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First Thousand Years: A Global History Of Christianity
Yale University Press / 2012 / Hardcover
$23.49 (CBD Price)
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There is no one who writes history with the clarity, precision, and sympathy as does Robert Louis Wilken. In The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity Wilken sets out to provide a new narrative of how Christianity's early institutions blossomed into a globally influential culture that last over one thousand years. Beginning at the time of Christ and extending to approximately 980 A.D., Wilken examines the extensively reviewed history of the Christian West with thoughtful analysis, but also pays ample attention to the spread of Christianity all the way to China despite stiffer cultural and religious resistance.
Readers will find in Wilken's work a highly accessible account of the church's early years, and an account that takes seriously church historical tradition while engaging critical with primary sources and sound historical methodology. This is book is gem, and all who read it will benefit enormously from the wisdom and historical judiciousness of its author.
How did a community that was largely invisible in the first two centuries of its existence go on to remake the civilizations it inhabited, culturally, politically, and intellectually? Beginning with the life of Jesus, Robert Louis Wilken narrates the dramatic spread and development of Christianity over the first thousand years of its history. Moving through the formation of early institutions, practices, and beliefs to the transformations of the Roman world after the conversion of Constantine, he sheds new light on the subsequent stories of Christianity in the Latin West, the Byzantine and Slavic East, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
Through a selected narration of particularly noteworthy persons and events, Wilken demonstrates how the coming of Christianity set in motion one of the most profound revolutions the world has known. This is not a story limited to the West; rather, Christian communities in Ethiopia, Nubia, Armenia, Georgia, Persia, Central Asia, India, and China shaped the course of Christian history. The rise and spread of Islam had a lasting impact on the future of Christianity, and several chapters are devoted to the early experiences of Christians under Muslim rule. Wilken reminds us that the career of Christianity is characterized by decline and attrition as well as by growth and expansion.
Ten years in the making and the result of a lifetime of study, this is Robert Louis Wilken’s summa, a moving, reflective, and commanding account from a scholar at the height of his powers.
Robert Louis Wilken is William R. Kenan Professor of the History of Christianity Emeritus, University of Virginia. He lives in Washington, D.C.
In this brilliant survey of the development of Christianity, Wilken, dean of early Christian history (The Christians as the Romans Saw Them), tells a riveting story of a struggling young religion searching for an identity that slowly, over the course of centuries, develops into a collection of religious communities of global proportions. He traces the lives and thought of many individuals who give the story of Christianity its peculiar vigor: Macrina, who introduced a form of monasticism to Asia Minor; Theodore Abu Qurrah, the first Christian to write theological works in Arabic; theological thinkers such as Augustine and Origen, among others. Wilken elegantly weaves the colorful threads of the Christian development of doctrines and rituals with the influence of three significant institutionsbishops, monks, and kings or emperorsinto a patchwork quilt that colorfully covers Christianity's expansion in the first third of the millennium, its mid-millennium rise, and its decline in its encounters with Islam in the eighth and ninth centuries. By the end of the first millennium, Christians lived in three large areasSyria and the Arabic Middle East, the Greek and Slavic East, the Latin Westand each region had its own distinctive forms of Christian life, art, worship, and piety. (Nov.) 2012 Reed Business Information
"Compelling. . . . An outstanding achievement."Maria E. Doerfler, Commonweal
"Brilliant . . . a riveting story."Publishers Weekly
"Ambitious and wide-ranging . . . [This] highly accessible volume abounds with lively tales and fascinating connections, and the color illustrations are a delight. Wilkens recent scholarship has also given him a global perspective of impressive sweep."Philip Jenkins, Christian Century
"Elegantly written [and] highly readable."First Things
"Robert Wilken has written the best kind of authoritative historical survey. Its treatment is learned, thorough, but also accessible for all aspects of early Christian history, and especially for the great significance of Islam to the entire Christian world from the seventh century forward."Mark Noll, author of The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys
"A marvelous and unique survey, learned and authoritative, yet also a perfect introduction to the early history of Christianity. Robert Wilken redraws many boundaries, expanding horizons, summarizing and analyzing with consummate skill. This beautifully written book sets new standards on multiple levels, and should stand for a long time as the benchmark by which all other surveys are measured."Carlos Eire, author of Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy
"This is a rich and wonderful book, not only because of Robert Wilken's narrative gifts, but because of his immense scholarly range and sympathies. His is one of the few treatments of Christianity's first millennium for Anglophone readers that embraces the faith's whole history, cultural and geographical, Eastern and Western, Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonian, European, Asian, and African. It is a pure joy to read."David Hart, author of Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies
"Robert Wilken reminds us that our association of "global" developments in culture, communications and economics with the beginning of the Third Millennium forgets the world of the First Millennium, which was integrated by a universal faith. This book is both unique and timely, the fruit of broad erudition and deep reflection."Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago
“I’ve been a fan of Robert Wilken for decades, but even he outdid himself on this one, a remarkable blend of scholarly precision and attractive readability. It’s even more: I found it also spiritual reading, from a professor who detects something beyond the worldly at work in one of the most colorful institutions around.”—Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York
“A lively, engaging, and highly enjoyable tour of the church’s first millennia.” —Jacob Sweeney, Semper Reformanda (blog)
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