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    THE “APOSTOLIC FATHERS,“

    Concerning whom in particular a few words must be said. The following from the “Encyclopedia Britannica” will introduce and outline this part of the subject better than anything that we could write:—“The Apostolic Fathers is a name given to certain writers in the earliest period of Christianity, who were believed to have been the disciples of the apostles, and to have had intercourse with them. Those generally included under the title are Clemens Romanus, Ignatius, Polycarp, Barnabas, and Hermas. Sometimes the name is extended to Papias of Hierapolis, and the writer of the epistle to Diognetus. A critical examination of the writings attributed to these men, and a critical sifting of the traditions which we have in relation to their history, bring out the circumstance that the name is unsuitable. Clemens Romanus, Barnabas, and Hermas were supposed to be persons mentioned in the New Testament; but criticism proves conclusively that this is a mistake in regard to Barnabas and Hermas, and possibly also in regard to Clemens. Polycarp, in all probability, and according to the best testimony, had intercourse with apostles, but it was in his early youth; and his letter belongs to a period considerably later than that of the apostles. The epistles of Ignatius, as well as the personal history of that martyr, are involved in great obscurity, and critics differ widely in regard to both.”FACC 71.2

    In his “Introductory Notice” to the “Apostolic Fathers,” Bishop Coxe says of them:—
    “Disappointment may be the first emotion of the student who comes down from the mount where he has dwelt in the tabernacles of evangelists and apostles; for these disciples are confessedly inferior to the masters; they speak with the voices of infirm and fallible men, and not like the New Testament writers, with the fiery tongues of the Holy Ghost.”
    FACC 72.1

    “Their very mistakes enable us to attach a higher value to the superiority of inspired writers. They were not wiser than the naturalists of their day who taught them the history of the Phoenix and other fables; but nothing of this sort is found in Scripture. The Fathers are inferior in kind as well as degree.”FACC 72.2

    Neander speaks of the writings attributed to the so-called Apostolic Fathers, as follows:—
    “The next ecclesiastical writers who come after the apostles, are the so-called Apostolic Fathers (Patres Apostolici), who come from the apostolic age, and must have been the disciples of the apostles. The remarkable difference between the writings of the apostles and those of the Apostolic Fathers, who are yet so close upon the former in point of time, is a remarkable phenomenon of its kind. While in other cases such a transition is usually quite gradual, in this case we find a sudden one. Here there is no gradual transition, but a sudden spring; a remark which is calculated to lead us to a recognition of the peculiar activity of the divine Spirit in the souls of the apostles.”—Rose’s Neander, p.407.
    FACC 73.1

    Again he says:—
    “The writings of the so-called Apostolic Fathers are, alas! come down to us, for the most part; in a very uncertain condition; partly, because in early times writings were counterfeited under the name of those venerable men of the church, in order to propagate certain opinions or principles; partly, because those writings which they had really published were adulterated, and especially so to serve a Judaeo-hierarchical party, which would fain crush the free evangelical spirit.”—Ib.
    FACC 73.2

    It will be seen that Neander supposes that the writings are partly, at least, the genuine productions of the men whose names they bear; but he acknowledges that, even if genuine, they have been counterfeited and adulterated till there is no confidence to be placed in them, either as to matters of doctrine or matters of fact. This conclusion we may now verify, as we examine them in detail.FACC 73.3

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