Edit: it just occurred to me that in addition to being terrible, the title of this post sounds negative. I did not intend it that way.
If the following two books are any indication, it looks like the spring is going to be an exciting time for Christian history. Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the History of the Church at Oxford and Paul Johnson, controversial historian and journalist, are both set to release major works on Jesus and the Church.
The first book is Jesus: a 21st Century Biography by Paul Johnson. Johnson, author of Modern Times and A History of Christianity attempts to prove the importance of Jesus in the 21st century by constructing a portrait of “Jesus of Nazareth, his life, death, resurrection, and ascent into heaven, as simply and factually as possible.”
From the History Book Club:
Accepting the historical fact of Jesus’ existence as given, including his divinity as asserted in the New Testament, the author provides a wealth of detail about the Roman world as a backdrop to Jesus’ life. He weaves the complementary accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John into an integrated chronicle—a base upon which he adds his own informed speculations and deductions about Jesus’ education, his acculturation, and his whereabouts and activities during the 18 “missing” years of his life. In the absence of contemporaneous accounts of Jesus’ physical appearance, Johnson uncovers clues within the texts. The historian’s facility for finding the humanizing detail parallels the habit of penetrating observation that he attributes to Jesus: “He missed nothing. …His all-seeing eyes were, almost certainly, the first thing that struck people about him.” The author’s perception extends even to the Messiah’s personal affinities: for example, his predilection for high elevations during momentous events.
The second book is Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. This ambitious and magisterial work begins one thousand years before Jesus’ birth and continues on until the present day, showing the constant evolution and reformation of Christianity.
In this book:
We follow the Christian story to all corners of the globe, filling in often neglected accounts of conversions and confrontations in Africa and Asia. And we discover the roots of the faith that galvanized America, charting the rise of the evangelical movement from its origins in Germany and England. This book encompasses all of intellectual history-we meet monks and crusaders, heretics and saints, slave traders and abolitionists, and discover Christianity’s essential role in driving the enlightenment and the age of exploration, and shaping the course of World War I and World War II.
Look for reviews of these books soon, if I can get my hands on them.