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RELG205: Christian Origins

The assignment: Conduct library research to better understand your character's views and positions for the upcoming game.

Reference books - Primary sources - Secondary source books (other than reference books) - Articles - Questions?

Reference books

Books on Christianity are in the BR call number range; this includes books on early Christianity. Browse the BR call numbers in the library's reference collection for encyclopedias relevant to this class. A few specific titles I recommend are:

Encyclopedia of Early Christianity - Reference collection, 2nd floor - BR162.2 .E53 1997
Addresses the time period roughly from the life of Jesus through the 7th century C.E.

Encyclopedia of the Early Church - Reference collection, 2nd floor - BR66.5 .D5813 1991
Covers early Christianity through the mid-8th century C.E.

The Early Church (volume 1 of History of the Church) - Reference collection, 2nd floor - BR141 .H35132 1993
This book contains background/overview information about the early church, but, unlike many other reference books, it's not organized alphabetically; instead, look at the table of contents to find chapters on important themes and events from early Christianity. The chapters are more-or-less chronological.

The Encyclopedia of Christianity - Reference collection, 2nd floor - BR95 .E8913 1999
Although this encyclopedia covers the entire history of Christianity, it's still a good source of high-quality introductory information on topics from early Christianity.

Jesus in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia - Reference collection, 2nd floor - BR145.3 .J47 2003
Includes entries about early Christianity and the development of beliefs about Jesus during that period.

Dictionary of Early Christian Literature - Reference collection, 2nd floor - BR66.5 .L4813 2000
Dictionary of important figures from early Christianity, including basic introductions to texts they wrote.

Primary sources

Several collections exist of 4th-century and earlier primary sources -- translated into English -- that you can (and should!) consult for this project. These collections will either be in book form at the library, or on Internet websites.

Ante-Nicene Fathers - Library 3rd floor - BR60 .A57
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1 and 2 - Library 3rd floor - BR60 .S44 and BR60 .S441

These are the translated writings of church figures around the time of the Council of Nicaea.

Ante-Nicene Fathers & Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers -
The same collection listed above, made available on Web. This version is free--and legal--because the collection was published in the late 19th century and is therefore in the public domain.

Early Christian Writings -
A collection of Christian writings, translated into English, from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd centuries. This collection is also listed as a resource in your student gamebook.

Secondary source books (other than reference books)

Search ALiCat and I-Share to find additional, secondary source books on your topic. Like the reference books and primary source books listed above, these titles will likely be in the BR call numbers. In ALiCat and I-Share, you can find additional information about some characters, and/or information about the groups, perspectives, or geographical areas different characters represent.

A tricky--but important--topic you may find yourself needing to search in ALiCat and/or I-Share is biblical interpretation in early Christianity. How can you distinguish between (a) books that interpret early Christian texts and (b) books that are about interpretation of texts in the first four centuries C.E.? One thing I suggest is searching this subject heading:

  • Bible - Criticism, interpretation, etc. - History - Early church, ca. 30-600

There are no guarantees--in other words, you still need to examine the book carefully--but a book with this subject heading is more likely than others to have information about biblical interpretation in early Christianity.


To find journal articles for this class (and possibly some book articles as well), you'll use ATLA Religion Index, the library's most important religion database. Search ATLA if you need scholarship about particular issues relevant to the game. Find ATLA via this path:

Library home --> Databases --> Databases A-Z

In ATLA, too, you may eventually search for information about biblical interpretation in early Christianity. Here I recommend that you search the phrase "biblical interpretation" as a subject (selecting "Subjects" from the drop-down menu next to the search box). In the next box down, type an additional keyword to focus your search. As you look at the articles in your result list, be sure to choose ones that cover the right time period!


You are welcome to contact me at with any questions about your research for Christian Origins. You can also find me at the research help desk on the second floor of the library off and on during the week.

Or, talk to any librarian on duty at the research help desk: in-person, or via phone (309-794-7206), email (, or the "Ask an Augustana Librarian" chat box on the main library webpage.

Page created by Stefanie Bluemle, librarian for history, religion, and philosophy. Updated September 2015.