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From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity

Narrated by: Bart D. Ehrman
Length: 12 hrs and 21 mins
Categories: History, Ancient
5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Step back to Christianity's first three centuries to see how it transitioned from the religion of Jesus to a religion about Jesus. How did a single group from among many win the struggle for dominance to establish the beliefs central to the faith, rewrite the history of Christianity's internal conflicts, and produce a canon of sacred texts – the New Testament – that supported its own views?

These 24 lectures provide a fresh and provocative perspective on how a movement of perhaps only 20 lower-class followers of a Jewish apocalyptic preacher crucified as an enemy of the state grew to include nearly four million adherents in only 300 years. Professor Ehrman looks at the faith's beginnings, starting with the historical Jesus, Jewish-Christian relations, the way Paul and other Christians spread the new faith, hostility to the Christian mission, internal struggles within the faith, and the formation of traditional Christianity as we know it today.

Christianity argued its ancient roots by retaining the Jewish scriptures and arguing that it was, in fact, the fulfillment of what those scriptures had promised. Throughout these lectures, Professor Ehrman challenges old misconceptions and offers fresh perspectives on aspects of Christianity and its roots that many of us might have thought we already understood. By offering you a scholar's perspective on the origins of what Professor Ehrman describes as the most important institution in Western civilization, this engaging course will increase your understanding of Christianity today.

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

©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses

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An excellent introduction to the topic

This is a very interesting scholarly examination of a very critical time in the formation of the Western civilisation. This series examines how one man's life and death became the pivotal moment around which the ancient world moved irrevocably away from paganism and towards something new and untried. You don't need to be a Christian to enjoy this series of lectures. If you are curious about how the classical world morphed into the medieval, then this is a compelling and fascinating series to listen to. I think this series is as thought-provoking for Christians and for non-Christians. For example, the birth of Islam is really captured in this moment of history too: Islam almost certainly would not have been developed without the monotheistic theology developed by the early Christians. I thoroughly enjoyed this series.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Carl D. Smith
  • 29-03-2017

Wonderful survey of historical Christianity

As always Ehrman tells a level and factual account of the appearance and development of Christianity. Well researched and fair to believer and skeptic alike. As objective of a history one could hope to find. Engaging presentation and never dry.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Wurm
  • 18-09-2013

An Objective History of Early Christianity

This course is not a devotional course. It is not intended necessarily for Christians, but for those who are interested in the history of Christianity. This is not Christianity from a theological perspective. In other words, this is education. It is not a course on faith.

Professor Ehrman is an erudite scholar on the Bible and the history of Christianity. If you wish to receive an objective education on the subject, this course is appropriate for you.

58 of 66 people found this review helpful

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  • CC
  • 12-07-2017

Exactly what I wanted

An unadulterated history of early Christianity. Prof Ehrman really knows his stuff. Highly recommend if you are looking for truth in the historical sense.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Tad Davis
  • 16-01-2015

Ideas, not people

Bart Ehrman is spot on as usual. The advantage of listening to his lectures rather than to someone else narrating his book is hearing the author's own voice. Ehrman is enthusiastic and engaging; he sounds like he's speaking off the cuff rather than reading a script; and he's able to present complex material in a clear and systematic way. It's important to note, however, that this lecture series is a history of early Christian IDEAS rather than early Christian people. There are a number of people discussed, of course - people like Tertullian, Ignatius, and Origen - but the lectures are far more topical than chronological.

20 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • Joel Trammell
  • 11-05-2019

Entertaining and Educational Story

Ehrman gives an excellent overview of early Christianity and the many differences that existed in the early Church.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Galvestonian
  • 20-03-2016

Bart Ehrman Does it Again!

This was impossible to put down. I listened to almost the entire lecture in one sitting. Lots of substance. Of course, what else can you expect from the great Dr. Ehrman?

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Log Jammin
  • 17-09-2015

clinical analysis of early christian faith

ehrman addresses the beginnning centuries of christian faith with clinical non-partisan precision and identifies the early disagreements that were settled, in part. by the organization of the canon.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • kathryn
  • 10-03-2015

Excellent historical analysis

A subject that is hard to find in a strictly historical framework. Very informative. Recommend for Christians and religious scholars.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Vickie
  • 06-05-2019

Received and Reassured

Dr Bart is a treasure of knowledge. He can deliver details of the chosen historical segment like he was in your living room giving an enthusiastic account of a favorite topic of conversation. I have listened to him before and will again.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • sideshowcris
  • 23-09-2018

Good information, now I want to go more in-depth

Professor Ehrman gets tongue tied pretty frequently in the first couple of lectures, but if you stick with it he gets rolling pretty strongly and you get pretty well used to the cadence of his voice. There’s definitely much to be learned in this course about the first days of Christianity and I really want to take a deeper dive now. It’s hard to cram 300 years of history into a few hours but he did it well.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • JCT
  • 20-08-2017

fantastic course and insight to Christianity

Excellent course, well delivered and really interesting stories with references throughout. This lecture has provided answers to many questions I had about Christianity in general.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Ed
  • 04-05-2014

Very informative but loses momentum

Would you consider the audio edition of From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity to be better than the print version?

I have not read the print version but I suspect that some of the courses benefit from being in print

Would you be willing to try another book from The Great Courses? Why or why not?

Yes very much so and I already have many of them on my list

Any additional comments?

This course contains many fascinating insights into the early Christian community and is an ideal starting point for the amateur student of the early church. However, about three quarters of the way into the course the emphasis changed from the development of the Christian community in its social and economic context to a very detailed examination of the canon. While a detailed examination of proto-orthodoxy is doubtless essential it seemed to come at the expense of a detailed exposition of the philosophical and social needs that this new religion served in the context of the world that existed at the height of the Roman Empire. The final chapter provides a clumsy end point and I felt that there should have been 4 or 5 more lectures looking in greater detail and demographics and the dialogue between sophisticated pagan philosophies and Christianity,At the very end the speaker seemed to out himself as a person of faith and this seems to have created some blind spots and a certain sense of bias. As it happens I then started another course in this series entitled The fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity By Professor Kenneth Hart and this latter series works as a perfect follow-on to this course. I highly recommend buying them together and listening to this one before Professor Hart's course.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Charlotte Faint
  • 21-03-2015

Easy to listen and learn

Really good set of lectures to listen and learn from will listen again soon. Will happily buy next in series.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Ian Murdoch
  • 11-11-2018

Knowledgable but skewed.

I have no doubt that the lecturer has many years of academic excellence behind him, many fine letters after his name, and many well researched and published books and papers, but... he couldn't help his malignant atheism from coloring his views and presenting what is essentially a skewed view of the early church.

His "one sided" presentation of Jesus Christ, and in particular The Apostle Paul, I thought were full of sweeping assumptions and generalities, backed up by woolly statements that began often with "Many academics..." and "Many scholars..." and completely ignored the other "many scholars and academics" who held equally valid, but opposing views to the lecturers own. In other words, plainly he wanted to present his own skewed views, independent of the whole body of evidence, and marshalled his unnamed "scholars and academics" accordingly.

If you have an open mind about church history (and by that I mean, a willingness to go where the evidence leads rather than starting from a preconceived position), then I wouldn't bother with this. I was just irritated by the continual attempt to undermine,"rubbish", and discredit all things Christian. I was disappointed that an apparent academic could be so skewed in his views.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful