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The Apostolic Fathers, the earliest extant Christian writings outside the New Testament, are a primary resource for the study of early Christianity. These writings provide significant and unparalleled insight into the Christian movement during a critical transitional stage in its history. This updated edition of Holmes's 1992 Greek-English diglot edition of The Apostolic Fathers is arguably the best collection of these writings available.
These early Christian writings shed light not only on theological developments, but on issues of canonicity, lexicography, and ecclesiology. They are cited extensively both in lexicons (e.g., BDAG and TDNT) and commentaries (e.g., NAC and WBC). BDAG, for example, contains nearly 2,500 references to the letters of Ignatius alone! Read more about the value of the Apostolic Fathers for biblical studies.
How are the “Apostolic Fathers” different from the “Early Church Fathers”? In brief, the writings known as the Apostolic Fathers include only the texts thought to have been written by people who knew the Apostles or were one degree separated from them. English translations (Edinburgh Edition) of the Apostolic Fathers texts have been available for Libronix DLS as part of the Early Church Fathers collection, but the original Greek texts have not yet been published electronically for the system.
The Encyclopedia of Christianity explains the origins of the term thus, “The phrase ‘Apostolic Fathers’ goes back to a 1672 Paris edition prepared by J.-B. Cotelier entitled Ss. Patrum qui temporibus apostolicis floruerunt … opera. This work contained Barnabas, 1 and 2 Clement, the epistles of Ignatius and Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, and Hermas. Although the historicity is debatable, the phrase has secured a place in historical study. It now applies also to Didache, the Epistle to Diognetus, the Quadratus Fragment, and the fragments of Papias.”
This edition includes an indepth introduction and a bibliography for each text and an introduction to the collection as a whole. Holmes also includes an “apparatus” of sorts, with notes on textual matters such as variations between manuscripts. The introductions to each ancient document, the bibliographies, and the textual notes make this volume essential for the serious study of early Christianity.
In 1992, Michael Holmes systematically reviewed the Greek (and in a few instances the Latin) texts originally edited by J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer in 1891. While Lightfoot and Harmer produced a magnificent work for their time, advances in the past century, including new manuscript discoveries, dictate that their work be updated. Holmes provided that updated edition complete with a critical apparatus to substantiate his textual decisions. He also revised Lightfoot's English translation to conform to current style and usage.
The 1999 edition also features updated introductions to the various writings, enhanced bibliographies with additional entries for the specialist, and in some cases additional textual witnesses.
The text, translation, and notes which Holmes has provided manage to transform the work of a previous generation of scholarship into a useful resource for the modern study of the Apostolic Fathers. I gladly welcome this second edition and believe it represents a worthy and contemporary revision of the old Lightfoot-Harmer volume. This text undoubtedly should be recognized as a superior collection of materials when placed in comparison with the commonly used edition of the Apostolic Fathers that was published by Kirsopp Lake.
—Clayton N. Jefford, Journal of Early Christian Studies
Baker Book House and Michael Holmes are to be congratulated. This new edition is a worthy successor to Lightfoot with new introductions that bring the discussions up to date and enough revision of the translations to make it readable for a large audience.
Michael Holmes has put a new generation of students in his debt. The value of The Apostolic Fathers is enhanced by new introductions, bibliographies, and notes. I welcome it warmly.
Michael W. Holmes is professor of biblical studies and early Christianity at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota. The author of numerous papers on questions of textual criticism, he is also the North American editor for the International Greek New Testament Project and a member of its North American Executive Committee. In addition to coediting The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research, he authored the volume on 1 and 2 Thessalonians in the NIV Application Commentary.