Origen of Alexandria lived between 185 - 254 AD. He was an influential early Christian theologian. He was a prolific writer, but probably best known for his writing On First Principles. Gnosticism sought to sow seeds of confusion among the faithful. Very little existed in the way of doctrinal conformity and consistency from around the small, scattered Christian communities. What Origen attempted to do was to introduce a "Christian system" that was more intellectually presentable, unified, and credible. While he was an ardent critic of paganism, he also borrowed aspects of it that he found useful, adapting these to Christian teaching as he worked to develop a comprehensive, unified representation of a Christian "religion," as opposed to a simple Christian way of life.
He was born to Christian parents, but his father was martyred in 203 AD during a wave of intense Christian persecutions unleashed during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus (193 - 211 AD). He became head of the Alexandrian catechetical school under the authority of the bishop Demetrius. It was later that Origen was said to have castrated himself so that he could work with female students, but historians do not agree on this.
He began preaching and writing prodigiously, and his reputation grew. He came to be in high demand as a preacher which his bishop disapproved of, given that he was an independent lay teacher. Demetrius became especially incensed when Origen traveled to Caesarea in Roman Palestinae. Origin, in his writings, was the first to use the word, homoousion, but in a non-trinitarian context. It is clear from his writings, that he considered the Son's divinity lesser than the Father's. He even refers to the Son as a creature (created being). He held the subordinationist view which was the predominate view in the pre-Nicene period of Christian theological development.
From Caesarea he traveled to Greece, but before he left Caesarea he was ordained as a presbyter, a fact that infuriated Demetrius even more as he hadn't been consulted. While in Greece Origen openly debated a follower of the heretic Valentinus who claimed that all are predestined to salvation or damnation beyond personal volition, arguing on the grounds that Satan is beyond redemption. Origen responded that if Satan fell outside of personal volition, even he can repent. Predestination is a concept that would be promoted later by no less than John Calvin of reformationist fame.
Demetrius was so offended by some of the doctrinal views being expressed by Origen, he agitated for a church synod to condemn his former Alexandrian colleague. The synod (232 CE) was only partially successful as some bishops, including that of Caesarea, rejected the claims of Demetrius. Afterwards Origen returned to Caesarea where his school attracted many students. During the persecution under Emperor Trajan Decius (249 - 251) Origen was imprisoned and tortured. He survived for several more years, however, and died in 254. He was laid to rest in Tyre.
His teachings were heavily influenced by the Greek philosophers. His Christian beliefs were couched in Platonist, Stoic, and Aristotelian philosophies concerning cosmic understanding and the essential nature of things. He developed a cosmological view which he believed was in full accord with scripture. A brief and clumsy synopsis would go something like this:
God was pure reason. Temporal, material things were of insignificant importance compared with ideas and will. Origen also held to the idea of preexistent souls. Before the creation of the world, God had created a vast number of spiritual beings which were, at first, totally devoted to the love of the creator. Over time the greater number of them grew weary with an existence of contemplation and their love cooled off. Those whose love had diminished the most became the demons who lived in complete defiance of the creator. Those whose love had diminished to a lesser extant eventually were incarnated as fleshly bodies on the earth. Those that maintained their love, though imperfectly, became angels in God's service. Only one, who maintained perfect devotion to the creator, became, by love, one with the Word of God. Eventually the Word or Logos was made incarnate as the God-Man, Jesus Christ.
The many diverse conditions into which humans are born, according to Origen, are contingent on how their souls lived in the preexistent life. Whether a person is born into poverty or wealth, sickness or health, quick witted or slow, etc., is a consequence of the free-will of these disembodied souls. In his day, Origen was constrained by no dogmatic creed, only the words of available scripture to which he felt free to apply other concepts and philosophies. The vanity of man notwithstanding, he believed human reason, inspired by the divine Word, was able to pierce the secret depths of the divine nature of God.
But was this the purpose of Yeshua's ministry? The Christian religion had strayed a long ways from its Jewish foundational roots in a relatively short time. Rather than standing distinctly separate from the world, this new religion was embracing much of the world's errors. Largely in the form of abstractions rooted in Greek philosophy and traditions rooted in paganism. In Nicaea (325 AD) many of these errors would, sadly, be more clearly articulated within a Christian context, and adopted as orthodox doctrine of the Nicene church.
though this path incited many impassioned disputes among the scattered congregations. Christianity was gradually, no longer seeing itself as a branch of Judaism, but rather as a religious order standing distinctly separate and apart from its Jewish foundation (see corrupting the early church).
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the 'outside' world does not share their values, are alienated from God, and hostile to His purposes as well as His chosen people. In the Judeo-Christian tradition the 'world' embodies evil, violence, and chaos. The 'world' is understood to be governed by Satan, and the early years of the post-apostolic church was Satan's playground, influencing, laying a groundwork of seditious sabotage meant to lead the unsuspecting congregation astray.
Yeshua did not dispute that Satan had authority over the world. The world chases after the lusts of the heart for power, wealth and sexual indulgence. It has little respect for the value of human life and hates the very concept of a moralistic judgmentalism that might emanate from some supreme being they do not know and do not want to know. Those caught in the grip of worldly greed and depravity are seen as lost to Satanic influences.
The values of the Messiah, on the other hand, were largely expressed in the "Beatitudes" (Matthew 5). These put an emphasis on virtue, righteousness, kindness, and faith. Love of God and love of neighbor. The difficulty was in living life in the one world, surrounded and hard-pressed by the influences and malevolence of the greater world.
The early Christians found themselves having to stand firm in the face of persecution which came first from the Jewish communities, but as Christianity spread, Jewish persecution was superseded by that of the pagan and civil institutions of the Roman Empire. The pagan priesthoods hated the encroachment of the Christians who were beginning to make inroads into the province of pagan influence. The Christians mocked their deities and showed no respect for their traditions. The pagans, however, would never surrender their hold on cultural dominance throughout the empire without first pulling out all the stops against the interlopers. They had the authority of religious law on their side, and were thus able to marshal the imperial power of Rome against the Christians.
The emperor in these days was known as the Pontifex Maximus of the pagan church. He was the bridge builder that connected the ordinary people with the gods. It was the emperor's favor with the gods that guaranteed the preservation of the empire. A simple sacrifice of offering incense on a pagan alter coupled with an oath to the emperor's spirit was considered sufficient for a Christian that had been detained, to gain his freedom. Refusing to perform this act was considered a lack of respect for the gods, including the emperor. Once identified, a Christian would face arrest, torture, death, even being given to wild beasts in an amphitheater for the entertainment of the mobs. If the condemned was a Roman citizen, though, the punishment was the more dignified sentence of beheading. In time the numbers of martyrs began to swell to such an extent that it became embarrassing, even to the pagan Romans, especially given the fact that the ranks of Christians only continued to grow.
Nero was the fifth Roman emperor. He came to power through a series of palace murders, some committed by him and some by his manipulative mother on his behalf. Poison was the weapon of choice. He was only 17 when he assumed the throne in the year 54 AD. At this time the Temple was still standing in Jerusalem. Up until this time the Roman government didn't really see any difference between Jews and Christians, but the distinction become more prominent under his rule. In the early years of his reign, he had little or no interest in these unpopular religious groups. However, after the great fire of 64 and the desolation of the center of Rome, curiously, something of a pivotal turning point arrived for the early Christians.
Christians had already become well known, and had managed to alienate many of the authorities around the empire. While the Jews had long since mastered the art of maintaining a low profile when living amongst heathen populations, the Christians had been given the commission to proselytize, to declare the good news, which kept them out in the open and in the public eye. Some of the more zealous were known to make hissing sounds as they walked past pagan temples.
It is not known how the great fire started, but many were complaining that it was started by Nero himself, or on his orders. These assertions spread quickly because in the aftermath he had immediately begun an enormous reconstruction plan, as if the plans had already been on the drawing board. The reconstruction project was considered extravagant even by imperial standards.
The Roman populace was outraged by these scandalous allegations, and so to deflect the blame for the fire, Nero redirected it against the Christian community, imputing the charge of arson upon them as a convenient and plausible scapegoat. By this action, the emperor was singling out and identifying the Christians as enemies of Rome, and effectively granting his tacit approval for persecution of the unpopular religious sect. This was when the vicious, inhumane treatment of Christians began to take a turn for the worse. Nero was even rumored to have Christians soaked in oil and lit on fire in his garden at night for the light they provided. If they wanted to be lights to the world, then the emperor was happy to oblige. While the early years were relatively benign, the later years of Nero's rule were incredibly dark days for the faithful. It was against this backdrop that the early, post-apostolic church elders devised the framework and development of the Lord's church.
Justin, son of Priscus, acquired a new name upon his death. Justin Martyr lived during a period of intense debate concerning elements of Christian orthodoxy. The exact years of his birth and death are unknown and can only be estimated, perhaps born around the year 100 CE. Roughly, he was active about a hundred years after Nero, during the reign of Antonius Pius (138-161). He was a contemporary of Irenaeus at a time when attacks on the nascent church were shifting from the physical aggressions of murderous persecution to more of an intellectual badgering from Greek philosophers, historians, and other defenders of the Greco-Roman culture.
He was born in Samaria to a pagan family. Moving to Ephesus, he studied with teachers of several different schools. He became conversant in the schools of Stoic philosophy, Aristotelian, Pythagorean, and Platonist. He found much to admire in the great philosophers, particularly in Plato and Socrates whom he was convinced would have been great Christians based on elements of their philosophical teachings. One day Justin was walking along the seashore where he met an elderly Christian man who told him about the Hebrew prophets. It didn't take long before Justin had his confidence in the moral guidance of philosophers challenged, and shortly thereafter converted to Christianity.
He was known to have assumed the robes of a philosopher and began to travel, preaching Christianity as the superior philosophy. He wound up in Rome, where he established his own school. Some believe he was in fact expelled from Ephesus and forced to retreat to Rome where his unconventional teachings would be better accepted. Later, during the persecutions of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (reined from 161-180), he was arrested along with six of his students. As a group they refused to sacrifice to the gods and the emperor, whereby they were scourged and beheaded according to the law.
Most of Justin's writings have been lost over time, but a few have survived. One is a defensive apology that upholds the Christian life as moral and just, while making philosophical and ethical arguments intended to convince the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius to suspend the state sponsored persecution of the developing Christian community. It was addressed to the emperor, his sons, and the Roman Senate. In his first apology, among other things, Justin gives an interesting account of how the early Christians met for worship:
It is from Justin that we have the first record of weekly Sunday, as opposed to weekly Sabbath (Saturday), worship services among Christians in what constitutes one of the first great deviations from the true faith of Yeshua. In this he accepts and teaches according to the way the Roman church was already going by the second century. He abandons the tradition of the seventh day Sabbath even though he knew that Polycarp of Smyrna and the apostle John in Ephesus had taught and practiced the Sabbath. Notice the emphasis he puts on "the day of the Sun." This is clearly meant to suggest a connection between Christian practice and established practices of the pagan church which venerated Sol Invictus, the sun god. He was angling for a sympathetic hearing from the pagan Pontifex Maximus. Justin exemplified the problem of this transitional period in church history. He was born and raised as a pagan, well trained in Greek philosophy, while having no grounding in Jewish tradition. Thus, he couldn't quite make the important connections between Judaism and the Messiah's teachings, both of which, incidentally teach separation from the world, not the desire for acceptance.
Justin rationalized that Sunday observance was related to infant baptism, inasmuch as one of the chief arguments for infant baptism is drawn from the fact that God commanded the Hebrews to circumcise their male children on the eighth day (after birth), and this command could be incorrectly projected to the Christian rite of baptism. Yet, this eighth day rite could occur on any day of the week and when it came on the seventh day, the Sabbath, it was to be performed anyway. This provided Justin with an argument against the superior sacredness of the Sabbath, and he equates the day following the seventh day Sabbath to the "eighth day," as in the rite of circumcision. Thereby the church gets Sunday worship as well as infant baptism. Two things that were neither practiced nor taught among the apostolic brethren. The lesson here is how only a few influential men, well-meaning and with the best of intentions, were able to alter and re-shape the early church, changing it into a contorted and misshapen vessel, drifting off its original course.
He wrote a second apology which was meant to supplement the first. It was addressed only to the Senate, pointing out the persecutions of Urbicus, the Prefect of Rome, and brought to light the capricious and unreasonable allegations and propaganda being spread against Christians. These included allegations of cannibalism and sexual immorality. Claims of cannibalism were based on misinterpretations of the symbolism expressed in the eucharist. Claims of sexual immorality probably stemmed from the fact that women were not segregated during worship services as is the Jewish custom.
Also surviving was a work entitled Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, written in the manner of the Platonic dialogues. In it Justin relates Old Testament prophecies which were fulfilled in Jesus and the church. While much of his writings included accurate statements of the faith, he was also known for expressing gnostic and philosophical heresies. His writings should not be presumed to represent the faith of the early church as Justin was known to wander significantly off the path. In his Dialogue he addresses the whole of the Ten Commandments beyond just the fourth.
Justin indicates his abandonment of the Ten Commandments in the tenth chapter of the Dialogue where Trypho says of the Christians concerning God, "You do not obey his commandments,” and again, “You do not observe the law.” In chapter eleven, Justin responds in the Pauline fashion:“
"But we do not trust through Moses, or through the law, for then we would do the same as yourselves. But now - for I have read that there shall be a final law, and as covenant, the chiefest of all, which it is now incumbent on all men to observe, as many as are seeking after the inheritance of God. For the law promulgated on Horeb is now old, and belongs to yourselves alone; but this is for all universally. Now, law placed against law has abrogated that which is before it, and a covenant which comes after in like manner has put an end to the previous one.”
Justin thereby declares Mosaic Law and the Ten Commandments nullified by the "new covenant" of the Messiah, which is in direct contradiction to the words of the Messiah. While some of his teachings concerning the faith were accurate, he was also prone to distort many Judeo-Christian teachings, interweaving gnostic and philosophical teachings with scripture, to the extent that one is forced to conclude he was not a true and faithful saint. Many of his statements are clearly inconsistent with scripture.
According to his words, Justin may have had some type of binitarian belief, slightly different from the trinitarian concept that would develop later. Justin never called the "Holy Spirit" God, but usually referred to it as "the prophetic Spirit." These slightly skewed beliefs led him into the monarchian controversy.
the monarchian controversy
This controversy revolves around what is ultimately an unanswerable question. How do we visualize heaven? Perhaps as a monarchy with God the father as king and creator. Are the Father and Son the same being? The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit three separate beings rolled into one singular entity called a godhead? Are they three different persons consulting and influencing one another? Are they co-equals, co-eternal, of one substance?
Or is the order of heaven more like that of a monarchy? Where there would be the king, the prince, courtiers, clergy, and all the little dependents at the bottom. A classic monarchial pyramidal structure. This presents the subordinationist concept, suggesting that the Son (the prince) is a little lesser than the Father (the king). While they may be very, very close, they certainly do not occupy the same physical body.
Judaism is a monotheistic religion and there can be no dispute about it. Judeo monotheism is an absolute. God can only be considered One, perfect and indivisible. The Almighty. The Creator of all things, including His Son, Yeshua, identified as the first born of creation. Christians know this by the Hebrew scriptures and so any visualization must recognize this supreme fact. It can't be altered. Christian trinitarians must then figure out how Yeshua fits into this picture, based on the things He said about Himself and the things the Apostles said about Him, and how does the Holy Spirit fit into this amalgamation. This is where things get more than a little mystifying. These are the questions upon which the controversy centered.
The monarchian controversy is the origin of the debate concerning the trinity and the nature of God. Does it matter how we visualize the heavenly order? To the extent that our perception of the order determines what deity we are praying to, then of course it matters. We wouldn't want to pray to some false deity conjured up out of pagan beliefs, and Greek philosophy, scrambled up and falsely shoe-horned into an illusion of conformity with monotheistic absolutes.
At its essence Monarchianism puts emphasis on the concept that God is one individual entity which directly contradicts what was a growing trinitarian concept that defined God as three persons coexisting in the substance of one being. It should be noted that there were various competing monarchian schools of thought, each attempting to resolve questions about the relationship between God the Father, and the Son of God. Christian orthodoxy itself had not yet been defined, and the controversy was a vociferous conflict to establish an orthodox doctrine that could be universally shared by all.
These arguments became a principal theological point of contention not only between Christian, but between Christians and Jews, where there shouldn't be any. The trinity doctrine has created an irreconcilable separation between the older brother and the younger. The proverbial conflict between Esau and Jacob. The idea of a trinity is a gimmick to reconcile monotheism with polytheism, or more correctly, tritheism. The problem this amalgamation presented for the theologians was in the difficulty of explaining the simultaneously divine and human aspects of the Christ. It couldn't be done without incorporating pagan philosophical concepts.
Historically the monarchian controversy developed as Christian teachings were challenged by the more erudite and highly trained philosophers of various schools, combative Jewish scholars, pagan dominance, and Gnostic attempts to infuse myths and cults within Christian teaching. Christian teaching began to clash within the various beliefs held by the scattered congregations which were often at odds with one another. Christians of Jewish descent and training (mainly throughout Asia Minor and the Levant) were being pushed aside and overwhelmed by the shear numbers of gentiles being drawn into the growing Christian community from around Hellenist Egypt, and Rome.
the early doctrinal drift, twist, and contortion of the Christian Way
The post apostolic Christian community had acquired from its Jewish roots a strong sense of being called out of the world. They were to be separate and apart from the world at large. The 'world' in this sense, is a concept understood by both Jews and Christians, to describe a strict delineation between themselves and all others outside of their respective communities. For the Christians, it was during this post-apostolic period that the nascent congregation began to see the Jews as part of the 'world', rather than as brothers worshipping the same God. Brothers who could provide guidance and instruction to assist the Gentile converts in learning God's law. Instead, many Christian leaders rejected, and began advocating greater and greater separation from Jewish tradition,
Saul of Tarsus and Ignatius of Antioch
It was the Lord’s instruction that we should continue to observe these aspects of the Lord's Last Meal as a remembrance and reminder. In Jewish tradition, this would have been a celebration observed as all Jewish festivals are, annually and on a specific day. So that was how many of the early Christians observed the remembrance, but others devised a weekly observance called the "eucharist," and included the absurd teaching of transubstantiation. This was then celebrated on the first day of the week, rather than the Sabbath, throwing out the tradition of an annual observance. If some were unwilling to participate in the newly devised “first day” eucharist ceremony, Ignatius would have considered them “heterodox.” (dissenters, non-conformists, heretics). (see - Sabbath, seventh day).
The weekly, first day eucharist was not universally celebrated among the early Christians. As an invention of the early Christian religionists the faithful Jewish Christians and their traditions were being pushed aside. Ignatius argued that the benefit of the eucharist ceremony was in its value as the “medicine of immortality,” saying;
"Eucharist" is a word from the Greek, eucharistos, meaning "thankful, grateful." It is a rite also known as Holy Communion. This rite, observed by some early Christians developed into a sacrament, and an ordinance to some. It is observed in different ways by Christians today. Weekly on Sunday is the prevailing norm, but some celebrate the eucharist monthly, some annually, and some daily. In its observance, the Roman Catholic tradition is that the bread and wine actually become the 'literal' body and blood of the Messiah (transubstantiation), while reformed Christians believe in a real spiritual presence of Messiah in the Eucharist (consubstantiation), and still others see the bread and wine as simply symbolic representations and the Holy Communion as a reenactment of the Last Supper - a remembrance. Ignatius, though, advocated the something more like the literal "flesh" concept, and for anything that would enhance the separation of the Christian church from the Jews.
see also - a brief remembrance of Arius of Alexandria
see also - the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed
Polycarp, along with Clement of Rome, and Ignatius of Antioch, are considered the three most important of the second generation, post-apostolic church fathers. Polycarp's sole surviving written work is his epistle to the Philippians, in which he warns against a number of disorders in the church and against apostasy, encouraging the Christians of Philippi to persevere in good works.
Internal disputes within the church were coming to the fore, particularly around the issues of Sabbath, the date of Easter, and the celebration of the Eucharist. At this time the trinitarian controversy was merely a marginal concept that had not yet developed into a full blown ecumenical challenge to church unity.
Irenaeus is said to have heard the account of Polycarp's discussions with John and with others who had known Jesus. Irenaeus reports that Polycarp was converted to Christianity by the apostles John and Phillip and other disciples, was consecrated a bishop, and communicated with many who had seen Jesus. Polycarp had the original faith and observed the apostolic traditions including the seventh day Sabbath of Jewish tradition, and the Biblical Holy Days, although it is understood that he was a gentile Greek convert.
Bearing witness to Polycarp's observance of the Sabbath is the Smyrnaean letter known as the "Martyrdom of Polycarp" which states that Polycarp was, "taken on the day of the Sabbath and killed on the Great Sabbath." It is understood that this statement is evidence that the Smyrnaean congregation under Polycarp had observed the seventh day Sabbath. In the eastern congregations there was known to be a greater adherence to Jewish traditions, and it would be in keeping with this that they would observe the seventh day Sabbath.
The reference to "Great Sabbath" is not specific and could be interpreted in different ways, but most likely refers to one of the seven annual "high" Sabbaths, all of which are connected to the various Feast Days of the Lord, and are also referred to as "great" Sabbaths. These are special, irregular Sabbath days that can occur on any day of the week or can occur simultaneously with the weekly Saturday Sabbath. When there is the occurrence of a high Sabbath, there are two Sabbaths observed in that week, including the regular Saturday Sabbath.
On the issue of the Passover, Polycarp likewise held strictly to the Nisan 14 date. Note that in the early apostolic and post apostolic years, Christians always referred to it as "Pascha" which is the Greek equivalent of "Passover" and never as "Easter." Use of the term, Easter, didn't come along until later, and was more associated to the resurrection than the Passover sacrifice on the cross. But controversy arose around the practice among the churches of Asia Minor, who continued to observe the traditional date of Passover. The Latin Roman church wanted to change it to the following Sunday, and referred to the Asians as Quartodecimans, a derogatory term meaning "Fourteenthers."
Irenaeus was born in the early part of the second century, though the exact date is unknown, some scholars estimate he was born between 115 and 125 CE. He was a Greek from Polycarp's hometown of Smyrna in Asia Minor. He had heard Polycarp speak and held the bishop in high esteem, as Polycarp had heard the Apostles John and Phillip teach. A rare blessing. Irenaeus would eventually be appointed bishop of Lugdunum, now Lyon, in southern France, and was part of the third generation of Christian leaders.
Eusebius, the early church historian, would later record that Polycrates explained how the Apostles Philip and John, as well as faithful church leaders and martyrs such as Polycarp and Melito, kept the Last Supper observance on the 14th of Nisan in accordance with the gospel and would not deviate from it. Irenaeus had got caught up in the debate. Eusebius wrote;
Irenaeus sought to persuade the Roman bishop Victor I, not to be angry with those in Asia Minor who were doing what the Bible and the apostles Philip and John had taught. Notice that Irenaeus himself did not stand up for the biblical Passover even though he knew that Polycarp observed it. And while Irenaeus commended Polycarp for blasting the heretic Valentinus (who originated the idea that God existed as three hypostases) and Marcion (who tried to do away with the Old Testament, the law, and the Sabbath), he apparently did not think that changing the date of the Passover to Sunday (as some Roman bishops did) or the day of worship to Sunday (as Justin advocated) was heretical.
He then writes of all the bishops who were present with him and thought as he did. His words are as follows: "I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. . . Thereupon Victor, who presided over the church at Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia, with the churches that agreed with them, as heterodox; and he wrote letters and declared all the brethren there wholly excommunicate. But this did not please all the bishops. And they besought him to consider the things of peace, and of neighborly unity and love. Words of theirs are extant, sharply rebuking Victor. Among them was Irenaeus, who, sending letters in the name of the brethren in Gaul over whom he presided, maintained that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be observed only on the Lord's day. He fittingly admonishes Victor that he should not cut off whole churches of God which observed the tradition of an ancient custom. . ."
What Irenaeus failed to mention is that Marcion was possibly the first heretic to advocate doing away with the seventh-day Sabbath. And while Justin did not believe in keeping the Sabbath either, Justin did attend church services on Sunday. Irenaeus apparently felt that neither Saturday nor Sunday was of particular importance, as long as one worshipped God regularly. This is a heresy that many still hold today, if one believes that teaching others to reject the fourth commandment would constitute heresy. It is generally recognized that the Ten Commandments, enumerating God's fundamental principles of morality and law, apply to all mankind, though this view is contested by many who believe it only applies to the Hebrew people. In the face of confusion, one should put trust in the word of Yeshua, an observant Jew who kept the Sabbath.
Notice also that Irenaeus did not object to the implication that the Roman church had authority over those in Asia Minor. Victor I was the first to clearly attempt to project the Roman bishop's authority and supremacy to distant areas of the Christian brotherhood.
Irenaeus is viewed by some as the most insidious type of heretic, because he was too passive in the face of overt heresy and unable or unwilling to confront wrongful teaching even though it clearly deviated from what he had been taught and what he knew very well, Polycarp and the apostle John had taught. The bishop of Rome, Victor, was aggressively and presumptuously asserting Rome's primacy in deciding the heresy issue of the Lord's Day over the Sabbath and Passover.
Incidentally, Victor I would be martyred in 199 CE by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the Black Sea. Nothing is certain about the death of Irenaeus. It is likely that he died near the end of the second century or the beginning of the third.
The apostle John is believed to have lived until 100 or 102 CE. By then, Jerusalem was in ruins and the Temple was gone, and a long time had passed since he had contributed to the body of writing he left behind. All of his writings are understood to have been written prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. After his release from Patmos, in his old age, he was living in Ephesus, in Asia Minor.
Polycarp was born in Smyrna in 69 CE which is only a short distance from Ephesus. Young Polycarp became a disciple of John, and it is said that he eventually was ordained by John as the bishop of Smyrna. This was the period when ecclesiastical oversight was being handed off to the next generation.
Polycrates was a late 2nd century Christian leader from Ephesus. When the bishop of Rome, Victor I, who served as bishop from 189-199 CE, wanted all the churches in Asia Minor to change the observance of Passover from its original date of Nisan 14 to a Sunday, he was met with resistance, mostly from the Eastern congregations. Sunday representing the day of the resurrection, would become the 'Day' of all Christian ceremony and observances of the faith as the bishop of Rome took to himself the role of 'superior' among bishops of the church. Polycrates wrote a response to the Roman bishop stating:
Victor's term as bishop of Rome is most distinguished by his role in the Quartodeciman controversy (see- Councils). As the early post apostolic church was contending with issues of tradition over strange and unfamiliar changes, Victor's contribution to the twisting and contorting of the Way was clearly meant to rip Christianity from it's Jewish foundation. Prior to his elevation to the High Seat, the difference in dating the celebration of the Christian Passover between the bishop of Rome and the bishops of Asia Minor had been tolerated by all. The churches in Asia Minor celebrated it on the 14th of the Jewish month of Nisan, the day before Jewish Passover, regardless of what day of the week it fell on. However the tolerance of separate observances was found by Victor I as an unacceptable development, and he demanded a universally accepted observance. Still, the disagreement about the date was not considered at first, sufficient grounds for excommunication.
However, Victor was stubbornly intolerant of this difference, to the point of severing ties with these ancient churches in an effort to force conformity, demanding that all should unify around the Sunday Easter observance. However, the faithful bishops of Asia Minor stood firm against the change from the fourteenth of Nisan. Hence a new ecumenical issue arose, concerning the primacy of the bishop of Rome.
It goes without saying that there were a great many men with varying degrees of influence that participated in the post-apostolic development and formation of the early Christian religion. As the original apostles died off, and ecclesiastical oversight was handed off to the next generation, a process of theological transformation began. Only a few of these next generation church leaders are presented here as examples of how it only took a few to lead a movement through a gradual, misguided shift away from Christianity's Jewish foundation. Only a few degrees of course deviation at the beginning of a journey, given time and distance, will lead a vessel far, far off course. We will consider some of the judgements that led to wayward navigation and steerage - compromises of the post-apostolic elders of the early church.
"Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours." And Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.' " Luke 4: 5-8
“Be not seduced by strange doctrines nor by antiquated fables, which are profitless. For if even unto this day we live after the manner of Judaism, we avow that we have not received grace ... If then those who had walked in ancient practices attained unto newness of hope, no longer observing Sabbaths but fashioning their lives after the Lord's day, on which our life also arose through Him and through His death which some men deny ... It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practice Judaism. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity” - Ignatius to the Magnesians 8:1, 10:3, Lightfoot translation.
“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God ... They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.” - Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1
"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."
"We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead ?
All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man'...I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus" (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 25).
see also - the corrupting of the early church
Marcion the Gnostic
Marcion of Sinope is believed to have lived from about 110 to 160 AD, though some scholars place his birth as early as the year 85. His father was the Christian bishop of Sinope, in Asia Minor, a ship owner and a man of wealth. Sinope was located in the region of Pontus on the northern coast of Asia Minor along the Black Sea. Marcion himself is described by Tertullian as a wealthy ship-master, excommunicated by his father for allegedly seducing a young maiden. Little is known about him because none of his writings have survived over time. The little we do know about him is from what his detractors wrote about him, denouncing his teachings as heretical and rebutting the false doctrines of the Gnostic movement he started. Marcion was the father of what is arguably the most successful of the various Gnostic sects.
These were tumultuous times throughout the Roman Empire. The third Jewish-Roman war, also known as the Bar Kokhba revolt, led by a charismatic Jewish warrior named Simon Bar Kokhba, rose and fell. Many considered Bar Kokhba a Messianic figure. This belief arose due to his determined efforts to throw off Roman domination in Judea, an effort Yeshua had not attempted to undertake. The revolt actually did establish an independent Jewish state over much of the Judean Province that lasted about two years. However, Jewish Christians steadfastly remained true to Yeshua as the true Messiah, and considered Simon Bar Kokhba a false Messiah. This however, was a distinction within Judaism that meant nothing to the Romans. The revolt Bar Kokhba inspired lasted from 132 to 136 CE and brought an overwhelming retaliatory response from Rome which amounted to a regional genocide meant to wipe out the Jewish people and any memory of their historic homeland. The ruins of Jerusalem were made off-limits to any surviving Jewish people, and in the aftermath of the revolt, Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina, a province of Rome.
It was around this time (140 CE) that Marcion traveled to Rome where he made a substantial donation to the church in order to buy off his excommunication. It was while he was in Rome that he began to develop his unique ideas about Christianity, and points where it merged with the teachings of Gnosticism. As his views developed into conflict with the teachings of the Roman church, his donation was returned to him and he was excommunicated again.
Through his studies of the Hebrew scriptures and the few Christian writings that were available, Marcion came to the conclusion that Yahweh, the God of the "Old Testament," was completely incompatible with the teachings of Yeshua. He was only able to reconcile this perceived contradiction by postulating a ditheistic structure of belief (dualism). There had to be two Gods. Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews was reduced, by Marcion, to a lower class deity than the superior Christian Father of Yeshua. To Marcion, Yahweh was the creator being, and he referred to the Creator as the "demiurge."
The philosophical concept of the demiurge was derived directly from Greek philosophy and described as an artisan or craftsman, a creator or producer. To Marcion, the demiurge had fashioned, and maintains the entire physical universe. This God, Yahweh of the Hebrews was considered tribal and evil, because in the Greek philosophy, everything in the material and physical world was considered evil, while the spiritual, pure, incorporeal world was considered good and superior. It was from this standpoint that Marcion pronounced that Christianity stood apart from, and opposed to Judaism.
These beliefs conformed neatly with the apostle Paul's teaching concerning the Christian rejection of the Torah (i.e. Galatians 3:10,11). Marcion considered Jesus to be the Messiah, and Paul the greatest of His apostles. Marcion was the first to compile a canon of Christian scripture which consisted of the Gospel of Luke, redacted considerably to conform to his beliefs, and ten of Paul's thirteen epistles. The Hebrew scriptures were completely discarded. While he never declared them to be false, they were discarded on the grounds that they were testimony to a different God. Yahweh, the lessor Hebrew God, in his view, was jealous, and legalistic, punishing sinners and condemning them to death, whereas the Supreme God of Yeshua was benevolent and compassionate full of loving kindness and mercy. Thus it was Marcion that first established the distinction between the 'Old Testament' and the 'New Testament.'
So it was that his canon, known as Marcion's Bible, was a thin collection of writings. Given the total separation between Judaism and Christianity it's not surprising that along with the Hebrew scriptures he also discarded a great deal of the Christian apostolic scripture which failed to comport with his views. The other apostles were thus subordinated into oblivion while Paul was elevated as the only authoritative apostle revealing the true teachings of Yeshua. Though even Paul's writings were not immune to Marcion's heavy editing. Three of Paul's epistles were dismissed, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. These are otherwise recognized as the "pastoral epistles."
He felt Galatians was Paul's greatest letter, as in it, Paul makes the case for separation from Judaism and dismissal of the Law, Prophets, and writings. In Galatians Paul also disparages the apostle Peter, boasting that he insulted him to his face in front of others (Galatians 2). Paul also sharply criticizes John and others of the chosen apostolic brothers. The letter makes a case against the Galatian congregation, that it was back-sliding, under the persuasion of Judaizers like Peter, Phillip, and John. Marcion adopted the teaching of Paul, that the purpose of Jesus was to free his followers from the bondage of Yahweh's laws (Torah), not from the bonds of a built-in sinful nature (also called 'original sin').
Replacement theology (supersessionism) became part of the legacies of both Paul and Marcion, found even today in one form or another, in most Christian denominations. However, perhaps the most important legacy of Marcion was that the error built into his canon, was sufficient to prod other church leaders to eventually compile a more orthodox canon in response. See the Council of Rome, 382 AD, called by Pope Damasus I.
> Ignatius of Antioch
> Justin Martyr
> Tertullian of Carthage
> Origen of Alexandria
Tertullian of Carthage
His full name was Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus. The dates of his birth and death are based only on educated guesswork, estimated from 155 - 240 AD. He is believed to have been the son of a Roman centurion in the province of Roman Africa. Believed to have been schooled as a lawyer, and ordained as a priest, he was clearly an extremely well educated scholar. He is believed to have converted to Christianity as an adult. He was a prolific writer, and while very little is known about his life, we can learn much about him through his writings.
He wrote concerning the conflict between Christianity and the Roman culture. Concerning the gladiatorial games he condemned them as events Christians should not attend. It was wrong to find entertainment in the suffering of others. However, it's been noted that he also wrote that he would rejoice at the nightmarish suffering of those condemned to perdition at the judgment. The difference was that in one instance, the suffering was being inflicted by other men, while in the second instance the suffering was the result of the judgment of God.
The early post-apostolic church was the devil's playground. During this period a handful of influential men re-shaped and re-directed the Messiah's fledgling congregation - error became orthodoxy.
Then there was a younger generation of Christian leaders coming up, being instructed by the elder generation in the process of passing the torch. Ignatius was a Greek convert that had become good friends, and was a student of Paul. Among other things, Ignatius, would later become the bishop of Antioch, and as such, was an early champion of replacement theology, whereby the blessings and prophecies that God had intended for the Jewish people, were all transferred to the Christian religion, in a "spiritual" sense. Under this paradigm, the Christians had become "spiritual" Jews, though liberated from the curse of the Torah. While this teaching caught on and took root in the early church, there was never any scriptural support for it, except in the epistles of Paul, and the anonymously written Book of Hebrews.
As the word “Christian” had first been coined in Antioch while Paul and Barnabas were there (Acts 11: 26), Ignatius of Antioch was the first to use the phrase “catholic church,” meaning “universal church,” from the Greek katholikos. However, as one studies the doctrines he taught, what he may have meant by “universal” wasn’t so much “complete” or “total” Christianity, as that the new church was an aggregation of Greco-Roman pagan traditions, Greek philosophy, Jewish teaching, and Christian Gospel. Meant to be universal in its appeal. Universal in the sense that it had a little something for everybody. This concept was seen as beneficial, in that it broadened the appeal of church teachings making it more inviting to pagans, and others who had no grounding in Judaism.
Ignatius argued vehemently against the teachings of the Ebionites. For example, as a Jewish Christian movement, the Ebionites would have understood the Lord’s last dinner with the apostles, as a celebration of the Passover, which the Lord only altered somewhat because He was the fulfillment of the Passover sacrifice. The Lord's concern might well have been that having fulfilled the prophetic Passover celebration, it might no longer be practiced by His followers. So, He pointedly instructed;
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” And, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
The apostle Paul set about establishing an elementary "order of service" for his concept of a new religion, separate and apart from the cursed Jewish religion with it's Torah. (see First Timothy and Titus) The clergymen of the Christian religion have ever since heaped praise and adulation on the apostle Paul as a genius and saint. They call him the greatest of the apostles, though none of the other apostles ever referred to him as such. He's been called "apostle to the Gentiles," as if performing a special service, and never-minding that Yeshua had appointed all of the chosen apostles to preach the Good News of the Kingdom throughout the world.
Paul had never met Yeshua, knew almost nothing of Yeshua's teachings, and was not a witness to the miracles associated with Messiah's ministry, or witness to the resurrection. These were the criteria for apostleship set out by the true apostles in Acts 1:20-22.
Yet the scholars and clergy, ever since, have defensively pointed out that the organization of a new religion was something Paul was forced to organize and promote in order to combat the heresies of the Gnostics and Ebionites. This is how they explain Paul's deviation from the teachings of Yeshua on the matter of the "church." It would be these errors that brought about the necessity of organization for the greater Christian community as a means of establishing an ecclesiastic protection program. Thus, it was the apostle Paul that that stepped-up as the father of the Christian religion, not Yeshua the Lord. Never underestimate the Devil's tricky ways.
His new religious institution, though, while claiming to be based on the teachings of the Messiah, (who never advocated such a course) would not be modeled after what he considered to be the corrupt traditions of Judaism, but rather after the highly developed pagan religion traditions of Rome and Greece. Take note, however, that while Yeshua was highly critical of the Rabbinical corruptions, he was always an observant Jew, and always supported and endorsed the Law, the Prophets, and the writings. Yeshua understood that the Jewish people were a people chosen, elect, and held separate from the nations. Yeshua established his congregation upon the Jewish traditions, not apart from them, yet he always knew that people of the nations (other sheep, not of this fold) would be brought along and welcomed into the community of followers. But in the eyes of Paul, the foreign pagan religious practices of the world had much to be admired and imitated. For some inexplicable reason, this revelation bypassed the other 'chosen' apostles, and was given only to Paul, "design and organize a religious system!"
Antioch had become Paul's home base, the starting point of his missionary journeys, and the congregation in the metropolitan city of Antioch had become his seat of support. Ignatius of Antioch took Paul’s teachings and elaborated, expanded, and refined these, from the standpoint of someone who knew little or nothing of Jewish tradition. But he didn’t need to know the Torah, as Paul had already declared it irrelevant (letter to the Galatians).
The vast majority of Christians today will find it extremely uncomfortable to fault the apostle Paul, "The greatest of the apostles." In fact, he was a self-glorified imposter. A poseur. A false apostle of the type Yeshua warned us about. One of the warnings came through in the apostle John's vision, recorded in Revelation, where the glorified Messiah is speaking to the congregation at Ephesus;
"I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." - Revelation 2: 2-6
The so-called apostle Paul was not only the 'father' of the Christian religion, but as such, he was the father of the Nicolaitans, defined as those who had 'conquered' the laity. The name reflected in this new clergy class of so-called ordained priests, bishops, presbyters, and other assorted ecclesiastics, who took it upon themselves to lord it over the laity. The word comes from a composite of three Greek words - Nicolaitans is Nikolaites (Strong's #G3531). The first part, Niko, is defined as a conquest or victory over others. The second part, lai, means people. The last part, tes, represents the word "the." Taken together, the word is defined as someone who is a conqueror or victor over people.
They were here branded with this name, which expressed their true character in the Book of Revelation by teh glorified Lord Yeshua. The men who did, and taught such things were followers of Balaam ( 2 Peter 2: 14,15 ; Jude 1: 10,11 ). They persuaded men, using strong and clever words to mask their evil deviations from true teaching. They were skilled sufficiently in oratory, to convince men that wrongful ways were a thing indifferent to God. The Nicolaitans would eventually develop as a group far more corrupt than the Rabbis, the scribes, and the priestly teachers of Judaism whom Jesus had referred to as vipers, blind, hypocrites, and white-washed tombs.
Polycrates was joined in his efforts to push back against Victor's twisting, and contorting of the Christian Way, by one of the most highly respected bishops of the day. Eusebius of Caesarea, a writer, and historian of the early post apostolic years.