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THE name of "Apostolic Fathers" is so firmly established by usage that it will certainly never be abandoned; but it is not altogether a satisfactory title for the collection of writings to which it is given. It means that the writers in question may be supposed to have had personal knowledge of some of the Apostles, but not actually to have belonged to their number. Thus, for instance, Clement and Hermas are reckoned as disciples of St. Paul, and Polycarp as a disciple of St. John. It is not, however, always possible to maintain this view: Barnabas, to whom one of these writings is ascribed, was not merely a disciple of the Apostles, but belonged to their actual number, and the Didache. claims in its title to belong to the circle of "the Twelve." It should also be noted that the title does not represent any ancient tradition: there are no traces of any early collection of " Apostolic Fathers," and each of them has a separate literary history.
There is very little important difference in the text of any of the more recent editions; but various
discoveries of new MSS. and versions enable the text to be improved in detail from time to time. This is especially the case with I. Clement and Hermas.
For the purposes of the present publication the text has been revised, but it has not been possible to give critical notes unless the evidence was so balanced that more than one reading was capable of defence,
THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF CLEMENT
THE writing which has always been known by this name is clearly, from internal evidence, a letter sent by the church of Rome to the church of Corinth in consequence of trouble in the latter community which had led to the deposition of certain Presbyters. The church of Rome writes protesting against this deposition, and the partizanship which has caused it.
The actual name of the writer is not mentioned in the letter itself: indeed, it clearly claims to be not the letter of a single person but of a church. Tradition, however, has always ascribed it to Clement, who was, according to the early episcopal lists, the third or fourth bishop of Rome during the last decades of the first century. There is no reason for rejecting this tradition, for though it is not supported by any corroborative evidence in its favour there is nothing whatever against it.
Nothing certain is known of Clement; but from the amount of pseudepigraphic literature attributed to him it is probable that he was a famous man in his own time. Tradition has naturally identified him with the Clement who is mentioned in Philippians iv. 3.
1 See Harnack, Chronologie, i. pp. 70–230.