Item description for History of Christianity by Paul Johnson...
Overview Illuminating perspectives on the themes of Christianity during nearly two millennia are provided in a survey of the foundation of the Christian faith and its diffusion throughout the world.
Publishers Description First published in 1976, Paul Johnson's exceptional study of Christianity has been loved and widely hailed for its intensive research, writing, and magnitude--"a tour de force, one of the most ambitious surveys of the history of Christianity ever attempted and perhaps the most radical" ("New York Review of Books"). In a highly readable companion to books on faith and history, the scholar and author Johnson has illuminated the Christian world and its fascinating history in a way that no other has. Johnson takes off in the year 49 with his namesake the apostle Paul. Thus beginning an ambitious quest to paint the centuries since the founding of a little-known 'Jesus Sect', A History of Christianity explores to a great degree the evolution of the Western world. With an unbiased and overall optimistic tone, Johnson traces the fantastic scope of the consequent sects of Christianity and the people who followed them. Information drawn from extensive and varied sources from around the world makes this history as credible as it is reliable. Invaluable understanding of the framework of modern Christianity--and its trials and tribulations throughout history--has never before been contained in such a captivating work.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.66" Width: 5.68" Height: 1.47" Weight: 1.35 lbs.
Release Date Aug 1, 1979
ISBN 0684815036 ISBN13 9780684815039
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More About Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson is the author of the bestselling books "Napoleon: A Penguin Life "and "Churchill, " among others. He writes a monthly column for "Forbes "and has also written for "The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, "and many other publications. He lives in London.
Reviews - What do customers think about History of Christianity?
Tendentious and Misleading, even if "Entertaining" Jun 3, 2008
Paul Johnson passes as an "entertaining" or "popular" writer of history largely because he is provocative and one-sided. This would be objectionable, but not egregiously so, if he did not claim, as he does in the preface of this book, to be objective and unbiased. One cannot make it through the first chapter, and certainly not the second, before discovering that Paul Johnson has picked his heroes and villains in the history of the Church. For example, he has everything bad and almost nothing good to say about St. Augustine; the otherwise uninformed reader would have to conclude, from what Johnson says, that Augustine was "sinister," "a tremendous egoist," and the "dark genius" who gave theoretical justification to every repressive and sinful action of the Church down to the Spanish Inquisition! On the other hand, the heretic Pelagius is described as an urbane, misunderstood, and well-intentioned "reformer," whom Augustine, the "mob orator," villainously vilified and cacklingly condemned. He even says that it was *Augustine* who was the real heretic -- a pessimistic and authoritarian figure who helped to catapult the Church into the dark, spooky, and torture-happy Middle Ages. Not until the Renaissance does Erasmus rise from the blood-soaked ashes and once again champion the enlightened and optimistic humanism of -- guess who -- Pelagius (as well as his supposed intellectual foster-father, Origen). Occasionally, one even questions the depth of Johnson's scholarship, as when he wonders how in the world Augustine could have gotten the idea that Scripture might support a negative view of the human condition. Has he read Ecclesiastes lately? Or even Genesis?
Call this "entertaining" if you will. The book *is* well written; it hums along at an almost breathless pace; and its simplistic and reductive treatment of complex historical personalities appeals to the human appetite for good guys vs. bad guys story-telling. I must admit that it's hard to put down at times. But it is definitely *not* objective and unbiased. The consistently suspicious and negative tone eventually compromises whatever enjoyment the story itself engenders and begins to grate on the reader's nerves -- that is, if the reader has any sympathy or love for the people and things about which Johnson writes.
And that's just it. Johnson does not, as a good historian should, inculcate love for his subject-matter. He does not even come across as the cranky but ultimately good-hearted "cynic." Despite the short epilogue, which is a kind of flimsy apology for the caustic negativity of the preceding five-hundred pages, the reader is left feeling a little sick to his stomach. The irony is that, for all his criticism of Augustine's pessimism, Johnson, in the end, can only praise Christianity for its effectiveness in "caging the beast" of human depravity -- a claim which, in any case, he has given the reader little reason to believe. For a more balanced, comprehensive, and sympathetic -- if less "entertaining" -- account of our Christian past, I think I'll turn to someone else -- like Jaroslav Pelikan, for instance.
why no one questions the accuracy of the historical facts here? Oct 18, 2007
In a review of Johnson's "A History of the American People" by Mark Wylie, he raised a serious issue by saying "The most obvious failing of this book is its abundance of factual errors..."
Also in a review of Johnson's "A History of the Jews", a customer titled his review as "A Pleasant Buffet of Factual Errors" and said "But with every line, I kept thinking, 'How do I know THIS is accurate? If he couldn't even report what the Bible says accurately, how can I trust his scholarship on these more difficult-to-know issues and events?' "
I just wonder why no one here complains anything about the factual errors in this book? Does that mean Johnson did a thorough research this time or no one is knowledgeable enough to point out the errors?
Good summary of Christian history Oct 23, 2006
For some reason, I have not liked this work of narrative history that Paul Johnson has written, and for this reason I only give it four stars. While still being a well written book, it seems to hurry in some parts over critical junctures of Christian history, is somewhat too brief in other parts, and in others Johnson's prejudices show in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Johnson's history is a good overview of Christianity, but falls short of the excellence of his History of the Jews and his history of the US.
Has almost nothing about orthodoxy Apr 25, 2006
I read this book translated to the portuguese, here in Brazil.This book has value and I could read many valuable informations about the history of Christianity. This book has same failures: 1-Islam has very little space in it. 2-Has almost nothing about orthodoxy. 3-It was writen in 1975, and now it is a little outdated. And some others failures.
An ousider's opinion Dec 27, 2005
This is the perspective of a non-Catholic, non-ecclesiastic American reader. "A History of Christianity" is a valuable perspective on the last 2000 years that is mostly ignored by traditional world histories. Perhaps because of the tradition of separation of church and state in the US or perhaps because of the narrow political focus of most histories, the effect of religion in general and Christianity in particular is rarely or never mentioned in the history books. On the other hand Mr. Johnson's book tends to suffer from the same myopic view, rarely connecting the happenings in Christian history to goings on in the larger world.
He can perhaps be excused for that since he is already cramming too much history into too little space. There also seems to be an assumption that the reader will be sufficiently familiar with some aspects of the history he is relating that he refers to them without explaining their significance. Combined with his use of ecclesiastical terms and Latin or French where common words would be more readily understood and this is not a book for the casual reader. A glossary of terms would have been a welcome addition to this volume. If you are sincerely interested in the history of Christianity and have a (large) dictionary by your side this is a valuable overview despite the emphasis on Catholicism. Other forms of Christianity are mentioned only in passing or as they relate to the Roman Catholic Church.
Although he takes "the church" to task for it's many failings, his loyalty to his religion comes to the fore in the Epilogue where he asserts that despite all its shortcomings the history of the same period would have been far more horrific without Christianity. It "has not made man secure or happy or even dignified" he says "but it supplies hope. It is a civilizing agent. It helps to cage the beast". One wonders how different that history would have been if we had believed in our essential goodness rather than the "cruel and pitiless nature" the author and his religion see in man.