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This sweeping history begins with the life of Jesus and narrates the remarkable story of Christianity as it unfolded over the next thousand years. Unique in its global scope, the book encompasses the vast geographical span of early Christianity, from the regions around the Mediterranean Sea through the Middle East and beyond to central Asia, India, and China. Robert Louis Wilken, beloved professor and renowned author, selects people and events of particular importance in Christian history to bring into focus the full drama of the new religion's development. The coming of Christianity, he demonstrates, set in motion one of the most profound revolutions the world has known. Wilken tracks the growth of Christian communities around the ancient world and shows how the influence of Christianity led not only to the remaking of cultures but also to the creation of new civilizations. He explores the powerful impact of the rise and spread of Islam on Christianity and devotes several chapters to the early experiences of Christians under Muslim rule in the Middle East, Egypt, north Africa, and Spain. By expanding the telling of Christian history to encompass perspectives beyond just those of the West, Wilken highlights how interactions with new peoples and languages changed early Christian practices, even as the shared rituals of Christian people bound them in spiritual unity despite their deep cultural differences.
Written by a preeminent religious historian, this book provides an introduction to early Christian thought. Focusing on major figures such as St. Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa, as well as a host of less well known thinkers, Robert Wilken chronicles the emergence of a specifically Christian intellectual tradition. In chapters on topics including early Christian worship, Christian poetry and the spiritual life, the Trinity, Christ, the Bible, and icons, Wilken shows that the energy and vitality of early Christianity arose from within the life of the Church. While early Christian thinkers drew on the philosophical and rhetorical traditions of the ancient world, it was the versatile vocabulary of the Bible that loosened their tongues and minds and allowed them to construct the world anew, intellectually and spiritually. These thinkers were not seeking to invent a world of ideas, Wilken shows, but rather to win the hearts of men and women and to change their lives. Early Christian thinkers set in place a foundation that has endured. Their writings are an irreplaceable inheritance, and Wilken shows that they can still be heard as living voices within contemporary culture.