Apostolic Fathers: Wikis


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The Apostolic Fathers are a small number of Early Christian authors who lived and wrote in the second half of the 1st century and the first half of the 2nd century.[1][2] They are acknowledged as leaders in the early church, although their writings were not included in the New Testament. They include St. Clement of Rome, St. Ignatius of Antioch, and St. Polycarp of Smyrna.

The label "Apostolic Fathers" has been applied to them since the 17th century to indicate that they were thought of as being of the generation that had personal contact with the Twelve Apostles. Thus they provide a link between the Apostles who knew Jesus of Nazareth and the later generation of Church Fathers: Christian apologists, defenders of orthodoxy, and developers of doctrine.


Apostolic Fathers and their works

Famous Apostolic Fathers include St. Clement of Rome (fl. 96),[3] St. Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Smyrna. In addition, the Didache and Shepherd of Hermas are usually placed among the writings of the Apostolic Fathers although their authors are unknown.


Clement of Rome

Clement of Rome's first epistle, 1 Clement (c 96),[4] 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, and it demonstrates the author's familiarity with many books of both the Old Testament and New Testaments. The epistle repeatedly refers to the Old Testament as scripture[5] and includes numerous references to the Book of Judith. Within the letter, Clement calls on the Christians of Corinth to maintain harmony and order.[4] Tradition identifies the author as St. Clement, the fourth bishop of Rome (third after Saint Peter), and scholarly consensus is overwhelmingly in favor of the letter's authenticity.[6] Early church lists place him as the second or third[7][8] or as possibly the immediate successor[9][10] of Saint Peter as bishop of Rome, although another very recent source states that "there is no evidence for monarchical episcopacy in Rome at so early a date".[7]

Second Clement was traditionally ascribed to St. Clement of Rome, but it is now generally considered to have been written later, c 140-160, and therefore could not be the work of St. Clement. Whereas First Clement was an epistle, 2 Clement appears to be a transcript of an oral homily or sermon, making it the oldest existing Christian sermon outside of the New Testament.

Ignatius of Antioch

Saint Ignatius of Antioch (also known as Theophorus {GK - God-bearer}) (c 35-110)[11] was bishop of Antioch.[12] He may have known the Apostle John directly, and his thought is certainly influenced by the tradition associated with this Apostle.[13] 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[14], and the nature of Biblical Sabbath.[15] He clearly identifies 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 Paul's epistles.[4]


Saint Polycarp of Smyrna (c 69- ca. 155) was a Christian bishop of Smyrna (now İzmir 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 the church in Smyrna"[16] 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".[17] 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 Bishop's suggestion that the East use the Western date. In 155, the Smyrnans demanded Polycarp's execution as a Christian, and he died a martyr. His story has it that the flames 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 flames around him.[4] Church Father Irenaeus was one of Polycarp's students. Polycarp is recognized as a saint in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.


The Didache (Koine Greek: "Teaching"[18]) is a brief early Christian treatise, dated by most scholars to the early second century.[19] It contains instructions for Christian communities. The text, parts of which may have constituted the first 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[20] but rejected as spurious or non-canonical by others,[21] Scholars knew of the Didache through references in other texts, but the text itself had been lost. It was rediscovered in 1873.

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 second and third centuries. The work comprises five 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.

Apostolic authority

St. Polycarp, depicted with a book as a symbol of his writings.

The "Apostolic Fathers" are distinguished from other Christian authors of this same period in that their practices and theology largely fell within those developing traditions of Pauline Christianity or Proto-orthodox Christianity that became the mainstream. They represent a tradition of early Christianity shared by many different churches across cultural, ethnic, and linguistic differences. The tradition they represent holds the Jewish Scriptures to be inspired by God and holds that the Jewish prophets point to the actual flesh and blood of Jesus through which both Jew and Gentile are saved. Furthermore, they present the picture of an organized Church made up of many different cross-cultural, sister churches sharing one apostolic tradition. Their ecclesiology, adoption of some Judaic values, and emphasis upon the historical nature of Jesus Christ stand in stark contrast to the various ideologies of more paganized Christianities, on the one hand, and more Jewish Christianities on the other[22]. By the 4th century, mainstream Nicene Christianity, dominated by the interpretation of Paul of Tarsus and teetering midway between Gentile paganism and rabbinical Judaism, was in a position to declare significantly different interpretations as heretical.

Other texts written much later are not considered apostolic writings. They were actively denounced from the very beginning by men such as Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, and the writer of the canonical First Epistle of John as being "anti-christ" and contrary to the tradition received from the apostles and eye-witnesses of Jesus Christ. The texts presenting alternative Christianities were then actively suppressed in the following centuries and many are now "lost" works, the contents of which can only be speculated.

The writings of the Apostolic Fathers are in a number of genres, some, e.g. the writings of Clement of Rome are letters (called epistles), others relate historical events, e.g. the Martyrdom of Polycarp, and one (the Didache) is a guide for ethical and liturgical practice.

Apostolic connection

The early Church relied on apostolic authority in separating orthodox from unorthodox works, teachings, and practices. The four Gospels were each assigned, directly or indirectly to an apostle,[23] as were certain other New Testament books. Earlier church fathers were also associated with apostles: Clement with Peter (associated closely with Rome) and with Paul (as the Clement Paul wrote about in Philippians 4:2), Papias and Polycarp with John (associated with Asia Minor).

Origin of term

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 floruerunt opera ("Works of the holy fathers who flourished 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. Since then the term has been universally used, especially by Roman Catholic writers. (Other traditions make little distinction between these Apostolic Fathers and Church Fathers in general.)

Opposition to term

Not all Christians employ the term "Apostolic Fathers". The authority resonant in the phrase suggests that these writers provide the authentic historical connections to the apostolic generation. For those Christians for whom Church tradition is of comparable weight with Scripture, this is a helpful apologetic trope, and thus a possible motivation for its use. Christians who believe that a Great Apostasy took place early in the church's history are particularly unlikely to employ this term. These ideological descendants of the Radical Reformation must choose between believing that the Scriptures were corrupted by this "Apostate Church" or that the Scriptures were somehow preserved and canonized by this "Apostate Church." In Protestant theology the term "Apostolic Fathers" is also less used and the writings are less frequently studied (but see Paleo-Orthodoxy), leaving more room for hermeneutic variance from these first and early-second century Christian leaders' perspective.

Works by these authors that are missing today

Only some writings by these church leaders are extant. Other writings did not survive and exist only as references, in quotations and excerpts, or as literal fragments of parchment or papyrus. These other writings, being alleged quotes from the apostolic fathers, are often stylistically different and sometimes address issues not addressed in the canonical New Testament and the extant writings of the apostolic fathers.

Works by contemporaneous authors not considered Apostolic Fathers

The writings from the early Christian tradition during the time of the Roman Empire that are not classed in those of the Apostolic Fathers include the writings of the desposyni, the apocrypha (including apocryphal gospels), much of the pseudepigrapha, and the writings of unorthodox leaders, or heretics such as Marcion, an anti-Judaic thinker, and Valentinius, a pagan-Christian syncretist. The apocryphal gospels and pseudepigrapha are, for the most part, later writings that seem to have less historical accuracy than the canonical scriptures. Most of these writings depict a Christianized form of paganism as opposed to a Christianized form of Judaism. For the part of the heretics, much of what is known about them comes from the Apostolic Fathers' and Church Fathers' arguments against them; this information was once thought be highly inaccurate due to the biases of these church writers. In light of the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library, however, most of the information about these groups as was expressed by early church fathers can be validated as being incomplete and biased, of course, but quite accurate.

Relationship to orthodoxy

Within the Pauline tradition that eventually triumphed, but after the time of the Apostolic Fathers proper, some authors addressed their works to people beyond the Christian community and defended the Christian religion against paganism, including Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian. These are considered Apologists. A small number of other authors, now only known in fragments, such as Papias and Hegesippus, were more concerned with the apostolic continuity of the individual churches and their histories. Although some of the minor opinions expounded by the Apostolic Fathers are no longer considered entirely orthodox, their writings provide important data regarding a strain of early Christianity which remains largely true to its Jewish roots while including both non-Jewish and Jewish believers as being viable members of the organized church they depict.

List of works

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. Holmes.[24]


  1. ^ Cf. Philip Schaff: The Apostolic Fathers, with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus
  2. ^ 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 (H.J. de Jonge: On the origin of the term "Apostolic Fathers"
  3. ^ "Clement of Rome, St." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  4. ^ a b c d Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972
  5. ^ B. Metzger, Canon of the New Testament (Oxford University Press) 1987:43.
  6. ^ Louth 1987:20; preface to both epistles in William Jurgens The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol 1", pp 6 and 42 respectively.
  7. ^ a b "Clement of Rome, St." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  8. ^ The Catholic Encyclopedia says that no critic now doubts that the names Cletus and Anacletus in lists that would make Clement the fourth successor of Saint Peter refer to the one person, not two.
  9. ^ History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity, AD 100-325 - "Clement of Rome"
  10. ^ Annuario Pontificio (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2008 ISBN 978-88-209-8021-4), p. 7*
  11. ^ 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).
  12. ^ "Ignatius, St." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  13. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica: Saint Ignatius of Antioch
  14. ^ Eph 6:1, Mag 2:1,6:1,7:1,13:2, Tr 3:1, Smy 8:1,9:1
  15. ^ Ignatius's Letter to the Magnesians 9: "Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner"
  16. ^ Adversus haereses, 3:3:4
  17. ^ Letter to Florinus, quoted in [1], Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book V, chapter 20.
  18. ^ See Strong's G1322
  19. ^ Metzger, Bruce. The canon of the New Testament. 1997
  20. ^ Apostolic Constitutions "Canon 85" (approved at the Orthodox Synod of Trullo in 692); Rufinus, 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.
  21. ^ 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 Stichometria
  22. ^ Even Jewish Christianity accepted gentiles at the Council of Jerusalem, see also Circumcision controversy in early Christianity#Jewish background
  23. ^ Mark to Peter's interpreter, Luke to Paul's companion, and Matthew and John directly to apostles.
  24. ^ For a review of the most recent edtions 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". http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2009/2009-07-08.html. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

APOSTOLIC FATHERS, a term used to distinguish those early Christian writers who were believed to have been the personal associates of the original Apostles. While the title "Fathers" was given from at least the beginning of the 4th century to church writers of former days, as being the parents of Christian belief and thought for later times, the expression "Apostolic Fathers" dates only from the latter part of the 1 7th century. The idea of recognizing these "Fathers" as a special group exists already in the title "Patres aevi apostolici, sive SS. Patrum qui temporibus apostolicis floruerunt. .. opera," under which in 1672 J. B. Cotelier published at Paris the writings current under the names of Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Hermas, Ignatius and Polycarp. But the name itself is due to their next editor, Thomas Ittig (1643-1710), in his Bibliotheca Patrum Apostolicorum (1699), who, however, included under this title only Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp. Here already appears the doubt as to how many writers can claim the title, a doubt which has continued ever since, and makes the contents of the "Apostolic Fathers" differ so much from editor to editor. Thus the Oratorian Andrea Gallandi (1709-1779), in re-issuing Cotelier's collection in his Bibliotheca Veterum Patrum (1765-1781), included the fragments of Papias and the Epistle to Diognetus, to which recent editors have added the citations from the "Elders" of Papias's day found in Irenaeus, and, since 1883, the Didache. The degree of historic claim which these various writings have to rank as the works' of Apostolic Fathers varies greatly on any definition of "apostolic." Originally the epithet was meant to be taken strictly, viz. as denoting those whom history could show to have been personally connected, or at least coeval, with one or more apostles; and an effort was made, as by Cotelier, to distinguish the writings rightly and wrongly assigned to such. Thus editions tended to vary with the historical views of editors. But the convenience of the category "Apostolic Fathers" to express not only those who might possibly have had some sort of direct contact with apostles - such as "Barnabas," Clement, Ignatius, Papias, Polycarp - but also those who seemed specially to preserve the pure tradition of apostolic doctrine during the sub-apostolic age, has led to its general use in a wide and vague sense.

Conventionally, then, the title denotes the group of writings which, whether in date or in internal character, are regarded as belonging to the main stream of the Church's teaching during the period between the Apostles and the Apologists (i.e. to c. A.D. 140). Or to put it more exactly, the "Apostolic Fathers" represent, chronologically in the main and still more from the religious and theological standpoint, the momentous process of 1 Cotelier included the Acts of Martyrdom of Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp; and those of Ignatius and Polycarp are still often printed by editors.

transition from the type of teaching in the New Testament to that which meets us in the early Catholic Fathers, from the last quarter of the 2nd century onwards. The Apologists no doubt show us certain fresh factors entering into this development; but on the whole the Apostolic Fathers by themselves go a long way to explain the transition in question, so far as knowledge of this saeculum obscurum is within our reach at all. It is true that they do not include the whole even of the ecclesiastical literature of the sub-apostolic age, not to mention what remains of Gnostic and other minority types. The Preaching and Apocalypse of Peter, for instance, are quite typical of the same period, and help us to read between the lines of the Apostolic Fathers. Yet they do not really add much to what is there already, and they have the drawbacks of pseudonymity; they lack concrete and personal qualities; they are general expressions of tendencies which we cannot well locate or measure, save by means of the Apostolic Fathers themselves or of their earliest Catholic successors.

(A) In external features the group is far from homogeneous, a fact which has led to their being disintegrated as a group in certain histories of early Christian literature (e.g. those of Harnack and Kruger), and classed each under its own literary type - so sacrificing to outer form, which is quite secondary in primitive Christian writings, the more significant fact of religious affinity. Its original members, those still best entitled to their name in any strict sense, are epistles, and in this respect also most akin to Apostolic writings. Indeed Ignatius takes pleasure in saluting his readers "after the apostolic stamp" (ad Trall. inscr.), while yet disclaiming all desire to emulate the apostolic manner in other respects, being fully conscious of the gulf between himself and apostles like Peter and Paul in claim to authority (ib. iii. 3, ad Rom. iv. 3). The like holds of Polycarp, who, in explaining that he writes to exhort the Philippians only at their own request, adds, "for neither am I, nor is any other like me, able to follow the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul" (iii. 2). Clement's epistle, indeed, conforms more to the elaborate and treatise-like form of the Epistle to the Hebrews, on which it draws so largely; and the same is true of "Barnabas." But one and all are influenced by study of apostolic epistles, and witness to the impression which these produced on the men of the next generation. Unconsciously, too, they correspond to the apostolic type of writing in another respect, viz. their occasional and practical character. They are evoked by pressing needs of the hour among some definite body of Christians and not by any literary motive.' This is a universal trait of primitive Christian writings; so that to speak of primitive Christian "literature" at all is hardly accurate, and tends to an artificial handling of their contents. These sub-apostolic epistles are veritable "human documents," with the personal note running through them. They are after all personal expressions of Christianity, in which are discernible also specific types of local tradition. To such spontaneous actuality a large part of their interest and value is due.

Nor is this pre-literary and vital quality really absent even from the writing which is least entitled to a place among "Apostolic Fathers," the Epistle to Diognetus. This beautiful picture of the Christian life as a realized ideal, and of Christians as "the soul" of the world, owes its inclusion to a double error: first, to the accidental attachment at the end of another fragment (§ II), which opens with the writer's claim to stand forth as a teaclier as being "a disciple of apostles"; and next, to mistaken exegesis of this phrase as implying personal relations with apostles, rather than knowledge of their teaching, written or oral. Whether in form addressed to Diognetus, the tutor of Marcus Aurelius, as a typical cultured observer of Christianity, or to some other eminent person of the same name in the locality of its origin, or, as seems more likely, to cultured Greeks generally, personified under the significant name "Diognetus" ("Heaven-born," cf. Acts xvii. 28 along with § 4) - the 1 See G. A. Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. 1-60, for this distinction between the genuine "letter" and the literary "epistle," as applied to the New Testament in particular.

epistle is in any case an "open letter" of an essentially literary type. Further, its opening seems modelled on the lines of the preface to Luke's Gospel, to which, along with Acts, it may owe something of its very conception as a reasoned appeal to the lover of truth. But while literary in form and conception, its appeal is in spirit so personal a testimony to what the Gospel has done for the writer and his fellow Christians, that it is akin to the piety of the Apostolic Fathers as a group. It is true that it has marked affinities, e.g. in its natural theology, with the earliest Apologists, Aristides and Justin, even as it is itself in substance an apology addressed not to the State, but to thoughtful public opinion. But this only means that we cannot draw a hard and fast line between groups of early Christian writings at a time when practical religious interests overshadowed all others.

If thus related to the Apologists of the middle of the 2nd century, the Epistle to Diognetus has also points of contact with one of the most practical and least literary writings found among our Apostolic Fathers, viz. the homily originally known as the Second Epistle of Clement (for this ascription, as for other details, see Clementine Literature). The recovery of its concluding sections in the same MS. which brought the Didache to light, proves beyond question that we have here the earliest extant sermon preached before a Christian congregation, about A.D. 120-140 (so J. B. Lightfoot). Its opening section, recalling to its hearers the passing of the mists of idolatry before the revelation in Jesus Christ, is markedly similar in tone and tenor to passages in the Epistle to Diognetus. Far closer, however, are the affinities between the homily and the Shepherd of Hermas, " the first Christian allegory," which as a literary whole dates from about A.D. 140, but probably represents a more or less prolonged prophetic activity on the part of its author, the brother of Pius, the Roman bishop of his day (c. 139-154). In both the primary theme is repentance, as called for by serious sins, after baptism has placed the Christian on his new and higher level of responsibility. Thus both are hortatory writings, the one argumentative in form, the other prophetic, after the manner of later Old Testament prophets whose messages came in visions and similitudes. This prophetic and apocalyptic note, which characterizes Hermas among the Apostolic Fathers (though there are traces of it also in the Didache and in Ignatius, ad Eph. xx.), is a genuinely primitive trait and goes far to explain the vogue which the Shepherd enjoyed in the generations immediately succeeding, as also the influence of its disciplinary policy, which is its prophetic "burden" (See Hermas, Shepherd Of).

We come finally to the anonymous Teaching of the Twelve Apostles and Papias's Exposition of Oracles of the Lord, so far as this is known to us. The former, besides embodying catechetical instruction in Christian conduct (the "Two Ways"), which goes back in substance to the early apostolic age and is embodied also in "Barnabas," depicts in outline the fundamental usages of church life as practised in some conservative region (probably within Syria) about the last quarter of the 1st century and perhaps even later. The whole is put forth as substantially the apostolic teaching (Didache) on the subjects in question. This is probably a bona fide claim. It expresses the feeling common to the Apostolic Fathers and general in the sub-apostolic age, at any rate in regions where apostles had once laboured, that local tradition, as held by the recognized church leaders, did but continue apostolic doctrine and practice. Into later developments of this feeling an increasing element of illusion entered, and all other written embodiments of it known to us take the form of literary fictions, more or less bold. It is in contrast to these that the Didache is justly felt to be genuinely primitive and of a piece with the Apostolic Fathers. Thus while its form would by analogy tend per se to awaken suspicion, its contents remove this feeling; and we may even infer from this surviving early formulation of local ecclesiastical tradition, that others of somewhat similar character came into being in the sub-apostolic age, but failed to survive save as embodied in later local teaching, oral or written, very much as if the Didache had perished and its literary offspring alone remained (see Didachf).

As regards Papias's Exposition, which Lightfoot describes as "among the earliest forerunners of commentaries, partly explanatory, partly illustrative, on portions of the New Testament," we need here only remark that, whatever its exact form may have been - as to which the extant fragments still leave room for doubt - it was in conception expository of the historic meaning of Christ's more ambiguous Sayings, viewed in the light of definitely ascertained apostolic traditions bearing on the subject. The like is true also of the fragments of the Elders preserved in Irenaeus (so far as these do not really come from Papias). Both bodies of exposition represent the traditional principle at work in the sub-apostolic age, making for the preservation in relative purity, over against merely subjective interpretations - those of the Gnostics in particular - of the historic or original sense of Christ's teaching, just as Ignatius stood for the historicity of the facts of His earthly career in their plain, natural sense.

(B) Here the question of external form passes readily over into that of the internal character and spirit. Indeed much has already been said or suggested bearing on these. The relation of these writers to the apostolic teaching generally has become pretty evident. It is one of absolute loyalty and deference, as to the teaching of inspiration. They are conscious, as are we in reading them, that they are not moving on the same level of insight as the Apostles; they are sub-apostolic in that sense also. Hence there appear constant traces of study of the Apostolic writings, so far as these were accessible in the locality of each writer at his date of writing (for the details of this subject, and its bearing on the history of the Canonical Scriptures of the New Testament, see The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, Oxford, 1 9 05). As Lightfoot points out (Apostolic Fathers, pt. i. vol. i. p. 7), however, personality, with its variety of temperament and emphasis, largely colours the Apostolic Fathers, especially the primary group. Clement has all the Roman feeling for duly constituted order and discipline; Ignatius has the Syrian or semi-oriental passion of devotion, showing itself at once in his mystic love for his Lord and his over-strained yearning to become His very "disciple" by drinking the like cup of martyrdom; Polycarp is, above all things, steady in his allegiance to what had first won his conscience and heart, and his "passive and receptive character" comes out in the contents of his epistle. Of the rest, whose personalities are less known to us, Papias shares Polycarp's qualities and their limitations, the anonymous homilist and Hermas are marked by intense moral earnestness, while the writer to Diognetus joins to this a profound religious insight. These personal traits determine by selective affinity, working under conditions given by the special local type of tradition and piety, the elements in the Apostolic writings which each was able to assimilate and express - though we must allow also for variety in the occasions of writing. Thus one New Testament type is echoed in one and another in another; or it may be several in turn. The latter is the case in Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp; perhaps also in "Barnabas." In Hermas there is special affinity to the language and thought of the epistle of James, and in the homilist to those of Paul. Yet their very use of the same terms or ideas makes us the more aware of "a marked contrast to the depth and clearness of conception with which the several Apostolic writers place before us different aspects of the Gospel" (Lightfoot). While Apostolic phrases are used, the sense behind them is often different and less evangelic. They have not caught the Apostolic meaning, because they have not penetrated to the full religious experience which gave to the words, often words with long and varied history both in the Septuagint and in ordinary Greek usage, their specific meaning to each apostle and especially to Paul. This phenomenon was noted particularly by E. Reuss, in his Histoire de la theologie chretienne au siecle apostolique (3rd ed., 1864). Take for instance Clement. Lightfoot, indeed, dwells on the all-round "comprehensiveness" with which Clement, as the mouthpiece of the early Roman Church, utters in succession phrases or ideas borrowed impartially from Peter and Paul and James and the Epistle to Hebrews. He admits, however, that such mere co-ordination of the language of Paul and James, for instance, as appears in his twice bracketing "faith and hospitality" as grounds of acceptance with God (the cases are those of Abraham and Rahab, in chs. x. and xii.), is "from a strictly dogmatic point of view" his weakness. But the weakness is more than a dogmatic one; it is one of religious experience, as the source of spiritual insight. It is not merely that "there is no dogmatic system in Clement" or in any other of the Apostolic Fathers; that may favour, not hinder, religious insight. There is a want of depth in Christian experience, in the power of realizing relative spiritual values in the light of the master principle involved in the distinctively Christian consciousness, such as could raise Clement above a verbal eclecticism, rather than comprehensiveness, in the use of Apostolic language. As R. W. Dale remarks, in a note on Reuss's too severe words (Eng. trans. ii. 295): "The vital force of the Apostolic convictions gave to Apostolic thought a certain organic and consistent form." It is lack of this organic quality in the thought, not only of Clement but also of the Apostolic Fathers generally - with the possible exception of Ignatius, who seems to share the Apostolic experience more fully than any other, to which Reuss rightly directs attention. In virtue of this defect, due largely to the failure to enter into the Apostolic experience of mystic union with Christ, he can rightly speak of "an immense retrogression" in theology visible "at the end of the century, and in circles where it might have been least expected" (ii. p. 294, cf. 541).

In fact the perspective of the Gospel was seriously changed and its most distinctive features obscured. This was specially the case with the experimental doctrines of grace. Here the central glory of the Cross as "the power of God unto salvation" suffered some eclipse, although the passion of Christ was felt to be a transcendent act of Divine Grace in one way or another. But even more serious was the loss of an adequate sense of the contrast between "grace" and "works" as conditions of salvation. There was little or no sense of the danger of the legal principle, as related to human egoism and the instinct to seek salvation as a reward for merit. The passages in which these things are laid bare by Paul's remorseless analysis of his own experience "under Law" seem to have made practically no impression on the Apostolic Fathers as a whole. Gentile Christians had not felt the fang of the Law as the ex-Pharisee had occasion to feel it. Even if first trained in the Hellenistic synagogues of the Dispersion, as was often the case, they apprehended the Law on its more helpful and less exacting side, and had not been brought "by the Law to die unto the Law," that they might "live unto God." The result was too great a continuity between their religious conceptions before and after embracing the Gospel. Thus the latter seemed to them simply to bring forgiveness of past sins for Christ's sake, and then an enhanced moral responsibility to the New Law revealed in Him. Hence a new sort of legalism, known to recent writers as Moralism, underlies much of the piety of the Apostolic Fathers, though Ignatius is quite free from it, while Polycarp and "Barnabas" are less under its influence than are the Didache, Clement, the Homilist and Hermas. It conceives salvation as a "wages" (µtc 063) to be earned or forfeited; and regards certain good works, such as prayer, fasting, alms - especially the last - as efficacious to cancel sins. The reality of this tendency, particularly at Rome, betrays itself in Hermas, who teaches the supererogatory merit of alms gained by the selfdenial of fasting (Sim. v. 3.3 ff.). Marcion's reaction, too, against the Judaic temper in the Church as a whole, in the interests of an extravagant Paulinism, while it suggests that Paul's doctrines of grace generally were inadequately realized in the sub-apostolic age, points also to the prevalence of such moralism in particular.

(C) In attempting a final estimate of the value of the Apostolic Fathers for the historian to-day, we may sum up under these heads: ecclesiastical, theological, religious. (a) As a mine of materials for reconstructing the history of Church institutions, they are invaluable, and that largely in virtue of their spontaneous and "esoteric" character, with no view to the public generally or to posterity. (b) Theologically, as a stage in the history of Christian doctrine, their value is as great negatively as positively. Impressive as is their witness to the persistence of the Apostolic teaching in its essential features, amidst all personal and local variations, perhaps the most striking thing about these writings is the degree in which they fail to appreciate certain elements of the Apostolic teaching as embodied in the New Testament, and those its higher and more distinctively Christian elements.' This negative aspect has a twofold bearing. Firstly, it suggests the supernormal level to which the Apostolic consciousness was raised at a bound by the direct influence of the Founder of Christianity, and justifies the marking-off of the Apostolic writings as a Canon, or body of Christian classics of unique religious authority. To this principle Marcion's Pauline Canon is a witness, though in too one-sided a spirit. Secondly, it means that the actual development of ecclesiastical doctrine began, not from the Apostolic consciousness itself, but from a far lower level, that of the inadequate consciousness of the subapostolic Church, even when face to face with their written words. This theological "retrogression" is of much significance for the history of dogma. (c) On the other hand, there is great religious and moral continuity, beneath even theological discontinuity, in the life working below all conscious apprehension of the deeper ideas involved (E. von Dobschiitz, Christian Life in the Primitive Church, 1905). There is continuity in character; the Apostolic Fathers strike us as truly good men, with a goodness raised to a new type and power. This is what the Gospel of Christ aims chiefly at producing as its proper fruit; and the Apostolic Fathers would have desired no better record than that they were themselves genuine "epistles of Christ." LITERATURE. - This is too large to indicate even in outline, but is given fully in the chief modern editions, viz. of Gebhardt, Harnack and Zahn j ointly (1875-1877), J. B. Lightfoot (1885-1890) and F. X. Funk (1901); also in O. Bardenhewer, Gesch. der altkirchlichen Litteratur (1902), Band i., and in Neutestamentliche Apokryphen, with Handbuch thereto, edited by E. Hennecke (Tubingen, 1904). The fullest discussion in English of the teaching of Barnabas, Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp is by J. Donaldson, The Apostolical Fathers (1874), which, however, suffers from the imperfect state of the texts when he wrote. The most useful edition for ready reference, containing critical texts (up to date) and good translations, is Lightfoot's one-volume edition, The Apostolic Fathers (London, 1891). (J. V. B.)

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