Welcome to my website! If you are interestend in what the first Christians after the New Testament times had to say, this website might be useful. Here you can read many of their writings and search them for Scripture references or words.
Why are the Early Christians important?
My struggle with the segmentation of today’s Church and the multitude of theological beliefs almost made me doubt the origins of Christianity and the New Testament itself. If the Apostles passed on a well defined faith, it must have been well preserved in the Early Church. If no universal faith can be found from the beginning, what we define as the true doctrines is basically a matter of preference and religious imprint. A universally taught doctrine cannot get universally replaced by an erroneous one in just a few decades, surely not in times of slow communication. Even today we see many churches preserving doctrines for centuries almost without change.
So naturally I wanted to find out more about the first Christians after the New Testament. By Early Christians I refer to professing Christians roughly until the fourth centry. The fourth century marked a change in some respects because Christianity transformed from a persecuted religion to the official religion of the Roman Empire. I was very surprised to find out that a great amount of writings from that period is extant today, covering many theological questions that are still debated today, valuable spiritual insights and clear teachings on many important life style issues.
The Early Christian writings should not be regarded as inspired or infallible. However, they bear great weight in our understanding of the Bible for several reasons:
- They document the faith orally passed down by the Apostles. By their contradicting or harmonizing with each other we can see for ourselves if their understanding on any scriptural subject was universal or gradually invented by influential teachers.
- Apart from their universal agreement, any testimonies should bear special weight if the author was closely related to the Apostles themselves. We have a few extant writings from personal deciples of the Apostles plus many more writings whos authors were just one or two links away from the Apostles. Additionaly we can find some snippets of oral tradition - meaning orally passed down teachings of Jesus or the Apostles - which are not found in the Bible. These should be examined carefully, but can enrich our understanding of the Bible.
- If we don't trust the Early Christian writers, we should be alarmed that it was them who compiled the New Testament Canon. God's providence surely guided the process, but how likely is it that He used heretics for this critical task?
- They lived in a much closer time and culture to the New Testament, many of them spoke Koine Greek as their mother tongue. Their linguistical understanding should bear considerable weight compared to any scholar living more than a millenium later. Additionally their Scripture quotations give valuable insight into text corruptions of later manuscripts, because often times they are older than most extant Scripture manuscripts themselves.
Learning about the Early Christian doctrines truly changed my faith because they provided answers which I didn't find with the same clarity elsewhere. Some of their univeral teaching are considered unorthodox or heretical by many modern denomination. But I invite you to find out for yourself if what they believed really is what the Bible teaches or not.
There are many early Christian writings openly available, in particular the collection The Ante-Nicene Fathers [Wikipedia]. This great work was digitalized by the Christian Classic Ethereal Library. This website here is built on their texts, therefore you will find links to their website at several places.
Note that I created it as a personal side project. If you encounter any issues, don't hesitate to write me an Email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope that this website will be a blessing to you as these writings were a blessing for me.
God bless you- Richard
Whilst many writings represent orthodox Christianity, some are clearly forgeries and others are universally rejected as heresy. To make things a bit easier, you will find icons to give a simplified classification. Note that I am not a scholar and I haven't even read most writings myself. However, I have tried to follow the editor's assessments best as I could. The meaning of the icons is this:
Commentary by one of the original editors like introductions, not actually early christian text.
This work is usually regarded as genuine. It does, however, not necessarily mean that the author presents universally held opinions.
Genuinity is very debatable, you should judge for yourself.
There is evidence or high probability that these works are forgeries or they are counted as universally rejected heresies. In case of doubt always do your own research.
This section is recommended as especially valuable or interesting, either in my own opinion or in someone's whose opinion I value.
Received recommendations by the community - that is, readers like you - through the Recommend button at the bottom of the reader. While I truly appreciate your recommendations, let me say: 1. Changes in the rating system can happen in future. Please don't be frustrated if your recommendations should get lost at some point. Though I try to preserve everything, data loss or incompatibility to future updates can happen. 2. Please do not recommend any caption more than once. Though there is a basic mechanism to prevent you from doing that (by storing part of your IP address), I can not effectively stop it.
July 2022After trying a few more, I found another text search engine that seems to work well enough. You can now filter by author or volume if you want to find something more specific. I left the old text search available if something should not work again.
Correction May 2022Unfortunately this search engine kept crashing so I switched back to the old one. I apologize that the last update caused a lot of troubles and server downtime. I'm still working on a new search engine.
Update May 2022The Ante-Nicene-Fathers set is a huge work and it would probably take years to read through all of it. One primary goal of this website is to help you find the writings you are most interested in without reading everything. In this update I have added a few more features which I hope you might find helpful at some point.
- New text search engine. Previous results have been poor at times, especially when words like "is", "of" etc. were included. The new engine weighs words by their uniqueness and provides more advanced search options. It will also preview a significant section of the chapter in the result list if you hover your mouse or tap on a line.
- Similar chapters. A new button at the bottom of the reader shows chapters that are most similar in vocabulary. This was calculated by means of modern text analysis tools: all texts are compared with each other, all very common words are filtered out and the remaining are changed into their base form. The more frequently a word appears among the whole Ante-Nicene-Fathers series, the less weight it gets. Afterwards the frequencies of all words for both compared texts are counted and a similarity is calculated.
- Go to Page or Footnote. References to page or footnote numbers in the ANF are now easy to find from the More Search page.
- Layout for printing a chapter to paper (from your browser) has been reduced to the necessary elements.
Update April 2022
- Added Scripture references to deuterocanonical books
- minor corrections and design changes
Update November 2021This update involved a great amount of work and will hopefully bring a better overview of the Early Christian Writings. The new fetures are:
- New Writings Overview
- Fixed many missing texts and footnotes and other text errors
- Classified all writings as genuine, uncertain or spurious. Distinguished editor's comments.
- Added option to exlude editor's annotations or spurious writings from Scripture Reference Search or Text Search
- Search results now show author and writing name instead of just author name
- Added personally recommended readings
- Added function to anonymously recommend authors, books or chapters for yourself. The number of recommendations will be seen by everyone
- Added Report Error button to inform me more easily if you encounter any error
- Changes in website appearance