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St. Athanasius, depicted with a book, an iconographic symbol of the importance of his writings.

The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come. The term was used of writers and teachers of the Church, not necessarily saints. The Classification of Patristic Writings are: Apostolic Fathers and the Second Century, Third Century, Fourth Century, Fifth Century and Sixth Century.[1][2]


Who is a Church Father?

A Church Father is anyone who (1) taught orthodox doctrine and learning, (2) possessed holiness of life, and (3) had a certain antiquity. Early authors who do not possess these qualities are considered eccesiastical writers.[3]

Apostolic Fathers

The earliest Church Fathers, (within two generations of the Apostles of Christ) are usually called the Apostolic Fathers. Important Apostolic Fathers include Clement of Rome,[4] Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna. In addition, the Didache and Shepherd of Hermas are usually placed among the writings of the Apostolic Fathers although their authors are unknown.


Clement of Rome

His epistle, 1 Clement (c 96),[4] was copied and widely read in the Early Church. Clement calls on the Christians of Corinth to maintain harmony and order.[4] It is the earliest Christian epistle outside the New Testament. Tradition identifies him as the fourth Pope and Bishop of Rome and his epistle asserts Rome's apostolic authority over its audience, the church in Corinth, see also Papal primacy.

Ignatius of Antioch

Saint Ignatius of Antioch (also known as Theophorus) (c 35-110)[5] was the third Bishop or Patriarch of Antioch and a student of the Apostle John. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of the theology of the earliest Christians. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, the role of bishops, and Biblical Sabbath.[6]. He is the second after Clement to mention Paul's epistles.[4]

Polycarp of Smyrna

Saint Polycarp of Smyrna (c 69- ca. 155) was a Christian bishop of Smyrna (now İzmir in Turkey). It is recorded that "He had been a disciple of John." The options for this John are John the son of Zebedee traditionally viewed as the author of the Fourth Gospel, or John the Presbyter (Lake 1912). Traditional advocates follow Eusebius in insisting that the apostolic connection of Polycarp was with John the Evangelist, and that this John, the author of the Gospel of John, was the same as the Apostle John. Polycarp, 155, tried and failed to persuade Anicetus, Bishop of Rome, to have the West celebrate Easter on 14 Nisan, as in the East. He rejected the Pope's suggestion that the East use the Western date. In c 155, the Smyrnans demanded Polycarp's execution as a Christian, and he died a martyr. His story has it that the flames built to kill him refused to burn him, and that when he was stabbed to death, so much blood issued from his body that it quenched the flames around him.[4] Polycarp is recognized as a saint in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

Greek Fathers

Those who wrote in Greek are called the Greek (Church) Fathers. Famous Greek Fathers include: Clement of Rome, Irenaeus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria, Athanasius of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria the Cappadocian Fathers (Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzus, Peter of Sebaste & Gregory of Nyssa), and Maximus the Confessor.

Irenaeus of Lyons

Saint Irenaeus, (b. 2nd century; d. end of 2nd/beginning of 3rd century) was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyons, France. His writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology, and he is recognized as a saint by both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. He was a notable early Christian apologist. He was also a disciple of Polycarp, who was said to be a disciple of John the Evangelist. The Shepherd of Hermas (2nd century) was popular in the early church and even considered scriptural by some of the early Church fathers, such as Irenaeus. It was written at Rome, in Greek. The Shepherd had great authority in the second and third centuries.

His best-known book, Against Heresies (c 180) enumerated heresies and attacked them. Irenaeus wrote that the only way for Christians to retain unity was to humbly accept one doctrinal authority—episcopal councils.[4] Irenaeus was the first to propose that all four gospels be accepted as canonical, see also Development of the New Testament canon.

Clement of Alexandria

Clement of Alexandria (Titus Flavius Clemens) (c.150-211/216), was the first member of the Church of Alexandria to be more than a name, and one of its most distinguished teachers. He united Greek philosophical traditions with Christian doctrine and valued gnosis that with communion for all people could be held by common Christians. He developed a Christian Platonism.[4] Like Origen, he arose from Catechetical School of Alexandria and was well versed in pagan literature.[4]

Origen of Alexandria

Origen, or Origen Adamantius (c 185 - c254) was an early Christian scholar and theologian. According to tradition, he was an Egyptian[7] who taught in Alexandria, reviving the Catechetical School, where Clement had taught. The patriarch of Alexandria at first supported Origen but later expelled him for being ordained without the patriarch's permission. He relocated to Caesarea Maritima and died there[8] after being tortured during a persecution.

Using his knowledge of Hebrew, he produced a corrected Septuagint.[4] He wrote commentaries on all the books of the Bible.[4] In Peri Archon (First Principles), he articulated the first philosophical exposition of Christian doctrine.[4] He interpreted scripture allegorically and showed himself to be a Stoic, a Neo-Pythagorean, and a Platonist.[4] Like Plotinus, he wrote that the soul passes through successive stages before incarnation as a human and after death, eventually reaching God.[4] He imagined even demons being reunited with God. For Origen, God was not Yahweh but the First Principle, and Christ, the Logos, was subordinate to him.[4] His views of a hierarchical structure in the Trinity, the temporality of matter, "the fabulous preexistence of souls", and "the monstrous restoration which follows from it" were declared anathema in the 6th century.[9][10] Due to his heretical views, Origin is technically not a Church Father but instead referred to as an ecclesiastical writer.[11]

Athanasius of Alexandria

Athanasius of Alexandria (c 293-2 May 373) was a theologian, Pope of Alexandria, and a noted Egyptian leader of the fourth century. He is best remembered for his role in the conflict with Arianism. At the First Council of Nicaea (325), Athanasius argued against the Arian doctrine that Christ is of a distinct substance from the Father.[4]

Cyril of Alexandria

Cyril of Alexandria (ca. 378 - 444) was the Bishop of Alexandria when the city was at its height of influence and power within the Roman Empire. Cyril wrote extensively and was a leading protagonist in the Christological controversies of the later 4th, and 5th centuries. He was a central figure in the First Council of Ephesus in 431, which led to the deposition of Nestorius as Archbishop of Constantinople. Cyril is counted among the Church Fathers and the Doctors of the Church, and his reputation within the Christian world has resulted in his titles "Pillar of Faith" and "Seal of all the Fathers".

John Chrysostom

John Chrysostom (c 347– c 407), archbishop of Constantinople, is known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and his ascetic sensibilities. After his death (or, according to some sources, during his life) he was given the Greek surname chrysostomos, meaning "golden mouthed", rendered in English as Chrysostom.[12][13]

Chrysostom is known within Christianity chiefly as a preacher, theologian, and liturgist, particularly in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Outside the Christian tradition Chrysostom is noted for eight of his sermons which played a considerable part in the history of Christian antisemitism, and were extensively misused by the Nazis in their ideological campaign against the Jews.[14][15]

Cappadocian Fathers

The Cappadocians promoted early Christian theology, and are highly respected in both Western and Eastern churches as saints. They were a 4th-century monastic family, led by Saint Macrina the Younger to provide a central place for her brothers to study and meditate, and also to provide a peaceful shelter for their mother. Abbess Macrina fostered the education and development of three men who collectively became designated the Cappadocian Fathers, Basil the Great who was the second oldest of Macrina's brothers (the first being the famous Christian jurist Naucratius) and eventually became a bishop, Gregory of Nyssa who also became eventually a bishop of the diocese associated thereafter with his name, and Peter of Sebaste who was the youngest of Makrina's brothers and later became bishop of Sebaste.

These scholars along with a close friend, Gregory Nazianzus, set out to demonstrate that Christians could hold their own in conversations with learned Greek-speaking intellectuals and that Christian faith, while it was against many of the ideas of Plato and Aristotle (and other Greek Philosophers), was an almost scientific and distinctive movement with the healing of the soul of man and his union with God at its center- one best represented by monasticism. They made major contributions to the definition of the Trinity finalized at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 and the final version of the Nicene Creed which was formulated there.

Subsequent to the First Council of Nicea, Arianism did not simply disappear. The semi-Arians taught that the Son is of like substance with the Father (homoiousios), as against the outright Arians who taught that the Son was unlike the Father (heterousian). So the Son was held to be like the Father but not of the same essence as the Father.

The Cappadocians worked to bring these semi-Arians back to the Orthodox cause. In their writings they made extensive use of the formula "three substances (hypostases) in one essence (homoousia)", and thus explicitly acknowledged a distinction between the Father and the Son (a distinction that Nicea had been accused of blurring), but at the same time insisting on their essential unity.

Latin Fathers

Those fathers who wrote in Latin are called the Latin (Church) Fathers. Famous Latin Fathers include Tertullian (who later in life converted to Montanism), Cyprian of Carthage, Gregory the Great, Augustine of Hippo, Ambrose of Milan, and Jerome.


Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus (c 160 - c 225), who was converted to Christianity before 197, was a prolific writer of apologetic, theological, controversial and ascetic works.[16] He was the son of a Roman centurion.

Tertullian denounced Christian doctrines he considered heretical, but later in life adopted views that themselves came to be regarded as heretical. He wrote three books in Greek and was the first great writer of Latin Christianity, thus sometimes known as the "Father of the Latin Church"[17]. He was evidently a lawyer in Rome.[18] He is said to have introduced the Latin term "trinitas" with regard to the Divine (Trinity) to the Christian vocabulary[19] (but Theophilus of Antioch (c. 115 - c. 183) already wrote of "the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom", which is similar but not identical to the Trinitarian wording),[20] and also probably the formula "three Persons, one Substance" as the Latin "tres Personae, una Substantia" (itself from the Koine Greek "treis Hypostases, Homoousios"), and also the terms "vetus testamentum" (Old Testament) and "novum testamentum" (New Testament).

In his Apologeticus, he was the first Latin author who qualified Christianity as the "vera religio", and systematically relegated the classical Roman Empire religion and other accepted cults to the position of mere "superstitions".

Later in life, Tertullian joined the Montanists, a heretical sect that appealed to his rigorism.[16]. He was the one who brought the early church's symbol "ICHTHYS" ( christ jesus son of God the saviour)to expalin the meaning of Baptism since fish born in water.He says the human beings are little fishes

Cyprian of Carthage

Saint Cyprian (Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus) (died September 14, 258) was bishop of Carthage and an important early Christian writer. He was probably born at the beginning of the 3rd century in North Africa, perhaps at Carthage, where he received an excellent classical (pagan) education. After converting to Christianity, he became a bishop (249) and eventually died a martyr at Carthage.

Ambrose of Milan

Saint Ambrose[21] (c. 338 – 4 April 397), was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the fourth century. He is counted as one of the four original doctors of the Church.

Jerome of Stridonium

Saint Jerome (c 347 – September 30, 420) is best known as the translator of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin. He also was a Christian apologist. Jerome's edition of the Bible, the Vulgate, is still an important text of the Roman Catholic Church. He is recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a Doctor of the Church.

Augustine of Hippo

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.[22] He framed the concepts of original sin and just war as they are understood in the West. 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.[4] Augustine's work defined the start of the medieval worldview, an outlook that would later be firmly established by Pope Gregory the Great.[4]

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 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.[23]

Gregory the Great

Saint Gregory I the Great (c. 540 – March 12, 604) was pope from September 3, 590 until his death.

He is also known as Gregorius Dialogus (Gregory the Dialogist) in Eastern Orthodoxy because of the Dialogues he wrote. He was the first of the Popes from a monastic background. Gregory is a Doctor of the Church and one of the four great Latin Fathers of the Church (the others being Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome). Of all popes, Gregory I had the most influence on the early medieval church.[24]

Other Fathers

The Desert Fathers were early monastics living in the Egyptian desert; although they did not write as much, their influence was also great. Among them are St. Anthony the Great and St. Pachomius. A great number of their usually short sayings is collected in the Apophthegmata Patrum ("Sayings of the Desert Fathers").

A small number of Church Fathers wrote in other languages: Saint Ephrem, for example, wrote in Syriac, though his works were widely translated into Latin and Greek.

Modern positions

In the Roman Catholic Church, St. John of Damascus, who lived in the 8th century, is generally considered to be the last of the Church Fathers and at the same time the first seed of the next period of church writers, scholasticism. St. Bernard is also at times called the last of the Church Fathers.

The Eastern Orthodox Church does not consider the age of Church Fathers to be over and includes later influential writers, even up to the present day, in the term. Among the Orthodox, the Church Fathers, or as they call them, Holy Fathers do not have to all agree on every detail, much less be infallible. Rather, Orthodox doctrine is determined by the consensus of the Holy Fathers—those points on which they do agree. This consensus guides the church in questions of faith, the correct interpretation of scripture, and to distinguish the authentic Sacred Tradition of the Church from false teachings.[25]

Though much Protestant religious thought is based on Sola Scriptura (the principle that the Bible itself is the ultimate authority in doctrinal matters), the first Protestant reformers, like the Catholic and Orthodox churches, relied heavily on the theological interpretations of scripture set forth by the early Church Fathers. The original Lutheran Augsburg Confession of 1531, for example, and the later Formula of Concord of 1576-1584, each begin with the mention of the doctrine professed by the Fathers of the First Council of Nicea. John Calvin's French Confession of Faith of 1559 states, "And we confess that which has been established by the ancient councils, and we detest all sects and heresies which were rejected by the holy doctors, such as St. Hilary, St. Athanasius, St. Ambrose and St. Cyril."[26] The Scots Confession of 1560 deals with general councils in its 20th chapter. The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, both the original of 1562-1571 and the American version of 1801, explicitly accept the Nicene Creed in article 7. Even when a particular Protestant confessional formula does not mention the Nicene Council or its creed, its doctrine is nonetheless always asserted, as, for example, in the Presbyterian Westminster Confession of 1647. Many Protestant seminaries provide courses on Patristics as part of their curriculum and many historic Protestant churches emphasize the importance of Tradition and of the Fathers in scriptural interpretation. Such an emphasis is even more pronounced in certain streams of Protestant thought, such as Paleo-Orthodoxy.


The study of the Church Fathers is known as "Patristics".

Works of fathers in early Christianity, prior to Nicene Christianity, were translated into English in a 19th century collection Ante-Nicene Fathers. Those of the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD) and continuing through the Second Council of Nicea (787) are collected in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, see also First seven Ecumenical Councils.

See also

Defined as an early writer of Christian doctrine; a Christian writer of the pre-8th century group of scholars who established the doctrines and practices of Christianity in their work (usually used in the plural).


  1. ^ Fathers of the Church, New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia.
  2. ^ Church Father (Christianity) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  3. ^ Fathers of the Church
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972
  5. ^ See "Ignatius" in The Westminster Dictionary of Church History, ed. Jerald Brauer (Philadelphia:Westminster, 1971) and also David Hugh Farmer, "Ignatius of Antioch" in The Oxford Dictionary of the Saints (New York:Oxford University Press, 1987).
  7. ^ George Sarton (1936). "The Unity and Diversity of the Mediterranean World", Osiris 2, p. 406-463 [430].
  8. ^ About Caesarea
  9. ^ The Anathemas Against Origen, by the Fifth Ecumenical Council (Schaff, Philip, "The Seven Ecumenical Councils", Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 2, Vol. 14. Edinburgh: T&T Clark)
  10. ^ The Anathematisms of the Emperor Justinian Against Origen (Schaff, op. cit.)
  11. ^ Fathers of the Church
  12. ^ Pope Vigilius, Constitution of Pope Vigilius, 553
  13. ^ "St John Chrysostom" in the Catholic Encyclopedia, available online; retrieved March 20, 2007.
  14. ^ Walter Laqueur, The Changing Face of Antisemitism: From Ancient Times To The Present Day, (Oxford University Press: 2006), p.48. ISBN 0-19-530429-2. 48
  15. ^ Yohanan (Hans) Lewy, "John Chrysostom" in Encyclopaedia Judaica (CD-ROM Edition Version 1.0), Ed. Cecil Roth (Keter Publishing House: 1997). ISBN 965-07-0665-8.
  16. ^ a b Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Tertullian
  17. ^ [1] Vincent of Lerins in 434AD, Commonitorium, 17, describes Tertullian as 'first of us among the Latins' (Quasten IV, p.549)
  18. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Tertullian: "He was evidently by profession an advocate in the law-courts, and he shows a close acquaintance with the procedure and terms of Roman law, though it is doubtful whether he is to be identified with a jurist Tertullian who is cited in the Pandects."
  19. ^ A History of Christian Thought, Paul Tillich, Touchstone Books, 1972. ISBN 0-671-21426-8 (p. 43)
  20. ^ To Autolycus, Book 2, chapter XV
  21. ^ Known in Latin and Low Franconian as Ambrosius, in Italian as Ambrogio and in Lombard as Ambroeus.
  22. ^ Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Platonism
  23. ^ "Carthage was also near the countries over the sea, and distinguished by illustrious renown,so that it had a bishop of more than ordinary influence, who could afford to disregard a number of conspiring enemies because he saw himself joined by letters of communion to the Roman Church, in which the supremacy of an apostolic chair has always flourished" Letter 43 Chapter 9
  24. ^ Pope St. Gregory I at
  25. ^ Pomazansky, Protopresbyter Michael (1973, in Russian), Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Platina CA: Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood (published 1984. English trans.), pp. 37, ff 
  26. ^ Henry Beveridge, trans. Calvin's Tracts (Calvin Translation Socieity, Edinburgh. 1849)

External links

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki


Their Importance to Judaism.

The early teachers and defenders of Christianity. The most important of the fathers lived and worked in a period when Christianity still had many points of contact with Judaism, and they found that the latter was a splendid support in the contest against paganism, although it had to be combated in the development of Christian doctrine. So the Fathers of the Church are seen at one time holding to a Jewish conception of the universe and making use of Jewish arguments, at another rejecting a part of such teaching and formulating a new one. In the contest of Christianity against paganism the Church Fathers employ the language of the Hellenistic literature as found in Philo, Josephus, the Apocrypha, and the Sibylline Books, all of which draw upon the Prophets of the Old Testament. Thus, practically, only the polemic features in the activity of the Church Fathers directed against Judaism can be considered as new and original. But in order to wage successful war against paganism, they, as well as Christians in general, had to acquaint themselves with the religious documents of Judaism; and this was possible only if they entered into personal relations with the Jews: through these personal relations the Church Fathers become of signal importance to Judaism. The contemporaries and, in part, the coworkers of those men who are known from the Talmud and the Midrash as the depositaries of the Jewish doctrine, were the instructors who transmitted this doctrine to the Church Fathers also. Hence such a mass of haggadic material is found in the work of the fathers as to constitute an important part of Jewish theological lore. This article is primarily concerned with their interpreration of the texts of the Bible and of the Apocrypha, which differs in essential points from those of the Jews.

Personal Relations with Jews:

Justin Martyr.

After the Bar Kokba war against the Romans, Ariston of Pella, a converted Jew, wrote, as is generally accepted, a dialogue in which the Christian Jason and the Jew Papiscus are made the speakers, and in which the nature of Jesus is discussed (Ιάσουος ιαμ Παπίσκου ἀυτιλογία Χριστοῦ). This dialogue, already mentioned by Celsus, may be wholly imaginary and without historical basis. But the famous dialogue of Justin Martyr with the Jew Tryphon, which took place at Ephesus (Eusebius, "Historia Ecclesiastica," iv. 18) at the time of the Bar Kokba war, is strictly historical, as certain details show; for instance, the statement that on the first day no strangers were present, while on the second day some Jews of Ephesus accompanied Tryphon and took part in the discussion (Justin, "Dialogus cum Tryphone," cxviii.), a certain Mnaseas being expressly mentioned (ib. lxxxv.). The Jewish auditors are not only able to follow the intricate discussion intelligently, but their demeanor also is seemly; Tryphon especially proves himself a true disciple of Greek philosophy, and his scholarship is freely acknowledged by Justin (ib. lxxx.). At the close of, the debate, Jew and Christian confess that they have learned much from each other, and part with expressions of mutual good-will (ib. at the end). Justin was born and reared in proximity to Jews; for he calls himself a Samaritan (ib. cxx.), meaning thereby probably not that he professed the religion of the Samaritans, but that he came from Samaria.

Of the relations of Clement of Alexandria to Judaism nothing positive is known. During the persecutions of the Christians of Alexandria, in 202 or 203, Clement sought refuge for a short time in Syria (Eusebius, l.c. vi. 11). Here he may have learned much at first hand from the Jews. He knew a little Hebrew, also some Jewish traditions; both of 'which facts point to personal relations with Jews.

Clement's contemporary, Origen, probably also born in Alexandria about 185, may possibly have been on his mother's side of Jewish descent, if one may judge from the fact that while his father is mentioned as Leonides, the name of his mother is passed over in silence. A Jewish mother could readily have taught her son the Hebrew language, so that they might sing the Psalms together (Jerome, "Epistola xxxix. ad Paulam"). [Both his father and his motherwere, however, Christian in faith.

Clement and Origen.

In his capacity of presbyter at Cæsarea in Palestine, Origen must have come into frequent contact with learned Jews, as indeed appears from his writings. He mentions again and again his "magister Hebræus" (ὁ Εβραῖος in the Greek fragment), on whose authority he gives several haggadot ("De Principiis," i. 3, 4; iv. 26). His dependence on the Jews is sufficiently emphasized by Jerome ("Adversus Rufinum," I. xiii.) in the passage wherein Clement and Eusebius are named among those who did not disdain to learn from Jews. Origen often mentions the views of Jews, meaning thereby not the teaching of certain individuals, but the method of exegesis prevalent among the Jews of his time. The Jews with whom he maintained personal intercourse were men of distinguished scientific attainments. The one Jew whom he mentions by name was no less a personage than Hillel, the patriarch's son, or "Jullos," as Origen calls him (Grätz,"Monatsschrift," 1881, xxx. 433 et seq.). His other Jewish acquaintances either were closely related to the patriarch's family, or occupied high positions on account of their erudition. Grätz ("Gesch. der Juden," 3d ed., iv. 231) thinks indeed that some passages in Origen's writings are directed against the contemporary amora of Palestine, Simlaï. Origen seems, moreover, to have had intercourse with Hoshaya of Cæsarea (Bacher, "Agada der Palästinensischen. Amoräer," i. 92).

Eusebius, Ephraem Syrus, Epiphanius.

Eusebius, the celebrated Church historian, also learned from the Jews, as has already been mentioned, and was under the influence of Jewish tradition. In Cæsarea, where he lived, he met many Jews, with whom he had discussions. Nevertheless he uses the word "Jew" as a term of reproach, calling his opponent, Marcellus, "a Jew" ("De Ecclesiastica Theologia," ii. 2, 3). He likewise thinks it a disgrace to be one of the "circumcised" (τις τῶυ ἐκ περιτομῆς, "Demonstratio Evangelica," i. 6). This last expression is also used regularly by Ephraem Syrus to designate Jews ( (image) , "Opera Syriaca," ii. 469). Ephraem distances all his ecclesiasticalpredecessors in his hatred of the Jews, displaying a bitterness that is explicable only on the ground that he at one time had personal relations with them, and had formed an adverse opinion of them. Epiphanius, too, shows his dependence on the Jews, especially in the book, perhaps wrongly ascribed to him, "De Prophetarum Vitis"; which contains, besides many extraneous inventions, numerous Jewish traditions of the lives of the Prophets. In this it was followed by a Syrian work ("The Book of the Bee," published in "Auecdota Oxoniensia," Semitic series, i., part 2).


Jerome surpasses all other Church Fathers in his erudition as well as in his importance for Judaism. It must be emphasized, in spite of Christian assertions to the contrary (e.g., B. Baue, "Vorlesungen," ii. 36), that he learned much not only from baptized but also from loyal Jews. He sought his information in many quarters, especially among the educated Jews (Preface to Hosea; compare "Epistola lxxiii. ad Evangelum"). Hence he always cites the opinions of several Jews ("quidam Hebræorum"), not that of one Jew; and these Jewish friends of his accompany him on his journeys (Preface to I Chronicles), though he has one particular guide ("circumducens," Preface to Nahum). Of only three of his Jewish teachers is anything known. A Jew from Lydda, whom Jerome calls "Lyddæus," explained to him the Book of Job, translating it into Greek, and expounding it in Latin. Although he has much to say in praise of this man, Jerome will not admit that he learned much from him (Preface to Job), designating him often as one who merely read the Scriptures to him ("Onomastica Sacra," xc. 12; commentary on Eccles. iv. 14, v. 3). But from this Lyddan Jerome acquired not only the material for his philological notes, but also the Hebrew pronunciation that gives him a unique importance for Old Testament criticism (Siegfried, in Stade's "Zeitschrift," 1884, p. 34; Krauss, in "Magyár Zsidó Szémle," 1900, vii. 513).

Jerome was more attached to his second teacher, Bar Ḥanina, who, however, can not be identical with R. Ḥama b. Ḥanina, as Rahmer insists (compare Weiss, in "Bet-Talmud," i. 131, note 3); nor can he possibly be identified until his Midrashim, quoted by Jerome, have been compared with the known sayings of the authors of the Talmud and the Midrash. This Bar Ḥanina must have been an eminent teacher of the Law, for Jerome spent much time and money before he could secure him as teacher. Since Jerome would not visit his teacher by day, for fear of the Jews, he went to Bar Ḥanina, by night ("Epistola lxxxiv. ad Pammachium et Occanum"). Bar Ḥanina came from Tiberias, as is shown by the Hebrew traditions communicated by him to Jerome; for one particular prophecy was held to apply to Tiberias (Jerome, "Quæstiones Hebraicæ in Genesin," xlix. 21).

Jerome's third teacher, whom he required especially for the Aramaic portions of the Bible, knew both Hebrew and Aramaic, and was considered by the Jewish scribes as a "Chaldæus" (Preface to Tobit; compare "Epistola xviii. ad Damasum").

Jerome lived about forty years in Palestine, apparently studying all the time under Jews (commentary on Nahum ii. 1: "a quibus non modico tempore eruditus"). His enemies severely censured him for his intercourse with the Jews, but he was proud of it. He asks how it could be held to impugn his faith in the Church, that he informs his readers in how many ways the Jews construe a single error. ("Adversus Rufinum," book i.). "Why should I not be permitted to inform the Latins of what I have learned from the Hebrews. . . . It is most useful to cross the threshold of the masters, and to learn the art directly from the artists" (ib.).


Jerome's contemporary, the great teacher Angustine, did not fare so well in Africa. When he questioned the Jews on Biblical matters, they often either did not answer at all, or, at least from the standpoint of the Church Fathers, "lied" (Jerome, "Epistola cxii. ad Augustinum"), meaning probably that they gave an answer different from what the Christians desired ("Epistola civ. Augustini ad Hieronymum"). An alleged letter from Jerome, probably forged by Rufinus, was sent to the Christian communities in Africa, in which Jerome professed to admit that, misled by the Jews, he had translated erroneously ("Adversus Rufinum," book iii., ii. 554, ed. Vallarsi). It mortified Jerome that his translation of the Bible, the Vulgate, so famous later on, should be passed over in silence by all the Jews, and that there was no one who knew enough Hebrew to appreciate the merits of the new translation ("Epistola cxii. ad Augustinum"). He even believed that all the Jews of Africa had conspired to oppose him, as actually happened in one place. In a certain African town—so Augustine wrote to Jerome (Jerome's works, "Epistola civ. Augustini ad Hieronymum")—the new translation was read in the church, by order of the bishop. When they came to the passage in Jonah containing the word "ḳiḳayon" (iv. 6), which differed from the interpretation hitherto accepted, such a tumult arose that the bishop had to ask the Jews for a verification, and they declared, to the great annoyance of both Jerome and Augustine, that Jerome's rendering did not agree with the He brew, or Greek, or (old) Latin codices. The bishop had to strike it out as "a lie," being in danger of losing his congregation. Before this, Tertullian of Carthage (165-245) had spoken of the impertinence and derision shown by a Jew ("Apologia," xvi.; "Ad Nationes," i. 11; compare Assworship).

Chrysostom, Cyril, and Ambrose.

Among the Greek Church Fathers, Basil the Great hardly knew Hebrew (H. Weiss, "Die Grossen Kappadocier Exegeten," p. 32, Braunsberg, 1872); yet his ability to distinguish between Amos, the prophet, and Amoz, the father of Isaiah (whose names are written alike in the Septuagint), as well as other similar facts, points to his having received oral instruction from Jews [or from some one who knew Hebrew.—T.]. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 331-396), who did not recognize the rending of the garments on the occasion of a death as being a Jewish custom (περὶ τοῦ βίου τῆς Μακαρίας Μακαρίνης, in Oehler, "Bibliothek der Kirchenväter," i. 188), does not seem to have known much about Judaism. The same maybe said of the other Church Fathers who lived in Europe; that is, in sections sparsely settled by Jews. Irenæus, for instance, who suffered as a martyr in 202 in Lyons, knew nothing of Judaism outside of the Scriptures, although he was reared in Asia Minor. In the paschal controversy he advocated separation from Judaism. But the Greek fathers John Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria (see Byzantine Empire) potently affected the fate of the Jewish people, as did Bishop Ambrose of Milan (c. 340-397).

The Syrian Church, on the whole, was even in the fourth century dependent upon Jewish traditions (Wellhausen, in Bleek's "Einleitung in das Alte Testament," 4th ed., p. 601). This appears especially in the "Homilies" of Aphraates (c. 337-345). He complains (Hom. xix.) that the monks are led astray and ensnared by the Jewish arguments; he himself had a disputation with one "who is called a wise man among the Jews." Aphraates, who, under the name "Mar-Jacob," was abbot of the monastery of Mar Mattai, and a bishop, gives such a number of Jewish traditions as to place him, in this regard, beside Ephraem Syrus (see Aphraates).

The Haggadah:

The Church Fathers adopted from the Jews a mass of interpolations, interpretations, and illustrative anecdotes, which may best be designated by the well-known term, "Haggadah," but which they themselves called variously. Goldfahn has counted in Justin Martyr ("Dialogus cum Tryphone") twenty-six Hebrew traditions and six polemico-apologetic Haggadot. Among these may be mentioned: the eating by the three angels who appeared to Abraham; the Messiah's concealment and anointment by Elijah; the violent death of Isaiah (a Haggadah found already in the oldest apocrypha, and in nearly all the earlier fathers); Melchizedek's identity with Shem (compare especially Epiphanius, "Adversus Hæreses," xxxv., and the Syriac "Cave of Treasures," translated by Bezold, p. 36).

Clement and Origen.

Clement calls the Jewish haggadists "mystæ" (μύσται "persons initiated"), a term that was probably current in Alexandria; for the writings of all the Church Fathers agree in regarding Jewish tradition as a kind of esoteric doctrine understood only by the initiated. Clement is acquainted with the old Haggadah to Ex. ii. 14, according to which Moses killed the Egyptian by merely pronouncing the name of God. Moses is called also "Joiakim" and "Melch" by the mystæ ("Stromata," ed. Migne, viii. 897), and "Melchiel" in Pseudo-Philo, "Antiq. Bibl." ("Jewish Quarterly Review," x. 228; compare x. 726). A relation between Clement and the Seder 'Olam Rabba is shown by the fact that both give the same figure, sixty years, as the period of the prophet Elisha's activity (ib. v. 138).

Origen's Debt to the Haggadah.

Origen derives still more from the Haggadot. For instance: the Garden of Eden is the center of the world ("Selecta in Genesin," ii. 8; compare 'Erub. 19a; Zion is so called in Enoch, xxvi. 1, 2; and Jubilees, viii.); division of the Red Sea into twelve parts (homily to Ex. v. 5; see also Eusebius, commentary on Ps. lxxvii. 13, and Epiphanius, in the notes to "Adversus Hæreses," pp. 262 et seq.; compare Mekilta on Ex. xiv. 16, and other Jewish sources ["Jewish Quarterly Review," v. 151], and Ḳimḥi on Ps. cxxxvi.); repentance of the sons of Korah (commentary on the Epistle to the Romans x. 7; compare Midrash on Ps. xlv. 4); Israel's strength lies in prayer (homily on Num. xiii. 5; compare Sifre, Num. 157); Phineas and Elijah are identical (com. on John vi. 7; Jerome adopts the same opinion from the Apocrypha [v. 813, ed. Vallarsi; compare Yalḳ., Num. 772, but the earliest sources are lacking]); Daniel, Hananiah, Michael, and Azariah are eunuchs (commentary on Matt. xv. 5; compare homily on Ezek. iv. 8; catena on Ezek. xiv. 5; Jerome, "Adversus Jovin," book i., xxv.; com. on Dan. i. 3; Epiphanius, "De Vitis Prophetarum," ed. Migne, xliv. 424; further Sanh. 93b; Gen. R. xcix.); Moses is the author of eleven Psalms ("Selecta" to Ps. xii., ed. Migne, p. 1055; so also Jerome ["Adversus Rufinum," xiii.; compare Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, p. 198a]); wild beasts are the instruments of divine punishment, as in II Kings xvii. 2 (homily on Ezek. iv. 7, xiv. 4; compare Mishnah Ta'anit iii. 6; Shab. 33a).


Eusebius recognizes Jewish tradition as an authority almost equal to the Scriptures, and calls it ἅγρσΦος παράδοσις; i.e., "unwritten tradition" ("Historia Ecclesiastica," iv. 22). Its depositaries he terms "deuterotæ" (δευτερωταί, "Præparatio Evangelica," xi. 5), and he characterizes them aptly as men of an uncommon strength of intellect, whose faculties have been trained to penetrate to the very heart of Scripture. The Hebrews, he says, call them δευτερωταί (i.e., "tannaim"), because they expound Holy Writ (ib. xii. 1). "Deuterosis" (δευτύρωσις, "mishnah") is commonly used by the ecclesiastical writers for the Jewish tradition, and is also found in Justinian's novellæ.

Eusebius makes a distinction between esoteric and exoteric exegesis; the Haggadot he often classes with the exoteric interpretation, contrary to Clement and others, who see therein a secret doctrine. Among his Haggadot may be mentioned the following: Abraham observed the precepts of the Torah before it had been revealed ("Demonstratio Evangelica," i. 6; compare Yoma 28b); King Hezekiah's sin in omitting a hymn of praise to God after Sennacherib's defeat (commentary on Isa. xxxix. 1; Jerome, ad loc., quotes the same tradition; compare Sanh. 94a; Cant. R. iv. 8; Lam. R. iv. 15); Merodach-baladan's relations to Hezekiah (com. on Isa. xxxix. 1; the same Haggadah is given in Ephraem Syrus' commentary on II Kings xx. 10 ["Opera Syriaca," i. 562], as in one of Jacob of Edessa's scholia; compare Sanh. 96a). The traitor Shebna was a high priest (compare Lev. R. v.), treacherous (compare Sanh. 26a) and sensual (ib.), as Eusebius asserts in the name of δ Εβραῖος (com. on Isa. xii. 10, 11; Jerome makes the same statement ad loc.). The passage Zech. xi. 8 received very early the following Christological interpretation: After the advent of Jesus, the three powerful estates, kings, priests, and prophets, disappeared from Israel ("Demonstratio Evangelica," x. 1). Jerome, on Zech. xi. 8, quotes it only to reject it, preferring the Jewishexegesis, which applies the text to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam; but he does not credit it to the Jews; compare also Pseudo-Philo ("Jewish Quarterly Review," x. 321), and Mekilta xvi. 35; Seder 'Olam Rabba x.; Ta'anit 9a. Something similar is found in Aphraates on Num. xx. 1.

Acceptance by Church Fathers of Haggadot.

Aphraates gives the above as a self-evident exegesis without mentioning its Jewish origin. He does the same with his numerous other Haggadot, which were doubtless derived from the Jews. Ephraem Syrus likewise gives his Haggadot in the name of scholars ( (image) , expounders (image) , etc., but never in the name of Jews. The Haggadot, however, were so generally accepted, that their Jewish origin gradually came to be forgotten. Ephraem Syrus, for instance, says, on Gen. xi. 29, that Sarah was called "Iscah" on account of her beauty; but this Haggadah is already found in Seder 'Olam R. ii. His explanation of Gen. xxxvi. 24 is similar to that found in Onkelos and the Samaritan Version. On II Kings iv. he has the same Haggadah about Obadiah's wife that is found in the Targum Yerushalmi and in part in Ex. R. xxxi. These and similar passages prove Ephraem's knowledge of Hebrew—a knowledge which many investigators have unjustly disputed.

Jerome's Wide Knowledge of Hebrew Tradition.

But the one most conversant with Jewish traditions, and their greatest admirer, is Jerome. His "Quæstiones Hebraicæ in Genesin" form an almost uninterrupted series of such traditions; and he quotes them frequently in his other writings also. They are mostly historical episodes as additions to Bible history, which he calls either "traditiones" or frequently "fabulæ." These Haggadot were not only imparted to him orally by his Jewish teachers, but, remarkably enough, he also read Midrashic works himself. He says, for example, on Jer. xxix. 21: "Nec legitur in synagogis corum"; on Zech. iv. 2: "Hæc ab Hebrís dicta reperimus." Yet he speaks of these traditions as if they were a secret doctrine, "arcanæ eruditionis Hebraicæ et magistrorum synagogæ recondita disciplina" (Zech. vi. 9). He is also the only Church Father who is acquainted with the technical terms of the Hebrew tradition; for instance: "hoc Scriptura nunc dicit" (image) ; "hoc est quod dicitur" (image) ; "non debemus legere," or "non legi potest" (image) . He knows and applies the method of "notarikon" or "gemaṭria" (on Nahum iii. 8, on Haggai i. 1). This technical knowledge has so far been noted only in Barnabas' writings.

The haggadic elements in Jerome are so numerous that they would fill volumes; some of the more noteworthy ones may be mentioned here. On Eccles. iv. 13 he quotes a lost Midrash of R. Akiba, which has come down only anonymously (compare Eccl. R. iv. 13; Abot de-R. Nathan, version ii., ch. 4; Midr. Ps. ix. 5) and in secondary sources. He is entirely unsupported, however, in his view that Elihu (in Job) and Balaam are identical ("Quæst. Hebr. in Gen." xxii. 21).

On Ezek. xlv. 13, 14 Jerome quotes a halakic Midrash which treats of the heave-offering (compare Yer. Terumot vi. 1, 42d). Epiphanius also knew this; the Pharisees are said to have offered τριακοντάδες τε καὶ πεντηκοντάδες (Hilgenfeld, "Judenthum und Juden-Christenthum," p. 73, Leipsic, 1886). On Zech. xi. 13 he has a curious Haggadah on the number of the affirmative and negative precepts; a closer investigation shows that he has preserved this Haggadah more correctly than it is found in Jewish sources ("Jewish Quarterly Review," vi. 258; Jacob Bernays, "Abhandlungen," i. 252).

The Church Fathers who lived after Jerome knew less and less about Judaism, so that, the history of the later periods is no longer of any interest in this connection.


The dialogue between Justin and the Jew Tryphon is remarkable for the politeness with which Jews and Christians speak of one another; later on, however, examples are not wanting of passionate and bitter language used by Christians and Jews in their disputations. Origen complains of the stubbornness of the Jews (Homily x., on Jer. viii.), and accuses them of no longer possessing sound knowledge (l.c. iii.). Ephraem Syrus assumes a very insulting tone toward the Jews; he calls them by opprobrious names, and sees in them the worthless vineyard that bears no good fruit. Like Eusebius, who used the misfortunes of the Jews for polemic purposes (com. on Ps. lviii. 7-12), Ephraem sees in their wretched condition the visitation of God (on Gen. xlix. 8); because the Jews "betrayed Christ," they were driven from their country and condemned to perpetual wandering (on II Kings ii., toward the end). After Jerome has enumerated all the countries whither the Jews had been dispersed, he exclaims: "Hæe est, Judæe, tuarum longitudo et latitudo terrarum" ("Epistola cxxix. ad Dardanum").

What especially angered the Christians was the fact that the Jews persisted in their Messianic hopes. In his sermon against the Jews Ephraem says: "Behold! this people fancies that it will return; after having provoked God by all its ways, it awaits and expects a time when it shall be comforted." Ephraem, as well as Justin and Origen, mentions that at this period Judaism was receiving numerous accessions from the ranks of paganism, a phenomenon ascribed by the Church Fathers to the machinations of Satan.

Jerome, on the other hand, speaks with great eloquence of the Messianic hopes of the Jews. Many Messianic passages of the Bible were applied by the latter to the emperor Julian, others to the distant future, differences which resulted in interminable polemics. The Church Fathers looked upon the Jews as demons, upon their synagogues as houses of Satan; Rufinus mockingly styles Bar Ḥanina, Jerome's Jewish teacher, "Barabbas," and Jerome himself a rabbi. The one word "circumcisio" was used to condemn the whole of Judaism; the Jews, they said, took everything carnally (σωματικῶς), the Christians took all things spiritually (πνευματικῶς).

Disputations Between Jews and Christians.

The writings of Jerome vividly portray the character of the polemics of that period. The Christian who should undertake to dispute with the Jews hadto be learned in doctrine (Preface to Psalms). But these disputations must be held lest the Jews should consider the Christians ignorant (on Isa. vii. 14). The proceedings were very lively. Reference is made, even if only figuratively, to the planting of the feet against each other, to the pulling of the rope, etc. (l.c.). It is incredible that the Jews were so frantic as to "scream with unbridled tongues, foaming at the mouth, and hoarse of voice" (on the Epistle to Titus, iii. 9). Nor is it probable that the Jews "regretted when they had no opportunity to slander and vilify the Christians" (Preface to Joshua), although the Jews of that age show no diffidence in sustaining their part in these discussions. They were accused of avoiding questions that arose on the more difficult passages of the Bible (on Isa. xliv. 6), which proved simply that they wanted to avoid disputations altogether. But the Jews had allies in their opinions; for pagans and Christian sectaries agreed with them on many points, drawing upon themselves the polemics of the Church Fathers.

Avowed Attacks on Jews.

Of the numerous polemical works directed against the Jews, only a few can be mentioned here. Of Clement's work, "Canon of the Church, or Against the Judaizers" (Κανὼν 'Εκκλησιαστικὸς ἢ Πρὸς τονς 'Ιουδαιζοντας; Eusebius, "Historia Ecclesiastica," vi. 13), only a few fragments have been preserved. Origen's famous work, "Contra Celsum," is directed no less against the Jews than against the pagans, since Celsus had brought forward many Jewish doctrines. Eusebius' "Demonstratio Evangelica" was avowedly a direct attack on the Jews (see i. 1, 11). Aphraates' Homily xix. is largely directed against the Jews, and Homilies xi., xiii., xv. denounce circumcision, the Sabbath, and the discrimination between clean and unclean food, "of which they are proud."

A little work of Novatian, formerly ascribed to Tertullian ("Epistola de Cibis Judaicis," Leipsie, 1898, ed. G. Landgraf and C. Weyman, reprinted from "Archiv für Lateinische Lexicographie und Grammatik," xi.), is also directed against the Jewish dietary laws. Isidore of Seville has copied this work almost verbatim in his "Quæstiones in Leviticum," ix. Presumably also by Novatian, and thus of the fourth century, is the treatise "Adversus Judæos," often ascribed to Cyprian; this is, however, somewhat conciliatory in tone (Landgraf, in "Archiv," xi. 1897). In Tertullian's works there is also found a treatise, "Adversus Judæos," similar in many ways to Cyprian's "Testimonia," both having drawn upon the older work, "Altercatio Simonis Judæi et Theophili Christiani" (P. Corssen, Berlin, 1890); in the "Altercatio" the Jew is converted.

After Julian's death Ephraem composed four hymns: against Emperor Julian the Apostate, against heresies, and against the Jews (in "S. Ephraemi Syri Carmina Nisibena," ed. Bickell, Latin transl., Leipsic, 1866; and Overbeck, "S. Ephraemi Syri Aliorumque Opera Selecta," Syriac text, Oxford, 1865). Connected with these in time as well as in subject are the six sermons of John Chrysostom against the Jews ("Homilies," i.). In these he bitterly complains of the Christians for still clinging to Jewish customs, a circumstance mentioned by other Church Fathers as well. Jerome gives striking examples in his commentaries on Matt. xxiii. 5 and on Ezek. xxxiii., and more characteristic still are the following words of his: "The Jewish laws appear to the ignorant and the common people as the very ideals of wisdom and human reason" ("Epistola cxxi. ad Algasiam"). This attitude of the multitude was of course earnestly combated by the Church Fathers; thus an anonymous work mentioned by Photius ("Myriobiblion," ed. Migne, p. 390) is directed against the Jews and against those who, like the Jews, celebrated Easter on the 14th of Nisan. Epiphanius' celebrated work "Adversus Hæreses," as also his "Ancoratus," treats of the Jewish faith; regarding it only as a third religious system, to be reckoned alongside of Scythism and Hellenisin, while the only divine revelation is Christianity. The founder of Christian dogmatics, Augustine, in defiance of all dogmatic principles of classification, groups Jews, heathens, and Arians in one class ("Concio ad Catechumenos").

The points animadverted upon by the Church Fathers are manifold; they include such fundamental laws as those of the Sabbath, concerning the transfer of which to Sunday Justin already treats ("Dialogue," ch. 24)—a change which was opposed by Origen (compare Diestel, "Geschichte des Alten Testaments," p. 37), and which Origen (commentary on Rom. vi. 2) and Jerome ("Epistola cxxi. ad Algasiam") seek to prove to be impossible of observance ("Grätz Jubelschrift," p. 191). Circumcision, which is also violently assailed by Origen (see Diestel, "Gesch. des Alten Testaments," p. 37), the dietary laws, and many minor matters, such, for instance, as the washing of the hands, are made in turn to serve as subjects of polemical writing (Origen, commentary on Matt. xi. 8). Indeed, the Church Fathers even in the fourth century afford more information concerning the observance of the Levitical laws of purity than the rabbinical sources, Neubürger (in "Monatsschrift," 1873, p. 433) to the contrary notwithstanding.

Baseless Charges Against the Jews.

Jerome says ("Epistola cix. ad Riparium") that the Samaritans and the Jews considered not only the bodies of the dead as unclean, but also the utensils in the house containing a corpse. Probably in consequence of the Levitical laws of purification the Jews, as well as the Samaritans and heretics, avoided contact with the Christians, a fact of which Jerome bitterly but most unjustly complains (on Isa. lxv. 4). Equally preposterous is it when Justin accuses the Jews, even their rabbis and sages, of immorality ("Dialogus cum Tryphone," cxxxiv., cxli.). A characteristic polemical sentence of Tertullian may well be added in this connection: "We have everything in common, except our women; you have community only in that respect" (see Hefele, "Beiträge zur Kirchengesch." i. 16, Tübingen, 1864).

Perhaps more plausible, though often discussed and denied in more recent times, is the charge of the Church Fathers Justin, Origen, Epiphanius, andJerome that the Jews revile and curse Jesus—that is, Christianity—three times a day in their prayers ("Jewish Quarterly Review," v. 130, ix. 515; compare Wulfer, "Adnot. Theriaca Judaica," p. 305; Krauss, "Das Leben Jesu," p. 254, Berlin, 1902).

Dogmatic questions, of course, were the subject of controversy—never-ending questions on the abrogation of the Mosaic law, the person of the Messiah, etc. Yet there was some agreement between Christians and Jews in such matters as Antichrist (see Irenæus, passim; Hippolytus, "De Antichristo"; compare "Revue Etudes Juives," xxxviii. 28, and Bousset, "Der Antichrist," Göttingen, 1895), chiliasm (Ephraem Syrus on II Kings iv. 35; compare Sanh. 97a; 'Ab. Zarah 9a; and other Church Fathers), angelology, the Resurrection, etc.

Skill of Jews in Controversy.

The ability of the Jews to cope successfully with the Christians in these controversies is due to the fact that they were well versed in all the questions under discussion. Jerome assumes that in Scriptural questions every Jew is able to give satisfactory replies (Preface to Samuel). The Jews, moreover, were acquainted not only with the original text, but also with the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, Aquila's version, and in general with all works relating to Holy Writ. No sooner had Apollinaris Laodicinus' writings appeared than the Jews read and discussed them (Jerome on Eccl. v. 17).

Especially noteworthy is the fact that the Jews were as well versed in the New Testament as in the Old, being able to explain difficulties therein that puzzled even the officially appointed Christian teachers (idem on Isa. xi. 1). Ephraem Syrus asserts, curiously enough (Sermon xxv., in Zingerle, "Bibliothek der Kirchenväter," ii. 271), that the Jews admitted that John the Baptist really had appeared. Origen relates a Jewish tradition concerning Judas Iscariot (on Matt., Com. ser., § 78). Jerome is therefore to be believed when he says that the Jews were often in a position to applaud their own champions (on Ezek. xxxiii. 33), which they did in a sensational way (ib. xxxiv. 3). Chrysostom also taxes the Jews with their theatrical manner ("Opera," ed. Montfaucon, i. 656), and before him the just and cautious Justin says the same thing ("Dialogus cum Tryphone," cxxii.).

The Old Testament and the Apocrypha:

Christians and the Jewish Hellenists.

The main object of the Christian endeavor was to wrest the Old Testament from the Jews and to make of it a Christian weapon. Therefore, as Jerome says (on Micah vii. 9), the Jews were hoping that in the Messianic times the Law and the Prophets would be taken away from the Christians and given to the Jews exclusively (compare the polemic passage in Ex. R. xlvii.). To accomplish their purpose the Christians made use of the allegorical exegesis as developed by Philo and other Jewish Hellenists. The literal meaning, says Origen, is good enough only for the Jews, in order that nothing may be applied to Jesus. Only Isidor of Pelusium had sense enough to warn against applying the whole of the Old Testament to Jesus, lest the Jews and pagans find cause for ridicule (Epistles, i., ep. cvi.; ii., ep. cxcv.). Nevertheless the whole Christian Church fell into this exaggeration; and into what absurdities they were led is shown by the following examples: Sarah and Hagar, already explained allegorically by Paul (Gal. iv. 24), are, according to Clement ("Stromata," i. 5), wisdom and the world. The two women who appeared before Solomon symbolize the Synagogue and the Church; to the former belongs the dead child; to the latter, the living one, that is, the Jewish faith is dead; the Christian faith is living (Ephraem Syrus on I Kings iii. 6). These might pass; but it becomes mere childishness when David is made to signify old and worn-out Israel, but Abishag Jesus (on I Kings i. 1). Equally unnatural is the assertion of Fulgentius in his "Epistola Synodica" (in Hefele, "Conciliengesch," 2d ed., ii. 699), that Esau represents the "figura populi Judæorum," and Jacob the people destined to be saved. The Jews made things much more easy by looking upon themselves as Jacob, and upon the Christians as Esau or Edom. At disputations the Christians knew in advance how the Jews would interpret certain passages. "If we ask the Jews who that daughter is [Ps. xlv.], I do not doubt that they will answer: the synagogue" (Jerome, "Epistola xlii. ad Principiam"). The Jews therefore not only opposed the Christian exegesis with the literal sense, but also had ready allegorical interpretations of their own.

Only Tertullian and Irenæus were rational enough to follow the simple literal meaning. The so-called school of Antioch, whose most eminent representatives were Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret, also taught a wholly rational exegesis; although the disciples of this school, such as Cosmas Indicopleustes, used the allegorical and typical methods extensively (Barjean, "L'Ecole Exégétique d'Antioche," Paris, 1898). Still, it can not be denied that other Church Fathers, and above all Jerome, did excellent work in simple exegesis.

Corrupted Texts of the Bible.

Good exegesis depends upon a good text, and this the Christians did not possess; for the copies of the Bible circulating among them were corrupt in a number of passages. At a certain disputation between Jews and Christians, the former, naturally enough, referred to these mistakes, and mocked their opponents for allowing such obvious blunders. Jewish arguments of that kind are often quoted by Justin, Origen, Jerome, and other fathers. In order to free the Church from the just reproaches of the Jews on this score, Origen undertook his gigantic work, the Hexapla (Epiphanius, "De Ponderibus et Mensuris," ii.), in which he frequently restores the Jewish reading (e.g., homily on Num. xvi. 4; Com. on Rom., books ii., xiii.; compare Rufinus, "Apologia s. Invectiv. in Hieronymum," book v., chap. iv.). Justin is honest enough to reject a manifest Christological gloss, the notorious ἀπῗ8 τοῦξύλου, which was said to be the reading in Ps. xcvi. (xcv. 10), interpolated in the Greek version ("the Lord reigned from the wood"). Aside from Justin ("Dial. cum Tryphone," lxxiii.), this interpolation is found only in the Latin fathers—Tertullian, Ambrose, Augustine, Leo, and Gregory the Great—who indulge in much nonsense concerningthe words "a ligno." Augustine ("De Civitate Dei," xvi. 3) had a text in Gen. x. 2 in which not seven but eight sons of Japheth were mentioned, a reading that is found in none of the known texts. Hence the Jews rejected all translations, recognizing at most Aquila's "secunda editio," because this was correct (κατὰ U7+1F00κρίβειαν; Jerome on Ezek. iv. 15). Jerome is the only Church Father who, as against the Septuagint, constantly refers to the "Hebraica veritas." At great cost he had a Bible copied for himself by his Jewish friend ("Adversus Rufinum," book ii.), who borrowed for him, although with "pia fraus," the copies belonging to the synagogue ("Epistola xxxvi. ad Damasum"). Nevertheless, even Jerome accuses the Jews of tampering with the text of the Bible (Mal. ii. 2); and thereafter the accusation constantly recurs.

The Christians fared no better with the Apocrypha, which they rated altogether too high, although these at times offended good taste. Origen fared badly at the hands of the Jews with his apocryphon Susanna ("Epistola ad Africanum de Historia Susannæ," v.) nor was Jerome's obscene legend to Jer. xxix. 21—a legend which is evidently connected with this apocryphon (see N. Brüll's "Jahrbücher," iii. 2), favorably received by the Jews. Jerome (on Matt. xxvii. 9) claims to have received an apocryphon on Jeremiah from a Jewish Nazarite, and to have found in a Hebrew book ("Epistola xxxvi. ad Damasum," "in quodam Hebræo volumine") a history of Lamech; but his Jewish teacher speaks contemptuously of the additions to Daniel, as having been written by some Greek (Preface to Daniel). See Bible Canons.

The importance of the Church Fathers for Jewish learning, already recognized by David Ḳimḥi and Azariah dei Rossi, becomes evident, if one considers that many sentences of Talmud and Midrash can be brought into the right perspective only by the light of the exegesis and the polemics of these Christian writers. Therefore modern Jewish learning turns, although not yet with sufficient eagerness, to the investigation of the works of the Church Fathers.


M. Rahmer, Die Hebräischen Traditionen in den Werken des Hieronymos, i.: Quœstiones in Genesin, Breslau, 1861; idem, Die Hebräischen Traditionen in dem Bibelcommentar des Hieronymos, in Ben Chananja, 1864, vii.; idem, Die Hebräischen Traditionen des Hieronymos, in Frankel's Monatsschrift, 1865, 1866, 1867, 1868; in the Grätz Jubelschrift, 1887; in Monatsschrift, 1897, pp. 625-639, 691-692; 1898, pp. 1-16; S. Krauss, Die Juden in den Werken des Heiligen Hieronymos, in Magyár Zsidó Szémle, vii., 1890; Grätz, Haggadische Elemente bei den Kirchenvätern, in Monatsschrift, 1854, iii.; Goldfahn, Justin Martyr und die Agada, ib. 1873, xxvii., and reprinted; Gerson, Die Commentarien des Ephraem Syrus im Ihrem Verhältniss zur Jüdischen Exegese, Breslau, 1868; Grünwald, Das Verhältniss der Kirchenväter zur Talmudischen und Midraschischen Literatur, in Königsberger's Monatsblätter, and reprinted, Jung-Bunzlau, 1891; S. Funk, Die Haggadischen Elemente in den Homilien des Aphraates, des Persischen Weisen, Vienna, 1891; S. Krauss, The Jews in the Works of the Church Fathers, in Jewish Quarterly Review, 1892, v. 122-157; 1893, vi. 82-99, 225-261. A very thorough investigation is the treatise of L. Ginzberg, Die Haggada bei den Kirchenvätern und in der Apokryphischen Litteratur, in Monatsschrift, 1898, xlii. et seq., and reprinted, Berlin, 1900; idem, Die Haggada bei den Kirchenvätern, vol. i., Amsterdam, 1809.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.


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