The Zondervan Essential Companion to Christian History

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.


The Zondervan Essential Companion to Christian History


Stephen Backhouse


Zondervan Academic

Publication Date:

September 24, 2019




224 pages


Christianity has a long and convoluted history, especially in the West. This can make it difficult for students to develop a good understanding of Christian history and the major concerns that Christians struggled with in particular periods. Stephen Backhouse seeks to rectify this problem in a concise book that breaks down church history into twenty chapters, each one covering a century’s worth of notable events, taking readers from the patristic era through the year 2000. In each chapter, he considers the major events, figures and debates that affected different groups of Christians around the world.

Although Backhouse covers the history of Western Christianity with the most detail, he frequently stops to look at other areas of the world and how Christianity played out there (such as early Christian mission work in China during the 600s). The book’s design, with various panels holding pictures of artifacts or portraits and little information boxes expanding on related subjects, help to further. For example, readers may be reading about the Eastern Orthodox Church in the main text, then see an information box on the side looking at Christianity in Asia during the same period. Clever features like this give students a good sense of Christianity’s impact not just in Europe but across both hemispheres.

The one potential drawback to this book is Backhouse covers a lot of ground very quickly. Overviewing two thousand years of church history in a little over two hundred pages doesn’t give much to break down theological terms and explain what previous events led up to this or that big schism. This means the book really works best as something read in a class with an instructor to give extra context. However, that seems to be exactly what Backhouse was going for: a book to be used as a classroom aide, not a book that covers a complete course’s worth of information by itself.

A well-organized introduction to Christianity’s impact on the world.


Rating (1 to 5 stars)

4 stars out of 5 stars

Suggested Audience

Students seeking a condensed yet informative story about Christian history the world over.

Christian Impact

Backhouse helps readers to see the things that Christians have fought over, but also the things which have survived and the ways in which God has been faithful to his Church over the centuries.

Note: Stephen Backhouse is also the author of Kierkegaard: A Single Life (Zondervan, 2016). To read ECLA’s review of that book, go to:

Zondervan Essential Companion to Christian History


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