The ages of man according to the Church Fathers

Józef Naumowicz

Uniwersytet Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego w Warszawie , Poland


The patristic writers variously enumerated the ages of human life. Some counted ten, some seven, six, five or four. They took number symbolism or the opinions of ancient authors as their starting point, but in their formulation the ages of human life concern not just the physical, intellectual or moral development of man but, often, also his spiritual development. They defined stages in the development of faith or love that can be described in terms analogous to those used for defining man’s age. Moreover, the patristic authors did not usually conclude their enumeration with old age. Human life passes ultimately into the age of rest (the seventh age) or into eternity (the eighth age), which has no end. Irenaeus of Lyon used the concept of the ages of life in proving that Jesus lived about fifty years. There were, in his opinion, theological arguments for such a mature age. Christ became one of us in order to accomplish the redemption and He therefore had to know all the ages of normal human life: not just birth, childhood and youth, but also maturity and old age. But the chronological and exegetical arguments Irenaeus gives are rather stretched. The most profound description of the ages of man was given by Augustine. He makes an original parallel with the seven days of creation and the seven ages of the history of the chosen people.


Church Fathers, ages of man

Ambrosius, De Abraham, PL 14
Ambrosius, Epistula
Archambaud P., The Ages of man and the ages of the word. A study of two traditions, REAug 12 (1966) 193-228
Augustinus, De civitate Dei, tłum. W. Kornatowski: Św. Augustyn, O państwie Bożym, II, Warszawa 1977
Augustinus, De diversis quaestionibus, PL 40
Augustinus, De Genesi contra Manichaeos, PL 34
Augustinus, De vera religione, tłum. J. Ptaszyński: Św. Augustyn, Dialogi filozoficzne, Kraków 2001
Augustinus, De Trinitate
Augustinus, In Joannem tract., CCL 36
Amrbosius, Epistula
Amrbosius, Sermo
Clemens Alexandrinus, Stromata
Eusebius, HE
Filon Aleksandryjski, De opificio mundi
Fulgentius Mitographus seu Planciadis, De aetatibus mundi et hominis, w: Fulgentii Planciadis Opera, ed. R. Helm, Leipzig 1898
Ghellinck J. de, Iuventus, gravitas, senectus, w : Studia medievalia in honorem R.J. Martin, Bruges 1948
Hieronymus, In Amos
Irenaeus, Adversus haereses., SCh 294
Isidorus Hispalensis, Etymologiae, PL 82
Lactantius, Institutiones
Luneau A., L’histoire du salut chez les Pères de Église. La doctrine des âges du monde, Théologie historique 2, Paris 1964
Naumowicz J., Dwie są drogi. Przewodnik wczesnochrześcijański, Poznań 2005
Naumowicz J., Geneza chrześcijańskiej rachuby lat. Historyczno-teologiczne podstawy systemu Dionizego Mniejszego, Kraków – Tyniec 2000
Solon, Fragm.
Zeno Veronensis, Tractatus, CCL 22


Naumowicz, J. (2011). The ages of man according to the Church Fathers. Vox Patrum, 56, 249–259.

Józef Naumowicz 
Uniwersytet Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego w Warszawie


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