Did you think of Paul’s letter to the Romans when you read the title to this post? Chances are you did, but that’s not the letter I was thinking of.
Did you know that there was at least one other letter written to the Romans in the early Christian age? The martyr Ignatius, on his way as a prisoner to face the beasts in Rome, wrote a letter to the Romans to prepare them for his arrival.
He likely wrote it on August 24. In its closing, the letter dates itself as being written on “the ninth day before the kalends of September”, which is probably best converted to August 24 on our present calendar.
The writings of the Apostolic Fathers (Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, Hermas, and some others) are the closest both in time and genre to the New Testament. As such they are incredibly important when considering the New Testament. Why? For a number of reasons, really:
- They are written by those who claimed Christ, and as such help us understand how they interpreted the OT and the still-being-formed New Testament.
- They refer to the Old Testament (LXX, primarily) and cite it; some cite the New Testament. Others (e.g. 2 Clement) even mention or allude to non-canonical post-NT writings. These all help us understand how the early Christ-followers themselves used Scripture and other writings.
- They are in Greek, so they provide lexical and grammatical help for us in our reading of the New Testament.
As you examine commentaries, lexicons, and grammars on the New Testament, you’ve probably seen references to these writings. Once you start to pay attention to them, you see them everywhere. BDAG. BDF. ICC New Testament. Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary and Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries (NT). WBC. The list goes on. If these help us understand the NT, they’re important for us to pay attention to in our studies.
At Logos, we have a few resources available as Pre-Pubs that will help these writings play a greater role in your studies:
- Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the Apostolic Fathers — This is a complete syntactic analysis of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers (extant in Greek). It will include graphs that visually display the above-the-word-level connections and components. Using this layout can help one understand these higher-level structures, and make reading and understanding the text easier. This is less about searching to find grammatical patterns (though that is important) and more about using these graphs to understand how the Greek text hangs together. It’s to help your reading of these texts.
- The Apostolic Fathers Greek-English Interlinear — This is an interlinear edition of the Greek portions of the Apostolic Fathers. It follows the style of the Lexham Greek-English Interlinear New Testament with multiple levels of glossing. The context-sensitive gloss line ends up producing a new translation of these writings with direct ties back to the underlying Greek text.
These are great resources. We also have a number of editions of the Apostolic Fathers available for purchase today with the Apostolic Fathers in Greek and English (3 editions). And don’t forget about The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, a handy little reference on areas where there is similarity between the NT and the writings of the Apostolic Fathers.