I come from a self-orphaned church tradition. Little did I know it at the time, but the church where I was baptized into Christ comes from a movement of churches that split from other church traditions to focus on scripture and unity. The irony is staggering, if not also somewhat depressing. One of the unfortunate results of the "no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible" dictum is that restoration movement churches are willfully ignorant of church tradition. One of my chosen assignments for my "Early Christian Centuries" class this semester is to read through the Apostolic Fathers. I hope this will be a helpful way for me to learn about the developing traditions of the early Christians. In turn, I expect I will be forced to wrestle with the inherent values and pitfalls of the traditions that have traditoned me even if I had not yet recognized them.
I will be reading through the Loeb translations (vols. 1 & 2 which include the Greek text as well) by Bart Ehrman. Ehrman is a notable historian and scholar who has written numerous works on early Christianity. Though Ehrman did his undergraduate work at conservative evangelical schools (Wheaton and Moody) he has since described himself as an agnostic and has written two books challenging typical conservative assumptions about the text of the New Testament (provocatively titled Misquoting Jesus and Jesus, Interrupted). Ehrman's journey from conservative evangelical to historical skeptic merits a blog post on its own, but that's not my purpose here.
I plan to blog through my assignment as a way to both keep me on track with reading and force myself to process the material through writing.
The Apostolic Fathers "represent a disparate collection of early Christian writings" (1) that is an invention of the seventeenth century. Erhman even refers to the collection as a "modern fabrication" (11). Today the collection includes:
- 1 Clement
- 2 Clement
- Letters of Ignatius of Antioch
- Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians
- Martyrdom of Polycarp
- Epistle of Barnabas
- Papias and Quadratus
- Epistle to Diognetus
- Shepherd of Hermas