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On the one hand, the history of dogma is defined as the process of the origin and reception of normative doctrinal consensuses. On the other hand, scholars see the history of dogma as a discipline that studies the history of dogma in the first sense, but as part of the history of Christian theology. The history of dogma as a theme of scientific research began in the 18th-c. Enlightenment, receiving significant impetus from G.W.F. Hegel’s philosophy of history 1831 and reaching its culmination in A. von Harnack’s d. 1930 Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte 1886 1890. The elaboration of the history of dogma is essentially linked to the history of German Protestantism, although there was also interest in it in Catholic circles, for example in the T¼bingen school, in J.H. Newman, in the modernist controversy in the early 20th century and in the recent Catholic theology whose representatives, such as M. Schmaus and A. Grillmeier, concerned themselves mainly with the hermeneutics of ancient Christian doctrines. There is no need to present here in detail the history of the historical-theological discipline see TRE 9,116-123; LTK3 3,298-201; RGG4 2,915ff..

We must, however, call attention to the arguments behind the various approaches that is, the question of in what sense the apostolic tradition has arrived at the conviction that the Christian churches proclaim, still today, the good news of Christ. In terms less intellectual than personalistic, the question arises of how the original testimony of the encounter with Jesus Christ is capable of leading to an experience of Christ today, and to a contemporary witness to his presence. This personalistic approach seeks to avoid a reduction of the history of Christian doctrine to a historiography of ideas, instead of also considering the daily attitudes and spiritual ideals of our fathers and mothers in faith see LTK3 The common reception of the basic truths of the gospel goes back to the time when the churches were not yet divided as in the second millennium.

Whatever the exact explanation might be of the passage from the apostolic tradition to the testimony of the churches of today, it is interesting to investigate in what sense the authors of the ancient churches might have seen this problem, and in what way modern research might help in evaluating the development of faith and of theology in the ancient church. Before addressing this twofold question, however, it is worth specifying what is commonly meant by dogma and history see LTK3 3,284f.. Regarding dogma, a fairly wide consensus exists today in the Christian communities: it is ordinarily defined as the doctrine of faith, proposed as such by the churches. Opinions differ, however, on the exact way and the authority by which the churches define what all Christians are called to accept by faith.

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