The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died

The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died

by John Philip Jenkins


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061472817
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/03/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 315
Sales rank: 267,961
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Philip Jenkins, the author of The Lost History of Christianity, Jesus Wars, and The Next Christendom, is a Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion. He has published articles and op-ed pieces in The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Washington Post and has been a guest on top national radio shows across the country.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

A Note on Names and -isms ix

1 The End of Global Christianity 1

2 Churches of the East 45

3 Another World 71

4 The Great Tribulation 97

5 The Last Christians 139

6 Ghosts of a Faith 173

7 How Faiths Die 207

8 The Mystery of Survival 227

9 Endings and Beginnings 247

Notes 263

Acknowledgments 299

Index 301

What People are Saying About This

Lamin Sanneh

“Philip Jenkins’ book is a tour de force in historical retrieval and reconstruction, a work of scholarly restoration that strikes an overdue balance in the story of Christianity. It is studded with insight, with the story presented in a lively and lucid style.”

Rodney Stark

“Philip Jenkins always writes well on very interesting topics. This time his topic is more than interesting-it is essential reading for anyone with any interest in the history of Christianity.”

Diarmaid MacCulloch

“ exceptionally fine study of a great swathe of Christian history, hugely important in the Christian story but very little known. This thoughtful, elegant and learned survey will remedy the neglect of a subject which students of religion absolutely need to know about.”

Harvey Cox

“In this highly readable and sobering exploration of how religions - including our own - grow, falter and sometimes die, Jenkins adds a unique dimension to present day religious studies in a voice and style that non-specialists can also appreciate.”

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The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this to be an enlightening book for those interested in early Christian history, especially of Christian communities that spread East rather than West into Europe. The history of divisions within the early Christian movement, their respective influence on geographical regions and other religious traditions, the historical influences and events leading to the near destruction of the largest Christian communities, and how understanding this ebb and flow of religious fervor and conviction can be seen to be operating in modern Christianity's ebb and flow worldwide are well discussed.
Darrol on LibraryThing 19 hours ago
This book tells the important story of Christianity that once existed in the middle and far east and that, very early, counterbalanced European Christianity. It puts the current conflict with Islam in historical context, countering both the apologists of Islamic tolerance and the idea that Christianity is exclusively the persecuted party. (The theological meditation at the end is the least useful part of the book.)
kant1066 on LibraryThing 19 hours ago
To speak of Christianity is almost necessarily to turn our imaginations toward Western Europe, where Christianity flourished for centuries in the midst of religious wars, social turmoil, and even Islamic competition for economic and military power. However, the ¿thousand-year Golden Age¿ referred to in the subtitle of Philip Jenkins¿ book refers not to the West, but the various Christianities that arose all over northern Africa, the Levant, the Middle East, and the far East. Instead of the Latin that dominated the West, Christianity in the rest of the world was conducted in a number of languages, including Syriac and the Koine Greek of Saint Paul. While Jenkins looks at Christianity in various parts of the East, he largely clumps them together as ¿Syriac-Nestorian,¿ referring to the language and Nestorianism, a brand of Christian theology long considered a heresy in the West but that held on in the East.Jenkins spends most of his time talking about Christianity in different parts of the Eastern world, instead of, as the subtitle hints, telling us ¿how it died.¿ This is much more a book, in fact, of how these communities flourished and lived side-by-side with people of other religions. We get vignettes of how, in the East, Christians lived next to Jews and especially Muslims for centuries. Around the thirteenth or fourteenth century, however, Muslims ¿ who almost always were the power-holding elites in these regions ¿ began to grow increasingly intolerant toward religious minorities. Why? Jenkins never really says. He offers a number of explanations, which I believe were meant to be the heart of the book, including the marginalization of certain languages, and the rise of a powerful, political Islam, but he never makes it seem like he is convinced of any of them. I found this to be a confusing, or rather confused, book that wasn¿t aware of what it wanted to say. It would have been much better with a different (sub)title, and a thesis ¿ any thesis. Instead, the reader gets a mishmash that tries to convey the importance of Christianity in the East and to some extent succeeds. But if you want an explanation of why Christianity survived in the West, but was nearly totally decimated in the East, you won¿t find much of an explanation here. I might suggest this to someone for whom the Christian East is a wholly new concept, but there are sure to be better resources out there than what this book has to offer.
davidpwithun on LibraryThing 19 hours ago
Excellent book; a must read for anybody interested in the history of Christianity outside of Europe. The information provided on the Coptic, Assyrian, and Ethiopian churches is just awesome. The tracking of the decline (and, in some cases, disappearance) of the Eastern Churches under Islam is very, very interesting to read. Fair, well-documented.
Wheatland on LibraryThing 19 hours ago
This is an outstanding synthesis of several specialized studies to produce a large historical overview of the phenomenon of the disappearance of Christians from the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa. It is written for the general but educated Christian reader in the European strands of Christian tradition. Because such readers are in the main not knowledgeable about eastern church histories, the cases presented in this book will make heavy going with their large number of unfamiliar names and places. The author, Philip Jenkins, has written the book precisely to fill in this lack of knowledge. The reader who perseveres with the unfamiliar history and names will be well rewarded.Neither western nor eastern church history seems well known among Christians in the European-North American tradition, and particularly among Protestants, who have long emphasized the Bible as the highest authority and thus have largely ignored the lessons for their faith of the 2000 year global accumulation of Christian experiences. The result of this historical neglect is a tendency for European-North American Christians to regard current Christian expressions of faith as inevitably the best possible such expressions, the ones God intended all along to be true. When faced with a decline in the presence of Christians, whether by choice or by force, such a view of one's own tradition is severely challenged. It will help, thinks Jenkins, to reflect deeply on this historical rise and fall and re-rise of churches, and the reappearance of forms, and the connections between religious traditions, to make sense of one's own religious place in the world. Christian communities have disappeared historically for two basic reasons: either by attrition, because local people found other traditions more attractive or convenient, or by coercion. The author supplies examples of both, with coercion receiving rather more attention.Jenkins wants us to know in particular about the history of the Nestorian Church, or Syriac Christianity coming out of Mesopotamia, which for more than one thousand years covered large areas of the Middle East and Asia. At its height it well surpassed Christian movements in Europe in terms of numbers of adherents and levels of scholarship and liturgy. An observer of the time would not have predicted it would be this movement that would disappear and the European one that would grow. And the reasons that this did happen seem contingent on political and geographical developments rather than on points of theology or scripture. Although he uses Syriac Christianity as his dramatic centerpiece for the Christian disappearance phenomenon, he also points out the ways it has not disappeared -- he uses the term "ghosts"-- and the various ways in which Christian communities have survived in non-Christian areas, such as the Coptic Church, the Ethiopian Church, and the Syriac Church in India, or where they have re-appeared, as in China and Japan.The author concludes his book by drawing lessons for Christians about how to understand these phenomena and not become trapped in discouragement. He supplies valuable clues for how Christians might begin to reflect theologically on the history he describes, clues that are valuable in today's more pluralist religious settings. Although this book is written for Christians the author seems well aware that his interpretations could be applied equally well to Buddhists, Muslims, or members of any faith tradition.There are some maps, but the book could use further such aids for the general educated reader. The notes are copious but a bibliography would be a helpful addition.
Steve777 on LibraryThing 19 hours ago
Opens up a little-discussed aspect of Christianity, that of its flourishing for many hundreds of years in Asia and Africa. Interesting discussion of possible contributions to its decline from these areas. This book broadens ones idea of the extent of the reach of Christianity in the history of the world.
sergerca on LibraryThing 19 hours ago
Generally, it¿s taught that Jesus lived then Pope Urban II called for the Crusades a thousand years later. Obviously something happened in between. That¿s the subject of Philip Jenkins¿ new book, The Lost History of Christianity.It is a dense, if short, book. Every line is packed with facts making it one of those books I couldn¿t read at any great length. But Jenkins is correct that this is a part of Christian history that is overlooked by the vast majority of people, and it¿s a shame. In 12 years of Catholic school I never learned this history. And if it¿s not being taught there it can¿t be being taught anywhere, save at the university level.Contrary to other reviews here, this is hardly a screed against Islam. Jenkins goes out of his way to show that there were waves of tolerance and oppression by the Muslim conquerors of the formerly Christian lands. And for balance he repeatedly cites corresponding waves of oppression by Christians against European Jews. Religious oppression is nothing new to the world. And it will never end until the eschaton.This book is, however, very much about Islam, because it was Islam that conquered the Middle East and northern Africa. This didn¿t happen by accident. Some argue that Islam spread as a consequence of Arab conquests, and others that Islamic jihad was present from the beginning. Jenkins is in the former camp, and I disagree with him here, though it¿s a qualified disagreement. The marriage of politics and faith has been part of Islam since its inception and it¿s hard to argue that there wasn¿t a religious motivation behind the Muslim conquests. Just because once the Christians were conquered they weren¿t forcibly converted to Islam right away does not mean that wasn¿t the ultimate goal. And that goal was largely achieved except for pockets of Christian hold outs such as the Coptics in Egypt.This is not a religious book. Jenkins, a former Catholic (he¿s some sort of non-evangelical Protestant now), is not out to make the argument that Christianity is true and will ultimately prevail. Of course, it will. Rather, his point is that there are ebbs and flows in religious dominance. For centuries, the Middle East was a Christian land. That may not always be the case. Africa was for centuries a tribal continent, but Christianity is booming across the continent now. China is now between five and ten percent Christian.The Catholic Church often says that it thinks in terms of centuries. There¿s no telling how the story of Christianity will continue to unravel over the coming centuries. But, to forget its early history will ensure that Christianity will have a much rougher road than if it can learn what went wrong and ensure that the faith is much deeper rooted so that the setback described by Jenkins don¿t happen again.
gmmoney on LibraryThing 19 hours ago
I enjoyed learning about this "lost" Christianity, the Christianity that thrived in Africa, the Middle East and Asia during the first millennium. In spite of the fact that much of the records have been lost, the author did a good job of painting a picture of this early and truly Eastern (not just Eastern Orthodox) Christianity. I was so intrigued to learn how much mixing there was in this early time among the different religions and languages, and how much Judaism, Christianity and Islam influenced each other liturgically and theologically. I also think the author illuminated the foundation of many of our modern conflicts with the Middle East and other parts of the world.Finally, Jenkins took time to discuss the broader implications of a dying church, and contrasted the reasons some churches and religions thrive.A good read for students of religion and those wanting a good book that discusses some of the fundamental issues between East and West.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this thought provoking book on the disappearance of Christianity in certain parts of the Middle East, Africa and other parts of the world is a wonderful read. The author fills in Christian history that is missing from Church history books (at least the one that I studied in seminary) and makes one think about God's timing in the course of history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Throught that book was well written but would have liked to have more depth in the discussion about patriarchs of the East.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
steve55MO More than 1 year ago
What a surprise this book was--I expected difficult intellectual boring book and got the most rewarding surprise. It is easy to read but totally scholastic and documented. I learned so many things and was reminded of many I had forgotten. It is a must-read for any christian who thinks they know something about our history. And it is so very relevent to our frustration with muslim/islam relations in the middle east and now almost every country worldwide. I am inspired and excited to have visited so many places referred to --I just wish I had read the book first. I leave for Syria and Turkey in afew weeks and feel like this book has prepared me better than the two guide books I have read!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Since the NT Book of Acts focuses on the expansion of the Gospel into the Mediterranean and Europe few know about the spread of Christianity into Africa, Asia and the East. Jenkins also uses a term i've never heard before, "Crypto-Christianity" which reveals how some Christian minorities still survive after millennia of persecution.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is history I had not really heard about before. As a broad outline of what happened in Christianity East and South of the Roman and Byzantine Empires during a period of over two thousand years, it covers the ground well. Unfortunately, there is also a problem of superficiality in covering so much history in a relatively short book. There is, however, a helpful Notes section which allows for some further reading on specific topics.