Preaching from the Church Fathers up to 1200AD

A very brief summary of the history of preaching from the just after the New Testament to the Middle ages. This is from some work for my MA dissertation.

Both Dargan (1905, pp.26-28) and Ker (1888, pp.1-3) note the varying fortunes of preaching in the remaining history of the church. For example, Dargan (1905, p.26) suggests a weak period following the apostolic period, although in the early Church Fathers we find preachers and preaching to be held in high esteem. For example in the Didache, which was written in the second century (Richardson 1953, p.163), we have "My child, day and night 'you should remember him who preaches God's word to you,' and honor him as you would the Lord. For where the Lord's nature is discussed, there the Lord is." (4:1) (Richardson 1953, p.173) (Stott 1982, p.18). Ker (1888, pp.44-45) and Stott (1982, pp.18-19) both look to Justin Martyr's description of Christian meetings from the middle of the second century: "And on the day called Sunday there is a meeting in one place of those who live in cities or the country, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits. When the reader has finished, the president in a discourse urges and invites [us] to the imitation of these noble things." (Richardson 1953, p.287) This again shows us of the centrality of preaching in the early church.  And of course many point to the outstanding preaching of Chrysostom, who was preaching around the end of the fourth and the start of the fi fth centuries (Dargan 1905, pp.86-93) (Ker 1888, pp.76-77) (Stott 1982, pp.20-21).

Following this period, Dargan (1905, p.106) writes that "Preaching . . . entered on a decline from which it did not recover till the twelfth century," although he also notes that the developing liturgy continued to give prominence to preaching (Dargan 1905, p.109). Similarly Ker (1888, p.114-115, 119) writing of 430 to 800AD says "On the whole, however, the times are evil for preaching" and then that "the darkness deepened till about the year 1200."


Dargan, E. (1905), A History of Preaching, New York:Hodder and Stoughton. [Online]. Available at: history of preaching (Accessed: 21 February 2014).

Ker, J. (1888), Lectures on the History of Preaching, London: Hodder and Stoughton. [Online]. Available at: on the history of preaching (Accessed: 21 February 2014).

Richardson, C., ed. (1953), Early Christian Fathers, Vol. 1 of Library of Christian Classics, Philadelphi: Westminster Press. [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2014).

Stott, J. (1982), I Believe in Preaching, I Believe Series, London: Hodder and


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