Here is my attempt to find some clarity on the relationships between the early Church Fathers, and how they connect back to Christ. I welcome feedback.
There are some who want to believe that once the last Apostle died the church quickly went off the rails, fell into a kind of darkness, and did not begin to emerge again until the Reformation. This is silly bunk, and those who believe it tend to need it to be true so they can justify their own positions. This diagram points towards a more accurate, and “hermeneutic of continuity” understanding that sees the development of doctrine occurring right from the beginning as the Apostles handed down the Tradition of the Church to the next generation, which then did so for the next. That is one reason why, when curious Protestants go looking for their kind/style of church in the early years of Christianity, before the Catholic Church took over and ruined everything, they find the early Church was very Catholic. This is not proof that Catholicism is right and Protestantism is wrong, but merely points to the fact that the Church has always been Catholic.