Primitivism, Patristics, and Polemic in Protestant Visions of Early Christianity

Euan Cameron

in Sacred History

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199594795
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741494 | DOI:
Primitivism, Patristics, and Polemic in Protestant Visions of Early Christianity

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In Continental Protestantism, the history of the Church acquired vital explanatory importance for the theological justification of the movement. Protestant thought argued that for 1,000 years before the Reformation the Catholic Church had erred more and more seriously from correct belief and practice. However, the first experiments in writing ecclesiastical history were heavily influenced by northern Renaissance humanism. A tension developed between human, pragmatic explanations for religious behaviour and doctrinal or apocalyptic explanations of Church history. This chapter analyses that tension through the writings of humanist-educated Protestant historians such as Joachim Vadian, Heinrich Bullinger, Philipp Melanchthon, and Caspar Peucer. Over the sixteenth century, humanist influence dissipated, as even Renaissance-trained scholars adopted dogmatic arguments; however, it did not entirely disappear. The chapter concludes by comparing humanist-inspired Church histories with doctrinally based histories written within Lutheran orthodoxy, such as the Magdeburg Centuries and the Epitome of Lucas Osiander the Elder.

Keywords: apocalyptic; Bullinger; Heinrich; Lutheranism; Melanchthon; Philipp; Peucer; Caspar; Protestantism; Reformation; Renaissance humanism; Vadian; Joachim

Chapter.  11609 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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