Post-Apostolic Church Leaders – 1st through 5th Centuries (Clement through Augustine)

I have not tried to include in this list every church father from the Patristic period.  My focus is to understand the process by which the New Testament canon was formed.  Therefore, while the list does include most major church leaders of the Patristic age, it focuses on leaders who have something to say about the NT canon.  This means I have included even leading figures who led the wrong way, such as Marcion.

The names are listed in approximated chronological order.  Beyond identifying the individual, my notations have mainly to do with what the individual had to do with the NT canon.

Clement of Rome (d. 99)  –  Second or third bishop of Rome.  Disciple of the apostle Peter.  Died as a martyr.

Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 or 50 – 98 to 117)  –  Third bishop of Antioch.  Disciple of the apostle John.  Died as a martyr.

Polycarp (69-155)  –  Bishop of Smyrna.  Disciple of the apostle John.  Died in his mid-80’s as a martyr in Smyrna.

Papias (70-160) –  Bishop of Hierapolis.  Described by Irenaeus as a hearer of John, and companion of Polycarp.  He is said to have known the daughters of Philip (Acts 8) and many elders who had heard the Twelve.

Justin Martyr (100-163)  –  Apologist.  Per Allert (p. 112), “In his extant writings Justin refers to the “Memoirs” or the “Memoirs of the Apostles” a total of fifteen times (1 Apology 65.3; 67.3; Dialogue with Trypho 100.4; 101.3; 102.5; 103.6, 8; 104.1; 105.1, 5, 6; 106.1, 3, 4; 107.1).  He wrote in Rome and died as a martyr there.

Marcion (100-165)  –  Son of the bishop of Sinope in Pontus.  “If by ‘canon’ we mean a closed set of books, so that it is known precisely which books are included and which not, then Marcion (c. 140 AD) must be credited as the compiler of the first NT canon.”  (F. F. Bruce, 1974)  However, “Marcion’s Canon does not mark the first attempt to draw up a Christian list…” (Bruce, 1954).  Even if Marcion’s is the earliest list we have, it would only mean it is the earliest extant list.  We cannot say definitely that no canonical lists or collections existed before it.  On the contrary, we have good reason to believe that collections of the fourfold Gospel and Paul’s letters preceded Marcion.  In fact, “Gnostic texts discovered near Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt around 1945 make it probable that Marcion made his choices from a group of documents which had already attained something like canonical recognition.” (Bruce, 1974)

Melito of Sardis (d. 180)  –  Bishop of Sardis.  Compiled the earliest known Christian canon of the Old Testament and the earliest use of the term “Old Testament” (i.e. “Old Covenant”), for which see Eusebius (HE 4.26).  Per Trobisch 2012, Melito was thus implying common knowledge of a “New Testament” collection of writings.  For additional early references to the “New Testament” as a collection of writings, see notations below on Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen.

Hegesippus (c. 110 – c. 180)  –  Christian chronicler of the early Church who may have been a Jewish convert per Eusebius.

Tatian (110-180)  –  Assyrian writer and theologian.  Disciple of Justin Martyr in Rome.  Wrote a harmony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John called the Diatessaron (“out of four,” c. 160-175), which became the standard text of the four gospels in the Syriac-speaking churches until the 5th-century, when it gave way to the four separate gospels in the Peshitta version.

Theophilus of Antioch (d. 180-183)  –  The sixth bishop of Antioch, per Eusebius (HE 4.20.1).  In his writings he demonstrates familiarity with “at least three of the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Pauline Epistles, and possibly the Apocalypse” (per Metzger, p. 118).  In Ad Autolycum 3.12, Theophilus wrote, “Concerning the justice of which the law spoke, the teaching of the prophets and the gospel is consistent with it because all the inspired men made utterances by means of the one Spirit of God,” to which John Barton adds, “Thus the New Testament writers are not to be distinguished from those of the Old; both equally speak by the divine Spirit.” (HWST, p. 25)

Irenaeus (130/150-202)  –  Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (now Lyon, France).  Disciple of Polycarp; discipled Hippolytus.  Per Trobisch below, Irenaeus (along with Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen not long after him) “refers to the NT as a collection, indicating its wide circulation [at the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd century CE].”

Serapion (d. 211)  –  Bishop of Antioch.  Eusebius reports (EH 6.12) that Serapion ultimately rejected the Gospel of Peter, saying “We, my brothers, receive Peter and all the apostles as we receive Christ, but the writings falsely attributed to them we are experienced enough to reject, knowing nothing of the sort has been handed down to us.”

Clement of Alexandria (150-215)  –  Theologian and teacher.  Per Trobisch below, Clement of Alexandria (along with Irenaeus before him, and Tertullian and Origen not long after him) “refers to the NT as a collection, indicating its wide circulation [at the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd century CE].”

Tertullian (160-220)  –  Author, apologist, and polemicist against heresy from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa.  Called “the father of Latin Christianity” and “the founder of Western theology.”  Per Trobisch below, Tertullian (along with Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria before him, and Origen not long after him) “refers to the NT as a collection, indicating its wide circulation [at the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd century CE].”  In his Prescription Against Heretics 36, Tertullian wrote, “…the law and the prophets she unites in one volume with the writings of evangelists and apostles, from which she drinks in her faith.”

Hippolytus (165/170-236)  –  Theologian from Rome.  Elected for a time as a rival bishop of Rome.  Disciple of Irenaeus.  His major work was Refutation of All Heresies, which in part was based on Against Heresies which was composed by his teacher Irenaeus.

Origen (185-254)  –  Scholar and theologian from Alexandria.  Per Trobisch below, Tertullian (along with Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian before him) “refers to the NT as a collection, indicating its wide circulation [at the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd century CE].”

Cyprian (200-258)  –  Bishop of Carthage.

Novatian (200-258)  –  A scholar, priest, theologian, and antipope.  Per Wolfram Kinzig, he used diatheke (testamentum) as a book title in Rome as Clement and Origen had done in Alexandria and Tertullian had done in North Africa, thus confirming the widespread usage of “New Testament” as the title for a collection of writings.

Pamphilus (d. 309)  –  A scholar and presbyter of Caesaria.  He learned from the works of Origen; and personally taught Eusebius.

Eusebius (264-340)  –  Bishop of Caesaria (in Palestine).  Called “Father of Church History.”  Learned from, and revered, Pamphilus.

Constantine (272-337)  –  Made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire.

Hilary of Poiters (300-368)  –  Bishop of Poiters (France).

Athanasius (296-373)  –  Archbishop of Alexandria (20th bishop of that city).

Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386)  –  Archbishop of Jerusalem.

Basil the Great (330-379)  –  Also called Basil of Caesaria (i.e. Caesaria Mazaca in Cappadocia), of which he was bishop.  Known as one of the “Cappadocian Fathers” (along with Gregory of Nyssa, his brother, and Gregory of Nazianzus).

Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390)  –  Archbishop of Constantinople.  Known as one of the “Cappadocian Fathers” (along with the brothers Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa).

Gregory of Nyssa (335-395)  –  Bishop of Nyssa (in Cappadocia).  Known as one of the “Cappadocian Fathers” (along with Basil the Great, his brother, and Gregory of Nazianzus).

Ambrose (340-397)  –  Bishop of Milan at the time of Augustine’s conversion (and an influence on Augustine).

John Chrysostom (347-407)  –  Archbishop of Constantinople.

Jerome (340/342-420)  –   An Illyrian Latin Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian.  Best known for his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate).

Augustine (354-430)  –  Bishop of Hippo Regius (modern-day Annaba, Algeria).

Cyril of Alexandria (376-444)  –  He was the Patriarch of Alexandria from 412 to 444, when the city was at the height of its influence and power in the Roman Empire.

Vincent of Lerins (d. 445)  – An ecclesiastical writer in southern Gaul whose most well-known work is Commonitorium (written under the pseudenym of “Peregrinus” in 434).  “Vincent’s object in the Commonitory is to provide himself, as he states, with a general rule whereby to distinguish Catholic truth from heresy; and he commits what he has learnt, he adds, to writing, that he may have it by him for reference as a Commonitory, or Remembrancer, to refresh his memory.” (Wikipedia)


I began the list above with the 17 names (and associated dates) listed in “Significant Leaders of the Early Church” (Appendix 2, p. 250, The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text, and Canon, 2nd ed., 2011, by Arthur G. Patzia.), and then supplemented them with other significant names from this period culled from sources listed in Annotated Bibliography on New Testament Text and Canon (particularly Allert, Barton, Bruce 1954 and 1974, Eusebius, Kinzig, Metzger, Trobisch 2012, and Wallace).


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