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Publisher's Summary

How did the Catholic Church become one of the most influential institutions in the world - a force capable of moving armies, inspiring saints, and shaping the lives of a billion members?

Explore these and other questions as you follow the development of this important institution in 36 informative, fascinating lectures. With Professor Cook by your side, you'll step into the world of the early church, witness the spread of Christendom, and learn about the origins of fundamental church institutions.

Your journey begins in the early years of the church, when Jesus's disciples developed the first communities of faith. You'll get a chance to delve into crucial ancient church documents and gain an intriguing glimpse into the lives of these early believers. From there, you'll trace the development and spread of this nascent religion throughout the world, covering crucial developments including the conversion of the Roman Empire to Catholicism, the schism between the Roman faith and the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Reformation.

As you delve into this fascinating saga, you'll quickly see that the Catholic Church actually takes many forms. You'll trace the many variations of worship and belief that evolved as Christianity spread all over the Mediterranean, and you'll witness how Catholic practice and faith have been transformed by the cultures and peoples it has touched. Professor Cook brings an unparalleled intellectual rigor to his presentation, balanced by a deep appreciation of the church's legacy and impact. Join him on this epic journey through Catholic history, and experience how this small gathering of faithful became one of the most powerful forces on the world stage - the "one holy catholic and apostolic Church."

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

©2009 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2009 The Great Courses

What listeners say about The Catholic Church: A History

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Fascinating and well presented

What a fascinating and well presented set of lectures. I loved learning more about history/church history/Catholic church history.. The professor is a lively and engaging presenter. Thanks

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biased, apologetic history of the Catholic Church

I wanted an unbiased and honest history of the Catholic Church without the spin provided in this course

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 18-01-2019

Great presentation of a selective history

Our lecturer, an Episcopal convert to Catholicism, presents an abbreviated and somewhat selective history of Catholicism. I was disappointed with the light gloss given to the early days and subsequent centuries of the church. Clearly, it is assumed the listener was raised a Christian, or is very familiar with the faith. Some of the first disappointing moments: a skeptical view of the historicity of the Gospels, barely any mention of early Church Father's writings or extra-scriptural sources on the early church, and the argument that there is strong evidence the early church greatly varied in its essential doctrines from place to place. This sets up his framework for the argument of a church somewhat feeling it's way through history, often blundering quite badly on its way towards Vatican 2, which our narrator sees as the light at the end of a long tunnel. Much of the lectures focus on the middle ages, Protestant Reformation, and modern era, and there are some insights to be gained. Perhaps one of the most frustrating lectures focuses on Papal Infallibility: there is barely any attempt to trace the ancient origins of the belief; the casual listener is going to think the church basically invented the concept in the Middle Ages and cherry-picked some Scripture verses to support it.
The best treatments are often of the various monastic orders in the church. He spends some time on many of them.
I suppose at best one could indeed only claim for this to be "a history". It is by no means an undisputed view on church history. Some sections feel downright intellectually dishonest.
It's entertaining and simplistic, with a decent amount of anecdotes and humor. But an honest, scholarly attempt to provide a broad history of the Catholic Church this is not.

17 people found this helpful

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  • P. Kerlin
  • 21-01-2014

Thorough history presented in a compelling manner

Would you consider the audio edition of The Catholic Church: A History to be better than the print version?

As a college level course, the material presented is both thorough and interesting. I am on my second listening of the course because there is just such a wealth of information provided.

What other book might you compare The Catholic Church: A History to and why?

I love Father Robert Barron's Catholicism series and this course was a great addition to the material Father Barron presented. Obviously this course is a history while Barron's is not intended to be. Professor Cook was able to explain a lot of the "why" behind the evolution of the church while Father Barron continually showed its beauty. For those who really want to know about the Catholic church, this is a great asset.

Have you listened to any of Professor William R. Cook’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have watched and listened to Professor Cook's course on The Great Cathedrals. He is a compelling and enthusiastic lecturer who presents material in a straight forward manner. I thought this course was quite good as an audiobook, while the course on cathedrals obviously needed the visual information. I plan on purchasing other courses by Dr. Cook.

Any additional comments?

One need not be Catholic to enjoy this thorough history. Professor Cook knows his material and presents it in an enthusiastic and compelling manner.

26 people found this helpful

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  • BrandiC7
  • 03-04-2015

Wonderful! I learned so much!

I learned so much about my faith! I want to listen to it again! Wonderful!

8 people found this helpful

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  • vicki
  • 16-07-2015

Great job

As a catholic who knows their history, it was great to see a truthful look at our faith and church. Great job

11 people found this helpful

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  • Raven19
  • 20-03-2014

Great listen, really loved the professor

Where does The Catholic Church: A History rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

In the lecture category its in the top 5

What other book might you compare The Catholic Church: A History to and why?

This is the first theological history I've listened to, but the other great courses options are the most similar

Have you listened to any of Professor William R. Cook’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not but he was really great

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There were many instances that I was just really impressed or inspired.

Any additional comments?

I'm not Catholic (I'm actually a Mormon) and just wanted to learn more about the Catholic church to help me better understand European history but the lecture was very easy to follow, I don't think I ever felt lost or confused and not only do I have a clearer picture of European history, I also have a greater appreciation of the similarities between our two religions and I feel motivated to listen to lectures on other religions.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Lucas kurtzleben
  • 18-04-2017

Pay attention

The author is a genius at this stuff, no doubt. But unless you are on his level of knowledge about these things it is nearly impossible to follow along. An incredible amount of facts and information to follow along with and it's difficult to follow that.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Juan More Media
  • 07-07-2015

Concise History of the Universal Church

What made the experience of listening to The Catholic Church: A History the most enjoyable?

The Catholic Church A History is by one of the professors of Dante's Comedy, clearly Catholic. He goes through the primitive church up till the Schism with Orthodoxy and the Reform, and all the way up till modern American Catholicism. The professor knows his stuff very well and shares it well. The course shows the validity of the claim that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded, although it's not an apologetics course but rather focuses on what happened, how, and why.

Any additional comments?

The very first lecture of the course is a MUST for anyone who wishes to know about Christianity and the role that the Catholic Church has had in the world. Though it has been a center for controversy, it's also a strong force of good to the world, so anyone who wishes to be objective when discussing religion, should listen to at least the first lecture.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Tommy D'Angelo
  • 09-01-2019

Stellar Presentation Skills and Great Content

I wasn't sure what to expect going in. I had been somewhat unimpressed by other courses that covered the history of Christianity ("Late Antiquity: Crisis and Transformation" and "The History of Christianity: From the Disciples to the Dawn of the Reformation") and selected this course due to my interest primarily in medieval history in general vs. the church itself and figured I'd only be really interested in lectures 8, 12, 15, 16, 17, and 21.

That's not what I will remember most about this course. Instead it will serve as the definitive history of Christianity/the Catholic Church in my mind.

This course has a lot going for it: great content and a great teacher. Can't ask for much more.

It had great historical narrative on the history of the Catholic church from the first followers of Jesus (communities who wrote the Gospels) to the megachurch of 1 Billion in the 21st century.

The professor has stellar presentation skills: he brings a lot of enthusiasm and good “story telling” to his lectures making it easy for a listener to get engaged and then hooked. I would love to see him deliver a speech or take one of his courses in person. Can't give a better compliment than that.

He does not hide or downplay his Catholicism but I truly feel it did not impact his ability to provide an unbiased objective perspective/insight and present a course based in history vs. religion. It was actually refreshing to hear from someone on this side of the faith...it feels like a lot of courses are taught by historians with a slightly negative viewpoint of Christianity. While the Catholic Church deserves a lot of the negative press it has received concerning recent scandals, it also deserves better press for some of the great blessings it produces. The professor does an excellent job of highlighting both.

For me the highlights were lectures 10 (spread of Christianity in the ancient world), 12 (the church in Charlemagne's time), and 14-16 (church in the High Middle Ages).

Considering I took this course within weeks of having listened to "Popes and the Papacy: A History" from Professor Noble, I was kind of "Poped-out" and would’ve preferred a little less time on the Popes and using that time to cover the spread of Christianity in the Americas, Africa, and Asia in a little more depth. But that's more of a "me" problem. Substantial coverage of Papal history is expected in any course on the history of Catholicism.

This course was well worth my time and I think would be for most of the Great Courses' customers. I would certainly recommend it if you have any interest in the history of Christianity whether you're Catholic or not.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Bob Bortolin
  • 16-01-2017

Great book to listen to multiple times

Very interesting series of lectures. A lot of information is presented very quickly, and this makes multiple listenings almost a must. The professor is obviously very knowledgeable and his presentation keeps you engaged.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Tim R. Prussic
  • 23-05-2016

good stuff: too much an apology

I learned plenty listening to this fine historian. Really, there's a lot to recommend these lectures. Negatively, the lectures come across as too much of an 'insiders' Catholic history. also, seems a little triumphalistic in the Vatican II and John Paul II and modern ecumenism, but maybe (as a contemporary Roman Catholic)that's what he should be.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ibrahim955
  • 05-04-2016

Very good book

If you could sum up The Catholic Church: A History in three words, what would they be?

Although it says history, it is not presented in the traditional chronological way. Many times the author chose a topic and returned in time to give meaning to the history of that topic.

What other book might you compare The Catholic Church: A History to, and why?

If I compare this book to the book: Beginnings of Judaism, both take the same way of narrating and analyzing history, but I liked the Catholic Church History book more.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The chapters on the early martyrs and saints, and on the various orders that supported the church in the 16th/17th century were excellent and moving.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Joe
  • 09-06-2015

Comprehensive and informative

I really enjoyed this product but professor cook's insistence on saying that Saint John paul ii apologised for the crusades in the last few lectures bugged me a little, he apologised to God on the 2000 year of the church for anything members of the church might have done wrong in her history he didn't specifically mention any event person or crime in particular, at least that was my understanding of it. Having said that I recommend this lecture course it covers everything but I'd read some other stuff on the crusades

4 people found this helpful

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  • IFS
  • 24-09-2020

Interesting

I found this very interesting. It is presented through the eyes of a catholic but it is detailed account of the Church history with the more negative aspects discussed alongside the virtues. The presenter is obviously a expert in his field and though it doesn’t necessarily always follow a chronological order, the planning of the course does make sense to me. I’m not sure that it is for those who only having a passing interest, but if, like me, you find this sort of topic interesting enough to consider purchasing such a comprehensive course, I’d recommend it. I certainly learnt things.

1 person found this helpful

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  • ben
  • 11-03-2020

interesting whistle stop tour

Cook keeps things palatable whilst detailing thousands of years of history. his knowledge of the church, it's teachings and it's history, go far beyond what he covers, and its clear that this is the case in how he discusses everything.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Nicholas Miller
  • 31-07-2019

The Catholic Church from a Catholic perspective

A well crafted, measured view of the Catholic Church, transparently from the Catholic perspective. It does address many of the darker sides of its history (not all - doesn't go into depth on Opus Dei, the paedophile scandals or negative interpretations of the Jesuits) but gives an overall positive (bordering on proselytizing) interpretation of Catholicism. Any historical work his its interpretation and biases - this one is just more transparent and still definitely worth listening.

1 person found this helpful

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  • LM C
  • 16-03-2019

A must listen!

The amount of information packed into each lecture was top notch. What a great listen!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Stephen Callaghan
  • 28-05-2018

Brilliant and informative!

A wonderfully detailed overview of the Catholic Church's history. Learned a lot. Would listen again.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ed
  • 10-01-2015

Biased history

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

This was apologetics as much as than history. The professor's own faith created a bias that was both unwelcome and illuminating. I understand better how the catholic church self edits its own history and identity from the extraordinarily tendentious narrative that I experienced in this course. It was also full of interesting information and has left me wanting to read further.

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

Yes absolutely. Leaving aside my criticisms of this particular course I have been listening to a number of titles around the themes of church and ancient history and found them to be a superb opportunity to access in depth information about subjects rarely presented to the public

Did The Catholic Church: A History inspire you to do anything?

Yes. It prompted me to turn to a lecture series on Socrates Plato and Aristotle whose input into church history and teaching was something Professor Cook explained well.

Any additional comments?

I listened to these lectures having finished a couple of audible titles concerning early church history, late antiquity and the early middle ages. This was a natural progression. I recommend some prior knowledge of church history before listening to this.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Tom
  • 16-05-2016

Expose of Roman Catholics error by Advocate!.

excellent history of the Apostacy from a convert! the evidence is clear but the deceit still convinces

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