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The Triumph of Christianity in the Ancient World

September 15, 2017 @ 4:30 pm - September 16, 2017 @ 12:00 pm

*SOLD OUT* To be added to the waitlist, please send an email to  with your name, number of seats requested, and contact information. The size of the waitlist will also determine if this program is repeated.

A Distinguished Scholar Seminar featuring Bart Ehrman 

Bart Ehrman returns to the Adventures in Ideas stage this fall to celebrate the publication of his newest work, The Triumph of Christianity: How a Small Band of Outcasts Conquered an Empire.

The Christian movement began with a small group of illiterate day-laborers in a remote part of the Roman world.  Within four hundred years this band of outcasts had converted some thirty million people, half the Empire.  Their faith then became the official religion of Rome and, eventually, the most significant political, cultural, and social force in the history of the West.   Had Rome not adopted this new faith, history as we know it could never have happened – no Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, or Modernity itself.   Something else, of course, would have happened.  But what?  Art, architecture, music, literature, and philosophy would have all been incalculably different.

In this seminar we will explore how it happened.


Christianity’s Most Important Convert: The Apostle Paul.

Without the conversion of Paul, the zealous Jewish persecutor of Christianity, there may well have never been the world-wide phenomenon of Christianity.  In this lecture we will consider the factors leading to his conversion, the transformations he brought to the early Christian tradition as it shifted from being a small Jewish sect to becoming a world religion, and most important, the message he proclaimed in his missionary efforts to convert gentiles to the faith.


Pagan Converts and the Power of God

Most of Christianity’s converts came not from Judaism but from the variety of pagan traditions followed by the vast majority of the inhabitants of the empire.  In this lecture we will consider major aspects of traditional Roman religions and explore how Christians of the early centuries managed to convince pagans to abandon their ancestral traditions to worship only the Christian God.


Factors for Christianity’s Success

Various solutions have been proposed for the massive success of the Christian movement: that it was a miracle, that it was through successful evangelistic rallies, that it was because of the conversion of the emperor Constantine – and even that it was because of superior Christian health care.  This lecture will argue that it was instead the result of two features of Christianity that made it unique in the empire (even though they are widely considered intrinsic to religion today):  its evangelistic impulse (people had to convert) and its exclusivistic claims (it alone was “true”).


Constantine and the Christian Faith

One of the biggest moments in all Christian history was the conversion of the emperor Constantine in 312 CE.  With that event, Christianity shifted from being a persecuted minority religion to becoming a major player on the religious scene of empire.   Constantine’s conversion is not the sole reason for Christianity’s triumph – this relatively new faith may well have taken over the empire in any event.  But it did pave the way for events to come:  by the end of the fourth century Christianity came to be proclaimed as the official religion of Rome, leading to the criminalization of other religious traditions and the persecution of other faiths.

Bart D. Ehrman, James A. Gray Professor of Religious Studies and author or editor of over twenty books, has published extensively in the fields of the New Testament and Early Christianity.


Friday, September 17, 4:30pm-8:30pm. Saturday, September 18, 9:00am-12:00pm The tuition is $125 ($110 by September 1). Tuition for teachers is $62.50 ($55 by September 1). Teachers can also receive a $75 stipend after attending (click here for more information) and 10 contact hours for 1 unit of renewal credit. The optional dinner Friday evening is $20.00

For information about lodging click here.

Co-Sponsored by the General Alumni Association.

For information about GAA discounts and other scholarships available to Humanities Program participants, click here.

Register for this seminar. 


September 15, 2017 @ 4:30 pm
September 16, 2017 @ 12:00 pm
Event Category:


Chapel Hill Campus
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