New Narratives for Old
The Historical Method of Reading Early Christian Theology: Essays in Honor of Michel Rene Barnes
Imprint: Catholic University of America Press
Guilds and conferences have grown up around historical theology, yet no volume has ever been dedicated to the definition and illustration of the method undergirding historical theology. This volume both defines and illustrates the methodology of historical theology, especially as it relates to the study of early Christianity, and situates historical theology among other methodological approaches to early Christianity, including confessional apologetics, constructive theology, and socio-cultural history.
Historical theology as a discipline stands in contrast to these other approaches to the study of early Christianity. In contrast to systematic or constructive approaches, it remains essentially historical, with a desire to elucidate the past rather than speak to the present. In contrast to socio-historical approaches, it remains essentially theological, with a concern to value and understand the full complexity of the abstract thought world that stands behind the textual tradition of early Christian theology. Moreover, historical theology is characterized by the methodological presupposition that, unless good reason exists to think otherwise, the theological accounts of the ancient church articulate the genuine beliefs of their authors.
The significance of this volume lies in the methodological definition it offers. The strength of this volume lies in the fact that its definition of the historical method of studying theology is not the work of a single mind but that of over twenty respected scholars, many of whom are leaders in the field. The volume begins with an introductory essay that orients readers to various approaches to early Christian literature, it moves to two technical essays that define the historical method of studying early Christian theology, and then it illustrates the practice of this method with more than twenty essays that cover a period stretching from the first century to the dawn of the seventh.
"This volume stands out for its presentation of the historical method in the study of early Christian theology, as well as for the high-quality articles that illustrate these approaches. It is wonderful to have these essays gathered in one volume for consultation."~John Gavin, SJ, author of Mysteries of the Lord's Prayer: Wisdom from the Early Church (CUA Press)
"A testament to one of the most influential schools of thought in the study of early Christian theology over the past thirty years, one that challenges systematic theology to take historical particularity and diversity more seriously. The range of topics covered in this book demonstrate the fruitfulness of the methodological proposals forcefully articulated in print and in the classroom by Michel René Barnes and will ensure that his insights remain part of the scholarly conversation for the foreseeable future."~Matthew Crawford, Australian Catholic University
"The discipline of historical theology has flourished among Catholics for the past century and more. Michel Barnes has made a noteworthy contribution to that discipline, and the authors presented in this volume offer him a fitting tribute, in a collection of essays that range historically from Irenaeus to Gregory the Great, with Trinitarian theological questions and the problems of Christology as central. But the concept that dominates the whole, and most appropriately so, is ‘method.’"~Joseph T. Lienhard, SJ, Fordham University
"Over the last 50 years the church fathers have become the common property not only of Catholics and Orthodox, but also of main line Protestants and Evangelicals. In original essays by a company of first class scholars, this volume displays the vitality and depth of the Christian theological tradition as it was taking shape in the early years of the Church’s history."~Robert Louis Wilken, University of Virginia