A Cloud of Witnesses: Readings in the History of Western Christianity


Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.



This collection of original documents, written by men and women from a myriad of diverse cultures and time periods, illustrates the variety of Christian ideas and practices of the past two millennia.  A Cloud of Witnesses is not as much a history as it is a collection of voices—or in the phrase from the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews, “a cloud of witnesses”—brought together to speak in a complex yet direct way to the contemporary student of western Christianity.


The book’s ten chapters are arranged in chronological order.  Each chapter is introduced by a general overview of the period and its issues, accompanied by a timeline that places religious events in their political, social, and intellectual context.  Within the chapter itself, the sources are sorted under four to six thematic Key Terms, which function as signposts to direct the reader’s attention to certain themes that were critically important to the development of western Christianity within each chronological period.  Sources include documents poems, songs, letters, pamphlets, journal entries, sermons, and woodcuts.