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Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers

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Letters and small-scale theological treatises giving a rich and powerful articulation of the Christian faith. The writings in this volume shed a glimmer of light, in an otherwise dark period, on the emerging traditions and organizations of the infant Church. They are a selection from a group known as the Apostolic Fathers, so-called because several of the authors were most Letters and small-scale theological treatises giving a rich and powerful articulation of the Christian faith. The writings in this volume shed a glimmer of light, in an otherwise dark period, on the emerging traditions and organizations of the infant Church. They are a selection from a group known as the Apostolic Fathers, so-called because several of the authors were most likely disciples of the Apostles themselves. Like much of the New Testament, their writings take the form of letters, and for the most part deal with practical problems of the life of the early Church, as it struggled in the face of persecution to establish itself in the Roman world. They give us a picture of Christianity still drawing on the theology and traditions of its parent religion, Judaism.


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Letters and small-scale theological treatises giving a rich and powerful articulation of the Christian faith. The writings in this volume shed a glimmer of light, in an otherwise dark period, on the emerging traditions and organizations of the infant Church. They are a selection from a group known as the Apostolic Fathers, so-called because several of the authors were most Letters and small-scale theological treatises giving a rich and powerful articulation of the Christian faith. The writings in this volume shed a glimmer of light, in an otherwise dark period, on the emerging traditions and organizations of the infant Church. They are a selection from a group known as the Apostolic Fathers, so-called because several of the authors were most likely disciples of the Apostles themselves. Like much of the New Testament, their writings take the form of letters, and for the most part deal with practical problems of the life of the early Church, as it struggled in the face of persecution to establish itself in the Roman world. They give us a picture of Christianity still drawing on the theology and traditions of its parent religion, Judaism.

30 review for Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dan Glover

    Writings from the generation following the Apostles, some of whose lives and locations would have overlapped with the Apostles. Essential reading for Christians who want to know about the very next layer of the foundation of our spiritual house which Christ promised to build - the church - and which was laid directly on top of the Apostles and Christ himself, the chief cornerstone. When I first read several of these works around 20 years ago (at that time studying the post-Apostolic history of t Writings from the generation following the Apostles, some of whose lives and locations would have overlapped with the Apostles. Essential reading for Christians who want to know about the very next layer of the foundation of our spiritual house which Christ promised to build - the church - and which was laid directly on top of the Apostles and Christ himself, the chief cornerstone. When I first read several of these works around 20 years ago (at that time studying the post-Apostolic history of the churches in Philippi and Ephesus), I felt that I had been cheated out of an inheritance through my growing up years in Evangelicalism; like I had been living in a nest on one branch of a tree and had never been told about the trunk that connected my branch with the roots. After reading some of these epistles and The Didache again recently I was reminded how eye opening these works are and how every Christian ought to read them. Its our own story, after all. This volume includes: The 1st epistle of Clement to the Corinthians -- The epistles of Ignatius : to the Ephesians ; to the Magnesians ; to the Trallians ; to the Romans ; to the Philadelphians ; to the Smyrnaeans ; to Polycarp -- The epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians and The martyrdom of Polycarp -- The epistle to Diagnetus -- The epistle of Barnabas -- The Didache

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aid

    I enjoyed this book a lot, the epistles of St. Ignatius were my favourite, especially the ones in which he looked forward to his coming martyrdom. “I am the wheat of God and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ." Great book, would recommend. I enjoyed this book a lot, the epistles of St. Ignatius were my favourite, especially the ones in which he looked forward to his coming martyrdom. “I am the wheat of God and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ." Great book, would recommend.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael O'Brien

    I think this book is a good reference because it shows that the earliest Christian writers --- those immediately after the time of the Apostles --- did, in fact, follow and base their teachings upon the teachings of the New Testament. Moreover, with the exception of one of these writings (which paraphrases certain scriptural passages), all quotations of scripture match the earliest Bible manuscripts -- as well as the Bible we have today. What is the importance of all this? It refutes the postmod I think this book is a good reference because it shows that the earliest Christian writers --- those immediately after the time of the Apostles --- did, in fact, follow and base their teachings upon the teachings of the New Testament. Moreover, with the exception of one of these writings (which paraphrases certain scriptural passages), all quotations of scripture match the earliest Bible manuscripts -- as well as the Bible we have today. What is the importance of all this? It refutes the postmodern higher criticism that has been in vogue in colleges and liberal seminaries that the New Testament and Christian doctrine are not reliable and are assembled recollections of later Christian believers centuries later --- similar to the way that the Koran was developed. Despite its utility, I gave it three stars. It's a little dry at times --- and the way the text is footnoted --- with all notes at the end of each writing, instead of at the bottom of the page --- is annoying. Even more so because some of the footnotes are pertinent to understanding what the Christian father is trying to say. Overall, I think this book is a good source for Christian theologians, scholars and teachers, but it's probably not engaging enough for average readers.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Thom Willis

    Contents: I Clement to the Corinthians Ignatius to the Ephesians Ignatius to the Magnesians Ignatius to the Trallians Ignatius to the Romans Ignatius to the Philadelphians Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans Ignatius to Polycarp Polycarp to the Philippians The Martyrdom of Polycarp Epistle to Diognetus Epistle of Barnabas The Didache

  5. 4 out of 5

    Scriptor Ignotus

    "Mary's virginity was hidden from the prince of this world; so was her child-bearing, and so was the death of the Lord. All these three trumpet-tongued secrets were brought to pass in the deep silence of God. How then were they made known to the world? Up in the heavens a star gleamed out, more brilliant than all the rest; no words could describe its lustre, and the strangeness of it left men bewildered. The other stars and the sun and moon gathered round it in chorus, but this star outshone the "Mary's virginity was hidden from the prince of this world; so was her child-bearing, and so was the death of the Lord. All these three trumpet-tongued secrets were brought to pass in the deep silence of God. How then were they made known to the world? Up in the heavens a star gleamed out, more brilliant than all the rest; no words could describe its lustre, and the strangeness of it left men bewildered. The other stars and the sun and moon gathered round it in chorus, but this star outshone them all. Great was the ensuing perplexity; where could this newcomer have come from, so unlike its fellows? Everywhere magic crumbled away before it; the spells of sorcery were all broken, and superstition received its death-blow. The age-old empire of evil was overthrown, for God was now appearing in human form to bring in a new order, even life without end. Now that which had been perfected in the Divine counsels began its work; and all creation was thrown into a ferment over this plan for the utter destruction of death." - St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ephesians 19 "All the ends of the earth, all the kingdoms of the world would be of no profit to me; so far as I am concerned, to die in Jesus Christ is better than to be monarch of earth's widest bounds. He who died for us is all that I seek; He who rose again for us is my whole desire. The pangs of birth are upon me; have patience with me, my brothers, and do not shut me out from life, do not wish me to be stillborn. Here is one who only longs to be God's; do not make a present of him to the world again, or delude him with the things of earth. Suffer me to attain to light, light pure and undefiled; for only when I am come thither shall I be truly a man. Leave me to imitate the Passion of my God . . . Earthly longings have been crucified; in me there is left no spark of desire for mundane things, but only a murmur of living water that whispers within me, 'Come to the Father'." - St. Ignatius of Antioch, Romans 6,7

  6. 5 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    Great stuff once you've got the background, obviously useless if you want to use these men's opinions to bolster your own theological/political agenda. Note to those doing so: you do not live in the Roman Empire, there is no such thing as the original spirit of Christianity, and your attempts to find such a thing are doomed to failure. As for other kinds of reader: Ignatius and Clement were obviously very smart guys, and their opinions are worth considering (but the stories of their lives are ev Great stuff once you've got the background, obviously useless if you want to use these men's opinions to bolster your own theological/political agenda. Note to those doing so: you do not live in the Roman Empire, there is no such thing as the original spirit of Christianity, and your attempts to find such a thing are doomed to failure. As for other kinds of reader: Ignatius and Clement were obviously very smart guys, and their opinions are worth considering (but the stories of their lives are even better). It's not quite like reading Paul, but it's pretty close. Polycarp, not so bright, and the other stuff descends into, at best, rhetorical moralizing, and, at worst, rhetorical versions of what we would call gnosticism. This period of history is one of the world's most fascinating, and these short letters or tracts are well worth reading for that reason alone.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: A collection of early, post-apostolic Christian writings concerned with the organization, leadership, worship, conduct, martyrs, and doctrinal teaching of the nascent church. How does a movement that survives beyond its earliest leaders begin to define the structures and practices and teaching that will sustain and order its life? The canonical scriptures of the New Testament give us some account of the very early stages of that project for what would become the Christian church as it sp Summary: A collection of early, post-apostolic Christian writings concerned with the organization, leadership, worship, conduct, martyrs, and doctrinal teaching of the nascent church. How does a movement that survives beyond its earliest leaders begin to define the structures and practices and teaching that will sustain and order its life? The canonical scriptures of the New Testament give us some account of the very early stages of that project for what would become the Christian church as it spread throughout the Roman empire, narrated in Acts. Paul's occasional letters articulate define core beliefs and apply them to questions of Christian practice and morality, particularly in this new situation of gatherings comprised both of Jews and non-Jews. The pastoral letters address church leadership, its tasks and character. Other letters by Peter, James, and John and the writer to the Hebrews also make sense of the work of Christ arising out of its Jewish setting and how these new communities live set apart lives in the world. These nascent churches were still very much a work in progress. The writings in this collection reflect the next stage in the church's development. They include the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, seven epistles written by Ignatius enroute to martyrdom in Rome, the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians as he faces martyrdom and an account of that martyrdom, the Epistle to Diognetus, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Didache. A common concern in a number of these writings is the distinctive character Christians are to exhibit in the world in their love for each other, their abstinence from sexual and other forms of immorality, their generosity in giving and refraining from the love of money, and their faith. Clement and Ignatius and the Didache repeatedly emphasize obedience to the bishops and deacons who are to serve with diligence and care. A number of these writings include calls to "stand firm" in the Lord. We hear how Ignatius regards his own impending martyrdom in Rome in his Epistle to the Romans: "I must implore you to do me no such untimely kindness; pray leave me to be a meal for the beasts, for it is they who can provide my way to God. I am his wheat, ground fine by the lions' teeth to be made purest bread for Christ. Better still, incite the creatures to become a sepulchre for me; let them not leave the smallest scrap of my flesh, so that I need not be a burden to anyone after I fall asleep. When there is no trace of my body left for the world to see, then I shall truly be Jesus Christ's disciple." The account of Polycarp's martyrdom includes his stirring testimony before the Governor: "The Governor, however, still went on pressing him. 'Take the oath and I will let you go', he told him. 'Revile your Christ.' Polycarp's reply was, 'Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?' " These works taught early Christians how to face similar martyrdom, should it come. Polycarp also exemplified better sense than some, eluding captors when he could, but calmly facing them when he could not.  In the Epistle to Diognetus, we have an early example of a Christian "apologetic," emphasizing the follies of both paganism and Judaism, the upright character of the Christian community, that functioned as the soul to the body of the world, the supernatural character of revelation, the mystery of the incarnation and a concluding section urging readers to faith. The Epistle of Barnabas gives us an early example of the allegorical reading of the Old Testament that reveals their spiritual meaning with the coming of Christ. Finally the Didache gives us another example of Christian moral teaching defining the Two Ways (of Life and Death) and how those on each Way live. Much of these are concise exhortations, as relevant today as then. One example: "Do not parade your own merits, or allow yourself to behave presumptuously, and do not make a point of associating with persons of eminence, but choose the companionship of honest and humble folk." After this first part on the Two Ways is an early example of a "Church Manual" with instructions on baptism, fast days (not on the same day as hypocrites!) and prayer, the Eucharist, welcoming itinerant Apostles and Prophets and distinguishing the genuine from the impostors, Sunday worship, local officials (bishops and deacons) and Eschatology. There is much of profit here, in "overhearing" the order of early Christian congregational life, in understanding the early roots of practices we observe to this day, and in considering the faithfulness of these early believers and teachers. The Didache, for example, in its section on the Two Ways, offers a great rubric for personal examination of one's life, especially, perhaps, before taking the Eucharist. For many of us, our knowledge of the two millenia of church history is one of the biblical narrative of the earliest Christians, perhaps a bit of Reformation history, and little more. These writings give us a glimpse of those who followed the Apostles, and how they began to work out the theology, organization, and character of Christian life entrusted to them.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    Interesting. Some of these Christians were really into martyrdom. I don’t think I have ever read such enthusiasm in the face of being burned alive - especially when it really isn’t warranted, as is the case of Polycarp.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Should be required reading for every Christian!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bethany Muczynska

    Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch. Both beautiful witnesses to the life of the newborn Catholic Church. Ignatius's letters, especially his to the Romans, are particularly compelling. Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch. Both beautiful witnesses to the life of the newborn Catholic Church. Ignatius's letters, especially his to the Romans, are particularly compelling.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bojan Tunguz

    Most of us Christians who have read the New Testament at some point start asking ourselves “What comes next?” The New Testament writings were, after all, just the beginning of Christianity, and the Christian religion has spread very far and had a great amount of influence even during the lives of the Apostles. However, until fairly recently most of what we know about the second and third generation of Christians came to us through the writings of the subsequent generations, and there was very li Most of us Christians who have read the New Testament at some point start asking ourselves “What comes next?” The New Testament writings were, after all, just the beginning of Christianity, and the Christian religion has spread very far and had a great amount of influence even during the lives of the Apostles. However, until fairly recently most of what we know about the second and third generation of Christians came to us through the writings of the subsequent generations, and there was very little interest in finding out what the “Apostolic Fathers” had to say in their own right. The last couple of centuries have seen reemergence of interest in these early writings, and today the interest in the early Church is perhaps at a long term high. “Early Christian Writings” is a remarkable collection of several works by the prominent and well-known Apostolic Fathers: Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, etc. We discover that the faith and the themes that these writings represented were indeed a product of orthodox Christian thought, and easily reconcilable with both our own theological understanding and the New Testament writings. The writings bear all the signatures of the tumultuous times during which they were written. This manifests itself by the choice of themes: preparation and expectation of martyrdom, issues of church discipline and strife, organizational matters and the episcopal nature of the Church, and attitudes towards immoral behaviors that are prevalent in the pagan world. The writings are very inspiring and well worth reading. I am not familiar enough with the original language(s) in which these works were written to give any meaningful comment on their translation. However, I do have some serious issues with the Kindle edition of this book. It seems that the book was re-formatted for the electronic edition using some kind of OCR software: there are many silly errors and mistakes, which are clearly the results of improper optical scanning. (My favorite one was the recurring reference to the “Spirit of the Lard.” [sic.]) Aside from the obvious historical and theological value, this slender tome is of particular relevance for the Christians in the modern world. We live in the age that is increasingly hostile to the Christian thought and ethics, and it can be tempting to give in to despair or adopt a siege mentality and withdraw from the world entirely. However, it is important to remember that the early Church faced a very similar set of circumstances, and the lesson from that era are incredibly relevant for the situations that we find ourselves in today. For that reason alone this book carries incredible value for all practicing and thoughtful Christians who want to have their voices heard in the contemporary society.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

    We hold Christ's words as God's, and the Apostles' as breathed by God, but what Christian writings, next to these, could be more beneficial and instructive but the teachings of those who studied at the feet of the Apostles? It is from these that we can glimpse a picture of how the early Church was structured, and the doctrines of the Apostles which were not specifically enumerated in their Epistles. The fallibility of these documents is also striking, in that even though they come from a similar We hold Christ's words as God's, and the Apostles' as breathed by God, but what Christian writings, next to these, could be more beneficial and instructive but the teachings of those who studied at the feet of the Apostles? It is from these that we can glimpse a picture of how the early Church was structured, and the doctrines of the Apostles which were not specifically enumerated in their Epistles. The fallibility of these documents is also striking, in that even though they come from a similar time to the Apostolic Epistles, they are evidently the works of men, not God. "The heavens, as they revolve beneath His government, do so in quiet submission to Him. The day and the night run the course He has laid down for them, and neither of them interferes with the other. Sun, moon, and the starry choirs roll on in harmony at His command, none swerving for its appointed orbit." - Clement of Rome's Epistle to the Corinthians "... Let us be earnestly, even passionately, eager to set about any kind of activity that is good. Even the Architect and Lord of the universe Himself takes a delight in working... Above all, with His own sacred and immaculate hands he fashioned man, who in virtue of his intelligence is the chiefest and greatest of all His works and the very likeness of His own image; for God said, Let us make man in our image and likeness; and God created man, male and female he created them... We see, then, that good works have not only embellished the lives of men, but are an adornment with which even the Lord has delighted to deck Himself; and therefore with such an example before us, let us spare not effort to obey His will, but put all our energies into the work of righteousness." - Clement of Rome's Epistle to the Corinthians "By all means be pugnacious and hot-headed, my brothers, but about things that will lead to salvation. Just take a look at the sacred scriptures; they are the authentic voice of the Holy Spirit, and you know that they contain nothing that is contrary to justice, nor is anything in them falsified." - Clement of Rome's Epistle to the Corinthians "It was in love that all God's chosen saints were made perfect; for without love nothing is pleasing to Him." - Clement of Rome's Epistle to the Corinthians "That is why it is proper for your conduct and your practices to correspond closely with the mind of the bishop. And this, indeed, they are doing; your justly respected clergy, who are a credit to God, are attuned to their bishop like the strings of a harp, and the result is a hymn of praise to Jesus Christ from minds that are in unison, and affections that are in harmony. Pray, then, come and join this choir, every one of you; let there be a whole symphony of minds in concert; take the tone all together from God, ad sing aloud to the Father with one voice through Jesus Christ, so that He may hear you and know by your good works that you are indeed members of His Son's Body." - Ignatius of Antioch's Epistle to the Ephesians "Faith is the beginning, and love is the end; and the union of the two together is God." - Ignatius of Antioch's Epistle to the Ephesians "We have seen how former adherents of the ancient customs have since attained to a new hope; so that they have given up keeping the sabbath, and now order their lives by the Lord's Day instead (the Day when life first dawned for us, thanks to Him and His death)" - Ignatius of Antioch's Epistle to the Magnesians "Certain people declared in my hearing, 'Unless I can find a thing in our ancient records, I refuse to believe it in the Gospel'; and when I assured them that it is indeed in the ancient scriptures, they retorted, 'That has got to be proved'. But for my part, my records are Jesus Christ; for me, the sacrosanct records are His cross and death and resurrection, and the faith that comes through Him. And it is by these, and by the help of your prayers, that I am hoping to be justified."- Ignatius of Antioch's Epistle to the Philadelphians "They even absent themselves from the Eucharist and the public prayers, because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the self-same body of our Saviour Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins, and which the Father in His goodness afterwards raised up again." - Ignatius of Antioch's Epistle to the Smyrnaeans "Abjure all factions, for they are the beginning of evils. Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too, as you would the Apostles; give your deacons the same reverence that you would to a command from God. Make sure that no step affecting the church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop's sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorised by him." - Ignatius of Antioch's Epistle to the Smyrnaeans "Whom no senses can reveal Was for us made manifest; Who no ache or pain can feel Was for us by pain opprest; Willing all thing to endure, Our salvation to procure." - Ignatius of Antioch's Epistle to Polycarp "To put it briefly, the relation of Christians to the world is that of a soul to the body. As the soul is diffused through every part of the body, so are Christians through all the cities of the world. The soul, too, inhabits the body, while at the same time forming no part of it; and Christians inhabit the world, but they are not part of the world. The soul, invisible herself, is immured within a visible body; so Christians can be recognised in the world, but their Christianity itself remains hidden from the eye... The soul, which is immortal, must dwell in a mortal tabernacle; and Christians, as they sojourn for a while in the midst of corruptibility here, look for incorruptibility in the heavens." - The Epistle to Diognetus "You can see what He is saying there: 'It is not these sabbaths of the present age that I find acceptable, but the one of my own appointment: the one that, after I have set all things at rest, is to usher in the Eighth Day, the commencement of a new world.' (And we too rejoice in celebrating the eighth day; because that was when Jesus rose from the dead, and showed Himself again, and ascended into heaven.)" - The Epistle of Barnabas "Never do away with an unborn child, or destroy it after its birth" - The Epistle of Barnabas "The procedure for baptising is as follows. After rehearsing all the preliminaries, immerse in running water 'In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost'. If no running water is available, immerse in ordinary water. This should be cold if possible; otherwise warm. If neither is practicable, then sprinkle water three times on the head 'In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost'. Both baptiser and baptised ought to fast before the baptism, as well as any others who can do so; but the candidate himself should be told to keep a fast for a day or two beforehand." - The Didache "Assemble on the Lord's Day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until they have been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice." - The Didache

  13. 4 out of 5

    Russell Fox

    After going for a good long which without any kind of regular devotional reading, I've decided to work my way through early Christian texts--the Apostolic, Church, and Desert Fathers and Mothers, basically. There is no canonized collection to use as my foundation here, so I began with what I had available--in this case, an old Penguin edition of epistles and homilies attributed to Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Barnabas, the Epistle to Diognetus and the Didache. Fascinating, and in some ways genui After going for a good long which without any kind of regular devotional reading, I've decided to work my way through early Christian texts--the Apostolic, Church, and Desert Fathers and Mothers, basically. There is no canonized collection to use as my foundation here, so I began with what I had available--in this case, an old Penguin edition of epistles and homilies attributed to Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Barnabas, the Epistle to Diognetus and the Didache. Fascinating, and in some ways genuinely inspiring and thought-provoking stuff. I liked Clement, Ignatius, and the Epistle to Diognetus best (Barnabas was wild), if only because I felt they communicated the themes that I discovered in these writings best. First, a radical sense of submission and suffering; you have Ignatius and Polycarp alike looking forward to their martyrdom, as a way of following Jesus's footsteps towards the greatest possible humiliation, and in general you see a constant emphasis on avoiding any interest in great accomplishments or great people, and instead devoting oneself to a humble, homely, life practices and the community which such practices sustain. Second, a remarkable sense of what I instinctively read as Protestantism: repeatedly, the truth of Christianity is presented as spiritual and personal, having nothing to do with ritual or formality, with one's faith being grounded in the heart and mind, not the sacraments or any kind of sacrifice. Obviously this is an incomplete picture of the earliest Christian communities--no one anywhere has a complete one!--but it's fascinating all the same.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    The Epistles of Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Diognetus, and Barnabas. It's fascinating to hear from these individuals who had known the Apostles and were writing in the early Christian church history. Together, they "give a fascinating glimpse of the still-young Church finding its feet within contemporary culture. In the next century a more determined attempt would be made to relate the Christian message to the Hellenistic world, but the beginnings were here. And here too we find the beginnings o The Epistles of Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Diognetus, and Barnabas. It's fascinating to hear from these individuals who had known the Apostles and were writing in the early Christian church history. Together, they "give a fascinating glimpse of the still-young Church finding its feet within contemporary culture. In the next century a more determined attempt would be made to relate the Christian message to the Hellenistic world, but the beginnings were here. And here too we find the beginnings of an established institutional authority, as the age of the Apostles receded into the past, and an attempt to draw together the several strands of the apostolic tradition." The translator also peppers the book with interesting facts—for instance, the Epistle to Diognetus was discovered among a pile of packing paper in the fish market in 1435. I'd have to revisit this book—there's depth in these letters that demand rereads, and there's also something special about reading them and planting myself at this specific time in history, a time when early Christians faced horrible, horrible things and yet persevered and grew in size. What I can say for now, upon my first read, is that these letters encourage me —to have greater faith and hope.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lee Harmon

    If you’re looking for a brief collection of early Christian writings, this one hits all the high points. For someone wanting a taste of the emerging church, Christianity in its infancy, nothing beats reading the letters and theological treatises themselves, and this is a good collection. Nothing fancy; the introduction is short and the notes are sparse, limited primarily to historical settings, so you’re getting it from the horses’ mouths. And what you’re getting is the founding Fathers, after th If you’re looking for a brief collection of early Christian writings, this one hits all the high points. For someone wanting a taste of the emerging church, Christianity in its infancy, nothing beats reading the letters and theological treatises themselves, and this is a good collection. Nothing fancy; the introduction is short and the notes are sparse, limited primarily to historical settings, so you’re getting it from the horses’ mouths. And what you’re getting is the founding Fathers, after the excitement of the first century and its expectation of the immediate return of Christ died down. The men who took the scriptures seriously and built a religion for the long haul. Jewish customs are still evident, early doctrine is solidified, martyrs are glorified. Here’s the lineup: The first epistle of Clement to the Corinthians Seven epistles of Ignatius The epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians The martyrdom of Polycarp The epistle of Diognetus The epistle of Barnabas The Didache This is a Penguin Classic, translated by Maxwell Staniforth with commentary by Andrew Louth.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    First and foremost I would like to thank James for giving me a copy of "The Apostolic Fathers." I feel like I got a little taste of a Princeton Divinity School education when I finished reading this collection of primary source material. If only I could read these texts in the original Greek! This book is a fantastic collection of letters from Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius, Papias, and Diognetus. It was super interesting to read how these Church Fathers struggled with the faith in the first and se First and foremost I would like to thank James for giving me a copy of "The Apostolic Fathers." I feel like I got a little taste of a Princeton Divinity School education when I finished reading this collection of primary source material. If only I could read these texts in the original Greek! This book is a fantastic collection of letters from Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius, Papias, and Diognetus. It was super interesting to read how these Church Fathers struggled with the faith in the first and second centuries after the events of the New Testament. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christian Fauerso

    Modern Christians and churches who think of themselves as "New Testament" christians or churches who identify as "New Testament" churches need to read such writings and come to terms with the reality of the actual New Testament church. Ancient writings such as these give us a window into the beginnings and roots of our faith. Much doctrine and theology is already assumed at these early stage before the councils ever took place, from church polity, to baptism, the Eucharist and much more. A defin Modern Christians and churches who think of themselves as "New Testament" christians or churches who identify as "New Testament" churches need to read such writings and come to terms with the reality of the actual New Testament church. Ancient writings such as these give us a window into the beginnings and roots of our faith. Much doctrine and theology is already assumed at these early stage before the councils ever took place, from church polity, to baptism, the Eucharist and much more. A definite must read and then after you have read it, taste it, chew it and then digest it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Siobhain

    It just doesn't get much better than the some of the earliest writing of the earliest Christians outside of the Bible. Very inspiring! It just doesn't get much better than the some of the earliest writing of the earliest Christians outside of the Bible. Very inspiring!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    It must be admitted that this is not a complete volume of the writings that are considered part of the Apostolic Fathers [1].  Even so, so long as the reader goes into this book knowing what materials are included it is certainly a thought-provoking read.  The Apostolic Fathers are a group of people (some of them anonymous) who were thought to have been followers of the Apostles and thus faithful recorders of the traditions of the Apostles in an age of Christianity that is largely obscure.  From It must be admitted that this is not a complete volume of the writings that are considered part of the Apostolic Fathers [1].  Even so, so long as the reader goes into this book knowing what materials are included it is certainly a thought-provoking read.  The Apostolic Fathers are a group of people (some of them anonymous) who were thought to have been followers of the Apostles and thus faithful recorders of the traditions of the Apostles in an age of Christianity that is largely obscure.  From the writings included in this series it is pretty clear that this was likely not the case.  Of particular interest to readers of this book is the way that it is clear that there were tendencies already present in the late first and early second century AD that would also lead to the growing apostasy that one finds when looking at Post-Nicene Hellenistic Christianity.  The roots of that problem were manifest pretty early on in some of the writings that we have, and examining that problem is a worthwhile one for those who seek to follow or understand biblical Christianity.  Even if the Apostolic Fathers are a bit of a misnomer, they are still worth paying attention to for understanding the past as best as we can. At about 200 pages, this book includes at least most of the material that would be considered among the Apostolic Fathers, though by no means all of it.  After a general introduction and bibliography and note on the text, the translation includes the following materials:  The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians (but not the message known as 2 Clement today), the seven legitimate epistles of Ignatius to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrnaeans, and Polycarp, the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians and the Martyrdom of Polycarp, as well as the Epistle to Diogetus, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Didache.  Not included are the fragments of Papias that survive, the Sherpherd of Hermas (a lengthy writing), or the fragments of Quadratus that survive.  While the book could certainly have been more complete, by including in an easy-to-read format the most important works that survive from the late first and early second century AD from what would become Orthodox/Catholic Christiantiy the translator has done a good service to readers, even if they are likely to be left with a great deal of questions. Although there are a great many people who for one reason or another have sought to use the Apostolic Fathers and interest in them to burnish their own reputations or further their own agendas, these works defy easy categorization and present more questions than they provide answers.  As a reader who comes from a different religious tradition than most people, I am fascinated by the problems that the writings demonstrate between early Christians and Jews and the distinctly non-biblical approach that many writers (including Ignatius and Barnabas in particular) took towards the whole Bible in response to their disagreements with Jews, similar to the responses taken by contemporary Hellenistic believers when faced with the ethical demands of the Bible when it comes to Sabbath, for example.  It appears that as the problems of centralized authority and doctrinal drift were early problems faced in the first couple of centuries of Christianity that understanding these problems is important for seeing how it is that Christianity came to be so far from Christ Himself.  Other readers may have other concerns, though, and this book provides plenty of room for reader to investigate their own questions about a wide variety of issues dealt with by the early Church of God. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alex of Yoe

    What a fascinating read of some of the earliest surviving Christian documents! I'd never read these before, though I had heard of some of them, and it was truly encouraging and enlightening to get my hands on an English translation. This book is a collection of letters from St. Clement, St. Ignatius, and St. Polycarp to various churches as well as an account of St. Polycarp's martydom, a couple letters of unknown authorship (the Epistle to Diognetus and the Epistle of Barnabas), and the Didache ( What a fascinating read of some of the earliest surviving Christian documents! I'd never read these before, though I had heard of some of them, and it was truly encouraging and enlightening to get my hands on an English translation. This book is a collection of letters from St. Clement, St. Ignatius, and St. Polycarp to various churches as well as an account of St. Polycarp's martydom, a couple letters of unknown authorship (the Epistle to Diognetus and the Epistle of Barnabas), and the Didache (aka, the "sayings of the Apostles" which is thought to be an older text than most of the New Testament!). It includes introductions to each text by the compiler and footnotes with more cultural and historical context. I was so encouraged in my faith just reading these. It's amazing to see the elements and thoughts that were already in circulation at the earliest times of the Christian Church. Liturgical practices, prayers, baptism rites, a hierarchy of bishops and deacons, veneration of saints, denouncing of heresies, etc. is all there at least in an early form (though in some cases, what's there has still been preserved in its entirety, at least by the Orthodox Church). Some parts were a little weird (The Epistle of Barnabas was really bizarre), but most of it was incredibly insightful. The Didache especially was so neat to read. What a picture of the early Christian Church! My one complaint is with the commentator. I'm not sure what his background is, but he seems to read a lot of his opinions into the text without providing any good support for them. He has a bit of a liberal lean in his biblical interpretation, and he obviously knows nothing about Eastern Orthodoxy (outside his references to "the [modern] Greek Church" anyway). He often describes some beliefs and practices as things that were "once believed by the early church" when they're still believed/practice by the Eastern Orthodox Church today! He is definitely reading and interpreting with Western eyes, and I was often confused as to how he interpreted a part of the text in the way he did. I would've preferred reading from a more informed perspective (or at least a more open one). I'd love to see a version with comments from an Orthodox perspective! Definitely a must read for any Christian interested in the beginnings of the Faith. I came away strengthened and uplifted!

  21. 5 out of 5

    J

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Interesting collection of writings from the late 1st century through the early 2nd. Basically all of the texts share certain concerns: a desire to legitimate Christianity outside of Judaism - a tendency that at times approaches anti-Semitism; a desire to maintain believers' good behavior and theological orthodoxy; a desire to legitimate the apostles' authority; and a desire to validate Christ's Messiah-status through Old Testament scripture. Clement's epistle is intellectually pretty dull, but sti Interesting collection of writings from the late 1st century through the early 2nd. Basically all of the texts share certain concerns: a desire to legitimate Christianity outside of Judaism - a tendency that at times approaches anti-Semitism; a desire to maintain believers' good behavior and theological orthodoxy; a desire to legitimate the apostles' authority; and a desire to validate Christ's Messiah-status through Old Testament scripture. Clement's epistle is intellectually pretty dull, but still remains an interesting look at how these early communities were stitched together through simple moral exhortations, community solidarity, and the simplest, most sincere reading of the Gospels. Ignatius of Antioch was more interesting. He's theologically the most sophisticated, and there are a lot of hints early trinitarianism in his repeated insistence -- against the Docetists -- that Christ was fully human as well as divine. Plus his martyrdom is fascinating: "Suffer me to be the food of wild beasts, whereby I may attain unto God. I am the wheat of God, and am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, in order that I may be found the pure bread of Christ." (Should be said: These may be fake! And Calvin thought it was all bullshit. Who knows?) Polycarp is fascinating basically as an elder, who represented the last generation to have some personal connection to the apostles. With his martyrdom, a certain era ends, it seems. The Epistle of Barnabas seems even more dubious -- found in a fish market? -- and was easily the most tedious, a desperate attempt to force allegorical readings of the OT in order legitimate Jesus.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Strom

    The Early Christian Writings were not written by the Apostles as were the books of the New Testament, but were written by leading Christians of the next generation who may have known some of the surviving apostles. These included epistles, some of them written to the same Christian communities St Paul has addressed a generation previously. Many of these epistles are written in the style of the Pauline epistles, sometimes using liturgical forms, sometimes weaving in and out of a prayer on behalf The Early Christian Writings were not written by the Apostles as were the books of the New Testament, but were written by leading Christians of the next generation who may have known some of the surviving apostles. These included epistles, some of them written to the same Christian communities St Paul has addressed a generation previously. Many of these epistles are written in the style of the Pauline epistles, sometimes using liturgical forms, sometimes weaving in and out of a prayer on behalf of communities they were addressing. These translations are superior to the translations in the Anti-Nicene Fathers volumes, they are very easy to read. Quite unfortunately, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Fragments of Papias were omitted “for reasons of space.” Included are such gems as the Didache and the Martyrdom of Polycarp, and many epistles from Ignatius, Clement, and others. These Early Christian writings were from the generation after the Apostles, which was one of the criteria for inclusion in the canon of the New Testament. The Didache is the earliest of these writings, and is set in the early Church era when evangelists such as Paul traveled from one church to another preaching the Gospels. A few of these writings are treasured simply because they are so few writings surviving from that first formative century, which means they are more valuable historically than theologically. For reviews of each of the selections in this collection of works, please visit my blog.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Toby

    Having read so much around these letters it came as a real surprise when I discovered that I hadn't actually read them all. This volume, which has spent the last sixteen years on my shelf, was one of those books that I had assumed that had been read when it hadn't. Of course many of the writings contained therein, had been read in other books - most obviously The Didache and the first epistle of Clement. I was surprised at how unacquainted I was with Ignatius's letters apart from his famous one Having read so much around these letters it came as a real surprise when I discovered that I hadn't actually read them all. This volume, which has spent the last sixteen years on my shelf, was one of those books that I had assumed that had been read when it hadn't. Of course many of the writings contained therein, had been read in other books - most obviously The Didache and the first epistle of Clement. I was surprised at how unacquainted I was with Ignatius's letters apart from his famous one to the church in Rome. The writings are important because they are the tiniest scraps of written evidence that we have for the period between the writing of the New Testament and the Apologists of the mid second century. In the case of the Didache, brief though it is, we get glimpses of what an early Christian Eucharist might have looked like. In Ignatius's letters we are surprised at how developed his Christological and Trinitarian theology is. It will take the church 350 years to put into neat Greek categories the early Christian hymn that Ignatius quotes to the Ephesians - and given that this must be a hymn in popular circulation it's reasonable to surmise that it already reflected theology that was twenty years old. In contrast to these writings, the Epistle to Barnabas which narrowly missed out on making it into the NT canon (it is included in the Codex Sinaiticus) is for the most part an exercise in tedious allegory and already feels distinctly different from the writings of the first century of Christianity.

  24. 4 out of 5

    mraziyen

    I'm omitting a rating because of the nature of this book as a collection of ancient texts from the early Church. It was about time that I actually read the Church Fathers myself! I have read tidbits, but I never read a collection of full letters from the early church. I believe that every Christian should read these at some point so that they can have an understanding of what the early Church was like. We see the importance of apostolic succession (the church fathers very much emphasized submitt I'm omitting a rating because of the nature of this book as a collection of ancient texts from the early Church. It was about time that I actually read the Church Fathers myself! I have read tidbits, but I never read a collection of full letters from the early church. I believe that every Christian should read these at some point so that they can have an understanding of what the early Church was like. We see the importance of apostolic succession (the church fathers very much emphasized submitting to the bishop and holding fast to their traditions), being firm against heresies, the importance of Christian love, ecclesiology, and even instructions on the sacraments. I was especially moved by Ignatius' epistle to the Romans, where he writes about his upcoming martyrdom. What a testament to God's strength and love.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marc Schelske

    This little volume is fantastic and ought to find a home of the shelves of every pastor, Bible teacher, and theologian as well as any thoughtful Christian who wants to understand the history and development of their faith. It gathers 12 essential early Christian documents, including the earliest known Christian document outside the New Testament (1st Clement), the entire sequence of Ignatius’ letters written enroute to his execution in Rome, and the Didache, a deeply wise and practical “church m This little volume is fantastic and ought to find a home of the shelves of every pastor, Bible teacher, and theologian as well as any thoughtful Christian who wants to understand the history and development of their faith. It gathers 12 essential early Christian documents, including the earliest known Christian document outside the New Testament (1st Clement), the entire sequence of Ignatius’ letters written enroute to his execution in Rome, and the Didache, a deeply wise and practical “church manual” written within about 50 years of the New Testament itself. These documents are available in many places, and even online, but this translation is solid, and it includes helpful context before each document to introduce you to the author and the circumstances which prompted the author to write.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Isa

    A good collection of early writings that prove that the basic beliefs of what we know as Christianity today was much more established in the early days than many belief. Many attribute the council of Nicaea as the time where all these beliefs came to fruition but rather it seems that 325 was just when these views were fully accepted as mainstream & that any other beliefs were a deviation. Having said that, I do find the didache to be a piece of work that at a first glance contradicts the other w A good collection of early writings that prove that the basic beliefs of what we know as Christianity today was much more established in the early days than many belief. Many attribute the council of Nicaea as the time where all these beliefs came to fruition but rather it seems that 325 was just when these views were fully accepted as mainstream & that any other beliefs were a deviation. Having said that, I do find the didache to be a piece of work that at a first glance contradicts the other works due to its usage of Jesus being slave of God rather than son of God.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Smith

    Wonderful collection of ancient wisdom This short collection brings together a number of the earliest Christian texts that exist outside the bible. Reading these you have a real sense of the early church and their status as outsiders and using the teachings of Christ and the apostles in defiance of the prevailing times. I would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in the pre-Nicene church.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Will Blasingame

    NOTE: This review and rating are only about compilation and translation, not the content of the early Christian writings. The translator chose interesting words at points that jolts you out of the text and reminds you this is a translation. For example “penny-pinching”, “tale-telling”, or “spiteful tittle-tattle”. Tittle-tattle??? What?? Also, I wish they included the Shepherd of Hermas in the text. Pretty good context before the actual works themselves though so I liked that.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Roisin

    This is a collection of early Christian writings which were more interesting I think further in. The writings lay down ideas, beliefs and interpretations of the direction that early Christians wanted to go. It is pretty clear that they wish to define their beliefs very differently from Judaism. No surprises that these early writers were quite fanatical and some into martyrdom in big way.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    This is an incredible book. It is amazing that we can read writings of the saints and other Early Christian literature from the 2nd century AD today! Anyone who considers themselves even remotely Christian should read this book! It’s full of amazing spiritual wisdom and knowledge. I will definitely be reading this again!

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