Cities of God

The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome

By Rodney Stark
(HarperOne, Paperback, 9780061349881, 280pp.)

Publication Date: November 2014

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Description

How did the preaching of a peasant carpenter from Galilee spark a movement that would grow to include over two billion followers? Who listened to this "good news," and who ignored it? Where did Christianity spread, and how? Based on quantitative data and the latest scholarship, preeminent scholar and journalist Rodney Stark presents new and startling information about the rise of the early church, overturning many prevailing views of how Christianity grew through time to become the largest religion in the world.

Drawing on both archaeological and historical evidence, Stark is able to provide hard statistical evidence on the religious life of the Roman Empire to discover the following facts that set conventional history on its head:

Contrary to fictions such as The Da Vinci Code and the claims of some prominent scholars, Gnosticism was not a more sophisticated, more authentic form of Christianity, but really an unsuccessful effort to paganize Christianity.

Paul was called the apostle to the Gentiles, but mostly he converted Jews.

Paganism was not rapidly stamped out by state repression following the vision and conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine in 312 AD, but gradually disappeared as people abandoned the temples in response to the superior appeal of Christianity.

The "oriental" faiths—such as those devoted to Isis, the Egyptian goddess of love and magic, and to Cybele, the fertility goddess of Asia Minor—actually prepared the way for the rapid spread of Christianity across the Roman Empire.

Contrary to generations of historians, the Roman mystery cult of Mithraism posed no challenge to Christianity to become the new faith of the empire— it allowed no female members and attracted only soldiers.

By analyzing concrete data, Stark is able to challenge the conventional wisdom about early Christianity offering the clearest picture ever of how this religion grew from its humble beginnings into the faith of more than one-third of the earth's population.




About the Author
Rodney Stark is a renowned scholar and researcher, and is recognized as one of the foremost sociologists working in the field of sociology of religion. Professor Stark has published more than 140 articles and 27 scholarly books that have won numerous awards and acknowledgements, including a Pulitzer Prize nomination. He is also known as a pioneer in the technology field. He co-founded the MicroCase Corporation, which is now a part of Thomson Wadsworth. With his background in journalism, it isn't surprising that in addition to receiving praise for his unique approach to sociology, he's received praise for having one of the better-written texts on the market.


Praise For Cities of God

Pairing data with a fresh reading of scripture, this approach provides several surprises. . . . An intriguing read.
-Kirkus Reviews

Stark converts plausible conjectures into testable hypotheses about the growth of Christianity . . . this book will spark controversy.
-ALA Booklist

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