The early days of Christianity are perhaps the most influential and misunderstood periods in Church history. It is definitely a period that deserves your time and study. Thankfully there are a few books on the market to aid with your research. The Fathers Know Best :Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church by Jimmy Akin is one of those and it is a solid resource on the thought of the Church Fathers.
This book is packed full of information in its 452 pages. From the introduction: “This is a handbook to help you learn about the role of the Church Fathers, the world in which they lived, who they were, and what they taught on various subjects. It is divided into two main parts. Part One provides background on the Fathers, and Part Two provides excerpts from their writings, arranged by topic.”
Following the introduction the next section consist of maps. These include Rome, Turkey and Syria, Italy, Greece, France, Spain and North Africa. Each of the maps shows the major cities that many Church Fathers were from. Also with each map is a brief description of how Christianity worked it’s way to that specific region. Part One closes out with “Know your……” sections. Know Your Fathers “provides short biographies of the various Church Fathers and ecclesiastical writers who are quoted in this work.” Know Your Councils “provides short descriptions of the various councils and synod quoted in this work.” Know Your Writings “offers short descriptions of additional writings…either by an unknown author or they do not have a single author, such as with the creeds.” Lastly, Know Your Heresies “offers brief descriptions of the various heresies and schism that were active during the period of the Church Fathers.”
The real meat of this book is second part. Covering a wide variety of topics it encompasses 300 plus pages of the book. It’s very conveniently laid out for research use. Want to know what the Church Fathers wrote on the trinity…flip to that section and find out what St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Hippolytus of Rome, Tertullian of Carthage, and St. Methodist of Philippi have to say. The Canon of Scripture includes the thought of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, St. Cyprian of Carthage, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine of Hippo. Interested in women priests? Than St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Firmilian of Caesarea, and St. John Chrysostum have the answers you need. The information doesn’t stop there. The permanence of marriage, private revelation, reward and merit, purgatory, the antichrist and many, many more topics are covered.
Jimmy Akin has done the hard work so we can have a tool rich in value. The topical layout of the book makes it a great resource for study and writing. The thought of the Church Fathers is as valuable today as it was in their time. This book makes it much easier to go directly to them for the answers you want and need. This is a book I highly recommend for every Catholic’s bookshelf.
I received a copy of the book for this review from Catholic Answers.