Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, 2nd edition.

By Everet Ferguson, ed.
New York : Garland (1997). 1213 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
8.2 (Fall 1997) : 235-236

With the recent resurgence of interest in the early church and church Fathers (as evidenced by the upcoming release of a 22-volume anthological commentary on the Scriptures, based on the writings of the church Fathers and edited by Thomas Oden [InterVarsity], due March 1998), a revision of this classic reference work is a welcome addition.

The editor, Distinguished Professor at Abilene Christian University and author of Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Eerdman's 1987, 1993, reviewed in TMSJ 5/2, 216-17), oversaw the revision that included over 250 new entries and a significant updating of the more than 1,000 others. The major purpose of the expansion of articles was to give “greater attention to the eastward expansion of Christianity” (viii). The two volumes are of the highest quality in both binding and paper, with a two-column per page layout. Though not profuse, the photographs, maps, and drawings to illustrate various articles are adequate. Every entry supplies a bibliography ranging from a single citation to over 25. A time-line at the beginning of Volume One covers the major events and personalities from the birth of Christ (ca. 4 B.C.) through roughly the Second Council of Nicea (A.D. 769). Additionally, the volume has an excellent 24-page subject index. The index lists all references to a particular subject, with page numbers representing the main entry given in bold type.

The strength of the work is in the clear and concise writing of the articles that vary in length from a single paragraph to several pages. Those who are not well-versed in the background and beliefs of the Orthodox Church will welcome the greater emphasis given to the eastern church in this edition. Many noteworthy articles deal with topics such as the "Interpretation of the Bible" and "Preaching." In addition, the articles on the various personalities and issues in the early doctrinal and Christological controversies are very thorough. The articles all serve the purpose of providing a basic overview and introduction, with a bibliography directing to sources for more specialized study.

While the price will be a hindrance to those of limited means, this is a valuable resource that will certainly be a standard reference source for years to come. I highly recommend this work and, for those unable to afford it personally, would advise them to recommend its purchase by their local public or university library.