Read the Fathers

Join a world-wide community in reading the church fathers daily.

Start Reading

Welcome! If you would like to join us in reading the church fathers daily, here are some suggestions for getting started.

1. Get a copy of the church fathers.

We’ve based this reading plan on the nine volumes of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, and the twenty-eight volumes of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Read why).

This edition is available in its entirety in high quality digital editions from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, hosted by Calvin College. CCEL has online, PDF, plain text, EPUB, Kindle, and iBooks editions. Each day a blog post will link to the starting page of the day’s readings at CCEL.

Nearly any academic library and some larger public libraries will have copies of this edition.

The edition has been recently reprinted by Hendrickson Publishers. While you may be able to find older printing at better prices, you will likely have better luck finding the Hendrickson reprint edition. Here are the ISBNs for the three series and for the entire set, along with links to online booksellers. These booksellers sometimes offer these sets at a heavy discount.

Logos Bible Software sells the an electronic edition from these same texts in two versions, Protestant and Catholic. The text is identical in both editions, but the Protestant edition includes the prefaces while the Catholic version omits them.

If you’d like to read the texts in other editions, please do. See the Recommended Reading page for other large sets of the fathers. Before each major work we also write a blog post mentioning other editions.

2. Keep track of the calendar of daily readings.

This website has a calendar of the daily readings, which you can print out. The home page of this website will list the readings for the current day, along with a link to the free CCEL edition. You can subscribe to daily updates via RSS, e-mail, Twitter, and Google Calendar / iCal with the links on the sidebar of this page.

If you’re joining the readings midway through the cycle, jump in with the most recent text on the day you want to start. If you’ve fallen behind, find a good place to rejoin the readings. There is no reason to feel obligated to pore over every page; you’ll be better served by keeping up by skipping than by feeling bad for falling behind.

3. Pick a time to read.

You’re more likely to be successful if you schedule your daily readings consistently, perhaps after a time of daily prayer. One tradition with ancient roots is to include a reading from the fathers in the daily office.

4. Find a partner to read with.

Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another.” Finding a study partner with whom you can discuss and debate the partners will aid your understanding. Perhaps a weekly meeting with a spouse, friend, fellow churchgoer, or pastor will help you both learn from the fathers.

5. Let us know that you’ve joined the reading community.

If you’re following this reading plan, let us know with a comment on this page (even if it’s anonymous). It will be an encouragement to everyone! You can also write to us at info@readthefathers.org.

6. Consider helping out.

If you’d like to help keep the community going, here are a few suggestions of what you can do.

67 Comments

  1. I’m in.

    dpo

  2. I’ll be reading along also, my first time digging into the Father’s. Looking forward to doing it knowing others are on the journey.

  3. Been meaning to post here for a while just like I’ve been meaning to read the fathers for a while. So count me in.

  4. I knew there was a reason I lugged that entire set with me to Hong Kong…

    Looking forward to it!

    Jonathan

    • Logos, friend, Logos.

      Or e-Sword, which has it for free.

      • I’d miss the feel of the books… not to mention the suspense of wondering if the shelf will buckle under the weight.

        Hope you’re well Dr. O!

      • I empathize. I doubt I’ll ever wander into Goodspeed’s Antiquarian Bookshop in Boston and relish the smell of old floppy disks. :-) And I find that I have a better sense of the location of a text when I read it on a page than when I read it on a screen.

        But it’s the masslessness and volumelessness of the electronic books that has really sold me. Taking my entire theological library to Africa–or to class–with me is a lot easier that way. A further benefit is searchability, of course.

        BTW, nice stained glass on your website. :-)

  5. I think I’ll join this. Who knows how long I’ll last?

    Also, I’d like to be considered for a blog or two some time. And, if I’m still with you in six years or whatever, I’d like to volunteer early for the main blog on Leo the Great. By then I might be the world expert on him, after all.

    • We’ll be glad to have you write posts whenever you want, Scholiast. Just let us know which fathers you want to introduce a little in advance of when we’ll be reading them. And Leo the Great is all yours, though I might need a reminder in six years that you’ve claimed him.

  6. I have been studying church history for about a year now (I wish I had started much earlier!), and have a genuine interest in reading the church fathers. I like the idea of reading more than just excerpts. I realize this will be a marathon, not a sprint, but I’m lacing up my tennis shoes…

  7. I am most definitely in on this! I also sent you a message from a post I wrote promoting it as well.

  8. I am all in. Also, when we get to St. Augustine, I am all for writing up blog or even an introduction. (I have already read Confessions, On Free Choice of the Will, On Christian Doctrine, Soliloquies, and parts of On the Trinity – so I have already started to immerse myself in Augustine). Also, I chuckled when I realized it was a 7-year cycle, since 7 symbolizes totality.

  9. I’m in! I will probably begin with the free electronic version and then get the cheaper hard copies.

  10. I’m excited about participating in this!

  11. I am really looking forward to this. Thank you!

  12. This is amazing. I’m in!

  13. Just learned of this group a few days ago from my fiancée. We’ll be reading. And based on the response I’ve seen on Facebook since I posted about this on http://www.captainthin.net, a fair number of other people I know will also be reading along.

  14. Sounds a great challenge! Count me in.

  15. I joined today. I love having a schedule and peers to communicate with. Thanks to Ian for posting it on his FB page.

    Dan Benitez

  16. I am signing up too. Thanks for putting this together.

  17. I have signed up, and since I have managed to read the first four days, I am confident enough in my reading commitment to finally post my decision. I am discouraged by some of the extremely outdated thinking in the first part (Clement) but I have also found inspiration in some of the writing. This is my first time reading these ancient writings. Thank you for his opportunity.

  18. I’m in…I just heard about this today!

  19. Count me in, a great way to get through some very large volumes without being overwhelmed!

  20. Starting a little late but excited to begin this journey!

  21. I just learned of this. I’ve read through ANF once before, and this will be good review. Plus there is the bonus of reading NPNF now.

  22. Magda Andronache

    December 19, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    I hadn’t realized there was a sign-up until today, but I’m all caught up on the readings so far. I’m very grateful to my friend for posting the link on facebook. I hadn’t realized that if you sign up for an account with ccel.org, you can not only make your own notes and annotations, but also proofread the e-text. It’s been quite meaningful to celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch tonight and tomorrow having read all his letters. My husband is keeping up with the readings, too. I love how easy it is to sync with my Google calendar so I can’t really lose my place!

  23. I’m reading too. I skipped the first two weeks having been (a) travelling, (b) knowing I’d covered those materials before, but I’m excited by the prospect of a reading community for this!

  24. Very pleased to have discovered this site. I look forward to joining in

  25. My wife and I have been reading for Advent. We have decided to commit to the 7 years.

  26. I’m starting today, having been watching from afar during Advent. I’m likely to be a patchy reader, but reading comments that it’s better to be positive about when manage to read rather than excluding yourself for the times you can’t persuaded me to have a go :-)

  27. I just found out about this and am excited to join. I have wanted to do something like this for some time, and I think this will help me get underway. I am very impressed with the support – especially how easy it was to add to my Google Calendar, including the links to the CCEL edition. Is there somewhere that lists which works still need intro’s? I would be happy to help out on the ones I have studied.

  28. Michael Sullivan

    January 15, 2013 at 7:55 am

    I’ve been in from the beginning

  29. I’ll begin reading but not possible to read every day.

  30. Just found out about this group, and am jumping in! Thanks for putting this plan together!

  31. My friend Gregory Soderberg just introduced me. Late to the party but I’m in!

  32. I’m in. Lets role.

  33. I am joining this endeavor. Consider me reading.

  34. Coming a bit late to the party, but I’m in!

  35. Just found your site and diving in. Had some difficultly adding your Google Calender to MY calendar, but I eventually got it figured out.

  36. Discovered this sight when searching for just such a reading plan! Looking forward to participating

  37. Wow! Just saw this last week and been reading along with you now for these days and saw that I needed to leave a comment. Reading the fathers together has been a great experience. Count me in.

  38. I’m going to start doing this. I just listened to a lecture at Concordia Seminary by Robert Wilken, and he convinced me I should be studying and learning the church fathers.

  39. Awesome resource! Glory to Jesus Christ! Subscribed…and READING! ;-)

  40. godaddyrequires

    April 2, 2016 at 10:29 am

    I really want to read the fathers. But, this, as proposed seems a little daunting!! Any recommendations on a text or how to start out smaller and work my way up to what you propose?

  41. I just found this and I am in. How would you recommend I start. Should I start at the beginning even though it begins in a different month?

  42. Brian J. Taylor

    October 4, 2016 at 10:49 am

    I look forward to beginning with you on 27 November, and I am eagerly awaiting the calendar for 2016-2017.

  43. Hello,

    I’m planning to read the ANF series in 2017 with a group of friends. It’s a pity that we’re four years late to the party.

    Your daily calendar is very helpful, and I’d like to create a customized version for our group. If you don’t mind sharing, how did you create the iCal (ics file) from your table?

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