Without this lost history, we can't understand Islam or the Middle East, especially Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Complete with maps, statistics, and fascinating stories and characters that no one in the media or the general public has ever heard of, The Lost History of Christianity will immerse the listener in a lost world that was once the heart of Christianity.
©2008 Philip Jenkins; (P)2008 Tantor
Lost History isn't the best book I've ever read, but it was a learning experience. I've even taken some courses on Christian history before, and outside of a few paragraphs here or there, almost none of the "lost history" was covered. There really was no part of the book that didn't offer some good insight or things to think about. That said, however, there is little fluff in the book and it is crammed full of information and it really would take a few readings to digest it all. There was so much information that if I had to take a test over this book, I would be really worried right at the moment.
One of unexpected pluses of the book is that it isn't just a history of Christianity. It covered Christianity in relation to other religions in the Middle East, and in doing so, also went a long way in giving some history of said other religions (Islam, Buddhism, etc.). In fact, I found the author to be really fair on his assessments. For instance, he pointed out some periods of history where Islam won battles and gained ground, and Christians wrote that they were actually glad to not be under the rule of Rome any more. And when history changed and Christian persecution under Islam escalated, he didn't gloss over things or make excuses for them. But at no point did I feel he wasn't pretty fair to all parties involved, even though the book was obviously written from a Christian viewpoint of the events.
All in all, Jenkins is a gifted writer, and he gave me a new way to look at certain things...things I have seen as "watering down" Christianity for decades now, I at least have a little different perspective on now.
I saw one reviewer state that at one point in his life, he didn't think some of the groups -- Jacobites, Nestorians, etc. -- were true Christians. I might get a few details wrong here, but I got a chuckle of out one part of Lost History where a representative from Rome finally got to visit Christians in Ethiopia (I think), and they treated him badly and said he was not saved because he was outside of the Ethiopian church hierarchy. Yep. They were real Christians, all right!
This was an amazing listen. I am one who enjoys reading about the history of the Christian faith. This is an amazing addition to anyone who wants to get a better understanding of broader Christian history in general or even a more accurate perspective of the history of the middle east before and after the coming of Islam. I was initially skeptical of the claims the book makes in its title, but the author really highlights aspects of Christian history left almost completely out of most textbooks because of a lack of knowledge or because of the dismissal of the Christian groups represented in the near east because of their belief in what have been considered "divergent" doctrines by more western centered Churches. I think the author is fair in his treatment of the interactions, conflicts, and differences between the two faiths of Christianity and Islam. I also think those listeners who are themselves Christians, whether liberal or conservative in theology, will find things to learn and profit from in this book. If you are at all interested in the topic, I don't think you will be disappointed.
My reaction to this book is mixed. The author spends an inordinate amount of space stating & restating that a major part of Christian history has been ignored... the history of the eastern church and its theology. I began to wonder if he ever was going to get around to that history and those beliefs. IMHO, much of the first & second chapters could be omitted. For me, the meat of the book begins at chapter 3 (approx 2 hr 45 min on the timer).
I did learn a great deal of fascinating information-- I'd often wondered about Coptic and Syriac Christianity, both of which get cursory treatment in most church histories. They tend to be dismissed as heresy, apparently unworthy of further discussion for that reason. I had read that eastern Christian missionaries had gone as far as India & China long before the West began to visit Asia; however, I didn't realize that sizable eastern Christian communities had developed in the East.
Up front, what you should know is that the author doesn't write as a historian, ie there is a great deal of commentary and interpretation interspersed with the facts. If you are expecting an "objective" history, look elsewhere (objective in quotes because true objectivity is impossible in the real world). The author's judgments change depending on the time & circumstances discussed-- the bias isn't consistent one way or the other. He is generally negative about the later Muslim treatment of eastern Christians but less so about the earlier years.
The narrator is OK but not riveting. On the other hand, I'm not sure how one could render the text less prosaically.
I really enjoyed this book. it is a great reminder that the Christan church is a history spanning colossus. We as modern Christians stand on the shoulders of many many people who have gone before. This book was a great read and an encouragement especially in a time of political and economic uncertainty. the church still exists today even though it was wiped out in the middle east and Asian at one time.
Thomas Le Min
This book tells the forgotten history of Christianity's expansion throughout the Middle East and Asia. Few today think of Christianity when they think of cities like Bagdad, but that is just one example of a city that had been a seat of Christian learning before the advent of Islam. This explains the growth of the Syriac speaking church eastward as far as Tibet, China and Japan. After detailing the growth and splendor of the Eastern Church, it also details the reasons for its decline. Throughout this tale, descriptions of the conditions present in Europe under the influence of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches are provided for comparison.
This is an excellent historical study that should be of great interest to anyone with an interest in the growth and development of Christianity. The narrator, Dick Hill, is marvelous. He does a terrific job of narrating this book. I will be anxious to listen to other works of his.
I highly recommend this audiobook.
I'm not sure if it was the narrator or the book, the history was very interesting but it did tend to drag on at times. Overall a good read though.
The author uses many examples that aren't explained such as how far a she elephant can walk in a day. But never explains how far that is. Uses ancient country names which leaves the reader wondering where that is. This just continues and continues. I gave up on the book after two chapters. There is a great story here if the author had taken the time to write it properly.
This doesn't really present any sort of historical narrative, except of the nineteenth century, which can hardly be considered lost. It's mostly a series of loosely connected factoids or anecdotes, with a large dose of pontificating.
The author does little to distinguish the two principal strains of "Asiatic" Christianity. He opens the book by stating that they were called Nestorian and Jacobite churches, but that these terms are disliked by members of those churches. Nevertheless, he uses these terms throughout the book. Common names for these churches are "Church of the East" and the "Monophysite" or "Oriental Orthodox" churches. The latter include the Armenian Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Coptic churches.
The two differ quite a bit from what I can gather. The Monophysite churches have icons, as the Catholic and Orthodox churches do, but the Church of the East is iconoclast. There are theological differences as well, with the Catholic/Orthodox position occupying middle ground between the two, but this isn't discussed to any extent.
I still seek basic information like the historical origins and development of these churches and what political entities they coincided with. I especially want to find out more about the Church of the East, which was once very large but may now have been finally destroyed by Islamic terrorists in Iraq.
The one thing I did get out of this is a clear statement that they had the same four gospels that we have and no others!
I don't know of any writer who has helped me understand the world wide context of Christianity as clearly as Philip Jenkins. This book looks at the ancient roots of Christianity in North Africa, Asia and the Middle East and explains how Islam came to be the dominant religion through much of this area. There are also some implications for the survival of Christianity today, since he points out the danger of being too aligned with a political faction.
Be aware that this book was written before the Arab Spring, so it lacks an update on Christian populations in Egypt, Syria, etc.
Many good facts were presented, but I never got a sense of time. I wish this book had included good descriptions of the sequence of events.
The treatment is similar to that of Will Durant's Story of Civilization.
I think it is well worth reading, but will be better understood by those who know the times better.
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