Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature

Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature
  • The last 200 years have seen considerable swings in the literary assessment of the earliest Christian literature, including as it does the texts which became the canonized Scriptures of the Church, but not just those. The pendulum has been affected partly by new discoveries, but changing perspectives have also played their part. A series of interrelated questions has emerged from the principal debates:
(1) In what sense are Christian texts 'literary'? How do they relate to other literature that has survived from antiquity?
(2) Which texts should be included in the category 'Christian'?
(3) From what social level and cultural milieu did these texts issue? To what extent are they to be assessed as the deposit of an oral and non-literary environment? How is the transition to written texts to be evaluated?
(4) Do peculiarities of language, rhetoric or genre set these texts apart? Or are they typical of the time and circumstances from which they emerged?
(5) How are these texts to be read? Is it enough to evaluate them as historical documents, relating them to the historical circumstances in which they were generated and the literary culture to which they originally belonged?
Some of these questions will be considered in Part I B, but it is an illusion to think that a description of the literature can be offered without essaying some answers.

The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature

Edited by Frances Young,  Lewis Ayres, Andrew Louth
(Cambridge Histories Online)
Cambridge University Press, 2004. - 560 pp.
ISBN 0-521-46083-2 hardback

The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature - Contents

List of contributors
Editors’ preface
List of abbreviations of patristic and other texts
List of other abbreviations
Chronological table of early Christian literature
Map: The Roman Empire in the late fourth century AD
Part 1: The Beginnings: The New Testament to Irenaeus
A. Literary Guide
  • 1. Introduction: the literary culture of the earliest Christianity
  • 2. The apostolic and sub-apostolic writings: the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers
  • 3. Gnostic literature
  • 4. Apocryphal writings and Acts of the martyrs
  • 5. The Apologists
  • 6. Irenaeus of Lyon
B. Context and Interpretation
  • 7. Social and historical setting
  • 8. Articulating identity
  • 9. Christian teaching
  • 10. Conclusion: towards a hermeneutic of second-century texts
Part 2: The Third Century
A. Literary Guide
  • 11. The Alexandrians
  • 12. The beginnings of Latin Christian literature
  • 13. Hippolytus, Ps.-Hippolytus and the early canons
  • 14. Cyprian and Novatian
  • 15. The earliest Syriac literature
  • 16. Concluding review: the literary culture of the third century
B. Context and Interpretation
  • 17. Social and historical setting: Christianity as culture critique
  • 18. Articulating identity
  • 19. Christian teaching
  • 20. The significance of third-century Christian literature
Part 3: Foundation of a New Culture: From Diocletian to Cyril
A. Literary Guide
  • 21. Classical genres in Christian guise; Christian genres in classical guise
  • 22. Arnobius and Lactantius
  • 23. Eusebius and the birth of church history
  • 24. The fourth-century Alexandrians: Athanasius and Didymus
  • 25. Palestine: Cyril of Jerusalem and Epiphanius
  • 26. The Cappadocians
  • 27. Fourth-century Latin writers: Hilary, Victorinus, Ambrosiaster, Ambrose
  • 28. Jerome and Rufinus
  • 29. Augustine
  • 30. John Chrysostom and the Antiochene School to Theodoret of Cyrrhus
  • 31. Cyril of Alexandria
  • 32. Hagiography
  • 33. Ephrem and the Syriac tradition
  • 34. The literature of the monastic movement
  • 35. Women and words: texts by and about women
  • 36. Conciliar records and canons
B. Context and Interpretation
  • 37. Social and historical setting
  • 38. Articulating identity
  • 39. Christian teaching
  • 40. Retrospect: interpretation and appropriation


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