This work is widely recognized as a classic of ecclesiastical history. Based directly on the primary sources, Charles Joseph von Hefele reconstructs the most significant Church gatherings from the council of Jerusalem, depicted in The Acts of the Apostles, to the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. This was the period of the undivided Church, when East and West were united and governed primarily through periodic gatherings, the most famous being the seven ecumenical councils held in 325, 381, 431, 451, 553, 680, and 787. This history clearly and thoroughly explains the major issues dealt with at each council, including clear descriptions of the numerous heretical movements of the early Church. It also describes with great detail the politics surrounding the calling and conclusion of the councils.
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Karl Joseph von Hefele(March 15, 1809–June 6, 1893) was a German theologian. He was born at Unterkochen in Württemberg, and was educated at Tübingen where in 1839 he became professor-ordinary of Church history and patristics in the Roman Catholic faculty of theology. From 1842 to 1845 he sat in the National Assembly of Württemberg. In December 1869 he was enthroned bishop of Rottenburg.