As Christianity becomes less dominant in Western culture, we will increasingly have much to learn from the theology of the early Christians, who lived and bore witness to Christ in an empire they didn’t control.
If you need to be convinced of the relevance of the early Christians for today, I highly recommend Alan Kreider’s book The Patient Ferment of the Early Church. If, on the other hand, you want to immerse yourself in early Christian theology, here are ten classic from the first four centuries of the church that are available as FREE ebooks!
*** All of these books are contained within the massive
Ante-Nicene / Post-Nicene Church Fathers series (37 vol)
($2.99 for Kindle or
FREE in 37 separate PDF’s via CCEL)
The Epistles of St. Ignatius
Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 AD – c. 108/140 AD), also known as Ignatius Theophorus (lit. “the God-bearing”) or Ignatius Nurono (lit. “The fire-bearer”), was an early Christian writer and bishop of Antioch. While en route to Rome, where he met his martyrdom, Ignatius wrote a series of letters. This correspondence now forms a central part of a later collection of works known to be authored by the Apostolic Fathers. He is considered to be one of the three most important of these, together with Pope Clement I and Polycarp. His letters also serve as an example of early Christian theology. Important topics they address include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.
Nothing is known of Ignatius’ life apart from what may be inferred internally from his letters, except from later (sometimes spurious) traditions. It is said Ignatius converted to Christianity at a young age. Tradition identifies Ignatius, along with his friend Polycarp, as disciples of John the Apostle. Later in his life, Ignatius was chosen to serve as Bishop of Antioch; the fourth-century Church historian Eusebius writes that Ignatius succeeded Evodius. Theodoret of Cyrrhus claimed that St. Peter himself left directions that Ignatius be appointed to the episcopal see of Antioch. Ignatius called himself Theophorus (God Bearer). A tradition arose that he was one of the children whom Jesus Christ took in his arms and blessed, although if he was born around 50 AD, as supposed, then Christ had ascended approximately 20 years prior. (via Wikipedia)
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Reading for the Common Good
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