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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 62.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Professor is an agnostic atheist While there is some interesting historical context here, it is important to understand that the professor is an agnostic atheist and it is through this lens that he teaches.
Date published: 2024-07-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gap filling Interesting, at times, captivating. The conclusions, by the very essence of the course, were missing some elements that included the influence on our society and culture of other religions and cultures. I realize this was not a course on comparative religions or culture and it simply left me wanting more.
Date published: 2024-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! This is an excellent course for students of religious studies, religious history and Christianity. I learned a lot about Early Christianity. Professor is very knowledgeable on the subject and has a great classroom style delivery for an academic discourse. This is not the only course in Wondrium on history of Christianity, but pretty sure this is one of the best out there! I hope to check out more courses from this professor in future. Thanks!
Date published: 2024-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding I found this course outstanding. Prof. Erhman explains the origin and growth of Christianity, not from a tired out devotional aspect but from an historical perspective. His research, qualifications and delivery are difficult to match. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2023-06-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Educational The lectures were very well researched and explained. I learned from every lecture. The final lecture was an excellent summary of why, in part, we are today living in a divided world.
Date published: 2023-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A balanced view of "The Triumph of Christianity" This is at least the second course I have taken from Professor Ehrman. I very much enjoy his style of presentation. He does a remarkable job of presenting an even handed view of his subject matter. His lectures on how Christianity ultimately triumphed over paganism and what a remarkable achievement that was are well presented and supported. I learned a great deal from this course, including the two main reasons Christianity did prevail: its evangelical message and its exclusivity. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2023-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative and enjoyable course. A well paced, captivating lecture style which filled in the gaps of my knowledge and understanding of the growth of the Christian church from its beginning. Throughout the 24 lectures a number of the sub topics, ideas etc were revisited and therefore reinforced which I found helpful.
Date published: 2023-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Careful Assessment of the Evidence I thank Dr. Ehrman and Wondrium for bringing us this course. The Triumph of Christianity has been good for my intellectual curiosity and strengthening, developing a broader understanding of the history. There is something simply satisfying and beautiful in getting at the truth. Though ultimate truth may be unknowable, and reality has limits, religious faith has no limits. How can immortal, all-powerful, omnipresent, omniscient God be intimidated by humans' poor judgment and bad behavior. Surely He would be sorry for us. He would want to show us the Way to live. I believe in the limitless God. That may never be a popular point of view, people being overly fond of hating each other, seeking power and advantage over one another. Studying Revelation the imagery of the cosmic drama, the terrifying, fantastic creatures, the plagues, wars and catastrophes, the battle of heaven and hell for possession , that is us. The pagan religions, Islam, the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Shinto, the Confucians and on and on, it's not us against them; it's a natural fact, it's just us. This dark planet paddling like a duck crossing the black empty void, the sun a firefly, the earth a tiny, fragile, blue butterfly shaken from the dust of the night into being by an unimaginable power. We are limited. We are not the earth. We are not the night. We have missed the mark. We are in constant danger. We do not understand. By faith alone we live following Christ in hope and losing hope finding faith. The Triumph of Christianity shows us the struggle is real. Thank you for this enlightening lecture series.
Date published: 2023-02-01
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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