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Cities of God: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome Paperback – October 30, 2007
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Stark converts plausible conjectures into testable hypotheses about the growth of Christianity . . . this book will spark controversy. (ALA Booklist)
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Top Customer Reviews
It is all well and good to devise hypotheses to explain historical events, but they should not be accepted as truth unless they can be tested. Stark undertakes to test a number of historical hypotheses relating to the rise of early Christianity, and does so through statistical analysis. This entails a lot of spadework, but the results are worthwhile.
A lot of Stark's findings validate many of the hypotheses of previous scholarship, and this should lead to no controversy. A lot of his findings invalidate the hypotheses of "cutting edge" Biblical scholarship, and this should mean that Stark's book won't be profiled on prime time television.
Some of Stark's more interesting findings are: (1) Orthodox Christianity, not "Gnosticism" or some other "Lost Christianity" was the original form of the religion. (2) "Gnosticism" was a loopy, lunatic fringe blend of paganism and Christianity. (3) Orthodox Christians did not persecute paganism into oblivion. (4) Pentecost most likely did not result in 3,000 newly baptized Christians, but simply 3,000 wet Jews and pagans. (5) Paul did not invent Christianity and actually had very little to do with the spread of Christianity throughout the Empire.Read more ›
Which is why Rodney Stark is such a breath of fresh air. He ask the big questions, then hunts down the answers using sociology and statistics, not the usual tools of the biblical scholar. In book after book, he wrote en about early Christianity in ways that challenge old stereotypes, and did it in his typically brisk, clear style.
Within the first few pages in "Cities of God" he argues that, "Only monotheism can generate the level of commitment to mobilize the rank and file in missionizing activities" (p 13). And he cites the studies showing how conversion takes place.
Against the usual argument that the power of Christianity came from its promises of eternal life, Start says that the faith spread because of the way it could "provide an antidote to life's miseries here and now. The truly revolutionary aspect of Christianity lay in moral imperatives" (p 30). A breathtaking statement.
Stark also overturns all the usual liberal dogmas about how Gnosticism represents a more authentic Christianity. As Stark tartly notes, Gnostic manuscripts to not denote social movements. On the contrary. "Gnostic writers are known to have gathered only small schools of devotees" (p 143). They were not an alternative Christianity. They were paganism's attempt to paganize Christianity.
This is a well written and well argued book that deserves a wide audience.
Among Stark's CONVINCING CONCLUSIONS:
(1) Christianity spread not through mass conversions but through the example and witness of rank-and-file believers who traveled for commercial and other reasons. (2) Sea travel was more important than Roman roads in facilitating the spread of Christianity and other eastern religions. (3) Christianity found especially fertile soil in large cities--especially port cities and Hellenized cities. (5) Cybele and Isis worship were important stepping stones--ritual, emotional, and intellectual--for many pagans who came to embrace Christianity. (5) Gnosticism (a dubious category) and Demiurgical religions were neither offshoots of Judaism nor early and widespread forms of Christianity but amalgams of paganism and Greek philosophy (especially Platonism) that had little appeal to most Greco-Romans, whether Christian or pagan. (6) Mithraism was never a serious competitor to Christianity but a male-dominated army cult with little appeal to the masses. (7) Constantine was not responsible for the triumph of Christianity. (8) It was the emperor Julian (the "Apostate") who exacerbated tensions between pagans and Christians.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Another great book by Rodney Stark. The only thing I'd say is that if you're debating about which one to get, I'd choose The Triumph of Christianity, which covers even more church... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Marcia Yiapan
4 stars for the quantity of research conducted by the author. However, some of his assumptions seem questionable and the book is rather rather "academic" (3 stars). Read morePublished 6 months ago by bps
All of them were in good shape and arrived on time. The Ancient city of Rome was a little bit more used than I expected, but it did not cost much at all. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Mary J. Roth
Rodney Stark shows that by using quantitative methods, it is easy to see how Christianity arrived in many of the coastal areas of the Roman Empire.Published 10 months ago by Dr. Marc Axelrod
Bought this for a seminary cruise/class. It was not as readable as some but gave information leading to good discussionPublished 20 months ago by Dizzyliz
Had no idea how much this book would change the way I experienced my faith. Everyone who observes some form of Christianity--especially Catholics--should read this book. Read morePublished 22 months ago by MER
This book is a great piece on church history. Rodney Starr, the author did a great job of explaining how the faith expanded. He uses statistics to accent his points. Read morePublished on November 10, 2013 by Thomas M. Magee
We don't talk about God and History; we don't look at the church sociologically. Thank God for Rodney Stark! He gives the stats to an otherwise mythologized story.Published on May 10, 2013 by Jeff Thomas