The use of pistis and cognate words in the Apostolic Fathers
The Apostolic Fathers is the name given to the body of literature, written in Greek, which dates from immediately after the New Testament period. The works cover the last decade of the 1st century AD, and the first half of the second century. They give a varied picture of the moral and doctrinal state of the early Christian Church in a period characterised by constant threat of persecution and martyrdom on the one hand, and growth in theological and ethical understanding on the other.
The works considered in this thesis are the genuine letters of Ignatius; the Shepherd of Hermas; the Epistle of Barnabas and the Didache; the letter to Diognetus; the Clementine Homily (commonly called II Clement); the letters of Polycarp to the Philippians and the Martyrdom of Polycarp.
The study begins with an essay on the development of the language of faith. This traces the use of the pistis group from Homer to the New Testament, and shows how the Homeric and Classical Greek usages were taken by the Septuagint and applied in a religious context to God and salvation, and how this process was further developed in the New Testament into a full-blown technical vocabulary of faith. The Apostolic Fathers take this process a step further, and there is a broadening of the meanings of the cognates, together with resultant changes in the linguistic usage.
All the occurrences of pistis and its cognates in the Apostolic Fathers are examined in detail. In each case there is comment of the meaning of the words within the wider context in which they are set in each work. The Greek is given, together with a translation, and obscure passages are elucidated.