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Sources for What I Write
September 08, 2013
Today I was asked how I find out about the things in my newsletters, such as Lactantius' belief in two types of demons.
I answered her, but I thought the rest of you might be interested in free access to my sources or know how much you might have to pay for sources that are easier to search or read.
Here's what I wrote:
Sources for Early Christian History
Most everything written in the second and third centuries--and which have survived the centuries--is preserved in The Ante-Nicene Fathers. There are a lot of ways to get hold of that.
The most expensive is to buy it in book form, which will usually cost at least $99 for the 10-volume set unless you find them used somewhere or Christian Book Distributors runs an amazing special.
You can get them in an easy to read form on Kindle. I think the optimized version (which you would want) are $4.99 per volume.
The form I use is simple .pdf. I paid http://www.ccel.org $99 once for unlimited downloads for a year, and I downloaded all 10 volumes of The Ante-Nicene Fathers plus all 28 volumes of the 2 series of The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. I also downloaded a number of other well-done .pdf documents from them that year.
You don't have to buy them, though. If you go to http://www.ccel.org/fathers, you can read them online for free. You can also download text files for free.
Many years ago I bought all three series for $299. So I have the books, of which I have only read 4 volumes all the way through and 3 or 4 others about halfway through. I'm most interested in second century, so after I read the first three volumes of the Ante-Nicene fathers, I went back and read them again rather than pressing on.
Nowadays, I mostly read the .pdf's on my computer. I can search those, too. All pdf's can be searched. If I'm studying baptism for example, I'll search for bapt (to cover baptism, baptized), and I may search Scripture references too. I have to pay attention to their formatting. To search for Romans 6:13, I have to type in rom. vi. 13.
There's no easy way to get through all that. It's tough reading. It was worth it to me, though, because I wanted to know what early Christianity was like.
I have tried to help by making a page with some of the shorter and very early writings. They make an excellent introduction, and I have updated the language to modern English. You can find those at https://www.christian-history.org/early-christian-writings.html.
At Amazon or at scrollpublishing.com you can find a couple of books that David Bercot updated to modern English. I would especially recommend We Don't Speak Great Things, We Live Them, which is an abridged, modern English version of Justin's First Apology and Minucius (Mark) Felix's The Octavius. Both are excellent overviews of mid- to late second century Christianity.
Bercot also has a book called Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up that is the best short overview of pre-Nicene Christianity that you will find. It is easy to read and absolutely captivating. His first edition was the best because it was just honest writing. The next editions left the main chapters, 1-12, unchanged, but what came after, his assessment and recommendations based on those 12 chapters, he changed first to fit the Anglican Church which he joined, and now he has changed again since leaving the Anglicans. I really regret the loss of the wonderful chapter on the walls that kept early Christianity pristine. I do not know how to get a first edition copy, but both the second and third are still worth reading (available at Amazon).
Writing Contest Reminder
As a reminder, we are having a writing contest. You can win prizes and publication. Details are at https://www.christian-history.org/writing-contest-2013.html.
Also please check out our books at Greatest Stories Ever Told, and if you've read any, please review them at Amazon.
Thanks. I hope you enjoy these insights into early Christianity as they come!
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