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Publisher's Summary

The growth of Christianity in the early centuries of the Common Era is one of the most extraordinary stories in world history. What began with a preaching day laborer and his dozen or so disciples soon grew to be the largest religion in the world, eventually taking over the entire Roman Empire. How did that happen? How was such a movement possible?

Over the years, scholars have offered a variety of theories, including:

  • The nature of Christianity as both exclusive and evangelical
  • The single-handed efforts of the Apostle Paul
  • The appeal of the Christian message for pagan audiences
  • The conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine

While all of these theories may have been involved, the rise of Christianity nonetheless feels like an impossibility. Delve into this fascinating occurrence in The Triumph of Christianity. Taught by Dr. Bart. D. Ehrman, these 24 investigative lectures trace the exponential growth of Christianity, from its origins in a Jewish outpost of the Roman Empire to its spread throughout the entire Western world.

In this extraordinary course, you will investigate the historical events that led to such an astonishing feat. With the objective eye of a historian, Bart takes you through the ancient Roman world, offering analysis on what we can know for sure and what lies in the realm of myth. While Bart is careful to delineate history from religion, he walks you through a number of theological discussions and debates around the nature of Christ, salvation, “end times”, and more.

Along the way, you will meet the historical Jesus and other figures from the beginnings of Christianity; learn about the Acts of the Apostles as they spread the message far and wide; see how the apocalyptic message of Jesus transformed into a theology of salvation; and witness the development of a unified church. From the message of Jesus of Nazareth to the beginnings of a Christian Roman Empire, The Triumph of Christianity provides new insights into one of the most compelling stories ever recorded.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2021 The Great Courses (P)2021 The Teaching Company, LLC

What listeners say about The Triumph of Christianity

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An expected historical perspective sans God

I was interested to listen to this lecture series in order to get some insights into the Roman environment during the beginning and growth of the church. While these were present in the lecture, they were few and far between the constant conjecture and supposition that apparently is the definition of the modern "historical view." It would make sense that skepticism would be required when reviewing the writings of mankind through the ages, however when discussing the claim of the Bible that it is the word of the one almighty God, the approach of skeptically backing into its history without establishing the potential of its divine authorship seems quite backwards. Flippant assumptions are made as the lecturer citing "scholars" fully deletes entire portions of the New Testament shortly before he makes profound statements such as "If only Paul would have given more detail" - ignorantly failing to recognize that that detail is present elsewhere. Many of his comments seem to have elementary mistakes such as claims of all the gospels being anonymously written when John identifies himself in the writing; failing to see the existence of basic Messianic threads in prophecy (Ultimately what prophecy is) of the Old Testament and instead proclaiming them only relative to the events of that time, and claiming quite profoundly that Jesus practiced Judaism and not Christianity - thus fully failing to recognize the division of the covenants and what Jesus life accomplished in the fulfillment of the law.

Not to spoil the lecture, but the lecturer's conclusion to how "Christian triumphed" is ultimately that "un-learned" Christians some how deceived millions in the Roman empire that miracles had existed. Of course is it implied heavily by the author/lecturer that the existence of such miracles would be ridiculous - thus turning Christians into con-artists instead of evangelists; Spreaders of a different kind of darkness instead of spreaders of light. I would assume that the author would have no issue giving an alternate title to the series as "The Great Deception of Christianity."

Ultimately, while I understand his approach in an attempt to maintain objectivity, an examination of the history of the Bible without first addressing whether its claim that the all-powerful God wrote it always falls flat as evidenced by nearly every book, television series, etc that takes the approach. If the One God wrote the Bible, then its claims of infallibility, being the source of truth, and being the way in which men should walk must be baseline to the understanding of its commands and history. If it wasn't written by the all-powerful God and was just written by men, then it is self-condemned by those same claims and should be avoided completely. That issue must be addressed and be part of a truly "objective" view of the Bible historically/scientifically/theologically. In ever case I've seen in scholarship, the Bible is simply viewed - as it is in this lecture - as a set of man-made principles that "won out" through citing the authority of an all-powerful God that, in the view of Scholarship, is a fairy tale. They then try to figure out the humanistic reason as to why it was successful while denying the Divine power of the message manifested in the lives of Christians. It seems like trying to understand the DNA that makes a person who he is while denying half of the proteins in the strand exist. No matter your efforts, you simply won't arrive anywhere near a true conclusion.

With all this said, I will listen to more of this author's lectures as he has done tremendous research regarding the first century church history as well as details surrounding the canonization of the New Testament. Some of what he says will prove inciteful as supplemental knowledge to the basic truths I see authored by the Creator in the Bible. Some of what he says will be another proof point of 1 Corinthians 1:21; 23-24 (A passage that the author says "really is" a writing of Paul by the way) For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save thos who believe.... To Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

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Wow

I prefer to listen to courses which are above education level. This one isn't. I have read enough second temple sources to notice large issues in the assumptions Barty Boy sells as fact.

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Poor narration. Couldn't listen.

The narrator sounded like a high-pitched man and was uneasy to listen to. I stopped listening and marked it as finished.

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Went by too fast! Wish there were more

Only complaint is that I wish there were more lectures! Dr Ehrman presents a complicated and often sensitive subject in an even handed and easily understandable way.

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Powerful & Compelling

Wow. That final chapter was breathtaking. It was a brilliant summary taking in the strengths and weaknesses of Christianity and created reflection and philosophical self re-examination. Every chapter builds to this stunning climax. Excellent!

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Unbiased look at how Christianity came to dominate

Extremely engaging perspective of the rise of Christianity. The author explains his perspective as an agnostic atheist but doesn't push it down your throat amd so he remains largely unbiased.

Even as a Christian (albeit a liberal open minded one) I appreciate his secular explanation for how Christianity came to dominate), I think his view could work in congruence with the idea that the rise of Christianity had a divine influence.

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more like 50 starts!

I had chills the last 20 minutes. I can't unknow this now. Thank you for sharing your brilliance

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skip final lecture.

this is a interesting look at the early growth of Christianity from a secular perspective. I just advise you skip the final lecture. it's basically a steep nose dive into leftist propaganda. if you like modern politics forced into a history course then you may like it. I just think it was completely inappropriate. the rest though is great.

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Enjoyable

Bart Ehrman is brilliant and this is a fascinating course about a significant point in world history and religion.

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The Triumph of Professor Bart D. Ehrman

Once again Professor Erhman delivers profound wisdom, insight and experience in his lectures. Every session is interesting and compelling.

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  • placidhead
  • 05-02-22

Ehrman Great as Always

Professor Ehrman has lots of these lecture series (all on overlapping subject matter) in The Great Courses catalogue. they're all worthwhile, easy to listen to, well researched and well presented - though if you're going to listen to several of them, be prepared to hear the same jokes recycled over and over again. But other than that this series is money well spent.

If you enjoy this series, then you'll probably also enjoy The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey, and also The Scientist in The Early Roman Empire (I think that's what it's called) by Richard Carrier. Both books focus on the social and intellectual consequences of the triumph of Christianity.

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  • Dennis Sommers
  • 04-20-22

… In as far as it goes …

This is really rather dumb: who is this guy talking to? There is no triumph of Christianity.
His account of the rise of the church seems pretty unexceptionable on the whole: there are gaps between Paul and Acts, and many scholars do acknowledge the inauthenticity of those ‘Pauline’ epistles the lecturer cites, but opposition to this opinion is equally strong and well argued. What is more generally understood, however, s that, assuming Paul ever made it to Athens, the philosophic tradition there was well in decline. Yes they called him a babbler and rightly too, because it took another several centuries for Christianity to integrate with and adopt the best of classical thinking; Cicero, Plato etc, and the best Christian theologians have usually taken onboard the best of secular thought. This author is right to emphasise the ethical value in zJudaism, but the elephant in his room is Islam, which doesn’t get a single mention!
It was Islam that carried forward those aspects of classical philosophy - sciences, Aristotle etc - and even numerals - without which the world as we know it could not have developed as it did.
Of course there is intolerance, corruption and power politics in western Christian tradition - not to mention some of the worst aspects of Paganism- but that’s the world as it is.
This could and should have been a lot more valuable than it is if this author had been less America-centric and less afraid of offending his audience by including the immense contribution of Islam to western culture.
It used to be the fashion to teach that harmony as we understand it developed through monastic practice, but this myth was exploded generations ago, so that if Bach, Mozart etc had never lived and worked, their equivalents would have.
Anyway, this useless speculation is what utterly soils this course, so enough!!!

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  • mcsmall
  • 02-20-22

Fascinating Lectures

A well researched and interesting series of lectures from a leading scholar on early Christianity.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-21-21

informative and interesting

I really enjoyed this book. I have studied this subject before, but I this insightful and informative. I have just bought his book on the New Testament.