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Fathers of the Church

The following is a partial listing of the main Christian teachers and fathers of the church in its first 700 years.  I am agreeing with those who believe that John of Damascus in the east and Bede the Venerable in the west mark the end of the Patristic (era of the fathers) period.  The 7th and last ecumenical council fits in here also.  While more could be added for other reasons (such as the desert fathers and mothers, martyrs, etc…) I have initially kept this to those who are known for representing the classical Christian consensus through their writings and influence.  I have also tried to include those admired by both east and west, and by Christians everywhere, regardless of tradition.  I have also included  several that are a “mixed bag,” but still influential, even though they are received to a lesser degree.

(those underlined are the most influential and important, and except for Tertullian, many are considered “doctors of the church”)

The Fathers of the Church

St. Ignatius of Antioch

  • Clement of Rome (late 90’s Bishop of Rome) Epistle to the Corinthians
  • Ignatius of Antioch (c.35-110) 7 Epistles
  • Polycarp of Smyrna (c.65-c.155) Epistle to the Philippians
  • Other Works (anonymous or attributed): Martyrdom of Polycarp, 2 Clement, Didache, Shepherd of Hermas, Epistle to Diognetus

Apologists Era (150’s-200’s)

  • Justin Martyr (c.100-165) 1st Apology, 2nd Apology, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 
  • Irenaeus (c.130-200) Against Heresies, Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching
  • Theophilus of Antioch (d. 180’s) Apology to Autolycus
  • Clement of Alexandria (c.150-c.215) Trilogy (Exhortation, Tutor, Miscellanies)
  • Athenogoras of Athens (133-190) Embassy for the Christians, On the Resurrection of the Body
  • Hegesippus (110-180) Memoirs (an early church history preserved by Eusebius in fragments.
  • Tertullian* (c.165-c.225) Numerous Apologetic works, especially Against Maricon

    St. Irenaeus

    and Apologeticus

3rd Century

  • Cyprian of Carthage (d.258) The Unity of the Church, Epistles, Treatises, etc…
  • Hippolytus of Rome (c.170-235) Refutation of All Heresies, Commentaries, Church Law
  • Gregory Thaumaturgus (c.213-270) Exposition of the Faith, Canonical Epistles
  • Dionysius of Alexandria (d.265) Epistles

4th Century

  • Athanasius (c.290’s-373) On the Incarnation, Orations against the Arians, Festal Letters, etc…
  • Basil the Great (c. 330-379) On the Holy Spirit, Letters, Refutation of the Impious Eunomius
  • Ambrose (c.340-397) On the Faith, On the Holy Spirit, On the Mysteries, Hymns, etc…
  • Lactantius (c.250’s-c.320’s) The Divine Institutes, The Works of God
  • Cyril of Jerusalem (c.313-386) Catechetical Lectures
  • Gregory of Nyssa (c.335-c.395) Against Eunomius, On Not Three God’s, On the Trinity, etc…
  • Gregory of Nazianzus (c.329-390) Theological Orations, Theological Poetry, Letters, Hymns
  • Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-c.368) On the Trinity, On the Councils, Homilies on the Psalms
  • Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373) Hymns (including hymns against heresies), Commentaries
  • Epiphanius of Salamis (c.315-403) Panarion (“medicine-chest” against heresies)
  • John Chrysostom (c.347-407) Homilies/Commentaries, Divine Liturgy, Treatises

    St. John Chrysostom

  • Eusebius of Caesarea (c.263-339) Ecclesiastical History, Gospel Treatises, Life of Constantine

5th Century

  • Jerome of Stridon (c.347-420) Against the Pelagians, Letters, Commentaries, Biographies…
  • Augustine of Hippo (c.354-430) Confessions, City of God, On the Trinity, Commentaries, etc…
  • Cyril of Alexandria (c.376-444) On the Unity of Christ, Epistles to Nestorius, Commentaries
  • Leo the Great (c.390’s-461) Sermons, Letters
  • John Cassian (c.360-435) Institutions, Conferences
  • Vincent of Lerins (d.445) Commonitory
  • Patrick (c.397-c.493) Declaration, Letter to the Soldiers

    St. Augustine

Later Fathers

  • Maximos the Confessor (c.580-662) Centuries on Theology, Centuries on Love, Commentaries
  • John of Damascus (c.670’s-749) Dialectic, Concerning Heresies, The Orthodox Faith, Holy Images
  • Gregory the Great (c.540-604) Sermons, Dialogues, Pastoral Rule, Commentary on Job
  • Isidore of Seville (c.560-636) Questions on the Old Testament, Catholic Faith Against the Jews…**
  • Benedict of Nursia (c.480-543) Rule
  • Bede the Venerable (c.673-735) Commentaries, Exegetical Works, Homilies, Histories

* Late in his life, Tertullian joined the Montanist movement, a sort of early charismatic movement that believed the Holy Spirit was supplying additional scripture.  This was universally condemned as heretical by the church.  On the vast majority of other issues he is orthodox, and was for most of his life.

** In the classical world, it was quite common to write a book, letter, etc…with the title “against” in it.  This implies that one is arguing against the position or philosophy of the addressee. It does not mean that the person is “racist” or many of the other labels we like to use nowadays.

Also part of this tradition can be counted the ancient Creeds and Councils held by Christians everywhere, especially:

Apostle’s Creed
Nicene Creed
Athanasian Creed
Definition of Chalcedon

Councils of Nicea (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (681), Nicea II (787)

Other

The following “fathers” in early Christianity are very important, but have been condemned in the history of the church for differing reasons, mostly for holding troublesome views while still being helpful otherwise, or for being schismatic.  The most important are:

Origen (185-254) Commentaries, On First Principles, Apologetic Works…
Novatian (c.200-c.258) The Trinity, Jewish Foods, In Praise of Purity, Letters
Theodoret (borderline, a saint in the east, c.393-457) Epistles, Commentaries, Apologies, etc…

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5 Comments

  1. […] AboutMusicThe EssentialsNotesStatement of FaithApostle’s CreedAthanasian CreedDefinition of ChalcedonNicene CreedFathers of the Church […]

  2. robstroud says:

    Throughout my life and ministry I have worked to make people aware of the wealth of Patristic literature we have at our fingertips. Those few with a strong sense of the historicity of the Faith have been grateful. Sadly, most have remained disinterested . . .

    • I have been blessed to be able to teach church history, patristics, and apologetics, and actually did the 4 doctors of the east, and 4 doctors of the west, all in church! While sometimes sparsely attended, just having 6 or 7 devoted to reading about John Chrysostom or the early heresies is inspiring for me, and makes me work hard…now I need to get better acquainted with Latin…

      Unfortunately, my experience as of late is the exception, and I heartily agree that the average Christian is more concerned with “the latest and greatest” or “how can you help my marriage?” than the ancient wisdom found on this list.

  3. Rob says:

    A big amen to your last comment. Thank you for this great resource. I’m glad I found your blog!

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