Here we have a gathering of writings from the ancient era in the church. They are prolific but vitally important if we are to maintain our effort to teach the very same as what the apostles taught. The challenges the church face during this era are very similar to the challenges we face today. T F Torrance says there are no new heresies, just old heresies dressed up in new clothes. The writings from the church shows what the heresies look like and how we can recognise them even today. What I enjoy about this era is the enormous integrity people like T F Torrance and Karl Barth in the endeavour to bring this ancient truth to the modern world.
Why read these texts? What we find in textual criticism is the closer we can get to the event in history, in this case the Incarnation, the more credibility the documents have. As we move through history, the less credibility the documents are in regard to the true meaning of what happened in the life and work of Jesus Christ.
The Apostolic and the Church Fathers enable us to see how they read the Scriptures and what the Scriptures meant to them. When we read Irenaeus, he discusses the work attributed to John, what we know as the gospel of John. His mentor was Polycarp whose mentor was the Apostle John. The depth of knowledge of Scripture is nothing short of breathtaking to say the least. In their battle with the heretics who continually corrupted the texts, it was their inward and intuitive understanding along with a lifetime of studying the text that they were able to detect fraudulent copies that were being distributed through their communities. The heretics would try and change the text to suit their teachings as a means of corrupting the flock. People like Irenaeus, Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers, Cyril of Jerusalem and Cyril of Alexandria where able to highlight the important fundamental truths that maintained the integrity of the teaching that was taught by the Apostles themselves.
The common thread is: No one knows God. If no one knows God then it is only God who can make Himself known. If we are to have any idea to the ways and works of God, then He is the One who must reveal Himself and teach us. This He has done as the Man Jesus Christ.
As we move away from this event, there is the tendency for humanity to start setting the conditions upon which God is to be known. As a result, theories and ideas that are not theological start to creep in resulting in a watering down of the truth. We end up with a mythology rather than theology.
What the Fathers can teach us is a particular type of conversation that helps us to keep our focus on the teaching of Christ as understood by the very Apostles themselves. In doing so, we take on a yoke that is easy and a burden so light.
These writings are considered public domain and can be freely used by anyone. I had to adhere to strict conditions when publishing them on this site. This has meant hours and hours of re-ordering the text to make it more readable. I hope you enjoy these writings as much as I have.
Clement of Alexandria