“We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work Thou didst in their days, in the times of old…”
“And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of… [those] who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises… of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight… and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection… of whom the world was not worthy.”
Order of Contents
For Beginners 6
Brief Histories 9
In-Depth Histories 15
Histories in Latin 7
Comprehensive Sets 3
Particular National Churches
. Church History 15
. General History 5
Why Historical Scholarship is Precarious
If Christ loves and cares about his Church, so should you.
All of the ‘Beginner’ books are recommended and will be very readable and engaging for the person looking to learn about Church history for the first time, or the fourth time.
Beyond that though, some discernment is required (James 1:5). We have compiled these resources in order to provide some of the best materials in the field in the public domain on the net. There is a wealth of information, more than one can comprehend really, though you will have to divide the wheat from the chaff here necessary.
We have sought to build a collection where, if one has a question relating to a specific point in Church history, you will be able to find more detailed information on the subject here than you ever wanted to know. Hence, we have freely spoiled the Egyptians (Ex. 12:36), namely the 1800’s German liberals who emphasized exhaustive scholarship, for the task:
“Nevertheless, historical scholarship reached a level of maturity by the mid-nineteenth century that, in many respects, has not been surpassed to this day. In terms of the utilization of primary sources, energy in accumulating these sources, critical power in comparing them, and detachment in their interpretation, it is the case that the accomplishments of a hundred and fifty years ago, particularly in Germany, are seldom surpassed today. And much that is written today falls far below those standards.”
– J. Bradley & R.A. Muller, Church History, p. 17
If, in the unlikely event, you are not able to find the information you need in the general histories below, you will more than likely find your answer in the more in-depth histories on the smaller time period subsections linked above (which are still under construction). If all else fails you, the bibliographies near the bottom of this page won’t.
Please enjoy reading below of the works of God recorded in the earth, and may his Kingdom come on earth, as it is in Heaven, till Christ comes to take us Home.
* – denotes some of the more prominent works, though this is sometimes an arbitrary designation and the other works should be consulted too.
For Beginners 6 Recommended
Bits and Fragments
Ferguson, Beeke, Haykin – Church History 101: the Highlights of 20 Centuries Buy 2016 99 pp. in a small booklet
Houghton, S.M. – Sketches from Church History: An Illustrated Account of 20 Centuries of Christ’s Power Buy 1980 256 pp.
Houghton was been a long time editor with the Banner of Truth, known for his encyclopedic knowledge of Church history and his 40,000+ books.
Knoll, Mark – Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity Buy 3rd ed. 2012 360 pp.
Knoll is a reformed-evangelical and historian of especially the American Church.
Kuiper, B.K. – The Church in History Buy 1951 420 pp.
Kuiper (1877-1961) was Dutch reformed and was the first history professor at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids.
Needham, Nick – 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power Buy 1998 multiple volumes
Needham is a reformed baptist and is a lecturer at Highland Theological College in Scotland. His work is both popular and detailed enough that know some about the subject will still learn.
Gonzalez, Justo – The Story of Christianity Buy 1984 830 pp.
Gonzalez is a Cuban-American Methodist who is known for his lucid writing style. This work gives one a drag-race overview of the whole of church history.
Brief Histories 8
Spanheim, Jr., Frederic – Ecclesiastical Annals from the Commencement of Scripture History to the Epoch of the Reformation 1689 550 pp.
Spanheim Jr. was a German reformed theologian who taught in the Netherlands, succeeding J. Cocceius. On this work, see Kurtz’s comments.
* Hase, Charles – A History of the Christian Church 1875 755 pp.
Hase was a German born, resident of France who specialized in Byzantine history.
“Of the smaller manuals of Church history, one of the most important is that of Hase… It is a condensed narrative of a thorough scholar, written in a pithy and sometimes racy style.” – G.P. Fisher
Blackburn, William – History of the Christian Church from its Origin to the Present Time 1879 735 pp.
Blackburn was a presbyterian and graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary.
* Zenos, Andrew – Compendium of Church History 1896 345 pp. Presbyterian Board of Publication
Zenos was a Princeton modernist, but a great historian. The publisher was conservative.
ed. Gwatkin, H.M. – The Church, Past and Present: a Review of its History 1899 310 pp. This work has several contributors, mainly Anglican clergy.
Gwatkin (1844–1916) was a Cambridge professor.
* Fisher, George Park – History of the Christian Church, with Maps 1900 162 pp.
Fisher (1827–1909) was an American professor of Church History at Yale.
Walker, Williston – A History of the Christian Church 1918 605 pp.
Walker was a Yale professor. “Perhaps the best of the one-volume histories, though rather too packed, and less good toward the end.” – Owen Chadwick
Clarke, C.P.S. – Short History of the Christian Church: from the Earliest Times to the Present Day 1929/1949 560 pp.
Bainton, Roland – Christendom: a Short History of Christianity and its Impact on Western Civilization, 2 vols. Buy 1966
Johnson, Paul – A History of Christianity Buy 576 pp. 1979
Good writer and historian; from a secular perspective.
In-Depth Histories 14
* Mosheim, Johann – An Ecclesiastical History, Ancient and Modern, vol. 1 (to 1517), 2 (1517-1700) †1755 There is no table of contents.
Mosheim (1693–1755) was a German, moderate Lutheran, and considered by many to be the father of modern, scientific history. A classic.
Waddington, George – A History of the Church from the Earliest Ages to the Reformation 1835 570 pp. double-columned
Waddington was a Cambridge scholar. See Schaff’s comments.
Gieseler (1792–1854) was a German historian. He copiously references sources and authorities and quotes original documents in full in the footnotes.
“Profoundly learned, acute, calm, impartial, conscientious, but cold and dry.” – Philip Schaff
“It is generally considered the best of all the text-books on church history.” – J.A. Fisher
Robertson (1813–1882) was a Scottish born, English Churchman.
“The author, a Canon in the English Episcopal Church, is a well-informed scholar, and writes in a moderate and candid spirit.” – G.P. Fisher
Guericke was a German professor. “The tone of the book is that of a Lutheran polemic.” – J.A. Fisher
Kurtz, Johann Heinrich – Church History, vol. 1 (to 911), 2 (911-1600), 3 (1600-1800’s) 1889 The translator, John MacPherson, was not the Scot in the Free Church of Scotland, though another edition of this work was translated by Alfred Edersheim.
Kurtz (1809–1890) was one of the more ‘evangelical’ German liberals. He treats of the international Church after the Reformation.
“Its author writes in sympathy with the Lutheran creed. The facts are clearly presented and well arranged. It is an excellent work.” – G.P. Fisher
* Schaff, Philip – History of the Christian Church, 7 vols. †1893 from the 1910 Charles Scribner’s edition
Schaff (1819–1893) was a very influential and good, Swiss-born, American church historian and professor in the German Reformed Church.
“The greatest monument of American scholarship in the field of church history. Orthodox, liberal, readable… It is peculiarly rich in bibliographies.” – J.A. Fisher
“Philip Schaff… is sometimes considered the father of American church history… because he brought together the best advances in the study of church history and set new standards for the discipline in the United States… and set forth his own understanding of church history, called ‘The Reformed-Catholic Percpective.’… Yet while Schaff represented the best in post-Enlightenment historiography, the influence of Hegel was so pervasive that the work suffers from at least three characteristic weaknesses…
Schaff understands history in terms of steady improvement, but he is, in the first place, naively optimistic… Second, the historian is able to truly comprehend past events, and to unfold them, just as they originally stood, before the eyes of the readers. Finally, like Neander and Tholuck, Schaff is overly optimistic about the historian’s ability to discern the hand of providence and the guiding spirit of Christianity in history.” – Bradley & Muller, p. 17
Hurst (1834–1903) was an American bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church and the first Chancellor of the American University in Washington, D.C.
Moeller was a German professor.
Milman, Henry Hart – History of Latin Christianity, including that of the Popes, vol. 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 1908 The history goes up to AD 1455.
Milman (1791 –1868) was an ecclesiastic and ‘an English church historian of the first rank’ (Kurtz).
“…he write for the literary class. It is a useful complement to Neander. The learning is ample, the style is animated, but with a predilection for the Latin element. On the Papacy in the Middle Ages, and on the topics connected with literature and art, Milman is both entertaining and instructive.” – G.P. Fisher
* Latourette, Kenneth Scott – A History of the Expansion of Christianity, vol. 1, 2, 3 1937
Latourette (1884–1968) was an American involved in missions and a graduate of Yale. This is a well-known work in the field.
Hughes, Philip – A History of the Church 1947 1426 pp. This history goes up to 1520, as the author died before completing the fourth planned volume.
Hughes, not to be confused with Philip Edgecumbe Hughes, was a Roman Catholic historian.
The Pelican History of the Church, 5 vols. Buy 1960 ff.
In Latin 7
For reformed works on single periods of history, see the list by Schaff.
“They rest throughout on careful studies, produce many documents that were previously unknown, and with an unsparingly bitter polemic against the Romish doctrinal degeneration, address themselves with special diligence to the historical development of dogma.” – Kurtz
Casaubon, Isaac – 16 Exercitations of Sacred and Ecclesiastical Things Against Cardinal Baronius 1614 690 pp.
Casaubon (1559-1614) was reformed. The Roman Catholic Baronius (1538-1607) had written a history of the Church against the Magdeburg Centuries above. Here Casaubon criticizes Baronius’s work. Kurtz says this work is amongst the ‘most important of all’ the protestant historiography literature, along with that of Basnage below.
Weismann, Christian E. – Introductio In Memorabilia Ecclesiastica Historiae Sacrae Novi Testamenti, vols. 1 & 2 1718
Weismann was a Lutheran.
Lamp, Friedrich – A Synopsis of Sacred and Ecclesiastical History 1726 620 pp.
Lamp (1683–1729) was a German, reformed, pietist pastor and professor.
Venema (1697-1787) was reformed, and was called by Kurtz ‘the Mosheim of this church’.
Comprehensive Sets 3
Oxford History of the Christian Church, 20 vols. Buy 1977 ff.
ed. Jedin & Dolan – History of the Church, 10 vols. Buy 1979
“A standard reference by Catholic scholars. Each volume has a bibliography of 50-100 pages.” – Bradley & Muller
The Cambridge History of Christianity, 9 vols. Buy 1989-2004
They just don’t make encyclopedias like they used to. Encyclopedias at the end of the 1800’s and early 1900’s are some of the most scholarly and in-depth that have ever been printed, especially in the field of history, and cover topics too specific, detailed and lengthy for modern abridgments.
Encyclopedia Britannica 11th Edition 29 vols. 1911
This was the best, longest and most in-depth Encyclopedia Britannica ever printed.
Religious & Church History
McClintock & Strong – Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature 12 vols. 1867-1887
The Catholic Encyclopedia 1907-1912
The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge 12 vols. 1908-1914
ed. Hastings – Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. 1 (A-Art), 2 (Arthur-Bunyan), 3 (Burial-Confessions), 4 (Confirmation-Drama), 5 (Dravidians-Fichte), 6 (Fiction-Hyksos), 7 (Hymns-Liberty), 8 (Life & Death-Mulla), 9 (Mundas-Phrygians), 10 (Picts-Sacraments), 11 (Sacrifice-Sudra), 12 (Suffering-Zwingli) 1908-1927
Jewish Encyclopedia 1901-1906
ed. Hughes – Encyclopedia of Islam 1913
ed. Meri, J. – Medieval Islamic Civilization: an Encyclopedia, vol. 1, A-K, 2, L-Z Preview 2006
Robinson, John – A Theological, Biblical & Ecclesiastical Dictionary 1835 1,110 pp.
Buck, Charles – A Theological Dictionary… together with… Ecclesiastical History 1838 500 pp.
Staunton, William – An Ecclesiastical Dictionary 1861 700 pp.
Eadie, John – The Ecclesiastical Cyclopaedia, or Dictionary 1862 680 pp.
Eadie was the stalwart Biblical commentator and scholar of the Scottish United Presbyterian Church.
Blunt, John Henry – Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties and School of Religious Thought 1874 660 pp.
Benton, A.A. – The Church Cyclopedia, a Dictionary of Church Doctrine, History, Organization and Ritual 1886 760 pp. associated with the Protestant Episcopal Church
This work is rather full and has a lot of things not found in other dictionaries.
Thein, John – An Ecclesiastical Dictionary 1900 760 pp.
ed. Cross – The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church Buy 1958/1974/1988/2004
“In a class by itself as a single-volume work of historical reference. Packed with accurate information, it has selective but exact bibliographies.” – Owen Chadwick
Particular National Churches
Histories of the English Church
ed. Stephens & Hunt – A History of the English Church:
Hunt, William – The English Church: From Its Foundation to the Norman Conquest (597-1066) 1912 440 pp.
Stephens, W.R.W. – The English Church from the Norman Conquest to the Accession of Edward I, 1066-1272 1904 365 pp.
Capes, W.W. – A History of the English in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries 1900 405 pp.
Frere, W.H. – The English Church in the Reigns of Elizabeth and James I, 1558-1625 1904 430 pp.
Gairdner, James – The English Church in the Sixteenth Century from the Accession of Henry VIII to the Death of Mary 1903 450 pp.
Hutton, William Holden – The English Church from the Accession of Charles I to the Death of Anne, 1625-1714 1903 380 pp.
Overton, John H. – The English Church from the Accession of George I to the End of the 18th Century , 1714-1800 1906 390 pp.
Cornish, Francis Warre – The English Church in the Nineteenth Century, part 1, 2 1910
ed. Ollard, S.L. – A Dictionary of English Church History 1912 690 pp.
“The best one-volume history.” – Owen Chadwick
Histories of the Scottish Church
Bibliographies for Church History 15
Dowling, John Goulter – An Introduction to the Critical Study of Ecclesiastical History 1838 330 pp.
‘The Principal Works on Church History’ 1854 100 pp. being ch. 4 of History of the Apostolic Church with a General Introduction to Church History, 61-160 Schaff here gives extended annotations on the works.
‘General Introduction: Literature’ in History of the Christian Church, vol. 1
Hase, Charles – ‘General Literature’ being ch. 2 of A History of the Christian Church, pp. 7-12 1875
Hase was a German born, resident of France who specialized in Byzantine history.
“Condensed, skillfully arranged, and well-written.” – J.A. Fisher
Fisher, J.A. – A Select Bibliography of Ecclesiastical History, Annotated 1885 70 pp.
Kurtz, J.H. – ‘History of General Church History’ 1888 10 pp. in Church History, vol. 1, pp. 12-22
Kurtz gives commentary on all the major ecclesiastical histories that have been written since the Christian era.
Hurst, John Fletcher – ‘Literature of Church History’ 1900 14 pp. in History of the Christian Church, vol. 1, pp. 1-14
Fisher, George P. – ‘Notes on the Literature of Church History’ 1900 27 pp. being an Appendix in History of the Christian Church, pp. 671-697
Moeller, Wilhelm – ‘History of Church History’ & ‘Introduction to the Knowledge of the Literature and Sources of Church History’ 1902 History of the Christian Church, vol. 1, pp. 6-26
Coulter & Hoseh – Historical Bibliographies: a Systematic and Annotated Guide Buy 1935; rep. 1965
“A useful guide to older materials.” – Bradley & Muller
Case, McNeill, Sweet, Pauck, Spinka – Bibliographical Guide to the History of Christianity 1937 250 pp. University of Chicago
“Case is not selective, is more for specialists…” – Owen Chadwick
Chadwick, Owen – The History of the Church; A Select Bibliography Buy 1973
Blockx, Karel – Bibliographical Introduction to Church History Buy 1982 This is not annotated and it has no title index.
“This is the best recent guide for the literature of church history and historical theology, but the second volume in the series must be used in conjunction with the first, since there is much material on church history in the first volume. These two volumes provide detailed annotations for most reference works in church history, but the organization is poor. Standard denominational bibliographies are dispersed throughout the volumes, but can be located through the indices.” – Bradley & Muller
Kepple, Robert & Muether, John – Reference Works for Theological Research Buy 3rd ed. 1992 264 pp. pp. 129-65 covers church history, with all items annotated.
Muether is associated with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and has written numerous history books on reformed history.
“Kepple’s and Muether’s guide to reference works remains one of the most useful general tools for theological research in all fields… [T]his work offers a solid and well-organized beginning point for all theological researchers: It should be of great interest to college and seminary students as a means of aquainting them with the contents of a good reference room, to graduate students and teachers in coordinating their own basic research efforts… This is a fine work that deserves to be widely known.” – Muller
Bradley, J.E. & Muller, R.A. – Church History: an Introduction to Research Methods and Resources Buy 2nd ed. 2016 293 pp.
Muller is a professor of Historical Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary and Bradley is a professor of Church history at Fuller Theological Seminary. The 2nd edition is necessary for its valuable online resources. The first half of the book is a how to guide on historical research and methods; the second half is devoted to bibliographies of up-to-date resources.
Bibliographies of General History 5
Adams, Charles Kendall – A Manual of Historical Literature with Brief Descriptions 1889 760 This is of secular history.
Hurst calls this ‘invaluable’.
Peirce, David Roland – A Select Bibliography of History Buy 1966
Howe, George, et al. – Guide to Historical Literature Buy 1967 American Historical Association
“A major topical bibliography to serials, series, bibliographical tools, books, articles, etc., in all fields of historical investigation, annotated. Covers intellectual and religious history but needs to be supplemented in the specific areas of philosophy and theology.” – Bradley & Muller
Berkowitz, David – Bibliographies for Historical Researchers Buy 1969
Fritze, Coutts & Vyhnanek – Reference Sources in History: an Introductory Guide Buy 2004 334 pp.
“The best, most recent, comprehensive guide.” – Bradley & Muller
Why Historical Scholarship is Precarious
J.B. Russell, ‘The Myth of the Flat Earth’ (1997)
“History is precarious for three reasons: the good reason [is] that it is extraordinarily difficult to determine ‘what really happened’ in any series of events; the bad reason [is] that historical scholarship is often sloppy; and the appalling reason [is] that far too much historical scholarship consists of contorting the evidence to fit ideological models. The worst examples of such contortions are the Nazi and Communist histories of the early- and mid-twentieth century.”
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…”