Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Introductions (Part I)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Women in the Apostolic Fathers.

Apostolic Fathers IconBefore engaging pericopes from the Apostolic Fathers regarding women, we first briefly introduce the writings from which this evidence comes. Given the length and scope of this paper, these introductions are necessarily brief (and insufficient for a comprehensive examination of the Apostolic Fathers), standing as starting points for contextualizing and engaging these writings. Continue reading

Scripture in Ephrem’s Madrashe

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Ephrem the Syrian and early Syriac Christianity.
Ephrem the Syrian

Ephrem the Syrian

While most analysis of Syrian madrashe has focused on its metrical form, authorship, origins, and liturgical setting, comparatively little attention has been paid to the contents of the madrashe. To form a fully contextualized understanding of Syrian madrashe, additional attention should be paid to the theological nature and contents of madrashe, especially its relationship to scripture. Finally, the particular manner in which Ephrem “rewrites” scripture for his community of faith is worthy of additional attention, as this feature of his writing points to the need for study on how madrashe employ and co-opt scripture. The essay which follows reflects on the place and function of scripture in Ephrem’s madrashe. Continue reading

ECA: The Canon Debate

This post is part of the ongoing series examining Early Christian Authority.

courtroom-gavelUse of the term “canon” has long been subject to debate among those studying the formation of the New Testament. The word itself comes from the Greek kanonikos, the basic meaning of which is “of one rule.” So a canon is something that other things are ruled by, the “standard” by which all other things are measured. Determining precisely what this “rule” has meant, however, has not been nearly so clear, leading to a series of conversations dubbed the “Canon Debate.” Continue reading

NT Canon: What You Need to Know

New TestamentMost Christians, and I would dare say most Americans, know some basic things about the Christian New Testament. But many people don’t know (or don’t want to know) how the New Testament came into being. Some people seem to think that Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation fell from the sky in a nicely leather bound English translation (whichever your church happens to use, of course). Hopefully, most of you know that wasn’t quite how it happened.

So how did the New Testament canon form? Continue reading

ECA: Second Clement

This post is part of our ongoing series examining Early Christian Authority.
The Apostolic Fathers

The Apostolic Fathers

The Second Epistle of Clement represents the oldest extant non-canonical Christian homily, a sermon that urges followers of Christ to recognize their debts to God and repent of their sins while displacing themselves from the sinful world and committing themselves to self-control and good works. This writing’s identification with Clement of Rome appears to have come from the letter’s connections with the Corinthians church, its early composition (understood generally as coming from the early second century), and perhaps with the shared quotation of an unknown scriptural source (see I Clement 23.3-4 and II Clement 11.2-4). In the extant texts Second Clement tends to follow First Clement, as in Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Hierosolymitanus and likewise follows the pattern of First Clement  in attributing the homily to Clement of Rome. Many scholars have rejected this view based primarily upon stylistic and citation differences and Second Clement’s relatively uncommon usage in the early centuries, especially among proto-orthodox fathers. As such, the author of this work is unknown, as is the place of its writing. Common suggestions place its composition in early second century Corinth or Alexandria. Continue reading

ECA: Epistle of Polycarp

This post is part of our ongoing series on Early Christian Authority.
St. Polycarp

St. Polycarp

Polycarp of Smyrna remains one of the best attested figures of the early Christian Church. As bishop of Smyrna (cx. Rev. 2.8), recipient of a letter from the Ignatius of Antioch, and a martyr of the church, Polycarp stands apart as an exceptional figure in early Christianity, in that there exists a comparatively good deal of extant material concerning his life. In addition to this letter having been written by the bishop, extant copies exist of Ignatius’ letter to him as well as a later account of his martyrdom. While his Letter to the Philippians has often been looked down upon for its lack of original content and heavy reliance upon other written sources, it remains useful for ascertaining relevant issues within the second century Philippian church and for its use of textual authority. Continue reading

ECA: First Clement

Clement of Rome

Clement of Rome

To “kick off” our Early Christian Authority Series, we begin with First Clement, which is the earliest non-canonical, specifically Christian, and still extant writing available to us today. First Clement claims to have been written from the Church at Rome to the Church at Corinth, and seems to have been written around 95-96 CE (though I hasten to note that it could have been composed almost anytime between 64 and 99 CE). Since at least the mid- to late- second century, First Clement was thought to have been written by Clement of Rome, who was the second or third bishop of Rome, holding office from around 92 to 99 CE. Additionally, from at least the mid-second century until sometime in the fifth century, First Clement was used a “scripture” by various Christian communities, being read aloud during corporate worship in Corinth and other Christian communities. This is attested to by Dionysius of Corinth and Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, 4.23), as well as the letter’s inclusion in the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus. This post broadly examines First Clement’s use of existing sources of authority. Continue reading

NT Canon: Apostolic Fathers

This post is part of an ongoing series outlining the formation of the New Testament canon.
Apostolic Fathers

The Apostolic Fathers

Before any sort of canonization could take place, the Apostolic[1] writings now included in the New Testament had to become viewed with some form of authority. The sources that scholars utilize most in determining the authority granted to the writings of the New Testament are those of the Apostolic Fathers, a designation given to late first and early second century Christian literature that is not included in the New Testament proper. These writings typically include Clement of Rome’s First Letter to the Corinthians, the seven authentic letters of Ignatius of Antioch, the Didache, the Letter of Polycarp, Second Clement, the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Letter to Diognetus, the writings of Papias, and the Shepherd of Hermas. Continue reading