Last week, I suggested that reading the Church Fathers would be a tool to strengthen your reformed theology. During the week, I had several friends ask for a list of Early Christian writings with which to start. So here is a rough amalgamation of a few lists I sent out to friends.
Ask any patristics scholar who and what to read and you’ll get a myriad of different answers, so whilst this is by no means exhaustive, it should be a nice introduction to the writings of the Early Church.
- Epistle to Diognetus (c.130 AD.) This anonymous work is a great example of some of the earliest Christian apologetics, a genre that had its beginnings in the mid second century AD.
An online edition can be found here.
- Irenaeus, On the Apostolic Preaching (c.180 AD.) Another second century text, this is a great introduction to the Fathers. Short, Scriptural and very easy to access online for free if you give it a google. My review of the work can be found here.
SVS Press offer the best print edition, whilst an online version (1920 translation) is available here.
- Theophilus, Ad Autolycus, Book 1. (c.170 AD.) The first book of this apology addressed to Autolycus is full of rich language describing both God and His creation (My review of this work to follow shortly.)
An online version of Book One is available here.
- Cyril, On the Unity of Christ (early 5th C AD.) A later work seeking to defend orthodox Christology.
SVS Press have a print edition of this text.
- The Odes of Solomon, (1st – 3rd C AD.) This is another anonymous early work, that focuses on the themes of worship and evangelism.
An online translation can be found here.
- Augustine, Confessions (c. 400 AD.) One of the most influential texts of the Early Church, if not the ancient world. Longer than many of the others in this list but worth the effort.
Numerous editions are available, both in print and online. A simple google search will thrown one up!
- Gregory of Nazianzus, On God and Christ (mid 4th C AD.) A work affirming the divinity of Christ, written from Gregory’s strong trinitarian outlook.
Once again, SVS press provide a print edition of this work.
- Basil, On the Holy Spirit (mid 4th C AD.) is a great text defending the nature and role of the Spirit in the Christian life. My review is available here.
Whilst the work is available online, SVS Press’ print edition is a great translation.
- Athanasius, On the Incarnation (mid 4th C AD.) This work is famous for defending the divinity of Christ, but it includes other key themes and is a great read.
C S Lewis provides a wonderful foreword in the Popular Patristics edition from SVS Press.
- Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule (late 6th C.) Considered ‘the last good pope’ by the Reformers, Gregory’s book is a must-read for those in a pastoral position, full of practical and spiritual wisdom.
The edition from SVS Press is once again worth a read, although an online version is available here.
This is a short list, and it is pretty piecemeal. Several great texts aren’t included, and there’s plenty more to explore. But dipping into one or two of these would be a great way into the Fathers, and I pray will be a blessing to your daily walk. Perhaps kick it off with either Irenaeus, Augustine or Athanasius, but either way, give it a try!
The Popular Patristics series from SVS Press includes many of the above titles. Whilst they don’t sell them directly to the UK, they are usually available from online retailers if you’re willing to dig around a bit.