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Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  959 ratings  ·  72 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 28th 1987 by Penguin Classics (first published October 30th 1968)
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Dan Glover
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Writings from the generation following the Apostles, some of whose lives and locations would have overlapped with the Apostles. Essential reading for Christians who want to know about the very next layer of the foundation of our spiritual house which Christ promised to build - the church - and which was laid directly on top of the Apostles and Christ himself, the chief cornerstone. When I first read several of these works around 20 years ago (at that time studying the post-Apostolic history of t ...more
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
I enjoyed this book a lot, the epistles of St. Ignatius were my favourite, especially the ones in which he looked forward to his coming martyrdom.

“I am the wheat of God and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ."

Great book, would recommend.
Thom Willis
Feb 01, 2012 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
Justin Evans
Jan 23, 2016 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
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: church-fathers
Summary: A collection of early, post-apostolic Christian writings concerned with the organization, leadership, worship, conduct, martyrs, and doctrinal teaching of the nascent church.

How does a movement that survives beyond its earliest leaders begin to define the structures and practices and teaching that will sustain and order its life? The canonical scriptures of the New Testament give us some account of the very early stages of that project for what would become the Christian church as it sp
Russell Fox
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
After going for a good long which without any kind of regular devotional reading, I've decided to work my way through early Christian texts--the Apostolic, Church, and Desert Fathers and Mothers, basically. There is no canonized collection to use as my foundation here, so I began with what I had available--in this case, an old Penguin edition of epistles and homilies attributed to Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Barnabas, the Epistle to Diognetus and the Didache. Fascinating, and in some ways genui ...more
Michael O'Brien
Nov 14, 2016 rated it liked it
I think this book is a good reference because it shows that the earliest Christian writers --- those immediately after the time of the Apostles --- did, in fact, follow and base their teachings upon the teachings of the New Testament. Moreover, with the exception of one of these writings (which paraphrases certain scriptural passages), all quotations of scripture match the earliest Bible manuscripts -- as well as the Bible we have today. What is the importance of all this? It refutes the postmod ...more
Should be required reading for every Christian!
Bethany Muczynska
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch.
Both beautiful witnesses to the life of the newborn Catholic Church. Ignatius's letters, especially his to the Romans, are particularly compelling.
Jun 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting. Some of these Christians were really into martyrdom. I don’t think I have ever read such enthusiasm in the face of being burned alive - especially when it really isn’t warranted, as is the case of Polycarp.
Bojan Tunguz
Feb 11, 2013 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
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: patrology
We hold Christ's words as God's, and the Apostles' as breathed by God, but what Christian writings, next to these, could be more beneficial and instructive but the teachings of those who studied at the feet of the Apostles? It is from these that we can glimpse a picture of how the early Church was structured, and the doctrines of the Apostles which were not specifically enumerated in their Epistles. The fallibility of these documents is also striking, in that even though they come from a similar ...more
Lee Harmon
Oct 02, 2011 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
Jul 30, 2010 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
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
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It just doesn't get much better than the some of the earliest writing of the earliest Christians outside of the Bible. Very inspiring! ...more
Nathan Albright
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge-2018
It must be admitted that this is not a complete volume of the writings that are considered part of the Apostolic Fathers [1].  Even so, so long as the reader goes into this book knowing what materials are included it is certainly a thought-provoking read.  The Apostolic Fathers are a group of people (some of them anonymous) who were thought to have been followers of the Apostles and thus faithful recorders of the traditions of the Apostles in an age of Christianity that is largely obscure.  From ...more
Alex of Yoe
What a fascinating read of some of the earliest surviving Christian documents! I'd never read these before, though I had heard of some of them, and it was truly encouraging and enlightening to get my hands on an English translation.
This book is a collection of letters from St. Clement, St. Ignatius, and St. Polycarp to various churches as well as an account of St. Polycarp's martydom, a couple letters of unknown authorship (the Epistle to Diognetus and the Epistle of Barnabas), and the Didache (
Bruce Strom
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Early Christian Writings were not written by the Apostles as were the books of the New Testament, but were written by leading Christians of the next generation who may have known some of the surviving apostles. These included epistles, some of them written to the same Christian communities St Paul has addressed a generation previously. Many of these epistles are written in the style of the Pauline epistles, sometimes using liturgical forms, sometimes weaving in and out of a prayer on behalf ...more
Jun 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: church-history
Having read so much around these letters it came as a real surprise when I discovered that I hadn't actually read them all. This volume, which has spent the last sixteen years on my shelf, was one of those books that I had assumed that had been read when it hadn't. Of course many of the writings contained therein, had been read in other books - most obviously The Didache and the first epistle of Clement. I was surprised at how unacquainted I was with Ignatius's letters apart from his famous one ...more
Nicholas Smith
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful collection of ancient wisdom

This short collection brings together a number of the earliest Christian texts that exist outside the bible. Reading these you have a real sense of the early church and their status as outsiders and using the teachings of Christ and the apostles in defiance of the prevailing times. I would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in the pre-Nicene church.
This is an incredible book. It is amazing that we can read writings of the saints and other Early Christian literature from the 2nd century AD today! Anyone who considers themselves even remotely Christian should read this book! It’s full of amazing spiritual wisdom and knowledge. I will definitely be reading this again!
Tony Laplume
Mar 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, mostly from second generation Christian writers (just past composition of the New Testament), including the impending martyrdoms of Ignatius and Polycarp, much of it only relatively recently rediscovered and therefore unavailable for much of history, which is itself interesting. Scholarly notes appreciated.
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A worthwhile read for anyone interested in early Christian writings! Nice selection of writings, helpful notes. Upbuilding for Christians in general, though not earth-shattering if that's what you're looking for. ...more
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting and insightful look at the writings of the early Catholic Church. Though the author changes a few things, to make it easier to understand, which I get, but I would have preferred that he kept it closer to the originals. Still, well worth the read!
JR Snow
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read this while reading the early part (which was extensive, maybe 150 pages) of Cairn's History of Christianity.

I really like studying the early church, but I'm not very good at learning latin or greek, so reading these is probably about as deep as I'll get.
Jeff W
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good collection of early Christian texts but the translations were a bit dry.
May 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: spring-2017
Not an easy read but makes you wonder "What would I die for?" ...more
Extremely interesting to see doctrines taken as dogma today developing in the century and a half after the Christ cult got started.
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a cool look at the early church. Some of the letters are a little weird for our day. Much of it is reminiscent of Paul’s epistles in the New Testament.
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