There are two ancient Christian writings that are attributed to the Twelve Apostles, even though they unlikely wrote them. One, the Apostle’s Creed is well known, the other, the Didache, less so.
And yet both of these writings give us a helpful glimpse into the life and beliefs of the early church.
My Recommend Audiobook is:
Church History in Plain Language
With more than 315,000 print copies sold, this is the story of the church for today’s listeners. Dr. Bruce Shelley makes church history come alive in this classic audiobook that has become not only the first choice of many laypeople and church leaders but the standard text in many college classrooms.
What separates Dr. Shelley’s work from others is its clarity of language and organization. It treats history as the story of people, and the result is that history reads like a story, almost as dramatic and moving as a novel. Yet there is no fiction here. Dr. Shelley was a respected scholar whose work was painstakingly researched and carefully crafted for historical accuracy.
The fourth edition of Shelley’s classic one-volume history of the church brings the story of Christianity into the 21st century. This latest edition, now an audiobook and revised by R.L. Hatchett, contains information concerning Gnosticism and its ongoing relevance, the theology of the early church and Reformation, and most extensively, the rapid global extension and transformation of Christianity since 1900.
You can download this audiobook for FREE with a FREE trial of Audible.
Papias is the most important church father that you have never heard of. Even though none of his writings survive in anything beyond fragments in other writings, he is still influential and is often consulted by New Testament scholars for his traditions about the origins of the Gospels.
Recommend Audio Book:
The Church History by Eusebius
Often called the “Father of Church History”, Eusebius was the first to trace the rise of Christianity during its crucial first three centuries from Christ to Constantine. Our principal resource for earliest Chrisitianity, The Church History presents a panorama of apostles, church fathers, emperors, bishops, heroes, heretics, confessors, and martyrs.
This audiobook edition includes Paul L. Maier’s clear and precise translation, historical commentary on each book in The Church History, and numerous maps, illustrations, and photographs. These features promise to liberate Eusebius from previous outdated and stilted works, creating a new standard primary resource for listeners interested in the early history of Christianity.
Get this audiobook FREE with a FREE trial of Audible.
One of the most inspiring of the Apostolic Fathers is Polycarp. At the age of 86, he became a martyr, even though he had the opportunity to escape. As a disciple of John and one who had an impact on Irenaeus, Polycarp plays an important role.
Here are some important sources:
My recommend audiobook:
The Story of Christianity, Vol. 2 by Justo L. González
Beginning with the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, this fully revised and updated second volume of The Story of Christianity continues the marvelous history of the world’s largest religion. Award-winning historian Justo González brings to life the people, dramatic events, and theological debates that have shaped Protestantism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy. From the monk Martin Luther, who dared to stand up to a corrupt pope, to the surprising spread and growing vitality of today’s church in Africa, Asia, and South America, The Story of Christianity offers a complete and up-to-date retelling of this amazing history.
With new information on the important contributions of women to church history as well as the latest information on Christianity in developing countries, González’s richly textured study discusses the changes and directions of the church up to the 21st century. The Story of Christianity covers such recent occurrences as the fall of the Soviet Union and the return of the Russian Orthodox Church; feminist, African American, and third-world theologies; the scandals and controversies facing the reign of Pope Benedict XVI; interfaith dialogue; and the movement toward unity of all Christian churches. This revised and updated edition of The Story of Christianity concludes with a thoughtful look at the major issues and debates facing Christianity today.
Get this audiobook FREE with a FREE trial of Audible.
It has been a while since the last episode but I have not given up on the podcast. I am busy with a couple of projects but am also working on an episode on Polycarp. I will try and get that out as soon as possible.
In the mean while, check out these other podcasts that I do:
We continue our look at the Apostolic Fathers with a brief look at Ignatius of Antioch. Although we don’t have much information about the early life of Ignatius, what we do have is inspiring. The reading from the Letter to Polycarp in this episode comes from The Apostolic Fathers, edited and translated by Michael Holmes.
The recommended audiobook for this episode is:
The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation by Justo L. González
In The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1, Justo L. González, author of the highly praised three-volume History of Christian Thought, presents a narrative history of Christianity from the early church to the dawn of the Protestant reformation. From Jesus’ faithful apostles to the early reformist John Wycliffe, González skillfully traces core theological issues and developments within the various traditions of the church, including major events outside of Europe, such as the Spanish and Portuguese conquest of the New World.
This updated and expanded edition incorporates recent archaeological discoveries about the life of early Christian communities as well as important contemporary research revealing the significant role of women throughout the history of the church. With lively storytelling, The Story of Christianity provides a fascinating and panoramic history of the dramatic events, colorful characters, and revolutionary ideas that shaped the first 15 centuries of the church.
You can download this audiobook for free and support this podcast at Audible.
Once we get out of the New Testament era, we move into the period of the Apostolic Fathers. These are some early church fathers who had connections to the apostles. In this episode, we look at Clement of Rome. Clement wrote 1 Clement, a letter that actually had a chance to make it into the New Testament.
My recommended audiobook is:
After the New Testament: The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers by Bart Ehrman
The writings that make up the New Testament stand at the very foundation of Christianity. But while Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the other books of the New Testament are known to almost everyone, the writings that Christians produced in the decades that followed these earliest compositions remain shrouded in virtual anonymity. Who were the Apostolic Fathers? Why were they given that name? And what windows into the shaping of Christianity’s canon, church hierarchy, and creed are opened for us with an understanding of works that include the letters of 1 Clement or Ignatius, the Didache of the Apostles, or the Letter to Diognetus?
You can get free with a free trial of Audible here.
One of the most important events in the first century for both Jews and Christians was the Jewish War (66-73 AD). This war included the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. Nothing would ever be the same. This episode gives a summary of the events of this first Jewish War.
If you want more details about this event, read Josephus’s Jewish War.
Here is a picture of the Arch of Titus commemorating the Roman victory over Jews.
The recommended audiobook is Jerusalem’s Traitor: Josephus, Masada, and the Fall of Judea. Get this audiobook for free with a free trial of Audible at www.audibletrial.com/hopesreason.
The book of Acts describes a church in which the members held all things in common. But how seriously should we take those passages? How common was that practice? And how do we interpret those passages in light of modern experiences of communism?
In this episode, I talk to Roman Montero, author of All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians. Roman has researched this topic extensively and places the passages in Acts in both the Greek and Jewish context.
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As important as the Jewish background is to the rise of Christianity, so is the Roman background. All of the events of the New Testament take place within the borders of the Roman Empire and there are frequent interactions with various aspects of Roman authority.
This episode includes a short summary of the Roman emperors of the first century and their importance for understanding the history of Christianity. There are also some comments about other ways that Rome influenced the spread of Christianity.
In the episode, I mention these resources:
Christianity emerged out of Judaism. We have already looked at the Jewish background of Christianity. While there are many ways for us to learn about Judaism, one important way is to look at Jewish texts. Certain texts of Jewish origin were very influential on either Judaism or Christianity. In this episode we look at Tanak, Septuagint, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo and Josephus. The Letter of Aristeas was mentioned in the context of both the Septuagint and the Pseudepigrapha. You can read it online here.