Trajectories through the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers

By Andrew F. Gregory; Christopher M. Tuckett | Go to book overview

Introduction and Overview

Andrew F. Gregory and Christopher M. Tuckett

The first modern editor to refer to a collection of early Christian writings as the Apostolic Fathers appears to have been J. Cotelier, whose edition was published in 1672. The most recent is Bart D. Ehrman, a contributor to this collection, whose Greek-English edition in the Loeb Classical Library replaces the original and much-used Loeb volumes produced by Kirsopp Lake. Lists of those who are included in the conventional but largely arbitrary collection known as the ‘Apostolic Fathers’ do vary slightly (Ehrman takes a more inclusive approach than both Lake and the Oxford Committee),1 but included in The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers and in Trajectories through the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers are treatments of the central texts in this category, as found also in the 1905 volumes, The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers: the Didache, 1 Clement, 2 Clement, the letters of Ignatius, Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians, the Letter of Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas. Also included in the second of these 2005 volumes is the Martyrdom of Polycarp, which the Oxford Committee did not consider.

The 1905 volume treated a relatively narrow set of issues: namely, the extent to which the documents of the New Testament were known, and cited (or alluded to), by the Apostolic Fathers. Such issues remain important, so they are the central concern of The Reception of the New Testament and the

1 Lake included the Letter to Diognetus, in addition to those named above and discussed in the present volumes; Ehrman includes all these texts, as well as the fragments of Papias and Quadratus. This collection, he notes, is comparable to other similarly arbitrary collections of second- and third-century Christian writings: e.g., the apologists, the heresiologists, and the Nag Hammadi Library. Understood as a collection of writings based only on convention, the Apostolic Fathers, he continues, ‘is not an authoritative collection of books, but a convenient one, which, in conjunction with these other collections, can enlighten us concerning the character of early Christianity, its external appeal and inner dynamics, its rich and significant diversity, and its developing understandings of its own self-identity, social distinctiveness, theology, ethical norms, and liturgical practices’. See, further, B. D. Ehrman, ‘General Introduction’, in The Apostolic Fathers, i, LCL 24 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003), 1–14, quotation on pp. 13–14.

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