There are few surprises in this year’s collection of church history books. No one topic stands out as having supreme urgency in the minds of publishers; there is, rather, broad treatment across a wide spectrum. A few generalizations can be made, however.
First, primary sources are beginning to reappear in new dress, sometimes as new translations; sometimes appearing for the first time. This is certainly a good sign, because basic research can now be done firsthand, rather than in secondary sources.
Second, new editions and reprints of valuable older works are also popping up. One could mention H. B. Workman’s Persecution in the Early Church as an example. It is an additional attraction when new editions are in paperback, especially to the student population.
Third, some first-rate scholarly work is appearing, such as David Steinmetz’s Luther and Staupitz. There is more of this sort of thing appearing now, and it bodes well for church history in general.
Finally, one would expect that in a day when the history departments in our universities—let alone church history departments—are feeling the academic squeeze, books about church history should be drying up on the market. Such is not the case. They are appearing in significant quantities, and, more to the point, they are well done and worth reading. The quality of such works continues to improve, thanks to the dedication of those who want to keep the discipline alive and well.
The books presented here are but a selection of what is currently available, but they are a good sampling for those interested in the history of the church.
Martin Marty’s A Short History of Christianity is now in its fourteenth printing, and newly available from Fortress Press. It will continue to ...1
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