Tag Archives: apostolic fathers

What is the “Rule of Faith”?

What is the “rule of faith”? Often times scholars refer to the “rule of faith” as an interpretive guideline but never actually define it. In this regard Tomas Bokedal’s essay, “The Rule of Faith: Tracing Its Origins” is helpful[1]. He states that the “rule” can be traced back to the apostolic period and was often times used in reference to baptismal confessions. In short, it is the “sum content of the apostolic teaching” (234). For example, we find an early reference to this “rule” in 1 Clement 7:1, “Therefore let us abandon empty and futile thoughts, and let us conform to the glorious and holy rule of our tradition.” The “rule of faith” can be referred to in a number of ways such as[2]: regula fidei (rule of faith), the rule, the faith, the truth, and the rule of truth. Later in Irenaeus we find a more fuller explanation of “the faith”:

the Church, though spread throughout the whole world … received from the apostles and their disciples the faith in one GOD the FATHER Almighty, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; and in one CHRIST JESUS, the SON of GOD, who became flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy SPIRIT, who through the prophets proclaimed the economies, and the coming, and the birth from the Virgin, and the passion, and the resur­ rection from the dead, and the ascension of the beloved CHRIST JESUS our LORD in the flesh into the heavens, and his coming from the heav­ ens in the glory of the FATHER to recapitulate all things and to raise up all flesh of the whole human race. (Haer.1, io.i)[3]

Bokedal notes sixth observations regarding Irenaeus’s definition (238):

  1. The “rule” goes back to the apostolic period
  2. Contains traditional “Christ-creed material”
  3. “A focus on the divine Name — the appeal to Jewish and Christian monotheistic belief”
  4. Contains both “flexibility and fixity”
  5. Apostolic tradition
  6. Reflects similarities to the nomina-sacra

There is more to be said about this topic such as is the rule of faith the same throughout the early church, if it does differ then how, how did the early church actually use the rule of faith when interpreting Scripture, and many others. I hope this is a helpful starting point into understanding the rule.

Do you think using the Rule of Faith is a helpful interpretive guideline?

  1. Tomas Bokedal. “The Rule of Faith: Tracing Its Origins.” Journal of Theological Interpretation 7, no. 2 (2013): 233–55.  ↩

  2. This is not an exhaustive list but a catalog of key examples.  ↩

  3. p. 238  ↩

Book Review: A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers

Many of you will be familiar with Michael Burer’s A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Covering all words that occur 50x or less in canonical order, it has assisted many students of the Greek New Testament.

Following in the same vein, Daniel B. Wallace along with Brittany C. Burnette and Terri Darby Moore, have produced an extremely helpful work in the Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Father’s. The Apostolic Fathers (AF) are seeing a new wave of interest among scholar’s today. Larry Hurtado notes in a recent article that many scholar’s are releasing new publications concerning the AF, including Wallace’s new work. This area of study is fruitful both for students of the New Testament and students of Early Christianity. Hurtado continues by saying these texts “include some of the earliest most important and fascinating texts from ancient Christian circle.” The corpus provides insights into the first interpretations of Holy Scripture, use of other early writings, agrapha, and customs and practices of the earliest Christians.

The Reader

A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers covers all words that occur 30x or less in the Greek New Testament (GNT). By choosing to compare the frequency to the GNT and not the AF corpus it allows students of the New Testament an easier transition to begin reading the AF in the original Greek. This is arguably the most important aspect of the reader’s lexicon. Students will be able to approach the original text immediately with their current vocabularly set in confidence.

The ordering of the words follows Michael Holmes’s third edition of the Apostolic Fathers. The lexical form of the word along with a definition and frequence of occurences (within the AF corpus, individual author, and individual verse). The glosses are determined in the following order: BDAG, Lampe’s Patristic Greek Lexicon, LSJ, J.B. Lightfoot’s translation of the Apostolic Fathers, and Michael Holmes’s text[1] .

Example from Reader
Taken from p. 12

Related Works

The importance of this work cannot be overstated. Currently, there is no other work that fills this need. The most comparable works are the diglots by Erhman (Vol 1. and Vol. 2) and Holmes. These are helpful but do not assist students in reading the orginal in a natural manner. With a diglot one is dependent on a complete English translation for vocabularly, which hinders students from making exegetical and translational decisions for themselves. Other works that are similar are Rodney Decker’s Koine Greek Reader and Rodney Whitaker’s A Patristic Reader. Both are these resources are helpful in what they are trying to accomplish, an aid to assist students in learning Greek other than that at the New Testament. They cover a selection of the AF corpus but are not meant to be comprehensive.


I highly recommend this to any student of the New Testament or Early Christianity. The AF is an enriching corpus that will be serve as an aid for students. Greek students will also be able to improve their Greek knowledge by working through unfamiliar territory with different vocabularly and syntax. Daniel Wallace, Brittany C. Burnette, and Terri Darby Moore are to be commended on this excellent volume.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for this free review copy.

  1. Note that this only covers the Greek text. There are parts of some text that are only extant in other various languages such as Latin.  ↩

David Nienhuis on Not Using Parallel Apostolic Fathers’ Writings for the Dating of James

In David Nienhuis’s book, Not By Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and Christian Canon, he argues for a second century date of James. In doing this he does not discuss the alleged parallels and allusions in the Apostolic Fathers (AF) corpus. He argues that since there are no direct quotations in the apostolic fathers collection we cannot “determine the use of James before Origen (30).” At first glance this may seem he is dismissing evidence against his conclusion of a second century dating of James. But he goes on to say that the reason we cannot use parallels and allusions in the AF collection is because there is no way to establish dependence on James. The argument is not solely that since there are no direct quotations then we cannot establish some type of cannection but rather it cannot answer to what kind of connection we can establishs[1]. Nienhuis concludes,

Even if a parallel were to be firmly established, it is often difficult if not impossible to determine which text is in the dependent position.

He then lays out his more “conservative approach” (31):

  1. For allusions and echoes he will examine the surronding context in order to argue for or against literary dependence. Knowledge of the letter of James must be established to regard the parallel as an allusion or echo[2].
  2. A refusal to use a parallel that could be accounted for based on earlier material. He says, “it is unremarkable that both James and Irenaeus refer to Abraham as the ”friend of God,“ because the tradition was widespread in earlier Jewish literature. It is therefore hardly firm enough ground upon which to make a case for Irenaeus’s knowledge of the letter of James.”
  3. He argues that many times patristic writers will explicitly reference material from other Catholic writers but do not reference James when the topic is related. On his use of an argument from silience see my previous post here
  4. Finally, he examines the patristic literature that speaks of James as a person in order to see if a letter of James is reference too. It would seem unlikely for an author to consisently speak of James the person with no mention of a letter that he wrote.

To conclude, it would be easy to assume that Nienhuis dismisses alleged evidence from the AF collection because of no direct quotations but this is only part of the picture. The reason that the parallels are dismissed is because for this reason alone it cannot establish dependence on the Jacobean text.

Currently, I hold to the traditional Jacobean authorship and that the epistle has an early date. I think Richard Bauckham’s arguments are strong in establishing an early date of the letter. That being said I still have unanswered questions, namely, how do we account for the lack of witness to the letter of James before Origen. I think Nienhuis provides a strong argument for not assuming the dependence of James in the writing of the Apostolic Fathers, which means my question of early reception is still unanswered.

For other posts related to Nienhuis’s book see:

  1. Not By Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and the Christian Canon
  2. A Canonical History of the New Testament Catholic Epistles Collection
  3. Early James Traditions

  1. One of the stronger arguments for a later writer using James is the author of Shepherd of Hermas’ use of δίφυχος . But Nienhuis argues that since “δίφυχος is used 19x, δίφθχεῖν 20x, and διφυχία 16x that this actually becomes a sub-theme of the book (120).” He goes on to say that “if we accept the notion that the Roman writers Hermas and Clement appealed to James as an authoritative source, we are then forced into the unlikely conclusion that the other was a quotable authority in the Western church by the end of the first century but was somehow subsequently neglected for over 200 years (120).” On this topic see also Dale Allison, James (pgs. 20–25), analyzes all the parallel connections between the two. He concludes that although there are parallels in the text literary dependence cannot be established.  ↩

  2. He defition for allusions and echos are as follows: 1) Allusion is a “‘covert, implied, or indirect reference’ to an earlier text, which is intended to remind an audience (consciously or unconsciously) of a tradition or text with which they are presumed to have some measure of acquaintance (30).” 2) An echo “refers to those instances where the possibility of an intentional reference exists, but the parallel is so inexact that it remains beyond our ability to determine with anything approaching confidence (30).”  ↩

Didache Reading Group and Vocab List



Last month, Rick Brannan, led a Faithlife reading group through 2 Clement. It was a lot of fun to go through the text together and people giving their thoughts. 2 Clement is an interesting book and I was glad I went through it with them.

Starting Febuary 4 we will be going through the Didache. Dr. Varner will be leading the short discussions this month. If your interested in going through the Didache (in Greek or English) join us! The reading schedule (MWF) is as follows:

Date Reference
February 04, 2013 Didache 1.1–6
February 06, 2013 Didache 2.1–7
February 08, 2013 Didache 3.1–10
February 11, 2013 Didache 4.1–14
February 13, 2013 Didache 5.1–2; 6:1–3
February 15, 2013 Didache 7.1–4; 8.1–3; 9.1–5
February 18, 2013 Didache 10.1–7
February 20, 2013 Didache 11.1–12
February 22, 2013 Didache 12.1–5; 13.1–7
February 25, 2013 Didache 14.1–3; 15.1–4
February 27, 2013 Didache 16.1–8

If you are not familiar with the Didache here is Rick Brannan’s short introduction from his Apostolic Fathers Greek-English Interlinear on Logos:

The formal title is “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” but it is commonly known as the Didache, from the Greek word διδαχή (didache), which means “teaching.” It was only known from fragments and brief citations until 1873, when a manuscript (dated to 1056 AD) was recovered that contained the whole of the text (Kraft 1992, 2:198).

The Didache is a handbook for Christians, giving instructions on how to act (§§1–6) and how to worship (§§7–15), ending with a section on eschatology (§16). Intertextual relations abound. Many see similarities between the Didache and Matthew (Jefford, Reading, 47–49), but other documents (e.g. Epistle of Barnabas 18–20) share the “Two Ways” material of Didache 1–6.
Because of the intertextual relationships and the uncertainty of which writings are dependent on each other, dating the Didache is tricky. It is safest to establish a range of 80–120 AD (Jefford, Reading, 32).

Brian Leport at the Near Emmaus blog also has some recent posts on the Didache (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

I have also compiled a PDF of all vocabulary words that occur less than 30x in the NA27. I hope this to be a helpful vocabulary reference to anyone who has taken their first year of Greek. I also included the NA27 frequency of the words along with the frequency in the Didache.

Download the PDF here