W.H.C. Frend dies, aged 89

I was sorry to learn today of the death of Prof. W.H.C. Frend, whose works on early church history I have found invaluable. The Daily Telegraph today has a long obituary:

The Rev Prof William Frend, who has died aged 89, combined the roles of Early Christian historian, archaeologist and theologian in a career of such startling optimism and diversity that some were inclined to dismiss him as “a holy fool”.

Encouraged by his Low Church inclinations and experience of digs in North Africa, he genially denied papal claims to primacy in the first centuries AD, and retained strong sympathies with those who had fallen out with Rome. Before his pre-war Oxford thesis was published as The Donatist Church in 1952, patristic scholars had generally viewed Donatism, which appeared at Carthage early in the fourth century, as a heresy which prompted St Augustine to formulate aspects of Catholic sacramental theology… [read more]