Book Review: The Christology In The Apostolic Fathers

The Christology In The Apostolic Fathers, by Alonzo Rosecrans Stark

While I found much fault with the author’s approach to the apostolic fathers, I found this to be a worthwhile book about the apostolic fathers, as it was the author’s doctoral thesis and he had to find something new in order to receive his degree, and so I can understand that he would have a high motivation to theorize an imaginary progressivism given the times in which this book was written in an age where such imaginary views of progress over time were particularly current.  It is worthwhile to discuss, tough, how I found this book to begin with.  Indeed, although widely available materials about the Apostolic Fathers are still rare [1], my positive experience in finding some old books to read on led me to think that there were some books on the Apostolic Fathers in the public domain that would be accessible to me there, and so there was, including this short scholarly effort that is worthy of appreciation even despite my disagreement with the author’s thesis.  Although I am at times as hard reader to please, and my use of books is not always as the authors would intend, I think this book merits attention for those who are interested in the theology of the Apostolic Fathers, as I am.

This particular doctoral thesis, at less than 100 pages, is not overwhelmingly long nor is it particularly difficult to read.  The author shows some definite familiarity with the koine Greek of the original texts as well as with the relevant translations available at the time and expects at least some familiarity with the Greek from the readers to understand the titles used for Christ in different texts within the Apostolic Fathers collection.  The core of the book, though, consists of the author’s attempts to force the collection into a tripartite scheme where some evolution between primitive subordinationism in 1 Clement, the Didache, and Papias transitions to a broader equality with slight subordination in the second stage of texts in the Apostolic collection like the writings of Ignatius and Polycarp and 2 Clement and ultimately to a high Christology that practically ignores God the Father (such as we see in so much contemporary Hellenistic Christianity) in the Shepherd of Hermas, epistle of Barnabas, and the early apology of Mathetes to Diognetus.  Included alongside the author’s rather unsound evolutionary perspective of Christology is a great deal of useful discussion of the material and concerns and approaches of the texts themselves.

It is indeed the material that summarizes the arguments and concerns of the texts within the collection of the Apostolic Fathers that is most useful to this reader.  As it happens, I have a strong interest in subordinationism and find that although the author is correct in noticing three different conceptions of Christology in the various and miscellaneous writings within the Apostolic Fathers, that the three different views he sees are streams within the general and wider body of Christian thought that existed simultaneously and that still exist within Christianity rather than stages of development from a lower Christology to a higher one that the author may wish to prefer or celebrate.  Moreover, it is quite possible that the concerns of the particular authors led them to emphasize different relationships between Jesus Christ and God the Father.  Even within contemporary Christianity we have strands that emphasize the obedience of Jesus Christ to the will of the Father as a way of emphasizing the importance of our own subordination to God, other strands that emphasize the equality of God and Jesus Christ as a way of pointing how believers share in this through conversion from death into eternal life, and a great many strands that seem to ignore God the Father because everything is about Christ all the time without anything else being in the picture at all.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Christianity, Graduate School, History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Book Review: The Christology In The Apostolic Fathers

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings and commented:
    Reblogging for future reference.

  2. Pingback: An Introduction To The Apostolic Fathers Series | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: A Modest Proposal For The Collection Of The Writings Of The Apostolic Fathers | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: Book Review: Monophysitism Past And Present: A Study In Christology | Edge Induced Cohesion

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