Contemplating the rapid spread of early Christianity, Lucian the Martyr marveled in the fourth century that "almost the greater part of the world is now committed to this truth, even whole cities." To explain Christianity's remarkable success in capturing the cities of the Roman Empire, Stark deploys an empirical social science that exposes the flaws in previous historical theorizing. By parsing records of church construction, inscriptions on tombs, and names on imperial contract permits, Stark converts plausible conjectures into testable hypotheses about the growth of Christianity in the 31 largest Roman cities. And while some of the statistically validated hypotheses fit within conventional wisdom, others compel fresh thinking. The traditional belief that Christianity spread through mass conversion, for instance, gives way to a numerically substantiated dynamics of person-to-person conversion. And despite recent acclaim for the Gnostics as the true early Christians, the evidence links the Gnostic impulse to dying pockets of stubborn paganism, not the rising new faith. Like Stark's Victory of Reason
(2005), this book will spark controversy--the kind that attracts curious readers. Bryce ChristensenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Pairing data with a fresh reading of scripture, this approach provides several surprises. . . . An intriguing read. (Kirkus Reviews)
Stark converts plausible conjectures into testable hypotheses about the growth of Christianity . . . this book will spark controversy. (ALA Booklist)