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Tradition, Scripture, and Interpretation: A Sourcebook of the Ancient Church (Evangelical Ressourcement: Ancient Sources for the Church's Future) Paperback – November 1, 2006

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From the Back Cover

The Evangelical Ressourcement series is grounded in the belief that there is a wealth of theological, exegetical, and spiritual resources from the patristic era that is relevant for the Christian church today and into the future. Amid the current resurgence in interest in the early church, this series aims to help church thinkers and leaders reappropriate these ancient understandings of Christian belief and practice and apply them to ministry in the twenty-first century. Tradition, Scripture, and Interpretation is the second volume in the series.

While the patristic age is marked by the development of the Apostle's and the Nicene creeds, D. H. Williams contends we must not neglect the lesser known yet just as significant theological texts and expressions of worship that were seminal in shaping early Christian identity. In this sourcebook, Williams gathers key writings from the first through sixth centuries that illustrate the ways in which the church's confessions, teaching, and worship were expressed during that time. More than an anthology, this sourcebook introduces the primary sources of Christian antiquity.

Williams opens the book with a chapter examining the close interplay between Scripture and tradition in the thinking of the early church. The selections are grouped thematically and cover various crucial topics, including the rule of faith, baptismal formulations and instruction, creeds, and biblical interpretation. Within each theme, the writings are arranged chronologically, revealing how the Christian tradition on a given topic developed over time. Explanatory notes provide historical background and theological context for each reading.

Tradition, Scripture, and Interpretation enables students and teachers to read the patristic authors on issues related to the earliest development of Scripture and tradition, showing how they functioned as authorities for the early church.

About the Author

D. H. Williams (PhD, University of Toronto) is professor of religion in patristics and historical theology at Baylor University. He is the author of Evangelicals and Tradition and Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism and editor of The Free Church and the Early Church.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801031648
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801031649
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #921,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

D. H. Williams, professor of patristics and historical theology at the Department of Religion, Baylor University. Ph.D. 1991 University of Toronto; Th.M. 1985 Princeton Seminary; M. Div. 1981 Northeastern College. Williams specializes in early Christian literature, ancient Greek and Roman religions, and the history of doctrine; the fourth century Trinitarian controversies; contemporary Christianity in China.

Fellow, Center for Religious Inquiry across the Disciplines, 2005-pres.

Ph.D., University of Toronto, 1991

Major Fields: Patristic Literature and Theology; History of Christianity Minor Fields: Religions of Late Antiquity; Sociology of Religion

M.A., University of Toronto, 1986

Th.M., Princeton Theological Seminary, 1985

M.Div., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1981

B. A., Northeastern College, 1978
Prior to 2002 Williams was Associate Professor of Theology in Patristics and Historical Theology at Loyola University Chicago and pastured two churches in Rochester, NY and Pittsburgh, PA. He is member of the following academic societies:

American Society of Church History Development of Early Catholicism Seminar
Catholic Theological Society of America Ecclesiastical History Society
Groupe Suisse d'Etudes Patristiques International Assoc. for Patristic Studies
North American Patristic Society -
Member, Board of Directors 2002-05; Chair of Publications Committee 2000-05

At present, Williams is completing work on The Church's Bible: Commentary on Matthew as volume editor (Eerdmans Publishing), and a comprehensive survey of the early Christian apologetic literature.

Williams has been active in teaching in China since 2007. He has lectured at five major universities in mainland China, served as a plenary speaker at Renda's Summer Institute conferences, and has several articles published in the Journal for the Study of Christian Culture, including 作为东方宗教的基督教一中医教会的早期证据. In the summer 2009, he was Visiting Professor at the International Promotion of Chinese Language and Culture, at the People's University in Beijing. His book Retrieving the Tradition has been translated published in 2011 by China Social Sciences Press. He is presently co-director of the Center for Studies in Greek Thought at Shandong University in Jinan.


Tradition, Scripture and Interpretation: A Sourcebook of the Ancient Church (Baker
Academic Books, 2006).

Evangelicals and Tradition: The Formative Influence of the Early Church (Baker
Academic Books, 2005).
Selection in Mars Hill Journal 76 (Sept/Oct. 2005)2006.

Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism: A Primer for Suspicious Protestants (Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999).
Selections in Mars Hill Audio Anthology, 2000.

Ambrose of Milan and the End of the Nicene Arian Conflicts (Oxford University
Press, 1995).


"A Catechetical Address on the Nicene Creed?" Harvard Theological Review (2010).

"Similis et Dissimilis: Gauging our Expectations of the Early Fathers," in Ancient Faith for the Church's Future , ed., J. Green (IVP Press, 2008).

"The Earliest 'Mere Christianity': The Rule of Faith," Christian History and Biography 105 (2008).

"Living the Good Life according to Augustine," Christianity Today, September, 2007.

"Monarchianism and Photinus as the Persistent Heretical Face of the Fourth Century", Harvard Theological Review 99 (2006), 187-206.

"Justification by Faith: A Patristic Doctrine," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 56 (2006), 649-667.

"The Patristic Tradition as Canon", Perspectives in Religious Studies 32 (2005), 357-79.

"American Protestantism and Vocation in Higher Education", Christianity and the Soul of the University: Faith as a Foundation for Intellectual Community, eds., D. V. Henry and M. D. Beaty (Baker Academic, 2005), 163-79.

"Do You Know Whom You Worship? The Council of Nicaea and Its Bitter Aftermath," Christian History and Biography 85 (2005), 445-61.

"The Diffusive Disintegration of Catholicity", Pro Ecclesia 23 (2003), 389-93.

"Scripture, Tradition and the Church: Reformation and Post-Reformation" in The Free
Church and the Early Church: Bridging the Historical and Theological Divide,
ed., D. H. Williams (Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 101-26.

"Defining Orthodoxy in Hilary of Poitiers' Commentarium in Mattheaum", Journal of Early Christian Studies 9 (2001), 151-171.

"The Search for Sola Scriptura in the Early Church", Interpretation 52 (1998), 338-350.

"Constantine, Nicaea and the 'Fall' of the Church", in Christian Origins: Theology, Rhetoric and Community, eds., L. Ayres and G. Jones (London: Routledge Press, 1998), 117-136.*

"Another Exception to Later Fourth Century 'Arian' Typologies: The Case of Germinius of Sirmium", The Journal of Early Christian Studies 4 (1996), 335-357.

"Polemics and Politics in Ambrose of Milan's De fide", Journal of Theological Studies N.S. 46 (1995), 519-531.

Reprinted in Recent Studies in Early Christianity: A Collection of Scholarly Essays, ed., E. Ferguson (New York/London: Garland Publishing, 1999).

"The Anti Arian Campaigns of Hilary of Poitiers and the Liber Contra Auxentium", Church History 61 (1992), 7 22.

University Research Grant, Baylor University, 2009.

University Research Leave, Baylor University, Fall 2006.

Institute for Studies in Religion Grant, Fall 2006.

University Research Grant, Baylor University (Summer-Fall, 2004).

University Teacher's Fellowship, The National Endowment for the Humanities (Fall, 2000).

Research Grant, Loyola University Endowment for the Humanities (Summer, 1997).

American Academy of Religion Research Grant (Spring, 1990).
Seminar Courses Offered:

"Apostolic Fathers"
"Early Latin Theologians"
"The Nicene-Arian Conflicts"
"Neo-Nicene Christianity"
"Orthodoxy and Heresy"
Development in the Thought of Augustine

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Stratiotes Doxha Theon VINE VOICE on February 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
With extensive use of writings from the early church fathers, Dr. Williams takes us into the church's approach to scripture through the interpretive lense of apostolic tradition. This, in itself, is not at all surprising since the writings of the early church fathers team with such "insight." What is surprising is that this text was written by and for the evangelical "bible alone" Christians who deny apostolic tradition as a necessary presupposition for biblical interpretation. This insight coming from such a distinguished professor is refreshing and enlightening in the direction that evangelical thought may be going.

The texts included in this work demonstrate clearly that tradition and scripture are not a dichotomy between two authorities. Dr. Williams' deep insight is that indeed they are necessary parts of a whole. Scripture is part of that all encompassing apostolic tradition that has been handed down to us from the beginning. The scriptures belong to the church and can only be interpreted through the church's authority and tradition. The church is the pillar and foundation of truth that determines the meaning of scripture from the context of what the church has always taught from the beginning. Any other approach to scriptural interpretation must be suspect.

Dr. Williams approaches this topic with extensive use of writings from the church fathers and very short summary commentaries on a few of those texts. The short commentary is always insightful and enlightening and always bringing us back to the context of the historical early church. Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians alike will find the work instructive and rich with historical context. This is an important and invaluable resource for any library of patristics or early church history. Very well done and very highly recommended.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By matt on July 19, 2007
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I am continually impressed and enlightened by Williams' approach to the tradition of the Roman and Eastern Christian communions as a way to build bridges for Protestants to better understand and appropriate their own often unacknowledged theological foundations. The past really does matter, and there are no theological wheels that need to be reinvented.

I purposely do not say "patristic tradition", although it is a perfectly adequate term in the proper context, since that would imply that it is somehow "out there" and we can just latch onto it without also participating in the liturgy and sacramental life which all of the Fathers accepted as normative and necessary. A strong argument can be made that thinking otherwise would be to fundamentally misunderstand the very heritage that this book is trying to promote and sustain, but you may see my other reviews for that discussion (basically, saying you feel French doesn't make you French, and to feel connected to the past doesn't actually connect you to its living present reality, to paraphrase Schaeffer). There is more to it than an intellectual assent. That said, this primer is a fantastic way to start thinking about why the past matters if you are a Christian of any denominational persuasion, and why a serious student of theology cannot assume that what forms the Christian tradition is merely a byproduct of people sitting down and reading their bibles that magically appeared in their midst, without any reference to the Tradition of the Church out of which those very same scriptures were written and interpreted. Everything the Church Fathers wrote is not of the same worth or quality, but you may certainly find a straight line of continuity there concerning worship and doctrine, as they go hand in hand.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Frederick Ilgenfritz on April 2, 2013
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The book is an excellent compilation of the works of many early church fathers. The excerpts of their work are generally well focused on the topic of the chapter. The organization is topical with a chronological listing of the sources to demonstrate the early and then later thinking on that topic. I think it would be much more interesting and valuable if the author had spent more time pointing out and explaining the implications of various developments in theology over time within each chapter. The author, for the most part, allows the quotes to speak for them selves with only minimal editorial comment. His major thesis is that the early church used the tradition as well as the scriptures to define and maintain orthodoxy of doctrine. This is well proven in the first few chapters, it is after this that a full discussion of the implications of subsequent doctrinal development under the influence of scripture and tradition would have been helpful. The book is well worth reading and should be required for anyone who holds strongly to the concept of "sola scriptura". It gives valuable perspective on how we arrived at the point of our "orthodox" theology of today and the role of tradition in forming it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Craig Stephans VINE VOICE on May 8, 2009
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D.H. Williams' book Tradition, Scripture, and Interpretation provides the examples from the writings of the Church Fathers to support his argument made in Evangelicals and Tradition. Here Williams offers readers the opportunity to see for themselves the relationship between the church's tradition, Scripture and ministry. Williams gives readers a reliable guide to the writings of the early church in order to exhibit the important developments of the early church that illustrate its significance to evangelicals. Of the writings included in book, Williams writes, "In them lie the cornerstones of Christian authority for the church past and future."

Williams' book helps readers navigate the plethora of writings from the early church to gain an appreciation for their value. It is an excellent tool to kindle a passion among readers for the ministry and authority found in the traditions of the early church. His ultimate goal is to draw readers to the traditions of the early church in order to develop a more theologically and biblically literate contemporary Christian church.

Williams shows readers that the traditions of the church are wholly compatible and complementary to the charism sought in contemporary evangelicalism. Williams asserts throughout the book that the writings of the church Fathers are an essential ingredient in the practice of authentic Christianity. He recognizes the aversion that evangelicals hold toward the traditions of the church. This book is a process of taking readers by the hands and leading them through the deeply spiritual, pastoral and ecclesial writings of the Fathers.
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