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The conversion of Augustine

In Christian theology and philosophy, patristic is the science that deals with the time of the church fathers . It is the epoch of the Old Church from the 1st century to the 7th or early 8th century at the latest.


While patrology is primarily concerned with the writings of the church fathers relevant to the ( Catholic ) faith, patristics deals with all theological writings that have survived from this period, including the writings of heretics and non-personal testimonies such as acts of the council and liturgical texts.

The patristic uses u. a. Methods of linguistics and literary studies is also literary history. It is part of the history of the church and goes hand in hand with the history of dogma .


The apologists of the second and third centuries, for example Justin the Martyr or Tertullian (around 155 to 220), described Christianity in the language of Greek philosophy, borrowing from Plato and Philo , Stoicism and Neoplatonism ; because that was the prerequisite for reaching the educated.

Hieronymus , Ambrosius of Milan , Augustine and Gregory the Great are the four Latin church fathers in the narrower sense ; they were later considered to be particularly important authorities and, above all, shaped European Christianity to a large extent. All church fathers dealt - sometimes also in a polemical way - with Christian doctrines that did not correspond to the consensus of the church and formulated the church doctrine more precisely in order to distinguish this consensus from other doctrines. Irenaeus of Lyons fought Gnosis in the second century , Athanasius of Alexandria and Basil of Caesarea in the fourth century against Arianism , and Augustine of Hippo in the fifth century against Pelagianism and Donatism . In addition, all manifestations of non-Christian religion were strongly opposed.

From these disputes, the early Christian creeds emerged from the 1st century to the 4th century as the basis of church teaching. On this basis, dogmatics was then developed in the period from the 4th century to the 8th century , which is essentially the dogmatic basis of all major denominations to this day .

The Church Fathers argued mainly with the Bible , both the Old and New Testaments . For them, the essential basis of Christian teaching was Holy Scripture , interpreted in the tradition of the apostles . Various hermeneutics developed , in particular the allegorical interpretation of Alexandria, for which Origen (around 185 to 254) is exemplary, and the literal-grammatical interpretation of Antioch, represented for example by John Chrysostom . Continued interpretations of the Bible have been preserved from many of the Church Fathers.

The patristic epoch ends in the west with Isidore of Seville , in the east with John of Damascus , who are each considered to be the last church fathers. But some still count Bede among the church fathers.


The patristic is partly divided into three epochs:

  1. The pre-Sicilian patristic: approx. 90/100–325 AD.
  2. The high register: 325–451
  3. The late registration: 451–750

Different groups are distinguished:


Many of the early Christian theologians were also active in the field of philosophy and are therefore (from this point of view) also regarded as philosophers, but were primarily theologians. The primacy of theology over philosophy was self-evident. The influence of non-Christian philosophers (above all Plato and the Neo-Platonists ) on Christian authors of the patristic era had consequences for the development of Western philosophy . Works by the ancient philosophers were still available to the church fathers, which are lost today, but can in part be deduced from the patristic writings. Calcidius , who translated and commented on Plato's dialogue Timaeus in Latin in the 3rd or 4th century, had a strong aftereffect .

See also


  • Berthold Altaner , Alfred Stuiber : Patrology. Life, Writings, and Teaching of the Church Fathers. 7., completely reworked. Edition. Herder, Freiburg (Breisgau) a. a. 1966.
  • Otto Bardenhewer : History of the early church literature. 5 volumes. Herder et al., Freiburg (Breisgau) a. a. 1902-1931;
    • Volume 1: From the beginning of the apostolic age to the end of the second century. 1902 ( digitized version );
    • Volume 2: From the end of the second century to the beginning of the fourth century. 1903 ( digitized version );
    • Volume 3: The fourth century excluding writers with the Syrian tongue. 1912 ( digitized version );
    • Volume 4: The Fifth Century Including Fourth Century Syrian Literature. 1924 ( digitized version );
    • Volume 5: The last period of early church literature, including the oldest Armenian literature. 1932 ( digitized ).
  • Karlmann Beyschlag : Outline of the history of dogmas. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1988–1991;
    • Volume 1: God and the world (= floor plans. Vol. 2). 2nd, revised and expanded edition. 1988, ISBN 3-534-04610-2 ;
    • Volume 2: God and Man. Part 1: The christological dogma (= floor plans. Vol. 3, 1). 1991, ISBN 3-534-08088-2 .
  • Hans Frhr. von Campenhausen : Greek Church Fathers (= Urban Books. 14, ZDB -ID 995319-x ) .3. Edition. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart a. a. 1961
    • English edition: The Fathers of the Greek Church. Translated by Stanley Godman. Pantheon, New York NY 1959 ( digitized ).
  • Angelo Di Berardino (Ed.): Encyclopedia of the early church. 2 volumes. Clarke, Cambridge 1992, ISBN 0-227-67895-8 (articles on individual authors and genres).
  • Siegmar Döpp , Wilhelm Geerlings (Ed.): Lexicon of ancient Christian literature. 2nd Edition. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau et al. 1999, ISBN 3-451-23786-5 .
  • Hubertus R. Drobner : Textbook of Patrology. Herder, Freiburg (Breisgau) a. a. 1994, ISBN 3-451-23498-X .
  • Gregor Emmenegger: The Congregation of Saint-Maur (Mauriner) and their Church Fathers editions. In: European History Online . 2011, accessed June 29, 2015.
  • Michael Fiedrowicz : Handbook of Patristic. Source texts on the theology of the Church Fathers. Herder, Freiburg (Breisgau) a. a. 2010, ISBN 978-3-451-31293-9 .
  • Alois Grillmeier : Jesus the Christ in the faith of the church. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau a. a. 1979-2002;
    • Volume 1: From the Apostolic Period to the Council of Chalcedon (451). 1979, ISBN 3-451-18547-4 ;
    • Volume 2, Part 1: The Council of Chalcedon (451), Reception and Contradiction (451-518). 1986, ISBN 3-451-18548-2 ;
    • Volume 2, Part 2: The Church of Constantinople in the 6th Century. 1989, ISBN 3-451-18549-0 ;
    • Volume 2, Part 3: The Church of Constantinople in the 6th Century. 2002, ISBN 3-451-22026-1 ;
    • Volume 2, Part 4: The Church of Alexandria with Nubia and Ethiopia after 451. 1990, ISBN 3-451-22027-X .
  • Adolf Harnack : History of the early Christian literature to Eusebius. Hinrichs, Leipzig 1893–1904;
  • Part 1: Tradition and existence. 1893 ( digitized version );
  • Part 2, Volume 1: The Chronology of the Literature to Irenaeus. In addition to preliminary investigations. 1897 ( digitized version );
  • Part 2, Volume 2: The Chronology of Literature from Irenaeus to Eusebius. 1904 ( digitized version ).
  • Endre by Ivánka : Plato Christianus. Adoption and transformation of Platonism by the fathers. Johannes-Verlag, Einsiedeln 1964.
  • Hans-Josef Klauck : The religious environment of early Christianity (= Kohlhammer study books theology. Vol. 9, 1–2). 2 volumes. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart a. a. 1995-1996;
  • Johannes Tassels : Patrology. 4 volumes. Spectrum Publishers, Utrecht et al. 1950–1986;
    • Volume 1: The Beginnings of Patristic Literature. 1950;
    • Volume 2: The Ante-Nicene Literature after Irenaeus. 1953;
    • Volume 3: The Golden Age of Greek Patristic Literature. From the Council of Nicaea to the Council of Chalcedon. 1960;
    • Volume 4: Angelo Di Berardino (Ed.): The Golden Age of Latin Patristic Literature. From the Council of Nicaea to the Council of Chalcedon. 1986, ISBN 0-87061-126-7 .
  • Basil Studer : God and our redemption in the faith of the ancient church. Patmos, Düsseldorf 1985, ISBN 3-491-71070-7 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Gerhard Ludwig Müller : Catholic dogmatics: for study and practice of theology. 6th edition. Herder, Freiburg i. Br. 2005, ISBN 3-451-28652-1 , p. 95.