Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes in One). Amazon Kindle Edition, 2014.
Volume 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325, “Chapter 13. Ecclesiastical Literature of the Ante-Nicene Age, and Biographical Sketches of the Church Fathers.” sec. 159-204.
§ 161. The Apostolic Fathers.
After an extensive bibliography, Schaff identifies the apostolic fathers as “the first church teachers after the apostles, who haed enjoyed in past personal intercourse with them, and thus form the connecting link between them and the apologists of the second century (Schaff 2014, 20448). He acknowledges that we know little of these authors or, for that matter, of the apostles. The life in Christ was considered as much more important, so the authors of Christian works were considered to be relatively unimportant. Their works are not lengthy, Schaff observes, comprisonly only about wice as much writing as the New Testament (Schaff 2014, 20455). Most are simply exhortations to faith in Christ. “Yet they show the genus of the apologetic, polemic, dogmatic, and ethic theology, as well as the outlines of the organization and the cultus of the ancient Catholic church” (Schaff 2014, 20463).
Schaff considers the writing of the apostolic Fathers to be of lower quality than that of the New Testament, from which he adduces apostolic inspiration by contrast (Schaff 2014, 20471). He also notes the tendncy of the apostolic fathers to quote sayings, rather than writings, of the apostles. The Fathers, though often read in churches, were never considered to bear the same authority as the texts which were later recognized as authoritative Scripture.