Early Christian Manuscripts, Patristic Literature h6

General Information

Patristic literature refers to the writings of the Fathers of the Christian church (the Greek word patristikos means "relating to the fathers") between the latter part of the 1st century AD and the middle of the 8th century. It can therefore be distinguished from New Testament theology at one end and from medieval scholasticism and Byzantine systematization at the other. It reflects the philosophical and religious thought of the Hellenistic and Roman world from which it derived the bulk of its concepts and vocabulary. The themes of this vast literature are manifold, but the theological reflection of the Fathers focused for the most part on questions of Christology and the Trinity.

Although writers of the East and West had much in common, perceptible shades of difference can be found in their theologies. A scientific theology developed in the East and was marked by a blend of biblical theology and Platonic idealism (especially in Alexandria) or Aristotelian realism (especially in Antioch). In the West, Christian writers generally depended on the Greek theological tradition, which they often clarified in definitions or interpreted in juridical categories, until the emergence in the late 4th century of a sophisticated Latin theology.

Patristic literature falls into three main periods. The ante-Nicene period (before AD 325) includes the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, the apologetic and antiheretical literature, and the beginnings of speculative Greek theology. The major figures of this period include Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, Irenæus, Justin Martyr, Origen, and Tertullian. The period between the councils of Nicæa (325) and Chalcedon (451) was the golden age of the Nicene fathers (including Eusebius of Cæsarea, the first major church historian) the Alexandrians (most notably Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria), the Cappadocians (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa), and the Antiochenes (John Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia).

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This was also the period of the great Latin fathers: Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose, Jerome, and, above all, Augustine. The final period of patristic literature ends with Gregory I (the Great) in the West and John Damascene in the East.

Ross Mackenzie
Bibliography:
Altaner, Berthold, Patrology, 5th ed. (1960); DiBerardino, Angelo, eds., Patrology, trans. by P. Solari, 4 vols. (1986); Goodspeed, E. J., A History of Early Christian Literature, rev. ed. (1966); Hamell, Patrick J., Handbook of Patrology (1968); Kelly, J. N. D., Early Christian Doctrines, rev. ed. (1978); Leigh-Bennett, E., Handbook of the Early Christian Fathers (1980); Quasten, Johannes, and Plumpe, Joseph C., eds., Ancient Christian Writers (1946- ).


Advanced Information

Collected together are the English translations of the actual texts of many known early Christian manuscripts. These works form an important part of the foundation for virtually every Christian Church.

In Christianity, as in all other religions, interpretation by authors and speakers and Clergy is invariably involved. Since different people have sometimes interpreted the wording of early manuscripts in different ways, (as also is true of the Bible), there developed many different "human opinions" on many important subjects, which initiated many heresies, many schisms and a large number of Denominations and other Churches, each which have their own human opinions on those important subjects.

Since much of the argument seems to arise over interpretation of the meanings of works of the early Church Fathers, we are presenting the works here, WITHOUT significant commentary or interpretation. The exceptions generally have to do with historical facts which are relevant. For example, there are some short letters which appear to have been written to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, but the author appears to have lived many years after her! Such notes include a brief reference to being "spurious".

There are also assorted "fragments" of manuscripts included. In some cases, these fragments result from the illegibility of much of a manuscript, where only certain sentences are readable. In other cases, they are truly fragments, torn portions of manuscripts.

Being English translations, one must remember the need to consult the original language texts for any critical study. Similarly, we must remember that, at the time these letters and books were written, even the Bible was written in Scriptua continua, continuous text without spaces for paragraphs, sentences or even words, and there was no capitalization, punctuation or other formatting. Therefore, the paragraph numbering and Chapter headings in these texts were obviously additions by later copyists or translators to clarify the texts. However, without those improvements, these texts are nearly impossible to read or understand, and so it seems tolerable to accept them.

This listing is approximately in chronological order, as is currently understood. We hope to eventually include all known existing Manuscripts.

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For Earlier Manuscripts, /believe/txv/earlycht.htm


Methodius

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Arnobius

Arnobius, who lived in the 4th century, was a Roman rhetorician and Christian apologist. Originally a pagan (see Paganism), Arnobius converted to Christianity and is known for his works in the defense of that faith. As a pagan he vigorously opposed Christianity, but he was allegedly converted by a dream, according to the writings of Saint Jerome.

Arnobius composed, in about the year 300, a defense of Christianity titled Adversus nationes, which was addressed to the pagans and critical of them as well. The latter part of the work is a primary source for our knowledge of contemporary paganism, especially its temples, statues, and its ceremonial practices. The Adversus nationes is thus more a book about paganism than about Christianity. It has been criticized for not relying heavily enough on Scripture or Christian doctrine, a fact that has led modern critics to suppose the author ignorant of the basic tenets of the faith. There have been numerous editions of the work, and an English translation, including a full introduction, was published as Arnobius of Sicca: The Case Against the Pagans (2 volumes, 1949).

Works of Arnobius

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Lactantius, Lucius Cæcilius Firmianus

{lak-tan-shuhs, loo'-shuhs ky-see'-lee-uhs furm-ee-ay'-nuhs}

Lucius Cæcilius Firmianus Lactantius, c.240-c.320, a North African Christian apologist distinguished for his Latin prose style, was called the "Christian Cicero" by Renaissance scholars. Appointed (c.290) teacher of rhetoric at Nicomedia by the Roman emperor Diocletian, he resigned (c.305) his post when the emperor began persecuting Christians. Later, he was tutor to Crispus, the son of Constantine I. His principal work was Divinæ institutiones (Divine Institutions, c.304-c.313), the first systematic Latin summary of Christian teaching. His work was meant for the well educated--hence the elegant and careful style of his writing.

Bibliography: Lactantius, Excerpts from the Works of Lactantius, trans. by W. Fletcher (1972).

Works of Lactantius

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The Apostolic Constitutions

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Homily

A Homily is an informal sermon on a portion of the Bible, designed to explain the literal meaning and the spiritual or moral significance of the text. The practice of reading the Scripture during public religious services and explaining its lessons in popular form prevailed among the Jews even in ancient times and was adopted by the early Christian churches. Many collections of homilies were made in ancient times, and much of the literature of the Middle Ages is homiletic.

The Books of Homilies are two collections of sermons, published in 1547 and 1563, respectively, and later combined, that are frequently consulted in controversies concerning the doctrines of the Church of England.

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Creed

Creeds (Latin credo,"I believe") are authoritative summaries of the principal articles of faith of various churches or bodies of believers. As religions develop, doctrines that were originally simple are subject to elaboration and interpretation that cause differences of opinion. Detailed creeds become necessary to clarify the differences between the tenets of schismatic branches and to serve as formulations of belief when liturgical usage-for example, the administration of baptism-requires a profession of faith.

In the Christian church, the Apostles' Creed was the earliest summation of doctrine; it has been used with only minor variations since the 2nd century. In addition to the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed are in common use in the Roman Catholic liturgy. In the Orthodox church, the only creed formally adopted was the Nicene Creed, without the insertion of filioque in connection with the procession of the Holy Spirit.

With the Reformation, the establishment of the various Protestant churches necessitated the formulation of new creeds, which, because of the many differences in theology and doctrine, were much longer than the creeds of the ancient church. The Augsburg Confession is accepted by Lutherans throughout the world, as is the Smaller Catechism of Martin Luther. The Formula of Concord, accepted by most early Lutherans, now finds more limited acceptance. The doctrines of the Church of England are summarized in the Thirty-nine Articles, and those of the Presbyterians, in the Westminster Confession. Most Reformed churches of Europe subscribe to the Helvetica Posterior, or Second Helvetic Confession, of the Swiss reformer Heinrich Bullinger, and most Calvinists accept the Heidelberg Catechism.

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Liturgies

{lit'-ur-jee}

Liturgy, from two Greek words meaning "people" and "work," refers to the formal public rituals of religious worship. In the Christian tradition, it is used as a specific title for the Eucharist and in general designates all formal services, including the Divine Office. Both the written texts of the rites and their celebration constitute liturgy. Among Protestants, the term describes a fixed form of worship, in contrast to free, spontaneous prayer. Outside the Christian church, liturgy is also used to designate the form of prayer recited in Jewish synagogues.

The historic Christian liturgies are divided into two principal families: Eastern and Western. The Eastern liturgies include the Alexandrian (attributed to Saint Mark), the Antiochene (Saint James, Saint Basil, Saint John Chrysostom), and the East Syrian (Assyrian) or Chaldean (Addai and Mari), as well as the Armenian and Maronite rites. The Byzantine liturgies (those attributed to Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil) are used today by all Orthodox Christians in communion with Constantinople.

The Western liturgies are the Roman and the Gallican. The only Gallican liturgy still in use is the Ambrosian Rite of Milan, although the Mozarabic (Spanish), the Celtic, and the Franco-German Gallican were widely used until the 8th century.

Traditional Anglican and Lutheran liturgies have been based on the local uses of the Roman rite revised according to 16th-century Reformation principles. Reformed (Calvinist) churches made a conscious attempt to replace historic liturgies with the forms of worship of the early Christian communities.

In the 20th century a movement arose among the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches to revise the liturgies to make them more contemporary and relevant while retaining the basic beliefs of the church. In the Roman Catholic church the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council substituted the use of vernacular languages for Latin in the Mass and allowed the participation of the laity in public worship. The Anglican (Episcopalian) church revised the book of Common Prayer, and the Lutheran churches issued a new Lutheran Book of Worship. Revised liturgies also are contained in Methodist, Congregationalist, and Presbyterian church hymnals.

L.L. Mitchell

Bibliography: Dalmais, L. H., Eastern Liturgies, trans. by Donald Attwater (1960); Dix, Gregory, The Shape of the Liturgy, 2d ed. (1945; repr. 1982); Klauser, Theodor, A Short History of the Western Liturgy, trans. by John Halliburton, rev. ed. (1979); Schultz, Hans-Joachim, The Byzantine Liturgy, trans. by M. J. O'Connell (1986); Vogel, Cyril, Medieval Liturgy (1987); White, James, Protestant Worship (1987).


For Later Manuscripts, /believe/txv/earlychu.htm


About 82 Manuscripts included here, 412 so far, plus fragments


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The main BELIEVE web-page (and the index to subjects) is at: BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet http://mb-soft.com/believe/indexaz.html