The Church Fathers

It is hoped that this page will be a helpful resource for those who are interested in short summaries about the church fathers including their various theological and philosophical positions. This page will be continuously updated with new information as it is discovered. If you see something that is factually inaccurate, please contact the web admin, and provide your source(s). Thank you.

First Century

  • Clement of Rome (35 – 101)
    – Second or third bishop of Rome.
    – Possibly the Clement mentioned in Phil. 4:3.
    – His authorship (c.96) of I Clement is not disputed.
    I Clement was read alongside the Scriptures in Corinth (c.170).
    – Refers to a phoenix. (ch. XXV, I Clement)

  • Ignatius (c.35 – c.107)
    – Second bishop of Antioch (per Origen).
    – Little is known of his life.
    – Was escorted from Antioch to martyrdom in Rome by 10 guards.
    En route he was given great honor by Polycarp.
    – The authenticity of some of his seven letters have been contested.
    – J.B. Lightfoot’s defense of seven authentic (but shorter) letters over Cureton’s three (Letter to the Romans, Ephesians, & Polycarp) has won general acceptance.
    – Insisted on both the divinity and humanity of Jesus: ό θεὸς ήμῶν Ἰησοῦς Χριστός (our God Jesus Christ). Here are the quotes:
    * The epistle to the Ephesians (shorter text), with the Greek (ch 18 vs 2). (screenshot).
    * The epistle to Polycarp (both texts), with the Greek (ch 8 vs 3). (screenshot).
    * The epistle to the Romans (shorter text), with the Greek (ch 3 vs 3). (screenshot).

  • Polycarp (c.69 – c.155)
    – Bishop of Smyrna.
    – Disciple of the Apostle John (per Eusebius).
    – Combated with the Marcionites and the Valentinians.
    – Visited the Roman Bishop Anicetus — it was agreed that each church should maintain its own custom regarding Easter.
    – When charged by a Roman proconsul to renounce Christ for his freedom and life, Polycarp replied “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?” (Chap. IX, The Martydom of Polycarp.)
    – Referred to Jesus as “our Lord and God” in his letter to the Philippians (link).

  • Papias (c.60 – 130)
    – Bishop of Hierapolis.
    – Disciple of a ‘John’ and a companion of Polycarp.
    – Stated that Mark interpreted for Peter and wrote down the words and actions of the Lord, and that Matthew had written ‘the oracles’ in Hebrew.
    – Was a chiliast (the view that Jesus will return and reign on earth for 1,000 years).

Second Century

  • Athenagoras of Athens (c.133 – c.190)
    – Athenian philosopher who had embraced Christianity.
    – He wrote an apology/supplication of Christians to the Emperors Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus about A.D. 177.
    – In that apology he addressed charges of atheism, Thyestian banquets (cannibalism), and Oedipean incest.
    – He was the first to construct a philosophical defense of the doctrine of the Trinity.
    – “But we, deeming that to see a man put to death is much the same as killing him, have abjured such spectacles. How, then, when we do not even look on, lest we should contract guilt and pollution, can we put people to death? … And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion…” (Chap. XXXV, Apology).

  • Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215)
    – “Believe Him who is man and God; believe, O man. Believe, O man, the living God, who suffered and is adored. Believe, ye slaves, Him who died; believe, all ye of human kind, Him who alone is God of all men. Believe, and receive salvation as your reward.” (Link).
    – “But our instructor is the holy God Jesus, the Word, who is the guide of all humanity.” (Link).

  • Irenaeus (130 – 202)
    – Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul.
    – Considered the Antichrist to be a Jew sitting in a Jewish temple at Jerusalem.
    – Stated that Jesus is “our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King…” (link).

  • Justin Martyr (100 – 165)
    – Authored First Apology.
    – “And you remember from other words also spoken by David, … how it is declared that He would come forth from the highest heavens, and again return to the same places, in order that you may recognize Him as God coming forth from above, … that He will again appear, and they who pierced Him shall see Him…” (Link).

  • Melito ( – c.190)
    – Bishop of Sardis.
    – Wrote Apology (a defense) for Christianity to Marcus Aurelius.
    – First OT canon (No apocrypha, Esther, Nehemiah).
    – Created the term Old Testament.
    – Melito believed Christ died on the evening of Nisan 14.
    – Supersessionist.
    – Chiliast (Belief that Jesus will reign on earth 1000 years)

  • Polycrates (c.130 – 196)
    – Bishop of Ephesus.
    – Opposed (with other Asian bishops) Pope Victor that the feast Easter should be uniformly celebrated on Sunday. (Per Eusebius)
    – He was a Quartodeciman: Passover/Easter is to be practiced on the 14th day of Nisan.

Third Century

  • Cyprian (200 – 258)
    – Bishop of Carthage.
    – Disputed with Stephen I about the baptism of heretics.

  • Hippolytus (170 – 236)
    – Origen attended one of his sermons in Rome (~212).
    – Eusebius stated that he was a bishop (ch. 20).
    – Attacked the doctrine of Sabellianism (Modalism).
    – Rejected the teachings of Popes Zephyrinus & Callistus for Sabellianism (heresy).
    – Allowed himself to be elected as an anti-pope during Callistus’ time as pope.
    – He also challenged Callistus’ successors Urban, and Pontianus.
    – Was exiled by Emperor Maximin along with Pontianus.
    – He died in exile but his remains were brought to Rome by Pope Fabian.
    – There are a couple legends about him:
    * Pope Damasus makes him a priest of the Novatianist Schism.
    * Represented as a soldier convert by St. Laurence in the Roman Passionals.
    – His principle work is entitled Refutation of all Heresies (Vol. 1 & 2) and was discovered in 1842. Books 2 & 3 are missing.
    – Specifically called Christ “the God over all” (link).

  • Tertullian (160 – 220)
    – First to use Trinity in Latin
    – Coined the term New Testament (Novum Testamentum in Latin)
    – Slightly different view of the Trinity: proto Arianism
    – Defended New Prophecy (Montanism)
    – Not recognized as a saint by Eastern or Western Catholic churches
    – Teacher of Cyprian
    – “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” Apologeticum, 50
    – De Praescriptione: The Church, by unbroken tradition, is by its very existence a guarantee of its truth against dissenters.
    – Against Marcion
    – Expected a specific Antichrist to appear as a persecutor of the church just before the resurrection.
    – The Antichrist comes out of the church.
    Wiki link.

Fourth Century

  • Ambrose (340 – 397)
    – Bishop of Milan.
    – Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church — West.
    – On Mark X 18 “there is none good but …” (link).
  • Arius ( – 336) (heretic)
    Encyclopedia link.
    – Bishops supporting Arius at Council of Nicea: Secundus, bishop of Ptolemais and Theonas, Bishop of Marmarica (both excommunicated by Constantine).

  • Athanasius of Alexandria (296 – 372)
    – Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church — East (added later)

  • Augustine (354 – 430)
    – Bishop of Hippo.
    – Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church — West.
    – Authored The City of God.

  • Basil the Great (326 – 379)
    – Archbishop of Casesarea.
    – Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church — East

  • Damasus (c.305 – 384)
    – Bishop of Rome from 366.
    – Promulgated a Canon of Scriptural Books c.382

  • Dionysis ( – 360)
    – Bishop of Milan from 349 – 355

  • Eusebius of Caesarea (c.260 – 340)
    – Excommunicated for his faith supporting the heresy of Arius in Council of Antiochia (325).
    – Polemicized against St. Athanasius of Alexandria.
    – Condemned in the First Council of Tyre (335).

  • Jerome (347 – 420)
    – Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church — West.
    – Commissioned by Pope Damasus I to revise the Vetus Latina which had several confusions.

Fifth Century
(More to come)

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Last update: 2/18/18

Sources are from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church unless noted otherwise.