In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Early Christianity

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Women

Classics Early Christianity
Eric Rebillard
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 February 2010
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 February 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0011


Early Christianity is the period of the history of Christianity between the life of Jesus, in the early first century, and the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine (306–337), who guaranteed religious freedom to Christians. During this period Christian groups existed within an environment that was periodically hostile and lived in relative isolation from one another. As the period of formation and rise of Christianity, it has been the object of both intense study and controversy. This bibliography does not cover all aspects of early Christianity, but instead focuses on its study as a part of the Classical world.

General Overviews

Frend and Harrison 1965 and Chadwick 1967 were for a long time the standard introductions to early Christianity, focusing on the church, its doctrines, and its institutions. Recent approaches like Brown 1978, Fox 1986, and—in a less conventional way—Hopkins 2001, try to integrate Christians more fully among the Jews and pagans in the Roman Empire. Clark 2004 and Humphries 2006 are good introductions to this recent scholarship. Rousseau 2002 is an original survey of the topic.

  • Brown, Peter. 1978. The making of late antiquity. Carl Newell Jackson Lectures. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Brown’s lectures do not offer an overview of the topic but focus on the changes in the religious life of the Roman Empire and how it affected Christianity as well as the other religions. Reprinted in 1993.

  • Chadwick, Henry. 1967. The early church. London: Penguin.

    A revised edition was published in 1993.

  • Clark, Gillian. 2004. Christianity and Roman society. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Considers early Christianity in the context of Roman society.

  • Fox, Robin Lane. 1986. Pagans and Christians. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

    A comparison of pagan and Christian religious practices.

  • Frend, William Hugh Clifford, and Carol Harrison. 1965. The early church from the beginnings to 461. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

    New edition, London: SCM, 2003.

  • Hopkins, Keith. 2001. A world full of gods: The strange triumph of Christianity. New York: Plume.

    An unconventional approach mixing traditional analysis with a TV drama and the memoirs of two travelers.

  • Humphries, Mark. 2006. Early Christianity. London: Routledge.

    A good introduction through a few case studies to some of the major issues.

  • Rousseau, Philip. 2002. The early Christian centuries. London: Longman.

    Each chapter has a Further Readings section and suggests one title to begin with.

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