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The Early Church Fathers

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The Early Church Fathers were the earliest theologians following the Apostles. The “Patristic Age” began about AD 100 and ended about AD 450, AD 800, or even later depending on who you ask. There is no definitive list of Fathers, but the writings of many still exist and are easily accessed today. In them, they countered heresies, explained and defended the faith, interpreted Scripture and much more. Their writings do not carry the inspired authority of Sacred Scripture, but they do provide valuable insight as to the teachings and practices of the Church in their age. What is particularly fascinating is the degree to which various Protestant sects rely on their writings, yet reject the authority of Sacred Tradition which is manifest in part in these manuscripts.

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This is the list of Fathers from New Advent sorted in chronological order by date of death or, in some cases, by approximate dates of writing/influence (floruit). Biographical information comes primarily from New Advent, Wikipedia, and from books such as Pope Benedict XVI’s The Fathers. The Spurious & Apocryphal Writings are covered separately.

Note: Except where indicated otherwise, all links below are to pages on this site containing my notes, summaries and observations, based primarily on the English translations found at New Advent.

First Century

Didache The Didache is a sort of catechism written during the time of the Apostles.

Barnabas (d. ~60 A.D.?) Apostle and Saint. One epistle is attributed to Joseph, called Barnabas, a Levite originally from the Island of Cyprus living in Jersalem. [Acts 4:36-37] It was Barnabas who first brought Saul (Paul) to the Apostles [Acts 9:27], was sent by the Church to investigate his work in Antioch [Acts 11:19], and worked alongside him on missionary trips [Acts 13-14]. Together they brought the concern over Judaizers to the Council of Jerusalem, and they eventually parted ways after a disagreement. [Acts 15]

Clement of Rome (fl. 96) Fourth Bishop of Rome. Probably a Phillippian, a free man, and a Jew. Clement’s one authentic epistle (Greek), addressing the Church in Corinth, describes the primacy of the Church in Rome, Apostolic succession, the sacramental nature of the Church’s structure, and the recognition of the worldly authority of government. Several other works attributed to Clement are considered spurious.

Hermas (fl. late 1st c.) Author of “The Shepherd“, a book once deemed as having great authority, ranked closely to scripture along with the didache and the epistle of Barnabas.

Second Century

Ignatius of Antioch (d. 98-117 A.D.?) Saint and Third Bishop of Antioch. Ignatius wrote letters to five Churches in Asia, to the Church in Rome, and to his friend, Polycarp, while being led in captivity to Rome and martyrdom. An account of the end of his life, titled Martyrium Ignatii, was believed to have been written by companions on his final journey. There are also a number of spurious epistles attributed to him.

Aristides the Philosopher (fl. 126) Early Christian apologist who wrote an Apology for the Roman Emporer in defense of the Christians against persecution.

Papias (d. 115-140?) Saint; Bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor.
Polycarp (d. 155) Saint; Martyr.
Justin Martyr (d. ~165) Saint; Martyr.

Athenagoras (fl. early 2nd c.) Christian apologist and philosopher from Athens to whom two authentic works are attributed. The first is his Apology, written around A.D. 177, a plea based on philosophy for justice and fairness in the court trials of Christians. The second is his Treatise on the Resurrection.

Irenaeus of Lyons (d. late 2nd c.?) Saint; Bishop of Lyons.
Tatian (d. late 2nd c.)
Theophilus (d. late 2nd c.?) Bishop of Antioch.

Third Century

Victorinus (fl. 270, d. ~303) Saint; Martyr; Bishop of Pattau, Styria (Austria).
Minucius Felix (d. 3rd c.?) Christian apologist.
Caius (fl. early 3rd c.) Christian author.
Clement of Alexandria (d. ~215) Saint. Early Greek theologian.
Tertullian (d. after 218)
Bardesanes (d. 222) Syrian poet, astrologist and philosopher.
Hippolytus (d. ~236) Saint; Martyr. Follower of the Novation schism reconciled with the Church before death.
Julius Africanus (d. ~240)
Origen (d. ~253)
Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258) Saint; Martyr; Bishop of Carthage.
Novatian (d. 258) Schismatic.
Dionysius the Great (d. ~265) Bishop of Alexandria.
Dionysius of Rome (d. 268) Saint; Bishop of Rome.
Gregory Thaumaturgus (d. 270-275) Saint. Also called St. Gregory of Neocaesarea.
Commodianus (fl. late 3rd c.?) Christian poet.
Archelaus (fl. late 3rd c.?) Bishop of Caschar in Mesopotamia.

Fourth Century

Alexander of Lycopolis (fl. early 4th c.) May have been Bishop of Lycopolis.
Lactantius (d. early 4th c.?) Christian apologist.
Arnobius (fl. 305) Christian apologist.
Pamphilus (d. 309) Saint; Martyr.
Peter of Alexandria (d. 311) Saint; Martyr; Bishop of Alexandria.
Alexander of Alexandria (d. 326) Saint; Patriarch. Opponent of Arius. Succeeded by Athanasius.
Eusebius of Caesarea (d. before 341) Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine.
Aphrahat/Aphraates (d. 367) Bishop of the monastery of Mar Mattai. Syrian writer. Took the name Jacob upon ordination to the espiscopate.
Hilary of Poitiers (d. 368) Saint; Doctor; Bishop of Poitiers.
Athanasius (d. 373) Saint; Doctor; Bishop of Alexandria.
Ephraim the Syrian (d. 373) Saint; Doctor.
Basil the Great (d. 379) Saint; Doctor; Bishop of Caesarea.
Gregory of Nyssa (d. after 385) Saint.
Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386) Saint; Doctor; Bishop of Jerusalem.
Gregory Nazianzen (d. 389) Saint; Doctor. Son of a bishop by the same name.
Ambrose (d. 397) Saint; Doctor; Bishop of Milan.

Fifth Century

John Chrysostom (d. 407) Saint; Doctor.
Jerome (d. 420) Saint; Doctor. Ancient exegete.
Sulpitius Severus (d. 420-425?)
Augustine of Hippo (d. 430) Saint; Doctor; Bishop of Hippo.
Vincent of Lérins (d. ~434, <450?) Saint.
John Cassian (d. ~435) Ascetic monk.
Socrates Scholasticus (d. After 439?)
Sozomen (d. ~447) Historian.
Theodoret (d. 457) Bishop of Cyrus.
Leo the Great (d. 461) Saint; Doctor; Bishop of Rome.
Moses of Chorene (d. ~490)
Gennadius of Marseilles (fl. late 5th c.)

Sixth Century

Seventh Century

Gregory the Great (d. 604) Saint; Doctor; Bishop of Rome.

Eighth Century

John of Damascus (d. 754-787?) Saint; Doctor

TBD

Malchion ()
Mar Jacob ()
Mathetes ()
Methodius ()
Rufinus ()
Theodotus ()
Venantius ()

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