Ante-nicene fathers

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translations of

The Writings of the Fathers down to a.d. 325

The Rev. Alexander Roberts, D.D.,


James Donaldson, LL.D.,



revised and chronologically arranged, with brief prefaces and occasional notes


A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D.



Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing company

Grand Rapids, Michigan







Ta; ajrcai`a e[qh krateivtw.

The Nicene Council

Volume I


Introductory Notice

Clement of Rome

Introductory Note to the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians

The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians


Introductory Note to the Epistles of Mathetes to Diognetus

The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus


Introductory Note to the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians

The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians

Introductory Note to the Epistle Concerning the Martyrdom of Polycarp

The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrnam


Introductory Note to the Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans

The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp

Introductory Note to the Syriac Version of the Ignatian Epistles

The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp

The Second Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians

The Third Epistle of the Same St. Ignatius

Introductory Note to the Spurious Epistles of Ignatius

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Tarsians

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Antiochians

The Epistle of Ignatius to Hero, a Deacon of Antioch

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians

The Epistle of Maria the Proselyte to Ignatius

The Epistle of Ignatius to Mary at Neapolis, Near Zarbus

The Epistle of Ignatius to St. John the Apostle

A Second Epistle of Ignatius to St. John

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Virgin Mary

Introductory Note to the Martyrdom of Ignatius

The Martyrdom of Ignatius


Introductory Note to the Epistle of Barnabas

The Epistle of Barnabas

Introductory Note to the Fragments of Papias

Fragments of Papias

Justin Martyr

Introductory Note to the First Apology of Justin Martyr

The First Apology of Justin

The Second Apology of Justin

Dialogue of Justin

Justin’s Hortatory Address to the Greeks

Justin on the Sole Government of God

Fragments of the Lost Work of Justin on the Resurrection

Other Fragments from the Lost Writings of Justin

Introductory Note to the Martyrdom of Justin Martyr

The Martyrdom of the Holy Martyrs


Introductory Note to Irenaeus Against Heresies

Irenaeus Against Heresies

Book I

Book II

Book III


Book IV

Book V

Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus



This volume, containing the equivalent of three volumes of the Edinburgh series of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, will be found a library somewhat complete in itself. The Apostolic Fathers and those associated with them in the third generation, are here placed together in a handbook, which, with the inestimable Scriptures, supplies a succinct autobiography of the Spouse of Christ for the first two centuries. No Christian scholar has ever before possessed, in faithful versions of such compact form, a supplement so essential to the right understanding of the New Testament itself. It is a volume indispensable to all scholars, and to every library, private or public, in this country.

The American Editor has performed the humble task of ushering these works into American use, with scanty contributions of his own. Such was the understanding with the public: they were to be presented with the Edinburgh series, free from appreciable colour or alloy. His duty was (1) to give historic arrangement to the confused mass of the original series; (2) to supply, in continuity, such brief introductory notices as might slightly popularize what was apparently meant for scholars only, in the introductions of the translators; (3) to supply a few deficiencies by short notes and references; (4) to add such references to Scripture, or to authors of general repute, as might lend additional aid to students, without clogging or overlaying the comments of the translators; and (5) to note such corruptions or distortions of Patristic testimony as have been circulated, in the spirit of the forged Decretals, by those who carry on the old imposture by means essentially equivalent. Too long have they been allowed to speak to the popular mind as if the Fathers were their own; while, to every candid reader, it must be evident that, alike, the testimony, the arguments, and the silence of the Ante-Nicene writers confound all attempts to identify the ecclesiastical establishment of “the Holy Roman Empire,” with “the Holy Catholic Church” of the ancient creeds.

In performing this task, under the pressure of a virtual obligation to issue the first volume in the first month of the new year, the Editor has relied upon the kindly aid of an able friend, as typographical corrector of the Edinburgh sheets. It is only necessary to add, that he has bracketed all his own notes, so as to assume the responsibility for them; but his introductions are so separated from those of the translators, that, after the first instance, he has not thought it requisite to suffix his initials to these brief contributions. He regrets that the most important volume of the series is necessarily the experimental one, and comes out under disadvantages from which it may be expected that succeeding issues will be free. May the Lord God of our Fathers bless the undertaking to all my fellow-Christians, and make good to them the promise which was once felicitously chosen for the motto of a similar series of publications: “Yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers.”

A. C. C.

January, 6, 1885
N.B.—The following advertisement of the original editors will be useful here:—
The Ante-Nicene Christian Library is meant to comprise translations into English of all the extant works of the Fathers down to the date of the first General Council held at Nice in a.d. 325. The sole provisional exception is that of the more bulky writings of Origen. It is intended at present only to embrace in the scheme the Contra Celsum and the De Principiis of that voluminous author; but the whole of his works will be included should the undertaking prove successful.

The present volume has been translated by the Editors.1 Their object has been to place the English reader as nearly as possible on a footing of equality with those who are able to read the original. With this view they have for the most part leaned towards literal exactness; and wherever any considerable departure from this has been made, a verbatim rendering has been given at the foot of the page. Brief introductory notices have been prefixed, and short notes inserted, to indicate varieties of reading, specify references, or elucidate any obscurity which seemed to exist in the text.

Edinburgh, 1867

Introductory Notice

[a.d. 100–200.] The Apostolic Fathers are here understood as filling up the second century of our era. Irenaeus, it is true, is rather of the sub-apostolic period; but, as the disciple of Polycarp, he ought not to be dissociated from that Father’s company. We thus find ourselves conducted, by this goodly fellowship of witnesses, from the times of the apostles to those of Tertullian, from the martyrs of the second persecution to those of the sixth. Those were times of heroism, not of words; an age, not of writers, but of soldiers; not of talkers, but of sufferers. Curiosity is baffled, but faith and love are fed by these scanty relics of primitive antiquity. Yet may we well be grateful for what we have. These writings come down to us as the earliest response of converted nations to the testimony of Jesus. They are primary evidences of the Canon and the credibility of the New Testament. Disappointment may be the first emotion of the student who comes down from the mount where he has dwelt in the tabernacles of evangelists and apostles: for these disciples are confessedly inferior to the masters; they speak with the voices of infirm and fallible men, and not like the New Testament writers, with the fiery tongues of the Holy Ghost. Yet the thoughtful and loving spirit soon learns their exceeding value. For who does not close the records of St. Luke with longing; to get at least a glimpse of the further history of the progress of the Gospel? What of the Church when its founders were fallen asleep? Was the Good Shepherd “always” with His little flock, according to His promise? Was the Blessed Comforter felt in His presence amid the fires of persecution? Was the Spirit of Truth really able to guide the faithful into all truth, and to keep them in the truth?

And what had become of the disciples who were the first-fruits of the apostolic ministry? St. Paul had said, “The same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” How was this injunction realized? St. Peter’s touching words come to mind, “I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.” Was this endeavour successfully carried out? To these natural and pious inquiries, the Apostolic Fathers, though we have a few specimens only of their fidelity, give an emphatic reply. If the cold-hearted and critical find no charm in the simple, childlike faith which they exhibit, ennobled though it be by heroic devotion to the Master, we need not marvel. Such would probably object: “They teach me nothing; I do not relish their multiplied citations from Scripture.” The answer is, “If you are familiar with Scripture, you owe it largely to these primitive witnesses to its Canon and its spirit. By their testimony we detect what is spurious, and we identify what is real. Is it nothing to find that your Bible is their Bible, your faith their faith, your Saviour their Saviour, your God their God? ”Let us reflect also, that, when copies of the entire Scriptures were rare and costly, these citations were “words fitly spoken,—apples of gold in pictures of silver.” We are taught by them also that they obeyed the apostles precept, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing,” etc. Thus they reflect the apostolic care that men should be raised up able to teach others also.

Their very mistakes enable us to attach a higher value to the superiority of inspired writers. They were not wiser than the naturalists of their day who taught them the history of the Phoenix and other fables; but nothing of this sort is found in Scripture. The Fathers are inferior in kind as well as in degree; yet their words are lingering echoes of those whose words were spoken “as the Spirit gave them utterance.” They are monuments of the power of the Gospel. They were made out of such material as St. Paul describes when he says, “Such were some of you.” But for Christ, they would have been worshippers of personified Lust and Hate, and of every crime. They would have lived for “bread and circus-shows.” Yet to the contemporaries of a Juvenal they taught the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount. Among such beasts in human form they reared the sacred home; they created the Christian family; they gave new and holy meanings to the names of wife and mother; they imparted ideas unknown before of the dignity of man as man j they infused an atmosphere of benevolence and love; they bestowed the elements of liberty chastened by law; they sanctified human society by proclaiming the universal brotherhood of redeemed man. As we read the Apostolic Fathers, we comprehend, in short, the meaning of St. Paul when he said prophetically, what men were slow to believe, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.… But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.”
A. C. C.

December, 1884

Clement of Rome

Introductory Note to the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians.


[a.d. 30–100.] Clement was probably a Gentile and a Roman. He seems to have been at Philippi with St. Paul (a.d. 57) when that first-born of the Western churches was passing through great trials of faith. There, with holy women and others, he ministered to the apostle and to the saints. As this city was a Roman colony, we need not inquire how a Roman happened to be there. He was possibly in some public service, and it is not improbable that he had visited Corinth in those days. From the apostle, and his companion, St. Luke, he had no doubt learned the use of the Septuagint, in which his knowledge of the Greek tongue soon rendered him an adept. His copy of that version, however, does not always agree with the Received Text, as the reader will perceive.

A co-presbyter with Linus and Cletus, he succeeded them in the government of the Roman Church. I have reluctantly adopted the opinion that his Epistle was written near the close of his life, and not just after the persecution of Nero. It is not improbable that Linus and Cletus both perished in that fiery trial, and that Clement’s immediate succession to their work and place occasions the chronological difficulties of the period. After the death of the apostles, for the Roman imprisonment and martyrdom of St. Peter seem historical, Clement was the natural representative of St. Paul, and even of his companion, the “apostle of the circumcision; ”and naturally he wrote the Epistle in the name of the local church, when brethren looked to them for advice. St. John, no doubt, was still surviving at Patmos or in Ephesus; but the Philippians, whose intercourse with Rome is attested by the visit of Epaphroditus, looked naturally to the surviving friends of their great founder; nor was the aged apostle in the East equally accessible. All roads pointed towards the Imperial City, and started from its Milliarium Aureum. But, though Clement doubtless wrote the letter, he conceals his own name, and puts forth the brethren, who seem to have met in council, and sent a brotherly delegation (Chap. lix.). The entire absence of the spirit of Diotrephes (3 John 9), and the close accordance of the Epistle, in humility and meekness, with that of St. Peter (1 Peter 5: 1–5), are noteworthy features. The whole will be found animated with the loving and faithful spirit of St. Paul’s dear Philippians, among whom the writer had learned the Gospel.

Clement fell asleep, probably soon after he despatched his letter. It is the legacy of one who reflects the apostolic age in all the beauty and evangelical truth which were the first-fruits of the Spirit’s presence with the Church. He shares with others the aureole of glory attributed by St. Paul (Philippians 4: 3), “His name is in the Book of Life.”

The plan of this publication does not permit the restoration, in this volume, of the recently discovered portions of his work. It is the purpose of the editor to present this, however, with other recently discovered relics of primitive antiquity, in a supplementary volume, should the undertaking meet with sufficient encouragement. The so-called second Epistle of Clement is now known to be the work of another, and has been relegated to another place in this series.The following is the Introductory Notice of the original editors and translators, Drs. Roberts and Donaldson:—

The first Epistle, bearing the name of Clement, has been preserved to us in a single manuscript only. Though very frequently referred to by ancient Christian writers, it remained unknown to the scholars of Western Europe until happily discovered in the Alexandrian manuscript. This ms. of the Sacred Scriptures (known and generally referred to as Codex A) was presented in 1628 by Cyril, Patriarch of Constantinople, to Charles I., and is now preserved in the British Museum. Subjoined to the books of the New Testament contained in it, there are two writings described as the Epistles of one Clement. Of these, that now before us is the first. It is tolerably perfect, but there are many slight lacunae, or gaps, in the ms., and one whole leaf is supposed to have been lost towards the close. These lacunae, however, so numerous in some chapters, do not generally extend beyond a word or syllable, and can for the most part be easily supplied.

Who the Clement was to whom these writings are ascribed, cannot with absolute certainty be determined. The general opinion is, that he is the same as the person of that name referred to by St. Paul (Philippians 4: 3). The writings themselves contain no statement as to their author. The first, and by far the longer of them, simply purports to have been written in the name of the Church at Rome to the Church at Corinth. But in the catalogue of contents prefixed to the ms. they are both plainly attributed to one Clement; and the judgment of most scholars is, that, in regard to the first Epistle at least, this statement is correct, and that it is to be regarded as an authentic production of the friend and fellow-worker of St. Paul. This belief may be traced to an early period in the history of the Church. It is found in the writings of Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., iii. 15), of Origen (Comm. in Joan., i. 29), and others. The internal evidence also tends to support this opinion. The doctrine, style, and manner of thought are all in accordance with it; so that, although, as has been said, positive certainty cannot be reached on the subject, we may with great probability conclude that we have in this Epistle a composition of that Clement who is known to us from Scripture as having been an associate of the great apostle.

The date of this Epistle has been the subject of considerable controversy. It is clear from the writing itself that it was composed soon after some persecution (chap. i.) which the Roman Church had endured; and the only question is, whether we are to fix upon the persecution under Nero or Domitian. If the former, the date will be about the year 68; if the latter, we must place it towards the close of the first century or the beginning of the second. We possess no external aid to the settlement of this question. The lists of early Roman bishops are in hopeless confusion, some making Clement the immediate successor of St. Peter, others placing Linus, and others still Linus and Anacletus, between him and the apostle. The internal evidence, again, leaves the matter doubtful, though it has been strongly pressed on both sides. The probability seems, on the whole, to be in favour of the Domitian period, so that the Epistle may be dated about a.d. 97.

This Epistle was held in very great esteem by the early Church. The account given of it by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., iii. 16) is as follows: “There is one acknowledged Epistle of this Clement (whom he has just identified with the friend of St. Paul), great and admirable, which he wrote in the name of the Church of Rome to the Church at Corinth, sedition having then arisen in the latter Church. We are aware that this Epistle has been publicly read in very many churches both in old times, and also in our own day.” The Epistle before us thus appears to have been read in numerous churches, as being almost on a level with the canonical writings. And its place in the Alexandrian ms., immediately after the inspired books, is in harmony with the position thus assigned it in the primitive Church. There does indeed appear a great difference between it and the inspired writings in many respects, such as the fanciful use sometimes made of Old-Testament statements, the fabulous stories which are accepted by its author, and the general diffuseness and feebleness of style by which it is distinguished. But the high tone of evangelical truth which pervades it, the simple and earnest appeals which it makes to the heart and conscience, and the anxiety which its writer so constantly shows to promote the best interests of the Church of Christ, still impart an undying charm to this precious relic of later apostolic times.

[N.B.—A sufficient guide to the recent literature of the Clementinemss. and discoveries may be found in The Princeton Review, 1877, p. 325, also in Bishop Wordsworth’s succinct but learned Church History to the Council of Nicaea, p. 84. The invaluable edition of the Patres Apostolici, by Jacobson (Oxford, 1840), with a critical text and rich prolegomena and annotations, cannot be dispensed with by any Patristic inquirer. A. C. C.]

The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians1


Chapter I.—The Salutation. Praise of the Corinthians Before the Breaking Forth of Schism Among Them.

The Church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the Church of God sojourning at Corinth, to them that are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from Almighty God through Jesus Christ, be multiplied.

Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us;2 and especially to that shameful and detestable sedition, utterly abhorrent to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-confident persons have kindled to such a pitch of frenzy, that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be universally loved, has suffered grievous injury.3 For who ever dwelt even for a short time among you, and did not find your faith to be as fruitful of virtue as it was firmly established?4 Who did not admire the sobriety and moderation of your godliness in Christ? Who did not proclaim the magnificence of your habitual hospitality? And who did not rejoice over your perfect and well-grounded knowledge? For ye did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the commandments of God, being obedient to those who had the rule over you, and giving all fitting honour to the presbyters among you. Ye enjoined young men to be of a sober and serious mind; ye instructed your wives to do all things with a blameless, becoming, and pure conscience, loving their husbands as in duty bound; and ye taught them that, living in the rule of obedience, they should manage their household affairs becomingly, and be in every respect marked by discretion.

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