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By publishing my Lectures on Church History
("Grundzüge der Kirchengeschichte "), which I first
dehvered once a week as a pubUc course for members
of all faculties in the winter 1896-97, and afterwards,
in approximately their present enlarged form, on many
occasions, to theologians twice a week, I hope that
I am meeting a more general demand, particularly
among theologians. The need of an historical educa-
tion for all who would take part in the organising of
the Church hardly needs, in these days, to be pointed
out. And yet how many succumb to the task of
working their way through a forest of facts and
problems ; how often is disgust the only result, in the
case even of gifted students and clergymen ! Non-
theologians easily underestimate the magnitude of the
work required of theologians alone in the field of
Church History, when they have not only to survey
a development of two millenniums and of a rich and
delicate ramification extending into every sphere of
thought and life, but also to penetrate it and submit
it to their criticism. In my essay on " The Present
Conception and Treatment of Church History," to
which I may refer for my own standpoint, I have

-I •} .1 <4-^ -'S t-



spoken (pp. 2 ff. ) at greater length of the difficulties and
tasks of the present situation. Neander lectured on
"sciography." How far since then our young students
have been provided with a similar help is not within
my knowledge, but experience has taught me that
they are uncommonly grateful for a concise summary
of the whole material, aiming at giving the essential
facts, and for a guide to the red threads in the too varie-
gated web of history. To the wish, often expressed
in this quarter, that the Lectures might appear in
print, was joined that of my publisher (Dr Siebeck),
who felt himself less able to dispense with a readable
review of the whole material, because his two larger
undertakings involved in the " Outlines " (the Grund-
riss of Karl Müller of Tübingen) and the " Handbook "
{Lehrbuch, by the present writer) naturally make slow
progress. To these considerations was added, next,
a very gratifying experience which I had when, on the
occasion of the third vacation course at Kiel University
in 1901, I put the material, condensed into twelve
lectures, before a large audience of teachers. The
interest shown in the subject and the desire for pub-
lication were so keen that I may be allowed to think
that in printing the Lectures a still wider circle of
teachers will be benefited. Finally, the hope was
present that I might also find readers amongst those
educated laymen who, though not obliged profession-
ally to devote attention to what is in part tough matter,
would be glad to be brought to realise in a brief way
how the course of development in the Church, the


history of the Gospel, presents itself to a representa-
tive of the science, acquainted with the present position
of research. In view of this, I have revised the whole.


Kiel, September 1903.

In the present edition, which is the third, I have
not introduced any far-reaching changes. Neverthe-
less, apart from improvements in form, I have in many
places made slight corrections in the matter, and in
my concluding sketch (Ch. XVI.) I have noted, at
least, the most important of new movements. I hold
fast to the " optimism " of the general verdict, in
spite of the seriousness of the present situation.

H. V. S.

Kiel, June 1906.



I. The Preconditions ...... 1

II. Early Christianity ...... 22

III. Rise of the Catholic Church .... 42

IV. Christianity and the Roman State ... 70

V. Faith, Theology, and Dogma .... 88

VI. Morali'i-y, Discipline, and Monasticism . . 106

VII. Worship ; Cultus-Religion ; the Mass . . 124

VIII. Altered State of the World; Byzantium and

THE West ....... 139

IX. Rise of the Roman Monarchy in the Church

OF THE West . . . . . • .158
X. The Germanic Territorial (National, Imperial)

Churches ........ 1*72

XI. Imperium and Sacerdotium from Charles the

Great to Innocent III. . . . . .187

XII. Spiritual Life in the Church of the Middle

Age 204

XIII. The Disruption of the Roman Catholic Church

AND Dawn of a New Age .... 227



XIV. End of the Union of the Churches of the
West, and the Formation of Confession-
Churches, AS A Result of Reformation and
Co unter- Reformation ..... 246

XV. Victorious Progress of Protestant Subjectivism.

Pietism and Enlightenment .... 274

XVI. Religious and Ecclesiastical Regeneration, and
the Struggle of Opposing Tendencies in
Recent Times ....... 307

Supplementary Chapter on Religious Thought and
Life in England during the Nineteenth
Century . . . . . . . . 348

Index of Names ........ 377

Index of Subjects ....... 383





Paul's account of the origin of Christianity is
that "the time was fulfilled" (Gal. iv. 4). The
passage is a locus classicus in which the truth is
emphasized that a religious view, which is con-
cerned with divine purposes, does not exclude the
historical standpoint from which events are investi-
gated as regards their causes and conditions. Indeed,
we cannot properly appreciate the wisdom of God's
guidance until we realize in how many ways the
gospel formed a link in a chain, to what an extent
the growth of a universal religion had been prepared
by the conditions of the age. When we do realize
this, we marvel at the way in which God so regulates
men and things that the right event takes place at
the right moment.

The humble birthplace of the " Son of Man," as
Jesus called Himself, was situated in a remote and
despised part of that empire which claimed to be
" the inhabited earth " and to include all mankind.
Nor was the claim as extravagant as it appears to



be, for in the days when Christianity was still in
its apostolic age, in the century from Augustus to
Trajan and Hadrian, the sway of Rome had extended
to its widest limits. The Mediterranean kingdom
encroached upon the wild and dark regions of the
north and the interior of Europe, mto the deserts of
Africa where dwelt men, if men they could be called,
with no heads and whose eyes were in their breast
(cp. the stories of Pomponius ^Mela) ; and far away to
the seats of the oldest civilization on the Tigris and
Euphrates, the w^onderland of the East gradually
revealed itself. Even India, that hot, enervating
country whose name still possessed a magic charm,
was ready to send its treasures on camels' backs,
over hills and deserts, to the pampered lords of the
world, who were ever ready to w^elcome an}i:hing
new. Peace reigned everywhere save where an
Iranian people, the warlike Parthian mountaineers,
troubled the frontier. These, however, like the
Germanic inhabitants of the north, were held in
check by a strong force of soldiers.

The Macedonian Empire, which had itself sup-
planted the older empires and had produced a Hellen-
ism of a Greek and Oriental blend, had now^ itself been
swallowed up and incorporated in the Roman w^orld.
Thus we speak of the Grsco-Roman Empire. Not
quite correctly, however, since the political union was
formed by the fusion of three main types — the Roman,
the Greek, and tlie Oriental, of which the Greek
and Roman were the more closely related by nature,
though the Greek and Oriental had already formed a
close union.

To preserve this union something more was needed,


and, first, a unified system of communications. We
still admire the straight, paved Roman roads in the
Alps or in the countrysides of France. It needed,
secondly, a union in the army which marched along
these roads to bind an iron girdle ever more firmly
round the empire. An old legend even tells us that
the centurion who stood by the cross of Jesus was a
German ; and in the encampments on the banks of
the Rhine it was not unusual to hear Syriac spoken.
It entailed, thirdly, a union of official language. It
will be remembered that the inscription on the cross
at Golgotha was in Latin as well as in Greek and
Hebrew. And wherever Roman government and
commerce spread, Roman law, which has always
been Rome's pride, went with them. Intellectual
union was bound to make rapid progress. The
Greek nature, being intermediate between the Roman-
Occidental and the Oriental, related by blood to the
one, newly wedded to the other, provided a natural
medium for a union of culture. The products of
the Greeks' wonderful intellect, their philosophy,
mythology, art and language, had become the com-
mon inheritance of mankind. The Greek language
was predominant in the Christian Church at Rome
down to the beginning of the third century.

The whole of this vast empire was at rest after
the storms of a century of revolution, which in fact
lasted from the time of the Gracchi to the days of
Cffisar and Octavian, secure in the hands of the
Imperium itself which, sprung as it was from the
army, by treating with \\dse consideration the old
forms dear to citizens of a republic, had fully adapted
itself to the needs of the age. The home in which


the human race might dwell in peace seemed to be
prepared and ready.

And yet it would be misleading to lay too great
stress on the idea of unity and uni versah sm. For
notwithstanding what we have said, the empire was as
far still from being anything more than a mingling of
peoples as the Danubian State of Austria- Hungary
is from representing an ethnographical union — that
is, it was a really united state only in a geographi-
cal sense. A traveller in Rome would not only be
overwhelmed with the impression of complete and
general unity ; he would be equally conscious that he
had before him in the eternal city something re-
sembhng a " cosmopolitan hotel," as one has described
it, or, as another has put it, a motley " epitome of the
whole world " ; nor must we forget, if we would rightly
understand the history of the ancient Church, that the
Roman-Occidental and Grseco- Oriental minds never
ceased to be different, and that, however many the
crossings and assimilations may have been, certain
types were perpetuated within the two great divisions.
There wer^ three main types in East and West alike :
in the West, the Italian, the Celtic, which extended
over Gaul, Spain, and Britain, and the North African
Punic-Numidian ; in the East, the Greek, Syrian,
and Egyptian.

Nor is the political union of the empire to be under-
stood as a mere levelling process. To be a Roman
citizen and to be a subject of the empire did not
mean the same thing until the days of the Emperor
Caracalla (212). For administrative purposes the
empire was for centuries a very complicated organ-
ism, in which there were a number of degrees of


dependence or independence. It took a long time for
Rome, as a city state, with its sovereign popular
assembly the Comitia, and the whole system of asso-
ciated communities, " allies," " friends " {??iunicipia,
foeder'ati, socii, amici), to develop a uniform despotism
such as the Orient was familiar with. Even when
it became necessary, as it did at first, for the
emperor to share with the holy city, u?^bs Roma,
the worship of the world, even then the populus
Roma7ius, on through the Middle Ages, and after
it had long ceased to be anything more than
the populace of Rome, never forgot that originally
it had been called to rule the world and to make

The diversity of interests by which the several
portions of the empire — provinces and districts, town
and country, cosmopolitan capital and barbaric
hinterland— were actuated, and the consideration with
which these special interests were met, explain so
much that seems strange in the history of the perse-
cutions, controversies, and constitution of the early
— nay, the earliest — Church. In general, down to
the time of the emperor Constantine, when the
hand of a single ruler seized the helm of church
and state alike, one of the chief dangers that beset
the student is that of hasty generalizations. Even
afterwards a number of disintegrating tendencies
lived on, which ultimately, in new and more favour-
able circumstances, proved victorious.

The Roman empire is thus politically a skilful
compromise between the forces that made for unity
and diversity. And if we inquire what was the state
of religion when Christianity presented itself to the


motley throng included in the empire, we are met by
the same contrast— an inevitable one, because it was
in a very real sense as much a political as a religious
question. What do we find, then, as regards
religion i We find a struggle between polytheistic
and monotheistic tendencies.

In the ancient world Religion and State could not
be separated. It is the duty of the citizen to worship
the gods who protect the sacred hearth of the state.
Polytheism is an inseparable feature of the political
and national character of this religion : one state, one
group of cults. When several states became one, the
gods were added, and in part blended ; whenever the
Romans gained a victory, the Roman state took into
its wide fold the deities of the conquered people, as
well as the people itself, thus of its own accord pro-
ducing an official syncretism or mingling of religions.
It combined the kindred cults of Greece with its
own, and freely admitted even the Oriental religions
into the capital itself. The result was a great
increase in the crowd of gods ; but at the same time
the opposite movement towards unity and centraliza-
tion in the cultus, as in other matters, was equally
natural and inevitable, since wherever the state
extended its rule it compelled people to recognize its
own victorious gods.

\Vherever Rome's legions carried the Roman eagle,
Jupiter Capitolinus, the father of the gods, whom it
represented, to whom Hadrian erected a temple on
the site of the Jewish sanctuary, and after whom he
called the city of David ^Elia Capitolina, went with
it. But the empire had, in addition, a new religion
of its own in the worship of the genius of the


emperor, who together with Dea Roma represented
the glory and perfection of a unified state. This
shows clearly the desire to set one of the many gods
of the nations above the rest as the one new god for
all, and to make monotheism the ideal instead of
polytheism, though it is equally evident that for the
first time such ideas were associated entirely with
politics and the present life ; people were commanded
to worship the state in the person of its highest

The universal state whose ultimate aim was to
embrace all peoples and give to all individuals the
same ruler naturally needed a religion which would
appeal to the human race collectively and individually ;
in other words, it had a natural craving for Christianity.
In the end the cult of the emperor in Rome was
really to give place to the worship of the King in
heaven, but this could not happen until men's views
of religion in every class of society had been revolu-
tionized, and what Paul says about the time being
fulfilled can be held to be true especially in this

To say that the pagan religions had fallen to
pieces is not true. It is a popular delusion to sup-
pose that when Christianity came the pagan peoples
had lost their piety, and that henceforth the world,
which had been consumed by doubts and was
strugghng with Pilate's question, presented, as it
were, a blank page which was waiting to be inscribed
with the glad tidings. If the shipwrecked sailor is
to be saved, he must at least have enough strength
to hold a rope when it is thrown to him. No;
there is far more that calls for explanation than


is commonly supposed. The problem with which we
are concerned, that of the origin of the Catholic
Church, can never be solved unless we take careful
note of certain very active and positive forces. When
we dealt with the political side of the rehgious
question, we found a current running to meet
Christianity, but also another running in an opposite
direction. We find a similar state of things when
we come to ask what ideas men in general had
of religion.

The converging currents were very powerful. This

is one of the most important and certain of our new

discoveries. There are some striking examples.

Christians felt Seneca, Nero's tutor, to be so like a

Christian that they invented a correspondence between

him and Paul ; and Jerome included him amongst

Christian writers. Epictetus, at the end of the first

century, surprises us with the maxim : " If you wish

to be good, be assured first that you are bad."

Plutarch (t a. 125) declared that of all men atheists are

the most unhappy. To say that ancient philosophy

ended in scepticism and Epicureanism, that is to say,

in materialism and infidelity, is not the whole truth ;

it is to ignore the Stoa, Plato, and Pythagoras. But

the time of great systems is indeed past. The ruling

Roman nation is not speculative, it is practical ; and

philosophy, overpowered by this practical spirit of the

West, becomes itself practical and so religious. The

Greeks introduced a new and flourishing era of

" Sophistry," in which philosophy and rhetoric were

united, but it was essentially of a formal nature. But

this process of mingling different systems produces

an average philosophy which in nobler minds is


thoroughly idealistic, and in the noblest minds quite
religious. As often happens, the critical trend of
philosophical scepticism actually comes to minister
to religious needs. In the first and second centuries
we already witness the rise of a philosophy of revela-
tion which in the third century was known as Neo-
platonism. and which represents the idealism in which
the philosophical development of the ancient world
culminated. The popular philosophy of the educated
classes and their leaders undoubtedly exhibits a
leaning to monotheism and a decided fondness for
moralizing. There is absolutely nothing political or
national about it ; it is individualistic, and appeals to
the common sense of people in general. Is not this
a current flowing towards Christianity ?

At a later date pagans themselves were supposed
to furnish prophecies of Christ, proofs of the universal
application of Christianity, rational grounds, a natural
theology as a foundation of the revealed.

Indeed, there was so much life left in pagan religion
that where currents of this kind did not merge into
Christianity, rivals might arise of such force and
significance as Neoplatonism, which in Porphyry, the
pupil of its master, Plotinus (t 269), became at a
critical period the most dangerous foe to Christians.

When we turn from the philosophers, the men of
culture, to the uncultured class, we find a similar
state of things in the sphere of the life of the
soul. Here, again, there seems at first to be
unhealthy disquiet and demorahzation, a hurried and
eager search for new cults — and nothing more.
People have lost faith in the old forms of religion,
and here, too, the refining process has entered.



But there is another side to the picture. In the
first place, it is surely quite clear that this eager
search for something new shows that religious needs
have not ceased to exist, but are seeking satisfaction
in new forms. They are really more pressing than
ever. The countries of the West are captivated by
the ancient cults that come to them from the fairy-
land of the gorgeous East, and are powerless to
resist the religions of light which bring from the real
Orient such grand and fantastic myths about the
origin of worlds and gods. This is not to be con-
sidered mere retrogression in comparison vvdth the
sober ceremonial piety of the Romans. In particular,
the rites in the worship of the mysteries, current
among Hellenes, intermingled as they were with
Oriental elements, cults relating entirely to another
world, gain fresh strength ; the problem of the soul
and its continued existence, the question of the
future reward or punishment of individuals, begin
to receive more and more attention.

And, in the second place, when cults mingle, as
these have done, higher and purer forms may be
evolved. One example will suffice — the Mithras
cult. Pompey already found it in Cilicia, on its
way to the ^Vest. It owes its importance to the
fact that it combined the Greek belief in immor-
tality with the Persian doctrine of Light. The
Hellene's hope of another life, which was no more
than a shadowy existence in Hades, is lifted to
heaven and associated with the sun and life in Light.
The magian ApoUonius of Tyana, who lived through
the whole of the apostolic age, evidently cherished
the idea of a reform of pagan cultus. Subsequently,


at the beginning of the third century, he is given the
character of a pagan Messiah, and it is a matter of
dispute whether, as Baur and Zeller think, he was
meant to be a direct counterpart of Christ, or whether
the Ukeness was developed quite unconsciously.
Most modern scholars, including the present writer,
consider that the latter view has been shown to be
correct. And if this be so, we have another remark-
able instance of converging currents. However
uncertain may be the extent to which the ideal
figure of Apollonius is based upon historical facts,
there is evidence enough to prove that he suggested
extensive and practical reforms in pagan cultus
under the Julian and Flavian emperors. He was a
Neopythagorean : in order to become really and truly
practical, philosophy nmst descend from its throne
and enter into the religious life of the people. Purer
thinking was promoted when to "syncretism" was
added the elevating and saving thought that all the
different forms of cultus are simply radiations of the
single Deity who dwells above the stars, the one
Ineffable. Even Augustus brought many of the
gods under one vaulted roof in the Pantheon at
Rome. In this way philosophy is infused into the
religion of the masses, and serves to refine it, to
strengthen the tendency towards monotheism and
the feeling for morality, purity, and godly life,
and to promote at the same time individualism in

This means not merely a mingling and adjustment
of philosophies, and even of religions ; it means also
a reconciliation, a union of philosophy with religion.
The cult of the Mysteries, in which higher knowledge.


Gnosis, is gradually revealed to those who have been
solemnly initiated, in proportion to their moral pro-
gress, revealed, not in cold maxims of doctrine, but
in a glimpse from this life into the world of rewards
and punishments beyond, so vivid that in feeling and
imagination the worshipper is there already — a
community of believers and yet withal a school of
those who know — this on the one side, and philosophy
on the other, both struggling towards one another :
philosophy which, by having grown practical and
craving a revelation, helps to promote the cause of
religion and converts the school of worldly wisdom
into a community of worshippers of God ! Did not
both of them at the same time struggle towards
Christianity ? Surely this was a way in which the
time was fulfilled ! And yet Christianity would
seem — would it not ? — to have been exposed to the
danger, which was well-nigh unavoidable, of being
drawn into this great reconciliation, so as to become

Online LibraryHans von SchubertOutlines of church history → online text (page 1 of 33)