The Patristic Period

I read something inaccurate today: The patristic period (AD 95–750) is the time of the fathers of the church, when the exegesis of Scripture texts was in its primitive formation. This period spans from Clement of Rome to John of Damascus, embracing seven centuries of biblical interpretation, from the end of the New Testament to the mid-eighth century, including the Venerable Bede. This reminded me of a similar timeframe given for the Church Fathers in the Introduction to the edition of St. John of Damascus’ The Fount of Knowledge in the Catholic University of America Press’ The Fathers of the Church series (volume 37). In there we are told “The Fount of Knowledge is one of the most important single works produced in the Greek patristic period, of which it marks the end . . . And it is the last work of any theological importance to appear in the East.”

For Roman Catholics, this position, of course, must be held to counter the Orthodox theology of St. Gregory Palamas, who is, of course, a Church Father. So, in the Orthodox Church, the patristic period at the very least is AD 95-1359. But then what about Elder Joseph the Hesychast? Ok, so then AD 95-1959. But then what about St. John of Shanghai? Ok, so then AD 95-1966. But what about Elder Ephraim, who is still alive and whose spiritual father is Elder Joseph? Ok, so the AD 95-2019. I think the point is clear: the patristic period has never ended for Orthodox Christians. Orthodox Christianity isn’t a “museum Faith,” it is vibrant with the uncreated energies of God.

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