The earliest Church Fathers, (within two generations of the Twelve Apostles of Christ) are usually called the Apostolic Fathers since tradition describes them as having been taught by the twelve. Important Apostolic Fathers include
Clement of Rome
Ignatius of Antioch and
Polycarp of Smyrna. In addition,
and Shepherd of Hermas
are usually placed among the writings of the Apostolic Fathers although their authors are unknown; like the works of Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp, they were first written in Koine Greek.
His epistle, 1 Clement (c.96)] was copied and widely read in the Early Church. Clement calls on the Christians of Corinth to maintain harmony and order It is the earliest Christian epistle outside the New Testament.
Ignatius of Antioch (also known as Theophorus) (c.35-110) was the third bishop or Patriarch of Antioch and a student of the Apostle John. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, the role of bishops, and Biblical Sabbath. He is the second after Clement to mention Paul’s epistles.
Polycarp of Smyrna (c 69–ca. 155) was a Christian bishop of Smyrna (now İzmir in Turkey). Irenaeus wrote that “Polycarp also was not only instructed by the apostles, and conversed with many who had seen the Lord, but was also appointed bishop by apostles in Asia and in the church in Smyrna” and that he himself had, as a boy, listened to “the accounts which (Polycarp) gave of his intercourse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord”. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc2.v.xv.iv.html
Polycarp of Smyrna (c.69–c.155) was a Christian bishop of Smyrna (now İzmir in Turkey). It is recorded that he had been a disciple of John. The options for this John are John the son of Zebedee traditionally viewed as the author of the Gospel of John, or John the Presbyter. Traditional advocates follow Eusebius in insisting that the apostolic connection of Polycarp was with John the Evangelist, and that this John, the author of the Gospel of John, was the same as the Apostle John.
Polycarp tried and failed to persuade Anicetus, Bishop of Rome, to have the West celebrate Passover on 14 Nisan, as in the East. In c.155, the Smyrnans demanded Polycarp’s execution as a Christian, and he died a martyr. His story has it that the flames built to kill him refused to burn him and that when he was stabbed to death, so much blood issued from his body that it quenched the flames around him.[ Polycarp is recognized as a saint in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
Irenaeus of Lyons a disciple of Polycarp a dsiciple of John the Beloved Apostle
Irenaeus was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyon(s), France. His writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology, and he is recognized as a saint by both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. He was a notable early Christian apologist. He was also a disciple of Polycarp.
His best-known book, Against Heresies (c.180) enumerated heresies and attacked them. Irenaeus wrote that the only way for Christians to retain unity was to humbly accept one doctrinal authority—episcopal councils] Irenaeus proposed that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all be accepted as canonical.
Epistle to Diognetus,
also known as Saint Justin (c. 100 – 165 AD), was an early Christian apologist, and is regarded as the foremost interpreter of the theory of the Logos in the 2nd century He was martyred, alongside some of his students, and is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church the Anglican Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church
Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue did survive. The First Apology, his most well known text, passionately defends the morality of the Christian life, and provides various ethical and philosophical arguments to convince the Roman emperor, Antoninus, to abandon the persecution of the fledgling sect. Further, he also makes the theologically-innovative suggestion that the “seeds of Christianity” (manifestations of the Logos acting in history) actually predated Christ’s incarnation. This notion allows him to claim many historical Greek philosophers (including Socrates and Plato), in whose works he was well studied, as unknowing Christians.
of Antioch (Ancient Greek: Ἰγνάτιος Ἀντιοχείας, Ignátios Antiokheías; AD c. 35 or 50 – 98 to 117), also known as Ignatius Theophorus (Ιγνάτιος ὁ Θεοφόρος, Ignátios ho Theophóros, lit. “the God-bearing”), was a student of John the Apostle, and was the third bishop of Antioch.[ En route to Rome, where according to Christian tradition he met his martyrdom by being fed to wild beasts, he wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.
Ignatius converted to Christianity at a young age. Later in his life he was chosen to serve as a Bishop of Antioch, succeeding Saint Peter and St. Evodius (who died around AD 67). The 4th-century Church historian Eusebius records that Ignatius succeeded Evodius. Making his apostolic succession even more immediate, Theodoret of Cyrrhus reported that St. Peter himself appointed Ignatius to the episcopal see of Antioch. Ignatius called himself Theophorus (God Bearer). A tradition arose that he was one of the children whom Jesus took in his arms and blessed.
Comment: We do not believe that Peter ever was Catholic nor was he ever a Pope.
Ignatius is one of the five Apostolic Fathers (the earliest authoritative group of the Church Fathers). He based his authority on being a bishop of the Church, living his life in the imitation of Christ. It is believed that St. Ignatius, along with his friend Polycarp, with great probability were disciples of the Apostle St. John.
Epistles attributed to Ignatius report his arrest by the authorities and travel to Rome:
From Syria even to Rome I fight with wild beasts, by land and sea, by night and by day, being bound amidst ten leopards, even a company of soldiers, who only grow worse when they are kindly treated. — Ignatius to the Romans, 5.