OVERVIEW OF THE LIVES OF THE CHURCH FATHERS
THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS
c. AD 70 to 100
WRITINGS OF THE CHURCH FATHERS
The Didache, a Christian teaching manual for new converts, was discovered in the late 1800s. Many scholars agree that this book was probably written in the late first century no more than 60 to 70 years after the crucifixion of Christ. “Didache” is Koine Greek for “teaching.” The Didache is extremely important to proving the authenticity of the New Testament since it quotes extensively from the writings of the Apostles.
The document contains the Lord's Prayer which is identical with Matthew 6:9-13, and also prayers spoken during baptism and communion services of the early church. The Didache is mentioned by some of the church fathers but was not considered to be a canonical book. It is the only rediscovered Christian text during the last 150 years to receive wide acceptance by church scholars as being an authentic document from the time of the church fathers.
The contents may be divided into four parts: the first is the Two Ways, the Way of Life and the Way of Death (chapters 1-6); the second part is a ritual dealing with baptism, fasting, and Communion (chapters 7-10); the third speaks of the ministry and how to deal with traveling prophets (chapters 11-15); and the final section (chapter 16) is a brief apocalypse. Doctrinal teaching is presupposed, and none is imparted.
While the manuscript is commonly referred to as the Didache, this is short for the header found on the document and the title used by the Church Fathers, "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles." A fuller title or subtitle is also found next in the manuscript, "The Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles by the Twelve Apostles."
Clement I, the bishop of Rome is considered to be the fourth pope by the Roman Catholic Church, after Anacletus, Linus and Peter. He is one of the earliest Apostolic Fathers. The Epistle of Clement was probably written between AD 92 to 99. The Epistle is important because it provides an early corroboration of the authenticity of the Apostles’ writings and histories. It proves that the Gospels and letters of Paul were accepted as authoritative from a date much earlier than is claimed by liberal skeptics.
Although some have identified him with the Clement mentioned in Philippians 4:3, he was more likely a freedman of Titus Flavius Clemens, who was consul with his cousin, the Emperor Domitian, according to the Clementine literature. The Shepherd of Hermas (Vision II. 4. 3) mentions a Clement whose office it is to communicate with other churches. Church tradition states that Clement of Rome had personally known the Apostles Paul and Peter, and states that he wrote two letters (the second letter, 2 Clement is no longer ascribed to Clement) and that he died in Greece in the third year of Trajan's reign, or 100.
The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus is one of the earliest examples of Christian apologetics, writings defending Christianity from its accusers. The Greek writer and recipient are not known. Some scholars date the work to the late 2nd century; but some assume an even earlier date and count it among the Apostolic Fathers.
"Mathetes" is not a proper name; it simply means "a disciple." A Diognetus was a tutor of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, who admired him for his freedom from superstition and sound educational advice (Meditations 1.6), but he is not likely to have been the recipient, or even the assumed recipient, of this apology.
The Epistle is in twelve chapters. The writer follows the style of the Apostle John who does not use the name "Jesus" or the expression the "Christ" but prefers the use of "the Word." The 10th chapter breaks off in mid thought, and so the following two chapters are often considered to be later additions. Some have ascribed these additions to Hippolytus, based on similarities of thought and style.
In the 11th chapter, "Mathetes" presents himself as "having been a disciple of Apostles I come forward as a teacher of the Gentiles, ministering worthily to them" placing himself in a class with such authoritative figures as the Apostolic Fathers. If this claim is true, then the Epistle belongs to the class of writings known as the Apostolic Fathers and is therefore often grouped with them.
Polycarp of Smyrna was a Christian bishop of Smyrna, now Izmir in Turkey, in the 2nd century. Eusebius dates his martyrdom to the reign of Marcus Aurelius, c. AD 166-167. However, The Martyrdom of Polycarp dates his death to Saturday, February 23 in the proconsulship of Statius Quadratus, c. AD 155-156. These earlier dates better fit the tradition of his association with Ignatius and the Apostle John. Eusebius also connects him with the Apostle John. The writings of Polycarp are important because they give credence to the orthodox belief that the Apostle was the authentic author of the Gospel of John.
His sole surviving work is his Epistle to the Philippians, which contains extensive references to the New Testament. The Epistle and The Martyrdom of Polycarp, a circular letter from the church of Smyrna to the churches of Pontus, form part of a collection of writings termed the “Apostolic Fathers.” The Martyrdom is considered the earliest genuine account of a Christian martyrdom from the actual age of the persecutions.
Polycarp is another important link between the Apostles and the second century Apologists who properly identified the canon of the New Testament. In his letter to Florinus, Irenaeus states that he had personally met Polycarp and heard him preach in lower Asia. Irenaeus reports that Polycarp was converted to Christianity by the Apostles, was consecrated a bishop, and communicated with many who had seen Jesus. He repeatedly emphasizes the very old age of Polycarp. The Martyrdom of Polycarp gives his age as 86 years on the day of his death.
Polycarp occupies an important place in the history of the Christian Church. He is among the earliest Christians whose writings survive. From several accounts, it is probable that he personally knew the Apostle John. He was bishop of an important church in an area where the Apostles labored. Polycarp was a great transmitter and authenticator of Christian revelation in a period when the Gospels and the Epistles were being defended by the orthodox against heretics. His role was to authenticate the orthodox teachings through his connection with the Apostles. Surviving accounts of the bravery of this old man in the face of death by burning at the stake add credence to his words.
Ignatius of Antioch died between AD 98-117 as a martyr in Rome. He was the third Bishop of Antioch. When the Apostle Peter left Antioch for Rome, Evodius succeeded him as bishop. Peter was martyred in Rome under Nero around AD 65-66. Evodius was bishop of Antioch until AD 69, when Ignatius succeeded him. Ignatius, who also called himself Theophorus ("bearer of God"), was most likely a disciple of both the Apostles Peter and John.
Ignatius is considered to be one of the Apostolic Fathers (the earliest authoritative group of the Church Fathers). Ignatius was arrested by the Roman authorities and transported to Rome under trying conditions. During his trip as a captive to Rome, he wrote seven letters describing his peril:
“From Syria even to Rome I fight with wild beasts, by land and sea, by night and by day, being bound amidst ten leopards, even a company of soldiers, who only grow worse when they are kindly treated.” - Ignatius to the Romans, 5.
His fate: to die a martyr in the arena. The Roman authorities hoped to make an example of him and thus discourage Christianity from spreading. Instead, he met with and encouraged Christians who flocked to meet him all along his route, and he wrote seven letters to the churches in the region (and one to a fellow bishop, Polycarp).
The seven authentic letters are: To the Ephesians; To the Magnesians; To the Trallians; To the Romans; To the Philadephians; To the Smyrnaeans; To Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. The authentic letters of Ignatius were important testimony in the maintenance of Christian orthodoxy by later apologists.
By the 5th century, spurious letters had enlarged this authentic collection. A detailed account of Ignatius' arrest and his travails and martyrdom is the material of the Martyrium Ignatii, which is presented as an eyewitness account for the church of Antioch, as if written by Ignatius' companions, Philo of Cilicia, deacon at Tarsus, and Rheus Agathopus, a Syrian. There is a controversy over whether this is an authentic writing. However, this account of the martyrdom and the spurious letters that appear after this are interesting records of Christian thought from the early centuries.
Ignatius is also responsible for the first known use of the Greek word katholikos, meaning "universal," to describe the church. It is from the word katholikos that the word "catholic" comes.
“Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid.” - Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8.
The Epistle of Barnabas is a Greek writing containing twenty-one chapters, preserved in complete form in the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus where it appears at the end of the New Testament. It is traditionally ascribed to the Barnabas who is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, although some ascribe it to another apostolic father of the same name, a "Barnabas of Alexandria," or simply to an unknown early Christian teacher.
Toward the end of the second century, Clement of Alexandria cites the Epistle. Origen also appeals to it. At some points the Epistle seems quite Pauline, as with its concept of atonement, giving credence to the author being the Barnabas who was a companion of Paul. Eusebius, however, objected to it and the Epistle of Barnabas never enjoyed canonical authority. Many scholars today believe it was probably written in the years AD 70-131, and addressed to Christian Gentiles. Internal evidence with the Epistle helps to date it:
"Furthermore he says again, 'Behold, those who tore down this temple will themselves build it.' It is happening. For because of their fighting it was torn down by the enemies. And now the very servants of the enemies will themselves rebuild it." - Barnabas 16.3-4.
This passage clearly places Barnabas after the destruction of the temple in AD 70. But it also places Barnabas before the Bar Kochba revolt of AD 132, after which there could have been no hope that the Romans would help to rebuild the temple. The document must come from the period between the two revolts. The place of origin remains an open question, although the Greek-speaking Eastern Mediterranean appears most probable.
Barnabas intends to impart to his readers the perfect “gnosis” (special knowledge) that they may perceive that Christians are the only true covenant people of God. His reference to “gnosis” is in an orthodox sense and is not to be confused with the heresy of Gnosticism. His polemics are mainly directed against the Judaizing Christians, such as the Ebionites and the Nazarenes.
The separation of the Gentile Christians from observant Jews is clearly insisted upon. The covenant promises belong only to the Christians (Barnabas 4:6-8), and circumcision, and the entire Jewish sacrificial and ceremonial system are of no effect in salvation. According to the author's conception, the ceremonial observances of the Law are not injunctions but types pointing the Jews to look to Christ (chapters 9-10). He is a thorough opponent to Jewish legalism, but by no means antinomian.
The author demonstrates that Jewish understanding of the Mosaic legislation (Torah) is completely incorrect and can now be considered superseded by the New Covenant. Barnabas is an important first century document because it corroborates the Gospel’s presentation of salvation-history. He writes that the Jewish scriptures in fact foreshadow Jesus and Christianity when rightly understood.
Papias wrote in the first half of the second century and was one of the early leaders of the Christian church. Eusebius calls him "Bishop of Hierapolis" (modern Pamukkale, Turkey) which is 22 kilometers from Laodicea near Colossae (see Colossians 4:13) in the Lycus river valley in Phrygia, Asia Minor, not to be confused with the city of Hierapolis in Syria.
His “Interpretations of the Sayings of the Lord” (his word for "sayings" is logia) in five books, would have been a prime early authority in the exegesis of the sayings of Jesus. His treatise, however, has utterly disappeared, and is known only through fragments quoted by later writers, with approval by Irenaeus in Against Heresies and later with scorn by Eusebius of Caesarea in "Ecclesiastical History."
Eusebius calls Papias "a man of small mental capacity" (Hist. Eccl. 3.39.13), who mistook the figurative language of apostolic traditions. Whether this was so is difficult to judge without the text available; it is thought that perhaps Eusebius objected to Papias' premillenialism (chiliasm), which by the fourth century had been supplanted by the common church doctrine of amillennialism.
Papias' authority is as "the presbyter John" and hearers of the Apostles, whom he also terms "presbyters." Papias admits in his treatise that he had in no way been a hearer or eyewitness of the Apostles themselves. He says he gathered material from those who were their followers. Papias reports he heard things that came from an unwritten, oral tradition of the Presbyters, a "sayings" (logia) tradition that had been passed from Jesus to His Apostles and other disciples who lived at the end of the first century. Papias also supplies important church tradition about the origins of the four Gospels. The Gospel of Mark, he writes, was actually Peter’s Gospel with Mark acting as a scribe.
It was thought that Papias was "a hearer of John, and companion of Polycarp, a man of old time." According to another tradition, Papias shared in the martyrdom of Polycarp, (c. AD 155). Irenaeus thought Papias was Polycarp's contemporary and "a man of the old time." Eusebius, who places him with Clement and Ignatius under the reign of Trajan, suggests that he wrote about AD 115. In all likelihood, he wrote his treatise in the first quarter of the second century. What remains today are only fragments of his Treatise quoted in the writings of Irenaeus and Eusebius.
c. AD 100 to 200
Justin Martyr of Caesarea was an early Christian apologist who lived from about AD 100-165. His works represent the earliest surviving Christian apologies of notable size. Most of what is known about the life of Justin Martyr comes from his own writings. He was born at Flavia Neapolis (modern Nablus) in Palestine. The city had been founded by Vespasian in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Justin suffered martyrdom at Rome under Marcus Aurelius when Rusticus was prefect of the city (between 162 and 168). He calls himself a Samaritan, but his father and grandfather were probably Greek or Roman, and he was brought up a pagan. It seems that he had property, studied philosophy, converted to Christianity, and devoted the rest of his life to teaching what he considered the true philosophy, still wearing his philosopher's gown to indicate that he had attained the truth. He probably traveled widely and ultimately settled in Rome as a Christian teacher.
The earliest mention of Justin is found in the Oratio ad Graecos (“Oration Against to the Greeks”) by Tatian, who calls him "the most admirable Justin," quotes a saying of his, and says that the Cynic Crescens laid snares for him. Irenaeus (Haer. I., xxviii. 1) speaks of his martyrdom, and of Tatian as his disciple; he quotes him twice (IV., vi. 2, V., xxvi. 2), and shows his influence in other places. Tertullian, in his Adversus Valentinianos, calls him a philosopher and martyr, and the earliest antagonist of heretics. Hippolytus and Methodius of Olympus also mention or quote him. Eusebius of Caesarea deals with him at some length (Ecclesiastical History, iv. 18).
The authenticity of Justin’s Apologies and the Dialogue with Trypho is universally accepted. They were known by Tatian, Methodius, and Eusebius, their influence is traceable in Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, the Pseudo-Melito, and especially Tertullian. The apologetic character of Justin's thought appears again in the account of his martyrdom.
The purpose of the First Apology is to prove to the emperors, renowned as upright and philosophical men, the injustice of the persecution of the Christians, who are the representatives of true philosophy. In the Dialogue, after an introductory section (i.-ix.), Justin undertakes to show that Christianity is the new law for all men (x.-xxx.), and to prove from Scripture that Jesus is the Christ (xxxi.-cviii.). The concluding section (cix.-cxlii.) demonstrates that the Christians are the true people of God.
The fragments of the work "On the Resurrection" begin with the assertion that the truth, and God the author of truth, need no witness, but that as a concession to the weakness of men it is necessary to give arguments to convince those who gainsay it. It is then shown, after a denial of unfounded deductions, that the resurrection of the body is neither impossible nor unworthy of God, and that the evidence of prophecy is not lacking for it.
Interestingly, in the Dialogue, Justin also wrote, "For I choose to follow not men or men's doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob ; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians." – Dialogue, 80
Justin is extremely important in maintaining a continuity of the New Testament’s canonicity in the early years of Christian theology. Not less divine, however, is the teaching of the apostles. The word of the apostles is the teaching of the Divine Logos, and reproduces the sayings of Christ authentically. As a rule he uses the synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke -- but has a few references to John. He quotes the Book of Revelation as inspired because prophetic, naming its author. In his opposition to Marcion, he quotes from several of Paul’s epistles. Distinct references are found to Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians, and possible ones to Philippians, Titus, and 1 Timothy. It seems likely that he also knew Hebrews and 1 John.
The Shepherd of Hermas (sometimes called The Pastor or The Shepherd) is a Christian work of the second century, considered a valuable book by many Christians, and occasionally considered canonical by some of the early Church fathers. The reference to Clement of Rome suggests a date between 88 and 97 for at least the first two visions. Since Paul sent greetings to Hermas, a Christian of Rome (Romans 16:14), some have followed Origen's opinion that he was the author of this religious romance. However, others set the date of composition in the 2nd century.
The Shepherd had great authority in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It was cited as Scripture by Irenaeus and Tertullian and was bound with the New Testament in the Codex Sinaiticus, and it was listed between the Acts of the Apostles and the Acts of Paul in the list of the Codex Claromontanus. The book was originally written in Rome, in the Greek language, but a Latin translation was made very shortly afterwards. Only the Latin version has been preserved in full; of the Greek, the last fifth or so is missing.
The book consists of five visions granted to Hermas, a former slave. This is followed by twelve mandates or commandments, and ten similitudes, or parables. It commences abruptly in the first person: "He who brought me up sold me to a certain Rhoda, who was at Rome. After many years I met her again, and began to love her as a sister." As Hermas was on the road to Cumae, he had a vision of Rhoda, who was presumably dead. She told him that she was his accuser in heaven, on account of an unchaste thought the (married) narrator had once had concerning her, though only in passing. He was to pray for forgiveness for himself and all his house. He is consoled by a vision of the Church in the form of an aged woman, weak and helpless from the sins of the faithful, who tells him to do penance and to correct the sins of his children. Subsequently he sees her made younger through penance, yet wrinkled and with white hair; then again, as quite young but still with white hair; and lastly, she shows herself as glorious as a Bride.
In the second vision she gives Hermas a book, which she afterwards takes back in order to add to it. The fifth vision introduces "the Angel of repentance" in the guise of a shepherd, from whom the whole work takes its name. He delivers to Hermas a series of precepts (mandata, entolai), which form an interesting development of early Christian ethics. The eleventh mandate, on humility, is concerned with false prophets who desire to occupy the first seats (that is to say, among the presbyters). Some have seen here a reference to Marcion, who came to Rome c. AD 140 and desired to be admitted among the priests (or possibly even to become bishop of Rome).
After the mandates come ten similitudes (parabolai) in the form of visions, which are explained by the angel. The longest of these (Similitude 9) is an elaboration of the parable of the building of a tower, which had formed the matter of the third vision. The tower is the Church, and the stones of which it is built are the faithful. But in the third vision it looked as though only the holy are a part of the Church; in Similitude 9 it is clearly pointed out that all the baptized are included, though they may be cast out for grave sins, and can be readmitted only after penance.
The Shepherd of Hermas uses many indirect citations from New Testament. He shows acquaintance with the three Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John. He most often refers to the Epistle of James and the Book of Revelation. He also uses Ephesians and other Epistles, including 1 Peter and Hebrews.
Tatian’s Oratio ad Graecos (“Address to the Greeks”) is a heretical work written by a student of Justin Martyr who succumbed to Gnosticism and extreme asceticism in the late second century. He is often included among the Apologists as “half Father and half heretic” because of his association with the teachings of Justin Martyr and the usefulness of his apologetics. His falling away seems to have been in the decline of his life. Eusebius praised Tatian for his discussions of the antiquity of Moses and of Jewish legislation, and it was because of this chronological section that the Address to the Greeks is not universally condemned.
In Address to the Greeks, Tatian asserts the worthlessness of paganism, and the reasonableness and antiquity of Christianity. The work is not characterized by logical consecutiveness, but is discursive in its outlines. The carelessness in style is intimately connected with his contempt of everything Greek. No educated Christian of this time period has more consistently separated from paganism, but his tendency to attack Greek philosophers by mocking their misfortunes (such as an unfortunate death, or being sold into slavery) is considered an ad hominem fallacy.
Concerning the date and place of Tatian’s birth, little is known beyond what he tells about himself in his Address to the Greeks, chap. xlii: that he was born in "the land of the Assyrians." He died around AD 185, perhaps in Assyria. He enjoyed a good education and became acquainted with Greek culture. Extensive travels led him through different countries and showed him the nature of Greek education, art, and science. He states that he studied the pagan religions. Finally he came to Rome, where he seems to have remained for some time. Here he seems to have come for the first time in touch with Christianity. According to his own testimony, it was primarily his abhorrence of the pagan cults that led him to spend thought on religious problems. By the Old Testament, he says, he was convinced of the unreasonableness of paganism. He adopted the Christian religion and became the pupil of Justin Martyr. It was the period when Christian philosophers competed with Greek sophists, and like Justin, he opened a Christian school in Rome. It is not known how long he labored in Rome without being disturbed.
Following the death of Justin in AD 165, the life of Tatian is to some extent obscure. Irenaeus remarks (Against Heresies I., xxvlii) that after the death of Justin, Tatian was expelled from the church for his Encratitic views (Eusebius claims he founded the Encratitic sect), as well as for being a follower of the Gnostic leader Valentinius. It is clear that Tatian left Rome, perhaps to reside for a while in either Greece or Alexandria, where he may have taught Clement. Epiphanius relates that Tatian established a school in Mesopotamia, the influence of which extended to Antioch in Syria, and was felt in Cilicia and especially in Pisidia, but his assertion cannot be verified.
Tatian was the first to give the Syriac congregations the Gospel in their own language. The Syrian church possessed and used the Gospel from the very beginning until the time of Rabbula only in the form of the Diatessaron, a "harmony" or synthesis of the four New Testament Gospels into a combined narrative of the life of Jesus. It was practically the only Gospel text used in Syria during the third and fourth centuries.
It is probable, therefore, that Tatian not only brought the Diatessaron into Syria, but also developed there a successful missionary activity in the last quarter of the second century. In the fifth century the Diatessaron was replaced in the Syrian churches by the four original Gospels. Rabbula, Bishop of Edessa, ordered the priests and deacons to see that every church should have a copy of the separate Gospels and Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus, removed more than two hundred copies of the Diatessaron from the churches in his diocese.
In a lost writing, entitled On Perfection According to the Doctrine of the Savior, Tatian designates matrimony as a symbol of the tying of the flesh to the perishable world and ascribed the "invention" of matrimony to the devil. He distinguishes between the old and the new man; the old man is the law, the new man the Gospel. Other lost writings of Tatian include a work written before the Oratio ad Graecos that contrasts the nature of man with the nature of the animals, and a Problematon Biblion which aimed to present a compilation of obscure Scripture sayings.
Theophilus was Bishop of Antioch after Eros (c. AD 169) and before Maximus I (c. AD 183). He died between AD 183-185. He was born a pagan, not far from the Tigris and Euphrates, and was led to embrace Christianity by studying the Holy Scriptures, especially the prophetical books (Apologia ad Autolycum i. 14, ii. 24). He makes no reference to his office in his existing writings, nor is any other fact in his life recorded. Eusebius, however, speaks of the zeal which he and the other chief shepherds displayed in driving away the heretics who were attacking Christ's flock, with special mention of his work against Marcion (Ecclesiastical History iv. 24). He made contributions to the departments of Christian literature, polemics, exegetics, and apologetics.
Theophilus is a forerunner of a group of writers who, from Irenaeus to Cyprian, carried Christian writers to a high literary eminence, outshining all their heathen contemporaries. The one extant work of Theophilus is his Apologia ad Autolycum, in three books. Its object is to convince a pagan friend, Autolycus, a man of great learning and an earnest seeker after truth, of the divine authority of the Christian religion, while at the same time he exhibits the falsehood and absurdity of paganism. His arguments, drawn almost entirely from the Old Testament, with some references to the New Testament, are largely chronological. He makes the truth of Christianity depend on his demonstration that the books of the Old Testament were long anterior to the writings of the Greeks and were divinely inspired. Whatever truth the pagan authors contain he regards as borrowed from Moses and the prophets, who alone declare God's revelation to man. He contrasts the perfect consistency of the divine oracles, which he regards as a convincing proof of their inspiration, with the inconsistencies of the pagan philosophers.
Theophilus contrasts the account of the creation of the universe and of man, on which, together with the history contained in the earlier chapters of Genesis, he comments at great length but with singularly little intelligence, with the statements of Plato, "reputed the wisest of all the Greeks" (iii. 15, 16), of Aratus, who had the insight to assert that the earth was spherical (ii. 32, iii. 2), and other Greek writers on whom he pours contempt as mere ignorant retailers of stolen goods. He supplies a series of dates, beginning with Adam and ending with Marcus Aurelius, who had died shortly before he wrote, thus dating this work to the years of the reign of Commodus. Theophilus regards the Sibylline books as authentic and inspired productions, quoting them largely as declaring the same truths with the prophets. The omission by the Greeks of all mention of the Old Testament from which they draw all their wisdom, is ascribed to a self-chosen blindness in refusing to recognize the only God and in persecuting the followers of the only fountain of truth (iii. 30 and following). He can recognize in them no aspirations after the divine life, no earnest gropings after truth, no gleams of the all-illumining light. The pagan religion was a mere worship of idols, bearing the names of dead men. Almost the only point in which he will allow the pagan writers to be in harmony with revealed truth is in the doctrine of retribution and punishment after death for sins committed in life (ii. 37, 38). Henry Wace believes "the literary character of the Apologia deserves commendation. The style is characterized by dignity and refinement. It is clear and forcible. The diction is pure and well chosen.
Theophilus quotes largely from the Pentateuch and to a smaller extent from the other historical books. He references Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, and Jerome, and he quotes from Ezekiel, Hosea and other minor prophets. His direct evidence respecting the canon of the New Testament consists of references to the Sermon on the Mount (iii. 13, 14), a quotation from Luke 18:27 (ii. 13), and quotations from Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy. More important is a distinct citation from the opening of the Gospel of St. John (1:1-3), mentioning the evangelist by name, as one of the inspired men by whom the Holy Scriptures were written (ii. 22). The use of a metaphor found in 2 Peter 1:19 bears on the canonicity of that epistle. According to Eusebius, Theophilus quoted the Book of Revelation in his work against Hermogenes. Theophilus transcribes a considerable portion of Genesis chapters 1-3 with his own allegorizing comments upon the successive work of the creation week. The doctrine of the Trinity is also mantained. The first three days before the creation of the heavenly bodies are types of the Trinity (ii. 15): i.e. "God, His Word and His Wisdom."
Athenagoras (c. AD 133-190) was a Christian apologist of the second half of the 2nd century of whom little is known for certain, besides that he was Athenian (though possibly not originally from Athens), a philosopher, and a convert to Christianity. There is some evidence that he was a Platonist before his conversion, but this is not certain. Athenagoras’ work is important in defending the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Athenagoras also offers us glimpses into early Christian doctrines on abortion and the resurrection.
His work appears to have been well known and influential. There are two mentions of him in early Christian literature: several accredited quotations from his Apology in a fragment of Methodius of Olympus (died AD 312) and some untrustworthy biographical details in the fragments of the Christian History of Philip of Side (c. AD 425). Philip of Side claimed that Athenagoras headed the catechetical school at Alexandria. He also notes that Athenagoras converted to Christianity after familiarizing himself with the Scriptures in an attempt to debunk them.
His writings bear witness to his erudition and culture, his power as a philosopher and rhetorician, his keen appreciation of the intellectual temper of his age, and his tact and delicacy in dealing with the powerful opponents of his religion. Thus his writings are credited by some later scholars as having had a more significant impact on their intended audience than the now better-known writings of his more polemical and religiously grounded contemporaries. Of his writings, of which they were likely many, there have been preserved but two: his Apology or Embassy for the Christians, and a Treatise on the Resurrection.
The Apology, the date of which is fixed by internal evidence as late in 176 or 177, was not, as the title Embassy (presbeia) has suggested, an oral defense of Christianity, but a carefully written plea for justice to the Christians made by a philosopher, on philosophical grounds, to the Emperors Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus, who he flatters as conquerors, "but above all, philosophers." He first complains of the illogical and unjust discrimination against the Christians and of the calumnies they suffer, and then meets the charge of atheism (a major complaint directed at the Christians of the day was that by disbelieving in the Roman gods, they were showing themselves to be atheists). He establishes the principle of monotheism, citing pagan poets and philosophers in support of the very doctrines for which Christians are condemned, and argues for the superiority of the Christian belief in God to that of pagans. This first strongly reasoned argument for the unity of God in Christian literature is supplemented by an able exposition of the Trinity. Finally, he meets the charges of immorality by exposing the Christian ideal of purity, even in thought, and the inviolable sanctity of the marriage bond. The charge of cannibalism is refuted by showing the high regard for human life by Christians who detest the crime of abortion.
The treatise on the Resurrection of the Body, the first complete exposition of the doctrine in Christian literature, was written later than the Apology, to which it may be considered as an appendix. Athenagoras brings to the defense of the doctrine the best that contemporary philosophy could adduce. After meeting the objections common to his time, he demonstrates the possibility of a resurrection in view either of the power of the Creator, or of the nature of our bodies. To exercise such powers is neither unworthy of God nor unjust to other creatures. He shows that the nature and end of man demand a perpetuation of the life of body and soul.
Clement of Alexandria (Titus Flavius Clemens), was one of the most distinguished teachers of the patristic church. He was born about the middle of the 2nd century, and died between 211 and 216. Athens is named as his birthplace by the sixth-century Epiphanius Scholasticus, and this is supported by the classical quality of his Greek. His parents seem to have been wealthy pagans of some social standing. The thoroughness of his education is shown by his constant quotation of the Greek poets and philosophers. He traveled in Greece, Italy, Palestine, and finally Egypt. He became the colleague of Pantaenus, the head of the catechetical school of Alexandria, and finally succeeded him in the direction of the school. One of his most popular pupils was Origen. During the persecution of Septimius Severus (202 or 203) he sought refuge with Alexander, then bishop [possibly of Flaviada] in Cappadocia, afterward of Jerusalem, from whom he brought a letter to Antioch in 211.
The trilogy into which Clement's principal remains are connected by their purpose and mode of treatment is composed of the Protrepticus ("Exhortation to the Greeks"), the Paedagogus ("Instructor"), and the Stromata ("Miscellanies"). Clement for the first time attempted to set forth Christianity for the faithful in the traditional forms of secular literature.
The Protrepticus forms an introduction inviting the reader to listen, not to the mythical legends of the gods, but to the "new song" of the Logos, the beginning of all things and creator of the world. He denounces what he claims to be the folly of idolatry and the pagan mysteries, the shamefulness of the pederastic practices of the Greeks, and the horrors of pagan sacrifice, and argues that the Greek philosophers and poets only guessed at the truth, while the prophets set forth a direct way to salvation; and now the divine Logos speaks in his own person, to awaken all that is good in the soul of man and to lead it to immortality.
Having thus laid a foundation in the knowledge of divine truth, he goes on in the Paedagogus to develop a Christian ethic. For Clement the real “Instructor” is the incarnate Logos -- Jesus Christ The first book deals with the religious basis of Christian morality, the second and third with the individual cases of conduct. True virtue shows itself with him in its external evidences by a natural, simple, and moderate way of living.
The Stromata goes further and aims at the perfection of the Christian life by initiation into complete knowledge. The first of these works is addressed to the unconverted, the second to the new Christian, and the third appeals to the mature believer. It attempts, on the basis of Scripture and tradition, to give such an account of the Christian faith as shall answer all the demands of learned men, and conduct the student into the innermost realities of his belief. Clement entitled this work Stromateis, "patchwork," because it dealt with such a variety of matters. He intended to make but one book of this; at least seven grew out of it, without his having treated all the subjects proposed. The absence of certain things definitely promised has led scholars to ask whether he wrote an eighth book. Various attempts have been made to identify with it short or fragmentary treatises.
Besides the great trilogy, the only complete work preserved is the treatise "Who is the Rich Man that Shall Be Saved?" based on Mark 10:17-31, and laying down the principle that not the possession of riches but their misuse is to be condemned. There are also extant fragments of the treatise on the Passover, against the Quartodecimanism position of Melito of Sardis, and only a single passage from the "Ecclesiastical Canon" against the Judaizers. Several other works are known only by their titles.
The significance of Clement of Alexandria in the history of the development of doctrine is that he knew how to replace the apologetic method by the constructive or systematic, to turn the simple church tradition into a scientific dogmatic theology. It is a marked characteristic of his that he sees only superficial and transient disagreement where others find a fundamental opposition. He is able to reconcile, or even to fuse, differing views to an extent that makes it almost impossible to attribute to him a definite individual system. He is admittedly an eclectic (Stromata, i. 37). This attitude determines especially his treatment of non-Christian philosophy. He shows exhaustively that the philosophers owe a large part of their knowledge to the writings of the Old Testament, yet he seems to express his own personal conviction when he describes philosophy as a direct operation of the divine Logos, working through it as well as through the law and his direct revelation in the Gospel to communicate the truth to men. It is true that the knowledge of the philosophers was elementary, fragmentary, and incapable of imparting true righteousness; and it was far surpassed by the revelation given through the law and the prophets, as that again was still further surpassed by the direct revelation of the incarnate Logos; but this idea of relative inferiority does not prevent him from showing that his whole mental attitude is determined and dominated by the philosophical tradition.
Thus he emphasizes the permanent importance of philosophy for the fulness of Christian knowledge, explains with special predilection the relation between knowledge and faith, and sharply criticizes those who are unwilling to make any use of philosophy. In fact, Christianity is the true philosophy, and the perfect Christian the true Gnostic -- but again only the "Gnostic according to the canon of the Church" has this distinction. Also, he rejects the Gnostic distinction of "psychic" and "pneumatic" men; all are alike destined to perfection if they will embrace it.
Though he uses the apocryphal Gospels, the four canonical Gospels alone have supreme authority for him. For the other New Testament writings he seems not to have had as definite a line of demarcation; but whatever he recognized as of apostolic origin had for him an authority distinct from, and higher than, that of all other ecclesiastical tradition.
Irenaeus (c. AD 120-200) was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyons, France. His writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology. He was a disciple of Polycarp, who himself was a disciple of the Apostle.
Born in the first half of the second century between the years AD 115 to 125, Irenaeus is thought to have been a Greek from Polycarp's hometown of Smyrna in Asia Minor, now Izmir, Turkey. He was raised in a Christian family, rather than converting as an adult, and this may help explain his rigid adherence to orthodoxy. During the persecution of Marcus Aurelius, Irenaeus was a priest of the Church of Lyons. The clergy of that city, many of whom were suffering imprisonment for the faith, sent him (AD 177 or 178) to Rome with a letter to Pope Eleuterus concerning Montanism, and on that occasion bore emphatic testimony to his merits. Returning to Gaul, Irenaeus succeeded the martyr Pothinus, becoming the second Bishop of Lyon.
During the religious peace which followed the persecution of Marcus Aurelius, the new bishop divided his activities between the duties of a pastor and of a missionary. Almost all of his writings were directed against Gnosticism, the sect of Christianity which was spreading at the expense of what later became the Christian orthodoxy. The most famous of these writings is Adversus Haereses (against heresy). In 190 or 191 he interceded with Pope Victor to lift the sentence of excommunication laid by that pontiff upon the Christian communities of Asia Minor which persevered in the practice of the Quartodecimans in regard to the celebration of Easter.
Nothing is known of the date of his death, which must have occurred at the end of the second or the beginning of the third century. In spite of some isolated and later testimony to that effect, it is not very probable that he ended his career with martyrdom. He was buried under the church of Saint John's in Lyon, which was later renamed St. Irenaeus in his honor.
Irenaeus wrote a number of books, but the most important that survives is the five-volume On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis, normally referred to by the Latin title Adversus Haereses ("Against Heresies"). The purpose of Against Heresies was to refute the teachings of various Gnostic groups; apparently, several Greek merchants had begun an oratorial campaign praising the pursuit of "Gnosis" in Irenaeus' bishopric. The discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library in 1945 bears out Tertullian’s description of Gnosticism.
Irenaeus cites from most of the New Testament canon, as well as the noncanonical works 1 Clement and The Shepherd of Hermas; however, he makes no references to Philemon, 2 Peter, 3 John or Jude - four of the shortest epistles. Irenaeus lists all four of the now canonical Gospels as divinely-inspired, in reaction to Marcion's edited version of the Gospel of Luke, which Marcion asserted was the one and only true gospel.
The central point of Irenaeus' theology is the unity of God, in opposition to the Gnostics' division of God into a number of divine "Aeons", and their distinction between the utterly transcendent "High God" and the inferior "Demiurge" who created the world. Irenaeus uses the Logos theology he inherited from Justin Martyr. Irenaeus was a student of Polycarp, who was tutored by John the Apostle. John used Logos theology in the Gospel of John and book of 1 John. He prefers to speak of the Son and the Spirit as the "hands of God". Christ, according to him, is the invisible Father made visible.
His emphasis on the unity of God is reflected in his corresponding emphasis on the unity of salvation history. Irenaeus repeatedly insists that God began the world and has been overseeing it ever since this creative act; everything that has happened is part of his plan for humanity. The essence of this plan is a process of maturation: Irenaeus believes that humanity was created immature, and God intended his creatures to take a long time to grow into or assume the divine likeness. Thus, Adam and Eve were created as children. Their Fall was thus not a full-blown rebellion but a childish spat, a desire to grow up before their time and have everything with immediacy.
Everything that has happened since has therefore been planned by God to help humanity overcome this initial mishap and achieve spiritual maturity. The world has been intentionally designed by God as a difficult place, where human beings are forced to make moral decisions, as only in this way can they mature as moral agents. Irenaeus likens death to the whale that swallowed Jonah: it was only in the depths of the whale's belly that Jonah could turn to God and act according to the divine will. Similarly, death and suffering appear as evils, but without them we could never come to know God.
Tertullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus) was the Bishop of Carthage. He lived from about AD 155 to 230. He was a church leader and prolific author during the early years of Christianity. He was born, lived, and died in Carthage, in what is today Tunisia.
Tertullian was the first great writer of Latin Christianity, thus sometimes known as the first of the “Latin Fathers.” He introduced the term Trinity, as the Latin trinitas, to the Christian vocabulary, through the formula of "three Persons, one Substance" (from the Latin: "tres Personae, una Substantia" and from the Koine Greek: "treis Hypostases, Homoousios") and also the terms Vetus Testamentum ("Old Testament") and Novum Testamentum ("New Testament").
Tertullian's writings cover the entire theological field of his day -- apologetics against paganism and Judaism, polemics, polity, discipline, and morals. He was the first to give an entire life and world-view on a Christian basis. His work gives a picture of the religious life and thought of the time, which is of the greatest interest to the church historian. In his Apologeticus, he was the first Latin author to qualify Christianity as the “vera religio,” or true religion and symmetrically relegated the classical Roman religion and other accepted cults as mere superstitions. Tertullian left the Catholic Church late in life and joined the Montanists.
Of his early life, little is known, and is based upon passing references in his own writings, and upon Eusebius of Caesarea and Jerome. His father held a position (centurio proconsularis) in the Roman army in Africa. Roman Africa was notoriously the home of orators, and this influence can be seen in Tertullian’s style, with its archaisms, provincialisms, glowing imagery and passionate temper. He was a scholar, having received an excellent education. He wrote at least three books in Greek, to which he himself refers, but none of these are extant. His principal study was jurisprudence, and his methods of reasoning reveal striking marks of juridical training. He shone among the advocates of Rome, as Eusebius reports.
His conversion to Christianity took place about AD 197 to 198, but its immediate antecedents are unknown except as they are conjectured from his writings. The event must have been sudden and decisive, transforming at once his own personality; he himself said that he could not imagine a truly Christian life without such a conscious breach, a radical act of conversion: "Christians are made, not born" (Apol, xviii).
In the church of Carthage, he was ordained a bishop though he was married -- a fact established by his two books addressed to his wife -- and was not unusual in its time. In middle life (about 207) he broke with the Catholic Church and became the local leader and the passionate and brilliant exponent of Montanism. But even the Montanists were not rigorous enough for Tertullian who broke with them to found his own sect. Augustine wrote that before his death Tertullian returned to the Catholic Church (De Haeresibus, lxxxvi) although some have disputed this claim.
His sect, the Tertullianists, still had a basilica in Carthage in the times of Augustine, but in that same period passed into the orthodox Church. Jerome says that Tertullian lived to a great age. In spite of his schism, Tertullian continued to fight heresy, especially Gnosticism; and through his doctrinal works, he became the teacher of Cyprian, the predecessor of Augustine, and the chief founder of Latin theology.
Thirty-one works are extant, together with fragments of more. Some fifteen works in Latin or Greek are lost, some as recently as the 9th century (De Paradiso, De superstitione saeculi, De carne et anima were all extant in the now damaged Codex Agobardinus in 814 AD).
The chronology of these writings is difficult to fix with certainty. It is in part determined by the Montanistic views that are set forth in some of them, by the author's own allusions to a particular writing as ante-dating others and by definite historic data (e.g., the reference to the death of Septimius Severus, Ad Scapulam, iv.). In his work Against Marcion, which he calls his third composition on the Marcionite heresy, he gives its date as the fifteenth year of Severus' reign (Adv. Marcionem, i.1,15).
The writings may also be divided with reference to the two periods of Tertullian's Christian activity, the Catholic and the Montanist, or according to their subject matter. The object of the former mode of division is to show, if possible, the change of views Tertullian's mind underwent.
Following the latter mode, which is of a more practical interest, the writings fall into two groups.
Apologetic and polemic writings against heresies: Apologeticus; De testimonio animae; Adv. Judaeos; Adv. Marcionem; Adv. Praxeam; Adv. Hermogenem; De praescriptione hereticorum; Scorpiace.
Practical and disciplinary writings: De monogamia; Ad uxorem; De virginibus velandis; De cultu feminarum; De patientia; De pudicitia; De oratione; Ad martyras.
Among the apologetic writings the Apologeticus, addressed to the Roman magistrates, is the most pungent defense of Christianity and the Christians ever written against the reproaches of the pagans, and one of the most magnificent legacies of the ancient Church, full of enthusiasm, courage, and vigor. It first clearly proclaims the principle of religious liberty as an inalienable right of man, and demands a fair trial for the Christians before they are condemned to death.
Tertullian addressed the pagans’ charges that the Christians sacrificed infants at the celebration of the Lord's Supper and committed incest. He pointed to the commission of such crimes in the pagan world, and then proved by the testimony of Pliny that Christians pledged themselves not to commit murder, adultery, or other crimes. He pointed also to the inhumanity of pagan customs, such as feeding the flesh of gladiators to beasts. The gods have no existence, and thus there is no pagan religion against which Christians may offend. Christians do not engage in the foolish worship of the emperors; they do better, they pray for them. Christians can afford to be put to torture and to death, and the more they are cast down the more they grow: "In the blood of the martyrs lies the seed of the Church" (Apologeticum, 1). In the De Praescriptione he develops as its fundamental idea that, in a dispute between the Church and a separating party, the whole burden of proof lies with the latter, as the Church, in possession of the unbroken tradition, is by its very existence a guarantee of its truth.
The five books against Marcion, written 207 or 208, are the most comprehensive and elaborate of his polemical works, invaluable for the understanding of Gnosticism. Of the moral and ascetic treatises, the De patientia and De spectaculis are among the most interesting, and the De pudicitia and De virginibus velandis among the most characteristic.
Tertullian always wrote under stress of a felt necessity. He was never so happy as when he had opponents like Marcion and Praxeas. He was always moved by practical considerations to make his case clear and irresistible. It was partly this element which gave to his writings a formative influence upon the theology of the post-Nicene period in the West and has rendered them fresh reading to this day. He was a born disputant, moved by the noblest impulses known in the Church.
Tertullian's main doctrinal teachings are as follows:
1. The soul was not preexistent, as Plato affirmed, nor subject to metempsychosis or reincarnation, as the Pythagoreans held. For Tertullian the soul is a distinct entity with certain corporality and as such it may be tormented in Hell (De anima, lviii.).
2. The soul's sinfulness exists in all men alike; it is a culprit and yet an unconscious witness by its impulse to worship, its fear of demons, and its musings on death to the power, benignity, and judgment of God as revealed in the Christian's Scriptures (De testimonio, v.-vi.).
3. God, who made the world out of nothing through his Son, the Word, has corporality though he is a spirit (De praescriptione, vii.; Adv. Praxeam, vii.).
4. In soteriology Tertullian does not dogmatize, he prefers to keep silence at the mystery of the cross (De Patientia, iii.).
5. With reference to the “rule of faith,” Tertullian constantly uses this expression to mean the authoritative tradition handed down in the Church, now the Scriptures themselves, and perhaps also a definite doctrinal formula. He gives a succinct statement of the Christian faith under this term (De praescriptione, xiii.).
Tertullian was a determined advocate of strict discipline and an austere code of practice, and like many of the African fathers, one of the leading representatives of asceticism in the early Church. These views may have led him to adopt Montanism with its ascetic rigor and its belief in chiliasm and the continuance of the prophetic gifts.
In his writings on public amusements, the veiling of virgins, the conduct of women, and the like, he gives expression to these views. On the principle that we should not look at or listen to what we have no right to practice, and that polluted things, seen and touched, pollute (De spectaculis, viii., xvii.), he declared a Christian should abstain from the theater and the amphitheater. There pagan religious rites were applied and the names of pagan divinities invoked; there the precepts of modesty, purity, and humanity were ignored or set aside, and there no place was offered to the onlookers for the cultivation of the Christian graces. Women should put aside their gold and precious stones as ornaments (De cultu, v.-vi.). He counseled that virgins should conform to the law of Paul for women and keep themselves strictly veiled (De virginibus velandis). He praised the unmarried state as the highest (De monogamia, xvii.; Ad uxorem, i.3). He called upon Christians not to allow themselves to be excelled in the virtue of celibacy by Vestal Virgins and Egyptian priests, and he pronounced second marriage a species of adultery (De exhortations castitatis, ix.).
If Tertullian went to an unhealthy extreme in his counsels of asceticism, he is easily forgiven when one recalls his own moral vigor and his great services as an ingenuous and intrepid defender of the Christian religion, which was with him, as later with Martin Luther, first and chiefly an experience of his own heart.
THE ANTE-NICENE FATHERS
c. AD 200 to 300
Hippolytus of Portus (c. AD 170-235) was a writer of the early Christian Church. He was elected as the first Antipope in 217, but died reconciled to the Church in 235 as a martyr. Hippolytus was born in the second half of the 2nd century, probably in Rome. Photius describes him in his Bibliotheca as a disciple of Irenaeus. As a presbyter of the church at Rome under Bishop Zephyrinus (AD 199-217), Hippolytus was distinguished for his learning and eloquence. It was at this time that Origen, then a young man, heard him preach.
It was not long after this that questions of theology and church discipline brought him into direct conflict with Zephyrinus and his successor Calixtus I. Hippolytus accused the bishops of favoring the Christological heresies of the Monarchians, and, further, of subverting the discipline of the Church by his lax action in receiving back into the Church those guilty of gross offences. The result was a schism, and for over ten years Hippolytus stood as bishop at the head of a separate church. Then came the persecution under Maximinus Thrax. Hippolytus and Pontian, who was then Bishop of Rome, were transported in 235 to Sardinia, where it would seem that both of them died.
Hippolytus's voluminous writings, which for their variety subject can be compared with those of Origen, embrace the spheres of exegesis, homiletics, apologetics and polemic, chronography, and ecclesiastical law. His works have come down to us in such a fragmentary condition that it is difficult to obtain from them any very exact notion of his intellectual and literary importance.
Of his exegetical works the best preserved are the Commentary on the Prophet Daniel and the Commentary on the Song of Songs. He wrote polemical works directed against the pagans, the Jews and heretics. The most important of these polemical treatises is the Refutation of all Heresies. Of its ten books, the second and third are lost; Book I was for a long time printed among the works of Origen; Books IV-X were found in 1842 without the name of the author, in an Armenian convent at Mount Athos. It is now universally thought that Hippolytus was the author, and that Books I and IV-X belong to the same work.
Origenes Adamantius (c. AD 182-251) was a Christian scholar and theologian, one of the most distinguished of the early Christian Church (though not ultimately considered a Father of the Church, due to lingering questions of orthodoxy in the latter part of his life). He is thought to have been born at Alexandria, and died at Caesarea.
Three centuries later his very name was stricken from the books of the Church. What got Origen theologically into trouble much later with the church were some extreme views adopted by his followers, the Origenists, whose views were then attributed to Origen. In the course of this controversy, some other teachings of his came up, which were not accepted by the general church consensus: among these were the preexistence of souls, universal salvation and a hierarchical concept of the Trinity. These teachings and some more extreme ones of his followers were declared anathema by a local council in Constantinople 545 and then, in an aside, by the Second Council of Constantinople in 553.
Yet in the monasteries of the Greeks his influence still lived on, and the spiritual father of Greek monasticism was that same Origen at whose name the monks had shuddered. For quite some time, Origen was counted as one of the most important church fathers and his works were widely used in the Church. His exegetical method was standard of the School of Alexandria and the Origenists were an important party in the 4th century debates on Arianism.
Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen compiled in their first monastery, the Philokalia, a collection of Origen's work, although neither of them adopted Origenism or used the Alexandrian allegoric exegesis.
The exegetical writings of Origen fall into three classes:
* scholia, or brief summaries of the meaning of difficult passages;
* homilies, or sermons;
* "books", or commentaries in the strict sense of the term.
His writings are important as one of the first serious intellectual attempts to describe Christianity. In Origen, the Christian Church had its first theologian in the highest sense of the term. Attaining the pinnacle of human speculation, his teaching was not merely theoretical, but was also imbued with an intense ethical power. To the multitude to whom his instruction was beyond grasp, he left mediating images and symbols, as well as the final goal of attainment.
Cyprian (c. AD 200-258) was born in Carthage of a wealthy family. He was converted through his reading of the Scriptures and Tertullian's writings. Following his conversion in his late 40s, he gave much of his wealth to the poor. A year later he was elected a presbyter, and the following year (AD 248), he filled the office of bishop of Carthage, after the death of the previous bishop.
When appointed bishop of Carthage, he accepted the honourable title of 'Papa' (i.e. pope or father). The bishop of Alexandria was the first to accept this title. Afterwards, the title was adopted by the bishop of Rome.
For the remaining ten years of his life, Cyprian labored incessantly. It was a stormy period of persecution without, and agitation within, the church. When the Decian persecution came upon the church, Cyprian saw in it God's judgment upon her for her laxity, desire for wealth, fraudulance, false oaths, slander and deceit.
During the persecution, Cyprian fled, but justified his own action by saying that it was not the time for his martyrdom - maintaining that it was biblical to flee from such persecution rather than court martyrdom. While in hiding, he wrote many letters of encouragement to his presbyters and deacons.
When persecution died down, he returned to Carthage and presided over the Council of Carthage in 251 AD, which decided that pardon could only be granted to lapsed Christians after a proper period of penitence.
Two later councils held in 254 and 256 AD, again presided over by Cyprian, dealt with the issue of the validity of heretical baptism, and decided that it was invalid - even though performed in the name of the Trinity. This was opposed by bishop Stephen of Rome and occasioned much controversy. Shortly afterwards, Cyprian was martyred in the Valerian persecution - displaying inflexible courage and faithfulness in his stand as a Christian.
It is not known where Novatian was born. Some have appealed to Philostorgius in behalf of the opinion that he was a Phrygian; but others maintain that, supposing this to be a statement of the historian, it is a mere conjecture of his, based on the character of Novatian's teaching. It is also stated by Cyprian that he was a Stoic before he passed over to the Christian Church, but this also has been doubted. While amongst the catechumens, he was seized by a violent disease, attributed to demoniac agency; and, being near death, he received baptism. He was ordained presbyter by Fabian, bishop of Rome, against the wishes of the rest of the clergy, who objected thereto because he had received clinic baptism. The subsequent circumstances of his schism and his contest with Cornelius are stated at length with no friendly spirit in a letter to Antonianus by Cyprian. Socrates states that he suffered martyrdom; but his authority, amid the silence of all others, is not sufficient to guarantee the fact.
Novatian's treatise concerning the Trinity is divided into thirty-one chapters. He first of all, from chapter first to the eighth, considers those words of the Rule of Truth or Faith, which bid us believe on God the Father and Lord Almighty, the absolutely perfect Creator of all things. The treatise on the Trinity is contained in the writings of the Church Fathers because it shows the prevalence of the orthodox doctrine in the years prior to the Arian controversy and the Council of Nicea.
The Real Jesus:
Who is the Real Jesus?
Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archaeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the "historical Jesus" -- a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archaeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regretably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.
This presentation explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views.
Presented in ten parts -- perfect for individual, family and classroom study -- viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history -- "the same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.
Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.
Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!
Running Time: 130 minutes
|The Beast of Revelation: IDENTIFIED
Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation? Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry's insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation -- and even more importantly -- amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!
Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue -- but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.
Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study -- for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John's famous letter "... to the seven churches which are in Asia." (Revelation 1:4)
(Available in DVD only)
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Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misperceptions related to this volatile issue:
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Perfect for group instruction as well as personal
Bible study. Speakers include: George Grant, Howard Phillips,
R.C. Sproul Jr., Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Jay Grimstead, R.J. Rushdoony,
Steven Schlissel, Andrew Sandlin, Eric Holmberg, and more!
Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!
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|Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism
Over four hours of instruction!
Just what is “Calvinism?” Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?
This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.
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