These quick book reviews include links to our YouTube videos and blogs on the Apostolic and Early Church Fathers, plus related topics. We will also discuss how to read ancient works, and the problems scholars face when translating ancient works, and the 38-volume set of the writings of the Ante-Nicene, ante meaning before, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Church Fathers, translated into English. […]
John Chrysostom is the most strident of the early Church writers in his writings opposing the Judaizers where he warned his flock that Christians should not adopt Jewish customs and practices, that Christians needed to celebrate the Church festivals rather than the Jewish festivals, that Christians should not attend services at the synagogue. His work “Against the Judaizers” is so polemic that it is far more anti-Semitic than the writings of Barnabas and St Justin Martyr and many other church fathers, it is painful for us modern readers to read, we who remember the horrific events of the Holocaust. This work is not in the standard collection of the works of the Nicene and Anti-Nicene Fathers, but it was widely read in medieval times and afterward, and unfortunately was used to justify the European and Russian pogroms and persecutions against the Jews.
One scholar who has pondered the problems posed polemic stands against the Judaizers by St John Chrysostom and also St Cyril is Robert Wilken. In this book “John Chrysostom and the Jews,” he explores the history of the early church to better understand the world of the early Church Fathers. We cannot totally excuse the errors in the teachings of the early Church Fathers, but neither can we blindly judge and condemn them for not knowing the lessons of the Holocaust. There is nothing wrong with reading the Church Fathers as they apply to our modern world, but particularly in this case we should also let the Church Fathers in their ancient historical context, we need to do both lest we have a distorted understanding of the history of our faith. […]
Historically, the Catholic Church has defended itself from attacks, both real and imagined, from enemies of the faith, and this defensiveness also extended to Biblical studies. The twentieth century saw a relaxing of this defensiveness, culminating in the decree Dei Verbum pronounced by Vatican II, encouraging Catholic scholars to use more modern methods of interpreting the Scriptures, under the guidance of the Vatican office, the Pontifical Biblical Commission. […]
Repeatedly St Ignatius begs the Romans not to seek a pardon to prevent his martyrdom. He writes his rhapsody, “in the fullness of life I am yearning for death with all the passion of a lover. Earthly longings have been crucified; in me there is left no spark of desire for mundane things, but only a murmur of living water that whispers within me, ‘Come to the Father’. There is no pleasure for me in any meats that perish, or in the delights of this life; I am fain for the bread of God, even the flesh of Jesus Christ, who is the seed of David; and for my drink I crave that Blood of His which is Love imperishable.” “I am His wheat, ground fine by the lion’s teeth to be made purest bread for Christ.” […]
The early writings of St Ignatius of Antioch gave the early church a shining example of martyrdom. He was arrested by the authorities for his faith, like St Paul, and was being escorted to Rome to be fed to the wild animals in the arena. During the stops in his journey he received delegations from the various churches who received epistles from him to be read to their flocks. In his epistles to the churches St Ignatius insists that there be unity in the churches, that the members respect the bishops. He also tells them that a liturgy or sacrament that is not blessed by the bishop is not valid, that the faithful should be loyal and obedient to their bishop. These epistles were revered by the early church and were quoted often by the church fathers. […]
What is the Way of Life? You shall Love God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and all of your mind and with all of your strength, and you should love your neighbor as yourself, and you should never do to others what you do not want done to yourself. Thus opens the first paragraph of the Didache, which may be among the most ancient patristic works surviving. […]
The Epistle of Barnabas is a curious epistle that surprisingly has some messages that ring true with modern Christians. This epistle was likely written just after most of the books of the Bible, and was considered by some Christian communities as inspirational. Eusebius in his early History of the Church says the Epistle of Barnabas was “not canonical but disputed, yet familiar to most churchmen,” […]