The Fathers of the Church spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, defended the Church in apologetic writing and fought the many heresies of the first six centuries of Christianity. These men, also called Apostolic Fathers, gave special witness to the faith, some dying the death of a martyr. Like Jesus who referred to Abraham as a spiritual father (Luke 16: 24) and St. Paul, who referred to himself in the same terms (1 Cor 4: 15), the Fathers were zealous for the word of God. Their writings are a testimony to the faith of the early Church, yet many Christians are unfamiliar with the work of Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, Justin the Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian of Cathage, Athanasius, Ephraim, Cyril of Jerusalem, Hilary of Poitiers or Gregory the Great to name of few of the early Fathers. This site will provide biographical information and examples of the writing of these great men of faith. We will focus on Clement of Rome.
St. Clement of Rome
was the third successor of Peter the Apostle as bishop of Rome. Dio Cassius in his history of Rome identified a man named Clement with the martyred consul Titus Flavius Clemens, a member of the imperial family, but this is not likely, nor can he be identified as Church historian Eusebius and Origen speculate, with the Clemens who assisted St. Paul and who was mentioned in the Letter to the Philippians. His service as Bishop of Rome was probably from about 80-98 A.D. Below are some excerpts from his extant writings. About 110 A.D. he was sentenced to a martyr's death in the arena by the Emperor Trajan. On the journey to Rome he wrote seven letters, which are his only surviving letters:
Letter to the Corinithians (ca. 80 A.D.)
"The Church of God which soujourns in Rome to the Church of God which soujourns in Corinth, to those who are called and sanctified by the will of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace from Almighty God be multiplied unto you through Jesus Christ."
"Owing to the sudden and repeated calamities and misfortunes which have befallen us [probably referring to the volcanic
eruption of Mt. Veusvius in 79 A.D., which produced a great fire in Rome] we must acknowledge that we are somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the matters in dispute among you, beloved; and especially that abominable and unholy sedition, alien and foreign to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-willed persons have enflamed to such madness, that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be loved by all men, has been greatly defamed."
"Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect knowledge, they appoint those who have already been mentioned, and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry. As for these, then, who were appointed by them, or who afterwards appointed by other illustrious men with the consent of the whole Church, and who have ministered to the flock of Christ without blame, humbly, peaceably and with dignity, and who have for many years received the commendations of all, we consider it unjust that they be removed from the ministry. Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who bamelessly and holily have offered its Sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters who have already finished their course, and who have obtained a fruitful and perfect release; for they have now no fear that any shall transfer them from the place appointed [by Almighty God]. For we see that in spite of their good service you have removed some from their ministry in which they served without blame."
"If anyone disobey the things which have been said by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger. We, however, shall be innocent of this sin, and will pray with earnest entreaty and supplication that the Creator of all may keep unharmed the number of His elect, which have been counted up in the whole world, through His beloved child Jesus Christ, through whom He has called us from darkness to light, and from ignorance to the full knowledge of the glory of His name."
"You will afford us joy and gladness if, being obedient to the things which we have written through the Holy Spirit, you will root out the wicked passion of jealousy, in accord with the plea for peace and concord which we have made in this letter."
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