Ehrman’s lecture series, After the New Testament: The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers, is an excellent overview of early proto-orthodox Christian writings (writings that represent was later became victorious Christian doctrines). It is surprising to recognize that Christian doctrine and practice stems as much from Paul as from Jesus (which is why historians consider Jesus and Paul the co-founders of the Christian religion), and also surprising to note central Christian doctrines not explicity found in the New Testament, but instead in the writings of the ten “Apostolic Fathers.”

Though current theologians appeal to the New Testament to support doctrines like Christology (Christ as God), the Trinity, and church heirarchy (for example that of Roman Catholicism), they are first found in these later writings, dated roughly A.D. 95-150. Note that these doctrines, like many Pauline doctrines, are of central relevance to those seeking church empowerment, church unity, and personal comfort with orthodoxy, but not to those merely seeking to imitate Jesus.

The first letter attributed to Clement makes a long-winded argument for orderly church structure from the orderliness of God, manifest in, for example, the Phoenix: a bird of golden plumage which builds a nest of cinammon, burns its nest and self to ashes from which a new bird arises that embalms the ashes in myrhh and deposits them in Heliopolis exactly every 500 years. (This is not an argument highly ordered church governments cite today.)

Antioch’s bishop, Ignatius, wrote seven surviving letters on route to his martyrdom in Rome. He urges the Roman Christians to let him die violently like Christ, to unify and obey their bishops, and to ignore Jewish law. (He writes: “It is outlandish to proclaim Jesus Christ and to practice Judaism, for Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism believed in Christianity, in which every tongue that believes in God has been gathered together.”)

Other works of the Apostolic Fathers include the Didache, the epistle of Polycarp, and others.

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