The Apostolic Fathers

The Apostolic Fathers

by Apostolic Fathers

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Now with a new foreword by Mark Galli.

A collection of the earliest known writings of the church, The Apostolic Fathers includes a sermon and six brief documents: the First and Second Epistles of Clement, the Didache, the Epistles of Ignatius, the Epistle of Polycarp, the Epistle about Polycarp's Martyrdom, and the Shepherd of Hermas.

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Now with a new foreword by Mark Galli.

A collection of the earliest known writings of the church, The Apostolic Fathers includes a sermon and six brief documents: the First and Second Epistles of Clement, the Didache, the Epistles of Ignatius, the Epistle of Polycarp, the Epistle about Polycarp's Martyrdom, and the Shepherd of Hermas.

"There are two ways, one of life and one of death," begins the Didache, "and between the two ways there is a great difference." Followers of the way of life today will find much encouragement of those who first embarked on the path two millennia ago.

The John Lightfoot (1602-1675) translation was the source used for this edition of Apostolic Fathers.

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The Apostolic Fathers

By Moody

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2009 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57567-331-8


The Letter of the Church of Rome to the Church of Corinth, Commonly Called Clement's First Letter

* * *


The church of God, living in exile in Rome, to the church of God, exiled in Corinth—to you who are called and sanctified by God's will through our Lord Jesus Christ. Abundant grace and peace be yours from God Almighty through Jesus Christ.

1 Due, dear friends, to the sudden and successive misfortunes and accidents we have encountered, we have, we admit, been rather long in turning our attention to your quarrels. We refer to the abominable and unholy schism, so alien and foreign to those whom God has chosen, which a few impetuous and headstrong fellows have fanned to such a pitch of insanity that your good name, once so famous and dear to us all, has fallen into the gravest ill repute. 2 Has anyone, indeed, stayed with you without attesting the excellence and firmness of your faith? without admiring your sensible and considerate Christian piety? without broadcasting your spirit of unbounded hospitality? without praising your perfect and trustworthy knowledge? 3 For you always acted without partiality and walked in God's laws. You obeyed your rulers and gave your elders the proper respect. You disciplined the minds of your young people in moderation and dignity. You instructed your women to do everything with a blameless and pure conscience, and to give their husbands the affection they should. You taught them, too, to abide by the rule of obedience and to run their homes with dignity and thorough discretion.

2 You were all humble and without any pretensions, obeying orders rather than issuing them, more gladly giving than receiving. Content with Christ's rations and mindful of them, you stored his words carefully up in your hearts and held his sufferings before your eyes. 2 In consequence, you were all granted a profound and rich peace and an insatiable longing to do good, while the Holy Spirit was abundantly poured out on you all. 3 You were full of holy counsels, and, with zeal for the good and devout confidence, you stretched out your hands to almighty God, beseeching him to have mercy should you involuntarily have fallen into any sin. 4 Day and night you labored for the whole brotherhood, that by your pity and sympathy the sum of his elect might be saved. 5 You were sincere and guileless and bore no grudges. 6 All sedition and schism were an abomination to you. You wept for the faults of your neighbors, while you reckoned their shortcomings as your own. 7 You never regretted all the good you did, being "ready for any good deed." Possessed of an excellent and devout character, you did everything in His fear. The commands and decrees of the Lord were engraven on the tablets of your heart.

3 You were granted great popularity and growing numbers, so that the word of Scripture was fulfilled: "My beloved ate and drank and filled out and grew fat and started to kick." 2 From this there arose rivalry and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and anarchy, war and captivity. 3 And so "the dishonored" rose up "against those who were held in honor," those of no reputation against the notable, the stupid against the wise, "the young against their elders." 4 For this reason righteousness and peace are far from you, since each has abandoned the fear of God and grown purblind in his faith, and ceased to walk by the rules of his precepts or to behave in a way worthy of Christ. Rather does each follow the lusts of his evil heart, by reviving that wicked and unholy rivalry, by which, indeed, "death came into the world."

4 For Scripture runs thus: "And it happened after some days that Cain brought God a sacrifice from the fruits of the earth, while Abel made his offering from the first-born of the sheep and of their fat. 2 And God looked with favor on Abel and on his gifts; but he did not heed Cain and his sacrifices. 3And Cain was greatly upset and his face fell. 4 And God said to Cain, 'Why are you so upset, and why has your face fallen? If you have made a correct offering but not divided it correctly, have you not sinned? 5 Keep quiet. Your brother will turn to you and you shall rule over him.' 6 And Cain said to his brother Abel, 'Let us go into the field.' And it happened that while they were in the field Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him."

7 You see, brothers, rivalry and envy are responsible for fratricide. 8 Because of rivalry our forefather Jacob fled from the presence of his brother Esau. 9 It was rivalry that caused Joseph to be murderously persecuted and reduced to slavery. 10 Rivalry forced Moses to flee from the presence of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, when he heard his fellow clansman say: "Who made you a ruler or judge over us? Do you want to slay me as you did the Egyptian yesterday?" 11 By reason of rivalry Aaron and Miriam were excluded from the camp. 12 Rivalry cast Dathan and Abiram alive into Hades because they revolted against Moses, God's servant. 13 Because of rivalry David not only incurred the envy of foreigners but was even persecuted by Saul, the king of Israel.

5 But, passing from examples in antiquity, let us come to the heroes nearest our own times. Let us take the noble examples of our own generation. 2 By reason of rivalry and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] were persecuted, and battled to the death. 3 Let us set before our eyes the noble apostles: 4 Peter, who by reason of wicked jealousy, not only once or twice but frequently endured suffering and thus, bearing his witness, went to the glorious place which he merited. 5 By reason of rivalry and contention Paul showed how to win the prize for patient endurance. 6 Seven times he was in chains; he was exiled, stoned, became a herald [of the gospel] in East and West, and won the noble renown which his faith merited. 7 To the whole world he taught righteousness, and reaching the limits of the West he bore his witness before rulers. And so, released from this world, he was taken up into the holy place and became the greatest example of patient endurance.

6 To these men who lived such holy lives there was joined a great multitude of the elect who by reason of rivalry were the victims of many outrages and tortures and who became outstanding examples among us. 2 By reason of rivalry women were persecuted in the roles of Danaids and Dircae. Victims of dreadful and blasphemous outrages, they ran with sureness the course of faith to the finish, and despite their physical weakness won a notable prize. 3 It was rivalry that estranged wives from their husbands and annulled the saying of our father Adam, "This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." 4 Rivalry and contention have overthrown great cities and uprooted mighty nations.

7 We are writing in this vein, dear friends, not only to admonish you but also to remind ourselves. For we are in the same arena and involved in the same struggle. 2 Hence we should give up empty and futile concerns, and turn to the glorious and holy rule of our tradition. 3 Let us note what is good, what is pleasing and acceptable to Him who made us. 4 Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ and let us realize how precious it is to his Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world. 5 Let us go through all the generations and observe that from one generation to another the Master "has afforded and opportunity of repentance" to those who are willing to turn to him. 6 Noah preached repentance and those who heeded him were saved. 7 Jonah preached destruction to the Ninevites; and when they had repented of their sins, they propitiated God with their prayers and gained salvation despite the fact they were not God's people.

8 The ministers of God's grace spoke about repentance through the Holy Spirit, 2 and the Master of the universe himself spoke of repentance with an oath: "For as I live, says the Lord, I do not desire the death of the sinner, but his repentance." 3 He added, too, this generous consideration: "Repent, O house of Israel, of your iniquity. Say to the sons of my people, Should your sins reach from earth to heaven, and be redder than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, and should you turn to me with your whole heart and say 'Father!' I will heed you as though you were a holy people." 4 And in another place this is what he says: "Wash and become clean: rid your souls of wickedness before my eyes. Cease from your wickedness, learn to behave well, devote yourselves to justice, rescue the wronged, uphold the rights of the orphan and grant the widow justice. And come, let us reason together, says the Lord; and if your sins are like purple, I will make them white as snow, and if they are like scarlet, I will make them white as wool. And if you are willing and heed me, you shall eat the good things of the earth. But if you are unwilling and do not heed me, the sword shall devour you. For it is the mouth of the Lord that has spoken thus. 5 Since, there, he wanted all those he loved to have an opportunity to repent, he confirmed this by his almighty will.

9 So, then, let us fall in with his magnificent and glorious intention, and let us prostrate ourselves before him as suppliants of his mercy and kindness. Let us turn to his compassion and give up useless ventures and strife, and rivalry that leads to death. 2 Let us father our eyes on those who have served his magnificent glory to perfection. 3 Let us take Enoch, for instance, who, because he proved upright by his obedience, was translated and never died. 4 Noah proved faithful in his ministry and preached a new birth to the world. Through him, therefore, the Master saved those living creatures that entered peacefully into the ark.

10 Abraham, who was called "The Friend," proved faithful in obeying God's words. 2 It was obedience which led him to quit his country, his kindred, and his father's house, so that by leaving a paltry country, a mean kindred, and an insignificant house, he might inherit God's promises. 3 For he told him: "Depart from your country and from your kindred and from the house of your father, and go to a land which I will show you. And I will make you great among the nations and I will bless you and I will make your name great and you will be blessed. And I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you, and all the tribes of the earth will be blessed through you." 4 And again, when he separated from Lot, God told him: "Lift up your eyes and from where you now are look to the North, the South, the East, and the West, for all the land that you see I will give you and your seed forever. 5 And I will make your seed like the dust of the earth. If anybody can count the dust of the earth, then your seed will be counted." 6 And again he says: "God led Abraham out and told him: Look up to heaven and count the stars, if you can. That is how numerous your seed will be! And Abraham believed God and this was put down to his credit as an upright deed." 7 Because of his faith and hospitality a son was granted to him in his old age, and he obediently offered him as a sacrifice to God on one of the hills which he indicated.

11 Because of his hospitality and religious devotion, Lot was saved from Sodom, when the whole countryside was condemned to fire and brimstone. In that way the Master made it clear that he does not forsake those who put their hope on him, but delivers to punishment and torment those who turn away from him. 2 Of this latter, to be sure, his wife became an example. After quitting the city with him, she changed her mind and fell out with him, with the result that she became a pillar of salt that exists to this day. In this way it was made evident to all that the double-minded and those who question God's power are condemned and become a warning to all generations.

12 Because of her faith and hospitality Rahab the harlot was saved. 2 For when the spies were sent to Jericho by Joshua the son of Nun, the king of the land got to know that they had come to spy on his country. Consequently he sent out men to capture them, intending to arrest them and put them to death. 3 The hospitable Rahab, however, took them in and hid them in a roomupstairs under stalks of flax. 4 When the king's men learned of it, they said to her: "The men who are spying on our country went into your house. Bring them out, for this is the king's command." But she at once answered, "The men you seek came into my house, but they immediately departed and are on their way," and she pointed in the opposite direction. 5 And she said to the men: "I am absolutely certain that the Lord God is handing this country over to you; for fear and terror of you have fallen on all its people. When, therefore, you come to take it, rescue me and my father's house." 6 And they said to her: "It shall be exactly as you say. When you learn of our approach, you shall gather together all your family under your roof and they shall be saved. But whoever is found outside the house will perish." 7 And in addition they gave her a sign that she should hang a piece of scarlet from her house. By this they made it clear that it was by the blood of the Lord that redemption was going to come to all who believe in God and hope on him. 8 You see, dear friends, that not only faith but prophecy as well is exemplified in this woman.

13 Let us then, brothers, be humble and be rid of all pretensions and arrogance and silliness and anger. Let us act as Scripture bids us, for the Holy Spirit says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man of his might or the rich man of his wealth. But let him that boasts boast of the Lord; and so he will seek Him out and act justly and uprightly." Especially let us recall the words of the Lord Jesus, which he uttered to teach considerateness and patience. 2 For this is what he said: "Show mercy, that you may be shown mercy. Forgive, that you may be forgiven. As you behave to others, so they will behave to you. As you give, so will you get. As you judge, so you will be judged. As you show kindness, so will you receive kindness. The measure you give will be the measure you get." 3 Let us firmly hold on to this commandment and these injunctions so that in our conduct we may obey his holy words and be humble. 4 For Holy Scripture says, "On whom shall I look except on him who is humble and gentle and who trembles at my words?"

14 It is right, then, and holy, brothers, that we should obey God rather than follow those arrogant and disorderly fellows who take the lead in stirring up loathsome rivalry. 2 For we shall incur no ordinary harm, but rather great danger, if we recklessly give ourselves over to the designs of men who launch out into strife and sedition to alienate us from what is right. 3 Let us be kind to one another in line with the compassion and tenderness of him who created us. 4 For it is written: "The kind shall inhabit the land, and the innocent shall be left upon it. But those who transgress shall be destroyed from off it." 5 And again he says: "I saw an ungodly man exalted and elevated like the cedars of Lebanon. But I passed by and, look, he had vanished! And I searched for his place and could not find it. Maintain innocence and have an eye for uprightness, for a man of peace will have descendants."

15 Let us, then, attach ourselves to those who are religiously devoted to peace, and not to those who wish for it hypocritically. 2 For somewhere it is said, "This people honors me with its lips, but its heart is far removed from me." 3 And again, "They blessed with their mouth, but they cursed with their heart." 4 And again it says: "They loved him with their mouth, but they lied to him with their tongue. Their heart was not straightforward with him, and they were not faithful to his covenant. 5 Therefore let the deceitful lips that speak evil against the righteous be struck dumb." And again: "May the Lord destroy all deceitful lips and the tongue that boasts unduly and those who say, 'We will boast of our tongues; our lips are our own; who is Lord over us? 6 Because of the wretchedness of the poor and the groans of the needy I will now arise, says the Lord. I will place him in safety: I will act boldly in his cause."

16 It is to the humble that Christ belongs, not to those who exalt themselves above his flock. 2 The scepter of God's majesty, the Lord Jesus Christ, did not come with the pomp of pride or arrogance, though he could have done so. But he came in humility just as the Holy Spirit said of him. 3 For Scripture reads: "Lord, who has believed what we heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? Before him we announced that he was like a child, like a root in thirsty ground. He has no comeliness or glory. We saw him, and he had neither comeliness nor beauty. But his appearance was ignominious, deficient when compared to man's stature. He was a man marred by stripes and toil, and experienced in enduring weakness. Because his face was turned away, he was dishonored and disregarded. 4 He it is who bears our sins and suffers pain for us. And we regarded him as subject to toil and stripes and affliction. 5 But it was for our sins that he was wounded and for our transgressions that he suffered. To bring us peace he was punished: by his stripes we were healed. 6 Like sheep we have all gone astray: each one went astray in his own way. 7 And the Lord delivered him up for our sins; and he does not open his mouth because he is abused. Like a sheep he is led off to be slaughtered; and just as a lamb before its shearers is dumb, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation his condemnation ended. 8 Who shall tell about his posterity? For his life was taken away from the earth. 9 Because of the transgressions of my people he came to his death. 10 And I will give the wicked as an offering for his burial and the rich for his death. For he did no iniquity and no deceit was found in his mouth. And the Lord's will is to cleanse him of his stripes. 11 If you make an offering for sin, your soul will see a long-lived posterity. 12 And the Lord's will is to do away with the toil of his soul, to show him light and to form him with understanding, to justify an upright man who serves many well. And he himself will bear their sins. 13 For this reason he shall have many heirs and he shall share the spoils of the strong, because his life was delivered up to death and he was reckoned among transgressors. 14 And he it was who bore the sins of many and was delivered up because of their sins.


Excerpted from The Apostolic Fathers by Moody. Copyright © 2009 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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