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Reading the Apostolic Fathers: An Introduction Paperback – 1 Sep 1996

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic; Reprint edition (1 Sept. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801046696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801046698
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.2 x 23.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,136,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"This book, intended as a quick and simple guide to the apostolic fathers, achieves its goals admirably. The consistency of the format, the clarity of the organization and writing, and the inclusion of numerous tables, maps, and a handy glossary ensure that anyone encountering these documents for the first time will find here a reliable and user-friendly introduction to an often strange and mysterious world."" Michael Holmes, Bethel College." . . set apart by the clarity of its prose and the cleverness of its design. Students will welcome both . . . an excellent and a readable introduction. It is ideal for use in the classroom."" James E. Goehring, Mary Washington College --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Clayton N. Jefford (Ph.D., Claremont Graduate School) is professor of scripture at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Saint Meinrad, Indiana. He is the author of several books, including The Apostolic Fathers and the New Testament and The Apostolic Fathers: An Essential Guide.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Light Introduction 14 Aug. 2004
By C. Price - Published on
Format: Paperback
Introductions and Commentaries regarding the Apostolic Fathers can be stale, intimidating, or simply boring. This is unfortunate given how important these writers can be for the study of the New Testament and early Christianity. So it is fortunate that Reading the Apostolic Fathers, An Introduction, by Clayton N. Jefford is available.

In a section entitled "For the Reader" Jefford is quite clear on his goal, which is to provide a "quick and simple introduction" to the material. As he notes, there are "other, more extensive surveys" available, but that "these tend to be expense, hard to obtain, or difficult to use except by specialists in early Church history." Most are out of print as well (thankfully this was remedied somewhat by the release of Michael Holme's The Apostolic Fathers). To be clear, Jeffords does not include the complete texts of the writings themselves. This is an introduction only.

After an introduction focusing on just who the Apostolic Fathers were, Jeffords moves chapter by chapter through each one. Starting with the Letter of Barnabas, Jeffords proceeds through The Didache, the Letters of Ignatius, the Letter of Polycarp, the Martyrdom of Polycarp, 1 Clement, 2 Clement, the Shepard of Hermas, and the Letter to Diognetus. Each section discusses the surviving manuscripts, authorship, dating, provence, the "special traits" of the text, and the relationship to the Old and New Testaments. Thereafter Jeffords provides an Outline of the writing, and a summary of its argument. Finally, there is a list of more detailed commentaries.

On the whole, a very helpful Introduction that fills its niche well. It does not pretend to be more.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Apostolic Fathers- introduction material 26 Mar. 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
An updated general introduction to the Apostolic Fathers is a welcome addition to the field of early Christian studies. In the Introduction Jefford looks at the history of the term "Apostolic Fathers," at the documents which are considered part of the collection, and at the dates of composition. Each subsequent chapter takes a so-called "Apostolic Father" and discusses the manuscript tradition, literary form, authorship, date, setting, purpose, primary elements, special images, and relationship to scripture. Particularly useful are the diagrams, tables and maps which help the reader place the author/document in his/its literary and historical context.
However, there are some problems. In the introduction to his book Jefford says that it is for students doing work at the "college, seminary or graduate level," but there will be "no footnotes or endnotes for the student to ignore or skip." This is particularly problematic for the serious student, for Jefford, throughout the book, speaks of "many scholars" or "many historians" supporting a certain conclusion or position. The reader has no idea who these "scholars" are.
There is also the difficulty of imprecise language which is found throughout the book. Statements are made which do not have supporting evidence. On p. 5 he states that "many of the writings in the apostolic fathers were considered to have the authority of scripture." Actually, only three of the recognized nine Apostolic Fathers (I Clement, Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas) were considered canonical, and these only in certain Christian communities.
On p. 11 in introducing the Letter of Barnabas he says that the author is non-Jewish, but this issue had not been settled among scholars. He argues that the author's use of the "allegorical method" of interpreting Scripture, used by gnostic Christians, is evidence of an Egyptian setting. However, while gnostics were found in Egypt, and while gnostics used the allegorical method of interpretation, gnostics were not found exclusively in Egypt, nor were they the only early Christians to use allegory to interpret Scripture.
Even with these minor flaws, this study represents a useful introduction to the Apostolic Fathers which can be used as a beginning for a further, deeper study of the literature of the early Church.
Roger S. Evans
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Helpful Introduction to early Christian Writings 15 Feb. 2006
By Timothy Kearney - Published on
Format: Paperback
I purchased READING THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS after I had completed my formals theological studies. I needed some basic information about some early Christian writings for an adult education class, could not find my notes from my seminary days, and purchased this book for a point of reference. As I used the text for the first time, I remember wishing that something like this volume had been around when I was studying Patristics.

The book contains summaries of the major Patristic writings: The Didache, Letter of Barnabas, The Shepherd of Hermas, the writings of Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, and Clement. For each of the writings or authors, a summary of the work or author, important excerpts, and cogent information are provided. Excellent bibliographies and review questions make it a great resource for students or people studying early Christian writings.

This book is an excellent resource and text for students, but it will also be appreciated by people who wish to learn more about early Christian writings or for those who are already familiar butyl are looking for a review.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Helpful guide to fascinating study. 20 Sept. 2002
By H. Bahr - Published on
Format: Paperback
I used this book along with the Lightfoot/Harmer/Holmes translation of the Apostolic Fathers. I found the format as well as the content to be helpful. It provides a more useful introduction than what is found in the translation. My one criticism is that it doesn't provide an explanation for for some of the more difficult passages in the Apostolic Fathers.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Indespensible, but CAUTION is required 15 Jun. 2007
By David - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jefford provides excellent discussion of source matterials, provenance etc. but does not provide entire translations, only his summaries. And I found at least one egregious error. Accordingly, you must also purchase Penquine Early Christian Writings to back-check Jefford. An example follows:

Jefford, page 91 regarding The Martyrdom of Polycarp, after describing general Roman persecution in his first full paragraph, continues in the second:

"The local Jewish community is described as a second force that opposes God's will. In 12.3 the Jews rise up and call for Polycarps death after he has confessed that he is a Christian. They call him a "destroyer of our Gods"....

Penquin Classics, Early Christian Writings, full translation, page 129, first paragraph line 7, the Governor sends out his crier who three times proclaims:

"Plycarp has admitted to being a Christian! At the crier's words the whole audience, HEATHENS [emphasis added] and Jewish residence of Smyrna alike, broke into loud yells of ungovernable fury: 'That teacher of Asia! That father-figure of the Christians! that destroyer of our gods...etc"

I am not convinced 'Heathens' was an inadvertent ommision. Whatever Jeffords agenda is, I do not know what it is.
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