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A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs: A Reference Guide to More Than 700 Topics Discussed by the Early Church Fathers Hardcover – October 1, 1997

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A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs: A Reference Guide to More Than 700 Topics Discussed by the Early Church Fathers + Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity + Will the Theologians Please Sit Down
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Hendrickson Publishers; First Edition edition (October 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565633571
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565633575
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


""A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs " is the best overall introduction to the ante-Nicene fathers in print, and is perfect for group study! The ultimate Sunday school reference work.--www.AmericanVision.org

About the Author

David W. Bercot, an Anglican priest and an attorney, graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University and Baylor University School of Law. He is the author of Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up and is a member of the North American Patristics Society.

More About the Author

In 1985, David Bercot was a successful attorney, practicing title law for the largest public utility in the state of Texas. The thought of ever becoming an author was the farthest thing from his mind. Nevertheless, despite being a career lawyer, Bercot's passion in life was Christ--not law. At the time, he was a member of a conservative evangelical church.

Although he enjoyed the fellowship at the church he was attending, it seemed to Bercot that some of the doctrines popularly taught by evangelicals--such as unconditional eternal security and their endorsement of war--contradicted the plain words of Scripture. When he questioned various ministers about these matters, he was told that the evangelical teaching on these doctrines was the "historical faith." Bercot certainly didn't want to put his own personal interpretations over the historical faith. Yet, he wasn't going to just take other people's word for it that these doctrines were truly the historical faith.

Bercot realized that the only way he could verify the historical faith was to read all of the existing writings of the early Christians who lived within a century or two after the apostles. So he purchased a set of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (which contain nearly all of the existing writings from Christians who wrote prior to the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.) During 1985, he cut back his law practice as needed to devote the whole year to reading these ancient writings. These early Christian writings confirmed Bercot's views on eternal security and war. However, he was surprised to learn that most of the early Christian beliefs were different from his own beliefs--not only on theology but on lifestyle as well. Yet, when he went back and read the New Testament again, he realized that everything they taught was right there in the New Testament. But his preconceptions had blinded him to the plain language of Scripture.

Bercot immediately began sharing what he had discovered about the historical faith with various Christian friends. Soon these friends encouraged him to write a book about what he had discovered and how Christianity looked when it was still young. Bercot eventually followed up on their suggestion, and he wrote the book, "Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up," which was published in 1989. That book contrasts early Christianity with modern Christianity.

Since then, Bercot has written a number of other books pertaining to early Christianity and committed Christian discipleship. He purposefully writes in a reader-friendly, conversational style, eschewing a more academic approach. As he said at one conference, "Scholars have had all of this information for centuries, and they have essentially done nothing with it. My goal is to get this information across to the average man or woman in the pews."

Bercot married Deborah Hart Darragh in 1972. They have three children and make their home in the Amberson Valley in Pennsylvania. On his personal website, www.davidbercot.com, Bercot has posted pictures of the beautiful Amberson Valley.

Customer Reviews

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Bercot obviously had to take only a selection of the early Church fathers and yet Bercot does a good job in his selection.
Seeking Disciple
The book discusses a few topics regarding the authors quoted, and then works through a sample study of a topic to show how to use the book.
David C. Leaumont
This dictionary is a great resource that every Christian and Christian minister should have in their library as a reference.
Kerrigan Skelly

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 59 people found the following review helpful By David Bennett VINE VOICE on April 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
How the early church (those who lived from the time of the apostle John to around 330 AD) viewed issues may be slightly different than many Christians do today. This book (all 704 pages!) catalogs those beliefs in a systematic, topical fashion. Want to know what the church believed about Original Sin? or the Trinity? or abortion? or even reincarnation? Bercot puts together a variety of quotes (directly from the Ante-Nicene writings) together for each topic. Many topics have 10 or more quotes of a variety of lengths from the church Fathers. Also the page number of the quote (in the Ante-Nicene 10 volume set) and the date of the author are listed. Also included at the very beginning is a brief biography of the major Christian Fathers.
The doctrines that the early church held may surprise many today...overall, they wouldn't serve in the army if it meant killing, they believed in free-will, and they accepted the apocrypha, at least as useful reading. Even if one does not accept their interpretation, it is still useful to know what the people who lived closest to Christ thought and believed. It is truly an excellent reference guide I would never be without. I personally get my theology from the Bible and the interpretations of it provided by the Church fathers.
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58 of 67 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Bercot is a lawyer and also an Anglican priest. His present book is written very easily (for a wide audience). Bercott,'s laudable intent is to provide a reference work with a neutral selection of what the Church Fathers thought on many topics, so one can discover what the church fathers used to think. Each entry has a few lines of explanation and then some short texts excerpts from early church fathers, taken from the "Ante-Nicene Fathers" by A. Robert (1885 and reprinted by Hendrikson.)
However there are major problems with this book. First many entries are not provided, for example on apologists such as Militiades, Hippolytus, Apollinaris, etc. Second, the selection of texts often fails to represent the textual information we have. Bercot said he tried to be neutral, and I think he did, but the problem is that he does not have the scholarship required for the difficult task he tried to achieve. Take for example the entry "montanism": he fails to cite the major texts (Eusebius, Epiphanius, the montanist oracles), and above all the charismatic/shamanic nature of the heresy (glossolalia/tongues, fallible prophecy, trances/convulsions) which was the reason why the montanists were excommunicated at the church councils of Hierapolis and Anchialus). What a blatant omission! And then he cites many texts of Tertullian as if they were typical of montanism, apparently ignoring that Tertullian eventually rejected the charismatic aspect of montanism after he left the early church , and instead focussed primarily on the ascetic aspect of the movement, having no communion with the montanists but creating his own group (the Tertullianists). Bercot apparently ignores such things and many others.
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Seth Aaron Lowry on October 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There is a resurging interest among Protestants to understand what the Early Church taught and believed. I believe a book like this one can be instrumental in furthering that search and introducing a whole generation of Christians to the writings of these wonderful, devout, and pious men. This book is absolutely invaluable for anyone who wants to research what the Ante-Nice Fathers taught on any given topic. Also, Bercot's concise and standard way of referencing each Father's works makes it easy to go back to the original sources and do further resarch by examining the entire text.
There may be some who will not like what the Father's teach, but that is to be expected. A vast majority of Evangelical churches in America do not conform either in principle or in practice to what these godly men taught. I think that stauch Calvinist's will be the most disturbed by their writings because the Early Church Fathers were unequivocally more supportive of the view that mankind can and must respond to God. Furthermore, they did not teach unconditional election, perseverance of the saints, limited atonement, or irresistable grace. In fact, it was the Gnostics who held views similar to those expressed above. The response by most will be that these men just fell into error and didn't understand the gospel, but then the question must be asked, why do individuals who lived 1,500 years after the Apostles understand it better than the Fathers did? I do not mention Augustine because his views are not those of traditional 5 point Calvinists, and therefore the view followed by many is not Augustine's view but that of the Reformers.
Buy this work if you interested in discovering what the Early Fathers believed, and use it as an introduction and guide to further study of their writings. It is by no means an exhaustive study of the entire corpus of their literature, but is a great starting point for introductory study.
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer VINE VOICE on November 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book essentially puts in dictionary form various beliefs and practices, and then has quotes by the Early Church writers regarding each issue. While the former reader saw this as an index of sorts to the excellent ante-Nicene Fathers 10 volume set (which I own), it can also function autonomously. In fact I usually use it as a way of getting to what the Bible actually says when the Bible isn't as clear as I would like to to be. One instance is the issue of predestination and freewill which divides many Christians to the point of exclusion. The Bible can be used to support both views. By looking under freewill, one can find that the Early church almost unanimously were freewill. There are great quotes showing the early church was essentially Trinitarian, giving towards others, pacifists, and took turning the other cheek literally. It is not the Bible, but is a good way to know what those people who lived closest to Christ and the apostles believed.
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