Apostolic Fathers


Did any of the Apostolic Fathers (ie Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didiache, etc) claim to have known the apostles or claim to have had anything specifically told to them by the apostles?

Did they claim to teach exactly what the apostles taught anywhere? For example… “this is what something means and I know this because St. Paul taught this?”

Any help would be greatly appreciated,



Two of the “fathers” you mention weren’t people at all but Christian writings. “The Shepherd of Hermas” (according to Wikipedia) is “a Christian literary work of the late 1st or mid-2nd century, considered a valuable book by many Christians, and considered canonical scripture by some of the early Church fathers such as Irenaeus.” The Didache, also known as “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”, is an anonymous writing dated to the 1st century.

Barnabas is actually mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as the sponsor of St. Paul to the apostles when they were understandably reluctant to believe in Paul’s conversion. Also he and Paul went on missionary journeys together, and Paul mentions him in some of his epistles.

I don’t know enough about the writings of the other fathers you mentioned to know if they actually cited the teachings of an apostle. But I do know that if they had said anything contradictory to the apostles it would not have been considered revealed teaching.


The Apostolic Fathers is a collection of writings. The Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, epistle of Barnabas, and 1 Clement were highly revered by early Christians and considered inspired by some Church regions. But yes generally all of the writings beside maybe Shepherd of Hermas and Didache which I think make this list because of the dating. ( In fact some believe the Didache could be the oldest writing we have outside of Paul’s letters) . But Baranabas and Clement are both mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. Polycarp, Clement, and Ignatius were followers of the Apostles. Clement is the second Pope following Peter.


Thanks for your replies! I included the didache and the shepherd of Hermas because they are often grouped in that last due to the dating of them,

I asked mainly because I am trying to interpret Colossians 1:15 in an Orthodox sense; many of the early Church applied it to Christ’s divinity. I’m just trying to find what these texts said about it (if they mentioned it) and if they claimed that their way of reading it was from the apostles


Clement was a disciple of Peter and Paul.

Polycarp was a disciple of John.

Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp.

Ignatius of Antioch was a disciple of Peter and John.


Clement of Rome - Epistle to the Corinthians: *Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. *

Irenaeus of Lyon - Against Heresies III, chapter 3: *1. It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to the perfect apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should fall away, the direst calamity.

  1. Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere . . .

. . . In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.

  1. But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time . . .He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles—that, namely, which is handed down by the Church. *


Irenaeus of Lyon - Against Heresies V:20:* 1. Now all these [heretics] are of much later date than the bishops to whom the apostles committed the Churches; which fact I have in the third book taken all pains to demonstrate. It follows, then, as a matter of course, that these heretics aforementioned, since they are blind to the truth, and deviate from the [right] way, will walk in various roads; and therefore the footsteps of their doctrine are scattered here and there without agreement or connection. But the path of those belonging to the Church circumscribes the whole world, as possessing the sure tradition from the apostles, and gives unto us to see that the faith of all is one and the same, since all receive one and the same God the Father, and believe in the same dispensation regarding the incarnation of the Son of God, and are cognizant of the same gift of the Spirit, and are conversant with the same commandments, and preserve the same form of ecclesiastical constitution, and expect the same advent of the Lord, and await the same salvation of the complete man, that is, of the soul and body. And undoubtedly the preaching of the Church is true and steadfast, in which one and the same way of salvation is shown throughout the whole world. For to her is entrusted the light of God; and therefore the wisdom of God, by means of which she saves all men, is declared in [its] going forth; it utters [its voice] faithfully in the streets, is preached on the tops of the walls, and speaks continually in the gates of the city. Proverbs 1:20-21 For the Church preaches the truth everywhere, and she is the seven-branched candlestick which bears the light of Christ.

  1. Those, therefore, who desert the preaching of the Church, call in question the knowledge of the holy presbyters, not taking into consideration of how much greater consequence is a religious man, even in a private station, than a blasphemous and impudent sophist. Now, such are all the heretics, and those who imagine that they have hit upon something more beyond the truth, so that by following those things already mentioned, proceeding on their way variously, inharmoniously, and foolishly, not keeping always to the same opinions with regard to the same things, as blind men are led by the blind, they shall deservedly fall into the ditch of ignorance lying in their path, ever seeking and never finding out the truth. 2 Timothy 3:7 It behooves us, therefore, to avoid their doctrines, and to take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them; but to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord’s Scriptures. For the Church has been planted as a garden (paradisus) in this world; therefore says the Spirit of God, You may freely eat from every tree of the garden, Genesis 2:16 that is, Eat from every Scripture of the Lord; but you shall not eat with an uplifted mind, nor touch any heretical discord.*


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