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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.
The Cambridge Companion to the Apostolic Fathers offers an informative introduction to the extant body of Christian texts that existed beside and after the New Testament known to us as the apostolic fathers. Featuring cutting-edge research by leading scholars, it explores how the early Church expanded and evolved over the course of the first and second centuries as evidenced by its textual history. The volume includes thematic essays on imperial context, the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, the growth and diversification of the early church, influences and intertextuality, and female leaders in the early church. The Companion contains ground-breaking essays on the individual texts with specific attention given to debates of authorship, authenticity, dating, and theological texture. The Companion will serve as an essential resource for instructors and students of the first two centuries of Christianity.
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