Where does Christianity begin? In Athens, Jerusalem, or Rome? How did the early creeds of the church develop and differentiate? What was the impact of the Reformation and the Catholic Counterreformation? How have vital Christian communities emerged in Asia, Africa, and India since the 18th century? Award-winning historian MacCulloch (The Reformation) attempts to answer these questions and many more in this elegantly written, magisterial history of Christianity. MacCulloch diligently traces the origins and development of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christianities, and he provides a more in-depth look at the development of Christianity in Asia and Africa than standard histories of Christianity. He offers sketches of Christian thinkers from Augustine and Luther to Desmond Tutu and Patriarch Bartholomew I. Three appendixes contain a list of popes, Orthodox patriarchs, and a collection of Christian texts. Assuming no previous knowledge on the part of readers about Christian traditions, MacCulloch traces in breathtaking detail the often contentious arguments within Christianity for the past 3,000 years. His monumental achievement will not soon be surpassed. (Mar.)
Prize-winning author MacCulloch (history of the Church, Univ. of Oxford; The Reformation) has produced here a marvelous, comprehensive history beginning in 1000 B.C.E. with the development of Greece, Rome, and Israel, the primary cultural and religious traditions that helped shape Christianity from its beginning even until now. MacCulloch pays ample attention to the Orthodox Church, both Eastern and Oriental, as well as to Western Christianity, its reformations, and current "culture wars." The author's carefully reasoned interpretations substantiate his claim to be "a candid friend of Christianity," with happy memories of childhood "in the rectory of an Anglican country parish," searching for good within diverse manifestations of Christianity while also attending to the "foolish and dangerous" within the religion. VERDICT Laypeople not discouraged by its 1000-plus pages will find this book accessible and engaging; it would also make a fine textbook for a one- or two-semester course. Readers wanting a history less than half this length may find L. Michael White's From Jesus to Christianity useful even though they will miss MacCulloch's judicious explanations of (human) cause and influence in Christian history. Essential for all libraries collecting on this subject.—Carolyn M. Craft, Emerita, Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA
"A landmark contribution ... It is difficult to imagine a more comprehensive and surprisingly accessible volume than MacCulloch's."
-Jon Meacham, The New York Times Book Review
"A well-informed and - bless the man - witty narrative guaranteed to please and at the same time displease every single reader, if hardly in identical measure.... The author's prose style is fluent, well-judged and wholly free of cant ... You will shut this large book with gratitude for a long and stimulating journey."
-The Washington Times
"A prodigious, thrilling, masterclass of a history book. MacCulloch is to be congratulated for his accessible handling of so much complex, difficult material ... He keeps the reader engaged with wit and choice anecdotes and throughout the entire book he retains his own distinctive, slightly irreverent perspective, and an unerring instinct for when to go from macro to micro history."
-John Cornwell, Financial Times
"He brings an insider's wit to tracing the fate of official Christianity in an age of doubt, and to addressing modern surges of zeal, from Mormons to Pentecostals."
"A triumphantly executed achievement. This book is a landmark in its field, astonishing in its range, compulsively readable, full of insight even for the most jaded professional and of illumination for the interested general reader. It will have few, if any, rivals in the English language."
-Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
"Christianity is a tour de force: it has enormous range, is gracefully and wittily written, and from page one holds the attention. Everyone who reads it will learn things they didn't know."
-Eamon Duffy, author of Saints and Sinners
"The great strength of the book is that it covers, in sufficient but not oppressive detail, huge areas of Christian history which are dealt with cursorily in traditional accounts of the subject and are unfamiliar to most English-speaking readers ... His analysis of why Christianity has taken root in Korea but made such a hash in India is perceptive and his account of the nineteenth-century missions in Africa and the Pacific is first-rate and full of insight."
-Paul Johnson, author of The Quest for God