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I think it's interesting how folk from the more "conservative" side of the spectrum tend to call something "biased" if they don't agree. Rather, MacCulloch comes from a specific scholarly school in the study of religion. This is not a question of bias, but one of approach. I tended to disagree with him on some fine points, such as the bit in Corinthians where Paul allegedly instructs women not to speak, but also, in the same book, tells women that they need to cover their heads when they prophesy. MacCulloch just calls that an "unstable" contradiction where my understanding is that this might have been an interlineation by some copyist. So is MacCulloch biased? Of course he is, to the extent that we all approach the world from different world views. But generally, we just happen to disagree on that point.
Despite my occasional disagreements, I found the book ably written, giving me a lot to mull over. New material that I hadn't read before. That's always the glory of good writing. It's never a good thing to take in anything as "gospel truth." One should always read from a variety of sources, because there may be a new take on the subject that will also be compelling.
The reader, Walter Dixon, is really quite good. He reminded me of a good university professor, rather than a random audiobook reader. He was easy to listen to and never irritated me. I found that his reading kept me listening, while I walked, drove, and made dinner. I even tried to listen while doing some work work, but I kept getting distracted so had to turn it off.
37 of 39 people found this review helpful
Anyone who thoroughly enjoys Medieval and Renaissance history as I do can tell you that the history of Christianity is so bound up with it as to be inseparable. The thing is, a great many history books will give you only what's necessary specific to the topic at hand and very little else. Even books on the Crusades, which presumably center around religion, will leave the underlying faith as an accepted and understood issue, touching upon the heretical issues as they come up.
This book is specifically geared towards pretty much anyone who wants the details as well as the broad strokes. It covers the history of Christianity from the onset of Judaism as an offshoot of earlier traditions, Christianity's beginnings as an offshoot of that, and covers its evolution not just in Western Europe, but also in Greece, Russia, Africa, Korea, and all parts of the globe where the cross is held high. It goes even further as Islam splinters from that, and the history of the Middle Eastern faiths are examined as an intertwined whole. As it goes, the reader is given another portrait to absorb as the beliefs evolve in the various corners of the globe, across time and through politics or scholarly pursuits.
In short, this is the most complete picture of Christianity that I've certainly ever encountered, and it's helped my understanding of history considerably. Special kudos not only to what it covers and why, but also how, as the outline for this book is nothing short of daunting. To cover this topic so completely is nothing short of a feat.
As one might expect, a history of this depth and magnitude will likely call into question the faith of a devout individual reading this book as not everything is as tradition holds to be true in our day and age, and as that tradition may vary depending on which sect you follow. I would challenge that the scholarly will find a great deal of wealth here, and the religiously-minded will be confronted with questions fundamental to their faith. How those questions are answered will ultimately be determined by individual willingness to see past the rigid and into the changing waters of history. Some are more readily accepting of this than others, obviously, everyone has to approach the question their own way. Being a hefty monster of a tome, however, this one is most definitely aimed at the serious scholar, regardless of the historical or spiritual approach.
17 of 18 people found this review helpful
Having enjoyed Diarmaid MacCulloch's BBC series, I was thrilled to see this book available on Audible. The content is fascinating - however, I find the American narration off putting and distracting (timbre, pronounciations e.g. deity, Israel etc). Had it been a British narrator, I wouldn't hesitate to give it 5 stars.
24 of 29 people found this review helpful
As many other reviewers have said, the reader of this book is very disappointing. I have no objection to listening to Americans, but in this case some of the pronunciations of words, particularly when they are referring to things relating to England, are just wrong, and I've never even heard Americans pronounce them that way. I was also irritated by his apparently careful pronunciation of the words "Irish" and "Ireland" with a self-conscious Irish brogue; I kept thinking "If he goes to that much trouble for those words why can't he put a bit of effort into the rest of it!
I spent most of my listening time having to suppress a constant level of irritation with the poor reading. I would definitely NOT buy another Audible book if it was narrated by this reader.
This is a great shame because the writing itself is really good.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I was looking for a book connecting world history with the development of Christianity. This book makes a brave attempt at doing that, though sometimes it has too much detail about religious controversies for my taste and perhaps too little detail on the historical side. I guess this is to be expected, as its focus is on Christianity rather than world history. The book still provides a lot of useful connections between the two subjects.