The Apostolic Fathers are Christian writers who lived in the two generations or so after the Apostles. It is these authors that provide us the closest links to the Apostles, some of which are considered direct disciples of the Apostles according to church tradition.
Clement was a presbyter in Rome during the persecutions under Emperor Domitian. Circa 96 A.D., he authored a letter known today as 1st Clement. In response to news of a split in the Corinthian church, Clement stressed unity and Christ’s humility. In summary, Clement taught that scripture teaches punishment and strife for those who rebel and practice rivalry and Christ’s example should encourage to act humbly and obey our appointed leaders in the church. Interestingly, Clement quotes freely from the Old Testament, Paul, and Hebrews, but not from the Gospels. Unlike Ignatius, Clement does not distinguish between presbyters and bishops.
- Ignatius of Antioch
Possibly a disciple of the apostle John, Ignatius was a bishop in Antioch, located in Syria. To make an example of their bishop, Roman authorities arrested Ignatius and sent him to Rome to die in the Colosseum. Most of what we know about Ignatius comes from seven letters he wrote as a prisoner traveling to Rome around 110 A.D. Along his journey, several churches in Asia Minor sent friends to greet and comfort him. Ignatius’ writings reciprocate their encouragement and reiterate the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Unlike Clement, Ignatius speaks of churches governed by a single bishop who is supported by his presbyters. One of his letters is addressed to his friend Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna.
- Polycarp of Smyrna
A bishop in the important city of Smyrna, Polycarp was perhaps a disciple of the Apostle John.
- The Didache
- The Shepherd of Hermas