The Triumph of Christianity ~ by Bart Ehrman

Oh it’s good to be back into nonfiction again.  Usually I read about 1/3 nonfiction, and 2/3 crime and other fiction.  But sometimes I slip into more crime books while other times there are more nonfiction.  Genre fiction often gets short-changed but I like to think the quality is quite high – lol. 

The Triumph of Christianity:How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World 
by Bart Ehrman – 2018 

Read by author  11h 20m
Rating: 9.5 / history of Christianity 
*Great Courses audio: pdf 2021 

And I’ve read a number of Ehrman’s books but never one from Great Courses although I’ve read other books from Great Courses –  (I mean listened to – sometimes read and listened, both.) Mostly these books have been about Jesus and the Gospels and how they differ from what fundamentalist Christianity seems to teach but it’s hard to make generalizations about what Christians believe.  They’re history books, not religious books.

The 169-page pdf file which accompanies this Audible book is amazing and it includes fairly complete course notes. The audio is not a verbatim run-through of the notes, Ehrman sometimes inserts some comments.  The pdf also has discussion questions and graphics, beautiful pictures, extra reading suggestions, and a good bibliography with recent entries – probably more, 

 Ehrman grew up in a nominally Christian home but moved toward fundamentalism in high school and then went to Christian colleges after which he dropped the fundamentalism and proceeded with a career in teaching and writing about Christianity as history as an atheist/agnostic.

Ehrman has been writing for a long time and his most recent book

The Triumph of Christianity starts out with Jesus, but gets right on with Paul and his contributions to Christianity as we know it today. The narrative addresses Jesus’ followers who were around after the resurrection and then to Paul, who had a vision rather than meeting Jesus, and the rest of the New Testament which is about 50% Paulism, either written by or about Paul.  

The book includes quite a lot about the Romans of the times from Augustus to the death of Constantine and much of this was new to me. It deals with Christianity from the time of Nero to the Roman Empire’s taking up Christianity seriously, with the Council of Nicaea although only 5% of the population was Jewish and the majority pagan.  

The book is mostly chronological but covering some aspects as topics, “The Christian Mission to the Jews,” “Early Opposition to the Christian Message,” “Reasons for Christianity’s Success.”  And on to the end,  “The Triumph of Christianity: Gains and Losses.”  

I’m not sure I enjoy listening to Ehrman yelling and lecturing as much as I enjoy the more laid back but straightforward readings of his books.  Let’s say it took some time to get used to.  The pdf (included with the Audio/Great Courses version) makes it quite appealing though.

Because this book gets away from Jesus and the Gospels it has some different information from Ehrman’s priors, although that might be in books I haven’t read . Christianity was different from other religions of that era in that it set about evangelizing but they thought “the end” was imminent so spreading the word was paramount.  This was a central teaching and it worked.  

The love commandment was from the Hebrew bible – Leviticus – BUT there it meant to love your fellow Jewish person.  That was reinterpreted by Jesus to loving even your enemy.  That was different and it worked to enhance evangelizing.  `

Ehrman has high regard for the book of Acts which is about Paul but probably written by someone else.  Ehrman states that it was easier to convert Pagans than Jews and explains why.

Because evangelism was so important to Christians and because Paul preached to the pagans they grew by leaps and bounds. And there’s more to it than that, much of which was totally new to me.

I should like to read this again but maybe skipping the first half.

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