Patristic Study focuses almost exclusively on the Fathers of the first five Centuries. After reviewing these writers, Dr. Swete proceeds in the closing chapters to suggest methods of employing the work of the Fathers for the particular purposes of those in different lines of religious and theological study. Also included is a useful bibliography of Patristics.
The aim of Patristic Study is to draw the attention of the reader to the vast store of wisdom to be found in the writings of the Fathers of the ancient church. Monuments of Christian thought in the first generations of the Church’s life, the writings of the Fathers are still of perennial interest and importance. As Henry Barclay Swete stated, “The Fathers, in the stricter sense of the term, are the great champions of orthodox belief.”
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“An adequate knowledge of the Fathers is an excellent corrective to partial views of truth, rebuking the disposition to substitute a narrower Christianity for ‘the faith once delivered to the saints.’” (Page 4)
“Three of these writers have a special claim to be regarded as apostolici viri. Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, were not only younger contemporaries and perhaps personal disciples of apostles,1 but bishops of churches in which the apostolic tradition was still fresh.” (Pages 11–12)
“A strongly supported tradition of the second century represents him as Bishop of the Roman Church, second in succession after St. Peter and St. Paul.” (Page 12)
“Patristic studies demand a place in the reading of the clergy next after that of the New Testament” (Page 2)
“In England the Reformation rested largely on an appeal to Christian antiquity. Thus the preface to the first Prayer-book of Edward VI. testifies to Cranmer’s desire to produce an order of service ‘agreeable to the mind and purpose of the old Fathers.” (Page 3)
A contemporary assessment of Patristic Study from The Sewanee Review Quarterly had this to say:
[Patristic Study] is a useful introduction to the study of the Fathers of the Church, and, while intended primarily for the use of clergymen of the Anglican communion, is likely to prove helpful to many others to whom the early Christian literature is a matter of interest.
Henry Barclay Swete (1835–1917) was an Anglican clergyman and noted biblical scholar who published works on the Old and New Testaments, as well as on Christian doctrine. He was ordained in 1838 and became a theological lecturer and tutor at Caius College in 1869. He then served as professor of pastoral theology at King’s College, London, and later became regius professor of divinity at Cambridge in 1890. He received an honorary doctorate of divinity from the University of Glasgow in 1901.