Historical Theology

By James M. Rochford

Historical theology is the study of how Christians historically came to affirm or deny certain theological doctrines. It also studies the people who were influential on Christian thought, as well as the successes and failures of the Church. While God does not change, our understanding of him does. While Scripture is inerrant, our understanding or interpretation of Scripture is not. This is not to say that relativism or postmodernism is true—whereby we are unable to interpret Scripture accurately regarding the core Christian faith. Instead, by studying historical theology, we can discover their mistakes, their heroism, their cultural influences, their cultural biases, and our own connection to the Christian church throughout history. Church history is filled with heroes and villains—faithful martyrs and violent persecutors. Thus historical theology is a study in:

Hermeneutics. Was a certain theological movement right or wrong?

Practice. Were Christian practices faithful or faithless?

Encouragement. How do I fit into the spread of the gospel that has lasted for centuries?

Helps us not to get caught up in theological fads or aberrations.

Articles in Historical Theology

Judaism in Jesus’ Day: One of the keys to unlocking the dynamics of the NT is to understand the different types of Jewish believers that existed at this time. These groups break down into four common sects: (1) Pharisees, (2) Sadducees, (3) Essenes, and (4) Zealots.

History of the Samaritans: Who were the Samaritans, and what relationship did they have to the Jewish people?

Why Did God Decide to Spread the Gospel When He Did? This article covers the cultural, political, and religious reasons for why the gospel spread so quickly in the first century. It also speculates as to why God would decide to bring Christ in the first century.

Persecution of Christianity (AD 33 to 325): How wide was Roman persecution in the first three centuries of the Church? How did the apostles die? Which Roman emperors were crucial in this persecution?

Constantine: Blessing or Curse? The famous emperor Constantine brought an end to Christian persecution and helped to make Christianity a state-religion. Was this a blessing or a curse for Christianity? Was Constantine a true believer or a political phony?

Apostolic Fathers (AD 100-200)

Clement of Rome. 1 Clement (written anywhere from AD 67 to 110) is a letter written by the church in Rome to the church Corinth. This article covers the authorship, date, and key points of this early letter.

The Didache. This short book (written anywhere from AD 80 to 110) is an instruction manual for early Christian converts and Christian leaders.