Westminster Seminary California
Building the Minister’s Library: Historical Theology
John G. Bales

Historical theology is the branch of theology which examines the doctrines of the church within their historical context and development. Historical theologians investigate the theology of individuals and schools of thought, in order to determine the continuity and discontinuity within the broader Christian tradition. It is always best done when one investigates the original sources and attempts to hear the authors in their own thought-categories.

Berkhof, Louis. The History of Christian Doctrines. London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1969. Not as popular as his Systematic Theology, but still good.

Congar, Yves. A History of Theology. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1968. Catholic in perspective, but still useful for the early and medieval periods.

Dorner, I. A., George Robson, and Sophia Taylor. History of Protestant Theology: Particularly in Germany, Viewed According to Its Fundamental Movement and in Connection with the Religious, Moral, and Intellectual Life. Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1871. Obviously limited to Protestant thought. Exhibits the state of historical theology in the nineteenth century.

Hagenbach, K. R. A History of Christian Doctrines. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1880. Like other 19th century works, Hagenbach adopts an encyclopedia-structured division of theology.

Hägglund, Bengt. History of Theology. St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1968. This was a required textbook in my seminary days. Still recommended.

Harnack, Adolf von. History of Dogma. New York: Dover Publications, 1961. One may not agree with Harnack’s conclusions, but one will need to read him as an influential theologian.

Neander, August, J. L. Jacobi, and J. E. Ryland. Lectures on the History of Christian Dogmas. London: H.G. Bohn, 1858. Similar to Hagenbach’s methodology.

Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Christian Tradition; A History of the Development of Doctrine. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975. Pelikan has become a standard text for many students. This is an exhaustive treatment by a prodigious scholar.

Seeberg, Reinhold. Text-Book of the History of Doctrines. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1952. Find a used copy if you can.

Welch, Claude. Protestant Thought in the Nineteenth Century. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972. Welch picks up nicely where all the 19th century textbooks leave off.