History of Dogma - Volume I
by Adolf Harnack
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Harnack’s multi-volume work is considered a monument of liberal Christian
historiography. For Harnack, applying the methods of historical criticism to the Bible
signified a return to true Christianity, which had become mired in unnecessary and even
damaging creeds and dogmas. Seeking out what “actually happened,” for him, was one
way to strip away all but the foundations of the faith. With the History of Dogma series,
Harnack sets out on this project, tracing the accumulation of Christianity’s doctrinal
systems and assumptions, particularly those inherited from Hellenistic thought. As
Harnack explains, only since the Protestant Reformation have Christians begun to cast
off this corrupting inheritance, which must be entirely cast off if Christianity is to remain
credible and relevant to people’s lives. Rather controversially, the historian rejects the
Gospel of John as authoritative on the basis of its Greek influences.