The name "father" was originally appended to bishops as the living witnesses to Christian tradition. However, from the end of the 4th century the name acquired a more specific sense referring to a rather clearly defined group of ecclesiastical authors of the past whose authority on matters of belief was widely and indisputably accepted. St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nazianzus are among the first who attempted to prove the orthodoxy of their teaching by appealing to the concerted opinions of texts widely accepted at the time as Patristic. Later on during the Christological controversies of the 5th century, all parties claimed the authority of the Fathers behind their teachings.
A noble example is the Council of Ephesos (431) clearly referring to the Fathers and their canons. By the end of the 5th century the name was also applied to teachers and authors who were not bishops. As commonly accepted, the Fathers of the Church were distinguished by orthodoxy of belief, holiness of life, the approval of the Church, and antiquity.But as dogmatics was further developed together with the growth of the Church, the attribute of antiquity began to be extended in time.
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