As a scholarly enterprise, patristics cannot be defined with any satisfactory precision. The main reason is that patristic studies, investigating the history and literature of the first centuries of the common era, have always been practiced in connection with other academic disciplines such as philosophy, biblical studies, classical studies, theology, philology, history, literary theories. As a field of research and study, patristics is essentially interdisciplinary. While this fact makes the field more attractive, it also makes for a fragile or tenuous definition of its territory and method. We have here not an autonomous discipline but a conglomerate of disciplines around a focal interest: the development of a religious movement as it reverberated in the surrounding social history and was reflected in its literature. For our purpose there is no need for a more clear-cut subject matter or for any further description of its scope. The overall intent of my presentation remains the critical
retrieval of the historic foundations of Christianity through the careful sifting of an array of available sources.