Many aspects of the “early church” can seem intimidating and foreign to us today. To help overcome that, here are my top three books from the period. They are works of amazing power and vitality – so much so they may open up a whole new world for you:
- St. Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, which dates from around AD 319. This particular edition includes an introduction by C. S. Lewis which alone is worth the price of the book.
- St. Augustine’s Confessions, which intertwines autobiography and theological/philosophical reflections, and is dated to AD 398. The Chadwick translation is quite good, and has the added advantage of including Scripture references for all the quotes and allusions that Augustine makes throughout the work.
- The little Epistle to Diognetus, which is the work of an early Christian apologist and is usually dated between AD 150 and 225.
As an added bonus, these three works just happen to represent three different groups, coming respectively from the Greek-speaking (Eastern) Fathers, the Latin-speaking (Western) Fathers, and what has been traditionally called the Apostolic Fathers.
Now, it is true you that all three works have English translations in the public domain and you can find them free on the internet (see here). But for Athanasius and Augustine at least I would recommend the printed editions. That way you can take your pencil, mark them up, and really make them your own. Enjoy!
By Ray Pennoyer July 17, 2010