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The Triumph of Christianity

From Jesus of Nazareth to the Holy Roman Empire, explore the rise of Christianity.

The Triumph of Christianity is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 11.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good but, perhaps, insufficient explanation? I really enjoyed this excellent series of lectures by the good professor Bart Ehrman but I think that he overstated the good effects of Christianity in the period of the later Middle Ages. The Renaissance eventuated due to the recovery of the Classics not by any Christian religiosity. Even though the professor stated that the history of the west was not possible without Christianity, the true blossoming of the west could only have taken place because of Greek and Roman civilizations. In my opinion, Christianity produced more harm than good: the invention of the sub-sensible world of evil not inherent in the pagan religions, for example. I am not fond of Christianity. Thank you for making these points clear to a certain extent.
Date published: 2021-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My Favorite Great Courses Lecture Series I have read 13 of Bart Ehrman's books and watched or listened to all of his Great Courses (GC) offerings. While I have enjoyed all of his books that I have read and his GC available offerings as well, my two favorite GC courses are How Jesus Became God and his latest CG offering reviewed here: The Triumph of Christianity. With respect to The Triumph of Christianity, like all of Professor Ehrman's books and courses it is a non-theological and singularly historical perspective. However, Professor Ehrman as all of his readers and CG course watchers and listeners know that in addition to his Phd in religeous studies he does have MDIV degree which actually qualifies him to preach from a pulpit should he choose to do so. However, in limiting himself - so to speak - to historical interpretation and commentary only he avails himself to a much wider more variegated readership and audience than he would otherwise. My point her being that his MDIV allows to provide a broader and , in my opinion, greater in depth interpretation of his material that he would otherwise have. So, to both the religious historical buff and theological student alike his insights and points of clarification can be both illuminating and clarifying for all interested parties. The GC graphics, itemized points of interest and quotes from scripture shown on your screen ans he speaks all add a helpful learning dimension to enjoyment the course. Also the lecture setting where Bart speaks from in the rear of what appears to be a gothic church or cathedral provides an entertaining and historical relevance to the course's impact - at least it did that for me. Finally, during the last lecture, number 24, Bart, in my opinion, effectively describes/summarizes from his point of view as an historian, what would be missing from western culture, history and philosophy if not for the Triumph of Christianity and specifically what the title of his course means to him leaving his listeners to now decide for themselves.
Date published: 2021-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bart!, Typical Ehrman course. Extremely rewarding experience. One of your best contributors!
Date published: 2021-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Probable history In our Western world we are raised in close contact with Christianism, as a believer, agnostic, atheist or something in between. But we have mostly no idea of the real history behind all this. In this sense Prof. Bart Ehrman does an impressive job explaining us what until recently was almost secret knowledge of Theological Faculties. The information is high quality, and the explications are brilliant and clear, in contrast with the traditional way of communication about these subjects. He draws us the evolution of real people with their beliefs, fears, hope etc. For a lot of religious people it can be quite shocking this down to earth style of communication, and even me I have to 'lump' it from time to time. Some times it becomes a bit rude/sarcastic, but in the end each professor has his personal style, and we have to live with it. I read several of his books, and to hear him talking was surprising. But let's not bother about unimportant style questions, because the content and the visions are very relevant and authoritative. It is a privilege to be able to listen to him. I just mention his particular style, because I feel that religious people could interpret this as disrespect, and this is a pity for me. Thanks a lot Dr. Ehrman for your courses here. I enjoy them so much, also spiritually. To discover the real Jesus behind al these theological and institutional mist is almost an epiphany for me.
Date published: 2021-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I quite enjoyed it Ehrman presents a clear-eyed review of the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire. I enjoyed his authoritative presentation of this material as much as I have enjoyed his others for Wondrium / The Great Courses / The Teaching Company in the past. I especially enjoyed the visual presentation - which avoided the maddening tendency of more recent Wondrium / Great Courses offerings to have the speakers shift their physical position every few minutes (in a frankly disconcerting attempt to stimulate visual movement in what is necessarily a static presentation format).
Date published: 2021-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course I enjoyed the course. Very informative and well done (as is the case with the other courses of Bart Ehrman). One minor detail: in lecture 21, at 2:42, Bart says "the great persecution that had started 10 years earlier by Domitian". I believe Bart meant "Diocletian" and not "Domitian".
Date published: 2021-11-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Simplistic, contradictory, and incorrect Full disclosure, I only got through the first two lectures but both of them were loaded with contradictions, over-simplifications, and factual inaccuracies. The first lecture talks about the total elimination of ancient Paganism, and does not mention the fact that various aspects of Pagan belief and practice, like well dressing and harvest festivals survived in rural areas of Scandinavia, the British Isles, and many other locations, continued well into the 1800s, with some Christian elements added. While these elements probably had minimal impact on western mainstream intellectualism, government, or high culture, not mentioning it at all is a bit skewed. This is particularly problematic because he spends a great deal of lecture two defining ancient religion not as belief or doctrine, but as "cultic practice" which is exactly what these surviving Pagan elements are. Their doctrinal associations were changed but the cultic practice remained. However, the most frustrating aspect was in lecture two when he talks in lecture two about how key aspects of Pagan religion were the lack of ethics or the belief in an afterlife which is just false. On a most basic level, these aspects were significant parts of ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian religion both regions which were significant to the development of early Christianity. Even in Greek and Roman culture, there was a wide range of beliefs. While he may have a point about the Aneiad not reflecting the beliefs of its author or audience because it was so heavily models on the much earlier works of Homer, it is not nearly as easy to make such a claim about those works themselves. In addition, other Greek writings such as the Homeric hymns (not necessarily written by Homer) and Hesiod discuss these aspects and they appear in the discourse of Greek philosophers. To dismiss all of these sources as "just literature" especially when providing no evidence for doing so, is just bad scholarship. He does quote a Roman tomb inscription as his one piece of evidence. However, teaching company professor Gregory Aldrete, who is an expert in Roman history, does some fascinating and in-depth analysis of tomb writings and graphite in Roman in his courses, which provide a much more complicated and nuanced picture. In addition Greek and Roman cultures involved a number of what have been called "mystery religions" where such elements could feature prominently. These included Mediterranean originals such as the Elysian mysteries and the cult of Bacchus and the eastern cult of Cybele as well as imports from the already mentioned Mesopotamia and Egypt, like the cult of Mithras and the cult of Isis, both of which had a massive influence and beliefs and symbiology of developing Christianity. In fact, far from being a new thing, there is evidence that Christianity was viewed by many, both converts and persecutors as another mystery religion and, rather than there being a lack of spiritual interests and the afterlife, the pre-Christian enthusiasm for mystery religions shows that these were significant to ancient Pagans, a significance that contributed to the triumph of Christianity which is the stated topic of the course. This site already as several excellent courses on various aspects of early Christianity which are much more detailed and I highly recommend checking those out instead.
Date published: 2021-11-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Book of Same Name I have his book of the same name: The Triumph of Christianity
Date published: 2021-11-05
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In The Triumph of Christianity, you will trace the story of Christianity from its origins in a Jewish outpost of the Roman Empire to its spread throughout the entire Western world. Taught by Dr. Bart. D. Ehrman, these 24 investigative lectures provide new insights into one of the most compelling stories ever recorded.


Bart D. Ehrman
Bart D. Ehrman

After his crucifixion, Jesus' disciples came to believe he'd been raised from the dead and made a divine being. What had seemed like defeat became for them the ultimate cosmic victory.


The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Dr. Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed his undergraduate work at Wheaton College and earned his M.Div. and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. Professor Ehrman has written or edited 27 books, including four best sellers on The New York Times list: Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why; God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question-Why We Suffer; Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know about Them);and Forged: Writing in the Name of God-Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. Professor Ehrman also served as president of the Society of Biblical Literature, Southeastern Region; book review editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature; editor of the Scholars' Press monograph series The New Testament in the Greek Fathers;and coeditor-in-chief for the journal Vigiliae Christianae. Professor Ehrman received the John William Pope Center Spirit of Inquiry Award, the UNC Students' Undergraduate Teaching Award, the Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty, and the Bowman and Gordon Gray Professorship (awarded for excellence in undergraduate teaching).

By This Professor

How Jesus Became God
The New Testament
Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication
The Triumph of Christianity
The Triumph of Christianity


The Christian Conquest of Rome

01: The Christian Conquest of Rome

Your course begins with a broad view of the Christian world. Delve into the scope of Christianity today, and reflect on how it spread from the earliest followers of Jesus to the largest religion in the world. Preview a few theories for Christianity’s success, which you will unpack in the coming lectures.

24 min
Pagan Religions in the Roman World

02: Pagan Religions in the Roman World

To understand the spread of Christianity, you first must understand the world it grew out of. The majority of Romans were “pagan,” a slippery term that generally refers to the many polytheistic religions of the ancient world. Explore the nature of religion and religious practices in the pre-Christian Roman world.

32 min
Judaism in the Roman World

03: Judaism in the Roman World

Not everyone in ancient Rome was a pagan, of course. The Christian faith began as a sect within Judaism. Jesus himself and his early followers were all Jews; so to properly understand Christianity, we must understand Judaism in the Roman world. Delve into ancient Israel to review the beliefs and practices of Jesus’s contemporaries.

35 min
Christianity in the Roman World: An Overview

04: Christianity in the Roman World: An Overview

Christianity’s success stems from its similarities to and differences from other religious practices. Survey the doctrines that separated Christianity from Judaism, including a sense of exclusivity—the belief that one must belong to the Christian community to the exclusion of other religions and cultic practices.

29 min
The Life and Teachings of Jesus

05: The Life and Teachings of Jesus

Go back to the very beginning of Christianity to explore the life of the historical Jesus. Here, you will analyze not only the man and what he preached, but also the Gospels and other sources of information that have transmitted the life of Jesus to us today. Find out what historians can tell us about the real facts of his life.

30 min
The Beginning of Christianity

06: The Beginning of Christianity

Jesus is the wellspring of Christianity, but the Christian religion is built on more than the life of one man. Meet the disciples and discover how their views shifted from an apocalyptic belief that they were in the end times to an understanding of salvation because of Jesus’s sacrifice. Witness the transition from Christ to a Christian movement.

30 min
The Earliest Christian Missions

07: The Earliest Christian Missions

Take a deep dive into the Book of Acts, which is one of the most important texts recounting the spread of Christianity. And meet Paul, who, next to Jesus himself, is arguably the most important figure in the history of Christianity.

29 min
The Conversion of Paul

08: The Conversion of Paul

Continue your study of the Apostle Paul and reflect on his importance to the early Christian movement. After recounting the story of Paul’s conversion, you will review what the historical evidence tells us about the life of Paul. Bart then walks you through Paul’s conclusions about Christianity.

31 min
Paul: The Apostle of the Gentiles

09: Paul: The Apostle of the Gentiles

In this third lesson on the Apostle Paul, you will discover how Paul took his message to the gentiles, whose conversions were instrumental in the triumph of Christianity. Review Paul’s theology as recounted in many of his New Testament letters, including his letters to the Corinthians and the Romans.

30 min
The Christian Mission to the Jews

10: The Christian Mission to the Jews

If Jesus was a Jew, why didn’t most Jews accept him as the Messiah? Instead, why did so many pagans convert? In this lesson, you will dive into the Jewish perspective on Christianity and the Messiah. Consider the nuance between the Jewish and Christian understanding of Jesus.

30 min
Early Christianities

11: Early Christianities

When Christianity spread like wildfire through the Roman world in the 2nd and 3rd centuries of the Common Era, numerous groups considered themselves true followers of Jesus. From “Jewish Christians” to Marcionites to Gnostics, examine the variety of Christian religions in the centuries after Jesus.

27 min
Reasons for Christianity’s Success

12: Reasons for Christianity’s Success

The fundamental question of this course is: How did a group of 20 or so illiterate disciples grow into the largest religion in the Roman world? Two reasons you will explore here are “exclusivity” and “evangelism.” Because one must be a Christian to find salvation, Christians believed it was important to convert as many as possible, and once a person converted, they had to abandon their other religious practices.

29 min
Miraculous Incentives for Conversion

13: Miraculous Incentives for Conversion

How did the early Christians succeed with their evangelism? How did they convince so many people that not only was their faith true, but that others should abandon their religions? Walkthrough several possibilities, including the multitude of alleged conversion-producing miracles.

28 min
The Exponential Growth of the Church

14: The Exponential Growth of the Church

One of the most vexing questions for the rise of Christianity was how quickly it happened. Crunch the numbers to see an exponential explosion of growth over 300 years, in which several million people converted to Christianity. Then consider the political implications of this rapid growth.

26 min
Early Opposition to the Christian Message

15: Early Opposition to the Christian Message

We have numerous stories of Christian persecution by the Roman Empire, but these stories are rife with misunderstandings and misinformation. Here, you will reflect on the political context of Christianity within the Roman world. Using the Book of Acts and other historical texts as your guide, see what it was like to be an early Christian.

28 min
Imperial Persecution of the Early Christians

16: Imperial Persecution of the Early Christians

While there were no empire-wide persecutions of Christians in the 1st and 2nd centuries, Christianity had grown enough by the middle of the 3rd century that it posed an occasional threat to imperial Rome. From Nero to Pliny the Younger, examine the relationship between Roman politics and the growth of Christianity.

26 min
Early Christian Apologists

17: Early Christian Apologists

Shift your attention from physical persecutions of Christians to the verbal jousting that led to popular animosity in the first place. Review some of the intellectual charges against early Christian beliefs, and then learn about the defense of those charges (“apologetics”). Along the way, you will sharpen your understanding of Christian theology.

26 min
Major Imperial Persecutions of Christians

18: Major Imperial Persecutions of Christians

Following the rapid growth of Christianity, major state-sponsored persecutions against Christians began in the middle of the 3rd century, when pagans began converting in droves. Explore Rome’s Crisis of the Third Century, a very bad time indeed, and see how the empire’s troubles played out against the Christians.

28 min
The Conversion of Constantine

19: The Conversion of Constantine

Beyond the work of Paul, the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine is one of the most significant moments in the history of Christianity. Recount the story of the emperor’s life and what led him to become a committed Christian. Examine several differing accounts of what happened.

26 min
Did Constantine Really Convert?

20: Did Constantine Really Convert?

Though Constantine is widely recognized as the first Christian emperor of Rome, the famous story of his conversion nevertheless has its skeptics among historians today. Did he actually convert, or did he merely adopt the Christian religion as a savvy political move? Take a look at what the historical evidence says about Constantine’s sincerity.

28 min
Constantine’s Interactions with the Church

21: Constantine’s Interactions with the Church

Round out your study of the Roman emperor Constantine, here with a detailed look at his relationship with the church. Find out about the Edict of Milan, which declared Christianity a legal religion, and then examine other controversies of church and state within the Roman Empire.

28 min
Imperial Christianity after Constantine

22: Imperial Christianity after Constantine

Although Constantine did not make Christianity the official state religion, the church nonetheless grew exponentially in the years following his conversion. Trace the last gasps of paganism under the emperor Julian the Apostate, a short-lived ruler whose death cleared the way for Christianity to grow unimpeded.

26 min
The Beginnings of a Christian Roman Empire

23: The Beginnings of a Christian Roman Empire

Following the death of Julian the Apostate, every Roman emperor was Christian. Here, you will find out about the rule of Theodosius and the ongoing battles between Christian apologists and their persecutors. Consider the nature of the state and its relationship to religion. How and when can the state compel its subjects?

26 min
The Triumph of Christianity: Gains and Losses

24: The Triumph of Christianity: Gains and Losses

In this final lecture, you will analyze the winners and losers of Christianity’s triumph, which is not always a triumphalist narrative. What are some of the cultural impacts of Christianity? How did it affect social views and practices? How do historians weigh the victory of Christianity over the Western world?

29 min