Faith in Formulae

A Collection of Early Christian Creeds and Creed-Related Texts, 4 Volume Set

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Wolfram Kinzig
Oxford Early Christian Texts
  • Oxford, England: 
    Oxford University Press
    , September
     1856 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Faith in Formulae, edited, annotated, and translated by Wolfram Kinzig, Professor of Church History at the University of Bonn, Germany, catalogs and contextualizes all the relevant extant creedal material of the patristic period. The aim of this mammoth four-volume set is to replace earlier creedal collections “in the hopes of providing fellow scholars with an up-to-date reference tool for further studies of the creed” (vii). As a “reference tool,” it functions more as a Swiss Army knife than a single screwdriver, since it works with a wide variety of material.

Given the size and scope of the set, it will be instructive to itemize its contents. At the outset, Kinzig provides a detailed “List of Abbreviations and Editorial Signs,” after which, volume 1 includes an Introduction; Credal Formulae in the Old Testament; Credal Formulae in the New Testament; Symbolum and its Meanings in the Early Church; Baptismal Interrogations from the Second and Third Centuries; Credal Formulae and Rules of Faith from the Second and Third Centuries; and Eastern Creeds, Credal Formulae, and Creed-related Texts (4th-9th Centuries). Volume 2 treats Western Creeds, Credal Formulae, Creed-related Texts (4th-8th Centuries), which continues in Volume 3: Laws and Synodal Canons relating to the Creed (4th-8thCenturies). Finally, Volume 4 discusses The Creed in the Liturgy and in Daily Life (4th-8th Centuries); and The Creed in the Carolingian Reform. Thereafter there are three appendices: Further Unpublished Creeds and Credal Statements; Synopsis of Han/Kinzig; and Addenda. To conclude, there is a bibliography and then indices which are divided into four parts: Biblical Passages; Ancient and Medieval Authors and Sources; Inscriptions, Papyri, Ostraca, Wooden Tablets, and Parchments; and Manuscripts.

If J. N. D. Kelly’s Early Christian Creeds (Continuum, 2006) functions as an appetizer to the creeds, Kinzig’s set serves as the feast. Faith in Formulae will be an indispensable resource in patristic/early Christian/late antique studies for the foreseeable future. Its exorbitant cost will limit it to libraries and research scholars, but both will be enriched by it. Although it is extensive, it is not exhaustive. More theological engagement of the kind found in Lewis Ayres’s Nicaea and Its Legacy (Oxford University Press, 2004) or John Behr’s The Way to Nicaea (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001) and The Nicene Faith (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004) would have increased its utility, but that would have required a fifth volume, and pushed the price to four digits instead of three. In any case, Kinzig’s aim is more archival than theological, so it would be unfair to press the point (see his qualification on 30). Not every scholar will agree with every choice Kinzig made in the set, but that degree of academic agreement awaits us in the New Jerusalem, if academic conferences continue in the afterlife, which is highly debatable. For an authoritative and comprehensive guide to early Christian creeds, look no further. For light summer reading, look elsewhere.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Mark S. M. Scott is Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Thorneloe University at Laurentian.

Date of Review: 
September 20, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Wolfram Kinzig studied Evangelical Theology and Latin in Heidelberg and Lausanne. He completed both his PhD in theology and his Habilitation in Church History in Heidelberg. From 1985 until 1986 he was a Graduate Visiting Student in Christ Church, Oxford, followed by a Visiting Studentship in Trinity College, Cambridge (1986-7), a Research Fellowship in Peterhouse, Cambridge (1988-92), and a Senior Research Fellowship in King's College, Cambridge (1992-5). Since 1996 he has held the Chair of Church History (patristics) at the Evangelical-Theological Faculty of the University of Bonn. He is also the founder and speaker (director) of the Centre for Religion and Society (ZERG) at his university.


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