Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Top Christian Origins Books

What is the best Christian Origins books? Which one is the best treatment of the topic and which one is the best for the classroom? Here's one's that come to my mind:

Christopher Rowland, Christian Origins (London: SPCK, 1985)

G.B. Caird, The Apostolic Age (London: Duckworth, 1955)

Adolf von Harnack, The Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries (2 vols.; trans. James Moffatt; London/New York: Williams & Norgate/G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5)

Paul Barnett, The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005).

John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998)

Richard Horsley, ed. Christian Origins: A People's History of Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress, 2006)

Elisabeth Schüsser Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (London: SCM, 1983)

A.J.M. Wedderburn, A History of the First Christians (London: Continuum, 2004)

Walter Schmithals, The Theology of the First Christians (1998)

James D. G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament (London: SCM, 1990)

Joel Carmichael, The unriddling of Christian Origins: A Secular Account (1995)

Lewis Ayres, Christian Origins (New York: Routledge, 1998)

I understand that Jonathan Knight and James Crossley are both working on CO volumes.

Caird's volume, though old, is much underrated. I have Wedderburn but haven't read it yet. But I'd have to give my vote to Rowland until I read more widely in the area.


Corn on the Robb said...

These lists are very helpful. Thank you for posting them. :)

Sabrina said...

Oh, thank you! I've been looking for a good one, and the only other book on the subject I've read is One Jesus, Many Christs

danielbradley said...

A large segment of Rowland's book is available at Apollos. Here's the link:

Just scroll down and you'll see it.

Patrik said...

I'm completely evangelic about Andrew Louth's The origins of Christian Mysticism - from Plato to Denys. As the title suggests it shows the dependence on the pagan tradition, but in a ver balanced way. It's extremely helpful when one tries to understand what motivated the early theologians.

Another amazing book is Olivier Clement's The Roots of Christian Mysticism. See a pattern here? But the early fathers were alla about mysticism, and if we fail to understand that we fail to understand them, pure and simple.

James Crossley said...

Now I'm not one for saying which one is the best but let me put in a mild plug for Crossan's book. I'm not saying it is the best but I think the reaction which focuses on the character of early Christianity is unfortunate. Some of the theoretical approaches are really quite creative and useful and I think there is a lot of potentially interesting future debate around that. I am far from convinced by the Cynic-esque stuff, his use of sources and all that but the stuff on historical change is something else... What do you reckon Mike?

And yes this is an area I've on in recent years. And there will be a big plug on the forthcoming book anytime now, don't you worry!

steph said...

Yes I'd hang five for a couple of months and pluck something HOT off the printing press on Christian Origins by that Crossley fellow from Sheffield. It'll leave those on this list for dust.

James Crossley said...

Is it me or is the (misleading) phrase 'New Testament History' dying out?

J. B. Hood said...

Yeah, I think NT history is morphing into Xian origins etc, which is a broader term I believe (capable of pulling sociohist, theological aspects together under the same cover).


One important series on Xian origins was left off this list...granted Bish Tom is only on vol. 3, he still conceives of his project as belonging in this category. Are you trying to cleanse your blog of Uncle Tom?

steph said...

"uncle tom" .... where's the bucket!

J. B. Hood said...

Sorry Steph and others, that may be an American slang thing, hard to identify. We also use this for Stanley Hauerwas ("Uncle Stan"). I'll explain if anyone is interested. Of course the phrase "Uncle Tom" is important in American lit as well...there could be a wierd double-entendre there...

steph said...

That's all right Jase - just pass the bucket:)

steph said...

Jase if you're still there: I feel obliged to remind you, on behalf of fellow Kiwis, that we are quite literate down here - I even have an old copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin on my shelf and the lateral connection had actually occurred in my mind, and if anything, increased my need for a bucket!