Kindle book: Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up (Japanese edition)

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D. Bercot. Our all-time best seller!  This is the book that launched Scroll Publishing Co.  A fascinating overview of the early Christians (A.D. 90 - 299): Who they were. How they lived. What they believed. And how the Christianity of that era was lost.

Penned in a free-flowing readable style, combined with sound scholarship, this eye-opening book challenges Christians today to return to the simple holiness, unfailing love, and patient cross-bearing of the early Christians. Includes a challenging comparison between the early Christians and today’s evangelicals.

To purchase the Kindle version, please click on the following link. It will take you to Amazon’s Kindle version of this book: Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up (Japanese edition)

Editorial Reviews:

Family Life, October, 1989
Perhaps the single most important thing the book did for me was to introduce me in an unforgettable way to the early Christian writings. ...However, the author, David Bercot, does more than introduce the reader to the early Christians and their writings he advances a powerful and persuasive argument as to why we should take the early Christians and their writings seriously. This argument is basically similar to saying that the further upstream you go, the purer the waters should be. He makes a convincing case that these early Christian writers were in the best possible position to interpret and understand what the inspired writers had in mind when they wrote the New Testament. After all, some of these early Christian leaders were co-workers with the apostles and knew them personally. It is logical that they had a real advantage over us who read the Bible after nearly 2,000 years.

Bookstore Journal, November, 1989
We’ve heard it all before. The church’s decline began when Constantine named Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. David Bercot recounts all this and more. He is deeply concerned with the church’s lack of spirituality. He is upset that the church has adopted worldly standards of success rapid growth and wealth. He is right in feeling and expressing these concerns. And he expresses them well.

The Plough, April, 1990
"Early Christianity was a revolution that swept through the ancient world like fire through dry timber," challenging traditional customs and institutions. The author contends that the early Church’s stance toward society should concern us deeply, as we face many similar burning issues: divorce, abortion, entertainment, war, economic injustice, and the role of men/women.

Bercot, who is also a lawyer, takes the reader on a very stimulating journey in which we meet Polycarp (who was personally discipled by the apostle John) and other second-century witnesses.

The Obligator, August, 1989
To say this book packs a jolt is an understatement. Bercot doesn’t point fingers; he just tells it like it is, and no book other than Snyder’s The Problem of Wineskins has affected my thinking of the church more than this one. This book has my highest recommendations.

Readers’ Reviews

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Early-Christians.jpg Protestant or Roman Catholic - Neither, February 11, 2008
By Jason F. -

It is funny how people read this book and still come out the other side with a “Paul" or “Apollos" stand. The church is an organism not an organization. I am neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant. Yet I do admit I would have troubles with someone who has a image of the virgin Mary in their home with candles burning in front of it and holds the pope as supreme. I would also have trouble with someone who profits from the Gospel and does not define and live by Gospel precepts. To walk away from this book and say “see the Protestants are wrong or see the Roman Catholics are wrong" is siding with your religion in order to avoid persecution. Both are wrong. Both are idolatrous and are consumed with “their" orthodoxy over orthopraxy. With ritual over love.

Early-Christians.jpg Thought-Provoking Look at Early Christianity, December 13, 2007
By Ben Niemand -

When we are reminded that the early Christian church operated under the inspired authority of the apostles it should give give one pause as to how far we have drifted from what the apostles taught and the early church practiced. It is interesting how “mainstream Christianity" has morphed to become almost the polar opposite as to what was originally taught and practiced by the early church under the direction of the apostles.

Early-Christians.jpg Perhaps one of the most important books you’ll ever read, January 30, 2007
By J. R. Neumiller (Greensboro, NC) -

I consider this book seminal in both its topics and scope. If you are a Christian, (or even if you have no interest in church history,) Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up will challenge you as perhaps no other book can or will.

The early Christian writers, (sometimes referred to as “fathers,") left a body of writings that have been preserved to this day, (enough to fill a 10 volume set.) Though not inspired by God, (as were the Apostles who wrote the New Testament,) their writings do reflect what the early church believed and practiced for almost 300 years, (until the church was severely compromised by an unholy union with the Roman state under Emperor Constantine’s overtures.)

When personally challenged to read these writings, David Bercot initially rejected them; discovering that their beliefs were so antiquated and out of step with contemporary beliefs. Yet, as he begin reading them again, he came to the overwhelming conclusion that what the church believes today is drastically different from the beliefs of the early Christians.

* Do you believe that a Christian is saved by faith alone, apart from good works? Then you believe a doctrine rejected as heresy by the early church.

* Do you believe a Christian has no choice in his salvation, but is saved solely by the choice of God? The early church understood every person has a free will and is held accountable by God according to the choices made from it. (The pagans of the day were predestinationalists, believing all of life was controlled by “fate.")

* Do believe a Christian can fight and kill in a war, and still go to heaven? The early Christians knew that those who lived by the sword would be killed by the sword, and therefore strove to live meek and harmless lives; preferring to suffer death at the hands of unbelievers rather than fight to save their lives, (like their Master did before them.)

Included in this book is a very simple and understandable description of exactly where and how the church came to disown these original teachings, and why it currently believes and practices something entirely different today. Bercot’s style is remarkable in its persuasion and meekness; refraining from attacking or belittling those who take the opposing view. (However, his arguments are unanswerable, due to their unavoidable logic and evidentiary conclusions.)

* If you are a Calvinist, (or of that persuasion,) you will not like this book.

* If you are a modern Evangelical, and believe in “Once Saved, Always Saved," you will not like this book.

* If you are participant or supporter of any war or military action, you will be highly offended by this book.

In short, if you are a denier of the literal words and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are utterly out-of-fellowship with the Believers of the first and second centuries, for they strove to follow Jesus as literally and as earnestly as they could. (And you would be cast out of their churches as a first-class heretic.)

The church today simply does not believe what Jesus taught. The early church did, and we have their writings as evidence of what they believed and accomplished. Scripture decidedly foretells of an end-times apostasy, or “great falling away." When you compare the beliefs of the early church with what is believed and practiced today, you can clearly see that we are most decidedly in the very center of this prophecy. (And its only going to get worse.)

“Flee from the wrath to come!” It was preached 2,000 years ago, and it needs to be preached today. Only the target is YOU, dear Christian, and not some poor pagan unbeliever. (For it will be better for him in the day of judgment than for you, if you refuse to walk in all the commands of the Lord Jesus.)

Early-Christians.jpg Eye Opening, a Real Wake Up Call, January 9, 2007
by Paul Pavao “Shammah” (Selmer, TN)

You may not care about what the churches the apostles started were like, or you may think that no one knows what they’re like. This book will change your mind. This is a well-researched book, very accurate and fair to the early church writings. I’ve read everything the 2nd century church wrote as a result of the motivation provided by this book, and he spoke truly about what they said.

If you want to continue on the way you have been, don’t read this book, because it will shake you up. Bercot is a lawyer, and he argues powerfully for his points in this book. I’ve listened to plenty of people try to answer his arguments, both when I worked with David (in 1992), and since, including a few months of talk shows on the radio in Sacramento, CA. These arguments are compelling and un-answerable.

On top of all this, the book is incredibly well-written. It is easy to understand and completely captivating. Every chapter ends with a carrot on a stick to drag you for or against your will into the next one. Don’t start it at night, because you’ll be late for work the next day. You will have to finish it.

This book, because it answers so many questions with straightforward answers and puts the whole world of the early church at your fingertips ought to be a top 10 Christian book of all time.

Early-Christians.jpg Church history in a nutshell—and what to do about it!, June 12, 2006
By Derrick Neve (Central France)

I was first introduced to Bercot by his masterly Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, so I all the more readily took a look at this book. The result was that I couldn’t put it down and started hunting for what else he had written on the subject.

Bercot knows what he is talking about from his years of study and research into the Patristic writings -- and this shows through in his writings as he weaves the basic principles of Christianity together and compares them with the pitiful evangelical church of today.

If you are one who is serious about your faith, please read this book.

Early-Christians.jpg Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up, May 22, 2006
By A Christian Pilgrim “Warren” (CA)

When I was first given the opportunity to read Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up, I was reluctant, thinking it would be just another modern un-Biblical teaching. However, this one book, more than any other, outside the Bible itself, has made the most profound difference in my Christian life. It is simple to understand, and very compelling.

Although nearly every group and/or denomination today has some of the truths of the New Testament, they all fail to maintain a consistantly biblical view. In contrast, the church that was founded by the Apostles and their disciples maintained a consistant doctrinal purity for nearly three hundred years.

If you want to know what Christianity was like when it “turned the world upside down,” and how she can once again take up that roll, this book will give you many of the answers.

Early-Christians.jpg Will the real Jesus please stand!, February 28, 2006
By Matthew G. Phoenix (Monterey, CA)

Let’s face it... Christianity as a whole has done, in my opinion of course, a piss poor job of being the earthly representatives of Jesus. From Emperor Constantine who claimed he saw a cross in the sky with the words ‘in hoc signo’ meaning ‘in this sign conquer’ to the ‘oops, let’s just forget this ever happened and call it a day’ Spanish Inquisition sponsored by the Catholic church to the wild and wacky antics of Charismatic televangelists, Christianity has a resume’ that even Anna Nicole Smith would look at and say ‘who’s yer lawyer?’.

David Bercot’s book illuminates the reader of a time when Christianity was truly a way of living one’s life as close to Christ’s as possible. So much so that early Christians would die for a mere confession of faith. Regardless, Christianity grew literally by the blood of martyrs. And the amazing thing was that the early Christians chose not to fight back with either violence or civil dispute in court. Instead they followed Christ’s classic teachings, loving one’s enemies, eschewing violence, being peace-makers, being wise as serpents yet harmless as doves.

I read this book when I was in the Army stationed in Manheim, Germany during the first Gulf war. It helped change my life forever! I had no clue who or what the early Christians were even though I was a Christian. In short I changed my understanding of Christianity based the writings of the early church. I have David Bercot to thank for writing this wonderful, easy to read book that gave me enough evidence to humble myself to change the majority of long held beliefs in my Christian faith. After reading Bercot’s ‘Heretics’ ( I kid you not!) I proceeded to leave the U.S. Army as a conscientious objector. I’ve never regretted it since. That’s how much of an impact this had on my life!

Early-Christians.jpg Honesty Matters, December 10, 2005
By Aggie Doc “veritas vos liberabit” (College Station, TX) Bercot takes an honest look at what the Christians in the first century believed based on what we have recorded in history. He comes to the comclusion that must be drawn in spite of the things that he has believed in the past. This kind of attitude is a must for one who studies the Bible seriously—and this book is a great way of being introduced the early Christian beliefs.

Early-Christians.jpg Brilliant book on Early Christianity, October 14, 2005
By Robert “Bobby” Boyland (Tralee, Ireland)

I am a theologian, and have an interest in books that discuss Early Christianity, and Bercot’s “Heretics..." though short, is “on the ball,” so to speak.

He discusses how the doctrines of Early Christians are different to those of the modern Evangelical faith, with Early Christians believing that, contra Evangelicalism, one could lose their salvation, that baptism was necessary for salvation, and so forth.

Additionally, for the benefit of the reader, who would probably not have heard much about the Early Christians cited in the text (e.g. Justin Martyr), Bercot provides a brief introduction to such individuals, with their background and history.

Although many Evangelicals, some I have shared e-mail correspondences with disagree, this is a must-read, regardless of how “uncomfortable" (Bercot’s choice of words) such a venture will be.

Early-Christians.jpg Rated Highly due to its importance, September 5, 2005
By R. Brown (Texas Hill Country)

This book was one of the more influential I have ever read on origins of Christian doctrine. It is not so influential for its scholarship as for its incisiveness.

Bercot approaches the subject like an inquirer, with openness and honesty enough to call into question sacred cows carefully protected down through the years.

The reader familiar with Early Church Fathers will recognize the difficulty in sorting through the morass of sometimes conflicting, even bizarre, early church views. Bercot navigates the waters, and draws from the issues and views that still very much affect, or afflict, the church at large.

I like his brutal honesty and pragmatic approach to parsing the early script. IF there is anything to dislike, it would only be the needed [in my view] distilling of a huge body of Early-Fathers’ writings to yield just a few points that are both controversial and instructive right down to our present time.

Early-Christians.jpg A real challenge, August 23, 2005
By Paul R. Turner “Christian Thoughts” (Melbourne, Australia)

Will the real Heretics Please Stand Up, is a book about how Christians beliefs today have drifted away from what the first Christians actually believed. The book shows us through early Christian writings, that what alot of us might accept as true doctrine is not actually correct.

It really opened my eyes to see the difference between Christianity when it first began in its purest form and what it is today. An excellent read and a real challenge for those of us who desire to follow God with obedience and love.

Early-Christians.jpg I fell in love - but be mindful! , April 11, 2003
By Abba Poemon the Ubermensch (Boston, MA)

I read this book just as my conversion began. I was with a group who assumed that their doctrines were pure, and that the doctrines and practices of other groups were more or less corrupt. It was assumed that we were a re-establishment of the New Testament Church. I could have quoted you scriptures to defend every belief we had, and summon ones to dismiss every “error" anyone else had. Eventually I asked the obvious question - “if we’ve got the Truth, why aren’t others coming here, and how did things get to be this bad? How did they go wrong?" I wanted a detailed answer, one that quoted texts that chronicled the supposed decline, rather than hearing someone else narrate to me with their own voice, from their own authority what they were told happened, or what they read some author claim had happened. After reading this book, I was forced to concede to the weight of the case made by Bercot, but like Bercot, I conceded happily (Matt.13:44-46) - at the time.

In the beginning section of the book, he fleshes out the vision of the Christians who were instructed by the Apostles, and those who were trained by them in turn. He quotes from their writings and gives you footnotes to follow. Their discipleship was so noble and rugged, I was immediately enthralled by them. They were filled with fire, and pursued the beauty of holiness by ascetic struggle (there was no ‘easy-believism’ or ‘health and wealth’ movements in the early Church). He details how the Church before Constantine (before A.D.325) lived out it’s life of discipleship, and compares it to present-day movements.

The middle section details some central doctrines that the early Church universally believed. He doesn’t do this selectively, quoting only from writings that support his portrait - he only presents a doctrine as being part of the early Church’s teachings if he has found support for it from something like five different writers from five different continents across three centuries. It’s hard for Bercot to misrepresent them when he’s put himself under those kind of criteria. He certainly doesn’t exhaust their theology and spirituality, but he doesn’t actively misrepresent them on the topics he presents.

Given all that, after spending years studying the 200-year period prior to the birth of the Messiah, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament and the Early Fathers from the first 4 centuries, it is painfully obvious that even under his criterion of objectivity, he still comes to the texts with a large number of common assumptions that he shares with the Evangelicals whom he seeks to correct in compassionate love, assumptions which will actively distort the biblical and patristic texts and conceal vast expanses of meaning in them. Please don’t let that stop you, though - just don’t take Bercot as the final word. I’ve provided some helpful books at the end of this review.

In the final section of the book, he traces an outline of how those teachings were “handled and mishandled," as Bercot puts it, up until and through the Protestant Reformation, and offers some suggestions to those who’re wondering where the Church of the early Christians might be. Some of his suggestions in the 3rd edition of the book (not yet available) are guided by concerns that wouldn’t have been familiar to the early Christians. Even in the 2nd edition, he doesn’t talk about some essential beliefs about the nature of the Church that the early Christians both lived out and held firmly to, which are critical, and several other beliefs and practices that they would be grieved to be robbed of. Some of these beliefs and practices, when placed next to the ones Bercot mentions, make them look differently than the way Bercot presents them. Baptism would be one example, as well as the Eucharist (Bercot is not deceiving you, he’s just not giving you the full picture, because he doesn’t have it himself). Undergirding much of these inaccuracies is Bercot’s rotten to non-existent grasp of the early Church’s teachings about the Trinity - neither in his books, nor in his taped audio lectures does he demonstrate an understanding of their experience or understanding of their faith, but rather, re-interprets it through the lens of the presuppositions common to himself and his intended audience. Furthermore, he doesn’t really touch on the subject of early Christian worship - it’s order and structure, and what they thought they were doing when they gathered for worship. The centrality of worship in the early Church for the knowledge of Christ, and thus for doctrine, spirituality and a proper reading of the scriptures cannot be overstated. Read Hippolytus’ “On The Apostolic Tradition," a work not found in the _Ante-Nicene Fathers_ set which Bercot and his group push. Hippolytus outlines entire liturgies of the worship from the 2nd century Church.

It was seven years ago that I first read _Heretics_, so the thicket it landed me in has since become navigatable. Understanding the thrills and frustrations that usually accompany (& follow) reading it, I thought I might offer some advice to those who are wrestling with the book’s contents (I know this is presumptuous of me, but because Bercot makes so many errors that are impossible to address in the space of a review, the list of advice and suggested reading is longer than I’d like it to be, but don’t be intimidated).

First, read the Ante-Nicene Fathers for yourself. If you don’t have time for all of them, at least read the Apostolic Fathers, Irenaeus and Eusebius. I would strongly urge anyone who wants to understand early Christianity to read Irenaeus’s “Apostolic Preaching," translated by John Behr (this work is not included in the Ante-Nicene Fathers set published by Hendrickson), as well as a book by him entitled “The Way to Nicea," which is all about Christianity during the period before the Council of Nicea. That book is slightly academic - it’s not for everyone, though it’s certainly rewarding (also read his pastoral reflections related to that book entitled “Life in Death"). Read a fantastic book by Olivier Clement entitled “The Roots of Christian Mysticism." Read volume 1 of Jaroslav Pelikan’s History of Christian Doctrine entitled “The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition" (that book is _not_ about Roman Catholicism, o frightened reader - Pelikan was a Protestant when he wrote that book).

Secondly, you must understand the world of 2nd Temple Judaism, because that’s the world of Christ Jesus, His Apostles, and some of the earliest, Apostolic Fathers of the Church which Bercot writes about. Bercot does not understand this world. I very, very strongly recommend reading two simple books of N.T. Wright’s, “The Challenge of Jesus" and “The Crown and the Fire." They both bear upon the culture of 1st century Judaism and show how a 1st century Jew would have interpreted the text - Wright is familiar with a vast array of historical material related to that time period that Bercot is not, material quite relevant to the text of scripture and the Apostolic Fathers. If you’re more ambitious, then pick up his slightly more academic (but approachable by a non-expert) “New Testament and the People of God," which will help clarify a great many things that Bercot doesn’t even touch. His portrait of Jesus fits so very well with the pre-Nicene Church’s teachings and life. Read James Vanderkam’s “An Introduction to Early Judaism," which covers the historical period from 516 BC to 70 AD. Furthermore, George Nickelsburg’s “Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins: Diversity, Continuity, and Transformation" will illuminate much of what’s going on the NT that you wouldn’t be able to know without it, because it paints a picture of all the diverse forms of belief and practice amongst Jews during the 1st century, and shows how patterns of Christian belief and practices departed from or were in harmony with the various other assumptions, beliefs and practices of other Jewish groups. The Apostles and their disciples were Jews, so it’s important for us who are neither ethnically Jewish not 1st century Jews to understand what’s going on here. Don’t assume that you understand this until you’ve done the time reading - you’ll be amazed at how many secular assumptions stemming from the so-called “Enlightenment" have infected your thinking and blinded you to the historical situation and thus, some important aspects of the biblical text.

Third, you _must_ understand what was going on in the Jerusalem Temple, which was considered by virtually all Jews to be the center of everything in Jerusalem and Judaism. To this end, begin by reading 2 articles, both of which can be found on the webpage “The Jewish Roots of Eastern Christian Mysticism," housed by Marquette University (if you type the name of the webpage into Google, you’ll find it - both of the following articles are there under “THEME 14: Jewish Temple Traditions and Christan Liturgy"). The first article is by a british scholar named Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis, and it is entitled “The Cosmology of P and Theological Anthropology in the Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach." It outlines the theology of what was going on in the Jerusalem Temple, and clarifies where much of the imagery Jesus uses to describe himself comes from - the Jerusalem Temple Liturgy, the High Priest, clothed in God’s Wisdom (only, clearly, with Jesus it is reversed - Wisdom clothed in Humanity). It will blow your mind, and help you to understand much about the references to Christ, the Church and the Temple that are scattered all over the New Testament and the early Church’s writings. The second article is called “Atonement: the Rite of Healing," and it describes the rite of Atonement in the Jerusalem Temple, and what that action meant. The Temple Liturgy is clearly where the OT images about blood and sacrifice come from, and also where the NT images come from - but it’s meaning is not what you think, and what was going on in the Temple explains the trajectory of Apostolic and Patristic theology (Luther, Calvin, the Reformers and Roman Catholicism from the 16th century onward - misunderstand Atonement in terms of punishment and merit, what was going on in the Temple was very different). Finish by reading Jon Levenson’s “Sinai and Zion." The Marquette University Website is a great resource. The mysticism of Temple theology explains much (I suspect all) of the spiritual gifts mentioned by the Apostles, contra the review of this book by ‘E. Martin “scalawagg.”

Fourth - if you’re intellectually/academically inclined at all, I have found six great minds very helpful after reading Bercot, in ascending order of importance. Wolfhart Pannenberg’s 3 volume “Systematic Theology" was helpful, though it’s errors were corrected both by Avery Dulles “Models of Revelation," and especially by Robert Jenson’s 2 volume “Systematic Theology," which was superior to both. Most importantly David Hart’s “The Beauty of the Infinite," Vladimir Lossky’s “Mystical Theology," and Dumitru Stanilaoe’s “The Experience of God" are must-reads; though Stanilaoe requires patience, the payoff is more than worth it. If you’re interested, feel free to contact me and I’ll tell you why I found these helpful in relation to Bercot’s work, particularly it’s shortcomings.

Fifth, and this is critical, don’t dismiss the Christians who wrote during the centuries that followed after the council of Nicea (325 A.D.). To this end, again, begin by reading that simply fantastic book by Olivier Clement called “The Roots of Christian Mysticism." Do not dismiss Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil of Caesarea, Cyril of Jerusalem, Cyril of Alexandria, Maximus the Confessor (buy Andrew Louth’s book on him), John of Damascus, Symeon the New Theologian (buy his “Mystical Theology" - he titled a section of one of his treatises as “Only the Dead Feel Nothing: The Need for a Conscious Experience of the Holy Spirit"), and many others. Buy the Nicene and Post-Nicene Father’s set from Hendrickson. Buy the Philokalia. Some of Bercot’s portraits/conclusions about the Church’s history during the centuries that followed immediately after Nicea are horridly misleading. He doesn’t do this intentionally, of course; I’ve visited with Bercot twice, and he’s a wonderful man, a generous host, a sincere Christian - and from what I hear from friends who know him, he’s now a Mennonite (you could see it coming, though - whether he’s aware of it or not, he reads the romantic picture of the Anabaptist Christianity that he fell in love with back into the early Church...). If you do dismiss those that came after Nicea, or think that the “visible Church" became corrupted, you’re essentially admitting that the Spirit of God was active for 300 years, guiding the Church, but afterwords failed to fulfill the promises made by Christ that “the gates of Hades/Death will not prevail against [my Church]." If the Church really went apostate after Nicea, then either Christ was wrong, the scriptures misrepresent Him, He is too weak to fulfill His promise, or worse, He was a liar. God Himself dwells in His Church, and He is able to guide her through her errors to fulfill her ministry until the Consummation at the End of the Ages.

I love trading thoughts on this book, and swapping experiences that have come from and with it.

Sometime soon, I hope to post a review of his other book, Common Sense 3 years after first writing this review, many more things have come to my attention.

Early-Christians.jpg Like it or not, it’s The Real Deal , January 19, 2005
By Errol V. Amey (Charlotte, NC)

Are you an open-minded lover of truth who is seeking to follow Christ more closely and correctly? If so, then this book could potentially change your life, or at least help to get you pointed more in the right direction.

However, if you think that you have the Bible all figured out, or if you think that your interpretation of it is the only correct one, and you don’t care what the early Christians had to say about it, then in all likelihood, you probably won’t like this book. In fact, you might even get so upset upon reading it that you feel compelled to come online and give it a bad review.

This work is essentially a powerful introductory to who the early Christians were, how they interpreted the Bible, and how they applied the Scriptures and the oral teachings of Jesus and the Apostles to the way that they lived their lives. Some of the highlights that are covered include what the early Christians believed about the role of faith and works in our salvation, our freewill and its relation to God’s foreknowledge, and the importance of baptism. Also included are cogent arguments on why the writings of the early Christians are so important, and a general explanation of how Christianity began to change and gradually forget or abandon many of the original beliefs and doctrines of the early Church. But as I said, this is only an introductory to a few pertinent issues.

Bercot urges the reader to check up on his quotations of the early Christians, and to study the early writings for themselves. For more through treatments of the above listed topics (and many more) I recommend purchasing some of Bercot’s 30+ audio-CDs on “What the Early Christians Believed About..." Salvation, Baptism, Communion, Life After Death, The Trinity, and etc. Also if one cannot afford the ten volume set of The Ante-Nicene Fathers" as a source for the writings of the early Christians, then I highly recommend at least getting Bercot’s A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs.”

Want to know more about this book, who the early Christians were and what they taught, and/or what the Bible has to say about the post-Biblical Christians and the importance of their writings? Then feel free to contact me via E-mail.

Early-Christians.jpg Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today’s Church, June 16, 2004
By Julius R. Collins (Suffolk, VA)

Praise God! This book really made me think about True Holiness and what it really means! I go to an Apostolic church where everyone believes in being Holy- without no man shall see God! Emphasis is put on being separate from the world in almost every aspect. After reading this book I feel that we(church) are so far from “True Holiness" in light of the early Christians. We say we don’t love the world or the things in the world. We say we have the lifestyle of a christians, but after reading this book, I will have to evaluate everything I’m doing..."Ouch and Amen" is all I have to say! I highly recommend everyone, especially Christians, to read this book!

Early-Christians.jpg Very Engrossing First Half, But Spotty in Places, October 27, 2003
By Edgar Foster (U. S.)

David Bercot has written a book that grabs your attention from the start and make Christians of any bent ask how their life compares with the non-Christian world. Bercot discusses early Christian views of entertainment and war. He concludes that the early Christians would have never approved of many movies that are produced today nor would they have gone to war to fight for their country, though it appears that some early believers did remain in the army after baptism, but evidently refused to take up arms against enemy nations.

One weakness to Bercot’s book, however, is that his arguments are condensed and he sometimes fail to examine the context of a given utterance made by a certain church father. Thus, he does not discern that the idolatrous nature of the Roman army also played a part in early Christian pacifism as well as the way Christians exegeted Isa 2:1-4. All in all, Bercot’s book is a nice read. Just don’t depend on it for serious historical analyses or in-depth and rigorous documented accounts.

Early-Christians.jpg A valid assessment of American Evangelicalism, October 17, 2003

By Seth Aaron Lowry (Olean, NY

Seldom has a book challenged my views as much as Mr. Bercot’s work has done. David Bercot is an individual qualified to assess exactly just what the Early Christian community taught and believed. Not only is he a lawyer, but he also has a Master of Divinity degree and is an accredited member of the National Patristics Society. What impressed me most about this work was the standard that Mr. Bercot employed to determine if a teaching was truly Apostolic in origin and a valid belief of the Christian community. If a teaching was not held by several Fathers of the same time period from different geographical locations, then that teaching would not be included in the book.

What really convicted me was how different my brand of Christianity is from that of the earliest followers of the Apostles and their Spiritual descendants. For instance, Bercot notes how the Early Church believed that Jesus’ teachings in the Synoptic gospels were literal. Sure, they understood that Jesus wasn’t commanding us to literally pluck out our eyes, but many parts of Jesus’ teaching that they understood literally, todays Christian community has watered down or spiritualized to accomodate our 21st century mentality. For example, how many believe that Jesus really wanted us to sell everything that we own and follow Him? I know of no church that teaches such a doctrine and if one were to teach this they would probably be regarded as strange, bizarre and out of their mind. Yet, this is exactly how the Early Church understood Jesus’ message and this is what compelled Cyprian, the great 3rd century bishop of Carthage, to liquidate his vast fortune and follow Jesus with everything that he had. Most Christians today are victims of the materialistic message of our capitalistic culture and they don’t even realize it; Virtually every church teaches that wealth and possessions are good things and that they are signs of God’s blessings. Many believe that as long as they don’t diligently pursue wealth and possessions that they are ok, but Jesus’ message was simple, a man cannot serve two masters because he will either hate one and love the other. This is exactly what most Christians do, believing that they can pursue some things as long as they don’t do it excessively. Yet, this was not the teaching of the Early Church and it was not how they understood Jesus’ gospel. I am not exempting myself from such criticism because I am guilty of such practices myself, and thanks to this book I have begun to reevaluate my beliefs.

Another aspect of this book that convicted me was Bercot’s explanation of the Early Christians’ view of entertainment. I felt extremely uneasy when I read what Bercot had to say because I knew I was guilty of such practices. I realized I needed to exercise more caution and discretion in deciding what was acceptable to view because such material can and does have an impact on my spiritual well-being. Furthermore, Bercot’s treatment of how the Early Christians viewed baptism should serve as a valuable wake up call to most of Christendom that has substituted man made inventions in place of the biblical practice of the early Christian community.

One thing about this book, it will not be liked by those of the Reformed persuasion. Bercot takes serious issue with Martin Luther and Augustine and disagrees with the Reformation doctrine of Sola Fide. Disagree with him all you like, he proves his point by showing that the Early Church insisted that obedience and a life of holiness were necessary for salvation. Moreover, Bercot disagrees with the doctrine of predestination believing that such a teaching has more in common with Gnosticism than with Apostolic Christianity. Again, disagree with him all you want, but Bercot clearly demonstrates that the Christians of the 2nd and 3rd centuries did not believe in unconditional election, but upheld the idea of free will. For those who argue that the ancient concept of fate and Augustinian predestination are different ideas, that argument will not work. Martin Luther argued in favor of predestination by illustrating how pagans believed in fate and arguing that even pagans relized the truth, showing that Luther believed predestination and fate to be one and the same. Also, Methodius writing in the 3rd century argued that those favoring fate and disavowing free will are guilty of making God the author of evils. Thus, Methodius shows that he equated fate with God and this is squarely predestination.

Anyways, buy this book to discover more about the beliefs of the Early Church. You may not agree with everything Mr. Bercot has to offer but I guarantee it will force you to reassess many of the teachings and principles you currently adhere to and believe in.

Early-Christians.jpg Interesting first half, but definitely biased, February 3, 2003
By John Q. Public “Middle Class Working Parent" (West Lafayette, Indiana)

David Bercot is an Anglican priest and an attorney. He is good at argument and presents some interesting points from some very early Christians. However, it becomes clear toward the end of the book that this man does have a strong bias and is not really attempting to be objective in his claims of Christianity from the time of Constantine onward. Here are just a few examples: 1. He claims that icons were “a practice utterly loathsome to early Christians" on page 129. Yet, the footnote is empty (omitted, as a type-o); in cross-reference with his “Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs", most of his support comes from a now Montanistic Tertullian.

2. On page 128 seems to assert that the use of Relics did not occur until Helen “started... relic mania."

3. Chapter 14 brushes over Arianism as if the subject of Christ’s divinity was more a matter of personal opinion than a serious issue that warranted a Church Council (which, incidentally, has precedence in scripture in Acts 15... another fact conveniently ignored by the author).

4. Chapters 17 and 18 simply ignore that Eastern Orthodoxy even exists; this is not an appropriate oversight!

5. Chapter 19 reveals the liberal protestant aim of the author in that we need “unity in the essentials" and “diversity in the non-essentials" since that is the way “the early Christians" were.

After reading it, I am much more skeptical about his assertions in the beginning of the book because the author has not demonstrated that he can present an objective argument. This is a great read for people looking to support an anti-Roman Catholic or anti-Orthodox bent though. If this is what you are looking for, then by all means, buy it!

Early-Christians.jpg I like the 1st edition better than the 3rd., November 29, 2002
By John Norman (Pittsburgh, PA

Yes, I read the 1st edition and loved it. I latter lost it which is why I’m buying a new one. I bought the 3rd edition which I believe left out a lot from the first. I have been reading the works of the early fathers off and on now for 4 years and what Bercot says in this book about Baptism, the Lord’s supper, the wealth and health dogma, salvation, evolution, our culture and Roman culture is right on the money. I must admit that when I first read the 1st edition 3 years ago I was shaken. But the Church today needs to be shook and it is a good thing to research these things from the primary sources so that noone can tell you that they didn’t believe it because they did. Also I have noticed that those from a Reformed background have a tendency to hate this book, while those who are not tend to like it. I hope this helps.

Early-Christians.jpg Challenging to the Evangelical Christian, November 13, 2002
By Raul Diaz (Parlier, CA

When you read what the early Christians believed regarding Baptism, The Eucharist, the nature of the Church, Apostolic Succession, Faith, Works, Sacraments, Tradition, you will know that these early Christians were not Protestants. The early Church was Catholic, not Protestant. A hard-core Protestant Evangelical will not find a home with the faith of the early Christians while a Catholic will feel at home.

David Bercot’s book is a good introduction and challenge to any Protestant who believes the early Church was Protestant. For more information on what the early Church believed, purchase “Early Christian Doctrines" by J.N.D Kelly, “The Apostolic Fathers" by Philip Schaff, and William Jurgens “The Faith of the Early Fathers." Read what the early Christians believed and decide whether their beliefs match with Protestantism or Catholicism. Read the facts. Don’t take my word for it as one reviewer already suggested.

Early-Christians.jpg The 1st of many works, March 16, 2002

By T. Buchser “t_buchser" (Rocky Mountains,

After reading all the reviews posted, I would like to clarify a few things about the author and this book. David Bercot may not have a doctorate, but it is quite clear after over 20 years of study of the complete works of the early church fathers, Editor of “The Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs" and other studies too numerous to mention, this gentleman would be deserving of one. I find it doubtful that any of these reviewers have ever read (much less studied) all 10 volumes of the ante-Nicene fathers. This book is the beginning of a journey by a man who admits to being a pilgrim himself, it is a mind opening book along the lines of “The Gospel according to Jesus" (MacArthur) and “How saved are we?"(Brown) If you are looking for a non-controversial book that never makes you Question if your beliefs are truth and allows you to be a pathetic weak “Christian,” DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. If however you are interested in seeing how the Christians who were taught, ordained and lived with Apostles like John and Paul, viewed and interpreted the Gospel, this book is for you. Wether you agree with it or not it will certainly make you look at your own beliefs.

As for those reviewers who think he did not go far enough, or missed certain points, His second book “Common Sense" and over 30 audio tapes, cover all of those areas and many, many others.

My prayer is that all who proclaim to Follow Jesus, will Make him Lord (not just savior) and DO his will. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?" Luke 6:46

Early-Christians.jpg A Good Start: But “Where’s the Eucharist????", February 19, 2002

By Bob Walden (Atlanta, GA)

To honestly examine the early Christian beliefs and practices, and then fail to comment on Christianity’s universal belief in the Eucharist as the actual body and blood of Christ, is very troubling. While Bercot does acknowledge sacramental baptism and apostolic tradition as being essential in the lives of early Christians, perhaps this (the most Catholic belief of all) would be just too far “over the edge" for Protestant readers to accept.

Bercot does an admirable job explaining why we need to study the Early Church Fathers, and why our own beliefs and practices should mirror the early church. But he falls way short of telling us what they believed and were taught by the Apostles about Jesus’ greatest gift: His own body and blood as our spiritual life & power, the cause of our unity, the source of our charity, and the promise of our salvation ("He who eats my body and drinks my blood has eternal life")

How could Bercot have missed the words of Ignatius of Antioch, 110 AD: “They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again." ..."Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”

And, how could he have missed the words of Justin Martyr, 150 AD: “We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration and is thereby living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.”

Indeed, anytime Bercot gets too close to sounding “Catholic," his anti-Catholic bias quickly surfaces: “But please don’t confuse apostolic tradition with the later human traditions [of the Roman Catholics]. Most of their traditions originated after the time of Constantine and were unknown to the early Christians" {p.106}. Later he calls the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431 a “prime example of this adulteration" by affirming Mary as the Mother of God (Greek: Theotokos) {p.136}. Really.

All in all, this is a useful book. For non-Catholics I would rate it a 4-star for emphasizing the importance of apostolic tradition. For Catholics, I would recommend instead “The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol 1" Liturgical Press, ISBN 0814604323 for a complete index to early Christian beliefs, as well as “This IS My Body: An Evangelical Discovers the Real Presence" by Mark Shea. And for all Christians, I rate this a “must-read" for Bercot’s timely & passionate call to return to the uncompromising zeal of discipleship in loving and serving Jesus Christ.

Early-Christians.jpg A good book by an evangelical who loves the truth., February 14, 2002

By A Customer

I read the whole book, and it really surprised me. If you are catholic and you like apologetics, you’ll find something better: Bercot tell us that our christian faith is real love for Jesus, to love Him with all the strenght of our lives and Bercot provides us with old brothers in Christ who made exactly that.

Bercot is not a hidden catholic, and you will confirm this when you read the last chapters of this book. He’s a Christian who loves his protestant heritage (just see his portrayal of the Anabaptists). If you read the original German version of protestant “Theological Dictionary of the NT" by Lothar Coenen or the Spanish translation, you will see that Lothar Coenen asks himself if the protestants are following as God’s word the teachings of the reformers or what the people usually think it is. Lothar Coenen, noted the difference, and David Bercot made the same point but with force. Bercot misses an important point when he reviews the beliefs of the first Christian who lived between I and III centuries A.D: the Eucharist as a sacrifice (read J.N.D Kelly’s book on this point), just find out the Eucharistic interpretation of Mal 1:11 during the first 3 centuries and you will see what I mean. Bercot book is a good book, if you look for the truth in the Bible about salvation, baptism and what the first Christian books believed about those themes, buy this book. When you finish you will confirm that he is an honest Christian who loves the so called Evangelical Church and who dislikes important aspects of the Catholic Church.

Early-Christians.jpg The Church That Disappeared, September 28, 2001

By Kevin Kirwan (Sioux City, IA

While I give Bercot one star for at least acknowledging the genuine faith and practice of the pre-Nicene Fathers his dismissal of Constantine as a sort of anti-christ who was primarily responsible for the Church rushing headlong into apostasy shows his complete unfamiliarity with that era and ignorance of what it mean’t to be a Christian in the early Church. It was somewhat surprising that having begun this work by positively showing the post apostolic fathers as faithfully adhering to the gospel he suddenly with the appearence of Constantine literally proclaims that Satan finally figured out how to prevail against Christ’s Church and contrary to Christ’s promise conquers it after 300 plus years.

At least Mr. Bercot admits unlike many Evangelicals there is at least something worthwhile in post 70 a.d. Christianity. If only he could see the promise of Christ extending past Constantine and Nicea.

Early-Christians.jpg For the most part really good..., April 16, 2001

By Moses Alexander (Alabama

As a former protestant, I found this book quite interesting in that it addresses many of the issues I wrestled with for a long time (especially why most protestants support the death penalty), and specifically calls protestants to look at their beliefs and behaviours as compared to those of early Christians...those from 33 AD - 300 AD. (Not that I don’t think that Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians couldn’t do the same comparisons in many ways, but this book addresses many of the problems unique to protestantism.)

Bercot points to the fragmented nature of the protestant church (thousands upon thousands of denominations), and how theology changes and shifts from generation to generation, and he has some extremely valid points when speaking about things like Baptism (its sacramental nature isn’t merely an empty symbol.) I think both protestants and non-protestants (especially in the United States) could profit from this book, because it will help various groups figure out where each other are in some ways.

My major complaint is that he makes no mention of the Orthodox Church. He references Roman Catholicism some as pertaining to the Protestant Reformation, but totally ignores the Christian East. Since protestantism grew out of Roman Catholicism this makes sense, but to not comment on Orthodoxy at all seems strange given the fact that many of the early Church Fathers he quotes from are from the which are Orthodox today.

Its easy to read and is straightforward, yet there’s enough substance there to chew on.

Early-Christians.jpg 1991

“I want to thank you for writing the book. It has meant more to me than any other book beside the Bible because it held a lot of answers for me.”

Early-Christians.jpg 1991

“I just read your book. I couldn’t put it down. I have read many books on the subject in your book, but nothing like this.”

Early-Christians.jpg 1990
New York

“I haven’t been the same since reading it.”

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