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Ein theologisches Buch erhælt erst dadurch einen Platz in der Weltlitteratur, dass es Deutsch und Englisch gelesen werden kann. Diese beiden Sprachen zusammen haben auf dem Gebiete der Wissenschaft vom Christenthum das Lateinische abgelöst. Es ist mir daher eine grosse Freude, dass mein Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte in das Englische übersetzt worden ist, und ich sage dem Uebersetzer sowie den Verlegern meinen besten Dank.

Der schwierigste Theil der Dogmengeschichte ist ihr Anfang, nicht nur weil in dem Anfang die Keime fur alle späteren Entwickelungen liegen, und daher ein Beobachtungsfehler beim Beginn die Richtigkeit der ganzen folgenden Darstellung bedroht, sondern auch desshalb, weil die Auswahl des wichtigsten Stoffs aus der Geschichte des Urchristenthums und der biblischen Theologie ein schweres Problem ist. Der Eine wird finden, dass ich zu viel in das Buch aufgenommen habe, und der Andere zu wenig—vielleicht haben Beide recht; ich kann dagegen nur anführen, dass sich mir die getroffene Auswahl nach wiederholtem Nachdenken und Experimentiren auf’s Neue erprobt hat.

Wer ein theologisches Buch aufschlagt, fragt gewöhnlich zuerst nach dem “Standpunkt” des Verfassers. Bei geschichtlichen Darstellungen sollte man so nicht fragen. Hier handelt es sich darum, ob der Verfasser einen Sinn hat für den Gegenstand den er darstellt, ob er Originales und Abgeleitetes zu viunterscheiden versteht, ob er seinen Stoff volkommen kennt, ob er sich der Grenzen des geschichtlichen Wissens bewusst ist, und ob er wahrhaftig ist. Diese Forderungen erhalten den kategorischen Imperativ für den Historiker; aber nur indem man rastlos an sich selber arbeitet, sind sie zu erfüllen,—so ist jede geschichtliche Darstellung eine ethische Aufgabe. Der Historiker treu sein: ob er das gewesen ist, darnach soll mann fragen.

Berlin, am 1. Mai, 1894.




No theological book can obtain a place in the literature of the world unless it can be read both in German and in English. These two languages combined have taken the place of Latin in the sphere of Christian Science. I am therefore greatly pleased to learn that my “History of Dogma” has been translated into English, and I offer my warmest thanks both to the translator and to the publishers.

The most difficult part of the history of dogma is the beginning, not only because it contains the germs of all later developments, and therefore an error in observation here endangers the correctness of the whole following account, but also because the selection of the most important material from the history of primitive Christianity and biblical theology is a hard problem. Some will think that I have admitted too much into the book, others too little. Perhaps both are right. I can only reply that after repeated consideration and experiment I continue to be satisfied with my selection.

In taking up a theological book we are in the habit of enquiring first of all as to the “stand-point” of the Author. In a historical work there is no room for such enquiry. The question here is, whether the Author is in sympathy with the subject about which he writes, whether he can distinguish original elements from those that are derived, whether he has a thorough acquaintance with his material, whether he is conscious viiiof the limits of historical knowledge, and whether he is truthful. These requirements constitute the categorical imperative for the historian: but they can only be fulfilled by an unwearied self-discipline. Hence every historical study is an ethical task. The historian ought to be faithful in every sense of the word ; whether he has been so or not is the question on which his readers have to decide.

Berlin, 1st May, 1894.




The task of describing the genesis of ecclesiastical dogma which I have attempted to perform in the following pages, has hitherto been proposed by very few scholars, and, properly speaking, undertaken by one only. I must therefore crave the indulgence of those acquainted with the subject for an attempt which no future historian of dogma can avoid.

At first I meant to confine myself to narrower limits, but I was unable to carry out that intention, because the new arrangement of the material required a more detailed justification. Yet no one will find in the book, which presupposes the knowledge of Church history so far as it is given in the ordinary manuals, any repertory of the theological thought of Christian antiquity. The diversity of Christian ideas, or of ideas closely related to Christianity, was very great in the first centuries. For that very reason a selection was necessary; but it was required, above all, by the aim of the work. The history of dogma has to give an account only of those doctrines of Christian writers which were authoritative in wide circles, or which furthered the advance of the development; otherwise it would become a collection of monographs, and thereby lose its proper value. I have endeavoured to subordinate everything to the aim of exhibiting the development which led to the ecclesiastical dogmas, and therefore have neither, for example, communicated the details of the gnostic systems, nor brought xforward in detail the theological ideas of Clemens Romanus, Ignatius, etc. Even a history of Paulinism will be sought for in the book in vain. It is a task by itself, to trace the after-effects of the theology of Paul in the post-Apostolic age. The History of Dogma can only furnish fragments here; for it is not consistent with its task to give an accurate account of the history of a theology the effects of which were at first very limited. It is certainly no easy matter to determine what was authoritative in wide circles at the time when dogma was first being developed, and I may confess that I have found the working out of the third chapter of the first book very difficult. But I hope that the severe limitation in the material will be of service to the subject. If the result of this limitation should be to lead students to read connectedly the manual which has grown out of my lectures, my highest wish will be gratified.

There can be no great objection to the appearance of a text-book on the history of dogma at the present time. We now know in what direction we have to work; but we still want a history of Christian theological ideas in their relation to contemporary philosophy. Above all, we have net got an exact knowledge of the Hellenistic philosophical terminologies in their development up to the fourth century. I have keenly felt this want, which can only be remedied by well-directed common labour. I have made a plentiful use of the controversial treatise of Celsus against Christianity, of which little use has hitherto been made for the history of dogma. On the other hand, except in a few cases, I have deemed it inadmissible to adduce parallel passages, easy to be got, from Philo, Seneca, Plutarch, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Porphyry, etc.; for only a comparison strictly carried out would have been of value here. I have been able neither to borrow such from others, nor to furnish it myself. Yet I have ventured to submit my work, because, in my opinion, it is possible to prove the dependence of dogma on the Greek spirit, without being compelled to enter into a discussion of all the details.

The Publishers of the Encyclopedia Brittannica have allowed me to print here, in a form but slightly altered, the articles xion Neoplatonism and Manichæism which I wrote for their work, and for this I beg to thank them.

It is now eighty-three years since my grandfather, Gustav Ewers, edited in German the excellent manual on the earliest history of dogma by Münter, and thereby got his name associated with the history of the founding of the new study. May the work of the grandson be found not unworthy of the clear and disciplined mind which presided over the beginnings of the young science.

Giessen, 1st August, 1885.



In the two years that have passed since the appearance of the first edition I have steadily kept in view the improvement of this work, and have endeavoured to learn from the reviews of it that have appeared. I owe most to the study of Weizsäcker’s work on the Apostolic Age, and his notice of the first edition of this volume in the Göttinger gelehrte Anzeigen, 1886, No. 21. The latter, in several decisive passages concerning the general conception, drew my attention to the fact that I had emphasised certain points too strongly, but had not given due prominence to others of equal importance, while not entirely overlooking them. I have convinced myself that these hints were, almost throughout, well founded, and have taken pains to meet them in the new edition. I have also learned from Heinrici’s commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, and from Bigg’s “Lectures on the Christian Platonists of Alexandria.” Apart from these works there has appeared very little that could be of significance for my historical account; but I have once more independently considered the main problems, and in some cases, after repeated reading of the sources, checked my statements, removed mistakes and explained what had been to briefly stated. Thus, in particular, Chapter II. §§©1-3 of the “Presuppositions,” also the Third Chapter of the First Book (especially Section 6), also in the Second Book, Chapter I. and Chapter II. (under B), the Third xiiiChapter (Supplement 3 and excursus on “Catholic and Romish”), the Fifth Chapter (under 1 and 3) and the Sixth Chapter (under 2) have been subjected to changes and greater additions. Finally, a new excursus has been added on the various modes of conceiving pre-existence, and in other respects many things have been improved in detail. The size of the book has thereby been increased by about fifty pages. As I have been misrepresented by some as one who knew not how to appreciate the uniqueness of the Gospel history and the evangelic faith, while others have conversely reproached me with making the history of dogma proceed from an “apostasy” from the Gospel to Hellenism, I have taken pains to state my opinions on both these points as clearly as possible. In doing so I have only wrought out the hints which were given in the first edition, and which, as I supposed, were sufficient for readers. But it is surely a reasonable desire when I request the critics in reading the paragraphs which treat of the “Presuppositions,” not to forget how difficult the questions there dealt with are, both in themselves and from the nature of the sources, and how exposed to criticism the historian is who attempts to unfold his position towards them in a few pages. As is self-evident, the centre of gravity of the book lies in that which forms its subject proper, in the account of the origin of dogma within the Græco-Roman empire. But one should not on that account, as many have done, pass over the beginning which lies before the beginning, or arbitrarily adopt a starting-point of his own; for everything here depends on where and how one begins. I have not therefore been able to follow the well-meant counsel to simply strike out the “Presuppositions.”

I would gladly have responded to another advice to work up the notes into the text; but I would then have been compelled to double the size of some chapters. The form of this book, in many respects awkward, may continue as it is so long as it represents the difficulties by which the subject is still pressed. When they have been removed—and the smallest number of them lie in the subject matter—I will gladly break up this form of the book and try to give it xivanother shape. For the friendly reception given to it I have to offer my heartiest thanks. But against those who, believing themselves in possession of a richer view of the history here related, have called my conception meagre, I appeal to the beautiful words of Tertullian: Malumus in scripturis minus, si forte, sapere quam contra.”

Marburg, 24th December, 1887.



In the six years that have passed since the appearance of the second edition I have continued to work at the book, and have made use of the new sources and investigations that have appeared during this period, as well as corrected and extended my account in many passages. Yet I have not found it necessary to make many changes in the second half of the work. The increase of about sixty pages is almost entirely in the first half.

Berlin, 31st December, 1893.


Τὸ δόγματος ὄνομα τῆς ἀνθρωπίνης ἔχεται βουλῆς τε καὶ γνώμης. Ὅτι δὲ τοῦθ᾽ οὕτως ἔχει, μαρτυρεῖ μὲν, ἱκανῶς ἡ δογματικὴ τῶν ἰατρῶν τέχνη μαρτυρεῖ δὲ καὶ τὰ τῶν φιλοσόφων καλούμενα δόγματα. Ὅτι δὲ καὶ τὰ συγκλήτῳ δόξαντα ἔτι καὶ νῦν δόγματα συγκλήτου λέγεται, οὑδένα ἀγνοεῖν οἶμαι.

Marcellus of Ancyra

Die Christliche Religion hat nichts in der Philosophie zu thun, Sie ist ein mächtiges Wesen für sich, woran die gesunkene und leidende Menschheit von Zeit zu Zeit sich immer wieder emporgearbeitet hat; und indem man ihr diese Wirkung zugesteht, ist sie über aller Philosophie erhaben und bedarf von ihr keine Stütze.

Gespräche mit Goethe von
Eckermann, Th. p. 39



CHAPTER I.—Prolegomena to the Study of the History 1–40
  §©1. The Idea and Task of the History of Dogma 1–23
Definition 1
Limits and Divisions 3
Dogma and Theology 9
Factors in the formation of Dogma 12
Explanation as to the conception and task of the History of Dogma 13
§©2. History of the History of Dogma 23–40
The Early, the Mediæval, and the Roman Catholic Church 23
The Reformers and the 17th Century 25
Mosheim, Walch Ernesti 27
Lessing, Semler, Lange, Münscher, Baumgarten-Crusius, Meir 29
Baur, Neander, Kliefoth, Thomasius, Nitzsch, Ritschl, Renan, Loofs 37
CHAPTER II.—The Presuppositions of the History of Dogma 41–136
  §©1. Introductory 41–57
The Gosppel and the Old Testament 41
The Detachment of the Christians from the Jewish Church 43
The Church and the Græco-Roman World 45
The Greek spirit an element of the Ecclesiastical Doctrine of Faith 47

The Elements connecting Primitive Christianity and the growing Catholic Church


The Presuppositions of the origin of the Apostolic Catholic Doctrine of Faith


§©2. The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to His own Testimony concerning Himself

Fundamental Features 58
Details 61
Supplements 70
Literature 75

§©3. The Common Preaching concerning Jesus Christ in the first generation of believers

General Outline 76
The faith of the first Disciples 78
The beginnings of Christology 80
Conceptions of the Work of Jesus 83
Belief in the Resurrection 84
Righteousness and the Law 86
Paul 86
The Self-consciousness of being the Church of God 88
Supplement 1. Universalism 89

Supplement 2. Questions as to the validity of the Law; the four main tendencies at the close of the Apostolic Age

Supplement 3. The Pauline Theology 92
Supplement 4. The Johannine Writings 95
Supplement 5. The Authorities in the Church 98

§©4. The current Exposition of the Old Testament and the Jewish hopes of the future, in their significance for the Earliest types of Christian preaching

The Rabbinical and Exegetical Methods 99
The Jewish Apocalyptic literature 100

Mythologies and poetical ideas, notions of pre-existence and their application to Messiah

The limits of the explicable 105
Literature 107

§©5. The Religious Conceptions and the Religious Philosophy of the Hellenistic Jews in their significance for the later formulation of the Gospel

xixSpiritualising and Moralising of the Jewish Religion 107
Philo 109
The Hermeneutic principles of Philo 114

§©6. The religious dispositions of the Greeks and Romans in the first two centuries, and the current Græco-Roman philosophy of religion


The new religious needs and the old worship (Excursus on θεός

The System of associations, and the Empire 121
Philosophy and its acquisitions 122
Platonic and Stoic Elements in the philiosophy of religion 126
Greek culture and Roman ideas in the Church 127
The Empire and philosophic schools (the Cynics) 128
Literature 128

(1) The twofold conception of the blessing of Salvation in its significance for the following period


(2) Obscurity in the origin of the most important Christian ideas and Ecclesiastical forms


(3) Significance of the Pauline theology for the legitimising and reformation of the doctrine of the Church in the following period


DIVISION I.—The Genesis of Ecclesiastical Dogma, or the Genesis of the Catholic Apostolic Dogmatic Theology, and the first Scientific Ecclesiastical System of Doctrine

CHAPTER I.—Historical Survey 141–144

CHAPTER II.—The Element common to all Christians and the breach with Judaism


CHAPTER III.—The Common Faith and the Beginnings of Knowledge in Gentile Christianity as it was being developed into Catholicism

  xx(1) The Communities and the Church 150

(2) The Foundation of the Faith; the Old Testament, and the traditions about Jesus (sayings of Jesus, the Kerygma about Jesus), the significance of the “Apostolic”

(3) The main articles of Christianity and the conceptions of salvation. The new law. Eschatology. 163
(4) The Old Testament as source of the knowledge of faith 175
(5) The knowledge of God and of the world, estimate of the world (Demons) 180
(6) Faith in Jesus Christ 183
  Jesus the Lord 183
Jesus the Christ 184
Jesus the Son of God, the Theologia Christi 186
The Adoptian and the Pneumatic Christology 190
Ideas of Christ’s work 199
(7) The Worship, the sacred actions, and the organization of the Churches 204
  The Worship and Sacrifice 204
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper 207
The organization 214
  The premises of Catholicism 218
  Doctrinal diversities of the Apostolic Fathers 218

CHAPTER IV.—The attempts of the Gnostics to create an Apostolic Dogmatic, and a Christian theology; or the acute secularising of Christianity

  (1) The conditions for the rise of Gnosticism 223
(2) The nature of Gnosticism 227

(3) History of Gnosticism and the forms in which it appeared

(4) The most important Gnostic doctrines 253

CHAPTER V.—The attempt of Marcion to set aside the Old Testament foundation of Christianity, to purify the tradition and reform Christendom on the basis of the Pauline Gospel

  xxiCharacterisation of Marcion’s attempt 267
(1) His estimate of the Old Testament and the god of the Jews 271
(2) The God of the Gospel 272
(3) The relation of the two Gods according to Marcion 274
  The Gnostic woof in Marcion’s Christianity 275
(4) The Christology 275
(5) Eschatology and Ethics 277
(6) Criticism of the Christian tradition, the Marcionite Church 278
  Remarks 282

CHAPTER VI.—The Christianity of Jewish Christians, Definition of the notion Jewish Christianity

  Characterisation of Marcion’s attempt 267
(1) General conditions for the development of Jewish Christianity 287

Jewish Christianity and the Catholic Church, insignificance of Jewish Christianity, “Judaising” in Catholicism


Alleged documents of Jewish Christianity (Apocalpse of John, Acts of the Apostles, Epistle to the Hebrews, Hegesippus)

History of Jewish Christianity 296
The witness of Justin 296
The witness of Celsus 298
The witness of Irenæus and Origen 299
The witness of Eusebius and Jerome 300
The Gnostic Jewish Christianity 302
The Elkesaites and Ebionites of Epiphanius 304

Estimate of the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions and Homilies, their want of significance for the question as to the genesis of Catholicism and its doctrine

I. On the different notions of Pre-existence 318
II. On Liturgies and the genesis of Dogma 332
III. On Neoplatonism 335
  Literature 361
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