Item description for From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith by L. Michael White...
Overview An intriguing study of the origins and evolution of the early Christian church looks at the creation of the books of the New Testament and the early Christian communities that spawned them, examining the historical, social, cultural, and religious forces at work. Reprint. 15,000 first printing.
The Story of the New Testament and Christian Origins
Awards and Recognitions From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith by L. Michael White has received the following awards and recognitions -
Book of the Year - 2005 Winner - Top 10 category
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.06" Width: 5.96" Height: 1.05" Weight: 1.5 lbs.
Release Date Nov 1, 2005
Publisher Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN 0060816104 ISBN13 9780060816100
Availability 0 units.
More About L. Michael White
L. Michael White is Ronald Nelson Smith Chair in Classics and Christian Origins and the director of the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of From Jesus to Christianity and has been featured in and co-written two award-winning PBS Frontline documentaries.
L. Michael White has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Texas at Austin.
L. Michael White has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith?
An excellent scholarly work Feb 27, 2007
This is one of the best books I've read on this subject. The author has spent a lot of effort in researching the history, culture, geography and social groups present at the time of Christ through to the production of the New Testament. He starts out grounding the reader in what details we know surrounding the geographic area and political events around the time of Christ's ministry. He then progresses onto the actual writings we have today, starting with the earliest written (the Pauline letters) and moving on chronologically through the Gospels and, the remainder of what we have as the New Testament, and finally the apocryphal writings that are not part of our standard current day New Testament.
The book at times, especially early on (and also toward the end), bogs down a little in history, but once the author moves onto the actual writings and events surrounding them, the pace picks up.
The book is divided into 5 parts:
Part One: The World of the New Testament Part Two: The First Generation - Sectarian Beginnings Part Three: The Second Generation - Birth Pangs and New Horizons Part Four: The Third Generation - From Sect to Church Part Five: The Fourth Generation - Coming of Age in the Roman World
This book reads somewhat like a textbook, and as such contains extensive data on this topic. The author will mention more than one theory on sources of the material and then proceed based on the most accepted. Otherwise, he assumes nothing but presents an unbiased account of what most likely happened.
This book is an eye opener on how we got the Bible, particularly the New Testament, in the format we have today. Other than the times it gets lost in historical detail, my only other criticism is that the book tends to end abruptly. I would have like to have read more on the Nicene Creed and the process of collating the canon we have today, rather than seeing this in a few rushed final paragraphs.
A Profound Book on Early Christianity Dec 21, 2006
I find it very interesting that so many Christians know so very little about the history of their own religion. Notwithstanding, the same can also be said about the Jews and Muslims, as well as others. This is because religious people are generally taught by religious authorities, and not by historians. It's no secret that, although most Christians have one or more copies of the bible at home, a very small percentage of them actually read it.
From what I can tell, it seems like most Christians know more about their favorite celebrities than they do about the man they worship as God. Take this for instance; how many Christians are actually aware that Jesus was a Jew? Not just by a Jew by association, but a Jew by practice, a Torah-observant Jew? The gospels tell us that Jesus was circumcised on the eight day, studied the Jewish scriptures (he knew the scriptures very well, throughout the gospels he quotes from the Torah, like when Satan tempted him), attended the Jewish temple, preached exclusively to Jews in synagogues, and celebrated Jewish festivities. He is even called "Rabbi" by his disciples in all four of the gospels.
Furthermore, the gospel of Matthew shows us that Jesus never intended to create a new religion. Jesus tells his exclusively all-Jewish followers, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17).
It is also worth mentioning that Christianity did not exist during the time of Jesus, or even decades after his death. If you search for the word "Christian" or "Christianity" in the gospels, you will not find it. Jesus never mentions such words, nor do any of his disciples. The word "Christian" is mentioned a couple of times by Paul in Acts, and once in 1 Peter, but those letters were written more than thirty years after Jesus died.
So the question is, how did this tiny Jewish sect (and mind you, there were several different Jewish sects) become a religion totally independent and separate from its roots? More specifically, how did this "Jesus movement" evolve to become Christianity? Certainly, this transformation did not happen overnight.
To answer this question, L. Michael White takes us on a journey back to first century Palestine - Jesus' homeland - where he examines the social, cultural, political, and religious environment of that time and explains us the effects it had on this "Jesus Movement." There, White also explores the role of the Roman Empire, the beliefs of Judaism's various sects, the influence of Greek culture and religion, and the wars between the Jews and the Romans. By examining the four phases, or generations, of early Christianity, we begin to understand the transition of "Jesus to Christianity."
Besides Jesus and his disciples, many other important figures are mentioned in this book, including their role in shaping Christianity: Ignatius, Clement, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Marcion, Tertullian, Eusebius, and others.
In my opinion, this book is profound enough to enlighten anyone who wishes to gain a clear understanding of early Christianity - from an historical perspective, that is. Mr. White proves to be a formidable expert on the subject and shows objectivity throughout this well-written tome.
I highly recommend it! Five Stars.
Well written survey of Christian origins from a liberal perspective May 9, 2006
I did not find this book to be dry at all. L. Michael White does a good job at surveying the origins of Christianity into the 3rd century AD.
I like how he incorporates into the discussion some of the early Christian writings that did not make it into the New Testament, though he does not always explain why they were invariably excluded. It would have been helpful to add a discussion of the criteria early Christians used in determining which writings were authoritative in matters of faith and practice (even if those criteria varied from community to community).
I also would have appreciated more of an explanation why Thomas could not have made a missionary trip into India. Even if we acknowledge that the Acts of Thomas is largely a work of historical fiction, that does not rule out the possibility that this work of fiction is based on the historical fact of Thomas having made an excursion into India.
Also, White dates many of the New Testament books to the first half of the second century when some of these books just as easily could be assigned 1st century dates.
White is also more skeptical of the Pauline authorship of Colossians, Ephesians, and 2 Thessalonians than seems warranted by the evidence. He tries to say that the writer of Colossians was deliberately copying Paul's style, but something like that must be awfully hard to prove.
In addition, White is doubtful that Paul could have been responsible for writing the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus) it on the grounds that Paul would not have shown the concern for correct teaching and hierarchical church structure as these epistles do. He feels that this was more of a concern of the 2nd century Christian literature.
But Paul does show concern for these things in the undisputed Pauline writings (1 Corinthians, Galatians).
Also, Dr. White makes much of Thomas touching the risen Christ in John 20 as evidence that John is refuting docetic doctrine. But a close reading of John 20 will disclose that the text never says that Thomas touched Christ's pierced side, only that he was invited to do so.
In short, though I might differ with Dr. White on areas where liberals and conservatives would normally disagree anyway, I found the book to be interesting and stimulating, and not boring at all.
Plodding Feb 10, 2006
This book is tedious, plodding, repetitive, themeless. I never could really understand what its thesis was, or what the recitation of sketches of various Biblical figures was supposed to demonstrate. This is a fascinating subject, but this book turns it into boredom. I could not finish it.
a must buy for any church or sysagogue library Dec 21, 2005
BOOK REVIEW L. Michael White. From Jesus to Christianity: How four generations of visionaries and story-tellers created the New Testament and the Christian faith. Harper/Collins. 2004. For the past few years, I have been interested in the early years of Christianity, particularly how did the transformation of the Jesus movement into the established church take place? In From Jesus to Christianity I found many answers. Designed as a textbook for university students, the book presents an historical view of the time from Jesus' death to the establishment of a universal church, as told through the individual books of the New Testament, presenting them in chronological order rather than our familiar organization. He also presents writings of contemporary historians, like Josephus, as well writing from the early Christians. He includes many of the "lost books" like the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocrypha of Paul and Zecla and the Didache. He develops his story from the early letters of Paul and the gospels to the heresies of the fourth century.
Three aspects of the book illuminated my understanding of the times. The importance of the Jewish revolt against Rome and the subsequent destruction of the temple. The political environment, the constant revolt against Rome, played a critical role in the development of Christian and Jewish movements. Particularly valuable is the presentation of developments in contemporary Judaism. The organization of the gospels, the letters of Paul, and other early Christian writing along a historical timeline, with the gospels all written after the letters of Paul. White goes into agonizing detail about the various theories of dating the New Testament books, which is important for seminary students, but I skipped much of that. The inclusion of charts for all the writings delineate not only, individual manuscripts, but also profiles of political and economic conditions of the times; thus setting the writings into context.
White's book divides the times into four generations: The first "generation" (30-70 C.E.) saw the death of Jesus, the rise of Paul and the end of the Jewish revolt against Rome. In the second (70-110 C.E.), tensions developed between the Jesus followers and Judaism, a separation that became permanent in the third generation (110-150 C.E.). Jesus' followers broke away from their Jewish roots and began to develop their own institutional identity. During that time many versions of the Jesus story were written, primarily focusing on his divinity. Finally, by the fourth generation (150-190 C.E.), Christianity had assumed an integral role in the social and intellectual context of the Roman Empire. During this time various doctrines concerning Jesus' divinity, accounts of the Resurrection, and other tenets of faith developed.
I really enjoyed reading this book, despite the fact that is pretty dry.