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Church Fathers

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The Church Fathers or Fathers of the Church are the early and influential theologians and writers in the Christian church, particularly those of the first five centuries of Christian history. The term means specifically writers and teachers of the Church, not saints in general; usually it is not meant to include the New Testament authors.

Those fathers who wrote in Latin are called the Latin (Church) Fathers, and those who wrote in Greek the Greek (Church) Fathers.

The very earliest Church Fathers, of the first two generations after the Apostles of Christ, are usually called the Apostolic Fathers.

Famous Latin Fathers include the Montanist Tertullian, St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Ambrose of Milan, and St. Jerome, the translator of the Vulgate; famous Greek Fathers include St. Irenaeus of Lyons (whose work has survived only in Latin translation), Clement of Alexandria, the heterodox Origen, St. Athanasius of Alexandria, St. John Chrysostom, and the Three Cappadocian Fathers. However there are many more.

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 St. Anthony the Great and St. Pachomius. A great number of their usually short sayings is collected in the Apophthegmata Patrum .

A small number of other Fathers wrote in other languages: Saint Ephrem, for example, wrote in Syriac, but his works were widely translated into Latin and Greek.

In the Roman Catholic Church, St. John of Damascus, who lived in the 8th century, is generally considered to be the last of the Church Fathers and at the same time the first seed of the next period of church writers, scholasticism. The Eastern Orthodox Church does not consider the age of Church Fathers to be over at all and it includes later influential writers in the term.

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Last updated: 06-02-2005 13:03:24
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