I am preparing for classes, now as we speak.  In the Fall term, which begins (moan and groan) in next week, I’ll be teaching two classes, my “first-year seminar” called “Jesus in Scholarship and Film,” and my PhD seminar on “The Apostolic Fathers.”   My Jesus course will be pretty much like last year’s, with a few tweaks (including a full showing of the Life of Brian!); if you’re interested in the basic layout, I posted my syllabus from last year on August 24, 2013.

The Apostolic Fathers is a course I have not taught for about three years.  The term “Apostolic Fathers” is a technical one, referring to specific corpus of ten proto-orthodox authors writing just after the New Testament period (actually, a couple of the books were probably written before the final books of the NT).   If you’re wondering who these authors were, refer back to posts I made starting November 19, 17, etc. in 2012.

I’ve been interested in the Apostolic Fathers for years; it’s been one of my regular PhD offerings since before I can remember, and is one that I always enjoy.  In addition to learning about the textual, historical, and interpretive problems of these texts, we use them as a springboard into a variety of “hot” issues in the study of second century Christianity:  the Christianization of the Roman Empire, the relationship of orthodoxy and heresy, the rise of anti-Judaism, the role of women in the church, the development of Christian ritual, the role of books in the religion, and so on.   Students in the class, as you’ll see, translate Greek texts for each week’s three-hour seminar, read primary texts in depth, and read secondary literature written by scholars about those texts.

Here is my syllabus for it this time around.



Reli 808

The Apostolic Fathers

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Fall 2014

Instructor: Bart D. Ehrman


The writings of the Apostolic Fathers are the focus of this seminar.  We will give a good deal of attention to traditional issues of background (authorship, dating, integrity, occasion, etc.) and interpretation.  At the same time, we will be using these texts as a springboard into major social and historical issues central to the study of the early Christian movement: the spread of the religion, persecution and martyrdom, orthodoxy and heresy, the development of ecclesiastical offices, the production, role, and function of Christian literature (e.g., canon formation), women in the church, early Christian ritual, and so on.



Course Requirements:

The success of the seminar will depend on your active and enthusiastic involvement.  During our weekly session you will be expected to engage your colleagues in intelligent discourse; this will presuppose your having done the assignments and having thought through the issues they raise.


There will be fifty minutes devoted to translation of relevant texts at the beginning of each class period.  You should be well prepared for this bit of weekly fun.  You will be expected to know the Greek text intimately prior to class and to be able to read it on sight.  This will require your going over it multiple times in preparation, so that we can get through the easier parts quickly and spend our times of mutual puzzlement and rumination on the more difficult grammatical constructions and crucial but rare words.

Every week we will be having a “mini-report” on one or another “background issue” (delineated below) for the text we’re reading — e.g., authorship, date, occasion, integrity, etc.  These reports will involve both a summary of the data that scholars have traditionally adduced and an evaluation of the strengths of the arguments traditionally used.  They are to be about 10 minutes in length, concise, to the point, full of information — the kind of thing that could be expanded into a forty-minute lecture to an undergraduate class if need be.  Since one mini-report will be given each week, we will spread them out among ourselves, on a rotating basis.

It is assumed that everyone will do the secondary reading assigned for each week and be prepared to interact with it.  Some weeks this will involve a brief article or two (or three) on some aspect of the text in question, other weeks it will involve a monograph on a related topic.

A book review, three pages in length, on Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, will be due on September 19.

A term paper of 12-15 pages, on any topic of your choice (pertaining to the Apostolic Fathers in one way or another), is due on December 8.  You should plan to talk with me about your topic early in the semester (within the first two or three weeks) and to spend a good portion of the semester working on it.  The paper is to be thoroughly researched and documented strictly according to the conventions of the SBL Handbook of Style (although a full bibliography, in this case, will be expected).  The deadline is firm.  Late papers will automatically be marked down a full letter grade (i.e., an H to a P, a P to an L, and an L to the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth).

 Reading and Discussion Schedule


August 25:  Introduction to the Class.


September 1:  NO CLASS:  Labor Day


September 8:  1 Clement and the Emergence of Church Structure.

Reading: 1 Clement (in English, several times); Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1, General Introduction and 1 Clement, “Introduction.”  Clayton Jefford, Reading the Apostolic Fathers, Introduction and chapter 7. Jouassard, G.  “Le groupement des Pères dits apostoliques.”  MScRel 14 (1957): 129-134;

Translation: 1 Clem. Preface – ch. 2; 42-44;

Mini-Report: The Date of 1 Clement (and the “persecution of Domitian”)


September 15:   Problems of Interpretation in 1 Clement.


Translation: 1 Clem. 3-6; 24-26.

Mini-Report: The Authorship of 1 Clement.

TOPICAL DISCUSSION: Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Second Century;

READING: Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity


September 22:  The Letters of Ignatius and the Problem of Heresy.

Reading: Seven Letters of Ignatius (in English, several times); Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers vol. 1; Ignatius “Introduction”; P. J. Donahue, “Jewish Christianity in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch,” VC 32 (1978) 81-93;  Caroline Hammond Bammel, “Ignatian Problems,” JTS n.s. 33 (1982) 62-97; Hübner, R. M., “Thesen zur Echtheit und Datierung der sieben Briefe des Ignatius Antiochien,” ZAC 1 (1997) 44-72; Jefford ch. 3.

Translation: Ignatius to the Philadelphians

Mini-Report: Ignatius and the Conflict in Antioch


September 29:  Problems of Interpretation in Ignatius.

Translation: Ignatius to the Smyrneans

Mini-Report: The Nature of the Heresy (heresies?) Confronted by Ignatius.

TOPICAL DISCUSSION: The Spread of Christianity.

READING: Ramsey Macmullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire


October 6:  The Letter of Polycarp and the Formation of the Canon.  Discussion of Term Papers.

Reading: Letter of Polycarp (in English, several times); Dehandschutter, Boudewijn.  “Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians:  an Early Example of  ‘Reception’,” The New Testament in Early Christianity, edited by J. Sevrin, 1989; 275-291.   Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers vol. 1, Letter of Polycarp, “Introduction”; Jefford, ch. 5.

Translation: Pol.Phil. 1-9.

Mini-Report: The Integrity of the Letter of Polycarp


October 13:  The Martyrdom of Polycarp.

Reading: Martyrdom of Polycarp (in English, several times);  Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers vol. 1, Martyrdom of Polycarp, “Introduction”; Jefford, ch. 6; Ehrman, Forgery and Counter-Forgery, pp. 493-508.

Translation: Mart.Pol. 1-7.

Mini-Report: The Date of Polycarp’s Martyrdom

TOPICAL DISCUSSION: Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early church.

READING: Judith Perkins, The Suffering Self


October 20:  The Didache and the Development of Christian Ritual.

Reading: The Didache (in English, several times);   Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers vol. 1, Didache “Introduction”; Jefford, ch. 2; Nathan Mitchell, “Baptism in the Didache,” in Clayton Jefford, The Didache in Context: Essays on Its Text, History, and Transmission (Leiden: Brill, 1995) 226-55.

Translation: Did. 4-10

Mini-Report: The Date and Integrity of the Didache

TOPICAL DISCUSSION: Ritual in the Early Church;

READING: Michael Penn, Kissing Christians: Ritual and Community in the Late Ancient Church


October 27:    The Epistle of Barnabas and the Rise of Christian Anti-Judaism

Reading: Epistle of Barnabas (in English, several times);   Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers vol. 2, Epistle of Barnabas, “Introduction”; Jefford, ch. 1.

Translation: Barn. 2, 4.

Mini-Report: The Date and Social Setting of Barnabas

TOPICAL DISCUSSION: Early Christian Anti-Judaism

READING: Daniel Boyarin, Borderlines


November 3:   Problems of Interpretation in the Shepherd of Hermas.

Reading: Shepherd of Hermas (in English, several times);  Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers vol. 2, The Shepherd of Hermas, “Introduction”;  Jefford, ch. 9; Carolyn Osiek, “The Genre and Function of the Shepherd of Hermas.” Semeia 36 (1986): 113-121.

Translation; Shepherd, Vision 2.

Mini-Report: The Canonicity of the Shepherd of Hermas


 November 10: The Fragments of Papias

Reading:  All the Fragment of Papias; Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, vol. 2, Papias “Introduction,” Jefford, ch. 4.

Translation: Papias, All the Greek Fragments.

Mini-Report: Papias and his oral traditions.

TOPICAL DISCUSSION: The Making of Books in Christian Antiquity;

READING: Harry Gamble, Books and Readers in Early Christianity


November 17:  2 Clement.

Translation: 2 Clement 1-6;

Reading: 2 Clement (in English, several times);  Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers vol. 1, 2 Clement “Introduction”; Jefford, ch. 8.

Mini-Report: the Literary Character of 2 Clement

TOPICAL DISCUSSION: Women in the Early Church

READING: Ross Kraemer, Her Share of the Blessings


November 24: NO CLASS (SBL week)


December 1:  The Letter to Diognetus.

Translation: Letter to Diognetus 1-5.

Reading: Letter to Diognetus (in English, several times); Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, vol. 2, Letter to Diognetus “Introduction”; Jefford, ch. 10; Theofried Baumeister, “Zur Datierung der Schrift an Diognet,” VC 42 (1988) 105-11; R. H. Connolly, “The Date and Authorship of the Epistle to Diognetus,” JTS 36 (1935) 345-57.

Mini-report: The Major Foci of the Early Christian Apologists

Final Discussion: Do the Apostolic Fathers Exist?

Discussion of Term Papers