traditions of Jews, Christians, and Muslims from Abraham to the modern age. Armstrong includes the philosophes and mysticism that has been present in all three monotheistic religions over the centuries and clearly places the evolution in religious thought into its histori ...more
Betty Cross
May 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Some people find Karen Armstrong's expository style "dense," or "difficult," but I've read a good bit of Joseph Campbell's works, so maybe it's easier for me.

A History of God is one of the best books on the general history of the three monotheistic faiths -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- that I've ever read. To me, the most interesting thing about it is how, once all 3 faiths were established, they tended to move in parallel. For instance, all three were heavily influenced by G
...more
Dan Scott
Sep 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
As an orthodox, Evangelical Protestant, I was unnerved by Armstrong's treatment of Monotheism as a religion, which makes Judaism, Christianity and Islam something like its three major denominations. That offends the believers of all three religions! Nonetheless, it was a helpful way to allow each group to see how the same major philosophical premises have encouraged similar developments in each religious community. Each have Charismatics, for example. Each have contemplatives. Each have intellec ...more
Dallas Doctor
Jan 11, 2009 rated it it was ok
I cannot really recommend this book, only because the author struggles with the enormous weight of the subject and simply tries to cover too much and ends up short-changing most ideas ... there were parts that were illuminating and interesting, but most of the text was cumbersome ..

.. additionally, if the author had been half as critical of her own assumptions as she was of others, it would have been a very different, and much better book.
Azita Rassi
Objective but rather boring.
Ericka Clouther
This book is an amazingly detailed history by one of the major religious scholars of our century. But it's not the final chapter for Armstrong and I was really captivated by her change in view in her subsequent book, The Case for God. I recommend starting with this one, but definitely follow it with (the unfortunately very long) The Case for God.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
How Should You Take Keto Plus 900? 1 5 Nov 28, 2018 10:46PM  
Atheists and Skep...: a beautiful burden 2 38 Jul 31, 2018 09:24AM  
Buku Agama, Buku Panduan untuk Menuju Kebahagiaan Hakiki 1 5 Jul 31, 2017 09:04PM  
Shohar Ka Mizaj Naram Karne Ka Wazifa 1 5 Feb 07, 2017 11:46PM  
Goodreads Librari...: other cover 2 21 Aug 18, 2013 04:36AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture
  • Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally
  • Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
  • Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas
  • Who Wrote the Bible?
  • A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years
  • The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus
  • The Oxford History Of The Biblical World
  • Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews
  • God: A Biography
  • Who Wrote the New Testament?: The Making of the Christian Myth
  • The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant
  • The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholar's Version
  • God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism
  • The Nag Hammadi Library
See similar books…
2,255 followers
Karen Armstrong, a comparative religion specialist is the author of numerous books on religion, including The Case for God, A History of God, The Battle for God, Holy War, Islam, Buddha, and Fields of Blood, as well as a memoir, The Spiral Staircase.

Her work has been translated into 45 languages. In 2008 she was awarded the TED Prize and began working with TED on the Charter for Compassion, created online by the
...more
“The only way to show a true respect for God is to act morally while ignoring God’s existence.” 46 likes
“Respect only has meaning as respect for those with whom I do not agree.” 42 likes
More quotes…