First four centuries - introduction

At the Faith Winter Conference, I promised to post here a list of books that might be helpful for students wishing to become acquainted with the early Fathers of the Church and to learn something about the early Councils.

It should first of all be said that there is an immense amount of information available and there is an increasing amount of good material on the internet. These are only given as a few examples to get you started.

The Catholic Answers website has a good introductory article by Marcellino D'Ambrosio called Getting Started with the Fathers of the Church. The same author, at the Crossroads Initiative, has an Early Church Fathers Overview and a brief summary of the first seven Ecumenical Councils.

The New Advent website has the text of the Catholic Encyclopaedia online, and some works of some of the Church Fathers - including many of the most important works. In some cases, scholarship has superseded the encyclopaedia, and the translations (made by non-Catholics) are sometimes misleading. But by and large, this resource is an immense help to the student.

Catechetics online, as I mentioned a while back, has the texts of the Ecumenical Councils and the Fathers. (The patristic texts are the same as those on New Advent.)

Now some books:

Pier Franco Beatrice Introduction to the Fathers of the Church (Edizione Istituto S. Gaetano. Vicenza. 1987)
This is an excellent introductory book with helpful illustrations. There are two copies offered for sale on the UK Amazon marketplace - but at very high prices (£30 and £83 - this is a 350 page paperback which I bought for £4.25 a few years back!) so if you see one going for sale anywhere, snap it up. There are a couple of copies at Abebooks for £10.52 and £13.15 so it would be worth snapping those up. The sellers are both in the US so British buyers will have to pay a bit more postage.

Mike Aquilina The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers (Our Sunday Visitor)
I haven't seen this myself but list it here because Mike Aquilina is a good guy, a regular on EWTN. I am sure the book will be trustworthy as regards Catholic doctrine. Furthermore, it is available on Amazon UK. (If anyone has read this book and would like to offer comments, please do.)

Ludwig Ott The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (republished by Tan Books. Illinois 1974)
You can look up in Ott the various doctrines related to the Trinity. He gives quotations from scripture, the Fathers, the Councils and the Popes to support the various doctrines that he states. Ott is a great reference book to have if you want to check up on Catholic doctrine generally.

John Henry Newman's Development of Christian Doctrine
Newman was steeped in the study of the Church Fathers. The Development not only makes the case for the truth of the Catholic Church but is also shot through with references to the Fathers and the early Church. This is available at a reasonable price at Amazon thanks to the University of Notre Dame which published a new edition. (There is a first edition going on Abebooks for £40.)

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