To introduce the early Christian writers and the Fathers of the Church from the First Century to the Council of Nicaea, we will provide a comprehensive overview of their work within specific historical contexts. The writings of the Apostolic Fathers and the post-Apostolic Fathers reveal the essence of Christianity during their respective eras. These esteemed figures drew upon Sacred Tradition to articulate and defend their faith through rhetoric (apologetics), willingly embraced martyrdom, played a pivotal role in shaping doctrinal developments, and adeptly integrated philosophy to convey their beliefs. Additionally, our students will have the invaluable opportunity to engage in discussions surrounding significant texts such as the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Letter to Diognetus, all of which offer profound insights into the life of the early Church in those formative centuries.
1. Introduction to the Fathers of the Church. Their importance in theological studies and in the formation of the Christian identity. Presentation of the historical context of the early Church and its challenges for the Church. 2. The time of the Apostolic Fathers; their historical context and contribution: St Clement of Rome, St Polycarp of Smyrna. St Ignatius of Antioch. 3. The time of the Apologists: The historical context of sporadic persecutions and the challenge of Docetism and Gnosticism: St Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, and St Cyprian of Carthage.
Textbook: Drobner, Hubertus R. The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction. Translated by Siegfried S. Schatzmann. Baker Academic paperback edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017. Bibliography: Altaner, Berthold. Patrologia. 6. ed. Torino: Marietti, 1968; Aquilina, Mike. The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2013; Campenhausen, Hans von. The Fathers of the Church. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998; Di Berardino, Angelo. Encyclopedia of Early Church. Translated by Adrian Walford. 2 vols. Cambridge: James Clarke, 1992; Di Berardino, Angelo, ed. Patrology: The Eastern Fathers from the Council of Chalcedon (451) to John of Damascus (+750). Translated by Adrian Walford. Istituto Patristico Augustinianum. Cambridge: James Clarke, 2008; Jefford, Clayton N. Reading the Apostolic Fathers: A Student’s Introduction. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012; Malaty, Tadrous Y. A Panoramic View of Patristics in the First Six Centuries, with an Overview of Selected Coptic Orthodox Fathers and Authors of the Middle Ages. Alexandria: St. George’s Coptic Orthodox Church, 2005; Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine. Vol. 1, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1971; Quasten, Johannes. Patrology. Vol. 1, The Beginnings of Patristic Literature. Notre Dame: Christian Classics, 1995; Quasten, Johannes. Patrology. Vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Literature After Irenaeus. Notre Dame: Christian Classics, 1995; Simonetti, Manlio. Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church: An Historical Introduction to Patristic Exegesis. Edited by Anders Bergquist and William Horbury. Translated by John A. Hughes and Markus N.A. Bockmuehl. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2001; also consult Journal of Early Christian Studies
Upon completing the course, students will acquire a profound familiarity with ancient texts and their contemporary relevance in elucidating challenges faced by early Church leaders. They will adeptly identify and articulate the various approaches employed by these writers to elucidate early Church issues. Furthermore, students will demonstrate a nuanced comprehension of the content and linguistic intricacies of these texts, proficiently elucidating the diverse methodologies employed by early Church Fathers in addressing the encountered challenges. This course empowers students with a comprehensive grasp of historical theological discourse and its applicability in the present.