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Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  604 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
Letters and small-scale theological treatises giving a rich and powerful articulation of the Christian faith.

The writings in this volume shed a glimmer of light, in an otherwise dark period, on the emerging traditions and organizations of the infant Church. They are a selection from a group known as the Apostolic Fathers, so-called because several of the authors were most

Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 30th 1987 by Penguin Classics (first published 1968)
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Justin Evans
Jan 23, 2016 Justin Evans rated it really liked it
Great stuff once you've got the background, obviously useless if you want to use these men's opinions to bolster your own theological/political agenda. Note to those doing so: you do not live in the Roman Empire, there is no such thing as the original spirit of Christianity, and your attempts to find such a thing are doomed to failure.

As for other kinds of reader: Ignatius and Clement were obviously very smart guys, and their opinions are worth considering (but the stories of their lives are ev
Sep 07, 2015 Thomas rated it it was amazing
I Clement to the Corinthians
Ignatius to the Ephesians
Ignatius to the Magnesians
Ignatius to the Trallians
Ignatius to the Romans
Ignatius to the Philadelphians
Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans
Ignatius to Polycarp
Polycarp to the Philippians
The Martyrdom of Polycarp
Epistle to Diognetus
Epistle of Barnabas
The Didache
Lee Harmon
Oct 02, 2011 Lee Harmon rated it really liked it
If you’re looking for a brief collection of early Christian writings, this one hits all the high points. For someone wanting a taste of the emerging church, Christianity in its infancy, nothing beats reading the letters and theological treatises themselves, and this is a good collection. Nothing fancy; the introduction is short and the notes are sparse, limited primarily to historical settings, so you’re getting it from the horses’ mouths.

And what you’re getting is the founding Fathers, after th
Christian Fauerso
Modern Christians and churches who think of themselves as "New Testament" christians or churches who identify as "New Testament" churches need to read such writings and come to terms with the reality of the actual New Testament church. Ancient writings such as these give us a window into the beginnings and roots of our faith. Much doctrine and theology is already assumed at these early stage before the councils ever took place, from church polity, to baptism, the Eucharist and much more. A defin ...more
Feb 07, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: ancient-world
First and foremost I would like to thank James for giving me a copy of "The Apostolic Fathers." I feel like I got a little taste of a Princeton Divinity School education when I finished reading this collection of primary source material. If only I could read these texts in the original Greek! This book is a fantastic collection of letters from Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius, Papias, and Diognetus. It was super interesting to read how these Church Fathers struggled with the faith in the first and se ...more
Peter B.
May 30, 2015 Peter B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
If you want to get a sense of the basics of the Christian faith that have been emphasized from the beginning of the church, reading the Apostolic Fathers is a good place to start. Like a trunk of a tree, their writings do not cover the details of doctrine, but stress the basics that would be expanded upon in years to come as the tree of the church would grow. The death and resurrection of Christ, the fear of God and submission to His will, and unity with God through Jesus Christ and the unity of ...more
Jan 24, 2016 David rated it really liked it
Some highlights:

1 Clement
"Let us clothe ourselves in a mutual tolerance of one another's views." (30)

"Let any commendation of us proceed from God, and not from ourselves." (30)

"Through [Jesus Christ] we can look up to the highest heaven and see, as in a glass, the peerless perfection of the face of God." (36)

Ignatius to the Magnesians
"You must show every consideration for one another, never letting your attitude to a neighbour be affected by your human feelings, but simply loving each other cons
Garrett Cash
Feb 27, 2014 Garrett Cash rated it liked it
This is a fascinating compilation of works that were closely tied to the early church and the apostles. These "apostolic fathers" were disciples of the real apostles like John and Peter. I actually found their biographies more interesting than their works, but this is a very interesting portrait of the views of the early 1st and 2nd century church. It's funny to see how quickly they fell into immensely false doctrines after the apostles tried to set everyone straight. Most of these are eye-rolli ...more
Bojan Tunguz
Feb 11, 2013 Bojan Tunguz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most of us Christians who have read the New Testament at some point start asking ourselves “What comes next?” The New Testament writings were, after all, just the beginning of Christianity, and the Christian religion has spread very far and had a great amount of influence even during the lives of the Apostles. However, until fairly recently most of what we know about the second and third generation of Christians came to us through the writings of the subsequent generations, and there was very li ...more
Jul 07, 2014 Hans rated it it was amazing
Clear English translation of the Apostolic Fathers (the people who are one generation after the Apostles). These are important writings for all Christians to read and wrestle with, and this is a fine translation of them.
Jan 06, 2015 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Essential source material on the early church! I would have loved more commentary but understand that this is not within Penguin's scope with the Classics series.
Matt Moran
Mar 06, 2014 Matt Moran rated it liked it
This isn't helpful theologically or devotionally, but it is at times fascinating nonetheless. The two things that stood out most clearly were the intensely authoritative tone taken by bishops and church leaders, and the bizarre allegorical interpretations of Scripture (epistle of Barnabas).
Rebecca Lewitt
Jan 28, 2014 Rebecca Lewitt rated it liked it
Interesting. I'm glad to have the information this book gave me about and in these letters, but I wouldn't consider it a devotional classic. It's good to have first hand knowledge of what was being written and taught in the first few centuries after Christ. However this is not, in my opinion, a re-reader--once is enough for me. I found the letters/writings to be more inspirational the earlier they were written and weirder and weirder as they got further away from the first century. The last two ...more
Vance Halfaker
Useful collection and accessible translation. Some of the commentary is a little out of date.
Jul 22, 2016 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Worth a look, especially Clement and Ignatius.
Mar 25, 2008 Eric rated it it was amazing
Shelves: orthodoxy
This is a great read. Ignatious' letters are so interesting because of his focus on ecclesiology and his obsession with martyrdom. The latter is to a degree that is really quite troubling. His letter to the Romans was a plea for them to not get in the way of his martyrdom.
Clement's letter is also interesting in terms of ecclesiology, as is the Didache, an anonymous church handbook from the 1st or 2nd century.
The epistles of Diognetus and Barnabas were less interesting.
Collin Duncan
Jul 12, 2013 Collin Duncan rated it liked it
Mediocre compilation in my opinion. The inclusion of some pseudepigrapha felt out of place, but was not unwelcome. The Didache was an interesting look at the evolution of Christian liturgy and it's easy to see where Catholicism drew much of their basis from. Clement's epistles were really the only reason I read this book for their historical value on the founding of the early church "cult." The introductions to each section were greatly useful as always with Penguin books.
Brett Linsley
Feb 21, 2016 Brett Linsley rated it it was amazing
These writings are so needed today. Particularly in evangelical circles, Christianity is existing only nominally because of the historical vacuum it has chosen to reside in. These writings need to be utilized with upmost reverence, being the words of dearly departed saints who lived and loved Christ before the canon existed.
C. Michael
Nov 14, 2012 C. Michael rated it really liked it
I have used this as a textbook a few times in a class I teach called "New Testament and Early Christianity." The book is affordable (something to be said when it comes to textbooks these days), the introduction is short and to the point, and the notes are helpful and unobtrusive. Other translations are available of these writings, but these are recent and scholarly.
Mike Neglia
Aug 27, 2013 Mike Neglia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've always enjoyed reading Church history, and it's wonderful to spend time reading the actual letters and teachings of Christians leaders in the first centuries of the church. I really benefited by reading from and about Polycarp of Smyrna as well as reading a different translation of an old favourite: The Epistle to Diognetus. Highly recommended.
Rick Boyer
Dec 30, 2013 Rick Boyer rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, important, wonderful book. Features works by the Apostolic Fathers, including 1 Clement, the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch, the Letter of Polycarp, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, the Didache, and several other writings.

These are some of the most important documents of the ancient church, and it was a pleasure to read them.
Ephraim Lawson Bowick
Perfect if one's interested in the discipleship of the apostles. This collection of 1st and 2nd century writings is extremely insightful. My favorites in this book are St. Clement of Rome's epistle and The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. Every Christian of every confession needs to read the Apostolic Fathers .

Forgive me a wretch,

Stephen Thompson
Sep 03, 2013 Stephen Thompson rated it really liked it
This is a useful compilation of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers that includes brief yet informative introductions to each of the texts. The translation is good overall, although I did find find that in certain places there is a tendency to subtly harmonise the Fathers with their canonical parallels in such a way that could be misleading.
Nov 19, 2010 Andreas rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book, it has some of the earliest known christian writings outside of the NT. Highly recommend to someone interested in the early church history. My only complaint was that it doesn't not include all the supposed letters from Ignatius.
Jul 20, 2007 Eben rated it it was amazing
I love this book. It was assigned to me in History of Early Christianity.. one of the few books i still pick up from time to time to review. Includes Polycarp's story.. and the early church codes which I enjoy reading... great stuff!
Chris Comis
We had to read some of the selections from this book for Greyfriars, but it was so long ago that I don't really remember much about them. But it is a good source for some of the earliest extant Christian writings.
Carlos Quijano
Jun 07, 2009 Carlos Quijano rated it it was amazing
This is a collection of writings that I re-read every year during Lent. Every time I read it, I find something new, a new insight that deepens my understanding of my faith.
Jun 05, 2013 Eric rated it liked it
I had heard about Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp; reading some of their writings was educational, especially reading the notes with each section of writings.
Jan 06, 2013 Carlina rated it it was amazing
cumbersome language at times but worth going slow for comprehension. clementine, ignatius and the account of polycarps martyrdom were some highlights
Dave Brandt
Jun 30, 2013 Dave Brandt rated it it was amazing
Reading this book helped show just how Catholic the early church was.
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  • Father Arseny, 1893-1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father: Being the Narratives Compiled by the Servant of God Alexander Concerning His Spiritual Father
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