ST 118 Introduction to Patristics

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Module Level

8 (Undergraduate)

Time Allowance

Lectures 24 hours Private Study 24 hours Assignment 12 hours


Essay 35% Class Participation 15% End of Semester Exam 50%

Module Aims

  • To introduce students to some of the most important Patristic texts in the early Church.
  • To enable students to engage critically with some key Patristic texts, seen in their cultural and historical context.
  • To familiarise students with the emergence of Christian theology, with a specific focus on the Church, developing ministerial structures, liturgical life.

Indicative Syllabus:

The Development of the Liturgy: Ritual Practices in Early Christianity

  • The Didache Justin:
  • First Apology
  • The Apostolic Tradition
  • St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Mystagogical Catechesis

The Structure of Early Christianity: the Development of Church Offices

  • First Clement
  • The Didache
  • The Letters of Ignatius to the Ephesians, Magnesians and Smyrneans
  • The Apostolic Tradition
  • The Didascalia
  • Cyprian: On the Unity of the Catholic Church

The Defence of Christianity: the Early Christian Apologists

  • Minucius Felix: Octavius
  • Justin: First Apology
  • Athenagoras: Plea regarding the Christians

The Proclamation of the Word: Homilies in Early Christianity

  • Second Clement
  • Origin: Homilies on Genesis

Persecution and Martyrdom in the Early Church

  • The Letter of Ignatius to the Romans
  • The Martyrdom of Polycarp
  • The Letters of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons
  • The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas

Canons and Creeds

  • Canons of Elvira
  • Creed and Canons of Nicaea
  • Creed and Canons of Constantinople

Irish Texts

  • St. Patrick’s Works
  • Penitentials
  • St. Columbanus
  • Early material on St. Brigid

Learning Outcomes

  • At the end of the course students should: • Appreciate the contribution of some major Fathers of the Church to the -understanding. • Become familiar with reading and interpreting Patristic texts, attentive to their use of sources and Scripture, and their historical, cultural and theological context. • Know how to access critical editions of Patristic texts, reputable translations and relevant secondary materials and commentaries.


  • Boniface Ramsey, Beginning to Read the Fathers Revised Edition (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2012).
  • Michael W. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007)