I've decided to create a new section on the blog. It will contain select writings from the Church Fathers, along with introductions, etc., by me. I'll add to it (both in terms of writings and in terms of commentary) with time. Here are the first five offerings:
Hermas was a man who lived in Rome during the lifetime of Clement I, who is referred to in Hermas's book The Shepherd in a way that implies he was still alive. The Shepherd is a record of visions that Hermas received, making it one of the earliest--or even the earliest--reported private revelation. It was composed perhaps around A.D. 80. According to the Origen, the author is the same Hermas mentioned in Romans 16:14. --Jimmy Akin
Pope Clement I was such an influential figure in the early Church that several documents came to be attributed to him, though he did not write them. The earliest of these appears to be a document sometimes called The Second Letter of Clement to the Corinthians or sometimes Second Clement. It, or more properly its author, is also called pseudo-Clement since he wasn't really Clement.
The work isn't actually a letter. Instead, it appears to be homily--possibly given at Corinth--and, based on the way it describes the Church's penitential discipline, it may have been written around the same time as The Shepherd of Hermas, perhaps around A.D. 80. --Jimmy Akin
The common opinion is that this letter was not written by the Apostle Barnabas, so it is often referred to as pseudo-Barnabas. It was quite early, however, and was likely written around A.D. 75, just a few years after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. In fact, it seems to be the first mention in Christian literature of the destruction of the Temple. The author is writing for a group of gentile Christians, and much of the letter deals with the Jewish-gentile controversy that marked the first century. --Jimmy Akin
Pope Clement I wrote this letter to the Church at Corinth after a leadership dispute broke out there, and the Corinthians appealed to him. (He told them to reaffirm the recently rejected leaders in their former offices.) This may be the first exercise of papal primacy outside the New Testament.
The letter is most often dated to the A.D. 90s, but there are significant reasons to date it earlier. Internal evidence--including a reference to the Jerusalem Temple still functioning (it was destroyed in mid A.D. 70) and a series of repeated calamities in Rome (possibly the "year of four emperors" that took place in A.D. 69)--points to a date in A.D. 69 or 70. Whether an earlier or a later date is preferred, it is an important witness to the role of Rome in the first century.
The author may be the same Clement mentioned by St. Paul in Philippians 4:3. --Jimmy Akin
The Didache (pronounced DID-ah-KAY) may be the earliest surviving Christian work outside the New Testament. It speaks as if apostles are still travelling, and it gives the reader tips on how to tell a true apostle from a false one. (Hint: If he tries to mooch off a local church, he's a false one.) This points to an early date, perhaps in the mid 1st century.
The document provides a basic instruction on certain aspects of the Christian faith. It includes a treatment of Christian morality (including a condemnation of abortion), information about celebrating the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist, prayer and fasting, Church leaders, and even a little about the end of the world. --Jimmy Akin