A New History of Early Christianity, By Charles Freeman

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The Independent Culture

This perceptive book probes issues that still lie at the heart of Christianity. While offering a rational explanation for the disappearance of Christ from the tomb, Freeman suggests "it would have been strange if there had been no accounts of a risen Jesus... Jewish prophecy and pagan myth provided a context."

Later, he explores the arguments that racked the early church. While Constantine was converting Rome to Christ, the Alexandrian preacher Arius began questioning the relationship of God to Christ.

Freeman says he was "haunted" by a phrase from pagan orator Themistius: "God rejoices in the diversity of human society and... responds to being worshipped in a variety of ways."