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

1 - The Roman Empire in the Era of the Apostolic Fathers


When considering the terminus a quo and terminus ad quem for the period of the Apostolic Fathers, we immediately face difficult and debatable decisions regarding the dating of this collection. For a few of these texts, scholarship has settled on a rather narrow range of likely dates. For example, 1 Clement is generally dated in the 90s CE, and the epistles of Ignatius of Antioch are most commonly dated during Trajan’s reign between 98 and 117, though even these have had notable exceptions. On the other hand, over the last several decades some Didache scholars have moved its date of composition from the second century into the late first century; others have settled on an even narrower range of 50–70 CE. Likewise, the Epistle of Barnabas can be reasonably situated either in the years immediately following the First Jewish Revolt (c. 75–80 CE) or those following the Bar Kokhba Revolt (c. 135–140 CE). Also, prominent scholars of the Shepherd of Hermas have imagined its composition or redaction spanning several decades from as early as the 90s to the 140s. And depending on one’s conclusions regarding the unity of Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians, it could be dated anytime between about 110 to 140. Though a few have ventured to date the Epistle to Diognetus in the early second century, most favor a much later date, perhaps in the late second century. The same is true of the so-called Second Epistle of Clement and the Martyrdom of Polycarp.

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