Bible History Online
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
LITERATURE, SUB-APOSTOLIC, 1
lit'-er-a-tur, sub-ap-os-tol'-ik (Christian):
I. EPISTLE OF CLEMENT TO THE CORINTHIANS
1. Authorship and Date
2. Occasion and Contents
3. Apologetic Testimony
4. Doctrinal Testimony
5. Office-Bearers and Organization
II. THE DIDACHE
1. Disappearance and Recovery
3. Standpoint, Authorship and Object
4. Testimony to New Testament Writings
5. Contents and Notabilia
III. EPISTLES OF IGNATIUS
1. Author and Date
3. Leading Ideas
4. Other Notabilia
IV. EPISTLES OF POLYCARP
1. Date and Genuineness
2. Occasion and Contents
V. PAPIAS FRAGMENTS
1. Author and Date
2. Testimony to Matthew and Mark
3. Other Notabilia
VI. EPISTLE OF BARNABAS
3. Object and Contents
VII. PASTOR (SHEPHERD) OF HERMAS
1. Authorship and Date
2. Object and Contents
VIII. SECOND EPISTLE OF CLEMENT
1. Nature and Document
2. Date and Authorship
IX. APOLOGY OF ARISTIDES
1. Recovery and Date
X. JUSTIN MARTYR
1. Incidents of Life
2. First Apology
3. Second Apology
4. Dialogue with Trypho the Jew
XI. EPISTLE TO DIOGNETUS
1. Date and Authorship
The Sub-apostolic Age is usually held to extend from the death of John, the last surviving apostle, about 100 AD, to the death of Polycarp, John's aged disciple (155-56 AD). The Christian literature of this period, although as a whole of only moderate intrinsic value, is of historical interest and importance. This is owing to the light which it throws back on apostolic times, and the testimony borne to Christian life, thought, worship, work and organization during an age when the church was under the guidance, mainly, of men who had been associated with the apostles and who might be supposed, therefore, to know their mind. Some writings are omitted from this review, having been dealt with in previous articles. For the Protevangelium of James and the Gospel and Apocalypse of Peter see APOCRYPHAL GOSPELS; APOCRYPHAL ACTS. For an account of extant fragments of Basilides and Valentinus, see GNOSTICISM. For pseudo-Clementine writings see PETER, EPISTLES OF; SIMON MAGUS.
I. Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians.
1. Authorship and Date:
Only the larger part had previously been extant, when the complete epistle was recovered in 1875 by Bryennios, bishop of Nicomedia. The high honor in which it was held by early Christendom is attested (1) by its position in Codex Alexandrinus, at the end of the New Testament, and in an ancient Syriac MS, between the Catholic and Pauline Epistles; (2) by its being publicly read in many churches down to the 4th century. (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, 16). The work is anonymous, but sent in the name of the Roman church. Dionysius of Corinth (170 AD) refers to it as written by the agency of (dia) Clement (Historia Ecclesiastica, IV, 23); Clement of Alexandria states distinctly the Clementine authorship (Strom., iv.17). The writer is evidently leading office-bearer of his church, and is identified with the Clement whom Eusebius designates as third "bishop" (or chief presbyter) of Rome after Peter, and as holding office between 92 and 101 AD (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, 34). Clement is further identified by Origen (Commentary on John) and in HE, III, 15 with the Clement of Phil 4:3; but the name is too common and the interval too long to render this identity more than possible. Some conjecture the writer to be the consul, Flavius Clemens, whom Domitian (his cousin) put to death in 95 AD for alleged "atheism," i.e. probably, profession of Christianity (see Harnack, Gesch. Lit., I, 253, note 1). But Clement the "bishop" is never otherwise referred to as a martyr, and a member of the imperial family would hardly have been head of the Roman church without so signal a fact being noted by some contemporary or later writer. Lightfoot, with some probability, supposes (Apostolic Fathers, I, 61) that Clement was a "freedman or the son of freedman, belonging to the household of Flavius Clemens." From Paul's time (Phil 4:22) the imperial household included Christians; and many slaves were men of culture. To such a Christian freedman's influence the consul's conversion may have been due. Internal evidence points to Clement having been a Hellenist Jew or proselyte of Judaism; for he writes with some classical culture and with knowledge of Old Testament history and of the Septuagint; his style, moreover, has a "strong Hebraistic tinge" (Lightfoot, p. 59). The date of the epistle is fixed approximately by a reference to a persecution at Rome in progress or very recent; this persecution (during Clement's "episcopate") was doubtless that by Domitian in 95 AD. Clement's Epistle is thus not strictly within the Sub-apostolic Age, but it is uniformly included in sub-apostolic literature.
2. Occasion and Contents:
The occasion was a church feud at Corinth, and the expulsion of some faithful presbyters. The writer seeks to procure their restoration and to heal the dissension. He quotes Old Testament examples of the evil issue of envy and strife, and of the blessedness of humility, submission and concord. He adduces as a pattern the peace and harmony of Nature. In this connection occurs an anticipation of geographical discovery, when the author writes (chapter xx) of "the impassable ocean and the worlds beyond it" (compare Seneca, Medea ii.375; Strabo i.4; Plut. Mor. ix.41). Paul's warnings in 1 Corinthians about party spirit are recalled; a not unworthy echo of 1 Cor 13 is embodied; and the erring community is solemnly monished.
In the course of the letter, with obvious reference to 1 Cor 15, Clement introduces the resurrection, for which he argues from the Old Testament and from natural analogies. He refers to the phoenix which lives 500 years, and, when dissolution approaches, builds a nest of spices into which it enters to die. As the flesh decays, however, a "worm is generated, which is nurtured from the dead bird's moisture and putteth forth wings." The fable is mentioned by Herodotus and Pliny.
A lengthy prayer of intercession for "all sorts and conditions of men" is abruptly introduced near the end, in order, presumably, to imbue Corinthian Christians with that charity which they needed and which is the chief incentive to intercession. The epistle closes with a hopeful anticipation of restored concord and peace.
3. Apologetic Testimony:
Apologetic testimony is found to (1) books of the New Testament, namely, to the Pauline authorship of I Corinthians; to Mark's Gospel, through which (chapter xv) he quotes Isa 29:13, reproducing Mark's variations from the Septuagint; to Acts, through which he similarly quotes (chapter xviii) 1 Sam 13:14; to Romans, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, Titus, James, 1 Peter (chapters xxxv, xlvi, xxi, ii, xlvi, xlix, respectively). The parallels between Clement and He are so numerous that the latter work has from early times been ascribed to him by some (Historia Ecclesiastica, VI, 25). But the general type both of thought and of diction is dissimilar; (2) against the Tubingen theory of essential divergence between the doctrine of Peter and of Paul. The chief presbyter of Rome could not have been ignorant of such divergence; yet he refers the partisanship of which the two apostles were victims entirely to the Corinthians, not at all to the apostles (chapter xlix).
4. Doctrinal Testimony:
Doctrinal testimony is found: (1) to the Trinity, "As God liveth and the Lord Jesus Christ liveth, and the Holy Spirit" (chapter lviii); (2) to the personality of Christ, "The Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the majesty forever." In union and communion with Christ we have life, are sanctified, possess love, manifest godliness (chapter i, xxxvi); (3) to the atonement: Clement ascribes to Christ's death not merely subjective moral influence, but objective vicarious efficacy in securing our salvation, without any attempt, however, to explain the mystery. Christ hath "given his flesh for our flesh, his life for our lives" (chapter xlix); (4) to justification which is distinctly enunciated as before God through faith (chapter xxxii). But this faith (as in Paul's writings) is a "faith which worketh" (chapter xxxv), and such justification is consistent with our being justified by works before men; (5) to the inspiration of Scripture, which is real ("the Holy Spirit saith"), but not verbal; for quotations are often inexact. Apocryphal books are quoted, but not with a formula indicating Divine authority.
5. Office-Bearers and Organization:
(1) The basis of authority is not sacerdotal, but a combination of official succession and popular call; office-bearers are appointed "by the apostles or afterward by men of repute with consent of the whole ecclesia." (2) Clement indicates no distinction between presbyter and bishop. Office-bearers designated as presbyters (chapters xlvii, liv) are referred to (chapters xlii, xliv) as filling the office of bishop. Addressing a church on congregational strife and insubordination, he refers to no single bishop in authority over the church. Had the episcopate, in the post-New Testament sense of mono-episcopate, been apostolically enjoined, surely the injunction would have been obeyed or enforced in Corinth. (3) None the less we discern in Clement's own position and action the anticipation of the later episcopate. Clement is an example of how, through the personal qualities and ecclesiastical services of the man, the status of presiding presbyter developed out of seniority into superiority, out of representativeness into official authority. (4) The early germ of the papacy is disclosed in the passage: "If certain persons should be disobedient unto the words spoken by God through us, let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and peril" (chapter lix). Such assumption by a revered man like Clement might give no offense, and the Corinthians plainly needed correction. Still we have here the first stage in the process which ultimately issued in the Roman claim to universal spiritual supremacy. The assumption, however, is not grounded on Clement's own official position (he speaks always in the 1st person plural), but on the superior dignity of the Roman church. The later theory of supremacy builds Roman authority on the primacy of Peter and his successors; but here the authority of the leading presbyter, in dealing with a provincial church, rests on the suggested primacy of the ecclesia in which he presides.
(1) The long prayer (chapters lix-lxi) bears internal evidence of liturgical character, through its balanced and rhythmical style, its somewhat remote relevance to the special object of the ep., and greater suitability for congregational worship, than as part of a counsel to a sister church. This internal testimony is confirmed by the correspondence of the prayer in certain verbal details with the earliest extant liturgies, particularly those of Mark and James, pointing to the early use in the Roman church of forms of prayer afterward incorporated into these liturgies. While there is evidence that down at least to the time (148 AD) of Justin's 1st Apology (chapter lxvii) a minister offered up prayers of his own composition, this prayer of Clement's Epistle indicates that before the close of the Apostolic Age, forms of supplication had begun to be introduced, not to the exclusion of "free prayer," but simply as a mode of congregational devotion countenanced by a venerated leader of the church at Rome. (2) In chapter lvi Clement writes about "compassionate remembrance of them (i.e. the erring brethren) before God and the saints." By the saints, however, are most probably meant, not the beatified dead, but the living Christian brotherhood, as in 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 8:4.
This epistle leaves on readers' minds two different yet mutually compatible impressions--impressions both apparently made on the early church, by which the letter was widely read at public worship and yet excluded from the Canon of Scriptures. We realize, on the one hand, the inferiority of this writing to epistles of apostles. Clement's mind is receptive, not creative; and the freshness of thought characteristic of New Testament writers is absent. What New Testament book, moreover, contains such a foolish legend as that of the phoenix? On the other hand, this epistle breathes much of the spirit, as it adopts in considerable measure the phraseology and style of apostolic writings. It is as if, although the sun of special inspiration had sunk below the horizon, there remained to the church for a while a spiritual afterglow.
II. The "Didache"
1. Disappearance and Recovery:
The "Didache" or Teaching (longer title, "The Teaching of the Lord, by (dia) the Twelve Apostles, to the Gentiles").--This work is quoted as "Scripture," without being named, by Clement of Alexandria (circa 170 AD, in Strom., i.20). It is mentioned in HE, III, 25 as the "Teachings so-called of the Apostles," "recognized by most ecclesiastical writers," although "not a genuine" composition of apostles. Athanasius (Fest. Epistle, 39) denies its canonicity, but acknowledges its utility. The latest ancient reference to the work from personal knowledge is by Nicephoros (9th century) who includes it among apocryphal writings. Thenceforth it disappears until its recent recovery in 1875 by Bryennios.
There is no reliable external testimony to date. Resemblances too considerable to be accidental exist between the Didache and the Epistle of Barnabas; but opinion is divided as to priority of composition. Lightfoot and others favor a common lost source. As to internal evidence the simplicity of the Eucharist and of baptism as here described, with no formal admission to the catechumenate (chapter vii); the use of "bishop" to denote the same office-bearer as presbyter; and the expectation of an impending Second Advent--point to an early date. On the other hand it is unlikely that a writing which professes to give the Teaching of the Twelve would be issued until all or most apostles had passed away; and the writer seems to be acquainted with writings of John (Didache, ix.2; x.2; x.5; see Schaff, Oldest Church Manual, 90). Probably the document went through a series of recensions (Harnack in Sch-Herz; Bertlet in DB, V), and the date or dates of composition may be put between 80 and 120 AD.
3. Standpoint, Authorship and Object:
The work does not profess to be written by apostles; but the author seems to be a Jewish Christian, for he calls Friday "Preparation Day," and the style and diction are Hebraic. The work is neither Judaistic nor Ebionite: circumcision, the Sabbath, and special Mosaic observances, are ignored. From the book in whole or in part being addressed specially, although not exclusively, to Gentiles, we infer that the community among whom it was composed, while mainly Jewish Christian, made special provision for conversion and instruction of Gentiles. The doctrinal standpoint is neither Pauline nor anti-Pauline, but resembles that of Jas. Canon Spence (Teaching) conjectures plausibly that the author may be Simeon, cousin of James the Lord's brother, who became chief presbyter of the Jewish Christian community, first at Jerusalem, afterward at Pella, until his martyrdom in 107 AD.
4. Testimony to New Testament Writings:
Mt was certainly in the writer's hands; for the Didache contains 22 quotations from, or reminiscences of, that Gospel, extending over ten chapters of it. Particularly notable is Didache, viii.2, "Neither pray ye as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in His Gospel; after this manner pray ye, Our Father," etc. (see also vii.1; ix.5; xvi.6). There are also references to the Gospel of Luke (Didache, iii.5, 16); John's writings (see above); Acts (Didache, iv.8), Romans (Didache, iv.5), 2 Thess (Didache, xiv.1), 1 Pet (Didache, i.4). No extra-canonical saying of our Lord is recorded.
5. Contents and Notabilia:
The contents and notabilia may be examined as follows:
(1) Didactic (Chapters i through vi):
Intended for catechumens in preparation for baptism. This catechetical manual (the earliest of its kind) opens with the words: "There are two ways: one of life and one of death" (suggested probably by Jer 21:8). From this text the writer gives a summary of Christian duty especially toward our neighbor, based on the Decalogue, the Golden Rule, and the Sermon on the Mount, which is frequently quoted.
Among notable precepts is a command to fast as well as pray for enemies; a warning against infanticide which, in the case of sickly infants, heathenism approved, and against augury and astrology as generating idolatry; an admonition not to" stretch out one's hands for receiving and to draw them in for giving"; an injunction to " share all things with thy brethren, and not to say that they are thine own"; a command to "love some above thine own life"; and a quaint corrective against indiscriminate and ill-informed beneficence: "Let thine alms sweat into thy hands until thou know to whom thou shouldest give." A precept to "give with thy hands a ransom for sin" may not mean more than that sinful habits are subdued by good works, but it suggests and paves the way for the error of the atoning efficacy of almsgiving. The summary of duty relates chiefly to the second Table of the Law; duty toward God is afterward (so far) dealt with under "worship." This may account for obedience to parents being strangely omitted; for among the Jews the Fifth Commandment was included in the First Table.
(2) Devotional: Worship and Rites (Chapters vii through x, xiv).
The Lord's Prayer is to be used thrice a day. "Heaven" and "debt" are found instead of "heavens" and "debts." The Doxology is added (with "kingdom" omitted)--its earliest recorded use in this connection. Christians are to fast on Wednesday and Friday, the days of the betrayal and crucifixion. Fasting is enjoined for a day or two before baptism, both on baptizer and on baptized; it is recommended to "others who can." There is no mention of oil, salt, or exorcism. The baptismal formula, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost," is commanded, confirming the historical trustworthiness of Mt 28:19. Triple immersion in "living water" is assumed to be normal; but where this is impracticable, other water and affusion are permitted (see TRINE IMMERSION). The Lord's Supper is dealt with only on its eucharistic side, the writer's object being not to expound the nature of the rite, but to give models of thanksgiving.
The phrase, "after being filled give thanks," suggests that the Agape was still associated with the sacrament: the dissociation had begun when Pliny wrote to Trajan in 112 AD. A liturgical element in sacramental worship is indicated by the prescription of forms of thanksgiving for the cup, the broken bread, and spiritual mercies. "Give thanks thus." The thanksgiving for the cup is as follows: "We give thanks to thee our Father, for the holy vine of David, thy servant, which thou hast made known to us through Jesus Christ." But nothing suggests that the entire service is liturgical, and the forms supplied are not rigidly imposed; for prophets are to offer thanks in such terms as they choose. On the Lord's Day congregational worship and eucharistic bread-breaking, after confession to God and reconciliation with men, are distinctly enjoined.
(3) Ecclesiastical (Chapters xi through xiii, xv).
Of church office-bearers, two classes are mentioned, ordinary and extraordinary. Of the former (essential to congregational organization) only bishops and deacons are mentioned, i.e. those entrusted with rule and oversight, with their assistants. Presbyter and bishop appear to be still identical, as the former is not specified (compare Phil 1:1). Popular election of these functionaries is indicated: "Elect for yourselves"; without denial, however, of those already in office having a share in the settlement. In the second class, apostles, prophets and teachers are included. "Apostle" is used, not in the narrower sense of men called to the office personally by Christ, but in the wider sense which embraces all whose call to be His ambassadors has been signalized by Divine gifts-specially accredited evangelists unconnected with any particular community. (Among Jewish Christians the designation survived to the 4th century, for the Theodosian Code of that period refers to Jewish presbyters and to those "quos ipsi apostolos vocant.") These apostles were to be received as the Lord," and hospitably entertained; but, unlike apostles in the special sense, they were not to remain anywhere longer than "one or two days." Their function was to scatter the seed widely, and any expression of desire to remain longer was to be discouraged, while a demand for salary from a particular community would be evidence of false apostleship. The special function of prophets and teachers, on the other hand, was the instruction and comfort of church members. They accordingly might be encouraged to settle in a community and receive "first-fruits" for their support. These prophets and teachers, however, were not to supersede the "bishops" or presbyters in ruling, but were to undertake only those functions for which they were specially qualified. On the other hand, bishops and deacons were not to be excluded from preaching and teaching by the settlement of prophets and official teachers in particular communities; and in the Didache may be traced the transition, then being gradually accomplished, of the preaching and teaching functions from extraordinary to ordinary office-bearers. "They also (the bishops and deacons) minister to you the ministry of prophets and teachers: therefore despise them not." Even before the close of Paul's ministry, the episkopos, whose essential function was rule and oversight, was expected, if not required, also to be didatikos, "qualified to teach," i.e. along with teachers specially set apart for the purpose (1 Tim 3:2; 5:17). By the middle of the 2nd century, the prophets had disappeared, and their preaching function had been vested in the office of bishop or presbyter, assisted by the diaconate.
(4) Eschatological (Chapter xvi).
This concluding section consists chiefly of exhortations to watchfulness in view of the Second Advent. The premonitory signs of that Coming are given, with reminiscences from Christ's eschatological discourses, namely, rise of false prophets, decline of love, persecution, lawlessness, and the appearance of Antichrist, who is designated the World-deceiver. Without definitely stating chiliastic doctrine, the writer suggests it; for in referring to the immediate signals of Christ's advent (opening in heaven, voice of trumpet, resurrection of dead) he is careful to add "Not of all the dead; but the Lord shall come, and all the saints with Him"--implying that the general resurrection would take place at an after-stage, presumably, as Millennialists held, after the 1,000 years had expired. Without dogmatic authority, and with only moderate spiritual value, the Didache is important historically as a witness to the church's beliefs, usages and condition during the transition between the Apostolic and the Post-apostolic Age. During that transition period, we see much of the freedom of primitive Christianity mingled with rudiments of ecclesiastical regulations and formularies; and while we cannot assume that every belief and usage recorded in the Didache were sanctioned by apostles, we may reasonably ascribe them to apostolic times, and regard them as not opposed by those apostles within whose view they must have come.
III. Epistles of Ignatius.
1. Author and Date:
Ignatius was bishop of Antioch early in the 2nd century Origen (Hom. vi on Luke) refers to him as "second after Peter"; Euodius came between (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, 22). As he calls himself ektroma, "untimely born" (compare 1 Cor 15:8), he was probably converted in mature life: the legend of his being the "child" of Mt 18:3 rests on misinterpretation of his designation "Theophotos." Traditions current in the 4th century represent him as a disciple of John (Eusebius, Chron.) and ordained by Paul (Apostolical Constitutions, vii.46).
The Martyrium of Ignatius (6th century) dates his trial at Antioch in the 9th year of Trajan's reign (107-8 AD) and represents it as conducted before the emperor. Only one visit, however, of Trajan to Antioch is known, in 114-15; neither any Ignatian letter nor Eusebius, nor any other early writer refers to so memorable a circumstance as the presidency of an emperor over a Christian's trial, and Ignatius speaks of a proposed attempt by Roman friends to secure a reversal of the sentence, which would have been impossible had Trajan personally pronounced it. His alleged presence, therefore, must be rejected as a later embellishment.
The epistles, so far as genuine, were written after Ignatius' condemnation, on his way to martyrdom at Rome.
The epistles are extant in 3 editions: (1) the longer Greek, of 15 letters now admitted to be largely spurious; (2) a Syriac recension of three letters, now generally held to be a mere epitome; (3) the shorter Greek edition, containing 7 letters of intermediate length, to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Philadelphians, Smyrneans, Romans, and Polycarp. Lightfoot, Zahn, and most recent critics accept the substantial genuineness of these seven. The chief external evidence is that of Polycarp (Phil., xiii), who, soon after Ignatius' death, writes of a letter addressed to himself, of another to the Smyrneans, and of "all the rest which we have by us." Now 2 Ignatian epistles are addressed to Polycarp and the Christians of Smyrna, while 4 profess to be written by Ignatius at Smyrna, harmonizing well with copies of these being in Polycarp's possession.
Further external evidence is supplied by Irenaeus (v.29) who quotes a saying from Ignat., Romans, iv, as that of a martyr, and who uses 8 notable phrases borrowed apparently from Ignatius. This external testimony (only got rid of by an arbitrary assumption of Polycarp's Epistle being wholly or partly spurious) is supported by strong internal and cumulative evidence:
(1) Frequent Grammatical Dislocation:
Natural in letters written on a journey but unaccountable on the supposition of a later forgery (Rom., i; Mag., ii; Eph., i).
(2) Geographical Particulars:
E.g. Ignatius goes by land from Antioch to Smyrna--an unusual route which a forger would hardly invent.
(3) Historical Illustrations:
E.g. conveyance of prisoners from distant provinces to Rome harmonizes with the account by Dion Cassius (lxviii.15) of the magnitude of amphitheatrical exhibitions under Trajan causing extensive orders for human victims from all parts.
(4) Theological Evidence:
E.g. these epistles refer to Judaistic error combined with a type of doctrine denying any real incarnation--a combination which ceased after Ignatius' time.
(5) Ecclesiastical Usage:
Thus, the Agape still includes the Eucharist (Smyr., viii), whereas soon after Ignatius' death these were separated (Pliny, Epistle 96; Just., 1 Ap., 65,67).
(6) Personal References.
The writer shows an excess and affectation of self-depreciation--"last of Antiochene Christians" (Trall., xiii) "not worthy to be counted one of the brotherhood" (Rom., ix)--such as a later forger would hardly have introduced.
3. Leading Ideas:
(1) Joy and Glory of Martyrdom.
Heroic courage and loyalty to Christ are united with fanatical craving after a martyr's death: "I would rather die for Christ than reign over the whole earth" (Rom., vi); "He who is near the sword is near to God" (Smyr., iv). This is noble; but when he writes, "Entice wild beasts to become my sepulchre" (Rom., iv); "May I have joy of the wild beasts and find them prompt"; "Though they be unwilling I will force them" (Rom., iv.5), we realize how Aurelius (recalling perhaps some such case) was moved to write that "death was to be encountered, not as by the Christians like a military display, but solemnly, and not as if one acted in a tragedy" (Med. xi.3).
(2) Evil and Peril of Heresy and Schism.
"Abstain from heresy"; "These heretics mix up Jesus Christ with their own poison" (Trall., vi); "Flee those evil outshoots, which produce death-bearing fruit" (Trall., xi); "Avoid all divisions as the beginning of evils"; "Nothing is better than unity" (To Polyc., i; Phil., iii).
(3) Submission to Office-Bearers, Especially to the Bishop.
"Do nothing without your bishop, and be subject to the presbyters" (Mag., vii); "Be on your guard against heresy: and this will be, if ye continue in intimate union with Christ and with the bishop"; "He who does anything without the bishop's knowledge serveth the devil" (Smyr., ix). The bishop here is higher than "primus inter pares"; he is a new and separate office-bearer. Yet, without going beyond these epistles, we discern that such an episcopate was not an express apostolic institution. For had Ignatius been able to magnify the office as apostolically enjoined, so zealous a champion of episcopal authority would have adduced such injunction as the most cogent reason for submission. His zeal for the episcopate apparently sprang only from its high ecclesiastical expediency as the most effective agency for maintaining the church's unity against heresy and schism.
4. Other Notabilia:
(1) References to the Gospel of John.
The Gospel of John is never quoted, but numerous phrases suggest that it was in the writer's hands. He speaks of Christ "proceeding from the Father," "doing nothing without the Father," "in all things pleasing Him who sent Him." Christ is the "Door of the Father" and "Living water." Satan is the" Prince of this world." "The Holy Spirit knoweth whence He cometh and whither He goeth."
Ignatius asserts emphatically Christ's true Divinity: "Our God" (Eph., xviii; Trall, vii). The Trinity is frequently suggested, although not expressly affirmed. Christians are "established in the Son, the Father, and the Spirit"; "subject to Christ and the Father, and the Spirit." With strong support of episcopal authority no sacerdotalism is united. "Priest" occurs only once, "The priests are good: but Christ, the High Priest, is better." Here, as the context shows, the imperfect Levitical priesthood is contrasted with perfect high-priesthood of Christ.
(3) Ecclesiastical Usage.
Ignatius contains one of the latest references to the Agape as still conjoined with the Eucharist. The letter to Polycarp (chapter iv) contains the earliest allusion to the practice of redeeming Christian slaves at the cost of the congregation. Slaves are not to "long to be set free," thus implying that such emancipation, while not required as a duty, was often conferred as a privilege.
(4) General Characteristics.
Ignatius presents striking contrast, as a writer, to Clement. Clement is calm, cultured, chaste in diction, but somewhat commonplace and deficient in originality; his best passages are echoes of Scripture. The diction and style of Ignatius are impassioned, rugged, turgid, but pithy, fresh and individualistic.
IV. Epistles of Polycarp.
1. Date and Genuineness:
Polycarp was born not later, perhaps considerably earlier, than 70 AD; for at his martyrdom, of which the now accepted date is 155 or 156 (Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, II, i, 629), he declared, when invited to abjure his faith, that he had "served Christ for 86 years" (Mart. Pol., ix). He was disciple of John, who ordained him as bishop or leading presbyter of Smyrna before 100 AD (Iren., iii.3, 4). Of several letters by Polycarp, only this epistle remains: it professes (chapter xiii) to have been written soon after the martyrdom of Ignatius. The genuineness of the letter is attested by Irenaeus, Polycarp's own disciple (in the place cited), whose evidence cannot be set aside on the ground of its testimony to the Ignatian letters without an obvious begging of the question. The supposition that the Ignatian letters and Polycarp's Epistle are parts of one great forgery is otherwise negatived by the very marked difference of style and standpoint between those writings (Lightfoot, l.c., 577).
2. Occasion and Contents:
The epistle replies to a letter from the Philippian church inviting his counsel, and asking for epistles of the recently martyred Ignatius. He acknowledges their kind ministry to that martyr and to others, "entwined with saintly fetters," who had "set a pattern of all patience." He sends what he has of the letters of Ignatius and asks in return for any information which they might possess. He commends to their careful study Paul's epistle to themselves, acknowledging his inability to attain to the apostle's wisdom. With much Scripture language, interwoven with his own matter, and giving to his letter the semblance of an apostolic echo, he exhorts his readers to righteousness and godliness, charity and mercy, and warns them against covetousness, evil-speaking and revenge. He dwells on the mutual relations and obligations of presbyters and deacons, on the one hand, and of the congregation on the other. He repeats John's admonition against teachers who denied the reality of the incarnation: "Every spirit that confesseth not," etc. (1 Jn 4:3). He grieves over the lapse of a Philippian presbyter, Valens, who, along with his wife had flagrantly sinned; but he bids his readers not count such as enemies, but seek to recall them from their wanderings.
(1) Polycarp mentions only one book of the New Testament, namely, Philippians, but within the brief compass of 200 lines he quotes verses or reproduces phrases from 12 New Testament writings, Matthew, 1 Peter, 1 John, and 9 Pauline Epistles, including three whose early date has been disputed in modern times (1 and 2 Timothy and Ephesians). The absence of any quotation from the Gospel of John is notable, considering his relation to the apostle; but the shortness of the letter prevents any conclusion being drawn against the authenticity of that Gospel; and he quotes (as we have seen) from 1 John, which is a kind of appendix to the Gospel (Lightfoot).
(2) At a time when Ignatius had been emphasizing the paramount duty of submission to the bishop, Polycarp, even when enjoining subjection to presbyters, does not mention a bishop. These two inferences are irresistible: (a) there was then no episkopos, in the post-New Testament, sense, at Philippi; (b) Polycarp did not consider the defect (?) sufficiently important to ask the Philippians to supply it. Had John instituted the mono-episcopate as the one proper form of church government, surely his disciple Polycarp would have embraced the opportunity, when the Philippians invited his counsel, to inform them of the apostolic ordinance, and to enjoin its adoption.
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'LITERATURE, SUB-APOSTOLIC, 1'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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