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Apostolic Fathers

The Apostolic Fathers is a term used to describe a group

of Early Christian writings produced in the late 1st century and the rst half of the 2nd century.[1] These writings, though not unpopular in Early Christianity, were ultimately not part of the New Testament once it reached
its nal form. Many of the writings derive from the same
time period and geographical location as other works of
early Christian literature that did come to be part of the
nal form of the New Testament, and some of the writings found among the Apostolic Fathers seem to have
been just as highly regarded as some of the writings (that
remained) in the New Testament.

the authors familiarity with many books of both the Old

Testament and New Testaments. The epistle repeatedly
refers to the Old Testament as scripture[7] and includes
numerous references to the Book of Judith thereby establishing usage or at least familiarity with Judith in his
time. Within the letter, Clement calls on the Christians of
Corinth to maintain harmony and order.[5] Tradition identies the author as Clement, bishop of Rome, and scholarly consensus is overwhelmingly in favor of the letters
authenticity.[8] Early church lists place him as the second
or third[9][10][11][12] bishop of Rome, although there is no
evidence for monarchical episcopacy in Rome at so early
a date.[9]

Second Clement was traditionally ascribed to St. Clement

of Rome, but it is now generally considered to have been
written later, c 140160, and therefore could not be the
work of Clement. Whereas First Clement was an epistle,
2 Clement appears to be a transcript of an oral homily or
The following writings are generally grouped together as
sermon, making it the oldest existing Christian sermon
the Apostolic Fathers":[2] Letters attributed to Clement
outside of the New Testament.
of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, the Didache, the
Epistle of Barnabas, a letter by and the martyrdom of
Polycarp of Smyrna, fragments preserving statements by 1.2 Ignatius of Antioch
and about Papias of Hierapolis, the Shepherd of Hermas,
and the Epistle to Diognetus.[3]
Main article: Ignatius of Antioch

Apostolic Fathers: Works included and use of the term

The label Apostolic Fathers has been applied to these

writings only since the 17th century, to indicate that they
were thought of as representing the generation that had
personal contact with the Twelve Apostles. The earliest known use of the term Apostolic(al) Fathers was
by William Wake in 1693, when he was chaplain in ordinary to King William and Queen Mary of England[4]
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the use of the
term Apostolic Fathers can be traced to a 1672 title
of Jean-Baptiste Cotelier, his SS. Patrum qui temporibus
apostolicis oruerunt opera (Works of the holy fathers
who ourished in the apostolic times), which title was
abbreviated to Bibliotheca Patrum Apostolicorum by L. J.
Ittig in his edition (Leipzig, 1699) of the same writings.


Ignatius of Antioch (also known as Theophorus, Greek

for God-bearer) (c 35110)[13] was bishop of Antioch.[14]
He may have known the Apostle John directly, and his
thought is certainly inuenced by the tradition associated
with this Apostle.[15] En route to his martyrdom in Rome,
Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of the theology of the earliest Christians. Important topics addressed in these letters include
ecclesiology, the sacraments, the role of bishops,[16] and
the nature of Biblical Sabbath.[17] He clearly identies the
local-church hierarchy composed of bishop, presbyters,
and deacons and claims to have spoken in some of the
churches through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He is
the second after Clement to mention Pauls epistles.[5]

Clement of Rome
1.3 Polycarp of Smyrna

Main article: Clement of Rome

Main article: Polycarp

Polycarp of Smyrna (c 69ca. 155) was a Christian
bishop of Smyrna (now zmir in Turkey). Irenaeus wrote
that Polycarp also was not only instructed by the apostles, and conversed with many who had seen the Lord,
but was also appointed bishop by apostles in Asia and in

Clement of Rome's rst epistle,.1 Clement (c 96),[5] was

copied and widely read and is generally considered to be
the oldest Christian epistle in existence outside of the
New Testament. The letter is extremely lengthy, twice as
long as the Epistle to the Hebrews,[6] and it demonstrates


may have constituted the rst written catechism, has three

main sections dealing with Christian lessons, rituals such
as baptism and eucharist, and church organization. It
was considered by some of the Church Fathers as part of
the New Testament[21] but rejected as spurious or noncanonical by others,[22] Scholars knew of the Didache
through references in other texts, but the text itself had
been lost. It was rediscovered in 1873.

1.5 Shepherd of Hermas

Main article: Shepherd of Hermas
The Shepherd of Hermas (2nd century) was popular
in the early church and even considered scriptural by
some of the early Church fathers, such as Irenaeus and
Tertullian. It was written in Rome in the Greek language.
The Shepherd had great authority in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The work comprises ve visions, twelve mandates,
and ten parables. It relies on allegory and pays special attention to the church, calling the faithful to repent of the
sins that have harmed it.
St. Polycarp, depicted with a book as a symbol of his writings.

2 Character of the writings

the church in Smyrna[18] and that he himself had, as a
boy, listened to the accounts which (Polycarp) gave of
his intercourse with John and with the others who had
seen the Lord.[19] The options for this John are John the
son of Zebedee, traditionally viewed as the author of the
Fourth Gospel, or John the Presbyter (Lake 1912). Traditional advocates follow Eusebius in insisting that the apostolic connection of Papius was with John the Evangelist,
and that this John, the author of the Gospel of John, was
the same as the Apostle John. Polycarp, c 156, tried and
failed to persuade Anicetus, Bishop of Rome, to have the
West celebrate Easter on 14 Nisan, as in the East. He rejected the Bishops suggestion that the East use the Western date. In 155, the Smyrnans demanded Polycarps execution as a Christian, and he died a martyr. His story has
it that the ames built to kill him refused to burn him, and
that when he was stabbed to death, so much blood issued
from his body that it quenched the ames around him.[5]
Church Father Irenaeus was one of his students. Polycarp
is recognized as a saint in both the Roman Catholic and
Eastern Orthodox churches.

The writings included among the Apostolic Fathers represent a variety of early Christian traditions across various cultural, ethnic, and linguistic lines. The traditions
they represent hold the Jewish Scriptures to be inspired
by God (unlike Marcionism) and that the Jewish prophets
point to the actual esh and blood of Jesus through which
both Jew and Gentile are saved.

2.1 Use of the term

Historically, Protestants used the term Apostolic Fathers less often and devoted less study to the writings,
but this has not been the case since the nineteenth century.

3 List of works
The Epistle to Diognetus
The First Epistle of Clement



Main article: Didache

The Didache (Koine Greek: Teaching[20] ) is a brief
early Christian treatise, dated anywhere from as early
as AD 50 to the early 2nd century. It contains instructions for Christian communities. The text, parts of which

The Second Epistle of Clement (not actually written

by Clement)
The Didache
The Epistle of Barnabas
Seven Epistles of Ignatius (the longer forms of these
Epistles, and those beyond the seven, are widely
considered later emendations and forgeries)

The Epistle of Polycarp
The Martyrdom of Polycarp
The Shepherd of Hermas
Fragments of the writings of Papias, which have survived as quotations in later writers
One short fragment of a writing by Quadratus of

[3] Some editors place the Epistle to Diognetus among the

apologetic writings, rather than among the Apostolic
Fathrers (Stevenson, J. A New Eusebius SPCK (1965) p.
[4] See H.J. de Jonge: On the origin of the term Apostolic
Fathers; but note now D. Lincicum, The Paratextual Invention of the Term 'Apostolic Fathers, Journal of Theological Studies (2015)
[5] Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. New York: Simon and
Schuster. 1972

Most or all of these works were originally written in

Greek. Older English translations of these works can
be found online in the Ante-Nicene Fathers series on
the Christian Classics Ethereal Library website. Published English translations have also been made by various scholars of early Christianity, such as J.B. Lightfoot, Kirsopp Lake, Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W.

[6] 1 Clement, Lightfoot translation, is 13, 316 words; Hebrews is only 7,300-400 words depending on translation.

Greek text editions:

[9] Clement of Rome, St. Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford

dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford
University Press. 2005

[7] B. Metzger, Canon of the New Testament (Oxford University Press) 1987:43.
[8] Louth 1987:20; preface to both epistles in William Jurgens The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol 1, pp 6 and 42

The Apostolic Fathers. Vol. 1. I Clement. II

Clement. Ignatius. Polycarp. Didache. Barnabas. [10] The Catholic Encyclopedia says that no critic now doubts
that the names Cletus and Anacletus in lists that would
Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard Unimake Clement the fourth successor of Saint Peter refer to
versity Press, 1912 Kirsopp Lake
the one person, not two.

The Apostolic Fathers. Vol. 2. Shepherd of Her[11] History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene
mas. Martyrdom of Polycarp. Epistle to Diogentus.
Christianity, AD 100-325 - Clement of Rome
Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard Uni[12] Annuario Ponticio (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2008
versity Press, 1913 Kirsopp Lake
The Apostolic Fathers. Vol. 1. I Clement. II
Clement. Ignatius. Polycarp. Didache. Loeb
Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 2003 Bart Ehrman (replaced Lake)
The Apostolic Fathers. Vol. 2. Epistle of Barnabas. Papias and Quadratus. Epistle to Diognetus.
The Shepherd of Hermas. Loeb Classical Library.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005 Bart
Ehrman (replaced Lake)
The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English
Translations. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker,
2007 Michael Holmes
Die Apostolischen Vter. Germany: Mohr Siebeck,
1992 Andreas Lindemann and Henning Paulsen


[1] Cf. Philip Scha: The Apostolic Fathers, with Justin

Martyr and Irenaeus
[2] Cross, F. L. & Livingstone E.A. eds. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church art. Apostolic Fathers, The
Oxford University Press (1974)

ISBN 978-88-209-8021-4), p. 7*
[13] See Ignatius in The Westminster Dictionary of Church
History, ed. Jerald Brauer (Philadelphia:Westminster,
1971) and also David Hugh Farmer, Ignatius of Antioch
in The Oxford Dictionary of the Saints (New York:Oxford
University Press, 1987).
[14] Ignatius, St. Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary
of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University
Press. 2005
[15] Encyclopdia Britannica: Saint Ignatius of Antioch
[16] Eph 6:1, Mag 2:1,6:1,7:1,13:2, Tr 3:1, Smy 8:1,9:1
[17] Ignatiuss Letter to the Magnesians 9: Let us therefore no
longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner
[18] Adversus haereses, 3:3:4
[19] Letter to Florinus, quoted in , Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book V, chapter 20.
[20] See Strongs G1322
[21] Apostolic Constitutions Canon 85 (approved at the Orthodox Synod of Trullo in 692); Runus, Commentary on
Apostles Creed 37 (as Deuterocanonical) c. 380; John of
Damascus Exact Exposition of Orthodox Faith 4.17; and
the 81-book canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
which includes the Didascalia which is based on the Didache.

[22] Athanasius, Festal Letter 39 (excludes them from the

canon, but recommends them for reading) in 367;
Rejected by 60 Books Canon and by Nicephorus in
[23] For a review of the most recent editions of the Apostolic
Fathers and an overview of the current state of scholarship, see Timothy B. Sailors, Bryn Mawr Classical Review: Review of The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and
English Translations". Retrieved 2014-10-01.

External links
Catholic Encyclopedia: Apostolic Fathers
Apostolic Fathers in the 1911 Encyclopdia Britannica
Apostolic Fathers in the Christian Cyclopedia


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