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The Early Church Paperback – Oct 1 1993

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised edition (Oct. 1 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140231994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140231991
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.9 x 19.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 240 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #69,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

About the Author

Reverend Henry Chadwick is a former Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and has been a Regius Professor at both Oxford and Cambridge. He is also an ordained Anglican priest.

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THE first Christians were Jews. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
"The Early Church" provides the reader with an excellent history of the first six centuries of Christianity. Author Henry Chadwick covers structural and doctrinal development, along with the rise and fall of heresies and introductions to the leading characters of the period.

This excellent book provides an overview of so many things which casual students of Church history probably heard of but may not have really understood. From my reading of this book I have a better understanding of early heresies including Arianism (Jesus was not co-eternal with the Father), Donatism (no reconciliation with apostates) Manichaeism (a secret, gnostic type sect) and Pelagianism (denial of original sin). The role of councils, such as Nicaea, in combating heresy and guiding the development of orthodoxy is made clearer. A greater understanding of the roles of the Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Theodore of Mopsuestia, St. Jerome and St. Augustine is gained by the reader of this book.

From a theological or historical perspective this book is a treasure. One test I apply to books is whether they inspire me to study more. This one does. I am confident that it will do the same for you.
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Format: Paperback
Chadwick provides his readers with a thorough historical account of the early Christian church. He begins with the Jewish context into which the church was born, tells how the church grew and developed in the ensuing centuries, and takes the reader all the way to the Germanic invasions and their aftermath. The book is written in Chadwick's usual scholarly style, and has gained a wide reputation as an excellent source for the student or the layman who wishes to find out more about the early church.
His unromantic approach is one of Chadwick's strongest points, and is quite clear from the way he deals with, for instance, the conversion of Constantine and the Council of Nicaea in chapter 8. Constantine's conversion is not portrayed as spectacular and immediate as we find in certain history books. Rather, we see a military strategist who initially did not quite know the difference between Christianity and the 'Unconquered Sun', the deity to whom the Roman senate attributed Constantine's legendary victory over the troops of Maxentius at the Milvian bridge in 312, but one who nevertheless gravitated from solar monotheism to Christianity.
In my view Chadwick has done the church an immense favour by writing this book. The book has been reprinted many times, and it is widely used and referred to as a reliable source on the early church. The book does not read quite as easy as some modern works on church history, and this might be due to the fact that it was written in 1967, before the concept of 'user-friendliness' were popularised. The paragraphs are sometimes long (a single paragraph would often be longer than an entire page), and one wonders if the time has not perhaps arrived for a newer and easier to read version, edited to compensate for the collective attention deficiency disorder of the culture we live in. By doing so the book might be accessible to a much wider audience.
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Format: Paperback
Chadwick has written an engaging, readable introduction to an era that is difficult to distill. There are many cross-cutting trends (from a chronological point of view) and Chadwick does a nice job of maintaining narrative coherence. If you are interested enough to be looking at this page, you will probably find the book captivating. And the coverage is very good, focusing both on theological developments and socio-political developments surrounding the milieu of the early Christian church. So this stands as a very profitable introduction.
One specific drawback is that the "filioque" controversy, whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone or from the Father and the Son, is glossed over without the attention it deserves. This is one of the major doctrinal disputes to this day between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, and was critically important at the time covered in this book (especially since the subtitle claims the book will take you down to the parting of ways between East and West). One general drawback is that the internecine theological squabbles aren't really placed in their proper context with respect to everday church life. They wind up seeming much more important to the laity than they probably really were.
Two caveats, not necessarily drawbacks: it's best to know a little something about the Roman empire, like the broad outlines of its history. Chadwick doesn't assume that you are an expert, but this book comes in at just under 300 pages -- an achievement -- and the sacrifice is that the whole historical environment can't be treated in depth. Also, it's important to have some working knowledge, like one gets from living in the West, of the culture of the church.
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