I have begun now a new thread, which I anticipate will be a rather long one, on the book I am currently working on, which I have tentatively titled (recognizing that my tentative titles rarely actually become the title!) The Triumph of Christianity.   I indicated in my previous post that I wrote up a prospectus to give to publishers in order to see if they were interested in offering a contract for the book.  The prospectus ended up being about 17 pages long (double-spaced).  As I mentioned already, the point of the prospectus is to show a potential publisher what the book is about, how it matters, and why it would be really interesting for regular ole readers (as opposed to irregular ole scholars).

The following was the very beginning of my Prospectus, the opening salvo.


In my public talks over the past ten years I have been asked one question about my research more than any other, a question that seems to arise out of any topic I address, whether it is the life and teachings of Jesus, the formation of the New Testament, the history of the early Christian church, or anything else vaguely related.  The question is this:  Why Did Christianity Succeed?   That is to say, if, as appears likely, the Christian religion began immediately after Jesus’ death with a group of some 15-20 of his followers, illiterate Jewish peasants from the backwoods of rural Palestine, how did it spread so rapidly and thoroughly to become a major religion of the ancient Mediterranean, eventually, after 350 years, taking over the entire Roman empire and ultimately becoming the most powerful social, cultural, political, and economic (not to mention religious) force of the Western World?   How can we explain, on historical (as opposed to religious) grounds, the triumph of Christianity?

The question is both inordinately important and unusually interesting, as should be obvious to anyone invested in Western Civilization.   If Christianity had not become the religion of the West, we never would have had the history of late antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the Renaissance, or modernity as we know it.   Some kind of history would have happened, of course, but it would have been incalculably different.   Most of what we think of as Western culture would never have come into being (art, music, literature, philosophy, or  – pick your field of interest!).   And almost all of us would still be worshiping Zeus.

While the question of Christianity’s triumph is fascinating on its own terms, its interest also…

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