BBC: History Of Christianity

Telegraph Take on it

Spotted this tucked away in one of the BBC’s cable only nooks and crannies and I’ve really enjoyed it so far. Starting, well, at the beginning the 4 parts so far have covered early Christiantiy, Catholocism, Orthodoxy and Eastern Christianity, tracing Syriac Orthodoxy into China and the latest one looking at the Reformation, Luther and Zwingli and the spread of Christianity into South and North America.

It’s more or less ignored, unless where it’s pertinent, differences in Dogma or attempting a history of Jesus to concentrate on how Christianity as an idea spread and how the organisations pushing it came into being.

My two complaints with it are that it crams an awful lot of detail into an hour while at the same time not really going into enough depth. An hour a topic barely seems enough to cover the basics but the presenter, Diarmaid MacCulloch’s obvious interest and enthusiasm for the subject really comes across.

Hmm. Thanks for noting this. Interestingly I knew nothing of this series before your thread but I was extremely impressed by the article on “The Christian Tibet” in the most recent National Geographic. The reference is to the number of Christian monasteries along a remote Greek peninsula; largely but not exclusively Greek Orthodox. Anyways, it got me thinking about the history of Christianity and now there’s this.

Have to admit I think they missed a bit of an opportunity around that section of the documentary. I’m still not really any the wiser how and why the Orthodox and Catholic churches split and while they spend a fair amount of time wandering around an apparent old church (now a Buddhist Temple) and the surrounding area in China. Their reasoning for the lack of widespread (continued) adoption of Christianity across much of Asia compared to the middle east and Europe is simply put that unlike in the West, Christianity never had a “state sponsor” like Constantine or Justinian and more or less left at that.

I guess it’s an inherent problem trying to cover so complex a subject with 2000+ years of back story in 6, hour long, segments. As interesting and informative as I think the series is, at times aspects that you’re really interested in hearing more about are briefly covered and then moved on from.

Now that I’m almost done with the book I cannot recommend Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years enough. Fabulous book if you want to get some perspective on the evolution of Christianity over the millenia, and how much it has effected politics, especially in Europe. Latter part of the book may as well be a history of the “Western” world given how much the reformation ties in to the enlightenment and the various awakenings into American thought in general.

Unfortunately the price for the Kindle version on Amazon has almost doubled since I bought it, but I think it’s still worth the price they have it at now. Very readable and very dense in content.

NYT Review

His history of the Reformation is really excellent too.