The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers who established the intellectual and doctrinal foundations of Christianity. There is no definitive list.[better source needed] The historical period during which they flourished is referred to by scholars as the Patristic Era ending approximately around AD 700 (Byzantine Iconoclasm began in AD 726, John of Damascus died in AD 749).
In the past, the Church Fathers were regarded as authoritative, and more restrictive definitions were used which sought to limit the list to authors treated as such. However, the definition has widened as scholars of patristics, the study of the Church Fathers, have expanded their scope.
Isaac of Nineveh was a 7th-century Syriac bishop and theologian best remembered for his written work. He is also regarded as a saint in the Church of the East, the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and among the Oriental Orthodox Churches, making him the last saint chronologically to be recognised by every apostolic Church. His feast day falls on January 28 and in the Syriac Orthodox calendar on March 14. Isaac is remembered for his spiritual homilies on the inner life, which have a human breadth and theological depth that transcends the Nestorian Christianity of the Church to which he belonged. They survive in Syriac manuscripts and in Greek and Arabic translations.
The Desert Fathers were early monastics living in the Egyptian desert; although they did not write as m
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 Paul of Thebes, Anthony the Great and Pachomius. Many of their, usually short, sayings are collected in the Apophthegmata Patrum ("Sayings of the Desert Fathers").
In the Catholic Church, Bernard of Clairvaux is considered to be the last of the Fathers. The Eastern Orthodox Church does not consider the age of Church Fathers to be over and includes later influential writers up to the present day. The Orthodox view is that men do not have to agree on every detail, much less be infallible, to be considered Church Fathers. Rather, Orthodox doctrine is determined by the consensus of the Holy Fathers—those points on which they do agree. This consensus guides the church in questions of dogma, the correct interpretation of scripture, and to distinguish the authentic sacred tradition of the Church from false teachings.
The original Lutheran Augsburg Confession of 1530, for example, and the later Formula of Concord of 1576–1584,
The original Lutheran Augsburg Confession of 1530, for example, and the later Formula of Concord of 1576–1584, each begin with the mention of the doctrine professed by the Fathers of the First Council of Nicaea.
Though much Protestant religious thought is based on sola scriptura (the principle that the Bible itself is the ultimate authority in doctrinal matters), the first Protestant reformers, like the Catholic and Orthodox churches, used the theological interpretations of scripture set forth by the early Church Fathers. John Calvin's French Confession of Faith of 1559 states, "And we confess that which has been established by the ancient councils, and we detest all sects and heresies which were rejected by the holy doctors, such as St. Hilary, St. Athanasius, St. Ambrose and St. Cyril." The Scots Confession of 1560 deals with general councils in its 20th chapter. The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, both the original of 1562-1571 and the American version of 1801, explicitly accept the Nicene Creed in Article VII. Even when a particular Protestant confessional formula does not mention the Nicene Council or its creed, its doctrine is nonetheless always asserted, as, for example, in the Presbyterian Westminster Confession of 1647. Many Protestant seminaries provide courses on patristics as part of their curriculum, and many historic Protestant churches emphasize the importance of tradition and of the fathers in scriptural interpretation. Such an emphasis is even more pronounced in certain streams of Protestant thought, such as Paleo-Orthodoxy.
The study of the Church Fathers is known as patristics.
Works of fathers in early Christianity, prior to Nicene Christianity, were translated into English in a 19th-century collection Ante-Nicene Fathers. Those of the First Council of Nicaea and continuing throu
Works of fathers in early Christianity, prior to Nicene Christianity, were translated into English in a 19th-century collection Ante-Nicene Fathers. Those of the First Council of Nicaea and continuing through the Second Council of Nicea (787) are collected in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.