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The First Advance


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This introduction to early Church history presents the advance of God’s people through the years 29 to 500 A.D. Emphasizing people rather than policies or polemics, The First Advance shows Christians in the first five centuries persevering under persecution and carrying their faith east and south into Asia and Africa as well as westward into Europe.

The First Advance includes maps, charts, photographs and suggestions for further discussion and study. It also includes many quotations from original sources, making it especially useful for students working alone or without access to a library. John Foster's original text has been updated for this revised edition by the distinguished scholar of early Church history, W. H. C. Frend.

The First Advance is part of SPCK’s International Study Guides series of books. Written by scholars with experience of the worldwide Church, the acclaimed Guides combine trustworthy scholarship with clarity, simplicity and non-technical language. Ecumenical in authorship and outlook, the Guides are ideal for first-year theology students, Bible study groups, multi-cultural classes, people for whom English is a second language, and anyone who needs a sound but accessible guide to the Bible and theology.

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“So there had come to be a recognized place in the synagogue for non-Jews who believed in God and led worthy lives. We should call them ‘adherents’. In the New Testament they are called ‘men that fear God’ (see Acts 13:16).” (Page 16)

“These false stories began quite early. They may lie behind the words in 1 Peter 2:12: ‘They speak against you as wrong-doers’” (Page 71)

“In the year 95, the Church at Corinth was divided and quarrelling, as so often before” (Page 65)

“House-churches such as these were the only churches that Christians had, not only throughout the New Testament period, but through most of the second century. One report says that a church building was set up at Arbil, east of the river Tigris, before 148 (see p. 99 and map 4). There is more evidence that there was a church building in Edessa, 300 miles west of Arbil, sometime after 180 when the King of Edessa became a Christian. The building was destroyed by flood in 201 (see p. 89).” (Page 21)

“The decline of the Empire was in striking contrast to the advance of the Church. The Church’s organization had spread through every province and to lands beyond. Disputes between Christians were brought to their own bishops, never before non-Christian magistrates. Christian charities helped, not only their own poor, but others besides. If a Christian had to travel to distant places, he carried letters of introduction, and was at once among friends. This was what non-Christians meant when they said that the Christians were ‘imperium in Imperio’, a ‘state within the State’. They believed that the State ought not to have any rival. That was why Decius decided to destroy the Church.” (Page 78)

Product Details

  • Title: The First Advance: AD 29-500
  • Author: John Foster
  • Editor: W. H. C. Frend
  • Series: SPCK International Study Guides
  • Publisher: SPCK Publishing
  • Publication Date: 1992
  • Pages: 208

About John Foster

John Foster was Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the University of Glasgow until his retirement in 1969. His experience as a missionary (during which time he earned the nickname of “Gentle Scholar”) informed his approach to this field, convincing him that a new focus on Church history that showed how Christianity had always sought to advance eastward as well as westward was needed.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition


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  1. Richard P. Fritsche
  2. Robert J Smith


Digital list price: $17.99
Save $4.00 (22%)