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Apostolic Fathers

 

    The first era of Christian authors was in the First Century, and the writings they produced became the New Testament.  That much is self-evident.  The time period of the NT books dates from around AD 45 or 50 to AD 100. 

    A second group of Christian authors developed in the next seventy years or so, and they are known as the Apostolic Fathers.  Interestingly, these two time periods overlap because the last NT books to be written were completed after some of the Apostolic Fathers books were finished.  The Apostolic Fathers time period is from around 80 to 150.  The reason none of the Apostolic Fathers’ made it into the NT is because a book had to have a link to an Apostlein order  to be included in the NT, and these books were written apart from the Apostles.

    Some of the Apostolic Fathers are people who we know something about, and some are books whose authors are unknown. The following list gives the approximate date of the death of the person or time when the book was written, if a person then a little about him, and a little about the writing.

1.  Clement of Rome (d. 96)  Bishop of Rome.  According to Catholic papacy terms, he was the fourth pope, and may be the “Clement” mentioned in Philippians 4:3.  He wrote a letter on behalf of the churches in Rome to the churches in Corinth.  It was written to encourage them and to help handle strife.  It has 59 paragraphs. 

2.  Ignatius (d. 107)  Bishop of Antioch.  He was arrested and taken to Rome, where he was most likely killed in the Coliseum.  Along the way he wrote 7 letters, 6 to churches in different cities and 1 to a person, Polycarp.  The letters include ones to Ephesus, Philadelphia, and Smyrna.  (The last two are part of the seven churches in Revelation.)  He desired to die a martyr’s death and part of the letters encourages Christians not to rescue him.

3.  Hermas (death year unknown).  He was a slave, then set free, then became wealthy, then lost everything in a persecution.  His book, called The Shepherd, consists of 27 chapters.  While it does contain some incorrect ideas about God, it was beloved as an ethical essay. 

4.  Polycarp (d. 155)  Bishop of Smyrna.  He wrote a letter to the Philippian churches; in it he quotes I John 4:3.  He was arrested and burned at the stake.  He was told to deny Christ and said (according to one account):  “86 years I have served the Lord and he has brought me no harm; how can curse my King who save me?”  He may have met the Apostle John.

5.  Epistle of Barnabas (written between 70 and 100)  While the title says “Barnabas,” it is unlikely Barnabas of the NT wrote it.  It has 21 chapters.  The Epistle draws a clear line between the practice of Judaism and of Christianity. 

6.  Epistle to Diognetus (mid-100s)  It describes the uniqueness of Christianity in 12 chapters. 

7.  II Clement  mid-100s)  While it has Clement’s name on it, the author is widely accepted as unknown.  It is written in the style of a sermon and tells of the proper life of a Christian with an emphasis on repentance.  Apart from the NT, it is the earliest surviving sermon.

8.  Didache (mid-100s)  This anonymous work (which means “Teaching”) consists of 16 chapters in two parts.  The first part describes the proper life of a Christian and includes quotes from the Sermon on the Mount.  The second part is basically church administration instructions, which includes how to administer baptism, to treat bishops and deacons, and instructions on the Eucharist (communion).

    You can find many of these at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.toc.html. 

 

©2011 Mark Nickens

 

Questions/comments contact Mark at drnickens@triad.rr.com.

 

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