The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity

The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity
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Wilken, Robert Louis


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Listen to a lecture by Robert Louis Wilken entitled Going Deeper into the Bible: The Church Fathers as Interpreters. (Wheaton College)

Publisher's Description

How did a community that was largely invisible in the first two centuries of its existence go on to remake the civilizations it inhabited, culturally, politically, and intellectually? Beginning with the life of Jesus, Robert Louis Wilken narrates the dramatic spread and development of Christianity over the first thousand years of its history. Moving through the formation of early institutions, practices, and beliefs to the transformations of the Roman world after the conversion of Constantine, he sheds new light on the subsequent stories of Christianity in the Latin West, the Byzantine and Slavic East, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

Through a selected narration of particularly noteworthy persons and events, Wilken demonstrates how the coming of Christianity set in motion one of the most profound revolutions the world has known. This is not a story limited to the West; rather, Christian communities in Ethiopia, Nubia, Armenia, Georgia, Persia, Central Asia, India, and China shaped the course of Christian history. The rise and spread of Islam had a lasting impact on the future of Christianity, and several chapters are devoted to the early experiences of Christians under Muslim rule. Wilken reminds us that the career of Christianity is characterized by decline and attrition as well as by growth and expansion.

Ten years in the making and the result of a lifetime of study, this is Robert Louis Wilken’s summa, a moving, reflective, and commanding account from a scholar at the height of his powers.

388 Pages
Published November 2012

About the Author

Robert Louis Wilken is William R. Kenan Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia. His previous books include The Christians as the Romans Saw Them and The Land Called Holy: Palestine in Christian History and Thought.

Book Details

388 Pages
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: November 2012
ISBN 10: 0300118848
ISBN 13: 9780300118841

“I have been a fan of Wilken, a leading Roman Catholic historian of early Christianity, ever since I went to Princeton to hear him give a lecture on the secularisation of modern Christianity. When asked by a member of the audience -- and remember, this is Princeton we are talking about -- to give an example of selling out to the world, he declared (without taking a breath) 'Inclusive language translations of the Bible.' The place descended into uproar. Quite magnificent. This book is a superb tour of the first millennium of the Christian faith, written with his usual learning, wit and clarity. It will be on both my Ancient Church and Medieval syllabi from now on.”
- Carl R. Trueman, Paul Woolley Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary

“Robert Wilken has written the best kind of authoritative historical survey. Its treatment is learned, thorough, but also accessible for all aspects of early Christian history, and especially for the great significance of Islam to the entire Christian world from the seventh century forward.”
- Mark Noll, author, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys

“A marvelous and unique survey, learned and authoritative, yet also a perfect introduction to the early history of Christianity. Robert Wilken redraws many boundaries, expanding horizons, summarizing and analyzing with consummate skill. This beautifully written book sets new standards on multiple levels, and should stand for a long time as the benchmark by which all other surveys are measured.”
- Carlos Eire, author, Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy

“This is a rich and wonderful book, not only because of Robert Wilken's narrative gifts, but because of his immense scholarly range and sympathies. His is one of the few treatments of Christianity's first millennium for Anglophone readers that embraces the faith's whole history, cultural and geographical, Eastern and Western, Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonian, European, Asian, and African. It is a pure joy to read.”
- David Hart, author, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies

“Robert Wilken reminds us that our association of 'global' developments in culture, communications and economics with the beginning of the Third Millennium forgets the world of the First Millennium, which was integrated by a universal faith. This book is both unique and timely, the fruit of broad erudition and deep reflection.”
- Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago

“Christianity is a historical religion, yet much of its actual life from the New Testament until early modern times remains largely unknown. Robert Wilken, one of our best historians, provides here a fascinating account of Christianity’s first millennium, the undivided church which is the patrimony of all Christians. Written with elegance, grace, and insight.”
- Timothy George, Dean, Beeson Divinity School

“Impressive . . . a compelling narrative . . . an outstanding achievement.”
- Maria E. Doerfler, Commonweal