A Concise History of the Early Church

By Norbert Brox
New York : Continuum (1994). viii + 184 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
6.2 (Fall 1995) : 235-236

The author, professor of Early Church History and Patrology at the University of Regensberg, has produced a helpful volume covering the history of the early church through the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451.

As both the title and size of the book indicate, the purpose of the author is to strike a "balance between survey which is easy to follow and one which is sufficiently detailed" (viii). In both respects the author has accomplished his purpose. The book has eight chapters detailing the history, structure, and theology of the early church as well as how the church has related to society and political structures. At the end of each chapter the author has provided a helpful bibliography pertinent to the chapter subject.

Highlights in this book are the author's chapter on the "Church Life and Organization," particularly his explanation of the development of the sacraments and the rise of the power of the bishops (67 ff.). Other noteworthy sections are his discussion on the deleterious influence of Alexandrian theology and hermeneutics, particularly in the person of Origen (137-38) and his excellent summaries of the first four ecumenical councils (149 ff.).

Though the author's failure to acknowledge the sovereign work of God in church history and his tendency toward an "evolutionary" approach to history will distract some, this work is still a valuable survey and will provide the reader with an excellent framework of the early church.