Scripture vs the apostolic fathers

Irenaeus

Puritan Board Freshman
Last year I finished up my Scripture reading a bit early so I took the rest of the year to read through the apocryphal writings. It was enlightening for several reasons: the books were historically fascinating, engagingly written, and oftentimes rather profound. (Ecclesiasticus, in particular, stuck out to me.) But it was also striking how different from the rest of the OT these book seemed.

This year I am doing the same but with the apostolic fathers. Again I'm struck by the difference between these writings and Holy Scripture. I'm trying to put a finger on it, but fear that I'm merely digging for arguments in support of a conclusion.

In one respect, it seems self-evident that these extracanonical books are subpar when compared to Scripture. The Spirit-led self-attestation of Scripture, and the correlatively implied lack of such self-attestation elsewhere, seems to be a key part of the argument made in our confessional standards. However, neither the WCF nor BC give any positive arguments for the non-inspiration of other writings. Here are some of my observations about my extra-Biblical reading so far:

1) Conciseness. I'm always amazed at how compact Scripture is. No other book packs as much into so few words. When I switch to the Fathers, I am struck by the wordiness - it's almost clumsy as they attempt to make a point.

1b) Quotations. The use of other passages of Scripture is ham-handed. The succinct OT quotations and compact explication are gone, replaced by block quotes of long passages with very little comment.

2) Specificity. I'm always amazed at how specific and yet universally applicable the epistles are. Think of all the doctrines plainly and explicitly unpacked in places like Rom. 5 or Eph. 1. The doctrinal presentation in the Fathers is always... well, generic. Anyone want to help me explain this better?

3) Platitudinousness. I eagerly await the OED's decision to include this new word, citing me as its originator. There is here (and this was strongly evident in the Apocrypha as well) a strongly moralistic tone - less of the message of salvation and more in terms of causal propositions relating human effort/choice and outcome.

4) Christ. Now I'm just at the beginning of my reading so will wait to see if this changes as I make my way through Diognetus and Ignatius, but Clement at least says much less of Christ. There is little talk of Christ's divinity and far less doxology than in the NT.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
This year I am doing the same but with the apostolic fathers. Again I'm struck by the difference between these writings and Holy Scripture. I'm trying to put a finger on it, but fear that I'm merely digging for arguments in support of a conclusion.

Some of the early church fathers, by our standards, would be heretics.

This is episode 23 of 78 total of, The History of the Early Church, by Terry Young
About the Early Church Father Origen of Alexandria

The son of a martyr, Origen of Alexandria would in time become possibly the most influential Christian thinker and greatest biblical scholar of antiquity...Music “Sons of Constantinople” by Tyler Cunningham

All 78 episodes can be heard on Spotify

I only found some of them on YouTube. Below is a link 2 episode 22 through 24 as a single YouTube file. Chapter 23 starts at roughly minute 14.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Depends on what you mean by "apostolic fathers." Usually it is the time between Paul's last letter and the letters of Ignatius. The apostolic fathers aren't very profound.

As to Origen and heretics, yes he was badly wrong but the situation is more complicated than that. And we can't simply say that many of the Fathers were heretics by our standards and then prove it with some youtube clips about Origen.
 

Irenaeus

Puritan Board Freshman
Depends on what you mean by "apostolic fathers." Usually it is the time between Paul's last letter and the letters of Ignatius. The apostolic fathers aren't very profound.

As to Origen and heretics, yes he was badly wrong but the situation is more complicated than that. And we can't simply say that many of the Fathers were heretics by our standards and then prove it with some youtube clips about Origen.
Could you put a finger on what makes the apostolic fathers not very profound? I am interested in concrete reasons, to the extent that they can be adduced.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Could you put a finger on what makes the apostolic fathers not very profound? I am interested in concrete reasons, to the extent that they can be adduced.

They have zero analysis and when they are scriptural its just a pastiche of bible verses from the Old Testament. It's not too different from Sunday School literature.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Have you read any of the apostolic fathers? I would be interested to hear what you think of them if so.

Sorry, but I am less than an amateur. I plan to change that. It's kinda like Calvin's Institutes. I opened Battles & Beveridge and had read here and there, but about ten years ago I finally read them cover to cover. I own the complete set of Church Fathers. Now I have to read them.
 

Irenaeus

Puritan Board Freshman
Sorry, but I am less than an amateur. I plan to change that. It's kinda like Calvin's Institutes. I opened Battles & Beveridge and had read here and there, but about ten years ago I finally read them cover to cover. I own the complete set of Church Fathers. Now I have to read them.
They're good, and enjoyable, but the contrast with Scripture is stark.
 
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