Monday, May 12, 2008

Seeking a book recommendation

Can anyone recommend me what they would consider a good single volume work on the history of the Church? I've already got Küng's Das Christentum. Wesen und Geschichte, plus The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity, and A Short History of Christianity by Stephen Tomkins.

Today was my granddad’s funeral, and it was naturally quite an emotionally exhausting day. For all of you out there who read this blog, whether Christian, atheist, or whatever, do take a few minutes to give thanks for those around you, for your loved ones. They won't always be there.


At 5/14/2008 2:02 AM, Anonymous Nick Norelli said...


You might like to consider Justo Gonzalez's The Story of Christianity, One-Volume Edition.

At 5/14/2008 2:30 AM, Anonymous steph said...

My father died recently. I know well how valuable time is. My sympathies to your family.

At 5/14/2008 3:04 AM, Blogger Ben Myers said...

My condolensences, Chris – and also to you, Steph. My own dad has been unwell lately, so this is a tender subject for me.

As to your suggestion, I'd also recommend Justo Gonzalez's book, which is now available in a very cheap single-volume hardcover edition.

But if you're after a more doctrinal history, then it's impossible to go past Pelikan's sublime 5-volume work. (It's not as long as it sounds, either: they're five smallish volumes, and a lot of the space is just notes.) Another really excellent history of doctrine is Hubert Cunliffe-Jones, ed., A History of Christian Doctrine (T&T Clark, 1978).

At 5/14/2008 3:34 AM, Blogger Brant Pitre said...

My condolences regarding your grandfather, Chris. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

As per the single volume Church history, I would highly recommend H. W. Crocker's book, Triumph, which is a 2000 Year History of the Church (Forum, 2001). It's extremely well written and engaging, and along the way clears up a number of long held myths and misconceptions about the Catholic Church (not that you ever encountered any of those growing up in England!).

Peace in Christ,


At 5/14/2008 4:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Philip Schaff - History of the Christian Church

At 5/14/2008 4:48 AM, Blogger paroikos said...

i really enjoyed Bruce Shelley's 'Church History in Plain Language', very readable and good at highlighting significant connections, i thought.

At 5/14/2008 7:53 AM, Blogger Matt Jenson said...

Chris, I loved Mark Noll's Turning Points. It recognizes you can't get it all in one volume and opts for a novel, rich approach. Less technical than others, but not less helpful for its ease of access.

All peace to you, too, today. Such sad news.

At 5/14/2008 7:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the first 1,000 years, Henry Chadwick THE EARLY CHURCH (The Penguin History of the Church 1).

2 thumbs up for Pelikan, though. I'm in the middle of volume 3. I should have read these before I made some spiritual decisions/commitments awhile back.

At 5/14/2008 9:41 AM, Anonymous zoomtard said...

I second the vote for Church History in Plain Language by Shelley. Very sorry to hear about your family's loss Chris

At 5/14/2008 8:30 PM, Anonymous Derek said...


I'm sorry to hear about your grandfather. As far as history books go, I would recommend Marty's book: "A Short History of Christianity."

At 5/14/2008 9:48 PM, Blogger Alex said...

For what it's worth I really disliked Kung's Christianity. It was the opposite of a page-turner and thus it was hard to retain what I did read and see how it all fit together. I felt more like I was reading a list of events and names than a story.

At 5/15/2008 2:07 AM, Blogger Edward T. Babinski said...


1) Brian Moynahan's, THE FAITH: A HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY by an acclaimed journalist. Bbased on the sections I've read of it he affirms some sort of Christian faith, perhaps Catholicism, but includes both the good and the evils of the church. One reviewer wrote: With more than 100 startling photographs, illustrations, and drawings, he presents an unconventional and sensational chronology that reveals how Christianity has often been its own worst enemy, ending with the statement: "Christianity's self-inflicted wounds still fester."

If you want something more comprehensive try

Philip Schaff - History of the Christian Church, a multi-volume set that's pretty good, and also includes the blemishes. Note his discussion of Calvinist Geneva, the Thirty Years War, and also the conflicts between Reformed Protestants as well.

Also try...

History Of Dogma (7 Vol)by Adolf Harnack

Or try skimming just the titles of books on each of my "Christian History" lists below, arranged by historical period. Simply skimming the titles of these fascinating books (and reading some of the more well informed or scholarly reviews of each) will light up your brain:

Xn Hist--Roman Empire

Xn Hist--Medieval

Xn Hist--Renaissan​ce

Xn Hist--Reformati​on

Xn Hist--Enlightenment Era

Xn Hist--Victorian Era

Xn Hist--Modern Day


At 5/15/2008 3:11 AM, Blogger Edward T. Babinski said...

THIS DAY IN CHURCH HISTORY (Funny yet true titibts from church history)

LOOSE CANONS (More "funny yet true" stuff, but entire articles from Stephen Tomkins, author of the hilarious, A SHORT HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY)

At 5/15/2008 5:18 AM, Blogger Edward T. Babinski said...

If you're interested in EARLIEST CHURCH HISTORY (just after the resurrection), James D. G. Dunn is coming out with


Dunn's book--due out later in 2008--covers the early formation of the Christian faith from 30 to 70 C.E.

After outlining the quest for the historical church (parallel to the quest for the historical Jesus) and reviewing the sources, James Dunn follows the course of the movement stemming from Jesus “beginning from Jerusalem.”

He opens with a close analysis of what can be said of the earliest Jerusalem community, the Hellenists, the mission of Peter, and the emergence of Paul.

Then Dunn focuses solely on Paul — the chronology of his life and mission, his understanding of his call as apostle, and the character of the churches that he founded.

The third part traces the final days and literary legacies of the three principal figures of first-generation Christianity: Paul, Peter, and James the brother of Jesus. Each section includes detailed interaction with the vast wealth of secondary literature on the many subjects covered.


Philostorgius (born 368 C.E.) was a member of the Eunomian sect of Christianity, a nonconformist faction deeply opposed to the form of Christianity adopted by the Roman government as the official religion of its empire. He wrote his twelve-book Church History, the critical edition of the surviving remnants of which is presented here in English translation, at the beginning of the fifth century as a revisionist history of the church and the empire in the fourth and early-fifth centuries. Sometimes contradicting and often supplementing what is found in other histories of the period, Christian or otherwise, it offers a rare dissenting picture of the Christian world of the time.

Philostorgius: Church History (Writings from the Greco-Roman World)
by Philip, R. Amidon (Translator)

Publisher: Society of Biblical Literature (November 14, 2007)

At 5/15/2008 2:55 PM, Anonymous joel said...

Eusebius' History of the Church is obviously required reading. Apart from that, I recently ordered from abebooks The History of the Christian Church During the First Ten Centuries by Philip Smith. It's a late 19th-century work with the right amount of depth and detail without getting bogged down.

At 5/15/2008 11:40 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Thankyou all for your kind words and suggestions. I went to London today armed with a list of the mentioned books ... and didn't find one in any shop (except Joel's), which was a real pity.

Steph, my sincere condolences to you and your family at this time.

Likewise, Ben, I pray your dad pulls through.

At 5/16/2008 4:13 AM, Blogger mike said...

This might not be exactly what you are looking:

The History of Christian Thought by Jonathan Hill

At 5/16/2008 10:27 PM, Blogger Paul W said...

Hi Chris,

My condolences about your grandfather.

I recommend David Chidester, 'Christianity: A Global History' (Penguin, 2001).

At 5/17/2008 10:21 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

Blessings to you and your family.

On the Reformation I really like Robert Linder's new textbook.


At 5/17/2008 10:25 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Thanks a bunch for these suggestions, I'll chase them up.

At 5/17/2008 10:25 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

It seems a bit vain to site oneself, but here's the link to my review of Linder's The Reformation Era:


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