The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome. Rodney Stark overturns many prevailing views about the early church by revealing the true story of how Christianity grew from a renegade rural movement into an urban revolutionary force that won over the Roman Empire. Based on the very latest scholarship, Stark brings new, authentic, and sometimes startling facts to bear on such ongoing biblical discussions as:
Gnosticism was not a more sophisticated, more authentic form of Christianity, but really an unsuccessful effort to paganize Christianity.
Paganism was not rapidly stamped out by state repression following the conversion of Constantine, but gradually disappeared as people abandoned the temples in response to the superior appeal of Christianity.
Contrary to generations of historians, Mithraism posed no challenge to Christianity to become the new faith of the empire -- it allowed no female members and attracted only soldiers.
Where we have traditionally thought Christianity was spread by mass conversions due to St. Paul's sermons and force of personality, we learn that it's spread was, in fact, gradual and logical. Whereas many recent scholars want to argue for gnosticism as a supressed competing form of Christianity, Stark argues that it was, in fact, a form of paganism and died a natural death from lack of converts. For the first time, a scholar has collected the hard data that challenges the common beliefs about the earliest days of how Christianity spread to become the largest religion in the world.
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