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Note on Patristic Literature.
The first six of the following are usually called the “Apostolic Fathers":
CLEMENT OF ROME, according to an ancient and unanimous tradition, was one of the earliest bishops of the Roman Church-the third according to Irenæus, his predecessors being Linus and Anencletus. Among the numerous writings that have been ascribed to him, only one is now regarded as genuine, which is known as his ist Epistle to the Corinthians. It is only recently that the complete text has been obtained by the discovery of a MS. at Constantinople, and the collation of a Syriac translation. The letter is written in the name of the Roman Church, not without a tone of authority (although there is scarcely any more trace in it than in the New Testament of episcopal jurisdiction in a monarchical sense, the terms “bishop” and “presbyter” being still used as convertible). The object of the epistle was to cure the dissension and insubordination that had broken out in the Corinthian Church, and which had led to the deposition of some blameless presbyters. While the writer speaks of Peter and Paul to his readers as men of their own generation, this must not be taken too strictly; and the date now generally assigned to the letter, on what appear to be adequate grounds, is 95-96 A.D. The 2nd Epistle of Clement, so called, is a homily by an unknown author, probably written at Rome in the first half of the second century.
IGNATIUS, converted to Christianity comparatively late in life, succeeded Euodius as bishop of Antioch, and was martyred in the arena of the Coliseum at Rome, under Trajan, 110-115 A.D. His genuine writings are now generally held to consist of seven epistles, written in the course of his last journey, as a prisoner, from Antioch to Rome, viz. :—(from Smyrna) to the Ephesians, the Magnesians, the Trallians, the Romans, and (from Troas) to the Philadelphians, the Smyrnæans, and Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. With the exception of the epistle to the Romans, which relates almost entirely to the author's expected and eagerly-desired martyrdom, these epistles deal with questions of doctrine and discipline. They emphasize the reality of Christ's humanity in opposition to Docetic error (cf. p. 261), denounce Judaizing tendencies, and enforce the three-fold ecclesiastical order (bishop, presbyter, and deacon) in the interests of Church unity.
POLYCARP, for many years bishop of Smyrna, was born about 69-70 A.D., and suffered martyrdom in that city about 155-6 A.D., when (to judge from words uttered by himself on the day of his death, “Fourscore and six years have I served Him, and He hath done me no wrong,") he was at least in his eighty-sixth year. From his disciple, Irenæus, we learn that he had been a hearer of the Apostle John (see p. 62), and that he had “not only been taught by apostles, and lived in familiar intercourse with many that had seen Christ,” but had also “received his appointment in Asia from Apostles as bishop in the Church of Smyrna.” The same author tells us that Polycarp wrote a number of letters, of a hortatory nature, both to individuals and to Churches ; but the only extant writing bearing his name that is generally admitted to be genuine is his epistle to the Philippians, (specially mentioned by Irenæus), which was written nearly forty-five years before his death, about the time of Ignatius' martyrdom. It is of considerable length, but does not display much originality, borrowing largely from the teaching of “the Lord” and His apostles, as well as from the letters of Ignatius and Clement; and the chief value of his writing, as of his life, consisted in his unswerving attachment, in an age of transition and conflict, to the genuine apostolic tradition. Full particulars of his martyrdom are contained in a letter (still extant) from the Church of Smyrna to the Philomelians, which has been much admired for its simplicity and pathos.
BARNABAS.—To this well-known associate of St. Paul there was ascribed by the early Church Fathers an epistle containing twenty chapters, which is preserved in full in the Sinaitic MS., and in one of the MSS. recently discovered by Bryennius at Constantinople. It is very anti-Judaistic in spirit, maintaining that Judaism, in its outward and visible form, had not received the divine sanction, and that God's covenant had never belonged to the Jews. It betrays an imperfect acquaintance with Jewish rites and ceremonies, and a tendency to indulge in trifling allegories, for which reasons, as well as because of its Gnostic magnifying of the inner meaning of Scripture at the expense of its historical frame-work, most critics assign it to an unknown Gentile author of Alexandria, writing in the beginning of the second century. But it contains allusions and arguments which seem to imply that the destruction of the Temple had been a recent occurrence ; and, for this and other reasons, some would assign it to about 80 A.D., and accept the tradition that it was the work of Barnabas.
THE SHEPHERD OF HERMAS.- This is the name of a work which was held in high esteem both by the Eastern and Western Church for hundreds of years, from about the middle of the second century. It bears to be written by one Hermas, whom Origen, without any definite or sufficient reason, identifies with the Hermas of Rom. xvi. 14. It consists of three parts : (1) Visions seen by Hermas (in
Rome and the neighbourhood); (2) Commandments, and (3) Similitudes which were delivered to Hermas by one wh appeared to him in the guise of a shepherd, “ the angel of repentance,"—the whole book being a call to repentance. Some regard the story as an allegory without any historical basis ; others, with apparently better reason, conceive it to be of the nature of a prophecy, in the New Testament sense of the word, delivered by the author to the Church, as the result of his dreams and visions. The date of the book is very uncertain. The mention of Clement, to whom Hermas was charged to send the writing for communication to foreign Churches, and whom it is natural to identify with Clement of Rome, has led some to assign it to the latter part of the first century. But it is impossible to reconcile with this the statement in the Muratorian Canon that“ Hermas composed the Shepherd very lately in our times in the city of Rome, while the Bishop Pius, his brother, occupied the chair of the Roman Church" (140-155 A.D.). Like the Epistle of Barnabas, this book is found in the Codex Sinaiticus, following the New Testament.
PAPIAS, Bishop of Hierapolis, was born 60-70 A.D., and published an Exposition of Oracles of the Lord (loylwv kuplaKwv énynois) about 135 A.D. Only a few brief passages of the work have been preserved for us (by Irenæus and Eusebius), but Papias is frequently referred to by other writers. Eusebius characterises him as a man of very mean capacity," though very learned ; and both he and Irenæus refer to his peculiar views, of a materialistic nature, on the subject of the Millennium. The chief object of his work above-mentioned seems to have been to interpret the Gospels in the light of all the traditions he could collect from the Lord's disciples or those acquainted with them. According to Irenæus, Papias was a hearer of the Apostle John, a companion of Polycarp, and a man of the olden time ; but Eusebius inferred (rightly or wrongly) from his language (which he quotes) that there were two persons of the name of John, and that it was not John the Apostle, but John the Elder, that Papias was acquainted with. The words of Papias are as follows :—“If I met anywhere with any one who had been a follower of the Elders, I used to enquire as to the discourses of the Elders—what was said by Andrew, or by Peter, or by Philip, or by Thomas or James, or by John or Matthew, or any other of the Lord's disciples, and what Aristion and the Elder John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I did not think that I would get so much profit from the contents of books as from the utterances of a living and abiding voice.” 1
There is room for difference of opinion as to the correctness of this inference by Eusebius.
1 Ει δε που και παρακολουθηκώς τις μαθητών & τε 'Aριστίων και ο πρεσβυτους πρεσβυτέροις έλθοι τους των πρεσ- τέρος Ιωάννης οι του Κυρίου μαθηται βυτέρων ανέκρινον λόγους τί'Ανδρέας, ή λέγουσιν Ου γαρ τα εκ των βιβλίων τι Πέτρος είπεν, ή τί Φίλιππος, ή τί τοσούτον με ωφελεϊν υπελάμβανον, όσον Θωμάς, η Ιάκωβος" ή τί Ιωάννης, ή τα παρά ζώσης φωνής και μενούσης. . Ματθαίος, ή τις έτερος των του Κυρίου
The Didaché or TEACHING OF THE (TWELVE) APOSTLES” is the name of a work referred to by Eusebius and others – Clement of Alexandria even quoting it as “Scripture”; but no MS. of it was known till 1873, when Bryennius discovered at Constantinople a document containing both it and the epistles of Clement and Barnabas, and several other ancient writings. The first part of it is founded upon a still earlier work called “ The Two Ways” (probably of Jewish origin, and perhaps also used in the epistle of Barnabas), which sets forth the way of righteousness and life, and the way of unrighteousness and death, somewhat after the manner of the Epistle of James. The second part is of a more ecclesiastical nature, and relates to prayer and fasting, the two sacraments, and various classes of teachers and officebearers in the Church, concluding with an exhortation to watch and be ready for the second coming of the Lord. It was probably composed in the end of the first or the beginning of the second century, as we may infer from its identification of bishop and presbyter (§ 15), its allusion to the prophetic order as still surviving in the Church, and to the Agape or love-feast as still forming part of the Lord's Supper. It consists of sixteen short chapters.
ARISTIDES, an Athenian philosopher who lived in the first half of the second century, is mentioned by Eusebius and other writers as the author of a famous Apology ; but it is only within the last few years that the work has been discovered, in a Syriac translation, in St. Catherine's, Mount Sinai. It was addressed to the Emperor Hadrian (117-138 A.D.), or to his successor, Antoninus Pius (who was also called Hadrian), or possibly to both. It may safely be assigned to 125-140 A.D. Much of it is occupied with an examination of heathen mythologies, but it contains allusions to the Lord's Incarnation, Resurrection, and Ascension ; and its representation of the lives of Christians shows that the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount were in many cases carried out far more fully than in modern times. It is the oldest extant Christian Apology. That of Quadratus, which was written about the same time, is still undiscovered ; but a quotation from it is given by Eusebius, who speaks highly of the work.
BASILIDES, a famous Gnostic speculator, taught at Alexandria in the reign of Hadrian (117-138 A.D.). We learn from Eusebius that he wrote twenty-four books on the Gospel, and that a satisfactory refutation of his heresy was produced by Agrippa Castor. A considerable portion of his writings has been found in Hippolytus' Refutation of all Heresies, recovered in 1842 and published in 1851; and various accounts of his teaching are found in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, Irenæus, and Epiphanius. Although his name is often mentioned by subsequent writers, he founded no school of importance, his only eminent disciple being his son Isidore.
MARCION, the son of a bishop of Sinope in Pontus, but excommunicated on account of his heresy, became a Gnostic leader of great influence at Rome and elsewhere (about 140 A.D.), with followers in many lands not only in his own day but for generations afterwards. He set the New Testament in opposition to the Old, and represented the God of Redemption as essentially different from and superior to the God of Creation. To suit his purposes he framed a Gospel for himself, being a mutilated Gospel of Luke ; and of the rest of the canonical books he only acknowledged ten epistles of Paul (excluding Hebrews and the Pastoral Epistles), to which he gave the name of Apostolicon. His opinions are to be learned mainly from Tertullian and Epiphanius, who undertook to refute them.
THE EPISTLE TO DIOGNETUS is “one of the noblest and most impressive of early Christian apologies in style and treatment.” It is addressed by an anonymous author to an educated Pagan (whom Lightfoot is disposed to identify with the tutor of Marcus Aurelius) in answer to his enquiries about Christianity. While certainly not the work of Justin Martyr (to whom it has sometimes been attributed), it probably dates from the second century. The only MS. containing it (of the thirteenth century) was destroyed in Strassburg in 1870 during the FrancoGerman War. It consists of twelve short chapters, but the last two are probably of a much later date, and bear traces of an Alexandrian origin.
JUSTIN MARTYR, a native of Samaria, of Greek descent, after having tried various forms of Greek philosophy, especially Platonism, was converted to Christianity and became its zealous advocate at Rome, Ephesus, and elsewhere. Of his numerous writings there have been preserved to us (besides a few fragments) two Apologies addressed to Roman Emperors in vindication of the Christian life, and a Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, being the account of a discussion at Ephesus, in which Justin sought to prove that Jesus was the Christ. He wrote before the middle of the second century, and was martyred about 165 A.D.
TATIAN, a native of Mesopotamia, was a teacher of rhetoric, well versed in Greek literature and philosophy. He came under the influence of Justin Martyr in Rome about 162 A.D., and became a zealous member of the Church ; but on his return to the East, after the death of Justin, he fell into Gnosticism of a peculiar type, and was regarded as the father of the Encratites. Among numerous other works he wrote an Apology under the name of an Address to the Greeks, which is still extant, and a kind of Harmony of the Four Gospels which he called Diatessaron.
ATHENAGORAS, an Athenian philosopher of the school of Platonists, wrote an Apology (176 A.D.) strongly resembling that of Justin, and a treatise on the Resurrection, both of which are extant and exhibit considerable intellectual power.
MELITO, Bishop of Sardis, a man of wide influence in Asia Minor, wrote on a great variety of subjects. Among his works (only frag