Church Fathers

The Church Fathers, an 11th-century Kievan Rus' miniature from Svyatoslav's Miscellany

The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers who established the intellectual and doctrinal foundations of Christianity. There is no definitive list.[1] The historical period during which they flourished is referred to by scholars as the Patristic Era ending approximately around AD 700 (John of Damascus died in 749 AD, Byzantine Iconoclasm began in 726 AD[2][3]).

In the past, the Church Fathers were regarded as authoritative and more restrictive definitions were used which sought to limit the list to authors treated as such. However, the definition has widened as scholars of patristics, the study of the Church Fathers, have expanded their scope.[4]

Great Fathers

In both the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church traditions there are four Fathers who are called the "Great Church Fathers":[5][6]

Western Church Eastern Church
Ambrose (A.D. 340–397) Basil of Caesarea (c. 329 – 379)
Jerome (347–420) Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296 – 373)
Augustine of Hippo (354–430) Gregory of Nazianzus (329 – c. 389)
Pope Gregory I (540–604) John Chrysostom (347–407)

In the Catholic Church, they are also collectively called the "Eight Doctors of the Church",[5] and in the Eastern Orthodox Church, three of them (Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus and John Chrysostom) are honored as the "Three Holy Hierarchs".