Fathers of the Church

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Fathers of the Church,

collective name for the Christian writers of early times whose work is considered generally orthodox. A convenient definition includes all such writers up to and including St. Gregory IGregory I, Saint
(Saint Gregory the Great), c.540–604, pope (590–604), a Roman; successor of Pelagius II. A Doctor of the Church, he was distinguished for his spiritual and temporal leadership. His feast is celebrated on Mar. 12.
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 (St. Gregory the Great) in the West and St. John of DamascusJohn of Damascus, Saint,
or Saint John Damascene
, c.675–c.749, Syrian theologian, Father of the Church and Doctor of the Church. He was brought up at the court of the caliph in Damascus, where his father was an official, and he was educated by a Sicilian monk.
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 in the East (see patristic literaturepatristic literature,
Christian writings of the first few centuries. They are chiefly in Greek and Latin; there is analogous writing in Syriac and in Armenian. The first period of patristic literature (1st–2d cent.) includes the works of St. Clement I, St.
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). There are several conventional groupings of the Fathers of the Church. One of these is the Apostolic Fathers, usually considered to include the authors of the Didache, of the Epistles of Clement, of the Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch, and of the Shepherd of Hermas. In an ancient category of honor eight Doctors of the Church are set apart; the Four Doctors of the Greek Church are St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Athanasius; the Four Doctors of the Latin Church are St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and St. Gregory the Great. Since the 16th cent., the title Doctor of the Church has also been given by the Roman Catholic Church to later doctrinal writers, including St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventura, St. Anselm, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of Avila, and St. Catherine of Siena.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fathers of the Church


the traditional designation of the most prominent leaders of the Christian church from the second through eighth centuries; they formulated its dogmas and its organization.

In Roman Catholicism the principal church fathers were Ambrose of Milan, Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory I the Great. In the Orthodox Church they were Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, John Chrysostom, and John Damascene. The church regards as fathers only those whom it has canonized as saints and whose teachings are acknowledged to be orthodox. Accordingly, such prominent early Christian thinkers as Origen and Tertullian are not included among the fathers of the church.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
They have been driven, perhaps reluctantly, by what many regard as mere respect for the truth, to feel doubtful and challenged about two great points on which the Fathers of the Church felt secure.
Meijering also shows throughout the book, whenever Barth's thought is compared with that of the Fathers of the Church, or of any one of them, that any major differences are due to the Fathers' acceptance of 'natural theology', which seems to mean to Barth anything about God and his creation which is not scripturally revealed.
Under a growing mutual conviction that the original fathers of the Church have been largely dismissed or ignored in recent times, they have re-read texts ranging from On the Incarnation by Athanasius to Augustine's Confessions, from Origen's scholarly Treatise on the Passover to the letters of Ignatius of Antioch begging for crucifixion.
The early Fathers of the church found the right balance: If Christ were not human, he could not save us because he would not have been one of us.
The Fathers of the Church and the medieval theologians wrote as pastors and ministers; they worried about the care of souls.
Similarly, among the Greek Fathers of the Church some centuries earlier, Gregory of Nyssa affirmed that God is by nature infinite since God is Being, Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, whereas all creatures only partially share in these divine perfections.
Based on Scripture and the writings of the early Fathers of the Church, we find several Councils defining the doctrine of Purgatory--for instance, the Council of Lyons in 1274; the Council of Florence in 1439; the Council of Trent with a "Decree on Purgatory" in 1563.
Since the question of women's ordination did not even arise among the fathers of the church, no support for or against this practice can be cited from that quarter.
Professor Baldwin, after concluding his series on the Fathers of the Church, also hopes to return later, on the subject of archeological discoveries.
The council, for example, replaced the late medieval view of the church as a pyramid, with the pope at the top and the laity at the bottom, by a profoundly traditional view, rooted in the Bible, the writings of the early fathers of the church and much of the church's lived experience during its first millennium.
These fathers of the church and mothers in the faith range from Clement of Rome to Teresa of Avila.