Best Resource for writings of the early church?

Hello friends. I posted a few days ago about sources for understanding Catholicism, and the responses I have received have helped a great deal in my research. I’d like, now, to narrow my search to the Historical claims of the church. I’m looking for two things: A collection of early church writings and an unbiased overview of the early church’s history after the resurrection. I’d like to verify that what the Catholic church teaches was indeed in practice by our earliest writings and traditions. Specifically things such as the Eucharist, praying to saints, the authority of the Papacy and generally all the things Protestants like me struggle with.

I feel the need to add that I am looking for well documented history, not propaganda slanted to convince me. I’m more than half convinced that Catholic theology is the most cohesive Christian viewpoint I’ve ever seen, but I really want to see with my own eyes that the historical claims are accurate. To that end, I’m looking for works that stick to the facts and don’t try to argue their particular viewpoint. I’m interested in truth, nothing else. Likewise with the early writings, I’m looking for works with a minimum of commentary, just enough to prevent confusion.

In summery:
**I am seeking an unbiased history of the church after Christ’s resurrection and a collection of primary sources with a minimum of commentary so that I can come to my own conclusions about the historic practices and traditions of the church. **

This site has been incredibly helpful so far, and I hope it can continue to help me here.

Well…I think you can begin by actually reading the letters yourselves.

newadvent.org/fathers/

I would recommend to start with the Didache, epistle of Clement of Rome to Corinth, then the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, and the Justin Martyr, especially in Apology of the Eucharist.

The following may help along as well:

The Fathers Know Best by Akin, here is a link to the site…thefathersknowbest.com/

If you don’t mind an in-depth resource, I highly recommend “The Faith of the Early Fathers” by Fr. William A. Jurgens. It’s a compendium of quotes and texts from all the Early Church Fathers (even including heretics, such as obscure Gnostic texts and the writings of Arius). Though the notes are written by a Catholic scholar, they are not partisan or polemical, and some of them are actually quite funny. :slight_smile: It comes in three medium-sized volumes, and can be used both for spiritual reading as well as for study and reference.

Link to the Amazon page: amazon.com/Faith-Early-Fathers-Three-Set/dp/0814610250

There are many good resources. I recommend avoiding ones that show pieces of quotes from various places. It is easy to take quotes out of context. If you do find quotes, it is good to go back to the complete writing to understand more of the context.

This site has most of the writings from the early church for the first few hundred years:
earlychristianwritings.com/churchfathers.html

Eusebius wrote a church history sometime in the early 4th century. He was the first one to compile Christian history.
This is the complete history:
ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.toc.html
This is a newer translation, but you can’t read the whole book online:
books.google.com/books?id=LIgMFJdXwagC&printsec=frontcover&dq=eusebius+church+history&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjvq4GR0arNAhVFFj4KHZ-VBHAQ6AEIMDAE#v=onepage&q=eusebius%20church%20history&f=false

J.N.D. Kelly was an Anglican and Professor of Patristic Studies at Oxford for many years and has a good (seemingly unbiased to me) book on the development of the Christian doctrines over the early centuries:
archive.org/stream/pdfy-CY7YNVnvFwggDjnT/103911481-J-N-D-Kelly-Early-Christian-Doctrines#page/n0/mode/2up
Other books by scholars from reputable universities would be good, but this is the only one I know of that can be read free online.

:thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

A companion to the development of doctrine would be John Henry Newman’s An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine
newmanreader.org/works/development/

Hi, MJ!
Here are two excellent sources:

Justin Martyr (newadvent.org/cathen/08580c.htm) and the Didache (newadvent.org/cathen/04779a.htm and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Didache), the first wrote the first Apology for the Faith and the latter is a collection of the earliest Church Writings.

I’m not much of a reader, but if you follow up on them and would like to discuss the findings we can do so through the site (threads/pms).

God Bless!

Maran atha!

Angel

Your request is a good one. I have thought about the issue of unbiased commentaries on Church History for a while now, and in my opinion there isn’t one, for a very understandable reason: most people who are interested in writing a book summarizing Church History are interested because they are religious, and therefore have an interest in what is being shared. They want to show continuity with their own faith tradition.

However, there is one way to get around this at least partially: read Church Histories that were written by the Fathers themselves. They can tell you what happened from their own perspective. I have been enriched by studying the majority of the surviving Ecclesiastical Histories written between 300 and 600 A.D., and they are really remarkable for discovering just what the early church believed and how it operated in its own words. If you like, I’ve compiled a list of resources for where you can read the early Church Histories for yourself:

Free Books of Church History
historyandapologetics.com/2015/02/free-books-of-church-history.html

I hope that helps. Please let me know. God bless!
Dan Marcum

Yes, no unbiased works seem to exist. Currently I’m listening to “When the Church Was Young” by Marcellino D’Ambrosio, which is highly biased toward Rome, with a fair bit of skepticism and checking his sources myself. The funny thing is that so far, I agree with him. He got me reading Ignatius’s letters, which convinced me that the early church saw the Eucharist both as a sacrifice and as the literal body and blood of Jesus. (As you might imagine, this has some, let’s say, alarming implications to a protestant who was raised to believe that communion was all symbolism.)

Thank you for the resource, I plan to tackle those early church histories soon. My main issues at this point are lying with prayer to the saints and the idea of Papal infallibility, as well as church authority in general.

I feel that I should clarify that I have no anti-Catholic bias. In fact, there is a definite attraction to Catholicism for me. But if I’m going to admit that I haven’t been in the true church of Christ and accept all the doctrines and rules of Catholicism, I want to make sure my reasons are firmly planted in fact, not feeling. Thank you again for the help.

Hi, MJ!
You are correct in searching (as St. Paul tells us) so that you may keep what is good.

You cannot find less unbiased Writings (outside of the Bible) than the early Church Writers since they Wrote to expand on the Apostles’ Teachings and to combat the heresies that, as attested by Scriptures themselves, surfaced along with the New Testament Writings.

Here’s something to wet your appetite:

Early Church Practices[edit]

The First Apology provides one of the most detailed accounts of contemporary Christian practice. Those that are baptized are “brought by us where there is water,” where they are “born again in the same manner of rebirth by which we ourselves were born again.”[14] After the discussion of baptism, Justin describes the practice of the Eucharist, as well as the miracle of transubstantiation, in which “we have been taught that the food eucharistized through the word of prayer that is from Him, from which our blood and flesh are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of Jesus who became incarnate.”[15] Finally, he provides information on the weekly Sunday meetings of the congregation, consisting of readings from the Jewish prophets and “the memoirs of the apostles”, prayers, and a meal.[16] (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Apology_of_Justin_Martyr)

May the Holy Spirit continue to Bless you and Guide you on your Journey to the Mystical Body of Christ!

Maran atha!

Angel

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.