Early Church Fathers for Protestant Friend

I have a protestant friend who recently commented about wanting to begin reading some early Christian writings. I know that could lead to her looking at Catholicism in a new way. I think if I gave her some books from Catholic writers, that might cause her to put her defenses up. Any suggestions on book/books I can give her that would give her a good look at the early Church writings/fathers that might not have a perceived “Catholic bias?”

Thanks

The writings of the Early Church Fathers can be accessed online:
newadvent.org/fathers/

Here are some of the earliest ECF’s if that’s where she wants to begin. (I’ll just list them alphabetically):

Barnabas (first century; he is the Barnabas mentioned in Scripture)
Clement of Rome (also first century)
Hermas (first or second century)
Ignatius of Antioch (first century; born 50AD; died 98-117AD)
Irenaeus (second century, born 115-142 AD?; date of death unknown)
Justin Martyr (second century, born 100 AD; died 165 AD
Origen (born 185 AD; died 232 AD)
Papias (born first century; died in second century; no dates given)
Polycarp (born 69 AD; died 155 AD)
Tertullian (born 160 AD; died ?)

Under “Other Works” and then “Miscellaneous”,
The Didache (around 100 AD) is a well known early writing.

Early Christian Doctrines J. N. D. Kelly
a protestant historian who nontheless seems to reach generally orthodox conclusions out of intellectual honesty.

Not a Catholic … yet :wink:

Online, Calvin College has free, extensive early Christian writings at their Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL). There’s also the Early Christian Writings website.

:smiley: wait till she finds that all of the ECF’s are Catholic writing about the Catholic Church.

As an aside, if you use CCEL (a Calvin College site, obviously a Protestant source on Catholic writers), one needs to be mindful protestants can introduce errors through footnotes.

For example.

I was having a conversation with an Orthodox priest.

forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=641955&postcount=224 refer to comment about quote from “schaff” a protestant scholar. He admits trying to find a term that didn’t favor the obvious context. Which means he admits he is not objective…true? The ECF’s can speak for themselves without protestant interference in their footnoting…

Because of the age of that post, CCEL has made some changes so internal links don’t get you to the desired location. Here is the updated link to what I’m talking about

here’s Schaff’s footnote on what Irenaeus wrote on [FONT=Arial]“pre-eminent authority”[/FONT]. (emphasis mine)

3313 “The Latin text of this difficult but important clause is, “Ad hanc enim ecclesiam propter potiorem principalitatem necesse est omnem convenire ecclesiam.” Both the text and meaning have here given rise to much discussion. It is impossible to say with certainty of what words in the Greek original “potiorem principalitatem” may be the translation. We are far from sure that the rendering given above is correct, but we have been unable to think of anything better. [A most extraordinary confession. It would be hard to find a worse; but take the following from a candid Roman Catholic, which is better and more literal: “For to this Church, on account of more potent principality, it is necessary that every Church (that is, those who are on every side faithful) resort**; in which Church ever, by those who are on every side, has been preserved that tradition which is from the apostles.” (Berington and Kirk, vol. i. p. 252.) Here it is obvious that the faith was kept at Rome, by those who resort there from all quarters. She was a mirror of the Catholic World, owing here orthodoxy to them; not the Sun, dispensing her own light to others, but the glass bringing their rays into a focus. See note at end of book iii.] A discussion of the subject may be seen in chap. xii. of Dr. Wordsworth’s St. Hippolytus and the Church of Rome. The Latin text of this difficult but important clause is, “Ad hanc enim ecclesiam propter potiorem principalitatem necesse est omnem convenire ecclesiam.” Both the text and meaning have here given rise to much discussion. It is impossible to say with certainty of what words in the Greek original “potiorem principalitatem” may be the translation. We are far from sure that the rendering given above is correct, but we have been unable to think of anything better. [A most extraordinary confession. It would be hard to find a worse; but take the following from a candid Roman Catholic, which is better and more literal: “For to this Church, on account of more potent principality, it is necessary that every Church (that is, those who are on every side faithful) *resort; in which Church ever, by those who are on every side, has been preserved that tradition which is from the apostles.” (Berington and Kirk, vol. i. p. 252.) Here it is obvious that the faith was kept at Rome, by those who resort there from all quarters. She was a mirror of the Catholic World, owing here orthodoxy to them; not the Sun, dispensing her own light to others, but the glass bringing their rays into a focus. See note at end of book iii.] A discussion of the subject may be seen in chap. xii. of Dr. Wordsworth’s St. Hippolytus and the Church of Rome.”

Yeah I can see why “It would be hard to imagine a worse” statement … for protestants :wink:

That’s a mighty long footnote for such a short statement by Irenaeus. Keep in mind that explanation is Schaff’s footnote on “pre emenent” authority. When you click on the link, it takes you to what Irenaeus wrote. The footnote is designed to distort and contradict what Irenaeus said.

But look at the effort Schaff makes to give in a footnote, the impression to his readers that he isn’t the biased protestant that he is. Schaff finds as he says a “candid Catholic” iow an unorthodox Catholic who agrees with him, thereby giving the impression, Schaff isn’t really a protestant who is being troubled by this ECF… Bottomline, Schaff isn’t fooling anyone who has their wits about them :tsktsk:

The Didache would be a great first document to start with, since it’s the earliest genuine historical document we have about Christianity (perhaps even being written earlier than 100 AD, making it contemporary with at least some of the Apostles). Among the topics that are VERY hard to overlook in it for Protestants would be that full immersion baptism, while preferred, is NOT required. Pouring of water is clearly rendered as sufficient.

(One reason for that, by the way, is that full immersion baptisms were often impossible in ancient cities, since the rivers also tended to be your sewers…)

I agree, the Didache is the one of the best documents one can use. It contains many Catholic practices, and tradition dates it at around 70 AD. This means that “heresies” such as Baptism by pouring was practiced when the Apostles were still running things! Here’s a good translation:
newadvent.org/fathers/0714.htm

And a hub of translations and commentaries (some by Protestants, I believe):
earlychristianwritings.com/didache.html

One minor correction: it’s not only tradition, but scholarship and history, that dates it at around 70 (or earlier - 40-60AD).

Early Christian Fathers is an excellent one-volume anthology that includes the Didache, the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the Apology of St. Justin Martyr, etc. It’s a good selection in an accessible format, with no “denominational” agenda. Penguin publishes a similar edition.

Fr Steve Petrica
Waunakee, Wis.

I may be bias myself but I think any book regarding the writings of the Church Fathers is going to come off with a “Catholic bias.” :wink:

Although not a sit down and read type of book but if you’re strictly looking for the writings of the Fathers I found *The Faith of the Early Fathers * series by Jurgens excellent.

God bless

Early Christian Writings published by Penguin Classics

bks4.books.google.com/books?id=hh5U4Bfl3owC&printsec=frontcover&img=1&zoom=1&edge=curl&imgtk=AFLRE70rWjmxT4G5iF3S6zM9H1dPhYXVLAEoyFPO57ghmleXUXk__4OZA4SwKWTO3dYk0V2CPaVstcpNBmLZfEWWbTY2so4_cZ6WqqPDDq1nwrtdzvrRsHhY-TgwveL3uyrDYXwb34Z4

The notes are not Catholic but I know of two non-Catholics who were brought into the Church through this book. The writings of the Early Father’s speak for themselves. You can get it online for twelve dollars.

-Tim-

Thanks for the suggestions, guys! I really appreciate it. I’m looking forward to hearing what she has to say when she reads Clement, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, etc…

That should lead to a lot of interesting conversations.

:smiley:

Reading the Fathers was what got me started. “What!? John the Apostle isn’t even cold in his grave, and already the Church is falling into those Catholic heresies?!?!?”

Perhaps JND Kelley’s “Early Christian Doctrine” is a good start. He was an Anglican and although a Protestant was willing to acknowledge that the early Church recognized the larger canon of Scripture, the Sacraments, the Divine Oral Tradition, etc. However, when you speak to your friend, you may want to also explain certain Catholic beliefs and practices that are clearly attested in the writings of the Fathers. For example, Justin Martyr writing in the early second century describes the early liturgical Christian worship. When a Catholic reads his words, you cannot help but see that the basic structure of the Mass is the same today as it was in his day. This liturgical service is in sharp contrast to the typical Protestant services. However, a Protestant that knows nothing of the structure and content of the Mass will simply never make the connection. Likewise, explaining Apostolic Succession, the Sacraments, Tradition, and other Catholic peculiars may be real eye openers for someone encountering them already in late first century and secondary century Christian writers.

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