Timeline of the Early Church Fathers

8-10 minutes

Table of The Early Church Fathers & Others

The Table

This is a table of the documents and church fathers I mention in the podcast, and some other notable worthies. The dates cited are the broadest accepted by scholars who, needless to say, often differ. I also have a nice chart for you.

Person or Event



Apostolic Fathers, those whom tradition says knew the apostles

1 Clement 65?–100 Anonymous. Clement was held to be a “Bishop” of Rome, and the author of several letters, which assert apostolic succession. A few scholars hold it was written as early as 65.
Author of the Didache 80–120 Anonymous. Book of church order, that almost made it into the New Testament.
Ignatius 85?–115 or 105-140 “Bishop” of Antioch. Student of the apostle John and friend of Polycarp. Author of seven letters, about which there is much dispute. Advocate of episcopal supremacy. Creates the cult of martyrs, and coins the term “catholic”.
Papias 95–120 or 110–140 “Bishop” of Hierapolis. Student of John and companion to Polycarp. Only known by quotations in later Fathers, who held him in low esteem.
Author of the Shepherd of Hermas 100–160 Anonymous. Much loved allegory that many thought should be in the New Testament. Hermas was variously associated with Paul, or “bishops” Clement or Pius of Rome.
Polycarp 100–155/165 “Bishop” of Smyrna. Student of John and companion to Papias. Reluctant martyr.
Cerinthus 100 Early Gnostic. Supposed opponent of the evangelist John.

2nd Century

Basilides 120–140 Early Gnostic.
Author of the Epistle of Barnabas 125-135 Anonymous. Attributed to a companion of Paul. Almost made it into the New Testament.
Valentinus 135–165 Early Gnostic.
Marcion 140–160 First to compile a canon for the NT. Marcion broke from mainstream Christianity when the Roman Jesus club rejected his proposed canon. He constructed his own canon, consisting of an abridged version of Luke, and some of Paul’s letters. His organisation vexed the other Jesus clubs for centuries.
Montanus 140?–210 Very uncertain dating. Created a schismatic, ascetic, and prophetic following that flourished in Asia Minor for centuries.
Justin Martyr 150–165 Prolific apologist and exegete, the most important thinker between Paul and Origen.
Melito 150–180 Bishop of Sardis. First Christian to refer to the Jewish scriptures as the OT.
Irenaeus 150–200 Bishop of Lyon. Knew Polycarp as a boy. Author of the massive work Against the Heretics, which provides us with invaluable information about earliest Christianity.
Tatian 160–185 Compiler of the Diatessaron, a synthesis of the four gospels.
Clement of Alexandria 180–215 First great intellectual and theologian of Christianity. Transitional figure to the more sophisticated authors of later centuries. Founded the first Christian academy at Alexandria. My have known Tatian.

3rd Century

Origen 200–250 First Christian Bible scholar. Compiled the Hexapla, a critical edition of the Old Testament. Possibly the most prolific writer of antiquity, writing over 2,000 treatises. Much later condemned as a heretic.
Tertullian 200–240 First Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. Later converted to Montanism, which tarnished his legacy in orthodox opinion.
Cyprian of Carthage 245–260 Pre-eminent Latin writer of Western Christianity until Jerome and Augustine. Much influenced by Tertullian.

4th Century

Edict of Toleration 313 Christianity legalised.
Eusebius 310–340 Bishop of the old Roman capital of Judea, Caesarea Maritima. Important Church historian. His works are often the sole source we have for earlier church fathers.
Council of Nicaea 325 Basic creed of Christianity established.
Athanasius 330–375 Controversial Patriarch of Alexandria. First to define the canon of New Testament exactly as we have it.
Ambrose 375–395

Bishop of Milan. Major influence on church-state relations through the Middle Ages.

Edict of Thessalonica 380 Christianity made the state religion.

5th Century

Jerome 380–420 Compiler of the Latin Vulgate, a translation of the Bible into Latin that was used by the western Church for centuries. Correspondent of Augustine.
Augustine 390–430 Bishop of Hippo. Most influential theologian of all the Fathers in the West.
John Chrysostom 390–407

Patriarch of Constantinople. Greatest preacher of the Fathers.

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