Ehrman (Misquoting Jesus), a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, provides a lucid and convincing account of the growth of Christianity in the Roman world. He begins with a question: how to explain the phenomenal success of Christianity within a pagan empire? His answers reject the theory that Christianity’s spread was due simply to Emperor Constantine’s embrace of the faith or continual missionary activity (which he says didn’t happen after Paul). Instead, he shows Christianity’s achievements to have been the result of an incremental numbers game in which geometric progression won the day. Ehrman doesn’t provide new research, but his careful synthesis of existing scholarship creates an approachable study of the early church. Strong aspects of the book include Ehrman’s placing of such issues as Christian exclusivity, Christian care for plague victims, and Christian martyrdom within the context of the wider Roman ethos. The book covers much familiar ground but is well worth reading for those wishing to dispel myths around the early Christian churches. Agent: Roger Freet, Foundry Literary + Media. (Feb. 2018)
This review has been corrected to reflect that the book will now be published in early 2018 rather than in late 2017.