The Early Church Fathers
The early church fathers were important to us for four reasons:
1) For the most part, the New Testament was written in their native language and they elaborated on the meaning of the words.
2) They were instrumental in recognizing our New Testament
3) Their theology, which is compatible with ours today, shows that the cults of today are "novel ideas" that were unheard of by the disciples of Jesus' apostles.
4) Their faith under lions and torture is an example for use today.
Their writings were not inerrant, and the mistakes of Augustine and others were amplified by the Medieval Church, but for the most part their writings are an inspiration and good instruction for us today.
Table of Contents
Tertullian ~145-185-220/240 A.D.
Novatian ~210-280 A.D.
Ignatius ?-12/20 107 or 116 A.D.
Papias and Polycarp 65-110-155/156 A.D.
Justin Martyr ~110/114- wrote 135-165 A.D.
Irenaeus ~120-202 A.D.
Nicean Creed and Arianism May-August 325 A.D.
Athanasius ~296/298-5/2/373 A.D.
Hippolytus 170-235/236 A.D.
Ambrose of Milan 340-397 A.D.
Augustine 354-430 A.D.
Cyril and Nestorius 376-451 A.D.
Hilary 315-353/354-367/368 A.D.
Chalcedon and the Monophysites 451-681 A.D.
How We Got the New Testament
Who is Not Covered
Others early church Fathers' writings that are not covered or are only mentioned in passing are:
Clement of Rome -97 A.D.-
Writer of the Shepherd of Hermas
Writer of the Didache
Theophilus of Antioch 115-168/181 A.D.
Aristides of Athens
Clement of Alexandria 153-217/220 A.D.
Origen 184/185-253/254 A.D.
Alexander of Alexandria
Eusebius of Caesarea
Gregory of Nyssa 335-394 A.D.
Gregory of Nanzianzus 330-390 A.D.
Jerome the Translator 345-419/420 A.D.
Basil 329-378/379 A.D.
John Chrysostom 344/347-9/14/407 A.D.
Leo I of Rome
The Early Church Fathers
Tertullian, or Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus, was the second early Church Father we know of to use the word "Trinity." Many objections to the Trinity today were answered by him 1,800 years ago.
Born ~145 A.D, Tertullian became a Christian when he was about 40 years old. He became a presbyter (elder) ~190-192 A.D. He joined the Montanist sect ~199 A.D. and died 220-240 A.D.
Tertullian was a Christian through the fourth-sixth persecutions. He became a Christian around the time Justin Martyr wrote his great apology. He was contemporary with Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus of Lyons and Porphyry, a Greek enemy of Christianity. He lived a little before Novatian and Origen. There were an estimated 1.5-4 million Christians in a Roman Empire of 56-70 million.
Tertullian worked in law at Carthage and Rome before becoming a presbyter, and he had a sharp, logical mind. He also had a sharp temper. He was found of allegorical examples, yet he insisted the Bible should be taken in its plain sense. In comparing his writing to the New Testament styles, he had some of the emphases of James and the logic of Paul. If he lived on earth today, he might not be pleased with many Christians. He was against worldly amusements, immodest behavior (including unveiled women), and second marriages. Living a pure Christian life was a major theme of his teaching. Two other major themes were church sacraments and most prominently, apologetics.
Tertullian was a voluminous writer. (I guess that's what you say when someone writes more than one volume.) He wrote in Latin and his works total over 825 pages (in English). One of his cutest writings is "Antidote for the Scorpion's Sting". It starts out matter-of-factly describing cures for scorpion stings, and then goes on to talk about more serious scorpions, idolators and Gnostic cultists, who would poison our faith. He also wrote two books (ten pages) to his beloved wife.
Tertullian did the majority of his writing after he left the Church at Rome under the Bishop Victor and joined the Montanists. Victor was rather dogmatic; until the other Bishops severely rebuked him, he wanted to excommunicate all the eastern Christian churches because they celebrated The Lord's Resurrection the same day as the Jewish Passover and fasted differently. We know little about the Montanists, but Eusebius the writes briefly they were led by Montanus and two prophetesses Prisca and Maximilla, who were in a certain kind of frenzy, raving, and speaking in tongues. Victor accepted the Montanists, but later under the Monarchian influence of Praxeas apparently condemned them. This may be what caused Tertullian to respond with his 30 page work Against Praxeas, and discuss the Trinity.
A Trio of Heresies
The word "Trinity" is not in the Bible; however baptism in the Three is. While the verses showing both the Threeness and Oneness are in the Bible, the deep thought Christians gave to the Trinity did not come about except as a response to a trio of heresies: Ebionism, Polytheism, and Monarchianism.
Ebionism / A Low Christ
Ebion is the Hebrew word for "poor." Eusebius (Chap. 27) mentions Ebionite heretics who had a "poor" or low view of Christ. They rejected the Epistles except Hebrews, and they observed the Jewish laws and rituals.
Polytheism / Threeness Only
Polytheism has a rather simple premise. Since the Bible says the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Spirit is divine, therefore there are three gods for Tritheism, or else two gods for Ditheism. These are united in love, spirit, purpose, and other ways, but they are united in just a slightly closer way a human family may be united. Of course, one must pay the proper honor to each one individually. There are two versions of polytheism: the different gods have equal rank and the different gods have different rank. The Gnostic Marcion was a Ditheist.
Some verses Tertullian used to point out that polytheism was wrong were John 10:30 14:9,10, Isa 45:18, and Isa 46:6,24. As Tertullian said, it (Isa 45:5) does not say, there is one God and without Him thee is none else except my Son. There cannot be separate true Gods.
Monarchianism / Oneness Only
Monarchianism is the belief that the Father, Son, and Spirit are the same in every way. The word come from Monarchy, or government of one. Today the Worldwide Church of God and United Pentecostals believe that. Monarchianism was most prominent in the West, and there were actually two types of Monarchianism. The first kind, called Patripassian Monarchianism, simply said that since they are the same in every way. "Patripassian" means it was the Father who suffered on the cross. The second variety is called Dynamic Monarchianism, which says the Father became the son who became the Spirit.
It was against Monarchianism that Tertullian and Novatian wrote when they elucidated the Trinity. It is interesting that most who deny the Trinity today confuse it with Monarchianism.
If there is no distinction in the Monarchy, then at his baptism Jesus was a great ventriloquist and magician. After all, if there was only one person, He was pretty clever to get people to believe there were really three.
Tertullian could not accept that the Father was born on earth, was tempted, and died on the cross. He could not see how the Father could sit at His own right hand (Mark 16:19 Rev 3:21). Neither can we.
Other verses Tertullian used to show distinct differences between The Father, Son, and Spirit are: Gen 3:22, Gen 1:27, Ps 45:6-7, John 1:1 (there was one with another), Ps 110:1, Gen 19:24, John 5:19,22, Eph 1:17, Matt 27:46, and Rom 8:32.
A "Geometry" of the Trinity
The Trinity may be thought of as the center of a triangle shown below. The three heresies are outside the triangle opposite the three points.
All Three Are God
[In times of persecution] I had rather be one to be pitied than to be blushed for (IV p.122).
While Tertullian discussed some of the Trinity in Against Marcion Books I-V, most of what he wrote is in Against Praxeas. The Father, Son, and Spirit are three in one, a Trinity and Unity (II,III).
Tertullian said the three were "distinct", "not identical" but "inseparable" and "indivisible"(II)". Father and Son are "just as the root puts forth the tree and the fountain the river, and the sun the ray." One emanates from the other. Likewise the Spirit is "just as the fruit of the tree is third from the root or as the stream out of the river is third from the fountain or as the apex of the ray is third from the sun." (Against Praxeas VIII)
Even the words "Father and Son" show their difference. A father cannot be his own son any more than a husband can be his own wife. (A.P. X,XI)
Tertullian taught equality in: name, nature or essence, substance, honor, creating, and a difference in: person, visibility, origin, role, and rank. (A.P. IV,XIV-XIX)
Some Christians, beginning with Augustine, disagreed on the differing rank. However see 1 Cor 11:3, 15:27-28, and Eph 1:17. Cultists today who try to use these to say Christ is "inferior" to the Father usually refuse to obey scripture and honor Jesus just as much as the Father (John 5:18,23 Col 2:9-10) worship Jesus like the angels (Heb 1:6). How can someone love to worship the lamb in heaven (Rev 5:12-14) when they cannot stand to worship him on earth?
God is not, if He is not one; (I p.273.)
"That Being, then, which is the great Supreme, must needs to unique by having no equal, and so not ceasing to be the great Supreme." (IV:III)
"Now since all are agreed on this point (because nobody will deny that God is in some sense the great Supreme, except the man who shall be able to pronounce the opposite opinion that God is but some inferior being, in order that he may deny God by robbing Him of an attribute of God), what must be the condition of the great Supreme Himself? Surely it must be that nothing is equal to Him, i because, if there were, He would have an equal; and if He had an equal, He would no longer be the great Supreme now that the " (I p.273).
On Ps 82:1-6: "If an identity of names affords a presumption in support of equality of condition, how often do worthless menials strut insolently in the names of kings--your Alexanders, Caesars, and Pompeys! This fact, however, does not detract from the real attributes of the royal persons. Nay more the very idols of the Gentiles are called gods. Yet not one of them is divine because he is called a god. It is not therefore, for the name of god or its sound or its written form that I am claiming the supremacy in the Creator but for the essence to which the name belongs; and when I find that essence alone is unbegotten and unmade-alone eternal, and the maker of all things-it is not to its name, but its state, not to its designation but its condition, that I ascribe and appropriate the attribute of supremacy." vol.I p.275.
Tertullian witnessed to both the Threeness and Oneness of God. Every cult that denies the Trinity denies either the Oneness, the Threeness, or refuses to call our Savior God.
The Early Church Fathers
Many early Christian writers wrote that "Jesus is God" and of various aspects of the Trinity, but Tertullian and Novatian were the first two to actually "put it all together" and have fairly comprehensive views. While Tertullian first discussed the distinctness and then the indivisibleness, Novatian reversed the order.
Novatian accepted Christ in mid-life when he was deathly ill. Because of his health, he was not baptized by immersion. Years later when he recovered and was examined prior to becoming a presbyter, many other presbyters objected to Novatian because he was not baptized by immersion as was apparently the standard. He was selected anyway, and served at Rome until late in his life. He was familiar with both Monarchians and Ebionites as well as the polytheism of Gnostics. He wrote against those in his works.
The Supreme Being
Novatian starts his teaching on the Trinity with the Supreme Being. While many idols and men were called gods, who is really the True God? Novatian's answer is one that every Mormon ought to read. Novatian emphasized that God is the One who is Supreme in the universe. If He is not Supreme, then He would not be God; the One who is Supreme would be. For people who worship idols, I marvel that often they admit their "favorite god" is not the highest god. If it is not the highest god, then why not worship the highest one? For Mormons, they believe their god, the god of this world, had a father and god before him. This greater god had a father and grandfather gods before him. Why don't they want to worship the highest one? I confess that I do not understand this drive in man to worship that which is lesser in place of the Supreme One. I wish some Mormon or some idolator could explain it to me some time.
Novatian's View of the Trinity
In 1 John God is love and light. In the Old Testament God is fire. If you describe these things you still have not described God. If you describe these things, you still have not described the source of these things. God is the source of light, goodness, and other virtues. God is love, strength, and majesty. By saying that God is those things, you still have not completely described God. God is beyond declaration, beyond complete description, and incomparable.
Once a Mormon asked, "Do you claim to know everything there is to know about God?" I replied that I did not claim that. He then said, "Well, if you do not know what you are talking about, you should not be here (handing out tracts)." I did not say anything; I was too shocked. Apparently he was certain he could know everything about his god. (Then again, maybe he could about his god). J.B. Phillips wrote a book for people who could contain all of God's wisdom in their minds. The title is Your God is Too Small.
Novatian also wrote that God has neither passion nor members. Mormons say that the concept of the Trinity is a God without any passion (emotion) or parts (a physical body.) That is not accurate, for Novatian only meant passion as we have sexual passions; Novatian wrote of God's love. God does have a body, or image, and that image itself has a name: Jesus Christ as Colossians 1:15 says.
There was a somewhat pathetic statement given in the Jehovah's Witness magazine Watchtower 2/1/1977 p.95. It says that in Rom 10:12 the identity of "Lord" cannot be established with certainty from the context. In other words JW's cannot say who their Lord is. (See 1 Cor 12:4-6)
One view Novatian said we would not say the same way today. He said, In receiving the sanctification from the Father He (Jesus) is inferior to the Father. (p.638) This shows a difference in rank. While Novatian said this, Novatian also said that Jesus was God and there was only One God.
Novatian believed that time had a beginning and Jesus was before time began. Of course you have to have a Son or child to be a Father, and if the Father is unchanging, then He was always the Father.
God becoming a man was a wonderful happening. If you can quickly read John 1:14 and not see a deep mystery there, you are missing something. (Ch.23) Novatian uses this to show how Jesus had to be God. "How could Christ come into his own, if he was not God?" It would be God's own and not Christ's own.
Eighteen hundred years ago Novatian had some questions for those who claimed to follow Christ and denied He was God. Since no non-Trinitarian has answered these questions, it seems fair to ask these again today.
1. The Bible says there is only One God and no other. Deut 6:4 Is 43:10-12
The Bible says the Father is God.
Eph 5:20, Titus 1:4, 1 Pet 1:3, Philippians 1:2
The Bible says Jesus is God. John 1:1,18, Hosea 1:7, Is 7:14, John 20:28, Titus 2:13, Heb 1:8-9
How many may you rightly call God?
2. The Bible says there is only One Lord.
1 Cor 8:6, Eph 4:5
The Bible says the Father is Lord.
Matt 4:7-10 Luke 4:8-12,18 1 Tim 6:15
The Bible says Jesus is Lord.
1 Cor 12:3 Philippians 1:2, 2:11, John 20:13,28
How many may you rightly call Lord?
3. The Bible says the Father the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 1 Tim 6:15
The Bible says Jesus the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Rev 17:14, 19:16
Who is your King and Lord?
Objections to the Trinity Answered
For objections to the Trinity Novatian had some good answers in his work Treatise on the Trinity. Since the style of writing at that time was rather verbose, below are condensations. The objections are in italics.
The Sabellians were Monarchists who said the Three are the same in every way; they were just three appearances of the same Person. When the Father, Son, and Spirit all were present at Jesus' baptism, that was just a ventriloquism done for our benefit. The other times the Three are shown to be separate are like a "play" done for our understanding. Today United Pentacostals believe similar to this, and that was why there was a split between them and the Assemblies of God.
Novatian devotes chapters 26-28 of his Treatise on the Trinity to show eighteen verses that make a distinction between Himself and God the Father.
Aren't the Father and Son identical in every way because Jesus says in John 10:30, "I and the Father are one."?
(Ch.27) The Greek word is One (neuter), not One (masculine), so they are one is character and essence but not one in person.
1 Cor 8:4-6 says there are actually many gods.
1 Cor 8:4-6 does not say there are many true gods, but that there is only One rightfully called God.
If an angel can be called god in ?????, then Christ was just an angel.
(p631) If an angel can be called God in some sense, and if in Hebrews the angels are subject to Christ and worship Him, then certainly Christ is greater than any angel.
(Note: Though God appeared on earth as a man, that in no way detracted from Jesus Christ being God. Early christians generally believed that the "theophanies" or appearances of God in the Old Testament were "rehearsals" of the Christ's coming, and that the Old Testament appearances were of Christ manifested as an angel.)
Christ had human frailty, emotions, and he suffered, so doesn't that exclude Him from being God?
If God is supremely all-powerful, who are we to say what God cannot do. Is God really all-powerful? If so, why couldn't God the Father beget God the son?
If Christ died, does that mean God died?
(Ch.25) Only the human flesh was slain, and even that did not stay dead for long.
Some believers were like Deborah and Daniel; great heroes of the faith who never flinched or fell away. Other people were like Athaliah and Ahab; evil enemies of God. What about men like Gideon and Samson? Those who start well do not always finish well. Novatian's life may fit in the last category. For those like Solomon who start well but end poorly, we can learn from their wisdom, but be warned by their failure.
Novatian had a high office in the Roman Church, but when Cornelius was chosen to be the next bishop instead of him, perhaps envy crept in. Some time later a group called the Catharoi separated from the church at Rome. Novatian was elected their top leader and bishops of three Italian churches supported him. What was the reason for this division?
The issue concerned lapsed Christians. What should be done with those baptized believers who under threat of death either made the sacrifice to the Emperor or else bribed the soldiers to go free? Bribing is worse than it sounds, for if someone was arrested for not sacrificing, and later was freed without any comment, it would appear they had relented and made the sacrifice. Tertullian and others warned christians that this was wrong.
After discussion, the churches decided that those people, after a suitable time of instruction and ensuring that they were sincere, would be readmitted to the church and communion. However, a small minority said that those who fell after baptism could never come back to the church. The lapsed would go to hell without any hope of salvation. The people who believed this called themselves Catharoi or pure, and Novation was a top leader.
The Catharoi died out after a few of centuries, but some might say Catharai live today. A "hyper-Arminian" would teach that while we are first saved by grace, we stay saved by works.
One bishop wrote a harsh seven page letter rebuking Novatian for his impious, heretical folly. One should note there is not a single word by this bishop or anyone else against Novatian's teaching on the Trinity.
A second important lesson we can learn from Novatian's fall is that if at one point in his life a person is following God, that is not a guarantee that he can "take it easy and relax" for all will always be well. Whether through envy, lack or charity, or whatever, a person who used to serve God faithfully can end their life out of touch with God.
The Early Church Fathers
?-Dec. 20, 107 or 116 A.D.
"Heartiest greetings in all sincerity and in God's Word from Ignatius, the "God-inspired," to the church of God the Father and the beloved Jesus Christ, which is at Smyrna in Asia. ... I extol Jesus Christ, the God who has granted you such wisdom. For I detected that you were fitted out with an unshakable faith, being nailed, as it were, body and soul to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, and being rooted in love by the blood of Christ." (Smyrneans 1)
Such is the warmth of the greeting of Ignatius' Letter to the Smyrneans. Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch. He was a prophet as well as bishop, and was on his way to martyrdom beasts in the Colosseum under Trajan on December 20th of either 107 or 116 A.D.. Since it is close to Christmas, it seems timely to learn from this Christian from early times.
Enroute to Rome Ignatius and his guard stopped at Smyrna where the Ephesian, Magnesian, and Trallian churches sent delegates to greet him. From Smyrna he wrote his letters to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, and Romans. After he and his guard travelled on to Troas (Troy), he wrote letters to Philadelphia (In Asia Minor, not Pennsylvania), Smyrna, and a letter to Polycarp, his friend and bishop of Smyrna.
Polycarp collected these letters, and the Christian writers Eusebius, Irenaeus, and Origen referred to them. There are eight other shorter letters that are claimed to be by Ignatius. All today agree they are false because they there is no reference to them until the sixth century, there are no existing Greek manuscripts, and the style is very different. The spurious letters speak of the veneration of Mary.
Why Listen to Ignatius?
It's not just that he had accessed many of the early manuscripts of the New Testament. It's not just that he was the second bishop of Antioch, the church where Paul and Barnabas set out, the church where believers were first called Christians. It's not just that Onesimus (probably of Philemon), then bishop of Ephesus, came to see him. It's not just that he wrote letters to three of the churches discussed in Revelation. Ignatius was a contemporary of the apostles, and a disciple of John according to the letter "Martyrdom of Ignatius." As all the churches that sent messengers to him held his teachings in high esteem, studying his letters shows what early believers accepted about the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus.
Ignatius and the Trinity
While only later did Theophilus and Tertullian use the word "Trinity", Ignatius talked about the Trinity long before him.
"Like stones of God's Temple ready for a building of God the Father, you are being hoisted up by Jesus Christ, as with a crane (that's the cross!), while the rope you use is the Holy Spirit. Your faith is what lifts you up while love is the way you ascend to God." (Letter to the Ephesians 9:1, parenthesis in the original English translation)
Ignatius in his Letter to Polycarp (ch.3) writes about the Lord's second coming: "Look for Him that is above the times, Him who has no times, Him who is invisible, Him who for our sakes became visible, Him who is impalpable [beyond touch], Him who is impassable [beyond passion], Him who for our sakes suffered, Him who endured everything in every form for our sakes." So Ignatius understood that God the Son was the visible, temporal appearance of the invisible, timeless God the Father. What verse does this remind you of?
In Ephesians 7 Ignatius talks of Christ as God Incarnate. What verse does that remind you of? He goes on to say that Jesus was "sprung from Mary as well as God first subject to suffering then beyond it"
Christ our God
In over 17 places Ignatius writes of "Christ our God". What verses does this remind you of?
The Resurrection of Jesus
While Ignatius was in Smyrna, he encountered a heresy called Docetism. The Greek word dokeo means to seem. According to traditional Greek thought, God could not become a man, show emotion, suffer, or die. Docetism accommodated Christianity to Greek thought by saying Jesus was God, but he only seemed to be a man. He only appeared to walk as a man, suffer, and die. This appearance was given by our loving God for our benefit. Docetists might call that God's way of revealing His truth to us. Christians would call that a lie.
In both versions of Smyrneans 3 Ignatius stressed that Jesus possessed flesh after his resurrection. Of course Thomas put his hands in Jesus' wounds in John 20:27.
Now, that body looked very real to Thomas. What would it mean if someone said that Jesus' only appeared to have his own physical body? Then they would think Jesus was great -- a great deceiver! Thomas' statement of faith would be based on deception.
Here is what the Jehovah's Witnesses said in 1982, "In order to convince Thomas of who He was, He used a body with wound holes." (You Can Live Forever In Paradise on Earth p.145) I am not sure which is worse, denying Jesus' bodily resurrection as Paul mentions in 1 Cor 15:1, or believing Jesus to be "a clever fellow" who was great at deceiving.
Ignatius' answer to the Docetists in Smyrna is also appropriate for Jehovah's Witnesses. "And he [Jesus] genuinely suffered, as even he genuinely raised himself. It is not as some unbelievers say that his Passion was a sham. It's they who are a sham! Yes, and their fate will fit their fancies--they will be ghosts and apparitions. For myself, I am convinced and believe that even after the resurrection he was in the flesh." (Smyrneans 2-3) For Jehovah's Witnesses who believe Christ's resurrection body was a sham for Thomas, well...
Ignatius says the same thing in Trallians 10 and then goes on to say, "Flee then these wicked offshoots which produce deadly fruit. If a man taste of it he dies outright. They are none of the Father's planting. For had they been, they would have shown themselves as branches of the cross and borne immortal fruit. It is through the cross, bu his suffering that he summons you who are his members." Do you show yourself to be a branch off of the cross?
So to summarize, ancient Docetists, like the modern Jehovah's Witnesses, believed Jesus did not bodily rise from the dead. However, unlike Jehovah's Witnesses, Docetists believed Jesus Christ was never really born on earth, walked on the earth or suffered and died; they taught that since God cannot do those things Christ just appeared to do those things.
Since Ignatius spoke of the meaning (though not the name) of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, who in the early church criticized him? No Christian.
If no believer in the churches of Smyrna, Magnesia, Tralles, Ephesus, Philadelphia, Troas, or Rome criticized Ignatius or held him in any but the highest esteem, I guess we can conclude there were no Jehovah's Witnesses in those cities back in the time when John the Apostle lived. Jehovah's Witnesses are a "novel" religion.
While in Smyrna, Ignatius debated Judaizers who believed similar to the heretics Paul talked about in Galatians, except the Judaizers in Smyrna did not require circumcision. Ignatius wrote (in Magnesians 9) that they the Judaizers kept the Sabbath (Saturday) while "from ancient times" Christians observed the Lord's Day (Sunday.) In Revelation John spoke of being in the Spirit on the Lord's Day. Ignatius used "Lord's Day" here to refer to Sunday.
While observing the Jewish Sabbath instead of the Lord's Day is not of itself it not the most serious error one could commit, Ignatius shows that those who insist Christians must rest on Saturday are at variance with the early Christians.
God Dwelling Within Us
Quite frankly, Jehovah's Witnesses would not get along well with Ignatius, for he also talked about God dwelling within us. What verses does this remind you of? A JW denied that God can dwell within us. Ignatius talked of being full of God in Magnesians 14.
Ignatius' Enjoyable Gems
Here are some gems to enjoy of Ignatius' teaching.
There are two kinds of coinage, God's and Satan's. Which treasure are you trying to store up? (Ignatius to the Magnesians 5)
Don't call your bishop (pastor today) a bishop and then do everything in disregard to him (Ignatius to the Magnesians 4)
We are not just to be called Christians but called to be Christians (Ignatius to the Magnesians 4)
"to one Jesus Christ who came forth from One Father while still remaining one with Him and returned to him." (Ignatius to the Magnesians 7:2)
Ignatius emphasized the following to his fellow bishop and younger friend Polycarp:
Find time to pray without ceasing
Every wound is not healed with the same remedy
The times demand you as a [ship's] pilot the heavens [stars]
The crown is immortality.
Stand like a beaten anvil.
It is the part of a good athlete to be bruised and prevail.
A Christian is not his own master but waits upon God.
Ignatius was not perfect. He readily pointed out his own shortcomings of impatience and some lack of gentleness in Trallians 4:2. How ready are you to admit your shortcomings?
Richardson, C.C. (ed) Early Church Fathers MacMillian Pub. (1970)
Coxe, C.A. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus in the Ante-Nicene Fathers Series. Eerdmans 1987.
The Early Church Fathers
Papias was a disciple of John the Apostle, and he was Bishop of Hierapolis, in Phrygia, from ~70 A.D. to his martyrdom in 163 A.D.. Eusebius (3:39) attributes to Papias two unique teachings. Papias said the Gospel of Matthew was originally written by Matthew in Hebrew. Second, Mark was Peter's interpreter, and Mark wrote down as his Gospel what he remembered translating over and over. Since Papias and Polycarp were friends, we can assume that there were no major differences between their teachings. Unfortunately, today we do not have any of the five volumes we know Papias wrote, so let's turn our attention to Polycarp.
Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna and a friend of Papias and Ignatius, whom we read about last time. Smyrna was a large city, with a population ~200K, and frankly the letter to the Church at Smyrna in Revelation sounds almost like a personal letter to Polycarp. Polycarp was the disciple of John the Apostle and Strataeus, a disciple of Paul and the previous bishop of Smyrna. Polycarp was in his forties when Ignatius was martyred. At the request of the Church at Philippi, Polycarp collected the letters of Ignatius and sent them to Philippi. Soon after Polycarp himself wrote a letter to the Philippians. Irenaeus, Polycarp's disciple, says Polycarp wrote other letters, but we only have the one to the Philippians. Later, Polycarp himself was martyred under most unusual circumstances.
Why Listen to Polycarp?
Bishop Polycarp was a simple, humble man, not a great at rhetoric or an astounding intellectual thinker. Since his words are not Holy scripture, why should we care what this faithful martyr said?
It's not just that he spoke and understand the nuances of New Testament Greek just as we understand English today. Polycarp was a disciple of the apostle John. He admitted he was not well versed in the Old Testament, though he knew the New Testament well. Of course He could learn of God's word differently than we do today; he could just go and ask John.
Scandal in Smyrna
According to Polycarp (11:1-4), while he was bishop a scandal occurred. A presbyter (elder) named Valens and his wife "forgot" (as Polycarp delicately puts it) Valens was a presbyter and took some money from the church. (Back in 140 A.D. we do not have any record whether Valens was on TV or not.) There are two things to note about Polycarp's writing of the situation. He says not to consider such persons as enemies but reclaim them as suffering, straying members. Polycarp speaks freely about the matter. Though Polycarp was "exceedingly grieved" (11:1), Polycarp and the church at Smyrna had nothing to be ashamed of. Likewise, if scandal like Valens' visits a church, we too can speak freely and openly of that. It is the people who commit that scandal that have the shame, not the others in the church.
Unity and Division
A year before Polycarp's martyrdom, he went to Rome to talk with Bishop Anicetus about a major division in the church (Eusebius 5:24). At that time the Roman Empire was gradually separating into (Greek) east and (Latin) west branches and the Christian church felt the strain also. One divisive issue was the date Christians should celebrate the Lord's death and resurrection. Western churches celebrated it like Catholic and Protestant churches do today. Eastern churches celebrated it identically with the Jewish passover. I suppose it would be hard to argue with Polycarp, if he were to say, "my discipler, JOHN THE APOSTLE, said to do it this way." The two did not agree, but they had very cordial fellowship. This is in contrast to Bishop Victor, in Tertullian's time who wanted to excommunicate all the Eastern churches over this, until many other bishops (including Irenaeus, Polycarp's disciple), severely rebuked him.
When Christians disagree on matters that seem important to you but are not necessarily primary to the Lord, how do you react? Some act like Polycarp and Anicetus, who though they could not agree, still followed Eph 4:3 to preserve the unity of the spirit. Others' first impulse is to act like Victor.
Polycarp and Cults
Unfortunately, in Polycarp's day like our own, there was no shortage of cults. While Polycarp was in Rome talking with Anicetus, he took to some to win some converts from the Marcionite and Valentinian Gnostic cults to Christianity. Now the Gnostics rejected most of Paul's teachings (they had to), but they accepted the gospels. I imagine it was a powerful testimony for Polycarp to say, "Now I was with John, and he said it was this way." The Gnostics believed the God of the Old Testament and New Testament were different, and there were many gods. The God of the Old Testament and the Jews was bad, and the God of the New Testament was good. Physical things did not matter, or else were evil, and the ultimate quest was for knowledge. Since physical things were not good, Jesus was like a "phantom" who did not really come in the flesh and did not physically rise from the dead.
According to Eusebius (4:14), once Polycarp encountered Marcion, and Marcion asked, "Do you know us, Polycarp?" Polycarp answered, I know you, I know the firstborn of Satan." Christians never shared communion with those who "mutilated the truth." In his ministry to cults he did not exactly beat around the bush.
Somehow it seems fitting that Polycarp won Gnostic souls to Christ. His mentor, John, wrote the book of First John against the Gnostics. Understanding John's reason for writing is the key to understanding the words in First John.
The Martyrdom of Polycarp
The letter "Martyrdom of Polycarp" and Eusebius (4:15) tell a most fascinating account of how he was killed for his faith. During this time (unlike later), the Romans were not too diligent about pursuing Christians; they just killed the Christians they came across or others turned in. When Polycarp was old some Jews in Smyrna turned him in and he was arrested an charges of "atheism". The Romans called everyone an atheist who would not worship their gods. During his trial the magistrate he was commanded to say "away with atheists." Since that would not deny Christ, he said it. Then he was asked to "swear by the fortune of Caesar" (9:2) and deny Christ. Polycarp replied, "Eighty and six years have I served him and he never did me wrong; and how can I now blaspheme my King that has saved me?" He would rather die than do that, so that is what the magistrate decided.
On February 23rd there was a spectacle at the local colosseum, and Polycarp was the star attraction. It was decided to burn him to death, but after he was tied to the stake and the logs were lit, an amazing thing happened. The flames went around him and over him, but they did not burn him! At first the Romans did not know what to do; then one of the soldiers was commanded to stab him, and Polycarp died. His body was then burned.
This story reminds us of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego with a key difference. After Nebuchadnezzar saw the miracle, he had the fear of God to release them. Even after the Romans saw this miracle though, they still had no fear of God. There are some people who will not allow all the miracles in the world to convince them.
God and Jesus, and God the Son
Polycarp talks of God Almighty and Jesus Christ our Saviour (1:0). If Jesus is God, is it fitting to talk of "God and Jesus." Apparently so, for see 1 Cor 11:3. Polycarp used the expression "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (12:2). Is the Father the "God" of Jesus? Yes, according to Heb 1:9.
How can people say Jesus is God is one breath, and in the next breath talk of Jesus and God? That paradox is the crux of the Trinity. That paradox is found in John 1:1, 1:18, and Heb 1:9,
Anti-Trinitarians may call it a contradiction if they like, but when it appears multiple times in two succeeding phrases, it is a "deliberate contradiction." If you do not accept two things in the same verse, either you deny the verse or try to understand it.
For that matter, can "the Lord" have a Lord? See Matthew 22:44 and Psalm 110:1.
Enemies of the Cross
Polycarp talked of persecutors as "enemies of the cross." (12:3) Is it proper to speak of "enemies of the cross?" See Philippians 3:18. It is interesting that no Mormon churches have crosses. Mormons claim that if somebody murdered a loved one with a gun, they would not hang a gun around their neck. Too bad they do not read 1 Cor 1:17-18, Gal 5:11, 6:12-14, Eph 2:16, and Philippians 3:18. Jehovah's Witnesses feel that Jesus was crucified on a stake, not a cross. Justin's personal testimony is an answer to that.
Like Paul in 1 Cor 6:9-10, Polycarp (5:3) talked that fornicators and homosexuals would not go to heaven. Also like Paul (1 Cor 6:11), Polycarp (6:1) talked of "being merciful to those who have gone astray". We should claim them for Christ and just sit in judgement.
The Early Church Fathers
Justin,"Philosopher and Martyr" became a Christian as a young man. He was an intellectual philosopher, well versed in Socrates, the Stoics, Peripatetics, Pythagoreans, and above all Plato. Philosophers. As one filled with the "wisdom of this world" he was the kind of person that was difficult to reach with the Gospel (see 1 Cor 1:22); yet he was born again (First Apology ch.61), and as he puts it, he attained the only true philosophy. Before we learn of his contribution to Christianity, we should learn of his personal testimony in Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew chap 3-7).
Justin frequently walked alone to a deserted field by the sea to meditate. One day he was very surprised to see an elderly gentleman in "his" solitary place. It turned out the man was also well versed in philosophy -- and a Christian. The elderly Christian to employed what we today would call "World Views Evangelism."
According to Justin, the one thing that most influenced him to become a Christian was a passage in Plato's work Timaeus, where Plato says "that the power next to the first God was placed in the form of the letter Chi in the universe (First Apology ch.60). The Greek letter Chi looks just like our X. Justin thought about the cross and its shape. If Christ was God's Word, God's message, God's truth, then all of a sudden it all made sense.
About this time Greek philosophical writings began to appear challenging the truth of Christianity. One of their main arguments was as follows: If there is one Supreme God, then he is perfect and changeless. Since he is changeless (not subject to change), then he cannot have passions or emotions, because those change. Since the God in the Bible both "has" love, anger, etc. and "gets" angry, joyful, etc. he is not a perfect God. Furthermore, since the perfect God is beyond change and suffering, Jesus cannot be God. -- Sounds logical. What do you say to that?
Well, Christians who used to believe Greek philosophy had a lot to say. Quadratus, Aristides of Athens, Theophilus of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Irenaeus, and others wrote very lengthy tomes, usually addressed to the Emperor, showing both why that thinking was wrong and why belief in the Greco-Roman gods was impious and ridiculous. These writings are called apologies, which means a defense of their belief.
In His First Apology, Justin writes to the Emperor, "But if the soldiers enrolled by you, and who have taken the military oath prefer their allegiance to their own life, and parents and country and all kindred, though you can offer them nothing incorruptible it were verily ridiculous if we, who earnestly long for incorruption, should not endure all things in order to obtain what we desired from Him who is able to grant it." (Ch.39) Justin was later beheaded for his faith.
Worship of Greco-Roman Gods
Justin had some very good arguments against the polytheism of his day. According to Greek/Roman mythology, Zeus/Jupiter committed numerous acts or adultery, rape, and savage acts of anger. Zeus/Jupiter was the kind of being people, especially young women should run from. What a god to look up to! Other gods and heroes committed incest and served a cannibalistic feast. And the incredible thing was, the Greeks and Romans worshipped these gods!
Even more incredible, the Romans accused Christians of immorality and cannibalism. Church services were clandestine to avoid persecution. Some Romans assumed bad things must be going on there. Since Christians always talked about love, Romans were sure what that meant. Since Christians partook of the "body and blood", the Romans thought they could figure that too. Justin defended against this by saying that, 1) all who does these things should rightfully be punished, 2) Christians never do these evil things, and 3) Romans should stop worshipping their gods, who they teach do these very things.
Many of the arguments Justin and others had eighteen hundred years ago are equally valid today with polytheistic religions. For example, a god with a wide following in Hinduism is Krishna. All Hindus believe in him, though The Hare Krishna sect is the one that especially follows him. Krishna would do things like steal women's clothes when they bathe in the river so that they have to beg him to get their clothes back, and played his flute to draw men's wives to love him. Imagine a young Hindu boy telling his parents, "I am very devoted to Hinduism, and when I grow up I want to be just like Krishna." Would they be proud Hindu parents of not? Imagine a young Hindu girl telling her parents, "When I get older I want to meet Krishna." Would her parents hope her wish was granted, or would they look upon Krishna as some kind of devilish monster?
In the Mahabharata Krishna counsels Arjuna that it is morally right and even his salvation to fight his relatives. By killing his cousins, he will free their souls to the next life. I guess it's bad to kill cows, but it is ok to kill people.
Sometimes people who claim to be "beyond good and evil" are beneath good, just like the legends of Krishna. In general, Polytheists tend towards behaving like their idols, and everyone tends to behave like whatever it is they worship.
Jesus is Worshipped as God and Christ
In his two apologies Justin talks of Jesus as God's Son; he does not mention that Jesus is God. Probably because of this, JW's point to him as an early church father who did not believe Jesus was God.
However, Justin wrote a long work called Dialogue with Trypho the Jew. To Trypho, who denied Jesus' divinity, Justin devoted a total of thirteen chapters (55-56,59,61-64,66,74-78) to prove that Jesus is God. Like most early church fathers, Justin taught that the appearances of God in the Old Testament were appearances of Jesus in the form of an angel.
"The Word of Wisdom who is Himself this God begotten of the Father of all things, and Word and Wisdom and Power, and the Glory of the Begetter ..." (Ch.61)
"Therefore these words testify explicitly that He [Jesus] is witnessed to by Him [the Father] who established these things, as deserving to be worshipped as God and as Christ." (Ch.63)
"Here Trypho [the Jew] said, 'Let Him be recognized as Lord and Christ and God as the Scriptures declare by you of the Gentiles, who have from His name been all called Christians; but we who are servants of God that made this same [Christ] do not require to confess or worship Him.'" (Ch.64)
Christ's Bodily Resurrection
Justin's work on the resurrection (of believers) in Chapter 9 uses as an argument that "Why did He (Jesus) rise in the flesh in which He suffered unless to show the resurrection of the flesh?" Like the other church fathers, Justin too taught the physical resurrection of Jesus in contradistinction to the Gnostics, and Docetists.
Justin was a good believer, but he was incorrect on some things. We would disagree with the high regard he held for the Greek philosophers. He said they spoke truth given the light they had, though they also contradicted themselves and did not have the wisdom from heaven. We would see more negative things in Greek philosophy than Justin did.
A second mistake of Justin is that he had a disciple, named Tatian, who after Justin's beheading fell under Gnostic influence and became a heretic. Tatian founded the cult of the Encratites, meaning Masters of Themselves. They denied that Jesus ever had a physical body and were ascetics (living a life of hardship.) Teachers should guard their disciples against cults.
While Justin's writings predate the use of the word Trinity, he too recognized the divinity of Christ. He said Jesus is "deserving to be worshipped as God and as Christ" and there is not much room for ambiguity here. However some of the speculations he had about the Logos we would not agree with today. We would still find his basic view Trinitarian because he recognized both sides of the paradox that the Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct yet one inseparable God.
One point to learn is that everyone does not have to have to agree on every speculation to be a true Christian. Justin had the primary doctrines right, and we should accept those who have the primary things correct, even if they and we disagree on secondary matters.
Jehovah's Witnesses try to say Justin would be against the Trinity because of his belief that there was a time before the Son existed. Because he did indeed teach this difference from ours, JW's want you to believe he did not believe the essentials of the Trinity of God. Furthermore, they want you to get the impression that this man who was converted by the symbol of the cross, and who said "Jesus is God" would be an ancient Jehovah's Witness. --impossible.
This JW teaching is deception. You will search in vain for any Jehovah's Witness or similarity thereof prior to the nineteenth century.
There is a lesson for us Christians to learn here. In our ministry, there may be times when we feel we could be more effective witnesses and persuaders if we just bent the truth a little bit. If we distorted a few facts we could make a much stronger case.
This idea is sin. 2 Cor 4:2 says to renounce secret and shameful ways and not to use deception or distortion. Though cults may use deception, we should never do so to talk about the God of truth.
First Apology Ch.67 worship on Sunday
The Early Church Fathers
Irenaeus was the most influential Christian writer between Paul and Augustine. He was a disciple of Polycarp, disciple of John (3:4). Irenaeus in turn, discipled Hippolytus. Irenaeus succeeded Pothinus, another disciple of Polycarp's, as bishop of Lyons, France. In 177 A.D., Marcus Aurelius persecuted the church. This is ironic, for Aurelius, the "philosopher Emperor", once wrote that he learned from his mother tolerance of religion. During this persecution Irenaeus visited Rome and was shocked to see so many Gnostic heresies. Even a fellow pupil of his under Polycarp, Frobinius, joined Gnosticism. Irenaeus wrote a Against Heresies (5 volumes), to refute 19 heresies point-by-point.
In a fragment (11) Irenaeus said, "The business of the Christian is nothing else than to be ever prepared for death." He lived as he preached, and he died as he preached-- a martyr.
The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus
Lest there be any doubt on Irenaeus' view of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, here is what he said in Against Heresies 5:7:1. "In the same manner, therefore, as Christ did rise in the substance of flesh and pointed out to His disciples the mark of the nails and the opening in His side (now these are the tokens of that flesh which rose from the dead) so "shall He also," it is said, "raise us up by His own power." Is there much ambiguity here?
"But that He (Jesus) is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have obtained to even a small portion of the truth." (Irenaeus Against Heresies 3:19:2)
Jehovah's Witnesses, ignoring this clear statement of Irenaeus', try to believe he did not believe in the divinity of Christ. They probably see this from in his argument, Irenaeus first tells of the multitude of Gnostic aeons, then contrasts them with the One True God, who is the Father. Then he introduces Christ as God with us, and with quotes like the One above says that Jesus is God in His own right. Finally he says that while Paul mentions many gods in 1 Cor 8:5-6, Irenaeus says these gods of the heathen are the idols of demons. Thus from Irenaeus we learn there are three definitions of "god" in the Bible, and we can show this by three circles.
Word always with the Father 4:20:3 p.488.
Heb 1:9 etc.
1 Cor 8:5-6
The outermost circle are "so-called gods", gods in manner of address and mention. They include the True god, Jupiter, Apollo, Baal, etc. The middle circle is what we Christians may call God. Of course this includes God the Father. Thomas, the author of Hebrews, John, and the early Christians also rightly call Jesus God. The innermost circle is the one whom Jesus called God while on earth, the Father, the one the Bible means when it says "God and Jesus". The key difference between the JW's teaching and Biblical teaching is this: JW's teach two different gods, a True God (Jehovah), and a smaller (but not false) god Jesus, while the Bible proclaims the Father and Jesus are the same God.
The Gnostics were a collection of cults united in believing the Old Testament was from an evil god, and the gospels and a few of Paul's writings were from a good God. Gnosis means knowledge and Gnostics believed secret knowledge was the key to salvation. The book of First John seems to be written entirely to guard against Gnosticism.
Irenaeus does not mince words about heretics. "Inasmuch as certain men have set the truth aside, and bring in lying words and vain genealogies, which, as the apostle says 'minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in the faith,' and by means of the craftily-constructed plausibilities draw away the minds of the inexperienced and take them captive, [I have felt constrained my dear friend to compose the following treatise in order to expose and counteract their machinations.] These men falsify the oracles of God, and prove themselves evil interpreters of the good word of revelation." They also overthrow the faith of many,... (Against Heresies 1:1:1)
Gnosticism was an incongruous amalgam of Greek speculation, anti-Jewishness, and gospel teaching. How could Gnosticism have true teaching? It had to. If it had 0% biblical teaching it would not have been so effective at deceiving those in the church. Irenaeus remarks:
"Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself." (Against Her. 1:1:2)
Gnostics differed among themselves, but they all shared these teachings. The Supreme God of the universe did not make this world; instead a lesser, evil god, named the Demiurge, did. Thus all physical things are intrinsically evil. The Demiurge is the god of the Old Testament and the Jews follow this evil god. The highest God sent Jesus to appear and bring salvation. Since Jesus was perfect, he was not really physical. He only appeared to be, and he only appeared to physically rise from the dead.
Gnostics generally believed in thirty aeons or gods; a group of 8, a group of 12, and a group of 10. All Gnostics were either libertine or ascetic. Libertine Gnostics believed that drunkenness, fornication, and an immoral life were either irrelevant to spirituality, or else enhanced it by the person experiencing all things. Ascetic Gnostics believed that spiritual people should abstain from physical things in this world. All abstained from marriage and many abstained from animal meat.
Ascetic Gnostics Libertine Gnostics
Cerdo Simon Magus (in Acts 8:9-11)
Marcion of Pontus Menander Nicolaitans
Saturninus Valentinus Colorbasus
Encratites (Tatian) Ptolemaeus Marcus
Marcion: Ascetic, pacifist, forbade marriage
In 1:8:1 Irenaeus gives a striking analogy of cult teaching. Suppose a skillful artist constructs a beautiful image of a king out of precious jewels. Now suppose somebody else takes this all apart and then rearranges the gems to make a crude picture of a dog or a fox. Could he say this was the beautiful image the craftsman constructed of the king? That is what cults do to the Bible.
Gnostic "Proof" Texts
Gnostic "proof" of the 8+10+12=30 aeons is the following; Jesus had twelve disciples, and later there were twelve apostles. Jesus went to the Temple when He was twelve. The twelfth disciple (Judas) fell, so the twelfth aeon fell. Jesus was baptized when he was about 30. The woman with the issue of blood was a type of the suffering aeon. Since Jesus was before all ages, and in Greek the work age is aeon, Jesus was before the aeons. By adding up the numbers in various names in the Bible, one gets combinations of 8, 10, 12, and 30.
Looking beyond the absurdity of these proofs, there is a psychological phenomena with Gnostics that is common to many cults. The Gnostics had this insatiable desire to teach knowledge; and what they did not know, their conscience did not stop them from making up. The truth had to be complicated, and only elite intellectuals, knowledgeable with their secret, could know it.
The Gnostics were very clever; they must have been to make up such wild fantasies. How intelligent people could accept wild things so uncritically is a mystery of man's sinful nature. It is as if thinking people choose to "turn off" their thinking in particular areas. This strange phenomena is appears in many cults today too.
Some Mormons, in their search for Mormons in the early church, point to the Gnostics. There are similarities in that Gnostics believed they had secret, hidden knowledge, they were polytheists. However, all Gnostics rejected the God of the Old Testament and believed that Jesus never had a physical body.
Mormon teachings of abstaining from alcohol, and doing good works to go to heaven, were totally incompatible with libertine Gnosticism. While no alcohol was compatible with ascetic Gnosticism, ascetic Gnostics believed all marriage was wrong.
Irenaeus' views of the shortcomings of the Roman Church showed he believed it anything but infallible. His view of the Lord's supper however, was similar to the transubstantiation or consubstantiation of the Catholic and Lutheran churches. Unlike Augustine, Irenaeus was rather Arminian in his outlook from 3:37:2 and 4:40-41.
Irenaeus gave an interesting account of John the Apostle in 3:3. One day John was in the public baths when he heard that the heretic Cerinthus was in. John immediately rushed out telling everyone else to run out before the building collapsed on Cerinthus. John was strongly against cults too.
Irenaeus emphasized in Against Her. 3:2-3, that there were no hidden mysteries that the apostles imparted to some and hid from others.
Other non-Gnostic groups Irenaeus wrote against were the Ebionites and the Nicolaitans mentioned in Rev 2:6. Irenaeus says that they were started by Nicholas mentioned in Acts 6:5.
Here is Irenaeus' insight on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. "Know thou that every man is either empty or full. For if he has not the Holy Spirit, he has no knowledge of the Creator; he has not received Jesus Christ the life; he knows not the Father who is in heaven;..." (16)
Did all the churches believe what Irenaeus believed? Here is what Irenaeus said in 1:10:2 "She (the church) also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul.... For the churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different nor do those in Spain nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East nor those in Egypt nor those in Libya, nor ..."
The Early Church Fathers
May-August 325 A.D.
The world population was 297 ± 30% million, while the Roman Empire was 45-60 million. Of these, there were 10-15 million Christians. Athanasius' and Arius' country of Egypt had 5 ± 20% million people, of which very roughly 1/2 were Christians, at least in name.
The Council at Nicea (325 A.D.)
Many bishops and the Emperor Constantine saw that the issue of Arianism had to be resolved for the unity of the church and the greater harmony of the Empire. At the urging of the Bishop Hosius, Constantine called for the first Ecumenical (world-wide) council of bishops at Nicea in the summer of 325 A.D.. Over 300 bishops, plus many presbyters and deacons, were present.
At the beginning there were three distinct groups. The Arians had fourteen or so bishops, the opposing group (let's call them Niceans) had at least 20, and the rest came to hear and decide. The leaders of the Arians were Arius and Eusebius of Nicomedia; Athanasius was the leader of the Niceans; he was only 27 at the time.
The Nicean party brought forth verses and statements to try to prove Arianism wrong. The Arians kept whispering among themselves and then agreeing with the verses and statements. For example, Niceans would state, "Christ is like to the Father in all things." The Arians would agree; after all, man is the image and glory of God. The Niceans said, Christ is the power of God; Arians responded that even the locusts are called the power of God. The Niceans said, "the Son is eternal"; the Arians agreed because Christians too have eternal life.
Thus at first the Niceans were thwarted in their attempts to find statements the Arians disagreed with. Then, the Arian leader, Eusebius of Nicomedia, decided to boldly read a statement defining their belief. That was their undoing. As he was reading, the council was shocked at what they heard. The bishops then drew up a statement, which is the original Nicean Creed, to condemn Arianism. It is interesting that every bishop signed it, even all the Arians, except for three people. Eusebius of Nicomedia even backed down and signed it, though it was against his own document. Arius, Secundus, and Theonas were exiled.
The Doctrines of Arianism
What were these doctrines of Arianism that were so hard to pin Arians down on, until the whole was heard? Arianism is actually inconsistent; it starts with the Sonship of Christ, and ends by denying His Sonship.
Since the Son came from the Father, there was a time when the Son was not. Before the Son, the Father, of course was not the Father. The Father is so removed from the world, that he could not create it Himself, He needed an instrument (the Son) to create it. The Son was advanced to be the son by adoption, not by nature. He is not the word of God, but a word of God, and God has spoken many words. Jesus was in the flesh, but He did not have the full nature of humanity. The Son was not "Very God", but He was God to us, and was still to be worshipped.
A key argument Athanasius apparently used was that many pagans accepted that there were lesser and greater gods, as well as one supreme god (Zeus). Calling the Father and Jesus greater and lesser gods would make Christianity easier for pagans to convert; the problem is, it would no longer be Christianity. Those who believe we are to praise or make sacrifices to more than One god today are polytheists too.
The Nicene Creed recited in churches around the world today is actually only two-thirds of the original. Here is the original.
We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; And in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father, that is, from the essence (or substance) of the Father; God from God, Light from Light, Very God from Very God, begotten, not made, One in essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made, both things in heaven and things in earth; Who for us men and for our salvation came down and was made flesh, was made man, suffered and rose again the third day ascended into heaven and comes to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost. And those who say, 'Once He was not,' and 'Before His generation [i.e. human birth] He was not' and 'He came to be from nothing,' or those who pretend that the Son of God is 'Of other subsistence or essence,' or 'created' or 'alterable,' or 'mutable,' the catholic Church anathematizes.
the Need for the Creed
There was one criticism of the creed that sounded reasonable to a lot of non-Arians. After all, if we are guided only by scripture, and scripture is sufficient, and the Nicean Creed is not scripture, then why have it?
Athanasius wrote a 23 page answer to that objection and to define the Creed's language. Athanasius pointed out that the Arians had all kinds of objections, but when questioned about their belief, they change like chameleons. He pointed out the errors of their belief.
In Chapter 5 though, there is a hint of an answer to a broader question. Many Christians in Bible Societies believe that all you have to do is publish the Bible. We do not need to defend the faith beyond that or show that any other belief is in error. This approach is all right for unbelievers that are not rooted to any false teaching. However, it does nothing for those who change the definitions of the words in the Bible in an inconsistent way. Thus the Nicene Creed may not have been essential before the Arians, but because of the Arians' twisting of scripture, the Nicean Creed became necessary. Likewise today, when people twist scripture, the meaning of scripture must be defended by correcting their errors.
A very sad case study is in the Pacific Islands. Around the late nineteenth century missionaries Christianized most of the Islands. Later Mormons, who claim to be Christians came, and these undefended natives all became and are predominantly Mormons today.
Revival of Arianism
After the exile of Arius and the two others, the Arians worked hard to make a comeback. They had two very influential converts. On his deathbed, the Emperor Constantine was baptized by an Arian Bishop, Eusebius of Nicomedia xli. His son and the next sole Emperor, Constantius, was an ardent Arian who exiled many Nicean bishops, including Athanasius (357 A.D.). As these were exiled, ~80 Arians became bishops, mostly in Asia Minor and Syria.
There were three kinds of Arians actually; doctrinal Arians, political Arians, and confused Arians. After the Arians assumed power in many churches, they sort of disintegrated. While they were united against the Nicean Creed, they did not have a consistent belief of their own. The "ultra-Arians" wanted to say that the Father and Jesus were of different substances, the semi-Arians believed them to be of "like-substances", and the political Arians did not care. After Constantius died, the Nicean Christians were recalled from exile and by popular assent led the churches again. By 400 A.D. Arianism was dead in the civilized Roman world.
However, the Arians had an influential missionary (part Goth), named Ufilas, who converted the warlike Goths. In time many Vandals, Burgundians, Herulians, and other Germanic people became Arians too. These barbarian Arians were around until Visigoths converted from Arianism in 587 A.D.
After this, there was only one other person known to have "great sympathy" for Arianism. It was Isaac Newton, (of all people.) He actually wrote more on religion than he did on science!
Athanasius' Trials and Trial
If you serve Christ, you will never be accused of doing evil, right? -- not in Athanasius case. He was exiled five times due to false charges. The Arians tried every trick to bring down his integrity. An Arian named Arsenius went into hiding and the Arians reported that Athanasius murdered him, cut off his hand, and used his hand for magical purposes. Constantine summoned Athanasius to a trial. Fortunately, some Orthodox Christians searched and finally found Arsenius. They seized him, and unknown to the Arians, had him brought to the trial. When the Arians made their charge, Athanasius asked if they knew Arsenius personally and they said they did. Athanasius then had Arsenius produced; he showed them both of Arsenius' hands and asked from where was the third hand cut off! That was the end of that charge.
Constantine eventually banished Athanasius because of the trumped-up charge that he somehow had the power to stop grain ships from coming to Constantinople. Some think Constantine did that just to bring peace with the Arians. However, Constantine was baptized by an Arian.
At Arius' request the Emperor finally ordered that Alexander, the Nicean bishop of Alexandria should receive him into communion. Alexander prayed to God that either he would die or Arius would die rather than him be forced to accept a heretic. One day before Arius was to be received, Arius died.
The Arians, in stressing Jesus' Sonship, ended up denying the Son as the Son, because a son is of the same essence as his father. Arians worshipped Jesus, yet they said he was God only as an honorary title, and not in his intrinsic being. While there are no Arians today, many cults still try to lower Jesus.
The Early Church Fathers
"For even a blind man if he see not the sun yet if he but take hold of the warmth the sun gives out knows that there is a sun above the earth. Thus let our opponents also, even if they believe not as yet being still blind to the truth yet at least knowing His power by others who believe not deny the Godhead of Christ and the Resurrection accomplished by Him." Incarnation of the Word 32:3. Athanasius' was a hero of the faith who risked his life to stand against heresy, and he was indeed a channel of God's warmth to those who were blind. We learned some of his life from the issue on Nicea. Now let's see what this man of God had to say.
His Early Life
Athanasius was well-versed in Greek philosophy and literature. He was educated at the church in Alexandria, where he later became bishop some time after the Council at Nicea. Some criticized his becoming a bishop at such a young, tender age (under forty). Like most from this church, he valued ascetism and a monastic life. He also esteemed Origin, a church Father with some very speculative and strange theology.
Athanasius' writings are characterized by simplicity, knowledge, and vigor. He was a preacher, not a rhetoritician. He wrote over 500 pages (in English) during his long service to the Lord. Just a few of the themes of his writing are the Cross of Christ, Against paganism, the Trinity, the bodily resurrection of Christ, a work on the Incarnation of the word, and of course, against Arianism. Two early works that were apparently written before the Arian controversy are Against the Heathen and The Incarnation of the Word (abbreviated Incarnation).
The Cross of Christ
Was the cross shaped like a "cross", or was it shaped like a stake as Jehovah's Witnesses claim? Earlier we read what Justin Martyr said. Here is what Athanasius said the Incarnation 25:3, "For it is only on the cross that a man dies with his hands spread out. Whence it was fitting for the Lord to bear this also and to spread out His hands that with the one He might draw the ancient people, and with the other those from the Gentiles and unite both in Himself." Now since both Justin and Athanasius lived in Roman times, they would certainly know more about the shape of the cross than the Middle Age writers the Jehovah's Witnesses quote.
Athanasius Against the Heathen
When people refuse to accept Christianity, one tactic is to explore the inconsistencies of their belief. Athanasius in Against the Heathen sarcastically said we can really learn a lot from the Greek gods.
---from Zeus: corrupting youth and immorality
---from Aphrodite: fornication
---from Ares: murder
---from Dionysius: drunkenness
---and from many other things we would be ashamed to do. --- and to think people worshipped these beings! Of course, we might not want to look too closely at the media idols of today!
While it might have been possible, in his original state, for man's soul to find God, in our current state is it impossible. God had to come to us. Our use of reason is fallen too. Not necessarily is our potential faculty to reason flawed, but our integrity of reason.
In Against the Heathen 22:3 Athanasius has a cute quip: "[pagans] are not ashamed to call lords of heaven and all the earth creatures whom they shut up in small chambers." Have you ever tried to shut up God in a small chamber?
Athanasius reiterated what others said, but he also had some original analogies. What does it mean to be indivisible? Athanasius gives many analogies. A light is indivisible from its brightness. One may say, "I see by the sun." Would you think him mad because he did not say, "I see by the light of the sun?" A stream is indivisible from the well from which it sprang. A branch is indivisible from the root that bear it. (Incarnation 3, others)
In his Sermon on Luke 10:22 (Matt 11:27), Athanasius says about the unity versus distinctness of the three, "United without confusion, distinguished without separation. Indivisible and without degrees." To borrow a modern illustration, just like light can paradoxically be a series of distinct particles or quanta, and still be a wave, the three can be distinct yet inseparable.
Athanasius points out that in Rev 4:8 it says "...Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty..." Why three times, and not two or four, if there is no Trinity?
A shortcoming of Athanasius' writing on the Trinity he that he did not expound much on the Holy Spirit. Neither did the Arians for that matter. Since he spent much of his life refuting Arians or running from Arians, that is understandable.
The Bodily Resurrection of Christ
Athanasius mentions the bodily resurrection of Christ in Incarnation 16:4, 33:1, 50:5, and other places. He only mentions it clearly but only briefly, because Arians did not deny Jesus' bodily resurrection. This is one of many reasons it is not accurate equate Jehovah's Witnesses with Arians. (JW's do not claim any relationship with the warlike, scheming Arians either.)
The Manhood of Christ
Did Jesus have everything we have (except sin), or did he just resemble man? Athanasius in Against the Arians 2:14:8-9 points out that Heb 2:17 says Jesus was made like his brothers in every way. This is important, for Jesus had to be truly human to be our sacrifice and mediator.
The Incarnation of Christ
Was Jesus the True God, or was he just another god? Athanasius tells us what 1 John 5:20 says about Jesus Christ, "... He is the true God and eternal life."
In Incarnation 18:7 he says that the sun is not defiled by sunlight touching things of the earth. It is always not put out by the darkness. Likewise, the Word of God was not less because he took on a physical body.
For as the sunrise drives away the dark and brings the day, the cross brought our victory over death. (Incarnation 29:3)
Whether man was inclined to worship nature man, demons, or the dead, Jesus showed Himself Lord of all these. (Incarnation 15:3-7)
In Incarnation 37:5 Athanasius mentions that men of Persia worshipped Jesus. So it must be all right to worship Jesus.
We were made in God's image, but we were being effaced, somewhat like an image on wood with stains on it. Christ, the image of God, came to make us afresh in God's image. (Incarnation 13)
Athanasius defended his positions with scripture; however he had two uses for church tradition. The first, mentioned in Circular Letter 1, is that the ordinances and interpretations were handed down from the apostles. The second is the flip-side of that, to show the novelty of heresy. We should use the writings of the Early Church Fathers the same way, not as a substitute for scripture or infallible, but to give light on how the Lord's disciples and their disciples interpreted scripture and to show that cults today are new religions unknown in previous times.
Jesus the Son of God - How?
Exactly how is Jesus the Son of God? According to Athanasius, Jesus is in two senses: essential (from all eternity), and adoptive (from his birth a la Psalm 2.) Athanasius accused the Arians of trying to have a third meaning, of honor or "acquiring" Godhood. Have you ever thought just how powerful it is that Jesus is of the same "stuff" as the Father?
Begotten vs. Made
Sometimes people in cults disagree with what we say, but other times they do not even understand the terms in the Bible. An important distinction Athanasius points out in On the Opinion of Dionysius 20-21 is between begotten and made. Parents beget children but make things. The Father beget Jesus, but made creation.
What about Colossians 1:15, where Christ is called "... the firstborn over all creation...?" Jesus of course was first born, of course, as the only begotten Son of God. He is first-born in precedence and position as we too are sons of God in a lesser sense. While Jesus was not created any more than I created my children, of course his physical body was a creation of God.
Jehovah's Witnesses recognize the Day of the Lord's resurrection but they do not celebrate "Easter", as they believe that a pagan word. Athanasius mentions the Holy period of Lent and Easter in his Circular Letter 4, and in his over forty-five Easter Letters.
Athanasius had a combination of scriptural knowledge, wisdom, and discernment of truth and error. God used him mightily at a critical time in church history. Hebrews 5:14 says believers should "by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." Would that we all follow this verse like Athanasius did.
The Early Church Fathers
Hippolytus was the disciple of Irenaeus at Lyons, who was about fifty years older than him. As you may recall, Irenaeus was the disciple of Polycarp, who was the disciple of John the Apostle. Hippolytus later became a bishop of Portus, a suburb of Rome. Hippolytus' writing in Greek is very similar to Irenaeus'. Also like Irenaeus, we went to Rome to rebuke bishops there. Also like Irenaeus, Hippolytus too was martyred.
The Refutation of All Heresies ... Continued
Like his mentor Irenaeus, Hippolytus also wrote extensively against heresies, --139 pages. He even knew of the Brahmins of India, which he called "Brachmans". He also discusses thirty-one Gnostic cults, astrology and the Chaldeans, the Jews, Ebionites, magicians, Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24), the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:6), and Greek philosophy.
(p.74) Some of the heretics were rather clever. In 6:3 a man named Apsethus tried to get the Libyans to worship him as a god (similar to Simon Magus.) When he at first failed, he collected a large number of talking parrots, which he taught to say "Apsethus is a god." Later he released them in the wild. People were astonished to hear these wild birds all telling them that Apsethus was a god. We can chuckle at people who try to learn truth from birds, but people today are the same way. If we hear messages repeated enough on TV and elsewhere, will we tend to believe it, regardless of whether it is really true?
In the astrology at that time, people born under some of the signs should have reddish hair. Hippolytus tongue-in-cheek points out that no darker-skinned people must be born in those months.
A key note on The Refutation of All Heresies is what is not there. In The writings of Hippolytus, Irenaeus, and every single church writer, there is no reference to any group that was like the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, or cults today. Since these writers did not these things, and all heretics never taught these things, then these are modern errors unheard of by the disciples of the apostles.
Cults in General on Christ
Hippolytus in a fragment said a profound thing about cults' views of Jesus in both his day and ours. "Now a person might say that these men [cultists], and those who hold a different opinion are yet near neighbors, being involved in like error. For those men indeed either profess that Christ came into our life a mere man and deny the talent [attribute] of His divinity, or else acknowledging Him to be God they deny on the other hand, His humanity, and teach that His appearances to those who saw Him as man were illusory inasmuch as He did not bear with Him true manhood but was rather a kind of phantom manifestation."
What Is One Substance?
In his discussion of Aristotle, he has a brief discussion of how Aristotle defined "substances". When Christians say the three are the same "substance", exactly what is substance? Perhaps we can get a hint from what Hippolytus says about Aristotle's teachings on nature and logic. According to Aristotle, there are three senses of the word substance: genus, species, and individual. Of course, two things of the same substance may still have differing qualities. Hippolytus gives the example of animals, men, and a person. All animals, be they pigs, cows, man, etc. have the same substance "animal." Animal here is defined as being "animated" (alive) and having sensation. People have a substance, "human", which other animals do not have. Finally a person is of one substance because his body is indivisible. If you change the names, the meaning here is similar to the modern object-oriented programming paradigm, in which everything in the universe can be grouped into superclasses, subclasses, and instances of objects. In general, substances have the same originating principle, matter, form and privation.
When we say the Father, Son, and Spirit have the same substance, we mean they are all God, they all existed eternally past before time began, and they will all exist eternally in the future. People are of the same substance, people (in contrast to bugs), and the Father, Jesus, and the Spirit are the same substance (God).
****** Jesus was fully God (Col 1:***), but Jesus was also fully the substance of man. Here is what Hippolytus said. (p.152) "The Man we know to have been made out of the compound of humanity. For if
In Against the Heresy of One Noetus, Hippolytus discusses the Trinity. In Chapter 8 he says, "A man, ... is compelled to acknowledge God the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus the Son of God who, being God became man, to whom also the Father made all things subject Himself excepted, and the Holy Spirit; and that these therefore, are three."
In chapter 12 he says, "We accordingly see the Word incarnate and we know the Father by Him and we believe in the Son (and) we worship the Holy Spirit."
In chapter 14 he discusses John 1:1 in the way Christians understand it, not using "Jehovah's Witness Greek." He quotes part of John 1:1 and then says, "If, then the Word was with God and was also God what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods but of one; of two Persons however and of a third economy (disposition), viz., the grace of the Holy Ghost. For the Father indeed is One but there are two Persons because there is also the Son; and then there is the third the Holy Spirit. The Father decrees, the Word executes and the Son is manifested, through whom the Father is believed on. The economy of the harmony is led back to one God; for God is One. It is the Father who commands and the Son who obeys and the Holy Spirit who gives understanding; the Father is above all, and the Son who is through all and the Holy Spirit who is in all. And we cannot otherwise think of one God, but by believing in truth in Father and Son and Holy Spirit."
The Divinity of Christ
In introducing the One, True God to the Greek Gnostics, Hippolytus says in The Refutation of All Heresies 10:28, "The first and only (one God) both Creator and Lord or all, had nothing coeval with Himself, not infinite chaos, nor measureless water nor solid earth, .... But He was One alone in Himself." Jehovah's Witness use this to claim Hippolytus did not teach about the Trinity.
However, the next chapter goes on, "Therefore this solitary and supreme Deity by an exercise of reflection, brought forth the Logos first; ... The Logos was in the Father Himself bearing the will of His progenitor, and not being unacquainted with the mind of the Father." The JW's forgot to read the chapters before and after.
In Discourse on the Holy Theophany, chapter 10, Hippolytus discusses who can become a true Christian. "For he who comes down in faith to the laver of regeneration and renounces the devil, and joins himself to Christ; who denies the enemy and makes the confession that Christ is God; who puts off the bondage and puts on the adoption, --he comes up from the baptism brilliant as the sun,..."
The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus
Hippolytus writes, "He calls Him, then, 'the first-fruits of them that sleep,' as the 'first-begotten of the dead.' For He, having risen, and being desirous to show that that same (body) had been raised which had also died when His disciples were in doubt, called Thomas to Him, and said 'Reach hither; handle me, and see: for a spirit hath not bone and flesh, as ye see me have.'" (Hippolytus, Bishop and Martyr, in a Letter to a Certain Queen (or Princess)
The passage he refers to, John 20:24-25, is one Jehovah's Witnesses want to avoid, but you should bring up. Either Jesus really had his own physical body, or else he deliberately fooled Thomas to believe He had his own physical body, when He really did not.
Hippolytus had some beautiful illustrations. Here are one: "For as the serpent cannot make its mark upon a rock, so the devil could not find sin in the body of Christ."
Hippolytus on the Bible
So-called Christian theologians from the Tübingen school used to say that the Bible, including John's Gospel, was written down much later than the time of the apostles. We now have a fragment of John, dated ~130 A.D., and scriptures dated 150 A.D. and 200 A.D. to refute that. Even before we had these manuscripts though, Hippolytus' own work (The Refutation of All Heresies 7:10) refutes that. As Coxe points out, Hippolytus tells that the heretic Basilides quotes from John 1:9. Now Basilides lived at the time of the apostles, because he claims he received secret teaching from Matthias, the one elected apostle in Acts 1:23-26. (7:8)
According Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Hippolytus quotes from the New Testament 1,378 times. Hippolytus also thought the Apocrypha was scripture. There are over 36,289 quotes from the New Testament in just seven church fathers. Even if every single copy of the New Testament were destroyed or changed, we would still know the original meaning from the quotes alone.
Hippolytus On the Twelve Apostles
Did you ever wonder what happened to the Apostles after Jesus ascended to heaven. Hippolytus tell us.
"Peter preached the Gospel in Pontus, and Galatia and Cappadocia [all in Asia Minor], and Betania and Italy, and Asia and was afterwards crucified by Nero in Rome with his head downward as he had himself desired to suffer in that manner.
Andrew preached to the Scythians [in Russia] and Thracians, and was crucified, suspended on an olive tree at Patrae, a town of Achaia [in Greece]; and there too he was buried.
John, again in Asia was banished by Domitian the King to the isle of Patmos in which he also wrote his Gospel and saw the apocalyptic vision; and in Trajan's time he fell asleep at Ephesus where his remains were sought for, but could not be found.
James his brother when preaching in Judea, was cut off with the sword by Herod the tetrarch, and was buried there. Eusebius 2:9 says beheaded.
Philip preached in Phrygia [in Asia Minor] and was crucified in Hierapolis with his head downward in the time of Domitian, and was buried there.
Bartholomew again preached to the Indians, to whom he also gave the Gospel according to Matthew, and was crucified with his head downward and was buried in Albanum, a town of Great Armenia.
And Matthew wrote the Gospel in the Hebrew tongue and published it at Jerusalem, and fell asleep at Hierees a town of Parthia [Iran]. Papias (65-156 A.D.) also records that Matthew was written in Hebrew.
And Thomas preached to the Parthians, Medes Persians Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and Margians (Magi?) [all in Iran and Afghanistan, and USSR], and was thrust through in the four members of his body with a pine spear at Calamene, the city of India and was buried there.
And James the son of Alphaeus when preaching in Jerusalem, was stoned to death by the Jews and was buried there beside the temple. Josh McDowell says crucified.
Jude, who is also called Lebbaeus preached to the people of Edessa, and to all Mesopotamia, and fell asleep at Berytus, and was buried there. Josh McDowell says killed by arrows.
Simon the Zealot, the son of Cleopas, who is also called Jude, became the bishop of Jerusalem after James the Just (Lord's brother), and fell asleep and was buried there at the age of 120 years. Josh McDowell says crucified.
And Matthias, who was one of the seventy, was numbered along with the eleven apostles, and preached in Jerusalem, and fell asleep and was buried there.
And Paul entered into the apostleship a year after the assumption of Christ; and beginning at Jerusalem, he advanced as far as Illyricum, and Italy, and Spain, preaching the Gospel for thirty-five years. And in the time of Nero he was beheaded at Rome and was buried there." p.255
He also says that Mark, Luke, Demas, Stephen, and James the Lord's brother, were among the seventy disciples of Jesus. (Hippolytus is probably wrong about James though.)
The Ship of the Church
Hippolytus in his Treatise on Christ and Anti-Christ (59) has a beautiful illustration of the church. "But we who hope for the Son of God are persecuted and trodden down by those unbelievers. For the wings of the vessels are the churches; and the sea is the world, in which the Church is set, like a ship tossed in the deep but not destroyed; for she has with her the skilled Pilot, Christ. And she bears in her midst also the trophy (which is erected) over death; for she carries with her the cross of the Lord [like a mast (Wordsworth)]. For her prow is the east, and her stern is the west and her hold is the south, and her tillers are the two Testaments; and the ropes that stretch around her are the love of Christ, which binds the Church; and the net which she bears with her is the laver of the regeneration which renews the believing, whence too are these glories. As the wind the Spirit from heaven is present by whom those who believe are sealed: she has also anchors of iron accompanying vis., the holy commandments of Christ Himself which are strong as iron. She has also mariners on the right and on the left, assessors like the holy angels, by whom the Church is always governed and defended. The ladder in her leading up to the sailyard is an emblem of the passion of Christ which brings the faithful to the ascent of heaven. And the top-sails aloft upon the yard are the company of prophets martyrs and apostles, who have entered into their rest in the Kingdom of Christ."
The Church Fathers
Ambrose is not as well-known as his more brilliant pupil, Augustine, but he contributed some deep insights in his own right. He was the bishop of Milan, and he wrote extensively against Arians and about the Holy Spirit. We can learn good doctrine from Ambrose, but some of the mistakes of the Medieval Church had can be traced back to him too.
Ambrose was the son of Ambrose, a prefect, or governor, of part of Gaul. He was a contemporary of Athanasius, the two Gregories, Basil, and John Chrysostom. From 368-374 A.D. Ambrose had a successful legal career. At that time people attended a one to two year "catechumen" class before being baptized. In 374 A.D., while Ambrose was attending this class, the pro-Arian ex-communicated by Nicene 369 A.D. bishop of Milan, Auxentius died, and the people were moved to elect Ambrose as bishop, though he was not yet baptized. Ambrose was not exactly filled with spiritual pride and ambition; he tried to escape! The Emperor Valentinian confirmed the election, and eight days later on 12/7/374 Ambrose was baptized and reluctantly ordained bishop.
Ambrose never said why he tried to run. It could have been the impropriety of being a bishop without completing the class, his feelings of unworthiness, or the lure of his career. As soon as he was elected Bishop, he gave some of his wealth to support his sister, a nun, and the rest to the poor and the church. As a bishop, he worked hard to oppose Arians and even an Arian Emperor. At another Emperor's request he wrote four books On the Christian Faith (OCF). He also wrote numerous letters.
Don't Limit God
A root Arian error is also a cause for cults today. Ambrose hit the nail on the head in OCF 1:12:74: "Cease, then, to apply to the Godhead what is proper only to created existences, or, if you insist upon forcing the comparison, bethink you whither your wickedness leads." We must not try to put the limits of Creation on God.
In OCF, 2:7 Ambrose said, "... I preach His cross." Do you preach the cross, or something else?
Jesus is Subject to the Father
As Ambrose points out in OCF 2:10:84, Jesus was obedient to the Father in Philippians 2:7-8. Heb 5:8 says the same. Since Jesus on earth had the role of being obedient, and the Father had the role of being obeyed, does that mean Jesus is inferior to the Father? The answer to that is the same as the answer to Jesus being subject to the Father.
Like everyone in early church times (except non-Trinitarian Monarchians), Ambrose preached that Jesus was subject to the Father as 1 Cor 15:28, 11:3, and Heb 5:7 say. When Jesus was a child he was subject to Joseph and Mary. Does that mean he was less than Joseph and Mary? -- of course not. Likewise, Jesus is subject to and obeyed the Father, but he is not lower than the Father (OCF 2:10:88).
Ambrose showed from 1 Cor 11:1-3 that Jesus and the Father are of the same substance. While man is the head of woman, both are of the same substance: humanity. Christ is the head of man, and they shared the substance of humanity. God is the head of Christ, and they share the substance of divinity.
Other church Fathers pointed to 1 Cor 11:1-3 as showing Jesus is subject to the Father. Ambrose (OCF 4:3:31) points out that it does not say Father here though, but God. Thus in contrast to subordinate Trinitarians, Ambrose says that while God is the head of Jesus, that does not necessarily mean the Father is the head of Jesus, because God here may mean the Three and not just the Father.
A difficulty with Ambrose's argument is in reconciling Eph 1:3,17 and Heb 1:9, where the Father is the God of Jesus. The way to reconcile this and other verses with Jesus' divinity is the three senses of God that were talked about with Irenaeus.
A very meaningful verse for Ambrose is Rev 4:8, which is called the "Trisaglion." In this passage the four living creatures say, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty..." In Isaiah 6:3 the seraphim also say the same. If the Trinity is not true, then why is Holy repeated three times, and not two or four?
Who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? The Father (1 Tim 6:15)? -- Jesus (1 Tim 6:15, Rev 17:14, 19:16)? Ambrose says, "Those words, then, are written with regard to God, of which Name the dignity and truth are common to [both the Father and] the Son." Of the Christian Faith 3:3:17. See also 2:1.
Proof of A False Proof of the Trinity
In the King James (KJV) and New King James (NKJV) versions of the Bible, John 5:7 says "For there are three that bear record in heaven the Father, the Word and the Holy ghost:..." It is almost certain this was not in the original manuscript; it was added later. One "proof" is that no Greek manuscripts written before ~600 A.D. had that verse. The only weakness of this proof is that one could always hope for some yet undiscovered early Greek manuscript that might have it. A second, stronger proof is that early Church Fathers such as Ambrose quoted the 1 John 5:6 in discussing the Holy Spirit and the Trinity, and their quotes agree with modern translations and the early Greek manuscripts. They certainly would not have omitted the KJV verse if it was in the scriptures they knew.
Christians who stick with KJV believe the "Byzantine papyrii" of the N.T. are closer to the originals than the "Alexandrian papyrii" that most modern translations rely on. There are some merits to this view. However, 1 John 5:7 is absent from all early papyrii, so the NKJV translators apparently chose KJV tradition over accuracy.
The Holy Spirit
What is the Holy Spirit; an inanimate force, identical with the Father, less than God, or the third person of the Trinity? Of course Ambrose argues the last instead of the second or third. What is interesting is that Ambrose apparently never heard of the Holy Spirit not being a person; neither from His reading the Greek nor from what heretics said. In fact up to Ambrose's time, we know of no one who said the Holy Spirit was an inanimate force like Jehovah Witnesses say.
Sabellians and other Monarchians would argue the Holy Spirit is identical with the Father and the Son. Jesus' baptism, and Jesus being filled with the Holy Spirit show that is wrong.
It is easy to show the Holy Spirit is not less than or separate from God once it is established that Jesus is not less than or separate from God. If the Father and Son are of the same substance, and the Threeness is common in scripture, such as in the baptismal formula and the Trisaglion and other places, then is seems unreasonable that the two would be of the same substance but the Spirit be less.
We need each other to correctly interpret the Bible; no one has perfect understanding. Ambrose made mistakes too. His pupil Augustine amplified some of these mistakes, and they became unique teachings of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Ambrose and Celibacy
Ambrose's sister Marcellina became a nun, and Ambrose highly recommended women becoming nuns; he wrote twenty-five pages on virginity, and seventeen pages on widows. He apparently spoke so frequently that some mothers forbade their daughters listen to Ambrose' sermons.
Ambrose's view was that married and single are as various kinds of flowers in the field of the Church. However there are more wheat plants than lilies.
Ambrose and the Virgin Mary
Ambrose said that Mary had no other children (Letter 63:110-111), which is contradicted by Matt 1:25, 13:55-56, Mark 6:3, Gal 1:19, Jude 1, and by Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History 2:23 and 3:20. Jesus' four brothers were James (called the Just), Joses (or Joseph), Judas, and Simon.
Ambrose was clear in two things though: Jesus had and needed no assistance to mediate between man and God, and Mary was not to be adored (On the Holy Spirit 3:80).
Mary was a temple of God, not God of the Temple. p.146
Ambrose on the Apocrypha
Ambrose said that on the Hebrew Old Testament was scripture, but the Septuagint added much that was useful. Yet, later he apparently loses the distinction and calls Tobit prophetic, and Judith as scripture. He also quotes Baruch, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, and 4 Esdras.
Ambrose and Infant Baptism
Ambrose mentions that a profession of faith was given at baptism (On the Mysteries 5:26). Yet he also said that infant baptism opens the kingdom of heaven to them (On Abraham 2:79). --So can babies be forced into or out of heaven involuntarily?
Ambrose and the Lord's Supper
In On the Mysteries 9 he talks of transubstantiation. He says that since the body of Jesus miraculously came from a virgin, it is no trouble to believe that Almighty God could change the elements into his body. Of course, Protestants do not disagree on what Almighty God can do; they "protest" on what God chose to do.
Gog is the Goths?
This mistake nobody perpetuated. While the Emperor was fighting the Goths, Ambrose said he would be victorious because Ezekiel talked of the slaughter of Gog, and he interpreted Gog as the Germanic Goths. (Goths were in Russia then, but today the are mixed with the peoples of Spain and Italy.) While we may disagree with his interpretation, like Ambrose it is easy for people today to read current events into the Bible.
Ambrose had a solid teaching on the essentials, but some mistakes on some important secondary matters. His mistakes go to show that we can learn from many Christians who have gone before, but we still have to test every teaching against God's word.
The Early Church Fathers
Aurelius Augustine was the most influential church father in his own time, and ours. Doctrines of Luther, Calvin, and Catholics can all be traced from him. There are no doubts about his faith, devotion to God, and his good teaching; but at the same time he had some errors that many still follow. For balance, we will touch on both the good and the bad.
I must confess it Of his numerous works, his Confessions of Saint Augustine, and The City of God are likely most well known. It is difficult to do justice to his 5,500 plus pages in two. Given our emphasis on the nature of God, we will concentrate mainly on a 212 page book he worked on for twenty years: On the Trinity (Trin.). Before we see his doctrine, we should understand his background.
Augustine's Pre-Christian Life
Augustine was born to a pagan father and a second generation Christian mother. Augustine grew up in the church, but he fell away and joined a cult for ten years: the Manichees.
The Manichees were started in 4/14/216 A.D. Persian Mani in southern Iraq, who claimed an angel appeared to him when he was twelve years old to restore the one true church. (For comparison, Moon was ~13 when an "Jesus" appeared to him, and Joseph Smith 14-25.) The Manichees believed in a duality of a good and evil gods. They were against wealth and did not believe marriage was good. Augustine joined because they "promised comprehension of all things that exist." He was a Manichee for ten years, before he comprehended enough to comprehend that the Manichees did not comprehend the truth. (at least not comprehensively.) During this time he taught philosophy and rhetoric, and he had a mistress.
Augustine's mother, Monica, prayed faithfully for decades that Augustine would become a Christian. She died not long after her prayer was answered, but how her prayer was fulfilled! Three factors combined to bring Augustine to Christ: a "semi-Christianized" Neoplatonism, the bishop Ambrose, and Paul the apostle. According to Augustine, Neoplatonism taught him that the Manichaeans were wrong, and that a good Creator existed. Augustine liked Ambrose's eloquent sermons, and he saw that scripture had deeper spiritual meanings, not just the meaning the Manichees gave it. However, it was the Apostle Paul's writings that really showed Augustine about God's grace. Augustine and his son Adeotatus were baptized together in 384 A.D. Even hard cases in cults can get saved, and when they do, they often make terrific Christians.
The Trinity of God
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matt 27:19) This key verse is inexplicable without the Trinity. Would God bid us be baptized in the name of Him who is not the Lord God? (Augustine's On the Trinity 15:28:51) How come it only says name and not names? A name identifies someone. Would God's name, which we are baptized in, be the same as someone who is not God? If we are calling on God's name, could that name belong to someone who is not God, so that it is ambiguous who we are calling on? All of these questions are resolved only if there is a Trinity.
Before defending the Trinity, Augustine stated what it is in Trin. 1:4:7. In short God is a divine unity of one and the same substance in indivisible equality, yet, as Jesus' baptism and other verses show, the three are distinct. However, as the three are indivisible, they work indivisibly.
The Two Kinds of Trinitarians
Original Trinitarians believed in an equality of substance, honor, power, love, and many other things. They saw a difference in role and rank. The equality of a son and his father and how a son submits to a father sums up their view of the Father and Son. Starting with Augustine (though Ambrose may be a transition), others emphasized that the three were co-equal in very way. While the roles are different, it was useless to say that one was any less than another or that one was any less than two together in any way.
Augustine said that all verses showing Jesus being less only applied to him on earth. Original Trinitarians, or Subordinationist Trinitarians, would agree that most verses in question (Matt 24:26, etc.) apply just to Jesus on earth, but verses that definitely also apply to Jesus' lesser rank after his resurrection are: 1 Cor 11:3, 15:27-28, and Eph 1:17.
Augustine answered that 1 Cor 15:24-25 does not mean Christ will then stop reigning. Likewise, when all things are subject to the Son, who will give everything to God, that does not mean the son will cease to reign.
From reading Aristotle's work Categories, Augustine developed very precise thinking. For example, he saw a distinction between enjoyment and usefulness. A thing or person may be enjoyed for itself, or it may be used for a purpose other than itself. (Doctrines of Christ 1:3:3-1:4:4.) For you, is God Someone to be enjoyed for His own sake, or is He just useful?
Augustine taught that errors about Christ fell into three categories: a Manichaean denial of Christ's humanity, a Neoplatonist denial of Christ's divinity, or an Apollinarist denial of Christ's humanity. The Apollinarians said that Christ appeared to be human, but he did not have a rational human mind and bodily senses.
Augustine categorized the attributes of God into what was common to all Three, and what was distinct in one of them. Today, we can say that after Jesus' resurrection:
Properties Common to the Three
love, power, honor, unchangeability, co-eternal, plan, name, spirit, knowledge, purpose, substance, will, our obedience to, etc.
Properties of The Father Alone
The source of all begat Jesus
(Is now still) God to the son (Eph 1:17)
Properties of The Son Alone
The image of God Sent by the Father
Appeared to us on earth Coming again
Mediates for us The Lamb of God
Properties of The Spirit Alone
Sent by Father & Son Is given to us today
Seals us for salvation Intercedes for us
convicts the world Came upon Mary
The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus
In Ascension p.407 he writes, "For Truth never lies. In fact if Truth deceives, where are we to go for counsel? ... He Himself says: 'Feel me and see; for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have. ... Whatever was touched was real; whatever was perceived was true. Man was touched; God was perceived." Like Thomas, will you come and touch Jesus and cry out, my Lord and my God?
The Problem of Evil
Augustine wrote a whole book on the Problem of Evil. While it is hard to give a "good" summary, here is a quote from the City of God 11:17: "So, while creatures can use a good nature for a bad purpose, He [God] can use bad wills for a good one. God would never have created a single angel -- not even a single man-- whose future wickedness He foresaw, unless, at the same time, He knew of the good which could come of this evil. It was as though He meant the harmony of history, like the beauty of a poem, to be enriched by antithetical elements." Does this agree with Romans 8:28?
Why Infant Baptism?
While Ambrose was somewhat ambiguous about why he baptized infants, Augustine was crystal clear in the four or so places he mentioned it. Unbaptized babies are damned to hell; baptized babies go to heaven. The only qualification he gave was babies, who are sent to hell solely due to Adam's original sin, received the lightest of the punishments. In Augustine's universe, I can imagine two souls who died in as newborns conversing across "The Gulf."
First baby to second: Why are you suffering in hell?
Second baby to first: I did not ask to be created, I was not aware of anything I did wrong, I had no opportunity turn away from God in the slightest degree. I don't understand why I am being punished. Why are you in heaven?
First baby: People I dimly recognized, believing something I did not know, did something to me I do not remember. Isn't God's grace wonderful?
Second baby: Yeah... Wonderful...
Thank goodness Augustine is wrong! So if you do not believe this teaching here, what do you believe?
Varying Punishments at the Judgement
By the way, do you believe there are varying punishments for sinners like Augustine did when he mentioned Matt 11:22-24 and Luke 10:12-14?
Much of Luther's teaching on grace was earlier said by Augustine. Calvin acknowledged that most of his ideas were not original but came from two sources: the apostle Paul and Augustine. It was primarily because of Augustine that Catholics use the apocrypha. So who can really point to Augustine and say, "He is one of us?"
All Christians can point to Augustine as a fellow believer, but the one group that is closest to Augustine's teachings are the Jansenists. They started in the Seventeenth Century with Cornelius Otto Jansen who wrote Augustinus. The Jansenists were sort of "Calvinistic Catholics". French Catholics effectively persecuted the Jansenists, but the Jansenist Church survives today in the Netherlands. The French mathematician Blaise Pascal was a Jansenist. Like the Jansenists, Augustine taught the total depravity and sinfulness of man, irresistible grace, and that God did not give grace to all, only the elect; the others were left to their just damnation. (Epistle 186:25 204:2 Perf. Just. 13:32) Jansenists may have had a difference of emphasis from Augustine, but not of doctrine.
To End with Augustine
"Grace is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit [Rom 5:5] by a God closer to us than our very selves." God's grace is not limited to come to us through rituals and sacraments, or belonging to the right organization. May we be open at all times to the filling with God's gift.
Augustine compared God and the Devil to a Father and a slave trader. How much does a slave trader care for his slaves?
The Middle Age Church picked up from Augustine the disdain for all sexual relations. Augustine believed that if Adam and Eve had not sinned, there would be no human sexual relations.
Where did the human soul come from:
1) one soul comes from another, like our bodies
2) independently created by God
3) existed in heaven and sent to earth
4) spontaneously joined to the body
5) part of God.
On torture, Augustine said it was ok to beat with rods to extract information, but other examples of torture were abhorrent to Christians.
Turn self-love into love of God, changing cupidity to charity.
Love and do what you will Sermon Fragment 5:3.
Mary a virgin all of here life ??? 5:12:48. Sermon 186
Unlike earlier Church fathers, Augustine believed the Old Testament theophanies were God (in Trinity) speaking through angelic form rather than "rehearsals" of Christ's coming. On the Trinity 2:10:17-2:17-28 and 3:11-23-27.
The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus
While nearly every Church Father has affirmed this, Augustine had (in my opinion) the two best statements of all on this.
"His fellow disciples said to him (Thomas): 'We have seen the Lord.' But he answered: 'Unless I touch him unless I put my finger into his side, I will not believe.' (The Evangelists make an announcement to you, but you do not believe.) ... Not yet was it the day which the Lord had made; darkness still covered the abyss and darkness was still there in the depths of that human heart. However, let Him come; let the Head of this day come, and let Him, patient, meek, and not angry, because He is the Physician, say: 'Come, touch Me and believe. You said: 'Unless I touch Him, unless I put my finger in, I shall not believe.' Come, touch Me. Put you finger and be not unbelieving but believing. Come, put in you finger. I knew your wounds. I have kept my wounds for you.'... Therefore, when the wounds and limbs of His Saviour had been presented to him to be touched, the disciple touched them and exclaimed: 'My Lord and my God!' He touched a Man; he recognized God. He touched flesh; he looked upon the Word, because 'the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' ... The touch and they cry out: 'My Lord and my God!" (Easter Season p.367)
Like Thomas, will you come and touch Jesus and cry out, my Lord and my God?
Ascension p.407 "For Truth never lies. In fact if Truth deceives, where are we to go for counsel? What are we to do? Whom are we to trust? Hence Truth, the true Word, the true Wisdom, the true Power of God, 'the Word became flesh,' true flesh. He Himself says: 'Feel me and see; for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have. As a matter of fact, His bones were real bones; his sinews were real sinews; His wounds were real wounds. Whatever was touched was real; whatever was perceived was true. Man was touched; God was perceived. Flesh was touched; Wisdom perceived. Weakness was touched; Power was perceived. He is all Truth. ... Therefore, let no one say to you, my brethren, 'Those stupid Christians believe that the flesh will rise again. Who rises, or who has risen? Who has come back from the lower regions and has spoken to you?' Christ has come back O wretched one, O perverse and unreasonable human heart! If his grandfather should rise again, this man would believe him; the Lord of the world has risen but he is unwilling to believe."
Augustine Gave Us the Catholic Bible
The Catholic and Orthodox Bibles are identical to the Protestant Bible except for the addition of the apocrypha. The early church was ambivalent on the apocrypha, with many knowing it was never in Hebrew, but the majority using it as scripture. A typical opinion was Jerome's, who translated the Latin Vulgate. Early in his life he believed all the Septuagint was divinely inspired, but later he believed only the Hebrew originals were scripture. Augustine had to write to persuade him to at least translate it anyway (epistle 71:46). After his friend Jerome's death, Augustine championed inclusion of the apocrypha, and different versions of the apocrypha are in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles today.
Did Augustine believed that the elements of Communion were symbolic of Christ or that they were actually transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ? His teaching shows he believed both. Today, Lutherans believe the elements are changed into the body and blood of Christ (like Catholics believe), as well as keep their own substance (like other Protestants believe.)
The Early Church Fathers
In 325 A.D. the Council of Nicea, in addition to formulating the Nicean Creed, recognized three "Patriarch" positions (like super bishops) in the church. These were the bishops of Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria. Constantinople was added in 381, and Jerusalem was added at Chalcedon in 451 A.D. Apollos (Acts 18:24) was from the great city of Alexandria. In many ways Alexandria and Antioch were opposites. There was good in both and bad in both. Some of the distinctions are important for us to understand the sources of many distinctly Catholic and Orthodox doctrines.
The Alexandrian church stressed a comprehensive, consistent understanding of scripture over individual verses. They favored allegorical interpretation over just reading what it plainly said. The Alexandrian church could be commended for searching to see how all scripture fit together. However we can learn from their mistakes. Speculation is fine as speculation, but when scripture is "added to" and the distinction between scripture and our interpretations is lost, error occurs. The Church at Antioch did not have these problems, but tended towards the opposite side.
Both the approach of harmoniously looking at the general spirit of all verses and precise, detailed study of individual verses should be used together, and either one alone is wrong in the extreme. (Both Alexandria and Antioch produced heretics, which the leadership of both cities cooperated to fight.) Of these two approaches, which one do you tend towards more? What checks do you have that you do not drift away from God's truth?
The School at Alexandria
Egypt was first evangelized by Mark, the author of the Gospel. An important religious school was started by Pantanaeus ~150 A.D. We do not have his writings today, and he resigned as director when the Bishop sent him as a missionary to the Hindus in India in 193 A.D.. A side note is that he reported there were some Christians already there, and the apostle Bartholomew was the first pioneer. As proof he brought back a copy of the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew. After Pantaneus left Alexandria, one of his pupils succeeded him as head of the school, Clement of Alexandria.
Clement of Alexandria
Titus Flavius Clemens was presbyter of Alexandria from 193 A.D. to his death. One of his three main works, we will focus what has been abbreviated as The Stromata, or "The Miscellanies".
A Gnostic originally meant a seeker after knowledge, and in The Stromata, Clement would not allow them the use of that label. He distinguished between them and the "true Gnostics" or Christians, who sought the True Philosophy. Clement was an ex-Greek philosopher, and he used his knowledge to refute those errors.
In The Stromata 1:11 Clement asked what the wisdom of this world was that Paul warned us against in 1 Cor 3:19-21. He believed the answer was Epicureanism, which deified pleasure, plus every other philosophy that was deficient in recognizing the Creator of all. He felt philosophers had grains of truth that could be learned, for "gold was gold, even in a thief's purse."
In The Stromata 5:14 Clement spoke of the Trinity as "the Holy Trinity."
In The Stromata 6:6 Clement taught that between His death and resurrection Christ preached to the Jews and Gentiles that had already died. 1 Peter 3:19-20 is a key verse he used, along with Matt 27:52 that shows other dead rose with Christ. Many evangelicals today believe that Christ preached to the dead who had not heard, and still does this today. On the other hand, many other evangelicals do not believe this. If you believe this, that people who never heard will hear after death, you must not ignore Heb 10:38-39 and Heb 12:25, which shows that there is no second chance after death for those who reject Christ.
In the last chapter of The Instructor, Clement of Alexandria composed a hymn to sing. Here is the 2nd verse.
King of saints, Almighty Word; Of the Father highest Lord
Wisdom's head and chief; Assuagement of all grief
Lord of all time and space; Jesus Savior of our race;
Shepherd who does us keep;
Husbandman who tills
Bit to restrain us, Rudder to guide us as You will
Of the all-holy flock celestial wing,
Life that never can decay; Fount of mercy, virtue-sending,
Life august of those who raise
Unto God their hymn of praise, Jesus Christ!
Notice that Jesus is the one being praised here. While this disproves JW assertions about Clement not honoring Christ like Christians today do, JW's would likely point to this hymn as an error of Clement's. However, if hymns to Christ are so bad, what are the hosts of heaven doing in Rev 5:9-14?
In The Instructor 2:3 Clement has strange sounding but actually very practical advice about what is in Christians' homes. If the Lord ate from a common bowl, will your bowls not function unless they are extravagantly studded with silver and gold? I would have read more of this, except I had to go take my BMW in for a custom paint job.
6 siblings, Tetrapla vs. Hexapla which O
Students of Clement were Alexander, and probably Hippolytus, but Clement's most famous student was Origen Admantinus. Origen is somewhat like the cousin we do not want to admit was related to us. He was a devout Christian leader who the East looked up to in his time, but he taught and did so many unusual things we certainly do not look to him as an example today.
When Origen was seventeen, his father Leonidas was martyred. When he was taken away, Origen wanted to go be martyred with his father, but his mother prevented that by hiding his clothes. Clement retired this same year, and Origen, still seventeen, was made leader of this school. At this time, he knew that he could not privately teach women without talk of a scandal. So, as Eusebius puts it, he did a "resolute act" to remove any possibility for immorality. No one could question his zeal, but many later severely criticized him for this. His action went against God's desires for men as revealed in Deut 23:1. Early Christian fathers who quoted Origen (but did not always agree with him) were Ambrose, Hilary, Jerome, Athanasius, Eusebius of Caesarea, and Gregory of Nanzianzus. Athanasius (of Alexandria) quoted Origen to support the Trinity. Gregory, a student of Origen, spoke of Origen as "the stone that shaped all of us. In other words, Origen caused them to think through many issues both by his true teaching and his errors.
Origen believed human souls preexisted before they were born. He believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary. Instead of eternal punishment, Origen believed that eventually every human would leave hell and enter heaven. (He is ambiguous about the demons and Satan.)
Origin was asked to preach to two bishops in Jerusalem and he was later ordained by the Bishop of Jerusalem. His bishop, Demetrius of Alexandria, was incensed by this and deposed Origen from teaching in Alexandria, and excommunicated him from the church in Alexandria. Whether this was due to his castration plus his serious errors in doctrine, or because Demetrius opposed another bishop infringing on his "turf" is not known. Anyway, since that time Egyptian Christians felt very strongly either for or against Origen and his doctrine. Antiochian Christians admired Origen's study of the scriptures, but generally just ignored his false teaching. This may have been a sort of compartmentalized thinking.
Origen's Influence on Our Bible
Origen learned Hebrew, Greek, and Latin for translating the Bible. He compiled the Hexapla, (or the six) of six columns of the Old Testament, and the Tetrapla (or four) of four columns of the New Testament. This way different versions could be compared side by side. One version was by Symmachus. A wealthy man hired scribes for Origen, and at the Emperor's request some "official" copies of the New Testament were made.
While Origen was a knowledgeable, honest scholar, the version of Symmachus (possibly an Ebionite) may have had some "dishonest" errors which Origen unwisely trusted. The two earliest complete manuscripts we have, called Siniaticus A and Vaticanus B, are carefully and beautifully done, and they are likely from Origen's scribes. Most translations today (NIV, NASB, RSV) depend heavily on Nestle's Greek text, which depends heavily on these two manuscripts. Some scholars today believe the more numerous "Byzantine" family of manuscripts should be relied upon more. The KJV and NKJV are hybrids that rely on both on the Latin Vulgate family and the Byzantine family. Thus for example, the last chapter of Mark is in almost all manuscripts except Siniaticus A, Vaticanus B, and few others.
Among Origen's famous pupils were Heraclas Bishop of Alexandria (~232 A.D.), Gregory Thaumaturgus, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nanzianzus, Basil, and Plutarch.
The most famous, (and perhaps greatest) Alexandrian was Athanasius, whom we have already read about. Cyril, who was crucial to the veneration of Mary, mother of God, was a bishop we will read about later. The heretic Arius was a churchman at Alexandria, and a later heresy was Monophysitism. In short, some Alexandrians who strongly opposed Nestorianism believed its opposite, Monophysitism. The Coptic Church of Egypt still believes this today.
The Early Church Fathers
It was at Antioch that believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26), and Antioch was Paul and Barnabas' home church. Antioch (pop. 100K) is ~300 miles north of Jerusalem and 600 miles southeast of Constantinople.
In contrast to the Alexandrian church, the Antiochian church could be commended for wanting to know the plain sense of scripture and emphasizing scripture more than philosophy and man's thought. However we can learn from their mistakes too. If in trying to understand one passage you do not also study what all other scriptures say on the topic, your inability to fit all the scripture together can lead to a "taking away" and denial of plain truths of the Bible.
Theophilus of Antioch
After Ignatius, fourth bishop of Antioch (whom we already studied), the sixth bishop was Theophilus. His Apology convince Greeks of Christianity. It has resemblances to Justin Martyr's, Athenagoras', and other apologies of the time. It has many details of Greek and Biblical history, and a chronology back to Adam, but what is probably most significant is what it does not have. He speaks of Greek philosophy only to show it wrong and the first few chapters of Genesis: --that is all. This is in stark contrast the many speculations of others.
A Heretic School at Antioch
Unfortunately the fifteenth bishop of Antioch ( 260-272 A.D.) was the heretic Paul of Samosata. Eusebius 7:27,29,30 records his beliefs and history. The main person to refute him and cause him to be deposed was Malchion, an Origenist presbyter also at Antioch. Paul wanted to be called not a bishop, but rather a magistrate. He had his own sort of throne, and he taught that Christ was a mere man. He stopped people from their singing of hymns to Christ, but hymns to himself were fine. Notice that he stopped the current "singing of hymns to Christ."
A Christian school is a bad thing if it teaches bad doctrine. Paul's disciple, Lucian of Samosata, founded such a school at Antioch. Lucian was unfortunately killed by Christians in 319 A.D. Lucian's disciples included Arius, Eusebius of Nicomedia, and two other Arians.
Thoegnis of Nicea, and Maris of Chalcedon, -- all Aria
Bishop Meletius opposed Arian error; he was a teacher of Gregory of Nanzianzus and John Chrysostom.
Jerome was a second generation Christian monk who was baptized at twenty-one. Jerome did much to promote the monastic life. He was a disciple of Paulinus, orthodox bishop of Antioch and the heretic Apollinaris of Laodicea, though he did not share those teachings. At one time he was the disciple of Gregory of Nanzianzus. and still later the trusted friend of Bishop Damasus of Rome. The irascible Jerome wrote against many people, including Origen, whom he formerly admired, his friends Rufinus and Augustine of Hippo, Jovinian (for saying marriage is just as good as celibacy), and John Chrysostom for receiving Origenists.
While Jerome was not noted for his diplomacy or discernment, he was important because he recorded his times and translated the Bible into Latin. This translation, called the Vulgate, because it was in the "vulgar" (i.e. common) language, became the Bible of the Middle Ages. Jerome saw value in the apocrypha but was unclear whether it should be considered scripture. After his death Augustine had it added as scripture.
Three leaders are called "the Cappadocian Fathers" from where they grew up and served as bishops: Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nanzianzus. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa were brothers, (sons of Basil the Elder) and all three were friends, though for some years there was ill-feeling between Basil and Nanzianzus. Basil is thought of as the administrator, Nyssa the mystic, and Nanzianzus the Theologian.
Basil wrote much to encourage the monastic way of life. Gregory of Nanzianzus finally persuaded Gregory of Nyssa to enter a monastery founded by Basil. In 371 A.D., Basil appointed his brother bishop of Nyssa, a sleepy little town. Gregory of Nanzianzus and Basil had to persuade Gregory of Nyssa to go. Basil said he wanted Gregory of Nyssa to confer distinction upon the town, rather than the town just confer distinction upon him.
At Basil's funeral in 378/379 both Gregory of Nanzianzus and John Chrysostom preached eulogies of their respected fellow brother.
Gregory of Nyssa
Gregory of Nyssa wrote extensively about the devotional life. Unfortunately, he had difficulties as bishop because he was lax in dealing with people and careless with church finances. Like many church fathers, he took a stand against Arianism. and Apollinarianism. (Arianism believed Jesus did not exist before He was born. Apollinarianism believed the flesh of Christ descended from heaven and the Word took the place of a human mind.) He talked of the Trinity the Incarnation, Redemption, Baptism, and the Eucharist. Gregory was an easy-going bishop, and the only time he excommunicated someone is if they said the Holy Spirit was a creature.
Here is what Gregory said about the Incarnation of Jesus. "But now it has already been shown by the arguments of godly men that the nature of the Father and Son is the same, that it is impossible to call by the name of God what is of different nature. For the son of a carpenter is not called a bench, nor would any person in his right mind say that an architect had begot the house; but the names of the son and the Father signify what is joined together in the same nature." Sound like Hebrews 3:2-6?
Unfortunately Gregory of Nyssa learned from Origen to deny the eternity of hell, and he believed all (even Satan) would eventually go to heaven.
He also had another error we will learn about next.
Gregory of Nanzianzus
Gregory was the son of Bishop Gregory of Nanzianzus the elder. Like John Chrysostom he studied under the (anti-Arian) Bishop of Antioch, Meletius as well as Origen. At one point he had a sharp disagreement with his friend, Gregory of Nyssa. Jesus Christ is the ransom for our sins (1 Tim 2:6), but what or whom is He the ransom to? Gregory of Nyssa said (wrongly) Jesus is the ransom to Satan. Gregory of Nanzianzus said rightly that Jesus is the ransom to God's demand for just punishment. Though the Alexandrian bishops opposed it, Gregory was appointed to the powerful post of bishop of Constantinople in 381 A.D. until his death in 390 A.D.
His disciple John Cassian Semi-Pelagian 360-435 3 monasteries
This Church Father from Antioch was such a powerful speaker that he was called Chrysostom (the golden-mouthed). At bishop of Constantinople, he held one of the most powerful church positions. Rather than being corrupted by this power, he wielded it to struggle for godliness and stand against evil in high places. This struggle ultimately cost him his earthly life.
John grew up in the Church of Antioch. He was well versed in Greek philosophy, like many wealthy Christians were. Bishop Meletius baptized him 368/369 A.D. While many in the Church at Alexandria were taught allegorical methods of interpretation, many teachers at Antioch taught the historico-grammatical method of interpreting scriptures. John was not much of a speculator or philosopher but an exegete. He wrote eighty-eight homilies on the Gospel of John alone. John sometimes rambled a bit, and compared to modern sermons, his are somewhat plainer, but he handled the scriptures accurately. Two weak points of his doctrine were his ambiguity on the dual nature of Christ and his belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary. His writings are not extremely flashy or deep like Augustine's, but his powerful preaching of God's word drew large crowds.
John's Exegesis of John
In Homily 3 on John 1:1, John Chrysostom said, "He (the apostle John) did not say: 'He was in God,', but: 'He was with God' making clear to us His eternity as a person. And then he went on to reveal this more clearly by adding this Word also 'was God.' 'But still created', someone objects. Well, then, what prevented John from saying it that way; 'In the beginning God created the Word?' In speaking of the earth, at least Moses did not say: 'In the beginning was the earth,; but: 'He created it,' and then, 'it was.' What, then, prevented John also from saying: 'In the beginning God created the Word?' If Moses, in speaking of the earth, feared lest anyone might say it was uncreated, much more should John have been afraid [to say what he did] about the Son if He were indeed created."
In Homily 39 on John 5:22-30, where we are commanded to honor the Son just as we honor the Father, John Chrysostom says, "We need to show great earnestness in all our affairs, believers. And I say this because we shall give a reckoning, and we shall render a strict accounting of both our words and of our deeds." Farther on he says that if someone thinks this makes the Father and Son identical (like the Sabellians did) they are mixed up. But, he says, this shows the equality of the Father and the Son.
John's Rise to Power and Death
The Emperor resided in Constantinople, and after its bishop, Nectarius, died, John was called to Constantinople on a ruse. Once there he was made the bishop in 2/26/398 A.D. As bishop, stopped the waste of money, and gave much of the church's wealth to the poor. He sent out many missionaries. He preached that clergy could no longer keep virgins and deaconnesses in their homes. He rebuked immodesty and immorality, even when the Empress Eudoxia was involved. He kicked out a deacon for murder, another for adultery, and even travelled to Ephesus to kick out six deacons for bribery. John was plain, blunt, and uncompromising in his stand against evil.
If you serve God rather than man, many may become your enemies. In 403 A.D. a silver statue was made of Empress Eudoxia, and it was reported that John preached comparing her to Herodias. We are not certain though, because a disgruntled clergyman named Severus falsified some of John's sermons to make it appear he personally attacked the Empress. The unscrupulous bishop of Alexandria, Theophilus, came to Constantinople to call a council of thirty-six bishops to judge John. Other bishops, supporting Chrysostom, would have come but they were all imprisoned or prevented by the Emperor. Arsacius, one of his accusers was made bishop in John's place. In 403 A.D. a revolt almost occurred because Emperor Arcadius ordered his exile, but the night before an earthquake shook the city, and the order was cancelled. God apparently thought the situation as disgusting as it sounds when we read it.
On 6/24/404 A.D. John was exiled to Pontus, but for three years he still held influence. The Emperor finally exiled him to the Caucasus, while quickly travelling bareheaded in the sun and rain he died enroute. The last words of the "golden-mouthed" were, "Glory to God, for all things." (If fake Christians did that to you, those would also be the last words out of your mouth as you died, right?)
Somehow I think John Chrysostom died a happy death. By his holy preaching and his stand against evil, he could know that, at least briefly, his godly life shone against the evil blackness for believers to look up, see, and follow as he followed Christ.
John Chrysostom studied under Greek teacher Libanius of Antioch.
Ammonius Saccas 175-242 A.D. founded Neoplatonism and lectured in Alexandria.
The Church Fathers
Today we will look briefly at two doctrines: the inseparability of the human and divine nature of Christ, and "Mary the Mother of God". The second is essential to clearly understand the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Historically these doctrines were expressed in the conflict between two men, Cyril and Nestorius.
Cyril of Alexandria
376?-Bishop 412-444 A.D.
Cyril became the bishop of Alexandria from 412 to 6/27/444 A.D., and he was called by some the second Athanasius. (See if you agree.) As the nephew of the unscrupulous bishop Theophilus of Alexandria, he was hostile to the legacy of John Chrysostom. He pillaged and closed Novatian churches with violent actions. After Jews persecuted some Christians, he drove the Jews from Alexandria. Cyril did much to increase devotion to the Eucharist. Under his bishopric the female philosopher Hypatia was ripped to pieces by Christians in 415 A.D.. He did not lift a finger to oppose or rebuke that evil. The Catholic Church calls him a saint for his defending the doctrine of "Mary the Mother of God" and leading the effort to depose and banish Nestorius.
>381-Bishop 428-~451 A.D.
Nestorius was a bishop of Constantinople from Antioch as was John Chrysostom. Nestorius defended the truth in opposing Arians and Pelagians, though he had some error too. Nestorius once said, "Give me O Caesar! Give me the earth purged of heretics and I will give you in exchange the Kingdom of heaven. Exterminate with me the heretics, and with you I will exterminate the Persians." Many had hard feelings after the Persians massacred 50K inhabitants of Jerusalem ~359 A.D. Even with that though, should not a follower of the Prince of Peace want to convert instead of exterminate them? Nestorius was ironically of Persian ancestry. His zeal to purge heretics would haunt him later.
succeeded Sisinnius 4/10/428
Christ's Divine and Human Nature
All but Arians believed Christ existed before He was born. After Christ's birth, were the Word and the man Jesus the same, or were the divinity and humanity of Christ two distinguishable parts like Nestorius said? In other words, was Christ "injected into a man", or did Christ become a man? That was the root issue between Nestorius and others.
For those who like to skip the details and read the Bible's answer, look at John 1:14 and 1 Tim 2:5 now. We will talk more about how God became man with the Monophysites.
Theotokos - Mother of God
Luke 1:42 & 46 say Mary is blessed. Why not just call Mary "blessed Mary" and be done with it? One reason is that many wanted not just a description of Mary, but a title and reason for venerating her. Secondly, one "defense" against Arians, who denied Jesus was real God, was to title Mary "Theotokos" or the mother of God. A third reason was to guard against separating the divine and human nature of Christ. Mary was called "Theotokos" by Alexander of Alexandria, the two Gregories, and Eustathius of Antioch. Nestorius preached against this, and Eusebius of Doryleum posted a rebuttal (a la Martin Luther) falsely accusing him of the error of Paul of Samosata., an earlier heretical bishop of Antioch, who said that Christ descended upon the man Jesus. Later Nestorius in turn falsely accused Cyril of being an Apollinarian; that is, one who believed Jesus did not have a rational human mind and will.
Should we call Mary the Mother of God or not? In one way we should, because Jesus is fully God, and God the Son was born (in every sense of the word) from Mary. On the other hand, Mother of God is a misleading title; it implies the Trinity was born of Mary, and it tends to elevate Mary to be adored. So rather than calling Mary the Mother of God, it is most accurate to call Mary the Mother of God the Son.
The Council of Ephesus 6/22/431
Nestorius requested Theodosius II to call a council to judge him on 11/19/430; he did not know the Emperor had already decided against him. Cyril started the council with 200 bishops early; that way the delegates from Rome and 42/53 bishops led by John of Antioch would not have arrived.
The Council's decree was, "If anyone does not confess that Emmanuel in truth is God and that on this account the Holy Virgin is the mother of God -- since according to the flesh she brought forth the Word of God made flesh -- let him be anathema."
The Emperor "deserted" Nestorius by banishing him first to Petra in Arabia, and later to the Great Oasis in Libya where he died ~451 A.D..
Cyril wrote a not-so-friendly letter "to Nestorius, the new Judas." He wrote five volumes entitled
Against the Blasphemies of Nestorius. Among other things, Cyril wrote against the doctrine of two sons of God, denial of God's birth, and denial of Nicea. There was only one problem with Cyril refuting these errors: Nestorius never said these three things!
Nestorius Speaks for Himself
Since Theodosius ordered Nestorius' writings burned (in 435 A.D.), we do not have much from Nestorius' own hand. However, in 1905 a copy of Nestorius' eloquent autobiographical defense Bazaar of Heraclides was discovered. A work by another, The Tragedy of Nestorius, was also preserved. so now Nestorius can speak for himself.
Here are Nestorius' own words in a letter to Cyril 2:11, "When the sacred scriptures speak of our Lord's activity, they never speak of the birth and suffering of the divinity but of the humanity of Christ. That is why the most accurate way of speaking about the Holy Virgin is Christ-bearer, not God-bearer."
In opposition, Gregory of Nanzianzus said, "If anyone denies that Saint Mary is the God-bearer, he is far from God. If anyone says that He passed through the Virgin as through a tube and was not formed in her in a divine and human way, divine because it was without intercourse with man, human because it took place like every other pregnancy, he is equally far from God." (Letter 101, PG 37:177)
Nestorius erred in separating the Word (Logos) from the humanity of Jesus as a conjunction of two natures, like a Temple and God within the temple. Like the Greek philosophers, he refused to believe God could share the sufferings of humanity.
Later Nestorians went somewhat farther than Nestorius in talking about Christ as two natures in one person. While Nestorius himself would accept "Mary the Mother of God" if "Mary the mother of man" was added, later Nestorians would never say "Mary the Mother of God."
Nestorians sent missionaries to Arabia, Malabar in India, Turkestan, Tibet, and China in 635 A.D.. During the Tang and Yuan Dynasties in China, Nestorian communities were known to be in ten cities.
A Christian monk arrived in 635 A.D. with sacred books and images and translated them into Chinese. The Emperor, T'ai-tsung, issued a decree in 638 tolerating the new religion. The Emperor's portrait was placed in the church. A Nestorian Tablet was erected in Ch'ang-gan, a suburb of Xian c.781 A.D. It is 9 ft high by 3 ft wide. It has about 1,780 characters. Nestorian Christians died out under the Mongols, and finally in China the "Sacred Edict" of 1723 banned Christianity in China.
Semi-Arians not from the essence of but an essence of, not same substance, but like-substance
Eusebius of Caesarea
Epistle of Barnabas
Theophilus of Antioch
Shepherd of Hermas
Epistle of Barnabas -100 AD
12 - cross
11"go down in the water"
15 6,000 years
Anselm vs. Abelard g
Count von Zinzendorf
Calvin vs. Arminius
Erasmus - homosexual???
Most Nestorians in other lands were killed by the Moslem Mongol Conqueror Tamerlane ~1380 A.D.. Today there are 1.3M Nestorians in India, 180K in Iraq, and others in Iran, Syria, and the U.S. The Catholic and Nestorian churches were reconciled in 1445 and 1553, so Catholicism now considers Nestorianism still an error, but not a serious, soul-perishing heresy.
there are 180K Nestorians in Iraq, 1.3M in India who use the old Syrian liturgy. Other Nestorians survive in Iran, Syria, and the U
If the Nestorian church later went farther than Nestorius himself, the Catholic Church went even farther than Cyril. Catholics believe that Mary was immaculately conceived, sinless, bodily ascended into heaven, and is now the "Queen of heaven" and mother of all graces. They pray to Mary to ask Jesus, for after all, what Son can refuse His mother's requests? Unbelievably, many Catholics call Mary the co-mediator and co-redeemer with Christ!
Pope Leo XIII (Octobri mense 1891) "... no one can go to the Father except through the Son and, similarly, no one can go to the Son except through his mother, Mary."
Pope Benedict XI (Apostolic Letter Inter Sodalicia 1918) "And to satisfy the justice of God she (Mary) sacrificed her Son as well as she could so that it may justly be said that she together with Christ has redeemed the human race."
In a John Ankerberg videotaped debate between Walter Martin and a Catholic Seminary Priest, the priest cautioned Walter not to commit blasphemy in Walter's words about Mary. Walter should have given him same warning.
An Error in the Quran
The Collyridian sect in Arabia believed Mary was a goddess. Perhaps this is how Mohammed got an error on the Trinity. In the Koran (Sura 5:73-75,116), he says that the Trinity is wrong; and then he teaches the Trinity is the Father, Son, and Virgin Mary. Since Moslems correctly believe God does not err, this is one or many errors in the Quran you can show them.
Back to Nestorius
Nestorius was exiled because he stood against Mary being the mother of God. Part of his reason was wrong theology though. Nestorius was falsely accused of things he did not believe. Reading his own words though, Nestorius still did have some errors. How serious were those errors? -- God, not us, can judge. However, we can avoid many errors by relying God's Word instead of man's tradition.
The Early Church Fathers
As bishop of Poitiers in Gaul (from 353/354 A.D.) Hilary was a strong opponent of Arianism. He unsuccessfully tried to kick out Auxentius, the Arian bishop of Milan. (Auxentius' successor in 374 A.D. was the Orthodox Ambrose, whom we have read about.) From 356-361 A.D. the Emperor banished him to Phrygia in Asia Minor for not condemning Athanasius. Hilary's major work is entitled On the Trinity, and today we will see what he had to say.
To What Extent does God depend on our thinking?
This silly question is actually a key test of a person's assumptions. Here is what Hilary said in Trinity 1:14. "These deeds of God therefore are beyond the understanding of our human nature and do not fit in with our rational process of thought because the operation of a limitless eternity demands an infinite comprehension of measuring things. So it is not a conclusion of reason but a limitation of power when God became man, when the Immortal dies, when the Eternal is buried. Again, on the other hand it does not depend on our manner of thinking but on omnipotence that He appears as God from a man, as immortal from one who is dead, and as eternal from one who is buried. Hence we are revivified by God in Christ through his death. But, while there is the fullness of the Godhead in Christ, God the Father is pointed out, who brings us back to life in on who is dead and also Christ Jesus whom we are to confess as none other than God with the fullness of the Godhead."
Evangelism Explosion is a popular (and well-thought out) method of evangelism for ordinary Christians that focuses on two questions. Perhaps when we evangelize The Way and Jehovah's Witnesses we two should focus on two key questions: How is Jesus God, and How and the Father and Son equal and different.
How is Jesus God?
Perhaps one should not argue with people in the Way and JW's if Jesus is God; that is not the issue. The real issue is how Jesus is God.
They will not deny Jesus is God in any way unless they are naive. If they are naive, then ask them what a person should do if he or she wants to follow the Bible but their Church teaches doctrines proved to be against the Bible? After getting a commitment from them, show them Rom 9:5, John 1:1, and John 20:28. If they try to sidestep those verses by showing you others (such as John 17:18 where Jesus calls the Father God) tell them neither you nor the early Christians have a problem with that. Then ask them again for their explanation of those verses. You need to show them their theology is inadequate if they cannot accept all of God's Word.
Most are smart enough to admit that Jesus is God in some sense. If so, then what sense? Have them write down a list of ways. Be helpful, and add to their list: hymns sung to in Rev 5:9-14, worshipped in Heb 1:6, Father called Him God in Heb 1:8, etc.
Once you two agree that Jesus is God in some sense, ask them, "There are many idols and false gods; is Jesus a false god or not?" They will not say Jesus is a false God, but it unlikely they will say Jesus is True God. (That's ok for now) Turn to John 1:1 and ask them, "In any sense of the word "God", just how many gods do you have?" (Help them if they have trouble with the mathematics.) Yet 1 Tim 1:17 and other verses say there is only One God.
Since John 1:1, 20:28 and other verses say Jesus is our God in some sense, and 1 Cor 8:6 says for us there is only One God, admit to them that both we and they have what on the surface appears to be a contradiction. Now ask them what to do about it and still hold to all of God's Word.
Afterwards tell them that Hilary (among others) understood how all these verses naturally fit together over sixteen hundred years ago in Trinity 7:32. Since one cannot bring two gods into Christianity, Jesus is God, but Jesus is not a separate God. Jesus stressed that He only acted in concert with the Father (John 5:19-23, 10:30, 14:10-11, and 16:15.) If you can get their eyes open to comprehend this, then they are on the road to understanding the Trinity.
How are the Two Equal and Different?
If they tell you the Son is less than the Father, tell them you agree --in some ways. For example, Father and Son implies an order or begetting, and the Son humbled Himself while on earth. Ask them to tell you ways they are equal. (For a start, they are both called God in some sense.)
Again, there are two possible responses. A naive one, which they likely will give, is that they are not equal in any way. Tell them if that was true, then they would not honor the Son as they honor the Father. (They will agree unless they know scripture well.) Tell them it would not make much sense then to pray to Jesus or to sing to Him or to worship Him. After they agree with that, show them the verses they have probably never really read before (John 5:23, Acts 7:59-60, Rev 5:9-13, and Rev 5:14 and also Luke 7:37-38.
If the person does admit they are equal in some ways, show them John 5:18. This does not say "The Jews thought Jesus was calling God his own Father, which they thought would make Him equal with god." What does it say?
Hilary said that God is not a Person living along in solitary grandeur. The Son is not a creature, a cutting off an emanation, a separation, or division born by eternal generation.
"The Father Is Greater Than I"
In Trinity 9:2, Hilary apparently believed that Jesus' phrase in John 14:28 applied to divine realm. He believed that the Son was less than the Father in "Sonship" and condition as a man, but even this verse did not mean Jesus was inferior, because they have a unity of nature (Trinity 7:27.)
Almost all other Orthodox Christian Bible students interpret this verse different from Hilary; this verse applied to Jesus while on earth. The point here is that even if Hilary was right, and this verse did apply to Jesus at all times, the Trinity, (as correctly described) would still be true, for sons are less in rank, though still equal in nature, to their fathers.
Augustine quotes Hilary's work on the Trinity to say something of the attributes of each of the three: "Eternity is in the Father, form in the Image, use in the gift." Augustine's On the Trinity 6:10:11.
On John 5:23 Hilary said, "Since unless things are of the same nature they are never accorded equal honor, and equality of honor does not bring about a separation in those who are being honored. But the mystery of the birth demands equality of honor."
(Trinity 9:23) John 5:23 honor the Son even as they know the Father. As a consequence, the name of Christ is inseparable from the name of God.
Christ Bridged the Gulf
It might be easy for someone to say "I am just too sinful; it is just too far of a gulf for man to be united with a perfect God". A thought from Trinity 9:4 is that, to prove all things are possible, even our salvation, God did something even greater. The perfect God was born to us as a man. Isn't it amazing that our atonement itself was a "deed of God"?
The Word Became Flesh - But How?
Man is not God. Man cannot be God, and man cannot become God (Num 23:19 and 1 Sam 15:24). Yet, John 1 records a most remarkable miracle, God, for whom nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37), became man. Jesus was not a man instead of God (Ebionites), God who only appeared to be a man (Docetists), a man upon whom Christ settled (Paul of Samosata), a phantom (Gnostics), divided (Nestorians), or confounded (Monophysites), but the mystery of the incarnation is that God actually became a man.
How could God become man? How can anything become something? Here are examples from our world.
Growth: a boy gradually becomes a man. (The boy no longer exists, but he is never destroyed.) The boy's features are recognizable in the man.
Metamorphosis: A caterpillar goes into a hidden state, and emerges as an (unrecognizable) butterfly.
Division: A cell divides, and it is nonsense to say which "one" was the original. (Unless one can make sense of the DNA.)
Copying: A piece of paper is photocopied, either by an extremely good copier or else a lousy one.
Partial Change: Ice partially melts "creating" water.
Adoption: A change of legal parents.
Making: A potter makes a clay pot.
Blending: Two things merge together either homogeneously or heterogeneously.
Conjunction: Two things are placed in the same place, but they are separate and unmixed.
Fiction: calling it something different from the truth.
Appearance: looking different from what it really is.
Every one of these similes is a poor example of how the Word became flesh. The only comparison we can make of this singular event is: The Word became flesh is just like ... the Word became flesh.
Understanding the Mystery of God
After giving up in our attempt to put Christ in one of our predefined categories, let us simply observe what the Bible says about the Mystery of God in Col 1:27, 2:2, 4:3, 1 Tim 3:16, Eph 3:4, 5:32, 6:19.
Stressed that Jesus was the son of man: Luke 5:24, 6:4, 6:22, 8:31, 22:22,69 John 12:34, Rev 1:13.
Ancestry: Luke 1:32, Rom 1:3, 9:5, 2 Tim 2:8, Heb 7:14, Matt 1:1.
Likeness of sinful man: Rom 8:3 (sinless though Heb 4:15)
Physical body: Luke 24:39, John 4:2, Heb 10:5,10, 1 John 1:1 1 Tim 3:16, and 2 John 7.
A man (with humanity) while on earth: Acts 2:22,23 Philippians 2:7,8, Heb 2:14.
Still man in heaven: 1Tim 2:5, implied by Heb 13:8.
Our brother: Mar 3:35, Lu 8:21, Heb 2:11,12,17.
Suffered like men: Heb 2:9,18 5:8, Rom 8:17, 1 Pet 1:11, 4:13, 5:1.
Tempted like us: Heb 2:18, 4:15, Matt 4:1-10, Mark 1:13, Luke 4:1-12.
How was Jesus a man? -in every way, says Heb 2:17!
Being "anti-something" sounds negative, and our society today shies away from negative things. But what Christian should not be anti-evil, anti-heresy, and anti-Satan? So, with the caution that our being anti-something should be balanced by an even greater pro-love of God, we should be anti- many things.
Martin of Tours
Hilary had a somewhat famous disciple, Martin of Tours. Martin was born in modern Hungary; he was a Roman soldier, the son of a Roman soldier, before becoming Hilary's disciple. A famous legend about him is that when a beggar approached him, Martin remembered Christ's words and cut his cloak in half with his sword to give the beggar half. Afterwards he experience a vision of Christ telling of his deed to angels. Martin later went on to found the first monastery in Gaul and in 371 became the bishop of Tours.
The Church Fathers
Multiple Choice on How Jesus Chose
When Jesus was on earth, He chose to obey the Father perfectly. He did this because:
a) Since God cannot go against His nature, it was impossible for Jesus to disobey,
b) Jesus freely and easily chose to completely obey, since it was natural for Him,
c) Though struggling with temptation, Jesus chose to endure and be obedient,
d) the will of the human Son of God struggled with the will of the divine Son of God, but in the end the human Son of God obeyed the divine one,
e) the one will of Jesus serenely chose what was right; the temptations were more apparent than real,
f) other. ________tab .3"
We have learned about Nestorians, many of whom would chose d). Today we will learn about Monophysites, some of whom would select e). Finally we will interpret scripture to find our answer.
The Number of Natures
Monophysites believed Christ only had one (fused) nature. The other Christians in the majority (now called Chalcedonians) said Christ had two not separate, but distinct natures. Some Monophysites had rather extreme views, but for others the disagreement was both an over-reaction against Nestorianism and a problem of semantics. Chalcedonians defined "nature" as physis or roughly characteristic, like the early Church Fathers did in Greek. Monophysites, who were predominantly from Syria and Egypt and did not all know Greek, often defined "nature" similar to person. Of course Jesus has both the substance of God and the substance of man, but He is only One person.
Monophysites persecuted Chalcedonians, whom they thought believed Christ was sort of split-personality individual, kind of like ultra-Nestorians believed. Chalcedonians persecuted Monophysites, whom they thought believed Christ's human nature was "automatic", without spontaneity or human free will, which a few did believe.
Eutyches of Constantinople
Eutyches was a "Father" of Monophysitism. Eutyches (along with the Antiochian exegete Severian), was an ally of Cyril of Alexandria in deposing Nestorius. Eutyches was more extreme than Cyril; the most famous example is that Jesus' human and divine nature were combined, with the divine absorbing the human, just like a drop of honey falling into the sea. A Council was called to settle this issue.
Pope Leo I of Rome
Leo I of Rome was Eutyches' main opponent; he wrote a lengthy work defining the two natures of Christ convincing Flavian, the Patriarch of Constantinople. This work guided many at the Council.
The Council of Chalcedon
This council of 250/350 bishops with only three representatives being from the west. The Council condemned Monophysitism with these words: "Jesus Christ, God's logos made man, is a single person in two natures, which exists in this one Person without confusion, without change without division, and without separation."
Monophysites later split into three groups: one group said Christ's body was corruptible one said incorruptible, and one extremely heretical group, called Tritheists, said the three persons of the Trinity were three separate gods.
Severus (465-538/542), Patriarch of the Church of Antioch (512-518), was the least extreme, and deepest thinking, Monophysite theologian. He claimed to follow closely Cyril of Alexandria. After he was deposed he lived out his life in Egypt, where he wrote ~4,000 letters. Cyril said, "One nature of the word God incarnate." Severus believed that since Christ was unity, there was only one will and action.Severus baptized 488 A.D. Just as no human has two wills inside of him, Christ did not have two wills inside of him either. Like all Monophysites except the Tritheists, Severus believed in the Trinity and accepted the Nicene Council. He said the Father was the root of the Trinity and the origin of the Son and Holy Spirit.
There were two Christian theological schools at Edessa, one was Nestorian and the other was Monophysite. (Edessa was not known as a bastion of orthodoxy.) Philoxenus of Mabbug (born 440/455) went to the Monophysite one, but he said he said writings of the Nestorian school also. Philoxenus was a little more extreme than Severus. Philoxenus said that for us to become born again does not mean we have a new spiritual nature instead of our old nature, but a new spiritual mode in addition to our natural mode. On the Lord's Supper he said the elements were by nature still bread and wine, but by a miracle the body and blood of Christ. Christ Himself was God by nature and human by miracle. He said Christ had two modes of existence: his natural mode and His human mode. Philoxenus also frequently used the word "mixture" to describe the divine and human nature of Christ in a way that was not very good.
Jacob of Serug (451/452-521) was more extreme than Philoxenus. He said Jesus "disguised" Himself by taking on a humanity. "At death Christ had dived into hell like a brave swimmer to retrieve 'the pearl' precious to the waters; the image of the Father. This He did by allowing Death to swallow Him, Death assuming that He was wholesome food, rather than the Lord of Life. But Christ acted as poison within..." John of Ephesus (507-586) was a "Monophysite" bishop of Ephesus as opposed to the regular bishop of Ephesus who was bishop at the same time. He went to Lydia and Caria and through his and others' labors, over 70,000 people were converted from paganism. Justin II imprisoned him for his beliefs. While in prison he wrote a Three Volume Ecclesiastical History from Julius Caesar to 585 A.D. Unfortunately we only have the third volume (from 571-585) today.
Let's Compromise: Monothelites
In 624 A.D., in an effort to unite Chalcedonian and Monophysite Christians, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius proposed a third, compromise position: monothelitism. This view agreed with Orthodoxy that there were two wills, but it agreed with the Monophysites that there was only one operation (or activity). Rather than heal the division though, this just made more divisions. Finally in 648 Emperor Constant II made it forbidden to discuss the subject.
Unity by the Assassin's Knife?
Martin I (Pope 649-653) called a Lateran Synod in 649 of 105 bishops that criticized the Emperor for supporting Monophysites and Monothelites. The Emperor decided to achieve unity by sending an assassin to kill Martin in 653. Apparently, the assassin was miraculously blinded. Afterwards the assassin was reconciled to the Pope. The Emperor sent troops to Rome to seize Martin; he was tortured and exiled to Crimea.
The will of Christ was legally discussable after 668, and Monothelitism was finally condemned at the Third Council of Constantinople 680-681 A.D.. They declared that Christ had two natures and two wills, with the divine will being over the human one.
Maronite Christians of Lebanon
Among the most ardent opponents of the Monophysites were the monks of the Monastery of St. Maron. The Monophysites killed 350 of them. They were active in missionary activity in the Mideast until the Moslems persecuted them. After that they withdrew to the mountains of Lebanon. The Maronites later welcomed the Crusaders with open arms, and when the Moslems recaptured the Levant, some Crusaders stayed with the Maronites instead of returning to Europe. The Maronites are the 500,000 "Christians" in Lebanon today. There are about 800,000 Maronites in the rest of the world.
Many in the Egyptian church became Monophysites, and they were called Copts. The Byzantine governor of Egypt under Justinian I persecuted and killed some of the Copts. When the Moslems threatened to take over Egypt, The Copts heard that the Moslems were more tolerant than the Byzantines, so they offered no resistance during the Moslem invasion of Egypt in 639-642 A.D.. Today the Abyssinian, Coptic, Jacobite, and Armenian churches are Monophysite.
Back to the Quiz
Concerning the quiz at the beginning, here are some reasons for selecting some of the answers.
For a) It is impossible for God to lie (Heb 6:18), and it is presumably impossible for God to sin. Jesus is our God (John 20:28), so He could not lie or sin. After all, before time began (2 Tim 1:9) it was known that Jesus would be the perfect sacrifice and save us.
For b) B is true if "easily" is meant to be certain to succeed, or without reservation or error. B is false is "easily" is interpreted to be without struggle, difficulty, or need for endurance. Does Jesus sweating drops of blood (Luke 22:44) sound "easy?" Taking "easily" to be with certainty, the support is John 5:19 where Jesus can only do what He sees the Father is doing. Since Jesus did not have a fallen sinful nature, obedience was natural to Him.
For c), In Matt 26:36-42, Mark 14:32-41, and Luke 22:39-46 in Gethsemene Jesus was distressed, troubled, and sorrowful to the point of death. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemene that this cup would pass from him. Jesus has been tempted in ever way, JUST AS WE ARE (Heb 4:15). Jesus had loud cries and tears (Heb 5:7), He really suffered (Heb 5:8), and He had to learn what it was like to submit and obey (Heb 5:7-8). He endured opposition (Heb 12:3) and He endured the cross (Heb 12:2), all because of the joy set before Him.
d) and e) are flat wrong, despite trying to use Luke 14:32-42 to support d) or James 1:13 to support e). Christ's suffering was no serene cakewalk, and while the external struggle, distress, mental, and physical agony might be enough to give someone else a nervous breakdown, we never see the hint of a split personality or internal struggle.
f) Could something be freely chosen, yet be impossible to be any other way? Since we resisted speaking of predestination and free will in our limited discussion of Augustine, we will have to wait to talk about this until we get to discuss Luther, Calvin, and Pascal.
Christ's will is a key aspect of the mystery of God called the Incarnation. Whatever speculations men may make on Christ's will, if we a) pay close attention to scripture, and b) differentiate between what scripture says and what we interpret scripture to say, we will avoid the unhealthy extremes of some of the Nestorians and Monophysites.
For Further Reading on Monophysites
Chesnut, Roberta C. Three Monophysite Christologies Oxford University Press 1976.
Four Communication Models
Communication between intelligent beings (or computers) can be one of the followings ways. Of course communication in one direction may be different than communication in the other direction.
One communicates, but the other may misunderstand or have a transmission error.
The listener always receives the message, but the sender may lie.
The sender always sends true information, but the receiver only knows the limited information the sender sends.
The listener and sender are separate, but there is total communication between them. It is impossible for one to know or sense something without the other immediately knowing also.
The listener and sender have a common memory and mind, so what one knows the other always knows, and no communication is even necessary.
On earth Jesus had honest communication, but the did not have a shared mind, and the Father did not communicate everything with Jesus. Some of this may be due to Jesus emptying Himself (Philippians 2:6) before coming to earth. How is communication between the Father and Son in heaven? The Bible does not say.
On earth Jesus communicated closely with Father, but not everything. (Day of his return, ask Father for cup to pass from Him.)
Communication in heaven could be three different ways:
1) Like a person verbalizing their thoughts to themselves,
2) Even though God knows all our thoughts He wants us to still pray to Him.
3) "Required" communication such that the message is unknown if the communication is not done.
Of course in a timeless heaven, it could be possible for a message not to be known unless it is communicated, but if it is communicated, then it would be known long before the communication event.
Knowledge of Communication vs. command. (I'll tell you what must happen now, but it is not to happen until I give the word [or Word].)
Is there "genuine" communication in heaven among the Three, or is any communication like somebody verbalizing their thoughts to themselves?
Gen 1 (Let us make man in our image), could be either way.
What is a man? If God made man, He can define man how He wants to, and if the Bible says Jesus is a man, then God made Jesus a man.
The Measure of Man
Jesus was like us in ever way (except sin) according to Heb 2:17. But how is Christ a man? This is not answerable for people who cannot tell how a human is a human. So exactly what is the complete definition of "mankind"? Some inadequate answers are:
Popular opinion: at various times non-Anglos, non-Orientals, and non-Indians have been commonly viewed by some as non-human.
A negative definition: it an animal is not anything except a human, then it must be human. (unless we have misclassified.)
One could use subclasses: if an animal fits a particular subclass of human, then it must be human. (assuming the subclasses are defined correctly.)
Some evolutionists say that if organisms commonly interbreed with a species, then they are members of that species. (What about childless and infertile people?)
Genetics can tell if cells are human: however a skin cell may be human, but it is not a human. Likewise a human corpse is not now a human.
Ancestry can say who came from Adam and Eve. A problem is with rare cases of a baby without a brain. If it has no mind, will, emotions, and probably no soul and spirit, is it a human?
One answer is a negative definition. A man is not a cat or dog. If an animal is not a member of any know species except man, then it must be a human. This is inadequate, for what about an unknown species of mole rat or misclassified things? At various times non-Indians, non-orientals, and non-Anglos were misclassified by some as non-humans.
A second answer is by subclasses. Most people are Negro, Anglo, Oriental, or Amerindian or a hybrid of the above. Thus if an individual falls in one of these subclasses he is human. However, we have then simply moved the problem down one notch; how do we define these? Also, what about groups we forgot about or do not know their classification, such as Australian aborigines?
Another answer comes from evolution: an organism is a member of a species if it would interbreed with others of the species in its natural environment. However, are childless and infertile people still people? --Of course.
A better answer is ancestry: those born of humans, descended from Adam and Eve. A problem with this is what about unusual babies born without brains; with no mind, will, emotions, and probably no soul and spirit, are they people?
Another answer from genetics is by a "blueprint", or genetic code. Recognizing that one is dealing with fuzzy sets, this is closer to a good definition, thought there are still two problems. One can take a human cell, analyze it, and say it is by nature human. One cannot say it is a human though. A second problem is that one cannot take a dead body and say that it is now a human being.
How Christ is a Man
Something can be said to be classed as something by the combination of three characteristics: ancestry, nature, and instantiation. Though his origin is from the Father, his human ancestry is through Mary. In addition to the nature of God He has the nature of man, or human characteristics. But He is not just God surrounded by human flesh; He has all the characteristics except sin that we have.
John the Damascene
One of Leo's most vocal opponents was John the Damascene. Since the Moslems controlled Damascus since 638 A.D., John was outside the Emperor's control and could write profusely to support the veneration of icons. The Church Iconoclastic Synod of 754 condemned John, but the Catholic Church later called him a saint.
Another of the Iconoclasts opponents was Photius. He was bishop of Constantinople from 12/24/856 until 9/15/869 when he was deposed for opposing the iconoclasts. He was reinstated and served again from 878-886.
The Early Church Fathers
Clement of Rome
Wrote 96/98 A.D.
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