Early Christian Manuscripts, Patristic Literature hx

General Information

Patristic literature refers to the writings of the Fathers of the Christian church (the Greek word patristikos means "relating to the fathers") between the latter part of the 1st century AD and the middle of the 8th century. It can therefore be distinguished from New Testament theology at one end and from medieval scholasticism and Byzantine systematization at the other. It reflects the philosophical and religious thought of the Hellenistic and Roman world from which it derived the bulk of its concepts and vocabulary. The themes of this vast literature are manifold, but the theological reflection of the Fathers focused for the most part on questions of Christology and the Trinity.

Although writers of the East and West had much in common, perceptible shades of difference can be found in their theologies. A scientific theology developed in the East and was marked by a blend of biblical theology and Platonic idealism (especially in Alexandria) or Aristotelian realism (especially in Antioch). In the West, Christian writers generally depended on the Greek theological tradition, which they often clarified in definitions or interpreted in juridical categories, until the emergence in the late 4th century of a sophisticated Latin theology.

Patristic literature falls into three main periods. The ante-Nicene period (before AD 325) includes the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, the apologetic and antiheretical literature, and the beginnings of speculative Greek theology. The major figures of this period include Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, Irenæus, Justin Martyr, Origen, and Tertullian. The period between the councils of Nicæa (325) and Chalcedon (451) was the golden age of the Nicene fathers (including Eusebius of Cæsarea, the first major church historian) the Alexandrians (most notably Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria), the Cappadocians (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa), and the Antiochenes (John Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia).

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This was also the period of the great Latin fathers: Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose, Jerome, and, above all, Augustine. The final period of patristic literature ends with Gregory I (the Great) in the West and John Damascene in the East.

Ross Mackenzie
Bibliography:
Altaner, Berthold, Patrology, 5th ed. (1960); DiBerardino, Angelo, eds., Patrology, trans. by P. Solari, 4 vols. (1986); Goodspeed, E. J., A History of Early Christian Literature, rev. ed. (1966); Hamell, Patrick J., Handbook of Patrology (1968); Kelly, J. N. D., Early Christian Doctrines, rev. ed. (1978); Leigh-Bennett, E., Handbook of the Early Christian Fathers (1980); Quasten, Johannes, and Plumpe, Joseph C., eds., Ancient Christian Writers (1946- ).


Advanced Information

Collected together are the English translations of the actual texts of many known early Christian manuscripts. These works form an important part of the foundation for virtually every Christian Church.

In Christianity, as in all other religions, interpretation by authors and speakers and Clergy is invariably involved. Since different people have sometimes interpreted the wording of early manuscripts in different ways, (as also is true of the Bible), there developed many different "human opinions" on many important subjects, which initiated many heresies, many schisms and a large number of Denominations and other Churches, each which have their own human opinions on those important subjects.

Since much of the argument seems to arise over interpretation of the meanings of works of the early Church Fathers, we are presenting the works here, WITHOUT significant commentary or interpretation. The exceptions generally have to do with historical facts which are relevant. For example, there are some short letters which appear to have been written to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, but the author appears to have lived many years after her! Such notes include a brief reference to being "spurious".

There are also assorted "fragments" of manuscripts included. In some cases, these fragments result from the illegibility of much of a manuscript, where only certain sentences are readable. In other cases, they are truly fragments, torn portions of manuscripts.

Being English translations, one must remember the need to consult the original language texts for any critical study. Similarly, we must remember that, at the time these letters and books were written, even the Bible was written in Scriptua continua, continuous text without spaces for paragraphs, sentences or even words, and there was no capitalization, punctuation or other formatting. Therefore, the paragraph numbering and Chapter headings in these texts were obviously additions by later copyists or translators to clarify the texts. However, without those improvements, these texts are nearly impossible to read or understand, and so it seems tolerable to accept them.

This listing is approximately in chronological order, as is currently understood. We hope to eventually include all known existing Manuscripts.

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For Earlier Manuscripts, /believe/txv/earlychw.htm


Gregory of Nyssa

{nis'-uh}

Gregory of Nyssa, c.330-c.395, was one of the Fathers of the Church; his theological and mystical writings had a strong influence on later Christian thought and spirituality, especially in the Orthodox Church. Born in Cæsarea, Cappadocia (present-day Kayseri, Turkey), Gregory belonged to an eminent Christian family, defenders of orthodoxy against Arianism. He, his brother Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus, are known as the Cappadocian Fathers.

In 371 he was elected bishop of the Cappadocian town of Nyssa. Deposed from his bishopric by the Arians in 376, he was restored in 378 and took part in the first Council of Constantinople (381).

Gregory of Nyssa was a prolific writer. His Great Catechesis is one of the earliest systematic outlines of Christian theology. In his treatises On the Holy Spirit and Ad Ablabium (or Not Three Gods), he defended the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. His interpretations of the Bible include The Creation of Man, which was designed to complete his brother Basil's Hexæmeron ("Six Days"), and the Life of Moses, in which he treats the journey of the Israelites to the Promised Land as an allegory of the soul's progress toward God. Gregory is also known for his mystical commentaries on the Psalms, and he has been called the father of mysticism. His writings on asceticism include On Virginity and a biography of his sister, Saint Macrina. Feast day: Mar. 9.

John L. Boojamra

Works of Gregory of Nyssa

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St. Jerome

Jerome (Eusebius Hieronymus), c.347-420, was a Father of the Church and Doctor of the Church, whose great work was the translation of the Bible into Latin, the edition known as the Vulgate (see Bible). He was born at Stridon on the borders of Dalmatia and Pannonia of a well-to-do Christian family. His parents sent him to Rome to further his intellectual interests, and there he acquired a knowledge of classical literature and was baptized at the age of 19. Shortly thereafter he journeyed to Trier in Gaul and to Aquileia in Italy, where he began to cultivate his theological interests in company with others who, like himself, were ascetically inclined.

About 373, Jerome set out on a pilgrimage to the East. In Antioch, where he was warmly received, he continued to pursue his humanist and monastic studies. He also had a profound spiritual experience, dreaming that he was accused of being "a Ciceronian, not a Christian." Accordingly, he determined to devote himself exclusively to the Bible and theology, although the translator Rufinus (345-410), Jerome's close friend, suggested later that the vow was not strictly kept. Jerome moved to the desert of Chalcis, and while practicing more rigorous austerities, pursued his studies, including the learning of Hebrew. On his return to Antioch in 378 he heard Apollinaris the Younger (c.310-c.390) lecture and was admitted to the priesthood (379) by Paulinus, bishop of Antioch. In Constantinople, where he spent three years around 380, he was influenced by Gregory of Nazianzus.

When Jerome returned to Rome Pope Damasus I appointed him confidential secretary and librarian and commissioned him to begin his work of rendering the Bible into Latin. After the death (384) of Damasus, however, Jerome fell out of favor, and for a second time he decided to go to the East. He made brief visits to Antioch, Egypt, and Palestine. In 386, Jerome settled at Bethlehem in a monastery established for him by Paula, one of a group of wealthy Roman women whose spiritual advisor he had been and who remained his lifelong friend. There he began his most productive literary period, and there he remained for 34 years, until his death. From this period come his major biblical commentaries and the bulk of his work on the Latin Bible.

The writings of Jerome express a scholarship unsurpassed in the early church and helped to create the cultural tradition of the Middle Ages. He developed the use of philological and geographical material in his exegesis and recognized the scientific importance of archaeology. In his interpretation of the Bible he used both the allegorical method of the Alexandrian and the realism of the Antiochene schools. A difficult and hot-tempered man, Jerome made many enemies, but his correspondence with friends and enemies alike is of great interest, particularly that with Saint Augustine. His greatest gifts were in scholarship, and he is a true founder of scientific biblical exegesis in the West. Feast day: Sept. 30 (Western).

Ross Mackenzie

Bibliography
Berschin, W., Greek Letters and the Latin Middle Ages, rev. ed. (1989); Kelly, J. N. D., Jerome, His Life, Writings, and Controversies (1975); Steinmann, Jean, Saint Jerome and His Times (1959); Wiesen, David S., St. Jerome as a Satirist (1949; repr. 1964).

Works of St. Jerome


For Later Manuscripts, /believe/txv/earlychy.htm



About 222 Manuscripts included here, 1017 so far, plus fragments


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