Readings in Christianity, 3rd Edition

  • Robert E. Van Voorst Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan
  • ISBN-10: 1285197429  |  ISBN-13: 9781285197425
  • 352 Pages
  • Previous Editions: 2001, 1997
  • © 2015 | Published
  • List Price = $ 174.95
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This book is designed to introduce readers to the world of Christian scholarship by way of primary literary sources. It contains the most notable and instructive primary sources from the entire sweep of Christian history, along with accessible introductions, line-by-line annotations, study questions, a glossary, and suggestions for further reading.

Features and Benefits

  • Chapter 1 includes a discussion of historical studies in Christianity, featuring a section on the use of Internet resources in Christian scholarship.
  • A dedicated Internet site is available to assist students in their engagement with Christian primary sources and to help them expand their research on the Web.
  • Real-world, present-day vignettes open each chapter to draw students into the material and demonstrate the contemporary relevance of the topics covered.
  • Chapter introductions outline the structure, history, and function of the readings to enhance students' understanding.
  • Key readings emphasize popular religion, the role of women, the Renaissance, and the developing world.
  • Pro-and-con readings are included in several chapters to spark critical thinking and discussion about controversial topics within Christianity.
  • Selections have been chosen for their readability and suitability for beginning students in Christianity.
  • Each chapter presents readings in categories accessible to teachers and students: Events, Institution, Teachings, Ethics, and Relations. This clear, uniform format allows instructors to move among chapters in any order.
  • Issues of contemporary interest are presented in every chapter. Topics include the image and role of women in Christianity, war and peace, and ecology.
  • Each chapter concludes with a glossary, questions for study and discussion, and suggestions for further reading.

Table of Contents

The Study of Christianity.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Reading Primary Sources.
The Nature and Variety of the Readings.
Primary Sources of Christianity and the Internet .
The Plan of This Book.
Suggestions for Reading Profitably.
Questions for Study and Discussion .
Suggestions for Further Reading.
Terminology for the Bible.
Historical Sketch.
Literary Genres of the Bible.
Use of the Bible.
The Call of Abraham (Genesis 12:1–7).
Deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 14:5–8, 10–11, 13–14, 26, 28, 31).
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:18–25).
Jesus’s Miracles (Luke 8:26–56).
The Arrest, Trial and Death of Jesus (Mark 14:43–50, 53–65; 15:1–41).
The Resurrection of Jesus (Mark 16:1–8).
The Coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1–21).
Persecution of the Apostles (Acts 5:27–35, 38–42).
The Call/Conversion of the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:1–19).
The Twelve Apostles and Their Mission (Matthew 10:1–15) .
Peter as the Rock (Matthew 16:13–20).
Early and Late Pauline Teaching on Church Leadership (Romans 16:1–7;
1 Timothy 3:1–13).
The Eucharist (Matthew 26:17–19, 26–29; John 6:35–51).
Baptism (Matthew 28:16–20; Romans 6:1–11).
Two Views on Women in the Church (Luke 10:38–42; 1 Corinthians 11:2–16; Galatians 3:27–28; 1 Timothy 2:8–15).
Creation and Revolt (Genesis 1:26–2:9; 2:15–3:24).
The Oneness of God (Deuteronomy 6:4–9).
The Parables of Jesus (Mark 4:2–34; Luke 10:29–37).
The Word Became Human ((John 1:1–18)).
Attack on Gnosis (1 John 4:1–6).
Results of Justification (Romans 5:1–11).
The End of Time (Matthew 25:31–46; Revelation 20:1–21:4).
The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1–19).
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7).
Love (1 Corinthians 13:1–13).
Ethics in the Christian Household (Ephesians 5:21–6:9).
Relations .
Christians and Gentile Life (Romans 1:18–32; 1 Corinthians 8;
Acts 17:22–28).
Two Views on Gentile Converts in the Church (Acts 15:1–21;
Galatians 2:1–10).
Paul on Judaism (Romans 2:17–3:4).
Two Views on the Roman Government (Romans 13:1–10;
Revelation 17:1–8; 18:1–5).
Additional Bible Readings.
Questions for Study and Discussion.
Suggestions for Further Reading.
Terminology for This Period.
Historical Sketch.
Literary Genres of the Primary Sources.
Events .
The Martyrdom of Peter and Paul Recollected (Clement, First Epistle to
the Corinthians 5).
Roman Investigation of Christians (Pliny, Letters 10.96, 97).
Martyrdom of a Young Christian Woman (Passion of Perpetua and Felicity,
Preface, 1.1–2, 2.2, 6.1–4).
The Great Persecutions (Lactantius, The Deaths of the Persecutors 11–13).
The Victory and Conversion of Constantine (Eusebius, Life of Constantine).
The Edict of Toleration (Lactantius, The Death of the Persecutors 48).
Theodosius’s Prohibition of Worship of the Roman Gods (Theodosian
Code 16:10, 12).
Papal Primacy Derived from Petrine Primacy (Pope Leo I, Sermons 4.2–4).
The Scripture Canon in Formation (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.27.2;
Muratorian Canon).
Offices of the Church in the Second Century (Polycarp, Letter to
the Philippians 4.2–6.3).
The Deaconess (Teaching of the Apostles 3.15–17).
An Ancient Christian Service (Justin, Apology 65–66).
Baptism in the Second and Third Centuries (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles
[Didache] 7; Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 3.21.1–3.22.6).
The Eucharist (Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 43).
A Pilgrim Nun Worships in Eastern-Rite Jerusalem (Egeria and Her
Travels, 24–25).
The Beginnings of Monasticism (Athanasius, Life of Saint Anthony 2, 5,
9, 14, 47).
The Rule of Faith (Tertullian, Prescription Against Heretics 13).
Two Views on True Christianity, Gnostic and Orthodox (Gospel of Truth 34–43;
Irenaeus, Against Heresies Preface 1.1–2, 7.1–5) .
Women and Gnosticism (Gospel of Mary 7:8–18).
The Threefold Interpretation of Scripture Illustrated (Origen, Homily
on Luke 2).
The Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles’ Creed, Original Nicene Creed,
Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, Chalcedonian Creed).
Two Views on Arian Christology (Letter of Arius to Eusebius of Nicomedia;
Letter of Constantine to the Orthodox Churches of Alexandria, Egypt;
Athanasius, Against the Arians 3.4).
Two Views on Free Will, Human Responsibility, and Divine Election (Pelagius,
Letter to Demetrias; Augustine, Admonition and Grace 1.2, 2.3–4, 7.13, 17;
The Decrees of the Council of Carthage).
Popular Christian Beliefs on Death and Eternal Life (Roman Catacomb
The Two Ways (Didache 1, 5–6).
Christian Morality in Diverse Cultures (Epistle to Diognetus 5).
Two Views of Christians and War (Tertullian, On the Crown 11; Augustine,
The City of God 19.7).
Augustine’s Conversion (Confessions 8.12.28–30).
Relations .
Two Views of Greek Philosophy (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 1;
Tertullian, Prescription Against Heretics 7).
Popular Opposition to Christians (The Alexamenos Graffito).
Two Views on Judaism (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 68; John Chrysostom,
Sermons Against Judaizing Christians 8.5).
Conflict between Christian Emperor and Church (Ambrose, Letters 20.19,
Christianity and the Fall of Rome (Augustine, City of God 2.2–3).
Augustine on the Suppression of Heresy (Letters 23.7, 93.16–17, 185.11–24).
Questions for Study and Discussion.
Suggestions for Further Reading.
Terminology for This Period.
Historical Sketch.
Literary Genres of the Primary Sources.
Benedict’s Life and Miracles (Pope Gregory I, Dialogues on the Life and Miracles of
the Italian Fathers 2, Preface).
Two Early Missions to Britain and China (Bede, Ecclesiastical History of
England 1.23, 25; John of Monte Corvino, Letter from China).
Two Views on the Crusades (Pope Urban II Acts of God Through
Francis 1.382–384; Roger Niger, On a Military Matter).
East and West Formally Separate (Humbert of Silva Candida, Bull Excommunicating
Michael Cerularius; Michael Cerularius, Decree of Excommunication).
Women and Witchcraft (H. Kraemer and J. Sprenger, Hammer Against
Historical Criticism begins in the Italian Renaissance (Lorenzo Valla,
Theological Calumnies).
The Organization of Monastic Communities (The Benedictine Rule 22,
33, 38, 58).
The Iconoclastic Controversy (John of Damascus, On Holy Images 4.16;
Decree of the Council of 754; Decree of the Seventh Ecumenical
Council [787]).
Mandatory Celibacy of Roman Catholic Clergy (Body of Canon Law 81.15).
Devotion to the Virgin Mary (Caesar of Heisterbach, Dialogues on Miracles 7.34;
Akathistos Hymn, Hail Mary and Angelus Prayers).
The Jesus Prayer (Symeon the New Theologian, Method of Holy Prayer
and Attention).
The Late Medieval View of Death ("Day of Wrath" Hymn).
The First Eucharistic Debate (Paschasius Radbertus, Christ’s Body and Blood 1, 3, 4;
Ratramnus, Christ’s Body and Blood 5–11, 49).
Two Views on Proving the Existence of God (Anselm, Preface 2–3; Gaunilo,
Response to Anselm 6).
The Relationship of Faith and Reason (Thomas Aquinas, Summa
Theologica 1a.1.1).
Theories of the Atonement (Anselm, Why God Became Human 1.25; Abelard,
Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans 3).
Mystical Views of Christ (Hildegard of Bingen, Visions 2; Catherine of Siena,
Dialogue 26–28, Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love 58).
The High-Point of Renaissance Humanism (Giovanni Pico della Mirandola,
Oration on the Dignity of Man).
Christians and the Natural World (Francis of Assisi, The Song of Brother Sun).
The Discipline of the Inner Life (Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation
of Christ 2.1).
Byzantine Views of Church and Empire (Justinian, The New Laws, Title 6: Sixth
New Constitution, Preface of the First Collection).
Christianity and Islam in Conflict (Qur’an 2:105–115; Aquinas, Summa
Against the Pagans 1.2.3; 1.6.4).
The Peace of God and the Truce of God (Declaration of the Synod Charroux;
Declaration of Drogo, Bishop of Terouanne).
The Investiture Controversy (Henry IV, Letter to Pope Gregory VII,
Letter to Henry).
Questions for Study and Discussion .
Suggestions for Further Reading .
Terminology for This Period.
Historical Sketch.
Literary Genres of the Primary Sources.
A Critique of the Church’s Ills (Desiderius Erasmus, The Praise of Folly).
Sermon for the Sale of Indulgences (Johann Tetzel, Specimen Sermon 2).
Luther’s Protest Against Indulgences (Martin Luther, Ninety-Five Theses).
Luther Defies Charges of Heresy (Martin Luther, Speech before the
Diet of Worms).
Two Views on the Peasants’ Revolt (Thomas Müntzer, Vindication and Refutation;
Twelve Articles of the Peasants; Martin Luther, Against the Murdering
and Pillaging Peasants).
The King of England Becomes Head of the Anglican Church (English Parliament,
Supremacy Act) .
Two Views of the Execution of Michael Servetus (David Joris, Letter
to Servetus’s Judges; Court of Geneva, Verdict and Sentence for Michael
Servetus) .
Elizabeth I Enforces the "Middle Way" (English Parliament, Act Against
Religious Liberty Gained and Lost in France (Henry IV, Edict of Nantes; Louis XIV,
Revocation of the Edict of Nantes).
Jesuit Missions in Asia (Francis Xavier, Letter to the Society at Rome).
Luther Reforms the Mass (Martin Luther, The German Mass and Order
of Divine Service, 3).
Broadsheet Attack on Monasticism (Hans Sebald Beham, Allegory of
the Monastic Orders).
Reestablishment of the Roman Inquisition (Pope Paul III, It Is Allowed from
the Beginning [Licet ab initio] Introduction, 1–3, 13).
Establishment and Rules of the Jesuit Order (Pope Paul III, Rules of the Church
Militant [Regimini militantis ecclesiae] 1–16).
Jesuit Rules for Thinking with the Church (Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual
The Council of Trent Reforms the Mass (Canon of the Order for
Low Mass) .
Breaking Down the Barriers to Reform (Martin Luther, An Appeal to
the Ruling Class).
Two Views on Justification, Protestant and Catholic (Martin Luther, Preface to
Romans; Council of Trent, Decree on Justification).
A Summary of Zwinglian Belief (The Ten Berne Theses).
The First Anabaptist Confession (The Schleitheim Confession).
The Voices of Protestant Women (Argula von Grumbach, Letter to the University
of Ingolstadt; Lady Jane Grey, A Certain Communication).
Calvin on Predestination (John Calvin, Institutes 3.21.1–2, 7).
The Creed of Trent (Profession of Tridentine Faith).
Teresa’s Reform Mysticism (Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle 1.1–15).
Christian Freedom (Martin Luther, Treatise on Christian Liberty).
Luther and Calvin on the Role of Women in the Church (Martin Luther,
The Misuse of the Mass; John Calvin, Institutes 4.10.28–31).
Calvin on the Calling of All Christians (John Calvin, Institutes 3.10).
An Early Appeal for Religious Toleration (Balthasar Hubmaier, On Heretics
and Those Who Burn Them).
Ignatius Loyola on Combating Protestants (Ignatius, Letter of August 13, 1554).
Truce between Protestants and Catholics (The Peace of Augsburg).
Reformed and Anglican Views of Church and State (John Calvin,
Institutes 4.20.1–3, 31–32; Richard Hooker, Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity).
Questions for Study and Discussion.
Suggestions for Further Reading.

Terminology for This Period.
Historical Sketch.
Literary Genres of the Primary Sources.
The Rise of Puritanism (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life).
Reaction to Witchcraft Trials (Cotton Mather, Tests for Witches).
The Religious Experience of Jonathan Edwards (Jonathan Edwards, Personal Narrative).
The Origins of Pietism (Philip Spener, Pious Considerations).
The Conversion of John Wesley (John Wesley’s Journal, May 24, 1738).
The Birth of Quakerism (George Fox, Journal).
Beginnings of the Protestant Missionary Movement (William Carey,
An Inquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen).
The Founding of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (Richard Allen,
Life Experience and Gospel Labors of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen).
The Birth of Mormon Christianity (H. Roberts, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
Phoebe Palmer and the Beginnings of the Holiness Movement (Phoebe Palmer, Entire Devotion to God, Introduction).
Institution .
Rules for the Methodist Societies (Doctrines and Disciplines of the Methodist Church).
Papal Infallibility Decreed (Dogmatic Decree of the Vatican Council).
Russian Orthodoxy among Native Americans ("Description of Orthodoxy
in America").
The World’s Most Famous "Fire and Brimstone" Sermon (Jonathan Edwards,
"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God").
The Immaculate Conception of Mary (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus).
The High-Water Mark of Protestant Liberalism (F. Schleiermacher, On Religion:
Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers; Adolf von Harnack, What Is Christianity?).
Attack on Dead Orthodoxy (Søren Kierkegaard, "The Christianity of the New
Testament, the Christianity of ‘Christendom’").
The Oxford Movement and Doctrinal Development (John Henry Newman,
An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine).
The Struggle over Slavery (Bishop John England, On the Subject of Domestic
Slavery; Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by
Herself ).
The Birth of the Feminist Movement (Sarah Grimké, Letters on the Equality of the
Sexes and the Condition of Woman; Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Introduction to
The Woman’s Bible).
Roman Catholicism on Social Change (Pope Leo XIII, On the Conditions of Labor).
William Penn and Liberty of Conscience ("A Persuasive to Moderation to[ward] Church Dissenters").
Christianity Encounters Enlightenment Reason (John Locke, The Reasonableness
of Christianity; Matthew Tindale, Christianity as Old as Creation).
American Anti-Catholicism (Maria Monk, The Awful Disclosures).
The Roman Catholic Church Confronts Secular Thought (Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors).
The Debate over Evolution (Charles Hodge, What Is Darwinism?; Lyman Abbott, Reminiscences).
Glossary .
Questions for Study and Discussion.
Suggestions for Further Reading.
Terminology for This Period.
Historical Sketch.
Literary Genres of the Primary Sources.
The Height of Protestant Missions (Robert E. Speer, The New Opportunity of the Church).
The Birth of Pentecostalism (History and Formative Years of the Church of God in Christ).
Karl Barth and the Barmen Declaration’s Resistance to Nazi Rule (The Barmen Declaration).
Christians Struggle for Civil Rights (Martin Luther King Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail").
The Strengthening of Women’s Liberation in Christianity (Mary Daly, "The Women’s Movement: An Exodus Community").
The Global Implications of the End of Apartheid in South Africa (H. Jurgen Hendriks, "The Religious Landscape in Post-Apartheid South Africa").
A Second Vatican Council Sampler (Declaration on Religious Liberty 2;
Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions 1–3;
Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World).
The Sex-Abuse Crisis in the Churches (David Gibson, "10 Years after Catholic Sex
Abuse Reforms, What’s Changed?").
Rise of Biblical Criticism (Albert Schweizer, The Quest for the Historical Jesus) 286
Two Views on Fundamentalism and Modernism (J. Gresham Machen,
"What Fundamentalism Stands for Now"; Shailer Matthews, The Faith
of Modernism).
Faith as Ultimate Concern (Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology).
Rethinking the Relationship between God and the World (Sallie McFague,
The World as God’s Body).
Eastern Orthodoxy as Expressed in its Eucharist (A. Schmemann, The World as
The Theology of Liberation in South America (Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation).
The Ongoing Task of Racial Reconciliation in the Church (Uniting Reformed
Church of Southern Africa, Belhar Confession).
The Social Gospel (Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianity and the Social Crisis).
"Cheap Grace" and the Christian Life (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of
Two Roman Catholic Views on Artificial Contraception (Pope Paul VI,
On Human Life [Humanae Vitae]; Theologians of the Catholic University of
America, "Response to Humanae Vitae").
Two Views on Christianity and the Natural Environment (Lynn White Jr.,
"The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis;" Willis Jenkins, "After Lynn
White: Religious Ethics and Environmental Problems").
Two Views on Same-Sex Relationships (Daniel Saperstein, "Marriage Equality in
the PC(USA)"; Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic
Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons).
Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism Move Closer (Pope John Paul II and Patriarch
Demetrios I, "Joint Statement").
Two Views on Christianity and Religious Pluralism (John Hick’s God Has Many
Names; Clark H. Pinnock, A Wideness in God’s Mercy).
Martyrdom in Guatemala (Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala,
Guatemala: Never Again!).
Lutheran-Catholic Agreement on Justification (The Vatican and the Lutheran
World Federation, "Joint Declaration on Justification").
Appendix: A Look into World Christianity’s Possible Future (Joel Carpenter,
"Christianity in the New Millenium").
Questions for Study and Discussion.
Suggestions for Further Reading.

What's New

  • The vignettes that open each chapter have been updated, and new ones added, to assure that they are fully contemporary and engaging.
  • New readings emphasize popular religion, the role of women, and Christianity in the developing world. This edition also includes more material on the Christian encounter with Islam.
  • Many readings have been paired with readings of opposing viewpoints to facilitate and encourage students' development of critical thinking skills.
  • A number of enhancements make the book more appealing to today's generation of college students. These include a more accessible writing style, an increased number of glossary terms, and new photos to assist students in visualizing people and events. In addition, the number of footnotes that explain key or difficult points in the readings has been significantly increased.
  • All scholarship is updated throughout the text.

Meet the Author

Author Bio

Robert E. Van Voorst

Dr. Robert E. Van Voorst is Professor of New Testament Studies at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, and former professor of religion at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where he was named Teacher of the Year in 1995. He has served as a visiting professor in Oxford University and Zhejiang University in China. Van Voorst has written frequently on religious studies in noted journals and reference works. In addition, he has authored numerous books, including six with Cengage Learning: RELG: WORLD, 3rd Edition; READINGS IN CHRISTIANITY, 3rd Edition; ANTHOLOGY OF WORLD SCRIPTURES, 9th Edition; ANTHOLOGY OF WORLD SCRIPTURES: EASTERN RELIGIONS; ANTHOLOGY OF WORLD SCRIPTURES: WESTERN RELIGIONS; and READING THE NEW TESTAMENT TODAY, now also in a Chinese version. Other books by Van Voorst include BUILDING YOUR NEW TESTAMENT GREEK VOCABULARY, 3rd Edition; THE ASCENTS OF JAMES, a recovery and commentary on a second-century Jewish-Christian document; and JESUS OUTSIDE THE NEW TESTAMENT, an examination of traditions about Jesus in ancient classical and Jewish documents, now also in Italian.