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My reaction to this book is mixed. The author spends an inordinate amount of space stating & restating that a major part of Christian history has been ignored... the history of the eastern church and its theology. I began to wonder if he ever was going to get around to that history and those beliefs. IMHO, much of the first & second chapters could be omitted. For me, the meat of the book begins at chapter 3 (approx 2 hr 45 min on the timer).
I did learn a great deal of fascinating information-- I'd often wondered about Coptic and Syriac Christianity, both of which get cursory treatment in most church histories. They tend to be dismissed as heresy, apparently unworthy of further discussion for that reason. I had read that eastern Christian missionaries had gone as far as India & China long before the West began to visit Asia; however, I didn't realize that sizable eastern Christian communities had developed in the East.
Up front, what you should know is that the author doesn't write as a historian, ie there is a great deal of commentary and interpretation interspersed with the facts. If you are expecting an "objective" history, look elsewhere (objective in quotes because true objectivity is impossible in the real world). The author's judgments change depending on the time & circumstances discussed-- the bias isn't consistent one way or the other. He is generally negative about the later Muslim treatment of eastern Christians but less so about the earlier years.
The narrator is OK but not riveting. On the other hand, I'm not sure how one could render the text less prosaically.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
What was one of the most memorable moments of The Lost History of Christianity?
Lost History isn't the best book I've ever read, but it was a learning experience. I've even taken some courses on Christian history before, and outside of a few paragraphs here or there, almost none of the "lost history" was covered. There really was no part of the book that didn't offer some good insight or things to think about. That said, however, there is little fluff in the book and it is crammed full of information and it really would take a few readings to digest it all. There was so much information that if I had to take a test over this book, I would be really worried right at the moment.
One of unexpected pluses of the book is that it isn't just a history of Christianity. It covered Christianity in relation to other religions in the Middle East, and in doing so, also went a long way in giving some history of said other religions (Islam, Buddhism, etc.). In fact, I found the author to be really fair on his assessments. For instance, he pointed out some periods of history where Islam won battles and gained ground, and Christians wrote that they were actually glad to not be under the rule of Rome any more. And when history changed and Christian persecution under Islam escalated, he didn't gloss over things or make excuses for them. But at no point did I feel he wasn't pretty fair to all parties involved, even though the book was obviously written from a Christian viewpoint of the events.
All in all, Jenkins is a gifted writer, and he gave me a new way to look at certain things...things I have seen as "watering down" Christianity for decades now, I at least have a little different perspective on now.
Any additional comments?
I saw one reviewer state that at one point in his life, he didn't think some of the groups -- Jacobites, Nestorians, etc. -- were true Christians. I might get a few details wrong here, but I got a chuckle of out one part of Lost History where a representative from Rome finally got to visit Christians in Ethiopia (I think), and they treated him badly and said he was not saved because he was outside of the Ethiopian church hierarchy. Yep. They were real Christians, all right!
7 of 7 people found this review helpful