From Adolf Harnack, What Is Christianity?, Translated by Thomas Bailey Saunders


I. THE GOSPEL: Preliminary

(i.) The leading features of Jesus’ message
The kingdom of God and its coming
God the Father and the infinite value of the human soul
The higher righteousness and the commandment of love

(ii.) The Gospel in relation to certain problems
The Gospel and the world, or the question of asceticism
The Gospel and the poor, or the social question
The Gospel and law, or the question of public order
The Gospel and work, or the question of civilisation
The Gospel and the Son of God, or the Christological question
The Gospel and doctrine, or the question of creed.

II. THE GOSPEL IN HISTORY. The Christian religion

(i.) In the Apostolic Age
(ii.) In its Development into Catholicism
(iii.) In Greek Catholicism (iv.) In Roman Catholicism (v.) In Protestantism


The great English philosopher, John Stuart Mill, has somewhere observed that mankind cannot be too often reminded that there was once a man of the name of Socrates. That is true; but still more important is it to remind mankind again and again that a man of the name of Jesus Christ once stood in their midst. The fact, of course, has been brought home to us from our youth up; but unhappily it cannot be said that public instruction in our time is calculated to keep the image of Jesus Christ before us in any impressive way, and make it an inalienable possession after our school-days are over and for our whole life. And although no one who has once absorbed a ray of Christ’s light can ever again become as though he had never heard of him; although at the bottom of every soul that has been once touched an impression remains, a confused recollection of this kind, which is often only a “superstitio,” is not enough to give strength and life. But where the demand for further and more trustworthy knowledge about him arises, and a man wants positive information as to who Jesus Christ was, and as to the real purport of his message, he no sooner asks for it than he finds himself, if he consults the literature of the day, surrounded by a clatter of contradictory voices. He hears some people maintaining that primitive Christianity was closely akin to Buddhism, and he is accordingly told that it is in fleeing the world and in pessimism that the sublime character of this religion and its profound meaning are revealed. Others, on the contrary, assure him that Christianity is an optimistic religion, and that it must be thought of simply and solely as a higher phase of Judaism; and these people also suppose that in saying this they have said something very profound. Others, again, maintain the opposite; they assert that the Gospel did away with Judaism, but itself originated under Greek influences of mysterious operation; and that it is to be understood as a blossom on the tree of Hellenism. Religious philosophers come forward and declare that the metaphysical system which, as they say, was developed out of the Gospel is its real kernel and the revelation of its secret; but others reply that the Gospel has nothing to do with philosophy, that it was meant for feeling and suffering humanity, and that philosophy has only been forced upon it. Finally, the latest critics that have come into the field assure us that the whole history of religion, morality, and philosophy, is nothing but wrapping and ornament; that what at all times underlies them, as the only real motive power, is the history of economics; that, accordingly, Christianity, too, was in its origin nothing more than a social movement and Christ a social deliverer, the deliverer of the oppressed lower classes.