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From Jesus to the Internet: A History of Christianity and Media

ISBN: 978-1-118-85111-1
336 pages
September 2015, Wiley-Blackwell
From Jesus to the Internet: A History of Christianity and Media (1118851110) cover image


From Jesus to the Internet examines Christianity as a mediated phenomenon, paying particular attention to how various forms of media have influenced and developed the Christian tradition over the centuries. It is the first systematic survey of this topic and the author provides those studying or interested in the intersection of religion and media with a lively and engaging chronological narrative. With insights into some of Christianity s most hotly debated contemporary issues, this book provides a much-needed historical basis for this interdisciplinary field.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements xi

Introduction 1

What’s this book about? 1

What do we mean by Christianity? 2

What do we mean by media? 4

Media and the historical development of Christianity 7

1 In the Beginning 10

The social and media context 11

Jesus in his media context 14

Remaking Jesus in speech and performance 22

2 Making Jesus Gentile 28

Context: the media world of the Roman Empire 28

Early Christian writing 30

Paul and letter writing 32

The end of the beginning 39

3 The Gentile Christian Communities 42

The appeal of Christianity 42

Multimedia communities 43

Christian writings 45

The reception and circulation of Christian writings 56

Resistance to writing 58

4 Men of Letters and Creation of “The Church” 62

The Catholic?]Orthodox brand 63

Tertullian 68

Cyprian 70

Origen – the media magnate of Alexandria 72

Writing out women 74

5 Christianity and Empire 80

Imperial patronage and imperial Christianity 80

Councils, creeds, and canons 84

Constructing time – Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History 90

The scriptures as text and artifact 93

6 The Latin Translation 99

Latin roots 99

After the fall 106

Monasteries and manuscripts 110

Written Latin and the consolidation of medieval Christendom 117

7 Christianity in the East 125

The Church of the East 125

Islam 130

Writing the voice 132

Regulating the eyes 134

8 Senses of the Middle Ages 141

The medieval context 142

Making time 143

Seeing space 145

Rituals and hearing 150

Nice touch: relics, saints, and pilgrimage 154

9 The New Millennium 162

Marketing the Crusades 163

Scholasticism and universities 168

Cathedrals 173

Catholic reform 175

The Inquisition 180

10 Reformation 187

Printing and its precursors 187

Martin Luther 191

John Calvin 195

Reworking the Bible 198

The changing sensory landscape 200

Catholic responses 207

Ignatius of Loyola 209

11 The Modern World 214

The legacy of the Reformation 214

Catholic mission 216

The impact of print 219

Evangelical Revivalism 223

Protestant mission 232

12 Electrifying Sight and Sound 237

The technologies of the audiovisual 237

Christianity and the twentieth?]century media world 240

Mainline mediation 242

The Evangelical Coalition 246

Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism 254

13 The Digital Era 261

The empire of digital capitalism 261

Digital practice 264

Global Pentecostalism 270

Media and Christian sexual abuse 276

Tradition and change 279

Conclusion 285

References 293

Index 311

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Author Information

Peter Horsfield is Professor of Communication at RMIT University, Australia. From 1987-1996, he was Dean of the Uniting Church Theological Hall and Lecturer in Applied Theology in the United Faculty of Theology in Melbourne, Australia. His early study, Religious Television: The American Experience (2004) was influential in assessing the impact of the emerging phenomenon of televangelism in the U.S. From 1997-2005 he was a member of the International Study Commission on Media Religion and Culture. He has researched and published extensively in the area of the interaction of media and religion, with a particular focus on Christianity. He is the co-editor of several books, including Emerging Research in Media, Religion and Culture (2005) and Belief in Media: Cultural Perspectives on Media and Christianity (2004).
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“This is a book I’ve wanted to read for a long time, and I find it both enlightening and thought provoking in a positive sense. The book represents a way of writing the history of Christianity in a rather novel multi-perspective and contextualized manner. Technology, politics, economics, demographics, and scientific discoveries all play a role in how religion is transformed – but at the center of this transformation, according to Horsfield, is media.”  (Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture, 1 November 2015)

Tracing the implications of the adoption of new media technologies into Christian modes of communication among believers and with the divine over a period of 2000 years, Peter Horsfield draws a fascinating and fresh picture of contestations, breaks and reformations in the dynamic history of Christianity. This well-written, imaginative book does not only throw recent work on modern mass media and Christianity into historical relief, it also makes a convincing case for the fruitfulness of a media perspective to capture salient transition points that rearticulate the Christian tradition and reset its role and place in society.
Birgit Meyer, Utrecht University

This ambitious, resourceful, and clearly written book makes the major contribution of showing how fundamentally integrated religion and media always have been throughout the history of Christianity. The power of media—from writing to print, from imagery, music and architecture to radio, film, and television—has been to make accessible what Christians experience in their faith. Horsfield properly locates the study of media at the heart of the study of the religion.
David Morgan, Duke University

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