By the year 600 Christian doctrine had achieved what Jaroslav Pelikan terms an "orthodox consensus" - the foundation for the development of doctrine in later periods. Beginning with the "Christian declaration of independence from Judaism, " the years 100 to 600 were a period of great ferment and vitality when the fundamental affirmations of Christian dogma emerged from a welter of beliefs and teachings.
"The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition" is the history of this critical, troubled time. Pelikan focuses upon the subtle relation between what the faithful believed, what teachers - both orthodox and heretical - taught, and what the church confessed as dogma during its first six centuries of growth. In constructing his work, Pelikan has made use of exegetical and liturgical sources in addition to the usual polemical, apologetic, and systematic or speculative materials.