Early church fathers reading/books/research etc


Hi all,

Sorry I haven’t been about much lately, I’ve had/still have a horrid virus that does not want to leave me alone. I’m also still very confused (again) about church.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how people here etc have often talked about the early church fathers - their teachings/writings etc. is this something anyone can look into via books etc or is it something only the church has access to?



There’s an excellent compilation of the early Church Fathers by the late, great Fr. William F. Jurgens, entitled The Faith of the Early Fathers. It’s in three volumes: volume 1 is up to Origen or so, 2 is up to St. Jerome, and 3 is from St. Augustine onwards.

I recommend this because it has a fantastically helpful subject index, and also because Fr. Jurgens’ footnotes are a thing of beauty. :thumbsup:

Another nice introduction to the earliest Church Fathers is a book called Four Witnesses by Rod Bennett - it deals with St. Clement, St. Ignatius, St. Irenaeus and St. Justin Martyr.


The Early Church Fathers writings are all public domain:





Those aren’t all the writings of the Early Church Fathers. Those translations are based on a 38 volume set of Early Church writings that is indeed in the public domain, but that 38 volume set didn’t translate all of the Fathers. The Catholic University of America is currently translating and publishing a similar set that is right now over 138 volumes and counting – and those volumes are not in the public domain.


A great book that is very easy to read and does a nice summary is
The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church" by Jimmy Akin. It is a very easy read, discusses different early Church leaders and even heresies. It is available on the Kindle and highly recommend it.


The writings of the Fathers of the Church are mostly in Greek and Latin. A Catholic priest named Migne once published 217 volumes of the writings of the Latin Fathers and 161 volumes of the Greek Fathers. The Latin set is called the Patrologia Latina and the Greek set is called the Patrologia Graecae.

When historians study the writings of the Fathers, that’s generally the set they go to, and they are available to the public. In fact, Google Books has scanned them and released their scans into the public domain, so you can actually read them online for free. But, of course, you would need to know Latin and/or Greek, because they haven’t all been translated into English.

That is the most complete set of the Fathers of the Church. But, believe it or not, even that is incomplete. Some writings of the Fathers are still being discovered in the ancient libraries of monasteries and in old parchments that have been erased and written over with other material. (Scholars can erase the new material while preserving the old, which makes it easier for them to find ancient “lost” texts, which are still being discovered in our time.)

In English, there are two major sets of the Church Fathers that scholars study if they don’t know Latin or Greek. One is a set of translations made in the early 1900s by Phillip Schaff, an Anglican historian. His set is a 38 volume collection that is organized into the Ante-Nicene Fathers, meaning Fathers who wrote before the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., and the Post-Nicene Fathers, which are the ones who wrote after that Council.

Besides his set, which is in the public domain and is available at newadvent.org/fathers, there is another set of English translations published by the Catholic University of America. They are still translating and publishing two new volumes each year, and they have currently published over 120 volumes of the Church Fathers in English, which makes their collection the most complete set of the Fathers available in English. (Read more here: cuapress.cua.edu/books/series.cfm) It is obviously very hard to purchase all the available volumes, but if you get the Verbum software from Logos Bible Software, you can subscribe to searchable ebook versions of (I think) every volume they’ve published, for a monthly fee.

Anyway I hope that helps. God bless!


This is the one I’m working on right now. Following this
by the end of forty Lenten days you will have read
ten books of the early Fathers starting with Didache.
Obviously I started early but Hey!


I didn’t know CUA was doing this. That’s a big series! And with the books all being $35-$40 a piece, that’s a lot of money! Even getting the set for Verbum is over $1500. :eek: But what a set to have!

Oh, if I had unlimited wealth… :stuck_out_tongue:

EDIT: I just looked a little closer and notice the first volume was published back in 1947! They’ve been working on this series for over 65 years! Boy what a treasure when it is completed!


Thanks all for the replies!

Reading some of the early church fathers is very interesting. One quick question…how do we know it is truly the church Christ established…in a 100years a church could easily go wrong and start teaching things that Christ didn’t intend for His church?


I don’t belive there is any 100 year “blackout” in terms of having no writings from everyone for such a length of time.

Whennever someone came along with heretical ideas, there was lots of chatter about it. To imagne that all Christians simultaneously veered off the path Christ laid out and no one said one, single word about it – that would take a much larger leap of faith to me.


Hi I don’t know if this is on topic to your discussion but thought I’d pass this along.



Robert Payne wrote two books: The Fathers of the Eastern Church and The Fathers of the Western Church. He writes well, and compellingly. I am in the first book and intend to read the second.


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