Ancient African Christianity : An Introduction to a Unique Context and Tradition book cover
1st Edition

Ancient African Christianity
An Introduction to a Unique Context and Tradition

ISBN 9780415643771
Published June 20, 2017 by Routledge
436 Pages

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents

  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

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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