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Apostolic Fathers of the Church

Links to Writings of the Fathers of the Church

Catholic Christians believe that the promise of the Spirit of Truth to guide believers in truth is found in the constant faith of the Church preserved in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. The term "Apostolic Fathers" applies to certain disciples and successors of the twelve apostles. In a more restricted sense, the term is applied to a group of Greek-language writers who were among the martyrs and major figures of the 1st and 2nd centuries in the Christian Church.

Clement I, St. (Clement of Rome) (Bio)

Personal

4th Bishop of Rome

Place and dates

r. 92 - 101

Writings

I Clement or Letter to the Corinthians (c. 96): earliest piece of literature outside the NT historically attested; addressed disputes in the Church at Corinth;
II Clement (a sermon)(c. 140): Clementine authorship disputed

Ignatius of Antioch, St. (Bio)

Personal

Martyr for the faith
Disciple of John the Evangelist
Condemned to die by wild beasts in Rome
Brought from Antioch to Rome and wrote seven letters to churches and individuals along the way

Place and dates

d. 110

Writings

Letter to Ephesians
Letter to Magnesians
Letter to Tralles
Letter to Philadelphians
Letter to Smyrnans
Letter to Polycarp of Smryna
Letter to Romans
These contain warnings against heretical doctrines; contain detailed summaries of doctrines; and a picture of Church organization with bishops, presbyters (elders) and deacons
First to stress Virgin Birth and to use the term "catholic church"

Polycarp of Symrna, St. (Bio)

Personal

Received a visit and letter from Ignatius
Represented the Church of Asia Minor in meetings with Pope Anicetus
Dating of Easter
A teacher of Irenaeus
Knew John the Evangelist and other apostles
Was a disciple of John the Evangelist

Place and dates

69-155

Writings

Polycarp to the Philipians
Martyrdom of Polycarp (about him)

Unknown Author of the Didache

Personal

Unknown

Place and dates

(Syria) 70-110?

Writings

Didache ("Teaching"):
A compendium of moral precepts, instructions on organization of church communities, liturgical worship and regulation.
It contains oldest Eucharistic prayer, directions on Baptism, fasting, prayer, treatment of bishops, deacons, prophets

Barnabas (Bio)

Personal

Surname of Joseph, a member of the early Christian church in Jerusalem (Acts 4:36)
Companion of Paul
Did missionary work with Mark (Acts 15:39)

Place and dates

c. 130

Writings

Letter of Barnabas
Allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament

Papias of Hierapolis (Bio)

Personal

Contemporary of Polycarp
Knew of a collection of the "sayings of the Lord" to have been written in Aramaic or Hebrew by Matthew

Place and dates

(Phrygia) 120?

Writings

Five Books of Exegeses of the Dominical Oracles:
Quoted by Irenaeus
Witness to the existence of Jewish Christianity

Hermas (Author Unknown)

Personal

Little known

Place and dates

(Rome) 140?

Writings

Mandates
Similitudes
The Shepherd: a vivid description of early Christianity

Post-Apostolic Fathers of the Church

Paradosis or handing on or down of Divine Revelation is affirmed in Sacred Scripture. Hence, it must be found in some contiguous historical form from age to age. Catholic Christians believe that the promise of the Spirit of Truth to guide believers in truth is found in the constant faith of the Church as preserved in the writings of the Post-Apostolic Fathers.

The term "Post-Apostolic Fathers" is the name given by the Christian Church to the writers who established Christian doctrine before the 8th century. The writings of the Fathers or Patristic Literature synthesized Christian doctrine as found in the Bible, especially the gospels, the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, ecclesiastical dictums, and decisions of the Church councils.

Justin (Martyr), St. (Bio)

Personal

Philosopher, theologian, early apologist, martyr
Convert to Christianity

Place and dates

(Rome) 100-165

Writings

Apologies for the Christians: erudite defense of Christians against charges of atheism and sedition
Dialogue with Trypho the Jew: a record of an actual discussion at Ephesus; valuable information about 2nd century Christian Church

Irenaeus, St. (Bio)

Personal

Heard the preaching of Polycarp the disciple of John the Evangelist
Appointed the bishop of Lyon (177)

Place and dates

(Asia Minor) 140?-202?

Writings

Against the Heresies: written against the Gnostics; contributed to the knowledge of Gnosticism

Clement of Alexandria (Bio)

Personal

Greek theologian
Converted from paganism
Ordained a presbyter
A teacher of Origen

Place and dates

(Athens) 150?-215?

Writings

Hortatory Address to the Greeks: a defense of the faith
The Tutor: instruction in manners and morals
The Miscellanies: a discussion of various points of doctrinal theology designed to guide the mature Christian to perfect knowledge

Tertullian (Bio)

Personal

Converted to Christianity between 190 and 195
Became a presbyter of the Church (197)
Zealous champion of Christianity
Profoundly influences later Church fathers
Embraced and became a leader of the Montanists (207?) a sect later declared heretical

Place and dates

(Rome) 160?-220?

Writings

Apologeticus (c. 197): his most famous work; a defense of Christians against pagan charges
On the Claims of Heretics: argues that the Church alone has the authority to declare what is and is not orthodox Christianity
On Baptism
On Prayer: throws light on contemporary religious practices

Origen (Bio)

Personal

A student of Clement
Ordained a presbyter
The most accomplished biblical scholar of the early Church
Father of the allegorical method of scripture interpretation
He developed the idea of Christ as Logos or Incarnate Word

Place and dates

(Alexandria) 185?-254?

Writings

Against Celsus: closely reasoned apologetic work refuting the arguments advanced by the Celsus, the first serious critic of Christianity

Cyprian, St. (Bio)

Personal

Convert to Christianity c. 245
Bishop of Carthage, 248
One of the most authoritative Fathers of the Church
Involved in controversy over treatment of those who had left the Church, and those who were baptized by heretics: accepted the teaching of Rome.

Place and dates

(Carthage) 200-258

Writings

On Unity of the Catholic Church: exposition of the hierarchical organization of the Church

Athanasius, St. (Bio)

Personal

Played a prominent role in the theological struggle in the Council of Nicea (325)
Opposed Arius (256-336) who maintained that the Son was of a different substance from that of the Father, and was merely a creature
Formulated the "homousian doctrine" that the Son of God is the same essence of substance of the Father
Became bishop of Alexandria (328)

Place and dates

(Alexandria) 293-373

Writings

Discourses Against the Arians
History of the Arians
Apology Against the Arians
On the Decrees of the Nicene Synod

Cyril of Jerusalem (Bio)

Personal

Bishop of Jerusalem in 351
Embroiled in controversy over episcopal duties

Place and dates

(Jerusalem) 315?-387?

Writings

23 Treatises: addressed to catechumens and newly baptized; some treatises are doctrinal and present the creed of the Church; some are concerned with ritual and present a detailed account of Baptism, Eucharist and chrism

Basil, St. (Bio)

Personal

Brother of Gregory of Nyssa and a friend of Gregory of Nazianzus
Patriarch of Eastern monasticism
Wrote a rule of the monastic way of life
Founded the Basilian monks (360)
Bishop of Caesarea (370).

Place and dates

(Caesarea Mazaca) 329?-379

Writings

Against Eunomius: written against the Arian leader Eunomius
On the Holy Spirit: a doctrinal treatise
Moralia: an anthology of New Testament verses
Liturgy of St. Basil

Gregory of Nazianzus, St. (Bio)

Personal

Bishop of Sasima (371)
Took charge of the Nicene congregation of Constantinople where he delivered five discourses on the Trinity that earned him fame as "The Theologian"

Place and dates

(Nazianzus in Capadocia, now Turkey) 329?-389

Writings

Philokalia (Love of the Beautiful): an anthology of the writings of Origen

Gregory of Nyssa, St. (Bio)

Personal

Bishop of Milan (374)
Fame is chiefly as a theologian

Place and dates

(Neocaesarea, now in Turkey) 335?-394

Writings

Against Eunomius: a defense of the Nicene Creed
Great Catechetical Discourse: a defense of the Christian faith against Jews and pagans
On Faith: a treatise against the Arians
Ten Syllogisms: directed against the Apollinarists

Ambrose, St. (Bio)

Personal

Bishop of Milan (374)
Defended the churches of Milan against Arianism
Friend of Monica, mother of Augustine, and finally brought Augustine into the Church

Place and dates

(Tier, now in Germany) 340?-397

Writings

On Faith: a Christian morals manual
On the Sacraments: an exegetical treatise
On the Holy Spirit: an exegetical treatise
Composed many hymns

Jerome, St. (Bio)

Personal

Biblical scholar
Ordained a priest in 386
Secretary to Pope Damasus I in 382
Confronted many heresies, especially Pelagianism

Place and dates

(Stridon, present day Slovenia) 345?-419

Writings

The Vulgate: translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, 383-384, in Rome

John Chrysostom, St. (Bio)

Personal

Ordained a priest in 386
Greatest orator of the early Church
Patriarch of Constantinople in 398

Place and dates

(Antioch, Syria) 349?-407

Writings

On the Priesthood
Homilies
Wrote commentaries, epistles, treatises, and liturgies

Augustine, St. (Bio)

Personal

Son of Monica (332?-387)
Born a pagan
Converted in 387 and baptized by Ambrose
Ordained a priest in 391
Bishop of Hippo (395)
Combated Manichean heresy (conflict of Good and Evil)
Martin Luther and John Calvin were close students of the works of Augustine

Place and dates

(Numidia, now Algeria) 354-430

Writings

Confessions (c. 400): his autobiography
The City of God (413-426): great Christian apologia; a theological philosophy of history
Retractions (428): final verdict of earlier works
Epistles (386-429)
On Free Will (388-395)
On Christian Doctrine (397)
On Baptism: Against the Donatists (400)
On the Trinity (400-416)
On Nature and Grace (415)
Homilies

Cyril of Alexandria, St. (Bio)

Personal

Patriarch of Alexandria in 412
Leader of the Council of Ephesus, 431
Instrumental in condemning Nestorianism

Place and dates

(Alexandria) 376-444

Writings

Against Nestorius
Against Julian the Apostate
Prolific writer

Gregory I, St. ("The Great") (Bio)

Personal

Prefect of Rome in 570
Became a monk in 575
Elected pope (r. 590-604)
Enhanced prestige of the papacy
Upheld Rome's traditional claims of church primacy over the patriarch of Constantinople
Introduced liturgical reforms and Gregorian chant
Extensive pastoral activity.

Place and dates

(Rome) 540?-604

Writings

Moralia: a commentary on the Book of Job
Pastoral Care: describes the ideal bishop; instruction on the practice and nature of preaching
Dialogues: legends of saints of his own time

John Damascene, St. (Bio)

Personal

Financial officer to Saracen caliph
Resigned in 700
Entered a monastery and ordained a priest
Opposed the Iconoclasts

Place and dates

(Damascus, Syria) 675-749

Writings

Source of Knowledge: three part text of dogmatic theology in the early Greek church; contains a complete theological system based on the early Greek fathers and synods of 4th-7th centuries

 

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