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Publisher's Summary

Step back to Christianity's first three centuries to see how it transitioned from the religion of Jesus to a religion about Jesus. How did a single group from among many win the struggle for dominance to establish the beliefs central to the faith, rewrite the history of Christianity's internal conflicts, and produce a canon of sacred texts – the New Testament – that supported its own views?

These 24 lectures provide a fresh and provocative perspective on how a movement of perhaps only 20 lower-class followers of a Jewish apocalyptic preacher crucified as an enemy of the state grew to include nearly four million adherents in only 300 years. Professor Ehrman looks at the faith's beginnings, starting with the historical Jesus, Jewish-Christian relations, the way Paul and other Christians spread the new faith, hostility to the Christian mission, internal struggles within the faith, and the formation of traditional Christianity as we know it today.

Christianity argued its ancient roots by retaining the Jewish scriptures and arguing that it was, in fact, the fulfillment of what those scriptures had promised. Throughout these lectures, Professor Ehrman challenges old misconceptions and offers fresh perspectives on aspects of Christianity and its roots that many of us might have thought we already understood. By offering you a scholar's perspective on the origins of what Professor Ehrman describes as the most important institution in Western civilization, this engaging course will increase your understanding of Christianity today.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses

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  • Wurm
  • Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • 09-18-13

An Objective History of Early Christianity

This course is not a devotional course. It is not intended necessarily for Christians, but for those who are interested in the history of Christianity. This is not Christianity from a theological perspective. In other words, this is education. It is not a course on faith.

Professor Ehrman is an erudite scholar on the Bible and the history of Christianity. If you wish to receive an objective education on the subject, this course is appropriate for you.

48 of 55 people found this review helpful

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Ideas, not people

Bart Ehrman is spot on as usual. The advantage of listening to his lectures rather than to someone else narrating his book is hearing the author's own voice. Ehrman is enthusiastic and engaging; he sounds like he's speaking off the cuff rather than reading a script; and he's able to present complex material in a clear and systematic way. It's important to note, however, that this lecture series is a history of early Christian IDEAS rather than early Christian people. There are a number of people discussed, of course - people like Tertullian, Ignatius, and Origen - but the lectures are far more topical than chronological.

14 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • CC
  • 07-12-17

Exactly what I wanted

An unadulterated history of early Christianity. Prof Ehrman really knows his stuff. Highly recommend if you are looking for truth in the historical sense.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful survey of historical Christianity

As always Ehrman tells a level and factual account of the appearance and development of Christianity. Well researched and fair to believer and skeptic alike. As objective of a history one could hope to find. Engaging presentation and never dry.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very good overview

What did you love best about From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity?

It gives a comprehensive easy-to-understand overview of the subject.

What did you like best about this story?

That it dispels some myths about early Christians and early Christianity, and also it shows how different modern Christianity is from early Christianity.

Which character – as performed by Professor Bart D. Ehrman – was your favorite?

St Perpetua martyr

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Those related to early martyrs

Any additional comments?

I found that Ehrman did not discuss some important points about early Christianity, women in early Christianity, the Swoon Hypothesis, the Lost Years of Jesus, and he presented his course, but with too-bold statements. I would have loved him presenting what other scholars he doesn't agree with say about some of his statements on a regular basis.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Jo
  • 09-08-15

beginners overall view to early christianity

good info of the history of many aspects of christianity. good place to start when first learning about it. birda eye view. he sometimes rants on about things that seem to me less important

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent historical analysis

A subject that is hard to find in a strictly historical framework. Very informative. Recommend for Christians and religious scholars.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Interesting history of early church

Good facts, backed up by historical documentation. Told from the historian's view point. Believers can read between the lines.

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Designed for people of faith

This series seems designed to present an historical perspective of Christianity to people of faith who are unaccustomed to thinking critically about religion. Indeed, the instructor states that the typical student of his material is a university freshmen from a conservative family in the Bible belt in the United States whose use for Christianity is going to heaven.

For its target audience of the dogmatic faithful, this is a well-designed and necessarily gentle series, but I feel its usefulness beyond that audience is limited.

There is far too much tiptoeing around uncomfortable empirical evidence. The verbal acrobatics employed to accommodate contradictions between the historical record and the listener's perceived faith produce a slow and muddled narrative. The early lecture on the resurrection, for example, spends far too much time trying to say something without saying it.

The speaker repeats lists of facts and critically-framed questions over and over and over and over and over, as if to teach the student by rote. I found this especially irritating.

Most often, I wished the instructor would stop repeating himself and stumbling over phrasing, and get to the point.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • Oakland, CA, United States
  • 05-31-17

A Decent Overview

I've listened to many Teaching Company courses. This is not one of the better ones. It is a decent overview of the first three centuries of Christianity. However, The material is somewhat simplistic. The theological explanations could be much more substantial. The course ends with Constantine, but there is no dramatic description of the Council of Nicaea. Finally, the course fails to provide a credible exclamation for the reasons Christianity triumphed over his competitors in the ancient world.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Ed
  • 05-04-14

Very informative but loses momentum

Would you consider the audio edition of From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity to be better than the print version?

I have not read the print version but I suspect that some of the courses benefit from being in print

Would you be willing to try another book from The Great Courses? Why or why not?

Yes very much so and I already have many of them on my list

Any additional comments?

This course contains many fascinating insights into the early Christian community and is an ideal starting point for the amateur student of the early church. However, about three quarters of the way into the course the emphasis changed from the development of the Christian community in its social and economic context to a very detailed examination of the canon. While a detailed examination of proto-orthodoxy is doubtless essential it seemed to come at the expense of a detailed exposition of the philosophical and social needs that this new religion served in the context of the world that existed at the height of the Roman Empire. The final chapter provides a clumsy end point and I felt that there should have been 4 or 5 more lectures looking in greater detail and demographics and the dialogue between sophisticated pagan philosophies and Christianity,At the very end the speaker seemed to out himself as a person of faith and this seems to have created some blind spots and a certain sense of bias. As it happens I then started another course in this series entitled The fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity By Professor Kenneth Hart and this latter series works as a perfect follow-on to this course. I highly recommend buying them together and listening to this one before Professor Hart's course.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • JCT
  • 08-20-17

fantastic course and insight to Christianity

Excellent course, well delivered and really interesting stories with references throughout. This lecture has provided answers to many questions I had about Christianity in general.

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  • Charlotte Faint
  • 03-21-15

Easy to listen and learn

Really good set of lectures to listen and learn from will listen again soon. Will happily buy next in series.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-28-16

An excellent introduction to the topic

This is a very interesting scholarly examination of a very critical time in the formation of the Western civilisation. This series examines how one man's life and death became the pivotal moment around which the ancient world moved irrevocably away from paganism and towards something new and untried. You don't need to be a Christian to enjoy this series of lectures. If you are curious about how the classical world morphed into the medieval, then this is a compelling and fascinating series to listen to. I think this series is as thought-provoking for Christians and for non-Christians. For example, the birth of Islam is really captured in this moment of history too: Islam almost certainly would not have been developed without the monotheistic theology developed by the early Christians. I thoroughly enjoyed this series.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful