This is a large and wide ranging book. The audio (my version) is more than 46 hours long. In paper that is almost 1200 pages. Because it is so long and so wide ranging I am going to blog it in parts. The point of this book is really to, in a single book, trace the pre-history of Christianity, and then the three main arms of Christianity (Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Coptic) then Reformation and modern history. It is to really summarize current status of understanding more than original research.
My first post is about the first 1000 years, set up as the pre-history of Christianity. Many people would think this should be about Jewish history. MacCulloch does that (concentrating on David to Jesus), but also has a good sections on Greek and Roman history because Greek and Roman culture so strongly influenced the world that Christianity arose in.
The first thing that needs to be said if you are thinking of reading this book is that while MacCulloch describes himself as a “friend to Christianity” and grew up as a Methodist pastor’s kid. But he comes at this book from a secular perspective. He challenges traditional teaching, especially supernatural explanations, if the research does not support the traditional teaching. While, I do not agree with some of his assumptions, the summary of current secular understanding of Christian history is very interesting. I have learned a lot (and I am not a novice with Christian history.) But I know some (at least from reading reviews on Amazon) that will be offended by this book. I am not one that will be offended. And I don’t think my faith will be shaken because it is not based on historical evidence, but current relationship with God.
I hope future sections are as good as this first section.