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Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 1, 1987


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (September 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140444750
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140444759
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Greek (translation)

About the Author

Andrew Louth, born in Lincolnshire and brought up in the north of England, studied Theology at the universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh. From 1970 to 1985 he was Fellow and Chaplain of Worcester College, Oxford, and University Lecturer in Theology, teaching prinipally Patristics. In 1985 he became Reader in History at Goldsmith's College, London. He is the author of The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition (1981), Discerning the Mystery: An Essay on the Nature of Theology (1983) and Denys the Areopagite (1989). He has also edited Early Christian Writings for the Penguin Classics.

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Customer Reviews

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It is very readable.
Jason Richard
I've directly compared the translation in this book to other versions of some of these documents.
N. Harper
A must read for anyone who wants to learn more about the Early Christians, Early Church.
Mike

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Jason Richard on April 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Staniforth's is a superb translation of the Apostolic Fathers, the best I have ever come across. It is very readable. Each writing comes with an introdution by the editor detailing its history --- when and where it was written, etc. --- and discussing its main themes. This would make a excellent addition to the library of anyone interested in early Christianity.
The texts included in this volume are 1 Clement; the 7 epistles of Ignatius to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrnaeans, and Polycarp; the epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians; the Martyrdom of Polycarp; the Epistle to Diognetus; the Epistle of Barnabas (despite what one of the previous reviewers says, it's included in this volume); and the Didache.
Conspicuously absent are the Shepherd of Hermas and the fragments of Papias. Both have usually been considered Apostolic Fathers, and I am a little baffled at their omission.
Other recommended Penguin Classics: "The Jewish War" by Josephus, "The History of the Church" by Eusebius.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Todd Hudnall on September 5, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Early Christian Writings is an excellent collection of the works of the Post-Apostolic Church Fathers. It is for anyone looking for literature that opens a window into the Post-Apostolic Early Church. The epistles included are The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians; The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrnaeans, and to Polycarp; The Epistles of Polycarp to the Philippians; along with the Epistles to Diognetus and Barnabas. The book also includes the Didache and the martyrdom of Polycarp. For some reason Louth did not include the Shepherd of Hermas and the fragments of Papias, though he does mention them as being part of Cotelier's collection of writings by the Church Fathers.
If you are interested in the writings of the Church Fathers, and have never read such a collection, you can have some enjoyable and moving reading ahead of you. In reference to his pending martyrdom Ignatius writes, "I am His (God's) wheat, ground fine by the lions' teeth to be made purest bread for Christ" (Romans 4). He also says, "To die in Jesus Christ is better than to be monarch of earth's widest bounds. He who dies for us is all I seek; He who rose again for us is my whole desire" (Romans 6). The Epistle to Diognetus contains a vivid and compelling description of the early Christians. The second half of the Didache is full of interesting guidelines and instructions to the early believers on such things as baptism and fasting. Louth includes some good commentary about the fascinating account of the martyrdom of Polycarp.
The translation by Staniforth is very readable. The introductions by Louth are interesting, helpful, and well written.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Joshua L Wright on November 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
This collection is a decent collection and translation of the Apostolic Fathers for the general reader. I have two gripes though.

One is that the Shepherd of Hermas is not included. I would imagine this was because of its length, but the collection seems woefully inadequate without it.

The second is that the verse and chapter numbers are not given in a form that makes them the least bit usable when looking up passages that are referenced in other books.

For research purposes, I would recommend the Loeb Classical Library editions or the excellent one volume reworking of the Lightfoot edition available from Baker Books edited by Michael Holmes.

But if you're not out to be the next Jarislav Pelikan or J.N.D. Kelley, then this should do just fine for some interesting and inspiring reading.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Climacus on July 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is one of those paradigm-changing books. At least, its the one that has brought me closest to converting from Baptistic evangelicalism to Orthodoxy (or, to a lesser extent, Catholicism).

The letters of St. Ignatius were particularly troubling - in a good way. I was taken aback by his hardcore bishop-and-eucharistic centered theology, as well as his clearly defined tripartite form of church government of bishop, priest and deacon. His letters, which also powerfully attest to the martyr spirituality of the early church, really caused me to re-think whether congregationalism is right interpretation of Scripture. I mean, exegeting the Scriptures alone doesn't seem to yield a single conclusion, but to have a record of an episcopal form of church government from a bishop who was purportedly acquainted with the Apostle John... well that's got to count for something, right?

All of the works in this volume are elegantly translated, and would do any Christian a world of good to read, especially evangelicals who are wanting to be introduced to the writings of the Church Fathers and who don't know where to start. Without question, this is the book to begin with, for the best, and earliest source materials, in an easy to read, yet intelligent, translation.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael on January 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
Since I'm only beginning to study the history of the early church, I can't comment on the omissions other reviewers here cite as this book's major flaw. But I can say that the documents included in the book offer the average reader a fascinating insight into the beliefs, pracices and history of the earliest post-Apostolic church. And for religious polemicists, these documents show that it was not a congregationalist, Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide church that enshrined the right of the individual believer to interpret and practice the Faith according to his conscience. This was a hierarchical, sacramental, united church which believed in the necessity of works in addition to faith and believed that its gold standard of truth and teaching authority resided in the Apostolic succession of its bishops. Since some of the Church Fathers included in this book had actually known the Apostles or men who had been taught by the Apostles, this view of Christianity has to be given the greatest weight as that intended by Christ. Roman Catholic apologists specifically will also find support in the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians (circa 96 AD) in which the bishop of Rome involves himself in the affairs of the Corinthian church and adjudicates their dispute. Whatever your religious perspective though, this book is a wonderfully informative glimpse into a age most people only know about through the filter of technicolor Hollywood epics (Quo Vadis) or the bare-bones hagiographies of martyrs.
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