The Triumph of Christianity

How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World
Length: 10 hrs and 18 mins
Categories: History, Ancient History
4.5 out of 5 stars (708 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the New York Times best-selling authority on early Christianity, the story of how Christianity grew from a religion of 20 or so peasants in rural Galilee to the dominant religion in the West in less than 400 years.

Christianity didn't have to become the dominant religion in the West. It easily could have remained a sect of Judaism fated to have the historical importance of the Sadducees or the Essenes. In The Triumph of Christianity, Bart Ehrman, a master explainer of Christian history, texts, and traditions, shows how a religion whose first believers were 20 or so illiterate day laborers in a remote part of the empire became the official religion of Rome, converting some 30 million people in just four centuries. The Triumph of Christianity combines deep knowledge and meticulous research in an eye-opening narrative that upends the way we think about the single most important cultural transformation our world has ever seen - one that revolutionized art, music, literature, philosophy, ethics, economics, and law.

©2017 Simon & Schuster Audio (P)2018 Bart D. Ehrman
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Another Piece of the Jesus Puzzle

Would you consider the audio edition of The Triumph of Christianity to be better than the print version?

I did not read the print version but enjoyed hearing the audio edition. There is so much historical information from early times that I don't think I would have read the print version in a timely manner.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Triumph of Christianity?

Hearing about the pagan religions of people who lived before and during Jesus' time and how their religions did not have the overarching narrative that Christianity had, and how that may have given Christianity its appeal; that was very interesting.

Any additional comments?

I had heard the author interviewed recently. I had already read his first two books and did not realize he had more books between those first ones and this book, The Triumph of Christianity. I was thinking this was going to be about Jesus' charismatic personality or what, exactly, drew people to follow him. Miracles that could not be explained, perhaps? But this is not that book. This book is more of a sociological study of how Christianity gained momentum and became a worldwide religion. After listening to this, I read Ehrman's book Jesus, Interrupted. That book is back at the beginning of Christianity, going through how the Bible was created. Both books are amazing (all of his books are) and I highly recommend them to Christians and non-Christians alike.

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Another Winner

Another great book on the history of Christianity. Ehrman's books are incredible. While this one is a little deeper and might take more than one read, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about how Christianity grew and the background of the era it grew in.

11 people found this helpful

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Informative but rather dry

It’s a nice detailed overview of the historic rise of Christianity. It’s very useful to get sense of what actually happened and is a good resource for thoughtful Christians and non-Christians. The reading is okay but a bit dry. Sometimes the text is repetitive. Several places the same idea is repeated more than once.

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More Dry and Repetitive than Ehrman's Other Work

I consider myself a fan of Professor Ehrman and have been for some years. He is one of those figures who can be quoted as an authority by both believers and non-believers alike. This is because despite his personal and outspoken nature as an non-believer, he keeps his biases mostly under control and is a good historian as a result. He has made a career on communicating to a broader audience the historical methods that those who study Christianity, Judaism and the ancient world in general use and the conclusions that these methods bear out.

The last book of his, one that I read as a physical copy, Jesus Before the Gospels, seemed far more interesting than this one.

The information here seems very dry and for the first several chapters it just felt as if Ehrman was repeating himself. There is a pattern of explaining a modern misconception or historical myth, knocking it down or explaining the real facts around it, and then moving on but in a way that grows tiresome. He repeats himself about Paul, about Constantine, about the Pagans, about what it means to be Pagan and after bringing up a new point he often brings up, again, something he already explained to us. It feels like he constantly re-establishes the context when he doesn't have to.

I'm not saying the book is padded out or dumbed down for an even wider audience but it does FEEL like that at times. Also, the narrator, I'm sure he's doing his best, but his voice is so lifeless that getting through this was a real slog. When Ehrman gives speeches and talks he does so with a certain humor, vigor, and cadence that make even the dry stuff fairly interesting but the narrator here is not so well spoken.

All in all I'd give it 2 stars. It's not bad or uninteresting especially for those interested in the subject matter at hand but it does feel longer and more dry than it has to be and the narration doesn't help.

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Worst Ehrman book

Unscholarly repetitive sermonizing

I’ve read or listened to all of Dr. Ehrmans books. I grew up a student of history and have always appreciated when Dr. Erhman has presented clear logical arguments based on substantiated facts. This book, unfortunately, is not based on facts. This book mostly Dr. Erhman giving an account of history based on his admitted “assumptions”. He very frequently sets up straw men so he can immediately tear them down. An example of this is in his attempts to prove that Constantine was a true convert; he gives half hearted, irrational, and contradictory reasons for views that differ from Ehrmans beliefs then quickly discredits them; branding them as unbelievable and false without providing any substantive reasons for doing so. Once the straw man is gone though, We are left only with the view, Ehrmans preferred view and a huge part of the foundation for this book, that politics and power had nothing to do with Constantine’s conversion. To be clear, there is little scholarly research in this book. The book felt to me like a sermon. It took me back to my days as a fundamentalist sitting in a pew listening to what we called “preacher stories”. There’s a basic premise set out in the beginning as fact. That premise is then supported with chapters and chapters of unconvincing stories and baseless assumptions. The whole section on the apostle Paul was needless and would sometimes contradict his previous works on Paul’s life. In all, I got nothing new out of this book. His premise was unoriginal. His scholarship was lacking. And his assumptions were circumspect at best. This was not his best work.

3 people found this helpful

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Triumph

Excellent. Just excellent. Comprehensive and academic. Dispels some widely held myths of the origins of Christianity throughout the church and the failure of paganism in the later centuries following Christ. Also describes some of the failures to adhere to Christian doctrine by later Christian leaders.

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Great historical insight.

This book provides terrific insight into how and why Christianity proliferated during the time after Jesus died and was resurrected.

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A theoretical must read

Enlightening, without being prejudicial. A real enjoyable book that uses historical facts and theory to give the reader varying acounts of religious history.

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Worth the read

I was a Christian pastor and very interested in the topic of historical Christianity and textual criticism. Ever since Misquoting Jesus I have taken the time to review his material and compare with the personal research I have done.

As it pertains to The Triumph of Christianity, I had read through only once just to get a brief "lay of the land" so my observations are surface level without doing a critical review of the claims made. That being said, Dr. Ehrman did a great job of compiling the historical information together in a way that made sense to the reader. The cultural and religious divide between modern religion and ancient paganism [and even ancient Christianity for that matter] is such a large chasm that many people misunderstand or read into history their modern day paradigm and make judgments without that historical framework. I did enjoy the work put into making sure that historical and cultural framework was framed for this book.

At this point, the only criticism I have would be Dr. Ehrmans feigned neutrality which becomes apparent from the very beginning. What he considers reliable "historical" information and sources [be that biblical accounts or other historical sources] seem arbitrary. By way of example: Dr. Ehrman had recently posted a blog concerning the historical reliability of the book of Acts [dated 03-29-2016 "Is the book of acts historically reliable? Smoke and mirrors"] in this blog he makes the case that the book is not reliable. However, numerous times throughout this book, he will utilize the historical accounts found within the book of acts in order to support his arguments and make his case for the cultural influence of Christianity in the pagan world. This kind of cherry picking of what is/isn't historical data is concerning and leads me to believe the basis for those conclusions are at least in part dictated and filtered through Dr. Ehrmans presuppositions and skepticism.

This is a micro example, of what I believe is a macro issue in many of Dr. Ehrmans scholarship. That being said, everybody has bias and presuppositions and I am not going to hold that against him or any author.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and I think it would be a good introduction to anybody interested in the historical development of Christianity in the ancient world.

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What's in a name?

Wow! Ehrman couldn't have chosen a more deceptive title. The "Triumph of Christianity"--really? I have actually appreciated several other Ehrman works: "Misquoting Jesus", "Lost Scriptures", "Did Jesus Exist?" among others. In those earlier works, I felt I learned something new, or at least Ehrman offered a novel analysis or interpretation of something with which I was already familiar. That was not the case for this book. Ehrman's repeated, if somewhat veiled, expressions of disdain for Christianity were a real distraction. I found it hard to get through a book I expected to be about how Christianity grew as a movement, but was much more about why various explanations of Christian success just can't be right. For example, he calls into question the severity of Roman persecution of early Christians. So we must accept as an exaggeration and a myth the long-held believe that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. Moreover, Ehrman offers nothing new or convincing. Why did Christianity succeed in gathering some many converts? His simplistic answer is that people were just attracted to, what he clearly suggests were outlandish, tales Christians told about miracles. It was not the miracles themselves, but the fabulous stories about the miracles that won people over to Christianity. The explanation is right there in Christian scriptures! How interesting that Ehrman, who is typically so skeptical about the traditional understanding of Christian scriptures, should point to this aspect of scriptures to find an answer to Christian success. Instead of this nonsense, I recommend reading Rodney Stark's "The Rise of Christianity". Stark, whom the extremely contentious Ehrman has the audacity to describe as controversial, actually does offer some data, analysis and insight. I promise you'll find Stark much more satisfying than Ehrman's deceptively named tract.

2 people found this helpful