Along with the churches located in large Greek cities of the East, the church of Carthage was particularly significant in the early centuries of Christian history. Initially, the Carthaginian church became known for its martyrs. Later, the North African church became further established and unified through the regular councils of its bishops. Finally, the church gained a reputation for its outstanding leaders – Tertullian of Carthage (c140-220), Cyprian of Carthage (195-258), and Augustine of Hippo (354-430) – African leaders who continued to be celebrated and remembered today.
François Decret’s Early Christianity in North Africa has long been recognised as the best general overview of the early African church.
After continuously recommending Decret’s book to his students, Edward Smither recognised the demand for it to be made available in English translation, and in this title we see the fruits of his endeavours.
Martyrs, exegetes, catechumens, and councils enlarge this study of North African Christianity, a region often reduced to its dominant patristic personalities. This quality translation of an important book captures the unique spirit of an invaluable chapter of church history.
Preface to the English Translation
1. Geographical and Historical Background
2. Origins of the African Church
3. Tertullian: the “Master”
4. Mid-Third-Century Persecution and Crisis in Africa
5. Cyprian, the “Pope” of Carthage
6. Organization and Life of the Third-Century African Churches
7. The Donatist Schism and the Division of African Christianity
8. The Diverse African Religious Landscape in Late Antiquity
9. Augustine of Hippo and the Glory of the “Great Church”
10. The Final Stages of the African Church: From the Vandal invasion to the Arab Maghreb
Endorsements and Reviews
Decret and Smither have recognized our dependence on [North African] theologians and given us a thorough and well-presented introduction to that theology. They not only take the reader into that oft-ignored area, but they show why it is so important to appreciate that period.
Thomas O’ Loughlin, University of Wales, Lampeter
Decret’s study masterfully captures the feel and essence of early North African Christianity without sacrificing historical detail or evidence … Overall, the work presents not just excellent information, but also a wonderful model of historical argumentation and scholarship.
David C. Alexander, Liberty Theological Seminary and Graduate School
Not only does Decret relay social history in a compelling style, he demonstrates political sophistication, theological subtlety, and ecclesiastical sensitivity toward Catholic, heretic, and pagan alike. In sum, this book is both a faithful rendering of history and a great read.
Malcolm B. Yarnell III, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
For over ten years Christians of the French-speaking world have had available to them François Decret’s scholarly presentation of the roots, diverse history, expansion, and significant influence of the Christian Church in North Africa … And now at last Professor Ed Smither – church historian, theologian, and missiologist – has done the English speaking church an exceedingly great service by making this widely honored work available in English.
John Douglas Morrison, Liberty University
Francois Decret’s supurb account of the early north African church has now been published in an English translation by Lutterworth. Early Christianity in North Africa is a fascinating account of a once-great church that has now almost completely disappeared.
Church of England Newspaper, No 6102
Early Christianity in North Africa by François Decret is an informative and enjoyable piece about the rise and fall of Christianity within northern Africa … The choice of three key theologians and their focuses helps to create a vivid conception of what was unique in the Church in Africa, and likewise, what was unique in the African responses to varying issues … Early Christianity in North Africa makes for an interesting read about a subject and time that gets less attention than it warrants.
Kris Hiuser, in Theological Book Review, Vol 23, No 2
… one could offer this book to undergraduates as a helpful introduction to a world with which they may be totally unfamiliar. Its compendious vision, its readability, make it excellent in this regard …
Jonathan Zecher, in Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol 20, Issue 1