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(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.


References in periodicals archive ?
s comprehensive survey of the virtues of patristics reminds us that familiarity with the historical roots of the Christian tradition is a sine qua non for all practitioners of the discipline.
The strength of this book is the light it sheds on complexities in the patristic background to Marion's thought.
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.
Abstract: This essay examines how early Anabaptists used patristic literature and creeds to defend their practices of baptism, the Lord's Supper, and community of goods, as well as their doctrinal stances on Christology and the Trinity.
Reading Jacobs's excellent work alongside Clark's insightful (even inspiring) treatment brings to the fore the potential for a newly "refurbished" study of patristics, for Jacobs does not shy away from the theory-history debate, nor is he dismissive of the historical project.
In time, however, Florovsky's theological emphases became focal points, serving as an effective criterion to bring about an authentic revival of modern Orthodoxtheology, without Western deviations and influences, and more fully faithful to the experience and the Patristic tradition of the early undivided Church.
Among these outstanding monuments of patristics let me mention at least Archbishop Philaret (Gumilev)'s Historical Study of the Fathers of the Church, Fr Georges Florovsky's Eastern Fathers of the Fourth Century and Byzantine Fathers of the Fifth to the Eighth Centuries and, among monographs on individual authors, Prof.
It is a pity that so little attention is given to the developing commonality of interest between patristic scholars and historians of late antiquity, or to sociological approaches: the book remains within the now conventional parameters of historico-critical interest in the development of church doctrines and institutions.
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.
This proposal to reinvent patristics in the name of poststructuralist textuality may be as untimely in its way as any of Nietzsche's famous theses on history.
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.