Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
The Early Church (The Penguin History of the Church) (v. 1) Paperback – October 1, 1993
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Book recommendations, author interviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin; Revised edition (October 1, 1993)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 314 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0140231994
- ISBN-13 : 978-0140231991
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Item Weight : 8.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.1 x 0.75 x 7.79 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #72,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Chadwick explores the complex interplay of social, political, and doctrinal forces that worked together to drive the history of the church forward. It's not easy reading and I wouldn't recommend it as a place to start. It greatly benefits from some familiarity with the historical context, particularly the late Roman Empire, and familiarity with the core disputes of early theology, such as the early Trinitarian controversies and the conflict between Catholic and Gnostic forms of Christianity.
By and large, the facts are presented without much context of big-picture-building. I was frustrated to find a serviceable presentation of the big picture only in the final pages, in the book's conclusion - it would have been helpful for me if his broad interpretation had been integrated into the story as he was telling it. I would recommend that most readers start with the conclusion, since it's not exactly going to give anything away, and possibly even refer back to it periodically throughout the read.
The book evidences several ignominious flaws, which, although commonplace in Christian literature, are no less tedious for it. Women receive little consideration, for example. One might think that not a single woman lived in all of Christendom between Monica and Hildegard of Bingen, reading this book. While the roots of monasticism are considered at length, the origins of the orders of nuns receive not a single word.
It probably goes without saying that extra-canonical views are generally treated unsympathetically, to say nothing of so-called "pagans." In the opinion of this reader, it is high time for that imprecise polemical term to be rejected by academic literature.
Despite all that, Chadwick does an admirable job in coolly surveying the various forces at work, and is often judicious in recognizing a meaningless political spat in theological guise for what it is. Armed with a general familiarity of the topic, any reader will certainly come away enriched.
Top reviews from other countries
From the very early days of Christianity there seems to have been disagreements about points of doctrine. For example, was Jesus fully human or fully God? Did Jesus come into existence at the time of His conception, or did he already exist before He was conceived? To the modern mind these questions seem bizarre and mostly irrelevant to the Christian faith. The Bible says very little about these questions, so even if at some point Jesus said something about it, nobody thought it was important or interesting enough to write it down. Strangely, once Christianity started to spread, it seems that major conflicts started to emerge around these sort of esoteric questions. In the absence of supporting evidence, it was easy for anyone to adopt almost any opinion about them. Preachers and church leader would often try to get others to adopt their opinion as an article of faith rather than a simple opinion. Different Christian struggled to establish their brand of Christianity as the one true faith, and denounce their rivals as heretics. The opinions of successful groups became orthodox Christian faith, and those holding slightly different opinions were declared heretics. Indeed, a notable feature of church history is that those who succeeded in declaring their opponents as heretics were often themselves later declared to be heretics, in a seemingly endless round of denunciations.
This book tells the story of several influential leaders and thinkers within the chuch who won these early struggles. There are two main aspects of this history that are odd and disappointing. The first, is that the book barely deals with the history of the church as religious movement at all, and instead concentrates on these bizarre hair-splitting arguments. Secondly, the book provides no real analysis of what the arguments were about, why anybody cared, and what were the effects on the church of one group triumphing over another in the endless rounds of arguments and denouncements. Did anybody actually care about these points of doctrine, or were these arguments simply a mechanism to denounce opponents in the battle for influence and power in a growing church?
This book would live up to its title much better if it instead were to tell the broader story of the spread of Chistianity during the period that it covers. How did Christianity spread across the empire before Constantine? How did Ethipia become Christian? What do we know about the spread of Christianity into Persia, and were their conflicts with Zoroastrianism? We;ve all heard of Christianity spreading across central Asia to China, but how much of this happened during the period described in the book? How did Armenia become the first Christian state? How did the early church interact with that other great monotheistic faith of the Roman Empire, Samaritanism? These big historical issues are barely mentioned in this book.
I was hoping to find clear short explanations of the major heresies, scholars, councils, set out in such a way as to help make them memorable. I did much better looking these topics up in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Apart from being politically useful to powerful men, it is not made clear why anyone would have wanted to become a Christian,
However, the final chapter covering the development of the liturgy, church music, and art is excellent, and covers this material in a much more accessible manner, which is like a breath of fresh air after the previous super-dense 257 pages.