Top 3 Books to Study the Church Fathers

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Hamalas

whippersnapper
Hello all, I'm looking for book recommendations. I have a $50.00 Amazon gift card and I'm looking for the top 3 resources y'all would recommend for someone looking to study and read the Church Fathers. I already own (and am currently reading) The Apostolic Fathers translated by Michael Holmes and I also have the 38 vols. set of the Early Church Fathers. What I'm looking for now are good secondary sources that would help to guide me as a Reformed Christian through reading Patristic literature.

I'm conversant in Church history and have read many general survey works which have included sections on the early church. I've also been able to read some of the Church Fathers already (Athanasius On the Incarnation, the works of Melito of Sardis, On Those Who Think They Are Made Righteous by Works: 226 Texts by Mark the Ascetic, the Confessions by Augustine, and am currently working my way through the Apostolic Fathers).

With that background what would be the top resources I should get to guide me?
 

Hamalas

whippersnapper
I'm wondering about resources like J.N.D. Kelly's Early Christian Doctrines or Christopher Hall's recent trilogy on Patristics: 1) Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, 2) Learning Theology with the Church Fathers, & 3) worshipping with the Church Fathers.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Kelly has become a classic, though Nicene scholarship has come a LONG way since then. Here is a bibliography I sent a grad student in Toronto.

I enjoyed Hall but he's basic.

Williams, Rowan. Arius: Heresy and Tradition. Kind of limited and scope and Williams tends to see Barth and Bonhoeffer as the Athanasiuses of our day, but his handling of ancient philosophy is masterful.

Ayres, Lewis. Nicea and its Legacy. this book is top-notch scholarship.

Ayres, Lewis. Augustine. Good read. I think he downplays any neo-platonic elements, but certainly will be a standard text.

Beeley, Christopher. The Unity of Christ: Continity and Conflict in the Patristic Tradition. Tries to rehabilitate Origen somewhat, but a fantastic read. Limited in scope, though. Origen and the immediate aftermath get a lot of attention. Dimishes by the decade after Nicea.

Beeley, Christopher.
Gregory of Nazianzus on the Trinity and the Knowledge of God: In Your Light We Shall See Light . Hit or miss. But outstanding discussio on Gregory’s usage of “cause” and “monarchia.” In fact, the best treatment on that in the English language, period. I have his essay on this if you want it.
Radde-Galwitz, Andrew. Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity. The best patristic book on divine simplicity.

McGuckin, John. Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy. One of the best texts on Cyril. Period.

Anatolios, Khaled. Athanasius: The Coherence of his Thought. Probably the best text on working out the God-world relationship in Athanasius. He tries to rescue Athanasius from the charge of of "instrumentalizing Christ's humanity," but I am not sure he succeeds.

Gavrilyuk, Paul. Suffering of the Impassible God: Dialectics of the Patristic Tradition. Excellent discussions. His goal is to clsoe the gap between Cyril and modern critics of Cyril.. Not sure he succeeds.

Cooper, Adam. The Body in St. Maximus the Confessor: Holy Flesh, Wholly Deified. Great discussion of Maximus's "Five Divisions" and their subsequent unities.

Bathrellos, Demetrios. The Byzantine Christ. The best discussion on Maximus the Confessor. The only thing he doesn't touch on is the fact that both monothelites and Maximus held to libertarian free will.

Tollefson, Torstein. The Christocentric Cosmology of Maximus the Confessor. Not the best book on Maximus, but quite interesting in its on right. Compares and contrasts Maximus's thought to men like Porphory.

von Balthasar, Hans urs. Cosmic Liturgy: Maximus. Great section dealing with terms like hypostasis. He tries to make Maximus a hard-line neo-Chalcedonian. Other scholars have thoroughly attacked Balthasar on this point.

Thunberg, Lars. Microcosm and Mediator. Encyclopedic work on Maximus. No original ideas here, but an outstanding summary of the Nyssa-Maximus tradition.

Loudonikos, Nikolaos. A Eucharistic Ontology. My favorite work on Maximus.

Barnes, Michel. Dunamis in the thought of Gregory of Nyssa. The best discussion on what Gregory means by energy and power.

Meyendorff, John, Saint Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality. While it’s an EO polemic, he does a find job placing Gregory in the Evagrian tradition.

Meyendorff, John. Christ in Eastern Christian Thought. A more scholarly and extended edition of the above work.

Siencienski, A. Edward, The Filioque: A History of a Doctrinal Controversy, Oxford. Only the first half of this will be relevant to your quest, but the best treatment of the Fathers on this issue.

Torrance, I. Christology After Chalcedon: Severus of Antioch and Sergius the Monophysite, Wipf & Stock. I didn’t like it. He gives a careful discussion but the Torrance clan as a whole is critical of Chalcedon.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
However, you said top 3. Here are the ones that I've found most helpful, though they lean more towards the Nicene controversies:

1. Lewis Ayres, Nicea and its Legacy.
2. Christopher Beeley, The Unity of Christ.
3. Rowan Williams, Arius.

Honorable mention

JND Kelly.
 

Hamalas

whippersnapper
Super helpful Jacob, thanks. Do you have any thoughts on the volumes I mentioned? Especially the work by Hall or the book by Wilken?
 

DMcFadden

Puritanboard Commissioner
I have Hall's Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers and found it a very clear and helpful introduction to the Fathers. Hall writes in a clear and introductory way. This would not be the book that you would want to plumb the depths of the subject, rather as one of your first books to cover the landscape. Also, note that the book purports to offer a window into the exegetical methodology and general approach to Scripture of the Fathers rather than serving as a comprehensive introduction to the topic.

A source strangely missing from Jacob's excellent bibliography would be late Yale professor Jeraslov Pelikan's The Christian Tradition vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition. Pelikan was a genius (seminary degree and PhD by 22) who left the Lutheran tradition for EO in the late 90s.
 
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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I have Hall's Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers and found it a very clear and helpful introduction to the Fathers. Hall writes in a clear and introductory way. This would not be the book that you would want to plumb the depths of the subject, rather as one of your first books to cover the landscape. Also, note that the books purports to offer a window into the exegetical methodology and general approach to Scripture of the Fathers rather than serving as a comprehensive introduction to the topic.

A source strangely missing from Jacob's excellent bibliography would be late Yale professor Jeraslov Pelikan's The Christian Tradition vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition. Pelikan was a genius (seminary degree and PhD by 22) who left the Lutheran tradition for EO in the late 90s.

I liked the Hall work. It was fun. I left Pelikan out on purpose. I profited from the five volume set, but I have others I go to first.
 

Hamalas

whippersnapper
Thanks all. I ended up getting: 1) Christopher Hall's "Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers." 2) J.N.D. Kelly's "Early Christian Doctrines", 3) Robert Louis Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God, 4) Jaroslav Pelikan’s The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, vol. 1, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100–600) and 5) Michael Allen & Scott Swain's "Reformed Catholicity: The Promise of Retrieval for Theology and Biblical Interpretation"
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I'm wondering about resources like J.N.D. Kelly's Early Christian Doctrines or Christopher Hall's recent trilogy on Patristics: 1) Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, 2) Learning Theology with the Church Fathers, & 3) worshipping with the Church Fathers.

Kelly is necessary reading. It would be silly to by-pass a fundamental textbook in the hope of gaining an exhaustive knowledge. I would add Bromiley's historical theology readings (I forget the title). Somewhere in there one would have to find room for the volumes edited by Frend -- New Eusebius, and Creeds, Councils, Controversies.

The commentary series by Oden is very useful if one is seeking to incorporate the fathers into a long-term expository plan. Hall's works are associated with this in some way, so they might be worth looking into somewhere down the track.

A warning is needed here: Oden's goal seems to be to widen perspective so far as reading Scripture is concerned. If our view were self-confident and insular this would be a virtuous goal; but from a confessional point of view I don't see anything to be gained by a constant hesitation to trust one's theological framework, especially when the reformed framework has served to correct the naive, somewhat unsystematic, and wayward musings of the early church.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I'm wondering about resources like J.N.D. Kelly's Early Christian Doctrines or Christopher Hall's recent trilogy on Patristics: 1) Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, 2) Learning Theology with the Church Fathers, & 3) worshipping with the Church Fathers.

Kelly is necessary reading. It would be silly to by-pass a fundamental textbook in the hope of gaining an exhaustive knowledge. I would add Bromiley's historical theology readings (I forget the title). Somewhere in there one would have to find room for the volumes edited by Frend -- New Eusebius, and Creeds, Councils, Controversies.

The commentary series by Oden is very useful if one is seeking to incorporate the fathers into a long-term expository plan. Hall's works are associated with this in some way, so they might be worth looking into somewhere down the track.

A warning is needed here: Oden's goal seems to be to widen perspective so far as reading Scripture is concerned. If our view were self-confident and insular this would be a virtuous goal; but from a confessional point of view I don't see anything to be gained by a constant hesitation to trust one's theological framework, especially when the reformed framework has served to correct the naive, somewhat unsystematic, and wayward musings of the early church.

I've read the Bromiley book you're referencing, but I, too, forgot the title. I found it helpful on Hilary of Poitiers in particular. Kelly is good. What makes Kelly better than most is that he offers in-depth discussions beyond Nicea, whereas most of the books I listed focused on Nicea.
 

DMcFadden

Puritanboard Commissioner
I'm wondering about resources like J.N.D. Kelly's Early Christian Doctrines or Christopher Hall's recent trilogy on Patristics: 1) Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, 2) Learning Theology with the Church Fathers, & 3) worshipping with the Church Fathers.

Kelly is necessary reading. It would be silly to by-pass a fundamental textbook in the hope of gaining an exhaustive knowledge. I would add Bromiley's historical theology readings (I forget the title). Somewhere in there one would have to find room for the volumes edited by Frend -- New Eusebius, and Creeds, Councils, Controversies.

The commentary series by Oden is very useful if one is seeking to incorporate the fathers into a long-term expository plan. Hall's works are associated with this in some way, so they might be worth looking into somewhere down the track.

A warning is needed here: Oden's goal seems to be to widen perspective so far as reading Scripture is concerned. If our view were self-confident and insular this would be a virtuous goal; but from a confessional point of view I don't see anything to be gained by a constant hesitation to trust one's theological framework, especially when the reformed framework has served to correct the naive, somewhat unsystematic, and wayward musings of the early church.

I echo Pastor Winzer on the importance of Kelly and Bromiley's Historical Theology: An Introduction. [During seminary, Bromiley was just about the most orthodox prof I had! His knowledge was encyclopedic!]

My warning about the Ancient Christian Commentary series agrees with Winzer and adds a different concern. Along with many others, I wonder if the quotes are too selective and idiosyncratic of the particular editors. Anyway, we don't know since they contain no context. And, in support of Pastor Winzer's point, it troubles me that quotes by known heretics such as Pelagius are included.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
[During seminary, Bromiley was just about the most orthodox prof I had! His knowledge was encyclopedic!]

Thankyou for supplying the title, Dennis. The revised ISBE was certainly enhanced by Bromiley's historical contributions and editorial oversight.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Bathrellos, Demetrios. The Byzantine Christ. The best discussion on Maximus the Confessor. The only thing he doesn't touch on is the fact that both monothelites and Maximus held to libertarian free will.

Does this work delve into the theological arguments for the two wills, or would you recommend a better work?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Bathrellos, Demetrios. The Byzantine Christ. The best discussion on Maximus the Confessor. The only thing he doesn't touch on is the fact that both monothelites and Maximus held to libertarian free will.

Does this work delve into the theological arguments for the two wills, or would you recommend a better work?

That's what it is about. It is the best treatment on the subject.
 
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