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on 10 July 2017
This short collection brings together a number of the earliest Christian texts that exist outside the bible. Reading these you have a real sense of the early church and their status as outsiders and using the teachings of Christ and the apostles in defiance of the prevailing times. I would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in the pre-Nicene church.
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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.
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on 13 March 2009
Most of us don't know anything about the early Church except that St Paul was around at some point. But we should do.

Those well grounded in the faith, and prone to reading the scriptures, could perhaps complement their spirituality with this work, which contains writings from Ss Clement, Polycarp, Barnabas and Ignatius. We often don't hear of these people, who were as important in keeping the Church alive in this bloodstained years as were their forefathers.

It also contains the Didache in the back, which is quite useful in placing early Christianity in the context of the contemporary Jewish religion and practice.
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on 17 December 2012
I suspect many Clergy especially of the protestant Faith are woefully lacking in any real knowledge of the Fathers – hence the sad but slow but sure capitulation to the Liberal elite. Ideally a set of several volumes is needed - but here is an affordable resource. In some ways I wish I could have paid more attention to the wirtings of the Fathers at the beginning of my work as a full time Parish Priest – not in my last five years!
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on 3 January 2011
This is a very interesting and coincise book about early christian writings if you really are interested in christian writings apart from those that are contained in the Bible. However, I recommend you to have a good basics of historical backround.
Its really worth its money!!!
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on 28 November 2013
Rating this book as a five star item means that I 'love' it. This doesn't really capture what I feel about the importance of these writings. The account of the martyrdom of Polycarp and the descriptions of persecution are very moving. These writings are also important as we don't have a lot more to go on in building up a picture of the post-apostolic age (and in the books of Irenaeus we can detect the kinds of challenges Christianity had to face, especially novel emerging views of who Jesus was and what he may have said.

My favourite book (included in this collection) is the open letter to Diognetes, tantalisingly early (and some suggest written primarily to the tutor of Marcus Aurelius); this offers a window to early Christian thought and one of the clearest expressions of the gospel in any age ('Oh sweet exchange' etc).

The translator has made these far more readable than the Edinburgh editions and supplies excellent introductions to each book. My only criticism is that I feel the Shepherd of Hermas really belongs with this collection but is omitted without explanation. Some of the letters of Ignatius can be a little 'dry' and Hermas, being visionary, would have given the collection a lift.
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on 31 October 2011
Some of the earliest non-Biblical Christian writing.
Notably the Didache (Teaching), some letters from Ignatius, and Clement of Rome writing to the Corinthian Church.
Many Christians are unaware of their religions early history, relying entirely on the NT and anecdote. This little book makes good translations of these important documents easily accessible. As with alot of well-known early writing, the specific contents are also available online, of course, but it is harder to access them this way.
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on 19 February 2012
This slim volume (no more than 200 pages long) contains around a dozen bits of writings originating in the Christian Church from some time in the 2nd Century AD (possibly a little earlier in a couple of cases).
They are:
1st letter of Clement
7 different letters written by St Ignatius of Antioch
A letter written by Polycarp
An account of the martyrdom of Polycarp.
The Epistle of Diognetus
The Epistle of Barnabas
The Didache
(no Shepherd of Hermas and others.)
Thus it's mainly letters from early Christian leaders to other Christian communities, but a few other things are included.
Quite how you respond to each of them will depend on your personal temperament and beliefs, but they do offer a massive insight into what Christians thought, two,three or four generations on from Jesus himself.

Apparently the letter of Clement nearly got into the Bible itself and has its interest, though didn't overwhelm me: for example, his proof of the resurrection is rather disappointing: he depends on the fact that there is an animal, the phoenix, which comes back to life: hence, why not a human?

Ignatius's letters take up a chunk of this book. He emerges clearly as the patron saint of bishops. Nearly all of his 7 extant letters revolve around the importance of obeying your bishop to keep unity in the Church. His other big theme is his eagerness to get martyred, which is actually rather troubling, for anyone who reads this after 9-11.
Polycarp is - to me - much more sympathetic. His letter is more practical, and the account of his martyrdom is that of someone hunted down by the Roman authorities, at the age of 86, and refusing to deny his Christianity, rather than someone seeking it out. One theory is that he died c.150AD, and in his youth had known John, or one of the older apostles, which makes him a 2nd generation Christian. Incredibly vital and important testimony, therefore.
The epistle of Barnabas is full of rather tiresome allegorising of the Old Testament into the Christian stories, though the editor points out that, while this is out of fashion now, fashions do pass. Perhaps its day will come again.
What leaps out at this reader, alongside Polycarp, is the Didache, about what I knew shamefully little: an absolutely remarkable document about early Christian views and practice, possibly including some teachings of Jesus from an oral tradition not preserved in the Gospels. It really makes one want to know more about it.
If this had been discovered this decade, rather than 120 years ago, it would be a sensation and covered in all sorts of media. Instead, it's rather neglected, something that also holds true for much of this collection.

What you get with this volume is a nicely edited and annotated selection of the more important extant Christian writings from a very early stage of the Church's history.
The notes by the editor are helpful, but occasionally I wanted a little more: for example, when the translator uses "clergy", is the Greek word, presbus, or something else.
But then, these are not meant to be scholarly editions: these are for the interested amateur and I thoroughly enjoyed them: the translation if very accessible too.
In conclusion, really worthwhile for an admittedly select audience of people who want to know more about the early Church, before the great patristic scholars (Athanasius, Augustine etc.) got stuck into its thinking.
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on 9 December 2016
There are ample introductory notes and footnotes but some puzzling questions are not addressed e.g. Why does Clement mention continuing sacrifices in the Jerusualem Temple if his date is c. 96 CE? and Why does Barnabas, at a similar date, lead us to believe that the Christian church in Rome is of great antiquity?
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on 28 March 2014
These are letters to Eastern churches to be more unified and harmonic. There are some interesting points, but on the whole boring and not relevant for a general reader's interest.
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