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The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years (After Jesus, Vol. 1) [Paperback]

By Paul Barnett (Author)
Find more in After Jesus Series
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Item description for The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years (After Jesus, Vol. 1) by Paul Barnett...

Barnett's work is not so much a narrative of the "birth" and early years of Christianity as an argument that this birth can be documented by the usual methods of historical inquiry.

Publishers Description
Contrary to several popular works of Christian scholarship, historian Paul Barnett maintains that the first two decades of Christian history are hardly "lost years." As he shows in this penetrating book, the period between Jesus and the earliest Christian texts is open to historical investigation, and he richly details the time and setting in which the church was born. Writing in a very accessible style, Barnett provides an informative, reliable chronology of the years immediately following Jesus' crucifixion. Just as important, he presents the historical sources, biblical clues, and other telling evidence that we have for accurately documenting this crucial period of time. Looking more widely, Barnett also surveys world events during Christianity's first twenty years and notes their impact on life in the early church. The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years is Volume 1 of a trilogy titled After Jesus. Volume 2 will be Paul, Missionary of Jesus, and Volume 3 will be Finding the Historical Christ.

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years (After Jesus, Vol. 1) by Paul Barnett has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Library Journal - 05/01/2005 page 89

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   230
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.68" Width: 6.36" Height: 0.65"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2005
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802827810  
ISBN13  9780802827814  

Availability  0 units.

More About Paul Barnett

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Barnett is retired Bishop of North Sydney. He was also Head of Robert Menzies College, Macquarie University.

Paul Barnett has published or released items in the following series...
  1. After Jesus
  2. New International Commentary on the New Testament

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

Christian Product Categories
Books > Church & Ministry > Church Life > Church History

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years (After Jesus, Vol. 1)?

Presents the conservative view  Apr 18, 2007
Barnett makes a strong case for the "conservative" position that the essentials of the Christian message as we have come to know it were there from the very beginning, as against the "liberal" position that Christology developed over time. His book is succinct, well-written, and tightly argued; a necessary correction to the other books on the topic of very early Christianity.

I do have some reservations about his arguments, though. Not only does he rely on the Acts of the Apostles as containing eyewitness reports, he takes specific passages such as the speeches of Peter as being an accurate account of what Peter said. It seems more likely to me that the author of Acts shaped such passages according to his understanding of the gospel, which may have evolved since the time of Peter.

On another point, while it is true that Paul says he is transmitting the gospel he received, it is also true that Paul had serious conflicts with the leaders of the church based in Jerusalem. The issue seems to me not a black-and-white one, that either Paul made up his Christology or he is passing along exactly what was first preached by the apostles, but a grey area--how much did Paul adapt the gospel to the Hellenist culture?

Overall, a very good book though.

--Alan Zundel, the HeartAwake Center
The Birth of Christianity: the first twenty years  Jul 9, 2006
An excellent review of the period of the Act of the Apostles, immediately following Christ's ascension, with a particular view to responding to the radical criticism of the Jesus Seminar. A very helpful book for any church library
THE book on life after Jesus  Jun 30, 2006
Paul Barnett has written a lucid, meticulous account of the first 20 years after Jesus died, demolishing a few treasured myths about how much we know about those early years. With wide-ranging scholarship and relatively few (and uncontroversial) historical assumptions, Barnett scours the New Testament for clues on what the apostles and followers believed after Jesus' death and why they believed it. By paying attention to details often overlooked by skeptical scholars, Barnett establishes the following: 1) the Christian movement had a very 'high' Christology almost immediately after Jesus death, 2)contrary to what many scholars assume, the writings of Paul are studded with the teachings of Jesus as found in Q and contain too much information about Jesus' earthly life to support the theory that Paul invented a Cosmic Christ out of mid-air, 3)the Gospel of John was likely written before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 because it refers in the present tense to structures and buildings which no longer existed after that date (and for other reasons), 4)Peter did not usurp the authority of James the Just, who did not preserve the 'real message' of an earthly Jewish rabbi but was fully orthodox about the identity of his brother, which seems to have come about as a result of seeing the risen Lord face to face, and 5) Acts is far from a piece of theological propaganda; it contains numerous historical and archeological details which have been impressively corroborated by secular historians of the time. By performing impressive mental gymnastics skeptics can always find a way to dismiss the most reasoned arguments, and in the case of the New Testament we find a movement which revered its Founder as Lord and Savior immediately after His death, spread the good news with fervor and turned the world upside-down. By far the best explanation of this stunning fact is the Resurrection of the Son of God.
This book hits the bull's eye while Crossan's misses the target  Jun 19, 2006
I wanted to know what happened immediately post-crucifixion with those disciples and followers of Jesus. What took those earliest followers of Jesus, immediately following the resurrection, and put them on the path that produced the Christian church we see today. What did they do, how'd they do it, and where did they do it?

Unfortunately, I read Crossan's book first. It was a terribly long disappointment. Crossan never got to the point and buried the topic and me in minutiae. He never gave me any firm answers or clear and concise pictures of historical events.

Barnett, on the far other hand, writes concisely, logically, and provides connections and documentation to support his findings. Best of all, Barnett's book allowed me to lift above the details and see the story in a completely understandable light.

Amazingly, a shorter book by Barnett hits the bull's eye and gives me the information I'm seeking while a rolling explosion of methodology and diversion by Crossan never seemed to find the target.
Home Run   Jan 6, 2006
What do you think? Did Barnett title his book "The Birth of Christianity" because Crossan had already published a book under the same title? Yeah, that's what I think, too. Barnett deliberately picked the title as a rebuke and a response to Crossan.

After leaving the priesthood, Crossan has spent his life doing what he can to destroy Christianity. And yes, he is the one who helped found the Jesus Seminar. In his book he argues that Jesus was a hippie-Cynic with no intention of founding a religion.

Barnett pokes holes--lots of holes--in this thesis by investigating what can be gleaned about earliest Christianity.

The problem for Crossan is that the time between the death of Jesus, most likely in 33 AD, and the first Christian documents is a scant 20 years. That's not a lot of time for myths to form. Furthermore, huge numbers of people who knew Jesus would still be alive. Facts could still be easily checked.

Most scholars agree that Thessalonians is the earliest Christian text available, written about 50 AD.

Barnett points out that "In no other letter does Paul so often appeal to what the readers already know" (P 47). Paul reminds his readers of the traditions the apostles passed on. So by 50 AD, therefore, "There is an existent, clearly formulated theology" that was agreed upon by the Christians. It is so well known that Paul can call upon this knowledge.

And what were the common points the earliest Christians believed in? Paul calls Jesus the "Son of God" and "Lord" and "Christ" in Thessalonians. It is, furthermore, the same language he uses throughbout the span of time he wrote his letters.

The conclusion is unmistakable. Paul's "Christology must have been resolved by the late 40s before he commenced writing" (P 67). For one thing, Paul claims to have "received" his beliefs from other people. This indicates a common pool of knowledge. Knowledge which he also gleaned from a first source, since he is known to have visited Peter. It is to this "tradition" which Paul "received" that he refers to again and again in his letters.

Barnett goes into some depth with Galatians, Mark, and John. With John, he notes the many pointers to a pre-70 dating. Barnett mentions the primitive feel to the gospel and the "extensive and intricate details....The war of 66-70 cut a broad swathe through the cultural landscape so that life post-70 became less and less recognizable in contrast to life...before" (P 172).

This is a relatively short book, especially when compared to Crossan's. Yet it's clear, well written, and right on target.


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