An Essay on Christian History (HS 510 26 Feb. 2014 Garrison C. Gibson)
HS 510 Garrison Clifford Gibson
26 Feb. 2014
Part One – The Ancient Era
The Beginning of the Church
Carl Bloch- The Sermon on the Mount, 1850
Historians generally classify early Christianity as existing from the life of the Lord to the council of Nicea in 325 A.D. From then until 476 and the fall of the Western Roman Empire is called Christianity of late antiquity. Some historians regard late classical antiquity (of civilization) ending about a century later with the death of the last Latin speaking Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I of whom Procopius wrote the famous Secret History. The history of the early Christian church is divided at the Apostolic and Post-Apostolic transition.
John the Apostle was probably the last disciple to pass away, probably about 105 A.D. With the new generation bereft of those that knew the Lord as disciples or without apostolic authority such as Paul the early church fathers would need to consolidate existing written records and pass on standard, truthful doctrine, words and ideas to succeeding generations from the Apostles. They would need to secure methods for assemblies of Christians to meet and keep rules kanon that would reinforce the true gospel. The Holy Spirit helping draw those that knew Apostles such as Polycarp to meaningful positions to coordinate and support the development of faith with new believers first encountering the gospel, the truth would survive vicissitudes of wrong doctrine and persecution.
The early Christian church was a community of believers that formed following the Lord and savior Jesus Christ. The original disciples of the Lord followed by waves more took the words and life message of Jesus first to Israel and then the world. The church had a natural root in the Jewish faith from which the disciples and the Lord arose. A natural transition waited for John the Baptist providing baptism of the Lord and the Christian era of the new covenant.
The old covenant and the old way of a relationship with God through justification through laws gave way to a new era of salvation through spiritual renewal with the laws of God written on the hearts and minds of believers. From Jerusalem to Antioch and across the Roman world the gospel of Jesus Christ was heard. The heathen gods were cast aside as Emperors and Kings following common perceptions learned the silliness of worshiping idols. Rulers like Constantine and four-hundred years later Charles the Great believed the Word of God. Reactionary politicians and sects were sometimes violent and commanded onerous purges, persecutions or pogroms of believers who eventually would return in greater number.
Jesus was himself the high priest administering to his early church for forty days following his resurrection and prior to his ascension. The church grew strong during that time. Instead of the public falling away after he was crucified alongside two thieves the faithful increased markedly. At the gathering at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit arrived and poured out into the faithful assembled together the future development of the church as an essential component of God’s teleology for the people of the world increased. Though the first church existed when the disciples were with the Lord, after the Lord was crucified and when the Apostolic age began following Pentecost over time the familiar problem of Gresham’s law would develop wherein bad money (counterfeit) follows good, with false or erroneous doctrine following.
The Apostle Paul experienced the problem of false doctrine and error amidst the early church congregations that he was in touch with such as at Corinth. Development of a standard, uniform or catholic doctrine promulgated from something approaching recognized authority (besides that of Paul or other individual Apostles) was not to exist until the council of Nicea issued one on Christology in the year 325.
The third General Council at Ephesus issued a brilliant description of how God emerged with human flesh. The emergence of a state supported church also emerged at the time in the Eastern Roman Empire yet for Western Europe the church-state synthesis would form a little differently and later, preponderantly after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Prior to that a heretical version of Christianity was often promulgated by Arian bishops among Goths, Vandals and so forth bringing harm and conflicting with orthodox/catholic Christians then and later. Synthetic doctrine such as that of the Uniate church combining Catholicism and Orthodoxy would exist until modern times. Monophysite, Nestorians and Monothelitists would contentiously assert opinion on Christ as having one or two natures in regard to manhood and Godhood. Churches would find some opinions mutually exclusive. Logic, faith and revelation would provide accurate opinion.
It is said that the church learned from the risen Lord in the 40 days before his ascension how to organize the church in his absence. Deacons would minister unto the poor and elders or presbyters would attend to the body of believers. The Apostles were considered to be of a bishop class of elders able to coordinate and harmonize among diverse flocks. Paul appointed Titus and others into that role. Yet the body of believers had one high priest in heaven-the Lord, and maturity of Christians into the strong meat of faith from the milk of conversion or youth was desired. All Christians could become elders or priests one infers. Today a priesthood of believers ecclesia would be a good formation for the church with beginner, intermediate and expert/elder roles in church functions and representative elders or Bishops with term limits elected to coordinate amid denominations and congregations.
Philip Schaff writes on page 26 of his History of the Christian Church Volume II; The Ante-Nicene Era 100-325 A.D. that, “the foundation was laid strong and deep by the apostles themselves. The seed scattered by them from Jerusalem to Rome, and fertilized by their blood, sprung up as a bountiful harvest. The word of our Lord was again fulfilled on a larger scale: “One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye have not labored: others have labored, and ye are entered into their labor” (John 4:38). Christianity once established was its own best missionary. It grew naturally from within. It attracted people by its very presence. It was a light shining in darkness and illuminating the darkness. And while there were no professional missionaries devoting their whole life to this specific work, every congregation was a missionary society, and every Christian believer a missionary, inflamed by the love of Christ to convert his fellow-men. The example had been set by Jerusalem and Antioch, and by those brethren who, after the martyrdom of Stephen, “were scattered abroad and went about preaching the Word.”5 Justin Martyr was converted by a venerable old man whom he met “walking on the shore of the sea.“
The history of the Christian Church is a living doctrine of grace. Though human organization including an ecclesia may become corrupt the message of the gospel is brought forward through time, across geography and to those that have not or would not otherwise have encountered the word of God from the Lord.
The church from the start was beset with wrong doctrine from within and without seeking to assert itself over the gospel. In a sense anything besides the gospel can be said to be wrong doctrine. Some such as Arianism and Gnosticism, Montanism and Donatism were readily apparent, yet also included are the more radical errors of paganism and heathenism-I suppose the latter might include just worldliness for-itself while the former requires some sort of idol such as Romans before conversion populated their temples with. Christians were able to point out the error of the pagan pantheon to the people of the Roman Empire who accepted to a large extent the compassionate and true gospel of Jesus Christ.
Troubles with the Jewish ecclesiastical infrastructure of the old covenant infrastructure produced its own varieties of error and opposition to the gospel becoming a forerunner of so much tragedy in subsequent Jewish historical experience starting with the crucifixion of the Lord, the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 and the even more thorough destruction of Jerusalem under Hadrian in A.D. 135 to purges, pogroms and holocaust since. In the generally pre-literate world governments authoritarians might control state religion and purge society of substantive political-religious rivals and potential rivals. The Muslims burned the great Library of Alexandria during the Umayyad Caliphate I suppose to eliminate the possibility of the people reading anything besides that of submission to Mohammedan ideas and Omar his theistic autocrat.
The epistle to the Galatians is perhaps the most remarkable of Paul’s existing letters that have made it down to us through time inasmuch as the Apostle seems at times wroth with the Galatians or Gauls of a Roman district that may or may not have been Celts. If these church goers were actual Gauls it mike be a good idea to change the word Galaxy to something else, such as Nuraghe in order that we do not seem to encourage a bad end along with the Universe in some sort of Apocalypse.3:1-” O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” That may well have been the Gnostic mistake. It does happen that what is wisdom for man is foolishness to God.
Philo of Alexandria presented most of the Gnostic metaphysical paradigm before the crucifixion of the Lord in 30 A.D. The Apostle John may well have encountered those ideas in followers in Ephesus. It is possible that the Gnostic heretical field of scholarship wasn’t terribly well received in Jerusalem either. Exporting the pursuit of the Gnostic topic to Antioch, Ephesus and elsewhere that religion had a lively public interest and was received with a modicum of tolerance might have been a logical course. Gnosticism in the first century may have camouflaged itself within the garb of traditional Judaism better even than Christianity for a time found the Jewish community fertile ground.
Gnostics were people thought of as regarding themselves as having deeper metaphysical knowledge of reality than ordinary people. Some claimed that Jesus was actually a Gnostic traveler-a sort of astral projector perhaps to other planes of existence around this Universe. It is still a tempting yet silly doctrine popular on late-night radio shows and perhaps with dope smokers of the U.S.A. along with Bigfoot and extra-terrestrials manipulating the Obama administration’s homosexual policies.
Christian disputes with Gnostics occurred because Gnostics tended usurp Christian doctrine and insinuate their own. They might believe in dualism such that the material world is evil and was made by an evil demi-urge. While some might regard original sin in a fallen Universe of thermodynamics instead of eternal spiritual perfection as another way of saying that, the practical consequence of false belief are substantial.
Gnostics tended to deny Jehovah as the true God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to overcome sin for those of faith. The emanationist (simplified for Christian practical purposes to’ let their be light’) theories of Gnostics are though coincident with some aspects of logical insight into the nature of the material Universe such as the big bang, inflaton or even a cyclical Universe expanding and flowing through a thermodynamic process.
Paradoxically those that believe the Universe had no real beginning-just proximal ones such as time=0 located at a temporal hourglass very small singularity before an oppositely sequenced pre-Universe shrinking down in scale, share the idea with Christians that all things that exist are ultimately based in the eternal with temporality being expression of phases within eternity. At this point physical cosmology research hasn’t evolved terribly deeply into physical reality and temporality of a hypothetical multiverse within an eternal context replete with conservation of energy and ordination by God.
Paul as a student of Gamaliel might have been somewhat learned himself in Jewish mysticism. The contemporary of Jesus Christ, Philo of Alexandria, was marginally mainstream and perhaps not unknown to Jewish theology training centers. By the time of the third century Plotinus-a famous student of Ammonius Saccus developed a beautiful, logically satisfying, mystic, theologically simplified cosmology that is similar in many respect to contemporary cosmological paradigms including origin from a singularity or One (En Sof-the ineffable infinite) with universal and broken form theories acceptable to Plato and quantum mechanics.
It is a bit of a paradox that the mysterious, spiritual Kabbalah shares with Mohammedanism the term for spirit –Ka that the Egyptians used as well as ba or shelter. Hence one gets the spirit house or Ka-ba such as at Mecca and the Kabala going even further in honor of a transcending spirit. The spirit house of Mecca existed long before Mohammad’s syncretistic enterprise.
The danger of simply becoming intellectually lost as an individual self-standing within the created material world is a danger that Lucifer succumbed to. Since everything exists and one may reason within the given steady-state field or any existing alternate spiritual field, there is a temptation for the ego to alienate itself from the transcendent God and the opportunity to renormalize from sin in the contingent field of being and try to exist forever as a contingent being or even a nearly omnipotent contingent being without God imbued with a false consciousness denying His existence. That effort is in disregard to the actual facts of being-that God is all-in-all and the Son is the sole way to renormalize the estranged-by-sin relationship.
A generic emantionist paradigm for cosmological origin of quanta of any type from a state of being ‘void and without form’ requires some emanation of virtual quanta or proto-particles/strings/membranes etc from an existing field containing or heteronymous with the void. Math isn’t theoretically of much help in describing the non-dimensional infinite, indivisible field that emanates with quantum uncertainty perhaps on occasion into a void.
Mathematics represents some form of coordinate system-even a theoretical one with scalable dimensions. Without coordinates or quanta it would be challenging to use math references for describing one infinite field with no extension and all possible dimensions unactualized prior to emanation from super-positions decohered into forms in a virgin formless void. Theological contemplation might be easier, although it’s better and simpler to recognize Jesus Christ as the only way to understand God containing/promulgating the one field engendering any potential or actual Universe.
Ultimately Plotinus’ paradigm is mostly a horse-shoe toss description of the theosophical state of the cosmos without modern technical terms. I do not believe that Plotinus provided Christian information about how to be saved from the fallen realm of materially imperfect forms and original sin implicit in the temporal world. I haven’t made a complete inspection of the collected works of Plotinus though. It’s difficult to have a very good opinion without being a scholar of neo-Platonism. Living a couple centuries after the Lord he may have felt that wasn’t his role. The age was philosophically confused enough and just the canonized Bible such as the Muratorian fragment provided was a plain and accurate guide to eternity.
General Parameters of Development and Ossification of Ekklesia and Episkopos
In writing of a history of the Christian church in the ancient era after the end of the apostolic era and before the start of the Middle Ages one ought to determine where the word church arose and what it meant. Because of the 3rd Goth invasions of Asia Minor at the end of the classical era of history associated with the fall of the Western Roman Empire many Greek words were brought into Germanic languages including. In Greek the original term for Christian assemblies was ἐκκλησία or ekklēsia and ecclesia. Arising from the Greek word referring to city-state assemblies that only citizens could participate in ecclesia was also used by Christians to refer to their own assemblies.
Cirice is the proximal Old English forerunner of the English word church via a Greek into German etymlogical path. A congregation of the Lord was ἐκκλησία κυριακή ekklēsia kuriakē. That made it into West German as kirikafrom κυριακή kuriakē. The word for Lord wasκύριος-kurios. Old English derived cirice from from kirika and thus church emerged. An assembly of people who are believers that Jesus Christ is Lord is the church.
The development of social organization around Jesus to spread the good news followed his instruction in Mark 16:15 “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” This leaves open the possibility of preaching the gospel one day to extra-terrestrials I suppose.
Development of the Christian church in many respects occurs within a contemporary historical tapestry of change and social development. Empires arise and civilizations fall. The proliferation of Christian faith and the establishment of churches in communities transcend borders and governments. In fact the establishment of the church itself creates a form of government itself in the evolution of the episkopos or bishops and the ekklesia or assembly that becomes a church structure prevalent within an Episcopal organizational patrimony. Even before the end of the first century Clement of Rome wrote epistles to other churches as an authority. One asks why the egalitarianism of early Christianity changed during the second century largely to an Episcopal structure as the apostolic era faded away. The answer is twofold. One, there was a need to establish a catholic or standard doctrine amidst the diverse assemblies and secondly human social organization tend to organize hierarchically to reflect authority.
The churches of North Africa, the Near East and Asia Minor developed regional authorities or Bishops with some more influential than others. Initially the churches of Antioch, Jerusalem and Rome were regarded more or less equally as centers of authority. Later Constantinople arrived to be considered an equal Christian center of authority, yet the development of Church authority in equal proportional measure with population and political power resembles in some ways the kind of proportional government found in the U.S. House of Representatives with those from populous states collectively having more representation. In the church history that evolved into Rome being the seat of authority in Western Europe especially after the fall of the Western Roman Empire and in the East Constantinople emerged as the center of Christian authority with much respect for Rome until the second schism.
One might say that the post-Apostolic increase of early Christianity was a process of missions, increase in the numbers of the faithful and ossification of hierarchical church structure under the authority of a bishop, and the bishops increased in number eventually recognizing particular metropolitan bishops as Bishops of Bishops or prime ministers under the authority of Christ. Church doctrine developed such that the opinions of the bishops were regarded as if they were themselves spokesmen for the Lord. Of course in the era before electronic communications perhaps they were approximately right. Keeping orthodoxy of faith and disseminating the true gospel without error such as Monophysitism and Arianism required a certain standardized coordination in the entire Christian world that was roughly the same area as that of the Roman Empire.
Institutional methods for distinguishing Christians from heretical votaries were developed conforming to standardized catechetical instruction and pubic baptism to symbolize admission of righteous faith. Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:16 was the forerunner of creeds of faith and Matthew 28-19 of Trinitarian baptismal expressions.
Quote from History of the Christian Church Vol. 2 Shaff page 473…
“There was at first no prescribed formula of faith binding upon all believers. Each
of the leading churches framed its creed (in a sort of independent congregational way), according to its wants, though on the same basis of the baptismal formula, and possibly after the model of a brief archetype which may have come down from apostolic days. Hence we have a variety of such rules of faith, or rather fragmentary accounts of them, longer or shorter, declarative or interrogative, in the ante-Nicene writers, as Irenaeus of Lyons (180), Tertullian of Carthage (200), Cyprian of Carthage (250), Novatian of Rome (250), Origen of Alexandria (250), Gregory Thaumaturgus (270), Lucian of Antioch (300), Eusebius of Caesarea (325), Marcellus of Ancyra (340), Cyril of Jerusalem (350), Epiphanius of Cyprus (374), Rufinus of Aquileja (390), and in the Apostolic Constitutions). Yet with all the differences in form and extent there is a substantial agreement, so that Tertullian could say that the regula fidei was “una omnino, sola immobilis et irreformabilis.” They are variations of the same theme. We may refer for illustration of the variety and unity to the numerous orthodox and congregational creeds of the Puritan churches in New England, which are based upon the Westminster standards.
The Oriental forms are generally longer, more variable and metaphysical, than the
Western, and include a number of dogmatic terms against heretical doctrines which
abounded in the East. They were all replaced at last by the Nicene Creed (325, 381, and 451), which was clothed with the authority of oecumenical councils and remains to this day the fundamental Creed of the Greek Church. Strictly speaking it is the only oecumenical Creed of Christendom, having been adopted also in the West, though with a clause (Filioque) which has become a wall of division. We shall return to it in the next volume.
The Western forms—North African, Gallican, Italian—are shorter and simpler,
have less variety, and show a more uniform type. They were all merged into the Roman
Symbol, which became and remains to this day the fundamental creed of the Latin Church and her daughters.
This Roman symbol is known more particularly under the honored name of the Apostles’ Creed. For a long time it was believed (and is still believed by many in the Roman church) to be the product of the Apostles who prepared it as a summary of their teaching before parting from Jerusalem (each contributing one of the twelve articles by higher inspiration). This tradition which took its rise in the fourth century, is set aside by the variations of the ante-Nicene creeds and of the Apostles’ Creed itself. Had the Apostles composed such a document, it would have been scrupulously handed down without alteration. The creed which bears this name is undoubtedly a gradual growth. We have it in two forms.
The earlier form as found in old manuscripts, is much shorter and may possibly go back to the third or even the second century. It was probably imported from the East, or grew in Rome, and is substantially identical with the Greek creed of Marcellus of Ancyra (about 340), inserted in his letter to Pope Julius I. to prove his orthodoxy, and with that contained in the Psalter of King Aethelstan. Greek was the ruling language of the Roman Church and literature down to the third century.
The longer form of the Roman symbol, or the present received text, does not appear before the sixth or seventh century. It has several important clauses which were wanting in the former, as “he descended into hades,” the predicate “catholic” after ecclesiam, “the communion of saints,” and “the life everlasting.” These additions were gathered from the provincial versions (Gallican and North African) and incorporated into the older form. The Apostles’ Creed then, in its present shape, is post-apostolic; but, in its contents and spirit, truly apostolic. It embodies the faith of the ante-Nicene church, and is the product of a secondary inspiration, like the Gloria in Excelsis and the Te deum, which embody the devotions of the same age, and which likewise cannot be traced to an individual author or authors. It follows the historical order of revelation of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, beginning with the creation and ending with the resurrection and life eternal. It clusters around Christ as the central article of our faith. It sets forth living facts, not abstract dogmas and speaks in the language of the people, not of the theological school. It confines itself to the fundamental truths, is simple, brief, and yet comprehensive, and admirably adapted for catechetical and liturgical use. It still forms a living bond of union between the different ages and branches of orthodox Christendom, however widely they differ from each other, and can never be superseded by longer and fuller creeds, however necessary these are in their place. It has the authority of antiquity and the dew of perennial youth, beyond any other document of post-apostolic times. It is the only strictly OEcumenical Creed of the West, as the Nicene Creed is the only OEcumenical Creed of the East. It is the Creed of creeds, as the Lord’s Prayer is the Prayer of prayers.”
Shaffer writes in Volume two of the History of the Christian Church; the Ante-Nicene Age copiously of the establishment of synods and councils promulgating rules for conduct of the church. Following is an example of rules subsequent to the Diocletian persecution. The quotation provides a sense of the historical establishment of clerical infrastructure and rules illustrating the way the church moved toward establishment and an imperial role shared with governments as well as rules and permanent roles for clergy and laity. In the pervasively pre-literate social era that was inevitable as such organization sought to keep doctrinal accuracy among the millions. Competing theological ideas about the Lord and even metaphysics (i.e. the Albigensian heresy and it’s resemblances to Zoroastrianism and Schopenhauer’s philosophical dualism) needed to be resolved in a social environment and ecclesia without agencies of arbitration.
Human social organizations sadly become phenomena for-themselves perpetuated by their own inertia with resistance to be ethically introspective. Perhaps Christians do better than most organizations at ethical governance, yet the inquisition evolved as well as the persecution of the Waldenses with a faith as simple as Francis of Assisi. One might freely substitute CEOs of various corporations, non-profits and government bureaucracies interchangeable without significant decline in organizational performance in many circumstances. Corruption occurs too, and with the ossification the ethics and egalitarianism of the Lord’s way may be obscured.
Quote from Shaffer’s History of the Christian Church Volume 2 Page 172
“ 55. The Councils of Elvira, Arles, and Ancyra.
Among the ante-Nicene Synods some were occasioned by the Montanist controversy
in Asia Minor, some by the Paschal controversies, some by the affairs of Origen, some by the Novatian schism and the treatment of the Lapsi in Carthage and Rome, some by the controversies on heretical baptism (255, 256), three were held against Paul of Samosata in Antioch (264–269).
In the beginning of the fourth century three Synods, held at Elvira, Arles, and Ancyra,
deserve special mention, as they approach the character of general councils and prepared the way for the first oecumenical council. They decided no doctrinal question, but passed important canons on church polity and Christian morals. They were convened for the purpose of restoring order and discipline after the ravages of the Diocletian persecution. They deal chiefly with the large class of the Lapsed, and reflect the transition state from the ante-Nicene to the Nicene age. They are alike pervaded by the spirit of clericalism and a moderate asceticism.
1. The Synod of Elvira (Illiberis, or Eliberis, probably on the site of the modern
Granada) was held in 306, and attended by nineteen bishops, and twenty-six presbyters, mostly from the Southern districts of Spain. Deacons and laymen were also present. The
Diocletian persecution ceased in Spain after the abdication of Diocletian and Maximian
Herculeus in 305; while it continued to rage for several years longer in the East under
Galerius and Maximin. The Synod passed eighty-one Latin canons against various forms
of heathen immorality then still abounding, and in favor of church discipline and austere
morals. The Lapsed were forbidden the holy communion even in articulo mortis (can. 1).
This is more severe than the action of the Nicene Synod. The thirty-sixth canon prohibits
the admission of sacred pictures on the walls of the church buildings, and has often
been quoted by Protestants as an argument against image worship as idolatrous; while Roman Catholic writers explain it either as a prohibition of representations of the deity only, or as a prudential measure against heathen desecration of holy things. Otherwise the Synod is thoroughly catholic in spirit and tone. Another characteristic feature is the severity against the Jews who were numerous in Spain. Christians are forbidden to marry Jews.”
When the Gospel Became Expressed In Ritual
After the time of the Lord and following the Apostolic age the conservation of the truth of the message and ways to propagate it evolved together. Ecclesiastical growth and standardized hierarchical rankings increased amidst occasional persecutions alternated between toleration and cooperative support from political leaders. Encounters and conflicts with rival religions, schismatics and heretics, even ultra purist Montanists were phenomenal complexities of a vast new truth permeating the social consciousness of the civilized world. Standardized means of worship and expressions of faith developed. Rules for treating sinners, lapsed members and categories of sin and repentance arose. In some respects ritual competed with the direct relation to Jesus Christ for individuals and even congregations, yet it was an era before modern communications and life was harsh. Hearing the truth of Jesus Christ during a time when the average life span was fewer than 25 years was itself an act of grace.
It is in this complex ecclesiastical evolution that we find the secret discipline and Christian mystery worship. No, these are not the Orphic mysteries and heathenism was withering away although it would cling on in various forms unto the present day. One wonders if Bohemian Grove persons of interest do not express pagan rituals for-themselves. Schaffer writes of the Disciplini Arcanis,
“Besides the communion, the sacrament of baptism, with its accompanying confession,
was likewise treated as a mystery for the initiated, and withdrawn from the view of Jews and heathens. We have here the beginnings of the Christian mystery-worship, or what has been called since 1679 “the Secret Discipline,” (Disciplina Arcani), which is presented in its full development in the liturgies of the fourth century, but disappeared from the Latin church after the sixth century, with the dissolution of heathenism and the universal introduction of infant baptism. The Secret Discipline had reference chiefly to the celebration of the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist, but included also the baptismal symbol, the Lord’s Prayer, and the doctrine of the Trinity. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, and other fathers make a distinction between lower or elementary (exoteric) and higher or deeper (esoteric) doctrines, and state that the latter are withheld from the uninitiated out of reverence and to avoid giving offence to the weak and the heathen. This mysterious reticence, however, does not justify the inference that the Secret Discipline included transubstantiation, purgatory, and other Roman dogmas which are not expressly taught in the writings of the fathers. The argument from silence is set aside by positive proof to the contrary.
Modern Roman archaeologists have pressed the whole symbolism of the Catacombs into the service of the Secret Discipline, but without due regard to the age of those symbolical representations. The origin of the Secret Discipline has been traced by some to the apostolic age, on the ground of the distinction made between “milk for babes” and “strong meat” for those “of full age,” and between speaking to “carnal” and to “spiritual” hearers.39797 But this distinction has no reference to public worship, and Justin Martyr, in his first Apology, addressed to a heathen emperor, describes the celebration of baptism and the eucharist without the least reserve. Others derive the institution from the sacerdotal and hierarchical spirit which appeared in the latter part of the second century, and which no doubt favored and strengthened it; still others, from the Greek and Roman mystery worship, which would best explain many expressions and formulas, together with all sorts of unscriptural pedantries connected with these mysteries. Yet the first motive must be sought rather in an opposition to heathenism; to wit, in the feeling of the necessity of guarding the sacred transactions of Christianity, the embodiment of its deepest truths, against profanation in the midst of a hostile world, according to Matt. 7:6; especially when after Hadrian, perhaps even from the time of Nero, those transactions came to be so shamefully misunderstood and slandered. To this must be added a proper regard for modesty and decency in the administration of adult baptism by immersion. Finally—and this is the chief cause—the institution of the order of catechumens led to a distinction of half-Christians and full-Christians, exoteric and esoteric, and this distinction gradually became established in the liturgy. The secret discipline was therefore a temporary, educational and liturgical expedient of the ante-Nicene age. The catechumenate and the division of the acts of worship grew together and declined to, together. With the disappearance of adult catechumens, or with the general use of infant baptism and the union of church and state, disappeared also the secret discipline in the sixth century: “cessante causa cessat effectus.” The Eastern church, however, has retained in her liturgies to this day the ancient form for the dismission of catechumens, the special prayers for them, the designation of the sacraments as “mysteries,” and the partial celebration of the mass behind the veil; though she also has for centuries had no catechumens in the old sense of the word, that is, adult heathen or Jewish disciples preparing for baptism, except in rare cases of exception, or on missionary ground.”
Jesus Christ as the Turning Point in History
The appearance of Jesus Christ on Earth is said to have occurred at the center of human history. It might fairly be said that it occurred in the middle of Universal history as well. The Universe is about 13.3 billion years old and began accelerating expansion some 5 billion years ago. Space-time and mass are phenomenal states of a monistic field with contingent pluralism within. Like a model physics system that may be evolved or structured in any configuration by the designer-operator the force field parameters of the Universe may be configured by God in any way He wills.
The implicit Universal inertia toward a state of highest entropy would permit something like wiping away the drawing from an etch-a-sketch at the end of time, or clearing out the recycle bin including all of the wickedness and sin of human existence in order that new configurations might arise from the deconstructed through entropy former field of being-in-time reduced to virtual particles. Jesus Christ can allocate different, heavenly destinations for the spiritual patterns or souls of human beings that are saved from the folly of meaningless evolutionary configurationism for-itself.
In a few billion years many third generation stars will have burned out and galaxies will be far more isolated from others because of the expansion of space. Though time literals are just a way of making referent points in the steady state entanglement of waveforms in a Higgs field from a field of uncertainty and are relative coordinates even so the appearance of the Lord in His creation was opportune and central. Before humanity steps off the deep end and scatter about the Universe on gravity field slipping transporters they received the word of God, from God, to take with them, in case they go.
There are of course various theories and ideas about human history and when it started. Most of those theories would need to set a paradigm I would think that considers a human being to be something like today’s human being that is said by archeologists and geneticists to have existed for some 200,000 years and perhaps a percent of that more. Neanderthal’s evidently were capable of abstract though regarding burial yet it was the human invention of arrows that seem to have doomed the other specie believed to have branched off from the future human thread long before. In the history of life on Earth there may have been dozens of hominin species that through a process of elimination left just the human remaining. For at least 17,000 years human beings have been the only hominin on Earth. Chimps are believed to have branched off eight million years before. Humanity is a young race. When they emerged from Eden they were fully human.
If Jesus appeared at the turning point in human history when they had reached abstract sufficient to produce writing and the rudiments of cultural tradition with structures, tools and knowledge compiling regularly there was already a 2000 year history of God’s direction of a religious thought development in Abraham’s line. When the Lord appeared to bring the good news humanity was ready to receive the knowledge of how they could be reconciled to eternal life. It was also the beginning of the end of the classical era of human history that was itself the pinnacle of ancient human civilization.
Where was Eden? It may have been in the Rub al Kali Desert of Saudi Arabia when it was a garden near the end of the Wisconsin Ice Age perhaps 30,000 B.C. Though the empty Mediterranean Sea basin millions of years ago when the Strait of Gibraltar did not exist nearly reached temperatures at the bottom as high as the surface of Venus at 800 degrees Fahrenheit it is not the only worldly environmental region that has changed significantly over time. Before the end of the Wisconsin Ice Age today’s Persian Gulf was far lower than today. So far in fact that on a distant outreach the first Mesopotamian civilization may have formed. It is where Adam and Eve after being cast out of the garden after eating of the tree of knowledge and becoming tillers of soil (Cain) and eventually technocrats might have wandered to.
Though the former Eden became a harsh desert over millennia the proto-civilization Noah and his family lived in was kind and fertile. Yet with global warming and the sea level rising just Noah took a warning seriously to ready for the coming flood tide and sea level increase. Noah’s mud-brick city may have existed below the future sea level that when a flood tide and storm driven surge overcame it was permanently lost and dissolved being now under hundreds of feet of water.
One of the interesting things about the book of Genesis is that it may have been composed by a few authors. The Noah story does resemble that of Gilgamesh quite a lot yet there was probably a common actual event told later in different ways. It signals early on the indeterminacy of translation of history writing from ancient times into modern paradigms without access to data about the original referents. It is possible to place modern evolution theory itself within a number of contingent physical theoretical structures such as exist in contemporary cosmological physics.
Thus one may encounter the issues of decoherence and consistent histories of the steady state mass of the Universe. Detached or decohered from a perfect state of indeterminism and uncertainty that may be construed as the Higgs field or perhaps the Higgs field is itself a phenomenal contingent state of association of force that may potentially become particles regarded as mass. Any state of Universal mass as a field-for-itself by virtue of existing is a decoherent entangled field in which evolution is embedded as a contingent sub-state of the decohered field processing along with its own order and ends.
One wonders of course why the mass of the Universe that has broken symmetry with the uniform particle-wave uncertainty of a host-field would have any space-time evolution except that it follows along generally under thermodynamic principles. Perhaps the initial decohered condition is more ordered than subsequent evolutions of the field that seem perhaps to be a necessary decay of space-time mass. Adam and Eve initially were not evidently subject to the decay of the space-time field and thus may have been not only metaphors for the advance of human beings into a state of incipient readiness to develop a proto-civilization circa 20,000 B.C give or take a few millennia, but they may also have been actual beings phase-changed from a non-temporal environment into the temporal. Jesus Christ seems to have done that himself as Melchisedek on a few occasions, yet unlike Adam and Eve with a permanent finite nature after flunking the temptation Jesus was always with God and eternal.
One wonders how often or if God has restructured his order for evolving human history and if the restructuring or intervention wasn’t pre-determined already (my phrasing does have something of a Yogi Berra-ism about it I guess). An example is in the text Sketches of Church History by J.C. Robinson. The temple just wasn’t supposed to be rebuilt until end times I think…Julian the Apostate sought to do so, quoting Robinson from page 45 of Sketches of Church History From A.D. 33 to the Reformation,
“In his hatred of Christianity, Julian not only tried to restore heathenism, but also showed favour to the Jews. He sent for some of them, and asked why they did not offer sacrifice as their law had ordered? They answered that it was not lawful to sacrifice except in the temple of Jerusalem, which was now in ruins, and did not belong to them, so that they could no longer fulfill the duty of sacrificing. Julian then gave them leave to build the temple up again, and the Jews came together in vast numbers from the different countries into which they had been scattered. Many of them had got great wealth in the lands of their banishment, and it is said that even the women laboured at the work, carrying earth in their rich silken dresses, and that tools of silver were used in the building. The Jews were full of triumph at the thought of being restored to their own land, and of reviving the greatness of David and Solomon. But it was not to be. An earthquake scattered the foundations which had been laid; balls of fire burst forth from the ground, scorching and killing many of the workmen; their tools were melted by lightning; and stories are told of other fearful sights, which put an end to the attempt.”
The church as the bride of Christ is exfiltrated from temporality when all things pass. Thought the Universe fades away the words of Jesus Christ exist forever consistent with their being said by the Creator of the Universe who is eternal. How the non-temporal enters into the line of temporal history that is a solid state Universe with an evolving consistent-histories paradigm (so that the mass of the Universe has a steady state and isn’t too chaotic at the level of fundamental physics) is one of the fundamental challenges for contemporary intellectuals if not for persons of deep faith.
The church is the form that the Lord chose to save those of faith through the passing of time in the course of human history. That brings up the point of why the Lord chose to create human life and save anyone of it from their lost condition of imperfection or broken forms. I will write a little on what I can infer about the divine mechanics of the circumstance especially regarding cosmology.
God is omniscient so he foreknows everything and creates all possible things including Universes. Because God is eternal and spatially free from size scale as well the extension of every possible Universe into every possible form exploits time as well as space within its multi-dimensional configuration. God in creating all things creates intelligence for His beings existing independently and thinking for-themselves though with finite capacity.
A universe with just dumb animals might more interesting than one with inanimate mass from the Divine point of view, who can say? God may have created super-intellectual beings in the process of creating all forms of beings and some of those went wrong morally speaking. Are less than omniscient beings simpler to instruct in moral and intelligent rules compatible with rational existence? Would God create all possible grades of intellect in order to create all things?
In multiverse theory one version has every possible Universe and form of Universe arising into existence through serialized permutations consistent with the dynamics of an evolving field. It’s just a theory, though one compatible with Darwinian evolution paradigms, yet also compatible with the paradigm of omnipotent and omniscient Creator whom would necessarily contain or embody all possible forms of existence including phases of their temporal manifestation as space-time. Space-time Universes in temporal actualization would be just one aspect of God’s being.
Satan even revolted seeking to become God for-himself. In creating all beings even such as would create self-defined challenges for God on the way the evolution of varieties and forms of hominins in various states of being and intellectual capacity was logical. God designed a generous way to extricate those of faith from the condition of faithlessness and moral depravity that the endemic false-consciousness of the world has got them mired in. When the historical conditions were ripe for the appearance of the Lord and before technology developed too far the foundation of the church of Jesus Christ was placed with the Apostle Peter being one of the corner stones.
Peter and the Apostle to the Gentiles Paul (d. 67 A.D.) were probably purged by Nero after the burning of Rome in 64 A.D. when Christians were falsely blamed for the fire by the opera singing Emperor/wrestling referee and animal skin wearing claw-the bound human victim to death head of state who began a persecution. The early church had its struggles with survival during the apostolic era after the crucifixion and ascension of our Lord. Yet the church’s glory outweighed its sufferings and the martyred became inspirations for Christians of all ages with their valor as much as or greater than that of the greatest found in war.
The human population of the world in the time of Christ was about 200 million equal approximately to that of the United States of America in 1970. Human history at the time was comprised of civilization going back to about 6000-8000 B.C. in Mesopotamia although the below a Persian Gulf proto-civilization may have existed as long ago as 15,000 to 25,000 B.C. Roman civilization was the last of the classical age that capped the succession of ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia. In the east the Shang dynasty of China started about 2,500 B.C. and in the Americas the first civilizations began somewhere around the year 0 although human settlements began far earlier, as long ago as 30,000 B.C. Interestingly mitochondrial D.N.A. traces found that the genome of aboriginal Americans of the pre-Columbian era has from 10 to 15% European content. Christianity and Christian churches developed as a foundation for the post-classic era of human history. In virtually every European country the leaders over time were converted to the Christian faith and the gospel taken to all of the nations of the Earth. The greater problem in fact was in separating church from state sufficiently to prevent the corruption of ecclesiastical structures by worldly political powers.
When Eastern Roman Empire Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 313 A.D. following a sign in the sky at the battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 the Christian church was given an end to its persecutions that were something like ultra-vicious anti-Jewish pogroms that have recurred throughout history. In the first few decades of the era of the early church Christian membership went up an estimated 40% a decade. Bishops and presbyters were appointed eventually numbering hundreds and thousands. These were first targets for the persecutions, more about which will be said later. The late historian and philosopher Will Durant remarked that Christianity was more attractive than paganism to people with a more humane sentiment. That may be so yet it was also the power of the Holy Spirit following Pentecost that drew the elect to the word of God and the Son Jesus Christ.
The interwoven documentation of the early church, the Apostle and of other Christians such Clement of Rome- a first century bishop, is an well attested thread of chhurch history. Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch were additional Apostolic fathers who knew one or more of the Apostles themselves. The Apostle John living in Ephesus and the prison isle of Patmos may have lived to the year 105 A.D. Before his death about 160 A.D. Irenaeus referred to a four gospel tetramorph.
During the period of Roman occupation of Britain that began with the invasion of Julius Caesar the gospel of Jesus Christ arrived and the first Christian martyr, a good and plain man named Alban was beheaded by the Roman authority for sheltering a priest in his home and replacing him even unto arrest during a persecution. The city was commemorated with the name St. Albans. The details of particular Christian churches and Christians comprise a field for lifetime research and scholarly specialization. I shall only outline a few points and fill in details on a little more.
Christianity also reached Ireland. St. Patrick is honored as the first priest to make converts on the island and it was indeed a worthy effort returning great rewards. Irish monks from remote islands with a Celtic version of Christian were later to found monasteries and centers of learning across Western Europe during the dark ages after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. There is a good book on the topic named How the Irish Saved Civilization.
There were innumerable heretical doctrines and false teachings in the early church not to surprisingly. The good news had to be brought from the Lord to the Apostles, Bishops presbyters and sundry people of diverse towns in the pre-electronic, before the printing press, two or three centuries before Attila the Hun brought quick military horsemanship quickness of travel to the Roman and ancient world. The council of Nicea met in 325 A.D. to counter the false doctrines and establish a normative Christology creating what is today known as the Nicene Creed. Jesus was fully God and fully human. Constantine built a great Eastern Empire capital city at the site of Byzantium on the Bosporus endowing it with churches that would serve as a center for the rise of the Eastern Orthodox Church and translators of the Bible such as. St. Cyril to go on founding missionary journeys bringing the gospel message and the Cyrillic alphabet to the Rus. Apropos since the aleph beth was invented possibly by Moses as a result of his training as an Egyptian prince who learned hieroglyphics and also the Hebrew language-a likely synthesizer of phonetic writing. The word of God over the course of human history has literally arisen now and then as the power for the origin of a written language.
God seems to have preferred democracy as the normal human form of government. A government of peers seems a better style for the subjects of omnipotent God would like his creations to be as mindful, spiritual and good as possible. Humanity however seems to prefer kings or chaos, anarchy or authoritarianism. When the Jews had finally secured their homeland they demanded a king to rule over them. God wanted an ecclesiastical state with a democracy and a Levitical priesthood yet the people wanted a king. God condescended to let them have their way and sent them Saul who was out looking for his ass and couldn’t find it. Instead he found a Jews wanting a king. It is somewhat ironic that the longest lasting large democracy on the planet, the U.S.A. had it’s slain negro civil right’s leader given a day of honor greater than Washington’s or Lincoln’s birthdays. King Day (the MLK holiday) is primary to the demoted dual occupancy President’s day. Christ’s birthday is followed by Kwanza (and mine own).It’s funny how human nature conforms things to development of a usual direction even if with good intensions; that of oligarchy, autocracy and chaos. The ideal of democratic government for the Jews appeared nearly a thousand years later in Athens with its demos and in the adopted Jews grafted onto the branch in a Christian ekklēsia- a priesthood of believers that itself would occassionally evolve away from egalitarianism and toward hierarchial classes sometime synonymous with state authorities.
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Augustine and the Evolution of Establishment Ideas
Augustine of Hippo in North Africa was perhaps the most influential of post-Apostolic Christian philosopher-theologians. Born 13 November 354 – Died 28 August 430. Augustine only reluctantly assumed the responsibilities of a Bishop of the Church. During the course of his life he read Manichaeism and neo-Platonism. Augustine was a public educator with an avocation in philosophy. He was to encounter the works of Porphyry and Plotinus as well as reading of the life of Anthony of the Desert. Augustine’s philosophical and spiritual search for the truth before settling upon Christianity brought him to a theologically mature position from which to consider the nature of Christ and God, original sin and the temporal world.
The settling of the Christian Church in a post chiliastic posture centered in expectation of the immanent return of Christ created several issues of a who-are-we-as-Christians and how-are-we-to-live-issues. Differing opinions on Christology, the filoque and on Ebionite-Donatist-Montanist matters of legalistic, behavioral righteousness that can be considered doctrine of the Lord’s grace versus human works postures were resolved by Augustine’s insights. While his contemporary Jerome translated the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin- known as the Vulgate edition- Augustine wrote great works of practical and theoretical theology that still inform Christians of something of the nature of Christ as one of three personalities of one God. That point has been illustrated by comparison to human cognitive dialectical development. Neurologically speaking the mind is a composite of innumerable datum. God transcends that sort of parts vs. the whole paradigm.
The Alexandrian School of philosophy and theology was one of the best of the ancient world. Plotinus was born about 207 and lived to about 270 A.D. Because Christian patristic theology was also contemporary in Alexandria (Clement, Origen, and Athanasius were from Alexandria) Plotinus would have been exposed to Christian thought as well as that of Plato. As a well-read individual Christian investigations of Christology would have crossed his path. Instead of developing a rival system Plotinus developed an explanatory theory about the nature of God that was stimulate thought for two millennia.
Hedonism fell into a crisis and was rudely cast out of its temples in Alexandria culminating at the Temple of Serapis in A.D. 391. Though the Alexandrian school was already well-established in theological investigations before the heathen crisis with philosophers such as Philo as well as the wealth of religious thought from the region, and with Christianity drawing so many to One God, the Enneads are a reasonable inductive response to the challenges presented in the heathen crisis to confusion of belief and the plethora of religious systems historically forced top down from an invading ruler upon conquered subject people.
Augustine’s theological contributions surpassed the unconsolidated condition of the ancient world adaptations and synthetic interpretive errors of Christians following Pelagianism, Arianism and so forth. Augustine understood that Jesus was fully God and yet was fully human. That is God could emerge through the human nature of the Lord, hence the Lord was not subject to original sin. Though Augustine worked on defining what comprised original sin, I think it might be the temporal condition of mankind implicitly within a field of entropy. It’s the nature of the criterion.
God is eternal; resurrection of the Lord was inevitable. Jesus wasn’t limited to the phenomenal field constituency of the temporal Universe.
The Church as a Politically Transcendent Habitat for Humanity
As the church grew through the first, second and third centuries A.D. it was alternately tolerated and persecuted by the Roman Empire. Ordinary people found the gospel remarkable. Christianity was realistically the political liberalism of the era though there were conservative movements such as Montanism within the church itself. Christianity church doctrines adapting to worldlyness in the establishment of a church associated with governing rulers sometimes had its leadership at least nominally usurped by political rulers persenting many paradoxes to believers viewed retrospectively.
Later as the decadent Roman Empire withered away and fell to energetic Goths, Vandals and other Germanic tribes the Eastern Empire of Constantine and his heirs in Asia Minor and North Africa were challenged by internal and external corruption, schism, Huns and Osmanli and the Umayyad. The Omar’s Caliphate would invade the Iberian Peninsula stimulating development of military technology on the marches.
In some ways the ancient world experienced its end and a new world began with the rise of Europe and the emergence of Muhammad in the early 7th century. Then a new era known as the dark ages arrived in which were conceived the fundamental political parameters of the modern world. The Christian Church grew into many millions of believers as all of these political changes occurred around them.
Human social organizations including those of Christians have a substantial element of original sin within their membership. Thus contests for investiture and leadership, for wealth, land and political power found way into the church in old world and new. Pope Urban ordered the first crusade. The Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church was appointed by the Tsar. Maryland was a colony with its episcopate appointed at the King’s pleasure. Christianity drifted into an hierarchially ordered ossified structure fusing with political movements on occasion entering into what Augustine called the City of Man without sufficient thought for the City of God. It is the City of God expressed by Christians in a priesthood of believers that brings the world toward a better direction rather than vice versa.
Reform of the church to an egalitarian priesthood of believers was desirable yet generally unknown. Most people were illiterate and the Bible often written in a foregin language. Authority ecclesiastical structures were inevitable methods necessary to promulgate true doctrine for believers even as theology evolved in a way comparable to that of philosophy and science
It is said that some Montanists weren’t antipathetic to priesthood of believers structure, yet Montanism required a kind of worldly perfection unknown except for a few ascetics in deserts. That would be less than practical approach for general urban assemblies. While the early church had its faults it did bring the gospel forward through history. It would require a future, technologically advanced time for millions of souls to gather in priesthood of believers paradigms with simple beginner, intermediate and elder ranks.
End Times Theory (Eschatology) and Resurrection
Of end times theories and beliefs of the early church I will say little. Augustine was a chiliast himself believing in the 1000 year reign before a second resurrection described in the Revelation chapter 20. It became evident that the Roman Empire was merging toward acceptance of Christianity instead of being in opposition to it so new interpretations of when a thousand year reign would occur were wonted. The various persecutions had given way to an edict of toleration.
Shaffer writes on page 527 of History of the Christian Church Volume 2,
“Christianity—and human life itself, with its countless problems and mysteries—has no
meaning without the certainty of a future world of rewards and punishments, for which the present life serves as a preparatory school. Christ represents himself as “the Resurrection and the Life,” and promises “eternal life” to all who believe in Him. On his resurrection the church is built, and without it the church could never have come into existence. The resurrection of the body and the life everlasting are among the fundamental articles of the early baptismal creeds. The doctrine of the future life, though last in the logical order of systematic theology, was among the first in the consciousness of the Christians, and an unfailing source of comfort and strength in times of trial and persecution. It stood in close connection with the expectation of the Lord’s glorious reappearance. It is the subject of Paul’s first Epistles, those to the Thessalonians, and is prominently discussed in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians. He declares the Christians “the most pitiable,” because the most deluded and uselessly self-sacrificing, “of all men,” if their hope in Christ were confined to this life.”
Shaffer writes on page 532 HCC V.2,
“we must distinguish, in this mysterious article, what is of faith, and what is private opinion and speculation. The return of Christ to judgment with its eternal rewards and punishment is the centre of the eschatological faith of the church. The judgment is preceded by the general resurrection, and followed by life everlasting. This faith is expressed in the oecumenical creeds.
The Apostles’ Creed: “He shall come to judge the quick and the dead,” and “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.”
The Nicene Creed: “He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.” “And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”
The Athanasian Creed, so called, adds to these simple statements a damnatory clause at the beginning, middle, and end, and makes salvation depend on belief in the orthodox catholic doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation, as therein stated. But that document is of much later origin, and cannot be traced beyond the sixth century. The liturgies which claim apostolic or post-apostolic origin, give devotional expression to the same essential points in the eucharistic sacrifice.
The Clementine liturgy: “Being mindful, therefore, of His passion and death, and resurrection from the dead, and return into the heavens, and His future second appearing, wherein He is to come with glory and power to judge the quick and the dead, and to recompense to every one according to his works.”
The liturgy of James: “His second glorious and awful appearing, when He shall come with glory to judge the quick and the dead, and render to every one according to his works.”
The liturgy of Mark: “His second terrible and dreadful coming, in which He will come to judge righteously the quick and the dead, and to render to each man according to his works.”
All that is beyond these revealed and generally received articles must be left free.”
Shaffer writes in HCC V.2, pps 549-550
“Augustin, who himself had formerly entertained chiliastic hopes, framed the new theory which reflected the social change, and was generally accepted. The apocalyptic millennium he understood to be the present reign of Christ in the Catholic church, and the first resurrection, the translation of the martyrs and saints to heaven, where they participate in Christ’s reign.”
It’s interesting to consider some of the Apostle John’s Revelation time literals/values and prophetic paradigmata in modern parameters of cosmological understanding inclusive of Einstein’s ideas on space-time relativity. In John’s time most people (besides some Greeks such as Aristarchus with a theory about the size and shape of Earth) hadn’t accurate data on selected mechanics of the solar system or Universe). Of course John was writing on Divine Mechanics rather than material mechanics. It seems at times that John saw into the near and distant future simultaneously without perhaps understanding or venturing to provide metrics of technical details of physics. Perhaps that is a characteristic of prophecy; the receiver of a message doesn’t necessarily have full knowledge about everything disclosed.
Augustin’s Chiliastic parameters with the new physics boundaries for the 1000 year reign of Revelation chapter 20 allow this interpretation…
If one accepts Peter’s value of a day to God being as a thousand years then isn’t a thousand years for God as 365 billion years to mankind (365 days per God year x 1000 man-years x 1000)? If one gives John’s 1000 God-years the equivalence of 365 billion man-years then that is about the time of the Universe when many stars will have burned out and galaxies drifted so far apart that communication between them becomes impossible because of speed of light limitation.
John speaks in chapter 20 of seeing souls of those martyred reigning with Christ during this time. Living Christians would be priests, perhaps as all Christians are theoretically equals as priests in a priesthood of believers. A God millennium without Satan loose would comprise much of the materially useful evolution time paradigm of the thermodynamic steady state mass that is regarded as the Universe. At the end of that time-the end of the age of the Gentiles, Satan would be briefly loosed, subdued and the final judgment ensue.
Then a new Earth/Urth/steady state thermodynamically rewound field would be regenerated for those believers saved through by the grace of the Lord.
Shaffer writes on chiliasm HCC V.2 545-548 (slightly edited for brevity),
“The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is the prominent
chiliasm, or millenarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth
with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment.
It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius; while Caius, Origen,
Dionysius the Great, Eusebius (as afterwards Jerome and Augustin) opposed it.
The Jewish chiliasm rested on a carnal misapprehension of the Messianic kingdom, a literal interpretation of prophetic figures, and an overestimate of the importance of the Jewish people and the holy city as the centre of that kingdom. It was developed shortly before and after Christ in the apocalyptic literature, as the Book of Enoch, the Apocalypse of Baruch, 4th Esdras, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the Sibylline Books. It was adopted by the heretical sect of the Ebionites, and the Gnostic Cerinthus.
The Christian chiliasm is the Jewish chiliasm spiritualized and fixed upon the second,
instead of the first, coming of Christ. It distinguishes, moreover, two resurrections, one before and another after the millennium, and makes the millennial reign of Christ only a prelude to his eternal reign in heaven, from which it is separated by a short interregnum of Satan. The millennium is expected to come not as the legitimate result of a historical process but as a sudden supernatural revelation. The advocates of this theory appeal to the certain promises of the Lord, but particularly to the hieroglyphic passage of the Apocalypse, which teaches a millennial reign of Christ upon this earth after the first resurrection and before the creation of the new heavens and the new earth. In connection with this the general expectation prevailed that the return of the Lord was near, though uncertain and unascertainable as to its day and hour, so that believers may be always ready for it. This hope, through the whole age of persecution, was a copious fountain of encouragement and comfort under the pains of that martyrdom which sowed in blood the seed of a bountiful harvest for the church.
Among the Apostolic Fathers Barnabas is the first and the only one who expressly teaches a pre-millennial reign of Christ on earth. He considers the Mosaic history of the creation a type of six ages of labor for the world, each lasting a thousand years, and of a millennium of rest; since with God “one day is as a thousand years.” The millennial Sabbath on earth will be followed by an eighth and eternal day in a new world, of which the Lord’s Day (called by Barnabas “the eighth day”) is the type.
Papias of Hierapolis, a pious but credulous contemporary of Polycarp, entertained
quaint and extravagant notions of the happiness of the millennial reign, for which he appealed to apostolic tradition. He put into the mouth of Christ himself a highly figurative description of the more than tropical fertility of that period, which is preserved and approved by Irenaeus, but sounds very apocryphal.
Justin Martyr represents the transition from the Jewish Christian to the Gentile
Christian chiliasm. He speaks repeatedly of the second parousia of Christ in the clouds of heaven, surrounded by the holy angels. It will be preceded by the near manifestation of the man of sin (ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας) who speaks blasphemies against the most high God, and will rule three and a half years. He is preceded by heresies and false prophets.1167167 Christ will then raise the patriarchs, prophets, and pious Jews, establish the millennium, restore Jerusalem, and reign there in the midst of his saints; after which the second and general resurrection and judgment of the world will take place. He regarded this expectation of the earthly perfection of Christ’s kingdom as the key-stone of pure doctrine, but adds that many pure and devout Christians of his day did not share this opinion. After the millennium the world will be annihilated, or transformed.
In his two Apologies, Justin teaches the usual view of the general resurrection and judgment, and makes no mention of the millennium, but does not exclude it. The other Greek Apologists are silent on the subject, and cannot be quoted either for or against chiliasm.
Irenaeus, on the strength of tradition from St. John and his disciples, taught that
after the destruction of the Roman empire, and the brief raging of antichrist (lasting three
and a half years or 1260 days), Christ will visibly appear, will bind Satan, will reign at the
rebuilt city of Jerusalem with the little band of faithful confessors and the host of risen
martyrs over the nations of the earth, and will celebrate the millennial sabbath of preparation for the eternal glory of heaven; then, after a temporary liberation of Satan, follows the final victory, the general resurrection, the judgment of the world, and the consummation in the new heavens and the new earth.
Tertullian was an enthusiastic Chiliast, and pointed not only to the Apocalypse, but
also to the predictions of the Montanist prophets.1172172 But the Montanists substituted
Pepuza in Phrygia for Jerusalem, as the centre of Christ’s reign, and ran into fanatical excesses, which brought chiliasm into discredit, and resulted in its condemnation by several synods in Asia Minor.
After Tertullian, and independently of Montanism, chiliasm was taught by Commodian
towards the close of the third century, Lactantius, and Victorinus of
Petau, at the beginning of the fourth. Its last distinguished advocates in the East were
Methodius (d., a martyr, 311), the opponent of Origen, and Apollinaris of Laodicea
We now turn to the anti-Chiliasts. The opposition began during the Montanist
movement in Asia Minor. Caius of Rome attacked both Chiliasm and Montanism, and
traced the former to the hated heretic Cerinthus. The Roman church seems never to have sympathized with either, and prepared itself for a comfortable settlement and normal development in this world. In Alexandria, Origen opposed chiliasm as a Jewish dream, and spiritualized the symbolical language of the prophets. His distinguished pupil, Dionysius the Great (d. about 264), checked the chiliastic movement when it was revived by Nepos in Egypt, and wrote an elaborate work against it, which is lost. He denied the Apocalypse to the apostle John, and ascribed it to a presbyter of that name. Eusebius inclined to the same view.
But the crushing blow came from the great change in the social condition and prospects
of the church in the Nicene age. After Christianity, contrary to all expectation, triumphed
in the Roman empire, and was embraced by the Caesars themselves, the millennial
reign, instead of being anxiously waited and prayed for, began to be dated either from the first appearance of Christ, or from the conversion of Constantine and the downfall of paganism, and to be regarded as realized in the glory of the dominant imperial state-church.
Augustin, who himself had formerly entertained chiliastic hopes, framed the new theory which reflected the social change, and was generally accepted. The apocalyptic millennium he understood to be the present reign of Christ in the Catholic church, and the first resurrection, the translation of the martyrs and saints to heaven, where they participate in Christ’s reign. It was consistent with this theory that towards the close of the first millennium of the Christian era there was a wide-spread expectation in Western Europe that the final judgment was at hand.
From the time of Constantine and Augustin chiliasm took its place among the
heresies, and was rejected subsequently even by the Protestant reformers as a Jewish
dream. But it was revived from time to time as an article of faith and hope by pious individuals and whole sects, often in connection with historic pessimism, with distrust in mission work, as carried on by human agencies, with literal interpretations of prophecy, and with peculiar notions about Antichrist, the conversion and restoration of the Jews, their return to the Holy Land, and also with abortive attempts to calculate “the times and seasons” of the Second Advent, which “the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:7), and did not choose to reveal to his own Son in the days of his flesh. In a free spiritual sense, however, millenarianism will always survive as the hope of a golden age of the church on earth, and of a great sabbath of history after its many centuries of labor and strife. The church militant ever longs after the church triumphant, and looks “for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13). “There remaineth a sabbath rest for the people of God.””
An Incomplete List of Church Fathers
Clement of Rome
Ignatius of Antioch
Polycarp of Smyrna
Ephrem the Syrian
Tertullian 160-225 (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus)
Cyprian of Carthage dies 258 Bishop-Martyr
Hilary of Poitiers 300-368 Bishop-‘Hammer of the Arians’
Ambrose of Milan 340-397
Pope Damasus I 305-384
Jerome of Stridonium 347-420 translator of Bible into Latin from Greek &Hebrew
Augustine of Hippo 354-430
Pope Gregory the Great 540-604
Isidore of Seville
Irenaeus of Lyons
Clement of Alexandria
Origen of Alexandria
Athanasius of Alexandria
John Chrysostom 347-407 Archbishop of Constantinople in 5th Century. Credited with writing the anaphora/Eucharistic prayer of the Byzantine liturgy. Anaphora means carrying back or offering up. In the Septuagint the word was used for bringing a sacrificial victim to the altar. Eloquent speaker, served in a contentious Constantinople late in life.
Cyril of Alexandria
Maximus the Confessor
John of Damascus
Desert Fathers (Monastic Retreats)
Popes of Rome
Shaffer from Vol. 2 of History of the Christian Church, the Ante-Nicene era writes of the earliest popes of Rome that,
“The oldest links in the chain of Roman bishops are veiled in impenetrable darkness. Tertullian and most of the Latins (and the pseudo-Clementina), make Clement (Phil. 4:3), the first successor of Peter; but Irenaeus, Eusebius, and other Greeks, also Jerome and the Roman Catalogue, give him the third place, and put Linus (2 Tim. 4:21), and Anacletus (or Anincletus), between him and Peter. In some lists Cletus is substituted for Anacletus, in others the two are distinguished. Perhaps Linus and Anacletus acted during the life time of Paul and Peter as assistants or presided only over one part of the church, while Clement may have had charge of another branch; for at that early day, the government of the congregation composed of Jewish and Gentile Christian elements was not so centralized as it afterwards became. Furthermore, the earliest fathers, with a true sense of the distinction between the apostolic and episcopal offices, do not reckon Peter among the bishops of Rome at all; and the Roman Catalogue in placing Peter in the line of bishops, is strangely regardless of Paul, whose independent labors in Rome are attested not only by tradition, but by the clear witness of his own epistles and the book of Acts. Lipsius, after a laborious critical comparison of the different catalogues of popes, arrives at the conclusion that Linus, Anacletus, and Clement were Roman presbyters (or presbyter-bishops in the N. T. sense of the term), at the close of the first century, Evaristus and Alexander presbyters at the beginning of the second, Xystus I. (Latinized: Sixtus), presbyter for ten years till about 128, Telesphorus for eleven years, till about 139, and next successors diocesan bishops.”
The Interregnum of Civilization & Transition to the Dark Age
The final century of the old world age of civilizations might be held to be the 6th century. Benedict clears a vestigial sacred heathen grove and founds a monastery at Mount Cassino in 529-the same year Emperor Justinian ordered closure of the philosophy schools (e.g. The Academy) of Athens. There was a great controversy in Christology with Monophysite and Catholic opinions following the Council of Chalcedon (451) so far as to precipitate a schism between East and Western branches of the church. Nestorianism is also a problem for some theologians, the Western Roman Empire has finally fallen in 476 and Western European nations were only slowly developing as local imperial realms. Numerous local, secular wars arise. The Church itself sometimes becomes a partner of powerful rulers in the final century before Islam would sweep across North Africa and begin a theocratic assault on Africa, Europe and Asia Minor for more than a thousand years.
Greek was the lingua franca for the first five centuries of the Christian Church. It might be said that entry into the dark ages was a period of gestation, turmoil and transition to local languages and in the west the Latin language while savage yet nominally Christian kings led marauding armies and formed the trappings of feudal societies. Even so, the nascent conditions for reformation and the modern world were established.
The Emperor Justinian built up the physical structure of Byzantine civilization with splendor yet a famous monk visited his palace, got a look at him, turned and left saying that he had seen Satan. While Justinian was constructing great buildings a famine struck the Empire. People learned to hate the Evil Empire. Due to his maladministration tens of millions needlessly died. He married an Empress named Theodora who had once had sex in public with a legion of men during her career as a prostitute before marrying the Emperor. Historians have pointed out that the Byzantine civilization produced few good writers and was one of the most bureaucratic. It was a sort of coelacanth lasting until the 15th century bridging much of the transition from the old world to the new. It gave Vikings somewhere so spend their loot. Muslims catapulted plague-invested rats over its walls.
The old world was aching for the new. Christianity would sort out its theological controversies amidst a simultaneous secular social chaos of civilization. When Attila the Hun visited Byzantium and Italy for war, when his ultra-fast horsemen made battle in France lassoing troops of a Roman legion under the direction of a rebel general there were consequences for believers as well. When corrupt secular forces disorganize and destabilize civil order Christians also experience increased material stress. Secular wickedness is not invariably banal as Hannah Arendt described the bureaucrat Heinrich Himmler.
Jesus is the light in the darkness providing faith, hope and love through the midst of the troubles of the dark ages. The old civilizations and remaining heathenism withered with the end of Empire and/or the scourge of Islam. From Persia to Egypt and Asia Minor the deaths of infidels was to be profound.