Christianity: The Biography

Reviewed by: Andy Willson, a Professional Writing student at Taylor University in Upland, IN



Title: Christianity: The Biography

Author: Ian J. Shaw

Publisher: Zondervan

Publication Date: 2016

Format: Hardbound Print book

Length: 268 pages


Often, when studying Christianity, one senses a disconnect from the reality that early members of the church faced. It seems extremely long ago that Christ walked on the earth, ministering to the impoverished and desperate. Enter Christianity: The Biography. Ian J. Shaw removes eons of time between now and then and places the reader right at the start of Christianity’s timeline, following the rise of the faith and the challenges that came with it. He paints a detailed picture of the ever-changing culture and societal structure of the broken world that every Christian must brave on his or her spiritual journey, and which so many have braved who have come before today’s believers.

Shaw structures the book in an orderly, chronological fashion. He likens each chapter to the stages in a person’s life as an individual transitions between life and death. Chapter 1 is titled “The Cradle,” whereas Chapter 20 is titled “Toward the next chapter in life.” The story is easy to follow and always fascinating, and Shaw’s conversational style of writing ensures that the reader’s attention will be piqued and sustained for the entirety of the book.

Shaw begins the story by covering the rise and fall of empires and emperors in the near east, where Christianity was born. He highlights the major cultural shifts concerning Christianity as the Roman Empire changed hands and the way early Christians were perceived by both nonbelievers and by the Jews. One can empathize with the early believers as they faced persecution and torture during the violent times of the Roman Empire. The resilience of the Church and the immense spread of believers will quickly amaze readers as events, such as the Enlightenment and also the Pilgrims’ escape from religious persecution in England, rock the community of faith. Readers will view this hisory from a bird’s-eye view as Shaw discusses the significance of the rise of atheism and the ever-changing challenges the Church has faced in both old and modern times. The timeline stops at the dawn of the 21st century, where Christianity has spread across nearly the entire globe, and has truly become a global faith.

Christianity: The Biography will leave the reader fulfilled and wanting to dig even deeper. Throughout the book, Shaw presents incredible information and facts that tie into the Christian faith in fascinatingly detailed ways. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to dive beneath the surface of the vast history of Christianity, whether a seasoned believer or a curious nonbeliever looking for answers.


Rating (1 to 5)

5 stars

Suggested Audience

This book is a perfect addition to any inquisitive adult’s bookshelf. It provides excellent facts in a way that makes sense even to the person who has little background in Christianity, while at the same time using language and examples that the well-versed believer can appreciate

Christian Impact

Seeing the timeline of Christianity and the surrounding events and circumstances that affected the faith and its followers will give the secular reader a deeper understanding of the Christian faith and give believers an even deeper understanding of the creed they follow.

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Christianity: The Biography: 2000 Years of Global History

About Ceil Carey

The Evangelical Church Library Association, founded in 1970, is a fellowship of Christian churches, schools, and individuals.

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