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The Birth of the Church: From Jesus to Constantine, AD 30-312 (Baker History of the Church) [Hardcover]

By Ivor J. Davidson (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   400
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 5.9" Height: 1.3"
Weight:   1.7 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 31, 2004
Publisher   Baker Publishing Group
ISBN  0801012708  
EAN  9780801012709  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Christians today are becoming more and more interested in studying the roots of their faith and the development of the church. Finally there is an accessible but authoritative series every Christian can turn to: The Baker History of the Church. Readers will not merely learn the basics; The Baker History of the Church also examines much-ignored themes, such as the role of popular religion, women, and the history of the Bible. In volume one, The Birth of the Church, Ivor J. Davidson helps readers explores the first 300 years of church history using the most recent biblical research and historical scholarship. This highly readable series also examines recurring problems of the church, like its relationship with the state, other religions, and secularism.

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More About Ivor J. Davidson

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Ivor J. Davidson has an academic affiliation as follows - University of St Andrews Scotland.

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General   [31520  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General   [6817  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Quite A Good Introduction  Mar 19, 2006
The history of the church is so wide, so long, so vast, that it is intimidating to even begin a study of it. Yet the study of church history is exceedingly important, for only in understanding where the church has come from can we truly understand who we are and where we are going. In the past I have tried to read several series and one-volume histories of the church. Some have been wonderful and others have left a lot to be desired. Recently I decided to try reading The Baker History fo the Church. The five-part series (four of which are currently available) begins with The Birth of the Church which covers the early history of the church, stretching from the death of Jesus to Constantine's rise to power in AD 312--so roughly three hundreds years of history.

The first two volumes of this series, which is edited by Tim Dowley, are written by Ivor Davidson, senior lecturer in systematic theology at the University of Otago, New Zealand. According to a brief biography provided by Baker, he has written extensively on the history and theology of the early church. With my limited knowledge of early church history I feel somewhat inadequate to review such a book. I will have little to say about the accuracy of the information Davidson presents about the early church, as I will have to leave that for more educated historians than myself. What I will do, though, is direct the reader of this review to some of the strengths and weaknesses that present themselves within the book.

Strengths: I found the book quite easy to read and greatly informative. This is a book that is suitable as a textbook for college-level courses, and it is my understanding that many colleges and seminaries have adopted it as their text. It contains few illustrations or frills. It is, plain and simply, history. It did bog down a fair bit in some of the middle chapters, where the author discussed particular points of theology relating to some of the church fathers. I had to force myself through several of those chapters, but was richly rewarded in the final three chapters which discuss the worship and practice of the early church, its ministry and morals and its faith and politics. So while the book is at times a little bit uneven, it is clearly directed at the layperson rather than the scholar.

The early chapters were particularly gripping. Davidson tells the story of the book of Acts in the way we might find it written in a history text and I found this a compelling approach. It led me to a greater understanding of the history of the early church. An entire chapter is devoted to Paul, his travels, his impact and his theology.

Weaknesses: I was somewhat disappointed to see that the author probably lends a little too much credibility to the ongoing questions of New Testament authorship. A person who reads a good study Bible will quickly learn that almost every New Testament book has generated some level of controversy surrounding its authorship, but at this point there are only a couple where any serious doubts remain. Davidson seems willing to concede that the pastoral epistles may not have been written by Paul and that James may have been written by someone other than James. This was a little bit disappointing to me and may cause a reader to doubt the authenticity of some of the books of Scripture.

A further weakness was in the author's understanding of the roles of women as defined by Scripture. The Bible provides women great freedom in their faith, but does restrict certain roles. Davidson would seem to doubt this and his belief is apparent that it was the early church that misread the Bible and caused women to be excluded from the leadership of the church.

In fact, it seems that perhaps the author is willing to concede a few too many points to political correctness and the spirit of our age. I was surprised to see him say, "Within a few years, the seeds would be sown that would develop into the shocking traditions of Christian anti-Semitism, in which the Jews would be blamed directly for the crucifixion of the Messiah and regarded as apostates upon whom God's justice had justly fallen." While anti-Semitism has existed within the church at various times and in various places, considering the Jews responsible for Jesus' death and considering them apostate, is hardly anti-Semitic and is, in reality, little more than what the Scripture teaches. This affirmation, however, ought not to cause Christians to turn on Jews or to regard them differently, for we know that we are all responsible for Jesus' death.

Conclusion: Despite these shortcomings, I did find this a valuable read and there is little doubt that I have a better understanding of the early church now than I did before I began this text. I intend to press on with the next volume of the series, which will lead me from AD 312 to AD 600.
For the average reader  Apr 27, 2005
As someone who has been interested in Church history for several years (and has done some mild studying), this book was kind of like learning the ABCs over again, even though they were already fresh in my mind. However, even though this book is about the basics, it does introduce some interesting cultural information (and perhaps sometimes speculation) and small details that might slightly change one's perspective towards certain details in Church history. For instance, the Roman Empire is portrayed fairly as it was, not as a necessarily evil and anti-Christian institution, but rather as a constantly changing entity that tended to have policy that was anti-Christian and resulted in persecution.

Another aspect that is worth mentioning is that the book doesn't cover theology very well at all. This truly is a "history," and a traditional model of early catholic doctrine is not covered in this volume. As far as I can tell, this book is well-balanced, not offering a liberally biased perspective, but in the least it can be said that this book will not challenge anyone, even of a completely different faith. In some aspects this is definitely a good thing, because it attracts people to study the little-known post-apostolic Church history, but this is not a very good piece, therefore, to challenge a traditional Christian to put his/her worldview into spiritual perspective.

If the scope of the ensuing volumes of this series could be conjectured about, I think it would be best to describe them as a very comprehensive beginner's history. If you are looking for something a bit more entertaining and quick, but also presented in excellent writing, I would suggest Bruce L. Shelly's "Church History in Plain Language: Updated 2nd Edition." Or, if you are searching for something much more comprehensive and emphatic on the theological aspect of history, I would suggest "The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine" series by Jaroslav Pelikan.

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