We have two tags, and , that seem to be extremely related. It seems to me that in most cases, they are practically interchangeable. About 25% of the questions in each one are also in the other, and the number could be much higher without running afoul of how they are currently used.

One might argue that refers more to the practice and history of the early church, while refers more to the actual men and their writings. In most cases, I'd agree that that's a meaningful distinction. However, here, isn't basically everything we know about the early church the result of the writings of church fathers (loosely defined)?

Would it make sense to make one of these tags a synonym of the other? Or am I misunderstanding how these tags should be used?

1 Answer 1


No, they should not be synonyms. I agree with your distinction:

One might argue that refers more to the practice and history of the early church, while refers more to the actual men and their writings.

Then you posit that "basically everything" we know about the early church is because of what the church fathers wrote. Though it is true that much of what we do know is because of the church fathers, but there are non-Christian sources that wrote plenty about Christians. There's Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and Josephus, to name a few.

I think the tags are distinct enough as they are now. I personally view to be about how the church fathers shaped the church of their day and any lasting effects they may have had, while is about the church itself as a body, that peculiar group of people who called themselves Christians before their ideologies spread across the world.

  • 1
    Good points. I'm not really recommending anything here; I just notice that most of the time I'm stuck trying to figure out which of these two to use. One more thought... why not use early-church combined with origen or jerome to approximate church-fathers? Do we have enough questions about church fathers generally that match your proposed usage for that tag? Jan 27, 2016 at 19:43
  • @Nathaniel I really don't know. I haven't looked closely at the tags on those questions. church-fathers may be too generic. Right now, I'm having trouble coming up with a hypothetical question that isn't "Do any church fathers comment on this?"
    – user3961
    Jan 27, 2016 at 19:47
  • 1
    Something like this might be a natural candidate for church-fathers the way you envision it, since it's explicitly asking for opinions of church fathers. But at a higher level it's looking for the early church understanding/practice. So it ends up that both are relevant (at least to me). Jan 27, 2016 at 19:58
  • 2
    I'd support using the names of actual people rather than church-fathers. I doubt we'd have very many questions that are really about all of them, and if we did it would be too broad.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Jan 28, 2016 at 2:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .