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The Seeds of The Church
on 11 February 2013
Most of us Christians who have read the New Testament at some point start asking ourselves "What comes next?" The New Testament writings were, after all, just the beginning of Christianity, and the Christian religion has spread very far and had a great amount of influence even during the lives of the Apostles. However, until fairly recently most of what we know about the second and third generation of Christians came to us through the writings of the subsequent generations, and there was very little interest in finding out what the "Apostolic Fathers" had to say in their own right. The last couple of centuries have seen reemergence of interest in these early writings, and today the interest in the early Church is perhaps at a long term high.
"Early Christian Writings" is a remarkable collection of several works by the prominent and well-known Apostolic Fathers: Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, etc. We discover that the faith and the themes that these writings represented were indeed a product of orthodox Christian thought, and easily reconcilable with both our own theological understanding and the New Testament writings. The writings bear all the signatures of the tumultuous times during which they were written. This manifests itself by the choice of themes: preparation and expectation of martyrdom, issues of church discipline and strife, organizational matters and the episcopal nature of the Church, and attitudes towards immoral behaviors that are prevalent in the pagan world. The writings are very inspiring and well worth reading.
I am not familiar enough with the original language(s) in which these works were written to give any meaningful comment on their translation. However, I do have some serious issues with the Kindle edition of this book. It seems that the book was re-formatted for the electronic edition using some kind of OCR software: there are many silly errors and mistakes, which are clearly the results of improper optical scanning. (My favorite one was the recurring reference to the "Spirit of the Lard." [sic.])
Aside from the obvious historical and theological value, this slender tome is of particular relevance for the Christians in the modern world. We live in the age that is increasingly hostile to the Christian thought and ethics, and it can be tempting to give in to despair or adopt a siege mentality and withdraw from the world entirely. However, it is important to remember that the early Church faced a very similar set of circumstances, and the lesson from that era are incredibly relevant for the situations that we find ourselves in today. For that reason alone this book carries incredible value for all practicing and thoughtful Christians who want to have their voices heard in the contemporary society.