SPIRITUALITY & RELIGION

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

S & S. Feb. 2018. 352p. notes. index. ISBN 9781501136702. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781501136726. HIST
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Triumph has a positive ring to it, yet Ehrman (religious studies, Univ. of North Carolina Chapel Hill; Misquoting Jesus) provides a decidedly neutral evaluation of Christianity. In his hands, the rise of Christianity from obscurity was neither miraculous nor a historical inevitability; it was simply unsurprising. Ehrman's study starts with two foci: the emperor Constantine and his choice to devote himself to the Christian faith; and the apostle Paul, whose interpretation of the Gospel was instrumental in the religion's trajectory. From these, the author maps out the early growth of Christianity against a detailed background of Roman society and history, seeking to explain its appeal, the reasons for an otherwise tolerant society's hostility toward it, and how that hostility missed its mark. He not only brings a clear presentation of his own views but also gives alternative interpretations a fair hearing.
VERDICT Ehrman's lively and thoroughly researched volume is bound to become a standard text on early church history. It is a rare work that delivers so vast a history in such a comprehensive and coherent fashion. [See Prepub Alert, 8/13/17.]

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