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The Church Fathers

The early Church Fathers fall into three basic categories: Apostolic, ante-Nicene and post-Nicene. The Apostolic Fathers were contemporaries of the apostles and were probably taught by them…The ante-Nicene Fathers were those who came after the apostles but before the Council of Nicea in AD 325…The post-Nicene Fathers  are those who came after the council of Nicea. (taken from www.churchfathers.org).

The following is just going to provide a brief biography of each of these men. These biographical notes were taken from Who's Who in Christian History, J. D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort, Editors, Tyndale pub., AND Master Christian Library by Ages Software. There are about 40 people described on this page.

The key to remember about the Church Fathers is that their work is not inspired, but would more reflect the work of modern day Christian apologists and other scholars. The question of whether the Church Fathers were all true Christians is something to be investigated and we should be careful when reading their words.
 

Part One: Apostolic Fathers:

1. Clement of Rome: Clement was a presbyter (priest) and bishop in Rome who wrote a letter to the church at Corinth (96), probably the earliest Christian writing outside the New Testament. Dionysius of Corinth (170) was the first to name Clement as the author of that letter. Origen, an Alexandrian theologian, and Eusebius, the first church historian, identified the writer as the “Clement” listed in the Shepherd of Hermas, a Christian writing from the mid-second century. There are problems, however, with all attempts to identify Clement…

Clement quoted extensively from the Old Testament as “Scripture” and from the words of Jesus, using sayings found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. He also quoted Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Hebrews. Thus Clement provides important evidence that books which later became part of the New Testament canon were circulating among the churches by the end of the first century. Clement’s letter also provides important evidence for the martyrdom of the apostles Peter and Paul, and for a mission of Paul to the “western boundary” (i.e., Spain).

2. Mathetes: [A.D. 130.] The anonymous author of this Epistle gives himself the title (Mathetes) “a disciple of the Apostles,” and I venture to adopt it as his name. It is about all we know of him, and it serves a useful end. Mathetes was possibly a catechumen of St. Paul or of one of the apostle’s associates. I assume that his correspondent was the tutor of M. Aurelius. Placed just here, it fills a lacuna in the series, and takes the place of the pseudo (second) Epistle of Clement, which is now relegated to its proper place with the works falsely ascribed to St. Clement.

3. Polycarp: Born of a Christian family, Polycarp claimed to have been a disciple of John, presumably the apostle. Ignatius of Antioch, on his way to Roman martyrdom (c. 116), wrote letters both to Polycarp and to the church of Smyrna. In the days of Pope Anicetus, Polycarp visited Rome as representative of the Asia Minor churches that observed 14 Nisan as Easter. Although he and the pope could not come to an agreement on that question, they maintained fellowship with each other. While there Polycarp met some of the Valentinian heretics and encountered Marcion, whom he characterized as “firstborn of Satan.” The account of Polycarp’s death (a letter from the church of Smyrna to the church of Philomelium) is the earliest extant Christian martyrology. The civil authorities importuned the bishop to apostatize because of his age, but he replied dramatically, “I have served Christ eighty-six years and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King? I am a Christian.” Miraculously the flames did not harm him, so he was dispatched with a dagger, then burned. His followers gathered up his bones as holy relics “more precious than precious stones and finer than gold,” and put them in a suitable place where they could celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom. According to the record, the Jews were as avid for his death as the pagans were. Only one of Polycarp’s letters has been preserved. Addressed to the Philippians in response to one from them, it has to do with the assembling of Ignatius’s letters into a single volume. It alludes to more than one letter by the apostle Paul to the Philippians. It is also an attestation of certain New Testament books as canonical.

4. Ignatius: Ignatius was the Apostolic Father closest in thought to the New Testament writers. He wrote seven letters while en route under armed guard to Rome to suffer martyrdom (probably 107). The letters were to churches in cities through which he passed, Philadelphia and Smyrna, and to churches that sent delegations to visit him during this final journey—namely, Ephesus, Tralles, and Magnesia. He sent a letter ahead to the church in Rome to prevent their intervention with the Roman authorities in delivering him from martyrdom. He also wrote a letter to Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna. Similar to the New Testament epistles, these writings reveal a strong commitment to Christ and to the physical facts of his birth, death, and resurrection. Although Ignatius has some statement of the salvation in Christ, he did not have a clear view of grace and forgiveness. In his emphasis on his own martyrdom as “a true sacrifice,” he detracts from the finished work of Christ.

5. Barnabas: Nothing certain is known as to the author of the following Epistle. The writer’s name is Barnabas, but scarcely any scholars now ascribe it to the illustrious friend and companion of St. Paul. External and internal evidence here come into direct collision. The ancient writers who refer to this Epistle unanimously attribute it to Barnabas the Levite, of Cyprus, who held such an honorable place in the infant Church. Clement of Alexandria does so again and again (Strom., 2. 6, 2. 7, etc.). Origen describes it as “a Catholic Epistle” (Cont. Cels., 1. 63), and seems to rank it among the Sacred Scriptures (Comm. in Rom., 1. 24). Other statements have been quoted from the fathers, to show that they held this to be an authentic production of the apostolic Barnabas; and certainly no other name is ever hinted at in Christian antiquity as that of the writer. But notwithstanding this, the internal evidence is now generally regarded as conclusive against this opinion. On perusing the Epistle, the reader will be in circumstances to judge of this matter for himself.

6. Papias: The information we have about Papias and his work was given by Eusebius of Caesarea and Irenaeus of Lyons. Irenaeus stated that Papias had heard the apostle John preach and also knew Polycarp. Eusebius mentioned his Explanation of the Sayings of the Lord. In the preface to this work Papias maintains that his primary purpose is to bring forth a truthful record of a collection of the words and deeds of the Apostles that were told to him by a presbyter. Irenaeus understood him to be alluding to the apostle John, but Eusebius contended that he referred to two Johns, one who was the apostle and the other who was the companion of Aristion. Papias claimed that Mark, the Evangelist, who had never heard Christ, was the interpreter of Peter, and that he carefully gave an account of everything he remembered from the preaching of Peter. The statement that Matthew wrote down sayings of Jesus in Hebrew was affirmed by Papias. Irenaeus understood this as a reference to Hebraisms in Matthew’s Gospel, whereas Origen took this to mean that Matthew originally wrote his Gospel in Hebrew. The statements of Papias have raised many questions on the formation of the Gospels, a possible Aramaic version of Matthew, the possibility and identity of two Johns, and other problems in the history of the early church. According to tradition, Papias died a martyr.

Part Two: The ante-Nicene Fathers:

7. Justin Martyr: Of Greek parents, Justin was born in Palestine near the modern city of Nablus in Samaria. He went to Ephesus and studied the philosophies of the time, especially Platonism. Although deeply impressed by the death of Christian martyrs, he was actually converted (as he himself related) by a humble old Christian. For awhile he taught Christian philosophy at Ephesus, but left in 135 and went to Rome, where he taught and wrote until he was martyred under Marcus Aurelius. Only two or three of his treatises are still extant: his first Apology (the second may not be authentic) and his Dialogue with Trypho. The Apology was addressed to Emperor Antoninus Pius (adoptive father of Marcus Aurelius); the Dialogue was earlier. The Dialogue was a discussion with a Jewish rabbi (possibly the historical Rabbi Tarphon) about the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. The Apologies were defenses of Christianity presented to Roman authority. Justin was one of the first apologists striving to offer Christianity to the world of his day in the current Hellenistic modes of thought. He believed, as did Philo the Jew, that the pagan philosophers had studied and learned from the Old Testament. To him Christianity was Platonism and Stoicism corrected and completed by the Bible and by the Logos that enlightens everyone. He opposed the early Christian heresies of Gnostic origin, in particular Docetism, by standing for the historicity of Jesus. He also opposed Marcionism, which tried to separate Christianity from its Old Testament precedents. To Justin the culminating act of God was the Incarnation—when God became man. He remained within the early Palestinian tradition by his stress on the church as the true Israel and by his doctrine of the Millennium. It is in Justin’s writings that one first encounters, outside of Scripture, the teaching that Mary by her obedience reversed the effects of Eve’s disobedience. And it is from his first Apology that the church has its first description, apart from Scripture, of early Christian worship. He also gave evidence of the emerging canon of the New Testament.

8. Ireneaus: Irenaeus grew up in Asia Minor under the preaching of the apostolic father Polycarp and moved to southern France, becoming “elder” (presbyter) in Lyons. When the aging bishop was martyred, Irenaeus succeeded him as bishop in the West. In his primary work, Against Heresies, Irenaeus gave his theology as statements of the Christian faith to refute the heresies of Valentinus (the Gnostic) and Marcion. For Irenaeus the authority of “the faith” is established through the direct line of elders in the church back to the apostles. This authentic message of the church confirms the Christian Bible. He was the first to state four Gospels as canon. To these he also added a list of apostolic writings, quoting all as “Scripture” along with the Old Testament. In his argument for the direct line of elders, he was the first to list the succession of Roman bishops as an example of this line, and thus he opened the way for later church officials to elevate the bishop of Rome. Irenaeus opposed the Gnostic attitude toward creation by affirming both creation and redemption as the acts of God. From the beginning, the “One Creator God” worked through his “two hands,” the Son and the Spirit, without intermediary angels. He considered the Atonement as a “recapitulation” made by Christ—that is, his going over the ground again in obedience where Adam and man failed. To this biblical thought he added the theme “the Virgin Mary is the obedient Eve.” As others in the second century, Irenaeus taught an earthly millennial kingdom at the second coming of Christ. Irenaeus was more Pauline than the apostolic fathers. He was also more biblical and less philosophical than the Greek church fathers who came later. Although a contemporary with the apologists and their work, Irenaeus was the first to write as a theologian for the church.

9. Hermas: Known very little otherwise, Hermas cites some details about himself in his writing. His extant work is one book, a writing called The Shepherd (referring to the work’s central shepherd figure). In The Shepherd, Hermas states that he was originally a slave, gained his freedom, married and started a business, lost nearly everything material, saw his children lapse, and finally, brought his family together by acts of repentance. Hermas indicates also that he knew Clement of Rome, late first-century bishop of Rome. From internal evidences, it is impossible to tell if this biography is fictional or not. As to external facts, references to Hermas are contradictory. Some authorities, most eminently the Muratorian Canon, a late second-century document, make Hermas a brother of Pius, bishop of Rome about 150. In the third century, Origen thought Hermas was the individual Paul named in Romans 16:14, an identification upholding Hermas’ own statements. Modern scholarly commentators lean much toward the first opinion.

10 Tatian: Originally from Assyria (upper Mesopotamia), Tatian acquired extensive Greek learning. He became a Christian in Rome following a long period of travel. For several years, Tatian was an adherent of Justin and his teaching. But after Justin’s death, he retreated into the Encratite sect and lived mostly thereafter in the empire’s far eastern provinces. The Encratite doctrines were heavily Gnostic in character. The sect believed that matter is evil and maintained varied ascetic practices, including prohibition of marriage. Tatian was the author of numerous early works defending Christianity. According to Eusebius of Caesaria, some of these writings were entitled On Animals, On Demons, On Perfection, and Book of Problems. But just two of Tatian’s works are still extant: Address to the Greeks, a defense of Christian ideas and life, and Diatessaron, a harmony of the four Gospel accounts of Christ’s life. The first was a generally orthodox presentation of Christian apologetics. Its main theme was the superiority of Christianity over Greek learning and culture. Not an attractive work, it assumes a harsh, denunciatory posture and fails to depict the person of Christ, the Incarnation, and atonement for sins. The second writing was used widely by the Syrian Church until the fifth century. Its value lies with its easy use for educational and liturgical purposes. But in the early 400s, Rabbula, bishop of Edessa, pronounced Tatian a heretic and ordered employment of other translations of the Gospels. A little later, Theodoret, another Syrian bishop, did the same.

11 Theophilus: Little is known of the personal history of Theophilus of Antioch. We gather from the following treatise that he was born a pagan (1. 14), and owed his conversion to Christianity to the careful study of the Holy Scriptures. Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., 4. 20) declares that he was the sixth bishop of Antioch in Syria from the apostles, the names of his supposed predecessors being Eros, Cornelius, Hero, Ignatius, and Euodius. We also learn from the same writer, that Theophilus succeeded to the bishopric of Antioch in the eighth year of the reign of Marcus Aurelius, that is, in A.D. 168. He is related to have died either in A.D. 181, or in A.D. 188; some assigning him an episcopate of thirteen, and others of twenty-one, years. Theophilus is said by Eusebius, Jerome, and others, to have written several works against the heresies which prevailed in his day. He himself refers in the following treatise (2. 30) to another of his compositions. Commentaries on the Gospels, arranged in the form of a harmony, and on the Book of Proverbs, are also ascribed to him by Jerome; but the sole remaining specimen of his writings consists of the three books that follow, addressed to his friend Autolycus

12 Athenagoras: Athenagoras’s familiarity with pagan philosophy is evident in his works. Athenagoras wrote an Apology (177) defending Christians to the Roman emperors Marcus Aurelius (ruled 161–180) and Commodus (ruled 180–192). In it he refuted three charges brought against Christians: that Christians were atheists, that they practiced incestuous immorality, and that they ate human flesh as part of their ritual. Athenagoras argued that Christians, like the philosophers, recognized only one God who is uncreated, immaterial, and known to the understanding alone. As for the false gods, he wrote, the pagans did not even agree on who they were and, further, they described them as doing immoral deeds. The wonders which the false gods were thought to perform were really done by demons. Christians could not be called immoral since they believed that it was wrong to sin even in one’s thoughts and since they believed that sins would be punished eternally. Finally, Athenagoras argued, no people would engage in cannibalism who refused to watch combats in the circus, who did not expose infants to die, and who thought abortion was wrong.

13 Clement of Alexandria: Titus Flavius Clement was probably born in Athens of pagan parents and became a Christian through his study of philosophy. After traveling to the centers of learning in the Greek-speaking East, he joined Pantaenus’s school in Alexandria. Pantaenus impressed Clement by his ability to interpret the Scripture. The school which began with Pantaenus in 180 later became the official church catechetical school of Alexandria under Origen. Clement succeeded Pantaenus as head of the school circa 190. The nature of the school in that early period and the writing of Clement reflected the cultural mixture of Alexandria. It was a mixture in which an independent school operated by Clement could have pagans, Christians, and Jews seeking an education together. Thus an Alexandrian philosopher, Ammonius Saccas (c. 175–c. 242), could teach both the Greek philosopher Plotinus, founder of Neoplatonism, and Origen, influential Christian theologian and successor of Clement. During his years as a teacher in Alexandria (190–202) Clement wrote most of his works. In them he followed Philo (c. 20 b.c.–a.d. 50), an Alexandrian Jewish writer who had used Greek philosophy to interpret the Old Testament. Clement adopted Philo’s allegorical method of interpreting Scripture, often quoting Philo at length and using his thought. To pagans, Clement wrote Exhortation to the Gentiles with the same arguments employed by the Christian writers known as the Apologists, but with a more sophisticated style. Also, by using extensive quotes, he tried to show an ascending revelation upward through the poets, the philosophers, the Sybil prophetess, and the Hebrew prophets to the highest revelation, the “Divine Word,” Christ. In the Instructor he covered almost every aspect of Christian conduct, including even a long section on “laughter.” The pattern of conduct he recommended was one of moderation. The authority he quoted most often in the Instructor was Ecclesiasticus, a book from the Apocrypha.

14 Tertullian: Besides what is known about Tertullian through his lifelong residency in Carthage, personal facts about him can be traced only in outline. He enjoyed a superior education, including literary, rhetorical, and legal training, and instruction in Greek and Latin. Very probably he practiced law at some point. Sometime in his late thirties, Tertullian was converted to belief in Christ. He was married to a Christian wife, and after her death he remained a widower. In succeeding years, he served the church at Carthage as a gifted teacher. Out of his intense Christian commitment, Tertullian’s experiences with the Carthage church prompted much dissatisfaction over perceived laxities. Consequently, about 206, he joined the Montanists, a separatist yet largely unheretical Christian sect. Eventually he led a segment of this group called the Tertullianists. Except for separatist ideas on Church life, Tertullian remained doctrinally orthodox until his death. The Tertullianists rejoined the church at Carthage several decades later. Soon after conversion, Tertullian began the large output of Christian writings occupying his last twenty-five years. Sizable portions of this production, thirty-one Latin works, are yet extant; and these may be divided by three types of content: apologetic, dogmatic, and moral…Except for the indicated thirty-one works, everything by Tertullian, including his Greek writings, has been lost. While Jerome and Augustine and a few others give him brief mention, Tertullian’s own works are the only extensive early source of information about him.

15 Minucius Felix: Though Tertullian is the founder of Latin Christianity, his contemporary Minucius Felix gives to Christian thought its earliest clothing in Latinity. The harshness and provincialism, with the Graecisms, if not the mere Tertullianism, of Tertullian, deprive him of high claims to be classed among Latin writers, as such; but in Minucius we find, at the very fountain-head of Christian Latinity, a disciple of Cicero and a precursor of Lactantius in the graces of style. The question of his originality is earnestly debated among moderns, as it was in some degree with the ancients. It turns upon the doubt as to his place with respect to Tertullian, whose Apology he seems to quote, or rather to abridge. But to me it seems evident that his argument reflects so strikingly that of Tertullian’s Testimony of the Soul, coincident though it be with portions of the Apology, that we must make the date of the Testimony the pivot of our inquiry concerning Minucius. Now, Tertullian’s Apology preceded the Testimony, and the latter preceded the essay on the Flesh of Christ. If the Testimony was quoted or employed by Minucius, therefore, he could not have written before A.D. 205; and the statement of Jerome is confirmed, which makes our author, and not Tertullian, the copyist. The modern discussion of the matter is an interesting literary controversy; not yet settled, perhaps, though the dip of the balance just now sustains my own impressions.

16 Origen: Born of a Christian family (most likely in Alexandria), the oldest of seven children, Origen was initially trained in both secular and religious literature by his father Leonides (who was exceedingly proud of his son’s learning). Very early Origen developed a passion for martyrdom, but he was restrained by his mother when he attempted to join his father in martyrdom. The burden of caring for the family fell upon Origen at the age of seventeen, so he began to teach. His classes proved so popular that he had to divide them, leaving beginners to an assistant, reserving the more advanced for himself. Origen lived in extreme austerity. Eusebius related that in his rashness he castrated himself, but that account may not be accurate. He was bold in his admiration for martyrs, and many of his students suffered in the persecutions. Despite his lack of care for his own life, he was spared because many pagan philosophers and Christian heretics came to him for instruction. (The Neoplatonist Porphyry was an early acquaintance.) Origen was apparently free to travel, for he visited Rome, Palestine, and Arabia briefly, where he gained approval from many foreign bishops…The details of Origen’s life were recorded by his student Gregory Thaumaturgus in a panegyric, by Eusebius in his history, and by Jerome in several references. The first two were favorable. So was Jerome at first, but he later came to disapprove of Origen’s exegesis. Yet, Jerome called him the second teacher of the church after Paul. Some of Origen’s teachings were condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council. The West was more favorable to his writings, albeit usually not by name. But in quite modern times, his fame and his thought have been more or less rehabilitated, owing to the effort to distinguish his doctrines from those attributed to him by his later followers.

17 Hippolytus: Though Hippolytus was the most important theologian of the Roman church in the third century, the facts concerning his life were soon forgotten in the West. Probably this was due to his schismatic activities and that he wrote his works in Greek. Hippolytus was a presbyter while Zephyrinus was bishop of Rome (c. 199–217), whom he attacked as a modalist. Although Hippolytus was recognized as a scholar with many assets, he was passed over for bishop in favor of the deacon Callistus. Hippolytus withdrew from the Roman church with a few followers to become the first anti-pope in history. The major disagreement between him and Callistus concerned the question of absolution for mortal sins. Hippolytus supported a rigorist discipline while Callistus took the opposite view. This attack by Hippolytus continued against Callistus’ successors, Urban (222–230) and Pontianus (230–235). Under the persecution of the Emperor Maximin (235–238), however, Hippolytus and Pontianus were exiled together to Sardinia, after which they were united. Both then resigned to allow for a successor, Anteros (235–236), thus ending the schism. Hippolytus was a champion of the Logos doctrine, which distinguished the persons of the Trinity, as opposed to modalism, which believed the persons of the Trinity to be simply different manifestations of the same person. He was not an original-thinking theologian but rather a dedicated and learned compiler whose writings too often were marked by a bitter, controversial tone. His most important work among several writings was the Refutation of All Heresies, which sought to demonstrate that all Christian heresies could be traced to pagan philosophies.

18 Cyprian: Cyprian, the son of wealthy pagan parents in Carthage, was trained in rhetoric and probably in law. His conversion to Christianity, which came late in life (246), was described in his treatise To Donatus. Within two years of his conversion, he was elected bishop of Carthage, the largest church in Africa. During a persecution by the Roman emperor Decian (250–251), Cyprian hid himself near the city and continued to conduct the affairs of the church. In the bishop’s absence, however, those who had “lapsed” (i.e., made sacrifices to the pagan gods) during the persecution received easy readmission into the church from the “confessors,” those steadfast survivors who had confessed Christ before the Roman officials, but without suffering martyrdom. From exile Cyprian insisted that the lapsed Christians perform severe penance to atone for their apostasy, a hard-line position that bred division in the Carthaginian church. On his return after the Decian persecution, Cyprian convened two synods (church councils) of African bishops (in 251 and 252) that resolved the controversy in his favor. In the end, Cyprian’s position steered a middle course between the lax discipline of the Carthaginian elders and those who viewed apostasy as a “sin unto death” (1 John 5:16 kjv). The threat of another persecution interrupted any further division and unified the African church in 252…A strong spokesman for Latin Christianity, Cyprian stood in a continuity of prominent Carthaginian Christian writers, which included both Tertullian and Augustine of Hippo. He is remembered for his strong position on church discipline. Cyprian also made a close identification of the church with “the visible church”—as his famous dictum states: “There is no salvation outside the church.”

19 Caius: During the episcopate of Zephyrinus, Caius, one of his presbyters, acquired much credit by his refutation of Proclus, a Montanist. He became known as an eloquent and erudite doctor, and to him has often been ascribed the Philosophumena of Hippolytus, and also The Labyrinth. He wrote in Greek, and finally seems to have been promoted to an episcopal See, possibly among the Easterns. To him also has been ascribed the celebrated “Muratorian Canon,” which is therefore given in this volume, with other fragments less dubiously associated with his name. He has been supposed by some to have been a pupil of Irenaeus, but of this there is no conclusive evidence. If his reputation suffers somewhat from his supposed rejection of the Apocalypse

20 Novatian: THE biography of Novatian belongs to the ecclesiastical history of the third century. He was, or is reputed to have been, the founder of a sect which claimed for itself the name of “Puritan” (kaqaroi>). For a long time he was in determined opposition to Cornelius, bishop of Rome, in regard to the admission of the lapsed and penitent into the Church; but the facts of the controversy and much of our information in regard to Novatian are to be got only from his enemies, the Roman bishop and his adherents. Accordingly, some have believed all the accusations that have been brought against him, while others have been inclined to doubt them all. It is not known where Novatian was born. Some have appealed to Philostorgius in behalf of the opinion that he was a Phrygian; but others maintain that, supposing this to be a statement of the historian, it is a mere conjecture of his, based on the character of Novatian’s teaching. It is also stated by Cyprian, that he was a Stoic before he passed over to the Christian Church; but this also has been doubted. While amongst the catechumens, he was seized by a violent disease, attributed to demoniac agency; and, being near death, he received baptism. He was ordained presbyter by Fabian, bishop of Rome, against the wishes of the rest of the clergy, who objected thereto because he had received clinic baptism. The subsequent circumstances of his schism and his contest with Cornelius, are stated at length with no friendly spirit in a letter to Antonianus by Cyprian. Socrates states that he suffered martyrdom; but his authority, amid the silence of all others, is not sufficient to guarantee the fact.

21 Gregory Thaumaturgus: Gregory (named Theodore from birth) was a member of a wealthy family. He studied law with his brother Athenodorus in the famous school at Berytus only to become an enthusiastic pupil of the famed theologian Origen from 233 to 238. Gregory’s oration on Origen is a first attempt at Christian biography. In turn, details of Gregory’s life are related in a similar fashion by Gregory of Nyssa. On return home, Gregory and his brother were consecrated bishops by Phaedimus of Amasea. Tradition states that Gregory ministered in this diocese in Pontus for thirty years. He began his ministry with seventeen Christians and ended it with as many converts. Gregory assisted with his brother at the first synod of Antioch (264), which condemned Paul of Samosata. There are three or four accounts of Thaumaturgus, which in Greek means “miracle-worker.” Gregory of Nyssa’s eulogy is a trustworthy account of his life while his own Panygeric on Origen preserves some detail. St. Basil in the De Spirito Sancto as preserved in Eusebius adds material, and Rufinus’s account of the miracles in his Ecclesiastical History completes the account. These legendary lives, in Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Armenian, preserve details of his life. The Exposition of Faith given in Nyssa’s biography is a brief Trinitarian affirmation. Gregory prepared a Greek exposition of Ecclesiastes adapted into classical Greek from the Septuagint. His Canonical Epistle answers questions arising from the Gothic invasion of Pontus when Christians pillaged and apostasized. Other writings ascribed to Gregory are doubtful.

22 Dionysius the Great: Known in his time as a great leader and theologian, Dionysius was head of the catechetical school in Alexandria before becoming bishop there in 247. He learned theology from Origen, perhaps the greatest original thinker of the early church. Dionysius used his training to develop a coherent, biblical doctrine of God against various contemporary heresies. Although his views may be judged as incomplete by later standards, for his own time they were adequate to withstand error. When Roman persecution of Christians came in 250, Dionysius fled from Alexandria to the desert. When the troubles were over he had to make important decisions about how to treat church members who had betrayed Christianity (become apostate) in the persecution. He took a lenient position, readmitting them if they expressed sorrow. Another problem Dionysius faced was whether to rebaptize people who had been baptized by heretics or schismatics. Again he took a moderate position and accepted as valid all baptisms done in the name of the Trinity. None of his writings has been fully preserved; fragments appear in the works of Athanasius, a later bishop of Alexandria, and Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea. Although Dionysius died from old age rather than as a martyr, he is regarded as a saint in Roman Catholic and Eastern churches.

23 Julius Africanus: Julius was born in Jerusalem and was well educated. In his younger years he traveled extensively, visiting various biblical sites. For a time he lived in Emmaus and eventually went as an ambassador from that city to Rome. He so impressed Emperor Alexander Severus with his learning that the emperor appointed him to build the library at the Pantheon. Julius’s most famous work was a five-volume world history, Chronographia. The complete manuscript has been lost, but fragments are preserved in the writings of Eusebius, an early church historian. Julius argued that the world was created fifty-five hundred years before Christ and would come to an end five hundred years after Christ’s birth. His presentation was so powerful that the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry wrote to refute it. Other writings reveal Julius’s scholarship, antiquarian interests, and critical abilities. He prepared an impressive collection of miscellaneous writings ranging from military science to magic. He entered into debate with Origen, an early Christian theologian, on whether the story of Susanna was a genuine part of the Old Testament book of Daniel. Julius’s linguistic insights caused him to argue correctly that the story had been written in Greek and could not have been part of Daniel’s original work.

24 Lactantius: Very little is known about Lactantius’s life. Born probably in North Africa, and said to have been a pupil of Arnobius, he was in mid-life appointed by the emperor Diocletian as a teacher of rhetoric in Nicomedia, the imperial capital. After Diocletian began to persecute Christians, Lactantius returned to the West about 305. His Divinae institutiones (seven volumes, c. 304–313), his principal work, is hailed as the first systematic Latin account of the Christian attitude toward life. It combats polytheism as the basis of all errors, identifies the demons as the source of error, and exposes the frailty of philosophy. The latter part of the work discusses fundamental ethical ideas, the proper way of worshipping God, and immortality. Although he was later called the “Christian Cicero” by Pico della Mirandola, Lactantius’s theology was considered somewhat superficial, perhaps because he became a Christian only in mature years. Other works of his that have survived include De Ira Dei, which upholds God’s punitive justice, and De Mortibus persecutorium, a product of his last years, which is a valuable historical source, though criticized for having dwelt overmuch on the terrible fates of persecuting emperors. About 317 Lactantius evidently came out of retirement to tutor Crispus, son of the emperor Constantine.

25 Dionysius of Rome: Known in his time as a great leader and theologian, Dionysius was head of the catechetical school in Alexandria before becoming bishop there in 247. He learned theology from Origen, perhaps the greatest original thinker of the early church. Dionysius used his training to develop a coherent, biblical doctrine of God against various contemporary heresies. Although his views may be judged as incomplete by later standards, for his own time they were adequate to withstand error. When Roman persecution of Christians came in 250, Dionysius fled from Alexandria to the desert. When the troubles were over he had to make important decisions about how to treat church members who had betrayed Christianity (become apostate) in the persecution. He took a lenient position, readmitting them if they expressed sorrow. Another problem Dionysius faced was whether to rebaptize people who had been baptized by heretics or schismatics. Again he took a moderate position and accepted as valid all baptisms done in the name of the Trinity. None of his writings has been fully preserved; fragments appear in the works of Athanasius, a later bishop of Alexandria, and Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea. Although Dionysius died from old age rather than as a martyr, he is regarded as a saint in Roman Catholic and Eastern churches.

Part Three: post-Nicene Fathers:

26 Augustine: Augustine was bishop of Hippo Regius, a town on the North African coast in the Roman province of Numidia. His impact is still felt both in western churches and in western culture. More is known about Augustine than any other figure in the early church because of his Confessions (397–401) and Retractions (426–427). He was born in the small town of Tagaste in Numidia, the son of a pagan father, Patricius, and a Christian mother, Monica. With great personal sacrifice both parents sought the best Roman education for their gifted son as a key to his advancement from their small African town. Augustine studied first at Madaura and then received training in rhetoric at Carthage (375) which prepared him to “dress his words in style.” At Carthage Augustine abandoned the faith of his mother and followed the immoral practices of his fellow students. In 372 he took a mistress who remained with him for about thirteen years and bore him a son, Adeodatus (who died around 390)… Four years before his death Augustine began to reread his works. He recognized the impact his thought was having on the church and what his critics were saying. At that point he did what few writers have done: he wrote the Retractions, a book that examined all his previous writings (except letters and sermons) in chronological order. It is more than an index of his writings; it is an evaluation of his written thought at the end of his life. During the last months of Augustine’s life the Vandals held the fortified town of Hippo under siege by land and sea. They had destroyed Roman North Africa and the outward evidence of Latin Christianity. Hippo was filled with refugees, including bishops and priests. Augustine preached to a congregation filled with refugees and had the golden vessels of the church melted down to give aid to the many who came. Augustine’s letters acknowledged that Africa was ripe for God’s judgment at the hands of the barbarians. In that final crisis Augustine contracted a fatal disease. With the penitential psalms hanging on the walls of his room, the seventy-five-year-old bishop who had cultivated so many friendships ordered that he be left alone to prepare himself for death. The measure of Augustine’s importance goes beyond the rare title, “Doctor of the Church,” given to him in the Middle Ages. He was the first to give a self-examination before God in the form of his Confessions and thus give the church a biblical understanding of a man’s life under the grace of God. He was the first to give a biblical view of history, time, and the state in his City of God. He established the doctrine of the church in his anti-Donatist writings, a view that prevailed in the church for centuries. He gave the Western church a clear statement concerning the person of Christ, which was later established as doctrine by Leo. He made the grace of God in the gospel the theme of theology in the West.

27 Chrysostom: Born in Antioch into a moderately wealthy Christian family, Chrysostom studied philosophy, logic, and rhetoric in hopes of becoming a lawyer. Through the influence of another student he became interested in monasticism, but his own monastic ambitions were delayed by his responsibilities for his widowed mother. Even at home, however, he lived under a modified ascetic rule, finally retiring to the mountains about 373 for almost ten years of study and a hermit’s existence. When his health broke under the physical hardship, he returned to Antioch and studied under the bishop Melitius, who ordained him deacon in 381. Five years later, he became a priest. Chrysostom was a gifted and popular preacher, combining sound biblical exposition with practical application. His most famous series of sermons, On the Statues, was delivered in 387 after a tax revolt in the city climaxed with the desecration of certain statues of the emperor and his family. The people feared imperial retribution. Chrysostom’s able preaching guided the city calmly through the crisis. During his ministry in Antioch he instructed the congregations in Christian doctrine and assumed responsibility for correcting local abuses of clerical office…Chrysostom’s eloquence, which earned him in the sixth century the name Chrysostomos (“golden-mouthed”), is evident in his extensive sermons and treatises, most of which survive, including commentaries on Genesis, Psalms, Matthew, and Romans, as well as writings on the priesthood and monastic life. Opposed to the allegorical interpretations of Scripture made fashionable by the Alexandrian church, Chrysostom followed the Antiochene method of biblical exegesis. He sought the exact, literal meaning of each verse from a close grammatical examination of the Greek text—a method revived by the Protestant reformers, who regarded Chrysostom as a church father second only to Augustine.

28 Eusebius: during the Great Persecution (303–313), finishing and revising it several times between Emperor Constantine’s (306–337) Edict of Toleration (in 312) and his victory over Eastern Emperor Licinius (in 324). These ten books chart the heroic rise of primitive Christianity from obscurity; vouchsafe precious episcopal lists for major sees to all subsequent generations; catalog and quote copiously from the literature of the primary Christian centuries; illumine the church’s internal struggles to understand the Trinity over against various heresies; and stand breathless on the threshold of Constantine’s brave new world—one in which for the first time Christ can be envisioned as triumphant over Caesar. However his own generation did not realize how famous a historian Eusebius would become; instead, they knew him as friend of the scholarly Pamphilus, episcopal combatant in the Arian controversy, and imperially favored bishop of an important provincial capital. Nobody, not even Eusebius himself, breathes a word of origins. He was apparently born in Palestine around 260. The first that is known of him is as pupil and assistant to Pamphilus at Caesarea. Pamphilus himself had come from Alexandria in Egypt and then had built at Caesarea one of the ancient world’s greatest Christian libraries. Earlier Origen had labored in Caesarea from around 232 to 255 and his famed Hexapla (Bible with six comparative columns of text) was kept there. Thus the theological traditions and style of Alexandrian theology were mediated through Pamphilus to the earnest young Eusebius, who so revered his teacher that he called himself Eusebius Pamphili (son of Pamphilus). In the last throes of the Great Persecution Pamphilus was imprisoned (308) and finally martyred (310). However, his labors of love, the library and the pupil, both survived, the latter to write Pamphilus’s Life in three books (now lost).

29 Socrates Scholasticus: Born at Constantinople, Socrates was trained in pagan grammar and rhetoric; then he studied law and became an advocate (scholasticus) in the imperial city. The work for which he is noted, however, lay in the field of historical writing. He undertook to supplement Eusebius’s work by treating the period 305 to 439. Each of his seven books is organized around the reign of an emperor. Much of the later part depends upon his own knowledge and oral tradition. The first-known layman to write church history, he dealt with the secular world as well as the religious. The book is particularly valuable for its extensive quotation of sources. Stylistically his work is not as good as Sozomen’s, but critically it is better. He admired Origen despite criticisms surrounding that name, and he stressed the importance of Greek learning for the church. Socrates has been suspected of Novatianism, and he did insist that it and orthodoxy were brothers. In dogmatic matters he preferred to adore the ineffable mysteries of the faith in silence.

30 Theodaret: Born into a wealthy family in Antioch, Theodoret received an excellent classical education. When his parents died he decided to enter monastic life. About the age of thirty-three he was made bishop of Cyrrhus (Syria), becoming thereby a prominent figure in church activities. Theodoret was a prolific writer. His commentaries, exegeting most of the books of Scripture, stand somewhere between the literal and allegorical interpretations. He wrote polemics against Jews, Persians, and Greek paganism. Occasionally he adopted the Platonic style of dialogue, as in a debate between proponents of orthodoxy and of the Monophysite heresy. Theodoret also compiled a continuation of Eusebius’s history from the year 323 to 428, a discussion of heresies down to Eutyches, and a book about the Syrian monks. A leading heresy of the time, which Theodoret vigorously opposed, was Apollinarianism. In comparison to it he gave the impression of being favorable to Nestorianism. Emperor Theodosius II thereupon sent him back to his monastery. Theodoret appealed to the pope; and the next emperor, Marcian, restored him to his see. Present at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, he joined in anathematizing Nestorius. He refused, however, to accept the interchange of divine and human characteristics. There is still some question about his precise doctrine of Christ. His life after the council of Chalcedon has not been recorded

31 Jerome: Born into wealth near Aquileia (Adriatic Sea’s northernmost point), Jerome spent his youth acquiring broad education in Rome. No descriptions of his conversion remain, but at about age twenty he underwent baptism. Soon thereafter, Jerome embarked on a twenty-year period of travel, a pilgrimage traversing the empire. This pilgrimage began at Trier, in Gaul, where Jerome studied theology several years, and gained his lifelong attraction to monasticism. Returning then to Aquileia, he remained three years with Bishop Valerianus and an elite group promoting ascetic teachings and life. But in 375, very discontented, Jerome moved to Antioch, in Syria, where in a conscience-stricken dream he faced vivid accusations of following, not Christ, but Cicero. As he pictured it later, he felt his Christian commitment underwent basic transformation through this incident. Shortly after the dream, Jerome removed to the desert around Chalcis (east of Antioch). Here he began intense study of Scripture—mixed with learning Hebrew and Greek—and tried to find himself as a Christian. On return two years later to Antioch, Jerome was ordained priest by Bishop Paulinus and became engrossed with lectures by Apollinarius of Laodicea. Moving to Constantinople, he spent two years as a disciple of Gregory of Nazianzus, the great teacher whose circle included Basil of Caesaria, Gregory of Nyssa, and other eminent Church figures. It was now that the writings of Origen heavily impressed themselves on his consciousness. Jerome’s wandering concluded in the years 382 to 385, his pilgrimage’s happiest and most fruitful segment. Once again in Rome, and serving as Pope Damasus’s personal secretary, Jerome pursued his chief interests: thoroughgoing study of Scripture and active promotion of monastic asceticism. Yet this time ended abruptly due to Damasus’s death and persecutory attacks stirred up by Jerome’s acerbic personality. In much disarray, Jerome departed Rome to seek a place for the remote, unfettered monastic life he found so important. He settled finally in 386 in Bethlehem. Here he spent his last thirty-five years engaged deeply in the biblical scholarship and Bible translation his gifted mind so acquisitively pursued…As far as is determinable, none of Jerome’s works have been lost over the centuries. There are a few medieval copies of the Bible translation. Otherwise various sixteenth-century collections are now the earliest extant copies of Jerome’s writings. Through the years, Jerome has been a favorite subject for religious artists, especially Italian Renaissance painters.

32 Gennadius: Gennadius wrote a continuation of late-fourth-century theologian Jerome’s Concerning Famous Men. Gennadius’s addition, which contains 101 articles about fifth-century church writers (including himself), primarily documents the books of those men rather than their lives. Although he labeled late-fourth-century Christian moralist Pelagius a “heresiarch” (leader of a heretical group), he chided Augustine, bishop of Hippo, Pelagius’s forceful opponent. Gennadius praised the works of two Semi-Pelagians, indicating his desire to avoid both Pelagian and Augustinian extremist views. Other works by Gennadius, which have been lost, include All Heresies; books against contemporaneous theologians Nestorius and Eutyches; and translations of Greek devotional literature. He may also have written a book on church dogmas.

33 Rufinus: Born at Concordia, Italy, and baptized at Aquileia about 371, Rufinus became the friend and then the adversary of Jerome. After eight years in Alexandria, Rufinus lived in Palestine (371–397), being ordained in Jerusalem about 390. He studied under Didymus the Blind and Gregory of Nazianzus and founded a monastery on the Mount of Olives. His many translations of Greek theological works into Latin helped to promote Western asceticism and theology. The translations include The Monastic Rule of Basil, ten works of Gregory of Nazianzus, some of Origen’s commentaries, the Clementine Recognitions, and Eusebius’s History of the Church. His own commentary on the Apostles’ Creed gives the earliest continuous fourth-century Latin text we have. His translation of Origen’s De Principiis is the only complete text surviving. But his rather free rendering was also intended to put Origen’s teaching in a more orthodox light, and this led to a lifelong quarrel with Jerome.

34 Athanasius: Athanasius did more than anyone else to bring about the triumph of the orthodox Nicene faith over Arianism, a struggle to which he devoted forty-five years and for which he was exiled five times. Athanasius was born in Alexandria and was trained there as a theologian. He moved up rapidly as reader, deacon, and theological adviser for Bishop Alexander, accompanying him in 325 to the Council of Nicaea (near Constantinople, now Istanbul in modern Turkey). Athanasius succeeded Alexander as bishop upon Alexander’s death in 328. The conflicts which necessitated the Council of Nicaea began in Alexandria. They existed when Alexander was bishop and continued throughout the life of Athanasius. The first came from a challenge by Melitius of Lycopolis to the authority which the bishop of Alexandria exercised over the whole church of Egypt. Melitius formed a schismatic church in reaction to the lenient treatment Alexander’s predecessor gave to those who had denied the faith during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor Diocletian. A greater conflict soon to engulf the whole church began when Arius, an Alexandrian presbyter, advocated the view that Christ was not eternal but was created by the Father. Arius was condemned by Alexander in 319 at a synod in his city; but Arian views spread rapidly in the East, where prominent bishops held similar views. The Council of Nicaea was called in 325 by the Roman emperor Constantine to settle the Melitian and Arian issues and to bring unity to the church and civic peace to the area…In addition to contributing to the defeat of Arianism, Athanasius helped shape the Christian ideal of monasticism. He brought monasticism out of isolation in Egypt with his book, The Life of Antony. Athanasius knew the desert hermit monk personally and through his writing made the pattern of Antony’s life the ideal in the East. The Life of Antony also had an impact on many in the West.

35 Gregory of Nyssa: Gregory, born at Caesarea in Cappadocia, was the younger brother of Basil and Macrina (a sister), whom he called his “teachers.” He with Basil and Gregory Nazianzus composed the “three Cappadocians” who powerfully influenced the fourth-century Eastern church. Gregory received a diverse classical education. Under the direction of his domineering brother, he briefly served as a reader in church, but later chose to teach rhetoric instead. Gregory of Nazianzus urged him to return to Christian ministry. Basil, after asking Gregory to help him in his Caesarea diocese, finally forced the vacant bishopric of Nyssa upon him (371). Gregory’s enthusiastic anti-Arian stance drew opposition, and he was soon ousted from that position by the emperor Valens (about 376). Following Valens’s death (378) Gregory was recalled and commissioned to assist churches in Arabia and Palestine. In the Council of Constantinople (381) he defended the Nicene Creed. Although often eclipsed by Basil’s brilliant career, Gregory was a theological prodigy. He elaborated doctrines of resurrection, divine grace, and Christology. He produced treaties on ascetic piety and mystic communion with God. Some scholars believe that his early work On Virginity indicated that he was married.

36 Cyril of Jerusalem: When the emperor Constantine’s Church of the Resurrection was dedicated in Jerusalem (335), Cyril was present as deacon to witness the event. That was only ten years after the Council of Nicaea had convened and formally condemned Arianism, the fourth-century heretical teaching that Christ was less than God. The Arian controversy continued even after Nicaea, and Cyril’s career was caught up in both the theology and the politics of that dispute. In 343 Cyril was ordained priest by Maximus, the aging bishop of Jerusalem, who had been persuaded earlier to join the Arian faction. Maximus later recanted his Arian views and supported the orthodox champion Athanasius, who insisted on Christ’s full divinity. For unrelated reasons Cyril repudiated his ordination. The gesture temporarily won the favor of Acacius, the Arian metropolitan (ranking bishop) of Caesarea, who consecrated Cyril bishop of Jerusalem in 348, following Maximus’s death. During his early years as bishop, although he was orthodox in his views, Cyril lived in peace with the Arian bishops and emperors. Constantine was succeeded in 337 by his son Constantius, an Arian sympathizer. Cyril wrote a letter of praise to him, saying that just as God had recognized Constantine’s piety by granting the discovery of the “true cross” and the “holy places” during his rule, now God had given even greater approval of Constantius by the appearance of a “bright cross” in the heaven over Golgotha on Pentecost (in 351), a sign that drove even pagans into the church…Cyril’s theology can be established from his major work, the Catechetical Lectures, delivered before his ordination as bishop (348). Although he did not use the Nicene terminology “the Son of God . . . of one substance with the Father,” he affirmed Christ as “very God” and “God of God” and attacked Arianism, using several phrases that had originated with Athanasius. Later Cyril was praised by the Synod of Jerusalem (381–382) as one “who fought a good fight” against the Arians. He placed emphasis on Christ’s death and resurrection as the foundation of the Christian faith. Cyril also advocated the veneration of relics and the “holy places,” and he was one of the first to teach that the bread and wine during Holy Communion changed into the actual “body and blood” of Christ (a doctrine called transubstantiation).

37 Gregory of Nazianzen: Gregory was born at Arianzus near Nazianzus. His father, bishop of Nazianzus, gave young Gregory a serious religious education. Gregory’s mother, Nonna, who had guided her husband’s conversion, also had a great spiritual impact on her son. Gregory studied at Caesarea, Caesarea Philippi, Alexandria, and Athens. During that period of time he cultivated a close friendship with Basil, another student from Cappadocia. After teaching rhetoric in Athens for a time, Gregory returned to Nazianzus in about 359. Though he wanted to become a religious hermit, Gregory was persuaded by his father to accept ordination as a church leader. Afterwards he repudiated that action and entered monastic life with Basil. During the next twenty years Gregory’s ascetic life was interrupted intermittently with active church ministry. At the Council of Constantinople (381), his theological disputations won him the bishopric of Constantinople. Gregory refused the appointment. Theologically, Gregory appears to have been strongly influenced by the early third-century theologian Origen. Gregory defended the Nicene council’s view of the Trinity and argued against the Apollinarian view that Christ’s humanity was passive. He condemned the emperor Julian, who tried to exclude Christians from higher learning and study of the classics.

38. Basil: Basil was born into one of the remarkable families of Christian history. His grandmother, Macrina, his father, Basil, his mother, Emilia, his sister, Macrina, and his two younger brothers, Gregory of Nyssa and Peter, bishop of Sebaste, were all venerated as saints by the church. This wealthy land-owning family, probably of senatorial rank, had a history of stalwart witness in spite of persecutions, and a reputation for ascetic piety and Christian charity. It offered Basil every advantage. Basil’s development included the teaching by his saintly grandmother on a secluded estate, literary training in Caesarea, and schooling in Constantinople and the great school at Athens. There he associated with Gregory Nazianzus (whose father was bishop of Nazianzus, 363–374, Gregory later becoming bishop of Constantinople, 380–381) and Julian (final pagan Roman emperor, 361–363). Gregory became Basil’s friend and together with Basil’s brother, Gregory of Nyssa, the three are known to church history as the Cappadocian fathers…Basil died in Caesarea, worn out by labors, asceticism, and a liver ailment, just before his life’s work bore fruit. Antioch’s schism began to be resolved (Synod of Antioch, 375) and Nicene orthodoxy was reaffirmed by the Council of Constantinople (381) along lines of the East-West understanding Basil had advocated. His brother Gregory (who became bishop of Nyssa in 371 and succeeded Basil as metropolitan in Caesarea in 380) and his friend Gregory Nazianzus eulogized him formally. They also continued to develop the Cappadocian blend of modified Origenism and reaffirmed Nicene Trinitarianism for which they and Basil the Great are renowned.

39. Hilary of Potiers: Hilary was bishop of Poitiers in west central France. He was the leading orthodox Latin church father during the peak of the Arian power. Hilary was born into a prominent pagan family of Poitiers and was educated in philosophy and rhetoric. Three years after his conversion to Christianity (c. 350), he was elected bishop of his hometown by the people there, even though he was married. After the Council of Milan (355) agreed to the banishment of the orthodox Athanasius, Hilary organized the bishops of Gaul to resist the Arian emperor and those bishops who supported Arianism. As a result, Emperor Constantius exiled Hilary to Phrygia (Asia Minor) where he wrote his principal work On the Trinity (356–359). This work by Hilary was the best defense of the divinity of Christ against the Arians, who did not consider the Son to be eternal but created by the Father. Hilary held that the Father and the Son have identity of substance yet are two. With his On the Trinity and other writings, especially his work On the Synods, Hilary did much to bring unity between the followers of Athanasius and other anti-Arians. Unity had not been achieved because many felt that the phrases of the council of Nicea did not make a clear distinction between the Father and the Son. As a mediator, Hilary indicated the areas on each side that needed correction. Emperor Constantius returned Hilary to Gaul without restoring him to his office. During the rule of Constantius and Valentinian, Hilary continued his opposition to the Arians until his death in 367. Where Hilary failed in his effort to achieve an orthodox church and state, another Latin father, Ambrose, would later succeed.

40 Ambrose: Born into the aristocratic Roman family of Aurelius at Trier, the imperial residence in Gaul, Ambrose was the first Latin church father from a Christian family. He was trained in rhetoric and law, with thorough preparation in the Greek language. He moved up rapidly in the Roman government to become governor of the northern provinces in Italy by the age of thirty. As governor, Ambrose came to the church in Milan to resolve the conflicts between Catholics and Arians after the death of the Arian bishop Auxentius. Both parties in Milan acclaimed Ambrose as bishop, but only after a period of resistance did he accept election. He was an orthodox Christian, although he had not yet received baptism. Ambrose was a champion of orthodoxy, affirming the creed of Nicea. He wrote several works against the Arians in support of the orthodox position. They include On the Faith, The Mystery of the Lord’s Incarnation, and On the Holy Spirit. In them his knowledge of Greek helped him evaluate the eastern writers and move beyond them. His writing on the Holy Spirit is regarded as a significant theological contribution. As bishop, Ambrose brought new life to the church. By introducing the allegorical interpretation of Scripture into the West, he became an effective century preacher. He also introduced congregational singing, and his hymns gave a strong spiritual expression to the Latin church. His primary writing was a work to instruct the clergy of Milan—On the Duties of the Church’s Servants—the first book on Christian ethics…Although Ambrose drew much from classical morals and philosophy, his writings show a biblical understanding of salvation in Christ. In his commentary on Luke, he spoke of Christ living within the Christian and of personal salvation. Ambrose was the first Latin church father to break away from a strong legalism, but it was Augustine, who was baptized by Ambrose, who made the grace of the gospel the theme of Western theology