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The Early Church

(Book #1 in the The Penguin History of the Church Series)

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Book Overview

Examines the beginning of the Christian movement during the first centuries AD, and the explosive force of its expansion throughout the Roman world This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

3 ratings

Concise, readable overview.

In very few pages, the author manages to give an excellent recap of the key events and forces which shaped church history in the first 6 centuries. He goes into enough detail, howwever, that I'll bet even avid readers of church history will still find here material previously unknown to them. His organizing the material according to topics rather than by a strict chronological order makes it particularily easy to understand how the church grappled with its' earliest issues and crises. He does not seem to hold any partisan view: he even seems to regret that Arianism did not take hold in the mainstream church! This book can be recommended for readers at any level who wish to learn about church history.

Best Place to Start

With the recent resurgence of interest in the historic churches, histories of the early Church have attracted a greater audience. While this development is surely welcome, there is a growing tendency to quote (or misquote) the Church Fathers to support one's own theological position. There have also been works of Church history where the sole purpose appears to be "spinning" historical facts in order to validate theological presuppositions. Such polemical volumes are generally aimed at a large audience and so are often written in a popular style. More impartial works are often comprehensive tomes poorly suited to those seeking an introduction to the patristic era. Henry Chadwick's The Early Church goes a long way in solving this problem. Written as part of Penguin's History of the Church series, this excellent work is a great place for those with an interest in early Church history to begin their investigations. Chadwick arranges the sections thematically rather than chronologically - allowing a clearer focus for the reader - and masterfully covers all the major currents in the patristic era without leaving his audience adrift in a sea of minutiae. Beginners to the subject of Church history may find it useful to read the book, digest the information, and then reread it, as they will be better prepared to see how the various theological and political currents interacted in the development of Christian orthodoxy.Those who approach the topic with a theological axe to grind will not find solace in this book. Chadwick is nothing if not an honest historian and both sides in the Protestant/Roman Catholic apologetics wars may feel a bit uncomfortable at times. The centrality of the Eucharistic liturgy as the defining act of Christian worship from the Church's inception, the implementation of the episcopacy as the main defense against heresy, and the long and arduous process of arriving at a canon attack much of the contemporary Protestant ethos. On the other hand, Roman Catholic believers will feel a little uneasy at the scant evidence for anything resembling the modern papacy. Indeed, after reading Chadwick's work, the reader may come to the realization that many battle lines drawn between the two sides would have seemed alien territory to early Christians with an entirely different set of cultural presuppositions.Although there are certainly more comprehensive works, one would be hard pressed to find a better introductory volume on the early Church than this one. For its clarity, thoroughness, and impartiality, The Early Church is the best place to start any study of this period.

An almost exciting read

Henry Chadwick is one of the foremost scholars of Church History. His style is clear and his presentation solid. This book concisely covers the beginnings of the Church from the time of the apostles to around 600 AD, covering the "Patristic" or Church Father period.Basically Henry covers one of the most interesting and fruitful periods in Church history. He covers both historical details and the theology and philosophies of various church fathers. The controversies of the early Church, from the Proto-Charismatic Montanism to the later Arian-Nicene struggle over the doctrine of the Trinity, are represented accurately. The struggles are almost exciting.Overall this book will give the reader a basic introduction into the history of the early Christian Church. For the more advanced student, this particular work by Chadwick might seem too basic, but that is its purpose. This book will be a new experience for some, as it was for me when I first read it. Certain issues considered "fundamentals" to many Christians today, such as biblical inerrancy, were not even really discussed in the early Church. Although, certain Biblical issues such as Canonization (choosing which texts would be a part of the Bible) were hot issues. As a scholar of Church history and a Christian, I use this book often and recommend its use to others.
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