Issue 135 Plagues and epidemics

What's inside

The plagues that destroyed

A survey of epidemics and some Christian responses

Darrel W. Amundsen and Gary B. Ferngren

When a third of the world died

During the catastrophic Black Plague, how did Christians respond?

Mark Galli

Courage and pestilence

Luther’s words amid 16th-century plagues speak to our own time in complex ways

Christopher Gehrz

Remedies from danger

Lessons from Christian attempts to cope with modern epidemics

Jeffrey B. Webb

Isolation, blessings, and questions

Readers describe their experiences of being faithful to Christ in the time of COVID-19. These reflections were written in March and April 2020.


Plagues and epidemics: Did you know?

Where quarantine came from, how epidemics almost killed Bede and Finney, those beaky masks, and why it’s not “Spanish” flu

Paul E. Michelson and others

Letters, Christian History 135

Readers respond to the editor


Editor's note: Plagues and epidemics

Every year this plague issue would get kicked down the road as other issue concepts rose in priority.

Bill Curtis

Suffering and sovereignty

Excerpts from the book of Job


Seeking renewal

Reflections from a CH staff member on Christian life during epidemics —in the past and at this moment 

Dan Graves

Demonstrating the love of Christ

At the very beginning of the church, Christians were known for their compassion in times of illness

Gary B. Ferngren

“We learn not to fear death”

The plague of 250 roused the Christians of Carthage to action under the leadership of their bishop Cyprian.

Cyprian of Carthage

“Away with the Christians”

Christians often were blamed for plagues.

Chris Armstrong

Catherine’s plague

Steadfast in prayer and plague

Editors of Christian History

“I shall make all thing well”

Me liked none other heaven than Jesus, which shall be my bliss

Dan Graves

Christian History timeline: Plague and epidemic throughout history

Here are some of the most famous epidemics and pandemics that we discuss Christian responses to in this issue

The editors

Plague advice from Martin Luther

We can be sure that God’s punishment has come upon us, not only to chastise us for our sins but also to test our faith and love.

Martin Luther

“Christ is the master”

Margaret Blaurer’s life shows how reformers reluctantly made room for female celibate ministry.

Edwin Woodruff Tait

“Now, Christ, prevail”

When plague struck Zurich, Zwingli hurried home from vacation to tend the sick but soon contracted the disease himself.


Christ’s passion and ours

Heerman turned to Christ’s passion to make sense of suffering.

Jennifer Woodruff Tait

“Buried alive”

Father Damien chose to serve lepers for Christ

Dan Graves

Belonging to the heart of Jesus

She wanted no one to die unloved and uncared for.

Kaylena Radcliff

Plagues and epidemics: Recommended resources 135

We searched through past CH issues and current academic bibliographies to bring you this list of new and classic books for understanding plague and Christian responses

The editors

Our scattered leaves

We end with another reflection from a member of our staff about how our current moment compares to Christian history

Edwin Woodruff Tait

“The Lord brought all this dying”

"Some of our friends are dying others flying" from yellow fever

Barton Price

“The sickness of others”

The flu pandemic of 1918–1919 swept through crowded neighborhoods.

Janine Giordano Drake
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