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The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) Paperback – August 15, 1975

4.7 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition is the history of this critical, troubled time. Pelikan focuses upon the subtle relation between what the faithful believed, what teachers--both orthodox and heretical--taught, and what the church confessed as dogma during its first six centuries of growth. In constructing his work, Pelikan has made use of exegetical and liturgical sources in addition to the usual polemical, apologetic, and systematic or speculative materials.

About the Author

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

  • Paperback: 442 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (August 15, 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226653714
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226653716
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Bennett VINE VOICE on January 27, 2003
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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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