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The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Volume 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600): The Emergence of the ... Tradition, 100-600 A.D v. 1 (Phoenix Books) Paperback – 1 Aug 1975


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Product details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (1 Aug. 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226653714
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226653716
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.7 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 331,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Jaroslav Pelikan is Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University.

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Jan. 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The real quality of this book is only apparent when one has read standard introductions to Christian doctrine which treat each piece of emerging doctrine as the only possible solution to each theological problem. Pelikan shows that almost every issue was the subject of fierce debate because the range of sources - the scriptures, early Christian thinkers, Greek philosophy - could not be brought together into any coherence. He shows for instance that four distinct and incompatible answers to the question of whether Christ was fully God can be suggested from biblical sources alone- and this was before the issue became entangled with Platonism! Traditionalists may be shocked by this approach but Pelikan is providing a fine tribute to the fertility of the Greek mind and the seriousness with which early Christians approached the search for truth. Pelikan remains traditional,however, in separating the making of doctrine from the political setting. In most cases 'orthodoxy' was imposed from above by emperors tired of the endless debates which threatened to undermine political stability and a full picture of the making of Christian doctrine needs to include this dimension. However, Pelikan's erudition, refusal to be overawed by established points of view and the clarity with which he explores the issues make this an essential book for students of early Christian history.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By notatamelion@aol.com on 3 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
"The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition" (and the "Christian Tradition" series as a whole) is among the most useful books I have ever come across.
Mr. Pelikan has focused like a laser on what was TAUGHT (as in "the stuff we have actual historical documentation for") by the church throughout history. This is most refreshing. No pet theories or speculation taint this book...
This book can be dry in spots. This probably speaks more to my distaste for "scholarly works" than any deficiency in Mr. Pelikan's writing style. However, most readers will probably find this book both captivating and edifying. I recommend it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 36 reviews
139 of 142 people found the following review helpful
Part One in an Important and Monumental Series 27 Jan. 2003
By David Bennett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is probably, page for page, the most scholarly and readable of all the history of doctrine books about the early Church (although Kelley's "Early Christian Doctrines" comes close). Pelikan's style is concise, but also detailed, in that on every page he provides references for just about every important thing he says. Pelikan has a take on doctrine that is shared by most scholars and clergy, which is that doctrine developed, and that what the apostles believed was less defined and cloudier than what the later Church believed. In other words, from studying the Bible and the early writers, we see that their formulations and emphases often differed from later generations. For instance, the doctrine of original sin is rarely spoken of before Augustine, and early creeds were less clear about the Son's full equality with the Father, even though they called the Son "God." For those unfamiliar with Christian history, to see important doctrines develop might be troubling, although as many Christians already know, the development and clarification of a doctrine does not make it less true.
Pelikan covers all of the major figures and controversies, looking at orthodox and heretic arguments. He explains why orthodox doctrine prevailed, geographically, politically, and philosophically. The major chapters are, 1. Preparatio Evangelica, 2. Outside the Mainstream. 3. Faith of the Catholic Church, 4. Mystery of the Trinity, 5. Person of the God-Man, 6. Nature and Grace, and 7. Orthodox Consensus. Each is then broken down to several sub-chapters.
Do not expect a Biblical defense of the Trinity or any other doctrine from this book. Pelikan clearly explains that catholic belief came after a long and hard consideration of biblical concepts, with many dissenters who interpreted the Bible differently. The chapter on the Trinity for instance focuses on the varying ways of interpreting the relationship of Jesus to the Father. This includes heretic doctrines of Modalism, and Adoptianism, as well as proto-orthodox Logos-Theology, and the Nicene Trinity. While he explains the views of those outside the catholic mainstream, even often arguing on their behalf, he (and most scholars outside of a few in the 1800s) does not believe that the heretical groups throughout history agreed on doctrine and practice (they did not) and formed an underground church.

Overall, this is a fine book that I use as a reference quite often. His whole series, of which this is the first, is very useful. Another reviewer below, Alan Wong, provides the ISBN numbers of the other books. For anyone wanting to dig deeper in his or her study of Christian doctrine and history, I would suggest this book. It is not for beginners though. He often uses Greek and Latin terms, as well as other "churchy" terms that are probably unfamiliar to most people. Chadwick's "The Early Church" and Reader's Digest's "After Jesus," which is co-edited by Pelikan, are the best places to start. However, after those have intrigued you, move on to Pelikan and you won't be disappointed.
46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
A monument of scholarship 27 Sept. 2006
By J. Michael - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Volume 1 of Dr. Pelikan's 5 volume magnum opus is a breathtaking panorama of the development of Christian doctrine over the course of its first 6 centuries. Dr. Pelikan tells us what the infant Church taught, and the fascinating process by which it came to those conclusions, introducing us to the specific arguments of the various positions regarding issues like the relationship of the Old Covenant to the New, the Trinity, the nature of Christ, the question of Christian authority, predestination, grace, salvation, etc. This book is a sumptuous feast for the theologically-oriented mind and an intellectual achievement for the ages.

Two words in the book's subtitle should be emphasized to clarify the book's purpose; firstly, that this is a study of Christian_doctrine_, not a history of Christianity per se. The mention of dates and years is rare, and indeed, this book seems to operate in a world outside of time, where spiritual ideas are debated by disembodied theologians unmoored from any earthly context. As a history-buff, that lack of chronological perspective sometimes grates, but I came to accept that this is a historical study of ideas, not events, and the book is made stronger by its single-minded focus on that area. Secondly, the starting point of this book that has to be accepted is that the basics of Christian doctrine have come down to us by a_process_of revelation, development, evolution, and scholarly dialectics, not from the self-exegesis of Scripture Alone. Pelikan himself once sarcastically asked what human being could sit in a room with the New Testament and come up with the idea of the Trinity without the benefit of Tradition. That kind of thinking is no obstacle to those sectors of Christianity which believe that the Holy Spirit works through properly appointed authority (Eph 4:11-14) to ensure that Christ's one Church will never err in doctrine, but it might be a stumbling block to those Christians (particularly religiously anarchic Americans) who think that the whole of Christian doctrine, history and devotion is, and was intended to be, contained in and clearly spelled out in the pages of the New Testament, which fell from the sky on Good Friday 33 A.D. leather-bound, annotated and translated into the King James Version, ready-made to be individually interpreted anew by every generation of average Joe-Christians. As a previous reviewer said, this book is an antidote for ahistorical Christians.

Unlike his predecessor Harnack, Pelikan doesn't take the historical development of doctrine as a justification for religious relativism. Pelikan always approached his subject from the perspective of a believer, and even though he wrote this book as a Lutheran and later converted to Eastern Orthodoxy, I-as a Catholic- find no cause for any accusation of sectarian bias in his work. This is a work of impartial scholarship through and through, on a subject which is ripe for the insertion of denominational proclivities. My criticisms are minor: as far as I can recall, this book barely touched on the questions of Biblical canon and pre- 5th century Roman claims of primacy, two subjects I would describe as "doctrinal" but of which Dr. Pelikan apparently disagreed. In his section on infant baptism, he apparently neglected the testimony of St. Polycarp (died ca 155-167- a self-described "Christian for 86 years") as an additional buttress to the tradition. And there are stray sentences which could have been rendered with less theological opacity. But these are minor. This is the standard reference work for any serious student of Christianity, and will likely remain so for many decades to come.
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
a 'must have' reference work ... 2 Nov. 2000
By forehandshanker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The general academic consensus on Pelikan's magisterial and encyclopedic work is that it has become the Harnack of the 20th century. The comparision to Harnack's _History of Dogma_ is not a denigration of either of these two works. It simply states the monumental importance of this work.
Pelikan writes in a readable and engaging style. He has clearly grasped all the subtleties in the development of the "Christian Tradition" (his oft-quoted phrase is that tradition is the living faith of the dead but traditionalism is the dead faith of the living), but yet he can summarize the essence of a position in one sentence. The real meat of this set is the references in the margin, where one can go directly to the sources. Anyone studying theology must have this on their bookshelf.
As a public service, here are the ISBN numbers so that one can purchase the entire set ... ISBN v1 0226653714 v2 0226653730 v3 0226653757 v4 0226653773 v5 0226653803
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
captivating and edifying 13 July 2000
By NotATameLion - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition" (and the "Christian Tradition" series as a whole) is among the most useful books I have ever come across.
Mr. Pelikan has focused like a laser on what was TAUGHT (as in "the stuff we have actual historical documentation for") by the church throughout history. This is most refreshing. No pet theories or speculation taint this book (I guess this means Mr. Pelikan won't be asked to work with A&E or Bill Moyers any time soon.)
This book can be dry in spots. This probably speaks more to my distaste for "scholarly works" than any deficiency in Mr. Pelikan's writing style. However, most readers will probably find this book both captivating and edifying. I recommend it.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
An Antidote for Ahistorical Christians 29 April 2002
By CHONG EU CHOONG - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is the first of a series of five books that covers the historical development of Christian doctrines from the second until the 20th century.
In this book, Mr. Pelikan covers the development of Christian doctrines from the second until the seventh century which essentially was a crucial period in history of Christianity where early Christians struggled to formulate key doctrines, e.g. the Trinity, Christology, Anthropology, etc, that would ultimately shape the development of Christianity.
Mr. Pelikan has rendered the Christian community a great service through this book as it document the landmarks of the faith once delivered.
I highly recommend this book to any Christian who wishes to deepen his/her understanding of how and why Christians hold to certain teachings. This book is a welcome relief for any Christians who seeks to understand the historical dimension of the faith, thus enabling them to view how they are connected to the living apostolic Church from the early believers to today.
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