Sunday, July 24, 2005

About Patrology

Here are excerpts from Quasten's introduction to patrology (these days more often called "patristics"). Worth a read:

Patrology is that part of the history of Christian literature which deals with the theological authors of Christian antiquity. It comprises both the orthodox and the heretical writers, although it treats with preference those authors who represent the traditional ecclesiastical doctrine, the so-called Fathers and Doctors of the Church.
We are accustomed to call the authors of early Christian writings 'Fathers of the Church'. In ancient times the word 'Father' was applied to a teacher; for in biblical and early Christian usage, teachers are the fathers of their students.... Today only those are to be regarded as 'Fathers of the Church' who combine these four necessary qualifications: orthodoxy of doctrine, holiness of life, ecclesiastical approval, and antiquity.... Although the Fathers of the Church hold an important position in the history of Hellenistic and Roman literature, their authority in the Catholic Church is based on entirely different grounds. It is the ecclesiastical doctrine of Tradition as a source of faith which makes the writings and opinions of the Fathers so important. The Church regards the unanimis consensus patrum as infallible, if it concerns the interpretation of Scripture.
As far as language is concerned, Christianity was a Greek movement until almost the end of the second century.... Both the authors of the New Testament writings, as well as the Greek Fathers, do not write in classical Greek, but in the Koine, which could be best described as a compromise between literary Attic and the popular language.... Latin Christian literature had its beginnings in translations of the Bible, which must have been made during the second century.

--Johannes Quasten, Patrology


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