Early Christian Sources

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Consider reading the introduction and warnings before reading the material on this website.

Please consider the following warnings as you read the material on this website:

  1. Love of others, not knowledge, is what Jesus is promoting first and foremost. Studying Christianity and Christian history for some other purpose than to become more like Jesus is dangerous and will probably just make you proud.
  2. The writings catalogued on this website represent a glimpse into the history of Christianity in the late first through early fourth centuries. That is potentially a very valuable thing as Christianity is a historical reality. However, little is known about the lives of the writers who wrote these writings. Although it is charitable to presume the writers were all faithful Christians, it is dangerous to uncritically assume they all were. Jesus warned us to judge a tree by its fruit but we can not easily judge the fruit of people whose lives we can not see. At the beginning of John’s Revelation, Jesus sends messages to Christian assemblies in seven cities. Of those seven, five are strongly warned to repent. This example shows that uncritically trusting the majority in any century can be dangerous.
  3. The writings catalogued on this website represent a tiny fraction of the Christians who lived in the first few centuries. They are certainly not a representative sample of all of the Christians of their day. At very least they mostly represent the more highly educated. Also, as these writings were mostly preserved by powerful state-church institutions, they probably represent some bias towards what those institutions believed. In areas where these writings contradict the teaching of the state-church institutions who preserved them, this represents strong evidence of what most likely would have been the norm before the creation of these large and powerful institutions. In areas where they agree, it may not be possible to know if that is because of an intentional bias in what was preserved or if the state-church institutions’ beliefs were just preserving what was there earlier.
  4. Unlike the New Testament writings which have many ancient manuscripts to confirm their content and to ensure that they have not been changed over time, the other early Christian writings have very few ancient manuscripts to confirm their content. In some cases the earliest manuscript for a particular early Christian writing may date from the middle ages. Such a lack of evidence means that there is more chance that what we currently have for the early Christian writings could have been changed over time from what was originally written. This makes it all the more important to try to draw conclusions about early Christianity based on consistent ideas and patterns across their writings as a whole, rather than relying on a single writing to give evidence to early Christian belief and practice.
  5. The people who translated and wrote commentary on the early Christian writings in the books catalogued on this site did so with a bias which was usually not to encourage faithful obedience to Jesus above everything else. Their learning and expertise can help us but should be viewed with caution.

The links on this website may be to material that is still under copyright in your country.

Please send reports of missing translations, broken links or other errors/omissions to early@xpian.info.