Wednesday, March 21, 2018

David Bentley Hart's Survey of the Patristic Age

I’m enjoying reading through David Bentley Hart’s popular level work The Story of the Christianity (Quercus, 2009). It has short chapters, clear overviews, and is filled with interest-grabbing anecdotes.

In the chapter titled “Age of the Fathers” (95-101), Hart provides a succinct overview of the key leaders in the immediate post-apostolic age.

Hart calls this “the golden age of Christian thought” which was “frequently marked by a kind of speculative audacity, that the theologians of later years, under the restrictions of more precisely defined dogmas, found all but impossible” (95).

Here is my summary of his survey:

“Apostolic Fathers”: the earliest successors of the apostles

Clement of Rome
Ignatius of Antioch
Polycarp of Smyrna

Apologists: defenders of Christianity in the pagan world

Quadratus, during the time of the emperor Hadrian
Aristides, during the time of the emperor Antonius Pius
Melito of Sardis, during the time of the emperor Marcus Aurelius
Justin Martyr (c. 100-c. 165)
Irenaeus of Lyon (c. 130-c. 200)
Tertullian (c. 155-c. 230)

“High Patristic Age”

Clement of Alexandria
Athanasius, the scourge of Arianism
The Cappadocian Fathers: Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa
Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

Note: Hart says, “Western Christianity is Augustinian Christianity.” As an Orthodox theologian, however, Hart unsurprisingly believes that Augustine misunderstood Paul.

Later Masters

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 375-444)
Maximus the Confessor (c. 580-662)
“Pseudo-Dionysius” (c. 500)

The End of the Patristic Period

The last father in the West is usually said to be Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636);
The last father in the East, John of Damascus (c. 675-749).


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