The best books on the history of Christianity 📚

Browse the best books on the history of Christianity as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The Making of Late Antiquity

The Making of Late Antiquity

By Peter Brown

Why this book?

The historian Peter Brown is the great expert on the late Roman/early Christian era, and he writes like a scholarly poet. I don’t think anyone has done a better job of putting the lives and thoughts of Christian intellectuals and laypeople in the context of a Roman society experiencing convulsive, transformative change. This book will change your views of both Roman and Christian cultures. If you’re like me, it will lead you to read Brown’s other works, such as his epic 2012 study, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity…

From the list:

The best books about the divinity of Jesus and theological battles among early Christians

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Book cover of The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity

The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity

By Hyam Maccoby

Why this book?

If we only had Paul to rely on for our knowledge of Jesus’ life, all we’d know is that he was born, was Jewish, had brothers and died. Written by a British academic, The Mythmaker is a break-through book that shows how Paul created Christianity by developing a mythology/theology about the significance of the death of Jesus as a Christ. Maccoby’s thought is further developed in my book, How Jesus Became Christian (2008) that demonstrates how different Paul’s religion was from that of Jesus.

From the list:

The best books on early Christianity

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Book cover of The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity

The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity

By Jeffrey J. Butz

Why this book?

According to the gospels, Jesus had 4 brothers – James, Jose, Simon, Judas – and at least two sisters (who are not named). What happened to these individuals after Jesus’ crucifixion? Butz explores the Jewish movement that stemmed from Jesus’ brother, James. James led Jesus’ followers from the time of Jesus’ death up until his own death in 62 CE. A leader who knew Jesus his whole life, James regarded Jesus as a Jewish teacher. He differed radically from Paul, who never met the Jesus of history. This book explores the original movement that originated from Jesus.

From the list:

The best books on early Christianity

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Book cover of The Call

The Call

By John Hersey

Why this book?

I know I said in my introduction that there are too many books from the missionary perspective and not enough from a Chinese point of view, but I’m going to make an exception here with the only novel, too, in the group. In this 1985 title, the extraordinary John Hersey captures the urge of American missionaries to proselytize in China, as well as their complicated relationship with Chinese Christians. This sweeping fictional biography of David Treadup, whose character is a composite of the lives of actual missionaries, including Hersey’s father, carries the reader from New York state in the early…

From the list:

The best books about the history of Christianity in China

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Book cover of A.D. 381: Heretics, Pagans, and the Dawn of the Monotheistic State

A.D. 381: Heretics, Pagans, and the Dawn of the Monotheistic State

By Charles Freeman

Why this book?

The year 381 marked the point at which the new Roman emperor, Theodosius, convened the Church council that outlawed Arianism and made Jesus’ role as God incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity, an essential part of Christian orthodoxy. For the historian Charles Freeman, this noxious combination of secular and ecclesiastical power stands as the origin of the development he described earlier in The Closing of the Western Mind (Anchor, 2005). Freeman’s analysis of the “Greek-ification” of Christian thinking is very sharp, and he tells the story of Theodosius well, even if he sometimes seems to be reading elements of…

From the list:

The best books about the divinity of Jesus and theological battles among early Christians

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Book cover of The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound

The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound

By Anthony Buzzard, Charles F. Hunting

Why this book?

Sir Anthony Buzzard, the leader of a self-described “Biblical Unitarian” church, and co-author Charles F. Hunting have written a learned, strongly argued polemic against the Trinitarian doctrine that is still accepted by most believing Christians.  As a non-Christian, I do not take sides in the continuing debate over the relationship of the Son to the Father, but the debate does continue, and Sir Anthony’s book is a must for those interested in it.  It can be read usefully in conjunction with his later study, Jesus Was Not A Trinitarian (Restoration Fellowship, 2007).       

From the list:

The best books about the divinity of Jesus and theological battles among early Christians

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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