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The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day Hardcover – 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 843 pages
  • Publisher: Prince Press; Prince Press ed edition (1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565635221
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565635227
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #243,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

As a novice seminary student, I was assigned Volumes 1 & 2 of Gonzalez' "The Story of Christianity" for two introductory courses in church history. I was thrilled to find this bargain edition for a two-volume hardback, rather than the much more expensive and separate paperback versions. Nonetheless, I began to read this text anticipating that I would have to relive the insufferable experience of reading high school history textbooks. How wrong I was!!

I quickly found that I was engrossed in "The Story of Christianity," which truly reads like a story, rather than a laborious list of meaningless names and dates. To be sure, Gonzalez appears to be fully comfortable with the information concerning two thousand years of church history, starting with the early church fathers immediately following the biblical accounts and proceeding through the ages to the modern-day church. Yet, despite the vastness of this task, I was completely engaged with the text.

Gonzalez treads the fine line between inserting unnecessary editorial comments and refusing to add any appropriate critique. He managed to include significant critical analyses of various points in the history of the church without coming down with a particular ax to grind or agenda to push.

My only disappointment with the book was his almost careless dismissal of anyone who might still adhere to any creationist ideas or traditional gender roles within the church, almost assuming that evolution and feminism have rightly won the day. Given his pervasive choices elsewhere to avoid a natural tendency to prioritize whatever his preferred streams of Christian thought or practice might be, I was disappointed with his description of relatively recent movements in origin of life and gender issues.
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Having been through 2 semesters of Church History I highly recommend this hardback reference that combines Gonzalez's 2 volumes into one. If you buy the 2 separately, you will pay about $50.00. This hardback is half that price and is at least twice as durable as the flimsy soft covers published by Harper Collins. A higher quality book at half the price is a bargain. Gonzalez's histories are highly accessible to non-College or Seminary trained people. The Story of Christianity is the standard Church History text in most seminaries. It is concise without being simplistic. Great resource for both laity and ordained alike.
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In another text ('The Changing Shape of Church History'), Justo Gonzalez writes about the shift away from a Eurocentric focus on the history of Christianity to a recognition that Christianity is a global phenomenon, not just due to Western missionary activity, but rather has been since its earliest day. Gonzalez keeps this global perspective in mind in his two volume narrative history, 'The Story of Christianity'.

This first volume looks at the history of Christianity from the first century to the dawn of the Reformation period. In his section on the early church, Gonzalez explores the Jewish and Roman worlds of the time, and how the early churches, from Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the Second Temple and the missions of Paul to the early teachers and leaders of the church as it grew in various ways. The persecutions of the early centuries and the martyrs, as well as many of the controversies and heresies, are presented with an interesting analysis. Gonzalez does not take the position that just because something has been labeled a heresy historically that it is necessarily bad or wrong doctrine.

The second section begins with Constantine and continues through most of late antiquity - this is the period of the church becoming an official arm of the state, many of the great creedal councils, and some of the leading lights in Christian theological development. Persons such as the Cappadocians (Gonzalez includes Macrina as a person in her own right here, and so avoids the general term 'Cappadocian Fathers'), Ambrose, John Chrystostom, and Augustine are highlighted. Gonzalez also looks at the major heresies of the time - Donatism and Arianism.
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The other reviews cover the content of the book extensively, especially Fr. Messick's. Some other useful information about this volume is below.

Gonzalez provides an excellent, broad view of the whole of Christian history. His approach provides wide enough strokes to give context, yet he does not fail to provide sufficient details to grasp some of the flavor of the individual moments in history. If you want to delve into Christian history deeply and experience more of the "moment", find another book that covers just the part you seek; this book will give you the basic information only. For example, all the gorey details, say of the Council of Nicea, are not discussed, as they would be beyond the scope of an overall history.

Gonzalez's style is very easy to read; he does not rely on theological jargon when common words suffice. This makes it an excellent book to recommend to laity who are not interested in the complexities of Ecclesiastical history. It also is a good basic text for seminary use, as it covers Catholic and Protestant developments (not as good on the Eastern Church).

If you don't already have a book on Church history, this is the one to get.
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