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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 45.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not Entirely Convincing The question of why Facebook won over Myspace or Google over Yahoo intrigues me and I have never understood why. Similarly I don't understand why a once predominant company like IBM became an also ran. So I approached this course hoping that a similar question about religions would be answered. First of all, I was disappointed that the first 12 lectures were just a rehash of material made familiar in previous courses by the professor and others. The second 12 dealt more with the subject matter of the title. The basic idea is that Christianity won because it claimed that it was the only way you could get to heaven, a feature not found in its competitors in the Roman world. Could be, but why didn't the competition make the same claims? What I suggest for the future from Dr. Ehrman is a course on what was new and different in what Jesus had to say. Were all the parables old hat? This might serve to give a more convincing explanation of the ultimate triumph of the religion it is claimed he founded.
Date published: 2022-04-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Triumph of Christianity The course "The Triumph of Christianity is interesting. The teacher is not a Christian based on his statements. It is not for the weak believer. But one does learn a lot of historical facts. I have watched some of Professor Ehrman's other courses before. We all can learn from those we agree and don't agree with. I do like the other church history teacher's course better.
Date published: 2022-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Triumph of Christianity Erhman does an outstanding job. The last lecture (24) is worth the cost of the Course.
Date published: 2022-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lots of knowledge Dr Ehrman is very knowledgeable, however, one gets a sense that he may be a little anti Christian. But overall the course is quite interesting.
Date published: 2022-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A miracle play. Dramatis personae:- Pagans: We respect and care for the gods so that they will care for us. They are powerful, many kinds of them. We ask them for their protection. We offer gifts to them that we hope they will like. So our families have prospered for many generations. Jews: We respect and love only one God. Our God is all-powerful. Did He not make the world? Does He not still care for it? Our respect for Him has an element of fear. We cannot fully understand His power and majesty - but He has forged a wonderful bond of love with us. He has given us a rule of life to follow. Together we meet with Him regularly and converse with Him. But our community is widely scattered - and now under the foot of an evil monster called Rome. Jesus of Nazareth was one of us. He talked about a kingdom coming soon where God would take control. He fell foul of both our religious leaders and Rome itself. He was killed at a young age by crucifiction. Christians: We are a community of followers of Jesus Christ. We love Him. We have come to realise that He is unique, having risen from death. We believe that He is God's Son - sent by His Father to save everyone. We teach that each believer is a priest with direct access to God and that (like the Jews) we must show ethical behaviour. We want you to join us. Faithfulness will be rewarded in Heaven. The miracle is that the Christians won. Why did they win? Why were there so many of them by the 4th. Century? Professor Ehrman will tell you! I thank him for his excellent work!
Date published: 2022-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Riveting This was a fascinating lecture series exploring how the Christian church “became the dominant force in the Roman world and then throughout the West through late antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation, early modernity, and today.” Professor Ehrman points out that in fewer than four hundred years, the faith which began with possibly twenty poor and illiterate followers of a crucified Jewish preacher from the lower class in a remote and rural area of the Roman empire became the official religion of that empire and had millions of followers. How did this happen? Ehrman is passionate about his subject area and forceful in his speaking. Because he organizes his material so well and builds his arguments with evidence and logic, the lectures are easy to follow. Furthermore, because he is so engaged with his content, the lectures are riveting. I often watched more than one of the thirty-minute lectures each day. However, possibly because he is so enthusiastic, some on-line reviewers missed his frequent reminders that he is a historian. He makes his arguments using the tools of historians and the historical knowledge available. He does not take a theological stance, nor does he argue theology. With that in mind, I highly recommend this lecture series.
Date published: 2022-02-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Clear history Dr Ehrman takes yet another look at the roots of Christianity, purely from an historical point of view by examining how an insignificant, Jewish handyman established the major religion of today. Ehrman strongly suggests the Jesus really didn't found this movement, and that it didn't actually 'take-off' until the 4th century with the conversion of Constantine. He also points to the very significant proselytizing effort down through history, along with the strong supernatural...miraculous... aspects of the 'faith' that lead to the success of this religion over pagan and Jewish rivals. I enjoy Dr Ehrman's relaxed lecture style and his sticking to the historic facts as he suggests that Christianity won out simply by ruthlessly crushing any and all competitors during the time of Roman dominance. Recommended.
Date published: 2022-02-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great insight in into how it happened how can something that happened in the beginning be so related to what is happening now!
Date published: 2022-02-06
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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

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