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
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.
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!
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'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.
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