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The Churchin Fourth Century:from Constantineto Augustine Class #2: Historical Context, Part 2: The Spread of the Christian Church in the first three centuries
The Confessions of St. Augustine • Book 1:1-12, 17-19, 30 • Book 2 • Book 3:1-11, 19-21 • Book 4:1-3, 7-12 • Book 5 • Book 6:1-10, 23-25 • Book 7:1-3, 13-16, 24-27 • Book 8 • Book 9:1-4, 8-15, 17-22, 27-37 • Book 10
2nd – 3rd Century Topics to Cover: • Influential Teachers/Pastors • Worship • The Sacraments • The Rise of Gnosticism
Iranaeus Polycarp Justin Martyr Tertullian & Cyprian Clement Origen
Preaching in the 2nd & 3rd Centuries • Luke 24 – The Road to Emmaus • Preachers saw their task as passing on this witness – Christ is the fulfillment of the Law. • Preaching quickly moved from evangelistic to catechetical instruction – what to believe and how to live.
Origen “[I]n truth, a genius, a saintly genius. … [T]otally devoted to the cause of Christ. … [L]oved the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments above all.” “To be sure, he was something of a Neoplatonic philosopher, … too often Platonized the gospel.” H. Old
Origen • affirmed the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as divinely inspired. • God hides the treasure of divine wisdom in the earthen vessel of words. • the simplicity of Christian preaching is witness to its divine authority.
Origen • Many heresies have come about, Origen claims, because people have been too literalistic in their approach to Scripture (ex.: Marcion). • The truth comes from Scripture when it is interpreted spiritually. • Preached lectio continua
Origen “Scripture, like a human being, has a body, a soul, and a spirit. Therefore we should understand Scripture in a threefold way. There is the body of Scripture, that is, the simple, historical, narrative sense. For the more advanced there is the more profound understanding, which corresponds to the soul. And for those who are perfect there is the higher wisdom, which corresponds to the spirit.” H. Old
Origen • Truth is hidden in histories and legal observances. The true interpreter interprets these allegorically. • Beyond the obvious meaning there is also a mystery. • Origen represents the Alexandrian school of exegesis: it goes beyond biblical typology to finding the hidden truth in the Word of God allegorically. • The Holy Spirit illumines the interpreter.
Origen • There might be a literal meaning, a typological meaning, an allegorical meaning or a moral meaning to any given text. • Focuses in on the meaning of names. “Pharaoh” means “the destroyer”, which explains why God’s people cannot be at peace with Egypt. • Great meaning to be found in numbers.
Origen • Strong on explaining Scripture with Scripture. • Demonstrated how the Law and prophets foreshadowed passages in the New Testament.
On Early Christian Worship Didache (late 1st c) Chapter 14. Christian Assembly on the Lord's Day. But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one who is at odds with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: "In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations."
Letter of Pliny to Trajan(early 2nd c): … [t]hey asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food--but ordinary and innocent food.
from Justin’s Apology(mid 2nd c): And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen;
and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.
But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.
Baptism:Truly a Rite of Passage • 1-3 years of catechetical instruction • Secret/private ceremony involving recitation, renouncing of the Devil, disrobing, symbolical cleansing(s) & renewal, robing anew, and anointings. • Entrance into the worship and mysteries of God
Tertullian, On Baptism(early 2nd c.) 18. But that Baptism is not lightly to be conferred, is known to those whose duty it is to confer it. … one give close attention to that other passage: "Give not the holy thing to the dogs and cast not your pearl before swine"; and: "Lay not on hands too readily, lest you share in another's sins.“ (He discusses Philip and the Eunuch, dismissing it as exceptional.) (Remarks that even Paul was baptized “in a hurry”.)
Consequently in view of the circumstances and will, even the age of each person, a postponement of Baptism is most advantageous, particularly, however, in the case of children. For what need is there, if it is not so urgent, that the sponsors also should be brought into danger, being as they are themselves also by reason of their mortality capable of falling short of their promises and being deceived by the development of an evil disposition? The Lord indeed says: "Forbid them not to come unto Me.“Let them come, then, while they are growing up;
… For no less reason the baptism of the unmarried also should be postponed, for in them a testing has been prepared alike for virgins through their maturity and for widows through their freedom from the duty of marriage, until they either marry or are hardened for the practice of continence. If any should understand the importance of Baptism, they will be more afraid of its consequences than of its postponement; unimpaired faith is sure of salvation.
The Lord’s Supper Seen early on as a mystery wherein God conveys to us a certain blessing, and is, at the same time, a sacrifice man offers to God (a privilege of the catechized, baptized believer). Three primary views of the Lord’s Supper: Realistic/Mystical – Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus Symbolical – Tertullian, Cyprian Allegorical/Spiritualistic – Clement of Alexandria, Origen
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