The first era of Christian authors (the Apostles) wrote in the First Century, and the writings they produced became the New Testament. The time period of the writing of the NT books dates from around AD 45 or 50 to approximately AD 100.
The second era of Christian authors developed over a period of 70 years or so, and they are known as the Apostolic Fathers.
- Note: these books were not written by the fathers of the Apostles. The term "Apostolic Fathers" was coined to refer to authors who might have known some of the apostles. [Yes, it is an awkward and confusing title.] The term itself dates from the late 1700's.
- The Apostolic Fathers' time period dates from 80 (at the earliest) to 150. (So the two eras do overlap slightly: Apostles: 45-100 & Apostolic Fathers 80-150.)
- The reason none of the Apostolic Fathers’ are included into the New Testament is because a book had to have a link to an Apostle or Jesus in order to be included in the New Testament, and none of those books fit that criterion.
**These books are not part of the New Testament Apocrypha. New Testament Apocrypha books are books that contain heretical teachings. Apostolic Fathers books do not contain heresy, although they might contain incorrect teachings in some places.
The following list gives the approximate date of the death of the author or time when the book was written if the author is not known. If the author was known, then a brief biography follows. A brief description about the writing and a link to the writing concludes each entry.
1. I Clement whose author was Clement of Rome (d. 96), Bishop of Rome. According to Catholic tradition, he was the fourth pope, and may be the “Clement” mentioned in Philippians 4:3. He wrote a letter on behalf of the churches in Rome to the churches in Corinth. It was written to encourage them and to help handle strife. It has 59 paragraphs. Go here
2. Ignatius (d. 107) Bishop of Antioch. He was arrested and taken to Rome; he was most likely killed in the Coliseum. Along the way he wrote seven letters: six to Christians in different cities (Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna) and one to a person, Polycarp. He desired to die a martyr’s death and part of the letters encourages Christians not to rescue him. Go here.
3. Shepherd of Hermas. (written between 80-150) Also called The Shepherd, it consists of 27 chapters. While it does contain some incorrect ideas about God, it was beloved as an ethical essay. Go here.
4. Polycarp (d. 155) Bishop of Smyrna. He wrote a letter to the Philippian churches; in it he quotes I John 4:3. He was arrested and burned at the stake. He was told to deny Christ and said (according to one account): “86 years I have served the Lord and he has brought me no harm; how can curse my King who save me?” He may have met or been discipled by the Apostle John. Go here.
5. Epistle of Barnabas (written between 70 and 100). While the title mentions “Barnabas,” it is unlikely Barnabas of the NT wrote it. It has twenty-one chapters. The Epistle draws a clear line between the practice of Judaism and of Christianity. Go here.
6. Epistle to Diognetus (mid-100s) It describes the uniqueness of Christianity in 12 chapters. Go here.
7. II Clement (mid-100s) While Clement’s name is on it (see 1 above), the author is widely accepted as unknown. It is written in the style of a sermon and tells of the proper life of a Christian with an emphasis on repentance. Apart from the NT, it is the earliest surviving sermon. Go here.
8. Didache (mid-100s) This anonymous work (which means “Teaching”) consists of sixteen chapters in two parts. The first part (chapters 1-5) describes the proper life of a Christian and includes quotes from the Sermon on the Mount. The second part (chapters 6-12) consists basically of church administration instructions, which includes how to administer baptism, to treat bishops and deacons, and instructions on the Eucharist (communion). Go here.
©2011, 2017 Mark Nickens