Monday, August 18, 2014

When the Church Was Young (Servant Books)

When the Church was Young is a book about the Early Church Fathers and the latest book from Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, also known as Dr. Italy. The book covers more than 500 years; both Eastern and Western Fathers; and men from Asia, Africa, and Europe. Some of the big names in this book are St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great, St. Jerome, and St. John Chrysostom. However, there are many other names in this book including St. Basil, Terutillian, and St. Cyprian.

Dr. D'Ambrosio begins the book by trying to determine which Church Fathers to include in his book. It is definitely a tough list to trim and one that many people have had to wrestle with. He decided on the definition of "great Christian writers who passed on and clarified the teaching of the apostles from the second through eighth centuries." He then divides them into four periods - 1. Apostolic Fathers (50-150 A.D.), 2. Apologists (150-325 A.D.), 3. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (4th and 5th Centuries), 4. 6th through 8th Centuries (didn't see a name for this period).

We then take a chronological adventure through the Fathers starting with St. Clement of Rome and ending with St. Gregory the Great. The chapter which I really enjoyed was the one on Origen. The chapter begins by telling us about the piety of Origen's father Leonidas. In the middle of the night, Leonidas was taken away to be martyred. We learn about Origen's brilliant mind, him taking over the School of Alexandria, his many writings, his composition of the Hexapla (six Bible translations side-by-side). Unfortunately, we also learn that all his teachings weren't orthodox. He believed in ideas such as pre-existence of the soul and salvation for all. Of course these were wrong, but at his time, many of these doctrines weren't defined yet. It is because of these beliefs that many of his works were destroyed after his death, and it is also the reason that he is not a saint, which is a shame in my opinion.

At 26 chapters and 300+ pages, you can either breeze through this book or you can take a chapter a day and spend a whole month immersing yourself in the early Church. I did the former, due to my knowledge of the Fathers, but if you are unfamiliar with Patristics, then you will want to take your time with this book. It is a top-notch introduction to the Early Church Fathers and one that I would heartily recommend alongside other books on the Fathers, like those by Mike Aquilina. I hope Dr. D'Ambrosio keeps writing about the Fathers and chooses to write about Fathers from different eras, perhaps Desert Fathers, or just goes more in-depth on these Fathers. I feel like he has a wealth of information to share with us, and we have only seen the tip of the iceberg.

This book was provided to me for free by Franciscan Media in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!