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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
a name used to designate those Christian writers (of whom any remains are now extant) who were contemporary with any of the apostles; that is to say, who lived and wrote before A.D. 120. Historically, these writers form a link of connection between the apostles and the Apologists (q.v.) of the second century. There are five names usually given as those of the Apostolical Fathers, i.e. there are five men who lived during the age of the apostles, and who did converse, or might have conversed with them, to whom writings still extant have been ascribed, viz. Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Hermas. The following works are generally counted to these writers:
1. The epistle of Barnabas (See BARNABAS)
2. Two epistles of Clement, bishop of Rome, to the Corinthians (See CLEMENT) of Rome
3. Several epistles of Ignatius, bishop of Antioch (See IGNATIUS):
4. An epistle of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, to the Philippians (See POLYCARP);
5. The epistle (of an unknown author) to Diognetus (See DIOGNETUS);
6. The book entitled Pastor Hermas (See HERMAS). Certain fragments of Papias are also commonly included among the Apostolical Fathers.
Of the writings attributed to these fathers, some at least are of doubtful genuineness (on this point, see the individual titles referred to).
There can be no question of the value of these writings to church history, and even to our knowledge of Scripture, not so much for the facts they contain, for these are of slight importance, or for their critical or doctrinal contents, but on account of the illustrations they afford of the practical religious life of the period, and also on account of the quotations they contain from the N.T. Scriptures. "It has often been remarked that there is no period of the Christian church in regard to which we have so little information as that of above thirty years, reaching from the death of Peter and Paul to that of John. There is no good reason to believe that any of the writings of the apostolical fathers now extant were published during that interval. Those of them that are genuine do not convey to us much information concerning the condition of the church, and add but little to our knowledge upon any subject and what may be gleaned from later writers concerning this period is very defective, and not much to be depended upon. It is enough that God has given us in His Word every thing necessary to the formation of our opinions and the regulation of our conduct; and we cannot doubt that He has in mercy and wisdom withheld from us what there is too much reason to think would have been greatly abused. As matters stand, we have these two important points established: first, that we have no certain information nothing on which, as a mere question of evidence, we can place any firm reliance-as to what the inspired apostles taught and ordained but what is contained in or deduced from the canonical Scriptures; and, secondly, that there are no men, except the authors of the books of Scripture, to whom there is any thing like a plausible pretense for calling upon us to look up to as guides or oracles" (Cunningham, Historical Theology, vol. 1, ch. 4).
It is obvious that the writings of men so near to the time of the writers of the N.T. must be of great importance for the criticism of the N.T., and for the settlement of the canon. Lardner, after giving lists of the citations and allusions to be found in the Apostolical Fathers severally, sums up as follows: "In these writings there is all the notice taken of the books of the New Testament that could be expected. Barnabas, though so early a writer, appears to have been acquainted with the Gospel of St. Matthew. Clement, writing in the name of the Church of Rome to the Church of Corinth on occasion of some discussion there, desires them to ‘ take into their hands the epistle of the blessed apostle Paul,' written to them, and refers them particularly to a part of that epistle in which he admonished them against strife and contention. He has likewise, in his epistle, divers clear and undeniable allusions to St. Paul's epistle written to the church over which he presided, and in whose name he wrote, not to mention at present other things. 5. Quotations there could not be, as we have often observed, in the book of Hermas; but allusions there are to the books of the New Testament such as were suitable to his design. 6. Ignatius, writing to the Church of Ephesus, takes notice of the epistle of Paul written to them, in which he ‘ makes mention of them in Christ Jesus.' 7. Lastly, Polycarp, writing to the Philippians, refers them to the epistle of the ‘ blessed and renowned Paul,' written to them, if not also, as I imagine, to the epistles sent to the Thessalonians, Christians of the same province, not to mention now his express quotations of other books of the New Testament, or his numerous and manifest allusions to them. 8. From these particulars here mentioned, it is apparent that they have not omitted to take notice of any book of the New Testament which, as far as we are able to judge, their design led them to mention. Their silence, therefore, about any other books can be no prejudice to their genuineness, if we shall hereafter meet with credible testimonies to them. And we may have good reason to believe that these apostolical fathers were some of those persons from whom succeeding writers received that full and satisfactory evidence which they appear to have had concerning the several books of the New Testament" (Lardner, Works, 2, 11. sq.).
The importance of the subject justifies the insertion here of the following elaborate examination of all the citations from the N.T. made by the apostolic fathers, prepared for this work by the Rev. Wolcott Calkins, of Philadelphia. The second epistle of Clement and the larger recension of Ignatius, being regarded as spurious, are not cited. The text used is Hefele's. The abridgments used are Clem., for First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians; Bar., Cath. Epistle of Barnabas; Ign. Eph., for Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians; Ign. Magn., Ignatius to the Magnesians; Ign. Tral., Ignatius to the Trallians; Ign. Rom., Ignatius to the Romans; Ign. Phil., Ignatius to the Philadelphians; Ign. Smyrn., Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans; Ign. Pol., Ignatius to Polycarp; Pol., for Epistle of Poly. carp to the Philippians; Her. Vis., the Visions of Hermas; Her. Man., the Commands of Hermas; Her Sim., the Similitudes of Hermas.
I. These fathers bear direct testimony to three of St. Paul's Epistles. —
(1.) Clem. 47: "Take in your hands the epistle of Saint Paul the apostle. What did he write to you when the Gospel first began to be preached? (ἐν ἀρχῇ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου. Comp. Hefele's Latin version). Truly he was moved of the Spirit to write you concerning himself and Cephas and Apollos, because even then you had begun to form factions. But this faction did not lead you into the worst sins, because you yielded to apostles so illustrious, and to a man approved by them." Here the reference to 1 Corinthians 1:12, is unmistakable. Paul's inspiration is also claimed. —
(2.) Ign. Eph. 12: "Ye are partakers of the sacred mysteries with Paul, . . . . who also, throughout his whole epistle (ἐν πάσῃ ἐπιστολῇ, not ‘ every ep.' Credner, Einleit. 1, 395, has no ground to claim that this passage has been interpolated from the larger [spurious] recension), makes mention of you in Christ Jesus." Here the reference to Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:3, is very striking. —
(3.) Pol. 3: "Neither I, nor any other like me, can attain unto the wisdom of the sainted and illustrious Paul, who, when he was with you in the presence of men then living, taught most fully and forcibly the word of truth; and, when absent from you, wrote a letter (ἐτιστολὰς, πλυρ . φορ σινγ .; compare De Wette, Einl. 1, .d. N.T. p. 7, 3d ed. § 150), by which "you may be built up in the faith, if you study it attentively." Compare Philippians 1:27. — Pol. 11: "But I have neither perceived nor heard any thing of the kind among you, with whom St. Paul labored, who are [praised] in the beginning of his epistle." (Hefele endorses the conjecture that "laudanti" has been lost from the text, with the loss of the Greek in chapters 10, 11, and 12.) Comp. Philippians 1:5.
II. A few passages of the N.T. are distinctly quoted, either as the language of the Lord, the apostles, or of "Scripture." — Baruch 4 : "Let us beware, therefore, lest we be found, as it is written, Many are called, few are chosen" (Matthew 20:16; Matthew 22:14. The signs of quotation in this and the next instance, scriptum est, inquit, are constantly employed by Barnabas in citing from O.T.). — Bar. 7: "So they, inquit, who desire to see me and be received into my kingdom, must reach me through afflictions and sufferings" (Matthew 16:24. Compare Hefele, Sendschreiben des Ap. Barn. p. 66+). — Clem. 34: "For, he says, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, what things he hath prepared for them that wait for him" (1 Corinthians 2:9, almost exactly; while both Paul and Clement differ in synonymes, arrangement, and every thing but sentiment, from the Sept. of Isaiah 64:3-4, whence Paul quotes). — Clem. 46: "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus; for he said, Woe to that man; it had been good for that man if he had not been born (Matthew 26:24); rather than offend one of my elect (Matthew 18:6), it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about him, and that he were drowned in the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones" (Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2). Similar examples of citing from various gospels under the general designation of λόγοι τοῦ κυρίου may be found in Clem. Alex. Straim. 3, 18; also frequently in Irenaeus and Justin Martyr. — Pol. 2: "Mindful of what our Lord said when he taught, ‘ Judge not, that ye be not judged (Matthew 7:1, lit.); forgive, and ye shall be forgiven (Luke 6:37); be merciful, that ye may obtain mercy (Luke 6:36); in what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again (Matthew 7:2); and blessed are the poor, and those who suffer persecution, for theirs is the kingdom of God"' (Matthew 5:3; Luke 6:20). — Pol. 7: "The Lord said, ‘ The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak'" (Mark 14:38, lit.). — Pol. 11: "‘ Do we not know that the saints shall judge the world, as St. Paul teaches?" (1 Corinthians 6:2, apparently literal, but the Greek is lost. Credner's ground for suspecting the last clause is singular enough — because Polycarp never gives the name of an author cited! Einl. 1, d. N.T. p. 445). — Pol. 12: "As is said in these Scriptures, Be ye angry, and sin not (Psalms 4:5, quoted by Paul without acknowledgment); and, let not the sun go down upon your wrath" (Ephesians 4:26; O. and N.T. blended as "scriptures"). These are believed to be the only examples of explicit citations with marks of quotation, except such as may have been taken from the Sept. or the N.T. Alleged misquotations will be discussed in the sequel.
III. Many passages are cited with substantial accuracy, but without indications of quotation. — Bar. 19: "Give to every one that asketh thee" (Luke 6:30, lit., if, with MSS. B K L, 131-57, δέ be omitted, and τῷ ) with B; Matthew 5:42, nearly). — Ign. Romans 3 : "For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18, lit. But the passage is doubtful; not found in anc. Lat. vers., Syrian fragm., nor Syrus). — Clem. 2: "Ready for every good work" (Titus 3:1, εἰς φορ πρός ). — Clem. 36: "Who being the brightness of his majesty (μεγαλωσύνης φορ δόξης ), is so much better than the angels, as he has obtained a more excellent name" (Hebrews 1:3-4). — Ign. Romans 6 : "For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" (Matthew 16:26, slight change in arrangement). — Pol. 1: "In whom, not having seen, ye believe; and believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable" (1 Peter 1:8, with slight omission). — Pol. 2: "Believing on him that raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave him glory" (1 Peter 1:21, slight change in arrangement). Her. Sim. 8: "They denied the name by which they were called" (James 2:7, far more exact than appears in Eng. versions; quod super eos erat invocatum ῟ τὸ ἐπικληθὲν ἐφ ὐμᾶς [ἀυτούς ] ). — Her. Prayer of Manasseh 1:12; Prayer of Manasseh 1:5 : "If ye resist him, he will flee from you with confusion" (James 4:7). — Pol. 5: "Lust warreth against the spirit (1 Peter 2:11); and neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 : the passage is remarkable, because, while many words in Paul are omitted, μαλακοί and ἀρσενοκοῖται, which had acquired a scandalously technical signification, are retained. Comp. the long list of sins in Clem. 35 and Romans 1:29-32. The resemblance is remarkable).Pol. 4: "The love of money is a beginning of all evil. Knowing, therefore, that we brought nothifig into this world, but neither can we carry any thing out, let us," etc. (1 Timothy 6:7, the order of clauses transposed. Compare Pol. 8; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 Peter 2:24). — Pol. 2: "Not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing" (1 Peter 3:9, lit.). — Pol. 7: "For whoever confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is Antichrist" (1 John 4:3). The following list embraces accurate quotations and very striking resemblances.
IV. Many extended passages in the Ap. Fathers are close imitations of similar passages in N.T. — Clem. 912: The examples of the ancient worthies is adduced on the model of Hebrews 11. The list not only corresponds — Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Rahab — but many expressions agree. And the magnificent close of the chapter in Hebrews is reproduced with little change in Clem. 45. He then begins ch. 46, like Hebrews 12, with a reference to these examples for our encouragement. Hebrews 12:1, is, however, reproduced still more accurately in ch. 19.
— Clem. 36 is a close imitation of the beginning of Hebrews 1. — Her. Sim. 9:21: A paraphrase of the parable of the sower, Matthew 13:5-23. (Comp. Herm. Vis. 3, 6. Also, Sim. 9:20, and Matthew 13:7; Matthew 19:23. Also, Vis. 4:3, and 1 Peter 1:6-7.) Pol. 5: The advice to deacons is a remarkable imitation of Paul's charge to Timothy (ch. 3). — Clem. 49: The praise of charity, closely imitating 1 Corinthians 13; following also Colossians 3:14; 1 Peter 4:8; James 5:20; Galatians 1:4; John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10. There is not a thought in the whole chapter which is not to be found in N.T.
V. Besides the above, there are many expressions apparently taken from the N.T.; also allusions and references too inexact to be called quotations, which singly might appear insignificant, but occurring on every page are weigthy arguments. Westcott (Canon N.T. p. 30, 40, 47) gives many examples of coincidence in language of the PP. App. with the N.T.
(1) Peculiar to Clement and St. Peter: ἀγαθοποιϊ v α, ἀδελφότνς, ποίμνιον .
(2) Peculiar to Clement, St. Peter, and St. Paul: ἀγαθὴ συνείδησις, ἁγιοσμός, εἰλικρινής, εὐσέβεια, εὐπρόσδεκτος, ταπεινοφροσύνη, ὑπακοή, ὑποφέρειν, φιλαδελία, φιλοξενία, φιλόξενος .
(3) Peculiar to Clement and St. Paul: ἁμεταμέλητος, ἐγκρατεύεσθαι, λειτουργός, λειτουργία . λειτουργεῖν, μακαρισμός, οἰκτιρμοί, πολιτεία, πολιτεύειν (Polyc.), σεμνός, σεμνότης, χρηστεύοναι . (4) Peculiar to Ignatius and St. Paul, very numerous, e.g.: ἀδόκιμος, ἀναψύχειν, Ι᾿υδα Þ σμός, φυσιοῦν, etc.
(5) Peculiar to Ignatius and St. John: ἀγάπη, ἀγαπᾶν and ὁ οὐραμός
instead of οἱ οὐρανοί (St. Paul and Clement).
(6) Peculiar to Polycarp and St. Paul: ἀποπλανᾶν, ἀρραβών, ἀφιλάργυρος, τὸ καλόν, μεταιολογία, προνεῖν .
Of the allusions and references no enumerations need be given, as they will be found indicated in the foot-notes of every page of Hefele's edition, and massed together in his index.
VI. In a few instances these fathers appear to make misquotations; 1, e. they cite as "words of the Lord," or of "Scripture," what is nowhere to be found in the N.T. — So Baruch 4 : "The Son of God says let us resist all iniquity, and hold it in hatred." This is not to be found in the N.T., nor, as far as is known, in any apocryphal gospel.
It must have been taken from some tradition, or the mere sentiment may have been cited from James 4:7, or 2 Timothy 2:19 — ἀποτήτω ἀπὸ ἀδικίας ; and Psalms 119:163 -ἀδικιὰν ἐμίσησα. — Baruch 6 : "Behold, saith the Lord, I will make the last things like the first." This may be a loose quotation of Matthew 20:16. Comp. Ezekiel 36:11. — Clem. 23: "Far from us be this scripture which saith, Wretched are they who are double minded and doubtful; saying, we have heard these things even from the time of our fathers, and, behold, we have grown old, and none of these things have happened to us." This is supposed by some to be taken from some apocryphal source (Coteler, who, however, fails to indicate the precise source). Others regard it as a careless citation of James 1:8, and 2 Peter 3:4. Both explanations are unsatisfactory. It may be a mere blunder of Clement. — Ign. Smyr. 3: "And when he came to those who were with Peter, he said unto them, Take, handle me, and see that I am not a disembodied spirit." Probably this passage would never have been suspected as it has been but for the remark of Eusebins (Hist. Ec. 116, 26) that he did not know whence Ignat. cited, and the conjecture of Jerome (De Vir. Ill. Ign. n. 16) that it was from the Gospel of the Nazarenes. Pearson suspects an oral tradition. (Comp. Credner, Beitrge, 1, 407.) But the imitation of Luke 24:39, is quite as close as many unchallenged quotations. But the most remarkable fact about these false citations is yet to be mentioned: they are not confined to the N.T. Thus, Bar. 9: "The Scriptures relate that Abraham circumscribed three hundred and eighteen men of his own household." A loose combination of Genesis 17:26-27; Genesis 14:14. — Clem. 8: Many sentences not to be found are inserted in quotations from the O.T. — Clem. 46: "For it is written, join yourselves with the saints, because all who adhere to them will be sanctified." (Unscriptural, perhaps; certainly not in Scripture.) And again in another place, "With an innocent man thou shalt be innocent, with the elect thou shalt be elect, and with the froward thou shalt be froward" (Psalms 18:26; very loosely). — Bar. 7: Ceremonies are quoted from "the prophet" which are only to be found in tradition. (Comp. Justin. Dial. c. Tryph. n. 40; Tertul. adv. Jud. c. 14; adv. Marc. 3, 7.) Our conclusions from these facts are: 1st. It is wholly incredible that these citations have been made from any apocryphal books of the N T. now in existence. Very few of them have been traced with any plausibility to such sources, and these have quite as much resemblance to the genuine as. to the apocryphal books. 2d. And yet there is no sufficient evidence that these fathers copied from the MSS. of the N.T. The citations absolutely literal are very few and brief, and of the nature of proverbs or maxims, which could not be readily forgotten or varied. (E. g., 1 Corinthians 2:9; Q. Clem. 34: Matthew 7:1; Qu. Pol. 2: Mark 14:38; Qu. Pol. 7: 1 Peter 3:9; Qu. Pol. 2.) Citations are expressly made only from Matt., Luke, 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians; and only sixty out of some one hundred apparent references are close imitations. 3d. But the O.T. is quoted quite as carelessly, in many instances, as the New. Very few books of the O.T. are expressly named. The few literal quotations from the O.T. are also of the nature of proverbs. (E.g., Proverbs 5:5; Qu. Clem. 30: Proverbs 10:12; Qu. Clem. 49.) More false citations from the O.T. are made than from the New; and all these were, of course, mere blunders, while there must have been "words of the Lord" well known in these times not recorded in the Gospels, as we learn from John 21:25. St. Paul himself quotes from these in one instance (Acts 20:35). In fact, the citations of the fathers from the O.T. are not more inexact than those of the N.T. writers. Our Lord himself often varies, both in synonyms, arrangement, and construction, from the Sept., giving only the sentiment. 4th. In a few instances the O.T. is unquestionably quoted through the medium of the New. Passages wholly differing both from the Heb. and the Sept. are reproduced with surprising accuracy. Important additions to texts are made from the N.T., and the whole designated as "Scripture." This argument is unanswerable. Such citations must have been made from the N.T. 5th. Therefore the conjecture that the books of the N.T. were not known to these fathers, and perhaps not in existence in their time, cannot be entertained by any candid mind. With the possible exception of 2 Peter, Judges 1:2 and 3 John, to which few, if any allusions are made, and no certain references, all the books of the present canon are quoted or referred to repeatedly, and often very accurately. The direct testimony to the epistles of Paul are all the more valuable because they are given incidentally, and for a wholly different purpose. A few years later, about A.D. 150, when the authority of the apostolic writings began to be called in question, a list of them, nearly complete, is given in the Muratorian Fragment. They could not have been challenged nor rivaled by apocryphas in the age of the apostolic fathers. These writers must have possessed the books of our present canon, or nearly all of them; but they seldom, if ever, turned to them at the moment of writing. They could cite from the N.T., as they unquestionably did from the Old, with sufficient accuracy for their purpose, merely from recollection. The unrolling of immense parchments, even if they carried them, was a useless trouble in hurried writing, amid the pressure of missionary journeys. If Strauss had made a candid examination of these facts, it is doubtful whether he would have found it to his purpose to make the following admission: "It would undoubtedly be an argument of decisive weight in favor of the credibility of the biblical history could it be shown that it was "written by eye-witnesses, or even by persons nearly contemporaneous with the events narrated." (Leben Jesu, 1, § 13.)
The Christian Remembrancer (44, 407) undertakes to show that many of the citations in the ap. fathers, apparently from Scripture, are from the oldest Liturgies. On the use to be made of the apostolical fathers in, the history of Christian doctrine, see Dorner, Doctrine of the Person of Christ, period 1, ch. 1; on their value for the history of the church, see Schaff, History of the Christian Church, § 117; Pressonse, Hist. d. trois Prem. Siecles, vol. 1; Mosheim, Commentaries, 1, 200 sq.; Elliott, Delineation of Romanism, bk. 1, ch. 3; Hase, Church History, 7th ed. § 39. See also Hagenbach, History of Doctrines, § 26; Reuss, Histoire du Canon, ch. 2; Conybeare, Bampton Lecture, 1839; Hilgenfeld, Die app. VV., Untersuchungen, etc. (Halle, 1853); Clarke, Succession of Sacred Literature, vol. 1; Lechler, Apostol. und nachapostol. Zeitalter, Stuttgart, 1857; Bunsen, Christianity and Mankind, vols. 5 and 6; Freppel, Les Peres Apostoliques (Paris, 1859); Don. aldson, Crit. Hist. of Christ. Life and Doctrine from the Death of the Apostles to the Nicene Council (vol. 1. Lond. 1865); Illgen, Zeitschr. f. d. hist. Theol. (1866, Heft. 1); and the prolegomena to the editions named below. The best editions are:
1. By Cotelerius, SS. Patrium, qui temporibus apostolicis foruerunt, Opera (Paris, 1672, 2 vols. fol.; a new edition by Clericus, Amsterdam, 1724, 2 vols. fol.). Cotelerius added to his edition the Pseudo-Clementines and the Vindiciae Ignatianae by Pearson.
2. By the Oratorian Gallandius, in his Bibliotheca Veterum Patrum;
3. By Russell (Lond. 1746).
4. By Jacobson (2 vols. Oxf. 1838, 2d ed. 1840, 8vo). This edition does not contain the epistle of Barnabas, the epistle to Diognetus, and the Pastor Hermas.
5. Reithmayr (R. C.) Patrum Apostol. Epistole (Monach. 1844, 8vo).
6. Hefele (R. C.), Patrum Apostol. Opera (Tubing. 1839, 4th ed. 1855, 8vo).
7. Dressel, Patrum Apostol. Opera (Leipz. 1863, 2d ed. 8vo); it includes the Greek Pastor Hermas, and the Epistle of Barnabas from Tischendorf's Sinaitic Codex. There is also an English version of the Ap. Fathers (not according to the latest texts) by Wake (latest ed. Oxf. 1841, 12mo). (See FATHERS).
These files are public domain.
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Apostolical Fathers'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/a/apostolical-fathers.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20