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Rom 5:8: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

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Wednesday, 07 March 2012 21:53

 

 

 

 

 

FIRST PERIOD

 

 

BEGINNING AND GROWTH OF EARLY CHRISTIAN LITERATURE - THE FATHERS OF THE FIRST THREE CENTURIES

 

 

SECTION I

 

 

THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

     

  1. St. Clement

     

     

  2. St. Ignatius

     

     

  3. St. Polycarp and the Acts of His Martyrdom

     

     

  4. Pseudo-Barnabas

     

     

  5. The Doctine of the Twelve Apostles (Didache)

     

     

  6. The Homily Called Second Epistle of St. Clement

     

     

  7. The Shepherd of Hermas

     

     

  8. Papias and the Presbyters

     

     

  9. The Apostles' Creed

     

     

 

 

 

"Apostolic Fathers" is the name given to a certain number of writers or writings (several of which are anonymous)

dating from the end of the first or from the first half of the

second century. The name has been selected because the

authors are supposed to have known the Apostles and also

because their works represent a teaching derived immediately, or almost immediately, from the Apostles. These

writings are, indeed, a continuation of the Gospels and of

Apostolic literature.

 

 

On the other hand, these works have neither the intense

vividness of the canonical books nor the fullness of theological thought found in the literature of a later period.

With the exception of St. Ignatius, their authors do not

show much intellectual power or ability, which goes to prove

that, in the beginning, the Church recruited her members

chiefly from among the illiterate. Nevertheless, the writings of these men are of great value to us, both on account of their antiquity and because they show how the

Christians of the second and third generations understood

the work of Christ and of his Apostles.

 

 

There are about ten Apostolic Fathers. One-half of their

writings is made up of epistles (Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Pseudo-Barnabas) ; the other half comprises doctrinal, parenetic or disciplinary treatises (The Didache, the

"Secunda Clementis," the Shepherd of Hermas, Papias,

The Apostles' Creed).[1]

 

 

[1] The edition of the Apostolic Fathers by Migne (P. G., I, II, V)

is insufficient. The student must use that of F. X. Funk, Patres

Apostolici, Tubingae, 1901, in 2 vols., with Latin translation and

notes (the second vol. revised and reedited by F. Diekamp, 1913),

or separate editions of the collection of Hemmes and Lejay indicated below.

Cf. also the minor editions (without translation or

notes) of Funk and Harnack, Gebhardt and Zahn. See Freppel,

Les Peres Apostoliques et leur Epoque, Paris, 4th ed., 1885.

 

 

 


 

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I. St. Clement[2]

 

 

 

According to the most trustworthy tradition, St. Clement

was the third successor of St. Peter and the fourth bishop

of Rome. Nothing warrants our identifying him with the

Clement of whom St. Paul speaks when writing to the

Philippians[3] and still less with Flavius Clemens, a

consul, cousin of the Emperor Domitian, who was

beheaded in 95 or 96. St. Clement probably knew the

Apostles. He was presumably a freedman, or the son

of a freedman, of the gens Flavia, whence he derived

his name. Be this as it may, Clement was certainly

in some respects a remarkable pontiff, since he made

a profound impression on the early Church. Two "Letters

to Virgins," two "Letters to James," the brother of the

Lord, and a collection of Homilies are ascribed to him, besides the so-called "Second Letter to the Corinthians"; he

is also given a prominent part in the romance of the "Recognitions."

 

 

At the end of the IVth century Rome honored him as a

martyr; the alleged acts of his martyrdom, however, are not

authentic, but belong to another Clement, a Greek martyr

buried at Cherson.

 

 

Of Pope St. Clement we possess only one authentic writing, the Epistle to the Corinthians (Epistola Prima Clementis). It is contained in two Greek MS., the "Alexandrinus," probably belonging to the IVth century (now in

the British Museum), and the "Constantinopolitanus" or,

better, "Hierosolymitanus," dating from 1056 (kept in Jerusalem). In the former manuscript chapters Ivii, 6-lxiii, 4

are missing; the latter is complete. There exist, furthermore, a very literal Latin version, which seems to go back

 

 

[2] Editions apart from his epistle by H. Hemmer, Les Peres Apostoliques, II, Paris, 1909; J. B. Lightfoot, Clement of Rome, 2nd Ed.,

1890 (the richest in information of all kinds) ; R. Knopf, Der erste

Clemensbrief, Leipzig, 1899. Good doctrinal commentary by W.

Scherer, Der erste Clemensbrief an die Korinther, Regensburg, 1903.

 

 

[3] Phil. iv, 3.

 

 

 

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to the IInd century,[4] a Syriac version,[5] and two incomplete

Coptic versions.[6]

 

 

This epistle is anonymous. It introduces itself as a letter

from "the Church of God which is in Rome to the Church

of God which is in Corinth." Although the letter is written in the name of a community, it is undoubtedly the work

of an individual and this individual is Clement. Denis of

Corinth (170-175?) gives us decisive proof of this, and it

would be difficult to find anyone in a position to be better

informed than he was.[7] To his testimony we may add those

of Hegesippus,[8] of Clement of Alexandria, and of St.

Irenaeus.[9] St. Polycarp was certainly acquainted with this

epistle, since he made it the pattern of his own to the

Philippians, and this circumstance alone is sufficient proof

that the letter dates back approximately to the time of St.

Clement.

 

 

Clement's pontificate is to be placed between the years 92

and 101. His letter was written after a persecution which

appears to be that of Domitian. As this persecution ended

in 95 or 96, Clement must have written to the Corinthians

between the years 95 and 98.

 

 

The occasion was a schism which had broken out in the

Church of Corinth. One or two ringleaders[10] had stirred

up the faithful against the presbyters, of whom several, of

irreproachable life, had driven them from office. We are

ignorant of the nature of the accusation raised against them.

The Church of Rome learned of these troubles through

public rumor, for notwithstanding what is said in ch. I, 1, it

does not seem probable that the Church of Rome was informed and asked to intervene by the Church of Corinth.

Clement, as pope, intervened for the purpose of restoring

peace and pointing out means of remedying the trouble.

 

 

The Epistle is divided into two main parts. The first is

general (iv-xxxviii) and contains a series of exhortations to

 

 

[4] Discovered and edited by D. G. Morin, S. Clementis Romani ad

Corinthios Epistulae Versio Latina Antiquissima, Maredsoli, 1894

(Analecta Maredsolana, II).

 

 

[5] Edited by R. L. Ben Sly and R. H. Kennett, London, 1899.

 

 

[6] Edited by C. Schmidt, T. U., xxxii, i, Leipzig, 1908 and Fr.

Roesch, Strasbourg, 1910.

 

 

[7] Eusebius, H. E., iv, 23, II.

 

 

[8] Ibid., iv, 22, 1.

 

 

[9] Adv. Haer., iii, 3, 3.

 

 

[10] xlvii, 5, 6.

 

 

 

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the practice of charity, penance, obedience, humility, faith,

etc., calculated to insure a spirit of concord among the faithful. The train of thought is interrupted (xxiii-xxx) by a

lengthy parenthesis on the certainty of the future resurrection. The second part (xxxix-lix) deals more directly with

the troubles at Corinth. God, says Clement, established the

ecclesiastical hierarchy and sent Christ. Christ appointed

the Apostles, who appointed bishops and deacons, who in

turn, as the necessity arose, chose other men to succeed them.

To these men the faithful owe submission and obedience,

and this is why they who drove the presbyters from office

have sinned. They must do penance and withdraw for a

time from Corinth, in order that peace may be re-established. Then follows a long prayer (lix, -3 lxi), in which

praises to God and supplications for the Christians and for

the authorities succeed one another. The letter concludes

with fresh exhortations to unity and with spiritual good

wishes (Ixii-lxv).

 

 

In the early Church the Epistle of St. Clement was held

in the greatest esteem. Some authors even went so far as

to rank it with the inspired writings. St. Irenaeus calls it

"very powerful"; Eusebius pronounces it "grand and admirable" and testifies to the fact that in several churches

it was read publicly at the meetings of the faithful.[11] The

letter is worthy of such esteem because of the happy blending of firmness and kindness which characterizes it, and the

shrewdness of observation, delicacy of touch and lofty sentiments which the author manifests throughout. The great

prayer at the conclusion has a majestic swing. Unfortunately, the abuse of Old Testament quotations, especially in

the first part, often interferes with the development of the

author's thought and prevents it from attaining its highest

flight.

 

 

From a theological point of view the Epistle of St.

Clement is of great importance. It marks the "epiphany of

the Roman primacy," being the first manifestation of the

consciousness of this prerogative in Rome. It also contains

the first patristic affirmation of the divine right of the hierarchy.[12]

 

 

[11] H. E., iii, 16.

 

 

[12] xlii, 1, 2, 4; xliv, 2.

 

 


 


 

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2. ST. IGNATIUS[1]

 

 

 

St. Ignatius, also callel Theophorus, according to tradition succeeded Evodius, the first bishop of Antioch after St.

Peter.[2] Nothing is known for certain of his youth or even

of his episcopate. It is surmised that he was born a pagan

and became converted to the faith later in life.

 

 

He was bishop of Antioch[3] when a persecution, the cause

of which is unknown to us, broke out. St. Ignatius was its

noblest and perhaps only victim. Condemned to be exposed

to wild beasts, he was led to Rome to undergo martyrdom.

 

 

He travelled by land and sea. Passing through Philadelphia, in Lydia, he arrived by land at Smyrna, where he

was greeted by its bishop, Polycarp, and recived delegations

from the neighboring churches of Ephesus, Magnesia, and

Tralles, with their respective bishops, Onesimus, Damasus,

and Polybius. It was at Smyrna that he wrote his letters to

the Ephesians, to the Magnesians, to the Trallians and to the

Romans. From Smyrna he came to Troas, whence he

wrote his letters to the Churches of Philadelphia and

Smyrna and his letter to Polycarp. From there he took

ship to Neapolis, where he resumed the land route, passing

through Philippi and Thessalonica to Dyrrachium (Durazzo)

on the Adriatic Sea. The Philippians received Ignatius

with veneration and after his departure wrote to Polycarp,

begging him to send by his own courier the letter they de-

spatched to the Christians of Antioch and asking him at

the same time to forward to them (the Philippians) what-

ever letters of Ignatius he had in his possession. This is

the last information we have of the Bishop of Antioch.

At Rome he suffered the death he had so earnestly longed

for; but the two accounts of his martyrdom which we possess (Martyrium Romanum and Martyrium Antiochenum)

are legendary.

 

 

[1] Special edit. by A. Lelong, in Textes et Documents: Les Peres

Aposfoliques, III, Ignace d'Antioche, Paris, 1910; by J. B. Lightfoot,

The Apostolic Fathers, part II, 2nd ed., 1889-1890. See H.

de Genouillac, L'Eglise Chretienne au Temps d'lgnace d'Antioche,

Paris, 1907. P. Batiffol, L'Eglise Naissante et Ie Catholicisme,

Paris, 1909. Good catholic commentary by M. Rackl, Die Christologie des hi. Ignatius von Ant., Freiburg, 1914.

 

 

[2] Eusebius, H. E., iii, 22.

 

 

[3] The opinion of E. Bruston, that Ignatius was a deacon of

Antioch, does not seem to have found many adherents.

 

 

 

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The letters of St. Ignatius have reached us in three different recensions:

 

 

1. The longer recension, besides the seven letters mentioned, more or less enlarged, contains six others: a letter

by a certain Maria of Cassobola to Ignatius and five letters

of Ignatius to Maria of Cassobola, the people of Tarsus,

Antioch and Philippi, and Hero, a deacon of Antioch, -

in all, thirteen letters.[4]

 

 

2. The shorter recension, in Syriac, which contains in

an abbreviated form the three letters to Polycarp, to the

Ephesians, and to the Romans.[5]

 

 

3. The mixed recension, comprising the seven letters to

the Ephesians, the Magnesians, the Trallians, the Romans,

the Philadelphians, the people of Smyrna, and Bishop Polycarp. The text of this recension is not so developed as that

of the longer recension, but more developed than that of

the shorter.

 

 

Scholars are unanimous now in affirming that neither the

longer nor the shorter recension represents the authentic

work of Ignatius. If, therefore, his work has been preserved anywhere, it is in the mixed recension. But the

question arises: Are the seven letters of this recension entirely authentic? This question, which has been the subject of many violent discussions, must be answered in the

affirmative. Arguments based upon internal criticism are

about the only ones that can be brought against such a solution, but they are really without force and must vanish

before the evidence of Eusebius,[6] Origen,[7] St. Irenaeus,[8]

and St. Polycarp.[9] Outside of a few obstinate writers,

all Protestant and rationalist critics now side with Catholics

on this question.[10] We may therefore say that the authenticity of the Ignatian epistles is an established fact.

 

 

[4] The text may be found in the second vol. of Funk's Patres

Apostolici.

 

 

[5] Edited by W. Cureton. The Ancient Syriac Version of the

Epistles of S. Ignatius, London, 1845; Corpus Ignatianum, 1849; A.

Hilgenfeld, Ignatii Antioch. . . . Epistulae et Martyria, Berolini,

1902.

 

 

[6] H. E., iii, 22; 36 and 38.

 

 

[7] In Cantic. Canticorum., prolog.; In Lucam, Homil. vi

 

 

[8] Adv. Haer., v, 28, 4.

 

 

[9] Ad Philip., xiii.

 

 

[10] Hilgenfeld, Lipsius, and Voelter still continue to hold aloof.

Renan admitted the authenticity of but one Epistle, that to the

Romans, the only one rejected by E. Bruston. Th. Zahn, A.

Harnack, 0. Pfleiderer, J. Reville and Catholics generally claim

authenticity for all seven epistles.  The thesis has been completely

established by J. B. Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, part II,

vol. 1, 1885.

 

 

 

15

 

 

 

When were these letters written? Evidently at a date

which coincides closely with that of the death of St. Ignatius, although it is difficult to fix this date exactly. One

thing alone seems certain, vis., that Ignatius suffered martyrdom under Trajan (98-117). The acts of his martyrdom

indicate the ninth year of Trajan (107); St. Jerome[11] says

the eleventh year (109). We shall hardly err, therefore,

if we place the date of his martyrdom, and consequently also

that of the composition of his letters, about the year 110.

 

 

The main purpose of Ignatius in all his letters, except

that to the Romans, is to warn the faithful against the errors and divisions which certain agents of heresy and schism

endeavored to sow among them. The doctrine these men

were trying to spread was a certain kind of Judaizing

Gnosticism: on the one hand, they urged the preservation of

Jewish practices; on the other they were Docetists, i. e., they

saw in the humanity of Jesus only an unreal appearance.

Furthermore, they separated from the bulk of the Christian

community and conducted their liturgical conventicles apart

from them. St. Ignatius fought against their pretensions by

affirming that Judaism had been abrogated, and by strongly

insisting on the reality of the body and the mysteries of

Jesus. What he seeks above all, though, is to defeat the

propaganda of these heretics in principle by exhorting the

faithful, as the first of their duties, never to separate from

their bishop and clergy. Under the bishop in each church

Ignatius clearly distinguishes a body of priests and deacons

who are subject to him, and who, together with the bishop,

constitute the authority which the faithful must obey if

they wish to maintain unity and purity of doctrine in the

Church of God.

 

 

The Epistle to the Romans was written for a special purpose. Ignatius feared lest the Romans, moved by a false

compassion for him, should attempt to prevent the execution of his death-sentence and therefore begs them to abandon their efforts.

 

 

The style of the Ignatian Epistles is "rude, obscure,

enigmatic, and full of repetitions and entreaties, but it is

 

 

[11] De Vir. ill., 16.

 

 

 

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always very energetic and here and there strikingly magnificent." [12] No author, unless it be St. Paul, whom Ignatius

resembles in more than one respect, has succeeded better

than he in infusing his whole personality into his writings.

His style, though incorrect and disjointed, is animated by an

irresistible life. An ardent flame burns in these sentences,

from which terse expressions spring forth like flashes of

lightning. Instead of classical equilibrium, we find here

beauty of a higher kind, sometimes, strange, no doubt, but

always emanating from intensity of feeling and from the

very depths of the martyr's piety. From this point of view

nothing can compare with the letter to the Romans, which

Renan has called "one of the jewels of primitive Christian

literature."

 

 


 


 

3. ST. POLYCARP AND THE ACTS OF HIS MARTYDOM [1]


 

 

The memory of St. Polycarp is closely connected with

that of St. Ignatius. He was born very probably in the

year 69 or 70, of well-to-do parents, and was a disciple of

St. John the Evangelist.[2] He conversed with those who had

seen the Lord and was made bishop of Smyrna at a relatively young age, since he was holding that office when he

received St. Ignatius on his way to Rome. St. Irenaeus

extols his great love of tradition and of sound doctrine.[3]

Towards the end of his life, Polycarp visited Pope Anicetus

in Rome to discuss with him the question of the celebration of Easter and to defend the custom which prevailed in

his own church. The two were unable to come to an understanding; but parted in peace.[4] One or two years after

this incident, in 155 or 156, Polycarp died a martyr.

 

 

The circumstances of his martyrdom have been preserved

in a letter written by a certain Marcion in the name of the

Church of Smyrna. This letter was addressed, in the year

following the martyrdom of the holy bishop,[5] to the Church

of Philomelium "and to all the Christians of the

 

 

[12] Batiffol.

 

 

[1] Special edition by A Lelong, same volume as that of St. Ignatius;

and by J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, part II, London,

1885, 1889.

 

 

[2] Eusebius, H. E., v, 20, 6.

 

 

[3] De Vir. Ill., 7.

 

 

[4] H.E., v, 24, 16, 17.

 

 

[5] xviii, 3.

 

 

 

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world belonging to the universal Church."[6] Polycarp was

sentenced to be burned alive, but he was stabbed with a

dagger and his body afterwards burnt at the stake. The

Christians were able "to gather his bones, of more value

to them than precious stones and gold, and placed them in

a becoming place," where they could assemble to celebrate

the anniversary of his martyrdom.[7]

 

 

St. Irenaeus speaks of a certain number of letters written by Polycarp,[8] but we have only his letter to the Philipplans, written on the occasion of Ignatius' sojourn among

them. Ignatius had induced the Christians of Philippi to

write to the faithful of Antioch and congratulate them

upon the fact that the persecution, which had carried away

their bishop, was now at an end. The Philippians had

requested Polycarp to send their letter to the brethren at

Antioch by the same messenger he was about to despatch

to that city; they also asked him for copies of the letters of

Ignatius which might be in his possession. We have Polycarp's reply, written probably soon after the death of St.

Ignatius,[9] but the entire text is extant only in a mediocre

Latin translation. All the Greek manuscripts which have

reached us stop towards the end of ch. ix. Fortunately

Eusebius has transcribed the whole of ch. ix as well as ch.

xiii, - the two most important chapters.[10]

 

 

The authenticity of these letters, bound up as it is with

that of the Ignatian epistles, has been disputed, but they

are certainly genuine.

 

 

There is very little originality in the writings of St. Polycarp. Both the matter and the style are destitute of genius. Wishing to exhort the Christians of Philippi, with

whom he was but slightly acquainted, the Bishop of Smyrna

filled his letter with counsels borrowed from the New

Testament, and more especially from St. Paul's Epistle to the

Philippians. He adds that he is sending them, together with

this letter, all the letters of St. Ignatius in his possession.

 

 

[6] In this account, chapters xxi and xxii, 1 may be contemporaneous

additions to the writing; parts xxii, 2, 3 and the other appendix

taken from the Moscow Ms. were written at a much later date.

 

 

[7] XVIII, 2.

 

 

[8] Eusebius, H. E., v, 20, 8.

 

 

[9] Cf. ix with xiii.

 

 

[10] H. E., iii, 36, 13-15.

 

 


 


 

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4. PSEUDO-BARNABAS [1]

 

 

 

Under the name of St. Barnabas we have a letter preserved in two principal codices, the Sinaiticus (IVth century) and the Hierosolymitanus (1056). With one voice

Christian antiquity indicated as the author of this letter

Barnabas, the companion of St. Paul, although it placed it

among the antilegomenai grafai, that is to say, contested

its canonicity. Modern critics unanimously deny the

genuineness of the letter. When the Epistle was written,

St. Barnabas was certainly no longer alive and, even if he

had been, he would not have adopted the violent and severe

attitude evinced throughout this document.

 

 

The letter was intended for certain converts from paganism, whom a few Judaic Christians - more Jewish than

Christian - were trying to persuade that the Old Law was

still in force. To refute this claim the author devotes the

greater part of his letter (i-xvii) to showing that the Mosaic observances have been abrogated and that the ancient

covenant of God with the Jewish people ceased with the

death of Christ and the promulgation of the Christian law.

He goes farther and asserts that these traditional observances in reality never existed in the sense in which the Jews

understood them. The precepts relating to fasting, circumcision, the Sabbath, the temple, etc., which they had interpreted in a gross material sense, were to be understood spiritually of the mortification of the passions and the

sanctification of the interior temple, which is the soul.

 

 

In the second part, passing abruptly to a new set of ideas,

the author reproduces the contents of the chapters of the

Didache which describe the "Two Ways." It is probable

that he borrowed this description from some other writing,

or from the Didache itself. There are two "Ways of

Life": the way of darkness and vice and the way of light

and virtue; we must follow the latter and turn away from

the former.

 

 

Alexandria and Egypt are commonly designated as the

birthplace of the Letter of Barnabas. It is there we find it

first quoted (by Clement of Alexandria) and there it was

 

 

[1] Special edition by G. Oger and A. Laukent, Textes et Documents,

Les Peres Apostoliques, I, Paris, 1907. See P. Ladeuze, L'Epitre de

Barnabe, Louvain, 1900. Catholic commentary by Ph. Hauser, Der

Barnabasbrief neu untersucht und/neu erklart, Paderborn, 1912.

 

 

 

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held in great veneration. We could suspect this also from

the strong allegorism displayed throughout the work. The

author sees, for instance, in the 318 slaves of Abraham the

figure of Christ and of His cross (T = 300, ih = 18). He

believes in the millennium.

 

 

It is difficult to determine the date of this composition.

All depends on the interpretation we give to chapters iv

and xvi. Funk and Bardenhewer place it under Nerva's

reign (96-98); Veil, Harnack, and Oger, under the Emperior Hadrian (117-131).

 

 


 


 

5. THE DOCTRINE OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES[1]


 

 

The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles (Didach twu dwdeka

apostolwn), frequently called also by the shorter name

of Didache, was not entirely unknown when the complete text was first discovered. The Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, the author of

the Apostolic Constitutions, and others had quoted it or

embodied fragments of it in their works. St. Athanasius

had even mentioned it expressly by its title, the "Doctrine

of the Apostles." The treatise was very popular in the

early Church; some looked upon it even as an inspired

book.[2] But the complete original text was discovered only

in 1873, by Philotheos Bryennios in the Codex Hierosolymitanus, which dates from 1056. The editio princeps appeared in 1883. It has since been followed by many others. Besides the original Greek, there exist also a Latin

version of the first six chapters[3] and a few fragments from

an Arabic translation.[4] Quotations in the Adversus

Aleatores and by St. Optatus prove that there must have

existed, as early as the IInd century, a Latin version, dif-

ferent from the one we possess now, which contained the

whole work.

 

 

[1] Special edition by H. Hemmek and A. Laukent in Textes et

Documents: Les Peres Apostoliques, I, Paris, 1907. See E. Jacquier,

La Doctrine des Douze Apotres (text, version, and commentaries),

Paris, 1891.

 

 

[2] Eusebius places it among the noqa, or non-canonical apocrypha

(H. E., III, 25, 4).

 

 

[3] Edited by J. Schlecht, Doctrina xii Apostolorum, Freiburg i. B.,

1900.

 

 

[4] In the life of the monk Schnoudi, d. in 451. J. Iiselin, Eine

bisher unbekannte Version des ersten Teiles der Apostellehre; T. U.,

xiii, 1b, 1895.

 

 

 

20

 

 

 

The Didache may be divided into four clearly distinct

parts: a moral catechesis (i-vi), a liturgical instruction

(vii-x); a disciplinary instruction (xi-xv), and a conclusion

of an eschatological nature (xvi).

 

 

1. The moral catechesis teaches us what we must do

(The Way of Life, i-iv) and what we must not do (The

Way of Death, v, vi).

 

 

2. The liturgical instruction treats of Baptism, how to

administer it and how to prepare oneself for its reception

(vii); fasting (viii, 1); prayer (viii, 2, 3), and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist (ix, x).

 

 

3. The disciplinary instruction is concerned with the manner of dealing with preachers, and especially with itinerant

apostles (xi, 3-6), prophets (xi, 7-12; xiii, I, 3-7), travelling brethren (xii), and teachers who settle in the com-

munity (xiii, 2) ; then passing on to the interior life of

the Church, it prescribes the divine service for Sundays

and lays down the line of conduct to be followed with regard to bishops, deacons, and the brethren of the community (xiv-xv).

 

 

4. The conclusion is a warning to be vigilant because

the coming of the Savior is at hand. It contains also a

description of the signs which will precede and accompany

the parousia (xvi).

 

 

The Didache is an anonymous writing and its author is

unknown. Whoever he was, he fused the different parts

of the work into a harmonious whole. The problem is to

ascertain whether he made use of works already in existence

and, more especially, whether the first six chapters (the

moral catechesis) constituted an independent treatise, which

the author appropriated and incorporated with his work.

A few indications here and there seem to favor this view.

Under the title of The Two Ways a short moral treatise

seems to have been in circulation. The author of the

Didache and several other writers who have cited him. may

have merely performed a work of transcription. This conclusion, however, is not certain. As to the hypothesis that

The Two Ways was a Jewish work, Christianized by the addition of passages I, 3 to II, 1, we must say that it is not substantiated by the facts.

 

 

The dates fixed upon by critics for the composition of

the Didache fall between the years 50 and 160. The work

was probably composed between 80 and 110. The basis for

 

 

 

21

 

 

 

such a conclusion is the fact that the liturgy and hierarchy

which the author describes, are quite primitive; there is

no trace in the work of a creed or a canon of the Scriptures,

and no allusion is made to pagan persecution or Gnosticism.

On the other hand, the writer is acquainted with the gospels

of St. Matthew and St. Luke and entertains an obvious

mistrust towards wandering Christian teachers who visit

the communities. This state of affairs is characteristic of

the end of the first century.

 

 

It is impossible to determine precisely the place where

this work was composed. It was certainly written in the

East, but nothing warrants our saying with certainty whether

its birthplace was Syria, Palestine, or Egypt.

 

 

The Didache is a work of considerable importance.

Apart from its dogmatic content, it gives us a pretty accurate

picture of what was, in those early times, the interior life

of the Christian communities from the point of view of

moral teaching, the practices they observed, and the form

of government under which they lived. Some authors have

seen in this work the most ancient of Christian rituals; it

is perhaps more exact to characterize it as a kind of

"Vade Mecum" for the faithful and a directory for the

use of the Church officials.

 

 


 


 

6. THE HOMILY CALLED SECOND EPISTLE OF ST. CLEMENT[1]


 

 

The so-called Second Epistle of St. Clement is found in

two Greek manuscripts and in the Syriac manuscript of the

authentic letter of St. Clement. However, Eusebius, who is

the first to mention it, is careful to remark[2] that "it was

not as well known as the first Epistle, since ancient writers

have made no use of it." In fact, it is neither a letter nor

a formal epistle, but a homily or discourse which was read

in the meetings of the faithful. "Brothers and Sisters,

after [the word of] the God of truth, I read to you this

exhortation, that listening to the things which have been

written, you may save yourselves and your lector with

you."[3] The hypothesis that this epistle is identical with

 

 

[1] Special edition by H. Hemmer in the Textes et Documents:

Les Peres Apostoliques, II, Paris, 1909. The introduction discusses

certain questions raised by the letter.

 

 

[2] H. E., iii, 38, 4.

 

 

[3] xix, 1.

 

 

 

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the Letter of Pope Soter to the Corinthians,[4] spoken of by

Denis of Corinth, is therefore untenable. Neither can this

homily be attributed to Pope St. Clement. The silence of

ancient writers militates strongly against such an hypothesis,

and "style, tone, and thought are in such complete contrast

with the (authentic) Letter to the Corinthians that from

internal criteria alone we should be justified in refusing to

attribute this second composition to the author of the first

Letter."[5]

 

 

It is, therefore, an anonymous sermon by an unknown author. As the work is not an orderly treatise on a particular

subject, its contents are difficult to analyze. After affirming

the divinity of Christ, the author dwells at length on the

value of the salvation He has brought us and on the care with

which we should observe the commandments (i-iv). We

can work out our salvation only by waging a continual warfare against the world. Let us then embark for this heavenly battle (v-vii) and strive to practice the Christian virtues of penance, purity, mutual love, trust in God, and devotion to the Church (viii-xvii). Conclusion: Let us work

for our salvation, come what may: Glory be to God!

(xviii-xx).

 

 

It is plain that this discourse is not a homily, properly so

called, upon a specific text of S. Scripture, but a stirring

exhortation to live a Christian life and thereby to merit

heaven. "The thought is often very commonplace, expressed awkwardly and not always definitely. The composition is loose and devoid of orderly plan, but there are a

few striking sentences scattered here and there." It is the

work of a writer who is inexperienced, yet full of what he

has to say and who, at times, expressed himself with unction.

 

 

A number of critics, struck by the resemblance existing

between this work and the Shepherd of Hermas, have concluded that it was written in Rome. The analogy, however,

is not very pronounced. Others have perceived in vii, 1, 3,

where mention is made of wrestlers who hasten to the

combat under full sail and of Christians embarking for battle, an allusion to the Isthmian games, and think that the ex-

hortation was read at Corinth. This would explain how, in

the manuscripts, it came to be placed alongside of the

Letter of St. Clement to the Corinthians. The hypothesis

does not lack probability.

 

 

[4] Eusebius, H. E., iv, 23, II.

 

 

[5] Hemmer.

 

 

 

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As to the date of composition, critics agree in placing it

in the first half of the second century, more precisely between 120 and 140, before the rise of the great Gnostic

systems of which the writer does not seem to be aware.

 

 


 


 

7. THE SHEPHERD OF HERMAS[1]


 

 

We possess under the name of Hermas a longish composition entitled The Shepherd, of which there are extant

two Greek manuscripts, both incomplete,[2] two Latin versions

(one very ancient, called Vulgata), an Ethiopic version,

and a few fragments of a Coptic version. The title of the

work is borrowed from the personage who plays the principal part in the second division of the work, the Angel of

Penance to whose care Hermas has been entrusted, and who

appears to him in the guise of a shepherd (Vision v).

 

 

Who was the author of this book? Origen saw in him

the Hermas whom St. Paul greets at the end of his Epistle

to the Romans (xvi, 14). Others have made him a contemporary of St. Clement of Rome, according to vision ii,

4, 3. By far the most probable opinion is that based upon

the authority of the Canon of Muratori, and that of the

Liberian Catalogue, which makes Hermas a brother of

Pope Pius I (c. 140-155). "As to the Shepherd" says

the Muratorian Fragment, "it has been written quite recently, in our own time, in the city of Rome, by Hermas,

while Pius, his brother, occupied, as bishop, the see of the

Church of the city of Rome."

 

 

This evidence seems conclusive. It does not, however,

give us any details concerning the life of Hermas. The

author, in his book, furnishes us with these. According to

his autobiography, Hermas was a slave and a Christian. He was sold at Rome to a Christian lady, named

Rhode, who soon set him free. He then applied himself

to agriculture and commerce and rapidly acquired great

wealth. In consequence, he began to neglect the moral

 

 

[1] Special edition by A. Lelong in the Textes et Documents: Les

Peres Apostoliques, IV, Le Pasteur d'Hermas, Paris, 1912. Cf. A

Bruell, Der Hirt des Hermas. Freiburg, 1882. P. Batiffol, Eludes

d'Histoire et de Theologie Positive. Paris, 1904. A. Baumeister,

Die Ethik des Pastor Hermae, Freiburg, 1912. A. d'Ales, L'Edit

de Calliste, Paris, 1914.

 

 

[2] The codex of Mt. Athos (xivth century) contains almost the entire text down to similitude ix, 30, 2.

 

 

 

24

 

 

 

guidance of his family and, more especially, failed to correct his wife and children, who led vicious lives. Then

came the persecution. Hermas and his wife confessed the

faith, but their children apostatized, denounced their parents, and indulged in all kinds of debauchery. The

result was that Hermas lost his fortune and was reduced

to the possession of a small farm, situated on the road leading to the Roman Campagna; this was enough to support

him. The trial he had undergone proved very salutary.

Hermas had been an indifferent Christian; he now became

fervent. It was while he was endeavoring to make amends

for the past that the events occurred which he now relates.

 

 

It is difficult to disentangle what is true from what is pure

fiction in these details. Hermas is surely a historical personage, and probably certain features of his life are not

without historical foundation. Others may have been invented for the purposes of the book. Since Hermas has

invented many things, as we shall prove, he may well have

invented also his supposed autobiography.

 

 

The end he had in view was to call sinners to penance.

Hermas is conscious of grave disorders which have crept

into the Roman Church (Simil., viii, 6-10; ix, 19-31), not

only among the laity, but even among the clergy. Ought

not these sinners to do penance? Certain imposters denied

it (Simil., viii, 6, 5). Hermas affirms that they should.

Will this penance, which is necessary, be useful to those

who perform it, and will it merit pardon for them? Some

rigorist teachers thought it would not, and asserted that

the only salutary penance was that performed before baptism

(Mandat, iv, 3, l); Hermas announces in the name of God

that, at least at the moment when he is writing, one penance after baptism is both possible and efficacious, and affirms that his express mission is to invite sinners to take

advantage of such a favor. Lastly, how should penance

be performed? Hermas describes the process in the course

of his book. These three ideas,— the necessity of penance,

its efficacy, and its requisite conditions,— form the ground-

work of The Shepherd.

 

 

Hermas does not present these ideas as his own. In order that they may be the more readily accepted by his readers, he presents them as moral instructions which he has received through the special agency of supernatural manifestations. He assumes the attitude of a seer and a prophet,

 

 

 

25

 

 

 

like those who existed in the first days of the Church, and

his entire book is nothing more than an account of the visions and revelations which have been made to him.

 

 

From this point of view, viz., that of the form, The Shepherd is divided into three parts, which comprise, respectively, five Visions, twelve Commandments, and ten Similitudes (or parables). This distinction is made by the author

himself, but it must not be taken in a strict sense, "because the commandments and the similitudes contain nearly

as many visions as the visions properly so called, and the

visions and similitudes in their turn are crammed with commandments."[3] In reality, Hermas divides his book into

two distinct sections, according to the personage who appears and speaks to him. In the first four visions that

personage is the Church. She appears to him first in the

guise of an aged and feeble woman; in the following visions

she grows constantly younger and more graceful. From

the fifth vision on, a new personage appears and remains

upon the scene until the close of the volume. This is the

Shepherd or Angel of Penance to whose care Hermas has

been entrusted. The Shepherd first dictates to him the

twelve Commandments and next bids him write out the

Similitudes or parables.

 

 

The twelve Commandments form a small code of practical morals. They insist upon the virtues and good works

which a penitent must practice if his penance is to be efficacious,— faith, fear of God, simplicity, truthfulness, chastity in marriage, patience, temperance, trust in God, Christian joy, the discernment of true and false prophets.

 

 

The Similitudes, or symbolical visions, are ten in number.

They resume the theme of the visions and further develop

the necessity and efficacy of penance and the conditions

requisite for it. Three of these similitudes are particularly

important: the fifth (the parable of the vineyard and the

faithful servant), the eighth (the parable of the willow

tree), and the ninth (which returns to the third vision and

relates the construction of the tower of the Church).

 

 

Link and Baumgartner[4] have established beyond a doubt

that the Shepherd is the work of one author. But it does

not necessarily follow that Hermas wrote successively and

 

 

[3] Lelong.

 

 

[4] A. Link, Die Einheit des Pastor Hermae. Marburg, 1888; P.

Baumgartner, Die Einheit des Hermas-Buches. Freiburg i B., 1889.

 

 

 

26

 

 

 

at one sitting all the parts of his work. On the contrary,

there were certainly interruptions of time between the composition of the first four visions and that of the fifth, between the composition of Similitude ix and that of Similitude ix. But it is difficult to determine the duration of

these intervals: nothing proves that they lasted, at the most,

more than four or five years.

 

 

The Shepherd was evidently written at Rome. The Mu-

ratorian Fragment affirms that it was composed during the

pontificate of Pius I, between 140 and 155, or thereabouts.

The best we can do is to accept this date, which is supported by what Hermas says about the persecutions, the

state of the Roman Church, and the errors which were beginning to circulate in his time.

 

 

From the moment of its appearance The Shepherd was

received with high esteem in both the East and the West.

Several Fathers (St. Irenaeus, Tertullian—whilst still a

Catholic,— Clement of Alexandria, and Origen) considered

it an inspired work, athough they did not place it on the

same footing as the canonical books. The Shepherd was

esteemed as the work of a true prophet and was appended

to the New Testament in manuscripts of the Bible. The

Muratorian Fragment, Eusebius, and St. Athanasius are

more exact when they state that The Shepherd of Hermas

is assuredly an excellent book, but cannot be compared to

the books recognized by the Church as canonical. Its repu-

tation did not last beyond the IVth century, and in 392, St.

Jerome could say that The Shepherd was almost unknown

among the Latin churches. The interest it had created

dwindled away in the Greek churches also. In the decree of Pope Gelasius (496) it is named among the apocryphal books.

 

 

Considered in itself, the book is very interesting and, in

spots, affords agreeable reading. However, this is not owing

to the literary gifts and genius of the writer. Hermas was

an uneducated man and seems not to have read or known

anything outside of the Bible and a few Jewish or Christian

apocrypha. He was entirely unacquainted with philosophy.

He lacks imagination. "His grammar is faulty, his style

clumsy and diffuse, and filled with long sentences and

wearisome repetitions ... his logic is extremely defective;

he does not even know the art of writing correctly."[5]

 

 

[5] Lelong.

 

 

 

27

 

 

 

Speculations on Christian dogma are clearly beyond the

comprehension of such a poor writer and indifferent theologian. But, although not a learned man, he is a shrewd

observer and has a sane and just mind, a tender heart, and

good practical judgment—qualities which unite in making

him an excellent moralist. He is very considerate and moderate: he exacts of human frailty only what is possible and,

in consequence of the deep sense he has of divine mercy,

shows himself very lenient and optimistic. His book must

certainly have done a great deal of good.

 

 


 


 

8. PAPIAS AND THE PRESBYTERS


 

 

Papius[1] is known to us through St. Irenaeus and Eusebius. He was bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, a friend of

St. Polycarp, and, having conversed with the immediate disciples of the Apostles, belonged, at the latest, to the third

generation of Christians.[2] Critics are still debating whether

the John, whose disciple he was, was St. John the Apostle,

or a presbyter of that name. Eusebius speaks of Papias as a

feeble man of limited mental power.

 

 

Papias composed only one work, the "Explanation of

the Sayings of the Lord" (Dogiwg kuriakwn ezhghseiV), in five

books. This treatise not only explains the words of

Christ but also deals with His life. The author does not

take the sayings of Christ from the Gospel text alone but

relates parables from oral tradition, which Eusebius thought

queer, reports a number of special utterances of the Redeemer, and a few stories which are pure fables.[3] Among

the latter are to be classed certain realistic descriptions of

the millennium, in which Papias was a fervent believer.

 

 

According as they see in John the presbyter, with whom

Papias conversed, the Apostle John, or another personage

of the same name, critics assign the composition of the

Explanation to an earlier or a later date. Zahn places this

 

 

[1] Edition by Funk, Patres Apostolici, I, 346 ff. Doubtful fragments in C. de Boor, Texts und Unters., V, 2, 1888. Cf. Th. Zahn,

Geschichte des neutestam. Kanons, I, 2, 1889; Forschungen sur

Gesch. des neutest. Kanons, VI, Leipzig, 1900. J. Chapman, Le

Temoignage de Jean le Presbytre, in the Revue Benedictine, XXII

(1905), pp. 357-376.

 

 

[2] Eusebius, H. E., iii, 39, 2-4.

 

 

[3] Ibid., II.

 

 

 

28

 

 

 

composition in A. D. 125-130; Bardenhewer, 117-138;

Harnack, 140-160; Batiffol, c. 150.

 

 

Of the work of Papias we possess only a few short fragments given by St. Irenaeus, Eusebius, and Apollinaris.

The two most important relate to the gospels of St. Mark

and St. Matthew.

 

 

Ancient writers (Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Papias

himself, and especially St. Irenaeus) often mention the

presbyters or one presbyter in particular as having said certain things or taught certain doctrines. Papias gives this

name to the Apostles,[4] but it applies more generally to the

disciples of the Apostles, or to the disciples of these disciples, the word presbyter (ancient) being used relatively

to the speaker. Thus Papias is a presbyter for St.

Irenaeus and Aristion a presbyter for Papias. The presbyters are men who lived between A. D. 70-150 and who may

have conversed either with the Apostles or with their immediate disciples. A few among them seem to have been

writers, Aristion for example. Their accounts and teachings are, however, quoted as oral traditions and in the form

of brief sentences. There is no complete collection of the

words of the presbyters. Funk has gathered together those

found in St. Irenaeus.[5]

 

 


 


 

9. THE APOSTLES' CREED[1]


 

 

The oldest Greek text we possess of the Apostles' Creed

is found in Marcellus of Ancyra's letter to Pope Julius I,

c. 340. The Latin text in its oldest form is given by Rufinus

(c. 400) in his Commentary on the Symbol of the Apostles2

and in an Explanation of the Symbol attributed to St.

Ambrose.[3] This text differs from the one we now have by

 

 

[4] Eusebius, H. E., iii, 39, 4.

 

 

[5] Patres apostol., I, 378-389.

 

 

[1] Texts in Denzinger-Bannwart, Enchiridion Symbolorum,

Freiburg i. B., 1908, and more completely in Hahn, Bibliothek

der Symbole, 3rd edit., Breslau, 1897. The fundamental works on

the question are those of C. P. Caspari, Ungedruckte. . . . Quellen

zur Geschichte des Taufsymbols, Christiania, 1866-1875; Alte und

Neue Quellen sur Gesch. des Taufsymbols, Christiania, 1879; and

of F. Kattenbusch, Das apostolische Symbol, Leipzig, 1894-1900;

A. E. Burn, Apostles' Creed, London, 1906; E. Vacandard, Etudes

de Critique et d'Histoire Religieuse, Paris, 1905.

 

 

[2] Hahn, §19.

 

 

[3] Hahn, §34.

 

 

 

29

 

 

 

the omission of the words creatorem caeli et terrae . . .

conceptus est . . . passus . . . mortuus . . . descendit ad

inferos . . . omnipotentis . . . Credo . . . catholicam, sanctorum communionem . . . vifam aeternam. These words

are nothing more than additions made by the different

churches[4] and finally adopted by the Roman Church after it

had ignored them for a long time.

 

 

This symbol is the one which the Roman Church required

the catechumens to learn and recite before receiving Baptism. In course of time it was adopted by all the churches

of the West. It is not so sure that the Eastern churches

adopted it before the Council of Nicaea or that the formulas of faith we find in these churches during the first three

centuries are derived from it.

 

 

To what period may we trace the origin of this symbol

and is it the work of the Apostles themselves? There is

no doubt that the symbol embodies the doctrine of the

Apostles and therefore may be attributed to them at least

in substance. All its elements are found in the New Testament.

 

 

Rufinus goes a step further. He narrates, as a tradition

current in his time, that the Apostles, before separating,

composed this symbol that it might be the common theme

of their preaching and the rule of faith for their followers.

In this hypothesis the symbol would literally be the work

of the Apostles.[5] It is strange, however, if this tradition

has a real foundation, that so venerable a formula was not

preserved and amplifications were allowed to creep into

it in the West. More probably the Apostles' Creed was

composed in Rome towards the end of the first or the beginning of the second century. This conclusion is based

upon the fact that we find traces of it and very probably

quotations from it in Tertullian, St. Irenaeus, and St. Justin. The necessity of a formula of this kind for the liturgy

of Baptism must have been felt at an early date and met

promptly. The text, as we now have it, its lapidary style

 

 

[4] The formula of the symbol of Niceta of Remesiana (beginning

of Vth century) contains all these additions, except conceptus . . .

descendit ad inferos . . . omnipotentis . . . Credo (Burn, Niceta

of Remesiana, Introduction, p. Ixxiv).

 

 

[5] The theory that each of the Twelve Apostles formulated one

of the twelve articles of the symbol can be traced back to the

VIth century and is found in sermons falsely attributed to St.

Augustine (P. L., xxxix, Serm. ccxl and ccxii).

 

 

 

30

 

 

 

and its complete absence of allusions to heresies of the

second century, is well suited to the Roman genius and

characteristic of the period immediately following the death

of the Apostles. Rome alone possessed sufficient influence

to impose a symbol upon the churches of both the East and

the West. The Apostles' Creed cannot, therefore, have been

composed by the Church in the middle of the second century as a weapon against Gnosticism, as Ehrhard and Harnack surmise, but must be anterior to these controversies.

 

 

 

 


 

 

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