Saturday, March 1, 2008

Spring Reading

Spring 2008 begins our term study of high church history including the writings of Eusebius, Athanasius, Augustine, and St. Benedict. These writings are important works of the church and are wonderful to read through slowly and study carefully. Please feel free to take your time and read these at your leisure.

Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 265-339)

Eusebius of Caesarea (c 263 – 339?[1]) (often called Eusebius Pamphili, "Eusebius [the friend] of Pamphilus") became the bishop of Caesarea in Palaestina c 314.[1] He is often referred to as the father of Church history because of his work in recording the history of the early Christian church, especially Chronicle and Ecclesiastical History. An earlier version of church history by Hegesippus, that he referred to, has not survived.


Ecclesiastical History (c. 325)

  • HTML (Multi-page, indexed, up to 285KB) at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Translator unknown)
  • Paperback edition of Eusebius : The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, translated by G.A. Williamson (Penguin USA, 1990, 434 pg).

St. Athanasius (c. 297-373)

Pope Athanasius I of Alexandria (c. 293-May 2, 373) also known as St. Athanasius the Great and St. Athanasius the Apostolic was a theologian, Pope of Alexandria, a Church Father, and a noted Egyptian leader of the fourth century. He is best remembered for his role in the conflict with Arius and Arianism. At the first Council of Nicaea (325), Athanasius argued against Arius and his doctrine that Christ is of a distinct substance from the Father.

Athanasius is revered as a saint by the Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic Churches. He is traditionally regarded as a great leader of the Church by the Lutheran Church, the Anglican Communion, and most Protestants in general. He is chronologically the first Doctor of the Church as designated by the Roman Catholic Church, and he is counted as one of the four Great Doctors of the Eastern Church. His feast day is May 15 in the Coptic Orthodox Church, January 18 in the Eastern Orthodox Churches and May 2 in Western Christianity.


On the Incarnation (c. 318)
  • HTML (Single page, 180 KB) at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Translated by Cardinal Newman; corr. by Henry Wace)
  • HTML (Single page, 191 KB) with introduction by C.S. Lewis, at Phil Johnson's Hall of Church History (Translator unknown)
  • Paperback edition (Eastern Orthodox Books, 1981).
  • Paperback edition (St. Vladimirs Seminary Pr, 1975).

Note: On previewing this document, the best edition to read is from Phil Johnson's Hall of Church History. It offers a very nice introduction by C.S. Lewis and then breaks down the document into manageable chunks. The CCEL version includes a lot of ancillary writings AND now you must login to be able to download their files. So, let us read the shortened version as I think it will be easier on us all.

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

Saint Augustine (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430), Bishop of Hippo, was a philosopher and theologian. Augustine, a Latin Father and Doctor of the Church, is one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. Augustine was radically influenced by Platonism. He framed the concepts of original sin and just war. When Rome fell and the faith of many Christians was shaken, Augustine developed the concept of the Church as a spiritual City of God, distinct from the material City of Man. Augustine's work defined the start of the medieval worldview, an outlook that would later be firmly established by Gregory the Great.

Augustine was born in present day Algeria to a Christian mother, Saint Monica. He was educated in North Africa and resisted his mother's pleas to become Christian. He lived as a pagan intellectual, took a concubine, and became a Manichean. He later converted to Christianity, became a bishop, and opposed heresies, such as the belief that people can deserve salvation by being good (Pelagianism). His works—including The Confessions, which is often called the first Western autobiography—are still read around the world. In addition he believed in Papal supremacy.

In Roman Catholicism and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint and pre-eminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinian religious order. Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of Reformation teaching on salvation and grace. In the Eastern Orthodox Church he is a saint, and his feast day is celebrated annually on June 15, though a minority are of the opinion that he is a heretic, primarily because of his statements concerning what became known as the filioque clause. Among the Orthodox he is called Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed. "Blessed" here does not mean that he is less than a saint, but is a title bestowed upon him as a sign of respect. The Orthodox do not remember Augustine so much for his theological speculations as for his writings on spirituality.


Confessions (c. 401)

  • HTML (13 pages, indexed) at New Advent Catholic Supersite (J.G. Pilkington)
  • HTML (16 pages, indexed) at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Translated by Albert C. Outler)
  • Adobe Acrobat document (594 KB) at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Translated by Albert C. Outler)
  • Text file (615 KB) at Project Gutenberg (Translated by E.B. Pusey)

For the stout of heart, reading The City of God is quite illuminating.

St. Benedict (c. 480-540)

Saint Benedict of Nursia (born in Nursia, Italy c. 480 - died c. 547) was a founder of Christian monastic communities and a rule giver for monks living in community. His purpose may be gleaned from his Rule, namely that "Christ … may bring us all together to life eternal". The Roman Catholic Church canonized him in 1220.

Benedict founded twelve other communities for monks, the best known of which is his first monastery at Monte Cassino in the mountains of southern Italy. There is no evidence that he intended to found also a religious order. The Order of St Benedict is of modern origin and, moreover, not an "order" as commonly understood but merely a confederation of congregations into which the traditionally independent Benedictine abbeys have affiliated themselves for the purpose of representing their mutual interests, without however ceasing any of their autonomy.

Benedict's main achievement was a "Rule" containing precepts for his monks, referred to as the Rule of Saint Benedict. It is heavily influenced by the writings of St John Cassian (ca. 360 – 433, one of the Desert Fathers) and shows strong affinity with the Rule of the Master. But it also has a unique spirit of balance, moderation, reasonableness, and this persuaded most communities founded throughout the Middle Ages, including communities of nuns, to adopt it. As a result the Rule of St Benedict became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom. For this reason Benedict is often called "the founder of western Christian monasticism".


  • HTML (multi-page, indexed) at the Order of St. Benedict (Translated by Leonard Doyle)
  • Paperback edition, edited (translated?) by Timothy Fry (Vintage Books, 1998, 112 pg).
  • Paperback edition, translated by Anthony C. Meisel and M.L. Dei Mastro (Image Books, 1975).

This will end our readings in church history and begin our study of Medieval literature.