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History Of The Christian Church (1892)

Philip Schaff


Third Period: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity,

The Church in Union with the Roman Empire,
from Constantine the Great to Gregory I.
AD 311-590.

Preface To The Third Revision

This third volume covers the eventful period of Christian emperors, patriarchs, and ecumenical Councils, from Constantine the Great to Gregory the Great. It completes the History of Ancient Christianity, which is the common inheritance of Greek, Latin, and Evangelical Christendom.

The first edition was published in 1867, and has not undergone any important changes. But in the revision of 1884 the more recent literature was added in an Appendix.

In this edition the Appendix has been revised and enriched with the latest literature. A few changes have also been made in the text to conform it to the present state of research (e.g., pp. 29, 353, 688, 689).

The Author.

New York, July, 1889.


With sincere thanks to God for continued health and strength, I offer to the public a history of the eventful period of the Church from the beginning of the fourth century to the close of the sixth. This concludes my history of Ancient Christianity.

It was intended at first to condense the third period into one volume, but regard to symmetry made it necessary to divide it into two volumes of equal size with the first which appeared several years ago. This accounts for the continuous paging of the second and third volumes.

In preparing this part of my Church History for the press, I have been deprived of the stimulus of an active professorship, and been much interrupted in consequence of other labors, a visit to Europe, and the loss of a part of the manuscript, which had to be rewritten. But, on the other hand, I have had the great advantage of constant and free access to several of the best libraries of the country. Especially am I indebted to the Astor Library, and the Union Theological Seminary Library of New York, which are provided with complete sets of the Greek and Latin fathers, and nearly all other important sources of the history of the first six centuries.

I have used different editions of the fathers (generally the Benedictine), but these I have carefully indicated when they vary in the division of chapters and sections, or in the numbering of orations and epistles, as in the works of Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Jerome, Augustine, and Leo. In addition to the primary sources, I have constantly consulted the later historians, German, French, and English.

In the progress of the work I have been filled with growing admiration for the great scholars of the seventeenth and early part of the eighteenth century, who have with amazing industry and patience collected the raw material from the quarries, and investigated every nook and corner of Christian Antiquity. I need only refer to the Benedictine editors of the fathers; to the Bollandists, in the department of hagiography; to Mansi and Hardouin, in the collection of the Acts of Councils; to Gallandi, Dupin, Ceillier, Oudin, Cave, Fabricius, in patristics and literary history; to Petau’s Theologica dogmata, Tillemont’s Mémoires, Bull’s Defensio Fidei Nicaenae, Bingham’s Antiquities, Walch’s Ketzerhistorie. In learning, acumen, judgment, and reverent spirit, these and similar works are fully equal, if not superior, to the best productions of the modern Teutonic press; while we cheerfully concede to the latter the superiority in critical sifting, philosophical grasp, artistic reproduction of the material, and in impartiality and freedom of spirit, without which there can be no true history. Thus times and talents supplement each other.

With all due regard for the labors of distinguished predecessors and contemporaries, I have endeavored, to the best of my ability, to combine fulness of matter with condensation in form and clearness of style, and to present a truthful and lively picture of the age of Christian emperors, patriarchs, and ecumenical Councils. Whether, and how far, I have succeeded in this, competent judges will decide.

I must again express my profound obligation to my friend, the Rev. Dr. Yeomans, of Rochester, for his invaluable assistance in bringing these volumes before the public in a far better English dress than I could have given them myself. I have prepared the work in German, and have sent the copy to Leipsic, where a German edition will appear simultaneously with the American. Some portions I have myself reproduced in English, and have made considerable additions throughout in the final revision of the copy for the press. But the body of the work has been translated from manuscript by Dr. Yeomans. He has performed his task with that consummate union of faithfulness and freedom which does full justice both to the thought of the author and the language of the reader, and which has elicited the unqualified praise of the best judges for his translation of my History of the Apostolic Church, and that of the first three centuries.

The work has been, for the translator as well as for the author, truly a labor of love, which carries in it its own exceeding great reward. For what can be more delightful and profitable than to revive for the benefit of the living generation, the memory of those great and good men who were God’s own chosen instruments in expounding the mysteries of divine truth, and in spreading the blessings of Christianity over the face of the earth?

It is my wish and purpose to resume this work as soon as other engagements will permit, and to complete it according to the original plan. In the mean time I have the satisfaction of having finished the first great division of the history of Christianity, which, in many respects, is the most important, as the common inheritance of the Greek, Latin, and Evangelical churches. May God bless it as a means to promote the cause of truth, and to kindle that devotion to his service which is perfect freedom.

Philip Schaff.

5 Bible House, New York, Nov. 8, 1866.




I. Christian Sources: (a) The Acts Of Councils; in the Collectiones conciliorum of Hardouin, Par. 1715 sqq. 12 vols. fol.; Mansi, Flor. et Ven. 1759 sqq. 31 vols. fol.; Fuchs: Bibliothek der Kirchenversammlungen des 4ten und 5ten Jahrh. Leipz. 1780 sqq.; and Bruns: Biblioth. eccl. vol. i. Canones Apost. et Conc. saec. iv.–vii. Berol. 1839.

(b) The Imperial Laws and Decrees referring to the church, in the Codex Theodosianus, collected A.D. 438, the Codex Justinianeus, collected in 529, and the Cod. repetitae praelectionis of 534.

(c) The Official Letters of popes (in the Bullarium Romanum), patriarchs, and bishops.

(d) The writings of all the Church Fathers from the beginning of the 4th century to the end of the 6th. Especially of Eusebius, Athanasius, Basil, the two Gregories, the two Cyrils, Chrysostom, and Theodoret, of the Greek church; and Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Leo the Great, of the Latin. Comp. the Benedictine Editions of the several Fathers; the Maxima Bibliotheca veterum Patrum, Lugd. 1677 sqq. (in all 27 vols. fol.), vols. iii.–xi.; Gallandi: Biblioth. vet. Patrum, etc. Ven. 1765 sqq. (14 vols. fol.), vols. iv.–xii.

(e) Contemporary Church Historians, (1) of the Greek church: Eusebius of Caesarea († about 340): the ninth and tenth books of his H. E. down to 324, and his biography of Constantine the Great, see § 2 infra; Socrates Scholasticus of Constantinople: Histor. ecclesiast. libri vii, A.D. 306–439; Hermias Sozomen of Constantinople: H. eccl. l. ix, A.D. 323–423; Theodoret, bishop of Cyros in Mesopotamia: H. eccl. l. v, A.D. 325–429; the Arian Philostorgius: H. eccl. l. xii, A.D. 318–425, extant only in extracts in Photius Cod. 40; Theodorus Lector, of Constantinople, epitomizer of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, continuing the latter down to 518, preserved in fragments by Nicephorus Callistus; Evagrius of Antioch: H. eccl. l. vi, A.D. 431–594; Nicephorus Callistus (or Niceph. Callisti), about 1330, author of a church history in 23 books, to A.D. 911 (ed. Fronto Ducaeus, Par. 1630). The historical works of these Greek writers, excepting the last, are also published together under the title: Historiae ecclesiasticae Scriptores, etc., Graec. et Lat., with notes by H. Valesius (and G. Reading), Par. 1659–1673; and Cantabr. 1720, 3 vols. fol. (2) Of the Latin church historians few are important: Rufinus, presb. of Aquileia (†410), translated Eusebius and continued him in two more books to 395; Sulpicius Severus, presb. in Gaul: Hist. Sacra, l. ii, from the creation to A.D. 400; Paulus Orosius, presbyter in Spain: Historiarum libri vii. written about 416, extending from the creation to his own time; Cassiodorus, about 550: Hist. tripartite, l. xii. a mere extract from the works of the Greek church historians, but, with the work of Rufinus, the chief source of historical knowledge through the whole middle age; and Jerome († 419): De viris illustrious, or Catalogus scriptorum eccles., written about 392, continued under the same title by Gennadius, about 495, and by Isidor of Seville, about 630.

(f) For chronology, the Greek Pascavlion, or Chronicon Paschale (wrongly called Alexandrinum), primarily a table of the passovers from the beginning of the world to A.D. 354 under Constantius, with later additions down to 628. (Ed. Car. du Fresne Dom. du Cange. Par. 1688, and L. Dindorf, Bonn. 1832, 2 vols.) The Chronicle of Eusebius and Jerome (Cronika; suggravmmata, pantodaph; iJstoriva), containing an outline of universal history down to 325, mainly after the chronography of Julius Africanus, and an extract from the universal chronicle in tabular form down to 379, long extant only in the free Latin translation and continuation of Jerome (ed. Jos. Scaliger. Lugd. Batav. 1606 and later), since 1792 known also in an Armenian translation (ed. J. Bapt. Aucher. Ven. 1818, and Aug. Mai, Script. vet. nov. coll. 1833. Tom. viii). In continuation of the Latin chronicle of Jerome, the chronicle of Prosper of Aquitania down to 455; that of the spanish bishop Idatius, to 469; and that of Marcellinus Comes, to 534. Comp. Chronica medii aevi post Euseb. atque Hieron., etc. ed. Roesler, Tüb. 1798.

II. Heathen Sources:


Later Literature.


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