An accessible and intriguing but not groundbreaking history of the growth of Christianity.

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THE TRIUMPH OF CHRISTIANITY

HOW A SMALL BAND OF OUTCASTS CONQUERED AN EMPIRE

How Christianity conquered Western civilization.

In his latest popular exploration of Christianity, noted New Testament authority Ehrman (Religious Studies/Univ. of North Carolina; Jesus Before the Gospels, 2016, etc.) asks, “how does a religion gain thirty million adherents in three hundred years?” In attempting to find an answer, he consults other scholars while looking at data, extant literature, and varied historical facts to explain the explosion of Christianity under the latter Roman Empire. The author begins in the usual place, with the life of Emperor Constantine, who converted to the Christian faith in 312 and changed the landscape of religious life in Europe from then on. In doing so, Ehrman makes the important point that it is difficult for historians to say what Constantine converted from. Indeed, having swept across the Western world, Christianity erased much of the pagan culture it replaced, leaving current scholars with little evidence of what once existed or even how Christianity made its swift advance. The author points out that conversion in the early years of the faith was not done “by public preaching or door-to-door canvassing of strangers” but instead by “everyday social networks [and] word of mouth.” With the notable exception of the biblical Paul, “the most significant Christian convert of all time,” few other traveling evangelists are identified in early Christianity. Converts were instead made by personal contact with other believers, yet at a rapid pace. Ehrman notes a number of characteristics that made Christianity attractive to Roman pagans—e.g., the emphasis on the church as family, care for the less fortunate, and promise of an afterlife—and once the emperor himself had joined, the door was opened to phenomenal growth. The author concludes with a look at post-Constantinian roadblocks to Christianity and the church’s own early forays into intolerance and violence.

An accessible and intriguing but not groundbreaking history of the growth of Christianity.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3670-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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