Archive for February, 2018

Self –Identity of Christians in Apostolic Fathers

February 22, 2018

The Apostolic Fathers were written during a period (about 90 C.E. to 160 C.E.) when the church was subject to both internal and external pressures. There was internal strife within the church and the threat of being assimilated into the heretical groups and Judaism, which involved a threat to their Christian identity. At the same time, Christians were also responding to the political situation in which they found themselves as they came to the notice of secular authorities and the wider public.[1] In the face of these they attempted to give voice to what they understood were the essential characteristics or defining marks of Christian life.[2] In other words, it was a crisis of identity, which had necessitated the church to define its identity so that the members of the Christian congregations might not be sucked into other ‘heretical’ groups and Judaism.

Therefore the aim of this essay is to show how the church perceived its identity as reflected in the Apostolic Fathers. Even though it is impossible to know how representative of early Christianity the Apostolic Fathers are[3] they remain important witnesses to the emerging perception of Christian identity.

 I. Definition of Apostolic Fathers

The term “Apostolic Fathers” is used for a collection of non-canonical Christian works written between approximately 90 C.E. and 160 C.E. This term was coined by J.B. Cotelier and it referred to “those who flourished in the times of the apostles.”[4] Later it was generally accepted that Apostolic Fathers were an “arbitrary collection of writings,” which reflected views similar to that of established Christian orthodoxy in later times.[5] The most generous view would admit into this collection I & II Clement, Letters of Ignatius (seven authentic letters), Didache, Letter of Polycarp to Philippians, Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Epistle to Diognetus, Papius and Quadratus.[6] They are heterogeneous group of writings.[7] They covered a range of genres and perspectives. They addressed primarily specific situations of the Christian communities spread in Roman Empire.[8]

However, Apostolic Fathers are important because they are a primary source for the study of early Christianity, especially the period between the writing of the last book of NT and the beginning of Justin Martyr’s literary career (approx.160 C.E.), which is sparsely documented.[9] This is the period when a mounting danger from heresy and Judaism was exerting itself upon the church and hostility from the wider society was threatening its very existence.[10] These writings “enlighten us concerning the character of early Christianity, its external appeal and inner dynamics, its rich and significant diversity and its developing understanding of its own self-identity, social distinctiveness, theology, ethical norms and liturgical practices.”[11]

II. Definition of Self-identity of Christians

A person’s identity comprises a multiplicity of factors or even a multiplicity of identities, not all of which are relevant or most important in every situation.[12] There one cannot speak of one’s identity but rather consider what aspects of identity are being considered and why these are relevant in a particular context. Moreover, one must consider how any particular identity affects or defines other aspects of a person’s identity and social conduct.[13] In dealing with Christian identity we are dealing with social as opposed to personal identity and that means with identity based on belonging to a particular and defined group.[14] Tajfel and Turner defined a group as “a collection of individuals, who perceive themselves to be members of the same social category, share some emotional involvement in this common definition of themselves, and achieve some degree of social consensus about the evaluation of their group and of their membership in it.”[15]

According to Henri Tajfel,

Social identity (is)… that part of an individual’s self- concept which derives from his knowledge of his membership of a social group (or groups) together with the value and emotional significance attached to that membership…however rich and complex may be the individuals’ view of themselves in relation to the surrounding world, social and physical, some aspects of that view are contributed by the membership of certain social groups or categories. Some of these memberships are more salient than others; and some may vary in salience in time and as a function of a variety of social situations.[16]

The sense of belonging to a particular group by itself may create certain attitudes to those who, in relation to the group boundary, are categorized as insiders or outsiders.[17] Members of the group are seen and described in ways that emphasize their similarities, the features that bind them together, while they are sharply distinguished from outsiders. It was “a psychological requirement that groups provide their members with a positive social identity and that positive aspects of social identity were inherently comparative in nature, deriving from evaluative comparisons between social groups.”[18]

In some situations inter-group comparisons develop where comparisons become important for identity.[19] In the case of early Christianity, situations of perceived threat and of experienced hostility are the conditions under which the sense of particular group identity developed.

III. Factors that Influenced the Emergence of Self-Identity of Christians“We discover ourselves only in encounter: what is self and what is not self are disclosed to us in the same experience.”[20] Both internal and external conflicts may arise for particular reasons based on ‘local circumstances’ and may have an impact- both intended and unintended consequence- on the development of Christian identity. Conflict seems to have played a significant role in reiterating the self-identity of Christians.

The evidence for ‘local circumstances’ is, unfortunately fragmentary and incomplete, since Apostolic Fathers are the theologically committed writings of the early Christians intended not for the purposes of historical reconstruction but to encourage and exhort the members of the early Christian communities.[21] Therefore, literary presentation cannot be taken as directly mirroring external reality but frequently meets particular needs, internal or external to the literature itself. Also the particular situation may often shape the presentation, even when the situation is not directly addressed.[22]

  1. Heretical Teachings

Apostolic Fathers in general testified to the constant threat of heretical teachings, particularly Docetism, in the early Christian communities (Smyr.4.2; Did. 6.1,16.3; Hermas, 6.8; II Cle.10.3-5; Phil,7.1).  Terms like “heresy” (Eph. 6.2; Tral. 6.1)) “heterodoxy” (Mag. 8.1; Smy. 6.2) and “wild beasts in human form” (Smy. 4.1, 7.1-2) were used to describe them and the Christians were advised to “refrain from welcoming such people” “not even meet with them” or “not even speak about them” (Smyr. 4.1, 7.1-2). Docetists denied the humanity of Jesus Christ and so the reality of suffering of Jesus Christ (Tral.10.1; Smyr.2.1, 4.2, 6.1; Pol. Phil. 7.1, 8.1).[23]  “They abstained from Eucharist and prayer because they do not acknowledge that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ which suffered our sins” (Smyr. 7.1).  That was why Docetists were criticized for lack of concern for acts of communal love, which was characteristic of Christians (Smyr.6.2).[24]

Thus, these heretical teachings were seen a threat to the centrality of the Lord’s birth, death and resurrection and consequently this threatened the unity in the church.

  1. Judaism

Apostolic Fathers reflect a certain amount of tension and hostility between Christianity and Judaism. This was evident in the rhetoric of Apostolic Fathers against Jews and Judaism. The very existence and the influence of Judaism on the Christian communities seemed to have become a threat to the identity of Christians. At the same time Jews were also presented as collaborators with the “crowds” against Christians.[25]

“Demonisation of the other” is typical of conflict between those who share the common heritage.[26] Jews become the main enemies of Christ and Christians in Apostolic Fathers. So they were described as “they” (Bar.3.6; 4.6, 7; 8.7; 10.12; 13.1, 3; 14.5), “the former people” (Bar. ch.13), idolaters (Bar.4.8; 14.3); “the men whose sins are complete” (Bar.8.1); “wretched men” (Bar.16.1); uncircumcised in heart (Bar.9.5). Jews were also portrayed as those who killed Jesus, which was set within a continuous tradition of murder of prophets (Ignatius, Trall.11, Smyr.2; Bar. 5.1112.10; 16.1) and any commonality with them was sternly denounced (Ign., Mag.8, Polycarp, Philip. 13-14).[27] Barnabas used Two Ways motif[28] to contrast between Jews and Christians (Bar. 2.9; 19.2; 4.2, 10),[29] probably prompted by some within the church, who held a view that “the covenant is both theirs and ours” (Bar.4.6). He further argued that Jews never understood the meaning of the scripture regarding their sacrifices (Bar.2.4-8), fasting (Bar.3.1), circumcision (Bar.9.4), food laws (Bar.10.2,9) and Sabbath observance (Bar.15.8) and were “transgressors” (Bar. 9.4, 14.4) and “sinners” Bar.8.1-2, 12.10); they lost the covenant due to their idolatry[30] and never received it (Bar.4.8; 14.1-4) and so were abandoned (Bar.4.14 cf. Bar.16.5).

Some Christians wanted to be both Christians and Jews at the same time (Mag.10.1-3 cf.Philad.6.1). They appeared to be involved in Jewish practices like Sabbath (Mag. 9.1 cf. Bar.15).[31] Ignatius dismissed Judaism’s claim for serous consideration for those who had left it to embrace Christianity (Mag.9.1, 10.2)[32] by saying that “Judaism” had been cast off as “tombstones and sepulchers of the dead”, “ancient fables” those were profitless (Ign. Phld. 8.1; Phld.10.2). Some Christians wanted their Christian belief proved to them from scripture (Phld. 6.1-2 cf.8.2).[33]

There was also a certain amount of tension between Christian communities and Jews. This is reflected in the charges of The Letter to Diognetus (4.1,5, 5.16-17)[34] and also Martyrdom of Polycarp of Jews’ association with the “crowds” against Christians (12.2, chs. 13,17,18).[35]  Barnabas talks about Jewish observances such as circumcision, food laws, Sabbath, sacrifices and fast, which were the boundary markers of Judaism[36] but scarcely about messiah. That means Barnabas had chosen his topics due to the challenge posed by Judaism and that was why he had to deal clearly with the interpretation of the scripture noting which interpretation was proper (Bar.1.5,2.9,3.6), as most probably it was attracting (Gentile) Christians. Barnabas could also be having apologetic purpose because for the Gentiles in the society it was Jews who were obedient to the scripture, not Christians, who were not observing most of practices prescribed in the scripture.

Thus it shows that Christian communities were facing the problem of Judaizing or the influence of Judaism (Phil. 6.1; Mag.10.3; Bar. 2.10).[37] Ignatius interpreted the threat of Judaizers as a threat to the centrality of the Lord’s cross, death and resurrection (Phild.8.2).[38] There was also hostility between the two groups.

  1. Pagans

Some of the Apostolic Fathers were critical about pagans and their culture. They were keen on condemning ‘idolatry’ (Diog. Chs.1, 2; Did. 6.3; Bar.20.1; Hermas, 98.3, II Cle.17.1).[39] The religion of the state was rigorously shunned by the Christians (Mar. Pol. 8.2). They rejected the pattern of practices, which were at the heart of the traditional religion. The attitude of Christians towards the local gods was uncompromising.[40] This was the allegation of the crowd against Polycarp that he was “the destroyer of our gods” (Mar. Pol. 12.2). In that process they became vulnerable to criticism of being “atheists”[41] having broken with their familial and cultural traditions (Mart. Pol. 3.2, 9.2-3, Justin, I Apol.5-6, Tert. Apol. 6.10, Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 7.1). Christians were also taught to separate themselves from the “vices” of Greco-Roman society (Did2.2-7, 3.1-6, 5.1-2).[42]

Thus, the detachment of these Christians from their wider socio-religious context and their formation of a separate group defined by their commitment to Christ constituted a form of protest that met with reaction not only from the general populace but also from the ruling authorities. There was the stigma of disloyalty to the empire. The fear of majority with regard to ‘deviants’ in their society was, probably, the main cause of hostility and persecution.[43] Because the Roman world was characterized by certain key concepts that epitomized the ethos of that world and chief among these was pietas or eusebeia, the whole complex of obligations and duties owed to “family, friends, fellow citizens, country and gods.”[44] This was crucial to preservation of the harmony with the deities and thus of the social order. Christianity was considered a threat to this pietas (Tacitus, Annals. 15.44; Pliny, Ep. 10.96.8).[45]

However, the government, with rare exceptions (Mart. Pol. 7.1; Eusebius, Hist.  Eccl. 5.1.8, 14) was not reported as persecuting Christians, if by that one means seeking out for punishment. Rather it responded to local accusations (Trajan to Pliny, Ep. 10.97) because for it the health and security of the society was the most important matter.

IV. Self-Identity of Christians

The early Christianity was defined by ‘faith’, which was given a distinctive christological content. Hence the focus of communal identity resided in convictions, its faith in Jesus Christ. It was the convictions themselves, which constituted the most novel feature of the Christian communities and their most essential bond. That was why Christian communities had to declare and reinforce their boundaries continually against the prevailing religious, social and political realities.[46] Their practices and moral ethos were grounded in this faith.

A. Theology

There are two ways in which the theology of the A.F. can be discussed: one way is to treat them separately, keeping in mind that they were written to specific communities with specific needs and the other is by treating them as a group and by laying emphasis on their common teaching. The latter has the advantage of drawing attention to their common Christian faith even though it tends to minimize their individuality and the differences in approach, which existed among them.

The Apostolic Fathers bore witness to the developing expression of Christian faith. They exhibited a clear desire to preserve sound teaching of apostolic doctrine. This concern arose due to a variety of internal and external pressures, which called for the ‘orthodox’ to be distinguished from the ‘heretical’.

  1. Christology

The common group identity of Christians was fundamentally defined by Christ and their faith in him. Apostolic Fathers reinforced the boundaries of their identity, particularly Christology, so that there might not be any ambiguity within the group and thus enabled them to have a greater sense of group identity, being bound to, and identified by, the very name that was the cause of conflict. In other words, the conflict increased the salience of this aspect of the insiders’ shared social identity, increased the extent to which this aspect of their identity defined their commonality and sense of belonging together.

  1. Humanity, Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ

In most of the Apostolic Fathers there was an emphasis on the humanity of Jesus and his passion, death and resurrection (Mag.11; Phd.9.2; Tra. 10; Smy. 1-7; Pol. Phil. 7.1; II Cle.1.2 cf. Diog. 9.1-2; Mar. Pol. 17.2).[47] Virginal conception of Jesus was emphasized to affirm the physical, historical reality of the incarnation (Eph.18.2; Tral.9 cf. Smyr.1.1-2; Rom.7.3). Jesus’ passion was affirmed by portraying him as the suffering servant of Isaiah (Bar.5.2 cf. Is.53.7; I Cle. 59.1-3, Did.10.3 I Cle.16.7),[48] because passion and resurrection of Christ were the ground of faith (Sm.7.2; Phd.8.2). That was why “flesh and blood” indicated not only the reality of the passion and resurrection but also the seriousness of the commitment to faith and love (Tr.8.1; Rom.7.3).[49] Jesus was conceived as both the high priest (I Clement 36.1,61.3,64; Phild.9.1; Phil.12.2) and the sacrifice (I Clement 55.1) that was offered for our sins (II Cle. 1.2; Tral.2.1, Rom.6.1; Phil.1.2,8.1) and thus for the salvation of the people (I Clement7.4; II Cle.9.5; Smyr.7.1; Bar. 7.2,3,5; 14.5).[50] Therefore the access to the Father is only through Jesus Christ (Mag. Insci. Cf. Tra.13.3; Rom.2.2; Mag.5.2; Eph.4.2),[51] even for the OT patriarchs and the prophets (Phild.9).[52] The passion of Christ brings peace (Tral. Inscr) and eternal life (Eph. 18.1) to Christians. Christ’s blood was described in terms of its effects, as imperishable love (Rom.7.3) or eternal and abiding joy (Phild. Insc.), for it confirmed Christians in their love (Smyr. 1.1) and kindled their proper task of charity (Eph.1.1). Through it he called them as his members (Tral.11.2) so that they would become the fruit of the cross (Smyr. 1.2) or branches of the cross (Tral.11.2) and could be described as “nailed to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Smyr. 1.1).

Thus Christians were from the passion (Sm.1.2), which was the ground of their existence (Tral.10.1; Smyr.2.1, 4.2). It was in Christ’s passion and resurrection (Mag. 9.1 Smyr. 3.2-3, 7.1) that Christians would act and live (Eph.20.1; Mag.11; Tr.inscr; Sm.12.2) and have the hope of future resurrection (Eph. 18.2 cf. Tral. 9.2; I Clement 24.1; II Clement 9.1). In Christ Christians also have the hope of the coming kingdom and eternal life for them and the judgment for the evil ones (Didache 9.2,10.4; I Clement 50.3; II Clement 5.5; Bar. 4.12).[53]

b. Divinity of Jesus Christ

The divinity of Christ was highlighted (Eph. 19.3 cf. Eph. 7.2, 20.2; Smyr. 1.1; Mag. 8.2;Phil.12.2). At the same time a distinction was maintained between Jesus and the Father: God was the Father of Jesus Christ (Eph.2.1; Mag.3.1; Tra.9.2; Phld.7.2); Jesus Christ was God’s child (I Clement 59.4; Mart. Pol. 14.3, 20.2) and the scepter of God’s greatness (I Clement16.2); he was united with the Father (Eph.5.1; Mag.7.1) but he was subject to the Father (Mag.13.2); he was sent by the Father (Mag.8.2; II Cle.20.5). On the one hand, Jesus Christ was the revelation of God (Mag.8.2; Rom. 8.2; II Cle. 3.1; Mart. Pol. 14.2)[54] and on the other, through the ‘beloved child of God’ the elect had been called from the darkness to light (I Clement 59.2-3 cf. II Cle. 1.8) and God blessed Christians with spiritual food and drink and eternal life (Did. 10.3).

Thus through his passion and resurrection, Jesus established God’s covenant in Christians and made them the covenant people of God.

  1. Scripture

One of the major challenges for the church from its inception was its need to establish its own status as an ancient religion. This was important in a world where antiquity of the religion was important.[55] Otherwise it would not have credibility or recognition in the eyes of the then Greco-Roman world.[56] Church went to great lengths to emphasize Christianity’s roots were firmly in the Jewish religious tradition. In this regard the inheritance of Hebrew scripture was vital for Christians, as scripture was also closely related to the covenant and the Law. Church had to prove that the scripture belonged to them but not to Jews in order to convince not only Gentiles[57] around them but also those within the church and coming into the church.[58]

The Hebrew scripture was believed to be of divine origin and prophetic in character (Bar.2.4 cf.2.7,10; 3.1,3 ; 6.4, 13; Did. 14.3;16.7; Ign. Phld. 5.2; Eph.3.34,5.3; Mag.18.17). Scripture pointed to Jesus Christ and thus Jesus Christ was used as the hermeneutical key to understand the scripture.[59] The quotations from Pentateuch and Psalms were quotations from prophets (Bar.6.4f,6,13) and likewise Moses, David and Jacob were prophets (Bar.6.8;12.10;13.4-5)[60] and they prophesied about Christ (Bar.5.6 cf. Mag. 8.2). The prophets were looking forward to Christ (Ign. Phld. 8.2; Smyr. 7.2; Pol. Philip. 6.3). Spirit was also prophetic which enabled Abraham “to look forward to Jesus” (Bar. 9.7) and Jacob to see “a symbol of the future people” (Bar.13.5cf.6.14;12.2). Therefore scripture was prophetic and it mainly spoke about Christ[61] and also his sufferings (Bar. 5.1-6.7 cf. Is.53; Zech.13.6; Pss.21.19, 117.22).[62] Scripture also pointed to his new people (Bar.6.16). That means the scripture had found its fulfillment in Christ and his church. Thus Christians claimed the scripture by appealing to the continuity between Christianity and what was recorded in the scripture.

The covenant was linked to scripture and the ‘Beloved’ gave the covenant to ‘us’ (Bar. 4.8, 14.4).[63] Thus Barnabas claims the covenant and the law for Christians.[64] Similarly the institutions and rites recorded in the scripture were prophetic acts- pointing forward to Christ and his church:[65] the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement foretold the Lord’s passion and kingdom (Bar. ch.7); the true temple was inward and spiritual (Bar. 6.15) and it was Christian community (Bar.16.9); Sabbath commandment referred to the time of Lord’s advent (Bar.15cf. 6.19).

Therefore, the history of Jews was utilized by the early Christians to supply Christianity with an unimpeachable history. Thus the place and the interpretation of the scriptures[66]  played a central role in Christian self-definition over against Judaism.[67]

  1. Ecclesiology

 Most of the Apostolic Fathers were concerned with Christian community and its unity (I Cle. chs.21-23; Ign.Eph.7; Vis.3.5,3.9; Did. 4.3;15.3; Phil. 6.3, 10.1; Bar.4.8, 19.12),  for this is an expression of the distinctiveness of Christian community because of its relationship to God and Christ. [68]

The distinctiveness of the church was described by some of Jewish election labels: Christians were the “true Israelites” (I Cle. 45.1-7) “the called” (II Cle. 9.5), “the people” (Bar.13.1, 6) qualified by ‘new people’ (Bar.5.7; 7.5), “future people” (Bar.13.5) “holy people” (Bar.14.6) or “people of inheritance” or people of the covenant (Bar.14.4-5 cf. 6.19).[69] At the same time Apostolic Fathers also emphasized the essentially communal character of the church.[70] The terms henosis and henotes (Phd. 5.2,8.1) referred primarily to the solidarity of the Christian community in social and cultic terms (Mag.1.2)[71] because church was the body of Christ (Tr.11.2; Eph.4.2; Sm.1.2).[72] This communal character was also reflected by the description of the church as ‘body’ (I Cle.37.5, 38.1, 46.7)[73] ‘flock’ (I Cle.16.1, 44.3,54.2) and a ‘multitude’ in contrast to individuals within it (Eph. 1.3; Mag. 6.1; Tral.1.1). It is in this sense of an entire group that the word ‘catholic’ or ‘whole’ was used (Smyr. 8.2).[74]

This communal character of the church should be expressed by maintaining unity, which was central to the expression of Christian identity. “Since they are distinguished from the rest of humanity neither in land, nor in language nor in customs” (Diog. 5.1-4), communal activities played an important role in the self-definition of Christians.[75] For both Clement and Ignatius, probably echoing the language of Hellenistic political rhetoric[76] it was the pursuit of ‘peace and concord’ the fruit of unity (I Cle.60.4,62.5; Ign. Eph.4.1,2;13.1;Mag.6.1;15.1; Tral.12.2;Phild.11.2) and which reflected the divine calling of the church.[77] Because peace and harmony were characteristic of God’s universe (I Cle.20 cf. Mag.6.1; Phd. Inscr). Therefore God required Christians to express the same virtues in their community living (I Clement chs.21-23; Mag.7; Phild. 4; Sim. 9,13,5; Pol. Phil.10.1). Christians were also reminded that they had “one God and one Christ and one Spirit of grace poured out” upon them as well as “one calling in Christ” (I Cle.46.6). For this reason the importance of orderliness within the church was stressed (I Cle. chs. 37-38,40-44).[78] There was also a growing conception of church as universal body (Did.9.4 cf.Is.11.12; Jer.39.37; Wis.2.10).[79]

Even though the pre-existent church was thought to be a spiritual and perfect one (Vis.1.3.4; 2.4.1; II Cle.14.1-3 cf. Eph. 5.23-30; Papius. 10),[80] some of the Apostolic Fathers recognized the imperfectness of the church by acknowledging the reality of sin in their communities (Vis.3.11-13). That was why they stressed on the restoration of individuals to community (Pol. Phil. 11) through repentance (I Cle. 7f; II Cle. 8.1f).[81] They also recognized the final judgment of the believers on the basis of their moral conduct on the earth (I Cle. 26; II Cle. 9; Did.16; Bar.6.18). So the call was to persevere in the face of a final judgment (I Cle. 35.4; II Cle. 7.1; Bar.4.11).[82]

Thus, Apostolic Fathers’ description of the identity of the church reminded the church of its distinctive character and exhorted it to express this identity by maintaining unity and order.

Christian Ministry

Self-image has ideological and structural dimensions.[83] Some of the Apostolic Fathers like Ignatius, Clement, Polycarp (less explicitly), saw a strong connection between orthodox Christian belief and orthodox Christian organization, liturgy and conduct.[84] This was due to the situations where there was false teaching and schism in the Christian communities. So there was an emphasis upon the structures of Christian communities to protect right teaching and unity. For some of the Apostolic Fathers the maintenance of ecclesiastical unity is understood in terms of submission to an established hierarchy.[85]

  1. Church Order

The nature of ministry in Apostolic Fathers is diverse, even though this diversity is not very great.[86] The widest diversity occurs in Didache where we read of teachers, prophets, itinerant apostles, bishops and deacons. In I Clement there are bishops and deacons (I Cle.42.4-5), and the presbyters (I Cle.54.2); for Ignatius the hierarchy of the church consists of bishops, presbyters and deacons (Tral.3.1), all appointed by the purpose of Jesus Christ and established by him, by his Holy Spirit (Phild. Inscr.). Their presence reflects the heavenly order (Tral.3.1, Eph.4.2); Barnabas refers only to teachers and teaching (Bar.1.8 cf. Diog.11.1) and Hermas mentions only bishops, presbyters, teachers and deacons (Vis.3,5,1). Clement of Rome saw the hierarchy of the church consisted in a presbyterate, whose authority is grounded in apostolic succession (I Cle.42.4) and priestly practice (I Cle.43).[87] Whereas Ignatius’ assertion of monepiscopacy as the sole form of church government had nothing to do with “tradition” or apostolic succession.[88]  Christians were to serve God, each in his own rank, and were not to transgress the appointed rule of their service (I Cle.41.1). The office should not allow individuals to exalt themselves (Smyr.6.1). The church order was compared with Roman army (I Cle.36.3) OT priesthood (I Cle.40.5) and heavenly hierarchy (Mag.6.1).[89] Members of the community were called to submit to the presbyterate (I Cle.57.1 cf. I Cle.47.6).

Bishop took precedence in line of authority and his authority was believed to have been proceeded from God and from Christ (Eph.3.2; Pol. inscr.)[90] and presbyters and deacons were subordinated to bishop. Ignatius insisted on mystical connection between the bishop and the heavenly High Priest in which the bishop was the essential link between the Christian community and the Lord (Smyr.8). Therefore, without his consent the community was not permitted to act (Tral.7.1; Smyr.9.1) and his presence was necessary for communal events. It was the bishop who would lead prayer of the church (Eph.5.2), celebrate Eucharist and conduct baptisms and common meals (Smyr. 8.1-2), give counsel on matters of spiritual discipline and permit marriages to take place (Pol. 5.2-3), give homilies on various subjects (Pol. 5.1) and convene the councils of the church (Pol.7.2). Presbyter could celebrate the Eucharist if he was appointed by the bishop to do so (Smyr.8.1).[91] For Ignatius celebration of Eucharist and worship service was invalid without the authorization of bishop (Ignatius, Smyr.8).[92] Bishop only could celebrate the valid Eucharist (Phild.3f; Smyr.8) because he represented the faithful to Christ and Christ to the faithful (cf. Did. 10.6).[93] The sign of belonging to the church was belonging to the bishop (Phild.3). Bishop also had the responsibility to look after the problems and concerns of the community (Poly.1.2 cf. Sim. 9,27,2). Ignatius called for bishops to live according to the pattern of God (Tral.3.1; Mag.6.1), which was marked by suffering and service.[94]

Bishop was called the bishop of all (Mag. 3.1). The members were exhorted to be united with bishop and presbyters (Mag. 7.1, Eph.5.1) and to follow the bishop (Smyr. 8.1, Mag.7), because church was subject to bishop (Mag. 13.2).[95] The one, who would honor bishop, would be honored by God, for to honor the bishop was to honor the son, and to honor the son was to honor the father (Smyr. 9.1).[96] Thus a great emphasis was laid on the office of bishop as the focal point of unity and the remedy against schism and heresy (Eph. 5; Mag.7; Tral.2, 7).

In the letters of Ignatius the function of presbyters was not clear, whereas according to II Clement presbyters gave exhortations in the liturgical worship (17.3) after reading the scripture (19.1) and were to be obeyed (17.5). The deacons were entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ (Mag.6.1).[97]

The itinerant ministries include Christian prophets and teachers (Didache. 10.7). The prophets and teachers were allowed to say the Eucharistic prayer (Did.10.7) and they were only to be tested with regard to their conduct (Did.11.7-12). Both prophets and teachers, if they resided in a community, were to be regarded as workmen worthy of their food (Did.13.3,6-7). Teacher was the one who set forth the “way of the teaching” (Did. chs. 1-6) as well as liturgical instructions (Did.chs.7-10).[98]

Therefore, the authority of ministry, particularly that of bishop, was strengthened due to the prevailing situation in the churches.[99] Administration of discipline and refutation of heretical teachings demanded a single responsible official. Thus, Polycarp referring to his duties of teaching, instructing and refuting urged the recipients to obey the word of righteousness (Pol., Philip.9.1).


The Apostolic Fathers contain references to the liturgical worship of the early communities. Didache explicitly deals with baptism, fasting, prayers and Eucharist (chs.7-10.4); I Clement concludes with an extended prayer (ch.64); II Clement is a homily read in a liturgical context (17.3); Ignatius often discusses the Eucharist (Smyr.8); and the Eucharistic prayers are also found in Martyrdom of Polycarp.[100] The church order, though in form derived from Judaism, was developing its own Christ centered liturgy by the end of the first century designed to knit together Christians “from the four winds” (Did.10.5).[101]

Baptism was the initiatory rite into the church. It was given after the period of catechism (Did. chs. 1-6). The convert fasted with his baptizer for one or two days. It was given in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and in cold running water, if possible; if water for immersion is not available, a smaller amount of water may be poured three times on the candidates head (Did.7.1-3 cf. Justin. Apol. 1,61,2-3; Tertullian, Bapt. 4,3, 20; Cyprian Ep. 69, 12-14). In the ceremony the convert was sealed in his faith (Did.7.1 cf. Hermas Sim.9.16). Baptism was described as the equivalent of arms for use in the struggle against hostile powers (Poly. 6.2; Eph.13.1).[102] Jesus himself was baptized “so that all righteousness might be fulfilled by him” (Smyr. 1.1; Mt.3.15) and “by the passion he might purify the water” (Eph.18.2). Thus in Ignatius baptism and passion are closely related.

There was an insistence on a distinctive Christian practice i.e. the observance of Sunday rather than Saturday (Mag. 9.1; Did.14.1)[103] to break the bread and offer thanksgiving. The observance of Sunday was commended because on that day our life arose “through (the Lord’s) death” (Mag. 9.2; Bar. 15.8-9). Thus Sunday seemed to have been considered an identity marker of Christians.[104]

The Eucharist was the center of worship for Ignatius (Eph.5.2; 13.1; Phld.4; Sm.7.1, 8.1) because the flesh of Jesus suffered for our sins and was raised by the Father (Smyr. 7.1) and union with his flesh and blood would produce salvation.[105] Eucharist was associated with the image of the altar, which indicated solidarity (Eph.5.2; Mag.7.2; Tr.7.2; Phd.4) and this solidarity was signified by the presence of the Lord at or in the Eucharist.[106] Thus it served as the focus for a sense of the presence of saving power in the Christian community (Eph.20.2). The Eucharist had another function: the bread that was broken was in some sense the ‘medicine of immortality’ (Eph.20.2) and there was a connection between participation in it and believer’s resurrection (Sm.7.1). The celebration of Eucharist was part of Agape and only baptized Christians were allowed to partake in this.[107]

Christians were exhorted to fast not on Mondays and Thursdays, the days used by Jews, but on Wednesdays and Fridays (Did. 8.1-3 cf. Sim. 5.1, Clement of Alexandria, Satire. 7, 75, 2) in order to maintain their distinct identity.  For prayer, the Lord’s Prayer was to be used three times a day (Did. 8.2-3). Christians were urged to “pray without ceasing” (Eph. 10.1; Pol. 1.3cf. Pol. Phil. 8.1). The prayer was united prayer of the entire church (Mag. 7.1; Eph.5.2). Their prayers were to be offered for others (Eph. 10.1), even for their enemies (Eph. 10.2; Smy. 4.1).

B. Community and Ethics

Apostolic Fathers were in general concerned with both the individual and corporate morality of Christians.[108] Such a concern was inevitable in the circumstances under which early Christianity arose and in which it existed.[109] In creating the self-identity Christianity set itself against the values of the contemporary society. The main emphasis was both social and moral, i.e. the way the Christian community should conduct itself in the present.

For many of the Apostolic Fathers the distinctive communal identity of Christians is bound up with their moral conduct. Christians formed part of a wider picture of community life where they were bound to a life of mutual support (II Cle.17.12; Ignatius, Polyc.6.1).[110] Christian congregations could provide their members “a sense of belonging, fostered by the direct fellowship within an intimate group, warmth, closeness and mutual support.”[111] This sense of solidarity with the community provided a basis for personal sacrifice on behalf of the group and the passion of Christ provided a model and a driving force for them to maintain their separate identity as a self-giving community (I Cle.16.1,17; Bar.7.11; Eph.7.16; Tral.6,9,11; Phild.chs.2-3; Smyr.chs.4-5).[112] Martyrdom appeared as “the culmination of a far more prosaic process of un-selfing”[113] Therefore, Christian identity was determined by willing subordination to the interests of the group, ignoring social discrimination of all kinds.

The sense of solidarity of Christian community was manifested, particularly, in the gift of love (I Cle. 49.2;II Cle.4.3,9.6; Ign. Mag.6.2; Pol. Philip.1). Faith and love in Ignatius were the expressions of the Christian life (Eph.14.1).[114] From them would flow all that was good (Eph.14.1). So Christian community was marked by righteous deeds and not simply by righteous words (II Cle.4.2; Ign. Eph.14.1). Christians must acknowledge Christ as their Lord through their deeds (II Clement chs.1-5). Among them were acts of charity such as help for the widows, orphans (I Cle.8.4; Hermas, Vis. 2.4.3, 5.3.7, Man.8.10; Bar. 20.2) and the poor (I Cle. 38.2; II Cle.16.4, Pol.10.2, Did.4.8; Sim.2).).[115] Christians should give alms, which was better than either prayer or fasting (II Clement chs.14-16; 10.2 cf. I Cle. 8.4, Pol. Phil. 6.1 Sim.1,8; Did. 1.5, 4.5, 4.8,). Hospitality was characteristic of the servants of God (Man. 8.10 cf. Sim.9.27.2). Serving mammon implied adultery, seduction and deceit, all characteristics of this world (Did. 3.5; II Clement 6.4; Polycarp, Phil. 2.2, 4.1-3, 6.1; Sim.1.1.5; 8.9.1) and serving God for such world meant foregoing such things. Fornication, abortion and infanticide were condemned (Did.2.2 cf. Bar. 19.4-5, 10.6-8; Man. 4).[116] Repentance meant keeping the flesh pure and the seal (of baptism) undefiled, for the flesh would be raised by God (II Clement chs.8-11).[117]

Church and the World

Christians belonged to two different worlds. One was the wider political and socio- cultural world, which they shared with their Jewish and pagan neighbors. The other was “Christian world” which shaped their self- identity and gave meaning to their experience.[118] This was often at odds with the wider world. Their maintenance of identity as “Christians” through their beliefs and life sustained their sociological distinctiveness as groups set apart from the wider world.[119] At the same time the emphasis on the reality of the incarnation of Jesus Christ gave them a healthy, positive view of the wider world.[120]

For many of the Apostolic Fathers the world is a place where Christians were resident aliens (Hermas, Sim.1.1, Diog.5). Partly this feeling was due to the hostility experienced by Christians at the hands of non-Christians. This sense of a hostile world was expressed, at least indirectly, by the veneration of the martyrs (I Cle.5.            6;Hermas,Vis.3.2.1;3.5.2; Mar. and the call to endure (Pol, Philip.8.2).[121] However Christians also distanced themselves from the world because their values were not the values of the world (II Cle.5.1,1.6,17.3; Bar. 16.7; Vis.1.3;Sim.4). Christian life and the life associated with the world were at polarity which was compared with two coinages one of this world and the other of God (Mag.5.1) and Christians could not speak of Jesus Christ and at the same time desired the world (Rom.6.1; 7.1).

However, most of the Apostolic Fathers were concerned about Christian testimony in the secular society (II Cle.13.1f; Ign.Tral.8.2; Poly.Phil.10.3). Christians were exhorted to live blamelessly among the Gentiles (Phil.10.2),[122] to cause no offence to pagans and  give no room for criticism (Tr.8.2)[123] and to prove themselves ‘brothers’ to the unbelievers (Eph.10.3cf. Diog.6.7).[124] Christians were considered to be the soul of humanity and so had the responsibility of representing them to God (Diog. 6).[125]

There was also a significant openness to aspects of pagan society and culture. Popular rhetorical methods (ICle.2.8)[126] and conventions of the Hellenistic letter writing were used.[127] Some of the imageries were used from medical (Eph.7.2,10.2; Pol.2.1), musical (Eph.4.1-2; Phld.1.2), nautical (Pol.2.3) and athletics (Pol.1.3,2.3,3.1).[128] There were some elements of Hellenistic city that were used: the council of elders (Mag. 6.1 cf. Trall.3.1, Phild.8.1), the theme of concord[129] (I Cle. Ch. 20; Eph. 4.1,2, 13.1; Mag.6.1,15.1), Roman army as a model for the church (I Cle. 37).

Thus, the early Christian communities not only saw themselves as a people set apart but also reached out to the culture of the Hellenistic city and had drawn some elements from it for their theological tradition.


Martyrdom had an inherent relationship with group identity and self- definition.[130] It “(was) an ultimate statement of commitment to the group and what the group represent(ed).”[131] The confession “I am a Christian” (Mar. Pol.10.1, 12.1) bound the martyr with all Christians, for “Christian” encompassed the beliefs and the life style of the Christians. In the context of persecution Christians were defining themselves in parallel fashion to the Jews (II Mac.2.21, 8.1, IV Mac.4.26, 15.29). They refused to recant their belief and so their identity when Roman authorities gave them opportunity to do so to avoid death. It had an apologetic purpose.[132] Martyrdom was the ultimate demonstration of legitimacy of one’s religion and the illegitimacy of the religion of the rivals.[133] Martyrdom, thus, became a key element in Christian self-understanding, providing a context where their distinctive identity had to be articulated. This encompassed the language of discipleship, the imagery of imitation of Christ and an ethos of separation from the rest of human kind.[134]

Discipleship and imitation converge in the thinking of some of the Apostolic Fathers in relation to martyrdom. Mathetes was used to designate the martyrs as “disciples and imitators of the Lord” (Mar.Pol. 17.3.2 cf. Ig. Eph. 1.2.4; Rom. 4.2.4, Diag.11.1-2).[135] Martyrdom was a mark of their “loyalty to the master” (Mar. Pol. 2.1-2) and imitation of Christ (Pol. Phil. 8.1-2),[136] who was unjustly mistreated and despised. Thus, the significance of martyrdom was linked to the passion of Christ, which was presented as the touchstone of Christian self-understanding.[137] Martyrdom would vindicate a person as one who was a diligent and faithful servant of Jesus Christ and provided an occasion to prove the reality of his faith (Ig. Mag. 4.1.1) and the stance of the church (Rom. 3). Therefore willingness to be obedient, even unto death, was the evidence that a person was a Christian, a true believer, a disciple.[138] For Ignatius, the church as whole was a martyr in the context of the pagan world (Eph.10).[139]

Martyrdom was also presented as an occasion for the audience to witness the distinctiveness of the martyr. The behavior of the martyr was contrasted with that of those who opposed him: Polycarp offered food and drink to those who came to arrest him (Mart. Pol. 7.1-2 cf. Mt.26.55); he affirmed traditional Christian respect for the powers and authorities ordained by God (Mar. Pol.10.2). The miraculous quenching of the flames by the blood from Polycarp’s body served to witness to the crowds “the distinction between unbelievers and the elect” (Mar. Pol.16.1 cf. Mar. Pol.3.2).[140]

Along with “Christian”, “race/new race/race of the righteous” “God-fearing” “righteous” (Mar. Pol.14.1, 17.1; I Cle. 46.4) were used to describe Christians. “The description of Christianity as a race (did) not feature in the earlier Apostolic Fathers but (did) become part of Christian self-perception in the second century” (Mar. Pol.14.1; Sim.9.17.5, 30.3; Diog. 1 cf. Apology of Aristides 17.2).[141] “God-fearing” (theosebeia) was used in the face of the charge against Christians that they were impious (asebeia) (Diog. 3.1,3, 4.5,6,6.4).[142]

Thus they, particularly “Christian”, became central to the self-identity of Christians and defended them against outsiders’ use of them as a basis for attack.[143] The conclusive proof of discipleship was obedience to the point of death (Ign. Mag.9-10).[144]


Apostolic Fathers, thus, witnessed to the emerging self- identity of Christians in the socio- religious and cultural context of the then world. The church tried to define itself with boundaries and identity markers to maintain its distinctiveness expressed in its theology, community and uncompromising life-style.

Maintaining one’s distinct identity in a pluralist society itself is not negative or regressive.  Any community needs to define its identity and differences may be clearly preserved. However “Christian universalism linked to christological exclusivism, given power to enforce its will, can result in coercion or repression of all that refuses chistianization. It faces a severe challenge in the present pluralist environment in which differences and convictions have to be re-expressed or renegotiated in forms, which meet the requirements of civility and tolerance. Perhaps what is required of Christians now is an honest recognition of Christian particularity, … a commitment to exploit the world affirming aspects of the Christian tradition and a liberality which recognizes the complimentary contributions to human welfare, which are made by those outside the Christian community.”[145]



Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality: The Jews in the World of the Christians in the Second Century, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996.

Markus Bockmuehl and Mickael B. Thompson (eds), A Vision for the Church: Studies in Early Christian Ecclesiology in Honor of J.P.M.Sweet, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997.

Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. I & II, Cambridge, Massachussetts: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Michael J. Wilkins and Terence Paige, (eds), Worship, Theology and Ministry in the Early Church: Essays in honor of Ralph P. Martin, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992.

Joanna Anneke Rummens, “Conceptualising Identity and Diversity: Overlaps, Intersections and Processes,” Canadian Ethics Studies, Vol. 35, Issue 3, (2003), p.2, Academic Search Elite, 01.02.05.

Anthony J. Blasi, Jean Duhaime, Paul-Andre Turcotte, Handbook of Early Christianity: Social Science Approaches, Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira Press, 2002.

  1. Peter Robinson, (ed), Social groups and identities: Developing the Legacy of Heri Tajfel, Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann, 1996.

Henri Tajfel, Human Groups and Social Categories, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

E.P. Sanders, (ed), Jewish and Christian Self-Definition, Vol.1, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980.

Georg Simmel, Conflict and the web of group affiliations, Glencoe: Free Press, 1955.

Lewis A. Coser, The functions of social conflict, New York: Free Press, 1956.

Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation and Commentary, Vol.I, New York: Thomas nelson & Sons, 1964.

Reidar Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant: The Purpose of the Epistle of Barnabas and Jewish- Christian Composition in the Second Century, Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1996.

W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.

Christopher Rowland, Christian Origins: From Messianic Movement to Christian Religion, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1985.

William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch: A Commentary on the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.

James D.G.Dunn Jews and Christians: The parting of ways A.D.70to135, Tubingen:J.C.B.Mohr, 1992.

Jonathan A. Draper, (ed), The Didache in Modern Research, (Leiden, New York: E.J.Brill, 1996.

Jo Ann Shelton, As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman social history, Oxford: Oxford university Press, 1998.

A.Y. Collins, “Vilification and Self- definition in the Book of Revelation,” in Christians among Jews and Gentiles,

Craig A. Evans and Donald A. Hagner, Anti- Semitism and Early Christianity: Issues of Polemic and Faith, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

  1. Eugene March, (ed), Texts and Testaments: Critical Essays on the Bible and Early Church Fathers, (San Antinio: Trinity University Press, 1980.

R.D. Williams, The Wound of Knowledge, London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1991.

End Notes

[1]  Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality: The Jews in the World of the Christians in the Second Century, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), p.15.

[2] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers” in Markus Bockmuehl and Mickael B. Thompson (eds), A Vision for the Church: Studies in Early Christian Ecclesiology in Honor of J.P.M.Sweet, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997), p. 194.

[3] Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. I, (Cambridge, Massachussetts: Harvard University Press, 2003), p. 11.

[4] However few would accept that the authors of these writings flourished in the time of apostles and in fact many of them referred back to the time of the apostles (I Cle.5.2, 42.1, Ign., Eph.11.2, 12.2, Hermas, Sim.9.15.4, 16.5, 25.2). Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 194.

[5] Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. I, pp. 12-13.

[6] Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. I, pp. 12-13.

[7] Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 11.

[8] For example, I Clement was written to a community which had ‘recently’ experienced a schism of some kind; Ignatius’ letters addressed churches in which the threat of schism was ever present; Barnabas was a response to a community which felt itself attracted to Judaism; Didache was written to a community which lived in close proximity to Jews and was a compilation from various sources in which a variety of traditional material, relating to ethics and church order, was brought together for edification of its addressees and Hermas seemed to have been written to a community which was at odds with itself over the question of post-baptismal sin.

[9] Michael J. Wilkins, “The interplay of ministry, martyrdom, and discipleship in Ignatius of Antioch,”  in  Michael J. Wilkins and Terence Paige, (eds), Worship, Theology and Ministry in the Early Church: Essays in honor of Ralph P. Martin, (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992), p. 296.

[10] Michael J. Wilkins, “The interplay of ministry, martyrdom, and discipleship in Ignatius of Antioch,” p. 296.

[11] Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. I, pp. 13-14.

[12] Joanna Anneke Rummens, “Conceptualising Identity and Diversity: Overlaps, Intersections and Processes,” Canadian Ethics Studies, Vol. 35, Issue 3, (2003), p.2, Academic Search Elite, 01.02.05.

[13] David G. Horrell, “Becoming Christian”: Solidifying Christian Identity and Content,” in Anthony J. Blasi, Jean Duhaime, Paul-Andre Turcotte, Handbook of Early Christianity: Social Science Approaches, (Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira Press, 2002), p. 311.

[14] Horrell, “Becoming Christian,” pp. 311-312.

[15] John C. Turner and Richard y. Bourhis, “Social Identity, interdependence and the social group: A reply to Rabbie et. al.”  in W. Peter Robinson, (ed), in Social groups and identities: Developing the Legacy of Heri Tajfel, (oxford: Butterworth Heinemann, 1996), p.30.

[16] Henri Tajfel, Human Groups and Social Categories, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 255.

[17] In this categorization process two major principles emerge: “accentuation and assimilation: people tend to exaggerate the differences between the categories and simultaneously minimize the differences within the categories.”Rupert Brown, “Tajfel’s contribution to the reduction of inter-group conflict,” in Social groups and identities: Developing the legacy of Henry Tajfel, p.170.

[18] John C. Turner, “Henry Tajfel: An Introduction” in Social groups and identities, p. 16.

[19] Horrell, “Becoming Christian,” p. 313.

[20] R.A. Markus, “The Problem of Self-Definition: From Sect to Church,” in E.P. Sanders, (ed), Jewish and Christian Self-Definition, Vol.1, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), p.3. Conflict is generally perceived as negative or destructive. But it is also contributive where “(it) may not only heighten the concentration of an existing unit, radically eliminating all elements which might blur the distinctness of its boundaries against the enemy; it may also bring persons and groups together…” Georg Simmel, Conflict and the web of group affiliations, trans. Kurt H. wolff and Reinhard Bendix, (Glencoe: Free Press, 1955), p.18.

Conflict often functions as group-binding and group- preserving one: “it may…contribute to the maintenance of group boundaries and prevent the withdrawal of members from a group.” Lewis A. Coser, The functions of social conflict, New York: Free Press, 1956, p.8.

[21] The image of the ‘opponents’ like heretics, Jews and pagans, found in Christian literature belongs to the building of the self-image and this process is very important in the second century. Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p. 284.

[22] Lieu, Image and Reality, p.2.

[23] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation and Commentary, Vol.I, (New York: Thomas nelson & Sons, 1964), p. 55.

[24] Probably this referred to the love feast, in which sacrament was also a part. This love feast served as a means of caring for the poor. It was Ignatius’ contention that Docetism would inevitably lead to separatism and consequently neglect the acts of love. Probably what Ignatius criticizing was holding love feast and celebrating Eucharist without bishop, if we understood ch.7 in the light of ch.8.Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives in Ignatius of Antioch, p.32.

[25] Apostolic Fathers, at times, seemed to have presented an image of the Jew, which would meet their own needs, social, theological or political and this process was already at work in second century or even earlier.  So their presentation had to be seen both as belonging to the literary construction of the text and as grounded in the text’s social context and function. Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.289.

[26] Lieu, Image and Reality, p.281.

[27] Lieu, Image and Reality, p.36.

[28] The Two Ways motif is found in many Jewish and Christian literature (Wis.1-5; T.Ash. 1.3-5.4; 1QS 3.13-4.26; Tg.Ps-J. Deut.30.15; Tg. Neof. Deut.30.19; Did.1-6).

[29] Barnabas makes a connection between the description of Jews and the description of the Way of Darkness in ch.18-20. In Jewish eyes the Way of Darkness is a description of paganism (Wisd. 14.22ff). That means Barnabas is placing Jews on par with pagans. In other words the traditional Two Ways concept in Barnabas no longer serves to mark the distinction between Jews and pagans but between Christians and Jews, who behave like pagans. Reidar Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant: The Purpose of the Epistle of Barnabas and Jewish- Christian Composition in the Second Century, (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1996), p. 141.

[30]Golden calf episode is an embarrassment in the history of Jews. Because it was seen as the sin par excellence (cf.Sifre.1 on Deut.1.1) and cause for exile (Exod. Rab.32.2; b. Shabb.88a). Forty years wandering was seen as a punishment for this sin (Exod. Rab.30.7; Cant.Rab.5.5). That is why Josephus deliberately omitted the entire episode from his account of the wanderings in the wilderness in his Antiquities. And in Synagogues the part where Aaron is charged with his participation is not read (m.Meg.4.10).This was first used by Stephen (Acts 7). Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant, p. 155.

[31] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers, p.54.

[32] Probably dependency on fables is a common accusation against Judaism. That is why Philo repeatedly denies the presence of myths in Jewish scriptures (De Opif. Mundi. 1.2, De. Migr. 76 cf. Josephus, C.Apion. 1.25,229,287). For these apologists fables or myths are the human creations, tied to the worship of idols and opposed to truth (Philo, De.dec. 7; 157; De Spec. leg. 1.51, Josephus, C.Apion, II. 256).

[33] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers), p.55.

[34] W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984, p. 237.

[35] The Jews become a cover for intra- Church conflicts over the veneration of the martyrs. This and the related problem of an undue enthusiasm for martyrdom have often been associated with Montanism, against which Martyrdom of Polycarp may be waging a sustained polemic and thus “Jews” often become a cover for a number of internal ‘opponents’. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.283.

[36] Because the author mentions about sacrifices, some suppose that these statements are theoretical ones. However since Barnabas is arguing that Jews have gone astray, he is demonstrating that error which has not changed from the past till his time. Reidar Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant: The Purpose of the Epistle of Barnabas and Jewish- Christian Composition in the Second Century, (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1996), p. 94.

[37] Lieu, Image and Reality, pp. 28-29.

[38] Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives in Ignatius of Antioch, p.36.

[39] This, in fact, was inherited from Judaism.

[40]Christopher Rowland, Christian Origins: From Messianic Movement to Christian Religion, (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1985), p. 298.

[41] It means literally god-less, more specifically image-less. Harold Remus, “Persecution,” in Handbook, p.435.

[42] The vices mentioned in this list are the Jewish perspective of the pagan society. Jonathan A.Draper, “Christian Self- Definition against the “Hypocrites” in Didache 8”, Jonathan A. Draper, (ed), The Didache in Modern Research, (Leiden, New York: E.J.Brill, 1996), p. 228.

[43] At the same time Christian atheism brought economic loss for the makers of images (cf. Acts 19.24-29) and for purveyors of sacrificial victims and their fodder (Pliny, Ep. 10.96.10). There was also suspicion in the eyes of general populace. The ‘shameful acts’ were associated with the name ‘Christian’ (Pliny, Ep. 10.96.2, Tacitus, Ann. 15.44). Cannibalism is one of the suspected shameful acts (Pliny, Ep. 10.96.7) along with that of incest (Justin, I Apol.26.7).

[44] Jo Ann Shelton, As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman social history, (Oxford: oxford university Press, 1998), p.2.

[45] It was considered to be ‘deadly’ (Tacitus, Annals. 15.44), ‘degenerate’ and ‘extravagant’ (Pliny, Ep. 10.96.8). By accusing Christians of ‘hatred of humankind’ (Annals. 15.44) Tacitus marks Christians off from Romans representing true humanity.

[46] John M.G. Barclay, Universalism and Particularism: Twin Components of both Judaism and Early Christianity, in Markus Bockmuehl and Mickael B. Thompson (eds), p. 220.



[47]  “It was anti-docetism that provided the major impetus to the development of the theological norms in the church and a clear line between sound and unsound teachers.”  Schoedel, “Theological Norms and Social Perspectives in Ignatius of Antioch,” p. 32.

[48] W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, p.136.

[49] William R. Scoedel, Ignatius of Antioch: A Commentary on the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), p.24.

[50] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 117.

[51] William R. Scoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.18.

[52] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers, p.96.

[53] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 112.

[54] William R. Scoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.20.

[55] Judith Lieu, p. 280.

[56] A.Y. Collins, “Vilification and Self- definition in the Book of Revelation,” in Christians among Jews and Gentiles, p. 314.

[57] Judith Lieu, p. 280. In the public sphere scripture belonged to the Jews and it determined their self-identity. The early Christian writings were aware of this problem: the accusations of Jews as reported by Eusebius “They claim to be justly incensed against us, because we do not embrace their manner of life, though we make use of their sacred writings” (Demon.1.2); Pseudo Justin’s Exhortation to the Greeks “If anyone should object that these books belong to the Jews (since they are even now preserved in their synagogues), and not to us….” This shows that Judaism was alive and was using the same scripture and Gentiles associated it with the Jews. Reidar Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant, p.145.

[58] William Horbury, “Jewish-Christian relations in Barnabas and Justin martyr,” in Jews and Christians: The parting of ways A.D.70to135, ed. by James D.G.Dunn, (Tubingen:J.C.B.Mohr, 1992), p. 335.

[59] According to Barnabas scripture has only one meaning i.e. the intended meaning (Bar.10.12 cf. Diog.11.6) that had been revealed to Christians (Bar.9.1,2,3,5; 12.4; 13.7; 15.1,2,). The above claim was supported by citations from the OT texts interpreted primarily by an allegorical or typological method. Even though Barnabas considers the events and persons mentioned in the scripture historical, they in themselves are prophetic or types. That was why the act of Moses during Israel’s war against Amalekites was to reveal something about God’s son (Bar. ch.12); the placing of wool among the thorns is a type of Christ (ch.7); God commanded Israel to offer a heifer to show a type of Christ (

[60] Probably this was the reason for Barnabas in choosing words with prefix pro (problepo, prophaneroo Bar. 3.6;6.7;7.1 cf. Heb. 11.40, Mart. Pol. 14.2).These words were very rare in early Christian literature. Both words were used once: problepo in Hebrews 11.40 and prophaneroo in Martyrdom of Polycarp 14.2. They were also not found in Jewish writings. For eg. they are not found in Philo’s writings or in LXX with an exception of Ps.36.13. These words were used to stress that God had revealed everything beforehand. Reidar Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant, p. 103.

[61] Reidar Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant, p. 104.

[62] That means the history of Israel was interpreted completely from the perspective of Christ. It was the history of how God revealed everything in advance about his son and apart from that it did not have any value. If Jews understood the scripture properly they would have recognized Jesus as the messiah. Lee Martin McDonald, “Anti-Semitism in Early church Fathers,” in Craig A. Evans and Donald A. Hagner, Anti- Semitism and Early Christianity: Issues of Polemic and Faith, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), p.230.

[63] The Christian inheritance of the covenant was prophesied in what the scripture says concerning Isaac and Rebekah, Ephraim and Manasseh, and Abraham himself (

[64] The second making of the tablets of the commandments was not mentioned. William Horbury, “Jewish-Christian Relations in Barnabas and Justin martyr,” p.330.

[65] Unlike the writer of Hebrews, Barnabas does not think about O.T. rites and institutions as shadows of things to come (cf.Heb.10.1).

[66] However, some of the Apostolic Fathers like Clement understood OT more in a Jewish way. The author’s explanation of scripture represents a Jewish attitude toward the scripture (I Clement 43.1). J.T. Sanders, p. 219.

[67] Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.37.

[68] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,”  p. 195.

[69] Everett Ferguson, The covenant idea in the second century, in W. Eugene March, (ed), Texts and Testaments: Critical Essays on the Bible and Early Church Fathers, (San Antinio: Trinity University Press, 1980), p.138.

[70] Paget, p. 196.

[71] William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.21.

[72] Even ‘concord’ occurs in cultic contexts (Eph.4.1,2; 13.1; Mag.6.1;15; Tr. 12.2). That means the emphasis was on the solidarity of the community. Probably here the Hellenistic civic ideal had made an influence on Ignatius. William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.22.

[73] The church was described as ‘one body’ consisting of both Jews and Gentiles (Smyr.1.2) and Christians as ‘members’ of God’s son (Ign. Eph. 4.2) – members united with him as members of a body to its head or as a bride to a husband (Ign. Pol.5.1).[73]

[74] W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, p. 124.

[75] Barclay, p. 220.

[76] I Clement uses the terms stasis, stasiazo to refer to the strife within the community and politeia, politeuomai to refer to the church as in some sense a body of citizens.

[77] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 195.

[78] Robert Grant, p.138.

[79] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 196.

[80]  Nothing was said about the nature of the church by Polycarp or Barnabas or Didache. Robert Grant, p. 135.

[81] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 204.

[82] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 205.

[83] Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.284.

[84] Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.284.

[85] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 196

[86] Robert Grant, p. 160.

[87] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 197.

[88] W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, p. 140.

[89] Robert Grant, p.163.

[90] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 196.

[91] Robert Grant, p. 170.

[92] Most probably liturgy, particularly Eucharist, was clue for the emergence of monarchical bishop. W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, p. 140.

[93] W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, p. 140.

[94] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 197.

[95] There was a virtual interchangeability of God and the bishop as the sources of authority (Mag.3.1; Eph.5.3; 6.1; Smr. 9.1).

[96] Robert Grant, p.166.

[97] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 37.

[98] Robert Grant, 162.

[99] William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.23.

[100] Grant, p. 173.

[101] W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, p. 142.

[102] Grant, p. 176.

[103] William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives in Ignatius of Antioch, p. 32.

[104] William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives in Ignatius of Antioch, pp. 34-35.

[105] Grant, p. 179.

[106] William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.21.

[107] Didache quotes the prayer for the consecration of the cup: “We give thanks to thee our Father, for the Holy Vine of David thy child, which thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy servant. To thee be glory for ever” (Did.9.3). The prayers are close to Jewish table blessings of the time. That means there was prayer following the breaking of bread and the service concluded with the fervently expressed hope for the end (Did.10.6).

The prayers are close to Jewish table blessings of the time.

[108]The Apostolic Fathers reflect little concern of the church for outside world but more concern for their own good order and holiness. (Polycarp, Philip.10.2, II Cle.13). W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, p. 125.

[109] Robert Grant, p. 183.

[110] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 199.

[111] Markus, p.2.

[112] William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives in Ignatius of Antioch, Pp.55.

[113] R.D. Williams, The Wound of Knowledge, (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1991), p.14.

[114] William R. Scoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.25.

[115] These were the traditional duties of pious Jews.

[116] However there was no teaching to “sell all” (in contrast to Jesus) or to strive to abolish the slavery. Regarding slavery, Ignatius urged Polycarp “not to be haughty to slaves” but the slaves had to “endure slavery for the glory of God”; they should not be set free at public cost “lest they become slaves of lust” (Ignatius, Polycarp 4.3). In Didache the slave was told to “serve his master in reverence and fear” as “counterpart of God” (4.11). Thus slavery was accepted as a normal institution. The emphasis continued to be on “the household” with its servants and slaves as well as children and kinsfolk (Ignatius, Pol.8.2, Smyr.13.1; Hermas Man.12.3.6, Sim.6.3.9).

[117] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 37.

[118] Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.277.

[119] Markus, p. 3.

[120] William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives in Ignatius of Antioch, p.55.

[121] Lieu, p. 277.

[122] Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.242.

[123] William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.12

[124] William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.30.

[125] W.H.C. Frend, Rise of Christianity, p.236.

[126] William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives, pg.47.

[127] He uses the word parakalo for request and presenting recommendations, which is a Hellenistic practice or standard of politeness. William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives, pp.47-48.

[128] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 101

[129] This term does not occur in N.T. and among Apostolic Fathers only I Clement used it significantly in the context of church politics. This concept was used in the context of relations between the cities and between the citizens in cities of Asia Minor during this period  (Aelius Aristides, Orations 23-24, Dio Chrysostom, Orations 38-41).

[130] Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p. 82.

[131] Lieu, Image and Reality, p. 82.

[132] Lieu, p. 93.

[133] Lieu, p. 93.

[134] Lieu, p. 282.

[135] Michael J. Wilkins, “The interplay of ministry, martyrdom, and discipleship…,” p. 306.

[136] Michael J. Wilkins, “The interplay of ministry, martyrdom, and discipleship…,” p. 295.

[137] William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives, p.30.

[138] Michael J. Wilkins, “The interplay of ministry, martyrdom, and discipleship…,” p. 312.

[139] William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives, p. 45.

[140] Lieu, Image and Reality, p.62.

[141] Lieu, Image and Reality, p. 85.

[142] ‘God-fearing’ was also characteristic of apologetic literature of Aristide, Quadratus, Melito. In IV Mac. The ‘fear of God’ is that for which the martyrs suffer (7.22,17.15). Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.84.

[143] Lieu, Image and Reality, p.86.

[144] Michael J. Wilkins, “The interplay of ministry, martyrdom, and discipleship …,” p. 304.

[145] John M.G. Barclay, “Universalism and Particularism…,” p. 222.