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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: May 2021

Introduction Intriguing and Enigmatic


The Apostolic Fathers (AF) are a para-apostolic and post-apostolic corpus of writings, a group of texts composed beside and after the New Testament. This corpus constitutes an important precursor to the Christian apologists and pre-Nicene theologians of subsequent centuries. The words intriguing and enigmatic aptly describe both the collection itself as well as the current state of scholarship on them. The AF are an intriguing body of literature because they provide an important window into the lived religion of Christians in the late first and early second century. The intrigue only deepens once we look at and through these windows. Looking at them, the AF offer colourful portraits of key protagonists – much like stained-glass windows, they provide colour but only an outline of the people depicted in the artwork. For example, we know the names and some biographical details and have depictions of Polycarp and Papias, but our knowledge of them is otherwise fragmentary and scant. Looking through the AF, we observe ancient Christian people with their practices, diversities, debates, anxieties, hopes, and worship; this leaves us with many impressions but even more questions.

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