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Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers Paperback – September 1, 1987
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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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very important link between the New Testament and the developing Church. Very glad it's in my library.Published 6 days ago by peter e dycus
I buy this book often, as I often give it away. If you are curious about the thoughts and beliefs of the earliest Christians, this book is invaluable.Published 1 month ago by Christopher H.
Excellent update of earlier Pelican edition - same comments apply.Published 4 months ago by Frank Dagonese
Beautifully written letters from the early church Fathers whose writings excellently showcase the Apostolic Tradition carried on from the teachings of Jesus' disciples.Published 7 months ago by Anthony Rozmajzl
This is a wonderful collection of early Christian writings. The notes and introductions are helpful, and Staniforth gives a great translation (as he does for Penguin's edition of... Read morePublished 8 months ago by N. Prokup
Very interesting.. Every Christian should have this in their library.Published 9 months ago by Kaylene Rasmussen
It is very helpful to me to learn what the earliest Christian writers had to say.Published 9 months ago by Sally King