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Publisher's Summary

Explore the dramatic interaction between Judaism, Christianity, and paganism in Rome from the 1st to the 6th centuries. Why did pagan Rome clash with the early Christians? What was it like to be a Jew or a Christian under Roman law? And how did Christianity ultimately achieve dominance in the Roman Empire?

Over the course of 24 lectures, Professor Harl enables you to grasp the full historical sweep of this critically important era and its key figures. You'll examine why Christianity was able to emerge and endure and, in turn, spark a critical transition for religion, culture, and politics that underpins much of how today's Western world - both Christian and non-Christian alike - thinks about ethics, sin, redemption, forgiveness, progress, and so much more.

While the Judeo-Christian values that have shaped society's ideas are ones we might today take for granted, their emergence from an ancient era dominated by loyalties to a vast array of gods would once have seemed the most unlikely of narratives. Even after the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in A.D. 312, it would not be until the 6th-century reign of Justinian that medieval Christianity would emerge and this new historical pathway confirmed.

In this magnificent course, Professor Harl brings to life some of the most important and fascinating episodes of the era, taking you on a vibrant trek through the past - one that will lead you to a deeper understanding of the bedrock beliefs of Western culture.

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

©2011 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2011 The Great Courses

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Not what they told you in Sunday School

What made the experience of listening to The Fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity the most enjoyable?

I grew up in a very Christian family, but hardly knew anything about the history of my faith. Of course, I was told how the religion started in Sunday School, but years later I have grown to seek accurate information. After years of study, I've realized much of the church history presented in Sunday School is the religious equivalent of urban legends. Religion is a powerful force in our lives, and everyone, religious or not, ought to seek out scholarly works (not apologetics) that throw the light of reason and real facts into our world.

Have you listened to any of Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Professor Kenneth W. Harl did a fantastic job of taking all the complex social issues and weaving them into a coherent whole. It does take careful listening, and the professor never talks down to us. Sometimes you can really hear the passion in his voice.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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An excellent and thought provoking series

Which scene was your favorite?

The "what if" moment of Julian the Apostate. Here was a pagan emperor who was born as a Christian, and attempted to turn back the clock on the Christian revolution. He knew what was necessary for a neo-pagan resurgence, and had he lived it might have worked.This lecture in particular opened my eyes to the realization that the history of the West and possibly the whole world didn't have to turn out the way it did.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating details

This course is rich with detail about religion and philosophy during the four hundred years or so that it took for Christianity to engulf the Roman empire. I would so loved to have been a student in this course and participated in the discussion sections!

The narration is okay, not great. (I quibbled mentally with Prof. Harl's pronunciation on many occasions.) The organization of the material is pretty good. Prof. Harl takes care to remind you of previous lectures, when he references them, and he does a nice job of hinting about interesting topics to be covered later. The timeline of events is fairly clear, although there were some gaps (the entire fifth century, for example) that I don't remember hearing anything about. At any rate, I found myself thinking about the lectures in between listening, and looking forward to my next opportunity to listen.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Thorough review of this period

The lecture was very good. It covers the detail of each reign of each emperor involved with the empire's creep toward Christianity from Platonism and varied pagan religions. I would suggest a good understanding of Roman history and some familiarity with the emperors. I listened to the lecture covering all of Rome be for this one. I plan to move on to the three lectures on the Middle Ages next.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Another quality course.

another good course from professor Harl. like his other courses, he adds depth from his deep knowledge of the Asia minor region and currency. I was hoping it would go past Justinian a bit to talk about how Western kings and perhaps notherern and eastern europe became christian.

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interesting overview of early christianity

I enjoyed the lectures a lot. some persistent myths are broken down and the whole eta is vividly brought to life. personally, I would hee liked some more information on the why of the christinization of the germanic tribes that overran the western roman empire and on the replacement of pagan gods by saints. nevertheless, I would recommend this course to anyone interested in this period

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Emperor Constantine, not Saint Paul, most important man in the spread of Christianity

Harl gives his usual highly entertaining account of how Christianity went from the only religion outlawed by the Romans, to being the only religion permitted by the Romans. Before Constantine, Christians were a tiny minority sect persecuted by the Roman State. After surviving the short-lived attempt by Emperor Julian to undo Constantine's religious revolution, Christianity triumphed.

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Very thorough

Very detailed and thorough history to be found in this course. Lectures don't appear to have any type of bias which I find enjoyable because it allows the listener the ability to draw their own conclusions.

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Very informative and captivating

Great scholarly presentation. Great course for Christians and secularists alike. Lecturer easy to follow throughout the course.

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really excellent - even better the second time!

I've listened to this set of lectures twice, and I don't think I'm done with them yet. Professor Harl is the man, though I slowed him down to .90 playing rate, which really helped me take in the impressive amount of information. Bravo!

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  • Ed
  • 01-26-16

Daunting title. Captivating analysis

If you could sum up The Fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity in three words, what would they be?

Clear reasoned humble

What did you like best about this story?

Professor Harl is passionate about his subject and delivers a compelling and poised appraisal of a complex process that he sees as descernible in shape speed and direction.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Professor Harl is careful to keep the listener away from presumptions drawn from the modern world but rather to configure the story of this transformation by careful analysis of culture economics and politics of the time.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, there is too much material. I have listen to this book twice and will undoubtedly do so again. In addition it pays to read other authors too to see that this is a contribution to the profession of history more than an asserted viewpoint. There are other writers such as Bart Ehrman who I would read after reading Professor Harl

Any additional comments?

Professor Harl is particularly knowledgable about coinage which adds an element I have not encountered before

0 of 1 people found this review helpful