Expand your knowledge base on the origins of the Christian faith with one of the best church history books.
Church history involves the study of the Christian Church over time by highlighting the works of God, as well as key people and events that helped shape it. Although church history is recorded by individuals from many different denominations of Christianity, each with its own unique set of beliefs and practices, it remains an important topic of study for Christians looking to grow their faith in Jesus Christ. The best church history books can be a great way to enhance your understanding of the faith.
With this in mind, the editors at Lord’s Library assembled this list of the best church history books to add to your reading list. The one that is right for you will largely depend on what aspects of church history you are most interested in learning about, which level of Bible knowledge you already possess, or whether you have a specific denomination in mind as a springboard for additional study. Each listing includes author and publisher information, some basic facts about the title, and links to any alternative versions that may be available.
Note: We only included the best church history books with a 4-star or better rating and a minimum of 100 reviews. We ranked them according to different buyer motivations like best value, most popular, and top-rated. We also included a Best of the Rest section with additional titles listed below.
The Best Church History Books
Author/Publisher: Sinclair Ferguson
From the publisher: “Church history is important because it shows us how God’s faithful dealings with His people in the Bible continue in the ongoing life and work of Christ in our world. If you have ever wished for a short book highlighting church history’s most important events that will enlighten your mind and peak your interest, this is the one you’ve been waiting for. Three prolific church historians collaborate their efforts in Church History 101 to present you with a quick read of church history’s high points.”
Most Popular: The Story of Christianity, Volume 1
Author/Publisher: Justo Gonzalez
From the publisher: “In The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1, Justo L. Gonzalez, author of the highly praised three-volume History of Christian Thought, presents a narrative history of Christianity, from the early church to the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. From Jesus’ faithful apostles to the early reformist John Wycliffe, Gonzalez skillfully traces core theological issues and developments within the various traditions of the church, including major events outside of Europe, such as the Spanish and Portuguese conquest of the New World.”
Top-Rated: Eusebius: The Church History
From the publisher: “This new, highly affordable paperback edition includes Maier’s best-selling translation, historical commentary on each book of The Church History, and ten maps and illustrations. Often called the “Father of Church History,” Eusebius recorded crucial information about the lives of Jesus’ disciples, the development of the New Testament, Roman politics, and the persecution of early Christians.”
Easy-to-Read: Church History in Plain Language
Author/Publisher: Bruce Shelley
From the publisher: “Bruce Shelley’s classic history of the church brings the story of global Christianity into the twenty-first century. Like a skilled screenwriter, Shelley begins each chapter with three elements: characters, setting, plot. Taking readers from the early centuries of the church up through the modern era he tells his readers a story of actual people, in a particular situation, taking action or being acted upon, provides a window into the circumstances and historical context, and from there develops the story of a major period or theme of Christian history.”
Early Church History: The Early Church (The Penguin History of the Church)
Author/Publisher: Henry Chadwick
From the publisher: “The Early Church examines the beginning of the Christian movement during the first centuries AD, and the explosive force of its expansion throughout the Roman world. Author Henry Chadwick was a Regius professor at both Oxford and Cambridge; head of Christ Church, Oxford, and Peterhouse, Cambridge; recipient of an honorary doctorate from Chicago, Harvard, Yale, and Uppsala; a member of the German Order of Merit; a fellow (former vice-president) of the British Academy; and a corresponding member of the American Academy of Arts and Science.”
Modern Church History: A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada
Author/Publisher: Mark Noll
From the publisher: “Mark Noll’s A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada has been firmly established as the standard text on the Christian experience in North America. Now Noll has thoroughly revised, updated, and expanded his classic text to incorporate new materials and important themes, events, leaders, and changes of the last thirty years. Once again readers will benefit from his insights on the United States and Canada in this superb narrative survey of Christian churches, institutions, and cultural engagements from the colonial period through 2018.”
Catholic Church History: The History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium
Author/Publisher: James Hitchcock
From the publisher: “The history of the Catholic Church is long, complicated, and fascinating, and in this book it is expertly and ably told by historian James Hitchcock. As in the parable of Christ about the weeds that were sown in a field of wheat, evil and good have grown together in the Church from the start, as Hitchcock honestly records. He brings before us the many characters–some noble, some notorious–who have left an indelible mark on the Church, while never losing sight of the saints, who have given living testimony to the salvific power of Christ in every age.”
Best Visual Charts and Timelines: Chronological and Background Charts of Church History
Author/Publisher: Robert Walton
From the publisher: “The rich tapestry of nearly 2,000 years of church history overflows with persons, places, events, dates, and ideas. This volume in the popular ZondervanCharts series visually organizes large amounts of information from the history of the church for greater understanding and ease of reference. Students, teachers, pastors, and church history buffs will find this collection a valuable reference, one they will turn to again and again for their own information and for teaching others.”
Audiobook Lecture Series: Church History, Volume Two: Audio Lectures: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day
Author/Publisher: John Woodbridge
From the publisher: “Church History, Volume Two: Audio Lectures features and offers a unique contextual view of how the Christian church spread and developed from Reformation times to the present. It did so not in a vacuum, but in a setting of times, cultures, and events that both influenced and were influenced by the church. These lectures help explore the integral link between the history of the world and that of the church.”
The Best Church History Books – Best of the Rest
Author/Publisher: George Hodges
From the publisher: “George Hodges, in this fascinating history, explains how the early Church developed from its lowly and persecuted origins of the first century through to becoming the main religion of the Roman Empire and the various kingdoms that succeeded it. Hodges provides a full picture of the Roman Empire and its religion at this time, explaining how the Church was able to gain a foothold, how heresy nearly tore it apart and how many men and women sacrificed their own lives to protect the faith.”
From the publisher: “Eusebius’s account is the only surviving historical record of the Church during its crucial first 300 years. Bishop Eusebius, a learned scholar who lived most of his life in Caesarea in Palestine, broke new ground in writing the History and provided a model for all later ecclesiastical historians. In tracing the history of the Church from the time of Christ to the Great Persecution at the beginning of the fourth century, and ending with the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, his aim was to show the purity and continuity of the doctrinal tradition of Christianity and its struggle against persecutors and heretics.”
Author/Publisher: Phillip Schaff
From the publisher: “This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work.”
Author/Publisher: Thomas Bokenkotter
From the publisher: “Covering the life of Christ, the election of Pope Benedict XVI, and everything in between, A Concise History of the Catholic Church has been one of the bestselling religious histories of the past two decades and a mainstay for scholars, students, and others looking for a definitive, accessible history of Catholicism. With a clarity that will appeal to any reader, Thomas Bokenkotter divides his study into five parts that correspond to the major historical and epochal developments in Catholicism.”
Author/Publisher: Steve Weidenkopf
From the publisher: “Timeless: A History of the Catholic Church is a fresh retelling of the history of the Church. In this easy-to-read, not-your-average history book, Steve Weidenkopf introduces you to the vivid, dynamic story of God’s work in the world since Pentecost. Along the way, you will meet the weird, wonderful, and always fascinating heroes and villains of the Catholic family tree. Author Steve Weidenkopf teaches Church History at the Christendom College Graduate School of Theology in Alexandria, VA.”
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