Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Christianity: Two Thousand Years

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Christianity: Two Thousand Years

Article excerpt

Christianity: Two Thousand Years. Edited by Richard Harries and Henry Mayr-Harting. (New York: Oxford University Press. 2001. Pp. xii, 279. $18.95.)

This book originated in a series of public lectures given in Oxford over the academic year 1999-2000. The lecturers look back at the past two thousand years in order to provide some perspective as the new millennium approached. The lecturers were drawn from various English universities including Oxford and Cambridge.

The book follows the standard division of church history with chapters on the Early Church, Late Antiquity, Early Middle Ages, Later Middle Ages, Reformation, etc. They are well written, as one would expect from English dons, often breezy in style, and often magisterial. The interaction of Church and secular culture is especially well done.

Here are some of the insights I found tantalizing.

In his chapter on the Early Church Henry Chadwick believes the concern about correct and precise formulations of true doctrine left a legacy that would lead medieval schoolmen to excess.

Averil Cameron holds there was no "triumph of Christianity" in the fourth century. If there was, it was bought at the cost of authoritarianism and persecution.

Henry Mayr-Harting explains how the new Christian ethic began to pervade the Germanic political world. In the case of Charlemagne it led to the totally novel concept that a ruler should behave with humility. Which meant he should listen to the Church. Which helped to foster a vital notion in European history-that political power and authority should be limited.

Diarmaid MacCulloch's chapter on the Reformation is a masterpiece of condensation that manages to connect all the dots. …

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