When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity During the Last Days of Rome
Rubenstein (Richard E.)
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Amazon Customer Review

  1. I can't think of many other books about religious history that would justify 5 stars. What is different about this one is that it is written by a sociologist (specifically an expert in conflict resolution) who combines a very readable journalistic style with occasional penetrating insights into the psychology of the parties to the Arian-vs-Athananasian (ie. Unitarian-vs-Trinitarian) dispute of the 4th Century. The book starts off in pot-boiler style with a lynch mob of Athanasian Christians breaking into a jail to murder the bishop of Alexandria but quickly settles down into more scholarly mode.
  2. It helps that the writer is Jewish, and therefore above the inevitable bias that (albeit unconsciously) affects most other accounts of early church history. Nor is he squeamish about showing Christians poisoning and murdering each other - events which some historians seem to think insignificant relative to the doctrinal debate. It is particularly interesting to read Rubenstein's comments in the concluding chapters on how changes in the social (and military) situation of the Empire after the death of Constantine led to changing emotional needs among Christians - and this as much as the bully boy tactics of the Athanasians was an major reason why Jesus went from being "Son of God" ante-Nicaea to "God the Son" a generation later.
  3. Rubenstein does not of course offer an overview of the development of Christian doctrine per se (for which see the standard work: The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God by R.P.C. Hanson) nor any analysis of the influence of pagan Egyptian theology on the development of the Trinity (see Triads and Trinity by J. Gwyn Griffiths).

    Preface - xi
    Acknowledgments - xvii
  1. An Incident in Alexandria - 1
  2. The Silence of Apollo - 22
  3. A Quarrel in God's House - 48
  4. The Great and Holy Council - 68
  5. Sins of the Body, Passions of the Mind - 89
  6. The Broken Chalice - 108
  7. Death in Constantinople - 126
  8. East against West - 148
  9. The Arian Empire - 169
  10. Old Gods and New - 192
  11. When Jesus Became God - 211
  12. Principal Characters - 233
    … Select Bibliography of Works in English - 237
    … Notes - 241
    … Index – 257

Book Comment

Harcourt Books, Orlando ("A Harvest Book"), 1999

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2023
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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