When the Church Was Young

  • by Marcellino D'Ambrosio
  • Narrated by Marcellino D'Ambrosio
  • 9 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

If the word trinity isn't in Scripture, why is it such an important part of our faith? And if the Bible can be interpreted in many ways, how do we know what to make of it? And who decided what should be in the Bible anyway? The Church Fathers provide the answers! Marcellino D'Ambrosio dusts off what might have been just dry theology to bring you the exciting stories of great heroes such as Ambrose, Augustine, Basil, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and Jerome. These brilliant, embattled, and sometimes eccentric men defined the biblical canon, hammered out the Creed, and gave us our understanding of sacraments and salvation. It is they who preserved the rich legacy of the early Church for us.

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What the Critics Say

"Dr. D'Ambrosio has accomplished the rare feat of combining scholarship with readability. Christians of all traditions can trace their faith to these pioneers; their story is our story."--Right Honourable David Baron Alton, M.P. and Liverpool University professor
"Gripping, compelling, and fast-moving." Sarah Reinhard, blogger, SnoringScholar.com

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Traditional presentation of the early church

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

This book has much to recommend it, but also much that the reader (or listener) must take with caution. It’s a very pleasant and edifying listen. However, it has a number of fundamental problems. D’Ambrosio is constantly at pains to give the impression that the position currently held by the Roman Catholic church on any given issue is identical with that held by the early church fathers. For example, when discussing the Didache, he draws attention to the following passage: «οὐ μαγεύσεις, οὐ φαρμακεύσεις, οὐ φονεύσεις τέκνον ἐν φθορᾷ οὐδὲ γεννηθὲν ἀποκτενεῖς» (“do not engage in sorcery, do not make use of potions, do not abort a foetus or commit infanticide”). The prohibition of abortion and infanticide is repeated in the Epistle of Barnabas (19.5). But D’Ambrosio muddies the water by arguing that «οὐ φαρμακεύσεις» is a prohibition of “abortifacients and contraceptives.” This is not the case. In fact the first two prohibitions in this list refer to two different kinds of magic, the first carried out by incantations or ceremonies, and the second by the use of magical potions, for example to make the recipient fall in love with the operant of the magic. By arguing that the didache prohibits contraception rather than enchanted potions, D’Ambrosio evidently wishes to give the impression that the Roman Catholic church’s current prohibition of contraception has the seal of antiquity. Such distortions of the text undermine the reader’s trust, and lead to the suspicion that the author has an axe to grind.

Another problem with D’Ambrosio’s work is his approach to the question of heresy. Modern scholarship rejects the traditional notion that there was a pure core of belief that remained unchanged from the time of Jesus to the present, which various orthodox fathers merely articulated in increasingly more perfect terms. This view, promulgated by the church historian Eusebius, has now yielded to a more pluralistic view of the early church. Those who came to call themselves “orthodox” and “Catholic” were only one element in a much more complicated drama in which various groups, each believing themselves to hold correct beliefs about Jesus, all jockeyed for dominance. We have always known about these other groups. The orthodox apologists give us detailed, though naturally partisan, presentations of the beliefs of many of them. Modern scholars try to get behind the claims of the orthodox apologists to hear what these other groups were saying, without privileging the claims of any one of these groups. However, D’Ambrosio presents the traditional view, which takes the truth claims of the Catholic/orthodox party at face value. This results in a simple dichotomy between the goodies (Catholics) and baddies (heretics) which just doesn’t get us very far in our understanding of the dynamics of early Christianity.

In summary, the book is ok, but those looking for a more critical view might be better served by the books of Bart Ehrman, also available on Audible.


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- Grantley McDONALD

Good intro to early Church

Are you are christian? Learning and getting to now the witness of early Christian has helped me in my relationship with Christ. If you don't know much about the early church - this book will help you get the journey started
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- John

Book Details

  • Release Date: 25-07-2014
  • Publisher: Servant Books