This volume, containing the equivalent to three volumes of the Edinburgh series of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, will be found a library somewhat complete in itself. The Apostolic Fathers and those associated with them in the third generation, are here placed together in a handbook, which, with the inestimable Scriptures, supplies a succinct autobiography of the Spouse of Christ for the first two centuries. No Christian scholar has ever before possessed, in faithful versions of such compact form, a supplement so essential to the right understanding of the New Testament itself. It is a volume indispensable to all scholars, and to every library, private or public, in this country.
The American Editor has performed the humble task of ushering these works into American use, with scanty contributions of his own. Such was the understanding with the public: they were to be presented with the Edinburgh series, free from appreciable colour or alloy. His duty was (1) to give historic arrangement to the confused mass of the original series; (2) to supply, in continuity, such brief introductory notices as might slightly popularize what was apparently meant for scholars only, in the introductions of the translators; (3) to supply a few deficiencies by short notes and references; (4) to add such references to Scripture, or to authors of general repute, as might lend additional aid to students, without clogging or overlaying the comments of the translators; and (5) to note such corruptions or distortions of Patristic testimony as have been circulated, in the spirit of the forged Decretals, by those who carry on the old imposture by means essentially equivalent. Too long have they been allowed to speak to the popular minds as if the Fathers were their own; while, to every candid reader, it must be evident that, alike, the testimony, the arguments, and the silence of the Ante-Nicene writers confound all attempts to identify the ecclesiastical establishment of “the Holy Roman Empire,” with “the Holy Catholic Church” of the ancient creeds.
In performing this task, under the pressure of a virtual obligation to issue the first volume in the first month of the new year, the Editor has relied heavily upon the kindly aid of an able friend, as typographical corrector of the Edinburgh sheets. It is only necessary to add, that he has bracketed all his own notes, so as to assume the responsibility for them; but his introductions are so separated from those of the translators, that, after the first instance, he has not thought it requisite to suffix his initials to these brief contributions. He regrets that the most important volume of the series is necessarily the experimental one, and comes out under disadvantages from which it may be expected that succeeding issues will be free. May the Lord God of our Fathers bless the undertaking to all my fellow-Christians, and make good to them the promise which was once felicitously chosen for the motto of a similar series of publications: “Yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers.”
A.C.C., January 6, 1885
N.B. — The following advertisement of the original editors will be useful here: —
The Ante-Nicene Christian Library is meant to comprise translations into English of all the extant works of the Fathers down to the date of the first General Council held at Nice in A.D. 325. The sole provisional exception is that of the more bulky writings of Origen. It is intended at present only to embrace in the scheme the Contra Celsum and the De Principiis of that voluminous author; but the whole of his works will be included should the undertaking prove successful.
The present volume has been translated by the Editors.1 Their object has been to place the English reader as nearly as possible on a footing of equality with those who are able to read the original. With this view they have for the most part leaned towards literal exactness; and wherever any considerable departure from this has been made, a verbatim rendering has been given at the foot of the page. Brief introductory notices have been prefixed, and short notes inserted, to indicate varieties of reading, specify references, or elucidate any obscurity which seemed to exist in the text.
1 This refers to the first volume only of the original series.