This book, by an American Jesuit priest who completed doctoral studies under Jean Danielou at Paris, serves to present some of the highlights of the era of the fathers of the church - a period which begins with post-New Testament Christian writing and extends to about the end of the seventh century A.D. It is a survey of the era and an introduction to the context of the times in which the fathers thought and wrote and fought (not always without bloodshed) for the faith and way of life which was coming to be called "Christian." In Father Barr's summary we feel the pulsing ebb and flow of the early history of Christianity, the history of the first impacts of the extraordinary gospel message, the "good news," as it becomes embodied in and expressed by bishops and theologians through the critical early centuries.
These far-away figures - men like Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Athanasius - take on familiar human form as the author sketches them in their milieu, showing them acting and reacting amid the various complex forces of their era. Cyprian of Carthage, puzzling over what to do with the apostate "certificate bearers"; Justin and Origen (in their fiery youth), Nestorius and his nemesis, Cyril of Alexandria (in their fiery prime); Augustine in the West and the golden age fathers in the East. These and other figures emerge as vigorous and sometimes colorful personalities in this lively mosaic of early Christian times.
Robert R. Barr, S.J.
Robert Barr, S.J., completed work on a doctorate in patristic theology at the Institut Catholique in Paris. He has authored a wide range of articles in various American and European scholarly reviews; included among these are studies on the saving significance of Christ's resurrection, on Russian ecclesiology, and on St. Augustine's 'City of God'.