Digging into the Church Fathers

The collection of writings known as the Early Church Fathers (37 vols) is included in Scholar’s Silver, Gold and Platinum collections, and also in Portfolio (LE editions).
That is a large collection. It’s great, and it is very handy to have indexed by reference and topic. I’ve personally benefited from it many times over the years. But it is tough to dig into and understand as a whole, particularly if you’re not familiar with the major writers. What to do?
One place to start out is H.B. Swete’s Patristic Study (sold separately; not included in base collections). This is a small book, but it gives an overview of people and themes in the first five centuries of the church. The product page gives a good description:

Patristic Study focuses almost exclusively on the Fathers of the first five Centuries. After reviewing these writers, Dr. Swete proceeds in the closing chapters to suggest methods of employing the work of the Fathers for the particular purposes of those in different lines of religious and theological study.

Swete’s book is handy to use as an less technical introduction to the writings of the Church Fathers found in the much larger Early Church Fathers (37 vols) collection.
What about other titles in this area? Logos has several available:

  • Getting to Know the Church Fathers; An Evangelical Introduction is a title on prepub (at the time this blog post was written). It distills information about the person instead of only the writings the person is responsible for. So figures in the early church like Augustine, Ignatius, Origen, Perpetua and Tertullian (and more) are described in ways that make their writings more accessible.
  • The Apostolic Fathers Greek-English Interlinear is also presently gathering interest as a prepub. Lexicons like BDAG, TDNT and TLNT (as well as several commentaries) cite the writings of the Apostolic Fathers all the time. If you don’t remember as much of your Greek as you’d like, or if you haven’t had a chance to take Greek yet, sometimes an interlinear can be helpful in tracking down these cross-references and examining word usages in context.
  • The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers is a handy work that provides cross references between New Testament passages and writings of the Apostolic Fathers. This can be very handy.
  • Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels by Thomas Aquinas is presently a community pricing title. This is less of Aquinas and more of a compilation of sentences/notes from the church fathers that end up functioning as a commentary — by the church fathers — on the Gospels. Fun stuff, might be worth checking out.

I’d better stop now — but can you tell I’m excited about this stuff? Logos has a goodly amount of titles available in this area (even a chunk of volumes from Patrologia Graeca on prepub!) so I’ll have to blog again about this in the future to point out some more stuff that you might be interested in.

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