Books about Christian creeds and confessional statements

Recently someone asked me to recommend books that will help understand creeds and confessional statements. I mentioned Philip Schaff’s magisterial (but outdated) Creeds of Christendom. Here are three excellent sources for your consideration:

Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine from the Bible to the Present by John H. Leith (John Knox Press). I hope it is still in print. If not, I’m sure used copies are available at the usual outlets on line.

Christian Confessions: A Historical Introduction by Ted A. Campbell (Westminster John Knox Press). (This one isn’t a reader; Campbell explains the creeds and confessions without reproducing them wholely. This would be an excellent supplement to the above work.)

American Religious Creeds: An Essential Compendium of More Than 450 Statements of Belief and Doctrine (three volumes) edited by J. Gordon Melton (Triumph Books). This is, of course, the most exhaustive of the three works. It includes everything imaginable in terms of statements of belief (but limited to the U.S.) including everything from Roman Catholic to The Theosophical Society (and everything in between). I believe this is out of print, but I bought my copies at used book outlets on line.

With these three works plus “Schaff” you have everything you could possibly need to understand Christian creeds and confessional statements.

  • http://growinggrace-full.blogspot.com/ Chris Donato

    And Pelikan’s Credo?

  • http://theeagleandchild.com Marc

    What about Luke Timothy Johnson’s book, “The Creed”? Or was the request more about creeds in general?

    • rogereolson

      Anyway, it’s a good suggestion.

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  • Evelyn

    As you are making recommendations… if you (read ‘me’) could only get one bible commentary, which one would you get? Or if that’s too hard, which more technical and which more general ones would you recommend? Thank you in advance!

    • rogereolson

      My experiences with Bible commentaries have not been entirely satisfying. Usually, I go looking for explanations of a passage in multiple commentaries (where I teach there are many) and find that the specific question I want answered isn’t even there! So I have used different books for different purposes. If I’m looking for background information (e.g., cultural background of a text) I go to Craig Keener’s The IVP Bible Background Commentary. If I’m looking for exposition of the original language (linguistic interpretation) I go to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (a set by various authors). If what you’re after is just a general discussion of biblical texts for laypeople I recommend the NIV Application Commentary (a set). I have never found one volume commentaries helpful (other than Keener’s for cultural background information).

  • Tom

    Thank you for the references. Look forward to getting into some of these titles.

  • Craig Wright

    I learned a lot about the history and drama behind the early creeds from reading “Jesus Wars” by Philip Jenkins.

    • rogereolson

      A book I reviewed here some time ago. I highly recommend it. However, having said that, I hope readers of it will go on to read something more theological about the creeds such as Early Christian Doctrines by J. N. D. Kelly (a classic).

  • joe

    The Creedal Imperative by Carl Trueman.

    • rogereolson

      There are numerous books out there promoting creedalism. That wasn’t what my post was about. The books I recommended responded to the request for books that will help Christians sort out the difference between creeds and confessions and statements of faith, etc. I doubt I would recommend The Creedal Imperative, but I’ll post your recommendation here with the caveat that it’s not a book I recommend.

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