cover of book

New Narratives for Old: The Historical Method of Reading Early Christian Theology: Essays in Honor of Michel Rene Barnes
edited by Anthony Briggman and Ellen Scully
Catholic University of America Press, 2022
eISBN: 978-0-8132-3535-6 | Cloth: 978-0-8132-3534-9
Library of Congress Classification BR118.N485 2022
Dewey Decimal Classification 230.14

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.
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