Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 2 (ANF2), edited by Philip Schaff ★★★★★
It has been a while since my last post, but that shouldn’t imply that I haven’t been busy. I’ve just finished the second of a 37-volume set of the Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers of the church. I certainly won’t read every volume, but am sticking with reading this in a serial fashion. As you will see later, volume 3 is the writings of Tertullian, who is most enjoyable to read. This volume was far less laborious than reading volume 1, though a few sections were rather obtuse. Volume 2 includes Christian writers of the middle to the late second century.
The first book was The Pastor of Hermas, but mostly known as The Shepherd of Hermas. The author was unknown. It was read by many Christians in the early church, and highly regarded for its devotional instruction. The book is broken up into three parts (books), the first recalling visions of Hermas, the second an elucidation of the 10 Commandments, and the third a collection of similitudes of mostly moral instructions. Its value is in gaining a sense of how early Christians were thinking. Tatian is the next author, with an address to the Greeks as a polemic arguing for the Christian faith, followed by fragments retained of his writings. Theophilus next is presented, with a book in three parts of a set of letters that he wrote to the pagan Autolycus arguing and defending the Christian faith, but also developing a primitive theology of the church. Athenogoras’s book is next, titled A Plea for the Christians, again arguing in defense of the Christian faith. A lengthy section by Clement of Alexandria closes this set and includes several of his writings, the first titled Exhortation to the Heathen, again, consisting of a defense of the Christian faith. The Instructor follows, consisting of three parts, all of which relate to moral instructions for fellow Christians. This was a fascinating read, advising against various things such as overeating or overdrinking, excess laughter, sleep, appropriate clothes and shoes to wear, and wearing jewelry. This is a wonderful book to read to have a sense of how Christians conducted themselves in the second century. Finally, the ANF2 volume ends with a lengthy collection of Clement’s writings called the Stromata, or Miscellanies. This was a slightly more tedious read though instructive, discussing pagan culture and countering with the superiority of Christian culture. It also includes a discussion of issues of what Christians believe. Clement chooses to identify Christians as the true Gnostics, which can be a bit confusing owing to him not referring to the heresy which goes by the title of the Gnostics. There is a segment that is untranslated in Greek, and Schaff feeling the inappropriateness of the content to be put into English. The remainder of the Stromata is a collection of refutations of pagan thinking and philosophical ponderings on the nature of knowledge and truth.
I would not recommend this volume to most people, but only to those who hold a fascination for church history and the patristic writers. It is charming and informative, though at times a little bit laborious to read. It can be challenging to try to connect with the Greek/Roman second-century mindset. The reward to the reader is enormous.