A History of Christianity by Diarmaid MacCulloch

How did an obscure Jewish religious sect in Roman occupied Judea go from nothing to become the world’s most dominant organised religion? Why did¬†any one of the hundreds of other obscure cults such as Mithraism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithraism)¬†not meet with the same success?

There have been hundreds of histories of Christianity, each positioned somewhere along the spectrum of outright devotion¬†to scholarly detachment. One of the latest is from the Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford, Diarmaid MacCulloch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diarmaid_MacCulloch). A History of Christianity (2009) is a monumental achievement which it is difficult to believe a single author could have compiled. Running to over a thousand pages of dense and erudite material, this is a book that one might take a year to read. The detail, one feels however, is not oppressive and the telling of the story is frequently leavened by a kind of waspish insider’s wit.

It is only very recently that our culture has voyaged forth into the wastelands of secular consumerism. Our temples are shopping malls and our objects of veneration are air head ‘celebrities’. For eighteen hundred years at least (let’s say) the Church and Christianity were the directing influences of society. No complete understanding of the past can therefore ignore their existence. If you want a deep understanding of the past two thousand years of our history, here’s the book for you. The Archbishop of Canterbury at the time of publication, Rowan Williams, gave the book the following endorsement. ‘A landmark in its field, astonishing in its range, compulsively readable, full of insight….It will have few, if any, rivals in the English language.’ Who am I to disagree with the Archbishop?

The book was accompanied by a 6 part British TV series of the same name first broadcast on BBC4 in 2009, available on DVD (http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-History-Of-Christianity-DVD/dp/B002SZQC9I/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1369651794&sr=8-2&keywords=a+history+of+christianity)

1216 pages in Penguin paperback edition.

ISBN 9780141021898

Diarmaid MacCulloch

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