Review: We Believe in One God

6966364Following on the heels of the highly acclaimed Ancient Christian Commentary series, the Ancient Christian Doctrine series brings together a five-volume patristic exploration into the substance of what the early church believed about the Christian faith. The series presents a curated display of primary Greek, Latin, Coptic, and Syriac source material from the church fathers, translated into English and organized around the content of the Nicene Creed.

The initial volume of the series, We Believe in One God edited by Gerald L. Bray takes the reader through the opening article of the Nicene Creed (“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen”) and uses it as a framework for an exploration of patristic thought concerning the doctrine of God. Each of the major section opens with the text of the Nicene Creed in Greek, Latin, and English, and the word or phrase being discussed is highlighted for the reader in bold. Before being brought into the commentary from the early church fathers, the readers will meet an introduction to the historical context of the Creed and an overview of the general content of the section. Those who are acquainted with the Ancient Christian Commentary series will be met some with familiarity here.

The comments are organized under the major section by author and each excerpt leads with a single bolded phrase to summarize the content. This makes identifying it quick and easy for the reader to find relevant information, and each excerpt is properly cited for further exploration. Additional material in the volume includes biographical sketches, a timeline of ancient Christian sources, indexes, bibliographies and keys to original language sources.

The usefulness of the Ancient Christian Doctrine series and this volume in particular, is almost bursting at the seams. The organization of the content is well-situated to immerse the reader into the writings of the early church and navigate those waters with ease, and the additional material adds to this exploration. The translations of the excerpts are articulate and easy to read—some of them being translated into English for the very first time. The book itself is beautifully built and will survive ample use for many years. That is, beauty of the content is matched with an equally stunning presentation.

The only shortcoming identifiable in this volume, and to be honest, this is a shortcoming that exists in any volume that attempts a similar task as the Ancient Christian Doctrine series is the lack of larger context for the reader. To be fair, the editors have painstakingly sought to include as much context as possible and did so under the assumption that readers could investigate the larger context for themselves. Nevertheless, a paragraph is generally surrounded by more paragraphs, and those paragraphs are generally surrounded by even more paragraphs within a broader context that may or may not be relevant to the reader’s needs.

The Ancient Christian Doctrine series is a landmark resource that will serve an interdisciplinary audience for many years. The initial volume, We Believe in One God edited by Gerald L. Bray takes the readers on a journey through the landscape of patristic thought concerning the doctrine of God. It is well-organized and perfectly situated to equip the interested reader with a portrait of early Christian belief. From scholars to students, and pastors to the layman, this is a volume that should be referenced by all. It comes highly recommended!

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