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The Church Fathers or Fathers of the Church are the early and influential theologians and writers in the Christian Church, particularly those of the first five centuries of Christian history. The term is used of writers and teachers of the Church, not necessarily saints. It is generally not meant to include the New Testament authors, though in the early Church some writing of Church Fathers were considered canonical.

Those fathers who wrote in Latin are called the Latin (Church) Fathers, and those who wrote in Greek the Greek (Church) Fathers. Famous Latin Fathers include the Montanist Tertullian, St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Ambrose of Milan, and St. Jerome; famous Greek Fathers include St. Irenaeus of Lyons (whose work has survived only in Latin translation), Clement of Alexandria, the heterodox Origen, St. Athanasius of Alexandria, St. John Chrysostom, and the Three Cappadocian Fathers.

The very earliest Church Fathers, of the first two generations after the Apostles of Christ, are usually called the Apostolic Fathers. Famous Apostolic Fathers include Pope St. Clement of Rome, the author of the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermas.

Later, in in face of criticism from Greek philosophers and facing perseuction, the Apologetic Fathers wrote to justify and defend Christian doctrine. Important Fathers of this era are St. Justin Martyr, Tatian, Athenagoras, Hermias and Tertullian.

Fathers prior to Nicene Christianity are collected in Ante-Nicene Fathers, those after are in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.

The Desert Fathers were early monastics living in the Egyptian desert; although they did not write as much, their influence was also great. Among them are St. Anthony the Great and St. Pachomius. A great number of their usually short sayings is collected in the Apophthegmata Patrum.

A small number of Church Fathers wrote in other languages: Saint Ephrem, for example, wrote in Syriac, though his works were widely translated into Latin and Greek.

In the Roman Catholic Church, St. John of Damascus, who lived in the 8th century, is generally considered to be the last of the Church Fathers and at the same time the first seed of the next period of church writers, scholasticism. St. Bernard is also at times called the last of the Church Fathers.

The Eastern Orthodox Church does not consider the age of Church Fathers to be over at all and includes later influential writers in the term.

The study of the Fathers is known as Patristics.

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