The relationship of faith and works in the soteriologies of the Apostolic Fathers
The Apostolic Fathers have been widely interpreted as espousing a soteriology that deviates from the New Testament's message of salvation and reconciliation through the grace of God. While this understanding has been widespread, there have been other readers of the Apostolic Fathers who saw them in a different, and less negative, light. The present work has attempted to address the difference in these two interpretations. Chapters one through three address preliminary considerations: the identy and background of the Apostolic Fathers, the history of their interpretation, and some hermeneutical issues for patristic study. Chapters four through six examine Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, the Didache, The Epistle of Barnabas, and The Shepherd of Hermas, in turn. In each case the chapter begins with an examination of the background and purpose for writing, then their understanding of salvation - its basis, its appropriation, and the role of works in the Christian life - is considered. In every case, except The Shepherd of Hermas, we find that the death of Christ is the basis of salvation, appropriation is by faith, and in varying degrees repentance, and works are performed as a response to salvation. The Shepherd of Hermas we find defective, with no understanding of the atonement and works having saving significance. Chapter ten proposed a New Testament soteriology, based on the same categories, as a foil against which the Apostolic Fathers may be compared and assessed. Our conclusion is that while the Apostolic Fathers are moralistic, it is a reflection of the fact that they were written to address practical problems not as theological reflection. Their faith was grounded in Jesus Christ and they lived, and worked, in response to him.