Every generation has an uncanny tendency to view themselves as more enlightened than those that have gone before. The Church certainly has made mistakes all through history – and yet, no insights which we possess would be possible without the efforts, and even some of the mistakes, of our ancestors. The first volume of 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power covers the period from the 1st Century AD to the start of the Middle Ages. From the works of Saint Augustine of Hippo to the first apologetic ever penned, this time in history established the foundations of what we take for granted today.
Every book in this series is excellent and this is no exception. The early church is often falsely presented as a story of early Roman Catholicism – this is a more balanced presentation that gives the reader a window into the early church as the early church rather than attempting to read any specific modern group back onto them. If you want a broad understanding of the history of christianity read this series. Whilst I’d recommend reading the 4 volumes in order you can dive in with any of them if there’s a particular time period you want to dig into.
This is a fantastic overview of early church history. Very readable, engaging and utterly fascinating. It’s really brought this period alive for me. I especially enjoyed reading the extracts from primary sources at the end of each chapter. I think this is the first time I’ve ever found a history book hard to put down!
This has to be the ‘go–to’ book for anyone mildly interested in Church history. As my title has it, it is an absolute gem. What’s so good about it? First, it’s fairly short. I read it in about a week, marking almost every page. Second, it’s detailed enough for you to understand what went on and what the debates and theological arguments were all about. Complex words or ideas are explained for the non–specialist, so any Christian can understand it. Third, unnecessary, cumbersome information is avoided, so that the book flows well and is a joy to read. Fourth, the writing style is excellent. Needham’s is that exemplary combination between academic/scholarly style and readability – perfectamundo! Very rare indeed. In short, it’s the ideal balance between ‘being academically reliable’ and also ‘accessible’, as the back cover puts it. Fifth, it draws the Church and her history into the time before Christ, and the apostolic era, so that the reader feels that what Christ accomplished and what the apostles did is actual history. It seems some Church history books essentially begin after the apostles, but this makes one feel that Christ and His disciples are just ‘bible stories’, which is potentially unhelpful for believers. Rather, with this one, Christ is put into his historical context, and information about the Roman Empire, the Jews and the Pharisees, etc. is all included and illuminating. Sixth, extracts of writings from each period are at the end of each chapter and are well worth a read. Some are highly intriguing, such as references to the Trinity way before Nicea 325 AD. The Church didn’t just ‘make up’ the Trinity in the fourth–century, as is often believed today. Seventh, the real appeal of this book, as I see it, is the depth of the theology it delivers. This is typical of Needham’s books and it is unusual for a Church history book. Church history is often treated as, well, Church history – events and people. Fair enough. But the fact is that Church history cannot and must not be divided from theology, because the history of the Church is very much the history of theology. Needham’s dealings with theological controversies, heresies, etc. is truly outstanding. The high point, for me, was p.382–90, ‘The Monothelete Controversy’. How often do we hear about this in our churches, or in theological books? And yet this ancient controversy and the Church’s victory on this matter is brilliantly explained and wholly defended by Needham as essential to the Christian faith. I had no idea how important that controversy was. I didn’t even know who Maximus the Confessor was! But it was a matter decided by an Ecumenical Council (680–81 AD), and is in many ways just as important as the one at Nicea on Christ’s Deity (325 AD) and the one at Constantinople on the Trinity (381 AD). It carries the same weight and authority, anyway. I love reading a book which covers ground I could access elsewhere, but also provides fresh insights and things I’ve never heard of before. This is that book. And in my ‘umble estimation, this is hands down one of the most important books for modern, Western Christians. Churches would hugely benefit from purchasing loads of these, handing them out, and studying it together in groups. Obviously the individual believers will derive much of use. It will greatly aid knowledge of Christian history, and especially Christian theology, as well as warming the soul.
I hated history at school, and for decades as a Christian I neglected church history. This book brought the subject to life. Nick Needham’s aim was to be academically reliable but accessibly readable. He has succeeded. He goes beyond the people and dates (though there are plenty of those) to tell us why the characters were important, and how they fitted in to the big story. He gives a thorough survey of the doctrinal controversies, explaining the various viewpoints concisely and clearly. Some of this is deep stuff, but he takes nothing for granted (and even gives the pronunciation – would you know how to say ‘Monotheletism’?) Though the book is over 400 pages long, I finished it in less than two weeks, and I can’t wait to begin Volume 2!
Total Price: £1.99