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Fall 2012

TUESDAYS 9:30 - 11:20 AM
Room 108, St. Peter's Seminary

Instructor:  Dr. Susan Brown

Office hours by appointment (


An introduction to the Fathers of the Church, to the historical and cultural contexts in which they worked, to their ways of expressing the Christian tradition and to their contributions to its development.


Students’ growth in


– of the historical and cultural contexts within which the early Christians lived their faith;
– of the central truths of the Christian faith as expressed in the earliest centuries of the Church’s existence;
– of the lives and contributions of some of the most important figures from the Patristic period;
– of the methods employed by Patristic theologians in interpreting scripture and developing theological arguments;
– of some of the important doctrinal and theological developments of the Patristic period.


– in using the various research tools and strategies used by contemporary scholars in investigating the Patristic period;
– in dealing with primary texts, for example, in detecting similarities and differences among ancient writers who treat the same topic;
– in discerning lines of continuity linking different stages of theological and liturgical development


– an appreciation for the personal courage and theological creativity of the Fathers of the Church;
– a desire to emulate the way in which writers of the Patristic period strove to integrate theological work and personal sanctity in the service of the Church’s
mission to spread the Gospel;
– optimism about the possibility of evangelizing in the new contexts presented by each historical period.


Ramsay, Boniface. Beginning to Read the Fathers, revised edition. New York: Paulist, 2012.

An additional package of readings to be handed out in class.


Biographical assignment (due Oct. 2) 15%
Mid-Term (Oct. 23) 20%
Best FIVE homework assignments from TEN possible submissions (Sept. 18-Oct. 16)
and Oct. 30-Nov. 27 inclusive)
Exegetical Comparison Assignment (due Nov. 20) 20%
Final examination (written during exam period) 25%                               


Students are responsible for knowing the University’s academic policies and regulations and any particularities of their own course of study. These can all be found at the University’s website ( Ignorance of these policies is not an excuse for any violation thereof. The following policies are particularly important to note:

Submission of Assignments: It is the responsibility of the student to organize his or her work so that the assignments are completed on time. A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment will be deducted for each day it is overdue without permission.

Plagiarism: Students must write their essays and assignments in their own words. Whenever students take an idea or a passage from another author, they must acknowledge their debt by quotation marks and/or footnotes. Plagiarism is a major academic offense. Students may be required to submit their work in electronic form for plagiarism checking.

Selection and Registration of Courses: Students are responsible for ensuring that their selection of courses is appropriate and accurately recorded, that all prerequisite course(s) have been successfully completed, and that they are aware of any anti-requisite course(s) that they have taken.


For class on   about   read
Sept. 11
(Week One)
  Course set-up; intro. to the Fathers and to the
historical and cultural contexts of the Patristic period
Sept. 18
(Week Two)
       Fundamental beliefs and practices   Ramsay, 1-18 and prefaces; Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians;
Justin Martyr, First Apology 1-2; 13-20; 61-67; Irenaeus, Against the Heresies 1;10.
Sept. 25           
(Week Three)             
  Defending the faith and evangelizing non-believers   Ramsay 194-209; 229-237; Justin Martyr, First Apology, 30-36, 46 and 59-60;
Dialogue with Trypho 1; 66-68; 89-90; 108; 142; Clement of Alexandria, Stromata (Miscellanies) 4;22.

Oct. 2
(Week Four)

Assignment due!

  Martyrdom    Ramsay 210-228; Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans; Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 10;
Clement of Alexandria, Stromata (Miscellanies) 4;4 and 10. 
Oct. 9
(Week Five)
  Emergence of the Canon;
Interpreting Scripture 
  Ramsay 129-143; Irenaeus, Against the Heresies 2;27; 3; 1-5; Origen, On First Principles, Bk. 4, Chapter 2; Augustine, Teaching Christianity (De Doctrina Chrstiana) 3;10.14-16.24.
Oct. 16
(Week Six)
  God as Triune           Ramsay; 19-40; Athanasius, First Letter to Monks; Basil of Caesarea, Letter 38 to Gregory (of Nyssa, his brother); John Damascene, On the Orthodox Faith 1:8.
Oct. 23
(Week Seven)
  The End of Persecution   Ramsay, 41-56; Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 15; Ambrose, On Virginity 1;1-2; 2; 5-7; 38; Augustine, City of God, 21:1; Ambrose, Letter to Theodosius (excerpt). 
Oct. 30
(Week 8)
   The Human Condition   Ramsay, 143-156; Thomas Bokenkotter, A Concise History of the Catholic Church, Chapter 6, 53-58; Irenaeus, Against the Heresies 4:38; 5:6; John Chrysostom, Homily 10 on Romans 5:12 (excerpt); Origen, On First Principles, 1; 6; Augustine, City of God, 21; 12 and 17. 
Nov. 6
(Week Nine)
  Christ our Saviour    Ramsay 57-74; 237-246; Gregory Nazianzen, Letter 101 to Cledonius; Maximus the Confessor, Opusculum 7. 
Nov. 13
(Week Ten)
  Church and Ministry    Ramsay 57-74; 237-246; Gregory Nazianzen, Letter 101 to Cledonius; Maximus the Confessor, Opusculum 7. 

Nov. 20
(Week Eleven)

Exegetical Assignment due!

  Sacramental Life and Prayer   Ramsay, 99-128; Cyril of Jerusalem, Fifth Lecture on the Mysteries; Cyprian, Letter 69; Augustine, On Baptism against the Donatists, Book 1, ch. 1; 1-2; 10; 13-14; 11.15-17; 12.18; 28.27-28. 
Nov. 27
(Week Twelve)
  Marriage and Monasticism   Ramsay 174-193; Tertullian, To His Wife, Book 2, Conclusion; Augustine, Confessions, Book 9; 8.17-13.37; Jerome, Letter 48 to Pammachius excerpts and Letter 22 to Eustochium, excerpt; Basil, Longer Rule, 7; John Cassian, Conference 18, 4.1-16.1.
Dec. 4
(Week Thirteen)
  Synthesis and Review    Ramsay 143-173. 


Each week a list of questions will be distributed to go along with the assigned readings. Most of the questions will concern pages from Boniface Ramsay’s text or another secondary source. One or two questions will have to do with the primary source texts assigned for that week. 

The secondary readings will serve as a follow-up to the lecture given in the first hour of the preceding class. Questions having to do with those readings will NOT be collected as part of your “Homework Assignment,” but you should answer the questions in whatever way you see fit (e.g., by jotting down your responses, by underlining parts of your text). Your mastery of the material covered by the lectures and secondary readings will be tested in the Mid-Term and Final Examination.

Each week students will be asked to consider a question or two about the assigned primary source readings. These responses (which can be in point form and should take up no more than a single page) will be collected at the beginning of class each week and evaluated for the “Homework Assignment” component of the final grade for the course. A minimum of FIVE such assignments must be submitted. If more are submitted, the grade will be computed using the best FIVE grades. PLEASE ATTEMPT TO RESPOND TO THE “HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT” QUESTION(S) EACH WEEK, EVEN IF YOU DO NOT HAVE TIME TO DO A THOROUGH ENOUGH JOB TO HAND YOUR ASSIGNMENT IN. You will profit more from the class discussion of primary sources in the second half of each class if you have some familiarity with the assigned texts!