SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Image Map
SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Period II. The Post-Apostolic Age: A. D. 100-A. D. 140

A Source Book For Ancient Church History by Joseph Cullen Ayer Jr., Ph.D.

Period II. The Post-Apostolic Age: A. D. 100-A. D. 140

The post-apostolic age, extending from circa 100 to circa 140, is the age of the beginnings of Gentile Christianity on an extended scale. It is marked by the rapid spread of Christianity, so that immediately after its close the Church is found throughout the Roman world, and the Roman Government is forced to take notice of it and deal with it as a religion (§§ 6, 7); the decline of the Jewish element in the Church and extreme hostility of Judaism to the Church (§ 5); the continuance of chiliastic expectations (§ 10); the beginnings of the passion for martyrdom (§ 8); as well as the appearance of the forms of organization and worship which subsequently became greatly elaborated and remained permanently in the Church (§§ 12-15); as also the appearance of religious and moral ideas which became dominant in the ancient Church (§§ 11, 12, 16). The literature of the period upon which the study of the conditions and thought of the Church of this age must be based is represented principally by the so-called Apostolic Fathers, a name which is convenient, but misleading and to be regretted. These are Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias, Hermas; with the writings of these are commonly included two anonymous books known as the Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, and the Epistle to Diognetus. From all of these selections are given.(4)

§ 5. Christianity and Judaism

The Christian Church grew up not on Jewish but on Gentile soil. In a very short time the Gentiles formed the overwhelming majority within the Church. As they did not become Jews and did not observe the Jewish ceremonial law, a problem arose as to the place of the Jewish law, which was accepted without question as of divine authority. One solution is given by the author of the so-called Epistle of Barnabas, which should be compared with the solution given by St. Paul in his epistles to the Galatians and to the Romans. The number of conversions from Judaism rapidly declined, and very early an extreme hostility toward Christianity became common among the Jews.

(a) Barnabas, Epistula, 4, 9.

The epistle attributed to Barnabas is certainly not by the Apostle of that name. Its date is much disputed, but may be safely placed within the first century. The author attempts to show the contrast between Judaism and Christianity by proving that the Jews wholly misunderstood the Mosaic law and had long since lost any claims supposed to be derived from the Mosaic covenant. The epistle is everywhere marked by hostility to Judaism, of which the writer has but imperfect knowledge. The book was regarded as Holy Scripture by Clement of Alexandria and by Origen, though with some hesitation. The position taken by the author was undoubtedly extreme, and not followed generally by the Church. It was, however, merely pushing to excess a conviction already prevalent in the Church, that Christianity and Judaism were distinct religions. For a saner and more commonly accepted position, see Justin Martyr, Apol., I, 47-53 (ANF, I, 178 ff.). A translation of the entire epistle may be found in ANF, I, 137-149.

Ch.4. It is necessary, therefore, for us who inquire much concerning present events to seek out those things which are able to save us. Let us wholly flee, then, from all the works of iniquity, lest the works of iniquity take hold of us; and let us hate the error of the present times, that we may set our love on the future. Let us not give indulgence to our soul, that it should have power to run with sinners and the wicked, that we become not like them. The final occasion of stumbling approaches, concerning which it is written as Enoch speaks: For this end the Lord has cut short the times and the days, that His beloved may hasten and will come to his inheritance.{HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS} (5) Ye ought therefore to understand. And this also I beg of you, as being one of you and with special love loving you all more than my own soul, to take heed to yourselves, and not be like some, adding largely to your sins, and saying: |The covenant is both theirs and ours.| For it is ours; but they thus finally lost it, after Moses had already received it.(6)

Ch.9. {HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS} But also circumcision, in which they trusted, has been abrogated. He declared that circumcision was not of the flesh; but they transgressed because an evil angel deluded them.(7){HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS} Learn, then, my beloved children, concerning all things richly, that Abraham, the first who enjoined circumcision, looking forward in spirit to Jesus, circumcised, the teaching of the three letters having been received. For the Scripture saith: |Abraham circumcised eighteen and three hundred men of his household.| What, then, was the knowledge [gnosis] given to him in this? Learn that he says the eighteen first and then, making a space, the three hundred. The eighteen are the Iota, ten, and the Eta, eight; and you have here the name of Jesus. And because the cross was to express the grace in the letter Tau, he says also, three hundred. He discloses therefore Jesus in the two letters, and the cross in one. He knows this who has put within us the engrafted gift of his teaching. No one has learned from me a more excellent piece of knowledge, but I know that ye are worthy.(8)

(b) Justin Martyr, Dialogus cum Tryphone, 17. J. C. T. Otto, Corpus Apologetarum Christianorum Saeculi Secundi, third ed.; 1876-81. (MSG, 6:511.)

Justin Martyr was born about 100 in Samaria. He was one of the first of the Gentiles who had been trained in philosophy to become a Christian. His influence upon the doctrinal development of the Church was profound. He died as a martyr between 163 and 168. His principal works are the two Apologies written in close connection under Antoninus Pius (138-161), probably about 150, and his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, which was written after the first Apology. All translations of Justin Martyr are based upon Otto's text, v. supra.

For the other nations have not been so guilty of wrong inflicted on us and on Christ as you have been, who are in fact the authors of the wicked prejudices against the Just One and against us who hold by Him.(9) For after you had crucified Him, the only blameless and righteous Man, through whose stripes there is healing to those who through Him approach the Father, when you knew that He had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, as the prophecies foretold would take place, not only did you not repent of those things wherein you had done wickedly, but you then selected and sent out from Jerusalem chosen men through all the world to say that the atheistical heresy of the Christians had appeared and to spread abroad those things which all they who know us not speak against us; so that you are the cause of unrighteousness not only in your own case, but, in fact, in the case of all other men generally.{HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS} Accordingly, you show great zeal in publishing throughout all the world bitter, dark, and unjust slanders against the only blameless and righteous Light sent from God to men.

(c) Martyrdom of Polycarp, 12, 13.

Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, died at Smyrna February 2, 155, at the age of at least eighty-six, but he was probably nearer one hundred years old. He was the disciple of John, probably same as the Apostle John. His epistle was written circa 115, soon after the death of Ignatius of Antioch. At present it is generally regarded as genuine, though grave doubts have been entertained in the past. The martyrdom was written by some member of the church at Smyrna for that body to send to the church at Philomelium in Phrygia, and must have been composed soon after the death of the aged bishop. It is probably the finest of all the ancient martyrdoms and should be read in its entirety. Translation in the ANF, I, 37-45.

Ch.12. The whole multitude both of the heathen and the Jews who dwelt at Smyrna cried out with uncontrollable fury and in loud voice: |This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians and the overthrower of our gods, who teaches many neither to sacrifice nor to worship.| Saying these things, they cried out and demanded of Philip, the Asiarch, to let a lion loose upon Polycarp. But he said he could not do this, since the sports with beasts had ended. Then it pleased them to cry out with one consent that he should burn Polycarp alive.{HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS}

Ch.13. These things were carried into effect more rapidly than they were spoken, and the multitude immediately gathered together wood and fagots out of the shops and baths, and the Jews especially, as was their custom, assisted them eagerly in it.

§ 6. The Extension of Christianity

It is impossible to determine with accuracy even the principal places to which Christianity had spread in the first half of the second century. Ancient writers were not infrequently led astray by their own rhetoric in dealing with this topic.

Justin Martyr, Dialogus cum Tryphone, 117. (MSG, 6:676.)

The following passage is of significance as bearing not only upon the extent to which Christianity had spread, after making due allowance for rhetoric, but also upon the conception of the eucharist and its relation to the ancient sacrifices held, by some Christians at least, in the first half of the second century. Cf. ch.41 of the same work, v. infra, §§ 12 f.

Therefore, as to all sacrifices offered in His name, which Jesus Christ commanded to be offered, i.e., in the eucharist of the bread and cup, and which are offered by Christians in all places throughout the world, God, anticipating them, testified that they are well-pleasing to Him; but He rejects those presented by you and by those priests of yours, saying: And your sacrifices I will not accept at your hands; for from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same my name is great among the Gentiles (He says), but ye have profaned it.(10) But since you deceive yourselves, both you and your teachers, when you interpret what was said as if the Word spoke of those of your nation who were in the dispersion, and that it said that their prayers and sacrifices offered in every place are pure and well-pleasing, you should know that you are speaking falsely and are trying to cheat yourselves in every way; for, in the first place, not even yet does your nation extend from the rising to the setting sun, for there are nations among which none of your race ever dwelt. For there is not a single race of men, whether among barbarians or Greeks, or by whatever name they may be called, of those who live in wagons or are called nomads or of herdsmen living in tents, among whom prayers and thanksgivings are not offered through the name of the crucified Jesus to the Father and Maker of all things. For, furthermore, at that time, when the prophet Malachi said this, your dispersion over the whole earth, as you are now, had not taken place, as is evident from the Scriptures.

§ 7. Relation of the Roman State to Christianity

The procedure of the Roman Government against the Christians first took a definite form with the rescript of Trajan addressed to Pliny circa A. D.111-113, but there is no formal imperial edict extant before Decius on the question of the Christian religion. In an addition to the rescript of Trajan addressed to Pliny there is a letter of Hadrian on the Christians (Ep. ad Servianum) which is of interest as giving the opinion of that Emperor, but the rescript addressed to Minucius Fundanus is probably spurious, as is also the Epistle of Antoninus Pius to the Common Assembly of Asia.

Additional source material: The text of the rescripts may be found in Preuschen, Analecta, I, §§ 6, 7; translations, ANF, I, 186 f., and Eusebius, Hist. Ec. (ed. McGiffert), IV, 9, and IV, 13.

Plinius Junior, Epistulae, X, 96, 97. Preuschen, Analecta, I, 12 ff. Cf. Mirbt, nn.14.15.

Caius Caecilius Secundus is commonly known as Pliny the Younger, to distinguish him from his uncle, Pliny the Naturalist, whose wealth he inherited and whose name he seems to have borne. He was propraetor of Bithynia under Trajan (98-117), with whom he stood on terms of friendship and even intimacy. His letter to the Emperor requesting advice as to the right mode of dealing with Christians was written between 111 and 113.

This correspondence is of the first importance, as it is unimpeachable evidence as to the spread of Christianity in the province in which Pliny was placed, to the customs of the Christians in their worship, and to the method of dealing with the new religion, which was followed for a long time with little change. It established the policy that Christianity, as such, was not to be punished as a crime, that the State did not feel called upon to seek out Christians, that it would not act upon anonymous accusations, but that when proper accusations were brought, the general laws, which Christians had violated on account of their faith, should be executed. Christianity was not to be treated as a crime. The mere renunciation of Christianity, coupled with the proof of renunciation involved in offering sacrifice, enabled the accused to escape punishment.

Ep.96. It is my custom, my lord, to refer to you all questions about which I have doubts. Who, indeed, can better direct me in hesitation, or enlighten me in ignorance? In the examination of Christians I have never taken part; therefore I do not know what crime is usually punished or investigated or to what extent. So I have no little uncertainty whether there is any distinction of age, or whether the weaker offenders fare in no respect otherwise than the stronger; whether pardon is granted on repentance, or whether when one has been a Christian there is no gain to him in that he has ceased to be such; whether the mere name, if it is without crimes, or crimes connected with the name are punished. Meanwhile I have taken this course with those who were accused before me as Christians: I have asked them whether they were Christians. Those who confessed I asked a second and a third time, threatening punishment. Those who persisted I ordered led away to execution. For I did not doubt that, whatever it was they admitted, obstinacy and unbending perversity certainly deserve to be punished. There were others of the like insanity, but because they were Roman citizens I noted them down to be sent to Rome. Soon after this, as it often happens, because the matter was taken notice of, the crime became wide-spread and many cases arose. An unsigned paper was presented containing the names of many. But these denied that they were or had been Christians, and I thought it right to let them go, since at my dictation they prayed to the gods and made supplication with incense and wine to your statue, which I had ordered to be brought into the court for the purpose, together with the images of the gods, and in addition to this they cursed Christ, none of which things, it is said, those who are really Christians can be made to do. Others who were named by an informer said that they were Christians, and soon afterward denied it, saying, indeed, that they had been, but had ceased to be Christians, some three years ago, some many years, and one even twenty years ago. All these also not only worshipped your statue and the images of the gods, but also cursed Christ. They asserted, however, that the amount of their fault or error was this: that they had been accustomed to assemble on a fixed day before daylight and sing by turns [i.e., antiphonally] a hymn to Christ as a god; and that they bound themselves with an oath, not for any crime, but to commit neither theft, nor robbery, nor adultery, not to break their word and not to deny a deposit when demanded; after these things were done, it was their custom to depart and meet together again to take food, but ordinary and harmless food; and they said that even this had ceased after my edict was issued, by which, according to your commands, I had forbidden the existence of clubs. On this account I believed it the more necessary to find out from two maid-servants, who were called deaconesses [ministrae], and that by torture, what was the truth. I found nothing else than a perverse and excessive superstition. I therefore adjourned the examination and hastened to consult you. The matter seemed to me to be worth deliberation, especially on account of the number of those in danger. For many of every age, every rank, and even of both sexes, are brought into danger; and will be in the future. The contagion of that superstition has penetrated not only the cities but also the villages and country places; and yet it seems possible to stop it and set it right. At any rate, it is certain enough that the temples, deserted until quite recently, begin to be frequented, that the ceremonies of religion, long disused, are restored, and that fodder for the victims comes to market, whereas buyers of it were until now very few. From this it may easily be supposed what a multitude of men can be reclaimed if there be a place of repentance.

Ep.97 (Trajan to Pliny). You have followed, my dear Secundus, the proper course of procedure in examining the cases of those who were accused to you as Christians. For, indeed, nothing can be laid down as a general law which contains anything like a definite rule of action. They are not to be sought out. If they are accused and convicted, they are to be punished, yet on this condition, that he who denies that he is a Christian and makes the fact evident by an act, that is, by worshipping our gods, shall obtain pardon on his repentance, however much suspected as to the past. Papers, however, which are presented anonymously ought not to be admitted in any accusation. For they are a very bad example and unworthy of our times.

§ 8. Martyrdom and the Desire for Martyrdom

Ignatius of Antioch, Ep. ad Romanos, 4.

Ignatius was bishop of Antioch in the opening years of the second century. According to tradition, he suffered martyrdom in Rome under Trajan, circa 117. Having been sent from Antioch to Rome by command of the Emperor, on his way he addressed letters to various churches in Asia, exhorting them to seek unity and avoid heresy by close union with the local bishop. His aim seems to have been practical, to promote the welfare of the Christian communities rather than the exaltation of the episcopal office itself. Doubts have arisen as to the authenticity of these epistles on account of the frequent references to the episcopate and to heresy. Further difficulty has been caused by the fact that the epistles of Ignatius appear in three forms or recensions, a longer Greek recension forming a group of thirteen epistles, a short Greek of seven epistles, and a still shorter Syriac version of only three. After much fluctuation of opinion, due to the general reconstruction of the history of the whole period, which has gone through various marked changes, the opinion of scholars has been steadily settling upon the short Greek recension of seven epistles as authentic, especially since the critical re-examination of the whole question by Zahn and Lightfoot.

I write to all the churches and impress on all, that I shall willingly die for God unless ye hinder me. I beseech you not to show unseasonable good-will toward me.(11) Permit me to be the food of wild beasts, through whom it will be granted me to attain unto God. I am the wheat of God and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ. Rather entice the wild beasts, that they may become my tomb and leave nothing of my body, so that when I have fallen asleep I may be burdensome to no one. Then I shall be truly a disciple of Jesus Christ, when the world sees not my body. Entreat Christ for me, that by these instruments I may be found a sacrifice to God. Not as Peter and Paul(12) do I issue commandments unto you. They were Apostles, I a condemned man; they were free, I even until now a slave.(13) But if I suffer, I shall be the freedman of Jesus Christ, and shall rise again free in Him. And now, being in bonds, I learn not to desire anything.

§ 9. The Position of the Roman Community of Christians in the Church

The Roman Church took very early a leading place in the Christian Church, even before the rise of the Petrine tradition, and its importance was generally recognized. Its charity was very widely known and extolled. It was a part of its care for Christians everywhere, a care which found expression later in the obligation of maintaining the faith in the great theological controversies. On the position of the Roman Church in this period, see the address of the Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans (ANF, I, 73), as also the relation of Polycarp to the Roman Church in connection with the question of the date of Easter (see § 38, below).

Dionysius of Corinth, |Epistle to the Roman Church,| in Eusebius, Hist. Ec., IV, 23. (MSG, 20:388.) For text, see Kirch, n.49 f.

Moreover, there is still current an Epistle of Dionysius to the Romans, addressed to Soter, bishop at that time. But there is nothing like quoting its words in which, in approval of the custom of the Romans maintained until the persecution in our own time, he writes as follows: |For you have from the beginning this custom of doing good in different ways to all the brethren, and of sending supplies to many churches in all the cities, in this way refreshing the poverty of those in need, and helping brethren in the mines with the supplies which you have sent from the beginning, maintaining as Romans the customs of the Romans handed down from the fathers, which your blessed bishop Soter has not only kept up, but also increased, helping the saints with the abundant supply he sends from time to time, and with blessed words exhorting, as a loving father his children, the brethren who come up to the city.| In this same epistle he also mentions the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, showing that from the first it was read by ancient custom before the Church. He says, therefore: |To-day, then, being the Lord's day we kept holy; in which we read your letter; for reading it we shall always have admonition, as also from the former one written to us through Clement.| Moreover, the same writer speaks of his own epistles as having been falsified, as follows: |For when the brethren asked me to write letters, I wrote them. And these the apostles of the devil have filled with tares, taking away some things and adding others. For them there is woe in store. So it is not marvellous that some have tried to falsify even the dominical scriptures [i.e., the Holy Scriptures], when they have conspired against writings of another sort.|

§ 10. Chiliastic Expectations

Primitive Christianity was marked by great chiliastic enthusiasm, traces of which may be found in the New Testament. By chiliasm, strictly speaking, is meant the belief that Christ was to return to earth and reign visibly for one thousand years. That return was commonly placed in the immediate future. With that reign was connected the bodily resurrection of the saints. This belief, in somewhat varying form, was one of the great ethical motives in apostolic and post-apostolic times. It was a part of the fundamental principles of Montanism. It disappeared with the rise of a |scientific theology| such as that of Alexandria, the exclusion of Montanism, and the changed conception of the relation of the Church and the world, due to the lapse of time and the establishment of Christianity as the religion of the State. From the fourth century it ceased to be a living doctrine.

(a) Papias, in Eusebius, Hist. Ec., III, 39. (MSG, 20: 300.)

Papias, from whom two selections have been taken, was bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia during the first part of the second century. He was, therefore, an elder contemporary of Justin Martyr. His work, The Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord, has perished, with the exception of a few fragments. The comments of Eusebius in introducing the quotations of Papias are characteristic of the change that had come over the Church since the post-apostolic period. That Papias was not to be regarded as a man of small power simply because he held chiliastic ideas is sufficiently refuted by the fact that Justin Martyr falls but little behind Papias in extravagance of expression.

|I shall not hesitate, also, to set in order for you with my interpretations whatsoever things I have ever learned carefully from the elders and carefully remembered, guaranteeing the truth of them.{HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS} For I did not think that what was to be gotten from the books would profit me as much as what came from the living and abiding voice.{HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS}| The same writer gives also other accounts which he says came to him through unwritten traditions, certain strange parables and teachings of the Saviour and some other more mythical things. Among these he says that there will be a period of some thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, when the kingdom of Christ will be set up in a material form on this very earth. I suppose he got these ideas through a misunderstanding of the apostolic accounts, not perceiving that the things said by them were spoken mystically in figures. For he appears to have been of very limited understanding, as one can see from his discourses, though so many of the Church Fathers after him adopted a like opinion, urging in their support the antiquity of the man; as, for instance, Irenaeus and any one else that may have proclaimed similar views.

(b) Irenaeus. Adv. Haereses, V, 33. (MSG, 7:1213.)

The elders who saw John, the disciple of the Lord, relate that they heard from him how the Lord used to teach in regard to those times, and say: |The days will come in which vines shall grow, each having ten thousand branches, and in each branch ten thousand twigs, and in each twig ten thousand shoots, and in each one of the shoots ten thousand clusters, and on every cluster ten thousand grapes, and every grape when pressed will yield five-and-twenty metretes of wine. And when any one of the saints shall lay hold of a cluster, another shall cry out, 'I am better cluster, take me; bless the Lord through me.' In like manner [the Lord declared] that a grain of wheat would produce ten thousand ears, and that every ear would produce ten thousand grains, and every grain would yield ten pounds of clear, pure, fine flour; and that all other fruit-bearing trees, and seeds and grass would produce similar proportions, and that all animals feeding [only] on the productions of the earth would [in those days] become peaceful and harmonious with each other and be in perfect subjection to men.| And these things are borne witness to in writing by Papias, the hearer of John, and a companion of Polycarp, in his fourth book; for there were five books compiled by him. And he says in addition: |Now these things are credible to believers.|

(c) Justin Martyr, Dialogus cum Tryphone, 80 f. (MSG, 6:665.)

Ch.80. Although you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this truth [the resurrection] and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob,(14) and who say that there is no resurrection of the dead and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven, be careful not to regard them as Christians.{HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS} But I and whoever are on all points right-minded Christians know that there will be a resurrection of the dead and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and the others declare.

Ch.81. And, further, a certain man with us, named John, one of the Apostles of Christ, predicted by a revelation that was made to him that those who believed in our Christ would spend a thousand years in Jerusalem, and thereafter the general, or to speak briefly, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place.

§ 11. The Church and the World

So long as chiliastic expectations were the basis of the Christian's hope and his judgment of the order of this present world, the Christian felt that he was but a stranger and sojourner in the world, and that his real home was the kingdom of Christ, soon to be established here on earth. With such a view the Christian would naturally define his relation to the world as being in it, yet not of it. As time passed, the opinion became more common that the kingdom of Christ was not a future world-order to be set up on His return, but the Church here on earth. This thought, which is the key to the City of God by St. Augustine, was not to be found in the first century and a half of the Church.

Ep. ad Diognetum, 5, 6.

The Epistle to Diognetus is one of the choicest pieces of ante-Nicene literature. Although it is commonly included among the Apostolic Fathers, the date is uncertain, it is anonymous, and the reason for its inclusion is not clear. The weight of opinion is in favor of an early date. It was preserved in but one manuscript, which was unfortunately destroyed in 1870. The main themes of the epistle are the faith and manners of the Christians, and an attempt to explain the late appearance of Christianity in the world. The work, therefore, is of the nature of an apology, and should be compared with The Apology of Aristides. A translation of the epistle may be found in ANF, I, 23.

Ch.5. The Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has been determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign country is to them as their native land, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry as do all; they beget children; but they do not commit abortion. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are the citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and restored to life. They are poor, yet they make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all. They are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil-spoken of, and yet are justified. They are reviled and bless; they are insulted and repay insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign a reason for their hatred.

Ch.6. What the soul is in the body, that the Christians are in the world. The soul is spread through all the members of the body, and Christians through the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but is not of the body; so Christians dwell in the world, but they are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded in the visible body; so Christians are known as existing in the world, but their religion remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul and wages war on it, though it has received no wrong, because it is forbidden to indulge in pleasures; so the world hates Christians, though it receives no wrong from them, because they are opposed to its pleasures. The soul loves the flesh which hates it, and it loves the members; so Christians love those who hate them. The soul is enclosed in the body, yet itself holds the body together; so the Christians are kept in the world as in a prison-house, yet they themselves hold the world together. The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle; so Christians sojourn amid corruptible things, looking for the incorruptibility in the heavens. The soul when hardly treated in the matter of meats and drinks is improved; so Christians when punished increase more and more daily. In so great an office has God appointed them, which it is not lawful for them to decline.

§ 12. Theological Ideas

In the post-apostolic period are to be traced the beginnings of distinctive forms of religious and ethical ideas as distinguished from mere repetition of New Testament phrases. The most influential writer was Ignatius of Antioch, the founder, or earliest representative, of what may be called the Asia Minor theology, which is to be traced through Irenaeus, Methodius, and Athanasius to the other great theologians of the Nicene period, becoming the distinctive Eastern type of piety. It probably persisted in Asia Minor after Ignatius. Among its characteristic features was the thought of redemption as the imparting to man of incorruptibility through the incarnation and the sacraments.

(a) Ignatius, Ep. ad Ephesios, 18 ff.

The Epistle to the Ephesians is doctrinally the most important of the writings of Ignatius. In the passage that follows there is a remarkable anticipation of a part of the Apostles' Creed (cf. Hahn. § 1). The whole passage contains in brief the fundamental point of the writer's teachings.

Ch.18. My spirit is an offering(15) of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to unbelievers, but to us salvation and life eternal. |Where is the wise man? where the disputer?| [I Cor.1:20.] Where is the boasting of those called prudent? For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the dispensation of God, conceived in the womb of Mary of the seed of David, but of the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.

Ch.19. And the virginity of Mary was hidden from the Prince of this World, and her bringing forth, and likewise the death of the Lord; three mysteries of shouting, which were wrought in silence of God. How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth from heaven above all other stars, and its light was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment, but all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation whence this novelty, so unlike to everything else. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed and the old kingdom abolished, for God had been manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult because He meditated the abolition of death.

Ch.20. {HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS} Especially [will I write again] if the Lord make known to me that ye all, man by man, through grace given to each, agree in one faith and in Jesus Christ, who was of the family of David according to the flesh, the Son of Man and the Son of God, so that ye obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent dying, but which is life forever in Jesus Christ.

(b) Ignatius, Ep. ad Smyrnaeos, 7.

The following passage may be regarded as a parallel to part of the preceding extract from the same writer's Epistle to the Ephesians.

They abstain from the eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not that the eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, die while disputing. But it were better for them to love it, that they also may rise again. It is fitting, therefore, that ye should keep aloof from such persons, and not speak of them either in private or public, but to give heed to the prophets and, above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion has been revealed to us and the resurrection fully proved. But avoid all divisions as the beginning of evils.

(c) Ignatius, Ep. ad Trallianos, 9, 10.

The heresy which the writer fears is that known as Docetism, which denied the reality of the body of Jesus. Reference is made to it in the New Testament, I John 4:2. It was based upon the same philosophical idea as much of the later Gnostic speculation, that matter is essentially evil, and therefore a pure spirit could not be united to a real body composed of matter. See J. B. Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, pt. II, vol. II, p.173 ff.

Ch.9. Be ye therefore deaf when any one speaks to you apart from Jesus Christ, who was of the race of David, who was born of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank, who was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, who was truly crucified and died while those in heaven and those on earth and those under the earth looked on; who, also, was truly raised from the dead, His Father having raised Him, who in like fashion will raise us who believe in Him; His Father, I say, will raise us in Christ Jesus, apart from whom we have not true life.

Ch.10. But if it were as certain persons who are godless, that is, unbelievers, say, that He only appeared to suffer, they themselves being only in appearance, why am I bound? And why, also, do I desire to fight with wild beasts? I therefore die in vain. Truly, then, I lie against the Lord.

§ 13. Worship in the Post-Apostolic Period

The worship of the Christian Church in the earliest period centred in the eucharist. There are references to this in the New Testament (cf. Acts 2:42; 20:7; I Cor.10:16). How far the agape was connected with the eucharist is uncertain.

Additional source material: See Pliny's letter to Trajan (v. supra, § 7); the selections from Ignatius already given (v. supra, § 12) and the Didache (v. infra, § 14, a).

Justin Martyr, Apologia, I, 61:65-67. (MSG, 6:428 ff.) Cf. Mirbt, n.18.

The First Apology of Justin Martyr was written probably about 150. As Justin's work is dated, and is of indisputable authenticity, his account of the early worship of the Christians is of the very first importance. It should be noted, however, that, inasmuch as he is writing for non-Christians, he uses no technical terms in his description, and therefore nothing can be determined as to the exact significance of the titles he applies to the presiding officer at the eucharist. The following passage is of importance, also, as a witness to the custom of reading, in the course of Christian public worship, books that appear to be the Gospels. Irenaeus, thirty years later, limits the number of the Gospels to four, v. infra, § 28. On the eucharist, v. infra, § 33.

Ch.61. But I will explain the manner in which we who have been made new through Christ have also dedicated ourselves to God, lest by passing it over I should seem in any way to be unfair in my explanation. As many as are persuaded and believe that the things are true which are taught and said by us, and promise that they are able to live accordingly, they are taught to pray and with fasting to ask God forgiveness of their former sins, while we pray and fast with them. Thereupon they are brought by us to where there is water, and are born again in the same manner of a new birth as we, also, ourselves were born again. For in the name of God the Father and Lord of all, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing in the water. For Christ said: |Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.| But that it is impossible for those once born to enter into the wombs of their mothers is manifest to all.{HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS} And this washing is called enlightenment, because those who learn these things have their understandings enlightened. But, also, in the name of Jesus Christ who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Spirit who by the prophets foretold all things pertaining to Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed.

Ch.65. But after we have thus washed him who is persuaded and has assented, we bring him to those who are called the brethren, to where they are gathered together, making earnest prayer in common for ourselves and for him who is enlightened, and for all others everywhere, that we may be accounted worthy, after we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found right livers and keepers of the commandments, that we may be saved with the eternal salvation. We salute each other with a kiss when we conclude our prayers. Thereupon to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of water and wine are brought, and he takes it and offers up praise and glory to the Father of the universe through the name of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and gives thanks at length that we have been accounted worthy of these things from Him; and when he has ended the prayers and thanksgiving the whole people present assent, saying |Amen.| Now the word Amen in the Hebrew language signifies, So be it. Then after the president has given thanks and all the people have assented, those who are called by us deacons give to each one of those present to partake of the bread and of the wine and water for which thanks have been given, and for those not present they take away a portion.

Ch.66. And this food is called by us eucharist, and it is not lawful for any man to partake of it but him who believes the things taught by us to be true, and has been washed with the washing which is for the remission of sins and unto a new birth, and is so living as Christ commanded. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but just as Jesus Christ our Saviour, being made flesh through the word of God, had for our salvation both flesh and blood, so, also, we are taught that the food for which thanks are given by the word of prayer which is from Him, and from which by conversion our flesh and blood are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the Apostles in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, thus delivered what was commanded them: that Jesus took bread and gave thanks and said, This do in remembrance of Me, this is My body; and that He likewise took the cup, and when He had given thanks, said, This is My blood, and gave only to them. And this the evil demons imitating, commanded it to be done also in the mysteries of Mithras; for that bread and a cup of water are set forth with certain explanations in the ceremonial of initiation, you either know or can learn.

Ch.67. But we afterward always remind one another of these things, and those among us who are wealthy help all who are in want, and we always remain together. And for all things we eat we bless the Maker of all things through His Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. And on the day called the Day of the Sun there is a gathering in one place of us all who live in cities or in the country, and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time allows. Then, when the reader has ceased, the president gives by word of mouth his admonition and exhortation to imitate these excellent things. Afterward we all rise at once and offer prayers; and as I said, when we have ceased to pray, bread is brought and wine and water, and the president likewise offers up prayers and thanksgivings as he has the ability, and the people assent, saying |Amen.| The distribution to each and the partaking of that for which thanks were given then take place; and to those not present a portion is sent by the hands of the deacons. Those who are well-to-do and willing give, every one giving what he will, according to his own judgment, and the collection is deposited with the president, and he assists orphans and widows, and those who through sickness or any other cause are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers that are sojourning, and, in short, he has the care of all that are in need. Now we all hold our common meeting on the Day of the Sun, because it is the first day on which God, having changed the darkness and matter, created the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For on the day before Saturn's they crucified Him; and on the day after Saturn's, which is the Day of the Sun, having appeared to his Apostles and disciples, He taught them these things which we have offered you for consideration.

§ 14. Church Organization

No subject in Church history has been more hotly discussed than the organization of the primitive Christian Church. Each of several Christian confessions have attempted to justify a polity which it regarded as de fide by appeal to the organization of the Church of the primitive ages. Since it has been seen that the admission of the principle of development does not invalidate claims for divine warrant for a polity, the acrimonious debate has been somewhat stilled. There seems to have been in the Church several forms of organization, and to some extent the various contentions of conflicting creeds and polities have been therein justified. The ultimately universal form, episcopacy, may in some parts of the Church be traced to the end of the apostolic age, but it seems not to have been universally diffused at that time. Since Christian communities sprang up without official propaganda, at least in many instances, and were due to the work of independent Christian believers moving about in the Empire, this variety of organization was what might have been expected, especially as the significance of the organization was first felt chiefly in connection with the danger from heresy. That various external influences affected the development is also highly probable.

(a) Clement of Rome, Ep. ad Corinthios, I, 42, 44.

Ch.42. The Apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. Christ, therefore, was from God, and the Apostles from Christ. Both these appointments, then, came about in an orderly way, by 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. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed their first-fruits, having proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterward believe. Nor was this a new thing; for, indeed, many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place: |I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.|(16)

Ch.44. Our Apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate.(17) For this cause, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed those already mentioned, and afterward gave instructions that when these should fall asleep other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of the opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterward by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in lowliness of mind, peaceably, and with all modesty, and for a long time have borne a good report with all -- these men we consider to be unjustly thrust out of their ministrations.(18) For it will be no light sin for us, if we thrust out those who have offered the gifts of the bishop's office blamelessly and holily. Blessed are those presbyters who have gone before seeing their departure was fruitful and ripe; for they have no fear lest any one should remove them from their appointed place. For we see that ye have displaced certain persons, though they were living honorably, from the ministration which had been honored by them blamelessly.

(b) Didache, 7-15.

The Didache is a very early manual of the instruction for Christian converts. It consists of two quite distinct parts, viz., a brief account of the moral law (chapters 1-6). which appears to be based upon a Jewish original to which the name of The Two Ways has been given, and a somewhat longer account of the various rites of the Church and the regulations governing its organization. Its date is in the first half of the second century and belongs more probably to the first quarter than to the second. It is a document of first-class importance, especially in the part bearing on the organization of the Church, which is here given. The extensive literature on the subject may be found in Krueger. op. cit., A§ 21.

Ch.7. But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize. Having first recited all these things, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living [i.e., running] water. But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in any other water; and if thou art not able in cold, in warm. But if thou hast neither, pour water upon the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But before baptism let him that baptizeth and him that is baptized fast, and any others also who are able; and thou shalt order him that is baptized to fast a day or two before.

Ch.8. And let not your fastings be with the hypocrites. For they fast on the second and the fifth days of the week; but do ye keep your fast on the fourth and on the preparation [i.e., the sixth day]. Neither pray ye as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, thus pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth; give us this day our daily(19) bread; and forgive us our debt, as we also forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One; for Thine is the power and the glory forever.(20) Three times in the day pray ye so.

Ch.9. But as regards the eucharist [thanksgiving], give ye thanks thus. First, as regards the cup: We give Thee thanks, O our Father, for the holy vine of David, Thy Son, which Thou madest known unto us through Jesus, Thy Son; Thine is the glory forever. Then as regards the breaking [i.e., of the bread]: We give thanks to Thee, O our Father, for the life and knowledge which thou madest known unto us through Jesus, Thy Son; Thine is the glory forever. As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one, so may Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. But let no one eat or drink of this eucharist [thanksgiving] but they that have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord hath said: Give not that which is holy unto the dogs.

Ch.10. After ye are satisfied give thanks thus: We give Thee thanks, Holy Father, for Thy holy name, which Thou hast made to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which Thou hast made known unto us through Thy Son Jesus; Thine is the glory forever. Thou, Almighty Master, created all things for Thy name's sake, and gave food and drink unto men for enjoyment, that they might render thanks to Thee; but bestowed upon us spiritual food and drink and eternal life through Thy Son. Before all things we give Thee thanks that Thou art powerful; Thine is the glory forever. Remember, Lord, Thy Church to deliver it from all evil and to perfect it in Thy love; and gather it together from the four winds -- even the Church which has been sanctified -- into Thy kingdom which Thou hast prepared for it; for Thine is the power and the glory forever. May grace come and may this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David. If any one is holy let him come; if any one is not, let him repent. Maran Atha. Amen. But permit the prophets to offer thanksgiving as much as they will.

Ch.11. Whosoever, therefore, shall come and teach you all these things that have been said receive him; but if the teacher himself be perverted and teach a different doctrine to the destruction thereof, hear him not; but if to the increase of righteousness and knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord.

But concerning the apostles and prophets, so do ye according to the ordinance of the Gospel: Let every apostle coming to you be received as the Lord; but he shall not abide more than a single day, or if there be need, a second likewise; but if he abide three days, he is a false prophet. And when he departs, let not the apostle receive anything save bread until he find shelter; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet. And any prophet speaking in the Spirit ye shall not try, neither discern; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven. Yet not every one that speaketh in the Spirit is a prophet, but only if he have the ways of the Lord. From his ways, therefore, the false prophet and the [true] prophet shall be recognized. And no prophet when he ordereth a table in the Spirit shall eat of it; otherwise he is a false prophet.(21) And every prophet teaching the truth, if he doeth not what he teacheth, is a false prophet. And every prophet approved and found true, working unto a worldly mystery of the Church,(22) and yet teacheth not to do what he himself doeth, shall not be judged before you; he hath his judgment in the presence of God; for in like manner also did the ancient prophets. And whosoever shall say in the Spirit, Give me silver or anything else, do not listen to him; but if he say to give on behalf of others who are in want, let no one judge him.

Ch.12. But let every one coming in the name of the Lord be received; and when ye have tested him ye shall know him, for ye shall have understanding on the right hand and on the left. If the comer is a traveller, assist him as ye are able; but let him not stay with you but for two or three days, if it be necessary. But if he wishes to settle with you, being a craftsman, let him work and eat. But if he has no craft, according to your wisdom provide how without idleness he shall live as a Christian among you. If he will not do this, he is trafficking upon Christ. Beware of such men.

Ch.13. But every true prophet desiring to settle among you is worthy of his food. In like manner, a true teacher is also worthy, like the workman, of his food. Every first-fruit, then, of the produce of the wine-vat and of the threshing-floor, of thy oxen and of thy sheep, thou shalt take and give as the first-fruit to the prophets; for they are your chief priests. But if ye have not a prophet, give them to the poor. If thou makest bread, take the first-fruit and give according to the commandment. In like manner, when thou openest a jar of wine or oil, take the first-fruit and give to the prophets; yea, and of money and raiment and every possession take the first-fruit, as shall seem good to thee, and give according to the commandment.

Ch.14. And on the Lord's day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. And let no man having a dispute with his fellow join your assembly until they have been reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be defiled; for this is the sacrifice spoken of by the Lord: In every place and at every time offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great king, saith the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations. [Mal.1:11, 14.]

Ch.15. Appoint [i.e., lay hands on], therefore, for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, not lovers of money, truthful, and approved; for they also render you the service of prophets and teachers. Despise them not, therefore, for they are your honored ones together with the prophets and teachers.

(c) Ignatius, Ep. ad Trallianos, 2, 3.

For Ignatius, see § 8.

Ch.2. For since ye are subject to the bishop as Jesus Christ, ye appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order that by believing in His death ye may escape death. It is therefore necessary that just as ye indeed do, so without the bishop ye should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the Apostles of Jesus Christ, our Hope, living in whom we shall be found [i.e., at the last]. It is right, also, that the deacons, being [ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be well-pleasing to all. For they are not the ministers of meats and drinks, but servants of the Church of God. It is necessary, therefore, that they guard themselves from all grounds of accusation as they would from fire.

Ch.3. In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as Jesus Christ, as also the bishop, who is a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God and the assembly of the Apostles. Apart from these there is no Church.

(d) Ignatius, Ep. ad Smyrnaeos, 8.

See that ye follow the bishop as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbyters as ye would the Apostles; and reverence the deacons as a commandment of God. Without the bishop let no one do any of those things connected with the Church. Let that be deemed a proper eucharist which is administered either by the bishop or by him to whom he has intrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear there let also the multitude be, even as wherever Jesus Christ is there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to make an agape. But whatsoever he shall approve that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.

§ 15. Church Discipline

The Church was the company of the saints. How far, then, could the Church tolerate in its midst those who had committed serious offences against the moral law? A case had occurred in the Corinthian church about which St. Paul had given some instructions to the Christians of that city (cf. I Cor.5:3-5; II Cor.13:10). There was the idea current that sins after baptism admitted of no pardon and involved permanent exclusion from the Church (cf. Heb.10:26). A distinction was also made as to sins whereby some were regarded as |sins unto death| and not admitting of pardon (cf. I John 5:16). In principle, the exclusion from the Church of those who had committed gross sins was recognized, but as the Church grew it soon became a serious question as to the extent to which this strict discipline could be enforced. We find, therefore, a well-defined movement toward relaxing this rigor of the law. The beginning appears in Hermas, who admits the possibility of one repentance after baptism. A special problem was presented from the first by the difference between the conceptions of marriage held by the Christians and by the heathen. The Church very early took the position that marriage in some sense was indissoluble, that so long as both parties to a marriage lived, neither could marry again, but after the death of one party the surviving spouse could remarry, although this second marriage was looked upon with some disfavor. Both the idea of a second repentance and the idea of the indissolubility of marriage are expressed in the following extract from Hermas:

Hermas, Pastor, Man. IV, I, 3.

Hermas wrote in the second century. Opinions have varied as to his date, some putting him near the beginning, some near the middle of the century. The weight of opinion seems to be that he lived shortly before 150. His work entitled The Pastor is in the form of revelations, and was therefore thought to partake of an inspiration similar to that of Holy Scripture. This naturally gave it a place among Scriptures for a while and accounts for the great popularity of the work in the early Church. It is the best example of an extensive apocalyptic literature which flourished in the Church in the first two centuries.

Ch.1. If the husband should not take her back [i.e., the penitent wife who has committed adultery] he sins, and brings a great sin upon himself; for he ought to take back her who has sinned and repented; but not frequently; for there is but one repentance to the servants of God [i.e., after becoming the servants of God]. On account of her repentance [i.e., because she may repent, and therefore should be taken back] the husband ought not to marry. This treatment applies to the woman and to the man.

Ch.3. And I said to him: |I should like to continue my questions.| |Speak on,| said he. And I said: |I have heard, sir, from some teachers that there is no other repentance than that when we descend into the water and receive remission of our former sins.| He said to me: |Thou hast well heard, for so it is. For he who has received remission of his sins ought to sin no more, but to live in purity. Since, however, you inquire diligently into all things, I will point out this also to you, not as giving occasion for error to those who are to believe, or have lately believed, in the Lord. For those who have now believed and those who are to believe have not repentance of their sins, but they have remission of their former sins. For to those who have been called before these days the Lord has set repentance. For the Lord, who knows the heart and foreknows all things, knew the weakness of men and the manifold wiles of the devil, that he would inflict some evil on the servants of God and would act wickedly against them. The Lord, therefore, being merciful, has had mercy on the works of His hands and has set repentance for them; and has intrusted to me the power over this repentance. And therefore I say unto you,| he said, |that if after that great and holy calling any one is tempted by the devil and sins, he has one repentance. But if thereupon he should sin and then repent, to such a man his repentance is of no benefit; for with difficulty will he live.|(23)

§ 16. Moral Ideas in the Post-Apostolic Period

Christians were convinced that their religion made the highest possible moral demands upon them. They were to live in the world, but remain uncontaminated by it (cf. supra, § 11). This belief even candid heathen were sometimes forced to admit (cf. Pliny's correspondence with Trajan, supra, § 7). The morality of the Christians and the loftiness of their ethical code were common features in the apologies which began to appear in the post-apostolic period (cf. The Apology of Aristides, infra, § 20, a). Christianity was a revealed code of morals, by the observance of which men might escape the fires of hell and obtain the bliss of immortality (a) (cf. infra, § 30). At the same time there was developed a tendency toward asceticism, by which a higher excellence might be obtained than the law required of ordinary Christians (b, c). This higher morality was not without its compensations; superior merit was recognized by God, and was accordingly rewarded; it might even be applied to offset sins committed (d, e). This last idea is to be traced to the book of Tobit (cf. also James 5:20; I Peter 4:8). The fuller development is to be found in the theology of Tertullian and Cyprian (v. infra, § 39).

(a) Justin Martyr, Apologia, I, 10, 12. (MSG, 6:339, 342.)

Ch.10. We have received by tradition that God does not need man's material offerings, since we see that He himself provides all things. And we have been taught, have been convinced, and do believe that He accepts only those who imitate the virtues which reside in Him, temperance and justice and philanthropy, and as many virtues as are peculiar to a God who is called by no given name. And we have been taught that He in the beginning, since He is good, did for man's sake create all things out of unformed matter; and if men by their works show themselves worthy of His design, they are deemed worthy, for so we have received, of reigning in company with Him, having become incorruptible and incapable of suffering. For as in the beginning He created us when we were not, so we consider that, in like manner, those who choose what is pleasing to Him are, on account of their choice, deemed worthy of incorruption and of fellowship with Him. For the coming into being at first was not in our power; and in order that we may follow those things which please Him, choosing them by means of the rational faculties with which He has himself endowed us, He both persuades us and leads us to faith.{HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS}

Ch.12. And more than all other men are we your helpers and allies in promoting peace; for we are of the opinion that it is impossible for the wicked, or the covetous, or the conspirator, or the virtuous to escape the notice of God, and that each man goes to eternal punishment or salvation according to the deserts of his actions. For if all men knew this, no one would choose wickedness, even for a little time, knowing that he goes to the eternal punishment of fire; but he would in every respect restrain himself and adorn himself with virtue, that he might obtain the good gifts of God and escape punishment. For those who, on account of the laws and punishments you impose, endeavor when they offend to escape detection, offend thinking that it is possible to escape your detection, since you are but men; but if they learned and were convinced that it is not possible that anything, whether actually done or only intended, should escape the notice of God, they would live decently in every respect, on account of the penalties threatened, as even you yourselves will admit.

(b) Didache, 6. Cf. Mirbt, n.13.

See that no one cause thee to err from this way of the teaching, since apart from God it teacheth thee. For if thou art able to bear all the yoke of the Lord, thou wilt be perfect; but if thou art not able, do what thou art able. And concerning foods, bear what thou art able; but against that which is sacrificed to idols be exceedingly on thy guard; for it is the service of dead gods.

(c) Hermas, Pastor, Man. IV, 4.

And again I asked him, saying: |Sir, since you have been so patient with me, will you show me this also?| |Speak,| said he. And I said: |If a wife or husband die, and the widow or widower marry, does he or she commit sin?| |There is no sin in marrying again,| said he; |but if they remain unmarried, they gain greater honor and glory with the Lord; but if they marry, they do not sin. Guard, therefore, your chastity and purity and you will live to God. What commandments I now give you, and what I am to give you, keep from henceforth, yea, from the very day when you were intrusted to me, and I will dwell in your house. And your former sins will be forgiven, if you keep my commandments. And to all there is forgiveness if they keep these my commandments and walk in this chastity.|

(d) Clement of Rome, Ep. ad Corinthios, II, 4, 16.

Ch.4. Let us, then, not call Him Lord, for that will not save us. For He saith: |Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall be saved, but he that worketh righteousness.| Wherefore, brethren, let us confess Him by our works, by loving one another, by not committing adultery, or speaking evil of one another, or cherishing envy; but by being continent, compassionate, and good. We ought also to sympathize with one another, and not be avaricious. By such works let us confess Him, and not by those that are of an opposite kind. And it is not fitting that we should fear men, but rather God. For this reason, if we should do such things, the Lord hath said: |Even though ye were gathered together to me in my very bosom, yet if ye were not to keep my commandments, I would cast you off, and say unto you. Depart from me; I know you not, whence ye are, ye workers of iniquity.|(24)

Ch.16. So then, brethren, having received no small occasion to repent, while we have opportunity, let us turn to God, who called us while we yet have One to receive us. For if we renounce these indulgences and conquer the soul by not fulfilling its wicked desires, we shall be partakers of the mercy of Jesus. Know ye not that the day of judgment draweth nigh like a burning oven, and certain of the heavens and all the earth will melt, like lead melting in fire; and then will appear the hidden and manifest deeds of men? Good, then, are alms as repentance from sin; better is fasting than prayer, and alms than both; |charity covereth a multitude of sins,| and prayer out of a good conscience delivereth from death. Blessed is every one that shall be found complete in these; for alms lighten the burden of sin.

(e) Hermas, Pastor, Sim. V, 3.

|If you do anything good beyond the commandment of God, you will gain for yourself more abundant glory, and will be more honored before God than you would otherwise be. If, therefore, you keep the commandments of God and do these services, you will have joy if you observe them according to my commandment.| I said unto him: |Sir, whatsoever you command me I will observe; for I know that you are with me.| |I will be with you,| he said, |because you have such a desire for doing good; I will be with all those,| he said, |who have such a desire. This fasting,| he continued, |is very good, provided the commandments of the Lord be observed. Thus, then, shall you observe the fast which you intend to keep. First of all, be on your guard against every evil word and every evil desire, and purify your heart from all the vanities of this world. If you guard against these things, your fasting will be perfect. But do thus: having fulfilled what is written, during the day on which you fast you will taste nothing but bread and water; and having reckoned up the price of the dishes of that day which you intended to have eaten, you will give it to a widow, an orphan, or to some one in want, and thus you will be humble-minded, so that he who has received benefit from your humility may fill his own soul and pray to the Lord for you. If you observe fasting as I have commanded you, your sacrifice will be acceptable to God, and this fasting will be written down; and the service thus performed is noble and sacred and acceptable to the Lord.|

<<  Contents  >>





©2002-2020 SermonIndex.net
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Affiliate Disclosure | Privacy Policy