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Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 years Hardcover – March 9, 2010
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“Jenkins...has done a remarkable job of documenting this little-understood slice of history. There’s lots of excitement and plenty of intrigue, and Jenkins does a fine job in his recitation of this strange story.” (Publishers Weekly)
“In showing general readers how he finds fresh ideas and the resurrections of past teachings invigorating to religious studies, Jenkins provides an accessible book . . . the book enlightens readers on the backstory to current Christian divisions . . . ” (Library Journal)
“Jenkins condenses centuries of church and imperial strife with admirable clarity...” (Booklist (starred review))
“Jenkins manages to explain very clearly why people in the early Christian era were so passionately concerned with issues of high theology.” (The Economist)
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Top Customer Reviews
I want to mention that Jenkins has performed a great service by helping disabuse many of the notion that the Christian church used to be a more unified body in antiquity. We in the West often wrongly assume that Rome dominated and shaped Christianity from St. Peter's time to the Reformation. Jenkins clearly shows that this wasn't the case as churches in Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople vied for supremacy and used their definition of orthodox doctrine to justify their oft-abhorrent actions. The Christian church from the beginning has argued over "Who is Jesus?" and little has changed in this regard over the past 2000 years. Jenkins concludes by comparing some of those early non-orthodox, non-accepted beliefs with today's understand of Christ and draws some fascinating paralells.
Jenkins illuminates often neglected history of the competing strains of Christianity, the charges of heresy and counter-heresy leveled over and over again as theologians and bishops sought to settle the apparent contradictions inherent in ideas like the Trinity and "The Divine Made Flesh." If some imagine these conflicts as intellectual, they were at the time considered deadly serious, and a deluge of blood was shed on both sides.
While on occasion one might grow confused about the various heresies, Jenkins does yeoman work helping the reader keep them straight, including excellent appendices following at the end of certain chapters. As for entertainment, he also offers a variety of interesting character sketches of the prime movers in the debate, neither beatifying nor overly vilifying them. No doubt some will take offense, but for those interested in learning of the battles that set the fault lines for a millennium and half of Christianity, this is a welcome read.
The book brings back into focus that, compared to the Protestant Reformation and the Counter Reformation of Catholicism in the 16th and 17th centuries and the subsequent sectarian conflicts in the West, the period under study here was far more violent than the latter fragmentation has managed to become despite its well known atrocities. It seems incomprehensible today that debates over whether Jesus had one nature or two, one will or two, could he and did he really die, and the like, could have produced Bishops who could sic their hit teams of cudgel and knife wielding monks on their fellow bishops and their congregants. But they did, even with imperial and military support in many cases. Fist fights were not uncommon at meetings of bishops wrangling with concepts that would seem arcane and perhaps incomprehensible to most Christians today.
Do theological debates of this nature rage today?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Amazing exploration of the evolution of Christianity to fit political ambitions.Published 10 days ago by Robert Jase
This is a really good book on the history of Christian theological battles (in many cases literally, battles) in the 5th and 6th centuries between Christian Popes and Patriarchs... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
I made a great mistake trusting the title of this book – “Jesus Wars”. I imagined that Philip Jenkins would deal with the Crusades and other wars Christianity fought to defend... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Jaysonrex
A great book, details the theological and physical wars of the 6th and 7th century in a very accessible style. Needs to be made into an HBO mini-series!Published 9 months ago by Geoffrey McCowage
An excellent scholarly, yet very readable, account of the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries' conflicts within the Christian Church. Dr. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Robert A.
Ever wonder why no one has ever found anything written by (or attributed to) Jesus?
The history of the Christian Church is bloody conflict over the nuances and fine... Read more