Over the course of my academic endeavors I have read may books on Church history. I jump at the chance to read them, as inevitably, I come across something new that I never contemplated. I am so infatuated with Church History that it became my focus as I completed my Master of Divinity. I jumped at the chance to review this book because it looked to offer a fresh perspective on origins of Christianity.
The author explains the purpose of the book best when he states, “This book begins with an examination of the final week of Jesus’ life, when he makes the fateful decision to bring his message and his movement into the very heart of Jewish society: the temple in Jerusalem. We will then observe Jesus and his followers as they confront the political and religious leaders of their time (page xvii).”
In the introduction the author gives an overview of history from sources such as Josephus, the Talmud, oral tradition, and archaeology. This allows the reader to see the social nuances that were present at the start of the faith. It allows one to see the Gospel accounts in a new light and develop a deeper appreciation. It allows the reader to see the political and economic environment in 1st century, Roman occupied Israel.
As previously stated, the beginning of the book covers the week leading up to the crucifixion (Including medical facts about the event), then leads into an excellent apologetics argument for the resurrection, how the first believers braved Roman persecution to spread the faith, and a great chapter (27) on the council of Jerusalem. It is supposed to cover the first twenty years of Christianity, which admittedly, is a large task in the space given.
The author admits that he does not write exclusively for Christians, and that does show in his writing. Though he does cover have passages of scripture, he relies on the outside evidence to make the argument. Some may see this as a negative, but said evidence does support the Gospel accounts. The book is not overly technical as some church history books tend to be. That is a plus, especially when it comes to a none Christian reading the material. Overall, it is a good refresher on the beginnings of Christianity for someone who is not looking to invest in a multi-volume set.
[Note: The book was given by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.}