Translated from the original by Costas Balomenos
The Apostolic Fathers Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp
With the term "Apostolic Fathers" we mean those writers of the 2nd century AD that their writings are clearly theological content and are a continuation of the authors of the books of the New Testament. Chiefly aims in practical purposes regarding Christianity and the various questions arising around his teaching and are deprived of theological depth and power that emit divinely the inspired books of the New Testament...
These writings, which are quite in number, according to the researchers are probably remnants that have survived of a greater number of writings of their generation.
Certainly the term Apostolic Fathers, who first used by the J.B. Cotelerius in 1672 and has since prevailed is problematic. Because the alleged as Apostolic Fathers all have not the declared apostolicity, neither they knew all the Apostles nor apostolic conviction, since they can included anonymous works, not absolutely orthodox. Apostolic Fathers were quite literally only: Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna.
But nonetheless, their contribution to Christianity and the Church is huge, because testify for the organization of the first church and the fundamental lines of the Apostolic Tradition, thereby connecting the second century with the first. It also helps to rejection several unprecedented theories that emerged in recent years and relate the Apostolic times, as for instance of Baur, who claimed about portions or parties in the first Church and among the Apostles. So according to Clement of Rome, Peter and Paul are both " the good apostles" (1 Cor 5:3, BSA 1.15) having great prestige and the power to order (by Ignatius the God-bearer in the Epistle to the Romans. 4, BSA 2, 304) and that "the blessed and glorious Paul", who distinguished for the his "wisdom", co-numbered with the "other apostles", as our rescues Polycarp of Smyrna (For Phil. 3:2 and 9 : 1, BSA 3, 16, 17).
From the works of the Apostolic Fathers chronologically the first to be rescued is the "First Letter to the Corinthians" Clement of Rome. Clement of Rome is the first eponymous ecclesiastical writer, but for his life we know little. According to Irenaeus was the third bishop of Rome after Linos and Aneglitos, and according to Tertullian was ordained by the Apostle Peter and it became the first bishop. The tradition of the Church favors the option of Irenaeus. His memory is celebrated on November 23.
Clement then sends a letter to the church of Corinth in 96 AD because of the riots and discords that happened once again in this church. The letter consists of 65 chapters and is characterized valuable because it provides us important information about the organization of the ancient Church. To Clement of Rome is attributed the alleged "Second Letter to the Corinthians" but this is problematic. Because is referred primarily by Eusebius of Caesarea as genuine, writing the following: “We must to have in mind that there is - in the words - and a second letter of Clement, but we are not aware about this recognition and at a similar level as the first, because we don’t know if was used by the ancients. Some presented yesterday or the day before and other garrulous and extensive writings, as belonging to him, containing dialogues of Peter and Apiona, but there is not any reference to old and which do not maintain clean the character of apostolic orthodoxy. It is therefore evident the authenticity of the delivered letter of Clement” (Ecclesiastical History III, 38:4 - 5). But unlike, the great Photius describes it as problematic, containing material that is strange. He writes about: "The second letter advises and urges for higher life and in start preaches the Christ as God except that it introduces some strange explicitly that supposedly derived from the Bible, from which neither the first epistle was not completely was absolved. It also has some weird interpretations of sayings. Moreover, and their meanings are somewhat scattered at random and do not maintain continuous the sequence "(Myriovivlos 126). However, the currently prevailing opinion on this is that it is the oldest Christian preaching that has survived, but without being able to determine when, where and by whom has recited. Because we have the tidings that it were read in the church of Corinth, so it became misconception and was connected with the First Epistle of Clement. Dated to the middle of the second century.
From Rome is derived and the "Shepherd", one of the most favorite readings of ancient Christian times. It's a revealing text that belongs to Judeo-Christian apocalyptic secretariat by someone whose name is stated in the beginning of the text and is Hermas. In the Rule of Muratori we read that the Hermas was the brother of the bishop of Rome Pius (142 to 155 AD), which of course we can not confirm, because these biographical details are fictional and written for the sake of economy of the project. Hermas represents himself as a contemporary of Clement of Rome and mentioned that he was circulated very early in the churches of the East, about it and many critics place his writing between 90-100A.D., while others between 120-140A.D. Includes five visions, twelve commandments and ten parables. This trilateral division, according to G. Fischer rather came later. The title got him because it binds to the angel and the woman that provide the revelations in Hermas, and the mood of the author to direct “the flock” the faithful. The project aims to lead the faithful to repentance and in the moral and virtuous life. Indeed, to make the sermon convincing and acceptable displays it as "revelation" from God through a respectable woman and a beautiful angel in idyllic environment. The "Shepherd" is distinguished by its moralization, not his theology, it is imaginative, chatty and sometimes abstruse but simultaneously remonstrant and attractive. General, it moves between apostolic tradition and conservative Judaism.
Another favorite reading of the ancient - not only - Christian years derived at this time from Alexandria, it is and that of Clement of Alexandria and Origen who incorrectly was attributed to the apostle Barnabas called “Epistle Barnabas”. Eusebius of Caesarea characterizes it as illegitimate: “Among the illegitimate let classified the book of the Acts of Paul, the so-called Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter and additional the alleged letter of Barnabas” (Ecclesiastical History III, 25). It is considered that it was written before 160 A.D. with more likely the times of the empire of Hadrian (117-138 A.D.). The Letter of Barnabas consists of 21 chapters and is inspired by vehemently anti-Judaic spirit. The chapters 18-21 considered that added to the end of the second century. Possibly the author is one of the Christians on Nations. The anti-Judaic spirit leads him into a deep contempt of the Old Testament, but this was not accepted by the Church, since he considered and considers as pedagogue in Christ (Paul), and generally deviates to the heresy of Gnosticism. Considers that “the perfect knowledge” leads to God, since faith is only the first step, but a knowledge who intended for a few. Distinguished also for the stream that existed then in the Christian gulfs, for the rapid advent of the Lord, as well as another favorite stream of the "two roads" of light and darkness.
In the late 19th century was destined to see the light of publicity one more popular work of the Apostolic Fathers, the “Didache of the 12 Apostles”. Derived probably from a church of the East, whether this is of Syria or of Palestine or of Alexandria was issued in 1833 by the Bishop of Nicomedia Philotheus Bryennios, who had discovered in code of year 1056. But as he writes the memorable Professor Stylianos Papadopoulos, according to information of Bishop of Mytilene James Nicolaou ( 1958), they knew the text of the Didache earlier the Patriarch Joachim III (1878 - 1884), who were interested to issued and Constantinos Typaldos ( 1867), who also had prepared the under publication text, which ultimately did Philotheos, knowing that thus becomes a forger. In any case, however, the Didache is considered as one of the most interesting philological discoveries of recent years. It consists of two parts. The first six chapters constitute the catechetical teaching on the familiar shape of the two pathways of life-death and darkness-light that found in the Letter of Barnabas and under Greek influence - Parmenides, Table of Kevis, Neo-Pythagorean - and Jewish sources, as for example from the Old Testament or the Discipline Handbook. The remaining ten chapters contain instructions concerning the celebration of baptism, worship, fasting, the ecclesiastical order and how the believers to discern the true prophets from false prophets. The chapter 16 refers to the popular subject of rapid coming of the Lord. Older the time writing of the Didache considered as a possible before 160A.D. Now, placed around 90 to 110A.D. and even the “instructions” on the ecclesiastical orderliness considered to have their source probably in years 60 to 70A.D. The text of the Didache has great significance for the history of functional ecclesiastical poetry, because rescues metrical hymns that were then in functional use. Let's "get a taste" of some of them:
“Thanks to, paternoster,
for the holy vineyard of David your child’s,
knew that to us through Jesus your child’s ·
to Thee be glory forever.
for the holy vineyard of David your child’s,
knew that to us through Jesus your child’s ·
to Thee be glory forever.
Thanks to, paternoster,
in favor of life and knowledge,
knew that to us through Jesus your child’s·
toThee be glory for ever.” (9)
And we reach in Ignatius of Antioch, who was martyred during the reign of Trajan 98-117 AD. Ignatius the God-bearer is considered as the first Father and Teacher of the Church, as it is the first great theologian since the Apostles. For his life we know very little, although there was a so great man. Everything we know about Ignatius is from his letters, the historian Eusebius and the subsequent “martyrdom” of Ignatius. He was the second bishop of Antioch in 70 AD and it is certain that he knew the Apostles. His prestige and fame surpassed the limits of Antioch and Syria and this is shown by the great respect and immense confidence shown by the Christians of Asia Minor and Romans. Sentenced to death in the Coliseum of Rome, where he arrived with escort soldiers who calls them "leopardous" passing through various cities of Asia Minor, Greece, Albania and Italy. In Rome becomes prey to the beasts, having warmly begged the Romans Christians to not care to deprive him the martyrdom. The adjective "godbearer" used for himself has not been adequately explained, and according to tradition, there are two versions. The first, that bears this epithet because he was a child that which he raised in his hands, Christ as a model of innocence, that describes in Matthew 18:1, or because after the martyrdom the Christians saw etched on his chest the name of Christ. His memory is celebrated on December 20 by the Orthodox Church and on February 1 from the Roman Church. His letters are seven, and were written from Smyrna (to Ephesians, to Magnesiums, to Trallians and to Romans) and from Troy (to Philadelphians, to Smyrnans and to Polycarp). First martyr of these letters is Polycarp of Smyrna. However, for over two centuries was debated the authenticity of these letters, because on his name were found illegitimate letters of the fourth century. As time writing of the seven letters is considered in 110 AD. In these is testified the full configuration of ecclesiastical polity, and we have clear and complete hierarchical organization, with full distinction - for the first time - of the bishop presbyter and deacon. Indeed, because Ignatius presented as an ardent preacher of the episcopal axiom, for this reason also disputed the authenticity of his letters. Another important element who we find in his letters is the retreat of perception for a swift return of the Lord. Takes its place the theology of the unity of man with Christ and Christology becomes wider and fuller as the New Testament is becoming the main source
of ecclesiastical writers.
Polycarp of Smyrna is the other big Apostolic Father. It was the pre-eminent physiognomy in the Orthodox Church of Asia Minor in the first half of the second century, in an era when in the bosom of the Church they had appeared teachers that expressed doubts and anyway not genuine apostolic tradition. According to his student Irenaeus “Control III 3.4”, Polycarp knew the apostles, probably he was apprenticed to the apostle John and was installed as bishop from the apostles. Life ended with his martyrdom during the reign of Pius Anthony, at very old age, in the stage of Smyrna. In the Church, where he was bishop nearly six decades, probably in 155/156 AD or with new proposals in 167/8 AD. Polycarp according to Irenaeus wrote many letters to various churches, but only one was saved which he sent to the Philippesians, in response to their request to have from Polycarp letters of Ignatius, who had recently passed by their town marching for his martyrdom in Rome. The letter consists of 14 chapters, only the first nine chapters with the thirteenth were saved in Greek original and the others from a very old latin translation. It does not deal with theological issues, but is practical - advice and it refers only to the reality of the Incarnation of Christ.
And we reach to a very important text for the theology of the Church, as regards the martyrdom of the saints and the price thereof. This is none other than the famous “Martyrdom” of Polycarp considered one of the most ancient martyrology of our Church. Rarely such a very small text not only was loved her so much but acquired so much importance in the life of the Church. His author Marcion writes it immediately after the events, using memories and descriptions and from other eyewitnesses Christians. It is in a letter that was sent to the church Philomelion of Phrygia and to all local Catholic churches. Here is Chapter 18 of Martyrdom, showing the deepest importance which has for the Church the martyrdom of the saint, onto which is supported and developed the local church. Besides, it is known to all of us that to date the holy Eucharist is celebrated the Holy Altar within which there are remains of martyrs or saints:
“Seeing the brawl the centurion who was derived from the Jews, put him (decapitated Polykarpos) in the middle and burned him according to the habit.So we post, we collected his bones, the more honorable than precious stones and noblest of gold and we buried in the right place. As they will congregate there in force with exultation and joy, the Lord will allow us to celebrate the birth day of his martyrdom both at memory of pro-athletes, as well as an exercise and preparation of future athletes.”
From Irenaeus “Control E 33.4” we learn about another Apostolic Father, Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis of Phrygia, an area known for the influence of Judeo-Christian tradition. Acted in the first three decades of the second century, and was said to have been overhearer” of the evangelist John, but it is not considered as a true expresser of John’s tradition nor of genuine apostolic tradition. While Irenaeus appreciates him highly, Eusebius speaks with contempt for him, because it embraces Chiliasm. Wrote the “Literary Sundays explanations five books”, of which unfortunately are saved only 12 short extracts. He estimates the oral - verbal tradition about Christ, rather than that which is written in the Gospels and he likes to narrate impressive, popular and hidden narratives. The only remarkable from the news that left us is that the evangelist Mark was interpreter of Peter, namely that in the gospel wrote what told him Peter. The other information is that in the beginning, Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew “Matthew gathered the reasons (of the Lord) in the Hebrew language, and everyone interpreted them as best he could”, which today is estimated less than before.
In the writings of the Apostolic Fathers included and a diamond of the Christian apologetics, “the letter to Diogniton”. It consists of 12 chapters with the eleventh and twelfth chapter has been added by another author and we do not know who has written it. The time of writing probable that is 180A.D, or the third century. Defends the Christians which have not done anything, they prosecuted with great cruelty. Although reside in specific countries, are in fact citizens of heaven and with the wonderful way of their life becomes inactive laws of that State because they love those who persecute them. The letter also points out the Incarnation of Christ that was sent by the Father for the salvation of man.
1. Panagiotis Trempelas: Encyclopedia of Theology
2. Stylianos Papadopoulos: Patrology, Volume A’
3. Eusebius of Caesarea: Ecclesiastic History
4. Great Photios: Myriovivlos
Writer Christos Pal