Ante-Nicene Fathers

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Summary[edit]

The Ante Nicene Fathers is a term used to describe those theologians and writers who predate the Council of Nicaea. Study of the Ante-Nicene Fathers is included in the discipline of patristics (Latin, from pater = father). However, the patristic period extends beyond the Council of Nicaea, until the Council of Chalcedon.

Introduction[edit]

The Ante-Nicene Fathers are generally considered to have been active prior to the first quarter of the 4th century A.D., with the patristic period widely regarded as ending 451 A.D[1]. Writing of this period often involves elements which at a later date would be considered heretical, because at this time there was not a formal standard of faith. Consequently, the following list of important figures includes, in combination, proto-Orthodox, Gnostic, and otherwise heretical leaders.

Important Figures[edit]

  • Justin Martyr
  • Irenaeus
  • Origen
  • Tertullian
  • Athanasius
  • Clement I
  • Ignatius
  • Polycarp
  • Bardaisan of Edessa
  • Marcion

Justin Martyr B. ca 100, d. ca 165, patron saint of philosophers in the Roman Catholic Church. Justin identified the concept of the Son of God as the life-giving Word (Logos spermatikos) that implants truth in the minds of all people. He also identified Christ as "The New Adam" and Mary as "The New Eve" in whom creation is made new - while Adam and Eve precipitate the fall of man by eating from a tree, Christ regenerates man by dying on one[2]. This concept would prove important for later writers. Justin was executed in the reign of Marcus Aurelius after refusing to sacrifice to the pagan gods. He was scourged and beheaded, earning the surname Martyr.

Irenaeus B. ca 130, possibly in Smyrna, d. ca 200. Bishop of Lyons from 178-200 AD. Irenaeus is most widely known for his publication, Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies), which particularly targeted the movement of Gnosticism. The theology of Irenaeus was one of the single most important contributions to what would become orthodox Christianity in the future[3].

Origen B. ca 185, d. ca 254. Origen was one of the most significant early apologists of the Christian faith[4]. An apologist is a defender against criticism from opponents. He was an important theologian who had a large influence on the development of eastern Christianity, though he would be the subject of persistent attacks as he was allegedly ordained a priest illegitimately. Origen believed in the concept of apocatastasis, or universal salvation (including the future salvation of Satan)[5]. Origen's importance lies in two primary areas - in Biblical interpretation, he pioneered the concept of the threefold interpretation of scripture: literal, ethical, and spiritual. By literal is meant the face meaning of the words on the text; ethical means what the text teaches about the relation of man to man and man to God; by spiritual is meant the inner, divine meaning. All three levels exist simultaneously in the text. In Christology, Origen presented the idea that the Father is "more divine" than the Son. This has been perceived as the origin of the heresy of Arianism, and Origen himself was condemned as a heretic for this view.[6]

Tertullian B. ca 160 in Carthage, d. ca 225. Controversial theologian widely considered the founder of western, Latin Christian theology, Tertullian was originally a pagan who converted to Christianity ca. 190[7]. Tertullian was a major opponent of the heresy of Marcionism, and was the first to work out a systematic doctrine of the Trinity[8]. He was a significant proponent of purism in that he rejected any attempts to make Christian theology dependent on external sources such as Academic philosophy, leading him to argue the principle of sufficiency of scripture. Ironically, Tertullian became closely associated with the heresy of Montanism later in life[9].

Athanasius B. ca 296, d. ca 373. Athanasius served as the bishop of Alexandria and was a key figure at the Council of Nicaea[10]. Especially opposed to the theology of Arianism, Athanasius argued that it was a heresy. Arius believed that Jesus Christ was not in essence divine, but was "adopted" into the role of the Son by God the Father, and therefore Jesus was a human being in totality. Athanasius proved that the theology of Arius implied that salvation through God would be impossible, and that Christians, in worshiping Jesus as Christ and God, would be guilty of idolatry, in violation of the first commandment. Athanasius was instrumental at the Council of Nicaea in having Arianism declared a heresy[11].

Clement I Pope Clement I, a mysterious figure. There are two extent writings that are attributed to Clement, but dispute exists as to whether either were in fact written by him[12]. The First Letter of Clement, if genuine, would be the oldest surviving Christian document outside the New Testament[13]. The other document, entitled the Second Letter of Clement, or 2 Clement, is neither a letter nor was it written by Clement I[14]. Clement himself is never even named in the letter entitled 1 Clement, however the letter addresses itself to the church in Corinth from the church in Rome. Clement is traditionally identified as the fourth bishop of Rome, however some sources (e.g., Tertullian) claim he was the second, and was ordained by St. Peter[15]. Eusebius claims that Clement was the companion of the apostle Paul (see Phillippians 4:3)[16]. Hermas is the first to mention a Christian named Clement, in his Shepherd of Hermas, when he states that he was instructed to send two copies of a book to Clement in Rome in order that they be distributed to other churches[17]. First Clement's primary importance lies in the author showing the necessity of the unity of the church of God.

Ignatius


Polycarp


Bardaisan of Edessa


Marcion

The Ante-Nicene Fathers and Heresy[edit]

Certain of the Ante-Nicene fathers (e.g., Justin Martyr) are considered saints, and yet their extant writings include elements that would later be identified as suspect at best (Neo-Platonism). Others, such as Marcion, were excommunicated for heresy in their own lifteme, and still others (Athanasius) contributed greatly to what would become the norm of faith for the Christian church. Athanasius attended the Council of Nicaea.


References[edit]

  1. Christian Theology: An Introduction, Alister E McGrath, Blackwell Publishing, pg 1-5 ISBN 0631225285
  2. Lives of the Saints, Richard P. McBrien, Harper San Francisco, p. 222 ISBN 9780061232831
  3. Christian Theology: An Introduction, Alister E McGrath, Blackwell Publishing, pg 11 ISBN 0631225285
  4. Christian Theology: An Introduction, Alister E McGrath, Blackwell Publishing, pg 11 ISBN 0631225285
  5. Christian Theology: An Introduction, Alister E McGrath, Blackwell Publishing, pg 11 ISBN 0631225285
  6. Lost Christianities, Bart D. Ehrman, Oxford University Press, pg. 254 ISBN 9780195182491
  7. Christian Theology: An Introduction, Alister E McGrath, Blackwell Publishing, pg 11 ISBN 0631225285
  8. Christian Theology: An Introduction, Alister E McGrath, Blackwell Publishing, pg 11 ISBN 0631225285
  9. Lost Christianities, Bart D. Ehrman, Oxford University Press, pg 254 ISBN 9780195182491
  10. Christian Theology: An Introduction, Alister E McGrath, Blackwell Publishing, pg. 12 ISBN 0631225285
  11. Christian Theology: An Introduction, Alister E McGrath, Blackwell Publishing, pg. 12 ISBN 0631225285
  12. The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1', Bart D. Ehrman, Harvard Publishing, p. 18 ISBN 0674996070
  13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1_Clement
  14. The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1', Bart D. Ehrman, Harvard Publishing, pp. 18, 157 ISBN 0674996070
  15. The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1', Bart D. Ehrman, Harvard Publishing, pg. 21 ISBN 0674996070
  16. The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1', Bart D. Ehrman, Harvard Publishing, pg. 21 ISBN 0674996070
  17. The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1', Bart D. Ehrman, Harvard Publishing, pg. 21 ISBN 0674996070