Persecution in the Early Church: Recommended Resources

General Histories

W. H. C. Frend,The Rise of Christianity (Fortress Press, 1984). A well&ndash documented and easy-read coverage of early Christianity.

Adolf von Harnack, Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries, 2nd ed., 3 vols., trans. by J. Moffatt (London: Williams & Norgate, Ltd., 1908). In classic German style Harnack provides an excellent introduction to the early church.

Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. 1, Beginnings to 1500 (Harper and Row, 1975). Written by a scholar of faith, this church history is well composed and researched. The coverage of martyrdoms and persecutions is good.

Secondary Literature

Stephen Benko, Pagan Rome and the Early Christians (Indiana University Press, 1986). A more recent work focusing on issues relative to pagan and Christian relations. Excellent background material to the persecutions.

W. H. C. Frend, Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church (Baker, 1981). The most complete and documented modern accounting of the persecutions in the first three hundred years of Christian history. It is readable and accurate.

E. G. Hardy, Christianity and the Roman Government, 3rd ed. (London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1925). This book focuses less on religious tensions and more on legal issues and Roman administration.

W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire Before A.D. 170 (Putnam’s, 1893). A broad coverage of New Testament times and the early church.

H. B. Workman, Persecution in the Early Church (Oxford, 1980). An edited version of an earlier work by the same author. It is short, and easy to read, yet well documented.

Popular Works

Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Penguin, 1983). Though regarded as outdated, this popular work makes for good reading.

John Foxe, Foxe’ Book of Martyrs (Baker, 1978). A popular text, not known for objective historical work, that details some of the gruesomeness that came with persecution.

Specific Persecutions

Timothy Barnes, Constantine and Lu sebiu (Harvard University Press, 1981). The book offers a good look at the Diocletian persecution with the subsequent triumph of Christianity in the rise of Constantine.

N. H. Baynes, ed., “The Imperial Crisis and Recovery,” Vol. XII in The Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge University Press, 1939). Chapter 6 treats the Decian persecution, and chapter 19 the Diocletian.

Patrick Healy, The Valerian Persecution (Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1905). A good review of crucial events leading to the persecution, and the results for the Empire and the church.

Primary Sources

The Ante–Nicene Fathers, Vols. 1–10 (Eerdmans, 1981). This classic set, covering the first three hundred years of Christian writings, includes martyrdoms, apologies, and letters of exhortation. Despite the old translations, still the best collection.

Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History (Penguin, 1981). This first history of Christianity, written in the fourth century, is a compilation of Christian texts, with running interpretation.

J. B. Lightfoot, ed. and trans., Apostolic Fathers (Baker, 1984). Including the earliest post– biblical writings, this text gives a good idea of Christian thinking in the early years of the persecutions. Good translations.

Herbert Musurillo, ed., The Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1979). The Greek and Latin texts, alongside English translations, of all the recorded martyrdoms of the Christian period.

J. Stevenson, ed., A New Eusebius, Documents Illustrative of the History of the Church to AD. 337 (SPCK, 1977). A good collection of edited texts, both Christian and Roman. The text is in the style of Eusebius, though without the Eusebian interpretation of Christian history.

By Kenneth R. Calvert

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #27 in 1990]

Recommendations provided by Kenneth R. Calvert, Th,M. candidate in patristics at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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