Theology on the Web News

Theology on thr Web NewsI have just updated my introductory brochure for Theology on the Web to reflect recent developments, including:

  • Material added to the sites in 2013/14
  • New website launch
  • Increase in visitor numbers
  • Urgent need for dedicated server

Please download the brochure here and share it with anyone you think might be interested.

Alfred Plummer’s Church of the Early Fathers

I recent conducted a poll on the Facebook Group Theology on the Web asking members to vote to the most useful book on church history from a list of possible titles I had available to scan. The winner was a work by Alfred Plummer (1841-1926), which was regarded as one of that author’s most important books. The full text is now available on-line and is in the Public Domain.

Alfred Plummer, The Church of the Early Fathers, 6th edn. London: Longman, Green & Co., 1892. Hbk. pp.210.


The Christian Church has three ideals set before it in Scripture- to be Universal, to be Holy, and to be One. It is to ‘ make disciples of all the nations.’ It is to be ‘ without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. ‘It is to ‘ become one flock ‘ with a union between its members admitting of no lower standard than the Unity of the Divine Persons in the Godhead. The external history of the Church is the history of the attempt to realise the first of these three ideals; its internal history tells of the attempt to realise the second and third. The three taken together sum up what is meant by ecclesiastical history – the history of the spread of Christianity and of the development of Christian life and Christian doctrine. Thus a convenient division of the subject is at once suggested. Only the first of these three points is treated in this handbook the progress of the Church in the attempt to become universal, including all that impeded that progress, especially literary attack and civil persecution. The worship and discipline of the Church and the development of its doctrine, though often touched upon, are reserved for treatment in a separate volume.

The present sketch is limited to the Ante-Nicene period, and indeed to only a portion of that. Neither the Apostolic Age nor the history of Arianism falls within its scope. Its limits are, roughly speaking, the second and third centuries, or, more exactly, the period from the death of St. John, about A.D. 100, to the Edict of Toleration published at Milan by Constantine and Licinius A.D. 312 or 313.

It is obvious that in a volume of this size nothing more than a sketch can be attempted; but help will be offered to the student who desires to have fuller information and to examine original sources for himself. A list is given of some of the best and most easily accessible authorities, especially in the English language, together with the chief ancient witnesses from whom the information given by modern writers is ultimately derived. Perhaps in no branch of history is it more important to study original authorities than in the history of Christianity during the second and third centuries. Neither in number nor in bulk are these sources so formidable as in the later periods of Church history; so that the ordinary student may hope to do a good deal in the attempt to make himself acquainted with primary materials. Moreover, nearly all these early writings have been translated; so that even those who are unable to read Latin or Greek are never the less able to obtain fairly accurate knowledge of what these early writers in their own words tell us. This handbook will have failed in one of its objects if it does not lead some of those who use it to check its statements by a comparison with standard works, and above all by an appeal to the original authorities.

As references are almost entirely forbidden by the plan of this series, the compiler of this volume is unable to express in detail his obligations to other writers. They are very numerous to a large number of the works mentioned below, especially to those of Bishop Lightfoot and Dr. Schaff, and to the ‘ Dictionary of Christian Biography ‘ edited by Smith and W ace. An asterisk is prefixed to the name of modern writers whose writings are of special importance.

Click here to continue reading.

Cappadocian Ecclesiology

Basil of Caesarea, of the Cappadocian Fathers
Basil of Caesarea

I am grateful to Wipf & Stock Publishers for granting permission to place on-line the following article on the ecclesiology of the Cappadocian Fathers: Basil of Caesarea, Gergory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus.

Donald A. Sykes, “Understandings of the Church in the Cappadocians,” Horton Davies, ed.,  Studies of the Church in History. Essays Honoring Robert S. Paul on his Sixty-fifth Birthday. Allison Park, PA: Pickwick Publications, 1983. pp.73-83.

A reprint of this book is currently available from Wipf & Stock – click here for details.

Understandings of the Church in the Cappadocians

Donald A. Sykes

The Cappadocians form a significant group among 4th century Greek theologians, regarding themselves as legitimate successors of Athanasius. Basil of Caesarea was acknowledged as leader by the other two major writers, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa, developing as he did a churchmanship which was to prove very influential. [1]

In one aspect Basil may be represented as the straightforward man of affairs, whether ecclesiastical or secular. Yet another side of him wants to withdraw, physically and mentally, from the active world. This is why one of the most energetic bishops of his century is a pioneer of monastic practice. The ways in which Basil attempted to resolve this tension cannot here be explored, [2] beyond my remarking that a passion for order is fundamental to both sides of his life. Absorbed as he was to become in the maintenance of the visible structure of the church, Basil would never have considered himself at variance with what he wrote in his celebrated Address to Young Men: [3] “We, my children, in no wise conceive this life of ours to be an object of value in any respect, nor do we consider anything good at all, or so designate it, which makes its contribution to this life of ours only.” The “other life” is what matters and the present is no more than preparation. [4] For some people, or for particular periods in individual people’s lives, the preparation is best undertaken in isolation. It is fairly clear that Basil was sometimes inclined to find in this life the ideal way, [5] and this might seem to undervalue the Christian profession of ordinary members of congregations, business men, say, and the priests whose lives are taken up with them. Are they less “real” Christians than those whose withdrawn lives might seem to bring them closer to the “real” world beyond this? (Cf. Basil’s contrast of “shadows and dreams” with “reality.” [6]) For Basil however any such absoluterestriction of pure apprehension to particular groups or individuals could not be conceived without irreparable loss to the church. It is within the church that this purity must find its context. If it is not present as an interacting, rather than an isolated element, there can be no meaning in the unity which was for Basil an overwhelming concern.

To read the whole article click here.


New Resources Page on Origen’s Hexapla

Origen of Alexandria [c.185 – c.254]

Tyndale House has kindly supplied me with scans of the Origenis Hexaplorum [Oxford, 1875] in 2 volumes. This is still listed in reference works as the most complete collection of fragments of the Origen’s Hexapla every printed. To make the most of this important resource I have created a new page on the Hexapla so that those interested can find it easily.

Another important work on this subject is H.B. Swete’s Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek [1900]. The copies of this available in PDF of were disappointing, so I have scanned my copy to PDF and added it to the collection. You can now access all these works here. Note that Origenis Hexaplorum is a substantial download of over 60MB, though I have shrunk it down as much as possible.

Edward J Young’s Ph.D. Thesis – Biblical Criticism to the end of the Second Century – Now on-line

I read recently on one of Ben Witherington’s post on Facebook that Gordon Fee’s 1966 Ph.D. Thesis on the Bodmer Papyri was now available on-line (here). This reminded me that some years ago I received permission to place Edward J. Young’s Ph.D. Thesis online.

Edward J. Young, “Biblical Criticism in the Second Century” (Ph.D. diss., The Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning, 1943).

The original proved difficult to copy and the photocopy I was sent was consequently of poor quality, so I initially tried to scan and re-type it but was defeated by the hand-written Greek and Hebrew text in the document. So, rather than let this work disappear into obscurity I’ve decided to clean up the copies as much as possible and converted them to OCRed pdfs. I think the text is clear enough to be readable, but is not up to the standard of the other material I host.

You can now download the thesis here.

Public Domain Articles from the Journal of Theological Studies (1899-1909)

The following Public Domain articles from the Journal of Theological Studies relating to early church history are now available on-line in PDF:

William Sanday [1843–1920], “Recent Research on the Origin of the Creed.” Journal of Theological Studies 1 No 1 (Oct. 1899): 3-22.

William Sanday [1843–1920], “Further Research on the History of the Creed,” Journal of Theological Studies 3 No 9 (Oct. 1901): 1-21.

Henry Barclay Swete [1835-1917], “Eucharistic Belief in the Second and Third Centuries,” Journal of Theological Studies 3 No 10 (Oct. 1901): 161-177.

Andrew Ewbank Burn [1864-1927], “The Textus Receptus of the Apostle’s Creed,” Journal of Theological Studies 3 No 12 (July 1902): 481-500.

John Chapman [1885-1934], “The Order of the Treatises and Letters in the MSS of St. Cyprian,” Journal of Theological Studies 4 No 13 (Oct. 1902): 103-123.

Edward William Watson [1859-1936], “Cyprianica,” Journal of Theological Studies 4 No 13 (Oct. 1902): 131.

Edward William Watson [1859-1936], “The Interpolations in St. Cyprian’s De Unitate Ecclesiae,” Journal of Theological Studies 5 No 19 (April 1904): 432-436.

John Chapman [1885-1934], “The Interpolations in St. Cyprian’s De Unitate Ecclesiae,” Journal of Theological Studies 5 No 20 (July 1904): 634-636.

Arthur James Mason [1851-1928], “Note on the Text of the Hymns of Hilary,” Journal of Theological Studies 5 No 20 (July 1904): 636.

Andrew Ewbank Burn [1864-1927], “The Textus Receptus of the Apostle’s Creed,” Journal of Theological Studies 3 No 12 (July 1902): 481-500.

John Chapman [1885-1934], “St Irenaeus on the Dates of the Gospels,” Journal of Theological Studies 6 No 24 (July 1905): 563-599.

Joseph Bickersteth Mayor [1828-1911], “The Epistle of St Jude and the Marcosian Heresy,” Journal of Theological Studies 6 No 24 (July 1905): 569-577.

Arthur Sumner Walpole [1850/51-1920], “Hymns Attributed to Hilary of Poitiers,” Journal of Theological Studies 6 No 24 (July 1905): 599-603.

William Emery Barnes [1859-1939] “The ‘Nicene’ Creed In The Syriac Psalter,” Journal of Theological Studies 7 No 27 (April 1906): 441-449.

John Chapman [1885-1934], “Papias on the Age of our Lord,” Journal of Theological Studies 9 No 33 (Oct. 1907): 42-61.

Cuthbert H. Turner [1860–1930], “Prolegomena To The Testimonia Of St Cyprian. II,” Journal of Theological Studies 9 No 33 (Oct. 1907): 62-87.

Hugh Jackson Lawlor [1860-1938], “The Heresy of the Phrygians,” Journal of Theological Studies 9 No 36 July 1908): 481-499.

Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare [1856-1924], “An Old Armenian Version of Josephus,” Journal of Theological Studies 9 No 36 July 1908): 577-583.

Henry Hoyle Howorth [1842-1923], “The Influence of St Jerome on the Canon of the Western Church. I,” Journal of Theological Studies 10 No 40 (July 1909): 481.

H.N. Bate’s History of the Church to AD 325 now available on-line

The following public domain book is now available on-line in PDF:

H.N. Bate, History Of The Church to A.D. 325, 2nd edn. London: Rivingtons, 1924. Hbk. pp.140.

I remember finding this book extremely helpful when I was studying church history and so was pleased to find that the copyright has expired. It can now be downloaded from here.

Table of Contents

I. The Roman World and the Jewish Religion
II. The Apostolic Age
III. Church and State down to A.D. 112
IV. Jewish Christianity
V. Gnosticism and Montanism
VI. Apologists of the Second Century
VII. Church and State from Hadrian to Commodus
VIII. The Churches of Rome and Alexandria
IX. Church and State from Septimius Severus to Constantine
X. The Council of Nicaea
XI. The Church Calendar
Chronological Table