History of the christian church

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Christianus sum. Christiani nihil a me alienum puto

a.d. 1–100.


As I appear before the public with a new edition of my Church History, I feel more than ever the difficulty and responsibility of a task which is well worthy to occupy the whole time and strength of a long life, and which carries in it its own rich reward. The true historian of Christianity is yet to come. But short as I have fallen of my own ideal, I have done my best, and shall rejoice if my efforts stimulate others to better and more enduring work.

History should be written from the original sources of friend and foe, in the spirit of truth and love, "sine ira et studio," "with malice towards none, and charity for all," in clear, fresh, vigorous style, under the guidance of the twin parables of the mustard seed and leaven, as a book of life for instruction, correction, encouragement, as the best exposition and vindication of Christianity. The great and good Neander, "the father of Church History"—first an Israelite without guile hoping for the Messiah, then a Platonist longing for the realization of his ideal of righteousness, last a Christian in head and heart—made such a history his life-work, but before reaching the Reformation he was interrupted by sickness, and said to his faithful sister: "Hannchen, I am weary; let us go home; good night!" And thus he fell gently asleep, like a child, to awake in the land where all problems of history are solved.

When, after a long interruption caused by a change of professional duties and literary labors, I returned to the favorite studies of my youth, I felt the necessity, before continuing the History to more recent times, of subjecting the first volume to a thorough revision, in order to bring it up to the present state of investigation. We live in a restless and stirring age of discovery, criticism, and reconstruction. During the thirty years which have elapsed since the publication of my separate "History of the Apostolic Church," there has been an incessant activity in this field, not only in Germany, the great workshopof critical research, but in all other Protestant countries. Almost every inch of ground has been disputed and defended with a degree of learning, acumen, and skill such as were never spent before on the solution of historical problems.

In this process of reconstruction the first volume has been more than doubled in size and grown into two volumes. The first embraces Apostolic, the second post-Apostolic or ante-Nicene Christianity. The first volume is larger than my separate "History of the Apostolic Church," but differs from it in that it is chiefly devoted to the theology and literature, the other to the mission work and spiritual life of that period. I have studiously avoided repetition and seldom looked into the older book. On two points I have changed my opinion—the second Roman captivity of Paul (which I am disposed to admit in the interest of the Pastoral Epistles), and the date of the Apocalypse (which I now assign, with the majority of modern critics, to the year 68 or 69 instead of 95, as before).1

I express my deep obligation to my friend, Dr. Ezra Abbot, a scholar of rare learning and microscopic accuracy, for his kind and valuable assistance in reading the proof and suggesting improvements.

The second volume, likewise thoroughly revised and partly rewritten, is in the hands of the printer; the third requires a few changes. Two new volumes, one on the History of Mediaeval Christianity, and one on the Reformation (to the Westphalian Treaty and the Westminster Assembly, 1648), are in an advanced stage of preparation.

May the work in this remodelled shape find as kind and indulgent readers as when it first appeared. My highest ambition in this sceptical age is to strengthen the immovable historical foundations of Christianity and its victory over the world.

Philip Schaff

Union Theological Seminary, New York,

Encouraged by the favorable reception of my "History of the Apostolic Church," I now offer to the public a History of the Primitive Church from the birth of Christ to the reign of Constantine, as an independent and complete work in itself, and at the same time as the first volume of a general history of Christianity, which I hope, with the help of God, to bring down to the present age.

The church of the first three centuries, or the ante-Nicene age, possesses a peculiar interest for Christians of all denominations, and has often been separately treated, by Eusebius, Mosheim, Milman, Kaye, Baur, Hagenbach, and other distinguished historians. It is the daughter of Apostolic Christianity, which itself constitutes the first and by far the most important chapter in its history, and the common mother of Catholicism and Protestantism, though materially differing from both. It presents a state of primitive simplicity and purity unsullied by contact with the secular power, but with this also, the fundamental forms of heresy and corruption, which reappear from time to time under new names and aspects, but must serve, in the overruling providence of God, to promote the cause of truth and righteousness. It is the heroic age of the church, and unfolds before us the sublime spectacle of our holy religion in intellectual and moral conflict with the combined superstition, policy, and wisdom of ancient Judaism and Paganism; yet growing in persecution, conquering in death, and amidst the severest trials giving birth to principles and institutions which, in more matured form, still control the greater part of Christendom.

Without the least disposition to detract from the merits of my numerous predecessors, to several of whom I feel deeply indebted, I have reason to hope that this new attempt at a historical reproduction of ancient Christianity will meet a want in our theological literature and commend itself, both by its spirit and method, and by presenting with the author’s own labors the results of the latest German and English research, to therespectful attention of the American student. Having no sectarian ends to serve, I have confined myself to the duty of a witness—to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; always remembering, however, that history has a soul as well as a body, and that the ruling ideas and general principles must be represented no less than the outward facts and dates. A church history without the life of Christ glowing through its pages could give us at best only the picture of a temple stately and imposing from without, but vacant and dreary within, a mummy in praying posture perhaps and covered with trophies, but withered and unclean: such a history is not worth the trouble of writing or reading. Let the dead bury their dead; we prefer to live among the living, and to record the immortal thoughts and deeds of Christ in and through his people, rather than dwell upon the outer hulls, the trifling accidents and temporary scaffolding of history, or give too much prominence to Satan and his infernal tribe, whose works Christ came to destroy.

The account of the apostolic period, which forms the divine-human basis of the whole structure of history, or the ever-living fountain of the unbroken stream of the church, is here necessarily short and not intended to supersede my larger work, although it presents more than a mere summary of it, and views the subject in part under new aspects. For the history of the second period, which constitutes the body of this volume, large use has been made of the new sources of information recently brought to light, such as the Syriac and Armenian Ignatius, and especially the Philosophoumena of Hippolytus. The bold and searching criticism of modern German historians as applied to the apostolic and post-apostolic literature, though often arbitrary and untenable in its results, has nevertheless done good service by removing old prejudices, placing many things in a new light, and conducing to a comprehensive and organic view of the living process and gradual growth of ancient Christianity in its distinctive character, both in its unity with, and difference from, the preceding age of the apostles and the succeeding systems of Catholicism and Protestantism.

And now I commit this work to the great Head of the church with the prayer that, under his blessing, it may aid in promoting a correct knowledge of his heavenly kingdom on earth, and in setting forth its history as a book if life, a storehouse of wisdom and piety, and surest test of his own promise to his people: "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."

P. S.

Theological Seminary, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania,

November, 8, 1858

The continued demand for my Church History lays upon me the grateful duty of keeping it abreast of the times. I have, therefore, submitted this and the other volumes (especially the second) to another revision and brought the literature down to the latest date, as the reader will see by glancing at pages 2, 35, 45, 51–53, 193, 411, 484, 569, 570, etc. The changes have been effected by omissions and condensations, without enlarging the size. The second volume is now passing through the fifth edition, and the other volumes will follow rapidly.

This is my last revision. If any further improvements should be necessary during my lifetime, I shall add them in a separate appendix.

I feel under great obligation to the reading public which enables me to perfect my work. The interest in Church History is steadily increasing in our theological schools and among the rising generation of scholars, and promises good results for the advancement of our common Christianity.

The Author

New York, January, 1890.

§ 1. Nature of Church History.

§ 2. Branches of Church History.

§ 3. Sources of Church History.

§ 4. Periods of Church History.

§ 5. Uses of Church History.

§ 6. Duty of the Historian.

§ 7. Literature of Church History.


A.D. 1–100.


§8. Central Position of Christ in the History of the World.

§ 9. Judaism.

§ 10. The Law, and the Prophecy.

§ 11. Heathenism.

§ 12. Grecian Literature, and the Roman Empire.

§ 13. Judaism and Heathenism in Contact.



§ 14. Sources and Literature.

§ 15. The Founder of Christianity.

§ 16. Chronology of the Life of Christ.

§ 17. The Land and the People.

§ 18. Apocryphal Tradition.

§ 19. The Resurrection of Christ.



§ 20. Sources and Literature of the Apostolic Age.

§ 21. General Character of the Apostolic Age.

§ 22. The Critical Reconstruction of the History of the Apostolic Age.

§ 23. Chronology of the Apostolic Age.



§ 24. The Miracle of Pentecost and the Birthday of the Christian Church.

§ 25. The Church of Jerusalem and the Labors of Peter.

§ 26. The Peter of History and the Peter of Fiction.

§ 27. James the Brother of the Lord.

§ 28. Preparation for the Mission to the Gentiles.


§ 29. Sources and Literature on St. Paul and his Work.

§ 30. Paul before his Conversion.

§ 31. The Conversion of Paul.

§ 32. The Work of Paul.

§ 33. Paul’s Missionary Labors.

§ 34. The Synod of Jerusalem, and the Compromise between Jewish and Gentile Christianity.

§ 35. The Conservative Reaction, and the Liberal Victory—Peter and Paul at Antioch.

§ 36. Christianity in Rome.



§ 37. The Roman Conflagration and the Neronian Persecution.

§ 38. The Jewish War and the Destruction of Jerusalem.

§ 39. Effects of the Destruction of Jerusalem on the Christian Church.


§ 40. The Johannean Literature.

§ 41. Life and Character of John

§ 42. Apostolic Labors of John.

§ 43. Traditions Respecting John.



§ 44. The Power of Christianity.

§ 45. The Spiritual Gifts.

§ 46. Christianity in Individuals.

§ 47. Christianity and the Family.

§ 48. Christianity and Slavery.

§ 49. Christianity and Society.

§ 50. Spiritual Condition of the Congregations.—The Seven Churches in Asia.


§ 51. The Synagogue.

§ 52. Christian Worship.

§ 53. The Several Parts of Worship.

§ 54. Baptism.

§ 55. The Lord’s Supper.

§ 56. Sacred Places.

§ 57. Sacred Times—The Lord’s Day.


§ 58. Literature.

§ 59. The Christian Ministry, and its Relation to the Christian Community.

§ 60. Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists.

§ 61. Presbyters or Bishops. The Angels of the Seven Churches. James of Jerusalem.

§ 62. Deacons and Deaconesses.

§ 63. Church Discipline.

§ 64. The Council at Jerusalem.

§ 65. The Church and the Kingdom of Christ.



§ 66. Literature.

§ 67. Unity of Apostolic Teaching.

§ 68. Different Types of Apostolic Teaching.

§ 69. The Jewish Christian Theology—I. James and the Gospel of Law.

§ 70. II. Peter and the Gospel of Hope.

§ 71. The Gentile Christian Theology. Paul and the Gospel of Faith.

§ 72. John and the Gospel of Love.

§ 73. Heretical Perversions of the Apostolic Teaching.



§ 74. Literature.

§ 75. Rise of the Apostolic Literature.

§ 76. Character of the New Testament.

§ 77. Literature on the Gospels.

§ 78. The Four Gospels.

§ 79. The Synoptists.

§ 80. Matthew.

§ 81. Mark.

§ 82. Luke.

§ 83. John.

§ 84. Critical Review of the Johannean Problem.

§ 85. The Acts of the Apostles.

§ 86. The Epistles.

§ 87. The Catholic Epistles.

§ 88. The Epistles of Paul

§ 89. The Epistles to the Thessalonians.

§ 90. The Epistles to the Corinthians.

§ 91. The Epistles to the Galatians.

§ 92. The Epistle to the Romans.

§ 93. The Epistles of the Captivity.

§ 94. The Epistle to the Colossians.

§ 95. The Epistle to the Ephesians.

§ 96. Colossians and Ephesians Compared and Vindicated.

§ 97. The Epistle to the Philippians.

§ 98. The Epistle to Philemon.

§ 99. The Pastoral Epistles.

§ 100. The Epistle To The Hebrews.

§ 101. The Apocalypse.

§ 102. Concluding Reflections. Faith and Criticism.
Alphabetical Index

(Fifth Edition.)
Since the third revision of this volume in 1889, the following works deserving notice have appeared till September, 1893. (P. S.)
Page 2. After "Nirschl" add:

E. Bernheim Lehrbuch der historischen Methode. Mit Nachweis der wichtigsten Quellen und Hilfsmittel zum Studium der Geschichte. Leipzig, 1889.

Edward Bratke: Wegweiser zur Quellen- und Literaturkunde der Kirchengeschichte. Gotha, 1890 (282 pp.).

Page 35, line 9:

H. Brueck (Mainz, 5th ed., 1890).

Page 45:

Of the Church History of Kurtz (who died at Marburg, 1890), an 11th revised edition appeared in 1891.

Wilhelm Moeller (d. at Kiel, 1891): Lehrbuch der Kirchengeschichte. Freiburg, 1891. 2 vols., down to the Reformation. Vol. III. to be added by Kawerau. Vol. I. translated by Rutherford. London, 1892.

Karl Mueller (Professor in Breslau): Kirchengeschichte. Freiburg, 1892. A second volume will complete the work. An excellent manual from the school of Ritschl-Harnack.

Harnack’s large Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte was completed in 1890 in 3 vols. Of his Grundriss, a 2d ed. appeared in 1893 (386 pp.); translated by Edwin K. Mitchell, of Hartford, Conn.: Outlines of the History of Dogma. New York, 1893.

Friedrich Loofs (Professor of Church History in Halle, of the Ritschl-Harnack school): Leitfaden zum Studium der Dogmengeschichte. Halle, 1889; 3d ed., 1893.

Page 51. After "Schaff "add:

5th revision, 1889–93, 7 vols. (including vol. v., which is in press). Page 51. After "Fisher" add:

John Fletcher Hurst (Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church): Short History of the Christian Church. New York, 1893.

Page 61. After "Kittel "add:

Franz Delitzsch (d. 1890): Messianische Weissagungen in geschichtlicher Folge. Leipzig, 1890. His last work. Translated by Sam. Ives Curtiss (of Chicago), Edinb. and New York, 1892.

Page 97:

Samuel J. Andrews: Life of our Lord. "A new and wholly revised edition." New York, 1891 (651 pp.). With maps and illustrations. Maintains the quadripaschal theory. Modest, reverent, accurate, devoted chiefly to the chronological and topographical relations.

Page 183 add:

On the Apocryphal Traditions of Christ, comp. throughout

Alfred Resch: Agrapha. Aussercanonische Evangelienfragmente gesammelt und untersucht. With an appendix of Harnack on the Gospel Fragment of Tajjum. Leipzig, 1889 (520 pp.). By far the most complete and critical work on the extra-canonical sayings of our Lord, of which he collects and examines 63 (see p. 80), including many doubtful ones, e.g., the much-discussed passage of the Didache (I. 6) on the sweating of aloes.

Page 247:

Abbé Constant Fouard: Saint Peter and the First Years of Christianity. Translated from the second French edition with the author’s sanction, by George F. X. Griffith. With an Introduction by Cardinal Gibbons. New York and London, 1892 (pp. xxvi, 422). The most learned work in favor of the traditional Roman theory of a twenty-five years’ pontificate of Peter in Rome from 42 to 67.

The apocryphal literature of Peter has received an important addition by the discovery of fragments of the Greek Gospel and Apocalypse of Peter in a tomb at Akhmim in Egypt. See Harnack’s ed. of the Greek text with a German translation and commentary, Berlin, 1892 (revised, 1893); Zahn’s edition and discussion, Leipzig, 1893; and O. von Gebhardt’s facsimile ed., Leipzig, 1893; also the English translation by J. Rendel Harris, London, 1893.

Page 284. Add to lit. on the life of Paul:

W. H. Ramsey (Professor of Humanity in the University of Aberdeen): The Church in the Roman Empire before a.d. 170. With Maps and Illustrations. London and New York, 1893 (494 pp.). An important work, for which the author received a gold medal from Pope Leo XIII. The first part (pp. 3–168) treats of the missionary journeys of Paul in Asia Minor, on the ground of careful topographical exploration and with a full knowledge of Roman history at that time. He comes to the conclusion that nearly all the books of the New Testament can no more be forgeries of the second century than the works of Horace and Virgil can be forgeries of the time of Nero. He assumes all "travel-document," which was written down under the immediate influence of Paul, and underlies the account in The Acts of the Apostles (Acts. 13–21), which he calls "an authority of the highest character for an historian of Asia Minor" (p. 168). He affirms the genuineness of the Pastoral Epistles, which suit the close of the Neronian period (246 sqq.), and combats Holtzmann. He puts 2 Peter to the age of "The Shepherd of Hermas" before 130 (p. 432). As to the First Epistle of Peter, he assumes that it was written about 80, soon after Vespasian’s resumption of the Neronian policy (279 sqq.). If this date is correct, it would follow either that Peter cannot have been the author, or that he must have long outlived the Neronian persecution. The tradition that he died a martyr in Rome is early and universal, but the exact date of his death is uncertain.

Page 285 insert:

Of Weizsaecker’s Das Apostolische Zeitalter, which is chiefly devoted to Paul, a second edition has appeared in 1892, slightly revised and provided with an alphabetical index (770 pp.). It is the best critical history of the Apostolic age from the school of Dr. Baur, whom Dr. Weizsaecker succeeded as professor of Church history in Tuebingen, but gives no references to literature and other opinions.

Charles Carroll Everett: The Gospel of Paul. New York, 1893.

Page 360:

Rodolfo Lanciani: Pagan and Christian Rome. New York, 1893 (pp. x, 374). A very important work which shows from recent explorations that Christianity entered more deeply into Roman Society in the first century than is usually supposed.

Page 401 add:

Henry William Watkins: Modern Criticism in its relation to the Fourth Gospel; being the Bampton Lectures for 1890. London, 1890. Only the external evidence, but with a history of opinions since Breitschneider’s Probabilia.

Paton J. Gloag: Introduction to the Johannine Writings. London, 1891 (pp. 440). Discusses the critical questions connected with the Gospel, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse of John from a liberal conservative standpoint.

E. Schuerer: On the Genuineness of the Fourth Gospel. In the "Contemporary Review" for September, 1891.

Page 484:

E. Loening: Die Gemeindeverfassung des Urchristenthums. Halle, 1889—CH. De Smedt: L’organisation des églises chrétiennes jusqu’au milieu du 3e siècle. 1889.

Page 569. Add to literature:

Gregory: Prolegomena to Tischendorf, Pt. II., 1890. (Pt. III. will complete this work.)

Schaff: Companion to the Greek Testament, 4th ed. revised, 1892.

Salmon: Introduction to the New Testament, 5th ed., 1890.,

Holtzmann: Introduction to the New Testament, 3d ed., 1892.

F. Godet: Introduction au Nouveau Testament. Neuchatel, 1893. The first volume contains the Introduction to the Pauline Epistles; the second and third will contain the Introduction to the Gospels, the Catholic Epp. and the Revelation. To be translated.

Page 576:

Robinson’s Harmony, revised edition, by M B. Riddle (Professor in Allegheny Theological Seminary), New York, 1885.

Page 724:

Friedrich Spitta: Die Apostelgeschichte, ihre Quellen und ihr historischer Wert. Halle, 1891 (pp. 380). It is briefly criticised by Ramsey.

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