When it comes to books on the Early Church Fathers there seems to be an increasing wealth of good books on the subject. One of my favorite books in this area is Rod Bennett’s “Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words”. The reason I so loved this book is that Rod Bennett is a natural storyteller along with being a good historical researcher. His writing not only brought these men alive, but the historical era as well.
So I was delighted to find another book on the Church Fathers that was as readable as “Four Witnesses” because of storytelling and grasp of the history. This book is Marcellino D’Ambrosio’s “When the Church Was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers.” This book covers the period from Saint Ignatius of Antioch to St. Gregory the Great. The actual category as to the time period of early Church Fathers is rather loosely defined and subjective as the the end of it. Marcellino D’Ambrosio offers a good definition. “The Church Fathers are those great Christian writers who passed on and clarified the teaching of the apostles from approximately the second through eight centuries.” This definition makes more sense when you think of early ecclesiastical writers such as Origen and Tertullian as it does not rely on the writer’s sanctity or full orthodoxy.
I am generally read in this era of history and so the stories of the men contained were not unfamiliar to me. Still I learned a lot along with history being put into further context. This book is much more than a historical litany of facts. The presentation brought to me a larger view and helped me integrate the information I already knew with the wealth of stories regarding these men. Plus while this book contains a good sample of their writings, it makes you want to go to the sources to read more. This was totally an engaging read that will not just pass out of my memory in a fog of facts. When I compared this to Rod Bennett’s book I consider that high praise indeed and these two books together certainly have my recommendation.