“Patristics” is a very large field, reflecting a wide variety of Christian thought from seven+ centuries across a widely disparate area. Reading the actual text of the theologians, preachers, and pastors can be an extremely valuable, insightful, and spiritually fulfilling. Some of the writings can be extremely difficult and are less than accessible
without assistance even to the most ardent reader.
I have provided several lists of recommended reading of primary sources. There are a lot of them!! I have chosen only thirty-six very specific works to be on this list. Regarding the suggestions:
* They are, I think, accessible in length, content, and language to an average reader.
* They are eclectic, stretching the breadth and depth of the Patristic Age.
* They come out of my own personal experience and spiritual journey.
* They tend toward homilies, letters, and personal accounts rather than tomes and theological treatises. I have, simply, found the former more formative than the latter.
* With a few exceptions, they tend toward shorter works that can be read in 1-2 hours.
A final list includes just a few secondary sources, either as introductions & general histories or as commentaries on more difficult treatises or more prolific authors.
1. PRIMARY SOURCES
TWELVE PLACES TO START
These are an accessible entry into the Patristic writings. The Confessions is the only long read; but, it is a classic not only of Christian discipline but of Western literature, and should be read in full.
• Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, ca. 107
• Polycarp of Smyrna, Epistle to the Philippians, early-2nd cent.
• Tertullian, On Prayer, 185-207
• Origen, On the First Principles (Preface), ca. 220
• Athanasius, The Incarnation of the Word of God, ca. 318
• Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 19: First Lecture on the Mysteries, ca. 350
• Gregory the Theologian, “On the Theophany, or the Birth of Christ” (Oration 38) 380
• Gregory of Nyssa, “Homily 1 on the Song of Songs,” 390
• John Chrysostom, “Homily 1 on the Gospel of John” late-4th cent.
• Augustine, The Confessions, 397-400
• Gregory the Great, “Letter to Priscus, patrician of the East,” 593
• John Damascene, “Homily on the Cross & Faith,” early-8th cent.
TWENTY-FOUR PLACES TO CONTINUE
Like the first list, these are accessible works for the average reader. However, some of the works might be longer reads and some will bear more difficult “theological” or “philosophical” language (marked with an *).
• Clement of Rome, First Clement (to the Corinthians), 96
• Anonymous, Didache (“The Teaching of the Twelve”), late-1st cent.
• Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans, 107
• Anonymous, The Martyrdodm of Polycarp, mid-2nd cent.
• Irenaeus of Lyons, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, early 180’s*
• Hippolytus, Apostolic Traditions, 215
• Origen, On Prayer,(Preface), 220
• Cyprian of Carthage, Epistle to Donatus, 250
• Athanasius, Life of Anthony, 356-373
• __________, Against the Arians (Discourse 4), 356-360*
• Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity (Book 1), 356-361*
• Basil the Great, “The Hexaemeron: Homily 1,” 375
• Ambrose of Milan, On the Mysteries, 387
• Gregory the Theologian, “Oration 45: The Second Oration on Easter,” 389
• __________, “Orations 27-31” (The Five Theological Orations), late-4th cent.*
• John Chrysostom, “Homily 15 on the Gospel of Matthew,” late-4th cent.
• __________, “Homily 12 on 1 Timothy,” late-4th cent.
• Jerome, “Homily 75: On Mark 1,” 401-410
• __________, “Homily 88: On the Nativity of Christ,” 401-410
• Augustine, On the Trinity, 417-428*
• __________, The City of God, 410-425
• Leo the Great, “Letter 28: ‘The Tome’,” mid-5th cent.
• Benedict Of Nursia, The Rule (of Saint Benedict), 529-550
• Maximus the Confessor, On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, early-7th cent.*
Note: Ignatius of Antioch wrote seven letters on his way from Antioch to face certain martyrdom in Rome. All the letters are useful for understanding the late 1st-/early 2nd-cent. Church.
Note: John Chrysostom, Gregory the Theologian, and Jerome (among others) have large collections of homilies, and Gregory the Great and Leo the Great have large collections of letters. All are worth reading.
2. SECONDARY SOURCES
• Aquilina, M. The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers, 3rd Edition. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2012, 1999.
• Chadwick, H. The Early Church, Revised. New York: Penguin Books, 1993, 1967 .
• Drober, H.R. with Schatzmann, S., trans. The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007.
• Hall, C.A. Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, Downers Grove, IN: InterVarsity, 1998.
• Hamman, A. How to Read the Church Fathers, Norwich, UK: Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd, 2012.
• Ramsey, B. Beginning to Read the Fathers, revised. New York: Paulist Press, 2012, 1985.
ON SPECIFIC FATHERS OR TOPICS
• Ayres, L. Nicaea and Its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology. Oxford: University Press, 2004.
• Chadwick, H. Augustine. Oxford: University Press, 1986.
• Chadwick, H. Early Christian Thought and the Classical Tradition: Studies in Justin, Clement, and Origen. Oxford: University Press, 1966.
• Holmes, M.W. (after Lightfoot, J.B. and Harmer, J.R.) The Apostolic Fathers in English, 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006, 1999.
• Meredith, A. The Cappodocians. New York: T&T Clark, 1995.
• Williams, R. Arius: Heresy & Tradition, Revised Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001, 1987.
3) CHRONOLOGY (of notable Fathers and anonymous/pseudonymous works)
• Clement of Rome, mid 1st-cent.-101 [4th Bishop of Rome]
• Ignatius of Antioch, mid 1st-cent. -108 [3rd Bishop of Antioch]
• Didache, late first-cent.
• Polycarp of Smyrna, 69-155 [3rd Bishop of Smyrna]
• The Letter of Barnabas, late 1st-early 2nd-cent.
• The Shepherd, early 2nd-cent.
• The Martyrdom of Polycarp, mid 2nd-cent.
• Quadratus, late 1st-cent./early 2nd-cent. [1st apology, known only through Eusebius]
• Aristides of Athens, late 1st-cent.-134
• Justin Martyr, 100-165
• Athenagoras of Athens (133-190)
• Epistle to Diognetus, late 2nd-cent.
• Clement of Alexandria, mid 2nd-cent.-215
• Tertullian of Carthage, 155-240
ANTE-NICENE THEOLOGIANS (2nd-4th cent.)
• Irenaeus of Lyons, 130-202
• Hippolytus of Rome, 170-235
• Origen of Alexandria, 185-253
• Cyprian of Carthage, 200-258
• Gregory Thaumaturgus, 213-275
• Anthony of Egypt (of the Desert), 251-356 [non-literary]
• Alexander of Alexandria, ???-326
NICENE & POST-NICENE THEOLOGIANS & PASTORS
• Eusebius of Caesarea, 265-340 [Christian historian]
• Aphraates the Assyrian, 280-345
• Athanasius of Alexandria, 296-373
• Hillary of Poitiers, 300-368
• Ephrem the Syrian, 306-373
• Cyril of Jerusalem, 315-386
• Gregory of Nazianzus, 329-389
• Basil the Great, 330-389
• Gregory of Nyssa, 332-395
• Ambrose of Milan, 340-397
• Jerome of Stridonium, 340-420
• John Chrysostom, 347-407
• Augustine of Hippo, 354-430
• John Cassian, 360-435
• Cyril of Alexandria, 378–444
THE CLOSING OF THE PATRISTIC AGE
• Vincent of Lerins, late 4th-cent.-445
• Leo the Great, 395-461
• Theodoret of Cyrus, 397-457
• Benedict of Nursia, 480-547
• Gregory the Great, 540-604
• Isidore of Seville, 560-636
• Maximus the Confessor, 580-662
• Isaac the Syrian, 613-700
• John of Damascus, 675-749