Scholars in their work on the concept of grace in early Christianity have focused primarily upon the New Testament's understanding of the term or the Post-Nicene period's use, particularly in Augustine of Hippo and more recently in Pelagius. As such, the Ante-Nicene Fathers' understanding and appropriation of grace has not received adequate attention. Furthermore, the little work done in the Ante-Nicene period is plagued by a view of grace arising from the Protestant Reformation, and not the Greco-Roman patron-client relationship foundational to the culture in which the early Church existed.
The purpose of my paper is threefold. First, I will explore the concept of grace in the writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, the Didache and The Epistle of Barnabas, working within the cultural framework of grace in the patron-client relationship dominant in this period. Second, I will attempt to articulate a theological understanding of grace operative among these Apostolic Fathers. Finally, I will try to show that their view of grace is not a departure from New Testament teaching, as some scholars have argued, rather, their understanding stands in clear continuity with it.