Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1, compiled with comments by Philip Schaff ★★★★
This is the first of a series of 37 volumes comprising the Ante-Nicene and Nicene/Post-Nicene Fathers, compiled by Philip Schaff. Each volume contains translations of writings of the early church fathers, and this volume has many of the first fathers of the church, including Ignatius, Polycarp, and Irenaeus.
It is a healthy exercise to read what our fathers in the faith had deemed important enough to put down in print. The thoughts and concerns of these early fathers related mostly to moral purity, and combating the enemies of the faith. Predominant in the writings of the earliest church fathers was opposition to Gnosticism, which was creeping insidiously into the church all the way up to the bishop of Rome (i.e., the Pope). It is fascinating how our church doctrines were formed as a response to the various heresies that arose. JI Packer once commented in Systematic Theology class that systematic theology was always written as a response to the ongoing heresies of the age, and historical studies of the fathers prove this to be quite true.
Most of this volume entailed the five books of Irenaeus titled Against Heresies. This was a lengthy segment and quite tedious to read; I’m not sure I grasped all of his points, and often because he tended to repeat simple truths of the faith without a specifically stated objective. It is fascinating how only a few hundred years and such greats as Augustine taught the church how to write in a more concise, organized, systematic style.
I am already blazing into volume 2 of this series, but not sure that I’ll make it through all 37 volumes. Eventually, I may end up skipping around a bit. Particular authors that I’ll be interested in are Tertullian, Athanasius, the Cappadocian Gregories, Chrysostom, Anselm, and Augustine.