“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
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 & 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 (Banner of Truth, 1980) 256 pp. ToC
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 (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 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 2nd ed. trans. George Wright (1689; London, 1840) 550 pp. ToC
“Frederick Spanheim, of Leyden, founded his Summa historice eccl. (a.d. 1689) upon a most accurate and conscientious use of sources and a searching criticism, with a view to the refutation of [Cardinal] Baronius.” – Philip Schaff
Hase (1780–1864) 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. ToC
Blackburn (1828–1898) was a presbyterian and graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary.
Zenos (1855-1942) was a Princeton modernist, but a great historian. The publisher was conservative.
ed. Gwatkin, H.M. – The Church, Past & Present: a Review of its History (1899) 310 pp. ToC This work has several contributors, mainly Anglican clergy.
Gwatkin (1844–1916) was a Cambridge professor.
Fisher (1827–1909) was an American professor of Church History at Yale.
Walker (1860–1922) 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; Longmans, 1949) 560 pp. ToC
Clarke was an Anglican canon and a lecturer in Church History.
Bainton, Roland – Christendom: a Short History of Christianity & its Impact on Western Civilization, vol. 1, 2 (1966) ToC 1, 2
Bainton (1894–1984) was a British born, professor of ecclesiastical history at Yale and a Reformation scholar.
Johnson (b. 1928). Good writer and historian; from a secular perspective.
In-Depth Histories 14
* Mosheim, Johann – Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, Ancient & Modern in Four Books, vol. 1 (Birth of Christ – Charlemagne), 2 (Charlemagne – Reformation), 3 (Reformation – 1700) trans. James Murdock (†1755; Robert Carter, 1861) no ToC
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 ToC
Waddington was a Cambridge scholar. See Schaff’s comments.
Neander, Augustus – General History of the Christian Religion and Church, vol. 1 (to 312), 1.5 (Doctrinal), 2 (312-590), 3-4 (590-814 / 814-1078), 5 (1073-1294), 6 (1294-1517) (1850) ToC 1, 1.5, 2, 3-4, 5, 6
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 (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 (1895–1967), not to be confused with Philip Edgecumbe Hughes, was a Roman Catholic historian.
For reformed works on single periods of history, see the list by Schaff on p. 81.
ed. Flacius, Matthias – The Magdeburg Centuries, vol. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 (1559-1574) Here is the 1st ed. of the whole work on a German website. See also the 3 vol., 1624 Basil edition, which is clean and easy to navigate: Historia Ecclesiastica, vol. 1 (1-4), 2 (5-9), 3 (10-13).
“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
Baronius (1538-1607) was an Italian, Romanist cardinal and Church historian. This is his best known work. Mastricht often cites him as an authority, though search this webpage for responses to and refutations of many of his points.
“In the Reformed church, John H. Hottinger of Zurich proposed to furnish a counterpart to the [Magdeburg] Centuries. His work evinces great knowledge, particularly of the East, with love of order and justice. But it is unequal, devoting five volumes to the sixteenth century alone. It drags in, too, according to the taste of these times, much foreign matter; the history, for instance, of the Jews, Pagans, and Mohammedans; accounts of remarkable natural phenomena, earthquakes, locusts, famines, floods, monstrosities, eclipses of the sun and moon, etc., as foretokening the fortunes of the church.” – Philip Schaff
Casaubon, Isaac – 16 Exercitations of Sacred & Ecclesiastical Things Against Cardinal Baronius (1614) 690 pp. Index, of Scripture, of Authors
Casaubon (1559-1614) was a reformed classical scholar and philologist, first in France and then England. The Romanist cardinal 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.
“The two Frenchmen, James Basnage, minister at the Hague, and Samuel Basnage, minister in Ziitphen, wrote, the former [in French] against Bossuet, the latter against Baronius; both, especially James, with the purpose of showing that the true church of Christ has never failed, and has, at all times, had faithful witnesses.” – Philip Schaff
Weismann, Christian E. – An Introduction to the Memorable Ecclesiastical Things of the Sacred History of the New Testament, vols. 1 & 2 (1718)
Weismann (1677-1747) was a Lutheran professor of theology at Tubingen.
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.
Ancient Society (to Gregory the Great)
France (to Middle Ages)
East-West (to 1400’s)
Early Reformation: Continent
Reformation: Britain & Ireland
Germany & Scandinavia (1700-1918)
England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales (1900-2000)
“A standard reference by Catholic scholars. Each volume has a bibliography of 50-100 pages.” – Bradley & Muller
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 & 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 & 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, 2 vols. (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 & School of Religious Thought (1874) 660 pp.
Benton, A.A. – The Church Cyclopedia, a Dictionary of Church Doctrine, History, Organization & 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.
“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
Bibliographies for Church History 15
ch. 4, ‘The Principal Works on Church History’ in History of the Apostolic Church with a General Introduction to Church History (1854), pp. 61-160 Schaff here gives extended annotations on the works.
‘General Introduction: Literature’ in History of the Christian Church, vol. 1
Hase, Charles – ch. 2, ‘General Literature’ in A History of the Christian Church (1875), pp. 7-12
Hase was a German born, resident of France who specialized in Byzantine history.
“Condensed, skillfully arranged, and well-written.” – J.A. Fisher
Kurtz, J.H. – ‘History of General Church History’ in Church History (1888), 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’ in History of the Christian Church (1900), vol. 1, pp. 1-14
Fisher, George P. – Appendix, ‘Notes on the Literature of Church History’ in History of the Christian Church (1900), pp. 671-97
Moeller, Wilhelm – History of the Christian Church (1902), vol. 1, pp. 6-26
Dowling, John Goulter – An Introduction to the Critical Study of Ecclesiastical History (1838) 330 pp. ToC
Fisher, John Alonzo – A Select Bibliography of Ecclesiastical History, Annotated (1885) 70 pp.
Coulter & Hoseh – Historical Bibliographies: a Systematic & 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 (Univ. of Chicago, 1937) 250 pp. ToC
“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.
Gorman & Gorman
Theological & Religious Reference Materials: General Resources & Biblical Studies (Greenwood Press, 1984) 540 pp. ToC
Theological & Religious Reference Materials: Systematic Theology & Church History Buy (1985)
“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
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 & Resources 2nd ed. Buy (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
Adams, Charles Kendall – A Manual of Historical Literature with Brief Descriptions (1889) 760 pp. ToC
Hurst calls this ‘invaluable’.
Peirce, David Roland – A Select Bibliography of History Buy (1966)
ed. Norton, Mary Beth – The American Historical Association’s Guide to Historical Literature, vol. 1, 2 3rd ed. Buy (Oxford Univ. Press, 1995) ToC
“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 2nd ed. Buy (2004) 334 pp. ToC
“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…”