Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch

Christianity: The First Three Thousand YearsTakeaway: It is hard to discuss 3000 years of history.

Purchase Links: HardbackPaperback,Kindle Audiobook (The price has dropped in all formats so it closer to reasonable).

You may have seen the first 8 posts I made about this book (see bottom of review for links).  It is a very good book for the most part, but it was exhausting to post mini reviews and probably more exhausting to read them.  So about half way through I gave up reading the book and gave up writing posts about the book.

After a couple months I have come back and finished up the last 15 hours of the book and am ready to be done.  Not that it was not a very good book, but a book of this length and depth is not one I want to attempt again soon.

I appreciate the goal, placing Christianity in a historical context and then using the tools of history to give understanding to the whole of Christianity.  MacCulloch is not a theologian (or even a practicing Christian.)  But he does have a very wide and deep understanding of Christianity that he pushes to new depths.  In general, I think the goal was a good one.  Too often we want to look at bits and pieces of history and not look at it as a whole.  But with any attempt, there will be weaknesses.  And I think, some of MacCulloch’s tools were one of his weaknesses.  He is a historian and while using the tools of a historian gave some very impressive insights in some areas, his treatment of pre-Christian influences I thought seems needlessly antagonistic toward faith in general.  And unfortunately, that is the very beginning of the book.  Several Amazon reviews said they stopped in the first couple chapters, which is unfortunate.

Similarly, I think some of the very end of the book (late 20th century) is probably weak because it is so recent.  He spends time on creamation and some topics that just do not seem that important.

Overall, I think this book deserves much praise.  It is mammoth, but it does not really need to be read in order, or in whole to get something out of it.  If you find a copy relatively cheap (one of my main complaints initially was that the book is very expensive, but it has dropped in price) then I think it is worth picking up and at least reading selections.  No matter who you are, there are parts of the history of Christianity that not know much about.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8 (I ended the mini-posts with the Reformation)

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