Neander’s Services As A Church Historians -- By: H. B. Smith

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 008:32 (Oct 1851)
Article: Neander’s Services As A Church Historians
Author: H. B. Smith


Neander’s Services As A Church Historians1

Prof. H. B. Smith

[The following Article was originally delivered by Dr. Hagenbach as an Academical Address before the University of Basle, apparently at the opening of his course of lectures, Nov. 4, 1850. It speaks of Neander exclusively as a Church Historian. The author is amply qualified to do this by his own proficiency in the department, as shown in his lectures on the Reformation, and on the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. His name was also prominent as a successor to the chair of Neander. In the translation the introductory paragraph was omitted. He then states that in order to get a clear view of Neander’s services it is necessary to give a somewhat long sketch of what his predecessors, especially the German church historians, had accomplished. Long as this sketch is, comprising rather more than half of the Article, it is written with so much animation that it can hardly fail to be of interest to any who take an interest in Church History, or in Neander as a Church Historian.]

Church History, like all history, has come to be a science only by a gradual growth. The collection of the materials preceded the sifting of them; and this sifting again in all its separate parts went before the organic combination into a whole, and the spiritual mastery and artistic shaping of the masses of materials. Three centuries of the Christian era had already run their course when Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, was called to write the first Christian Church History, not only by his external position at the court of Constantine the Great,

but also, with all his failings, by an inward fitness for the work. He made use of Flavius Josephus, for he took a large part of the Jewish history into his plan; he also used the History of Hegesippus, a Jewish Christian, which is now lost. The other Greek historians, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, Philostorgius the Arian, together with Theodorus and Evagrius wrote continuations of the work of Eusebius. This whole Hellenistic group of church historians gives us, from the nature of the case, an insight into the still continuing struggle of Christianity with Judaism and Heathenism. As the whole theology of the first centuries was of a preponderating apologetical character, so was it with their ecclesiastical histories. We may call them partizan — they must be so. It was necessary to bring into full consciousness the antagonism between the old and the new order of things, between what the world had till then considered sacred and what was now to be received as the salvation of the world. What wonder, then, that the glow of the persecutions just undergone casts its reflection upon the hi...

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