08/14/2015 in: On Saleon
When I was in elementary school I remember on several occasions having to construct a family tree. It usually didn’t go much further than my great grandparents because keeping track of all my aunts, uncles, and cousins was enough work for a young mind. I have fond memories of those exercises because they created opportunities to learn about my extended family that I probably would not have sought out on my own. Now that I’m a parent this has been important information to have so that I can pass it on to my children, so that our family’s history and story can be carried on to the next generation.
I think about the Church in the same light. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:19 that when we place our faith in Christ we become members of the “household of God.” In a very real sense we are adopted into God’s family and all Christians are siblings, hence why we call each other brother and sister. And just like blood relatives have a family history and story to tell, so does the Church. Our family story begins with the opening pages of the Bible with God’s creation of the world and the first humans (Adam and Eve). The story continues throughout the entirety of the Bible, even culminating with our family’s glorious end dwelling with God forever in the new heaven and earth. While the Bible gives us a lot of details about the history of Israel and the early church, the story stops before we get to 100 AD. Since that time our family story has continued for over 1900 years, and there are lots of important people and events that are worth remembering from that time. With such a broad history the question becomes: where do I start? Thankfully we have Church family members who have dedicated themselves to studying our history and putting it in a form that the rest of us can easily pick up and read.
It doesn’t matter if you’re heading into Bible college or seminary or just looking to brush up on your church history, Olive Tree has some great resources that’ll meet your needs.
Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible Notes
A Study Bible probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about church history, and rightfully so. The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible is different from other study Bibles. Yes, it gives you all the notes, introductions, maps, and outlines you get with a traditional study Bible, but it also offers quite a bit more. If you’re looking for a high level overview of Church history this is the resource for you. In the Study Bible’s back matter is a section called “Twenty Centuries of Church History;” this section offers one page summaries of each century, from the first to the twentieth. If you’re new to the subject this is a great way to get your feet wet and get the bare bones of where the Church has been over the last 2000 years. There is also the full text of several creeds and confessions that have shaped the Church and its beliefs over the centuries.
Church History, Volumes One and Two
If you’re looking for more than one page century summaries, you’ll want to turn to a duo of books published by Zondervan aptly titled Church History. The first volume is over 500 pages in print and covers our history from the time of Christ to the time just before the Reformation in the 1500’s. Filled with maps, charts, and illustrations, it offers overviews of the Roman, Greek, and Jewish worlds; insights into the church’s relationship to the Roman Empire, with glimpses into pagan attitudes toward Christians; the place of art and architecture, literature and philosophy, both sacred and secular; and much more, spanning the time from the first through the thirteenth centuries.
At over 800 pages, Volume Two is an account of the ups and downs, the triumphs and struggles, of the Christian movement. It offers a unique contextual view of how the Christian church spread and developed from the just prior to the Reformation and through the next five-hundred-plus years into the present-day. This book looks closely at the integral link between the history of the world and that of the church, detailing the times, cultures, and events that both influenced and were influenced by the church. Also filled with maps, charts, and illustrations, this volume helps to shape your understanding of how Christianity has grown and spread throughout the globe.
Learning about our history doesn’t end with learning about the people involved. As you read through some of the texts that discuss our history you will inevitably learn a lot of our history centers around how we understand and interpret Scripture. If theology and its history are of interest to you Historical Theology is the title for you. Most historical theology texts follow Christian beliefs chronologically, discussing notable doctrinal developments for all areas of theology according to their historical appearance. And while this may be good history, it can make for confusing theology. In Historical Theology you are given the opportunity to study the historical development of theology according to a topical-chronological arrangement, setting out the history of Christian doctrine one theological element at a time. Such an approach allows readers to concentrate on one tenet of Christianity and its formulation in the early church, through the Middle Ages, Reformation, and post-Reformation era, and into the modern period.
Lastly, if you’re a student studying Church history, we have a resource specifically for you titled Church History: An Introduction to Research, Reference Works, and Methods. This work lays out the guidelines, methods, and basic reference tools needed for the successful researching and writing of papers in the discipline of church history and theology. Organized with the needs of research students in mind, this book helps students find a topic, locate the relevant source materials, and write quality papers.
Church history is our history, let’s not neglect it. In the same way that it’s important to know who your relatives are and what makes your family special, we need to know the history of the Church. Add one or all of these resources to your Olive Tree library today and start learning about some of the family you’ll meet and worship alongside in heaven. Be sure to check out all the other titles available in our Back to School sale.