Created Wed, Sept. 18, 2002

On the Law: Part 3:
Early Church Conduct and Organization


Though the following early writers are quoted on what they had to say about something, there is also a lot of Bible material added to support what they might assert as well as my own hot air on the matter. So they are not exclusively the early writers.

Sub-headings:

Justin:
On Baptism
Jesus' Passover
"The Covenant"
"Church on Sunday"
Eusebius of Caesarea: Describes Christians

Tertullian:
To His Wife
FROM THE LAST WORK ON THE PASSOVER
Eusebius of Caesarea: The Great Apostasy
Clement of Rome: Rebellion, Chaos
Barnabas verifies danger
Irenaeus' Against the Heresies, from Book 3


Related Articles


As part of our consideration of the law and why we do not have to observe the signs, symbols, and rituals of the law, I thought it quite important to show from history that much of what churches observe today is done because of things that have long since been forgotten.

For instance, Christians have always gathered together on Sundays. Some think that they got confused about the day of the Sabbath and so observed the Sabbath on Sunday, when it had always been Saturday for the Jews. But the truth was that Christians never observed the Sabbath and were not confused about which day to meet. We only have hints of this in the Bible, but Justin will declare it quite clearly to us how it came from the Apostles. At the appropriate points, we will also consult the Bible, too, if I have not considered the subject elsewhere.

Now we know there were plenty of rituals observed under the law. Likewise, we have a few in the new covenant as well. Those will be dealt with here. Most do not understand that though rituals are only symbolic, they are necessary to obey and observe. A man who did not observe the rituals of the law was commanded to be stoned. Though we are not killed by man for not observing rituals commanded to us, the offense is no less serious in the eyes of God.

It does not occur to some Christians that we also have rituals and observances as was the case under the law. They are different from those of the law but they are required, none the less. So we will give some attention to that idea.

Let us begin with Justin, who addresses the Romans in his first apology, defending what Christians do and refuting what they did not do but were accused of. We start of with Justin's discussion of Baptism, a very important ritual prescribed by none other than Jesus in Matthew 28:19.



JUSTIN
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THE FIRST APOLOGY OF JUSTIN

CHAP. 61 (on baptism)
I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water.

And how those who have sinned and repent shall escape their sins, is declared by Isaiah the prophet, as I wrote above; he thus speaks: "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from your souls; learn to do well; judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow: and come and let us reason together, says the Lord. And though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white like wool; and though they be as crimson, I will make them white as snow. But if you refuse and rebel, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."

And for this [rite] we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; he who leads to the layer the person that is to be washed calling him by this name alone.

And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings. And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed.

CHAP. 62 (more on baptism)
And the devils, indeed, having heard this washing published by the prophet, instigated those who enter their temples, and are about to approach them with libations and burnt-offerings, also to sprinkle themselves; and they cause them also to wash themselves entirely, as they depart [from the sacrifice], before they enter into the shrines in which their images are set.

CHAP. 65
But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss.

There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen.

This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to <greek>genoito</greek> [so be it]. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.

[{So here Justin has presented a view of how Baptism was observe there in the early part of the second century AD, not long after john was alive. So there is a good chance that the ritual has not been severely corrupted yet. He also explains the "Amen" to us. Baptism was an apparently celebratory event where prayers were offered and the brad and diluted wine were passed around. There is a man in charge to run the fathering, which we know from the Bible where overseers were appointed as well as those who served with them in a subordinate capacity. The bread and wine are to be explained next. But let us look at the Bible version first.}]



Jesus' Passover From the Bible
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Matthew 26:
26 And as they ate, taking the bread and blessing it, Jesus broke and gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body.
27 And taking the cup, and giving thanks, He gave to them, saying, Drink all of it.
28 For this is My blood of the New Covenant which concerning many is being poured out for remission of sins.
29 But I say to you, I will not at all drink of this fruit of the vine after this until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of My Father.

Luke 22:
1 And the Feast of Unleavened Bread, being called Passover, drew near.

7 And the day of the Unleavened Bread came, on which the passover must be killed.
8 And He sent Peter and John, saying, Going, prepare for us the passover, that we may eat.

14 And when the hour came, He reclined, and the twelve apostles with Him.
15 And He said to them, With desire I desired to eat this passover with you before My suffering.
16 For I say to you that never in any way I will eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
17 And taking a cup, giving thanks, He said, Take this and divide it among yourselves.
18 For I say to you that in no way will I drink from the produce of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.
19 And taking a loaf, giving thanks, He broke, and gave to them, saying,
     This is My body being given for you. Do this for My remembrance.
20 And in the same way the cup, after having supped, saying,
     This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, which is being poured out for you.

>> Jesus clearly introduces us to his new covenant and institutes a command, a ritual, involving the bread and wine, "Do this for My remembrance!" (GLT).<<

(RSV) "Do this in remembrance of me."

>> So we continue to observe what has been called by some, the last supper, by others the Lord's evening meal. But some Christians do not observe it. Why this is so, I can not explain! But faithful obedient ones do observe it. Now we will let Justin tell us how exactly it was observed in his time in obedience to Christ.<<



1st Apology - Chap. 66 "The Covenant"
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And this food is called among us <greek>Eukaristia</greek> [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.

[{One needed to be baptized in order to be allowed to partake in this observance. Interesting, eh? And Justin explains the respect they hold for this observance, recognizing that it is not ordinary bread and wine but those which represent the blood and body of Christ in their observance. He next points out the scriptural authority for this ritual.}]

For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do you in remembrance of Me, this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.

[{Next Justin relates some of the things Christians did when they came together at their gatherings and discusses the day of gathering, too, which we want to pay close attention to.}]



Chap. 67 "Church on Sunday"
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And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.

>>First, note how sharing was carried out just as it was early in the book of Acts.<<

Acts 4:
34 For neither was anyone needy among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses,
     selling them, they bore the value of the things being sold,
35 and laid them at the feet of the apostles. And it was distributed to each according as any had need.
36 And Joses [Joseph], the one surnamed Barnabas by the apostles, which being translated is,
     Son of Consolation; a Levite, a Cypriot by race,
37 a field being his, selling it, he bore the proceeds and placed them at the feet of the apostles.

>>As we can see, there was a very strong feeling of love and concern for each other among Christ's followers at that time. Christ having recently been raised and the threat of persecution being quite inevitable and close at hand helped the followers to be sober with hearts full of spirit and love. They shared so that no one had less than enough. Sharing was a work or fruit of faith, real faith, a faith that could move their hearts to compassion and empathy for their brothers and sisters. This is love as it ought to be among believers. Sadly, it is not evident today among so called believers. This should move us to shame and repentance but I am kind of cynical and doubt anything will result from it. Our hearts are not abundant with love or spirit, I regret to report.

Also apparent in Justin's paragraph above that Sunday was the day of meeting for Christians. And what was done at these meetings? They read the writings of the Apostles and Prophets, what we would call today, the Bible. The head of the church would then explain and teach some. Remember that they did not have many copies of the writings so reading was the best way to keep the words of God's servants clear in their minds.<<

Justin continues:
Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.

>>So much in one paragraph, huh? We are introduced to the breaking of the bread. Ever noticed these scriptures?<<

Acts 2:42 And they were continuing steadfastly in the doctrine of the apostles, and in fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:
46 And continuing steadfastly with one mind day by day in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house,
     they shared food in gladness and simplicity of heart,
47 praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church those being saved from day to day.

Acts 20:
6 And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.
7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.
9 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.
10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.
11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.
12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

>>Acts 20:7 mentions how the disciples assembled to break bread on the first day of the week. Justin will explain what this is all about. But it is confirmed in scripture. As well, the practice was to begin in the evening, even as had been the custom of Israel from time immemorial as set out in the Bible. In verse 11, the resurrected man joined in the breaking of bread and ate was well. There was a difference, was there not?<<

Justin continues:
But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.

This ends Justin's writings !!!

>> Note that the symbolism passed on to Christians at this time not long after 100 AD, the approximate time of the Apostle John's finally passing away in Ephesus. It remembered the 1st day of creation, where light came into the world as well as 1st day was also when Jesus rose. As well, Justin points out how Jesus did die the day before the Mosaic Sabbath and rose the day after it. Some say that he needed to be dead for fully 72 hours and that is not the case. His death and resurrection at that particular year and time, involved 3 different days but not full days.

I thought I would supply another account so that you could see the frequency with which the breaking of the bread, the observance of the Lord, took place. In addition, notice how they met at night or at least were up past midnight and into the next day. A different life, no?<<

1 Corinthians 11:
17 But enjoining this, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better, but for the worse.
18 Indeed, first, I hear divisions to be among you when you come together in the church. And I believe some part.
19 For there must also be heresies among you, so that the approved ones may become revealed among you.

20 Then you coming together into one place, it is not to eat the Lord's supper.
21 For each one takes his own supper first in the eating; and one is hungry, and another drunken.
22 For do you not have houses to eat and to drink? Or do you despise the church of God, and shame those who have not?
     What do I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? I do not praise.

>> The purpose of this gathering was not to eat. It was a ritual sort of thing. They were gathered for worship as the church of God. <<

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread;
24 and giving thanks, He broke and said, Take, eat; this is My body which is broken on behalf of you; this do in remembrance of Me.
25 In the same way the cup also, after supping, saying, This cup is the New Covenant in My blood;
     as often as you drink, do this in remembrance of Me. [Luke 22:19, 20].
26 For as often as you may eat this bread, and drink this cup, you solemnly proclaim the death of the Lord, until He shall come.

>> Paul got this directly from Jesus. No question or doubt here! Jesus spoke of a New Covenant, did he not? does not New replace the Old, the Old having been fulfilled? The bread and the wine were symbols, were they not? we do them in remembrance of what Jesus started that night of Nisan 14, the beginning of the days of unleavened bread begun in Egypt under Moses. but now Jesus said to observe it in memory of him, not Moses or the passover! Fact! And as often as we partake of these symbols, we proclaim his death and wait for him to return. It is apparent that this is done quite often in ritual. Not just once a year! It happens regularly. Surely on the first day of the week if at no other time as well.

As you will note next, to disrespect this observance is a serious sin. <<

27 So that whoever should eat this bread, or drink the cup of the Lord, unworthily, that one will be guilty
     of the body and of the blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and let him drink of the cup;
29 for he eating and drinking unworthily eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.

30 For this reason many among you are weak and feeble, and many sleep.
31 For if we discerned ourselves, we would not be judged.
32 But being judged, we are corrected by the Lord, that we not be condemned with the world.
33 So that, my brothers, coming together to eat, wait for one another.
34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, that you may not come together for judgment.
     And the other things I will set in order whenever I come.

>> They were sometimes starting without everyone being present yet at their assembly. Note in Acts 20 how Paul spoke for sometime before they broke the bread. It was important for everyone to participate in. this was nothing casual or optional. It was mandatory and serious. <<

So thanks to Justin, we know why we have always met on Sunday and why. So in this one respect, it would appear the Catholic Church of today is more faithful than many in its frequent observance of the so called Eucharist. The same would be said of the Greek and other Orthodox churches as well. Some do observe the Lord's Supper around Easter, which is also around the time of Passover. Easter had always celebrated the resurrection of Christ, not the Passover or Sabbath. Passover was what Jesus and his disciples were observing, an observance which began on the 14th of the month. Others observe the weekly keeping of the ritual but do not observe the passover occasion of the Lord's last supper.

It would seem proper to me to do both and after baptisms, too, according to scripture. We may do it as often as we like as long as it is done with great respect. They also did it from house to house in Acts 2 so there seems to be that authority. Paul seems to allow that possibility. That takes care of the observances and what Justin had to say on those things. Notice there was no Sabbath. That was avoided.

But it should be known that in the days of the Byzantine Empire, an empire that had the Christian religion as its foundation and constitution, passed law forbidding any work on this Sunday meeting. Whether it was influenced by the Sabbath of Saturday and just thought a good idea, it spread to all the churches and so to this day, people often refuse to work on Sunday and often do not know why or confuse why with the Sabbath of Saturday. But it is not the Sabbath of Saturday. But it has resulted in much confusion and caused some to go back to the Saturday observance of the Sabbath, unfortunately, because they know not what they worship or why. Its Sunday, the first day of the week; not Saturday, the last day of the week, and it is celebrating and observing the resurrection of Jesus not the Mosaic Sabbath.

Now I also wanted to address the word often translated as "custom" in the Bible, which represents the Greek word, "ethos," related to our adopted word, "ethics."

Custom: 1485. eyov ethos eth'-os; from 1486; a usage (prescribed by habit or law):
-- custom, manner, be wont.
KJV - custom 7, manner 4, be wont 1; 12
1) custom
2) usage prescribed by law, institute, prescription, rite

Acts 15:1 And going down from Judea, some taught the brothers, saying, If you are not circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.

Acts 17:2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went in to them and reasoned with them from the Scriptures on three sabbaths,

Acts 25:16 to whom I answered, It is not a custom with Romans to give up any man to destruction before the one being accused may have the accusers face to face, and may receive place of defense concerning the charge.

The custom of Moses was the law of Moses. Same with the custom of the Romans. It was their law. But Paul's custom was either of his own choosing or commanded by God but not something required of God's followers in general. Also not in Acts 17 that Paul went in to visit Jews on 3 sabbaths, to reason with them and call them to God. He had not ceased preaching to Jews or trying to save them, even though he was sent to the Gentiles/Nations primarily.

Further more, if Paul went in to the Jews on the sabbath, then he could not have been with his Gentile brethren. Paul had drawn them away from Jewish synagogues to worship Christ who the Jews as a whole had rejected. Paul met on Sunday with Christians but on Saturday to discuss Christ with the Jews. Further proof that it was not the sabbath on Saturday that was observed but the first day on Sunday, the resurrection day, belonging to Jesus, not Moses.


Now in our next writer, Eusebius of Caesarea, who we might call a church historian and apologist, we are introduced to an account from Philo of Alexandria, which describes the Christian community in Egypt.

Eusebius of Caesarea - Describes Christians
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Church History: Book II (2) Chapter 16
Mark first proclaimed Christianity to the Inhabitants of Egypt

And they say that this Mark was the first that was sent to Egypt, and that he proclaimed the Gospel which he had written, and first established churches in Alexandria. And the multitude of believers, both men and women, that were collected there at the very outset, and lived lives of the most philosophical and excessive asceticism, was so great, that Philo thought it worth while to describe their pursuits, their meetings, their entertainments, and their whole manner of life."

[{Christians seemed to exhibit excessive asceticism in the eyes of people in general, perhaps. But I doubt Eusebius saw it that way. We will see for our selves. This asceticism was also part of the Essene culture in Qumran, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls as well. }]

Book 2 chap 17:

In the work to which he gave the title, On a Contemplative Life or on Suppliants, after affirming in the first place that he will add to those things which he is about to relate nothing contrary to truth or of his own invention, he says that these men were called Therapeut' and the women that were with them Therapeutrides. He then adds the reasons for such a name, explaining it from the fact that they applied remedies and healed the souls of those who came to them, by relieving them like physicians, of evil passions, or from the fact that they served and worshipped the Deity in purity and sincerity. Whether Philo himself gave them this name, employing an epithet well suited to their mode of life, or whether the first of them really called themselves so in the beginning, since the name of Christians was not yet everywhere known, we need not discuss here. He bears witness, however, that first of all they renounce their property. When they begin the philosophical mode of life, he says, they give up their goods to their relatives, and then, renouncing all the cares of life, they go forth beyond the walls and dwell in lonely fields and gardens, knowing well that intercourse with people of a different character is unprofitable and harmful.

[{Eusebius writes in the 4th century, speaking of Philo's time, near to Christ. But we see things similar to what Christians did in Acts 2. They leave their worldly possessions behind, either selling their houses or leaving them to relatives, too. Unlike Christians in Acts, they leave the city behind and live in more remote and isolated places. This can be confirmed by archaeology, where Coptic Christians lived in desert places, years and centuries later. They did this to avoid being too influenced by the population who lived apart from God's ways. We might wonder how much of this was at the direction of Mark or whether these "Egyptian" Christians of probable Jewish, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian lineage in that country did not become extreme on their own account, if indeed, it is extreme.

Even today, we see many people not even Christian, who head out for the suburbs and rural areas to escape the less favorable conditions that exist in densely populated cities. And today there also exist small groups such as the Amish, Hutterites, the Bruderhof, and perhaps a few others of some Christians persuasion who prefer an existence more isolated from the world in general.}]

They did this at that time, as seems probable, under the influence of a spirited and ardent faith, practicing in emulation the prophets' mode of life. For in the Acts of the Apostles, a work universally acknowledged as authentic, it is recorded that all the companions of the apostles sold their possessions and their property and distributed to all according to the necessity of each one, so that no one among them was in want. "For as many as were possessors of lands or houses," as the account says, "sold them and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet, so that distribution was made unto every man according as he had need."

[{ It would seem that Eusebius also recognizes that how they lived was a little bit more extreme than what was common for Christians in most provinces of the Roman Empire. But as he points out, the prophets were also noted for ascetic lives as well. So it really is not unusual. And Alexandria did turn out to be a Christian's center of notable education and prolific reputable writers and scholars of the Christian faith. But it was also the start of Origen and getting too mixed up and caught up in Greek philosophical science and trying to make the scriptures harmonize with this Greek Philosophy. }]

Philo bears witness to facts very much like those here described and then adds the following account: "Everywhere in the world is this race found. For it was fitting that both Greek and Barbarian should share in what is perfectly good. But the race particularly abounds in Egypt, in each of its so-called nomes, and especially about Alexandria. The best men from every quarter emigrate, as if to a colony of the Therapeut's fatherland, to a certain very suitable spot which lies above the lake Maria upon a low hill excellently situated on account of its security and the mildness of the atmosphere."

[{The Word and Faith seemed to abound in Egypt. And they sought out a place to live, not based on material prosperity, but on security and mild climate.}]

And then a little further on, after describing the kind of houses which they had, he speaks as follows concerning their churches, which were scattered about here and there:

"In each house there is a sacred apartment which is called a sanctuary and monastery, where, quite alone, they perform the mysteries of the religious life. They bring nothing into it, neither drink nor food, nor any of the other things which contribute to the necessities of the body, but only the laws, and the inspired oracles of the prophets, and hymns and such other things as augment and make perfect their knowledge and piety."

[{ What Philo seems to describe is a room dedicated to scrolls or a codex like books containing the laws, prophets, hymns, and the like, dedicated to God. Today we might call this a library or office. But it was dedicated to Godly matters, not business. Many people today have bookshelves or collections of their own so it is not anything unusual. But it is quite clear that they were very dedicated and occupied with Christian learning and devotion. Are we listening? Are we as dedicated today? }]

And after some other matters he says:

"The whole interval, from morning to evening, is for them a time of exercise. For they read the holy Scriptures, and explain the philosophy of their fathers in an allegorical manner, regarding the written words as symbols of hidden truth which is communicated in obscure figures. They have also writings of ancient men, who were the founders of their sect, and who left many monuments of the allegorical method. These they use as models, and imitate their principles."

[{ It was well recognized that they interpreted scripture in an allegorical manner. What a contrast between this and modern worshippers who seem to take a fundamentalist literal approach to the Bible. They also seem to have the writings of the Apostles, their "ancient men" who founded the so called sect. These also used an allegorical method of writing, according to Philo. He could recognize that but why is it we do not grasp that? }]

These things seem to have been stated by a man who had heard them expounding their sacred writings. But it is highly probable that the works of the ancients, which he says they had, were the Gospels and the writings of the apostles, and probably some expositions of the ancient prophets, such as are contained in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in many others of Paul's Epistles. Then again he writes as follows concerning the new psalms which they composed: "So that they not only spend their time in meditation, but they also compose songs and hymns to God in every variety of metre and melody, though they divide them, of course, into measures of more than common solemnity."

[{ They were musically inclined. That is kind of interesting. They made use of a great variety of music, but noted for their solemnity. It also seems to me that there are more proper types of music in regards to worship and some types that are not so proper. }]

"Having laid down temperance as a sort of foundation in the soul, they build upon it the other virtues. None of them may take food or drink before sunset, since they regard philosophizing as a work worthy of the light, but attention to the wants of the body as proper only in the darkness, and therefore assign the day to the former, but to the latter a small portion of the night. But some, in whom a great desire for knowledge dwells, forget to take food for three days; and some are so delighted and feast so luxuriously upon wisdom, which furnishes doctrines richly and without stint, that they abstain even twice as long as this, and are accustomed, after six days, scarcely to take necessary food."

[{ Well, I can not fault them for appreciating and pursuing wisdom and knowledge so devoutly. We do not do it enough while their lives revolved around Godly wisdom and understanding. That is most commendable and proper. But they did seem kind of extreme in their denying the body as extremely as they did. Taking in food and drink is necessary and proper, and if possible, to enjoy their food, even as Ecclesiastes gives us this as a reward for our hard work. So we can see some extremism developing among the followers. That is not likely a positive sign, but I do believe we do not pursue Godly knowledge and understanding nearly as much as we should. We do not take our devotion to God and our own lives seriously. Though not to the degree perhaps that was done by the Egyptian brothers, we should put the study of God's word first in our lives. }]

For they say that there were women also with those of whom we are speaking, and that the most of them were aged virgins who had preserved their chastity, not out of necessity, as some of the priestesses among the Greeks, but rather by their own choice, through zeal and a desire for wisdom. And that in their earnest desire to live with it as their companion they paid no attention to the pleasures of the body, seeking not mortal but immortal progeny, which only the pious soul is able to bear of itself. Then after a little he adds still more emphatically:

"They expound the Sacred Scriptures figuratively by means of allegories. For the whole law seems to these men to resemble a living organism, of which the spoken words constitute the body, while the hidden sense stored up within the words constitutes the soul. This hidden meaning has first been particularly studied by this sect, which sees, revealed as in a mirror of names, the surpassing beauties of the thoughts."

[{ It is amazing that so devoted and perhaps excited by their studies, women would often remain unmarried to pursue their education in Godly understanding. While this seems a bit extreme, there certainly is nothing wrong with it. Given that all people seem so unsteady and unpredictable, marriage is certainly a gamble and can turn out to be as Paul put it, "tribulation in the flesh." But a couple could as easily study God's word together as apart, if that is what both want. But if both are not in agreement on this, then there could be conflict and of course, if they have kids, that could/would certainly take up a lot of time and expense that could rob much time from God, but justifiably so, since the kids should receive that time for learning about God.

Philo also takes notice of how much they focus on the hidden meaning of the scriptures and the law. They recognized the figurative and allegorical meanings. As we have seen by studying the law here, there was a lot of symbolic sense to it all. Sadly, this understanding has been forgotten over the centuries so that many today believe we should observe the sabbath and on its true day, Saturday, as if we were observing it on Sunday when we are not and never have observed it at all. And some take everything literally, not understanding the more figurative meaning behind the words of Jesus and his Apostles, as well as the ancient prophets. }]

Why is it necessary to add to these things their meetings and the respective occupations of the men and of the women during those meetings, and the practices which are even to the present day habitually observed by us, especially such as we are accustomed to observe at the feast of the Savior's passion, with fasting and night watching and study of the divine Word. These things the above-mentioned author has related in his own work, indicating a mode of life which has been preserved to the present time by us alone, recording especially the vigils kept in connection with the great festival, and the exercises performed during those vigils, and the hymns customarily recited by us, and describing how, while one sings regularly in time, the others listen in silence, and join in chanting only the close of the hymns; and how, on the days referred to they sleep on the ground on beds of straw, and to use his own words, "taste no wine at all, nor any flesh, but water is their only drink, and the relish with their bread is salt and hyssop."

[{I neglected to mention in Justin's accounting of the weekly observance f the Lord's Supper, that they met at night, likely on Saturday evening, which was considered the beginning of the next day, Sunday, the first day of the week. We usually meet in the day, right? So too, night watching is mentioned. Eusebius mentions that on days of fasting, I assume, they sleep on beds of straw and in their fasting, only drink water along with bread and a relish of salt and hyssop. Quite austere, huh? They certainly seemed much more devoted than we are.

Of course, persecution helped, even forced them to be much more vigilant and alert, even dedicated and serious. We note this among the young during the Vietnam war. They were much more serious, activist, thoughtful, and motivated. With their friends getting killed frequently in Vietnam, they had good reason to be more thoughtful about life and their future. When there is a crisis in our lives, it forces us to think and helps put things in proper perspective, arranging our priorities in a more sensible way. I suspect persecution had this effect on Christians of those early centuries of its infancy.

But not to worry! The Bible makes it clear we will have persecution again before it is all over. If we are to survive the coming persecution, which many will not be expecting, including many Christians, we will have to have made proper preparations in our minds and hearts or we will not be able to brave that persecution. So now is the time to get to know God's word and purpose and prepare ourselves for our final test.}]



Tertullian
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Tertullian wrote quite a bit in his lifetime, part of it in good standing, and the latter part of his life considered by some to be a heretic of a Montanist persuasion. Tertullian, in an essay entitled "To His Wife," speaks against marrying outside of your religion, to a non-believer. Here he points out why this could be a problem. I print it here so as to point out how Christians conducted themselves in their churches.

Tertullian
To His Wife
Book 2

CHAP. 4 -- OF THE HINDRANCES WHICH AN UNBELIEVING HUSBAND PUTS IN HIS WIFE'S WAY.

But let her see to (the question) how she discharges her duties to her husband. To the Lord, at all events, she is unable to give satisfaction according to the requirements of discipline; having at her side a servant of the devil, his lord's agent for hindering the pursuits and duties of believers: so that if a station is to be kept, the husband at daybreak makes an appointment with his wife to meet him at the baths; if there are fasts to be observed, the husband that same day holds a convivial banquet; if a charitable expedition has to be made, never is family business more urgent.

[{Having been in a congregation where many women came to know Christ, only after having been married and without the husbands likewise accepting Christ and the church, I know what Tertullian says when he points out that when there are Christian or church observances such as a charitable expedition mentioned, then never is family business more urgent. Yes, given the church/religious functions of the early years of Christianity, a husband would often object to the wife's being a part of it. But there is more to consider.}]

For who would suffer his wife, for the sake of visiting the brethren, to go round from street to street to other men's, and indeed to all the poorer cottages? Who will willingly bear her being taken from his side by nocturnal convocations, if need so be? Who, finally, will without anxiety endure her absence all the night long at the paschal solemnities? Who will, without some suspicion of his own, dismiss her to attend that Lord's Supper which they defame? Who will suffer her to creep into prison to kiss a martyr's bonds? Nay, truly, to meet any one of the brethren to exchange the kiss? To offer water for the saints' feet? To snatch (somewhat for them) from her food, from her cup? To yearn (after them)? To have (them) in her mind? If a pilgrim brother arrive, what hospitality for him in an alien home? If bounty is to be distributed to any, the granaries, the storehouses, are foreclosed.

[{The paschal solemnities were the observance of the passover where Christ shared the bread and wine with his disciples which we were commanded to keep. Can you imagine the wife staying out all night to observe these? We don't even do this today ourselves. And Paul mentions in at least 3 letters to greet each other with a holy kiss. And we can see that this was observed and Tertullian wonders how unbelieving husbands would react to this. In addition, it was more difficult to be charitable, or to offer hospitality to traveling Christians, or anything else.

But what most stands out to me is how close knit, affectionate, and community oriented the early Christians were. They had a lot more concern and care for each other. I think that we should be moved to shame. We have become so indifferent, so removed from each other, so cold in our affections, so distant, without any sense of community or purpose, and putting almost no effort into really understanding God's word. I think leaders of churches have done a terrible job of cultivating proper love and devotion among the flock. We were allowed to drift apart and become indifferent, so much so that we can not be distinguished from the world in general.

Jesus said that by this all will know you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves. If this is the measure, we will never be able to prove we are really his disciples. This should all give us plenty of reason to reconsider our devotion to God and each other. We certainly do not measure up to the standard of the past. We should be repenting in sack cloth and ashes, with our garments ripped in two.

The next work of Tertullian survives in fragmented form.}]

FROM THE LAST WORK ON THE PASSOVER.
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Quoted in the Paschal Chronicle.

Accordingly, in the years gone by, Jesus went to eat the passover sacrificed by the Jews, keeping the feast. But when he had preached He who was the Passover, the Lamb of God, led as a sheep to the slaughter, presently taught His disciples the mystery of the type on the thirteenth day, on which also they inquired, "Where will (desire)You, that we prepare for You to eat the passover?" It was on this day, then, that both the consecration of the unleavened bread and the preparation for the feast took place. Whence John naturally describes the disciples as already previously prepared to have their feet washed by the Lord. And on the following day our Savior suffered, He who was the Passover, propitiously sacrificed by the Jews.

THE SAME.

Suitably, therefore, to the fourteenth day, on which He also suffered, in the morning, the chief priests and the scribes, who brought Him to Pilate, did not enter the Praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but might freely eat the passover in the evening. With this precise determination of the days both the whole Scriptures agree, and the Gospels harmonize. The resurrection also attests it. He certainly rose on the third day, which fell on the first day of the weeks of harvest, on which the law prescribed that the priest should offer up the sheaf.

[{ It should be known that a great dispute arose in the days of Victor, so called "bishop" of Rome, that all the eastern churches in Asia Minor observed the Lord's supper in the 14th day, Nisan 14 in the Jewish calendar, for as long as they could ever remember. But western churches had observed it on the 15th for as long as they could remember. Eusebius had recorded the event. But in the end, they decided to agree to disagree and accept each other, not seeing this as being of fundamental importance. I believe this was the wise thing to do. But as can be seen from Tertullian, the 14th seemed proper. It was on the 14th that it began according to the commands of the law of Moses.

And as you can also see, Jesus' sacrificial death took place at the exact times that the festivals began and or where key observances of those festivals took place. This was not by coincidence but by the intended will of God. }]



This next account is rather interesting for what it points out about the great apostasy mentioned by the Apostles and Jesus, too.

Eusebius of Caesarea, Book 3 chap 32:
The Great Apostasy
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In addition to these things the same man [Hegesippus], while recounting the events of that period, records that the Church up to that time had remained a pure and uncorrupted virgin, since, if there were any that attempted to corrupt the sound norm of the preaching of salvation, they lay until then concealed in obscure darkness. But when the sacred college of apostles had suffered death in various forms, and the generation of those that had been deemed worthy to hear the inspired wisdom with their own ears had passed away, then the league of godless error took its rise as a result of the folly of heretical teachers, who, because none of the apostles was still living, attempted henceforth, with a bold face, to proclaim, in opposition to the preaching of the truth, the 'knowledge which is falsely so-called.'

[{This is one of my most treasured nuggets of early Christian writing for it acknowledges what I call the great apostasy of those early times. It makes the point that the death of the Apostles also brought a death to certainty of Christian doctrine. For as long as the Apostles remained alive and full of the Holy Spirit, then doctrinal disputes could be settled. Once gone, there would not be present the authority of the Holy Spirit to banish disputes and heresy. Even the generation who heard the Apostles struggled to maintain pure doctrine. Many of them being quite young when the last Apostle, John, taught, they depended more on the writings than accurate memory, often with error, though perhaps not entirely intentional, though influenced by Greek philosophy all the same.

The Apostles said the heresy (mystery of lawlessness) was already at work in their time. After they were gone, it would flourish and it certainly did. But what Hegesippus failed to recognize was that it was not just the Gnostics who were heretics, but the church itself as was becoming polluted with false ideas, greatly influenced by Greek philosophy at that time. they would not stick with Bible definitions and terms and would accept certain Greek ideas as fact, such as the Greek idea of the soul being separate and distinct from the body or literally interpreting the lake of fire. In fact, though the early church did recognize much of an allegorical nature, they still took too much literally.

Jesus said that all his field in which he had planted good seed would later be sown with weeds by the devil. There was no part of the church that would survive or escape this demonic sowing. So Jesus said to let them grow together until the harvest at the end. Near the end, much of the truth would get recognized. I deal with this in articles listed under Related Articles at the end of this one.}]



Clement of Rome: Rebellion, Chaos
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To the Corinthians

Chap. 42
The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ has done so from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand.

[{Clement give us the order by which things took place. God sent forth Christ and Christ sent forth the Apostles, who then went forth to all the world in time. And the Apostles also appointed men themselves, by direction of the Holy Spirit, as we will see.}]

And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labors], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture a certain place, "I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith."

Deuteronomy 16:18 You shall appoint judges and officers for yourself in all your gates which Jehovah your God gives you, tribe by tribe. And they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.

Isaiah 1:26 And I will return your judges as at the first; and your advisors, as at the beginning; then you shall be called the city of righteousness, a faithful town.

Ezra 7:25 And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God in your hand, you appoint judges and magistrates who may judge all the people who are Beyond the River; all who know the laws of your God; and those who do not know, you cause to know.

Chap. 44
Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.

[{We know from the scriptures that the Apostles did appoint men as overseers. Given the instructions by Paul for the qualifications that an overseer or a ministerial servant, we know that after the Apostles died, others would need to be appointed as Clement shall next relate.}]

We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry.

[{ The Problem was that men who thought more of themselves than they should have, and who only cared about status, prominence, position, rank, and attention; these would wrestle appointed overseers and the flock for the top position and sometimes even win. They might be sly enough to seek out allies among the flock to gain a vote and remove appointed ones. The Apostles John mentioned such a one by the name of Diotrephes in 3 John 1:9.

Men appointed should not have been removed or contested unless they had done something wrong. Those who fought to have these men removed had no such guilt so as to deserve removal. The Holy Spirit made known that this would happen. }]

For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and wholly fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that you have removed some men of excellent behavior from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honor.

Chap. 57
You therefore, who laid the foundation of this sedition, submit yourselves to the presbyters, and receive correction so as to repent, bending the knees of your hearts. Learn to be subject, laying aside the proud and arrogant self-confidence of your tongue. For it is better for you that you should occupy a humble but honorable place in the flock of Christ, than that, being highly exalted, you should be cast out from the hope of His people. For thus speaks all-virtuous Wisdom:" Behold, I will bring forth to you the words of My Spirit, and I will teach you My speech. Since I called, and you did not hear; I held forth My words, and you regarded not, but set at naught My counsels, and yielded not at My reproofs; therefore I too will laugh at your destruction; yea, I will rejoice when ruin comes upon you, and when sudden confusion overtakes you, when overturning presents itself like a tempest, or when tribulation and oppression fall upon you. For it shall come to pass, that when you call upon Me, I will not hear you; the wicked shall seek Me, and they shall not find Me. For they hated wisdom, and did not choose the fear of the Lord; nor would they listen to My counsels, but despised My reproofs. Wherefore they shall eat the fruits of their own way, and they shall be filled with their own ungodliness." ...

[{ I now present chapter 37 after having first considered later chapters as I believe they help better explain what Clement says in 37. }]

Chap. 37
Let us then, men and brethren, with all energy act the part of soldiers, in accordance with His holy commandments. Let us consider those who serve under our generals, with what order, obedience, and submissiveness they perform the things which are commanded them. All are not prefects, nor commanders of a thousand, nor of a hundred, nor of fifty, nor the like, but each one in his own rank performs the things commanded by the king and the generals. The great cannot subsist without the small, nor the small without the great. There is a kind of mixture in all things, and thence arises mutual advantage. Let us take our body for an example. The head is nothing without the feet, and the feet are nothing without the head; yea, the very smallest members of our body are necessary and useful to the whole body. But all work harmoniously together, and are under one common rule for the preservation of the whole body.

[{My point to here is that there were overseers and servants appointed to coordinate things and manage the affairs of the church in behalf of Christ and the people of the church. They were appointed with the approval of the people. It was partially a democracy within the churches. There was no hierarchy outside of the church that did this. The church was subject to no one but those from within. And once appointed, a man should not be removed without good reason. He was appointed for life as had been given by the Apostles. This is clearly seen in all the records of heads of the churches.

But as for the word bishop or deacon, they are not correct translations. The Greek word translated as bishop is episkopos, which means overseer. The Greek word translated as deacon is diakonos, which means minister, servant, attendant, or waiter. The more accurate translations free from bias will use overseer instead of bishop, which was a position of the Roman Catholic church.}]



Barnabas
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Chap. 4
We take earnest heed in these last days; for the whole [past] time of your faith will profit you nothing, unless now in this wicked time we also withstand coming sources of danger, as becomes the sons of God. That the Black One may find no means of entrance, let us flee from every vanity, let us utterly hate the works of the way of wickedness. Do not, by retiring apart, live a solitary life, as if you were already [fully] justified; but coming together in one place, make common inquiry concerning what tends to your general welfare. For the Scripture says, "Woe to them who are wise to themselves, and prudent in their own sight!" Let us be spiritually-minded: let us be a perfect temple to God. As much as in us lies, let us meditate upon the fear of God, and let us keep His commandments, that we may rejoice in His ordinances. . . . . And all the more attend to this, my brethren, when you reflect and behold, that after so great signs and wonders were brought in Israel, they were thus [at length] abandoned. Let us beware lest we be found [fulfilling that saying], as it is written, "Many are called, but few are chosen."

[{ The emphasis here for me is not to isolate ourselves but to come together in one place and to make inquiry, sincere inquiry, as to the general welfare of your brothers and sisters in the faith. We are commanded by Jesus to love, that is, to genuinely care. We can not do that be remaining independent and isolated. }]



Irenaeus' Against the Heresies, Book 3
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Chap. 3
1. It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to "the perfect" apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should fall away, the direst calamity.

[{Irenaeus confirms that the Apostles appointed men to oversee the churches and why.}]

Chap. 4
1. Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life.

Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?

[{ Irenaeus speculates that if the Apostles had not left writings, we would have to get instruction from the churches and what traditions they had kept. But the Apostles had left writings, specifically because you can not rely on tradition. Tradition and history might be right if close to the time an event happened. But it is not quite certain. }]

2. If any one were to preach to these men the inventions of the heretics, speaking to them in their own language, they would at once stop their ears, and flee as far off as possible, not enduring even to listen to the blasphemous address. Thus, by means of that ancient tradition of the apostles, they do not suffer their mind to conceive anything of the [doctrines suggested by the] portentous language of these teachers, among whom neither Church nor doctrine has ever been established.

End of Irenaeus

Irenaeus says we can rely on the churches for the proper doctrine. But if we compare the Bible with the doctrine handed down by these writers, we see this is not so. They do not always match up with what the Apostles taught in their letters. Often what happened was that the heretics would make use of some truth but mix it with lots of invented things and lies.

One such debate focused around the resurrection. The orthodox traditional writers and defenders of the churches believed we would be resurrected in physical bodies and live in heaven. The heretics said we would be raised as spirits in heaven. The heretics were right up to that point. But then they said that everything in the material world ,the flesh, was bad and alienated from God. This is a lie. When God first made man, God called it good, not bad.

The orthodoxy got confused because they would read the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets, where it foretold a fleshly resurrection on earth, and confused that with the new covenant hope of going to heaven with Jesus as spirits. The interpreted Jesus' resurrection as one of the body. It is true that he appeared with a body to them but he did not keep that body or appear before God with that body. I cover this much more in a Related Article at the end of this one.

So while the heretics invented lies along with some truth, the orthodoxy got confused between two different promises and were just as wrong, though not with deliberate intent as was the case with the heretics. But wrong is wrong regardless of intention. Intentions make a difference with God, but they do not help our doctrine, even if God does not hold it against us.

That is why the written word of God from His servants is the only authority on all matters. The benefit of early church recordings is that they can often shed light on things that are only briefly mentioned in passing by the Apostles. The two sources together make much more sense on some issues.

But what we see from the writers was how the church gatherings were organized and conducted, right or wrong. And because of some scriptures, it seems likely that what was handed down that I have quoted is true. It gives us s glimpse of the early church which is valuable to us who are trying to se whether we are doing a good and accurate job.

What we have found is that the churches did not observe the Sabbath and met on a different day by command of the Apostles, to observe a different event, the resurrection of their and our Lord, which give us the firm hope of a resurrection, too. We can see those earlier believers were not keeping the law. It was a clean break from Judaism. They were even called by a different name as the prophets had foretold.

We see what rituals they were that we need to observe and how. We see how the early Christians behaved which is far different from how we do. And it would seem their way was much better and more devoted than ours. We need to give pause and thought to it all. We may be in need of change. It is most likely that we need to change. And last of all, we see how the church was organized and why.


Related Articles

Why We Don't Observe the Law!
The Foundation for Our Faith And of the Church
God's Institution - The Nation of Israel
How to Interpret the Bible



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