Early Christian Fathers

Early Christian Fathers

Early Christian Fathers

Early Christian Fathers

Excerpt

The most striking facts about early Christian literature are its rich variety and its almost exclusively Gentile authorship. Outside the New Testament writings little belongs to the first century, the only considerable document being Clement's Letter to the Church of Corinth. But the second century saw an increasing literary activity among Christians, which swelled to a flood toward its end.

To choose the works of the first two centuries that can be called "classics" is a difficult, even an arbitrary, task. It is the purpose of this volume to select a number of the most notable treatises, having in mind their representative character as well as their intrinsic worth. Thus an early sermon has been included despite its somewhat banal nature, while more weighty works such as the Apologies of Tatian and Theophilus have been excluded. Justin and Athenagoras must suffice to indicate that class of literature. It has not, however, been possible to include every type of early Christian writing. Thereis no apocalypse, no apocryphal gospel, no Christian poetry. Yet the selection made will give a good indication of the temper of second century Christianity and the quality of its literature.

The earliest Christian writings after the New Testament are customarily known under the title "Apostolic Fathers." It is to a French scholar of the seventeenth century, Jean Cotelier, that we owe this grouping. In 1672 he published two volumes entitled SS. Patrum qui temporibus apostolicis floruerunt...opera edita et inedita, vera et suppositicia. This collection included the letter ascribed to Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, two letters of Clement (of which only one is genuine), seven of Ignatius, and one of Polycarp, along with the account of the latter's . . .

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