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The Christians: An Illustrated History Review by Camilla Anderson

Tim Dowley
Lion Hudson plc
Wilkinson House
Jordan Hill Road
Oxford OX2 8DR, England

This book is a 175-page, hardcover, beautifully illustrated book summarizing the growth of the Christian church from the Jesus to modern times. The book is chronologically organized into 12 chapters, and in additional to the historical essays, includes mini biographies and sections further explaining relevant topics (such as catacombs, Christian music, church calendars, and more).

If you are interested in church history, this book is certainly something you will want to read. As a textbook, it certainly covers most of the basics: the Apostles, the early church fathers, the formation of the Bible, the Papacy, Monks, the Eastern church, the Crusades, reformations, evangelicalism, missions, and more. There are some obvious omissions as far as key characters, events, and issues, yet the author acknowledges these in his introduction. In general, the book is a lot of information organized in a concise manner. It was some pretty heavy reading and took me over a month to read through it, reading at night.

The organization of the information is done fairly well, but when reading, I did notice a few editorial problems that frustrated me. The writing style throughout the book is not consistent, which made the reading more difficult. I would be reading and very engaged and absorbed for several pages, then all of a sudden I would reach a section written using completely unfamiliar terms and/or language styles that were difficult for me to understand, requiring me to come to a near grinding halt and struggle to maintain my comprehension (I am an excellent reader, in case you're wondering). In addition, sometimes the author introduces terms or persons without considering the reader may not know the meaning or the person. It was frustrating because a simple clarifying clause or sentence would give the necessary information. Even more frustrating, most often, the clarifying clause or sentence was included. Just not often enough! Another thing that I didn't care for was the fact that the book is written from the objective--secular--point of view, not the Christian point of view. I feel the Biblical perspective (God's wisdom) is important when considering Christian history. However, much can still be learned by reviewing Christian history objectively.

Despite these small editing flaws and personal preferences, I found the book very helpful and enlightening. I feel that the study of church history can shed light on the current state of Christianity and the church, and through reading this book, I was able to grow personally in my knowledge and understanding of Christianity and what it means to be a follower of Christ.

By comparison, my favorite church history books are the History Lives series by Mindy and Brandon Withrow (Christian Focus Publications), which are written from the Biblical point of view and are an example of historical writing and editing perfection. However, this book, The Christians, An Illustrated History, covers many more facts, dates, and details, making it much more of a history textbook or reference book.

The book is of high quality, heavy gloss paper, and the layout, fonts, color illustrations and captions are very stylish and beautiful--which is what makes this book worth its $25 retail price. Overall, a very helpful book--but supplemental at best--on the history of the Christian faith.

Product Review by Camilla Anderson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2009