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Patristics / Patrology -- The Early Church Fathers & Their Writings: Getting Started

Grounded in the teachings and passion of Jesus Christ, early Christian theologians studied Jewish thought, Greek philosophy, and Greek and Latin vocabulary in their endeavor to explain complex Christian theological concepts.


Introduction to Resources

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Many of the online resources listed here are limited to use by members of  The University of St. Thomas community (faculty, staff and students). If you are using this guide off-campus, it will ask for a brief login to identify yourself as a member of The University of St. Thomas community before you can use these resources.


Patristic Literature comprises those works, excluding the New Testament, written by Christians before the 8th century A.D.

From: "Patristic Literature". (2010). Encyclopædia Britannica Online.

The Greek and Latin Fathers of the Church are central to the creation of Christian doctrine and the establishment of the Christian Church as a social entity in the first five centuries CE. This guide introduces you to resources one may use to study the writings and teachings of the Fathers of the Church and the Patristic Age that is generally considered to run from the end of the Apostolic Age (c. 100 CE) to either 451, the date of the Council of Chalcedon, or ending in the 8th century with the Second Council of Nicaea.

This guide includes major introductions and handbooks to the patristic literature, the monumental sets containing the texts of the Fathers in the original language, the major series of translations of the Fathers into English, as well as other resources, dictionaries and tools that illuminate the writings, doctrinal teachings, theological disputes, heresies and controversies of the first eight centuries of the Christian Church.

Top Thirty Fathers

Among the persons whose writings form the basis for Patristics, i.e. prominent early Church "fathers", are Justin Martyr (c.100-c.165), Irenaeus of Lyons (c.130-c.200), Clement of Alexandria (c.150-c.215), Tertullian (c.160-c.225), Origen (c.185-c.254), Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258), Athanasius (c.296-c.373), Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389), Basil of Caesarea (c.330-379), Gregory of Nyssa (c.330-c.395) Theodore of Mopsuestia (c.350-428), Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Pelagius, Vincent of Lérins (d. bef. 450), Cyril of Alexandria (d.444), and Nestorius (died c.451).[from Alistair McGrath’s  Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought. Chapter 1: “The Patristic Period."]  But there are many more.

Below is a list of many of the best known Church Fathers.  Look for their works in LibrarySearch.

Beginning Overviews

Advanced Overviews


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The Church Fathers are generally divided into the Ante-Nicene Fathers, those who lived and wrote before the Council of Nicaea (325 CE) and the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, those who lived and wrote after 325 CE. In addition, the division of the fathers into Greek and Latin writers is also common. Some of the most prominent Greek Fathers are Justin Martyr, John Chrysostom, and Cyril of Alexandria. Among the Latin Fathers are Tertullian, Cyprian, Jerome, Ambrose of Milan, Gregory the Great and Augustine of Hippo.

Chronology of Church History

Second Temple Judaism ________________ 6th c. B.C.E. up to the year 70 C.E.
Intertestamental Period; Hellenism; Messianic expectations heightened

Emerging Christian Community _____________________1st c. (Focus: 49 to 90)
Jesus, Disciples, Apostles, and Mission

Early Christianity ______________________________ 2nd , 3rd c. (100s & 200s)
Ante-Nicene Patristics, Martyrs, Apologists, heresies.

The Imperial Church_____________________________4th c. (Focus: 312 to c388)
Constantine, Council of Nicea, Post-Nicene Patristics

Medieval Church & Dark Ages _______________ 5th to 10th c. (400s through 900s)
Fall of Western Roman Empire, Barbarian Kingdoms Convert; The Primacy of Rome’s Bishops (Papacy), Eastern-Byzantine Christianity.


Off Campus Access


Online databases and electronic journals subscribed to by the UST Libraries are licensed for use by the St. Thomas community ONLY.  Because of this restriction, we need to verify that anyone accessing these databases is a current member of the St. Thomas community.