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An old clay oil lamp from Nazareth, Israel.  Photo credit: Olivia Armstrong. 

NHI Resources on Medical Substitutionary Atonement in the Early Church


Big Questions About God:  Comparing the Earliest Christian Theology with High Federal Calvinist Theology, and Why It Matters

A workbook, with quotes and questions for discussion


Jesus Shared in Our Fallen Human Nature, That We Might Share in His Healed Human Nature

A short devotional on the Gospel of Matthew 1:18 - 25 using quotes from early church sources


C.S. Lewis' Theology of Atonement

An essay exploring Lewis' atonement theology ("medical substitution") and dependence on Irenaeus and Athanasius, submitted originally as a final paper to Dr. Gary Deddo for his class, The Theological Thought of C.S. Lewis


Penal Substitution vs. Medical Substitution: A Historical Comparison 

An analysis of the atonement theology ("medical substitution") of early church theologians, including Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, the Odes of Solomon, Justin Martyr of Rome, Melito of Sardis, Tertullian of Carthage, Methodius of Olympus, Athanasius of Alexandria (paper in progress to include later theologians, bishops, and councils)


The Council of Nicaea, the Origin of "the Trinity," and the Limitations of Human Language 

on the linguistic, theological dimension


The Council of Nicaea, the Origin of "the Trinity," and the Role of Political Power 

on the political history behind Nicaea

Other Resources on Medical Substitutionary Atonement in the Early Church


Jonathan Burke, Participatory Atonement 

(Christian Studies website) and his paper, The Atonement in Historical Review (Academia)


Robert D. Culver, The Doctrine of Atonement Before Anselm 

(Patrick Henry College) incorrectly argues that satisfaction theory was present in the patristics, and that Anselm's satisfaction theory was correct; notice the very selective use of quotations.  See also

Michael J. Vlach, Penal Substitution in Church History 

(The Master's Seminary Journal, Fall 2009) who also incorrectly argues for penal substitution in the patristics; notice again the very selective use of quotations


Encyclopedia Britannica, Patristic Literature (website)


Alvin Rapien, Interviewing Ikons: Ben Myers (The Poor in Spirit blog, Oct 15, 2015) Dr. Myers, Lecturer in Systematic Theology at United Theological College (Australia) gives a short and sweet description of patristic theology on Christ, atonement, and hell.  See also Ben Myers, Atonement - Jesus' Death (Youtube video, Sep 30, 2015) on Athanasius' understanding


Benjamin Myers, The Patristic Atonement Model (pdf file), a chapter from Oliver D. Crisp and Fred Sanders, editors, Locating Atonement: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics (Amazon book, Nov 11, 2015)


Dania Rodrigues, The Ancient Greeks Sacrificed Ugly People (Atlas Obscura, Oct 30, 2015) part of the cultural backdrop which Christians rejected


Tim Barnett, Did the Council of Nicea Invent the Deity of Christ? (Stand to Reason, Nov 18, 2016)


Brad Jersak, What "Christ Died for Our Sins" Meant to the Fathers (Brad Jersak)


Vince Bantu, Mis-Reformed, the Imperialism of Reformed Theology (The Urban Perspective, Feb 19, 2018) highlights post-Chalcedon church split, perception of the Roman Empire as Christian, and Roman (Byzantine) persecution of non-Chalcedonian Christians in Syria and Africa


Ted Johnston, What Sort of Human Nature Did Jesus Have (The Surprising God blog, Oct 26, 2018) a helpful short article, with good quotations; see also Ted Johnston, Atonement: Participation, Not Mere Imputation (The Surprising God blog, Feb 10, 2018) 

Early Christian Sources


Ignatius of Antioch

(c.35 - c.107 AD)

Clement of Rome

(died 99/101 AD)

Odes of Solomon 

(1st - 2nd centuries)

Justin Martyr of Rome

(c.100 - c.165 AD)

Irenaeus of Lyons

(c.130 - 202 AD)

Clement of Alexandria

(c.150 - 215 AD)

Melito of Sardis

(died 180 AD)

Tertullian of Carthage

(c.155 - c.240 AD)

Origen of Alexandria

(c.184 - c.253 AD)

Methodius of Olympus

(died 311 AD)

Jacob of Nisibis

(died 338 or 350 AD)

Eusebius of Caesarea

(c.260 - c.340 AD)

Aphrahat the Persian

(c.280 - c.345 AD)

Athanasius of Alexandria

(c.298 - 373 AD)

The Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople

(325 AD, 381 AD)

Ephrem the Syrian

(c.306 - 373 AD)

Cyril of Jerusalem

(315 - 386 AD)

Hilary of Poitiers

(c.310 - 367 AD)

Ambrose of Milan

(340 - 397 AD)

Gregory of Nazianzus

(329 - 389 AD)

Basil of Caesarea

(330 - 379 AD)

Gregory of Nyssa

(c.335 - 395 AD)

John Chrysostom of Constantinople

(c.349 - 407 AD)

Augustine of Hippo

(354 - 430 AD)

John Cassian

(c.360 - c.435 AD)

Cyril of Alexandria

(c.376 - 444 AD)

Theodoret of Cyrus

(c.393 - c.458 AD)

Prosper of Aquitaine

(c.390 - c.455 AD)

Leo of Rome

(c.400 - c.461 AD)

Jacob of Serug

(c.451 - 521 AD)


(4th - 6th centuries AD)

Maximus the Confessor

(c.580 - 662 AD)

John of Damascus

(c.675 - 749 AD)

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