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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 Paperback – November 3, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
For most of its history, "Christianity has been a tricontinental religion, with powerful representation in Europe, Africa and Asia." (3). Well into the 14th century, eastern Christian groups like the Nestorians and Jacobites spread deep into the Middle East and Central Asia, as far as China and India, where they produced a richness of Christian scholarship, mysticism and culture which was not widespread in Europe until much later. Today, we tend to think that of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia as inevitably Muslim. But a thousand years ago, despite the political success of Islam, Christianity appeared poised to continue as the dominant faith of these regions. This raises the question: what happened? It is here that Jenkins is most insightful. Politically, he points out how the coming of the Muslims probably appeared more as an "Arab conquest": one more in a string of empires under which the Christians could live.Read more ›
To his credit, throughout the book, Jenkins does manage to make a number of interesting points. Early on, his descriptions of the spread of Eastern Christianity all the way to China and Japan, and his extensive quotations from now forgotten patriarchs of churches often considered heretical today (Nestorians, Jacobites) give vivid credence to his arguments. I was also very taken with his argument of how churches have to make there way "into the villages" in order to survive oppression. For example, the great St. Augustine once led a vibrant North African church from Carthage, yet his urban-oriented church could not survive the spread of Islam whereas the penetrating Coptic churches of Egypt still manage to hang on after over 1000 years of Islamic rule.
On the other hand, Jenkins' book suffers from nearly debilitating weaknesses. First, his prose is surprisingly dull for the story he is telling.Read more ›
(I do hesitate to use the word "sect," as it so often seems to connote "wayward minority." History is written by the winners - one can imagine a time when the number of Muslims in the world dwarfs the number of Catholics, with the latter being thought of as a heretical version of the True Faith.)
This book lifts Christianity's first-millennium center of mass and moves it a thousand miles to the ESE. It opened my eyes to the fact that Christianity was thriving in Central Asia and further east, including even a major presence in Japan, and for a very long time. Also, importantly, it makes obvious the overriding role that luck plays in the success or failure of the spread of religion. If the Mongols had adopted Christianity instead of Islam, the world would be a different place. (Rather, was it the Almighty's wish that the Mongols adopted Islam and not Christianity!?)
I must say that the author seemed to be awfully repetitive in the first fourth of the book, and I felt as though I was being hit over the head with a hammer. On the other hand, maybe that's not a bad thing, given the nature of the material.
Over all, this was a fairly well written and an absolutely fascinating read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I couldn't figure out whether the problem with Jenkins (Cambridge University doctorate) is that he is a moron, or just that he is someone hostile to Christianity but hiding that... Read morePublished 19 days ago by David Cherry
I'm not going to spend a lot of time, but if you are at all interested in what happened to Christianity when it went east from Palestine, this book is for you. Period. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Mark Douglass
Philip Jenkins's book filled in a major gap in my understanding of the history of Christianity, one that survived despite extensive reading on the history of Christianity. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Doug Erlandson
Valuable history! I was in the dark about the lost Christianity. Toward the end of the book he asks some very penetrating questions. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Bfree
This is a thorough review of "that other Christendom", meaning, non-european Christianity. In that respect this is a fabulous and comprehensive text. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Kindle Customer