Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Fathers are those eminent Christian teachers of the earlier centuries who have exercised a distinct influence in formulating and developing the doctrine of the Church. The Apostolic Fathers are those disciples and contemporaries of the Apostles whose works still remain to us; viz. Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Ignatius, the authors of the Epistles of Barnabas, the Pastor (attributed to Hermas) and the Epistle to Diognetus, and Papias. Of later Fathers the most eminent were: - Greek fathers: Justin Martyr, Ireneeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Athanasius, Eusebius, Gregory of Nazianzum, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Socrates, and Sozomen, the ecclesiastical historians. Latin fathers: Tertullian, Cyprian, Lactantius, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine. Roman Catholic writers enumerate as necessary qualifications for the title of Father (1) sufficient antiquity (the period is commonly extended to the twelfth or thirteenth century, so as to include Aquinas); (2) orthodoxy ; (3) sanctity of life; (4) approbev tion by the Church. These qualifications, however, are not absolute, since the views of (e.g.) Origen and Eusebius were in some degree regarded as heretical, and Tertullian was actually a Montanist (q.v.). Non-Roman Catholics writers commonly close the list of the Fathers with Gregory the Great (died 604) and John of Damascus (died 754). Though the writings of the Fathers differ much in points of doctrine and in authority, yet as they represent early and, therefore, very valuable tradition, great weight is assigned by theologians to their statements of doctrine, especially when common to several Fathers; but the estimate of their value varies greatly, being least usually among ultra-Protestant theologians. "Patristics," or the study of their writings, is a special branch of theology, revived in the Anglican Church by the Tractarians (q.v.). Jacobson's edition of some of the Apostolic Fathers, and the forty-three volumes of translations edited by Pusey, Keble, and Newman, may be mentioned among the numerous collections and editions.