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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(patristic philosophy, patristic literature), a term designating the totality of theological, philosophical, and political and sociological doctrines of Christian thinkers of the second through eighth centuries (the fathers of the church).

Patristics emerged at a time of profound crisis in the slave-holding society of late antiquity and developed in the struggle against gnosticism and other heresies, on the one hand, and the traditional pagan world view, on the other. At the same time, patristic thought interacted in a complex way with Platonic and Neoplatonic idealism.

Representative of the first period of patristics (second through third centuries) is the work of the “apologists.” The most outstanding of them was Origen, the first to attempt to construct a complete philosophical system on the basis of Christian religious assumptions. Although his system was not adopted by the church, by posing the problem of basing a philosophical system on Christian beliefs, it determined the course of the subsequent period of patristics (fourth to fifth centuries). During the second period the polemically fragmentary philosophizing of the apologists gave way to efforts to systematize church doctrine, based on idealist speculation.

Patristics reached its apex with the Cappadocian circle in the Eastern, or Greek, church (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa) and with Augustine in the Western, or Latin, church. The Areopagite’s works, which date from the second half of the fifth century, attempted to explain the world as a system of symbols and thus proved very important for medieval aesthetics.

The last period of patristic thought was characterized by the stabilization of dogma, the extinction of idealist dialectics, and the codification of learning and the sciences under the aegis of theology, represented in the East by Leontius (late fifth century through first half of the sixth) and in the West by Boethius. The period ended with the appearance of the works of John Damascene, which summarized the patristic era and laid the foundation for Scholasticism. The fundamental problems of Western (Latin) and Eastern (Greek) patristics were inherited by Western European and Byzantine Scholasticism.


Migne, J.-P. Patrologiae cursus completus, series Graeca, vols. 1–166, Paris, 1857–66; series Latina, vols. 1–221, Paris, 1844–64.
Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, vol. 1—. Bonn-Leipzig, 1867—. (Series incomplete.)


Marx, K., and F. Engels. O religii. Moscow, 1955.
Bolotov, V. V. Lektsii po istorii drevnei tserkvi, vols. 1–4. St. Petersburg, 1907–18.
Garnak, A. “Istoriia dogmatov.” In Obshchaia istoriia evropeiskoi kul’tury, vol. 6. St. Petersburg [1911].
Spasskii, A. A. Istoriia dogmaticheskikh dvizhenii v epokhu vselenskikh soborov, 2nd ed., vol. 1: Trinitarnyi vopros. Sergiev Posad, 1914.
Quasten, J. Patrology, vols. 1–3. Utrecht-Brussels, 1950–60.
Altaner, B., and A. Stuiber. Patrologie: Leben, Schriften und Lehre der Kirchenväter, 7th ed. Freiburg-Basel-Vienna, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Unfolding against a background of unprecedented cultural and political upheaval, the rediscovery of the theological, spiritual, and literary legacy of the patristic period was one of the most significant developments in the history of twentieth-century Catholicism, marking the end of the protracted intellectual ascendancy of medieval Scholasticism, and paving the way to the institutional renewal by Vatican II.
Nevertheless, they will profit by being (reintroduced to the Patristic material, by exploring the Hebraic background of many Lukan constructs, and by learning fascinating tidbits from the nineteenth and twentieth century history of biblical scholarship.
To illustrate how scholars of premodern texts might profit from an engagement with theory, Clark focuses on the work of Gabrielle Spiegel whose attention to "the social logic of a text" offers a way through the "history/theory divide." Finally, Clark outlines a series of examples of how poststructuralist theory--in particular, applying Spiegel's "social logic"--can inform the study of patristics (from questions of authorship to ideology and gender).
Vladimir's Seminary, for reasons of inner policy and administration, Archbishop Michael, of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, a close friend of Florovsky from their earlier meetings in London, invited him to be Professor of Patristics and Dogmatic Theology at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Syriac patristics, hardly known to Russian researchers, deserve great attention.
There are, these days, formidable difficulties in presenting the patristic period to classes of students.
It begins with a careful analysis of Marion's use of patristic sources, demonstrating that though he has an impressive knowledge of the original works, he tends to conflate thinkers into a single generic patristic theology.
...; " those who wrote against Paul (surprise!--the Gospel of Matthew is one such example!); and Paul as interpreted by various patristic authors.
In this impressive tome of 860 pages of text, 24 photos of ancient baptisteries and nearly 100 pages of indexes, Everett Ferguson offers a comprehensive and thorough review of patristic literature in the first five centuries of the Christian era for what it says about baptism.
Because of its traditionally theological and philological biases, Clark posits, patristics did not experience the "linguistic turn" undergone by other (or more) human sciences by the 1960s.
The claim by Massimo Salani, a Catholic theologian who teaches patristics at a theological seminary in Pisa, and religious studies in a catering school, to the effect that the "Protestant cultural model" was responsible for the fast food culture, attracted world-wide attention.
Gary Anderson's article on the Christus Victor theme is an especially praise-worthy example of the former, drawing as it does on a range of materials including classics, rabbinics, and iconography, as well as patristics. Judith Kovacs's article on Origen's exegesis of 1 Corinthians is lucid and thorough, exemplary of the second type of article.