- Hardcover: 610 pages
- Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (November 1950)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802880878
- ISBN-13: 978-0802880871
- Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.8 x 1.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,124,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ante Nicene Fathers, Volume 1: Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus Hardcover – November, 1950
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St Ignatius is the most important in the first part of the book. Having received the doctrine from the apostles, he clarifies the role of Bishop and Eucharist in the Church. This will set the stage for many of St Irenaeus's clinching arguments against the gnostics (e.g., apostolic succession).
Justin Martyr is the next leader examined. Legend has it, and I see no reason to dismiss it, that Apollos of the New Testament converted Justin from Platonic philosophy to Christianity (and of course, a Christianized Platonism). Justin's work is valuable in showing the first major response to learned critics (and perhaps embarrassing Christians today by showing that Judaism has always been a staunch enemy of Christianity, even on Judaism's own terms).
St Irenaeus of Lyons receives the most attention, given that *Adversus Haerisis* is the longest work. St Irenaeus is particularly difficult to read. He is dealing with Gnosticism, which like today's feminism and New Age movement, is painfully dense and laborious. Only the most heroic of readers can wade through this part (Books 1 and 2). I didn't.
Book 3 is a bit more concrete and begin St Irenaeus' actual rebuttal. St Irenaeus uses a number of internal critiques against the Gnostics. They accept the testimony of the Scriptures to some degree, so Irenaeus shows how the implications of their beliefs either contradict the Scriptures or lead to absurdities.
Books 4 and 5 begin and end with a positive presentation of Christian doctrine. Key to his argument has been his assumption of "apostolic succession." Given that anybody can marshal scripture references, the only way to dodge the impasse (Mexican stand off) his for one to show that they have continuity--physical, historically verifiable continuity with the apostles. Irenaeus sets forth an apostolic succession and an apostolic canon (or the beginnings of one, anyway. And for what it's worth, Irenaeus accepts the validity of the deutero-canonical LXX).
The book is dense and makes for difficult reading. His style isn't the smoothest and even with the best of writers, his subject matter is particularly painful (but then again, he is refuting heresy and heresy is always drab and boring). Still, this entire volume is a snapshot into the life of the earliest post-apostolic church.
This first volume contains the so-called "Apostolic Fathers" (from about 100 CE-200 CE): Clement of Rome (who became Pope Clement I from about 92-99 CE); the epistle of Mathetes (not a name; "Mathetes" means "disciple") to Diognetus; Polycarp (69-155), who was taught by the apostle John; Ignatius of Antioch (about 35/50 to 98/117); the Epistle of Barnabas (not the "authentic" Barnabas of the Book of Acts); Papias of Hierapolis; Justin Martyr (100-165); and Irenaeus (died about 202). The next volume in the series is Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume 2 (Early Church Fathers Series).
Clement noted that the apostle Peter "had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him." (Pg. 6) He also records Polycarp's refusal to renounce Jesus, and subsequent execution (pg. 41-42).
Ignatius wrote that "Christianity did not embrace Judaism, but Judaism Christianity, that so every tongue which believeth might be gathered together to God." (Pg. 63) He also admits that "I do not issue orders like an apostle." (Pg. 67) He exhorts believers to "have but one faith, and one [kind of] preaching, and one Eucharist." (Pg. 81) He affirms the authority of the bishop, writing, "Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop," who "ministers as a priest to God for the salvation of the whole world." (Pg. 89-90)
Justin wrote, "philosophy is, in fact, the greatest possession, and most honorable before God, to whom it leads us and alone commends us; and these are true holy men who have bestowed attention on philosophy." (Pg. 195) He argues that the prophetical gifts of the Jewish nation have been "transferred to us." (Pg. 240)
Irenaeus asks, "Whom then should we rather believe? Whether such men as these, or Ptolemaeus, who never saw the apostles, and who never even in his dreams attained to the slightest trace of an apostle?" (Pg. 392) He later recalls, "But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, ... appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom." (Pg. 416; also see 568) He records that the author of the second gospel was "Mark, the interpreter and follower of Peter." (Pg. 425) He also notes that Papias was "the hearer of John, and a companion of Polycarp." (Pg. 563)
This edition is well worth owning, for anyone even remotely interested in early Christianity.
Where is this bundle found? I have by searching found all 38 volumes in hardcopy; what I haven't found is an ebook containing the complete collection.