This is an introductory unit on the writings of the Fathers of the Church and their important contribution to the formation of Orthodox theology. The focus of the unit is to introduce these early Christian theologians as the great teachers of the Orthodox faith or doctrine and highlight their contribution through the Fathers’ explanation of the Christian dogma and their refutation of heresies. Students will study Patristic texts arranged historically and through the common classifications of the Fathers. For example, the Apostolic Fathers, the Apologists, the Latin Fathers, the Alexandrians (both the Fathers of Alexandria, such as Clement of Alexandria and the great teachers such as Saint Athanasius and Saint Cyril of Alexandria), and the Cappadocian Fathers (i.e. St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nazianzus).

Unit code: CH8400A (Approved)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Foundational

Unit discipline: Church History

Proposing College: St Athanasius College

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Learning outcomes


Critically evaluate the contribution that each of the Fathers have made in explaining the Orthodox faith


Analyse the distinguishing features of the thought of a selection of Fathers and the content of their major works


Justify the classifications of Church Father writings historically and according to commonly used categories


Investigate the fundamental principles of a particular father, or investigate a particular heresy


Examine, appraise and where relevant, challenge the conclusions of modern scholarship on interpretive difficulties in the writings of a selection of Fathers


Weekly sessions, comprising guided reading from the set texts, additional reading resources and some notes, together with an online tutorial. Students will be expected to contribute to the discussions in each session.

Indicative Bibliography

  • Athanasius and John Behr. On the Incarnation. Yonkers, N.Y.: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2011. (recommended for purchase)
  • Cyril and John Anthony McGuckin. On the Unity of Christ. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2000.
  • Oden, Thomas C. Ancient Christian Doctrine 5 Vols. Downers Grove, IL.: IVP Academic, 2009.
  • Staniforth, Maxwell, trans. Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers. London: Penguin Books, 1968. ###Secondary Literature
  • Anatolios, Khaled. Athanasius, The Early Church Fathers. New York, NY: Routledge, 2004.
  • Behr, John. The Formation of Christian Theology, Vol 2: The Nicene Faith Part 1 and 2. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004.
  • Ferguson, Everett, ed. Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, 2nd edition. New York and London: Routledge, 1999.
  • McGuckin, John. Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy. Crestwood, New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004.
  • Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine. Vol 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600). Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1975.
  • Quasten, Johannes. Patrology. 4 vols. Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1986.
  • Wilken, Robert Louis. The Spirit of Early Christian Thought. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

Written Assessment Task 3000 words

3000 50.0

Written Assessment Task 2000 words

2000 30.0

Written Assessment Task 1000 words

1000 20.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 30 Sep, 2019

Unit record last updated: 2019-10-24 10:57:58 +1100