Several years ago, I came across a quote I haven’t been able to forget:
“To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” –John Henry Newman, Catholic Cardinal and Saint
Now, I know a lot about the Bible. I’ve read it, studied it, memorized parts of it, taught it, and tried to live according to it for decades now.
But I know very little about early Christian church history.
What makes each denomination different from all the others? What major movements shaped Christian beliefs over the years? Are there any well-known heresies I should know to watch out for?
And most importantly… If I knew more about early Christian church history, would that affect my beliefs? How?
I had to admit — I had no idea. But I figured I owed it to myself to find out.
If learning more about early Christian church history could affect my beliefs, I wanted to know.
And I thought maybe you’d want to know too.
That’s why today I’m sharing 10 of the Best Books on Early Christian Church History.
What makes these the BEST early Christian church history books?
Well, personally, I was looking for books that were:
- Relatively easy-to-read
- Interesting and informative
- Accessible for the average person
- As fair and unbiased as possible
As a busy working mom with a LOT on my plate right now, I simply don’t have time for huge, comprehensive (hard to read) history textbooks that assume I know all the background information already.
I need books I can read and understand quickly — even when my kids are being rambunctious in the background. And I need books that give me a broad overview of the major events and themes in early Christian church history I should know without going too in-depth into every minor detail.
And I definitely want books that cover early Christian church history as fairly as possible. I don’t want a biased account written only to promote a particular denomination or refute a different one.
Hopefully that’s what you’ll find in these 10 early Christian church history books.
So with that in mind, let’s dive in!
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!
10 Best Books on Early Christian Church History
1. Christian History Made Easy
“Christian History Made Easy” covers a basic overview of Christian church history from the early church through the multiple denominations at the end of the 20th century.
A surprisingly interesting and enjoyable read, this book gives a broad overview of the major movements and forces that shaped Christianity over the years — without going too deep into any one event or coming across as biased toward any one denomination.
You can find Christian History Made Easy on Amazon.
2. Church History in Plain Language
“Church History in Plain Language” is widely utilized by church leaders, college classrooms, as well as regular readers like you and me.
Reading as more of a storytelling book than a history book, this book brings Christianity into the twenty-first Century. If you are looking for an easy to follow account of the history of Christianity, this go-to resource should be top of your list.
You can find Church History in Plain Language on Amazon.
3. How We Got the Bible
“How We Got the Bible” is a fascinating account of the Bible that answers many popular questions such as: Who wrote the books of the Bible? Were there books cut out of the Bible? How did the Old Testament and New Testament come to be?
With great illustrations and tables, this book makes a great resource to be used in a Bible study, or for lay Christians to explore the background of the Bible.
You can find How We Got the Bible on Amazon.
4. Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years
“Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years” is a New York Times bestseller which goes back to the origins of the Hebrew Bible and encompasses the globe.
This book captures the major turning points in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox history. This comprehensive account of Christianity for the first three thousand years has been well-loved by many and comes highly recommended!
You can find Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years on Amazon.
5. When the Church Was Young
“When the Church Was Young” is said to be an exciting page-turner which inspires and challenges the reader with the lives and insights of seminal teachers from when the Church was young.
This book tells the story of these early “Church Fathers” such as Ambrose, Augustine, Basil, Athanasius, Chrysostom, and Jerome, while remaining unbiased.
You can find When the Church Was Young on Amazon.
6. Early Christianity: A Brief History
“Early Christianity: A Brief History” examines the development of Christianity from its origins up through the year 620.
This easy-to-read book acknowledges the often neglected diversity of early Christian views without losing sight of the major lines along which the religion developed. Though this is detailed enough to be used as an introductory college book, it’s not too academic or difficult. Just very interesting and informative.
I’m reading this book right now and really enjoying it!
You can find Early Christianity: A Brief History on Amazon.
7. The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History
“The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History” details the people, places, and events every Christian should know about.
Sometimes referred to as “the book every Christian should read” because of its vast wealth of information, this book gives a fascinating overview of the most important influences that helped shape Christianity as we know it today.
You can find The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History on Amazon.
8. Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity
“Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity” presents Christianity as a worldwide phenomenon rather than just a Western experience.
This book isolates 14 key moments in church history, detailing why they were important and how they affected today’s modern Christianity. This book is said to be very readable, inspiring and providing Christians with a fuller understanding of God.
You can find Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity on Amazon.
9. A Concise History of Christian Thought
“A Concise History of Christian Thought” offers a well written, easy-to-read survey of key Christian thinkers and significant theological developments from the church’s inception to the present.
In this book, over one hundred important Christian thinkers were surveyed — from Justin Martyr to Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). This book is great for people with little knowledge of Church history, as well as those with a lifelong interest in theology.
You can find A Concise History of Christian Thought on Amazon.
10. A History of Christianity
“A History of Christianity” was first written in 1976 and has been loved and widely hailed for its intensive research, writing, and magnitude.
This book is written with an unbiased and overall optimistic tone, though it has also been described as perhaps the most radical. A History of Christianity is said to be more of a history of Western Christianity since the orthodox church is not mentioned much.
You can find A History of Christianity on Amazon.
Have you read any of these early Christian History books? Do you have other books you’d recommend? I’d love your suggestions!
You will enjoy History lives by Mindy and Brandon Withrow. It is 5 volume set that goes through church history in a short chapter style. It is written for 9-14 year olds. It is an amazing look at how God has worked through church history.
Oooh! Thanks for the tip! (Written for 9-14 year olds sounds right up my alley 🙂 )
I love that you shared this list. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else put out a list of church history books to read. Bookmarking it!
Thanks, Amanda! I’m so glad you found it helpful!
This is a wonderful list! My husband is a big theology nerd, so I know he would love this!
This is a great list. Your descriptions for each book is helpful. Thanks for sharing. I'll be checking some of these books out.
Great! Let us know what you think of the books.