The Early Christian Church - Vol. 1

By Philip Carrington | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The primary object of this history is to provide an introduction to the story of the Christian church during the first two centuries, in narrative form, with sufficient detail and a sufficient use of original sources to make it a useful reference book for the persons and events of the period. The attempt to arrange so much material in chronological order and to relate it to the current of general history is no easy one, and decisions have had to be made on many points which are under debate among the leading scholars. It has not been possible to argue these points in detail, but it has been possible to indicate where serious differences of opinion exist, and to allow for alternative reconstructions of the history.

The foundation of history is a close study of the sources on which it is based. The knowledge of the sources must precede and support every other form of reading. An attempt has been made to present these sources, to give some account of each, and to let them speak for themselves. This is a book about sources as well as about events and persons.

It is probable that this history will be regarded as a 'conservative' one. The author is one of those who believe that the process of theoretical reconstruction has gone far enough, and that the time has come to review and consolidate the work. Nevertheless, it can hardly be denied that some reconstructions of a hypothetical character have been included. It is hoped that their hypothetical or suggestive character has always been clearly indicated.

The valuations which are placed upon the documents of the period today are by no means the same as were generally accepted a century ago. These new valuations should be accepted wherever it can be established that they are based upon sound literary or historical criticism; and this is where opinions are bound to differ. An element of personal judgement enters into the making of these decisions which no author can avoid. It often happens that a novel 'critical' valuation appeals to a scholar because it supports his own understanding of Christian history, or even some theoretical reconstruction to which he is committed; and this is equally true of 'conservative' and 'radical' scholars. No scholar can be confident that he is quite free from this tendency.

-xvii-

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