The Church Fathers
I use the term Church Fathers rather loosely to refer to many of the early Christian writers of the first four centuries of Christianity. Some use the term to refer to a specific group or groups of men who were instrumental in founding of the institutional church. As this site is a work-in-progress this section is far from complete and the organization of the material leaves something to be desired. The goal remains to trace Orthodoxy through the series of writers from New Testament times to present. Clearly this is nothing that can be done in 25 words or less but it is also a more formidable task than I had initially thought. An example of how big the task can be is the volume of extant primary source material that exists. English translations of The Fathers are available and one set fills 38 volumes.
During the Apostolic period (the time of from Jesus through the
Along with the Apologists there was the beginning of the institutional Church. There are those who claim that the increasing social power of the Church was the cause of the Diocletian persecution of the 300s, which was the last of the great persecutions of the Church. It is interesting to note that the strength of the Church grew in spite of the persecutions. The political power of the Church emerged especially after Christianity was legalized in 313. Around this time the Imperial Church came into being when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380. Institutional history is not the story I am trying to tell, rather the consistency of the Christian message from the first century onward. But from the time of what is called the Imperial Church here onward it is difficult to separate the two.
The written history that we have can serve to show us the consistent teaching of the Church. There is a sense in which New Testament scripture records what the traditions of the early church were. This is, in essence, where the Protestant notion of sola scriptura comes from. Going back to the founding documents to discover what Christians taught in the first century. The written record of the first century Church as recorded in the New Testament provides the most genuine record of the teaching and life of early Christianity. Beyond that however, we have a continuous series of writings from authors from New Testament times until the present.