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Year 3 in Prospect: The Year of Church History

We are about to enter the season of Advent and with it the third year of reading the fathers.

Our first two years covered a wide range of ante-Nicene Christianity. We’ve read Origen, Hippolytus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Cyprian, Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, the other Apostolic Fathers, other apologists, and a host of early Christian documents from the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermas to some of the gnostic pseudo-gospels.

Where years 1 and 2 offered apologetics, theology, apocalypse, and biblical commentary,  year 3 offers us church history. We will begin with the most famous of ancient Christian historians, Eusebius of Caesarea, reading his Ecclesiastical History and Oration in Praise of Constantine. (You can expect the introduction to Eusebius later this week.) After Eusebius, we will continue with histories written by Socrates Scholasticus, Salaminius Sozomenus, and Theodoret. These works are interesting as histories in their own right, but they also preserve earlier material which would otherwise be lost altogether. We will read some hagiographies such as Jerome’s Lives of Illustrious Men and Athanasius’s Life of Antony, as well as Jerome and Athanasisus’s letters. These histories will give us a narrative of the development of the early church to the era of the Nicene creed.

The other main theme of this years readings is the doctrine of the Trinity defined in the Nicene Creed. We will read Rufinus’s Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed, Athanasius’s great work On the Incarnation of the Word, and polemics against the Arians by Athanasisus and Gregory of Nyssa. Along the way we will read works on other subjects by Athanasisus, Jerome, and Gregory of Nyssa.

Whether you are just starting or whether you’ve been with us since the beginning, we’re glad that you are joining our reading community for its third year.

1 Comment

  1. It is extraordinary to think that over the past two years, we have read 9 full ANF volumes. Once you get into the habit of daily reading, you just don’t notice the amount of material you are working through.

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