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The Christian Tradition 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition 100-600 (The Christian Tradition #1)

4.25  ·  Rating Details ·  745 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
s/t: A History of the Development of Doctrine
In this five-volume opus--now available in its entirety in paperback--Pelikan traces the development of Christian doctrine from the first century to the twentieth.
"Pelikan's The Christian Tradition [is] a series for which they must have coined words like 'magisterial'."--Martin Marty, Commonweal
Paperback, 442 pages
Published August 15th 1975 by University of Chicago Press (first published January 15th 1973)
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Bill  Kerwin
Oct 08, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history

A definitive history of Christian Doctrine.

This is probably not the best place to begin learning about the subject, since Pelikan assumes an acquaintance with such terms as Sabellianism, Pelagianism, hypostasis, ousia, etc, but I believe that even a beginner--at least one equipped with a strong theological interest and a good theological dictionary--could benefit greatly from this volume.

Pelikan is not only a profound thinker, but an organized one, and he writes clear, elegant, accessible pros
David Withun
Jun 10, 2012 David Withun rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, history
I don't think that the English language has a word that is sufficient to describing just how excellent this book is. Every Christian and, really, every non-Christian should have to read this book. Pelikan describes in a good amount of detail, but in a nonetheless very approachable and readable manner, the development of doctrine from the close of the Apostolic era through to the time of St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great, and the Fifth Ecumenical Council, hinting at the developments of both Ea ...more
Jan 25, 2014 Rapp rated it liked it
Shelves: church-history
Having read several other books on church history, I had looked forward to beginning Jaroslav Pelikan's 5-volume history of The Christian Tradition. Judging from the comments of historians such as Henry Chadwick, Alister McGrath and Justo Gonzalez, Jaroslav Pelikan's work was as close to the definitive church history as had been written.

Unfortunately, I found this book to be overly academic and less helpful than these other authors' works. Pelikan carefully holds himself to his subject, the Chr
Jacob Aitken
This volume is the beginning of Jaroslav Pelikan's legendary treatment of Christian Tradition. Not only does he examine the beliefs of the ancient church, but he also highlights ideas and concepts, along with beliefs, that will spring up into controversies in the Medieval and Reformation periods.

Pelikan begins his treatment with a hearty emphasis on the importance of tradition. He notes that radical solae scripturae philosophies, while wanting to have orthodox conclusions, do so by denying yet p
M Christopher
Oct 08, 2013 M Christopher rated it really liked it
The first volume of the acclaimed five volume series by Jaroslav Pelikan on the history of Christian doctrine. This is quite different than any other church history I've read, focusing as it does on the slow development of doctrine over the centuries rather than on great men/women, national concerns, the papacy, etc. Pelikan does an excellent job in this first volume in showing how doctrines we now take for granted, as well as those we have all but forgotten, rose in answer to the most compellin ...more
Jul 13, 2015 Drew rated it it was amazing
It's easy to see why this is a definitive text in the field. Pelikan's masterful opening volume to his great series is not always an easy read - it is pretty dense - but it is well-written, dense with references to ancient sources, and fascinating. This is what it purports to be: not an institutional, social, or liturgical history, but an intellectual history of the Christian movement from the time of the Apostles to the 6th century.

Anyone who cares about what Christians believe and how we got t
Erik Graff
Oct 08, 2014 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: religion
This book is comparable to Kelly's Christian Doctrine as regards content and approach, but more detailed as it is part of what became a five volume series. Pelikan is a constructive Christian in the sense that he essays a positive appropriation of the many streams of the tradition without much seeming to favor one over another. It is, in other words, an ecumenical Christian work. Pelican himself converted from Lutheranism to Orthodoxy in his later years and his work lacks the Western Roman orien ...more
Dwight Davis
Feb 21, 2016 Dwight Davis rated it it was amazing
Very helpful and readable history of the first 600 years of theological development. The approach of tracing specific doctrines rather than a chronological approach can be a bit confusing and leads to, at least for me, some jumbled timelines. But other than that this is an amazing work.
Caveat lector: whereas Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History was occasionally prone to conversational phrasings along the likes of "so much, then, concerning him" or "so much, then, concerning these things" as segues from one train of thought to the next, you'll find no such linguistic waste in volume 1 of Pelikan's magisterial treatment of the history of Christian doctrine. Undoubtedly such trite colloquialisms would be seen by Pelikan as unorthodox in that their conversational nature was detr ...more
Tyson Guthrie
Aug 01, 2011 Tyson Guthrie rated it it was amazing
Pelikan offers an excellent overview of the important features of patristic insight. It is not a Church History in the sense of providing the chronological details of the events of the relevant centuries, but he does offer a doctrinal chronology. His starting point is the starting point of Christian history, but as these concerns transcend chronology (e.g. the use of Christian apologetic in the 5th century), Pelikan does not limit his treatment chronologically. Pelikan is useful for his demonstr ...more
Argin Gerigorian
Jul 08, 2013 Argin Gerigorian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Pelikan is a great author with keen insight into the church fathers. This work was very well written and documented. He will serve as a primer future guide to the patristics. Although Pelikan would like to see somethings in the patristics that are not there he remains objective and simply brings to the table what they believed.

Pelikan in this volume dealt with a vast range of topics from the Law and Gospel, the True Israel, The Expectations of the Nations, Meaning of Salvation, Means of Grace,
Sep 04, 2012 Marks54 rated it it was amazing
This book is the first in series that traces the development of Christian doctrine from the beginning (100) to the modern age after the Reformation. This volume covers the period from 100-600. This is the closest to a definitive history that I am of and should more than satisfy the needs of everyone short of a professional theologian. I won't attempt a summary and will note the this book will require very careful reading and much thought to process. This is a demanding volume that will reward th ...more
May 05, 2008 Matthew rated it it was amazing
This is the first in a five book series by Jaroslav Pelikan, who, before his recent death, might have known more about church history than anyone other English speaker. I gave it five starts because this series is, more or less, a perfect example of historical scholarship: insightful, easy to read, good for reference.

In this volume, Pelikan traces Christian doctrine from its origins to the end of the six century, after the creeds had been written, several councils had been formed, and the stand
Cody Case
Jun 30, 2007 Cody Case rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Divinity students only!
Incredible work of historical scholarship. Not surprising for this Yale situated master of over a dozen languages. The damn guy could type by age 3. His mom said he never like holding pens much.
What's most notable about this work is the reasearch. He notes every reference, regardless of how obscure (and believe me, he knows them all), and in the end his bibliography adds up to nearly 200 pages. Quite impressive. And who can argue with his historical accuracy when he's re-presenting that history
JR McCravy
Only read the parts on the sacraments, but if they are any indication of the whole series, this won't be the last time I use it.
Nov 16, 2014 Davede rated it it was amazing
Great, great, great book. Very fascinating analysis of the contributions to the history of Church doctrine by Jewish thought, Hellenistic thought, and examination of the Scriptures. Though at times a bit academic, and I had to run off to Wikipedia to look up some philosophical terms or descriptions of philosophical systems, for the most part it was clear and simple to read. The chapter on Augustine was enlightening and very skillfully explained the circumstances of the development of Augustinism ...more
Jul 17, 2015 Scott rated it really liked it
Very good. Hoping to work through the whole series.
Nov 06, 2015 howard rated it really liked it
Great intro to the topic by one of the best
Mar 03, 2013 Dan rated it it was amazing
This is not a chronological book on 'Church history,' but rather an examination of the formulation of Christian doctrine (be sure to have a good understanding of Church history before tackling this book). It is an astounding book that gives an in depth look at each doctrine under consideration (although much more could still be said). This is a must-read for all Christians in order to understand their apostolic and patristic heritage. I can't praise it enough.
Andrew Votipka
Jan 12, 2016 Andrew Votipka rated it it was amazing
I love Jaroslav Pelikan. The only downside is that he's a very clear thinker who has a peculiar way of writing and formating. The darn notes in the sidebar make you constantly peek over because Pelikan is a fan of vague comments like "a popular Catholic writer at the time said.." to which I think, "Well who is this guy?? So it's a struggle to read an entire page uninterrupted. But still the standard on what the early church believed.
Zachary Moore
Aug 21, 2012 Zachary Moore rated it really liked it
This book provides a wonderful in-depth review of the early formation of Christian doctrine covering intellectual developments as outgrowths of the external challenges faced by the church as well as of the church's liturgical practice. As someone who has long grappled to come to a good understanding of the early development of Christianity, it is a wonderful book to keep around for reference purposes.
Jun 23, 2013 Charlie rated it it was amazing
Pelikan is a peerless theological historian. One can find more specialized books than this one, but pound for pound, Pelikan delivers. The emphasis here is on doctrinal development rather than cultural history. Another positive is that this book is part of a series that covers the whole sweep of history, so finishing it primes one for the next installment.
Apr 20, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing
I had no idea Pelikan was such a fine writer. This volume one, cover the development of the catholic doctrines from the Apostolic age until approximately A.D. 600. Easy to read and understand, this book was the best I've read so far on its topic. I highly recommend it.
Feb 05, 2011 Kristi rated it really liked it
Dense, scholarly work covering all the ins and outs of the beginning history of the Christian church. Pelikan's work is fascinating, rich with incredible detail, and exhaustively annotated. This series best suited for the serious student.
Jan 11, 2008 Nathan rated it really liked it
An in depth look at the roots of Christianity. The different sects that were around in the early centuries after Christ, how the Catholics were able to eradicate most of those sects and become the dominant player in Christianity.
Feb 26, 2013 Brad rated it liked it
Good book for outlining the history of doctrine. A bit dry in some places, and requires a somewhat deeper understanding of finer philosophical and theological ideas. I liked it, I but I didn't absolutely love it.
Steven Wedgeworth
Jun 15, 2011 Steven Wedgeworth rated it liked it
Lots of strong scholarship but also a fair bit of spiritual autobiography and personal pilgrimage. Various sections are too brief in light of their intended goals. Handle with care.
Jordan J. Andlovec
Oct 30, 2014 Jordan J. Andlovec rated it really liked it
A magisterial work with pinpointed purpose and a wide breadth of the theology of the early church. It's not a simple read, but it is an important one.
Jan 31, 2014 Compots rated it really liked it
An in depth analysis of how through the mess of thought and argument, the Christian tradition emerged. Can't wait for the next 4 volumes.
Josh R
Jan 22, 2008 Josh R rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
Great overview of early christian thought as well as the development of the framework for later doctrinal discourse in the church
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  • Early Christian Doctrines
  • The Orthodox Church
  • On the Apostolic Preaching
  • The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church
  • For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy
  • The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God
  • The Early Church (The Pelican History of the Church, #1)
  • Augustine of Hippo: A Biography
  • Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom
  • America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln
  • A History of Christian Thought Volume I: From the Beginnings to the Council of Chalcedon
  • Fundamentalism and American Culture
  • On the Holy Spirit
  • The Trinity
  • The History of the Church: From Christ to Constantine
  • Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers: Focusing Concern and Action
  • The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth
  • On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ: Selected Writings
Jaroslav Jan Pelikan was born in Akron, Ohio, to a Slovak father and mother, Jaroslav Jan Pelikan Sr. and Anna Buzekova Pelikan. His father was pastor of Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church in Chicago, Illinois, and his paternal grandfather a bishop of the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches then known as the Slovak Lutheran Church in America.

According to family members, Pelikan's mother taught him
More about Jaroslav Pelikan...

Other Books in the Series

The Christian Tradition (5 books)
  • The Christian Tradition 2: The Spirit of Eastern Christendom 600-1700
  • The Christian Tradition 3: The Growth of Medieval Theology 600-1300
  • The Christian Tradition 4: Reformation of Church & Dogma 1300-1700
  • The Christian Tradition 5: Christian Doctrine & Modern Culture since 1700

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