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The Church Fathers or Fathers of the Church are influential theologians and writers in the Church, particularly those of the first five centuries of Christian history. The term specifically refers to writers and teachers of the Church, not saints in general; usually it is not meant to include the New Testament authors.
Who are the Fathers?
Those fathers who wrote in Latin are generally called the Latin Fathers, and those who wrote in Greek the Greek Fathers. The very earliest Church Fathers, of the first two generations after the Apostles of Christ, are usually called the Apostolic Fathers.
Famous Latin Fathers include Tertullian, St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Ambrose of Milan, and St. Jerome, the translator of the Vulgate; famous Greek Fathers include St. Irenaeus of Lyons (whose work has survived only in Latin translation), Clement of Alexandria, Origen, St. Athanasius of Alexandria, St. John Chrysostom, and the three Cappadocian Fathers, Ss. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa. There are many more, however.
The Desert Fathers were early monastics living in the Egyptian desert; although they did not write as much, their influence was also great. Among them are Ss. Anthony the Great and Pachomius the Great. A great number of their usually short sayings is collected in the Apophthegmata Patrum.
A small number of other Fathers wrote in other languages: Ephrem the Syrian, for example, wrote in Syriac, but his works were widely translated into Latin and Greek.
Though the Roman Catholic Church regards the 8th century St. John of Damascus to be the last of the Church Fathers, the Orthodox Church does not consider the age of Church Fathers to be over at all and it includes later influential writers in the term.
The Consensus Patrum
It should be noted that not all of the Fathers are considered to be saints, and certainly none of them are regarded as infallible, most especially those who fell into heresy, such as Tertullian and Origen. The Orthodox Church looks rather to the consensus patrum—that is, the consensus of the Fathers—for its understanding of the patristic Orthodox faith.
The following are published collections of the writings of the Church Fathers, listed by the faith of the editor(s):
- Aquilina, Michael J. The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers. (ISBN 0879736895)
- Drobner, Hubertus R.; Schatzmann, Siegfried S. (translator). Fathers Of The Church: A Comprehensive Introduction. (ISBN 1565633318)
- Migne, Jacques Paul Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Graeca (or Patrologiae Graecae) (digital version)
- Quasten, Johannes. Patrology. (ISBN 0870611410)
- Ramsey, Boniface. Beginning to Read the Fathers. (ISBN 0809126915) - topical
- Von Campenhausen, Hans. The Fathers of Church. (ISBN 1565630955)
- Bercot, David W. A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. (ISBN 1565633571) - topical
- Bettenson, Henry, ed. Documents of the Christian Church. (ISBN 0195012933) - topical
- Hudson, Christopher D., ed.; Sharrer, J. Alan, ed.; Vanker, Lindsay, ed. Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers. (ISBN 1565633962) - devotional, topical
- Mason, Steve, ed.; Robinson, Tom, ed. Early Christian Reader. (ISBN 1565630432)
- McKinion, Steven A. Life and Practice in the Early Church: A Documentary Reader. (ISBN 0814756492) - topical
- Roberts, Alexander, ed.; Donaldson, James, ed.; Schaff, Philip, ed.; Wace, Henry, ed. The Early Church Fathers. (ISBN 1565630815)
- Wace, Henry; Piercy, William C. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. (ISBN 1565634608)
- Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture
- Chart of Church Fathers at ReligionFacts.com
- Church Fathers at ccel.org
- Church Fathers at Newadvent.org
- Apostolic Fathers at University of Pennsylvania
- Apostolic Fathers at Internet Christian Library
- Early Christian writings at earlychristianwritings.com
- Early Church Documents compiled by the The Ecole Initiative
- Early Church Fathers at crosswalk.com
| This article forms part of the series
Introduction to Orthodox Christianity