Book Reviews

The Apostolic Fathers

Greek Texts and English Translations

Michael W. Holmes, editor Grand Rapids 2007-11-01

While evangelicalism is experiencing a sort of renaissance of interest in the writings of the early church, authors and publishers are meeting the demand for primary and secondary resources. In light of this, the latest edition of the Greek-English text of The Apostolic Fathers offers Christian scholars, teachers, and pastors an essential addition to their libraries.

Holmes significantly improves on his own second edition in a number of important ways. Overall, the English translation is updated and improved. Only a few translation decisions seem unnecessary or excessive, though the notes provide a satisfactory rationale. For example the translation of Ignatius of Antioch’s alternate name, Theophorus, “Image-bearer,” seems to be a decision of interpretation rather than translation, though Holmes’s interpretation may very well be correct.

This third edition makes an effort to reach scholars without abandoning popular appeal. Scholars will be pleased by the improved critical apparatus, for which Holmes has adopted the familiar symbols of the United Bible Society (UBS) critical text. The editor also presents the Fragments of Papias in Arabic, Armenian, and Syriac, whereas the second edition included only the Greek and Latin versions. And the introductions and bibliographies are appropriately updated to reflect the most recent important contributions. Holmes’s edition also has distinct advantages over Bart Ehrman’s 2003 update of The Apostolic Fathers in the Loeb Classical Library. Whereas Ehrman’s edition maintains Loeb’s two-volume format, Holmes’s third edition is contained in one handy volume, conveniently matching the dimensions of the UBS Greek Text.

Popular readers and new students of the apostolic fathers will discover several features in this handy volume that render Holmes’s edition ideal for general use—even by those who have not studied Greek (though an English-only edition is also available). The revised design and typography of the third edition are perhaps the most obvious improvements. The new running page headers contain chapter and verse numbers, which assist in navigation. Also descriptive subheadings within the translation help summarize the content of sections.

While Holmes’s work is not a revolutionary overhaul of the second edition, its improvements and updates justify the new volume. As such, it is a genuinely welcome contribution to evangelicalism’s growing library of relevant Christian classics. This third edition of The Apostolic Fathers is sure to become the preferred edition for personal and classroom use by English-speaking academics and pastors as well as interested students of the early church. 

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Michael J. Svigel
Dr. Svigel serves as department chair and professor of theological studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is actively engaged in teaching and writing for a broader evangelical audience. His passion for a Christ-centered theology and life is coupled with a penchant for humor, music, and writing. His books and articles range from text critical studies to juvenile fantasy. Many of his written works can be found online at and He and his wife, Stephanie, have three children, Sophie, Lucas, and Nathan.
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