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The Faith and the Power: The Inspiring Story of the First Christians and How They Survived the Madness of Rome Paperback – April 25, 2002

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Eschewing the "wide brush" approach to history, Snyder (a journalist and amateur historian) offers 40 years of ancient Roman and Christian history in 363 pages more than nine pages of historical scrutiny per year. Snyder also shuns the conventional academic apparatus of copious footnotes (only 113) and, in his words, "lengthy scholarly asides that so often detract from the main story." What remains is an intensive yet breezy consideration of first-century Apostolic history with a decidedly Roman flavor, colored by the interpretations of the author. Despite the scholarly nature of this subject (Ancient Roman and Near Eastern history, c.30-71 C.E.), its intended audience seems to be the biblical reader seeking a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of the politics and culture into which Christ came and the developments immediately following his death. In this, Snyder succeeds, offering a readable account, aided by pages of maps, readings, and people identifiers. Scholarly readers will not find much new here, but for the more serious student of biblical history, this work provides a good entry point into a turbulent period of history. Sandra Collins, Duquesne Univ. Lib., Pittsburgh
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Snyder examines the first century of Christianity: the period directly following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and preceding the fall of Rome. Posing the question of how Christianity survived in the predominantly pagan Roman Empire, he interweaves Biblical, Jewish, and Roman sources, chronicling the turbulent, often violent, era subsequent to the death of Octavian Caesar Augustus. From A.D. 30 to A.D. 71, Christians lived in flux and peril, yet they managed to persevere and even to thrive in an extremely hostile environment. Paradoxically, the very chaos that threatened Christianity also provided members of this new faith with both a focal point and the opportunity to band together in opposition to a common enemy. Arranged chronologically, this digestible account provides a comprehensive overview of a transitional juncture in church history. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Pharos Books; 1 edition (April 25, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0967520029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0967520025
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,087,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
As a non-scholar with a keen interest in the evolution of the Christian religion, I found this to be an exceptionally informative as well as well-written study of the earliest Christians in the years immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus. Of course, most of what most of us know about those years has been learned from reading the New Testament or perhaps from films which claim to be "faithful" to that era. Snyder carefully examines the works of Christian writers, of course, but also those of Jewish and Roman writers as well. He attempts to answer questions such as these:
1. Why were the post-crucifixion years (the so-called "Apostolic Age") perhaps "the most turbulent and terrifying period in all history"?
2. Nonetheless, why does it remain "such a murky period to even the most avid of history readers"?
3. According to the most reliable historical material available, who wrote what? For example, "the 21 epostles of the new Testament are arranged in scant regard to chronology, and scholars still debate when many of them were written."
4. By which strategies and tactics did the so many of the early Christians survive amidst the "madness" of Roman rule throughout its empire and especially in Judea? Also, to what extent were the early Christians also subject to persecution by those who previously felt so threatened by a carpenter from Nazareth?
5. Which assumptions about the century following the crucifixion are now in doubt, if not invalidated by subsequent scholarship?
These and countless other questions are addressed throughout Snyder's well-written and insightful narrative. Not all of them are answered and perhaps some of those can never be. To suggest that in no way diminishes the nature and extent of what Snyder achieves in this volume. Rather, my purpose is to acknowledge the challenges he faced and thereby to indicate the substantial value of what he has accomplished.
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Format: Paperback
What a long overdue book! I wish I had access to all this information in one place 40 years ago when I was studying theology.

Mr Snyder has succeeded in placing, in parallel, both the great sweep of Roman and Judaean military and political history and also the rise of the struggling Early Church. Christian or not, the reader will be enriched and enlightened by Snyder's careful placing of major events with the people who lived in their shadow. The heroes of the Early Church, Peter, James, John, John Mark, Paul become intensely human in their following of the Way; so also do the rulers.....Herod, Tiberius, Nero, Caligula,Claudius, etc.

Snyder's account of the fall of Jerusalem is full of suspense, even though we know the outcome.

And Paul's journey to Rome is written so that we more fully understand how it came about and how Paul may have endured his trial. We experience the shipwreck, imagine the sights and wonders of Imperial Rome, smell the fetid and noxious aromas of a city of one million people, and imagine the daily life of Christians living in the belly of the beast.

Read this book! It will answer questions and provide insights you never even knew were available from the original sources.
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Format: Paperback
Considered solely as history or literature, the story of Christianity has an odd form to it. It's shaped something like an anaconda that ate a calf a few weeks ago. There's several thousand years of Jewish pre-history, then the brief span of Christ's birth, mission, crucifixion, and resurrection, then a couple thousand years of epilogue. After all, what--before or after--can compare with the story of the Savior?

But if we take the longer view we begin to see just how remarkable the rest of the story is. Consider that at the time of the Crucifixion Christ was denied by even his own followers, a sect within an oppressed minority religion in a discrete portion of the mighty Roman Empire. Yet, from these rather inauspicious beginnings grew a religion of near 2 billion people, or one in three people in the world. For the believer this may have an air of inevitability--after all, how surprised can we be that the Word prevailed? However, even we must marvel that it spread so far, so fast. Here, surely, is a story worth telling.

Well, James D. Snyder details the years from A.D. 30-71 in a masterful narrative that follows the post-Christ missions of the Apostles against the backdrop (though it's often in the foreground) of a hostile Rome and equally hostile Judea, which were meanwhile in conflict one with the other. He weaves the three strands--Roman, Jewish, Christian--into one compelling tale that sweeps the reader through a pivotal, but easily overlooked, period in history. If the madness of Rome makes for disturbing but fascinating reading and the heroic struggle of the Jews proves ultimately futile, the successive martyrdoms of the Apostles pack an emotional punch.
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Format: Paperback
At Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA, I vividly recall being taught that to more fully understand the meaning of Scripture, one would also need to investigate the "sitz-en-laben," the German phrase for "the setting or situation in life." For example, to fully understand the words of Jesus on paying taxes to the existing authorities, it was essential that one understand the background which brought about both the Jewish and Roman - often inflexible - positions on the matter. The Faith and the Power, as it chronologically traces the three-fold perspective of Christian, Jewish and Roman histories, enables the reader to have a far clearer understanding of the intertwining of the who, what, when, where and how of these turbulent forty years of history than any source known to me.
However, the book is also easy to read. Its use of taking all events in a chronological style of reporting assists the reader in maintaining a mental awareness of the sequence of events. By combining the three histories, the book offers new and enlightening information for anyone except, perhaps, for those scholars who have immersed themselves in this period of history.
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