Michael Haykin’s group came up with its recommended reading list. It’s worth considering, though here is my own list. I am skipping some otherwise seminal individuals, simply to make this list manageable.
Irenaeus, Against Heresies. Bailey links to this edition. I understand that AH is hard to read through, but books III-V are just too important to condense. However, it is very difficult to find an accessible edition, so I will go with that version.
Athanasius, Contra Arianos. Everyone links to On the Incarnation. I admit it is important, but it’s not that important and it is nowhere near as good as CA. Unfortunately, you have to go to the Schaff edition to find an accessible version.
Origen. On First Principles. Yes, you have to be careful reading Origen, but he is just too important to dismiss. I am aware of the 5th Council’s anathemas, but they aren’t part of the council itself (and are morally and historically suspect). Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine a Gregory or a Maximus without an Origen.
Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity. A so-called “Western” take on the Trinity before the Augustinian revolution. This volume is expensive, but you can find the Schaff edition online somewhere.
Gregory of Nazianzus. Five Theological Orations. .Read this before anything else.
Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man and Resurrection and the Soul. One of the exciting things I’ve been studying the past year is the possible relationship between the doctrine of the soul propounded by JP Moreland and what the church fathers say on the soul.
Maximus the Confessor, The Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ. Read this at least three times. It is the most important book on this list.
Augustine, Confessions, City of God, and De Trinitate.
Pelikan, Jaroslav. I am not the fan of Pelikan that others are. Pace Orthodox Bridge, I don’t think merely citing him counts as an argument. Still, in many ways it is the foundational post-Harnack church history series.
This list could go on forever, but here is what I have found helpful. Since these are academic works, they are pricey. Try interlibrary loan.
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. Ayres has a tendency to use “simplicity” (aplosis) as a univocal term among the fathers, when it clearly isn’t. Notwithstanding, this will end up being the standard work in the field.
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: Continuity and Conflict in the Patristic Tradition. Tries to rehabilitate Origen somewhat; a fantastic read. Limited in scope, though. Origen and the immediate aftermath get a lot of attention.
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 close 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.
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.
9 thoughts on “A Church Fathers Reading List”
I thought von Balthasar’s essay on Gregory of Nyssa was very good. He is trying to rescue Gregory from accounts that make him a mystical Neo-Platonist with Christian garb. Rather, vB tries to orient Gregory’s thought and writing style that reveals someone who confronts the Neo-Platonic head on, drawing out its problems, and once solved in Christ, is able to re-envision what the Neo-Platonists hoped for. I’m not a big HuvB fan, but I enjoyed this.
I haven’t read that one, yet.
Thanks for the list, Jacob.
It felt so surreal after I had downloaded the entire works of the Church Fathers onto my Iphone kindle for just £2.
I’ve read Cosmic Liturgy. I found it funny how the foreword makes so many criticisms of Balthasar’s work.
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Hi I’m wondering if you ever got around to writing the book on Eastern Orthodoxy. I am writing a book on Orthodoxy and the New Testament, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi. I’ve put that project on hold for a while. I’ll explain why in a future post.
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