A Christian History

Additional Formats
  • ePub
  • ISBN 9781101638064
  • 272 Pages
  • Viking Books
  • Adult


A provocative meditation on the role of silence in Christian tradition by the New York Times bestselling author of Christianity

We live in a world dominated by noise. Religion is, for many, a haven from the clamor of everyday life, allowing us to pause for silent contemplation. But as Diarmaid MacCulloch shows, there are many forms of religious silence, from contemplation and prayer to repression and evasion. In his latest work, MacCulloch considers Jesus’s strategic use of silence in his confrontation with Pontius Pilate and traces the impact of the first mystics in Syria on monastic tradition. He discusses the complicated fate of silence in Protestant and evangelical tradition and confronts the more sinister institutional forms of silence. A groundbreaking book by one of our greatest historians, Silence challenges our fundamental views of spirituality and illuminates the deepest mysteries of faith.


Praise for Silence

Silence has all the spark of Christianity. . . . In MacCulloch’s hands, reading about Christianity often feels as soulful, as silently consuming, as prayer itself.”
—Tom Bissell, Harper’s Magazine

Silence is excellent: a beautifully written, factually dense, intellectually sophisticated look at the theological uses and abuses of silence, from the spirituality of quiet to the Catholic Church’s horrifying reticence about child abuse and the Holocaust.”
—Kathryn Schulz, New York Magazine

“A stimulating and sweeping overview. . . . MacCulloch persuasively shows how the Church has constructed and reconstructed silence in ways that many Christian thinkers would neither have expected nor embraced.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Diarmaid MacCulloch charts Christianity’s problematic and often contradictory relationship to silence with aplomb. . . . Silence is intellectually robust, and without the prevarications and self-qualifications that sometimes stymie academic prose. Indeed, MacCulloch is by turns precise, poetic, and righteously indignant.”
—The Guardian

“An enjoyable, intelligent meander through Jewish and Christian history . . . MacCulloch is a gifted scholar and his ideas are always worth hearing. . . . What holds the book together are his own sensibilities, which include an intense antipathy for ‘received’ ways of thinking and for doctrines that were upheld with the panoply of ecclesiastical and secular power.”
—The Economist

“Erudite and witty . . . The first half of this book is a brilliantly wide-ranging yet concise survey of the idea of silence in Christian theology and in the practices of all kinds of Christians through the centuries. In the second half, different kinds of quiet in Christian history come under scrutiny. There has been historical amnesia on the role of women in the early church, and recent reticence about clerical child abuse has unsettling parallels in the past. . . . Whether considering silences that brought worshippers closer to God or those that should be broken for the health of Christian society, MacCulloch has written a clever, demanding, and insightful book.”
—Sunday Times (London)