1st Edition

Ancient African Christianity An Introduction to a Unique Context and Tradition

By David E. Wilhite Copyright 2017
    436 Pages
    by Routledge

    436 Pages
    by Routledge

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    Christianity spread across North Africa early, and it remained there as a powerful force much longer than anticipated. While this African form of Christianity largely shared the Latin language and Roman culture of the wider empire, it also represented a unique tradition that was shaped by its context. Ancient African Christianity attempts to tell the story of Christianity in Africa from its inception to its eventual disappearance. Well-known writers such as Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine are studied in light of their African identity, and this tradition is explored in all its various expressions.

    This book is ideal for all students of African Christianity and also a key introduction for anyone wanting to know more about the history, religion, and philosophy of these early influential Christians whose impact has extended far beyond the African landscape.

    1. Preface

      Chapter One: Introduction

      Preliminary Concerns

      Question 1: What is meant by "Ancient African Christianity"?

      Question 2: Why study ancient African Christianity?

      Question 3: What makes African Christians unique?

      Question 4: What is the purpose of this book? Introducing Ancient African Christians: An Overview

      Pre-Christian Africa

      The Beginnings of Christian Africa

      Christian Africa in the Fourth Century

      The Last Days of Ancient African Christianity History and Ancient African Christians


      Chapter Two: Backgrounds to Early African Christianity

      Romanization: From Culture to Ethnicity to Identity

      African (Identity) Politics

      African Languages

      African Art

      African Religions

      African Appearance


      Chapter Three: The Earliest Evidence of African Christianity

      Tertullian on the Earliest African Christians

      African Christian Origins

      The Scillitan Martyrs

      Perpetua, Felicity, and their Fellow Martyrs

      African Christianity in the Late Second and Early Third Century

      Legacies and Later Trajectories


      Chapter Four: Tertullian

      Tertullian’s Life Tertullian the Legalist

      Tertullian the Fideist

      Tertullian the Priest

      Tertullian the Montanist

      Tertullian the Misogynist

      Tertullian the Roman

      Tertullian the African Works and Teachings

      Tertullian the African

      Legacy and Later Trajectories



      Chapter Five: Cyprian and the Later Third Century

      Minucius Felix

      Cyprian Persecution


      His Works and Teachings

      Cyprian the African That Idols are not Gods (Quod idola dii non sint)


      Late Third Century Martyrdoms


      Chapter Six: The Early Fourth Century in Africa

      Christian Records from the Early Fourth Century

      Arnobius of Sicca Arnobian Theology

      What was African about Arnobius? Lactantius

      Works and Teachings

      What was African about Lactantius?  

      Chapter Seven: The Donatist Controversy

      Identifying Donatists

      The Beginning of the Schism

      Appeals to Constantine

      Escalation of Violence and Persecution

      Donatist Diversity and Decline

      The End of Donatism?

      Reassessing Donatist Characteristics

      What was African about the Donatists?

      Conclusions and Caveats


      Chapter Eight: Augustine the African

      Augustine’s Life and Legacy

      Augustine’s Works and Teachings

      What was African about Augustine? Augustine’s African Background

      Accusations about Augustine’s Identity

      Self-Identifying as an African  

      Chapter Nine: The Vandal Era of African Christianity

      The Vandal Invasion of Africa

      Vandals, Catholics, and Donatists

      Vandal Expansion of Power

      The End of the Vandal Kingdom



      Chapter Ten: The Late Byzantine Era in Africa

      Justinian’s Re-Conquest of Africa

      The African Three Chapters Controversy

      Gregory the Great

      Maximus the Confessor

      Conclusion about Byzantine Africa


      Chapter Eleven: The Arab Conquests in Africa

      Understanding the Sources and Background

      History of the Conquest

      Survival of Evidence and Evidence of Survival

      Characteristics of Late African Christianity

      Reasons for African Christianity’s Disappearance Political Power Theory

      Christian Exodus Theory

      Decapitation Theory

      House Divided Theory

      Cultural Gap Theory

      Theological Syncretism Theory

      Political Pragmatism Theory Tentative Conclusions on African Christianity’s End


      Chapter Twelve: What was African about Ancient African Christianity?

      Summary of Findings

      Elements Found in the "African School"

      Further Considerations

      Potential Implications




      Ancient Sources Cited (and critical editions and translations, when used)

      Secondary Sources


    David E. Wilhite is currently Professor of Theology at Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary, USA.

    Anyone who wants to know what was unique about North African Christianity from its beginning until its demise in the post-Islamic era need look no further than Wilhite’s latest book! Ancient African Christianity sets a new standard for exploring and explaining the particularity of Christianity in specific locations enabling us to appreciate and understand the rich diversity of early Christianity. If you can only read one new book about Christianity this year, make it this one!

    William Tabbernee, The University of Oklahoma, USA