Triumph of Christianity

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World, by Bart D. Ehrman

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  1. Just finished this book, The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World, by Bart D. Ehrman

    According to his point of view, Christianity triumphed not because Constantine converted, as many think, but rather for the following reasons, which would have led to its success regardless of Constantine’s conversion (although that likely helped as well, and if it weren’t Constantine, it would have been another Roman emperor soon):

    1) It offered “one-stop shopping.” Christianity was/is an all-encompassing religion (an idea expressed by James Rives), which was different from the pagan religions at that time.

    2) It was both exclusive and evangelizing. The only other ancient religion that was exclusive was Judaism. And no other ancient religion, he argues, was evangelizing.

    3) It offered community. Pagan cults did not, so much. The early Christian communities, like many now, were tightly knit.

    4) Superior health care. Unlike the pagans, who generally let the sick fend for themselves during a plague, Christians tended to the sick. This idea he borrows from a sociologist Rodney Stark, but it’s not clear whether more tending to the sick would help or hurt the growth of Christians, since they could often catch the illness.

    5) Belief in miracles. These amazing stories verified the Christian message.

    6) Terrors of the afterlife. Going hand-in-hand with miracles, and hope of everlasting paradise in heaven, fear of hell created a new problem for pagan would-be converts that Christianity then resolved, eliciting a previously unknown need that Christianity then satisfies.

    Etymological Fun facts:

    Traitor: The word “traitor” comes from “traditores,” (“those who handed over”) because during Roman persecution of Christians under Emperor Diocletian in 303 CE, Christian clergy were commanded to *hand over* copies of Scripture to be destroyed, and these clergy were referred to as traditores.

    Iota: The idiomatic word “iota” may come from the Greek words homoousias (no iota, or letter i) and homoiosias (which does have the letter iota, or i). The words refer to the nature of Christ in competing Christiologies. The first one means “same substance” and the second one means “similar substance” (ie, was Christ one with God the Father or just like God the Father?).

    There was just an iota of difference between these very similar words. It is ironic, of course, that the phrase “not one iota of difference” means “not even a tiny difference” given that the difference in meaning between these two Greek words was great enough to split the Church (the homoousias group won over the homoiousias – or Arian – group at the Council of Nicea, of course, so that now Christians think that Christ really is God, not just like God).

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