The “church fathers” are the earliest writers outside of the New Testament. Their writings are not classified as apocryphal nor are they considered authoritative.
They wrote to edify their fellow Christians. Their writings are not canonical because they recognize the superior authority of the canonical writings. These works quote extensively from the New Testament documents, both the gospels and Paul’s letter.
Here’s a list of some of the major works and their features.
Clement of Alexandria
Clement of Alexandria was an early theologian and philosopher.
1Clement was written with the New Testament period (c. 95-96 AD). A long letter by Clement of Rome to the church at Corinth dealing with a disturbance in Corinth when legitimately appointed “presbyters” were ejected. Clement urges peace and order.
2Clement – a homily of unknown date and origin (perhaps 130-160 AD).
Polycarp was a revered figure in the early church. He was Bishop of Smyrna when Ignatius wrote. He knew the apostles, especially John and taught Irenaeus. He wrote a letter to the Philippians around (135 AD).
The Didache refers to the “teaching of the apostles”. It is a composite work (90-110 AD) dealing with church order and moral exhortation, directions for baptism, correct form of the Lord’s Prayer, eucharistic prayers, rules for hospitality and warns against charlatans.
Epistle of Barnabas
The Epistle of Barnabas was written in Alexandria c 130-140 AD. It has a strongly anti-jewish message and uses allegorical exegesis.
Shepherd of Hermas
The Shepherd of Hermas is an allegory written by a member of the Roman church. It is designed to rouse a lax church and call to repentance Christians “who had sinned”.