Now here’s a good question: “How was it that a cult inspired by the execution of an obscure criminal in a long-vanished empire came to exercise such a transformative and enduring influence on the world?”

That we take for granted this enduring influence is the main point of Tom Holland’s new book, Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, published by Basic Books.

Holland is an award-winning historian of the ancient world and regular contributor to the Times of London, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. He observes that Romans saw worship of the crucified Jesus as scandalous, obscene, and grotesque. And yet this same Roman Empire would eventually come to worship Jesus as God. Holland writes:

The relationship of Christianity to the world that gave birth to it is, then, paradoxical. The faith is at once the most enduring legacy of classical antiquity, and the index of its utter transformation.

In our own day Holland finds pervasive Christian influence everywhere he looks in the West. The self-evident truths of the American Declaration of Independence—that all men are created equal and endowed with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—are not remotely self-evident to a student of antiquity or other world religions. But that’s the genius of this Christian revolution, Holland argues. He writes, “The surest way to promote Christian teachings as universal was to portray them as deriving from anything other than Christianity.”

Holland joins me on Gospelbound to discuss why Christianity is the most difficult legacy of the ancient world to write about, and why this Christian revolution is the greatest story ever told.


This episode of Gospelbound is brought to you by Southeastern Seminary. In a disenchanted world looking to themselves for answers, Southeastern’s three-year Doctor of Ministry in Faith and Culture plants graduates at the intersection of theology, culture, and church to bring the world a better story—the gospel. Learn more at sebts.edu.