Library Resources: Tools for Church History (2307)


Chapman, Alister, John Coffey, and Brad S Gregory. Seeing Things Their Way: Intellectual History and the Return of Religion. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009.

  • getting the context right in every sense is key to doing history: the right hermeneutic matters (cf. Quentin Skinner)
  • religion and spiritual life were key to many figures in history, and thus needs to be known well in order to understand these figures

Trueman, Carl R. Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2010

  • fascinating and witty
  • historians should aim reasonably for objectivity, but neutrality is impossible

Research Tools

Bradley, James E. Church History: An Introduction to Research, Reference Works, and Methods. Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 1995.

  • key reference text with the right perspective on historiography
  • good bibliography, but getting dated

Various Dictionaries of National Biography

  • check the reference sections of large libraries for these
  • helpful when you come across lesser-known figures

Drobner, Hubertus R, and Siegfried S Schatzmann. The Fathers of The Church: a Comprehensive Introduction. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008.

  • definitive work that reviews primary and secondary sources for various apostolic fathers, apologists, and church fathers
  • also reviews scholarship on most/all of the key issues in the study of the early church
  • essential reference work that you must consult for any early church figure or document that you are working on

New Catholic Encyclopedia, 17 vols. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967-1969.

Catholic Encyclopedia, 16 vols. Encyclopedia Press, 1913.

  • newer is not always better; though newer means a more updated discussion regarding scholarly positions, in this case the “old” catholic encyclopedia has some more comprehensive articles and connections
  • go to for all the volumes of the older encyclopedia
  • the newer version is in the reference section of the library

Visit the Post-Reformation Digital Library > Reference.

 Encyclopedias: for initial orientation and reference

Brill’s New Pauly: Encyclopaedia of the Ancient World, 16 vols. Leiden: Brill, 2002.

Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, 12 vols., ed. John Clintock and James Strong. Harper, 1867-1870.

  • some 31000 articles all by conservative Christian scholars
  • dated but sometimes more precise and thorough than later encyclopedia
  • entries reprinted as recently as 1981 by Baker
  • available in the reference section of the library

Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, ed. Everett Ferguson et al. New York: Garland, 1990.

  • in the reference section of the library

The Encyclopedia of Christianity, 5 vols., ed. Erwin Fahlbusch et. al., trans. Geoffrey Bromily. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.

  • original was in German from the 1990s
  • in the reference section of the library

History of the Church, 10 vols., ed. Hubert Jedin. Ken: Burns& Oates, 1965ff.

The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity, ed. John McManner. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

  • beautiful glossy illustrations and good overview essays
  • in the reference section of the library

The New Schaff-Hertzog Ecyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 13 vols., ed. Samuel Macauley Jackson. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1908-1914.

 Selected Primary Sources

Bettenson, Henry and Chris Maunder, eds. Documents of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1999.

  • very fine selection of original sources

Eusebius. Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History: Complete and Unabridged. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.

  • Eusebius is our source for much of early church history and his work is available in a number of editions and printings; not expensive

Foxe, John, and Harold J Chadwick. The New Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Gainesville, Fla.: Bridge-Logos, 2001.

  • this work is available in multiple editions and printings

Holmes, Michael W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek texts and English translations. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2007.

  • a good, modern translation

Library of Christian Classics, 26 vols. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1953

  • in the reference section of the library

Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers Down to A. D. 325, 10 vols. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1867-1873.

A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church (NPNF), 27 vols. Philip Schaff, ed. New York: T & T Clark, 1886-1900.

  • the ANF and NPNF series are all available free online at CCEL
  • also in the reference section of the library

Shelton, Jo-Ann. As the Romans Did: a Sourcebook in Roman Social History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Visit the Post-Reformation Digital Library > Related Websites.


Church History Surveys

Chadwick, Henry. The Early Church. London: Penguin, 1990.

  • numerous reprintings; the work is getting old but still good

Ferguson, Everett. Church History, vol. 1: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation; The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

  • excellent resource from the standpoint of good coverage of history
  • also pedagogically aware, with charts, photos, and illustrations, as well as wide margins for notes
  • Ferguson includes normative evaluations from time to time, from an orthodox Protestant standpoint, but his telling of the history is fairly objective
  • coming from a baptistic perspective, Ferguson’s history of baptism omits any serious discussion of infant baptism in the first four centuries. See Joachim Jeremias, Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries, trans. David Cairns (London: SCM, 1960) for this topic.

González, Justo L. Story of Christianity. Two volumes. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.

  • a simpler survey of Christianity; includes illustrations

Herring, George. Introduction to the History of Christianity. Washington Square, N.Y.: New York University Press, 2006.

  • a great read, focused on the interaction between Christianity and the secular world, focusing on three key chronological periods
  • great annotated bibliographies for suggested further reading at the end of each chapter

Hillerbrand, Hans Joachim. A New History of Christianity. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2012.

McKechnie, Paul. The First Christian Centuries: Perspectives on the Early Church. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2001.

  • not a textbook but is a quite fine review of the period
  • good source on persecution, noting also Caesar’s palace as an “enclave” where Christians served already from Paul’s time

Walker, Williston. A History of the Christian Church. New York: Scribner, 1985.

  • quite comprehensive but dry in prose and dated in scholarship

Wilken, Robert Louis. The First Thousand Years: a Global History of Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012.

———. The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

  • Wilken’s works are fascinating and well written; however, he clearly approaches his subject from a Roman Catholic standpoint and makes assumptions in favour of this position

 Grasping the Current State of the Question

Ginther, James R. The Westminster Handbook to Medieval Theology. Loiusville: John Knox Press, 2009.

The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 1: Origins to Constantine. Margaret M. Mitchell and Frances M. Young, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 2: Constantine to c. 600. Augustine Casiday and Frederick W. Norris, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 3: Early Medieval Christianities, c. 600-c. 1100. Thomas F. X. Noble and Julia M. H. Smith, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 4: Christianity in Western Europe, c. 1100-c. 1500. Miri Ruben and Walter Simons, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone. London: Oxford University Press, 1974.

The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies. Susan Ashbrook Harvey and David G Hunter, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

The New Westminster Dictionary of Church History, rev. ed. Robert Benedetto and James O. Duke, eds. Louisville: John Knox Press, 2008.

  • all of the above contain numerous essays by top scholars in the field, establishing the state of the question as it is presently; thus these essays are must-reads for the serious scholar who wants to write an up-to-date paper that has the potential of advancing the field of study
  • only the work by Ginther is a single author production; all the others are multi-author works
  • the Cambridge approach to history generally – and political history in particular – follows that of Quentin Skinner (contextual approach) and thus ought to be fairly objective

 Selected Augustine Resources

Augustine. The Confessions, trans. Maria Boulding. Hyde Park, N.Y.: New City Press, 1997.

Augustine. Essential Sermons, trans. Edmund Hill. Hyde Park, N.Y.: New City Press, 2007.

Augustine. The Augustine Catechism: The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Charity, trans. Boniface Ramsey. Hyde Park, N.Y.: New City Press, 2008.

Augustine. On Genesis: a Refutation of the Manichees, Unfinished Literal Commentary on Genesis, the Literal Meaning of Genesis, trans. Edmund Hill. Hyde Park, N.Y.: New City Press, 2002.

Augustine: The City of God Against the Pagans, trans. R. W. Dyson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

  • the above works are all in Augustine Series from New City Press and are newer, readable translations, accepted within academia as accurate and up-to-date
  • other works of Augustine can also be found in this series
  • for more works of Augustine, see the volumes of the Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff.

Brown, Peter. Augustine of Hippo: a Biography. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.  

  • the definitive biography

Fitzgerald, Allan, and John C Cavadini. Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 2009.

  • the definitive encyclopedia covering all things Augustine
  • in the reference section of the library

 A historical novel set during Decius and Constantine's reigns

Justice, Alan David. The Final Bow: A Novel of the Final Roman Persecution. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993.

 The Medieval Theologians

Evans, G. R. ed. The Medieval Theologians: An Introduction to Theology in the Medieval Period. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001.

  • up-to-date essays by top scholars in the field
  • the standard text to check first to find out what recent scholars have been studying and concluding on many key figures and some select topics in medieval theological history

Leinsle, Ulrich G. Introduction to Scholastic Theology, trans. Michael J. Miller. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2010.

  • scholastic theology was extremely intricate and thus this “introduction” might be a bit intimidating to the beginner but it’s really a fabulous work that brings together information one could otherwise obtain only by years of gleaning

Lynch, Joseph. The Medieval Church: A Brief History. Essex: Longman, 1992.

  • a helpful update on Volz with significantly more detail
  • meant for beginners and restricted to English sources mostly

Oberman, Heiko A. The Dawn of the Reformation: Essays in Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992.

Oberman, Heiko A. Forerunners of the Reformation: The Shape of Late Medieval Thought. Lutterworth Press, 2002.

Oberman, Heiko A. The Harvest of Medieval Theology: Gabriel Biel and Late Medieval Nominalism. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001.

  • Oberman stands at the head of a sea-change in historical study of the Reformation – a turning towards a more contextual and objective reading of church history

Southern. R. W. The Making of the Middle Ages. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953 (reprints available).

  • older source that does require some knowledge of the period in order to benefit from the book

Volz, Carl. The Medieval Church: From the Dawn of the Middle Ages to the Eve of the Reformation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997 (several reprintings).

  • dated but helpful as a sketch

 Journals in the CRTS Library most likely to serve church history topics

NOTE: Most of the journals below can be searched by topic, article title, and author on EBSCO with the exception of The Confessional Presbyterian, La Revue Réformée, and the Puritan Reformed Journal.

Calvin Theological Journal

  • lots of good quality articles in church history, also in recent Reformed church history

Church History

  • hit and miss; some articles written from rather odd perspectives, historically speaking, because they study history for topics that were barely under discussion at all in the period

The Confessional Presbyterian

  • a recent journal that’s made a good start with a section for history articles as well new primary source translations

Mid-America Journal of Theology

  • lots of good quality history articles, usually on the Reformation or Post-Reformation periods

Puritan Reformed Journal

La Revue Réformée

  • some articles on the French Reformation

Sixteenth Century Journal

  • excellent source for book reviews
  • many articles, however, written from rather odd perspectives, historically speaking, because they study history for topics that were barely under discussion at all in the period

Westminster Theological Journal

  • many fine articles on church history over the years; see the library’s Galaxie program for online searching