The Development of the Canon of the New Testament

Home | Authorities | Writings | Table | Lists | Places | Heresies | Miscellaneous | for more Information


Apostolic Fathers
codex Hierosolymitanus
Bibles of Constantine
Closing the Canon in the West
Closing the Canon in the East
The New Testament Books
The Quo Vadis? Legend
Hypertext Conventions
Revision History

The Apostolic Fathers

The following writings form the collection called the Apostolic Fathers:

Four of these -- I Clement, Epistle of Barnabas, Didache, Shepherd of Hermas -- are part of this survey because they were cited approvingly by an early Christian authority. The others are not included, but the letters of Ignatius and Polycarp are used to determine their opinions on the New Testament canon. English translations of the Apostolic Fathers are in the books [LHH] and [Richardson] , and online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library and CCAT Public Archive .

Although the term Apostolic Fathers seems to have been used as early as the 6th century by Severus, the Monophysite patrician of Antioch, its modern significance dates to 1672, when French scholar J. B. Cotelier published 2 volumes entitled Sanctorum Patrum qui temporibus apostolicus floruerunt, Barnabae, Clementis, Hermae, Ignatii, Polycarpi, opera edita et inedita, vera et suppositicia (Holy Fathers who were active in Apostlic Times ...). In 1693 William Wake issued an English translation of these documents under the title, The Genuine Epistles of the Apostolic Fathers. In 1765 A. Gallandi expanded the collection to include the Epistle to Diognetus, the Fragments of Papias, and Quadratus. The last widely accepted addition was the Didache, following its discovery in 1873.

The title 'Apostolic Fathers' refers to a circle of authors who are supposed to have had personal knowledge of some of the apostles, but did not actually belong to their number. It does not represent any ancient tradition; there are no traces of any early collection of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, and each of them has a separate literary history. They span the period from about 95 to about 150 CE, and are witnesses to the development of different emphases and styles of Christianity.

The Apostolic Fathers seldom make express citations from New Testament writings. On the contrary we have allusions and reminiscences that are often difficult to identify and delicate to interpret. At most, the Apostolic Fathers disclose for this or that geographic area an amount of knowledge and use of several 1st century documents that later came to be gathered into what we know as the New Testament.

Pages created by Glenn Davis, 1997-2010.
For additions, corrections, and comments send e-mail to