Historical Religious Books
March 17, 2014 6:59 AM   Subscribe

I just finished reading Zealot, by Reza Aslan, and I found it to be a fascinating book. I'm looking for similar books!

I've read Under the Banner of Heaven, which I think fits and was a solid read as well. Are there any great readable books on the canonization of the New Testament? Or, books about the early foundations of other religions? Thanks!
posted by graventy to Religion & Philosophy (12 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
You might like Caesar and Christ by Wil Durant. It was followed by The Age of Faith might also be worth a look if you enjoy his prose style. As a bonus, both books can be gotten pretty inexpensively these days.
posted by jquinby at 7:16 AM on March 17, 2014

Have you read John Dominic Crossan before? You might be interested in Excavating Jesus, or his earlier book, The Historical Jesus.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:32 AM on March 17, 2014

A History of God by Karen Armstrong is a great book.
posted by Flood at 7:37 AM on March 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Really, anything by Karen Armstrong would fit the bill here.

Also, Bart Ehrman is a biblical scholar who writes some accessible books about the subject.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:48 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

"Are there any great readable books on the canonization of the New Testament?"

You're looking for Bart Ehrman, and specifically this book of his
posted by Blasdelb at 8:38 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want to get a little more scholarly, Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books Were Written by Borg would also fit your description
posted by Blasdelb at 8:41 AM on March 17, 2014

Response by poster: Of course I would forget Misquoting Jesus. Read that too, and loved it.
posted by graventy at 8:59 AM on March 17, 2014

There are also a lot of Ehrman's lectures available on youtube if you like his books
posted by Blasdelb at 9:11 AM on March 17, 2014

Nth-ing the Karen Armstrong recommendation. Also, anything by Elaine Pagels, especially The Origin of Satan and The Gnostic Gospels.
posted by OrangeDisk at 9:21 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I recently read Rome and Jerusalem, by Martin Goodman, which tells the story of the interaction between ancient Judea/Israel and the Roman Empire, especially in the first century BC and the following first century AD.

This was a period of profound change for both cultures (the transformation of Rome into a monarchy; the Flavian desolation of Jerusalem; the birth of Christianity tantalizingly just off stage) and might be an excellent follow-up for one who just finished Zealot.

I found Rome and Jerusalem very readable, and it launched me into a deeper study of the period.
posted by General Tonic at 12:51 PM on March 17, 2014

My favorite religious books that deal with the Christian faith from a historically accurate, respectful, and fascinating perspective include:

Peter Brown - The Cult of Saints
Carlo Ginzburg The Cheese and the Worms
Patrick Geary Furta Sacra: Theft of Relics in the Central Middle Ages

They are all relatively short and easy to understand. I like that they all deal with how average everyday people interpreted the religion even when they were influenced by non-Christian cultural elements. These books really drive home what made the faith so appealing and accessible to folk who lived hundreds of years ago. I personally found Furta Sacra to be entertaining and enjoyable for even someone unfamiliar with the topic.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 6:10 PM on March 17, 2014

NT Wright is terrific, and is a good counterbalance to someone like Ehrman (Wright is pretty orthodox in his belief).
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:23 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

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