Pre-Reformation Church History I:

Lecture Notes

 

Fall 1959

 

IBRI Syllabi #23

 

Allan A. MacRae

President & Professor

Faith Theological Seminary

 

© 2014 John P. MacRae

 

Abstract

This is the first semester of a two-semester course in Pre-Reformation Church History. These lectures were transcribed from a sound-recording and only lightly edited, so they still have much of a spoken flavor. They begin with introductory matters, followed by a presentation of the world into which Christianity came, including the Roman Empire, Hellenism and Judaism. Thereafter the course is divided into centuries, this first semester covering the first four centuries of the Christian era. Typical topics include Christian interaction with the Roman Empire, Christian leaders and writers, various heresies and theological developments.

 

Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute

www.ibri.org


Contents and Outline

 

I. Introduction

 

A. The Method of the course

 

B. The Value of Studying Church History

1. It can be a source of great encouragement to us

2. The purpose of studying Church History Negatively

a. Not to learn what is true in theology

b. not to learn how God desires us to worship Him

c. Is not to learn God's plan for our lives

3. The purpose of studying Church History Positively

a. To see how God has worked in the past

b. To see how Satan has worked in the past

c. To see how much of our social and religious culture is historical rather than logical or Biblical in origin

d. To become acquainted with great men of the past and to see the points of strength and weakness

e. To get illustrations for Divine truths

 

C. Divisions of Church History

1. History is a continuum -- breaks are not usually complete at any one point

2. Centuries are a convenient means of general division

3. Church history is usually divided into three major sections

a. Ancient church history - After Apostolic Age

b. Medieval church history - After the fall of Rome

c. Modern church history - After the Reformation

 

D. Remarks about Dates

 

E. What is History?

 

F. What is the Church?

 

G. What is Church History?

 

II. The World into which Christianity Came

 

A. The Roman Empire

1. Its Importance (in church history)

2. How It Came into Being

a. It was a Gradual Growth

b. In Rome there had developed a constitutional system with a large measure of individual liberty

c. A gradual extension of the rights of Roman citizenship to conquered peoples

d. There was a concentration of power in experienced hands

e. The Tensions which were largely the result of extremely rapid conquest, eventually resulted in concentration of ultimate power in one head

3. The nature of the Roman Empire

a. Strong Central Power

b. A Great Tradition of Law and of Personal Liberty

4. A rapid survey of the history of the Roman Empire

a. The Julian Line (30 BC-68 AD)

(1) Augustus (30 BC-14 AD)

(2) Tiberius (14-47 AD)

(3) Caligula (37-41 AD)

(4) Claudius (41-54 AD)

(5) Nero (54-68 AD)

b. The Flavian line (69-96)

(1) Vespasian (69-79)

(2) Titus (79-81)

(3) Domitian (81-96)

c. The Nerva-Antonines (90-193)

(1) Nerva (96-98)

(2) Trajan (98-117)

(3) Hadrian (117-138)

(4) Antoninus Pius (138-161)

(5) Marcus Aurelius (161-180)

(6) Commodus (180-192)

5. Advantages to Christianity of the Existence of the Roman Empire

(1) Comparative Peace and Safety

(2) Lack of Borders

(3) Roads

6. Disadvantages to Christianity of the Existence of the Roman Empire.

a. The Great Importance of the Personality of the Emperor

b. The Development of Official Opposition

 

B. Hellenism

1. The Achievements of Greece

a. Culture, Science, Art, Literature, etc

b. Failure in Government

2. The Spread of Greek Civilization and Language: The Hellenistic Age

3. Advantages to Christianity

a. The Existence of a Common Language widely understood

b. This Language was Uniquely Fitted for the Expression of Complex and Sublime Ideas

c. Partly as a Result of Greek Philosophy, There was a Widespread Attitude of Skepticism Regarding Paganism and of Longing for Something Better

4. Disadvantages to Christianity

a. Many, particularly of the Lower Classes, were greatly attached to the Greek gods

b. The Widespread Skepticism of Everything Supernatural among a Small but Influential Class

 

C. Judaism

1. Judaism was represented in all parts of the Empire

2. Factions among the Jews

a. The Sadducees

b. The Pharisees

c. The Essenes

3. High Spots in the History of Judaism during the First Two Centuries

a. The Destruction of Jerusalem 70 AD

b. Simon Bar Kokhba, 132 AD

 

III. The Church in the First Century

 

A. The Beginning of the Church

1. Evidence in Acts and the Epistles

2. The Importance of the Resurrection

 

B. The Period of Little Evidence

1. How does there come to be so little evidence?

a. The Type of Writing Material

b. The Lack of Stimulus to Write History

c. The Expectation of the Soon-return of Christ

2. Why had God allowed such a gap in our knowledge?

3. Traditions about the Apostles

4. I Clement

5. Information from Non-Christian Sources

a. Josephus

b. Suetonius on Claudius

c. Tacitus and Suetonius on Nero

6. Information on Domitian's Persecution

 

C. The Concluding Summary

 

IV. The Church in the Second Century

 

A. The Roman Empire

1. Nerva (96-98)

2. Trajan (98-117)

3. Hadrian (117-138)

4. Antoninus Pius (138-161)

5. Marcus Aurelius (161-180)

6. Commodus (180-192)

7. Septimius Severus (193-211)

 

B. Pliny's Correspondence with Trajan

1. Evidence of the Spread of Christianity

2. Evidence of the Official Roman Attitude toward Christianity

 

C. Ignatius

1. His Letters

2. His Idea of Martyrdom

3. His Idea of the Place of a Bishop

4. His Idea of the Catholic Church

 

D. The Apostolic Fathers

1. General Remarks

2. Early Christian Literature

a. Clement

b. Ignatius

c. Barnabas

d. Hermas

e. Epistle of Diognetus

f. Aside on the NT Apocrypha

3. Papias

4. Polycarp

 

E. The Apologists

1. First Apologists (to Hadrian, all lost)

a. Quadratus

b. Aristides

c. Aristo

2. Justin Martyr (ca.100-ca.166)

3. Tatian of Assyria

4. Melito of Sardis

 

F. Gnosticism

1. The Meaning of the word Gnosis

a. Previous de-Mythologizing of Pagan Religions

b. The Claim to Superior Knowledge

c. Apocryphal Books

2. The Roots of Gnosticism in the First Century

a. New Testament Evidence

b. Simon Magus

c. Cerinthus

3. Points Common to Most Gnostic Groups

a. The Claim to Possession of Higher Knowledge

b. Belief that Matter is Essentially Evil.

c. Belief in Angelic Intermediaries and in opposition between the good God and the creator of this world

d. Denial of the Incarnation

e. Their Attitude toward the body

4. The Great Variety of Gnostic Groups

5. Gnostic Leader: Marcion

a. His life

b. His relation to Polycarp

c. Marcion's Attitude toward the Scriptures

6. The Great Spread and Ultimate Decline of Gnosticism

7. Some Effects of Gnosticism on the Church

a. Determine exactly the True Books

b. Enlarge the Idea of a Catholic Church

 

G. Persecution by Marcus Aurelius

1. The Character of the Emperor

2. The Persecution Particularly in Gaul

3. The Cessation of Persecution under Commodus

 

H. Irenaeus

1. His Life

2. His Opposition to Gnosticism

3. A Source of Knowledge of Church History

4. His Attitude toward Other Christian Groups

 

J. Tertullian

1. The First Latin Theological Writer

2. His Life

3. His Writings

4. Tertullian's Influence

 

K. Montanism

 

L. the Papacy in the Second Century

1. The word Pope

2. The Insignificance of most of the Roman bishops in the 2nd century

3. Anicetus (155-166)

4. Eleutherius (177-190)

5. Victor (190-202)

 

M. Conclusion of our discussion about this century

1. The Growth during This Century

2. Principal Centers of Christianity

a. Asia Minor

b. Antioch

c. Jerusalem

d. Alexandria

e. North Africa (Carthage)

f. Gaul

g. Rome

 

V. The Third Century

 

A. The Roman Empire

1. Septimius Severus (193-211)

2. Caracalla (211-217)

3. Elagabalus (218-222)

4. Alexander Severus (222-235)

5. Maximinus (235-238)

6. Phillip the Arabian (244-249)

 

B. Monarchianism

l. Dynamic Monarchianism

2. Patrapassianism

3. Sabellianism or Modalism

4. Beryllus of Bostra

 

C. Hippolytus

 

D. Clement and Origen

1. Clement of Alexandria

a. The Catechetical School

b. His writings

c. The Allegorical Method

d. Clement's reference to the Didache

2. Origen

3. Origen's Writings

4. Origen's Views

 

E. Roman Emperors from 249 to 300

1. Decius (249-251)

2. Valerian (253-260)

3. Gallienus (260-268)

4. Aurelian (270-275)

5. Beginning of Diocletian's Reign (284-305)

 

F. Cyprian

1. His life in general

2. Cyprian's Idea of the Church

3. The Controversy over his Flight

4. The Problem of the Lapsed

5. The Novatian Schism

6. The Problem of Heretical Baptism

7. Cyprian's Relation to Rome

8. Cyprian's Martyrdom

 

G. Mythraism and Manichaeanism

1. Mythraism

2. Manichaeanism

 

H. Neo-Platonism

1. Its Background

2. Ammoniacus Saccas

3. Plotinus

4. Porphyry

 

J. Forty Years of Freedom from Persecution

1. Growth of the Church

2. Worldliness

3. Paul of Samosata

4. Lucian

 

K. The Church of Rome in the 3rd Century

 

VI. The Church in the Fourth Century

 

A. The Persecution of Diocletian

1. The Situation at 303

2. The Outbreak of Persecution

3. The Attitude of Constantius Chlorus

4. Persecution in the East

5. The Greatest Persecution in the History of the Christian Church

6. Persecution in Italy and North Africa

7. The Death of Galerius

 

B. Constantine the Great

1. The Rise of Constantine

2. Constantine's Victory

3. Edict of Toleration, 313 AD

4. The Advance in Christian Scholarship under Constantine

a. Eusebius' Church History

b. Copies of the Bible

c. Study of Palestine

(1). Increased interest in Palestine

(2). Constantine's Mother

(3). Eusebius' Onomasticon

5. The Donatist Schism

6. Constantine's Social Legislation

7. The Council of Nicaea

8. The Founding of Constantinople

9. The Alleged Donation of Constantine

10. Constantine's character and Achievements

a. His Character

b. His Effect on the Christian Church

c. His Baptism

d. His Place in Secular History and in Church History

 

C. The Rise of Arianism and the Council of Nicaea

1. The Rise of Arianism

a. Its Leader

b. Its Background

c. Its Views. The views of Arianism

d. Its Dissemination

e. The Opposition to Arianism

f. Constantine's Attitude

2. The Council of Nicaea

a. The Calling of the Council

b. The Deliberations

c. The Homoousian Creed

d. Other Acts of the Council

(1). The Melitian Schism

(2). The Matter of Easter

(3). Centers of Church Leadership

3. The Arian Controversy to the Death of Constantine

a. The Work of Athanasius

b. The Political Maneuvers of the Arians

c. The Exile of Athanasius

d. the Return and Death of Arius

 

D. The Reign of Constantius

1. The Sons of Constantine

2. The Progress of Arianism

 

E. The reign of Julian (361-363)

1. Julian's Background

2. Julian's Religion

3. Julian's Attitude to Christianity

 

F. The Downfall of Arianism (363-381)

1. The Attitude of Valens (364-377)

a. The Reign of Jovian

b. The Accession of Valens

c. The Efforts of Valens to carry out the policies of Constantius

d. The Death of Valens

2. The Last Years of Athanasius

3. Hilary of Poitiers

4. The Cappadocian Fathers

a. Basil the Great

b. Gregory of Nazianzus

c. Gregory of Nyssa

5. The Elevation of Ambrose in Milan

6. The Accession of Theodosius

 

G. The First Council of Constantinople

1. The Calling of the Council

2. The End of Arianism

3. Macedonianism

4. Apollinarianism

5. Gregory and Nectarius

 


 

I. Introduction.

 

A. The Method of the course.

 

I have attended an institution where you would sign up for a course for one or two or three credit hours; you would go to class and you would sit there for that length of time, taking notes; and in the end of the year you glance over the notes, and then you take a brief examination, and receive one or two or three credit hours for the course, depending on the number of hours you sat through the week in the class. And in the very same institution, from the same professor, I had another course which would be a two hour credit course in which he has assigned fifteen or twenty hours of work to do every week. Since I had three or four courses before which did not average fifteen minutes a week, I did not feel justified in complaining, but it certainly seemed a sloppy way to handle things. I have been very anxious to avoid that sort thing here. And so we think of a credit hour as not an hour in fact; but we think of a credit hour as an hour in class and two hours' work outside class; or two hours in class and an hour work outside the class. In other words it means three hours a week in a credit hour.

And so, in all of our courses if you have an hour in class, the professor should assign you approximately two hours' work on the average; and sometimes it is difficult to keep the average, because sometimes there are particular things that take more time and there are other times when it is hard to find enough. We try to average three hours a week through the term for each credit hour class. There is one exception, in Hebrew. The beginning course in Hebrew has a physical problem, the problem of getting your eyes used to new letters. Hebrew would not be a particularly difficult subject if we used the letters we are accustomed to. But since the big job is getting your eyes used to these new letters, that takes time. We always felt that for Hebrew it is quite proper to expect a very considerable amount more of time in drilling on it than in other courses. That is an the only course in the Seminary in which we expect to spend normally an average of more than three hours total, including an hour in class and two hours outside ordinarily. Now, in church history, two years ago when I dealt with the Post-Reformation Church History, I gave three lectures a week for a two credit course, and the assignments corresponded to that. This semester I do not expect to do that; I expect to average two hours in class a week, and to assign, not over four hours on average of outside work.

You notice on the schedule that Church History meets on Tuesday morning at 9:20 and Wednesday morning at 9:20, and it says on Thursday morning 9:20, special. We will have that meeting tomorrow, at 9:20. Next week there is a good possibility that I will not be meeting with any class at all. I am expecting to average two hours a week throughout the term, but occasionally I have to be away; and this extra special hour will make it possible to adjust that a little, and I want to average two hours a week. I do not want to average three hours as I did two years ago. That means that you might have a little more outside work than they did two years ago. But the outside work, the assigned reading and the reports which I will assign, I expect them to be turned in on time, and I will deduct if they are not, except in the case of a person who is starting seminary for the first time. If you are taking beginning Greek and beginning Hebrew, I will give you a little extra leeway, because those courses build, and Church History, you might say, while they are interrelated, if you miss two weeks of Hebrew, you might as well quit and start all over next year. But if you miss two weeks of Church History, you can go on from the point where you are, and you will—with a certain amount of handicap—not be greatly handicapped; and you can make it up yourself, on vacation. So that if you are taking two beginning languages, simply mention that on your late paper, and I will understand that. Papers can be week or two later in that case, because I want you to keep up with your work in the languages. I am not going to assign any outside reading and reports enough to bring the total of six hours of week. I am not going to assign that much on the outside readings, because I feel that it is very important that when you start the lecture that you have the previous lectures in mind and therefore I am counting on you to review each lecture prior to the next lecture.

Now, it is very disconcerting when you deal with a very important problem, and after having dealt with it about an hour, somebody asks a question which shows that he has no slightest conception of what it is because he has not looked at his notes in between classes. I would like to ask everybody to take fifteen minutes to half an hour at least reviewing the previous lecture each time. I would like to ask you to do that. Human nature being what it is, asking would not provide. Some would wait and do it all night before the examinations, and so I find it necessary to do something that students detest very much, but I am sure that they will be very grateful later on; and that is to give spot quizzes at the beginning of the hour on the previous lecture, or on something earlier in the course. And as I say, the big part of the work of this course is to get in mind what we have dealt in class. Because my greatest interest in church history is not having you learn a lot of dates and facts; you can simply take a book and memorize them. I do not see any great value in that, if that is all you get. My interest is in having you have an understanding of these things; what they mean; and what their interrelation is; what importance they should have for our lives; and if I have to spend the first ten minutes for each hour trying to remind you of what I gave the hour before, I would waste a lot of time; and to do that, I would have to lecture three hours a week, and I am not going to do that this semester. So I am going to give you quizzes very frequently; and if you do not like it, please go out back where nobody can see you and yell about it for five minutes and get it out of your system; and then come in here and write a good correct answer to the questions that I will ask you in the quiz. I am not just interested in your taking something up two days before the final exams, putting it on the paper, and then forgetting it; but I am interested in your getting it, and so you have to keep on reviewing.

So, there will not be such a great amount of outside reading for this course, but there will be very considerable amount of review of the lectures expected; and you should certainly have at least have an outline of the previous lectures in mind; and the main facts with which it deals, and the main understanding of the main features.

Now, the most important thing in this class is the attempt I make to give you the understanding of the meaning of church history. And what I understand to be the meaning of it you cannot find in books; but you have to read many books to get the full view which I would present; and therefore, if you are going to take the class, you should always be present in class. We do not have cuts in the Seminary. We consider it a rather infantile matter, to give cuts. By Seminary we should have passed that stage. We expect everyone always to be in class. If you feel that any course it is a waste of time to be in class, please come and talk to me about it. Because it is altogether possible that some members of the faculty—including myself—may have gotten off on a tangent, and that he is wasting time. It is possible, and in such a case we should remedy it immediately. It is equally possible that you have misunderstood any particular matter; and in that case, we will try to make it clear to you. Please do come and talk to me about it. We mean that every one of our courses is important, and we expect everyone to be present on time. The method of this course, then, is primarily a lecture with assigned readings. It is not a research course. It is a lecture course to get the understanding of the meaning of church history as it may be vital in our lives and in our service for our Lord. That naturally leads to

 

B. The Value of Studying Church History.

 

1. It can be a source of great encouragement to us. I was a student in a modernist college, holding my faith in the Scripture, believing the Bible to be true, and believing in the great doctrines of the Christianity; but it was a college which five years before had been a thoroughly evangelical school, and it was in a process of transition within the two or three years afterwards, and then became a completely modernistic college. When I was there in class, there was a way of impressing on you an attitude that the teachings of Christianity were a lot of old myths and fables. That way, even without much presentation pressed on us, I could not avoid it.

And I cannot tell you what an encouragement it was when, in connection with a course, I made a study of the first church council, the Nicene Council of 325; and in reading about the council, how tremendously they were excited, those people were at that time, 325 years after Christ, 1600 years ago, about the doctrine of whether Jesus Christ was fully God, or whether He was in some way partly God. God rested on Him—something like that—and when I saw how those men from all over the Roman Empire felt so long ago that this was such a tremendously vital matter; and I was thinking that there are other matters that are still more important than this matter. It was such a great relief, that such weight was pressing upon them; to get the feeling of these things in church history where these men—many important people—had felt that these matters were so important. To see how Christianity began and how the little group of the disciples, a little group of scattered disciples who had fled for their lives that their master had been crucified, and they were afraid to admit to anybody that they were connected with him, and some of these conditions of terror and confusion among these comparatively uneducated people. There began a movement which spread through the whole Roman Empire until that power, one of the greatest powers the world has ever seen, finally being unable to crush it, had to succumb to it.

And the whole Roman Empire was filled with this teaching in two or three hundred years; but to see how it occurred, what a source of encouragement to us! When we face the encroaching modernism, and the encroaching unbelief and denial of Christianity, sometimes it looks almost hopeless; but we see what God did then. What an encouragement to us when we read about Martin Luther, and see how the greater part of the world was filled with formalism, and with an attitude which accepted a great many Christian doctrines, but which they did not apply them to their hearts—did not get their real value to their life, to the soul—and how this man risked his life to begin to present these matters; and there was situation after situation where others who are doing exactly the same thing have been killed for their faith, and their doctrines have been completely eradicated from the area where they spoke; but how in the providence of God, Martin Luther was able to continue fiercely; and from that little start, there spread over half of Europe—and over the whole northern section of Europe—a new understanding of the gospel that made a tremendous impact. How utterly hopeless it was when Luther began the new work of Reformation. What an encouragement to us! What an encouragement it can be when we study that little band of the Pilgrims in 1609, that little group of comparatively uneducated people, dissatisfied with the  formalism which was in the church of their day—though these churches were presenting the true Christian doctrines—but in such a formal way and without real opportunity to study the Bible for yourself, and see what it taught, and make it real in your life; and how these little groups of people with no resources stepped out to serve the Lord; and other groups which stepped out in the previous years had been annihilated by war, by torture, by shipwreck and by other means, but how God took this little group and moved them to the United States, and enabled them to survive under tremendous difficulties; and they set a pattern which for two or three hundred years had an effect upon this country which made the nation different from almost any nation that the world had ever seen before.

You see how the hand of God works against the seemingly impossible obstacles. What a tremendous source of encouragement! Well, then, I think one of the greatest purposes of studying church history is this encouraging which we can get out of it. But I want to go on to,

 

2. The purpose of studying church history negatively. I think that this is tremendously important.

 

a. It is not to learn what is true in theology. We do not study church history to learn what is true about God; to learn how one can be saved; to learn the great facts of the origin of the world. We do not study church history for this purpose. Church history is not reliable source for these things. I believe that the so-called Jehovah's Witnesses are a cult which is presenting false doctrine. I admire the zeal these men show; but I detest the harmful results on people's lives of the false doctrines that they present. But one of their pamphlets has a wonderful title which is taken from the Scripture. "Let God be true, and let every man a liar." It is a fact when it comes to knowing what the truth is about God; what the truth is about the great things of the universe. There is one way to find it out. And that is from the study of the Scripture.

Now, church history can be tremendously important to us in showing us what an effect the Bible has had; and where people have studied the Bible, and have attempted to follow it, God has tremendously used them; and where people used other means of getting truth, the church has been a failure. The Bible is the source of knowledge. The Bible is the source of this knowledge.

I give this course in Church History, and under these present circumstances, once in three years. We go right straight through; and all our students who take their courses in three years get this course from me continuously; but if they take it in four years, as a good many do, they may get it in their first year and then in their last year, but I do not give it every year.

I do not feel that we should have a full-time man in church history. If we have a full-time man in church history, he will naturally be entitled to give electives in the courses and develop a department. I see a real value in developing a department in church history, after a person has had five or six years of exegesis. But I believe that the vital thing is to know what the Bible says, and that is the vital thing; and therefore, we must cram church history into two years; and we try to get the basic, vital things during that time; and we do not give any other electives in church history, interesting as they may be, and valuable as they might be, because we think that in the course of three or four years—or further as a Master's degree would lead you—we feel that the main thing should be exegesis. It is a question, "What does God say?" The whole world may turn against the truth, but that does not make it any less true. You cannot settle truths by counting heads. You see who knows the facts; and when it comes to the great facts of eternity, I often think that many of our philosophers are like a group of very highly intelligent people who had never crossed the Pacific ocean, had never been to the Pacific ocean, and had never talked with anybody about the Pacific ocean, and had never read any book about the ocean. In these days of widespread information it is hard to imagine such a situation.

But if you will imagine for a moment, think of men of tremendous intellect, a wonderful thing, who have never crossed the Pacific Ocean, never talked with anybody who had ever seen the Ocean, and who have never seen anybody who had seen the Ocean; these men go up on Iron Mountain near San Francisco; and there above the clouds they are able to look away to the Pacific Ocean, and one of them says, "I wonder if there is any country over there?" and then the other says, "Well, now, I think I can give you some philosophic arguments to prove that there is not any such thing." This man says, "I can give you a better philosophic argument that there is a country," and then they argue back and forth; and they may have some very acute reasoning as to whether there is a country beyond the Pacific ocean or not, or whether that is simply the end, or whether if you keep on going around, you will come back to America. They may have some very acute reasoning, but the only way to find it out is for somebody to go there; or to read a book written by somebody who has been there. They might discuss, "Is there anything over there or if there is any, what sort of country is it? What kind of language do they use? Do the rivers really run from north to south like the Mississippi? Or do they run from south to north like the Nile? Or do they run from west to the east like the Yangtzse? Or do they run from east to west like the Columbia?"

They could think of these things, and give illustrations and comparisons, and they could show wonderful acumen; and they could think of all the possibilities, but they would never know with certainty whether there would be a country; and if there is, what kind of country that would be, and in what situation it would be at all. They would not know unless either one of them went or talked with somebody who had been, or read a book written by one who had been there. And no human being has ever gone beyond the grave and come back to tell us about it, aside from Jesus Christ our Lord. We do not know what is beyond the grave. No amount of philosophic thinking can possibly tell us.

We do not know anything about God. We can see that there must be a God. As Paul said, "If you look at nature, you see the works of God; you see His power, you see His majesty which is implicit in nature except that Satan has blinded our eyes so that we cannot see. But we see the power. We see the greatness. We do not know His character. We do not know whether He is a good God, who sends rain to make things grow and the sun to keep us warm and all this. Or whether He is a cruel, ruthless god who sends hurricanes and floods, tempests and tornados. We do not know whether He is good or is bad. We do not know whether He has made us for a joke and He is going to crush us with the turn of His hand. Or whether He loves us and made us for fellowship with Himself. These and thousand other questions can only be answered by reading the book that was written by the One who knows—that God Himself overshadowed the human writers, and led them in their writing so that it would give facts about these things.

And therefore, if we are going to know what is true in theology, church history will tell us what people have thought; and it is good to know what people have thought, because it suggests matters for investigation; but it does not give you the answer. Human thinking, human reasoning is wonderful to suggest matters for investigation; but it is useless when it comes to giving you answers about things we cannot reach. And the other side of the moon—except for the satellites that go around it and take a picture of it—nobody on earth could tell what it is like until that happens. Nobody has ever seen the other side of the moon. It might be utterly different from this side.

I remember when I was a student in seminary; I used to go bike-riding for a little exercise. One day I was going along and I saw the head of the most attractive young woman I had ever seen for years. Oh, my, as I saw her, I just wondered what her face would look like. I said to myself, I do not want to embarrass her; I do not want to scare her; and so as I got back, I turned around and saw she was at least forty years older than she seemed from the back view. It was absolutely different. And nobody could have told that without seeing her. You could not reason it out, and the same is true about the other side of the moon. You have to see to know what it is like. For the great facts of eternity there is one way to find out; that is, to see what someone has said who knows, someone has told who has seen them. God Himself is the only one who has. And therefore, our only source of knowledge of theology is the Bible.

Thus exegesis is so much more important than church history. While I feel that one course of two years, two credit hours, is tremendously helpful in our Christian life and work, I do not feel that in a three-year seminary degree course more time should be given to it. Exegesis is vital to see what it really means, and get into it, and get the facts that God has given us. Our purpose in church history is not to learn what is true in theology.

 

b. It is not to learn how God desires us to worship Him. Someone showed me a letter two years ago that had been received from a friend who, during the war, had been to the U.N. forces in Africa; and they said, "If you had seen as I did the remains of the ruined churches of the second century—all these different things that they thought were important in worshipping God—you would realize how silly it is to just go to a church and sit there and listen to a minister preach. How important it is to have the right formal ceremonies and all that."

Well, the question of how much form and ceremony are desired to use in worshipping God is one which can be decided on the basis of the Bible, not one which can be decided by church history. When you think about this church that they found the ruins, they said it was from the second century AD My guess is that it was from the last part of the second century AD We do not have a great deal from the first part of the second century. Then suppose it was 175; suppose it was the 145th year after Christ died. 145 years before now was 1815. If you are ever up to the Boston area—driving up there—stop on the way at what they call Sturbridge Village. They try to keep the town just as people lived in 1800; and as you look around at the conditions of life and the way people lived in 1800, you cannot just imagine the changes that have taken place. Most of you could not imagine the changes that have taken place since I was a boy. You just could not imagine. Most of them take place so gradually that there is not much said about it in our books. But life is constantly changing, and the way people worship God in a certain church 150 years after Christ died does not prove much as to how Christ wanted us to worship God.

If you could get all the churches of 150 years after Christ died, you would learn perhaps quite a bit. We cannot get one per cent of it. But if you could get all of them, you would not learn what God's will is as to how to worship Him. The one way to learn that is to see what the Bible teaches. I believe that was God's intention, in order to help keep us from this danger into which so many, many people fall, that He purposely thought that after the New Testament was written there should be very, very little Christian literature that was preserved for more than a hundred years. For the next hundred years the amount of Christian literature that has been preserved would not, I believe, make up a third of what is in the New Testament; and much of it is highly questionable as to when it was written or who wrote it. You get along two or three centuries later, you have a tremendous amount of Christian literature, but there is a big gap in what has been preserved. I believe that gap should warn us against this idea that many of you have: "All that even the early church did, that is right." No, what the Bible teaches is right. From the study of Church History you can get tremendous encouragement to go to the Bible and see what it teaches, and follow it and get that encouragement; but the purpose of studying church history is not to get an authoritative source of deciding how God wants us to worship Him, and then

 

c. It is not to learn God's plan for our lives. Church history—from this you can get tremendous encouragement. Like how God used people in the past. You can get tremendous encouragement by seeing how men have served God and how God blessed them, God used them. You can get great help in your life in church history. But if you want to know God's plan for your life, the place to go is the Bible. That is the only source of real truth. History is interesting, and it has value. But for the Christians, the source of knowledge, the source of getting in touch with God, and learning His will for us should not be church history; it should be the study of God's Word. This may seem like repetition so many times, but it is amazing how many people you find, that the biography of some individuals, what some particular men have gotten, what some particular church groups have gotten, that to them seems to settle most everything. God has given us such marvelous treasures in the Bible. And that has been our central feature at Faith Seminary from its very inception; we have been insistent that philosophy has its place; that history has its place; but the one dependable source of knowledge in Divine things is the Bible; and the most important thing a Christian can do, no matter what line of service for the Lord he is going to be in, is to learn to understand the Bible.

It does not do much good just to hold it in our hands. What is in God's Word is all true, and you cannot know too much about it. You know a few wonderful verses and that is grand. I had some people say to me, "Well, we have got John 3:16, what else do we need?" Well, if you say John 3:16 and all the truths in the Bible that fit with John 3:16, that correspond to or develop it, put them on one side; and put the rest of the Bible on the other, I would say that by all means, that is the heart of the Bible. But God did not give us just John 3:16. God gave us a book with sixty-six books and He intended that every one of them would be vital in your life, in your work, and in the activity of the Christian.

So, He wants us to know what the book of Nahum teaches us; and what second John has to say; the meaning of James for our lives; and what is the importance of 2 Samuel; and there is tremendous importance in every one of these. And to know what the Bible says, what it teaches, and to get into it. To see what is really meant at those points where people can easily twist and get any subtle meanings out of it. That is the most important thing. But church history certainly has its place. So, we go on to

 

3. The purpose of studying Church History Positively. We looked at it negatively, and now we look at it positively.

 

a. To see how God has worked in the past. I do not need to say much about that now, because much of what I have already said falls into that category. What an encouragement it is to see how God caused that the Christianity would spread through the whole Roman Empire. And it would overturn the attitudes of the pagans and philosophers and of the opponents of Christianity completely in three hundred years. What an encouragement it is to see how the Reformation took place. What an encouragement it is to see how He took the little band of the pilgrims and set up a standard that affected an entire nation from this little group of comparatively uneducated people, what they were able to accomp1ish with His help. What an encouragement so many things in church history can be, if God has a purpose, and if you are completely consecrated to Him, and if you really think of His will, and not your own pleasure, or for your own glory, or your own fame. But you are really seeking His will; who knows what He may accomplish through you?

Church History does not tell you what to do, but it encourages you tremendously in doing it, and it is a fair illustration of how God has worked in the past. We see many of them, and I do not mean now to elaborate on this further. Now to speak of it under the second point, which is much less familiar, but is I believe quite important.

 

b. To see how Satan has worked in the past. Anybody who has the idea that this world is a world in which God has just gradually squeezed Satan out, and pretty soon all is going to be a completely Christian world, simply does not know much about these facts. Yet there are people who are moving ahead on that assumption; and unfortunately in order to move on that assumption, they have to change the definition of Christianity until it becomes something entirely different from what the Bible teaches. But God has permitted Satan to be the prince of this world; God has permitted Satan to have such a power in this world that, as we read in the book of Jude, even the archangel Michael, striving with Satan about the body of Moses, durst not give him a railing accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke thee."

Satan is a tremendous power in this world. God permits him. And it is easy for us to forget. People say, "I remember back in 1915, people said, 'Oh, there cannot be a God who would permit this war.'" Well, they do not know anything about sin. They do not know anything of the reality and nature of Satan that God permits for His own purposes to continue through this age. And we cannot resist him in our own power. Sometimes people say, "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you." That is a misquotation of the Scripture. The Bible says, "Submit yourself unto God, [and God will resist the Devil]. He will flee from you." In the power of God, Satan can do nothing to injure us.

And church history shows how, in case after case, people would step up boldly to do great things for God in their own strength, and utterly fail. We need to know the tremendous power of Satan, and his reality; and the fact that he is here, and he will be here until the end of this age. We need to be aware of his tremendous power, and we need to be aware of his wiles. He will do his best to destroy our witness; to destroy our activities as he can. If he finds that he cannot do that, then he tries to push us into where we are putting our whole effort into some side issue. This may be good, but it is not accomplishing much in the Lord's work. Sometimes I feel as if struggle with Satan is like a tug of war: here we are pulling and pulling and pulling. And on the other side, Satan is pulling and pulling that way; and when he finds that he cannot pull us over his way, then he just lets it go, and we fall over. And we fail to accomplish what is right; and the right place is not way over there or way over here. It is wherever God's Word teaches us that it should be.

Satan will fool us from a dozen different angles. We learn from history how Christianity was a dominant force all through the Near East; how in Arabia there were Christian churches everywhere in Arabia. How in Egypt, almost everyone was a professing Christian, and there were thousands and thousands of earnest Christians in Egypt. And then we see in these areas people got into fighting and scrapping over minor points that were unclear in God's Word; and instead of giving their efforts there trying to win to the Savior those who did not have personal knowledge of him, there they were fighting over things that are not made clear in God's Word; and they fought over these things to such an extent that the outside world decided that these little comparatively minor things were what the Christians were interested in; and they had no knowledge of the real meaning of salvation.

And then the Mohammed came forward in Arabia, with that great teaching, that there is no God but one. And with that terribly distorted teaching he added to it, he swept Arabia; and eventually his force swept Egypt; and Christianity has been almost powerless through that whole area ever since; and God permitted Satan to take one of the greatest Christian areas of the world to be turned into desert as far as Christianity is concerned. Today it is the hardest thing in the world to do Christian work wherever Islam is.

When I was in seminary, we had a missionary from Egypt who told how a friend of his who was a missionary was in a little town in England. He was speaking in a little church, and there he told them about this great missionary work in Egypt; and all he said was that you have to be so careful because of the Islamic laws about apostasy. "Clear over here in England nobody there would know what I say, and so I will tell you about a young man who came to me at night, like Nicodemus who talked with Jesus, who learned about Christ, and who was secretly baptized it so nobody would know about it." Two days after he told it, this fellow was pushed under a streetcar and was killed.

And the man who told us about it believed that that was evidence of the pervasive power till this day of that teaching of the apostasy in Islam. And the result is that no missionaries who work there for forty years of earnest labor have more than five converts. Now, there may be hundreds of them who became secret converts. Humanly speaking, all could have been converted, if the Christians in Egypt and Arabia kept their eyes on the main things of the gospel; and people had seen Christianity as it really should be, instead of in comparison with what Mohammed seemed to say was the truth, so his forces swept across the land.

There are many other illustrations in history, as we will see.

Back in 1550 one third of the people of Poland were Christians—were Protestants—and most of the nobles of Poland were Protestants. No one could become the king of Poland without taking an oath that he would do nothing in any way to injure Protestantism in 1550. And then there came a dispute on certain points of doctrine—which have their importance, but not to be compared with the great fact of salvation through Christ on which all the Protestants would agree. But this dispute came there, and the bulk of them disagreed with the teaching which came to be accepted in the great part of northern Germany; so the people there [northern Germany] took no interest in trying to help them; and the Jesuits sent highly trained, learned, skilful  rhetoricians to hold a public debate and to win people through argument to stand there; and they got enough people to stand with them; and then they began inciting the mobs and attacking the Protestant churches, and in fifty years all the Protestantism was wiped out of Poland; and today, if you take all the criminals and prisoners in the United States, I have heard it said that if there would be two or three nationalities of which there is most criminal activity, Poland would be among them. And one reason is that for all these years they been denied the opportunity of hearing the gospel in Poland because of a very slight theological difference. And Satan was able to destroy this tremendous work that true Christianity had made in Poland.

We learn from this how Satan worked in the past. We learn not to think, "Oh, I am going to step out and I am going to win the world in my own strength for Christ." We must submit ourselves to our God, and follow him; and then we can resist the Devil, and we can accomplish great things for Him. We will meet at 9:20 tomorrow morning. 

Now we were yesterday speaking about the purpose of studying church history, positively. We noticed under that small a, how God worked in the past. It is very thrilling to see how God works. But you miss a great part of the value of it if you do not also see the other purpose of it, b, to see how the Satan has worked in the past. Everyone is familiar with the name of John Calvin, one of the greatest theologians who ever lived, but I regret to say that a great many people do not know another phase of Calvin's activity which was just as important as a theological writer. Calvin was a man who was tremendously interested in the spread of the gospel.

There is a widespread belief that he wrote a speech, which the director of the University of Paris gave, which presented the gospel very clearly at the opening of the University year. As a result the director and Calvin both had to flee for their lives. Well, many people were burned at the stake in France for believing the gospel and trying to present it to others, but Calvin took refuge in Geneva; and there in Geneva in the midst of great difficulties and obstacles, he proceeded to become established; but his primary interest there was to make it a center for the evangelization of France. So, over the years, he received and protected hundreds of refugees. But he was not content with that, so he trained them in the gospel and in the presentation of the gospel. And they went back to France, and these men went about from door to door widely presenting the gospel. One day in a park at Paris, a little boy started to sing one of Calvin's hymns, and somebody else joined, and somebody else joined in, and pretty soon there were five thousand people singing this hymn; and it was apparent how widely the gospel was reaching through France as a result of the work of these men whom Calvin was training. Many of them were captured, and many of them were killed; but others avoided being captured, and kept on pushing and working, until over a third of the people of France were followers of Calvin.

The Romanist leaders set to work to try to destroy this; they attacked them in two wars, and in one tremendous massacre thousands were killed; but a year later there seemed to be more than there were before. In southern France, there would be a town in which there would be a great mass with an archbishop celebrating it, but only fifteen people present; and then two blocks away were five thousand people out to hear the preaching of the gospel. And the Jesuit order was determined to eliminate them. The Jesuit Order was started after Calvin began his work; but it has been the most able instrument in wiping out the gospel the world has ever seen—perhaps with the exception of Islam.

The Jesuit order set to work to try to win France back to Romanism, and in the city of Paris, they managed to fill the people with fanaticism; but outside of Paris, their activity was not so successful. And the king of France died; and the next man in line was a Protestant, what they call a Huguenot. And in several battles his forces met the Romanist forces and defeated them; and all of France came to be in their hands. But they could not take Paris, because the Jesuits so filled the people of Paris with hatred, and with fanatical zeal against Protestantism. They were living on grass and herbs, but they still resisted; and then the young Henry [the Protestant heir to the throne], who was an able general and leader of the Protestant party said, "What is the use being king without Paris? What is France without Paris? Paris is worth a mass," and so he announced his desire to join the Roman Church. One of the priests in Paris preached a sermon in which he said, "This morning my dog went to mass, so let's make him king!" And they ridiculed Henry, and they said he was dishonest in pretending he wanted to be a Romanist, that he was just doing so to advance himself. But the Jesuits said, "No, we must take his word; we must accept his sincerity." And so he became a Romanist.

So he became ruler of France; and he did a tremendous amount to help the people of France; and he made a treaty—the Edict of Nantes—by which the Protestants were guaranteed religious freedom forever. They were guaranteed there would be absolutely no discrimination in government office on the basis of whether they were Protestants or Romanists, and they were guaranteed equal opportunities everywhere, even in the cities. In the south of France they were even allowed to keep garrisons to ensure their safety. Henry promised that the Catholics could bring up Henry's children; and so they brought up Henry's children, and they became chief officers and representatives. Henry's lazy invalid son Louis XIII became king; he never bothered much about anything; but Cardinal Richelieu was the power behind the throne.

And when the Protestants would have a great meeting with thousands present, in a synod representing nearly a third of the people of France, Cardinal Richelieu greeted them and thanked them for their loyalty to their country, and showed every friendship toward them. The only thing was he said, "Why should you have garrisons in your cities? That is a state within a state. You should respect the country to protect you; we are perfectly safe. We are all Frenchmen and nobody will interfere with you." And he persuaded them to give up the garrisons, all except one city. So, that one he attacked. After a considerable siege, he succeeded in capturing it and he took away its garrison, but he left the city free.

Then Henry IV's grandson Louis XIV became king; and the Protestants were still a great force in France, and many of them were in leading positions in the government as they had been for years. Their churches were preaching the gospel and their people were going forward to important positions and leaderships in every way. But in Louis's court the Jesuits had control. And Louis sank into the depths of wickedness and licentiousness and in sin; and the Jesuit preachers preached the terrors of hell for his own ungodly life, and Louis said, "I felt as though I could hear scourging around me, and what hope is there for me?" And the Jesuit confessor said, "There is no reason for you to worry." He said, "Why not? From what you preached about the terrible fate that people will have who have lived like I live." Well, the confessor said, "You can easily offset your wicked life by some good deed." Well, he said, "What good deeds could I do enough of to offset the wickedness that I had in my life?" And the Jesuit confessor said, "Well, that is simple. A large part of your country does not recognize the pope as the supreme leader; and they are preaching salvation by faith instead of attending the mass. He said, they are denying the doctrines of the Roman Church. Get them out of your country, and God will bless you forever."

And Louis immediately set to work; and gradually he removed the Protestants from high positions in the government; and gradually he made it more and more difficult for them; and then he began to put troops in the cities where they had a great number of Protestants, and put licentious soldiers into the homes of the outstanding Protestants, and giving them license to be as mean and disagreeable to the people as they felt like being; but if somebody turned to Romanism, they stopped; he was immediately treated well, and a great many who had not really had the heart of the gospel in their minds gave up and joined the Roman Church; and then it cut down to the real Christians.

And then Louis announced that the Edict of Nantes was repealed. This Edict which had been in effect for two-thirds of a century, he repealed. He said, "Every Protestant minister must leave the country within sixty days. No one else is permitted to leave the country, but all must join the Roman Church, and attend Romanist churches or they will be imprisoned for life or sentenced to be galley slaves."

And thousands of men managed to get out of the country. Thousands of them went to Berlin and kept up Protestant services for two and half centuries after this time. Thousands of them went to South America; and thousands of them came to this country despite efforts to keep them in France. Others could not get out of the country, and fled into the mountains; and there they managed to survive, but they were hunted down by the soldiers and were killed; and thus the Protestants was reduced to maybe 3% of the people of France. And it was two centuries after that before they had freedom of religion.

"Paris is worth a mass," Henry said. The Devil certainly used the Jesuits, and certainly used Henry's compromise to destroy one of the greatest evangelistic works the world has ever seen—one of the greatest outreaches of the gospel. Today France is one of the hardest countries in the world to reach people for Christ. It is one of the hardest places to make an impact on the lives and hearts of the people. The country as a whole is nominally Romanist, but the bulk of the people are actually atheist.

I heard a French diplomat say once, in order to make any progress in French politics you have to be known as one who is against the church. But if you become a representative outside France, then you have to be known as an ardent supporter of the church, because France is known as the defender of the Romanist Church. This was a few years ago. I do not know under De Gaulle how things have changed.

This country—which could have been one of the greatest Protestant nations and one of the greatest centers to send missionaries throughout the world—became almost a nonentity as far as the preaching of the gospel is concerned. And it is one of the outstanding instances in history how Satan has worked in the past.

God does not want us to underestimate Satan. He wants us to realize that he is ready and anxious to wreck our testimony for the Lord. We should submit ourselves to our God. Make sure that we are in line with His purposes, and we are putting Christ first in everything—not our own money, our own comfort, anything except His purposes. And then we can destroy the works of the Devil. But if we have only gone half-way Satan may and probably will defeat us. Now the third purpose of studying the church history is

 

c. To see how much of our social and religious culture is historical rather than logical or Biblical in origin. A little after the turn of the century there was a great dispute among the presbyteries of Philadelphia. Should a man stand when he prays in public or should he kneel? They almost had a split among some of the churches over the question. Forty years later, three-fourths of the churches had been taken over by modernism and unbelief.

When we begin giving attention to matters purely of form and ceremony, it is easy for Satan to come in and to lead us away from attention to the real things of the gospel. We cannot learn the truth except from the Bible. Church history does not tell us the truth, because every man might be mistaken. It is only the Bible on which we can depend for truth. Church history does not tell us how we should worship; and in God's providence He caused that we should have no evidence to speak of regarding means or methods of worship of the church for 150 years after Pentecost.

We should look into Scripture, and not to church history to learn how to worship; but we can learn much from church history about how easy it is for people to fall into certain customs; and then the custom continues a little while, and you begin to think that it is of Divine origin, and you begin to think that is the thing that is really important; and you get your eyes off the Scripture, which is the only source of knowing what is important.

I heard a story about a new officer who was appointed—according to the story which I heard—appointed to have charge of soldiers who guarded the palace of the czar. And according to the story that I had heard—which I have no reason to think that it is not true—and yet I have no absolute proof that it is true. According to this story, this officer found that in the arrangement for the placing of the soldiers around the palace for protection, one involved the standing of a guard at a certain place on the lawn; and always night and day a guard stood at that particular place; and he would stand there until he was relieved. Night and day there was always a soldier at this place.

And the officer could not figure why there were not thirty other—if there is danger of a riot or attack—other places that would be much more important to defend than this particular spot; in fact these other places were well protected, but he thought that he could use this soldier elsewhere very well; but these were the orders, and he inquired, "Why is it?" "Well, it has been always done that way." And being a studious young man, he began to investigate the records; and he found that for over two hundred years, a soldier always stood right at that right place, and they never left the place without a guard standing there.

Finally he found out that it began with the Empress Catherine, a ruler of Russia who was interested in innovations and changes and new ideas. She had received some rare shrub from a relative of hers in Southern Europe, and this would look very beautiful on the lawn; and she was afraid someone would trample over it, and it would not have a chance to grow properly; so she planted it at a certain place, and gave a very strict order that a soldier must stand right at that spot; and he must there on guard, so that nobody would carelessly trample over the shrub. Those orders were given and established; and within a few months the shrub, which was unsuited for the climate of Russia, withered away and disappeared. But for over two hundred years, a soldier was kept on guard at that spot; and nobody knew why he was there. That is a natural human tendency to think that it is anarchy unless we do the things to which we are accustomed.

We do not know why we keep on that way. 90% of the people just follow blindly whatever they have been accustomed to. I think 8% of them blindly attack whatever they have been accustomed to. There may be 2% of the people who try to think things through, and try to see what the sensible thing is; but it is an important thing in our carrying on of our civilization: to keep on the way we have had things done, unless we find a reason for change.

But when it comes to the work of Christ, it is very good for us to get an understanding. How much there is in life that purely is a matter of having been established through some accidents, through some custom; through some fitness to some situation which has now changed, and having become established, people simply are confused in it.

I personally think that one of the greatest advances that could possibly be made in the study of the Old Testament would be if there would be a system worked out—and it would not be difficult to work it out—in which one of our Latin letters would be used for each Hebrew letter; and you will always have the same understanding for the same Hebrew letter; and thus we could learn the Hebrew and study it and read it in our Latin letters. In my opinion students would learn as much Hebrew in one year as they now do in three, when they have to go through the toil of getting their eyes used to a new type of letter. It is the same sort of toil every one of us had done as a child, in getting used to the Latin letters that we commonly use. But there would be no particular use in teaching people that way, because our Hebrew Bibles are all in Hebrew letters, and our grammars and our dictionaries all use them; if you had a few thousand dollars, it would not be difficult to put all these into Latin letters; but nobody has felt the need for it. But anyone who has the money to do it seldom has interest.

I know a great professor, a learned scholar, a man who was a great expert in the Sumerian language and who wrote Sumerian, which is a language preceding the Babylonian. He wrote a standard grammar for it a few years ago; and somebody suggested to him to write it in Latin letters instead of in Hebrew letters. Then, he said "Oh that would be unscientific. That would be unscientific!" He was shocked at the idea. Actually of course it does not make any difference what kind of letters you use, provided that everybody uses them and understands them. It is purely a custom that has developed.

I heard it said that in Mexico a child can learn to read as well in a year as a child can learn in the United States in three years. I do not know how you could prove that, unless you are sure that the two particular children were of equal mentality. But I can easily imagine that it would be the case, because we have antiquated ridiculous absurd spellings in English. There is absolutely no sense to it, and yet if you try to change it, it is just about impossible.

A Christian would be very foolish to spend his lifetime trying to get the spelling system changed. You need to spend your lifetime in trying to get people to know Christ, and to be saved through Him, and to follow Him. But when we realize how accidental some of these things are that seem so important in life, why it just makes it easier for us to understand the need to do the Lord's work, if we get an understanding of this factor.

I think from church history, if you watch you will find much that will be helpful for you that way; that will help you to put your emphasis on what is biblical and what matters, without necessarily coming into sharp conflict with people who have customs that there is nothing wrong with. There is nothing particularly important about it, nothing particularly biblical about it.

Well, we go on to d. This is a rather difficult thing to do properly, but very helpful if you can. The purpose of studying church history is

 

d. To become acquainted with great men of the past and to see their points of strength and weakness. It is all too easy in the study of church history to have it simply be a series of a few names and tags to hang on them, and perhaps to think of a few men of vital importance as sort of supermen. But if there is time in certain areas of history to look in enough detail to get to know these men, to see their struggles and their uncertainty; to see how they came to make the decision they made; you might say, humanly speaking, they are hung in the balance of whether to make this decision or that; or they made one decision and then went on to be greatly used of God; while in the case of other people, they may have made the opposite decision and maybe they disappear from history; or what they did was very harmful rather than helpful.

To see it not simply as a series of events that is presented before you, but as human beings facing problems and situations and trying to solve them, this can give us an understanding in situations which we face ourselves. The principle of understanding ought to give us the importance of going to the Scripture for our answers, because that of course is where the principles come from that are vital. Somebody has said that people no longer learn anything from history except that people do not learn anything from history. I think that that is a rather extreme case. But it is true that people repeat the same mistakes over and over. They do not seem to learn from history.

I remember about 1930 I read of a story somebody told, of some Englishmen who was rather looking down on the Chinese; and he said, back 150 years—I just do not know when it was. He said that in one of the opium wars, the English had to attack Hong Kong, and he said that the Chinese had fortified Hong Kong from the side toward the water, and strongly fortified it from that side. The English ship went around, in fact, from the north where it was not fortified, and they came in; and he said, in the approach that one of the Chinese came to the shore and howled, "Wrong way! Wrong way. You are not supposed to be over there!" But they did not pay any attention to their saying that was the wrong way. They came in and they took Hong Kong fairly easily, because they came from the side where it was not defended, although a great effort has been the made to defend it from the seaside.

Well, remembering this statement I read by an Englishman in 1930, telling how foolish the Chinese were in that particular situation, I was five times as amused ten years later, when I read an article in the Saturday Evening Post telling how these British spent a hundred million dollars in fortifying Singapore so it could not be attacked from the sea. A hundred million dollars then would be worth five times as much today. So, they evidently made a tremendous effort to make Singapore absolutely impregnable from the sea; but the Japanese simply came down from the Malay peninsula and attacked from the north, where it was not much defended, and they took it without much effort.

And so, the Englishman who was laughing at the Chinese for their mistakes one hundred years ago made exactly the same mistake. It shows how history repeats itself. And I find it in running a seminary the very sad thing is that I face the problem, "What are you going to do about this problem?" I think through the whole thing very carefully; and I think the whole thing is settled, and I get it so we do not hear about it for ten years. And you forget about it. The you find the same problem coming up again, probably new to the group. But you forget what had caused it before.

Now they say we do not learn it from history, but I do not think there is any reason that we should not learn from history. We can learn from people's mistakes to try to avoid those mistakes. It is wonderful to read about Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley and some of these great men who had followed the Lord and how marvelously the Lord had used them. But we ought to take enough time to read at the same time some of their associates, and some of their friends who went ahead to serve the Lord, and did so effectively up to a certain point, and then their courage failed them.

Everybody has heard of Martin Luther, but how many people have heard of Staupitz? Staupitz was the head of the Augustinian order in Germany. Staupitz told the gospel to Luther. I do not know whether Luther got it from him or not, but he heard from two or three different sources. Luther did not invent the gospel. The gospel was in the Scripture, and the people all through the ages had been saved by the gospel. But when poor Luther was a monk, there he was trying to get the divine forgiveness for his sin; and he could not get any feeling of forgiveness. He went through all kinds of ceremonies and forms and said, "My sin, my sin, what can I do about it?" Staupitz said, "Believe in Christ! Christ bore your sins on the cross. Can't you simply trust in Him?" Staupitz showed Luther the center of the gospel; he encouraged him to study the Word; he got him the position of professor at Wittenberg University, as the expounder of the Book of Romans and other books of the Bible which so greatly increased Luther's understanding. But then it came to a point where it was necessary to stand for the truth. Staupitz, who had helped Luther, backed him up and encouraged him all along; he sent his own sister—his younger sister—to learn what she could from Luther and to be a member of the group of women who were studying there in Wittenberg. Staupitz, when he faced the final crisis, could not stand; he asked for special permission to leave the Augustinian order and to go into another order where he was not known; and he went into this order; and Luther wrote two lovely letters in which he called him, "Beloved father in Christ." Luther was terribly disappointed when the man who had led him so much failed when it came to the vital issue. Today Luther is one of the great heroes of faith, and very few people ever heard of Staupitz. Staupitz was a great and good man. I have no doubt that he was saved. But I am sure that he regrets bitterly the fact that when he came to the ultimate crisis he failed.

And to learn about people who have failed, compared with the few who have pressed forward and followed the Lord and whom God has used throughout the ages, can not only be encouraging to us as we know of those who have succeeded. In order really to know these men, you have to take a considerable time in getting the whole situation in mind, to know the flesh and bone of man rather than simply naming them. We simply cannot do that with the time available for a great many; but I do try to do it when I can, because I feel that it is very helpful.

Then most ministers use Church History mostly for the first point of encouragement, so we have

 

e. To get illustrations for Divine truths. And church history has wonderful illustrations of the truth. And you can find stories that will thrill people, encourage them, and stir them to follow the Lord with more truth. But we must remember that history does not prove what the truth is. It wonderfully illustrates, but we learn from the Bible what the truth is, and see from history how it has worked out.

I like a story about Martin Luther when he was on his way to the Diet of Worms where he was to stand before the Emperor for his faith; and probably he would be treated as John Huss had a little over one hundred years before, when he was burned at the stake. Luther went, although safe conduct was given him. While he was on the way, the imperial herald let him preach in different towns on the way; but every place they stopped, they saw signs up that the emperor had ordered that all Luther's books must be gathered together and burned; and people said, "That is what they will do to you. Now that is what they will do to you when you get there."

Many people thought that Luther must be some sort of a terrible man that he would be in such a situation. Others thought he was a wonderful man. But all of them were curious to see him and hear him. So, he went into a church, and people crowded him in the church, and in one place such a crowd came in that the whole side of the church fell off. When one side of the church fell over, the people jumped up and ran. "This man must be a preacher of the Devil, that the very church would break as soon as started to preach." And Luther howled with his great voice, "Come back here, come back here. The Devil is trying to keep you from hearing the gospel."

When you look at the events in your life, God may be leading or Devil may be leading. Which it is, you learn from the Word of God. Don't let circumstances determine your life, or what you do. You judge the circumstances in the light of the Word of God. But you can find wonderful illustrations of the truth in history. It is wonderfully illustrative, but it does not prove.

 

C. Divisions of Church History.

 

1. History is a continuum—breaks are not usually complete at any one point. It is easy for us to think, we find in history an empire such and such; and then there was a period of such and such. Well, these changes, these differences are very great. But the breaks between them are not sharp. They are not absolutely gradual. The changes take place often within a comparatively short time, but not instantaneously. Usually there is a little time involved. When did the Christian era begin? Well, it began, in our figuring, when our Lord Jesus reached the age of four or five. It is an arbitrary point. I do not know why the issue of age four or five is particularly an important point. They see the difference between AD and BC

Of course, there was a monk about 500 AD who tried to figure out the date of Jesus' birth, and he made a mistake; he got fairly near to it, and it is good to have a good numerical system; a lot handier than it was back in 290 AD when they said, "This was the third year of the Emperor so and so, or this was the fourth year after the earthquake." This numbering system that we have is very handy. But when did the change take place between the pre-Christian and the Christian era. Well, very few people knew when Jesus was born. Then 30 years later he began to preach, and multitudes came to hear him, but compared with the whole population of the Palestine there were hardly any.

The day when he was crucified—in God's sight it certainly was the most important day that ever occurred in the history since the fall of man. But how much of the world knew about it? How many people outside of Palestine knew about it? That obscure Galilean who some thousands of people followed, had followed him, until the very time when He was crucified there. As far as most of the world is concerned, they did not know Christianity existed until a century or two later. The time came when everybody in the Roman Empire faced it as a real force. The time came when paganism completely disappeared. But nearly 490 years went by before that time. Maybe 200 and 250 years passed before half the people of the Roman world knew even there existed such a person as Jesus. There was a change but the change is not an instantaneous thing. That is true of most changes.

History is a continuum. Breaks are vital. There are important sources that come, and usually changes occur over a period of time.

 

2. Centuries are convenient means of general division. A good many times it seems as if important developments last just about a hundred years. It is of course just because we happen to have ten fingers that we figure time by centuries, but it is a very convenient system and we are going to use this system in this class. I wish that you would make sure that you are familiar with common designations of centuries. It is a little bit confusing. The first century is the years that do not have any one in the hundred line, the years before one hundred. The second century has one at the beginning of it. We are now in the 20th century, though the years start with 19. It is a little bit confusing. So, we are going to refer to centuries and I am going to use them in our outline a good deal. Please get that clearly in mind so that if I ask you to describe events in the 14th century, you won't describe things between 1400 and 1500. The 14th century is between 1300 and 1400. The 1st century is before 100 AD and not after.

Now, some people think that history is simply a matter of memorizing a lot of dates. Remember the boy who learned the poem "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue," and then he said, "Now, I know when America was discovered." So, the next day when someone asked he said, "1583." "Where did he get that?" "In 1583, Columbus sailed the deep blue sea." When you learn dates like that, they mean absolutely nothing. And so, people go to the opposite extreme and take the attitude, "Why bother with dates?" Dates are like skeletons. They are tremendously useful if you think of them as a means of getting the general relationship of events. When you look at the middle ages, I want you to know within a hundred years when something happened; know the century in which it occurred. I do not care about your knowing 1327, but I do not want you to think that it was 1627.

When we are looking at the time of the Reformation, we are looking at a few things that I want you to know rather exactly. In the ancient church history period, I think it is good if you can know within about a third of a century when something happened. There is no great importance from our viewpoint in knowing whether the Emperor Nero died in 64, 65, 66, 67 or 68. It does not make any big difference from our viewpoint. But it makes big difference whether it was 68 or 38, Whether Christianity has had nearly 40 years to get under way after the death of Christ, or it was only 6 years. So, a third of a century is about the length of the mature active life of the average person, or at least it used to be. With our increases in health and sanitation that we enjoy, it is probably a bit longer now. But through most of history, a third of a century is the time between when a man begins to be an important factor in life until he becomes an old man, and a new generation has practically taken over. At least it used to be. So, in our ancient church history, try to remember a thing within a third of a century. And it is very important to know whether it happened in 37 AD or 137 or 237.

If somebody asked you when the airplane was invented, if you say 1812, everybody today will laugh. It is ridiculous to think of all that happened during the last century without airplanes; but if you don't know whether it was 1904 or 1906 or 1908, it does not make a great big difference, if you just know that it was earlier in this 20th century. So, I would like you to remember dates to that extent, of a third of a century, within this course.

 

3. Church history is usually divided into three major sections. This is partly based on secular history. We see ancient church history, medieval church history and modern church history. I say, partly based on secular history, because in church history the modern period begins with the Reformation. In secular history, it begins with Renaissance—maybe fifty years earlier—around the time that printing began to flourish in Europe. But it is the same general period. There was a change between a world in which the Roman civilization was in control, and a world which has been overrun by an unassimilated people who destroyed most of the civilization, and sank back into the dark ages; and then a world in which again civilization began to come vigorously to the fore; that is a movement in the secular history. That makes a tremendous difference in church history. And the modern period, I think, is most important for our understanding; but the ancient is more important than the medieval, which is far less. The medieval is as long as the other two put together; and it is very interesting; but from our viewpoint we will have to spend only a little time on the medieval. I want you to understand the ancient, because it is very important from our viewpoint.

 

a. Ancient church history - After the Apostolic Age. This began after the end of the New Testament. We are not dealing with the New Testament in this course. We are dealing with what happened after the New Testament. Church history began after the death of Christ and the Apostles. Practically, it began after the Apostles. We are not dealing with Paul, for instance, in this course. That is dealt with in the Apostolic history.

Ancient church history, then, begins and runs on until the Roman Empire disappeared in the West; and then the area was divided into petty little groups always fighting against each other. And instead of a situation in which nine out of ten people could read and write, you get maybe one in a hundred. It was the coming of barbarism and it lasted nearly a thousand years. Well, we will continue there a week from next Tuesday.

Church History, in general—like History in general—divides into three parts, called Ancient, Medieval, and Modern. When I was in seminary, Ancient Church History was a course which they only had once a week. The professor assigned us a lot of reading, and the lecture was one hour a week on Ancient Church History. In Medieval Church History, we met two hours a week; and in Modern Church History we met two I think. And in Medieval Church History, we learned the names of endless writers, thinkers and church leaders through the middle ages—a great deal of material which, if it had been well-presented, would have been tremendously interesting. But it was very dully presented; and in addition to that, it had comparatively little importance for us today. So we give comparatively little attention to medieval history, not because it isn't interesting—if it's well handled, anything is interesting.

 

b. Medieval church history - After the fall of Rome. Rome fell in 476, which is a convenient dividing line between ancient and medieval church history. For those who do not have a U.S. History background, just between 450 and 500 is quite satisfactory. But that is the time when the Roman Empire broke up into little sectors warring with each other, between 450 and 600—more particularly 450 and 500. Before that you have, on the whole, a large peaceful area in which it is possible for Christianity to spread and to develop in a comparatively normal fashion. And then you have the modern period, a situation in many ways similar to the ancient period. That period we will look at next year. In between you have Medieval Church history—a thousand years which is not of such great importance to church history, though it is an extremely interesting period.

Ancient church history and modern church history are of tremendous importance; and medieval church history—unless you're going to specialize in it—is of comparatively little interest to us. The reason for that is that our Protestant heritage, at least, comes almost directly from the ancient period and the modern period, and the medieval is largely a sideline. It moved off in a different direction and then we get back on the main line.

Of course if you're going to deal with Roman Catholicism—particularly when your mission work is Roman Catholic—you need to know a lot more; at least if you're dealing with priests and bishops, you need to know a lot more about the middle ages than the ordinary Protestant needs to; but even then the modern period is far more important, and the ancient also, than the age in between.

 

c. Modern church history - After the Reformation. 1453 was the downfall of Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire. In 1453 it was conquered by the Turks, and that opened up all of Eastern Europe to the Turks and made tremendous changes. Shortly after that, printing was established. That is one of the great features of modern church history, compared with all previous history, the existence of printing.

But 1492 was the discovery of America; and just 25 years after the discovery of America is the year when Luther nailed his theses on the Church door, and thus began the reformation in 1517; that is the beginning of modern church history. But modern history begins at either 1492 or 1493, about that period. So that to tie up Luther with these others is helpful.

1564 is the date when John Calvin died; and Martin Luther's work and John Calvin's work together were the great foundation of the Reformation. And while the Reformation didn't stop in 1564, the great persecution went from when Luther nailed his theses in 1517 to when John Calvin died in 1564.

So that you see Church History is naturally divided into the period up to about 500, up to say 476. And then a thousand years from that till around 1500, and then the 400 years up to the present.

 

D. Remarks about Dates. I don't think it's true so much anymore, but in the old days it used to be that many people got the impression that history consisted of a collection of dates, and the important thing was that they know that this happened in 1492 and this in 1756, and this in 1743, and this in 1917, and so on. They got a great many meaningless figures combined in their minds and spent their time memorizing those. That is not our purpose here. I'm not apt to hold you responsible for many precise dates. On the other hand it's easy to go to the opposite extreme and to say dates don't matter at all, and that would be utterly wrong.

Supposing that you were talking about what happened one day when Abraham Lincoln and George Washington had a big argument about some matter of American Government. Well, anyone who was brought up in this country would immediately see how absurd that would be, because George Washington was dead at least ten years before Abraham Lincoln was born. To have an idea of the general time-relationship of important occurrences is very important in understanding events. And so I'm not the least bit interested in most dates—in your knowing whether this happened in 1752 or 1748 or 1746 or 1712—but I am interested that you know that it was 17 something rather than 15 or 19 something. It depends on the period we're dealing with how great the exactness is which we want on dates. But I want you to know the general relationships, or the event in history is rather meaningless. And so I think that you should know within the half-century an event of any importance, within the half-century. Now of course you get into times when you have many, many important things happening in a brief period; then we try to get it more exactly. When we get where we run over a long period, we will not be so interested in getting so near to the exact date.

Here are four dates which are of importance. I don't know that they're important right now, because they come at the end of the period rather than at the beginning, but they divide off this period. 1453 was the downfall of Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire. In 1453 it was conquered by the Turks; and that opened up all of Eastern Europe to the Turks, and made tremendous changes. Shortly after that, printing was established. That is one of the great features of modern church history, compared with all previous history—the existence in history of printing. In 1492, something occurred which anyone born in the U.S. probably will immediately know. I don't know if in South America 1492 is stressed quite so much; I guess you do too, because Columbus, I think, the very next year went to South America; and what he discovered in 1492 was almost halfway between North and South America, not much more one than the other.

But 1492 was the discovery of America; and just 25 years after the discovery of America is the year when Luther nailed his theses on the church door. And thus began the Reformation in 1517; that is the beginning of modern church history.

And then I'm going to give you just one other date 1564. 1564 is the date when John Calvin died, and Martin Luther's work and John Calvin's work together were the great foundation of the Reformation. And while the Reformation didn't stop in 1564 the great persecution went from when Luther nailed his theses in 1517 to when John Calvin died in 1564. So that you see Church History is naturally divided into the period up to about 500, up to say 476. And then a thousand years from that till around 1500, and then the 400 years up to the present.

Now have these general dates in mind. It's quite important for the general main section of church history. And from our viewpoint, modern church history is by far the most important. I almost wish that we had a whole extra year to devote to it, there are so many important things that we can hardly touch in one year. Next in order of importance is Ancient Church History, because it is the foundation; it is the beginning; it is tremendously important, though its importance is often greatly over-estimated. We do not get our faith from what happened in ancient church history; we get it from the Bible. But it is of great importance. And then the medieval period is of tremendous interest, though of less importance for us. So much for D, then, Remarks About Dates. Try to have an idea of most of the events in Ancient Church History within the half century, to have a general idea of what happened this half century, and that half century.

It is necessary in our present day that every one of you know the whole condition of the world today, as it is since 1909. After 1909 conditions were very different. And the people who were at the same stage of their development in 1909 that you are now, they are either dead or very aged. You are a new generation, and 50 years from now very few of you will be important figures in the world if our Lord tarries; there will be a new generation. So if you get mixed up, what happened 50 years ago, what happens now, and 50 years from now, it is rather important; but if you know anything that happened ten years ago or what will happen ten years from now, it's probably tremendously important. So try to have a general idea of your periods.

 

E. What is History? If we're going to talk about church history, we ought to at least have some idea of what we mean by history. What is history? It is sometimes said that "prophecy is history written in advance." And if by that you mean that in prophecy you learn about some events that are going to take place in the future before they occur, then certainly prophecy is history written in advance. But if by that statement you mean that prophecy is really a presentation of what we commonly call history, then it is not true. If you have a prophecy presented 200 years or 300 years before, and someone wrote a history that was just like that prophecy, that is an utterly untrue statement. History is quite different from prophecy. What do we mean by history?

Well, suppose I tell you, this morning, down in South Philadelphia in a very poor house, in a family the parents of which could hardly read and write, there was a young boy born this morning at 3 o'clock. One of you will say, yes, and in a similar house in San Francisco there was one at 3:15 and a similar house in N.Y. there was one at 3:30, and in a very wealthy family down in Texas there was one at 3:45. You could go on through the day and tell, name all the people who were born today and it wouldn't be history at all but events, things that happened but it wouldn't be history.

But out of all the people who were born today, one of them, perhaps from a very wealthy family, perhaps from a very poor family, perhaps from a family of great culture, perhaps from a family of no culture at all, one of them 50 years from now, if our Lord tarries, may be making a visit to China and be received by the head of the Chinese government, give him all sorts of great praise and acclaim, telling the Chinese what we're going to do to them in the next few years, and so on, and if that happens, history books will be greatly interested in where he was born and when and what his background was and all about him.

History is not an account simply of events but is an account of events that have an effect on great numbers of people. It is an account of events that change the course of life, not just for one or two individuals but for a great number. And so history is greatly interested in either individuals who greatly affect others, or in that which is typical which has affected a number of individuals rather than just a few. And history is interested not just in a series of events, but how these came to happen. What was their relationship, how did one affect the other?

As I say, if you wrote an account of what happened in 1959, and started and told everything that happened January 1, January 2, that would not be history. It would be picking out those events which affected great numbers of people and which had great influence upon the world. Those events might not have been the least bit recognized at the time. You might have had no idea they were important.

About 1910, I believe it was, there was a Russian who came into a Basle in Switzerland and asked for a room, and paid very small sum for this room; he had a tin plate and a little cheap knife & fork and cooked his own meals to save money in this little room there; he lived there, and he paid. He had a great deal of correspondence with other people, but nobody paid much attention to him. And in 1945 I think it was—'45, '48, something like that—the owner of this house died; and immediately the director of the leading museum in Basle, Switzerland, went to the people who inherited the house; and he said, "Would you sell this spoon and fork and knife and the plate that this Russian used 40 years ago?" People had tried to get these, but the owner never would part with them; and he got them for maybe a hundred dollars—I don't know—the price was many times what they were worth; but he managed. He hadn't left more than five minutes when a representative of the Russian government wanted to buy them. But they were already sold. And the Russian government gave art works which were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Basle Museum, in order to get that knife and spoon and tin plate, because Lenin had used them.

Nobody knew Lenin was of any importance in 1910, except his little group of friends. But today his body is embalmed and preserved; and thousands of people every year walk past it to revere it; and anything connected with him now has become history and tremendously important, because he was important in how he affected the Russian people and people all around the world.

So you can't write history when it's happening. You can't tell how important it is, you may guess that something is of great importance, of course. You may be right; you may be wrong. You have to look back; you have to take the different events; you have to try to see what's important. Any history of the U. S. written fifty years ago will be very, very different from the history of the same years written today. Because fifty years ago they thought: who were the officers, when was the battle fought, all these matters were the most important; and today the tendency is to forget most of those details and ask about the things that affected large numbers of people, their social life, their relation to each other, matters that fifty years ago they didn't bother to think about, yet were of tremendous importance because they affected great numbers.

Now that's history in general. But we're not in this course interested in history in general, except as it is necessary for our interest in special history here. But to have a concept of what we mean by history is very important, and maybe I'll take a second to mention another thing about it.

History—as anybody will write a history—will not simply go straight on from year to year. You can't write history that way. You want to write a history of the world during the last 20 years. You won't start in and tell what happened every day, all over the world, or any part. You will take one country and write it up for a ways; then you'll take another country. Because you'll want to see the interrelation, you'll want to deal with the things that are closely related together and then wee their effect on other things that were closely related. And so when you take up OT history, you find that in the book of Kings, you deal with the kings of Israel for 96 years and then you come back and deal with Judah for maybe 50 years; and you start at different places with them as you're trying to deal with each of the units and see what is inter-related in it, and also the interrelations to the other kings.

Well, that's complicated, in understanding history. You have to take various things and trace them through as units, yet you want to see their relationship to each other.

History then is not just a series of events. It is not a chronicle, but it is a study of that which has been of importance in affecting the lives of great numbers of people. Now you can have a history of science. In that case you're interested not in the idea that somebody had about science, somebody followed up; nor even are you greatly interested in the great discoveries made by a man who was way ahead of his time, made a great discovery, but then wrote them up, buried them; and nobody saw them till they'd all been discovered over again.

You're interested in the science that has affected other science; in how knowledge proceeded, in what was important in advancing science, in the history of science.

In church history, we find interesting important figures who had little influence on others; and it is very interesting to study them at length; but we felt that we should pay little attention to them, because they're not so vital for church history, though they may be very important. So much for what is history. Then if we're going to deal with church history, the next question logically is

 

F. What is the Church? What is the Church? And that, properly, comes under another department, but it's basic to church history. We find in Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, "I say unto thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church." Which church does he mean? There are 200 churches in Philadelphia. Which one does he mean when he says my church? Well, we Protestants believe that no particular church organization is the church.

We believe that the church, of which Jesus speaks here, is the total body of those who are saved through Christ, past, present, and future; whatever church they be in, whatever their relationship with others, those who believe on Christ constitute the church. "I will build my church," Jesus said. And in the book of Ephesians, Paul says, in Ephesians 5, verses 25ff, "Christ loved the church and gave himself for it." Which church? Is it one of the hundreds of churches in Philadelphia? Is it one of the hundreds of denominations in the world? What is it? "He loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not a spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish." According to this description, there isn't a church in the world that fits it; there's not one of them holy and without blemish; there's not one of them that doesn't have many spots and wrinkles. The church is the whole body of the redeemed, which the Lord Jesus has saved from sin; and He is sanctifying, is cleansing, is changing, so that the time will come when he can say of this body, that it is a glorious church without spot or wrinkle. That is the church.

Well, now it's pretty hard to write a history of this church, naturally; because we can't see that, we don't know who's in it and who isn't in it. We can see, but we cannot be certain; but that is the church. So for the purpose of church history, we are using the word "church" in a broader sense. We mean, when we talk about church history now, were not talking about that kind of a church that is in heaven; we're talking about the part on earth at any particular time. And then also we are interested in all those who believe in Christ as Savior; but we are interested in something somewhat larger than that. We are interested in the organization to which they belong. We are interested in the people who claim to be Christians, whether they are real Christians or not. So we are interested in this, the Professing Church.

Of course we're more interested in the real church, but we're interested in the professing church. We're interested in all the branches of the professing church. We are interested though, particularly, in those who have interacted upon one another in such a way as to contribute to the development of the situation which we face today, as our part in church history. The organizations which we face, how did they come to be this way? Where did they come from? And we are interested in the organizations through the ages which have been prominently identified as Christian organizations; or if not so prominent, have had a great importance in contributing to the situation that we find today. That's what we mean by church history. That's what we mean by the Church. That is the church that we are interested in for this course; not the church invisible, except incidentally—as far as this course is concerned—though in general we're much more interested in that than the other.

It is the church that has been manifested on earth here; it is those organizations which have claimed to be the Christian church, or a branch of it; and particularly those which have contributed to the development of the situation which you see today. And since today most churches talk a great deal about the primitive church—the Roman Catholic Church claims to be the church that comes from the time of the apostles, and carries out the situation as it was in ancient times. And most other churches claim to be a NT church, a primitive church. We are greatly interested in what the church was like in those early days. We are interested in the ancient church.

When John Calvin was a young man, assisting another pastor in Geneva, the directors of Geneva said that Farel brought a young French student to be his assistant; and that Farel and the young Frenchman came to a meeting to be counselors. One day they asked Farel to take part in a debate with three Roman Catholic leaders—three Protestant leaders of which Farel was one—and three R.C. leaders. And they were going to debate what was the true church, and whether they should be in the Roman fold, or whether they were right in being out. And they went to the debate, and Farel asked his young assistant to go along to carry some books, and so the young Frenchman went along.

And they got there and immediately the Roman Catholics began quoting: why you should believe in trans-substantiation? Look at what St. Augustine said; look at what St. Jerome said; look at all those great leaders in the early churches, what they said about it. You should believe that Peter is the Pope: look at what these leaders say; they began to quote from the Latin from great leaders in ancient church and history; and Farel and the other two were great students of the Bible; and they were presenting the great cases from the Bible—which is the important case—and Calvin was also very much at home in that field, very interested in it; but here the Romanists were putting emphasis on the early church fathers and what they said; and the young Frenchman began to get more and more restless and finally he turned to Farel and said, "Say, could I say a few words?" So Farel said to the group, "I have a young Frenchman here with me. He has some ideas on this matter. Would you be willing to hear him?" They said, "All right."

So Calvin got up and said, "The speaker has just said that St. Augustine said so-and-so." And he quoted the words. "But," he said, "it would have been helpful if he had also mentioned that right in the next paragraph, St. Augustine said this," and he quoted what he said in the next paragraph. And then he said, "so-and-so quoted St. Jerome, said so-and-so, but I wish he had mentioned the fact that two pages later he said so-and-so, and he had the quotations right in his head from all these things the church fathers—by fathers we mean the leaders in the early church—and he showed from this field that the Protestants were right, and were more in line with the attitude of the early church, than the Romanists. Now that was when Calvin first came into attention; before long they were talking about Calvin and Farel instead of about Farel and his young assistant.

Now we of course—most of us—do not enter as much into that particular type of debate; but it stresses the importance which there is in knowing something about the early church history period, the attitude of the early church, and how it developed.

So then this is what we mean by what is the church. The next head I have down is

 

G. What is Church History. Having discussed what history is, and what the church is, perhaps this would not be necessary, but I'll say a word or two about it. What is church history? Church History is not the history of the political life of the world, not the scientific development, nor of the type of political organization which it had. But these points had great effect upon church history, they interact with church history; and so we must touch upon many of them which are important. Others which didn't affect church history much we may not touch on at all, though they might be even of greater importance in those fields than the ones we will touch on.

But Church History is the account of how a little group of men in Palestine who believed in Christ increased in number and spread until the whole Roman Empire became nominally Christian: How did it spread? What they did to do it? What difficulties they faced? What ideas were developed in the course of this? And what type of organization they used? And what changes occurred in it? Their general set-up, who were their great men? And so on.

Church History is the account of that which is important in the development of the New Testament Church. That is, in the rise of groups or organizations which claim to be the church or parts of the church; or the developments of ideas which have an important influence on the various parts of the Christian church today. Now the Roman Catholic Church says, we are the true church, and if a man is not in the true church he is lost. The Bible Presbyterian Church makes no claim to be the true church—nor does any true Presbyterian—but its Constitution begins: "This is a branch of the church of Christ."

No true church claims we are the only Christians, because we recognize that Jesus Christ today is honored and revered by individuals in many different groups; but we say we are one of the branches, and we recognize the existence of an organism related to Him—which is His body—which is not confined to any one denomination; but each group can do its best to become more like what the Bible says the true Church ought to be.

But we're interested in all these groups, particularly in those which have an effect on the situation as we know it today as far as church history is concerned. If we dealt with all the events and looked at all the people who believed in Christ, we would be here 300 years in conference. If we dealt with all the events connected with the leaders of important sections of the Christian church, we'd spend the next 20 years. We have to make a selection. We have to do our best to take that which is most vital.

Now that's not the difficulty in church history, because our material is comparatively limited. When you get to Modern Church History, it's extremely vital because there's so much material that you just haven't time to cover it all; but in Ancient Church History there are many very important things we just don't know about, so we have to take what we do have and try to interpret that.

[Mr. Myers question] What is the church? The church is all who are saved through Christ. Who is saved through Christ? All those for whom he died. Did he die for Abel? If he didn't, why did Abel make a sacrifice? A lamb representing the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly all those who are saved or who ever have been saved, or ever will be saved, are in a very true sense part of the church. But for the purposes of our course, we have one course in OT, and another course in gospel history, and another course in apostolic history. Apostolic history is a very, very important part of church history. But we have a separate course in apostolic history. So here we only look at it very briefly, because we feel that that portion of the history of the church is not for us so vital and we only touch incidentally on that phase of Bible history. We will touch on apostolic history one of these days, because you just can't skip it; but we will deal principally with events after the Apostolic Age.

But Mr. Myers is very right in pointing out the fact that no one else was ever saved in a different way than we are; we're all saved because of Christ's death; nobody ever gets saved differently from that. So in a very true sense they are a part of the church. But for the purpose of this course, we're interested in the various organizations which have claimed to be Christian, not in those who are not in one of these organizations; except where we find individuals who, though not connected with an organization claim to have had, by their life or writing, considerable influence on church history. He will be a factor in church history that we will naturally want to mention if we can find time.

Well, this was Introduction. Whenever you start history, you need to know something about what was before. You can't just make a sharp line, because there's always something that precedes, and we're not going into much of what preceded the beginning of the Christian Church, but we are interested in what was there before it began.

II. The World into which Christianity Came.

 

All through Ancient Church History, the Roman Empire is of tremendous importance. So we want to say a few things about the Roman Empire as general introduction and background as we study the church all through the ancient period. We're not particularly interested in the beginning; we're interested in that, but we're interested in what follows. So

 

A. The Roman Empire. The Roman Empire had established peace, and an attitude toward law that permitted individual enterprise and allowed the Christian to spread his belief in a way that would have been very difficult in most other times in history. There was a language—the Greek language and the Greek culture—which would be understood and engaged with, by some people at least, in every town.

And then there was Judaism which had spread throughout the empire. Very early, the Romans gave the Jews a special privilege that they wouldn't have to worship Jupiter. So long as the Jews would obey the law, they could worship their own God. The Jews worshipped in synagogues. The apostles could present their new teaching in the synagogues, and it gave them a method of approach and an entry for the spread of the gospel.

 

1. Its Importance (in Church History). In the providence of God, Christ came in the "fullness of time." Now what is meant by the fullness of time? Well, there probably are many things involved. But one thing that is involved in the fullness of time is that God had prepared a situation in which Christianity could spread much more rapidly than could have been the case, humanly speaking, 50 years or 100 years or 150 years before. And except in its most northern section—I guess we'd better say—the Roman Empire had conquered most of Europe, what is Europe today; the southern perhaps two-thirds of Europe, and a good big section of Asia, and of north Africa, had been conquered by the Roman Empire.

And this meant that Christianity, though it came from what the Romans considered a very obscure, backwoods section of the Empire, had immediate access into all portions of the Empire; which it would not have if it had been divided up—like Europe was in the middle ages—into a lot of little sections fighting against each other, in which it was very difficult to go from one region to the other. 

Nine years ago I stood in Jerusalem, in Arab Jerusalem, and there I saw people walking back and forth on the street: policemen, soldiers, everything; here I saw little children playing over here, and there was a big barbed wire barrier; and there was one block of ruins; the other side of the block that nobody dared enter because he'd be shot; and the other side was more barbed wire; and then you could look across and dimly see buildings on the other side; and you could see Jewish people and policemen walking back and forth. You could see little children playing there too. They were just a block away from each other; you could get little sounds of their calling from time to time. But if you were to go across there, you would have to fly to Cypress, and then fly back again—250 miles each way—to get one block across there.

Well, now suppose that you knew about Christ, and you wanted to tell people about it; and you were in Arab Jerusalem, or in Jewish Jerusalem, the chances of your being able to fly to Cypress and fly back again, to get into the other, would not be very great. Particularly if you belong to either one of those countries, they probably wouldn't even let you into the other.

I know, as of 1950, if you went to Israel they wouldn't even let you into the Arab section or the Arab countries; unless they saw the proper visa on your passport, you were excluded. Well, we have borders like that in a few places in the world today. During the middle ages, we had a great many of them. And in ancient times, previous to the time of the Roman Empire, there were a great many; and it is difficult for ideas to move across such borders.

Linguistic scholars today go into sections of Germany, or France, and they find that the people in a certain section pronounce words in a certain way, and on the other side they pronounce it in a different way; they will find that a certain sound may be pronounced "ye" on one side; it may be "je" on the other side. This sound may occur in hundreds of words, but if you go through the country everybody says ye until you come to a certain place and then beyond that everybody says je, though they're talking the same language. And why does this change come right at this place? You trace back and you may find that from 1200 to 1450 AD, there was a border at that place; and people couldn't go across easily; and the result was that the two languages developed differently; this is the same language, but the people talking it on the two sides developed differently, because there wasn't much relationship with each other. And then say in 1450 the two were united and have been one country ever since, but 500 years later you still have a difference in the manner of speaking produced by that border.

Well, the Roman Empire obliterated borders. The Roman Empire conquered nation after nation and reduced it to the one large empire, in which it was possible to travel from one section to the other with much less difficulty than you travel from one section to the other in most of Europe today. I've seen people lined up—hundreds of them in a line—to try to get a chance to go 30 miles away in Europe, from one country to another to visit a relative just across the line; and they've had to spend half a day, a day, sometimes two or three days, waiting to get that permission. And there are places today in Europe where you can't cross at all. The Roman Empire reduced it to one empire in which ideas could spread; it was easy for people to move about, and that was a tremendous help in the spread of Christianity.

Now I want to look at a number of different ways in which the Roman Empire was of advantage to Christianity but first I'm going to say a little more about the Roman Empire.

 

2. How It Came into Being. God prepared the situation in which Christianity entered the world and flourished because of the Roman Empire, but the Roman Empire was not something which came into being overnight. It was not that somebody got an idea and they started out and established it; but over the course of many centuries its situation developed. There had been the four great conquerors that conquered tremendous areas; but the Roman Empire was different, and this had much to do with the possibility of the spread of Christianity.

Rome was a little city down in Italy; a little town there, fighting with other towns; and being a little bit better fighter, it gradually spread over the territory. But after Rome had spread over a bit of territory, there came a situation within the city of Rome which resulted in the development of a degree of democracy much greater than that in most of the great conquering forces in the world history.

Powerful families grew up, and they determined to see that they had their proper rights; and in very early days, this institution based on powerful families had been established. So when the Roman Empire became a force, it wasn't just two or three powerful men, but it was the nation in which there had been developed certain habits, certain viewpoints, certain traditions, which had much to do with the situation in which Christianity later took root. Well, we have to stop at this point.

We were looking at A, The Roman Empire, the world into which Christianity came. There were of course thousands of different factors, as there are in the world at all times. But there are three of these which are of outstanding importance in relation to the preparation of the world for the coming of Christianity. And God had caused that these factors should be such as to advance the introduction and spread of Christianity. And these 3 are all of great importance. They are: The Roman Empire, Hellenism and Judaism. We will look at them individually.

We are now looking at the Roman Empire. I mention the Roman Empire first because it is the most conspicuous of the three during the ancient church period. It is the one that was a factor that you couldn't help reckoning with because you saw evidences of it on every hand; and it is very important that we have some understanding of what it was and what it meant. And so under the Roman Empire I had 1, Its Importance. The matter of what rights people had and what they could do and couldn't do, all that relates to the question of the Roman Empire, so it's very important. It becomes one of the great antagonists of Christianity, and eventually does its best to destroy Christianity; and the conquest by Christianity of the Roman Empire is one of the big features of ancient church history, though not the most important, but one of the great features.

And the Roman Empire by its presence made it possible to travel without great difficulty, and it opened up a large area. Most of what was then considered the civilized world was available for people to travel, with comparatively little difficulty, to spread Christianity. And in fact, there was much trading going from one end of the empire to the other; and so as some of the merchants became Christians, it was easily spread through their activity. And so the Roman Empire is a very important factor in the world into which Christian came. That's number 1, under A, it's importance.

Then 2, How it came into being. Now this is a subject we could speak a month about. And if we did, those of you who have had quite a bit of history would probably find it extremely interesting, and think it was a very worthwhile month; while those of you who have not had much history, would be rather confused. I do not find it necessary, in church history, to have a full understanding of the Roman Empire. I want to just point out—to make five statements under this heading—how it came into being, which I think are good for you to know even if you remember nothing more about it, than the five statements that I make. And I will give some explanation about the five which may not mean a great deal to those of you who know nothing about the Roman Empire but may mean a great deal to those who have some background. So don't worry too much if you don't have the background to understand what I'm bringing out, under this head, but get the five points.

 

a. It was a Gradual Growth. That is very important about the Roman Empire. It was a gradual growth. Not that a man got great power all of a sudden, conquered a lot of nations and set up a kingdom. Nothing like that. For hundreds of years the development had been proceeding which resulted in the situation into which the apostles came. It was the result of a long and gradual growth. And this is important because it would affect what the apostles had to face. They were not facing simply a dictatorship in which absolute ruthless power conditioned everything they did. It was a very different situation than one in Hitler's Germany, or Stalin's Russia, or Mao Tse Tung's China.

 

b. In Rome there had developed a constitutional system with a large measure of individual liberty. Most of the then-civilized world was part of the Roman Empire, but the Roman Empire was not simply the result of one man's arbitrary action. As far back as 500 BC, approximately, half a millennium before the time of Christ, the Roman people had driven out their king, and they had established a system of government in which two men directed the administrative control of the city; these were two consuls who ruled jointly and who were elected for only one year. Well, now that's very, very different from the dictatorships we know. These two consuls ruled one year, they were followed by two others who were elected to succeed them.

There's a situation in which you have a large amount of freedom as early as 500 BC. There was already a certain measure of democracy in Rome. It was not simply ruled by Caesars. The Roman Republic begins about 500 BC. By the time of Christ, the Roman Republic had been overcome, and it became an empire; but much of the situation of the Republic remains. So I'm pointing out a long tradition of democracy and law. The consul had tremendous power for a year, and then a new one was elected.

Now that's the sort of system that would run most countries into the ground, because there would be not enough continual power to establish them; but there was a group of patricians who elected the Consuls, and they were tremendously interested in everything that happened; and gradually the consuls divided up a good bit of their power between them; and then also very early, centuries before the time of Christ, a large group of people in Rome who had no voice in the government—the Plebeians as they were called—revolted against the Patricians who were running the government; and a compromise was made which left the power in the hands of the Patricians, but gave the Plebeians the power of electing officers which they called Tribunes; these Tribunes did not run the government, but they could veto anything the consul said. They could stop any law from being promulgated; they could prevent any one of the people from being punished, by the consul. They had a veto power which made their power tremendous in the Roman situation.

Well, through many centuries there had grown up a situation in which the Roman people understood that every man had many definite rights, and the legal right to do certain things; and no officer of the state could interfere with him; and if he was interfered with by the state officials, there were other officials who had the right to investigate, and stop anything done against him; a tradition of individual rights, and of individual liberty and the right of a large number of people to participate in the government as it developed in Rome. There was a Constitutional system—not an arbitrary rule by a dictator—and a large measure of individual liberty was involved in it. Then another factor developed in Rome which isn't so important when Christianity began but becomes more important later.

 

c. A gradual extension of the rights of Roman citizenship to conquered peoples. This began very early; when Rome, the little city in Italy, conquered another city, they would give the rights of citizenship to certain of the people they conquered; and gradually the rights of Roman citizenship were extended to other people.

When they would bring slaves into Rome, after a time these slaves might be freed by their master; and some of them might be granted the rights of Roman citizenship; and thus gradually Roman citizenship came to be not a racial matter, which people of a certain heredity had, but something that could be extended; and gradually it was extended, until before the time of Constantine, practically everybody in the Roman Empire was a citizen of Rome. This extended beyond Italy. But this is an important principle here. Along with this,

d. There was a concentration of power in experienced hands. Now that is the difference between the Roman system and that of many of the Greek cities. The Greek cities thought they had democratic control before the Romans did; and they had it perhaps much more widely, perhaps there was much more democracy; but in many of the Greek cities, democracy had become a situation in which a lot of people who knew nothing about a situation would make the decisions about it. And that's a tremendous danger in any democracy. And that's one reason why Greece had very easily been conquered by Rome. There was no centrally strong power to resist it.

But in Rome very early there developed an institution of the Senate, something which is almost unique; and if we had something like it, that would be a very wonderful thing. We do not have anything like the Roman Senate. The Roman Senate, which developed very early, soon developed into an organization in which the men who had had high positions like Consul became permanent members. It was a permanent body made up of the people of leadership and experience in Rome. And the final authority for some centuries had rested with the Roman Senate.

The result was that a Consul might be a very able man, but when it came to making decisions, or of changing laws, he had the advice, and in fact the control, of a group older and more experienced than himself. These were men who were constantly studying how to advance the welfare of the Roman people and of the Roman State. In this country, when a man becomes prominent and well enough liked to become a president, we elect him president of the U.S. for four years or eight years; and after he's president—if he retires or he is defeated for reelection—he's just a has-been; he may travel around the country criticizing the man who is in power, or he may go off somewhere and write memoirs; but he's wasted as far as the country is concerned.

I only know of one president in our history who was really a valuable asset to the nation after his presidency ended, and that was John Quincy Adams. John Quincy Adams did far more good for the country after he was president than before. He just went into the House of Representatives as an ordinary Congressman; he remained there for many years, but with his influence, his personality, his clear-thinking, and his long experience, he was a great force in the up-building the U.S. there for many years. But I know of no other president who has been an important factor in American life after he ceases to be president.

Now in Rome, with the Senate arrangement, instead of one party being out of power, and these men just having no influence to speak of except to criticize, all the former experienced men, who had done good work, were in the Senate, constantly giving the best of their advice, their ideas, helping in the decision for the welfare of the nation. And this system of the Roman Senate resulted in the concentration of power in the hands of experienced men; this made a comparatively democratic nation, yet it had the power to keep expanding and enlarging and extending, as it did for many centuries, until eventually all the world came to be in its hands.

 

e. The Tensions, which were largely the result of extremely rapid conquest, eventually resulted in concentration of ultimate power in one head. This happened between 250 and 200 BC Now that is what ended the Roman Republic, and produced the Empire. But the Empire still had many of the factors of the Republic very important in it.

About 250 BC or 300 BC Rome held most of Italy in its power, and Rome was ruled by the Senate; the officers were temporary, the Senate really controlled. The Senate was a deliberative body such as the world has never seen before or since. But then Rome was faced with the threat of being defeated by other great powers, about 300 or 250 BC; they were faced by these, and they had to either be overcome by them or overcome them. And for many decades they were almost constantly at war. But in the end the Romans, by virtue of the clear thinking and careful planning of the Roman Senate; the devotion to duty of the Roman individual; and the good generalship that emerged; in a comparatively short time the city of Rome found itself not merely in control of Italy but in control of an area perhaps ten times as big as Italy. And it was too much to absorb all at once.

And so they had to immediately proceed to govern all this big territory; and in doing it, this introduced all sorts of confusion into their own situation. They had soldiers, originally citizen-soldiers, but by this time they had something of a standing army. And as they had more territory to police, naturally they had to have more soldiers. But with all these large territories around, it was too much for the Roman Senate to handle. The Senate continued to determine great matters of war and peace, policies in relation to them, but former consuls were sent out to govern these provinces; and so in each province you had a former consul or a former tribune—some former officer—who was practically absolute monarch of his province. He went into the province; he ruled the province; nobody had anything to say about what he did; but after he got through, when he came back to Rome, he might be accused of malfeasance in office, malpractice, as many of them were, and severely punished. So that acted as a check on him; but while he was at it, he was supreme there. And with all this land conquered, tremendous wealth began to flow into Rome; and the old ideas of Rome began to disappear, in the face of many new ideas that came in, great influxes of new people.

And after Rome had conquered all this big territory, a situation developed which would take us many weeks to detail; but we can briefly say a situation developed, which resulted in a certain amount of anarchy, or civil war, in Rome; and eventually a situation where people got so tired of the fighting between factions that they were just happy to have someone take over and take control.

Julius Caesar was a man who all his life served for Rome, but then he was assassinated; and after his death the warring parties ended with the one man victorious; he was Julius Caesar's great-nephew, named Octavius, and he is the founder of the Roman Empire.

Well, now when Octavius took over the Roman Empire, he kept alive all the forms of the Republic; he tried to make it out that the Republic was going along just as it had been before, but actually he had the army in his possession; he had the military power. More and more he controlled. They called him commander. The word for commander was imperator, and from that our word emperor comes.

Well, emperor came to mean something it never had meant at first. At first it just meant the commanding officer of the army; but it was because he was commanding officer of the army that he could say anything he wanted, and the Senate couldn't resist; so that he became the complete dictator. That was the establishment of the Roman Empire; but it was established in such a way that you have this long tradition of democratic control; the development of individuals who were devoted to the Roman state. This constitutional idea was the rights of Roman citizens. Well established, this idea of law, and it was established in Rome and gradually extended to the provinces; which were, for the time being, under the absolute control of temporary officers sent there originally by the Senate, but now sent by the Roman legions.

Now for those of you who know little about Rome, some of the points I've mentioned may not be clear. But if you have these five points I've mentioned, I think you have something of what will be helpful in understanding the progress of Christianity in the Empire.

We won't dare take more time on that, but will go on to a brief mention of

 

3. The nature of the Roman Empire. Two important elements:

 

a. Strong Central Power.

 

b. A Great Tradition of Law and of Personal Liberty. These two elements exist side by side. The Emperor came to have the last word on anything with which he wished to deal. One man with millions of people; he cannot relate himself to most of them in any direct way. Something comes before him, he can do anything he wants to; but 99% of that which affects most of the people is the result of a system which the emperor takes over and inherits and directs; a system in which there is this strong tradition of the rights of the individual; of the legal processes to be carried out, and of the personal liberty to which every Roman citizen is entitled; and this is gradually extended to others. Of course, I don't mean complete personal liberty; I mean within limits. But it was altogether different from the system in the communistic realm in which every individual is supposed to be completely subject to the state. There was no such idea here. The individual had a responsibility to the state, but the state had a responsibility to the individual. But this now had been, you might say, upset by the emperor's tremendous power, but that power did not directly affect many people, so that the presence of this very strong central power is something to be reckoned with.

In Athens at one time, the people would come together and vote; many of them knew nothing about the thing under consideration at all; a clever speech would move them one way or the other, and the vote would go this way or that way, you couldn't predict; and it's one reason for the downfall of Athens.

In Rome's central power, even under the emperor, most of the important things were decided by the careful deliberation of the Senate, made up of experienced people; and there was a stability there, not a quick unreasoning change in one direction or another, that subjects of a pure democracy are very, very apt to fall into. Well, so much for 3, then, its nature. Now, I want to give you a rapid survey of the history of the Western empire, of the western Roman Empire; I guess you can say of the Roman Empire, don't need to say Western because we're not going to survey beyond the point where it divides.

 

4. A rapid survey of the history of the Roman Empire. I want to mention five lines of power and give a brief summary of what happened in the Roman Empire during each of them.

 

a. The Julian Line (30 BC-68 AD). As you see, that is a period lacking only 2 years of being a whole century. Now you have a century of emperors which were the first emperors; and these emperors were important in the first start of Christianity; and they are in any books and stories about the early Christian developments, they run parallel to Acts.

I don't know how many people today realize that Julius Caesar is responsible for the present calendar which we have. It shows that he was not merely a man of war, but that like Napoleon, after he gained control he proceeded to carry through some very excellent reforms. And one of them was that he took the old Egyptian calendar of 360 days and he introduced it into Rome, replacing the lunar calendar. Julius Caesar corrected the Egyptian calendar of 360 days, and made it 365 days; and he put in a leap year, which made it substantially accurate. He introduced this system, and it has been followed with slight modifications right up to the present day. They took one of the months and they lengthened it a little in his honor; they added an extra day to it and called it July; and then when Augustus became emperor, they took another month, added a day to it in his honor, and called it August after him. So we have July and August after Julius Caesar and Augustus; but both of them were able rulers who built up the country, and certainly had a beneficent effect on the whole world which Rome ruled.

We don't know much about the Julian line's relationship to Christianity, because Christianity was pretty largely unknown then, except among the Christians. It was very small, hardly known; and yet it is worthwhile to know a little bit about the personality of these five men. We will occasionally refer to them in our consideration of this first century. So I want to say a few words about each of them. I want you to write down their names and their dates. I'm not asking you to learn the dates of any of them, but to know at least the half century in which they occur. The first of them is

 

(1). Augustus (30 BC-14 AD). Now I told you that Octavius was the first Emperor. Well, the Senate gave him the name of Augustus—August Leader—they gave him that title; and after he became emperor, he was usually referred to as Augustus. He was the first Roman Emperor. He reigned from 30 BC to 14 A. D. Thus you see, he is the man who was called Caesar in Matthew, where it says that Caesar sent out a command that all the world was to be taxed. He was a great-nephew of Julius Caesar; the name Caesar was attached to all these men; it wasn't actually their name. The Julian line, you see, comes from the name Julius Caesar too. Now Augustus, for 44 years after he came into power was the controlling force in Rome; he kept all the Republican institutions going. They elected consuls; they elected all the different officers. He called himself a tribune, and as a Tribune he had a right to annul any law; but he had control over the army, and nobody else dared annul his law unless he gave permission. He is generally considered as a wise ruler, a man who did much for the welfare of the Roman Empire, including all the provinces. He selected the governors of the provinces and seems to have tried faithfully to find the best one for the work. I've never heard criticism of Augustus as a man or as a ruler.

Well, Augustus died without children. That is, there were some descendants, but no one who was a direct child or grand-child living, who would be the natural one to succeed him. The son—a step-son, he married a woman who had had a child before she married him—and this man succeeded him, a man who is mentioned, I believe, by name in the Bible, named Tiberius.

 

(2). Tiberius (14-37 AD). He reigned from 14 to 37; thus, you see, he too had a fairly long reign, 23 years. Tiberius was an able administrator; he started out as an excellent ruler; did much to give stability to Rome, stability to the empire; he selected good officers for the directors of the provinces; and they were supposed of course to bring in taxes, bring in support to Rome. One of them brought in an unusually large taxation from his province, and instead of getting the praise from Tiberius, he got criticism. Tiberius said, "I sent you to shear my sheep, not to skin them," and it shows the attitude he had.

He was very wise and reasonable and gentle in his administration during his early years. But he did not bother to keep up the pretense of democratic government as a governor. Many of the institutions continued as they were, but everybody recognized that what Tiberius said was law, and that was that; and if somebody didn't, Tiberius would kill him. That was the end of those individuals. His absolute power was recognized; but he held, and I think you could say during his whole term, he tried to be a good governor.

During his latter years, he had an officer he put great confidence in who turned against him; and he killed this man, and the men who stood with him; and it rather soured him; and then he went into big displays, spent a great amount of money, giving praise to himself, spending great sums to please himself. He had some sorrow in his family, and he moved away from Rome, lived in big palaces in southern Italy for a time. In his latter years he was very, very unpopular. People detested him in his latter years but actually he had been a very good governor.

He was the ruler when Christ was crucified. He had never heard of Christ; he knew very little about Palestine. He probably had appointed Pontius Pilate personally, the administrator of this area. But he probably knew practically nothing about that section of the Empire.

Now Tiberius, who reigned 23 years, was succeeded by a man who only reigned 4 years. But this man in some ways is more important than Tiberius.

 

(3). Caligula (37-41 AD). Caligula was a young man, a very attractive young man; everybody liked him. Tiberius adopted him; he was the great grandson of Augustus. He reigned from 37 to 41. When Caligula began to reign, everybody liked him, thought he was a very fine man and were very fond of him; and some think this went to his head. Others think he was injured in his head in a fall or something. There are even a few who say he was poisoned—that they gave him some poison—nobody knows what happened; but very soon after he became emperor, he got all sorts of delusions of grandeur; he appointed his horse as a consul; he decided he was a god. This shows how far things went. He would go and talk to the statues of the other gods. He sent a great big statue of himself—a colossal statue—ordered it to be put up in the Jerusalem Temple; and the Jewish people just flung themselves on the road—lay there—so that this statue could not come to the Temple. The officers would have had to kill so many hundreds of people to get it through that they just quit; and before they could get word from him what to do, he had been killed. But it just shows how in his four years what could happen when a man in a position like that went berserk.

Some people suggest that pictures of the anti-Christ are drawn from knowledge of Caligula. I don't think that's true, though some suggest it. Some say he's the one who is predicted as the anti-Christ. Some suggest that the abomination of desolation to come to the Temple refers to his statue to be brought in. Of course, it didn't actually get there. But Caligula reigned four years before he was killed by his soldiers. And then a very queer thing happened which showed how—with all this wonderful organization of the Roman Empire—they handled this power concentrated in one man.

The imperial guard got so disgusted, they ransacked the palace; and they came across a nephew of Tiberius—an uncle of Caligula, a man 50 years of age—who was hiding behind a chair. With Caligula killed, he didn't know what might happen to him. He was hiding in terror; and it seems that one of the guards just thought it would be a good joke to grab this fellow, who was scared for his life, and pull him up and say, "Look, here's the emperor." So they pulled out this man—this uncle of the dead Caligula, a man now 50 years old, who had always been merely tolerated by his family as a man physically and mentally inferior, weak in body and in character, everybody had looked down on him, but the guards were just in such a mood—and they grabbed him and said, "Here's the emperor, here's the emperor!" so the next emperor is

 

(4). Claudius (41-54 AD). And the palace became a mass of plots and intrigues; and there were all sorts of chaos within the center of the government, but here's the strange thing.

This man, inferior in mind and body, always looked down on, who amounted to nothing, being suddenly placed in this tremendous position of authority, entered into it seriously, and he did the best he could to be a good emperor. And for a period of 13 years, we had real advances made in the improvement of Rome and the empire. He actually proved to be a good emperor; and Claudius, though he drove the Jews from Rome as one of his acts, he probably was himself influenced by some of those in the palace.

Actually he was, on the whole, a good emperor who did his best; and his best proved to be pretty good. He was not a great man like Augustus or Tiberius, but he wasn't a bad man like Caligula. But when Claudius died, in AD 54, the last of his wives, Agrippina—you don't need to bother with her name unless you're particularly interested in Roman history, and then you'll probably know it—she was able to push aside the son of Claudius, and gain the throne for her own son, as Claudius' successor.

 

(5). Nero (54-68). The man then who succeeded Claudius was Nero. His mother had been the wife of the emperor; he had every advantage in the court; she had entrusted his education to the philosopher Seneca; and for the first five years of his reign, his rule was wise and successful, 54-58. Well eventually, Nero got more and more interested in having big banquets, and in carousing, and in making everybody look up to him and think how wonderful he was, and in getting rid of anybody who displeased him in any way; so eventually his government degenerated. But the government of the empire as a whole was going on; the established Roman system was going on. Nero is not interested in it much, so on the whole the empire is still well-managed under Nero.

In 68, Nero killed himself; but he would have been killed if he hadn't killed himself, for they were coming for him. But Nero ended the Julian line; so in the next year and a half there were three generals, one after the other: Galba, Otho, and Vitellius—names I'm not expecting any of you to remember.

These generals came in, each with his army, to try to put a stop to conditions Nero had produced; but no one of them was strong enough to take over the empire by force and hold it; the result was that Galba, being a pretty good man, held it for a brief time; and then Otho took it from him; and then Vitellius overcame him and took it from him; and after a year and a half, people were pretty disgusted with this, and anxious to have stability again; and then Vespasian, who had been general in charge of the army trying to put down the Jewish Rebellion, marched with his army to Rome; he overcame Vitellius; and when he did so, the Roman people were ready to feel that peace and stability were more important than just getting the best kind of an emperor possible; and Vespasian was a pretty good man anyway. So he established

 

b. The Flavian line (69-96). We have little knowledge of the Church from 60-l00 AD, the forty years from Paul's first trial in Rome through the rest of the century, which includes the rule of the Flavians. Acts gives us our only early knowledge.

 

(1). Vespasian (69-79). Vespasian was Emperor when Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70. He held power for the rest of his life, as did his son, who only lived two years after he became emperor, and then his son's brother Domitian.

 

(2). Titus (79-81). Titus was one of the finest men in history outside of Christianity, but he only reigned two years.

 

(3). Domitian (81-96). Domitian was a man of sullen and bitter character, universally disliked; he was not a monster by any means, but a man of rather mean type. He was the second great persecutor of the church. He was a wicked man.

And with the death of the wicked emperor Domitian, we have a complete break; but the break was solved by starting an entirely different line, and the peaceful progress that for the next century gave Rome as a fine government as any nation has ever had in history. That's the period we call

 

c. The Nerva-Antonines (96-193). We'll give a little more detail about them later; but for the present, it's a transition from one to another of the main divisions of Church History.

This was a dynasty of seven Emperors, which is distinguished in that each emperor (except the last) chose his successor based on ability, and then adopted that man. This break from the usual rule of inherited succession within the family resulted in a remarkable period of prosperity and continuity. The practice was broken by the last Emperor, who resumed the previous practice with predictable results.

After the death of Domitian who had been emperor for 15 years, people were disgusted with the way he had reigned; nobody desired to get somebody from his family as next ruler, and the Senate chose a good man, Nerva, who was a member of the Roman Senate. He started a new system. Nerva picked out a man who seemed to him to be ideally suited to be good emperor. And then he adopted him as his son, though he was nearly as old as himself. And the result was that this man whom he adopted became the next emperor.

This method of choosing a successor continued for the next five Emperors—almost a full century—until Marcus Aurelius abandoned the practice and chose his own son, Commodius, who was a bad person.

 

5. Advantages to Christianity of the Existence of the Roman Empire. We have all heard how Christianity conquered the mighty Roman Empire. We have also heard the Roman Empire spoken of as the great persecuting power; that is true, and we will look at that later. But at this moment, I want you to get an understanding of the great advantages which Christianity received from the existence of the Roman Empire—advantages which, in the providence of God, is it certain that He planned to have available. And the first of these,

 

(1). Comparative Peace and Safety. Jesus told about a man who was on his way down to Jericho from Jerusalem, and on the way he fell among thieves. And that, in the previous century, was no uncommon thing, for a man to be assailed by brigands. But if you want to travel extensively and to spread new ideas, it can be a tremendous handicap, to be subject to danger that you cannot keep yourself and your property safe; and there have been many periods in the world's history when travel has been extremely difficult unless one has an armed retinue to protect oneself.

Now in the whole of Europe, there never had been before, and perhaps has never been since, a time of such comparative peace and safety as the Roman Empire in Domitian's time. It is interesting when you visit Palestine to see at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee a high hill, going up to several hundred feet high, and on three sides you had to go up quite a steep slope; you can walk up it all right, but it makes you out of breath if you go at all fast. On a fourth side it is almost sheer. And on this fourth side you see caves, large caves, in the side of the cliff; and to get to these caves there are little bits of paths that a person could go up by himself, but to get to them is a little difficult.

Now in the time of Christ—as there had been for centuries before—there were bandits that lived in those caves, and they would make their way down the path and go out, waylay traffic, attack caravans. They would sometimes enter a walled town and seize property; and they were a great danger for travelers unless they had an armed guard. There were brigands in many parts of Palestine, as there had been off and on through the centuries.

When the Romans took over, they determined to make safety on the roads, and safety for the people; and the Roman soldiers, the heavily armed, able fighters that the Roman soldiers were, had that as a part of their duty, to establish peace and safety. Yes? [student: Did the Romans care about people's safety in the conquered lands?] That's a good question. I'm not sure I can give the answer. But I can say this: that at the time of the Roman Republic, the Senate had the desire to forward the well-being of all its citizens; and for a period of two or three centuries, the Senate acted on the whole very wisely, with the well-being of all Roman citizens as its objective. They were attacking everything that threatened the well-being of Roman citizens, including those who were given to trade in other countries. Now Augustus, the first of the emperors, seems to have been a man who had pretty much that idea. He was determined first to get himself all-powerful and he succeeded; but after he became all-powerful, his endeavors were devoted to the welfare of the Roman citizens in general.

And Tiberius was pretty much the same, at least till toward the end of his reign. Caligula was a mad man, but he only reigned a few years. And Claudius, a man very inferior in most ways, made a good emperor, who again sought the welfare of the people on the whole, though with much less ability than Tiberius.

And then Nero, as a young man, got all this power, and it went to his head; and he made himself one of the worst monsters the world has ever seen; but he had the background of all these able rulers, and he took over the power. And then Vespasian again was a man of high character who in general carried out the orders of the Roman State, and so on. Titus was one of the finest men in history outside of Christianity, but he only reigned two years. And then Domitian was a man of sullen and bitter character, universally disliked, but not a monster by any means, but a man of rather mean type. But at his death the Antonines were men of very high character, all but the very last one.

So you see, when you have power which is built up by men of solid character, and then a monster gets control of it, he's got the means of being a tremendous menace and injury to everybody. But this is a historical fact which is of tremendous importance, for the spread of Christianity: that the Roman Empire introduced a period of peace and safety within its borders, such as the world had never seen before, and perhaps has not seen since. So starting with Augustus, we speak of the Augustan Age, an age of culture, peace, refinement, civilization—the Age of Augustus, the Roman Emperor. And in Palestine, the peace and safety which the Romans introduced had very odd effects, which continue to this day. One thing, the temporary effect of course, was that peace and safety was established, which continued as long as the Romans were in power; but it stopped as soon as there was no longer a strong power there.

But this peace and safety—I mentioned about the horns of Hattin down at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, where you see those cliffs there, with those caves. When the Roman soldiers came into Palestine, and decided to put an end to bandits, they found the bandits going and getting into these caves, where you could have 30 or 40 bandits in a cave; and one man on this narrow little pass coming up to it could hold off a whole army very easily. They had no gunpowder of course in those days; only one man could go up the pass at a time. He had to watch pretty close where he stepped; one man up there could easily keep him from getting up there, and they were absolutely safe against ordinary measures; but the Romans were never content with ordinary measures. They found extraordinary measures. So the Romans went up to the top of cliffs from the backside; they got up to the top, they made a scaffolding, they put ropes on both sides of the scaffolding; on the scaffolding they would have five or ten Roman soldiers stand, heavily armed; and they would drop the scaffolding down little by little until it would stand right in front of the entrance of the cave; and there in front of the entrance to the cave, five heavily armed Roman soldiers could put an end to 30 or 40 bandits without the advantages of sword or armor, without the training that the Roman soldiers had. The result was that these bandits were dragged out from the cave and killed, and banditry was pretty well ended in Palestine through the Roman activity.

I'm going to mention a great disadvantage which came to us in our day from this Roman effort to establish peace and safety, and that was this: 75 years ago when excavation began in Palestine, in fact up until I think it was 1890, but it was quite a time before the benefits were realized. Up until 1890 when people wanted to excavate in Palestine, they'd go to a town which might have a name like Dothan, or the name of some Biblical place, and they would go to this place and would start digging. A modern town which had the same name as the place in the Bible. They'd start to excavate. And they'd excavate and would find the remains of people who had lived during this century and last century, perhaps a little going on back until they'd get to Roman days, and it would come to an end; nothing more there. If you wanted to learn about ancient times, OT times, there was nothing there at all.

And then a great English excavator from Egypt went there in 1890—Sir Flinders Petrie, went there—and he noticed this: that very often, near some town that had the name of some famous ancient city, you would look up, one, two, or three miles away, and you would see a hill standing there, which they called "hill-of-beans," or something like that—nobody thought of it as of any importance—there was this hill over there. But he would go to that hill and start excavating, and he would find there the remains of an OT town on top of that hill. And the reason is that in OT times, they had to build up the city on top of a hill to be safe from attack, and put a wall around it; and gradually as the people died, houses were knocked down; new ones built on top of them; the hill grew and grew and grew; and every morning they opened the gates, would go down the hill to their work, at night they'd come back up, get in behind the walls.

And then, when the Romans made peace and safety, they didn't need the walls. And you didn't need to climb the hill; you could just sleep out in the field if you wanted, and you were safe. And the result was the people got tired of walking up there to the town; they just moved the town down to the plain, and took its name with them. So that very seldom will you find a town in Palestine which has existed continuously at its present site since OT times. You find many of them, hundreds of them, perhaps, which have existed within three or four miles of the place; but in Roman days, most of them moved down onto the plain.

And this bears striking witness to what the Romans did in establishing peace and safety. It made it possible, made it easy, for Paul to go up to Damascus, looking for the Christians to destroy; and then himself being converted, go down to Arabia and spend three years studying the Word of God; come back up there; go about through the Roman Empire. He occasionally had peril from robbers and that sort of thing, but compared with what it would have been 100 years before, it was nothing. The establishment of peace and safety by the Roman Emperor was something that did much for the spread of Christianity.

Then the second great advantage of the Roman Empire:

 

(2). Lack of Borders. And any of you who have spent your whole life in the United States, cannot realize what this means; but to anyone who lived in Europe through the last 40 years, it would be a mighty visible thing. I've seen people lined up, hundreds of them in line, standing hour after hour in order to get permission to go thirty miles away to visit relatives who were on the other side of the border.

I was in a consulate in Germany in 1929; I was getting permission to go to one of the eastern countries; and a German came in and wanted to go and visit his cousin who lived in that country over there; but the country after the First World War had been cut off and given to another country. Well, this man wanted to go and visit them, so he came to the consulate. "All right, fill out this form of 150 questions. All about yourself, your past history, why you want to go and everything," and you've got to fill it out in the language of the country, of which he didn't know a word. Well, he said," I don't understand that language; I don't know a word of it." "Well, if it's not properly filled out, we can't give you any permission." "Well, couldn't you help me?" "No, I'm too busy. You take it off and hire somebody. Put your questions into our language." And that was the way he was treated.

In 1927, when I went over, you had to pay ten dollars visa fee for every country of Europe, you visit; for 8 countries that's $80 visa fees. Well, they put that off, but right then it was a tremendous fee. I wanted to go from Berlin down to Vienna; it was a straight road, right straight through; it only took a few hours; but in order to do it, you had to go through Czechoslovakia, which meant you had to get a visa to go through there; and you had to go to a Czechish Consulate and fill out forms and pay to get a Czechish visa to cross the country going from one part of Germany to a part of the German eastern area.

Well, those are just examples of the difficulty that border-crossing made, where you have small countries. It was a constant nuisance, particularly just after any war. I think the hardest border to cross is that, probably, into the U.S. As this is one of the biggest countries, those who come to live here and travel through from one section to another don't notice it; but people who come here from other countries often have a much harder time getting here than we have getting into other countries.

The Romans had conquered most of Europe and a good portion of Asia; and you could travel from one end to the other of that with little inconvenience from borders or officials or interference of any sort; and that was a tremendous help to the spread of Christianity. So the lack of borders is something that, humanly speaking, Christianity could not have spread as far as it did in less than twice the amount of time, if it were not for this which the Roman Empire did. And

 

(3). Roads. Now the Romans may originally have had a military purpose; but the result, whatever the purpose, is that they built good roads going from Rome to every part of the Empire. So the Roman soldiers had a good road on which to make a quick trip to any place where they were needed. And these roads were available for everybody. And the Roman roads made it possible to travel through the Empire and help the early spread of Christianity, not only the coming of the missionaries, but people carrying on commerce could travel without borders, with peace and safety, with good roads. They could travel and did travel. Commerce was extensive all through the Empire, without the hindrances that were in it before, hundreds of years of before; and when people engaged in commerce or were converted to Christianity, they spread the word as they went, even though they were not full-time missionaries.

So there were these 3 very great advantages for Christianity from the existence of the Roman Empire. Now

 

6. Disadvantages to Christianity of the Existence of the Roman Empire. And the disadvantages I think I would put under two main heads,

 

a. The Great Importance of the Personality of the Emperor. Now that's true to an extent under any sort of government. You can't get away from it; the individual in power has much importance in what happens, But here you have a situation where the man in power might be favorable to Christianity, or he might be unfavorable. And he had the power, if he chose, to arbitrarily put advantages in its way or disadvantages in its way. It was this tremendous power in his hand that could be a terrible disadvantage to Christianity. Later of course it became a great advantage, when the emperor became Christian, an advantage to its spread. But at this point it was a great disadvantage; one never knew what the emperor was going to do, like Nero, in persecuting the Christians as scapegoats for himself.

 

b. The Development of Official Opposition. We find no evidence of this in the book of Acts, the development of official opposition to Christianity. In the book of Acts, we find much evidence of the advantage of the Roman Empire. Remember, when Paul was speaking at the Temple and a mob came to attack him? He would have been killed, but that the Roman soldiers who were there to keep the peace, saw him and seized him; they rescued him from the mob, and saved his life on that occasion. Then, when the Roman soldiers were told by a nephew of Paul that a group of men had been planning to kill him, they took him by night to a place some distance away where they had a strong force, where he would be perfectly safe. They did not do that because of Paul; they did it because of the desire to maintain safety and prevent the murder of anybody. It was the peace and safety which the Roman Empire had instituted.

And when Paul thought he wasn't getting a fair deal from his judges, he appealed to Caesar. And they said, "You have appealed to Caesar; you can go," and they sent him to Rome. Now that doesn't mean that Nero personally judged him; he probably never heard of him. But one of Nero's officials, whose duty was to see that justice was done, examined the case. And it is an illustration of the fact that here was an order they established for peace and safety.

You remember when Paul was at Ephesus, the merchants of Ephesus were aroused against the Christians; the people were no longer buying the statues of Diana the way they used to, and giving much money to them, and so on, they said. They aroused all this hatred against the Christians, and then they came to the great stadium, and they had a tremendous time where all the people declared how wicked the Christians were and all that; and then you remember the Town Clerk, the particular name of the leading Roman official in Ephesus; he came before the people and told them, he said, "If there's anything wrong, the courts are open to you, you can bring charges." But, he says, for this day's uproar our city is in danger of being seriously judged. And so saying, he dismissed the assembly. He said to them, you better watch out, the courts are open, if there's something wrong with these people you can bring charges; but when you have a public meeting of riot and confusion and yelling like this, the Romans may interfere.

And it's pretty clear evidence of how the Roman Empire in the time of the book of Acts was a force which the Christians utilized for protection of themselves, for ease of traveling. It was a tremendous advantage as far as the book of Acts goes, and it contributes to the spread of Christianity.

Now this point, I said, was the development of official opposition to Christianity, and this was something that is hard to understand just how it came about. There probably were accidental features involved in it. We will look at it more in detail later; but for the present I will say: as a result of these accidental features, before the end of the first century, the Roman Empire had an official position that Christianity was wrong. That was the attitude they took.

With the Jews, the Romans couldn't understand the Jews; they didn't have statues; they didn't have any particular thing that was similar to other gods; the Romans thought these people had a queer sort of religion; but that's their religion, we don't want to interfere with it. The Jews had rights throughout the Roman Empire which other people did not have, because the Romans recognized they had a peculiar religion; and they were allowed to carry on the forms of their religion, and to be true to their religion, so long as it did not interfere with the welfare of the Roman State.

When the Christians began to come forward, the Romans at first took them as simply a group of Jews, and Judaism was a permitted religion. It wasn't until later in the First Century that it was illegal, that it was not permitted in the empire. Even when it was illegal, the empire did not set about constantly to eradicate Christianity. The persecution was sporadic; but the legal attitude which became established by the end of the first century was that it was fundamentally illegal to be Christian. The Roman Empire, as they conquered nations, encouraged them to continue their own religion, as they felt that these religions made for stability and for peace; and in fact, when they conquered a country they sent the statue of the god of that country to Rome; they put it in one of their leading temples in Rome, so as to show how all the gods of all these nations unite with the Roman gods. So the Christians were not interfered with at all at first.

But then, as the Romans began to find that the Christians would not sacrifice to the gods; wouldn't take part in the regular ceremonies which opened their assemblies; and which were connected with all official observances; they began to say these people are rank atheists; they have nothing solid to give them a reason for being good, for maintaining stability in the Empire; and occasionally they'd find a Christian who would declare, "I don't follow Caesar; I follow God, I follow Christ." Their beliefs were seen as disloyal to the Roman Empire; and so there developed an official attitude of hostility to Christianity—an official attitude—and this was a tremendous disadvantage to Christianity.

But this shows the attitude of the Roman emperors: they were tolerant toward all religions; and if people wanted to believe in Christ as god, they were glad enough to put up a statue to Christ, and to make Him one of the gods along with Jupiter and Apollo and a hundred others. Sure, worship Christ, and worship the rest of them. They were very, very tolerant.

Christianity was not persecuted by the Roman Empire because the Romans were intolerant; it was persecuted because the Christians were intolerant. It was the refusal of the Christians to compromise which led to the persecution of the Christians. The Christians did not merely insist that their religion was important, and that Christ was God; they insisted the other gods didn't even exist, and they refused to give even the emperor himself a place as the equal of Christ. It was the intolerance of Christianity, its refusal to compromise, which led to its persecution by the proud Roman emperors, who permitted all sorts of religions to have free rein in their Empire.

But it took quite a while for Christianity to be singled out. It was many decades after the death of Christ before such an attitude had risen. The attitude came before 70 AD; because, as a matter of fact, when Jerusalem fell—during that brief period—the Romans distinguished between Jews and Christians. And the Christians were at an advantage there. They were not under the same disadvantage the Jews were at that particular time. I think they gradually came to see that Christianity wasn't Judaism. And if it wasn't Judaism, what rights did it have? Judaism was an official religion. Christianity was a new upstart, sort of. Should it be permitted, or not? Well, they found the Christians wouldn't worship their gods; while the people from most of the other countries would claim their own gods were best, but they worshipped the Roman gods too. So gradually this attitude developed. But we'll look at that in more detail later.

Yes? [student: We've been talking in terms of recognizing each other's religion. Were most people in that day of a religious nature or were there some...] There was a lot of materialism; there was a great deal of it. For instance Cicero in Rome—in the time of Julius Caesar—Cicero had no belief in any of their Roman gods; he thought they were all a lot of nonsense, superstition. Yet one of the leading positions in the Roman government involved the reading of the auguries which the gods sent to tell you whether it was propitious to do things or not. Cicero was very anxious for that position—as Augur of the State—though he didn't believe in any of the gods. There was quite a bit of materialism then. Not in the rank and file as much, but great numbers of the educated people were.

Well, people have ideas of the cruelty and the brutality of the Roman Empire; and I think this idea is altogether true. But it's not quite right, in a way, to blame it specifically on the Roman Empire. All nations, apart from Christianity are brutal, and cruel. And it was a fact that the Romans had more power, more ability to be brutal. The Roman soldiers were doubtless very, very brutal. And the laws were enforced with tortures, in many cases extremely brutal.

But that's not a specific feature of the Roman Empire. It was true of all nations in that day. Rome having this much power, when this power turned against Christianity, then that brutality became a factor to be reckoned with, very definitely.

So much then for A, The Roman Empire.

 

B. Hellenism. There were three great factors in the world into which Christianity came. The second one I give now—Hellenism—and Hellenism is just as important in the spread of the Gospel as the Roman Empire, but for different reasons. And these reasons are less obvious than the reasons given under the Roman Empire. They don't enter so much into specific points of activity in the history, and so it will not be necessary to go so much into detail. It is greatly important, but not necessary for this particular course, to have more than just a general understanding of what it is.

What do we mean by Hellenism? We mean the commerce and influence of the Greek language, literature, culture, civilization, etc. So naturally then under B, we put

 

1. The Achievements of Greece And under that, we'll simply say:

 

a. Culture, Science, Art, Literature, etc. So we're not going into detail. But to mention that at about 350-400 BC in Greece you had a level of culture and civilization which has probably not been equaled anywhere else in the world.

You had in Athens, a town of about 25,000 people, which would be a pretty small one today. You had great thinkers, great writers, great architects, more in number and importance than you would find in any city of Greece today, however large. There was a situation in Greece which developed tremendous mental ability; and in science, art, culture, all these various fields, the development in Greece in the classical period was tremendous. But that's not directly connected with us, and so we get on to its relation to Christianity. But at this point I want to mention

 

b. Failure in Government. It's the Greek lack of achievement in this regard. They were excellent in all these other fields, but in government they failed. The Greeks failed. They had a system which promoted general freedom in the cities; it had much to do with the development of their culture and ability; but it resulted eventually in their cities fighting one another until they destroyed each other's power; they never had any unity against a common enemy, and in the end they all became slaves of Rome. But they conquered their conquerors, in a way—we shall look at it tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock.

Now we were looking yesterday at B, Hellenism; and under Hellenism we noticed 1, The Achievements of Greece. We barely mentioned small a. Its achievements were so great, but they were in the realm of science, art, literature, culture in general, beyond anything the world has ever seen in this regard. And then under achievements we mentioned a lack of achievement, b, Failure in government; and some of the Greek cities destroyed others, and eventually they all were in such a situation that their strength became very weak; and they might have disappeared altogether if it had not been that the one who conquered them, Philip of Macedon, and his son Alexander the Great, a little before 300 BC, although barbarians from the viewpoint of the Greeks, they were themselves greatly attracted by Greek culture; and so they conquered the Greek cities and made them a part of their empire; they themselves took over Greek culture and thought of themselves as disseminators of Greek culture.

And so the Greek culture—while the Greeks were defeated—the Greek culture persisted because the people who conquered them were not anxious to destroy their culture; they were much interested and wanted to be thought of themselves as possessing Greek culture, And so that leads us to

 

2. The Spread of Greek Civilization and Language: The Hellenistic Age. This came with Alexander the Great's conquest of tremendous areas of the world, while the Romans were still a comparatively unknown nation in the west. Alexander the Great conquered the mighty Persian Empire; he conquered a tremendous area, though his empire didn't hold together; after his death it broke into four parts, yet all four were led by people who shared his own passion for Greek culture.

The result was that through the conquest of Alexander the Great, Greek culture spread all over the eastern Mediterranean; and even to the borders of India, for he conquered a section of India. And all of this territory—consisting of many different nations with many different literatures, languages, religions, different types of outlook on life—all of them were conquered by Alexander the Great; they were held by his successors, and in them their soldiers established colonies under the protection of their arms. Greek merchants came all through them; Greek schools were established in them; and centers of Greek life and civilization were established all through the whole eastern section of Europe and the western section of Asia.

And so it is usually called the Hellenistic Age—from about 300 BC until the time of Christ—the Hellenistic Age, because it was a time when Greek culture spread over this whole area. In the New Testament, we read about the Decapolis, which is a Greek word meaning "ten cities." We read that Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee over into the region of Decapolis, this region of the ten cities. And we read that when he got over there, he found a demoniac with whom he deals; and the people were irritated because of that; the demons in the demoniac had asked that they be permitted to go into that herd of swine. Well, what was a herd of swine doing in Palestine if they were Jews who could not eat pork? They were in the region of the Decapolis, the region of the ten cities with Greek culture; ten Hellenistic cities, which were mostly over across the Jordan in that area. They were centers of Greek culture; they had the Greek theaters; they had all sorts or types of Greek life; and they had their swine, and that is why the swine were there in this place.

And there were Greek cities scattered all through the east. Gaza was the old Philistine city at the time of Samson. In Gaza at the time of Christ, they had schools of Greek philosophy that were so good that students from Athens came to Gaza to study Athenian philosophy; and this shows how Greek culture was disseminated and spread through that whole area.

Well, that is a tremendous fact of the world into which Christianity came; and of course the Greek language was understood everywhere. They used the Greek language for their commerce; many of the schools used the Greek language. It became, in the main, the language of government in this whole section; and of course that's why the Septuagint [The OT translated] was written, in Greek.

 

3. Advantages to Christianity. The spread of Hellenistic culture all through the eastern world provided certain great advantages to Christianity, coming to this world just at this time. The first of these,

 

a. The Existence of a Common Language widely understood. Every time the apostles moved to a new section, they didn't have to learn a new language. Many, many people understood Greek. The cultured, educated people understood Greek. And the common huckster on the street might understand Greek, because Greek was the language of the common people as well as the language of the cultured. While there would be many people who wouldn't understand it, there would be enough who understood it, to make it a basis for rapid dissemination of new ideas, all through that portion of the empire.

In fact, we shouldn't just say that portion of the empire, because even in Rome—at this time—in Rome perhaps half the people in Rome, maybe more, were slaves. And of these slaves, perhaps three-fourths of them were Greek. And a great many slaves had been freed, and had become Roman citizens; so the Greek language was widely understood in Rome; the big schools in Rome were in Greek, and Paul's Epistle to the Romans was not in Latin, it was in Greek,

And the Christian church in Rome, for the first two centuries, was a Greek-speaking church, even though Latin was the official language of the Romans; Greek was widely understood in Rome, and in fact people looked up to those who spoke in Greek, because it was the language of culture and refinement and learning.

And so a common language, widely understood, was a tremendous advantage to the spread of Christianity. But not as important, but very important, was the fact that this language.

 

b. This Language was Uniquely Fitted for the Expression of Complex and Sublime Ideas. That is the second advantage. The OT was written to give people ideas through a glass darkly, of what God was going to do in the future; and consequently the great central doctrines of our religion are all clearly taught in the OT The great Christological teachings of the NT are suggested and anticipated. Yet there is not that necessary precision of expression, that full expression of minute ideas in the OT which is needed for the New. And for the NT there is perhaps one of the most precise languages the world has ever seen; one of the most beautiful languages and one of the most precise languages; and one of the best adapted for science and for careful expression of philosophical and scientific subjects.

Of course this was doubtless partly due to the great cultural development of the Greek people. The language, in fact, of the time of the great philosophers, say 350-400 BC, was an extremely complex language—so complex that it would be very difficult for people outside to learn it well enough to understand the complicated ideas expressed in it. But the Greek language, while retaining much of its excellence as a medium for thought, had since then become greatly simplified. Many of its more complex forms had disappeared by this time.

Writers at the time of Christ, all through the Roman world, were trying to imitate the Greek style of 300 years before—a style which nobody talked in any more—but they were writing in that style, trying to write in that style, that is. While the people on the street talked in a simplified form of it. The apostles were the first, as far as we know, to take the common language of the street, as used in the days of Christ, and to make that language a literary language, by using it for the expression of sublime and complicated ideas.

It used to be thought that NT Greek was a sort of a barbaric Greek, with a mixture of Hebrew. That was what people thought until 50 years ago, when they began to discover in Egypt what they called non-literary papyri; these papyri had written on them ordinary business documents, common letters, and that sort of thing; and it was found they were written in the same kind of Greek that we have in the NT, of course without the literary excellence; and the Greek writers of that day did not use that language; they tried to use an artificial language, to imitate the great language of 300 years earlier. But the NT developed the common language of the people into a great literary language. And so this language was available for them, a language with wonderful possibilities for clear, careful expression of complicated thoughts; but a language which had become sufficiently simplified that it could be understood by the people in all parts of the empire. It was not quite as complex as it had been a few hundred years earlier.

So that is the second advantage of this language—that it was uniquely fitted for the expression of complex and subtle ideas. And the third advantage,

 

c. Partly as a Result of Greek Philosophy, There was a Widespread Attitude of Skepticism Regarding Paganism and of Longing for Something Better. There was a general feeling in many parts of the empire of dissatisfaction with the viewpoint on life which they had; and I've put this as partly Greek Philosophy, because certainly it was not entirely due to this. A good part of it was due to the increase in material welfare, leading many people to see that material welfare wasn't everything; there was a need for something better. A great many people just gave themselves over to all kinds of sexual indulgence and wild libertinism; but an occasional one would find himself utterly satiated with that sort of thing and disgusted with it; and in the Pagan cults he would not find anything to satisfy him when he wanted to turn away from it; and there was a feeling there must be something better.

So there was a preparation for the Gospel; and to some extent this was partly the result of Greek philosophy, partly the result of other causes. Now those are the advantages of Hellenism to Christianity, there also were certain disadvantages.

 

4. Disadvantages to Christianity. The first of these:

 

a. Many, particularly of the Lower Classes, were greatly attached to the Greek gods. Now the Romans, when they first came into contact with the Greeks, had come to the conclusion that their gods were the same as these Greek gods, though with different names. And so the Greek god, Zeus, their leading god, the Romans considered to be the same as their leading god, Jupiter. Doubtless the two do go back to the same original tradition. Well, the Romans permitted people in every land to hold their own religion, with this exception; they must recognize Jupiter as the leading god. They could worship their own god, but they must give Jupiter a prominent place along with it, in their worship. And there were many people who were attached to Jupiter, and Mercury, and Venus and the other gods, and sincerely attached to them.


And so naturally there was an opposition to something that did not merely say, "Here's another god to put beside them," but denied their very existence. We find at Lystra, when Paul and Barnabas went in there, the people, seeing the miraculous healing, said "These are two of the gods come down to earth; Barnabas is Jupiter and Paul is Mercury, the messenger of Jupiter." And they were going to make sacrifices and worship them. Then when Paul and Barnabas said, "No we're just men like yourself, don't fall down before us." Then there came the revulsion against them, and they began to stone them and oppose them.

This widespread knowledge and worship and adoration of the Greek gods was—to quite an extent—a hindrance to the spread of Christianity. And of course also there were those who were commercially interested, like the craftsmen of Ephesus, who said, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" They got a good living by making mementos of Diana—statues of her—and so on. There were those who were commercially tied up with it. But that was one disadvantage to Christianity from Hellenism. And a second disadvantage,

 

b. The Widespread Skepticism of Everything Supernatural among a Small but Influential Class. This would also be partly the effect of Greek Philosophy. There were those everywhere who had no use for the old Greek gods; they believed they didn't exist, made fun of them, ridiculed them; but their tendency was to do the same with any new kind of god. They simply didn't believe in anything supernatural.

Now that sort of thing simply doesn't last when it comes to the great crises of life. People recognize there must be something beyond their power to comprehend or to deal with; and these who hold this view are apt to have a strong revulsion from it. And when they do they're apt to accept whatever happens to be near. If it's some real Christian teaching, they're apt to accept that; and if it's not they're apt to accept some wild vagary. Some of the craziest cults have some very highly educated people in them; after denying everything supernatural, they have come to a time of sorrow or loss or need in their life; this cult has just happened to come along at that time, when they were ready to grab most anything.

It is sad, often, that the cults have gotten people who should have been gotten by Christians if they had been on the job. But these two were disadvantages to Christianity of Hellenism. Now

 

C. Judaism. You see, we didn't spend much time on Hellenism, nothing like the time we spent on the Roman Empire; that is because the Roman Empire is a much more obvious factor in history, and we are constantly running up against it. Hellenism is a pervasive factor. To study it fully and carefully would take a very long time; but for our purpose in a course like this, all we do is to alert you to its importance, call it to your attention. We cannot go into details fully without taking much too much time.

But Judaism is a factor to be reckoned with in the life of Christianity, for a number of important reasons. Looking at it from a detached viewpoint, we note that number

 

1. Judaism was represented in all parts of the Empire. If there were about 5 million Jews in the world then—it's pretty hard to say how many there were, since no census was taken of the type taken today—but if there were, perhaps a million of them would have been in Palestine; and the others scattered. And these people were scattered all over as traders and as workers, all over the empire. They were known everywhere. People might not know much about them; there might be comparatively few of them; they might think of them as shysters you had to watch out for; they might have no particular attraction to them, but they knew they existed. On the other hand, in every part of the empire there were some people who were greatly attracted by them. They got to know them a little, and they saw they had a philosophy in many ways much superior to that with which they were acquainted.

One of the noblest of the Greek philosophies is the system called Stoicism. When we examine it, it is pretty hard to keep from suspecting that Zeno the founder of Stoicism was himself influenced by contacts with Jews. Certain fundamental Biblical ideas, in a somewhat distorted form, lie at the base of his philosophic system, a system which had much influence in the empire. Jesus said, "Woe unto you, Pharisees, you compass heaven and earth to make one proselyte," and Judaism at this time was an actively proselytizing religion, gaining people to itself; there were Gentiles in every community, not great numbers but a few everywhere, who were interested in the synagogues and going to them; and some of them being converted. So there was an influence, a small but a very widespread influence and a very definite influence throughout the empire, being made by Judaism at this time.

Now the Romans regarded the Jews as a very queer sort of people. They would not admit Jupiter in their Temple; and they were the only people that refused to carry on their worship with Jupiter. But the Romans recognized this people had a queer sort of a religion, but it seemed rather harmless; and they permitted them to carry it on; they gave them certain exemptions, which were more or less a racial matter with the Romans. Here was this particular people they held under them; what's the use of having a fuss about it? They have peculiar ideas. So long as they're a people, we'll let them hold these ideas.

So Judaism was a permitted religion throughout the empire. They had one thing that the Romans couldn't understand at all; they wouldn't work on the Sabbath. That made a difficulty all over, but at the same time it gave a witness to their loyalty to their faith; their willingness to suffer for it, at times; and it was one thing which, even if they kept quiet and said nothing about their religion, when a certain day came along, and their employer had an important thing on, and they refused to work that day—why it brought to his attention the fact that they held a different idea than he had.

So we have it—they were in all parts of the empire; and this was a great advantage to Christianity in getting started. Wherever Paul went, he went into the synagogue and spoke; and the people in the synagogues were happy to have a Jew come in, who had been in Jerusalem lately, who could just bring them some news from the homeland; and then when he started explaining the Bible, they were much interested; and then as he went on a little, they began to see he had something a little different from the way they'd been taught; and some of them said this is the right answer, and others would get quite upset. But it gave a starting point all over the empire for the dissemination of Christianity.

So the Lord had provided the Roman Empire, with its universal peace, its lack of borders, its roads; He had provided the Greek language, its civilization; and He had provided the Jewish groups all over as a starting point for the knowledge of Christianity. So this is a unique time. There were advantages which would not have been present at all one hundred years earlier.

Now, of course, there were some great disadvantages in this time too; but a hundred years before the same disadvantages would all have been there, but without these great advantages. Did the other people work seven days around the clock and not have any days off? No, they had certain special festival days. They might have a good many, but they did not have the seven-day cycle situation. There were special games on certain days of the month; there were special activities; but it did not come in this regular fashion as the Sabbath did. The Jews insisted on this particular day. Well,

 

2. Factions among the Jews. This is more a matter of NT study, or a study of the period between the Testaments than of Church History, because we are getting beyond that. That is to say, that Christianity began as a Jewish movement—the first converts were all Jews—but before we have much information about it, outside the Bible, it had become predominantly a Gentile movement; and consequently the Jewish factions are of great importance for the start of it—again, in the understanding of the Bible—but not so much as it continues. So we won't do more than fairly glance at it here; but we should glance at

 

a. The Sadducees. And the Sadducees were the descendants of Zadok, who was the High Priest in David's time. They were the hereditary, secular, and religious rulers of the Jews. These people who by birth, by background, would have been expected to be the great custodians of Judaism, its great leaders, many of them were very much attached to the advantages they had from their position; they were anxious to get more advances by making good relationships with the people who were outside; and consequently a great many of the Sadducees were rationalists; they gave lip service to believing in the OT, maintaining the ceremonies, but they questioned very seriously whether there was such a thing as a resurrection from the dead. They were very much against anything that would seem to look like a fanatical interest in religion, and they were quite ready to make compromises with Roman power and Greek culture in ways which to many of the Jews seemed to be compromising their whole position and belief. Then

 

b. The Pharisees. The Pharisees were the real religious leaders among the Jews. Not many of them had high positions in the religious organization of the Jews. These positions were largely in the hands of the Sadducees. But the Pharisees had their interest in the Tabernacle largely, rather than the Temple which the Sadducees controlled.

They studied the laws very, very carefully, and they were very exact in their external observance; they tended to misinterpret the law, making it a means of salvation, instead of simply something to point the way of sanctification, as it was intended, and to show people their lack and their need of a Savior. So among the Pharisees were many very fine people who were wanting to do what they understood to be right, and trying to follow the prescriptions of Judaism very, very fully, and very carefully; and yet there were many of them who put their emphasis on externality and who took an attitude of holier-than-thou.

The Pharisees were the best of the rank and file of Jews; they were the best of them, but they were the ones who got very strong denunciations from Christ, because they came just not far enough to really stand for what was right; but the Sadducees were away over on the other side; and Jesus denounces them, but not as frequently as He does the Pharisees.

Actually, from among the Pharisees many of the early Christians came. Paul himself was a Pharisee, a man who had studied with Gamaliel, one of the leaders of the Pharisees. And then a third group is

 

c. The Essenes. We don't know a great deal about them. The Essenes were men who were attached to the Bible and to Judaism as they understood it, but who felt that the Temple was bad; that it had fallen into wrong hands; that the true teaching was not being observed; and they would go off into the wilderness and live in little groups by themselves; and try to develop the spiritual life there; and there were many different types of them, some of them probably being very close to real Biblical ideas, and others being quite peculiar in special ideas and attitudes which they developed. Some ancient writers tell us a little about these Essenes; and that's all we knew about them till recently—what these ancient writers said.

Now, beginning about ten years ago, we have discovered the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls; and these Dead Sea Scrolls were written by a group that lived in the wilderness, not so many miles from Jerusalem and devoted a great part of their time to copying the OT books. And we also have among these Dead Sea Scrolls their rules of life. And in their rules of life, they show that the group was a sect. People had to be a year under probation before they could be admitted to it; they had to abstain from certain things. Very definitely an ascetic sect, separating itself from all of life, and living off alone in the wilderness that way.

And immediately people say, "These are the Essenes." But then you read what our ancient writers say about the Essenes, and in certain points the Dead Sea Scroll people are different from the description we have in ancient times. So people are divided today, are these Essenes or not? Well if you take Essenes for the name of all these different types of people that went out in the wilderness, and lived in groups and had their own special type of practices they developed, they certainly were. But if you take Essenes as meaning one particular group of this type; who were just like that described by these ancient writers; then this was another similar group. So whether you call them Essenes or not is a matter of terminology. They don't use the word themselves; and great controversies have raged; are they Essenes, or are they not?

But actually it's just a matter of terminology. Essenes in the larger sense, they certainly are. Essenes in a specific sense, they certainly are not. But this is a movement in Judaism; and Josephus—who was a wealthy man of high family, great many connections, eventually a general in the Jewish army, later on the favorite of the Roman emperor—Josephus as a young man tried to learn about all the different sects of Judaism; and he went out in the wilderness and lived with one of the groups of Essenes for a time, in order to get acquainted with their manner of life and their type of teaching and so on. And when he writes his account of the Jewish War, he describes what he had observed of these different groups. But his description is not the same as this Dead Sea group that we have in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It's similar but must have been a different group.

Well, Judaism then was a great advantage for the spread of Christianity; but very soon many of the Jewish leaders realized—in every sect there were those who realized—Christianity was very different from what they themselves were teaching.

And consequently the first opposition to Christianity comes from Judaism. It is Jewish people who begin to oppose it, while as far as the Roman Empire is concerned, it's just a little Jewish sect, and they're not particularly interested. But it is Jewish groups and Jewish people, who are the first opponents of Christianity; and the first persecution comes from the Jews, and the Roman Empire protected them from the Jews' persecution. After a time they are being persecuted by both the Jews and the Roman Empire.

The Romans of course were an impartial force, trying to maintain law and order; and consequently, they gave the Christians much-needed protection at that time. So much for this very brief glance at Judaism. I think you should have one more point,

 

3. High Spots in the History of Judaism during the First Two Centuries. As you know the Jews had been ruled by Alexander the Great; they become a part of the Egyptian Empire under the Ptolemies, and then are taken from them by the Seleucids; they gained their independence under the Maccabees. But the Romans were largely in control of them at the time of Christ. At the beginning, at the birth of Christ, they had their own king, Herod—actually an Edomite—but nominally a Jewish king; but they were under Roman control, though semi-independent.

But at the time of the crucifixion of Christ they had become a Roman province and were definitely under Roman power, with Pontius Pilate as a representative of the Roman power then. Pontius Pilate couldn't understand these divisions among these peculiar people; nor their queer ideas about not wanting the emperor's statue in the Temple and all that sort of thing; and when they all—a lot of people—were gathered together against one man, and trying to get him put out of the way, Pilate didn't feel like bothering with these people fighting among themselves. He didn't find anything wrong with Jesus, wanted to let him go, but didn't have strength of character enough to look into the thing thoroughly and see what was right.

But he is in the background. The Jews wouldn't dare injure Christ personally; they couldn't kill him without Pontius Pilate's agreement; but he was just trying to guarantee law and order, and beyond that, not interfering much in the general life at that time.

But a very vital event at this time, we'll call

 

a. The Destruction of Jerusalem 70 AD. After Pontius Pilate gave in to the mob, thinking that in so doing he was making his position more secure, and appeasing the people in general, and actually it did not work out that way. As someone has said, "When we make peace and security such an objective—that we neglect justice to get peace—we soon find we haven't any justice or peace." And that's what Pontius Pilate and his successors found, that they could not simply give in to the mob and expect the people to be satisfied.

If they would discover what was right and stand upon it, the bulk of the people would come to realize it and be satisfied; but they simply were trying to placate the factions and keep the people subject to them; they ended in antagonizing nearly all factions. And the result was that one thing after another irritated the Jews more and more; and then when some of them would strike back and perhaps one or two Roman soldiers would be killed, the Romans might wipe out a whole village as a warning to the people. And that would arouse more dislike; and finally the Jews became so aroused that in 66 AD the Jewish Rebellion broke out; and the whole of Palestine threw off the Roman yoke.

In the first part of it, the Jews gained complete independence from Rome; but of course it was only against those Roman soldiers who were there at the time. Rome could not brook this opposition to its authority. If they allowed one of the captive nations to gain freedom, others would follow their example; and they had to either give up their tyrannical control or put down the nation that had been rebelling.

And so a very able patriot general Vespasian was dispatched by Nero to go and to bring Palestine under subjection. He came and with his army very ably got these two Jewish forces divided; he met them with different armies, one after another, and defeated them. And he got all of Palestine into his hands except Jerusalem; and then when he had everything but Jerusalem, the Essenes in the wilderness had hidden their manuscripts in caves; but the Jewish people were in Jerusalem to the very last, so there was a long terrible siege of Jerusalem.

The thing quieted down for a little bit and people said, "They won't do anything, they'll give it up and they won't come back." The Christians, instead of staying, nearly all of them left the city and headed off into the mountains. So then the Roman army came back with force. When Nero was killed and Vespasian headed back to Rome to become Roman Emperor, his son Titus continued the siege; and there were a few Jews who left the city, thinking there was no hope there; they were reduced practically to starvation; they would go to the Romans and if they gave up their lives would be spared they figured. But they didn't want just their lives, they wanted to save some of their money. So some of them took their gold coins and swallowed them, thinking that way they would save them. But when it was discovered that one or two had done this, the Roman soldiers immediately suspected everyone who came of having gold coins in them; and the result was that a great many Jews who wanted to surrender were killed by the envious Roman soldiers looking for the money they thought they were hiding in that way. It was a terrible time of disaster and misery, and ended with the destruction of the city, and the selling of thousands of Jews into slavery. And the destruction, as Jesus had predicted 40 years before, occurred in AD 70. Then

 

b. Simon Bar Kokhba, 132 AD. At least 60 years later, there was a young Jew who was an able speaker and who was able to arouse people with his enthusiastic declaration that he was the son of the star predicted in Numbers 24, who would smite Edom. The word "Edom," you see, looked much like "Rome"; the "d" and the "r" were very similar in Hebrew and Aramaic, and they used to put Edom often for Rome. This fellow's name was Simon ben Kosiba—Simon the son of Kosiba—but they called him Bar Kokhba, son of a star, after the prediction in Numbers about the star.

He was able in 132 to gather a large number of people around him and to drive the Romans out of Jerusalem; he quickly put up new fortifications in that city, and he told them that the Lord was going to deliver them, and that he was going to be the Messiah.

The Roman army came in 135 and after another siege—much less than the first siege because of the far smaller number and the fortifications weren't anywhere near as good—they succeeded in breaking into the city; and Bar Kokhba and a few men fled and made a stand a few miles away; and there the Romans attacked them and killed them. Then the Roman Emperor said, "This city has twice now been conquered and caused difficulty; now we're going to put an end to it forever." So he said Jerusalem will never be called Jerusalem again; it is to be a city devoted to the worship of Jupiter. And no Jew is to be allowed to come within ten miles of Jerusalem on pain of death.

And so after 135 AD that was the situation in Jerusalem for a long time. These were of course very, very sad days in the life of Judaism—these two disasters. But fortunately for Judaism, after the first disaster—the fall of Jerusalem in the first place—one of the Rabbis had immediately gone to the Roman authorities and asked if they would allow him to found a school, which he declared was only for religious purposes, nothing political at all; and they allowed him to found a school at Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee that studied the OT and put in the vowel marks eventually, and wrote commentaries about it and eventually the Talmud came into existence, and that became the center of Judaism for a long time after that.

Well, this rapid survey, the history of Judaism at that time is vital for its connection with the history of the church in that period. Now we'll continue there tomorrow.

[Answers to written questions]. There were five of these papers yesterday that had questions in them that I think are worth our taking just a second on anyway.

The first one says, "Dr. MacRae, this summer I was reading in the Dec. 1958 National Geographic Magazine and came to an article by A. W. Creshingham, The Man who Hid the Dead Sea Scrolls. He seems quite dogmatic in mentioning that the material refers to the Essenes."

Now, if somebody were to see you in Europe and say, "Look there's a man from Pennsylvania," you'd say, "No, I'm not from Pennsylvania, I have lived in New Jersey all my life." Well, New Jersey wouldn't be the opposite of Pennsylvania; it would be on the opposite bank of the river, and it would be different, definitely different, but they would have much in common, very much in common. In fact, in most parts of Europe, someone from any part of the United States would be so similar to you that you wouldn't much worry what part of the country they were from.

Now here this question is strictly a matter of terminology. What is an Essene? There is no way of knowing, because nobody living today has ever seen an Essene; or had a chance to talk with one; or read a book that had a definition of one in. But Josephus and Philo, two writers of the first century AD, in describing the people of Palestine, say there are people called Essenes, who lived in the wilderness and who looked down on the Temple service; they think it's all bad, had nothing to with it; they lived out in the wilderness by themselves. People are on probation for three years before they are allowed to join the group there; and then they have nothing whatever to do with women or with money.

Now that's just a small portion of the description of the Essenes by Philo and Josephus. And then Hippolytus, a Christian writer, about 200 AD, had something to say about the group. Well, now, we have found that they use the word Essenes, and they say this is what the Essenes do.

Now we have found in this last decade at Qumran, a place over toward the Dead Sea in the wilderness, the evidence that a group of Jews at lived there at the time of Christ; and we have records of them, in which they thought the temple had fallen into wicked hands; they would have nothing to do with the temple as it was then conducted; they had left the main body of the Jews and lived out there; they had to be a year on probation before they could join the group; and thus far it sounds like the Essenes, doesn't it? But you examine the graves there at Qumran of a thousand people, and you find that a very large number of them are women. So when Josephus said, "They had nothing to do with women, it doesn't sound a bit like this group," and you find many coins in their remains there and that doesn't sound like them when he says they have nothing to do with money. Now we don't know enough about it; nowhere in their writings do they use the word "Essenes".

So we don't know. Maybe they are the group that Josephus and Philo talked about, the same group, but Josephus and Philo simply used this particular description. Or maybe Josephus and Philo are talking about one group and this is an entirely different one, but a similar one in many ways, though different in some. We don't know. So we take a man like Millar Burrows at Yale University, one of the first men to work on the Dead Sea scrolls, and who has written two books [Millar Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls], a later one after this [More Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls], but they are recognized as among the best scholarly books on the Dead Sea Scrolls which we have.

Now I did not look up in the later one whether it has anything further in it; but the first book has a full chapter here which he called "Identification." He says, for instance, in one place, the belief of these people concerning the future life as depicted in chapter 12, is quite different from what Josephus ascribes to the Essenes. He goes through and makes comparisons and shows at point after point, minor differences between these people and the people that Josephus and Philo call Essenes. And in the end he says—to sum up the net result—he says, the fact of the matter is we do not know whether the term Essenes includes these or not. If this term be used in a broad comprehensive sense we may legitimately call the Qumran sectarians Essenes. For the present, however, in order not to pre-judge the case, it seems better to reserve that name to the group described by Philo and Josephus which, if their reports are accurate, would be not exactly identical with the Qumran community.

As a matter of convenience, we may still designate the latter by the term covenanters, which implies neither the acceptance nor the rejection of the identification with the Essenes. At any rate, it is clear that the sect of Qumran bore closer relation to the Essenes than does any other group named. So it is purely an argument over terminology whether they are Essenes or not. We do not know.

And somebody writing a popular article may use the word Essenes in a broad sense. But if somebody is writing a scholarly article, it would be wise to say, as Josephus and Philo described Essenes, they are different from these people, yet they are so similar that we don't know whether Essene is their group and this is a different group, or whether Essene is a broad term that might include people of many different varieties as long as they agreed on certain main things.

So much for answer to that question; I did not take this much time for this because I thought it was particularly important whether you call them Essenes or not; but I thought that the matter of method is quite important. Names vary tremendously in their usage; for instance, you may all have been shocked, as I was, yesterday [apparently in the Faith Seminary Chapel] to hear a man say these people did not want a Christian minister when I left and I didn't want them to have a Christian minister. I'm sure you were all shocked, as I was, and then he went on to say that they wanted a doctrinal minister.

Well, the fact is that if he used "Christian" in the proper sense, the best thing that could ever happen to a church is to have a Christian minister. But if you use Christian in the particular sectarian sense in which it seems to have been used in that situation, judging by the previous one who had used that, come from that particular background, the people were very sensible in their attitude, they did not want a Christian minister. So in the light of all that he said, his sentence was very sensible—they did not want a Christian minister—very sensible. But if you just took that one sentence apart from the rest of his talk and somebody outside says, "At Faith Seminary, they don't want churches to have Christian ministers," why it would give a terrible impression; the word is used in various senses and that's true of the word Essenes.

The next question asks whether the furniture of the Temple was destroyed; and the answer to that is that the city as a whole was destroyed, but that when the Roman soldiers broke in, they intended to destroy most everything. But anything that would make good booty that they could take back to Rome to show what a wonderful conquest they'd made, they would endeavor to save.

And when we have a picture in Rome today—I saw it a year and a half ago there—on the Arch of Titus, of Titus' soldiers carrying a 7-branch candlestick, it gives you a pretty good certainty that the 7-branch candlestick was not destroyed, but was brought with them to Rome to carry in their triumphal procession. Now how much else they carried we do not know. What happened to the Ark of the Covenant, nobody knows. Some people think it was destroyed there, some think that it was buried, hidden by the Jews somewhere else, and may yet be found sometime. Nobody knows what happened to it. But the 7-branch candlestick was taken to Rome because, even if the Roman sculptor wanted to be a liar, and many of them did, he would hardly put up a monument where everybody in Rome would see, showing something being carried there that hadn't been carried. That would be too obvious. We can be quite sure that it at least was rescued.

Then here's a question that says, "Would you say that John the Baptist belonged to the sect of the Essenes? He lived in the wilderness." I would say yes, he lived in the wilderness. I would say definitely not—he did not belong to the sect of the Essenes. You will find statements in books that he did; but the Essenes were a close-knit group living together under very strict vows of holding themselves in one group; and everything that we find in the Bible shows John the Baptist as an independent man who was doing what he felt the Lord called him to do; and it would be very strange if he had been a member of a group which had a year's probation before being allowed to join it. So when people say John the Baptist is an Essene, why they may say it in the general sense, that they just mean a man who spent much time in the wilderness. If they mean an Essene in the proper sense, he certainly would not have been.

Then this question: "Wasn't there a group called Zealots living in the mountains, or are these the same as Essenes? Also Joseph and Mary were obviously not of any of these groups." Joseph and Mary were obviously not of any of these groups, definitely. "Zealots" is the term which if I recall correctly, is used in the NT for people who wanted to fight against the Romans; these were groups that organized together in order to make guerilla attacks or to hope to have a rebellion against it. There were small groups of Zealots which the Romans destroyed. Eventually, there were large enough groups to cause a great rebellion, which brought on the destruction of the temple.

The Essenes, according to Josephus would have nothing to do with war, were strong pacifists; and that is pretty good proof the Zealots and Essenes were quite different. Now the Qumran people, they were different from either one; they were not Essenes in this sense because they did not wish to mix in the war that was going on, but they expected a great war when the light of the sun would darken; and in their books they tell what they should do when that war comes. They were very definitely not pacifists.

Then it says, "In your opinion are the idols which the Romans brought into the Temple the abomination of desolation spoken of in Daniel?" Now that's not Church History, that's exegesis. And we don't have time here for it, but I think it's important enough to say this: that nobody is certain what the abomination of desolation is, described in Daniel. But that there are many excellent scholars who have thought that the idols that the Romans brought into the Temple were the abomination of desolation; many who have thought they were. And before anybody speaks dogmatically on another view, he should study this view, see the evidence, and be able to give a reasonable statement of either acceptance or rejection. I have not given my opinion on it at all; I merely state the fact that it is a view that many hold; and there is sufficient evidence for it that no one should take another without first examining carefully, and either accepting it or rejecting it. That's not my view, but I rather doubt that anybody could be absolutely certain.

Then, the next question here is: "It seems that there is a distinct weakness in the outline to list failure of government under Achievements of Greeks." There again, that's a matter of terminology. The achievements of Greeks—if by achievements you mean the good things they did—certainly that failure doesn't belong there. But the word achievements could be used in a less common sense, as in an evaluation of their achievements—how great were their achievements in different fields—and if you use it that way, in the other fields it was excellent but in this particular field they did not have excellence. So I don't know as I'll admit that it was a failure in the outline, or a weakness in the outline, but I certainly will admit that it is a point at which some other arrangement might perhaps be better.

Then the question said, "Why is the moving of sites of ancient cities from a hill to the plain as a result of the protection of the Roman army to the disadvantage of the archeologists?" And the answer is that it is not to the disadvantage of the archeologist but to the advantage of the archaeologist, that they had been moved.

If you go into certain places in Palestine—or especially in Egypt—and you want to excavate, you'll find a present-day town with people living there; and if you're going to dig under them and see what's there, you're at a tremendous disadvantage; whereas if you are at a place where the people are living in a town two or three miles away, and there's a hill where the old city was, it is much easier to excavate. All you have to pay for is the crops you displace; you don't have to pay for tearing houses down. So it is a great advantage to excavators that the cities were moved from the hills to the plains.

But when archeology first began, it was then a great disadvantage because one of the best ways of locating places—sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't—is to see whether the name has been preserved. For instance I was over in Transjordan; we were looking for the place that is named Ham in Genesis 14. It says [verse 5] that Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came down to Ashteroth Karnaim and Ham and Shaveh Kiriathim. We knew where Shaveh was, and we knew where Ashteroth was, so we guessed that Ham was somewhere in between them.

So in a general place, more or less in between the two, we found a little village which is called Ham today. Well, now that is exceptional, Has that name been kept there for 3,000 years in this little village? Well, it's a wonderful clue to the location. Now, it could be that the name has disappeared and a new name has come in its place. It could be that the name has been moved, but it may be a clue; and there are hundreds of instances where names have been preserved, which are wonderful clues. In that case, we looked near the town and we saw about a mile away a little hill, and you could see the outcropping, out of the ground, of a triple line of fortifications round the hill. We went to the hill and we found pottery evidence from the time of Abraham, so it was pretty good proof that that was the town of Ham.

It has not yet been excavated; but it would be a great advantage for the archeologist, for the people moved down to the plain, so you don't have to move their houses in order to excavate. But before this fact was known, it was then a great disadvantage; because when people found a town or a ruin or something with a name, they said, "Here's where it was," and they began to excavate, and they didn't find anything; and there are many excavations back in the 1880's which were absolutely useless because people dug and found nothing. But when Petrie discovered that the city had been moved, then the name still gives you a clue to the area; but the exact place itself is not inaccessible because the town is in a different place.

Another question: "Was there Emperor worship before the time of Diocletian?" That's a rather broad question; if you say was there any?—certainly there was, because Caligula said he was a god; he went to the temple and talked to Jupiter; and he demanded that people treat him as god; certainly Caligula demanded that he be recognized as a god; but I don't think the people looked on him as a god. But if you say, "Was there emperor worship?" I'm sure some of the men who wanted Caligula's favor pretended to worship him; and I'm sure when his statue was put around among the different parts of the empire, there were many people who worshipped; but it was certainly not a part of the regular Jupiter-worship, to worship a living emperor, prior to the time of Diocletian.

But when Augustus died, the Roman Senate voted to recognize that he had become a god at his death; so after his death, he was worshipped as a god. And they did the same with quite a few of the emperors; the Senate voted to recognize them—that they at death had become gods and they were worshipped as gods. So when Diocletian introduced this oriental custom of having people come and bow before him and crawl up to him and all that sort of thing—to give him a tremendous impression, how very great and important he was—but the general attitude of considering the emperor as a god, at least after his death, is something that is found in a good many cases; but not in many cases a definite article of constant practice. After Diocletian made it so definite, then when Constantine died—who was the first Christian Emperor—the Roman Senate voted that his name be enrolled among the gods; and likely some of the pagans worshipped him, though he was a Christian.

Well, so much then for these questions, which were very intelligent questions, and which had a logical number of important things that were very good for us to look into.  

Now we had finished looking at Greek civilization and we had gone on to C, Judaism. And we completed our discussion. We noted that Judaism was a great advantage in getting Christianity started; then it was a disadvantage almost immediately after it got started because of the opposition of many of the Jews; and it was a great advantage because of the introduction throughout the empire of some of the basic teachings of Christianity by the Jewish groups; this porovided opportunities of presenting Christianity in the synagogues, and thus to get the first nuclei of Christian Jews all over the empire. The leaders expected that all the Jews would become Christians, and were surprised when so many didn't; and they were equally surprised when the Gentiles began to; for as Paul pointed out, it had been predicted by Isaiah, a thousand years before, that that was exactly what was happening.

So there we leave Judaism at this point; now for a very brief recapitulation of this whole section.

The world into which Christianity came was one which God had marvelously prepared for the dissemination of the gospel. Jesus came in the fullness of time: at a time when the Jewish groups were scattered throughout the empire; at a time when the Greek language was understood throughout the empire; at a time when the Roman roads had been built, the Roman peace had been established, borders had been removed by the Roman army. It was a far more propitious time for the spread throughout the Roman Empire of a new religion than could have been a hundred years before. And at this time there was, among many, a dissatisfaction with the old gods; a feeling that they were not the answer to life's problems; a questioning, a feeling for something new shown in the acceptance in Rome of all kinds of queer cults which would come in; and the Romans weren't much surprised when another queer cult began coming. There was a general attitude of tolerance of all these queer cults that were coming into the city. Well, that was the world into which Christianity came.

III. The Church in the First Century.

 

Now I trust all of you are familiar with the common historical terminology of speaking of the first century A.D. as the century which runs up to 100 A.D. So that a year like 134 won't be part of the first century, but part of the second. Today is 19-something or other and we call it the 20th century. The last century we called the 19th century, the 1800's. The church in the first century then would be the church up till about 100 A.D. And under that is:


A. The Beginning of the Church. Of the beginning of the church we are well informed in the Bible. And consequently, it lies outside the proper area of this particular course. It is Gospel history, Apostolic History, Exegesis. But we have very considerable information, as you know, about how the church was established. And I want you to survey that part of the information in the book of Acts as part of our work in this course, though our lectures will not deal with it, except as you may bring in any questions that you think we ought to look at, and I'll see whether they're worth taking time for.

 

1. Evidence in Acts and the Epistles. But in the beginnings of the church we have a good deal of information. We see how it was founded upon the belief in the resurrection. A little group of the disciples were scattered widely; they were filled with fear as they saw their leader crucified. And a few days later we find them boldly proclaiming that he was raised from the dead. And with this—persecution, suffering death, because of their belief that he was still living, and he was active—and that it was vital that other people should know about it. It is pretty hard to believe that people would have such a change in their whole attitude as that, unless they really had seen him. There have been those who have tried to explain it by saying they all had a vision. Now individuals have had queer visions in the world's history; but to get a group of a hundred people that all had this same vision, and think that they saw him raised from the dead and talking to them, is mighty hard to imagine.

Prof. Kirsopp Lake—formerly of Harvard University, then of Bryn Mawr, before his death—Professor Kirsopp Lake had a different view. He said that it was through the infatuation of a crazed woman that Christianity began. He said that, though Mary Magdalene was filled with sorrow, that she was just beside herself with anguish. She went to the tomb to put something on his body; and she was so perturbed and got the wrong tomb; so she came to a tomb and found it empty. Then she saw the gardener and she said, "Tell me where you've taken him, what's happened to him?" He said, "He's not here; he's up there." And when he said he's up there, she thought he meant he's risen, gone up; she figured that he was raised from the dead and told the others; and that started Christianity.

Well, it is psychologically mighty difficult to believe this. If she was that sort of a woman, who would believe such a statement as that, they would have seen it in other details. Others thought that it was a natural weakness on the part of one who was so devoted to him; but certainly not themselves. Certainly not; that they would go out and face death; to do what they did, and spread Christianity through the empire. They had a solid conviction that Christ was risen from the dead, and they had seen Him. That is the beginning of Christianity.

 

2. The Importance of the Resurrection. Many people call it one of the best-authenticated facts in history; he was raised from the dead; and that's what it was intended to do; that it made such a difference in lives and attitudes of this whole group of disciples; that began a movement that spread throughout the Christian church.

Now we have then the book of Acts; the church is originally just in Jerusalem; then we have persecution which drove the people away from Jerusalem; and they began working wherever they went, so we have churches starting in other places; and then we have Paul going and preaching all over the Roman world; and then we have a problem coming up, and the churches sending representatives to Jerusalem for a binding decision on the problem, the important problem of doctrine which had come up; they sent their representative in order to learn what the truth was on that; and so the church met together in Jerusalem; members of the church in Jerusalem there and representatives from other churches; and the decision was made—Acts 15—and it was the first great Church council which made a decision that was so important for the whole future of Christianity.

The decision they made did not claim to give any insight of their own. Paul in his epistles says God has revealed this to me; this is God's word. But in the council in Jerusalem, they did not say God has revealed this to us. God wished that council to be not an instance of His supernatural activity, as found in Acts, but rather as an example to us in subsequent days. So the way that it was done was to look in the Bible and see what it teaches; and James quoted the  OT and showed what it teaches; and they said, "Therefore since the Bible says this, our decision is as follows." They based it upon the Word of God. It was a study of the Word of God in order to apply it to their particular problem; a study made by the representatives of the church and presented not by saying, "We have authority, you take what we say." Paul didn't do that, as God's messenger, when God told him to give a certain message. But here, this was given, not as our authority, but as what God's word said. This is of course the only sure foundation of any real knowledge in Christian things.

In this book by McSorley, he says at the beginning of the book, one might have anticipated that the Founder of Christianity does not leave His revelation to the uncertain phrases of the book in connection with the written record. That in order to insure permanency we would make use of the obvious means, that is to say, would organize a society which after His death would function as a court of appeal and decide controversies about the meaning of his doctrine. He did found a society, a church with St. Peter as head and promising to protect it until the end of time. That is what McSorley specifically states here.

[McSorley, An Outline History of the Church, Introduction, p.5: "One might have anticipated that the Founder of Christianity would not leave His revelation to the uncertain fate of spoken messages and written records. That in order to insure permanency He would make use of the obvious means; that is to say, He would organize a society which after His death would function as a court of appeal, and decide controversies about the meaning of His doctrine.* He did found a society, the Church, placing St. Peter at its head and promising to protect it until the end of time."  * Here he has a footnote: "No legal document, no will or testament, no political constitution, be it ever so carefully drawn up, can fail to become the subject of misinterpretation and the occasion of misunderstandings among men. An authority with the right to decide, a court whose decision is final, there must always be, under penalty of confusion and division."]

But in the council of Jerusalem you do not find Peter presiding at all. He's merely one of the various ones who taught; and it is James, who is not even one of these who taught, who presides at the meeting and who gives the decision of the meeting at the end, so the facts here do not fit with what McSorley says. One might have anticipated that God wouldn't leave his Revelation unless God by His Spirit directed it.

But if God rules and directs, it's a far more certain way to give the Word—free from error—and have it here that we can all study it, and see what it says; than to leave it up to a group of men. Even such godly men and such intelligent men as the apostles differed radically upon some vital matters, till God gave a specific, definite revelation for the answers to the questions. And today Catholics claim that the pope at Rome is the divinely established teacher of the church; and he alone can speak infallibly on doctrine. And so the pope about ten years ago officially declared the assumption of Mary; and so people ask, "What does that mean?" There has been a tradition in the Roman church that Mary was taken directly to heaven; but does that mean that she died and that her body was taken to heaven, or does it mean that she was taken to heaven without dying? And the position is in two forms. Some say she was taken to heaven and never died; others say she died, was buried, was put in a sarcophagus and that a day or two later the apostles opened the sarcophagus and found it empty as proof she had gone to heaven.

And at the Vatican in Rome there are some things shown, showing that the apostles looked into the empty sarcophagus, one of them has it filled with flowers. There's no body there, it's just filled with flowers. And then you see, way up above, the body of Mary up in heaven. Well, which of the two is true? And then read the statements that the pope gave, when he as the official teacher, explained the Christian doctrine; and you will find that he worded it in such a way that all he said was that Mary was taken to heaven; he didn't say whether she was taken before she died or whether her body was dead. No matter which view they had, they can say we have the papal authority.

There was a German, a century ago, named Hahnemann, who said all our present-day medicine is wrong; this business of giving medicines that are opposite to the things that a person has in order to correct it is entirely wrong; he wanted to give the same thing, so he called it homeopathy, not allopathy, like most, giving the opposite, but giving the same thing, and in very, very small doses. And 60 years ago our country had many homeopaths; and it was a very excellent thing for a man who was traveling around on horseback or in carriages, because with little tiny doses he didn't have to have a very big sack of it, in order to carry what he needed to treat all the people on his route.

But the homeopaths were very, very bitterly opposed to ordinary medicine, and very insistent on the great discoveries that Hahnemann made. Today there's a large institution downtown [Philadelphia], the Hahnemann Hospital, with a fine medical school connected with it; and I asked one of the students there, how much you learn, are you thoroughly indoctrinated with the views of Hahnemann? No, he said, there's an elective course in Hahnemann's views, which anybody can take if he feels like it; but he said, most people don't take it; and the teaching here is exactly the same as it is in any other medical school. So here is a human organization gathered together to carry on Hahnemann's ideas, without any mixture with this terrible thing of ordinary medicine; and now it's entirely ordinary medicine that they give; and the name Hahnemann is preserved; there's an elective course for anybody who feels like it, but if there's no special reason for it, nobody ever takes it.

Well that's the fate of human organization. If God wants to insure permanency of anything, He has to send His Holy Spirit to direct the flock. No human leader will insure it. But he'll get a lot nearer with a written record, which people can read and see what the human organization is supposed to be doing. So the church began with the resurrection of Christ; with the giving of the human written records; with the giving of the epistles; the declaration of God's will so that we could read and study and learn from it exactly what it was; and God called the apostles with supernatural blessings in the start of Christianity when it was like a little tiny flickering light of a candle; it was a tiny little movement, any little breeze could blow it out; He provided them with miracles and signs to get it started and spread a little; and then after that, those particular supernatural evidences mainly ceased. The Spirit began to work in the hearts of man to guide him; and to direct those who were spreading the Word; to illuminate their minds as they studied; but as to the miracles and the obvious supernatural signs of the earlier activities, they ceased after the church got started. So within a very short time—we don't know how many decades—it was like it is today, with the people reading the truth and growing.

So much for A, The Beginning of the Church.

 

B. The Period of Little Evidence. There is a full generation—a period of 50 or 60 years—regarding which we have practically no information. We have all the detailed information in Acts, and then it just stops. What happened to Timothy later? Who did Timothy train? What continued during that next half century? Our knowledge of Christianity is almost a blank; and here is McSorley who tells in his book about how God established an organization which would maintain the gospel; which would direct the work of the church; tells about this, tells us about the papacy. Saint Peter, he says, was the first Pope and then St. Linus was the successor of Peter. Who was the third? He says Clement and Anacletus, and Cletus, 79-90 A.D.; but he says approximately 79-90, but the names of one man or of two, cannot be settled decisively.

If the pope was the head of all the church, we don't even know whether Anacletus and Cletus are the third and 4th popes, or whether they are two names for the same man so they're only one. We don't know. And even if you don't believe in the papacy, the church at Rome was very important in the early days—a very important church—and Linus was certainly an important deacon of the church, when they call him their 2nd pope. So who was next? Is it Cletus or Anacletus, as leader of the church, one man or two men; nobody knows. Our ignorance of that period is almost complete, Sorry, I have to stop here today.

Was there a church in Rome in early days? Paul wrote a letter to the church at Rome. There must have been a church in Rome, or he would not have written a letter to them. So that's pretty good proof that there was a church in Rome. Furthermore, Paul says in his letter, "I am hoping to come to you so that I may also bear some fruit among you." I believe there was a church in Rome before Paul ever got there. But he wrote to the church in Rome. And in addition to that, in the last chapter of the book of Romans, Paul gives his greetings to an awful lot of people in Rome. A lot of fine Christians in Rome, that he must have met somewhere else before they went there.

So that is not questionable evidence; there's absolutely certain evidence that there was a fine Christian church at Rome. A church that is a good church. Paul didn't sit down like he did in his letter to Galatians, to scold them for their wrong doctrine. He didn't sit down like he did in Colossians or to the Corinthians to point out evils there that needed to be corrected. He sat down to write down the finest, clearest statement of the Christian doctrine of salvation that had ever been written, in order to ground the Roman church in the clear facts about salvation and to give evidence for them to pass on to others.

So the book of Romans is absolutely incontrovertible and unanswerable proof that there was a fine Christian church in Rome at a very early time.

Now of course you might—many of you—not have known that, but I would hope most of you would be familiar with the last chapter of the book of Acts, which tells how Paul at Rome gathered people together and preached to them and had believers there. So actually, when Paul went to Rome, he had a church at Rome with which he worked. But Romans shows that before he went there, there was a good church there to which he went.

When a man has been led to the Lord by someone else, it is very natural for him to speak of the other person as his father in the faith. Paul speaks of Timothy as his son in the faith because he had led Timothy to the Lord. It was very natural in early days for people to get the habit of calling great spiritual Christian leaders fathers or papas, and so that term came to be used rather widely at very early times. Then as time went on they came to restrict it to people in positions of leadership.

But the term, during many centuries of early church history, was applied to quite a number of people. The Bishop of Alexandria was often referred to as the Pope of Alexandria. By that they mean the spiritual father of the people of Alexandria. In the course of time, the Roman Catholic Church came to restrict the term to the Bishop of Rome; and today it is used, as far as I know, only of him. But that is a restriction. Ordinarily it was a term used of many different people, meaning their spiritual father, which gradually developed into the word papa, and that is the origin of the word Pope.

Here are one or two questions that were turned in last time. "Can we trace the nature, doctrine, or position, etc. of the church in Acts, Chapter 1, when the church was not really founded till after 2:1?" Where in the Bible does it say the church was not founded until Acts 2:1? In Acts 2:1 did a group of people get together and say now we found a church? Or did they get together and did the Holy Spirit say now I'm going to make you into a church? They got together and the Holy Spirit used them to witness to others and to add others to the church. Acts 2 tells of the first great enlargement of the church, by the bringing in of many people who were won by Peter's sermon.

Did the organization which the people joined come into existence early in that chapter without the chapter saying anything to us about that having happened? Or did the church which they joined, having been in prayer for the previous forty days, looking forward to that great outpouring of the Spirit of God upon them, which would enlarge the church as a result of His coming that day? Well, I think it's a matter of terminology. We cannot say one way or the other, because the scripture doesn't say. Where the scripture speaks positively, we know, where it doesn't, we don't know.

This much we can say. At the end of Acts 2 there were many people added to the church, thousands who believed as a result of Peter's sermon. What was the church to which they were added? When did it come into existence? Did it come into existence that morning? Maybe. But if so, the Bible doesn't say so. Had it been in existence during the period of Acts 1? It seems reasonable to think that it had, but there's no definite statement on it. So it is a matter of terminology on which we have no evidence to make any final and conclusive answer. We know at the end of Acts 2 there was a church. It seems strange, if it began in the beginning of Acts 2, that the Bible doesn't also say so. It seems logical to think that it also is in Acts 1, but it doesn't say so in Acts 1, so we have no way to make certain.

But suppose, for the sake of argument, suppose that without our being told anything about it, that the church actually was started at the beginning of Acts 2. Just before the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles for service and extension, an enlargement of the church, in that case you still have the people who are in it, being the same people who were together in Acts 1, endeavoring to serve the Lord to the best of their ability, and making preparation for Acts 2. So that being the case, you might want to put a certain question mark, if you hold that view, beside evidence from Acts 1 about the ordinances, leadership, and doctrine of the church. But still you couldn't throw the evidence out. You'd have to consider it as important to look at, even if you put a question mark.

Now as far as this course is concerned, we call this course Church History because we are concerned with the period in which there was an organization which was known under the name of the Christian church; and we're dealing with that after the end of what's spoken about in the Bible. So it was purely a matter of convenience.

In a strict sense, the church is all those evidently saved through Christ; so in a strict sense, it certainly wouldn't prove adequate—he would be a member of the church in this strict sense. But in the sense of this course we are speaking about that organization which has the name Christian Church, and there was no such name used until up in Antioch a good many years after Acts 2, but it is the organization which began to spread out in Africa, so let's not get tied up in knots over the use of names; let's recognize that there is a possibility.

Then here is a statement that is very interesting: "Dr. MacRae, It would be worthwhile to discuss sometime the practice of common sharing, as recorded in Acts, by the early church. What about the communism of the early church?"

That's really apostolic history rather than church history; but I do think it's worth noting, in the beginning of church history, very definitely. This is worth noting. In the beginning of Acts we do not have any command to the believers to bring everything they have and put it in the common treasury. What we have in Acts 5, or about there, we have Barnabas selling a field and bringing the money and laying it at the apostles' feet. He said, "You've got a big job here with all these widows and orphans; here's all my money to use for it." And it says they had all things common; they put everything they had into the common fund; they expended it commonly. But then you have Ananias as saying, "I sold my field; here's the money." Everybody praised Barnabas, so he wanted praise too. So he sold his field, and says, "I sold my field, here's the money, here's what I got."

Does Peter say, "Ananias, you are not handling this in an honest matter, the way it's supposed to be? All the property of all the believers is supposed to go in to the common fund, you only turned part of it; God's going to punish you?" That's not what he said. Peter says, "Ananias, is it true you sold the field for so much?" Ananias said, "Yes." Peter said, "You have not lied to men but to the Holy Spirit." Peter says while the field was yours, it was yours; you didn't have to sell it unless you wanted to. He said, after you sold it, the money was yours; you didn't have to give any of it in, unless you wanted to. He says you have lied and the Holy Spirit is going to take your life for it. And he said the same thing to Sapphira. In other words, they were not punished for not entering into a communist organization; they were punished for telling a lie to the Holy Spirit, and trying to get credit for something they had not done.

Then you go further; and you find that as you go on through the book of Acts, there is no evidence that in any other place the church established a communistic sort of system; that everybody pays in what they had, and everybody draws from the common fund. You don't find that anywhere else; but what you do find is that Paul and the others, wherever they went, had to raise money for the poor saints in Jerusalem who weren't able to support themselves.

So it certainly looks as if Christians failed in Jerusalem, and all the other churches had to support them; and there is no evidence such a thing was ever introduced anywhere else. Now that's a brief summary at this point; and I think it's rather important, and good to have it in mind. If I hadn't had the question, I might not have said anything about it, because of the fact that we have no evidence of any such organization ever again; and consequently it really doesn't enter into church history, except in a negative way. But it's a rather important in a negative way, because the of the viewpoint that the men in Jerusalem made that mistake of establishing in their enthusiasm a type of organization which failed there and was not developed anywhere else.

In our outline we are under II, The Church in the First Century; A, The Beginning of the Church; 1, Evidence in Acts and the Epistles. That of course is the evidence: the story of the early days of the church. It is divinely inspired. Anything we find in Acts or Epistles we can stand upon—also Revelation of course—as proof about the church in early days. And then there is 2, The Importance of the Resurrection, which I discussed last time as a vital factor in the church. Then I mentioned B, The Period of Little Evidence; and under this, the note that this period ran from the death of Christ to about 107 AD, a period of about 80 years; but during that period we have the book of Acts which tells us quite a lot about Peter in the first few years, and Paul in the next few. But it stops there. The latter days of Paul we know nothing about, and practically nothing about Peter after about the 12th chapter of the book. We are told practically nothing about any of the apostles in the Bible, practically nothing. So that for those 80 years, Acts and the Epistles are all that we have about them in the Bible; and that only tells a very small amount of what happened in the years covered by Acts, and we have nothing in the Bible about the years after that. So the evidence from Acts of the Apostles is very important, but it has its limitations as far as how much it covers. So here is a period of at least 60 years, of which we have very little evidence. Now

 

1. How does there come to be so little evidence?

 

a. The Type of Writing Material. Those were days of widespread literacy. Everybody that was educated at all was writing. They had their letters that went back and forth; they had their postal service; they had their permissions to do this and that; they had their receipts; they had all sorts of things in writing; but they wrote on papyrus, and papyrus is only a little better than the paper we use today—maybe two or three times better than the paper we use today. But let us suppose that tomorrow the sleeping sickness would jump across the Delaware from N.J. to here, and hit us all of a sudden and kill us all, so that we lay here and disintegrated and nobody else entered Philadelphia for the next 2,000 years.

And then 2,000 years from now—or maybe you could even say 400 years from now—people were to come into Philadelphia; we will have rotted away and blown off. They might find a few little pieces of bones here and there, as they ought to do, after 2000 years; maybe after 400 there might be more than that; but they would come to our libraries, and they wouldn't find much. They'd go to a newspaper department and see what they could find. Suppose you get the newspaper every day for the next ten years, and you pile it up on the shelf and leave them there for 50 years. Somebody comes and takes ahold of them; they just fail to pieces; you wouldn't be able to read them long. Now we do make certain editions of our newspapers on good rag paper, special editions for historical purposes, but most of us never see those special editions; and they wouldn't last many years; but the papyrus disintegrated, not as badly as our paper would today but pretty badly.

So you go into a city—the remains of a great city, like Philadelphia here—400 years from now; if nobody's been here between now and then, then probably the only writing we find would be the inscriptions chiseled on the front of buildings; and we have a number of them in Philadelphia. And some of those would have weathered away but many of them would still be there. And you'd be able to read some of those inscriptions and learn something about us from those. Papyrus was the regular material for writing—for most purposes—until 300 or 400 A.D.; and about that time they began widely using skins of animals for writing important things. And they would cut the skin of the animal in such a way that it would make a sort of a thin layer on which they would write; and that lasts a very, very long time. We have good scrolls of leather from very early times which are easy to read today.

Now we have some papyri from early as 1500 or 2000 B.C., which we can read today; but they are from Egypt, and Egypt is far dryer than almost any other civilized country in the world. And in addition to that, out of all the thousands and thousands of writings in Egypt on papyrus, all of them have disappeared except the ones that were buried in Egypt. There were great Egyptian classics, stories that were copied hundreds of times; all the wealthy people had copies of them in their homes; they were widely read, and every single copy has disappeared except one which was a child's copy as he was learning to write; the child died and the parents buried his schoolbooks with him; and there, buried away, this great ancient Egyptian classic has been preserved; and if that particular child hadn't happened to copy that before he died, we would have no record of that Egyptian classic. So, you see, that's in Egypt. In Palestine, even if you could bury a papyrus, it couldn't last. So the nature of the writing material has something do with the fact that we have very little evidence from this period.

The Christians were making their copies of the Bible; but not to make expensive copies that they could bury away somewhere so we could read them 2000 years later. Rather to make copies they could pass around, and read to one another, and have them available; they'd rather have 10 copies on cheap paper that they could distribute, than to have one beautiful copy that would last forever, but would be too expensive for anybody to afford to make it. They were not putting up their material in expensive forms in those days.

Most of the great ancient classics that we have are copies made centuries after they were written; and these are the only copies we have. Now that is an important reason why we don't have much evidence from this time. There is a second much more important reason:

 

b. The lack of Stimulus to Write History. Now what is the stimulus that leads somebody to write a history? That varies. Ordinarily, if you think you can sell the book and make some money, you may write a history. In those days we didn't have a publishing business like we have today. Or if you have a big established organization, and it's got big endowments, they're glad to pay people to write the history of it. But when you're a little concern, getting started, and spreading and disseminating yourself, you're too busy doing the work to sit down and write a history. So organizations in their early days—some of them—that are so interested in everything about themselves that they spend all their time writing histories, they soon die out; but the institutions that go ahead and succeed usually haven't spent much time in their early days writing history; and then later when their successful people look back and try to figure out what their early history was, it's difficult to do, because they don't have the evidence.

When I was in college, I went to Occidental College in Los Angeles; I had some very good friends among the students; others that I knew casually; there was one fellow there I have a dim recollection of; at the moment, I don't even recall his name. I remember, though, seeing him around there and noticing him; I didn't particularly pay any attention to him; I don't ever remember speaking to him; I had the impression he lived in Pasadena, but beyond that I remember nothing about him. I'd been out of school 15 years, and I read that a certain man had made a contribution of I think 600,000 dollars to the Republican party; and the Senate was questioning whether there was some dishonesty involved over some oil deals he'd gotten into or something; the man was in the headlines, in the papers, quite prominent; and I found in one of the references to him that it mentioned that he had been at Occidental College and gave the date, which would be just the time I was there, and I had this very slight recollection.

Now if I, at the time I was there, had known this was a man who was going to be so prominent 15 years later, I probably would have talked to him a little. I probably would have written in a diary that I had met such and such an important fellow that day; described him, what he looked like; paid a little attention to him. I didn't pay the slightest attention to him. 15 years later he was very prominent; and anybody there who had known him during that brief period, 15 years later when he was prominent, anybody who knew him would be apt to say to a friend, "Well I knew that fellow when"—and tell what you knew about him.

Back in 1920, I did a little canvassing for Hoover, President of the United States, and I remember people said, "Oh, I had a cousin who knew him when he was a boy. She said that fellow is going to be president of the United States someday." Well, I told my mother. She said, "Every boy has that said about him when he is a child." That proves nothing. But these people remembered it with great pleasure. What they said about a man who was not prominent then.

Well, what I mean to say is, you don't realize the important things; you don't write them down. There are thousands of things you come in contact with of no importance; perhaps there are three of great importance. Later on, you look back and try to remember them.

Now just to show how, what important things we forget, who is there here of our juniors, who can tell us a lot of where you yourself—over the last three centuries—where your blood came from. What is your ancestry? Where did you come from anyway? How do you come to be in existence? Who is there here that knows quite a bit about these facts? Who is there? Somebody just at random. Don't any of you know anything about your ancestry? You just showed up out of the sky? Well, Mr. Myers, did you raise your hand? Oh, fine; Mr. Myers will tell us where he came from, back to the time of Napoleon.

Well, all right, let's hear it, would you rise please Mr. Myers? How does John Myers come to be in existence? What was your father's name? (David K. Myers) Where was he born? (Illinois). When? ([??]) What is your mother's name? ([??]) Where was she born? (Edinburgh) All right. Now there are two people: one from Scotland, one from Illinois. Some way they came together and the result is we—no, we're not through with you yet. We're a long way from Napoleon's time. Now your father, how did he come to be in existence? What was his father's name? (John Andrew Myers). Now what was his mother's name? (Margaret Rohrer) Well, we're just back two generations and we have a lot of I-don't-knows. You see, he has two parents, he knows them; he was four grandparents, he's not sure of the full name of all of them, nor when they were born. He has eight great-grandparents and how many of the eight did he name? Then there are 16 in the next generation, how many of them can you name? Then there are 32. Well, most of you probably couldn't go back as far as Mr. Myers. But when you think of it, for every one of you, the most important thing in the world is how you come to be here, where you came from; and you have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16, 32, and so on, and I defy anybody to name the 32 ancestors. Yours would have probably lived in the 1800s, tell where they were born and when, even give their names, and going back much further is just completely impossible.

Well, that's the way it is; people disappear from sight, even very important people; they just completely disappear; we don't even know they existed; we don't know anything about them, and yet they may be our ancestors. We just know nothing about them; and how then would we expect to know full details about the history of the world between 50 A.D. and 110? Suppose you had only 4,000 Christians in the world. How would you expect to know their names? Where they came from? Or much about them? And which of those were fated to be very important people 30 years later? Nobody would've bothered to write this information down. So that it is very natural, in any period of the world, that on account of the lack of stimulus to write history, the great bulk of facts are forgotten and then later people go back and try to collect them.

I was reading the other day about a man who had a farm he wanted to sell near Detroit. This was about 80 years ago, I guess. The farmer said "Well, you know, William and John are getting well established. They've got a nice little farm, they're doing well." But he said "Henry, I'm afraid he'll never amount to anything; he's like a rolling stone, going to this and that and the other thing; he did a fool thing; he put some kind of an apparatus on a carriage and made it go without a horse on it."

He says "Henry will never amount to anything." Today William and John are completely forgotten. Any scrap of information about Henry, people are tremendously interested. But that's how mistaken his own parents were as to who is important. And you look back, and most people don't have the time to look back; or the interest, to try to figure out these details of just a few years ago. So they're lost. So it is not at all unnatural that, between the time when there was a little group of people going out to preach the gospel and the time when there was a great multitude, in between there'd be very little written down to tell us anything about what happened.

As a matter of fact, we don't know a great deal about the Christian church until we get to 315 A.D. After that we have a tremendous lot of information. We have quite a bit the century before, and very little even from 100 to 200. But from 50 to 110 our information is practically nil, aside from what is in the NT Well, now, the third reason c—you don't need a third reason, these two are enough—but the third is a present in addition, and that is:

 

c. The Expectation of the Soon-return of Christ. And that is something which is easy to prove, that up until the time of Constantine—300 AD—the Christians were expecting Christ to come back almost any time and set up His kingdom on earth; and as a result they were busy getting all the people they could to believe on Him; and be looking for Him, ready to meet Him when He came. They weren't worried about keeping track of what happened; for when He comes back here He'll remind them of anything they wanted to know. So during those years we have very little effort to remember where things happened, important places, and all that. This was an added thing that entered in, to have this a period of very little evidence.

 

2. Why had God allowed such a gap in our knowledge? What I tried to make clear is that this gap in our knowledge is a natural thing. It's a thing we would expect; it's the regular thing that takes place with organizations before they get big and strong; that there is an almost complete gap of knowledge; it's the ordinary thing that happens.

I saw in Hungary, in Budapest, a statue, the only statue in my life I've ever seen that was dedicated to anonymous; but this statue is to anonymous; and the reason is that the early history of Hungary was written by a monk; and all we know about the earliest history of Hungary is this history this monk wrote; but the first few pages of the history were torn off; we don't even know the name of the monk; so they call him anonymous; and they made a statue to anonymous—that is the unknown writer of the early days of Hungary—because the first pages were destroyed and nobody knew. And there are many things later that happened the same way. A few pages get lost and we just don't know anything about it. We can only fill in by imagination. So it is natural to have gaps in our knowledge, particularly in the early days of any country, of any movement, of anything.

But God didn't have to allow such a gap. God could have caused that Luke would have said to Timothy, "Please take up the history where I stopped, and go on and write an inspired history," and Timothy could have said the same to one of his successors, whose names even we don't know. And God could have caused an inspired history of the Christian church to be written from the time of the apostles right straight up to the time of Constantine. But the Lord did not do that. Why didn't He do it? Well, there we can only guess, we have no definite statement. But we can make a mighty good guess.

The Christian church is not founded, as McSorley says, upon an organization—a continuous organization—which traces back to its beginning. It is not. It is founded upon a book; and we have the book. We have the book which gives us what God wants us to know as the foundation of our beliefs; and that book God caused inspired men to write; and he caused the book to be kept free from error, and to be preserved through the ages; so we have this book giving us what God wants us to have as a foundation of the church. But in the history of the church there's a big gap in the early days concerning history and we know practically nothing.

When somebody says we have a continuous organization going back to the beginning; and we can trust this organization to pass on these facts from one to another; they say here's an organization that goes right back, we can trust the organization. No. We have the book that goes back and we can trust the book, and the book gives us the knowledge God wants us to have. So church history is interesting, and we learn much from it; but to learn what we should stand upon in our Christian religion, we go, not to the church, but to the Bible which God kept from error as our foundation. We continue there at 8 tomorrow morning.

We mentioned 2, Why God allowed such a gap in our knowledge, and I just mention that one again. It is natural there should be very little evidence in the first century of Christianity. That is what you would expect. But God could have supernaturally intervened to change it, so we would have a full account; and I think it is reasonable to say that God would have done it so, if that was His will; that we should know what is truly Christian by seeing an organization which we could trace back to the time of the apostles; and know that what they have held and what they say today is what He wants.

But the fact is that God did not intervene supernaturally; but that He allowed things in this regard to take their normal course; and the great important facts about the first century of Christianity—aside from what He caused to be written in the book of Acts and in the Epistles—all of those other thousands of important facts, He allowed to simply slip out from man's memory, as would naturally happen.

The fact that He did not intervene to prevent this, didn't cause us to have either an inspired account of the events of that period, or at least good definite historical evidence; the fact that He allowed that to happen, is to my mind conclusive that the vital thing is not the organization; not the continuing body of Christians, all of whom are fallible, and sinful; but it is the book which He gave at the beginning, which gives us the knowledge He wants us to have; and that we are to relate ourselves back to that book, all the time, rather than through a particular group of people.

As the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America states, in its constitution adopted in 1789: "Synods and councils may err and have erred since the days of the fathers." In other words any group of human beings may be mistaken. It is only God who is altogether dependable, and His word that is altogether trustworthy.

So much for number 2 here, I did not give any sub-points under it because there was just one reason; and I hope you all have that; I'm not stating it as part of the outline, merely discussed; and I hope you have the answer. It's not a divine statement; it's not an infallible declaration; simply my judgment on the matter, but as a judgment I think it's very reasonable.

 

3. Traditions about the Apostles. Now during this period of little evidence, we know that there must have been Christians who were very busy. We know that from what we will learn of the next century. From the results, we know that things must have been happening; but what were they? The book of Acts tells us the beginning of what Peter did; it tells us what Peter did up to about chapter 12. And then it hardly mentions Peter any more. But it tells us about what Paul did; but after all, there were ten other apostles, what were they doing?

Well, I will read to you a word from McSorley simply because it is rather nicely stated here, that's all. I think what you find in him on this point you'll find in almost any other church history, perhaps not all in one place like it is here. He says here: [McSorley, An Outline History of the Church, p 27] "Outside of the account given in the Acts, there is little reliable information about the missionary labors of individual apostles." There we have a footnote: "The gap has been filled by apocryphal histories which must be read with great caution, as many of them were written by the Gnostics for purposes of propaganda. These apocrypha, however, do sometimes contain an historic kernel." That is to say, there are books which were written one or two or three centuries after the time of the apostles purporting to be the acts of this apostle, or the acts of the other, telling about where they went, what they did, but you can tell that they're purely imaginary. We can put no reliance in anything in them. That doesn't mean to say they may not contain some true statements. People may have passed on by word of mouth some true facts about certain individuals; and these may have gotten into the apocryphal books; but nobody knows which statements were true. These apocryphal books are just simply not reliable, they're much too late. So that all we know about the apostles is what is in the book of Acts, and what we can gather from the Epistles. McSorley says, [ibid.] "Outside of the accounts given in the Acts, there is little reliable information about the missionary labors of individual apostles. Dim traditions say that St. James the Greater carried the faith to Spain, St. Philip to Phrygia, St. Thomas to Parthia, St. Andrew to Scythia (Southern Russia), and St. Bartholomew to India, and that all the disciples except St. John suffered martyrdom. With regard to the Blessed Virgin, there are two traditions, one of which says she died in Jerusalem about the year 45, surrounded by the Apostles; the other that she accompanied St. John to Ephesus and died there at a later date." This was written two years ago [© 1961]. I wonder if he would say that now, because the Pope now says that Mary went to heaven, that her body was taken to heaven, but he says nobody knows whether Mary died in Jerusalem or whether she died in Ephesus. Well, I guess the Pope doesn't need that evidence; he doesn't know where she died, but he does know that she went to heaven; and he doesn't know whether her body was taken to heaven without dying or whether after she died her body was taken to heaven, but he knows it was taken up.

Well, that's a rather scanty sort of knowledge; but this fits with the facts about that theory—we know very, very little about it. Think of it—even the mother of Christ. Aside from all Roman Catholic superstition about her, she was a wonderful woman, a godly woman, a woman whom God chose to be the mother of Christ; and yet they did not recall where she died. What happened to her for certain? There's one tradition says she died in Jerusalem, and the other that she accompanied St. John to Ephesus and died there. We don't know. They just completely forgot what became of her. It simply shows how little evidence we have. Probably at the time, everybody knew. Well, what's happened to the mother of Christ, where is she? Is she still living? No, she's gone up to Ephesus I believe. They might hear about it but nobody bothered to write it down, and we just don't know.

There is a large group of people in south India who call themselves Thomas Christians, from the tradition that St. Thomas went to India. Did St. Thomas start a church in India and people remain in it till the present day? Or did people in the middle ages who became Christians in India, on the tradition that St. Thomas went there, call themselves Thomas Christians? We do not know what happened—what happened to any of the apostles except James who was killed in Jerusalem. And Peter, we don't know for sure what happened to Peter, nor what happened to Paul after the end of Acts. There is a tradition that he was killed in Rome, but it is tradition; it is not certain but highly probable. I would guess it's highly probable Peter was killed in Rome, but it's not certain. We don't know. The only ones we know about are James who was killed at Jerusalem at a very early date, and Paul who was beheaded at Rome, and John we have a very strong tradition that he went to Ephesus and he died in Ephesus, whether as a martyr or whether he died a natural death we don't know. The facts were just forgotten, we just don't know.

I was reading McSorley here, not with the idea that we should pay particular attention to him; but he sticks simply to the fact that it was believed, a century or two after this, that the apostles had widely separated; they were scattered widely in the course of events. But just where each one went, and just what happened to them, we don't know. The knowledge has been lost. So that the fact is, that there are traditions, but most of them—we just don't know, whether they are true or not.

I was amazed in 1929 to visit my father's last surviving brother, the last surviving member of his family; his sisters were then all dead; his brothers were all dead, except his little brother. And now he was an old man in Los Angeles; and as I talked with him, he mentioned that his grandfather had been in India. He said his grandfather from Scotland had been a soldier in India; he had lived there for a time; and then he had lived in Canada. Well, I knew that he had lived in Canada; I never even knew that he had been in India. But I remember my father went to Lucknow High School in Canada; the name Lucknow must have been brought from India, because it's the name of an important place in India; and that fits in with the tradition. But there is my great-grandfather; and this very important part of his life I never even heard of till thirty years ago, I don't know any a further details of it now. When my father was a boy, it was probably very important and probably talked about, but gradually it just disappeared.

And so all these details from this century just disappeared from sight and, while there are stories about the apostles, they are mostly imaginations of a later date.

 

4. I Clement. I mention him here because he barely gets into the first century. There is, we will later speak of—you don't need to pay attention to it particularly now, we will later speak of the fact—there is a group of early Christian writings, which we call the Apostolic Fathers, in view of the belief that these were written by men who had known the apostles; and so they called them apostolic fathers. Of these books, there is only one which is generally believed to be written before 100 A.D.—probably about 95 or 96 A. D.—The First Epistle of Clement. I will assign it to you later, but I want just now to mention its place in the history. As you see, it is 30 years after Paul came to Rome when Clement writes this letter.

Now this letter of I Clement is a letter that is filled with quotations from Paul's epistles. It is evidently by a man who is thoroughly familiar with them. He is writing on behalf of the church of Rome to the church of Corinth; and he is rebuking the church of Corinth for divisions and dissensions and difficulties in the church of Corinth. It is a good pious letter which carries on much the same sort of advice you find in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. He says he is writing on behalf of the church at Rome. He never mentions himself in the letter; nor says anything that tells you about himself or about the history of Rome at the time; beyond these particular disturbances to which he refers.

Most scholars agree that this is a genuine book; it comes from about 95, 96 AD; written by this man Clement, who would seem to have been the bishop of church at Rome; the head, the leading man in the church at Rome at this time. There are other letters, such as 2 Clement, of which there is hardly anybody who believes they're genuine. But Clement's name became quite famous at that time. There are all kinds of stories about him; traditions about his birth and his upbringing and his background; all of this purely imaginary. Nobody knows much about him, except that from his letters we gather that he was a godly man in Rome; he writes this letter to try to get the Corinthian church to settle down and be more orderly; to put their attention on spiritual things instead of being mixed up in all these squabbles that were bothering it; it's a fine letter, but it's certainly not an inspired work; nobody thinks it is part of God's word. It shows us active Christian life going on just before 100 AD in Rome, but it doesn't tell us anything much about history.

One thing that is noticeable in it is that Clement, who is usually considered to have been bishop of Rome, does not in any way express a declaration of authority by which he authoritatively orders the church at Corinth to do something; nothing of the kind; but he does speak on behalf of the church at Rome, of Christians at Rome. So McSorley says the tone was truly papal. Well, that's a matter of judgment, but when you find that he does not claim to have authority himself to give an order, it seems to me that is pretty far removed from the papal tone today. So much for I Clement.

I perhaps should have mentioned that most that we know about Christian history about this time—most that is guessed about it, most of our guesses—come from the Church History of Eusebius; and that was 300 years later. Now after 300 years, he had no way of knowing back that far except from what materials he could lay his hands on. So Eusebius' history is a very important one, but when it comes to anything that isn't in Acts or some other source, you can take it as very questionable, even if you find it in Eusebius. So we'll go on to

 

5. Information from Non-Christian Sources.

 

a. Josephus. Now Josephus was a Jew who was born about 37 AD. So he was a little boy in Jerusalem when the disciples were active there. In the time of the first persecutions he was a little boy in Jerusalem. Josephus was from a priestly family. There were considerable means in his family; he was able to spend his time trying to learn their background and their history. He went and listened to the Pharisees and tried to learn what their views were; he went to the Sadducees and saw what their ideas were. He had no use for the Essenes; these people that lived out in the wilderness, separated themselves from the temple; he had no use for them, but still he went out and spent a month or so out there to observe, see what they were like. He came back more disgusted with them than ever.

Well, Josephus, as a young man had a curiosity and an interest in conditions and he was a good observer. Later on, when the Jews revolted against Rome, Josephus was the general of the army in northern Galilee, fighting against the Romans. But when he faced a Roman army which was clearly several times as large as his, and very certain to completely annihilate them, he saw no point in the Jews fighting them, so he surrendered. And after he surrendered he became a good friend of the Roman general, Titus, who later became the Roman emperor.

He was with Titus in the Roman camp when Jerusalem was defeated in 70 AD. Jerusalem was besieged; thousands of people were killed; thousands sold into slavery; it was one of those terrible events in the history of the world. Well, Josephus blamed it to a large extent on the group of Jewish Zealots; they had felt that Messiah was going to come immediately and rescue them from the Romans; and no matter how bad things went in the war, they said, "The worse it gets the sooner the Messiah comes." So they didn't mind how bad it got; they just fought on desperately against the Romans; and in the end thousands of them were brutally killed. It was a most terrible disaster; the Temple was burned, the city was left in ruins; but Josephus was near there, because he was a close friend, by that time, of the Roman general.

And so the Jews have historically considered Josephus as a traitor; and they have thought very little of him as a man. But Josephus went to Rome then, and Titus was very, very friendly with him. Titus ten years later became emperor; they gave Josephus a nice home in Rome, and plenty of means; and he lived there until after 100 AD.

And Josephus wrote a history of the Jewish wars; he describes all the events connected with the war there; and it's a good history, considered to be a good reliable historical source. He observed things at first hand; he knew what he was talking about. And it's a good history, Josephus' Jewish War.

Now Josephus also wrote a history of the Antiquities of the Jews; and this is not good history because he hadn't been living in the early days; he has to rely on second-hand sources. Well, of course what he takes from the Bible is naturally true insofar as he believed the Bible. He gives the whole history of the Jewish race through the ages. And he tells what's in the Bible; only he enlarges on it—like when Saul stands and the Philistines are coming, he has Saul make a soliloquy like Hamlet did, "to be or not to be." "Shall I kill myself? Shall I let the Philistines seize me? What shall I do?" He tells what Saul thought. He had a good imagination; and his imagination may be in line with facts or may not. It's not historical evidence. So his history of the Jewish antiquities is not an added source of evidence to us. What he got from the Bible is naturally right from the Bible, and what he added is just his imagination, he had no other source.

Then about 95 AD, there was a Greek teacher of rhetoric in Alexandria, Egypt, who wrote a most scurrilous attack on the Jews; it was one of the most rank, wicked, anti-Semitic writings that has ever been written, attacking the Jews in most terrible language; and Josephus in Rome wrote an answer to it, which is called Against Apion, because Apion was the rhetorician who had written this scurrilous book. Josephus writes an answer to try to show that the attacks on the Jews are not proven. And in this book he tells about the different sects of the Jews and their viewpoints, and their loyalty to the Bible.

He says that though there are many different books that have been written by the Jewish people, none of them could be put in the category with the 24 books of the OT; which he says are the Word of God, and no Jew could add to or take away from; and every Jew from his birth considered it as the Oracles of God. It gives us, in this Against Apion, a great deal of excellent evidence as to the viewpoint of Jews of that day, because Josephus was a Jew and was familiar with them.

Now we're naturally interested in whether Josephus is a source for early Christian history; and the answer is that he is not. He was brought up as a boy in Jerusalem when the disciples must have been active there; and he was in Rome, when Christianity was beginning in Rome.

He made no reference to the Christian movement or the Christian church, and that is generally considered to be because of fear; this is the time when Domitian was persecuting Christians, and it may be that he thought he'd better play safe so nobody would think he had anything to do with the Christians, by not mentioning the Christian faith.

On the other hand, he may have thought it was a movement, say, like the Jehovah's Witnesses of today; something that was very active but that probably wouldn't last or amount to much, so why bother to mention it in his history? We don't know. But the fact is that he's not a help in history on these things.

There are three points at which he is of interest, but it is not anything new. He tells about how Herod killed St. James in the persecution of Jerusalem. That is so. Now that we already have in Acts. Of course, it's interesting to have this corroboration of it by Josephus. [student] The writings of the apostles which God intended to be part of the Word of God, like what Paul wrote, were carefully preserved; but if the other apostles wrote letters—which we don't know whether they did or not, but if they did—the people simply took them as temporary letters, not as God's Word, and didn't bother to make special efforts to preserve them. And after a while the paper would just disintegrate and go to pieces. While the letters of Paul which they knew, and 1 and 2 Peter, and 1, 2 and 3 John, they knew were part of God's Word, they copied with great care. There were many copies.

Josephus, on the other hand, was a man of means; he was living in Rome, writing these works for general distribution   Probably he had a factory, where 50 slaves would sit, and a man would read from the book, and the 50 slaves would copy, making 50 copies. These were probably made on excellent material and distributed around. And they were not, in the early days, part of the Christian movement. But he was a literary man interested in getting his writings distributed. This was in a different category. The Jews, who considered Josephus a traitor, did not preserve his writings. They have not been preserved among the Jews at all. There is a work called Josiphonus, which is evidently a recasting of part of Josephus by the Jews, putting in all sorts of statements which were different from what Josephus said, but fit with their ideas; this was preserved through the middle ages by the Jews. But Josephus was not preserved by the Jews. But his writings were there among the pagan literature; and when Christianity became dominant, Christians copied it and kept it as an interesting history of the Jewish wars and of those things.

So Josephus was preserved; and in Josephus we have long detailed history; and it's very valuable, particularly the history of his own land; and he mentions the fact that James was killed by King Herod; and you know that that's mentioned in Acts; and he wrote from Rome, being on the ground, seeing it. Well, if he knew that, he must have known a lot more about the Christian movement; because James was killed for being a Christian there, by King Herod. He must have known more about it, but he doesn't mention it. There's one other thing the mentioned; he mentions John the Baptist. He doesn't mention any relation of him to Christianity, but he mentions John the Baptist as a very good man, who was killed by Herod, and he tells a little detail about it. Then there is also a statement in Josephus, which is a very strange statement. In his Antiquities of the Jews, he says this,

[Quote Antiquities Book XVIII (Complete Works, 1905, p548) "Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man—if it be lawful to call him a man—for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him ; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."]

Now that is a very remarkable statement; and any book that you would pick up, maybe a century ago, maybe even 50 years ago, of testimony to Christ, will quote Josephus' testimony to Christ. Until the 16th century, it was accepted by all Christians as an accurate statement about Christ. Now the pendulum has swung the other way, and most say that it is not original; it was inserted into Josephus' work.

Personally, it is very hard for me to believe Josephus ever would have written such a statement. Because if he said that Jesus did great miracles and was raised from the dead, and was the one the prophets pointed to, he should have become a Christian; and then his history should have told about the spread of Christianity; and when he ignores all that, then to say, simply mentioning about someone at that time, that Jesus was raised from the dead and that he did these wonderful works and he was the Christ, well, it just doesn't seem sensible. I mean it's inconsistent. He should either not say this, if he didn't believe in Christ; or if he did, he should say more and show that he actually was a Christian himself.

[student] Yes, it is possible. The fact is, we don't know. There have been those who were quite sure Josephus wrote it; there have been those who are quite sure he did not. And I mention this because of the difficulty in it; and all of our manuscripts of Josephus are from the 11th century or later. We have no copies of Josephus preserved earlier than the 11th century AD. And all those copies were preserved in Christian hands; the Jews did not preserve copies of Josephus, but every single one of these copies that we have has this statement in it, every single one. So some say, "Well, every copy has this, so it's doubtless original; Josephus doubtless said it." Others say, "No, they were all found in Christian hands; doubtless, some Christian put it in; and it would be contained in all the copies." While some hold a third view—which seems a more reasonable one—that Josephus did mention Christ, but that he didn't say a great deal about it; that a few words were put in here and there, such as believing in the fact of the resurrection, and belief that he was predicted by the prophets; that two or three of those statements might have been inserted by a copyist, or might have been written in the margin by a copyist, and then copied into the text by the next one; something like that may have happened. We just don't know.

But at any event, whether this is a testimony for Christ or not is an interesting question which people hold different views on, but it does not tell us anything about church history; Josephus gives us no information about the developments in the early church in addition to what is contained in Acts.

 

b. Suetonius on Claudius. Now this is a very, very slight thing, but yet it is the earliest about Christians we have, this reference from a pagan source to Claudius. It is this statement in Suetonius' Life of Claudius. Suetonius lived from about 75 A D to 160 AD. He was a Roman historian. He was secretary to a Roman Governor named Pliny. Suetonius was one of the three best authorities on the history of the Roman Empire in the first century.

In his writing on the Emperor Claudius—now you remember Claudius was the one who preceded Nero—he makes this statement: "Since the Jews were continually making disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, Claudius expelled them from Rome." Chrestus is usually thought to be Christ. And so at first sight this says that Christ was agitating the Jews in Rome, and the result was that Claudius expelled them. Well, of course, that's not it. But this is what Suetonius said.

Most historians now think that what it points to is this: as early as the time of Claudius, there was dissension among the Jews in Rome about Christianity—about Christ—and that this dissension was given as the reason for Claudius to expel them. Now we don't know; it's a very strange thing. But it's a reference to such a thing in such an early time, it's worth mentioning. Paul makes reference to meeting Aquila and Priscilla who had left Rome when the Jews were expelled by Claudius. So we have a statement in Acts that fits with this statement of Suetonius that the Jews were expelled from Rome; but Paul doesn't say anything about its having been on account of Christianity. What's more important than that is

 

c. Tacitus and Suetonius on Nero. Tacitus lived from about AD 60 to about 120. Tacitus wrote a history of the Roman emperors of the first century; then he wrote a history of Rome before that. He's one of our best sources for Roman history. And Tacitus describing Nero, says this, "But all the endeavors of men, all the emperor's largess and propitiation of the gods did not suffice to allay the scandal or banish the belief that the fire had been ordered. And so to get rid of this rumor, Nero hunted as culprits and punished with the utmost refinement of cruelty, a class hated for their abominations, who are commonly called Christians. Christus, from whom their name was derived, was executed at the hands of the populace under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. Checked for the moment, this pernicious superstition again rose up, not only in Judea the source of the evil but even in Rome, that receptacle where everything that is sordid and degraded from every quarter of the globe, would there find some followers. Accordingly, arrest was first made of those who to confessed to being Christians. Then on their evidence, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much on the charge of arson as of hatred of the human race. Being thus charged, besides being put to death, they were made to serve as objects of amusement; they were clad in the hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs; others were crucified; others set on fire to serve to illuminate the night when daylight failed. Nero had thrown open his grounds for the display and was putting on shows and circuses, where he mingled with the people in the dress of charioteer, or drove about in his chariot. All of which aroused a feeling of pity even towards men whose guilt merited the most exemplary punishment; for it was felt that they were being destroyed, not for the public good, but to gratify the cruelty of an individual.

[Tacitus Annals XV, 44: ""But neither the aid of man, nor the liberality of the prince, nor the propitiations of the gods succeeded in destroying the belief that the fire had been purposely lit. In order to put an end to this rumor, therefore, Nero laid the blame on and visited with severe punishment those men, hateful for their crimes, whom the people called Christians. He from whom the name was derived, Christus, was put to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. But the pernicious superstition, checked for a moment, broke out again, not only in Judea, the native land of the monstrosity, but also in Rome, to which all conceivable horrors and abominations flow from every side, and find supporters. First, therefore, those were arrested who openly confessed; then, on their information, a great number, who were not so much convicted of the fire as of hatred of the human race. Ridicule was passed on them as they died; so that, clothed in skins of beasts, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or committed to the flames, and when the sun had gone down they were burned to light up the night. Nero had lent his garden for this spectacle, and gave games in the Circus, mixing with the people in the dress of a charioteer or standing in his chariot. Hence there was a strong sympathy for them, though they might have been guilty enough to deserve the severest punishment, on the ground that they were sacrificed, not to the general good, but to the cruelty of one man."]

Now here is Tacitus, a historian of about 100 AD, describing Nero, and he speaks in this terrible way about the Christians as being such an old superstition and haters of humanity and all that; which shows he knew nothing about Christianity, I suppose; but doubtless he reflected the common idea about them; but he describes the persecution by Nero, which shows how terrible and how wicked it was; but he says it gave rise to a feeling of pity and compassion for the Christians. So many people who had never heard of Christians before, began to have some compassion for them because of seeing the terrible way they were treated. And probably many of them began to wonder, "What is this, anyway?" and to look into it further, and found out more about it than Tacitus had.

Suetonius also refers to this, in a briefer statement. Suetonius wrote a Life of Nero, and here's what he says in it; he says, "in Nero's reign, many abuses were severely punished and repressed, and many new laws were made. A limit was set to expenditure; the public banquets were reduced to gifts of food; the sale of cooked food in taverns was forbidden, except for beans and vegetables, whereas formerly every kind of delicacy was offered. Punishment was inflicted on Christians, a class of men adhering to a novel and mischievous superstition. He put a stop to the pranks of the charioteers, who had long been long assuming the right of ranging at large and cheating and robbing the people. The Pantomimes and their companies were banned.

[Suetonius Lives of the Caesars, 1896 translation of Alexander Thomson, XVI p. 347-348: "Many severe regulations and new orders were made in his time. A sumptuary law was enacted. Public suppers were limited to the Sportulae {public entertainments}; and victualing-houses restrained from selling any dressed victuals, except pulse and herbs, whereas before they sold all kinds of meat. He likewise inflicted punishments on the Christians, a sort of people who held a new and impious {convey idea of witchcraft or enchantment} superstition. He forbad the revels of the charioteers, who had long assumed a licence to stroll about, and established for themselves a kind of prescriptive right to cheat and thieve, making a jest of it. The partisans of the rival theatrical performers were banished, as well as the actors themselves. Note: Brackets are footnotes.]

So Suetonius feels that, although Nero was a wicked man, and did a lot of cruelty, yet he did some good things such as putting a stop of this superstition of these Christians, and it shows how little Suetonius or Tacitus knew about what Christianity was; but it does show that they recognized its existence as a movement which even the emperor had to pay some attention to. And that's about all that we know from these sources about the first century, up to the very end of it. This was c, Information from non-Christian Sources. Next is

 

6. Information on Domitian's Persecution. The emperor at the very end of the century was Domitian the son of Vespasian. He was a bad emperor; not as bad as Nero, but a man who was generally disliked for his sullenness and his cruelty; and a Roman writer of a century later tells how Domitian banished his own cousin, because of his atheism and his having adopted the customs of the Jews. But Eusebius says that this man who was consul of Rome at the time, and his daughters, were exiled in consequence of testimony borne for Christ.

Now you see that's very little evidence; but the Roman writer mentions Domitian had exiled his own cousin for superstition and atheism, and having adopted Jewish practices. But 200 years later, Eusebius, when he writes his history, records that the man was a Christian, and that's why he was exiled. We don't know much about Domitian's persecution. Domitian would seem—not to have persecuted the Christians as such—but to have been afraid of any sort of a thing that might threaten his absolute power; and he was especially afraid of any kind of secret society; so when the Christians would meet privately for a service and for observing Communion, Domitian was afraid it was a plot or conspiracy and tried to break up all sorts of meetings like that. He allowed no meetings of any private sort that might be conspiracies against him.

Domitian's persecution probably didn't involve killing many people, or didn't affect the rank and file much, but a few prominent people who had become Christians, their opportunities were cut down by Domitian; and many thought there might be great danger ahead, the way he was acting. Dio Cassius is the source of information about his life—the third of the great Roman historians of this early period. He lived about a century later. He is not as near the times as Tacitus or Suetonius, who tell us nothing about this. Now B was the Period of Little Evidence.

 

C. The Concluding Summary. This is just a concluding summary of the church in the first century. All we really know about the church in the first century is limited to what we have in Acts, what we have in the epistles, and these few statements by Suetonius and by Tacitus, that's all we know about the church in the first century. Now Eusebius, writing 200 years later, gives us many other details. But we can't be certain of anything there. If they fit in with these things, they're quite probably true; if they are in addition to them, we don't know. Because Eusebius is 200 years later, there's been all sorts of upheaval and turmoil in between; opportunities to destroy or lose the evidence; and we just have no further knowledge about them. We have to take later statements and on the basis of them make guesses of what happened that first century.

Now we could make a lot of guesses and they'd be pretty good guesses, but I think it's better for our purpose to go ahead and see what we find later; then you could carry back in your imagination what must have happened the first century to produce what we find later; instead of our telling you now what we infer from what happened later on. But this break in our knowledge is an important thing to realize; when somebody comes along and says to you, "Oh well we must do it this way; this is what the early church did; why look, one of the early fathers said so-and-so; there's proof." Well, you ask what the date of that early father was, and you find it's 180 AD; just say to him, "That's 150 years after the death of Christ; how much do you know from your own knowledge of what happened in the U. S. in 1810, 150 years ago?" He knows nothing except what he reads in history books, nothing at all. And much of that is unreliable. And we have far greater sources of knowledge than what they had in those days.

It's interesting to know what people thought 150 years after Christ, but to know what they thought in the time of Christ, we have one source and that is the Bible.

IV. The Church in the Second Century.

 

And we need background for that so we have

 

A. The Roman Empire. And I'm placing this here because you have a sharp break, a change in the character of the Roman emperors after 96 AD.

 

1. Nerva (96-98). After the death of Domitian, who had been emperor for 15 years, people were disgusted with the way he had reigned; nobody desired to get somebody from his family as next ruler; and the Senate chose a good man, who was a member of the Roman Senate. Nerva was emperor for two years. As far as we know he was a good emperor. He would be of no importance to us, having only reigned two years, if it were not for the fact that he initiated something wonderful. He started a new system. Nerva picked out a man who seemed to him to be ideally suited to be good emperor. And he adopted him, as his son, though he was nearly as old as himself. And the result was that this man whom he adopted became the next emperor,

 

2. Trajan (98-117). Trajan was a great general; he carried Roman arms to its furthest point. The Roman Empire was larger under Trajan than it ever was before or since. He erected a great column in Rome; it went up four stories high; a great stone column with pictures of his warlike exploits on its sides; and you can see that column standing there today in Rome; and you can see the account of Trajan's great works on the side. Only on the top, it says Trajan's statue was there originally. There's now a statue of St. Peter shaking his keys out at the top of Trajan's column. But the column is still there today.

He was a great man, a good man; so good a man, so highly thought of, that in 600 AD, the Pope decided that such a good man as Trajan ought not be in hell; so he prayed and got him transferred to heaven. So   according to medieval ideas, this Pope moved Trajan into heaven; the only pagan who ever got into heaven. And some of the Roman Catholic theologians were very skeptical about the Pope having had the power to transfer him; but it shows how highly Trajan was thought of, that that would happen.

Well, now Trajan was a very good emperor; and when I read you his letter to Pliny, you will see what a good man he was. Also how ignorant he was about Christianity. At this point, I'm merely giving you the skeleton of the outline, mentioning that Trajan was a good man, an able ruler, a fine fellow, a man who tried to rule upon the principles of justice and right; and he carried out the good practice of Nerva, picking out a worthy man to be his successor and adopting him. So the man he picked out was

 

3. Hadrian (117-138). For 21 years Hadrian was emperor. He was a great traveler; he traveled extensively through the empire; he took an interest in the welfare of the empire, and also, incidentally, in finding souvenirs for himself. Hadrian also adopted another man whom he thought would make a good emperor and on his death, he was succeeded by

 

4. Antoninus Pius (138-161). I'm not asking you to memorize the dates of these men, or even their order; but I think it would be good if you mark in your notes where they are, listing them with their names in order; so then, as I discuss events in Christian history and mention one of these emperors you can glance at it and know just where they come in the line, so that you'll have that understanding. Antoninus Pius adopted a man who succeeded him. His name was

 

5. Marcus Aurelius (161-180). He was a philosopher. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius have been read even within the present century and are very, very highly regarded. Today his statue stands in front of the Capitol in Rome. But Marcus Aurelius broke the succession. He was regarded as one of the finest men who ever reigned as emperor, but he did a very foolish thing. When somebody has set such a good example, it's a shame to abandon it. He had a son to whom he was devoted; and did not adopt someone else, but made his son,

 

6. Commodus (180-192), emperor. And Commodus was a bad man. He ended the period of Rome's tranquility. The reign of the Antonines was the best period in the whole history of Rome; it was a time of almost universal peace. And many a man in human history has said he'd rather have lived then than at any other time in the world's history—in this second century—the reign of the Antonines. But Marcus Aurelius did not adopt a man; he put his own son in to succeed him; and his son was a degenerate, a man who was as bad as Domitian—probably much worse than Domitian—though not probably as bad as Nero. His name was Commodus. He reigned for 13 years, till people got so disgusted with him they killed him; and that ended the time of general peace and security in the Roman Empire.

Well, I won't be able to mention his successor till tomorrow morning.

We were looking yesterday at the first section, A, The Roman Emperors, and saw that the period of the Antonine emperors is the period which is considered by many historians as one of the finest times to live in world history; there was a longer period of general peace within a wide area than perhaps had ever been seen. There were wars on the borders of the Roman Empire, but within the empire there was peace during most of this time; and a law and order well conducted; there was considerable safety of travel, and of life. The emperors were—most of them—men who were seriously interested in the welfare of the people.

And we noticed how this came to an end when Marcus Aurelius broke the system that had been used—the emperor selecting a good man to be his successor; but he appointed his own son. And the son proved to be a bad man; and it put an end to this whole series in 193. And 193 brought an end, not only to this period, but to the system; because after a considerable time of upheaval, the new emperor who came in put things on an entirely different basis. Now this is 193, so it comes within this century, but it introduces a new situation, different from what existed during the 2nd century, and that continued through the third, so I'm going to leave the details of the beginning of Severus's reign for a brief discussion when we get on to the next century, but I just want you to have his name because he reigned in this century.

 

7. Septimius Severus (193-211). Now I am not giving you a complete list of the Roman Emperors of this period because I want to stop at 193; and Septimius Severus became emperor in 193. There were three men who came between Commodus and Severus, but they are not important as far as administration is concerned; it was a time of upheaval, and Severus came in; he ruled for a long time, so I'm not bothering you with their names. We'll say a word more about that later. We're interested in the second century now, so we go on to look at the beginning of this century.

 

B. Pliny's Correspondence with Trajan. Fifty years earlier there had been a man named Pliny [the Elder], a naturalist, a man of great wealth, and a man who was a very outstanding writer. He is not of interest to us from the viewpoint of church history, except for his nephew, Pliny the Younger, the man we're going to speak about now.

Pliny the Younger inherited his uncle's wealth and had the same interests in scholarly pursuits that his uncle did. He was a man of high character, and he was a close friend of Trajan the emperor. So Trajan sent Pliny as governor of Bithynia, a section of Asia Minor. Pliny went out as governor to Asia Minor to this section of Bithynia; and he was anxious to govern just right in every way; he carried on a correspondence with Trajan which has been preserved. We have the letters that he wrote to Trajan, in which he asks Trajan's advice about certain matters. And we have Trajan's answers to him.

Now except for the very brief statements about Christianity we have already looked at, by Suetonius and by Tacitus, and the letter of Clement, except for those, this letter from Pliny is the first extensive reference to Christians; it is the first from any pagan source. And even from Christian sources we have nothing earlier than this, except for one letter of Clement's. You see, that is a long period of ignorance of Christian history. We have practically no evidence on this long period, just the letter of Pliny; everything else we know about the period from Christian hands comes from writings later on, looking back, telling things they have heard or that they know personally; sometimes we don't know whether it happened 50 or 100 years before they write.

But here is something that is written about events in his own time that he saw, and it shows us the situation in 110—in Bithynia—and from it we can go back and try to get at what must have happened to produce this situation. Now I want to read you his epistle 96, which he wrote; it's quoted in whole or in part in many books of early Christian sources and literature, because it was so important to Christians.

Here's what Pliny writes to Trajan:

["It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age, or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished."]

Here you have a governor of an important province, who evidently understands that it is a crime to be a Christian, but he doesn't just know why. And he's never had any part in prosecution of Christians, but he understands they're supposed to be prosecuted; so he's asking the emperor for advice and information on it.

["Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

"Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ—none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do—these I thought should be discharged."]

Now there's emperor worship at this time, quite clearly. They made supplication with incense and wine to the statue of the emperor, who was hundreds of miles away.

["Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

"They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food—but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

"I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded." Source: Pliny and Trajan on the Christians"]

Now that's the letter that Pliny wrote to Trajan. In answer to that, in epistle 97, which was Trajan's to Pliny, he called Pliny by his first name; he says,

["You observed proper procedure, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those who had been denounced to you as Christians. For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and really proves it—that is, by worshiping our gods—even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance. But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age."]

Well, there is the letter from Pliny and Trajan's answer. And so we'll put

 

1. Evidence of the spread of Christianity. Here we know very, very little, after the end of Acts about the spread of Christianity, and then about 60 years later—50 or 60 years later—we get this letter from Pliny which shows that in his province at one time the temples were practically deserted; people weren't offering any sacrifices, and many were considered to be Christians.

It shows a great extension and increase of the number of Christians in this area; so much that the Governor could not help being aware of the fact that it was such a strong force among the people of his day. Now we don't have any census figures—whether three-fourths of the people, or one-fourth, or even one-tenth were Christians—but at least it sounds like a very sizeable number when he says he found the situation such that the temples were largely abandoned and there were no sacrifices being made; but once he started in with vigorous measures, then they began to frequent them again.

Now, of course, it's altogether possible that there were many pagans who simply lost interest and became careless and uninterested in sacrifices and never went to the temple; and that when he started persecuting the Christians, they thought they'd better make sure nobody would suspect them of being Christians by going to the temple and sacrificing. We can't take this as meaning that Bithynia had been entirely converted or anything like that; but it does show that it really had spread to a very great extent in that area. It was a real factor to be reckoned with after 60 years of Christian work in that area.

And of course this is not evidence from any Christian about how many there were. It's easy for people to exaggerate. It's very easy. Many a time a person speaks of 300 people and says, "Oh, 1500 to 2000 people were there," and I think in all sincerity, exaggerate the size of the crowd; it's very, very easy to do.

It's also very easy to exaggerate when you're naturally anxious to put your best foot forward, and speak well of that with which you are connected. There is nothing like that here; this is in opposition to it, so it is all the better an idea of the extent to which Christianity—the number of Christians—had increased in Asia Minor there by this time. But then,

 

2. Evidence of the Official Roman Attitude toward Christianity. We learn from this exchange of letters that it was understood to be a crime to be a Christian; but the Governor doesn't seem to have much idea why. All he knows is this is wrong, it's wicked; there's something wrong, but just what it is, he didn't know. But he understood it was a crime to be a Christian; and he must enforce the law against it; and so he proceeds to, and then he begins to try to find out what is wrong with it; and he doesn't find evidence of anything that seems criminal. So the only thing that he really shows a feeling against it is, that it may interfere with good order in the state; if people aren't worshipping the official gods, and especially, of course, if they won't bow before the emperor. He doesn't expressly state that, but that is the only thing that you see in his letter that seems to be a ground for opposition to the church. But he recognizes that it is wrong—we must fight it. That's the way traditions get going; once they're going, people follow them blindly, as you will find in our churches. It gets to be a tradition to do something in a certain way, in a certain denomination, or a certain church.

I heard of a pastor of a fine church up in New York City a few years ago, a very fine godly man; he was there many years, and when he died, the next man found that everything in the church had to be done just the way that he had done it; he couldn't move a chair on the podium three inches one way or the other; "Why Dr. so-and-so, he always had it this way; that's the way it has to be." It was custom; and this man—his successor—was a very fine Christian man; but he just found it impossible, because he couldn't do anything; everything had to be exactly like his predecessor, or people were just disgusted about it.

That's the way traditions arise, customs develop. And there in the Roman Empire, it was understood that it was a crime to be a Christian; but when Pliny tried to find out why, he admits here he didn't find any reason. He thought they would prove to be criminals—people doing wicked things—but the evidence all seemed to look the other way; they were bound not to do any crime, bound to be honest; so it's quite a testimony to what he found out, but also to combat the reputation Christianity had.

Now you notice how much he says about these anonymous reports; and Trajan says to pay no attention to anonymous reports. It is most likely that this is the result of the situation in Domitian's time; because Domitian was so afraid of somebody rising up and destroying him, and taking over, that he had a panic against the thought of any secret society or clubs or organizations which might develop into political opposition to himself. And the result was that in Domitian's time, many people saw a chance to enrich themselves by informing on somebody else. Naturally they got a reward for a report; someone would come and say, "Look at this wealthy man over here; here's proof that he is conspiring against the government and trying to destroy the emperor," and the emperor was convinced. He would have the wealthy man killed and give his property to the man who had informed on him. And so somebody who simply hated somebody else—had a grudge against them—they would inform against them; and this had evidently grown into quite a bad thing; and Trajan was determined to blot this out, so he said, "Nothing is to be done about anonymous accusations."

And then you notice how he didn't hold against anybody that they had been a Christian. If a man would give it up, he was relieved of all fault for it. Trajan said, "Just so they will worship our gods and show us they're not Christians, they get pardoned immediately." So we see the official Roman attitude here toward Christianity.

Now in the first century, it was wicked men like Nero and Domitian who persecuted Christians. They persecuted Christians; the good emperors seem to have done nothing to hinder them, as far as we know, in the first century. In fact, a Christian writer of 200 AD said in one of his writings that the emperor Tiberius proposed in the Senate that Christ's name be put on the official list of Roman gods, and added to the other gods so that anybody could worship him that desired. But the Senate didn't do it. Now that is a statement by a Christian writer 170 years after Tiberius' time. So probably it's just a rumor that he heard somewhere with no foundation in fact; but it does represent the attitude of the good emperors in the first century; they were very tolerant of anything that they couldn't see any harm to.

"These people want to worship Christ? All right. We'll put Christ's name up next to Mars and Mercury, less than Jupiter but more than the minor gods; it's perfectly all right to worship him so long as they're loyal to the state." But that was not done; no edict was passed, perhaps never was suggested; but it was their general attitude. It was the wicked emperors in the first century who persecuted Christianity.

In the second century the situation is reversed. In the second century it is the good emperors who are trying to maintain order in the state; they want to have a good strong central government and to maintain peace within the Roman area and protect it from outside threats; that feel that for this purpose they must have loyalty of the people toward the great central principles of the state; and they feel that the worship of the gods of the state is an important thing in maintaining law and order; and particularly the bowing to the emperor's statue and offering incense before him. It is a sign they wanted loyalty, and consequently they are persecuting the Christians; but they do it, Pliny says, not to punish but to reclaim, and consequently if they can persuade them to give up Christianity and worship the gods they're perfectly happy about it.

The 2nd century is not a century of great persecution for the Christians. There are no widespread efforts to destroy Christianity during the greater part of the 2nd century; but there is a constant attitude like this: that anyone who is denounced as a Christian, if he won't prove he isn't, may be killed or may be tortured; and there are occasional cases of very severe persecution, and very severe torture of individuals. But there's no tremendous effort to destroy the church during the greater part of the century. Well so much for B, now we go on to C, which comes also in this same year, 110, and which is a very interesting subject.

 

C. Ignatius. Now the name of Ignatius is a name which to people who are students of Christian matters should be much more widely known than he probably is; because he is the first Christian writer, aside from the Bible, who can be definitely dated and from whom we procure extensive information about the general situation of the church.

Clement is a previous and earlier writer; Ignatius is ten or fifteen years after Clement; but Clement's writing says very little about the situation. Clement in his letters quotes essentially from Paul's epistles; he shows very plain understanding of Christian doctrine; he is dealing with a local condition within the church; but Ignatius shows us a little more about general world conditions of the time than Clement does.

Now the man Ignatius we know nothing about until 110. We have no reference to him from any earlier time. But we find in 110 that he is the Bishop of the church in Antioch; and I imagine all of you know how early the church was started in Antioch. This is the city in Syria, north of Jerusalem some distance, the city where Paul and Barnabas were when the Spirit said, "Separate me Paul and Barnabas." This is the church from which the first missionary expedition of which we have a definite record set forth, as Paul and Barnabas began their missionary journey.

Antioch is the place where the disciples were first called Christians. This is the first gentile church, at Antioch. Well, Antioch was the second largest city in the whole Roman Empire, so you see it was a city of tremendous importance. Rome was the largest and greatest; Antioch was next. And Antioch continued for the next three or four centuries to be one of the greatest cities in the world, second only to Rome in size and in general importance. You want to remember Antioch; we have many references to Antioch in subsequent events.

We find we have though no reference—after the book of Acts, prior to 110—to the church of Antioch. We have no way of knowing whether it had become fairly large or was still small. We know nothing about it; we don't know how long Ignatius was bishop there, except that according to Eusebius he was only the second bishop of Antioch; and at that rate he must have been bishop quite a long time. But in 110 he was condemned to be executed for being a Christian and ordered sent to Rome.

The tradition was that he appeared before the emperor Trajan, and the Emperor Trajan personally condemned him and ordered him sent to Rome for execution. This is a tradition which most scholars today think is wrong. For one thing, it doesn't seem to fit with Pliny's letter to Trajan that very same year. Now that's not conclusive; it could be that time, but from what we know of Trajan it looks like he did not go to Antioch that year, but five years later. It seems unlikely that Trajan was there that year. So most scholars think it was not Trajan who had condemned Ignatius, and had ordered that Ignatius should be sent to Rome for execution. At any rate, the first we know about it, is after he is condemned and is on the way to Rome; and on the way to Rome he wrote letters to various churches; and these are the letters which we have.

 

1. His letters. Now there comes a problem. The letters which he wrote were to seven different churches. These letters we have in two editions. In Greek, we have one edition that's about twice as long as the other; we have a longer form and a shorter form. And then we have a form in Syriac which only has three letters in it; and so some scholars say, "They're all a forgery; they're all a fake; they're late writings." Some say only the three in Syriac are genuine; the rest are spurious. Others say that the seven in the shorter form in Greek are genuine. But the general consensus of scholars seems to be that the seven letters in the shorter form are genuine. And that's what I'm going to assign you to read, in translation. You won't have to read the Greek unless you desire to. But a translation of the 7 letters in their shorter form, which Ignatius sent between his condemnation and his arrival in Rome.

Now in these letters Ignatius writes to these various churches. He exhorts these churches to follow the Lord to the end, and so on; he tells them what has happened to himself, and he urges upon them—sort of like a man in his last days—he spent his life working in the church in Antioch; now he is about to die; he sees the opportunity to spread his influence through all the churches by passing on his advice; and so we have these letters to these different churches from Ignatius, which most scholars now consider—a great part at least, to be genuine—and the view that is held by most scholars is that the 7 letters are all genuine, in the short form rather than in the longer form.

Well, so much for what we know about him and his writings, which, you see, is not a great deal. He probably had a long and useful life of which we know very little. Just this little that we know of.

 

2. His idea of martyrdom. And this is a very interesting thing which we find in these letters—the attitude that Ignatius took toward martyrdom. Most of the writers of church history feel that his attitude is very, very much inferior to the attitude of a man like Paul, who looked forward calmly and with resignation to suffering for Christ if it be the will of the Lord. They feel that Ignatius had an attitude which was not a very healthy attitude in this regard. He longed for martyrdom. He felt that it was a wonderful thing to be a martyr; and if only he could be killed for the sake of Christ, how grand it would be. That is the attitude that he takes.

Now I personally feel that one might rather modify that view a little, by the realization that he is a man along in years who had been actively engaged in the Lord's service; and it isn't as if he had had this attitude all his life. After his long life of service, he may have felt that he would like to crown it with martyrdom, even as they felt that most of the apostles had done. That's only a guess on my part about it; but the fact is, we have no evidence. At any rate, that is the attitude which he showed.

Now here, he writes in the course of his journey to Rome; his epistle to the Romans which he wrote to the Roman church, on the way, so they would get it before he got there. He says, "I write to all the churches and impress on all that I shall willingly die for God unless He hinders it. I beseech you not to show unseasonable good will toward me. Permit me to be the food of wild beasts to whom it will be granted me. I am the food of God, ground by the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found worthy. Rather, entice the wild beasts, that they may become my tomb and leave nothing of my body so that when I fall asleep I may be a burden to no one. Then I shall be truly a disciple of Jesus Christ when the world sees not my body. Entreat Christ for me that by these instruments I may be found a sacrifice to God. Not as Peter and Paul do I issue commandments unto you. They were apostles; I am a condemned man. They were free; I was even until now a slave. But if I suffer I shall be the freedman of Jesus Christ, and delight in Him as free in Him. And now being in bonds, I learn not to desire anything."

Now this letter, this section I have read to you, shows what you can also gather from other letters, his great desire to suffer martyrdom. But another interesting thing here, you learn that he felt that the Roman church would be able to intercede and save him, if they took a notion. It doesn't much look as if they were suffering much persecution in Rome. It looks as if some of the members of the church in Rome had sufficient influence with the governor that he was afraid that they could get him off, and he didn't want that. And of course, as one writer says, this looks very much against Trajan having personally condemned him at Antioch. You could hardly appeal against a condemnation by the Emperor. Nobody would have influence enough to do that; if he was condemned he would be condemned. But if a governor had condemned and ordered him to Rome, it might be that one of the Christians there was in a position where he could intercede to Trajan, or to one in higher office.

At any rate, we don't know; all we know is what he says in the letter; but at least he had the feeling that it might be they could get him off. And he didn't want to; so he pleads with them not to. But this, his idea of martyrdom, you find this of course in various writers of different kinds all through the different histories, but it's interesting that right here in Ignatius, 110 AD, you find it so very strongly expressed, Ignatius' desire that he might personally, physically suffer for the sake of Christ. Then

 

3. His idea of the place of a Bishop. Now here is a thing we should give a bit of background to. You will find—as you go through your studies in Acts—you will find that in the church there were officers whom they called by two names; there were officers whom they called deacons, but in addition to them there were officers who were usually considered as a higher office; and these men are called by two names; sometimes they're called presbyters, presbouteros, and sometimes they're called episcopos, literally overseer. From the word episcopos has been derived the modern word bishop. The word presbyter, literally means elder; and Paul would begin one letter addressed to the people of a certain place, together with the bishops. He'll begin another one, together with the elders. Sometimes they will give the specification, call these leaders by the word presbyter, sometimes by the word bishop, but it never gives us one after the other, as if they were two different offices. And so most students of the NT consider it proven that bishop and elder are two names for the same office. The term elder describes his character, a man of experience, of discernment, an elder. Episcopos describes his function, of oversight over, the active watch of the ways in which they can be helpful to others in their Christian life, and to find means of getting rid of individuals who might be a harmful influence in the church. They were the official ones, though the same men had both names in Bible times. And the evidence is that there were several of them in each church. Now we have no further evidence whatever on the organization of the church until Ignatius; and when we get to Ignatius, we find that he calls himself the bishop of the church at Antioch, and he refers to the presbyters as men who were supporters of himself.

He says the bishop is like God, he has preeminent position; the people should obey him, you cannot be a Christian and not do as the bishop says. He says even as God sent the apostles, and the council of the apostles was doing the work that he sent them for, so the bishops have presbyters who assist him in his work, and do what he directs them to do.

And then he points out that there are also deacons. So that there are, in Ignatius' letters, three types of officers—not the two that we find in Acts—one having two names. But we find that the two names that are given to one office in Acts, have now become two offices. And of course it is very easy to guess how this development took place. In any organization that moves, there must be a head; and if a church was anxious to expand and move out and accomplish things, and also it had to take action when heresy came in, and people began denying the truth and changing it, as Paul finds when he wrote Galatians; and he says that he wished they were even cut off from fellowship. He says, "Though I or an angel from heaven should give you another gospel, let him be accursed."

You find in various epistles, there were people coming in—perhaps in all sincerity—teaching them that which is utterly destructive of the message the apostles had given; and they had to guard against it, or the church would be ruined; it would turn into something entirely different; and so it was necessary to develop a certain leadership; and one of the presbyters, or episcopoi as they called this name, assumed the supremacy in the local church; and by the time of Ignatius—in Antioch—the bishop in Antioch had the control of the leadership in the church. Well, now, Ignatius was urging these others to give the proper respect to your bishop; recognize that he is the authority; you cannot expect to be saved if you don't follow the bishop's orders. This is an attitude toward the power of bishops in the church which we find in Antioch—and we find in Ignatius' writing—that we have no evidence of whatever until this time.

And so this was a development which had occurred in 50 years, had developed in Antioch and maybe in some other places too, development of the power of the bishops in the church.

Now the bishop, as Ignatius describes him, would be similar to a pastor today; he is the head of a congregation. There is no evidence that Ignatius claimed any power whatever over other congregations than his own; or that he admitted the power of any other over him. He wrote to the Romans and he doesn't even suggest in his letters to Rome that they have any authority over him; or that their bishop had any authority over him whatever. There is no suggestion in his letter of any power over the bishops from anyone but God. There is no suggestion that another church had the right to exercise power over him. But there is a great stress by Ignatius on the authority of the bishop, the head of the particular church. Now you will read some of Ignatius' letters later and you will see these statements which he makes.

 

4. His Idea of the Catholic Church. And here is something which is very little understood today. The first use we find of the term "catholic church" we find in Ignatius' writing. The word is not used of the church before that time. But it is used by Ignatius and used by other writers subsequently; we find that as used there, the term "catholic" has an entirely different meaning from what it has today when we speak of the Roman Catholic Church—entirely different. As the average person today thinks of the word Catholic, it means a particular denomination under the leadership of the Pope of Rome. That is certainly not what Ignatius means by it at all; because Ignatius showed no recognition in his letters of any particular prominence to the Bishop of Rome whatever, except as he thought every bishop had a place of great importance. And he showed no inferiority to the Roman Church in any way whatever, as far as other churches went. But as Ignatius uses the term catholic church—as it's easy to gather from him and from other writers—what he means by the catholic church is the body of Christians throughout the world who hold to the main fundamentals of the faith; that's what he means by the catholic church; the word "catholic" in etymology means all-embracing. It's the all-embracing church; it's the body of all the faithful; that is what he means by the catholic church. He means those people, whether they be in Rome or Antioch, wherever they are, who hold to the basic doctrines; who have not followed any of the heretical views, gone off into any direction, which Christians as a whole recognize to be un-Christian. And these, he feels, have a spiritual communion with one another; and he refers to it as the catholic church.

And the term catholic is used in that sense during the succeeding several centuries—in its original sense. He felt we are the true catholics; we are holding to the true doctrine of the Scripture; and we believe in fellowship with all true Christians throughout the world; we are the catholic church, and he would never speak of the Roman Catholic Church as just the catholic church, but always called it the Roman Catholic or the Roman church.

Now, personally, I never feel there's any point in fighting over terms. If one term gets ruined, let's take another one. The important thing is what we mean, not what term is used; except that I do detest the idea that some people are doing today, giving up the term fundamentalist because of how some people have used it.

Like one man said to me last month, "A fundamentalist is a man who handles rattlesnakes to show they won't hurt him." Of course that's utter nonsense. The word fundamentalist means a person who stands on the fundamentals; and personally I like it much better than conservative; I don't believe in holding to something just because people used to hold to it. There are plenty of things they used to hold to that are wrong.

I believe anything they used to hold to is worthy of examination before rejection. It has a right to be examined, to see whether we're going to hold it or not. But a word like fundamentalist, that means standing on the fundamentals of the faith, instead of putting your stress on the little incidentals and minor points, it seems to me is a good word, and I like it. But this word catholic, I don't personally feel any great zeal whether we should say, "Yes we are the true catholics," or whether we should say, "Well, they've got the word; let them have it, let's use some other word." But it is important that we understand what a word has meant at different periods, so we will understand what is written.

And so in the ancient writings, when they refer to the catholic church what they mean is the body of churches which have communion with one another, which consider one another as true churches of Christ, through our Lord; and it does not represent any allegiance to one particular church or one particular leader. But our evidence for the term begins with Ignatius. I say "our evidence" because, for all we know, there may have been a hundred writers between the time of the book of Acts and Ignatius, who used the word. We don't know, but this is the first place we find it. We don't find him introducing it, saying, "Let's use this word to mean this." We find him simply referring to the catholic church in a way that shows that it had become an established word at that time.

And when St. Augustine, 200 years later, who had followed Manichaeism—a very materialistic sort of a sect—for a time, then when he was converted we read that his mother Monica rejoiced that he had become a catholic; and she meant that he had come to see that the great fundamental doctrines of Christianity were the true ones, and that was what his life should be devoted to. So in studying ancient church history, it's good that we realize what the term meant as used then; and it's interesting to note that Ignatius was the one who introduced the term.

If you take all of ancient church history together, you will find that there were movements that swept across the world; they threatened to destroy Christianity because of their great strength, and they denied the fundamental doctrines as claimed by the Christians; and as against them, this word was used, that showed those who stood by the great central doctrines.

Now I can't read Ignatius' mind; nobody can tell what he had in mind. Ignatius has many good qualities, and some that don't appear so good to us; but Ignatius is a very interesting evidence for the situation of the Christian church at that time; and scholars have made great study of Ignatius' writings to see the quotations from John's gospel and John's epistles. In NT criticism, his epistles have been very useful in establishing the authenticity of some of the  NT books in their early days. His writings are very important, for a number of reasons.

Now we were looking at the end of the hour at C, Ignatius; and we noted about Ignatius his attitude toward martyrdom; his attitude toward the office of a bishop, something that had developed since NT times; and we noticed his use of the term the catholic church, which, as far as our evidence goes, began with him. We have no evidence of anyone using that term earlier, than he. Now we go on to

 

D. The Apostolic Fathers. Now I must explain what we mean by a "father." The term originally came from Paul, of course, who referred to Timothy as his son in the faith; and it's a very natural thing for one who is a teacher of those who become his disciples, and who are tremendously influenced by what he gives them, to think of himself, in a very real sense, as their father.

So the term father came to be applied to Christian leaders; in the particular form of papa, it was applied to all the Christian leaders in early days; and that form came in time, in the Roman church, to be narrowed down to where it applied only to the Bishop of Rome. Of course that is a much later development. But the term father was used a great deal in writings which had been written by great spiritual leaders of an earlier period.

The books of the Bible we do not refer to as the fathers; they are God's inspired Word. They are written by apostles or by others whom God has designated for the purpose. But the writers after the apostles, the Christian writers, were referred to as the fathers until the end of the period of ancient church history. When ancient church history ended, and a large measure of anarchy and confusion swept over the whole of the western world, no one existed any longer who seemed worthy of being referred to as a father—that is no writings, for quite a while—and the result is that people ceased to refer to the writer of an earlier time as a father.

So today, the "writings of the fathers" is used as a technical term to refer to Christian writers after the apostles but during the period of the ancient church. They are always spoken of as the fathers; and you will find in some universities you will have a professor of Patristics, which comes from the Latin word pater, father. It is the study of the writings of the fathers; and there was a set of works published by the Benedictines, which you find in many libraries which is referred to as Patrology; that is to say, this is a set which tries to give all the writings of the people we refer to as fathers. It's a very poor set; all the important ones have had better later editions; but some of the less important ones are found only in that particular set.

In the days of the Reformation, people spoke about the fathers. By that they meant the Christian writers of ancient church history. Now there's a group of these whom we call apostolic fathers. That's a peculiar term which had come to be given to these writers. The theory of it is that the apostolic fathers are the fathers who knew the apostles. Actually, it's simply the earliest writings after the apostles. We call them the Apostolic Fathers. That is now a technical term.

A technical term, as you know, is any term which is constantly given a specific meaning which you wouldn't get just from the words. In this case, the term Apostolic Fathers includes certain definite writings; I would like, first, before mentioning them individually, to give

 

1. General Remarks. In general I would like to say this, that the Apostolic Fathers are writings with a considerable measure of variety, in the type of material; but all of them are very markedly inferior to the writings contained in the NT It is, in a way, as if God had said, "The Bible is given. I want people to realize the sharp distinction between that which is inspired of God and that which is separate from it. And so I will lead these godly men who write Christian writings after the Bible is finished; I will cause that they be men far inferior in their literary quality and in their general understanding of the actual writing of the Bible."

They're good men, and the writings were considered useful by the early church—some of them much more so than others; but it's easy to see how inferior they are to the Word in the Bible.

Now, of course there are many other writings that are much finer than most of these Apostolic Fathers later on; but they come much later, and there's a gap between the end of the NT and the beginning of Christian literature that is really of a high quality. Then also, of course, you realize there has been comparatively little that has been preserved of Christian literature from early days. We've noted earlier why little was written and also comparatively little preserved.

 

2. Early Christian Literature. I will briefly mention a few of these writings at this point, either naming them for completeness, having already been touched on them, or just saying a little about them and consequently putting them under this head. The first of these I'll mention is

 

a. Clement. Now actually of course he doesn't belong in the second century, but in the first; but because he is called one of the apostolic fathers, I include him for completeness in this category.

There is the first epistle of Clement to the Corinthians we have read. Then there is also the so-called Second Epistle of Clement, which practically everyone agrees is not by Clement at all but someone later on putting his name on it. It's much inferior to the first epistle of Clement.

Very little is known about Clement's life, but there were very interesting stories imagined about him. He's quite a favorite character for romance, and people just had all sorts of fanciful ideas as to who he was, where he came from, and what happened to him. The fact is, we know practically nothing about him except what we can learn from these epistles, and that isn't much. But from the epistles you would learn that he was a godly man, a man who loved the Bible, who saturated his mind with the Bible, a man who was a true Christian. And then after Clement, we named

 

b. Ignatius. He is considered one of the apostolic fathers. His writings all come from about 110 AD, when he was on his way to martyrdom. He wrote that series of epistles then; and there is also a work called The Martyrdom of Ignatius, describing his martyrdom. All this was accomplished, you see, in a period of 80 years after the death of Christ; and Ignatius was supposed to have known at least one or two of the apostles. He was doubtless a man who had a great interest in the world in which he was; but he was just forgotten; in fact if it weren't for his epistles we would know nothing about him. And then,

 

c. Barnabas. I mention Barnabas here because I'm not going to take much time to say anything about him. There's a book which has been preserved from very early days, called the Epistle of Barnabas; and this epistle of Barnabas was sometimes even read in churches. It quite definitely is considered to be much later than the time of the actual Barnabas. Schaff says in his Church History that the so-called epistle of Barnabas must be after the destruction of Jerusalem because this is referred to in it as an accomplished fact. But he says it's probably before the close of the first century, and certainly before the reconstruction of Jerusalem under Hadrian in 120. So there you've got a big area, from 70 to 120. Somewhere in those fifty years this book was written. In view of that range of possibility I mention him here in the second century rather than the first.

The Epistle of Barnabas is not a very fine work. It is a work by a man who is a very real Christian, but who has rather fanciful ideas. It is essentially the same subject as the epistle to the Hebrews, but far below it in depth and originality. It was intended mainly for a particular class of Christians who were in danger of relapsing into the Judaizing error. I may ask you to read it later on. Next I mention

 

d. Hermas. This book which was called the Shepherd of Hermas is a peculiar sort of book; it was also read in early churches. It was very highly regarded but the authorship is unknown, and the date of writing is quite unknown. It must be fairly early; it had great esteem in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Schaff says to the Christians in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, it had all the charm and the knowledge of the spirit world. It was even read in public worship at this time.

Some people thought that it was divinely inspired; by this I'm sure they didn't mean kept from error like the books of the Bible, but that the man was one whom they thought of as writing with special blessing from the Lord. But it is very inferior to the New Testament. It contains all sorts of visions and dreams which they get allegorical meaning out of. They are far inferior to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, both in literary merit and in theological stature and accuracy.

Schaff says it is prosy, frigid, monotonous, repetitious, over-worded with uninteresting detail, but animated by a pure love of nature and an ardent zeal for doing good. One of these days you will have the joy of going into it, depending on how much time we will have. There are other matters I want you to look into that are more important. But the Shepherd of Hermas had quite a vogue in those early days. So you should at least be aware of it, though today it's not generally very highly regarded. Next

 

e. Epistle of Diognetus. Now this epistle to Diognetus seems to have been lost in early days. It's rather strange that it's called one of the apostolic fathers because it's a book that was preserved to us from ancient times. It was not remembered; it was lost but it probably is quite early. Some assign it to the reign of Trajan, some to Marcus Aurelius, some to the close of the 2nd century, maybe later than the ones we've already mentioned. It is considered as a very fine work. The author is unknown. This Diognetus is the man to whom it was written. It is a very beautiful little work, presenting Christianity to Diognetus, an inquiring heathen of high social position and culture who desired information about the origin and nature of the religion of the Christians. It was unknown generally in Christian literature until 1592, when it was published under the name of a famous writer of the 2nd century whom we will notice later. But now nobody believes it was by him. We will notice him later; his name was Justin Martyr. But there's only one copy of this which is known, and this was destroyed by fire by accident in 1807, and we now have no copy, no manuscript; but of course we have printed copies made from that.

 

f. Aside on the NT Apocrypha. I think before going to 3, here, I will just take a minute about a matter which ought to be mentioned. I mentioned the inferiority of the apostolic fathers to the NT books. You will sometime come across something called the NT Apocrypha; they are not really a part of our church history, but we should know something about them, so I'm going to mention them here.

You will sometimes see publications of and hear reference to the NT Apocrypha. The word Apocrypha properly applies to the OT Apocrypha; these which are called NT Apocrypha, are books which are definitely inferior to the apostolic fathers. They are not highly regarded by anyone, I don't think, or ever have been. No church has considered them canonical. The OT Apocrypha are considered by the Roman Catholic Church as part of the scriptures; and they are fine books, though not inspired. But the so-called NT Apocrypha are books which claim to tell about the life of Christ—new gospels, some people let their imaginations run—we don't know just when such things were written or who wrote them—lives of Christ, stories of the apostles, and so on, Acts of this apostle, that one, and the other—and they're purely imaginary things, and most of them are very low scale intellectually.

For instance, they'll tell how when Jesus was a boy, how he took a bit of mud and made some birds, and then blew on them, and they flew away; and all the other boys marveled at him; and when Jesus went to school and the teacher started talking about A, the first letter of the alphabet, and Jesus asked what alpha really meant. And the teacher, not perceiving the depths of intelligence of the boy, called him impertinent for that, and told him to learn what he was told; and Jesus thereupon raised his hand, and the teacher fell dead. And all that sort of nonsense is in the NT Apocrypha.

Some people imagined that they were glorifying the Lord, in making him some sort of a strange wonder-worker who could do any kind of thing he felt like doing. He could do any fantastic thing he felt like, at first; but he didn't feel like doing such things, that's the difference. And they write things about some of the apostles. It's possible there's some true historical background to some of the stories they tell about the apostles in these NT Apocrypha; but most of it is so fanciful that it would be pretty hard to tell what there might be true from this great amount of pure imagination. So we don't even mention them among our histories of the church literature; but since you may come across them sometime and hear references to them, I wanted to be sure to mention them.

The OT Apocrypha the Roman Catholic Church considers part of the OT—seven books, and additions to two others. The so-called NT Apocrypha—it is my impression—they also consider, as we do, to be purely imaginary and pay no attention. It may be that some of the things mentioned in some of them they consider part of true tradition; perhaps some of these books of Acts that would fit with some of their thinking.

Well then, with this aside about the NT Apocrypha—with which you should be familiar even though it's not really part of our events of church history, here—we go on to 3; and I mention this one of the apostolic fathers separately, because he is one whom I have not yet discussed in our material, who is of considerable importance in this New Testament study. His name is

 

3. Papias. Papias wrote a number of epistles and other works; and his works were known for a long time, but were all lost in antiquity. Consequently we have no complete work of Papias that has been preserved; and that leaves us unable to make a fair judgment of Papias. We have quotations from Papias in some later writings, and that is all that is preserved from what he has written. One of those writers is Eusebius.

We've already mentioned Eusebius as the church historian, of the time of Constantine; and Eusebius saw Constantine the great Emperor converted to Christianity; he gave the Christian missions free transportation throughout the empire and he lavished all sorts of things on them, doing everything he could to benefit the Christian church; and Eusebius imagines that the kingdom of heaven is just about to come here on earth, with the Roman Emperor a Christian. And under those circumstances he seems to have a great dislike for Papias, because Papias was always talking about the wonderful time that was ahead when the Roman Empire would come to an end, and Jesus Christ would return and would reign upon this earth.

And so Eusebius, disliking Papias' viewpoint, talks him down a great deal; he speaks of him as having a very narrow mind and a very weak sort of intellect; and he says that he believes all sorts of nonsense, and talks that way about him. Yet he does refer to Papias' statements about the origin of the gospels and so on, and considers them as highly important.

Papias was the Bishop of a town in Phrygia (that's Asia Minor), called Hierapolis. There is a tradition that he suffered martyrdom at about 155 AD. We don't know anything about that for sure, but that he did, that is the tradition. The tradition was that he knew St. John, St. Philip the evangelist, and others of the early disciples. That is the tradition about him, and he issued a book in which he tries to tell of what he had learned from these men. In a quotation Eusebius gives from Papias, he said,

["But I shall not hesitate also to put down for you along with my interpretations whatsoever things I have at any time learned carefully from the elders and carefully remembered, guaranteeing their truth. For I did not, like the multitude, take pleasure in those that speak much, but in those that teach the truth; not in those that relate strange commandments, but in those that deliver the commandments given by the Lord to faith, and springing from the truth itself.

If, then, any one came, who had been a follower of the elders, I questioned him in regard to the words of the elders—what Andrew or what Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the disciples of the Lord, and what things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I did not think that what was to be gotten from the books would profit me as much as what came from the living and abiding voice." Source: Bible Hub.]

It would seem then that Papias was tremendously interested in what he could hear from people who saw the disciples; and he wrote five books called Explanations of the Lord's Discourses. This book was still in existence in the 13th century, but it has now been lost. There are no known copies of the writings of Papias; but there are quotations from him in Irenaeus and Eusebius. Eusebius I've mentioned to you, from the 4th century. Irenaeus is also from the 2nd century, but we haven't yet come to him yet. He was a pupil of Papias. These have quoted from Papias at various points. If we had his book, it would of course be of great value; but as it is, what we know of it is what they say. We know much more about the next one.

 

4. Polycarp. A friend of Papias, he was the Bishop of the famous city of Smyrna, also in Asia Minor. He and Papias lived not far from each other and had much contact. We have very little evidence about him before his death, like in the case of Ignatius. We have a few references to him by Irenaeus and others, for he was of considerable importance. But of the actual writings of Polycarp that we have, there's only one, the letter to the Philippians. And this is a letter which he wrote to the Philippians after the death of Ignatius, and perhaps shortly before the death of Polycarp. He ends the letter with the words, "I write these things, brethren, not in arrogance, but because ye have requested me. For neither I nor any like me can attain the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul who was among you. And in the presence of the then-living, he actively and firmly taught the Word of Truth. Who also in his absence wrote you an epistle, from which ye may edify yourselves in the faith given, which is the mother of us all. Hope following after, and love to God in Christ, and to neighbors."

His epistle is a good word. Its value would about rank with I Clement, but the main reason why Polycarp is remembered is on account of his martyrdom. There is a work called The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, which is considered a part of the writings of the apostolic fathers; and this writing claims to have been written by the church at Smyrna, and sent to the other churches, "The Church of God which sojourns at Smyrna to the Church of God sojourning at Philomena and to all the congregations of the holy and catholic church in every place, mercy, peace, and love through God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be multiplied."

And this letter then which was written to the other churches from Smyrna undertakes to tell about the death of Polycarp which it is now believed took place in 155 AD—the same year probably in which Papias may have been martyred; and in this writing they tell about how the persecution goes out, in that year very strongly, and the people were declared by the pagans and the natives to be Christians wherever the individuals were, and were burned publicly, and put before wild beasts; and one who was brought was a man named Germanicus, brought before the Roman Proconsul, who urged him to submit and sacrifice; but Germanicus boldly stood up, declared himself to be a Christian, and walked right over toward the beasts; and he called them to come and eat him up, showing no fear at all, but showing his joy in suffering for the name of Christ; and it made the pagans very indignant, and they cried out, "Let Polycarp be brought out!" They wanted him now, this one having shaken their plans a bit. Then there was man named Quintas, a prisoner; he stood up very bravely, but when he saw the beasts, he became afraid; he and some others submitted and offered sacrifice, and then they let them go.

But then the people were demanding, "Get Polycarp, the Bishop, the head of the Christians in the area." And Polycarp had resolved to continue in his beliefs; but many of his friends said, "Polycarp is an old man, this present feeling will pass over, as it has in the past many times; you go out in the country, get out of sight and when it's over come back again." So he went out to the country there, but the Romans found him; the representative of the Roman government came out, and they found him there at the home of a friend out in the country where he was. He heard them coming, could have easily escaped but he refused, saying, "The will of God be done." So he went out and talked to them; he didn't appear to them to be afraid, but he sat back and talked to them a few hours, presented the gospel to them; many of them began to repent they'd come for so godly and venerable an old man. But then they took him into the city; and one of the pagans came to him—one of the leaders—and said, "What harm is there in saying 'Lord Caesar' and sacrifice as the others did?" When they continued to urge him, he said, "I won't do it." And seeing no hope of persuading, they began to speak bitter words; and they cast him out of the chariot, and in getting down from the chariot he dislocated his leg; but he went forward with all haste and was conducted to the stadium. He entered the stadium; they brought him to the Proconsul. The Proconsul said, "Are you Polycarp? He said, "Yes." The Proconsul said to him, "Have respect for your old age; swear by the fortune of Caesar, and just make a little sacrifice; we don't want to hurt you." Polycarp refused. The Proconsul urged him; he said, "Swear, and I set you at liberty; simply curse Christ, and I set you at liberty." Polycarp said "86 years have I served Christ and He has never done me any injury. How then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?"

He was an old man; you see how long he was after the time of Christ. But we find a man here who was considered as the teacher of the Christians; the leader of the Christians in the whole area, 86 years had he served Christ, and he had never done him any ill. And the Proconsul pressed him hard, and he said, "Just offer a little incense; just make a little sacrifice; submit yourself; bow before the statue of Caesar, and we'll let you go." When Polycarp wouldn't do it, he said, "I have wild beasts at hand, I'll cast you to them if you won't repent." Polycarp said, "Call them then; for we are not accustomed to repent of what is good, nor to adopt that which is evil." Again the Proconsul said to him, "I will cause you to be consumed by fire if thou will not repent." Polycarp said, "Thou threatenest me with fire, which springs from an arrow and after a little is extinguished. But thou art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and the eternal punishment reserved for the ungodly. What are you waiting for," he said, "bring forth what you will." And while he spoke these, and many other like things, he was filled with confidence and joy; and his countenance was full of grace, so that the Proconsul was astonished; and he sent his heralds to proclaim in the midst of the stadium three times, "Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian." This proclamation having been made by the herald, the whole multitude—both of the heathen and Jews—cried out with uncontrollable fury in a loud voice, "This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, the overthrower of our gods; he who has been teaching many not to sacrifice nor to worship the gods." So they cried out and besought that they should let loose a lion to devour Polycarp. But they did not do that; instead they erected a pyre, and they put him on it and they set fire; then according to this writing, they just bound him there and set the fire around; and they kindled the fire and the wind struck the fire in such a way that it shaped itself in the form of an arch; and the fire came up on all sides and never touched him; and the flames were coming up; and when these wicked men perceived his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him with a dagger; and on his doing this there came forth a great quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished; but eventually, however, they succeeded in killing him; and he was remembered as one of the most noted martyrs of that 2nd century. And this writing was distributed all through the church; and it's quite different from the attitude of Ignatius.

You see how Ignatius was longing for martyrdom. Polycarp was ready to suffer; he would not permit the least thing to prevent it, but he was not looking for it; he was looking for a chance to continue his ministry and to spread the Word, and to accomplish the utmost; and so it is generally regarded as a much higher attitude than the attitude of Ignatius—though we must admire of course the bravery and determination of Ignatius also. But Polycarp's martyrdom is so important this way, so widely discussed, and having such an influence on subsequent times. A few instances of his earlier life are quoted, in another connection, in the writings of Irenaeus and others which we will look at later; so I want you to remember his name, and have in mind just who he was. 86 years he had served Christ; you can see that he was certainly along in years. I don't know just how old, whether he considered his whole life as having been in the service of Christ, or whether he considered himself as having served Christ beginning at a fairly early age.

That I think is a general survey of the so-called Apostolic Fathers. We move on to a different type of literature. This type of literature, which I mention as E, is a type of literature which to some extent preceded perhaps some of the apostolic fathers. But being a unified type of literature, and being entirely by men who made no claim to have known the apostles, it is considered as in a separate category from the apostolic fathers.

 

E. The Apologists. Now the writings of the apologists, which start now, continue on for some centuries. The apostolic fathers naturally come to an end with the writings I have mentioned. No one after that could claim to have known the apostles. One of the first of the great apologists may perhaps have known one of the apostles; we're not sure. But he's not considered an apostolic father but an apologist, one of the first and greatest of the apologists.

Now the word apologist, which we apply to a man, comes from the name which applies to his writing. We call it an apology; but apology then is an entirely different thing from an apology today. An apology today means a recognition that you have done something wrong and are asking forgiveness. There's nothing of that in the word as used in this connection. The apology here is a recognition that the other man thinks you're wrong, but is an attempt to prove that you're not wrong but right. It's very different from our apology today. The apologies were the writings which men wrote in order to show that Christianity is true and right. They were written—most of them, supposedly—to the good emperors of the 2nd century AD, to men who seemed to be sincerely interested in the welfare of their people. And probably no nation in the world since that time has had a series of rulers who were as capable, as sincere, and as just as the rulers of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century AD.

And under the circumstances, when these men who were universally considered as good men—as men interested in the welfare of their people—persecuted this Christianity, naturally there were Christians who said, "If these men knew what Christianity is, they wouldn't persecute it; they would have a different attitude toward it." So these men began to write words addressed to the Emperor, in the hope that the Emperor—or the leading thinkers of his day, or the leading rulers of the day—would see what Christianity really was; to see it was not a danger to the world and to the state, to resist order and justice, but rather something that was beneficial.

 

1. First Apologists. The first of these men whom we speak of as an apologist was a man named Quadratus; but his apology apparently is lost. We just have a quotation from it. Eusebius says that he wrote a discourse to Hadrian the Emperor, as an apology for the Christian religion that we profess. Eusebius says he wrote this because certain malicious persons had taken to harass our brothers. The work is still in the hands of some of the brethren as well as in our own, says Eusebius, from which anyone may see evident proof, both of the understanding of the man and his apostolic statements. This Letter shows the antiquity of the age in which he lived, as these passages—and then he quotes a few passages at length to show that Quadratus had evidently known the disciples. But the work of Quadratus is lost.

And then there was a man in Athens named Aristides; he was a contemporary of Quadratus, according to Eusebius; he also wrote an apology addressed to Hadrian, but it also has disappeared. There was another man named Aristo who wrote one that has been lost.

But of these first apologists, all the works are lost; they are of no great importance to us, except to see that such a type of writing began in the reign of Hadrian. But next is a man of very great importance in the history of the 2nd century. He was of importance because he wrote more than any one had written up to that time—at least that has been preserved. And what he wrote has been considered of quite nice quality, on the whole.

 

2. Justin Martyr (ca.100-ca.166). He is called Justin Martyr because he is supposed to have died in martyrdom, but not much is known about the details of his death. He is supposed, about 166, to have been scourged and beheaded. So we call him Justin Martyr. Justin was called a philosopher also. He devoted his whole life to the defense of Christianity at a time when it was most assailed, and he sealed his testimony with his blood.

He was born at a Greco-Roman colony near the ruins of ancient Samaria. He called himself a Samaritan, but he was of heathen descent; he was uncircumcised, ignorant of Moses and the Prophets before his conversion, so he probably belonged to the Roman Colony that was stationed in Samaria after the destruction of Jerusalem. He was probably born about 100 AD.

In early manhood, he was searching for truth as the greatest possession; and he made the rounds of visiting the philosophers. He tried most every kind of philosophy he could find, except Epicurean which he didn't try; but he tried most of the rest. He found that the Stoics were the sort of agnostics who considered the knowledge of God impossible or unnecessary. He went to one called a Peripatetic and he decided he decided his philosophy wasn't so much. He tried the philosophy of Pythagoras; he tried Platonism. And then one time, in a solitary walk not far from the seashore, he met a venerable old Christian, of pleasant countenance, and genial dignity, who entered into a conversation with him and changed the course of his life.

His unknown friend shook his confidence in all human wisdom; he pointed him to the writings of the Hebrew prophets, who were older than the philosophers and confident of the truth—not as reasoners but as revealers. And the old man went on to say—more than that—they foretold the coming of Christ; and their prophecy was fulfilled in his life and work. Then they separated, and he never saw the old man again. But he took his advice; he studied the prophets; studied the relations of the gospels; and he became a believing Christian. And then he decided to do like some of the pagan philosophers did—go about from place to place; discussing things and giving people help in their understanding. There's no trace of his having been ordained; he continued as an itinerant; he didn't stay in any one place or have any regular office in the church; but he devoted himself wholly to the spread and vindication of the Christian religion.

He said that he had a commission from the Holy Spirit; he was not in any position in the church, and yet he accomplished far more for the good of the church than any known church officer of that day. He retained his philosopher's cloak, so that people would welcome him as a philosopher and hear what he had to say; and then he proceeded to give them Christian teaching. He labored in Rome and other cities where he wandered about; and here one of the philosophers who couldn't answer his argument accused him of being a Christian. Of course, he was openly presenting Christianity, but the emperors were not searching out Christians; but if anyone was accused of being a Christian, then he had a chance to disprove the accusation by sacrificing to the emperor's statue and to the gods. So Justin was martyred; but he left a reputation which was of the highest for his character, for his reasonable, thoroughly Christian attitude; and his works have been highly prized ever since.

There are three main books of his which have been preserved. One of them is an apology addressed to the emperor Antoninus Pius. Probably written about 146, this is the larger apology, 68 chapters. Then there is a 2nd, smaller apology; it probably belongs to the same reign, perhaps a supplement to the first apology; that's 25 chapters. Then there is his Dialogue with Trypho. This dialogue has 142 chapters; it's more than twice as large as the two apologies; it's a vindication of Christianity, from Moses and the prophets, against the objections of the Jews.

There are a number of other documents he is supposed to have written which have not been preserved; and there are some other works which have been preserved, that are attributed to him, doubtless falsely. The Epistle to Diognetus was attributed to Justin Martyr; but it is thought that the style is so different that it is not considered to actually be by him. He thus had an interesting career, one of steady, constant effort in presenting Christianity as reasonable and true, and trying to spread knowledge of it.

Thus his surviving works are the First and Second Apologies: the first is the larger, the 2nd is the smaller, but we call them the 1st and 2nd apology. And then the Dialogue with Trypho is his other surviving work, his other great writing. Then,

 

3. Tatian of Assyria. Tatian was a pupil of Justin Martyr; he called Justin Martyr an admirable man, and tried to follow on like Justin Martyr; but unlike him, he wandered into vagaries in his ideas, and he is not nearly so dependable. In the end he came to the border of quite heretical views. Tatian denied that Adam was saved. He said that since Paul says we all die in Adam, so Adam must be lost, which I don't think is very logical. Other Christian writers have not reached that conclusion. Before his conversion he studied mythology, history, poetry, chronology; he attended the theatre and athletic games, and became disgusted with the world. He was led by the Hebrew Scriptures to the Christian faith. We have an apologetic work from him called To the Greeks, written in the reign of Marcus Aurelius; he had a very able style, which was doubtless very effective; but he did something quite remote from his work as an apologist.

He decided that if you want to know about Christ, it's sort of a nuisance to read a little bit in Matthew and then jump over to Luke and read a little something; and a little bit in Mark, and try to put them together. He said, "Why don't we have one story of Christ's life, instead of having four?" So he combined the four gospels; that is to say, he took the four gospels and cut them up into sections according to the incidents they described—what's in them. And then he looked them over; and when he found something that was in two of them, he keeps the longest one and discards the shorter one; and that way he fit together what he found so as to write one work. He called this the Diatessaron, one in place of four. It was a harmony of the four gospels, being selections from them, absolutely unchanged but simply keeping the selections out of each one. And this Diatessaron soon came to be widely circulated. Many churches read from it, instead of from the gospels. After all, it was the very words of the gospels, with nothing of his own; but it was a new arrangement of them.

Sometime later, one of the bishops mentioned that he found more than 200 copies of it in his own little area. A Syrian father wrote a commentary on it. But the book itself came to be lost; quite a lot of people used it a lot, and then it disappeared. An Arab translation of it was discovered in recent years; it has been carefully examined, and we find in it that it contains the material of the gospels and nothing else. And so this is conclusive proof that the Christian church in the middle of the second century was using the four gospels that we have; it was not using, as a valid life of Christ, anything else. So it is very important for critical purposes—for the defense of the authenticity of the gospel—the fact that at that time, in the middle of the second Century, when Tatian wanted to make a life of Christ, everything he got was in the four gospels. And it shows—though nobody bothered to sit down and write down a statement that this proves—that those four gospels that we have today are exactly what the church had in 150 AD, about the life of Christ. So Tatian, while he was an important scholar, unfortunately coming at least to the edge of heretical views, but making this Diatessaron, although actually the Lord gave us four gospels and that's the way he intended us to use them. They are not biographies; they're pictures, and they show Christ from different sides, from various angles; and he wants us to have it that way; so the Diatessaron disappeared out of use; but it is very valuable for the evidence it gives us of the fact that at that time these four gospels are what were used, and nothing else.

Well we continue there tomorrow morning.

We were speaking of the apologists.

 

4. Melito of Sardis. There were quite a number of apologists at different times. We are giving you the beginning of the movement. In fact, as time went on, many Christian writers, who were more renowned in other lines perhaps, wrote apologies. But Melito of Sardis is a writer of considerable importance at this time—in the middle of the century—who did write an apology; and this is a good place to say something about it. He was perhaps more important for other reasons than for his apology. He was Bishop of Sardis, capital of Lydia, which is in Asia Minor; and he was very evidently a man who was very active in Christian life in that whole area. We don't know much about the history of events in his time—mainly what has been gathered from the writings of people who were not writing regular history—but who were writing either an apology or some book that would be helpful to other Christians; something like that. From this apology we have a few quotations—most of it seems to have been lost; there's one in Syriac that bears his name, this is a different work from his main apology, and it doesn't contain any of the facts recorded by others; it probably is not the work that he put the greatest effort on, the great apology he wrote.

One reason why Melito is of great interest to us is that he gave us our first Christian list of the books of the Hebrew Old Testament. We, of course, know that the Lord said that the apostles, the Christians, should believe everything the prophets have spoken. We know that the NT writers took the attitude that the OT was inspired; it is true, it is God's Word and highly dependable; but the NT does not specifically name the books of the OT; and the little we have by Christian writers up to this time, none of them say exactly what they consider the OT to be.

Of course the Christian writers largely were men who read Greek, and didn't know Hebrew. The Bible they would know would be the Septuagint; but the Septuagint was not one volume; they did not have volumes in that day, they had scrolls; and the scrolls were not big like our books today. One scroll might contain one book of the OT, or two or three—five at the most—and consequently we didn't have one book we could say was the OT; and so naturally one church would have one book, another church would have another book. What books did the Christians consider to be the inspired work of the OT? Well, Melito has a place in his writings where he says that he went to the east—to the area where these things are understood—he went to Palestine, to find out just what are the true books of the OT. And he says the books are as follows; and he gives us a list of the books; and this list does not include a single one of the books that the Roman Catholics include in the OT—not a single one of the books which we call the Apocrypha. Now of course, the Roman Catholics say that Melito was giving a list of the Jewish books; he wasn't giving a list of books for Christians considered authoritative; but the whole attitude of the NT is that the books which the Jews accept are the books which are genuine, which are true, which are the OT. And Melito says he went to see, what are the books? And he found what they are, and he names them; and his list does not include the books that we call the Apocrypha. The books which the Roman Catholic church—since 1647 actually—has declared to be part of the OT but which leaders in the Roman Catholic Church, previous to that time—some of them—had denied, were part of the Bible.

So Melito was an active writer and an important leader at this time; but I think his principal interest to us is because of his importance in determining what are the books that the Christians at that time considered to be in the OT.

Then quite a different sort of thing.

 

F. Gnosticism.

 

1. The Meaning of the word Gnosis. Now the word Gnosticism is a word which is derived from the Greek word gnosis. And gnosis means knowledge, sometimes called science. Science is simply the Latin word for knowledge. But we have come to use the word "science" for systemized knowledge, knowledge arranged systematically, and carefully investigated, to be sure whether it's true or not. Within the last, say, 50 years, the word has been further narrowed down to mainly knowledge in the natural world, not of matters in the physical and material world.

 

a. Previous de-Mythologizing of Pagan Religions. The word de-mythologizing is a word which has come into wide use today; certain very famous speakers and writers today say we must de-mythologize the Christian religion. But what they suggest is exactly what was done before Christianity had gone very far, by people who had never even heard of Christianity. This was done for the Egyptian religion, and also for the Roman and Greek religions. They were de-mythologized; that is, these men claimed to believe in the stories of the gods of these lands; but they considered them in such a way as simply to be a presentation of their own philosophy; it made no difference to them whether these gods ever lived or didn't live; it was their philosophy, which they were presenting under these forms.

In the modern context, some theologians talk about Christian doctrines, and speak of their great importance; but then they'll go on to explain what they mean by it. What they mean by them is, well, like Barth says, that the resurrection of Christ and the second coming of Christ are exactly the same thing. He believes in them both; and they're exactly the same thing; they are not future; they are happening right now, neither future nor past, they're happening right now.

And this way you can present almost any philosophy under almost any form. You simply draw a connection from the one to the other. And that is what was done. One of the papers turned in asked the question, "Did Gnosticism have a Christian or a non-Christian origin?" It had both. Originally it is a non-Christian movement. It is something that came up in the pagan religions. They de-mythologized them; and then when Christianity came along they proceeded to do the same thing to Christianity. They simply joined it into their eclectic philosophic system. But when Gnosticism really came forward with power was when it had a Christian origin rather than a non-Christian. It began with the non-Christians. But then we have a man like Marcion, who was the son of a Christian bishop, with a strong Christian background; he was thoroughly familiar with Christian teaching; he proceeds to adopt these pagan ideas and then to use a great deal of Christian terminology, and pretend to be a great Christian leader, but it was Gnosticism that he was presenting. It has a thoroughly Christian background.

Well, Barth says that he is using these Christian terms to represent philosophical ideas which he holds to be true regardless whether there ever was a man named Jesus, or regardless of what he may have done. So when he says very piously that he believes in the resurrection, he believes in the second coming, simple Christians are greatly blessed by seeing the piety of his attitude; but he believes that people of intelligence will see that what he's talking about is some deep philosophic understanding instead of supernatural myths and legends, as he considers them.

Well, there were probably men exactly like that in Paul's day. At least we know that in Paul's day there were men who did that with the legends of Egypt. Down in Egypt they had the legend about Osiris and Isis and Set and Re and the different gods—very gross material legends—but there were men there who had the most lofty philosophy, which they expressed in the terms of these legends; and they said that these legends were true, because they were a means of presenting higher and deeper philosophical truths; and it didn't matter whether there ever had been gods with those names; it was these philosophical ideas that were the important thing.

Well, people were doing that in that day with the gods of Egypt and with the gods of Rome; and they were calling it superior knowledge, deeper intelligence, and philosophic understanding; and Paul would seem to have seen the beginning of that thing coming into the Christian Church. And so in the book of Colossians he warns us very, very strongly against these things. He warns us against a false humility, a worshipping of angels. He warns us against putting tremendous emphasis on certain days; he warns us against an asceticism that puts its whole stress on such precepts as touch not, taste not, handle not; which things he says are for the glorifying of the flesh, and not for the edifying of the spirit.

This was presented by men with a thoroughly Christian background, thoroughly understanding Christian language, using Christian terminology, but giving essentially the same teaching as previously had been given by non-Christians; and that's of course exactly what we have today. We do not have Gnosticism today, but we have movements today which are just as widespread, just as powerful, if not more so, than Gnosticism, and very similar to it in many ways.

And this is one way in which they are very similar; they represent non-Christian and anti-Christian currents which were previously given by non-Christians, but have now been taken up by Christian leaders—men who have a thorough Christian background and understand Christian terminology thoroughly—who talk as if they were presenting Christianity, but are presenting exactly the same thing as is presented from these other views.

I was much interested when I was a student at the University of Berlin, to become rather well acquainted with a Mohammedan student, from India; he had studied at the University, studied the modern philosophies there—the rationalistic philosophies—and I found him to be a very earnest Mohammedan, very strictly observing all the forms and ceremonies of Mohammedanism; but when he explained what Mohammedanism was, it was just plain ordinary German rationalism, exactly as any Christian modernist would say; only instead of using Christian terminology he used Mohammedan terminology. He was just an ordinary modernist but it was all Mohammedan terminology instead of Christian terminology.

Well, that's what you find in this gnostic view. So as was the previous de-mythologizing of Pagan religion, this didn't start with Christianity; it was a separate movement, a movement of skepticism in those religions; it proceeded—instead of getting rid of them—to reinterpret them; to teach the old terms, put new meaning into them. From that background, it extended into Christianity. Then,

 

b. The Claim to Superior Knowledge. This of course ties right up directly with the word gnosis, the knowledge, the science, the understanding that they claimed to have. The ordinary Christianity was good enough for the ordinary person; but for them, they had a superior knowledge. And the ordinary Christian was worse off and didn't have that knowledge. The first thing was the agreement that a higher knowledge was the important thing. To get this higher understanding, this deeper philosophy, you could understand and see what things really were, which only a favored few were capable of really understanding. That was one thing that was typical of all the gnostic groups, this stress upon the higher knowledge.

 

c. Apocryphal Books. I mentioned their claim to have certain hidden books—secret books—the word apocryphal originally just means secret, hidden books. They said they had special books in addition to the NT which were secret works; they kept them on their shelves, and had the real understanding in them, real knowledge, hidden books. But of course the Christians, when they got tired of arguing about hidden books, they came to use the word hidden as something bad; so today apocryphal doesn't mean hidden, it just means false.

The book of Colossians is a strong warning by Paul against certain false teachings that were beginning in the church; and then we find II Peter warns very strongly against movements which he says will come into the church; and we find Jude speaking in the strongest language against movements which he speaks of as if they were already there. John warns in his epistle against those who deny that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, which suggests that there were those who said that God had appeared on earth; and it wasn't a man, it was God; looking like a man, but not being a man.

 

2. The Roots of Gnosticism in the First Century.  Under that

 

a. New Testament Evidence. Yesterday I discussed particularly the book of Colossians. Notice that in I Timothy we have a warning against "science falsely so-called." We notice that in Colossians Paul warned them against the worshipping of angels, and intruding into hidden mysteries, puffed up with their fleshly pride, and not holding the head, Christ. The worshipping of angels I mentioned. I mentioned how Paul in Colossians attacked those who put all their stress on such things as, "touch not, taste not, handle not." Of course it's a very sad thing that with the very good temperance movements of our day—a very vital and important thing—people have often quoted Colossians. There have even been parades in which they've waved banners saying "touch not, taste not, handle not." But what Paul says is, "be not subject to orders that say 'touch not, taste not, handle not.'" So the temperance people are taking something out of its context very badly. For that "touch not, taste not, handle not," is mighty good advice regarding that which is bad. But in Colossians he's not talking about that; he is talking about an extreme attitude which in the end results in a reaction that does harm rather than good; and Paul was speaking about the attitude of carrying asceticism to a limit, which in the end causes a rebound and isn't a representation of true Christianity. So he says be not subject towards the "touch not, taste not, handle not" crowd. Who was subject to such? Why, the Gnostics at the beginning of this movement.

And then in John; remember I quoted how John referred to the people who denied that Christ had come in the flesh. He said test the spirits, not to follow the spirits that deny that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.

So we have in the New Testament the evidence that it was really beginning in the first century. Then

 

b. Simon Magus. He was a sorcerer, you remember, in Samaria, and I pointed out we ready don't know anything about him except what Acts says. But according to the Christian ideas of the 2nd century, Simon had been one of the founders of Gnosticism; and he had gone throughout the Empire, presenting views that were contrary to Christianity, having tremendous influence. And then

 

c. Cerinthus. I mentioned Cerinthus, this gnostic leader in the first century. The Romans had these bath houses in all of their Roman cities, a great establishment where they had pools of water you could get into; and these men lolled around there, and did various things to amuse themselves while they were getting this heat treatment and getting washed in these pools. There were many of them in Rome and they were in all the great cities.

There is a story—a legend about the apostle John—a tradition that John in his later days went into the bath house in Ephesus; and there he saw a man named Cerinthus, a man who had been considered to be a Christian, who was active in the Christian movement, and then who began to present certain interpretations which did away with various Biblical teachings; and they say that John ran out of the bath house. He said that he didn't want to remain in that building while Cerinthus was there, for fear that God's judgment might fall upon the place while Cerinthus was there. Now that's tradition about John. We have no evidence whether there's any truth to it or not.

But in the 1st century, as you know, we have very little evidence, aside from the book of Acts, about what happened between the time of Christ and nearly the middle of the 2nd century. That is, we know Clement's letter and Ignatius' letters but very little else until we get to the middle of the 2nd century.

In fact, in the whole 2nd century, what you have are not histories at all but letters about particular things; or discussions, descriptions of particular martyrdoms or something like that; we have no real history from the 2nd century. But we do get—in the middle of the last half of the 2nd century—a number of Christian writings against heresy, writings which will be sometimes several hundred pages long, describing the detailed views of various heresies, and warning the Christians against them. And the evidence is, that the gnostic movement in the 2nd century became so strong and so powerful and took such great numbers of professing Christians that it looked to many as if the old-fashioned orthodox Christianity was going to disappear entirely.

And so Gnosticism is a very vital force during this second century, a force which probably began in the first century; it became quite strong during the 2nd century, so very strong by the middle of the century that it seemed as if it might completely defeat and destroy Christianity; but by the end of the century it was very clearly on the decline.

 

3. Points Common to Most Gnostic Groups. We learn about Gnosticism largely through the Christian writers attacking it, and also describing it in order to warn people against it. There seem to have been a large number of different Gnostic groups; modern scholars have attempted to arrange them in special groups, but they don't agree on the groupings. There are such differences among them, yet so many particular points of agreement among them too, that it's pretty hard to get them into definite groups.

 

a. The Claim to Possession of Higher Knowledge. We already mentioned the claim to have secret books and superior, hidden knowledge. This is the first thing; the agreement that a higher knowledge was the important thing. To get this higher understanding, this deeper philosophy, you could understand and see what things really were, which only a favored few were capable of really understanding. That was one thing that was typical of all the gnostic groups, this stress upon the higher knowledge.

Some of them even said they had special books in addition to the NT which were secret works; they kept them on their shelves, and had the real understanding in them; and from that our word apocryphal comes, because they were just hidden books, they weren't really God's Word. The word "apocryphal" in Greek means hidden; it came to mean bad books, or spurious.

The second thing the Gnostics seem also to have agreed on is

 

b. Belief that Matter is Essentially Evil. This is a view into which many Christians in many periods have fallen; it definitely is not the Biblical teaching. The Bible does not anywhere teach that anything is evil in itself. It is not the thing that is evil, but the use of the thing. It is good or evil as to whether it is used well or used badly. Nothing that God has made is per se evil. But the Gnostics, all these many different sects of gnostic views seem to have agreed in the idea—an idea which is akin to Buddhism—that matter in itself is evil; and that it is desirable to get away from all contact or connection with matter. But they went on from this to hold that matter being evil, the creation of the world was an evil act; and so they did not believe that the great God of the universe created the universe; it was created by another being whom they called the demiurge. It is the demiurge who created this world. And in creating this world he did an evil thing. Then that being the case, we who were matter could not approach the good God. We could not come to Him; there must be an infinite distance between us and Him, and also between Him and the demiurge who created the world.

 

c. Belief in Angelic Intermediaries and in opposition between the good God and the creator of this world. I gave you the word demiurge which they used regarding the creator of this world—the demiurge. The demiurge was not the great God; he was a weak creature; great enough to create the world, but not great enough to withstand evil; in fact he did evil by creating matter, according to their belief. That is true of most of the gnostic groups.

They imagine a series of angels in between—angels or emanations as some call them—so that there was a whole list of beings through whom you had to go to reach God; He could have no contact with that which is material. This series of angels in between is rather characteristic of most gnostic sects; and Paul warns us in Colossians against a worshipping of angels, or inquiring into those things we don't understand, and seeking to imagine that we are capable of knowing the points that only God knows.

And then a fourth feature that seems to be common to them, is

 

d. Denial of the Incarnation. Since matter is inherently evil, we cannot believe actually that Christ, the highest emanation from the Father, could have soiled himself by taking a material body. The way men thought they saw Christ—it was a delusion—it was mere an apparent body. This belief came to be known as Docetism. Docetism is that which seems rather than that which is.

Now many of them could use the terminology about Christ that makes you think they believe in Christ. But in the truest sense they did not believe in Him, that He was God and that He was man. They said Christ, the highest emanation from the Father, could not have lowered Himself by taking a material body. Then

 

e. Their Attitude toward the body. They agreed in thinking that the body, being matter, was evil; they all agreed on that; and many of them felt that the body should therefore be kept down, be forgotten, be abandoned; we should do nothing to give in to the desires of the body, "touch not, taste not, handle not": eat as little as you can; don't eat anything you enjoy; do not have anything that gives in to the desires of the body.

Some went to the opposite extreme. They said since matter is inherently evil, and that the body is inherently evil, the best thing is to corrupt it and to destroy it as rapidly as possible; and therefore, they put no limit on the misuse of the body because they were corrupting it, destroying it, getting rid of it.

So we have the extremes of asceticism and sensuality—two opposite results of the one viewpoint—and both were seen among the group known as Gnostics. Now it seems that some of the later Christian writers, as I said, write at tremendous lengths about the Gnostics, and tell about their various views.

The medieval Catholic monks, of course, were affected by this attitude—the attitude of the body being essentially evil. It is a wrong attitude, but it is even today the basis of much of the Roman Catholic attitude. Men cut themselves off from all the enjoyment of any physical pleasures whatever; and in some cases it's no spiritual help at all; in some cases it is the wrong placement of emphasis. The Lord doesn't want us to let the physical desires interfere with spiritual. He wants them to be so subordinate that they do not interfere with it, or assume first place in any way. But he certainly wants them to have their proper function. He gave us enjoyment of food in order that we shall eat that which enables us to live. He does not want us to be gluttons—which is putting food first—but he does want us to give it its normal place.

In the middle ages this attitude affected the church; but the Gnostic movement as such was wrong. Paul said that we should keep the body under subjection, that we should use the body as an instrument for doing God's will rather than as an end in itself; but Paul never taught the disregard of the desires of the body as an end in itself, or a good thing in itself.

The Roman Catholic Church said the spiritual leaders must not marry. Paul did not marry, but Paul explicitly said that he had a right, like Peter, to take a wife around with him; he made that definitely certain. Paul did not hold that it was a point of any superior sanctity to be unmarried. He did hold that in his own particular case, there was an advantage. There are certain statements of Paul against gluttony, against sensuality—taken out of context, can be used, and have been used—for extreme ascetic monasticism, but I don't think that Paul's teaching as a whole would ever give that impression.


Well, those were the 5 points I mentioned. Next,

 

4. The Great Variety of Gnostic Groups. We have early Christian books answering the Gnostics, which spend perhaps 200 pages describing the different groups; telling the views of the different groups; of their leaders, their background, and all that. There was tremendous variety; just like today, you take the modernist teachers of today and you outline their teaching and you can find tremendous variety, tremendous.

One will hold a thing strongly, and another will completely deny that and hold something different; and yet you find certain trends that run through them all; certain anti-Christian tendencies that are common to them all. And in particular this matter of de-mythologizing, and claiming superior knowledge, is very widespread today.

One of the first groups of the Gnostics is called the Ophites. We have two great later writers who describe the Ophites; and the name is derived from ophis, serpent. Matter is inherently evil; it is the demiurge who did an evil thing by creating the world. Therefore, the serpent who led Adam to go against the command of the demiurge was doing a good thing. And so they worshipped the serpent that beguiled Eve; he was really a beneficent being by raising mankind to a knowledge of good and evil. And they took the people whom the OT considered as bad—like Cain—and they made heroes of them. They were the people who were opposed to the demiurge—the wicked god, who had created the world—and thus were under the direction of the good God, who would have nothing to do with matter.

I don't mean to stress that one group particularly; it was just one of the various ones; but they held that the serpent had been a beneficent creature which led Adam and Eve away from the evil god of the universe which created matter; so they held that the serpent was good; and they worshipped the serpent, and they praised Cain, and Saul—anyone who had disobeyed the creator of this world—because the creator of this world, in their scheme, was evil.

Now these various sects of Gnostics, one after another was rising; some of them traced themselves back to Simon Magus, the man in Samaria mentioned in the book of Acts. Whether there's any connection or not, I think it's pretty hard to say. All that Acts tells us is that Simon believed. And then it says that Simon, when he saw the apostles laying hands on people's heads and their receiving the Holy Spirit, he then asked them to give him that power so that he might also be able to give the Holy Spirit to people; and Peter told him that he perceived that he was still in the bond of iniquity; he talked very strongly to Simon; and in the second century we find Simon considered as one who became one of the great antagonists of Christianity, and who was a leader of anti-Christian movements.

Well, that's a century later. Maybe it was a false story that developed. I don't think that we know at all. Some of you may have read the story, The Silver Chalice. It's a very interesting story, written within the last four or five years. And in that story this Simon is described as being a fake magician, who convinced himself he was a true magician; and he died as a result, and for being a great enemy of Christianity. Now that was not just an idea of the writer of that book; it is found in a second century writer. But as I say, it's long after; and it can be true, it can be false. But at any rate many of these Gnostics supposedly had gone back to Simon as their leader, as founder of their movement.

 

5. Gnostic Leader: Marcion. But there was a man in the second century who became particularly important in the development of a certain branch of Gnosticism; that was Marcion, and he is of such great importance that he deserves a place by himself.

 

a. His life. He came from Asia Minor, son of a bishop there; he had a thorough Christian background, knew Polycarp and other great leaders there; he came to Rome, and in Rome tried to join the church and become a leader in the church; the church refused to receive him, so he became the leader of a very strong gnostic movement which was very powerful all during this second century.

Marcion said that the God of the OT and the God of the New are two entirely different gods, and there is opposition between the two of them. He said that God could not have been perfectly wise or perfectly good or he would not have made man in his own image and then allowed him to fall.

And when God said in the garden, "Adam where are thou?" God didn't know where Adam was. And he said the command to slaughter the Egyptians, and the choice of Saul to be King, were acts unworthy of a perfect God. He did not claim that the God of the Jews was an evil being as some of the other Gnostics did; he said the OT God was actuated by just motives but was limited in his intelligence.

This is a widespread view today—the view of the limited God who is fine, but can't quite succeed in overcoming evil and needs our help. Well, Marcion is the first Bible critic. He stated that certain of the books were not genuine. He accepted none of the Gospels except the book of Luke; and then he accepted Luke's other writing, the Acts, but he suggested that Luke's Gospel be very thoroughly revised. He accepted ten epistles of Paul, refusing to recognize the others; and he made considerable critical improvements in them to say what they really should; and he had a large group of followers, and was a great force all through the first century.

[student: When you say a person is the Bishop of Antioch, or of Rome, does that mean there was one congregation in that city, or did they have local congregations in one geographic location?] Well, that's a matter for us to look at the evidence, see what it shows. In the day of Paul, every congregation had several elders, and an elder and a bishop were the same thing. We find Ignatius speaking in a way that shows that each town had only one Bishop. But most towns had only one congregation, so ordinarily you might have a little tiny town that had a Bishop. Whatever the size of the town, there was a Bishop.

But as the larger towns got more congregations, the tendency was for the Bishops to assign certain presbyters to oversee certain churches while he had oversight over the whole group, and thus the Bishop of Rome comes eventually to be the leader of a large circuit of churches.

We know very little about the situation in those days, but the writers of the next century called him the Bishop of Rome. They give us a list of the Bishops; we have various lists, and in these lists they mention him as one of the successive Bishops of Rome. They say Peter was the first, Linus the second, some of them say Cletus was the third, and Clement the fourth; some say Cletus is the third, and Anacletus the fourth, and Clement the fifth. So they differ as to whether Cletus and Anacletus are one or two men; we know nothing whatever about the names. But Clement is mentioned in all the lists.

Now whether the church of Rome at Clement's time was a little tiny church, of one congregation; or whether by that time it had grown to have several congregations, we just know nothing about it; our ignorance on this is very, very great. It is from a much later period that we get the information. Well, then under Marcion, I mention

 

b. His relation to Polycarp. When Irenaeus tells us about Marcion, he says that when Polycarp visited Rome, it was just a short time before Polycarp's death; he was coming from Asia Minor, having known Marcion's father and known Marcion as a boy. He was in Rome and Marcion met him on the street; and Marcion was happy to see old Polycarp from his home area; and he says, "Oh Polycarp, do you remember me?" And Polycarp turned to him and said, "Yes, I know you; you're the firstborn of Satan." And that is one of the few things recorded about Polycarp besides his epistle to the Philippians and the story of his martyrdom; and it showed the attitude of Polycarp as he understood what a tremendously vital force Marcion was in the Gnostic movement, which was threatening the destruction of Christianity.

 

c. Marcion's Attitude toward the Scriptures. This is extremely important. I just mentioned how Marcion held that the OT as we have it was evil; certain parts of he would accept, but most of it was evil. Of the Gospels he only accepted one, the Gospel of Luke and that one he revised radically. He accepted Acts, though, with some revision; and he accepted ten epistles of Paul. And that was all of the Bible that Marcion held to; but he insisted he was following the scripture. This was the scripture but of course he made certain changes in it. And some people today are very strong in their praise of Marcion; they consider him the first real Biblical scholar. Of course, they say, his criticism was not on the level of criticism of today; but he showed the same sort of intelligent criticism of today, even though he didn't yet have the  background or experience to get the correct results. Then

 

6. The great spread and ultimate decline of Gnosticism. In the middle of the second century, Gnosticism was so widespread that if an intelligent pagan, knowing nothing about Christianity, were just to start out to try to find out something about the religious condition of the Roman Empire, the first three congregations that he happened to get into to see what they were like, might prove to be gnostic congregations. And when he observed the differences between their views, and then went into a Christian church and observed the differences between its views, he probably would have said there's a tremendous variety among these people; and so much of what they teach is so similar to the pagan religion that, give them another 50 years and they probably will be gone.

Well, another 50 years of Gnosticism; but Christianity did not die with Gnosticism, because the leaders of the church were able to hake a sharp distinction and keep a great many of their people from being confused by it, separate from it. So the great spread and ultimate decline of Gnosticism is very important fact of this second century of the Christian era.

 

7. Some Effects of Gnosticism on the Church. But the Gnostic movement had certain very definite positive effects upon the second century church.

 

a. Determine exactly the True Books. One was that it led these Christians to see it was very important to determine exactly what the true books are. What are the books of the OT? Naturally, a Christian was anxious to read the Christian books; and when someone would say, "Now, here, I have a copy of one of the gospels." Well, I want to read it; I want to learn what I can. "Here's a letter from Paul; this is one of the inspired books." Very few people in those days would have all the books; very few churches would have all the books. They mostly were on separate scrolls; and the early attitude of the Christians was, when someone would say here's one of the inspired books, they were happy to get it. But now, when the Gnostics began having their own books, and revising the NT books; and taking various attitudes toward the OT books, it made it necessary for the Orthodox Christians to determine with certainty what are the books that God has inspired? And so it resulted in an effort to find out what the true facts are.

I don't like to say that any books were canonized; because I feel that the word "canonize" means make authoritative; I feel that if a book is authoritative it is God who made it authoritative; God directed in the writing of the books; the Holy Spirit kept the writer from error; so the book was authoritative, and was given as authoritative to the people of God by the inspired writers.

But as time went on there came the question, "Which are the books?" People had received them from others who told them these are inspired books, and to be sure you had the right ones. Naturally, efforts had been made in that direction. When I was in my senior year in college, there was the son of a missionary there who was in college; and he began taking some work in the evening school of the Los Angeles Bible Institute; and we had a new President of our college [Occidental], a man who had been professor in a Presbyterian Seminary in San Francisco; he had just been made president of the college. And he heard that this student was studying at the Bible Institute, and so he called him in. He said, "You'll lose all the benefit of your college education if you take this and the Bible Institute at the same time." He said, "You want to have an open mind, be receptive to truth; down there they'll close your mind, make you think you know everything already." Now he said—he'd been a professor of church history—"Just to show you that you need more knowledge before you're ready to take work like that at the Bible Institute, how do you know you've got the right books in the Bible you're studying?" He said, "Who decided on the books? Was it some man, or was it a council that decided?" And the student didn't know, so he thought he'd make a guess; he said, "A council." And the president of the college said, "No, that's wrong. No council collected them." And of course he—knowing church history—if the fellow said it was one man, he could have said, "No there was no man decided." Because the fact is that neither one is true. There is no evidence of any individual or of any council having determined what were the true books of the Bible. But we have councils later on declaring their acceptance of the standard Christian view, that these are the books; but we have no evidence of any council taking an action or taking a vote among certain books or deciding for or against a particular book. Neither a council nor a man, The Spirit of God worked through the Christians, leading the body of Christians to come to an agreement as to what were the correct books that the holy Spirit had inspired; and to an attitude of non-acceptance of those books that claimed to be authoritative books, but that had not been inspired of the Lord.

There is no evidence of any individual making an authoritative decision or of any council voting on the matter. It was a matter which was decided by the Spirit of God working through the Christians. In the days when the book was given, it was accepted as authoritative; these books spread; people accepted them as such; when people tried to foist others off on them, some might have accepted them; but they did not go far enough in their acceptance to become a vital factor. The early church would read The Shepherd of Hermas in church. Similarly, we may read a letter from a missionary. We might read from Pilgrim's Progress. They read the Shepherd of Hermas there; they read the Epistle of Barnabas, they read the apocryphal books of the OT, but there's no evidence that any large part of the church ever considered any of these books as authoritative books giving God's commands for us. We place importance on it, because there is a large section of the professing church today which declares that the OT contained several books which we do not have in our OT; and if it was not for that it would have little authority. But in view of that fact, that the Council of Trent said, "Let anyone be accursed that does not accept all of these books," and that they are held to be part of the inspired Word of God, it is interesting for us, and useful in argument, to know that the earliest list we have by a Christian Bishop of the books of the Old Testament does not contain any of them. It is not the basis on which we determine the canon, but it is a useful fact. I accept them on the belief that God inspired them in the first place; and the people of God accepted them as such and passed them on. But that is a matter which, in the course in OT Introduction, I used to discuss the matter for maybe two or three weeks, and go into detail on it. Now with others teaching that course, they doubtless do it in similar fashion. I don't know whether that's taught this year—or is it next year?—but that course goes into it rather thoroughly. In this course all we can do is to summarize the conclusions; I wouldn't have time to go into details of that in this course.

Doubtless there were many books lost that would be of great interest in connecting the dots and telling more detail about the history and more information about events; but the books that God wanted us to take as authoritative I believe He caused them to be preserved. I do not believe that there's any book that He inspired that He allowed to be lost. He preserved every one of them; and if somebody discovers a new book and that absolutely is proven to be written by the apostle Paul, I say that's very interesting, I would be much interested in the facts contained in the book, but I have no reason to think it was an inspired book, free from error like these. But that is a different field than church history.

I just at this point wanted to mention the fact that the rise of Gnosticism made it important for people to think this thing through; to take a strong stand on what the books of the Bible were. I just want you to see how Gnosticism alerted people to the problem, made it necessary to take a clear attitude.

There might be some Gnostics who would hold that Jesus was only a man; he wasn't Christ at all, but that Christ rested on him. But the view of God in human flesh the Gnostics did not hold; and John said test the Spirits, the spirit that denied that Christ is come in the flesh is not of God. You find that even in these writings of John, at the beginning of this movement.

 

b. Enlarge the Idea of a Catholic Church. Well, now that was one of the effects on the Christian church; and the 2nd effect on the Christian church of Gnosticism was that it strengthened, enlarged the idea of a catholic church. Now as I've already pointed out the word "catholic" has come to have an entirely different meaning today. Today it has come to be a word which one organization uses. There was no organization of that type at that time. At that time, there is no evidence that any one individual in the world was recognized by all Christians as their leader. Nor was there any evidence that there were meetings—representing all the Christians, to which they looked as having leadership over the entire group. But at this time, each group seems to have given a great deal of authority to its bishop. And the bishops felt that they were greatly indebted for information and assistance and advice they could get from other bishops.

And the Christians throughout the world who believed in the doctrines of the scriptures and did not accept the gnostic views, felt that they were brothers of all other Christians who took this same attitude, and they called them catholic Christians; that is, Christians who held to the great fundamentals, even though they might differ on minor points. The word "catholic" originally means all-embracing. It is including all of those who held to the cardinal doctrines, and did not accept the gnostic heresy. They were in communion with one another; and the people thought, "Well, here's a group over here which is sufficiently divergent from the great stream of Christianity that we cannot have real fellowship with them." They would say they are not catholic Christians; and that's what the word catholic meant at that time.

It seems too bad that a word which meant this so definitely in ancient church history should have come to have such a different meaning today; but I don't see any way we can change it into what it meant in the past. When we study ancient church history we must realize what it meant then. Now there may be those today—there are those today—who claim that "catholic" always meant showing allegiance to the Church of Rome; and for that reason we have to pay more attention to the history of the Church of Rome than is warranted otherwise, in order to see what the true situation is. We'll look more at that later; but I merely make a statement at this point, that the Christian churches felt themselves bound together in a spiritual unity; but they did not feel that any one church was the leader over others, except insofar as its members, by their superior piety, superior understanding, superior leadership, might for a time merit such leadership.

Well, the Christians were compelled by the gnostic movement to think through the great features of their faith; and to decide what the fundamentals were; and to decide what their attitude should be toward different leaders and Christian groups. And one reason of course Christianity did not become simply a gnostic sect and disappear as so many different sects in the Roman Empire disappeared, was that the church rigorously excluded the Gnostics once it was clear what their views were. They excluded them from their membership and from their leadership. Marcion tried hard to be accepted in the Church of Rome when he went there, but those who have gnostic views were excluded from the membership of the church; they drew a sharp line against them. And of course they were constantly losing members to Gnosticism; because as Christians would find teachers claiming to have a greater knowledge, which gave them a better understanding, some of them would drift off; but they drew a sharp line and tried to keep them from drifting off; and it was comparatively seldom that a whole congregation of people, or a whole area would drift off into the gnostic view. But it must have looked to an outsider who saw the condition of Christianity in the middle of the century, that probably the view they then held would be largely discarded within another half century, the Gnostics were so powerful and so widespread; but by the end of the century, the Gnostics were on the decline; and by the middle of the following century they, as a real sect of the Christian church, had practically disappeared. Their views had passed over into a sect. By a century later they were considered as outside the Christian church, very definitely.

Next we will go on to

 

G. Persecution by Marcus Aurelius.

 

1. The Character of the Emperor. Marcus Aurelius was one of the very finest of all the emperors. I doubt if there is a history book you will read anywhere—whether written by a Christian or an unbeliever—who in describing him, but what will say that Marcus Aurelius was a great man, a noble man, a good man; a man who tried to enforce justice; a man who lived very, very simply, refusing to take to himself any of the pleasures which, as emperor, he had a right to; and he considered himself as simply living for the good of his people. He wrote a work, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, which some people say is marvelously Christian; and some people today read the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, to help them in their spiritual life. But Marcus Aurelius was not a Christian, but a Stoic, a Stoic philosopher; but he felt that good order in the Roman Empire required the maintenance of the ancient rites and ceremonies; and that the reason why there was coming to be widespread crime and much degeneration of life was that people were not revering the ancient gods, and the virtues of antiquity.

So when the Christians were denying the ancient gods and refusing to attend their services, he felt that this was something which must be rooted out of his empire; and there was more persecution in the reign of Marcus Aurelius than of any other emperor of the 2nd century. Now of course another thing that entered into it was that his reign was marked by frightful calamity. There was famine, pestilence; the Tiber overflowed its banks; they had all sorts of natural calamities during the reign of Marcus Aurelius; and the populace sought to propitiate their offended gods by attacking the men who were denying these gods.

They called the Christians "atheists" because they denied the gods, and the populace was stirred up against them. During his reign Justin Martyr was killed, and there were several others executed in Rome and in Ephesus; but the place where the persecution was most severe was in France. In France a mob seems to have begun the persecution; the mob began insulting the Christians and attacking them; and they were arrested and imprisoned. There was a prominent man then—a man of high rank—who went to the governor and protested; he said he was a Christian; everybody thought highly of him, he was a Christian. He said if these folks are guilty of some crime, I am too; so they took him and executed him first. And ten of those who were arrested sacrificed to the gods, and they were allowed to go free; but others were arrested and they were accused of having secret meetings, at which they drank wine together, ate broken bread together, and indulged in all sorts of sensualities. They took some slaves and tortured them; and the slaves, in order to get out of the torture, said all sorts of terrible things that they said were done; a female slave named Blandina, however, was tortured the whole day so cruelly that her torturers wondered that she still continued to live; she insisted there was nothing evil about Christianity.

A Deacon of the church at Lyon was tortured by having a red-hot glass attached to his body; all they could get out of him were the words, "I am a Christian, I am a Christian." There was a slave girl who under torture had confessed the terrible crimes the Christians did. They wanted to get more information out of her, they tortured her again; now she recanted all she said, and declared her faith in Christ, and met her death as a Christian. The Bishop of Lyon was a man 90 years of age. He was beaten and ill-treated in a most brutal manner and died in prison. They roasted one man alive. The fanaticism of the Gallic mobs was very, very bitter; and there were estimated to be 48 people who were thus cruelly killed by this terrible torture.  They were trying to cow the others, and scare them into giving it up; and they were still following Trajan's maxim to quite an extent—that they should not accept the word of secret informants and that sort of thing. 48 were terribly tortured; but 48 is not a tremendous number, and the persecutions in this century were comparatively small. Think of the Bishop of Lyon being so cruelly treated—he was 90 years of age. He'd gone through all those years without being killed or tortured. We continue here then next time.

 

2. The Persecution Particularly in Gaul. I don't think the persecutions were worse in Gaul, but we discussed them particularly because we happen to know more about them in Gaul than in other parts of the empire. But I described the way some of these people were treated in Gaul including the bishop of Lyon, Pothinus, who was over 90. He was beaten and ill-used in the most brutal manner and died in prison. I mentioned the torture of the slaves; I mentioned the terrible tortures which were given to these people; and much of it doubtless would not be through the emperor's orders.

The emperor had given a specific order to put an end to Christianity; it was a danger to the state; but the people were suffering from the terrible calamities that came at that time; they had droughts; they had great fires; they had some bad defeats by their enemies; they had a lot of calamities in this one reign, and they were blaming it on the fact that the people had become irreligious, and the temples were not being attended properly; and so the mob was blaming the Christians, who were keeping people away from the temples. So the mob was calling for vengeance on the Christians for the calamities the empire was suffering.

As for the Roman Governors, it would seem from what we know of the great outcry of the mob there, that the governor would give orders to destroy the Christians, but he carried them out in a more brutal manner than he might have otherwise, in his desire to placate the mob, and keep from having riots and upheavals more than he could help. So there was terrible torture in his treatment of the people; but the number of martyrs does not seem to have been extremely great. The Letter of the Martyrs of Lyon, describing what was happening, is considered one of the most beautiful and touching monuments of Christian antiquity.

 

3. The Cessation of Persecution under Commodus. And this is something which could certainly not be expected. As you know, Commodus was emperor from 180 to 192. Marcus Aurelius, one of the best men who ever sat in control of the empire, failed to continue the policy that had gone on for almost a century, that the emperor pick out an excellent man to be his successor and adopt him. Marcus Aurelius had a son, one son; he was devoted to that son, and he simply followed the normal course of monarchy in claiming his son to be his successor. Commodus had the best education of the day, and the only thing in it that interested him at all was training in boxing and gladiatorial combat. He was not interested in anything else but what he learned.

When Marcus Aurelius died, a great and good man, he had not adopted and carefully picked the emperor after him; his son succeeded him, and for 12 years the Roman Empire suffered under a regime which was not as bad perhaps as the reign of Nero, but which lasted much longer than the wicked parts of the reign of Nero had lasted; and so the total injury to the empire was probably about as great as that under Nero. Commodus had many people murdered; he indulged in all kinds of debauchery, wickedness, and which everyone considered an utter disgrace to the Empire; but strangely enough, after the good man, the excellent, just emperor, his father, had done so much to destroy Christianity, this wicked man put a stop to the persecution.

He had a concubine, named Marcis; and for some reason she showed herself favorable to Christians. We have no idea why it was. Perhaps she was a woman of Christian background, who had come from a Christian family and had turned her back on everything that she had believed; she was a companion in the wicked debauchery of the emperor, but perhaps she tried to still her conscience by using her position to get favors for the Christians. Now that's purely a guess; it may have nothing to do with it. But whatever the reason, it would seem that this wicked woman used her influence on Commodus to cause the persecution to cease. So very soon after Commodus became emperor, the persecution ceased; and it wasn't much longer—two or three years later—Commodus gave orders that the many Christians who had been sent to slavery in the mines of Sardinia—with brutal overseers—be released and allowed to return to their homes. So the persecution was stopped, and the people who were suffering from it were largely freed, as the result of the influence of this wicked woman.

Well, now what happened after Commodus, 192, really comes under this century but it starts the situation of the next century, so I'm going to leave it till the next century. There was no more persecution in this century, and the church had peace as far as external difficulty was concerned. And then

 

H. Irenaeus. And Irenaeus is one of the great writers of the early church, a man with whom we should be familiar. He lived from approximately 133 to 203. Irenaeus had been a pupil of Polycarp. He was brought up in Asia Minor, we'll call that

 

1. His Life. We don't know a great deal about it, but he had been a pupil of Polycarp in Asia Minor; and then in some way, he had moved clear west, all the way from Asia Minor to France. They called it Gaul in those days; and he was there as a presbyter, under the bishop Pothinus. When this bishop was killed in the persecutions, Irenaeus was made Bishop of Lyon in his place. Now Irenaeus' life thereafter is a comparatively quiet life; but he covered a good bit of territory in those days—Asia Minor to Gaul. His relationship with Polycarp—who was the disciple of the apostle John, and doubtless there were others he knew who had known John—gave him an opportunity of having a knowledge of the apostle a little closer than most people could have. He knew people who knew him, and he had heard things about him, and so on.

 

2. His Opposition to Gnosticism. Irenaeus had gained a thorough knowledge of Gnosticism, and he wrote one of the greatest books against Gnosticism that we have. He gives us more information than we get from any other source about the Gnostics. He tells us about the beliefs of the different sects, and then proceeds to refute them from scripture. So his opposition to Gnosticism is one of the forces that put an end to Gnosticism—his strong words against it—but it also was one of the great sources in enabling us to know a good deal about it. He was a very able writer and a man of very great influence in his time.

 

3. A Source of Knowledge of Church History. His writings are more voluminous than anybody else's up to that time—that has been preserved for the present. And in his writings, he was interested in proving that Gnosticism was wrong. And one argument he would give was this: "Why, these Gnostics, where do they come from? Their beliefs just originated in the last few years. Their ideas don't come from the apostles. Go in to the great churches like the church of Antioch and the church of Rome. These churches the apostles founded. Look at Rome where Peter and Paul were, and where Peter was succeeded by Linus, and Linus by Cletus, and he by Anacletus, and he by Clement," and he named some men; and he said, "See, there's an unbroken line right from the apostle. Look at Smyrna, where you have Polycarp, student of John." He points to these and says these men have a knowledge of what Christianity is that goes right back to the apostles; and so Irenaeus unwittingly became a source of ideas of apostolic succession.

There are those today who say you are not truly baptized if you're not baptized by somebody who was himself baptized by somebody who can trace it back in unbroken succession to the days of the apostles. The Church of England holds that you are not a true bishop if you're not consecrated by somebody who was consecrated by somebody who goes back to the ones consecrated by the apostles. We call that apostolic succession. In Sweden, at the time of the Reformation the first bishops were consecrated by Roman Catholic bishops, and then they turned against Roman Catholicism. In Denmark the Roman Catholic bishops were swept out, and new preachers of the gospel were made bishops. The result is that in the Church of England today, if a Swedish bishop comes to England, he can preach in any church in England because he has apostolic succession; but a Danish bishop is not recognized because he doesn't have apostolic succession. It's an idea that certain churches hold today. And this idea had its rise in Irenaeus; but I don't believe that Irenaeus himself had any such idea. If you read what he said, the purpose was not to say here is a magical power that we have because hands were laid on us by somebody who had hands laid on him by somebody going back to the apostles. Yet, he said, "Look at this Gnosticism—these new ideas here—we can trace ours back directly to the apostles; look at the line," and that was his argument; it was an argument against Gnosticism. But from it we learn a good bit about church history that would otherwise be unknown to us. He didn't think he was writing church history. His purpose was to show that catholic Christianity, as they called it, was right and Gnosticism wrong; and it was just an argument he used for it. But in so doing he gives us the names of these men, the bishops of Rome; we probably wouldn't even know their names if it wasn't for one or two men like Irenaeus who gave them for this sort of a purpose. And then:

 

4. His Attitude toward Other Christian Groups. Irenaeus is a man who hated Gnosticism. He was against all gnostic movements; anything that denied the deity of Christ, that denied the simple facts of Christianity, Irenaeus was out to fight them with everything in his power. But Irenaeus was a man who had the concept of a catholic church in the true sense of the word—that is of a relation, a fellowship with all Christians. Irenaeus went to Rome; he met the Bishop of Rome—we'll take up the Bishop of Rome a little later—but this Bishop of Rome was the first Bishop that really felt that he had great authority; it was a man in Irenaeus' time; and this man was saying, "The churches of Asia Minor observe Easter on a different day than we do. I remonstrated with them, I told them to observe Easter the day we do. I'm going to cut off fellowship with them.  I'm going to excommunicate them all." And Irenaeus pled with him. He said, "Don't break off fellowship with great parts of the Christian church." He said, "So long as people hold to the fundamentals and are absolutely separate from Gnosticism, and opposed to that wickedness," he said, "Let's have fellowship with them; let's have collaboration; let's work together for the name of Christ." So Irenaeus was the great conciliator; the great maker of unity among true Christians; and he was the great opponent of Gnosticism and of those who denied the foundations of Christianity.

We were speaking about Irenaeus, and we mentioned 4, His Attitude toward other Christian Groups. At that point I did not say a great deal about it, because there are one or two matters here that will naturally come up under other heads later; so I simply give this head here as to his attitude—absolutely unbending—unyielding toward those who deny the fundamentals of the faith, but opposed to making divisions with other Christians over matters that were minor, that did not affect the central points of the faith. We will learn that in connection with these other groups. We go on now to

 

J. Tertullian. I'm not going to take time for any of you to write down his full name. I don't remember it myself; I have to look it up. But I'll read it to you. His full name was Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, but he was regularly known as Tertullian; and many consider him as the most important writer of the first three centuries of the Christian church. And so it is important that we have a definite idea of who Tertullian was and what he did. His influence is far greater than his realization of it. To many people he is only a name. Actually he is a very, very vital figure in early church history, a figure, however, of which we know little except from his writings. We know a great deal from the writings, but comparatively little any other way.

And of course there is an interesting point there; if in these first two or three centuries, we know very little about these people except about the writers, we can imagine there must have been other very active Christian leaders, who accomplished much for the Lord, but who were not writers; these have simply disappeared; we don't even know their names; or if we know the names, we know nothing about them. So we have a few men like Tertullian, who wrote a great deal and his writings were considered important enough to be preserved; because there were many things written in those days that were not preserved. Doubtless the early Christians wrote thousands of letters to one another; but these letters naturally all disappeared, even as the letters of most of you disappear. Very few of you can tell me where a single letter is, that you wrote ten years ago, or that anybody wrote to you. Certainly for letters 50 or 100 years old, they completely disappear in most cases. And in addition to that of course, the great bulk of the writing in those days was on papyrus, which would disintegrate after a few centuries; it didn't keep a great deal better than our present day paper does. They did not write them on skins of animals or valuable materials; they didn't figure they were that important. But those that came to be considered important, they copied onto durable material. They were preserved. Well, there is no other writer in the first three centuries from whom as much material was thought worthy to be preserved as from Tertullian. Maybe I'd better say the first two centuries, because there is one other running close competition in the next century.

I hesitated in making this outline for today; I put Tertullian here, and then I put him over in the next century; I moved him back and forth two or three times. I found it very difficult to decide which place would be the best to present him, because he straddles the end of the century. To place him in the second century, or in the third, is difficult because he straddles between the centuries, but more than that because his dates were somewhat uncertain. One writer said that he was born in 160 and converted in 197. I don't know where he got his precise information. But if that information were true we certainly would not place him in the 2nd century but in the third. Another writer, however, says he was born in 150 Instead of 160, and after 30 or 40 years of licentious life he was converted. Well, 30 or 40 years after 150 would make it 180 or 190 that he was converted. And if he had 20 years of activity in this century, then certainly it would be worth considering him in the 2nd century. I don't care whether you put him in the last half of the 2nd or the first half of the 3rd. Please don't get it further away than that—from the actual time of his life. Under him

 

1. The First Latin Theological Writer. Now when you consider that he was not converted until sometime between 180 and 200—say between 170 and 200 AD—and the church of Rome was founded in the day of the apostle Paul, and was an important church 100 years before Tertullian—when Clement wrote the letter on behalf of the Church of Rome to the Church of Corinth—it may seem strange to you to say that Tertullian is the first Latin theological writer; but the fact is that up to this time, and in fact quite a bit later than this time, the Church at Rome was a Greek-speaking church. Here was Rome, the very center of the Roman Empire, the very capital of the Latin language, and the Christian church there was a church in which Greek was the language of the bulk of the people. They spoke Greek in their conversation; used the Greek language in their services; if they wrote official letters of any sort, they wrote Greek. And Tertullian, though his father had perhaps come from Rome, himself did not live in Italy at all.

It's a very interesting thing that a city which, for over a hundred years, had fought with Rome for supremacy in the world; and finally was utterly destroyed by it; completely annihilated so it was no longer a city; that that city, way over in North Africa, the Romans later rebuilt the city; and this city became a such a center of Latin learning and of life of the people of the Roman civilization and Latin language that it is there that Latin Christian writing really began. Tertullian, who may have been the son of an officer in the Roman army who settled over there near Carthage in North Africa, Tertullian was raised over there, lived all his life in North Africa; and it was there as a writer in North Africa that he raised the foundation of Latin theological literature.

And when we realize that Latin theological literature in the Roman church is still very much alive; and that in the Protestant churches it wasn't as much as 100 years ago that in Princeton Seminary their textbooks in theology were written in Latin; that in Princeton people, within a century of today, were using Latin as their principal language for their theological work; even when I was ordained, it was still a regulation in the Presbyterian Church that a man who was ordained had to present a Latin thesis which he wrote in Latin on some theological point. It stopped soon after that, because by that time it had become just a farce. One of the professors in the seminary, explained it to us; he said, "What you do is, you get two or three good Latin commentaries; get a copy of the Latin Bible; and copy the verse from the Latin Bible; and then he said you put the name, you say "Tertullianus dixit," quote from Tertullian; and you say "Irenaeus dixit," you quote from Irenaeus; and you quote from a few writers, and you have written a Latin thesis.

Well, that was the situation when I was in seminary; but it wasn't so very long before that that they knew Latin well enough to like it. Theological works in Latin. Of course that meant that the whole Christian world was able to read one another's writings in this field; and it was a great advantage in that way. Latin has become a dead language in the last century, except in the Roman Catholic Church, where the priests actively speak it today, the priests who are educated for it. They meet in Rome and have their classes in Latin; still it's a living language among them, for theological and church matters.

Well, the Latin Christian literature, began in North Africa; and the man, more than any other, who began it was Tertullian. So he's a man of great importance in church history if for no other reason. I don't think he just happened to be the first at Rome; there is another man who some say wrote before him, some say he wrote after him, we're not sure. This other man wrote a nice work that was of interest and that's all there is to it.

But Tertullian laid the foundation of Latin Christian language. He had to form theological words in Latin; and he was a man who was a lawyer, a man legally trained, of very, very excellent learning; and he was determined to get words that would exactly express the concept he wanted to express; and if he couldn't find a word that would express it he would make a word. So Tertullian laid the foundation of the words which became our Latin theological vocabulary; and as our Protestant nations developed, and we began to use our own languages, a great many of these words we just took over bodily from the Latin; and consequently a great many of our words in English, German, French, Hungarian and other languages are taken over from the Latin with a slight change of ending perhaps for the theological word; and a great many of them started with Tertullian, for he was the man who selected these words as the best presented to express these particular ideas.

So Tertullian is a man of great importance then as the first Latin theological writer, not merely in time, which he probably was, but the foundation of Latin theological writing. Now

 

2. His Life. We don't know much about his life. You could safely say he was born about the year 150; perhaps you could say about 160, I don't know; somewhere along in that decade he was born. We have no evidence of the exact year, but we can guess back. He received a very extensive education. It is an interesting thing that here is a man who turned violently against everything that was not thoroughly Christian; so much so, that he attacked the Greek philosophers and Greek literature, and wrote in such a way as to make you think that it was foolish to waste time on anything like that. He said, "What has the academy to do with the church? What has Christ to do with Plato, Jerusalem with Athens?" And he talked that way, as if the Greek and Latin literature and classics had a definite viewpoint they're driving toward; they may all stick together, but on the particular point they're pushing, they push it so hard that, if you take it alone, you get an impression of their denying other points which they are for.

Well, the same is true of Tertullian. He was not a philosopher but a lawyer. He was not a man who sat down in calm, quiet contemplation to determine exactly what the truth is, and then to express it clearly. He was a man who had the passion of determination to get his points across; a man who faced great terrible factors of his day, and determined to do everything he could to destroy them. His faith burned with interest, enthusiasm, passion; it carries you along, makes you feel tremendously the way he feels when he writes. So while of his life we don't know much, his writings were tremendously effective and impressive.

I headed this "His Life" but I've talked mostly about his writings instead of his life. I should continue to say about his life that he became disgusted with certain factors in the church of his day; he became disgusted with the fact that it was too easy for people who had lapsed [abandoned the faith under persecution] to get back in again. He felt that the church, the Roman church particularly, was making it entirely too easy for Christians who had fallen into sin; he speaks in most scathing terms of the bishops of Rome in his day, for what he considered their leniency toward sin; toward the restoration of those who claimed to be penitent; but Tertullian didn't think they gave any real evidence of thorough-going penitence.

And the result was that he, toward the end of his life, joined his activities with a new sect which we will look at later, which we will call the Montanists; and he, in the latter part of his life, was a Montanist. As some books will point out, this is all to the good, because he speaks of the defects of the catholic Church, the general church; and points out its errors toward the end of his life, the type of matters which we would not consider to be errors. He gives a one-sided picture; we have him defending Christianity against paganism, against Gnosticism, against heresy; and we have him attacking the common errors of the day, somewhat in his later life. So we get a picture of circumstances that otherwise we would not get. Most writers who were not in the general line of Christian thought, naturally, their writings weren't preserved. But Tertullian was so fine that most of what he wrote, I believe, has been preserved, even things that people didn't like they copied, and they kept.

So in his later years—I don't know whether we can say he was a member of this sect or not, there's no proof on that—but there was a sect 200 years later, still in North Africa, which called themselves by his name; they called themselves the Tertullianists. Some said that it was a break-off from the Montanists which had followed Tertullian; that he had split from the Catholic church and joined the Montanists, and then had split from the Montanists; and this group which followed him had continued 200 years after that. That we don't know; we have no evidence. We know there was a group called themselves the Tertullianists; it may have been what was left of the Montanists. But it shows the continuing influence of this particular group 200 years after his death.

If you look at any Roman Catholic Church History, you will find Tertullian spoken of—to some extent—in very favorable language, because of the great contributions which he made to the development of Christianity, as all must recognize. But all of our other writers of any importance in the first two or three centuries they call saints; and they don't call Tertullian a saint. It's St. Irenaeus, St. Ignatius—they're nearly all saints in that period—but not Tertullian; because, they say, he lapsed into heresy, so they say, toward the end of his life. There is no proof, as all the standard works in Church History will admit; there is no proof that the Montanists were heretics. They held to the main Gospel of Christianity and held clearly to it.

But his life was—as we can tell from his writings—in three stages. There was the pagan stage, and they say that he lived a pagan, licentious life; though just how licentious it was, we have no proof. Doubtless he'd tell us how grateful he is that Christ had saved him; he looked upon himself as a very great sinner before he was saved. And of course we all are utterly lost apart from the grace of Christ. St. Augustine's Confessions, a century later—one of the most famous works in the world's history—and I've seen works published; you go into one of these bookstores and see Confessions of St. Augustine put out on the bookshelf; put out under the impression that here's something the people will enjoy reading; thinking people want something of smirch; they'll be interested in getting a confession. Well, you read St. Augustine's Confessions, and he confesses how once when he was a boy he went into an orchard and stole a pear; he confesses his terrible sin in doing that; it didn't belong to him; and there are some things in the confession which we feel were definitely reprehensible, like they all are because they were contrary to God's standards of righteousness.

But compared to the average person, Augustine was a paragon of goodness during his life before he became a Christian, compared to the average person. But he recognized that he was a sinner before God, and that nothing he did was worth anything; he deserved eternal death, and he felt very penitent toward the way he had fallen short of God's law. Now that is the case of anyone who really realizes the grace of Christ and what it means. It's often hard to tell in the Christian writer, if we don't know anything but his own writings, whether he really was a man whom the world would consider licentious and sinful; or whether he was a man whom the world would consider a mighty fine type of person, but he fell very far short of the standards of righteousness that God commands.

As far as I know, we have no evidence to know in which category Tertullian was. But he changed, from a life that was lost and headed for hell, to a life in which the grace of Christ alone was his hope of salvation. And he felt such a marked difference that many writers simply take at face value the idea that he lived a pagan, licentious life. Well, he was a pagan, and his life was licentious, as all people are licentious, apart from the grace of Christ. Beyond that we don't know.

I hesitated for a long time whether to take Tertullian first or the Montanists first. Because to understand this at the end of Tertullian's life, you want to know about Montanism; to understand, on the other hand about Montanism, you need to know about Tertullian. So I finally decided to take it in this order. And all we need to know at this point about Montanism is that Tertullian, toward the end of his life, was considered as affiliated with the group; the church as a whole considered Montanism to be outside; and we look more at the Montanists under a separate head.

How did he die? When did he die? We don't know. We read in a writing 200 years later that he lived to be a very old man, but that's 200 years later; maybe it's true, and then again it may be false.

Yes? [student: You said his life had three stages. What were they?] First he was pagan, second was—well, I think you could call it catholic in the old sense—that is, he was a member of the Christian church, had a relationship with the other Christian churches throughout the Roman Empire. He did not recognize any one church as the head or anything like that; but they all had a mutual inter-relationship so that whenever a person went from one of them to another, the bishop of his church would give him a letter of recommendation, and they felt they were all part of the one church of Christ, and they were the church, opposed to Gnosticism, opposed to heresy, standing by the whole word of God. But then the third stage of his life, is where he is working with this Montanist group, but if he actually joined them or whether he remained nominally a member of the catholic church, the texts differ, we don't know, but they differ.

But at least he is universally regarded as having been one of the Montanist group the later years of his life, and while he still continued to write very valuable things in defense of the great doctrines of Christianity, attacking heresy and paganism, yet he does also write in such scathing terms of the bishop of Rome and in certain attacks on the catholic church in general, that it just makes you wonder why they ever kept his writings. We know that they wouldn't have, if it hadn't been for the fact that he'd been so highly regarded before, and some of his writings even then were highly regarded. Well, that's his life.

 

3. His Writings. The writings come under various heads, because there are different types of writings. There are the apologetic works, in which he pleads the cause of Christendom; there is the great apology which he wrote about 200, which is unquestionably one of the most beautiful manuscripts of the heroic age of the church; a plea for religious liberty, an inalienable right which God has given to every man. I'd just like to read you a quotation of a few words from a translation; of course a translation can't get the exact flavor of the original; yet even in a translation you can see something of Tertullian's style.

In this plea to the Roman officials for Christianity, he says:

["It is quite true that it is our desire to suffer; but it is in the way that the soldier longs for war. No one indeed suffers willingly, since suffering necessarily implies fear and danger… But the day is won when the object of the struggle is gained. This victory of ours gives us the glory of pleasing God, and the spoil of life eternal. But we are overcome. Yes, when we have obtained our wishes. Therefore we conquer in dying; we go forth victorious at the very time we are subdued.

...

The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed. Many of your writers exhort to the courageous bearing of pain and death—as Cicero in the Tusculans, as Seneca in his Chances, as Diogenes, Pyrrhus, Callimachus; and yet their words do not find so many disciples as Christians do, teachers not by words, but by their deeds. That very obstinacy you rail against is the preceptress. For who that contemplates it, is not excited to inquire what is at the bottom of it? Who, after inquiry, does not embrace our doctrines? And when he has embraced them, desires not to suffer that he may become partaker of the fullness of God's grace; that he may obtain from God complete forgiveness, by giving in exchange his blood? For that secures the remission of all offences. On this account it is that we return thanks on the very spot for your sentences. As the divine and human are ever opposed to each other, when we are condemned by you, we are acquitted by the Highest."

Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III, p 54-55]

His first group then was the apologetic works, defending Christianity against the pagan writers and writing in a way to seek to win them. He originated, for instance, the phrase "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." In fact, he originated many phrases which have passed into current language; they have been quoted and used ever since. Then he wrote many polemic works. He wrote against various types of heresy; various types of gnosticism in particular. He wrote a long work against Marcion, and he became so indignant against—yes? [student: what is a polemic work?] Polemic is from the Greek word polemos which means war; and a polemic work is a work of attack against heresy. It is a regular word in theological works for that type of work; while the apologetic is trying to show the truth of Christianity in general, the polemic is in the attacking area, attacking false views. And his writings against Marcion deals with Marcion's works in detail; he stresses Marcion's errors, finally he becomes so impassioned about Marcion's wickedness that he ends:

["Nothing, however in Pontus is so barbarous and sad as the fact that Marcion was born there; fouler than any Scythian; more roving than the wagons of the Sarmatians; more inhuman than the Massagete; more audacious than an Amazon; darker than the cloud of Pontus, colder than its winter, more brittle than its ice; more deceitful than the Ister; more craggy than Caucasus. Nay more, the true Prometheus—Almighty God—is mangled by Marcion's blasphemies. Marcion is more savage than even the beasts of that barbarous region. For what beaver was ever a greater emasculator than he who has abolished the nuptial bond? What Pontic mouse ever had such gnawing powers as he who has gnawed the Gospels to pieces? Verily, O Euxine, thou hast produced a monster more credible to philosophers than to Christians. For the cynic Diogenes used to go about, lantern in hand, at mid-day to find a man; whereas Marcion has quenched the light of his faith, and so lost the God whom he had found." Ibid. p 272]

So you see how his words are filled with these impassioned declarations, the rhetoric of which seems to roll out. It had a tremendous effect in his day. But his thinking also was very keen; and he sees the point, the specific error; he brings it out very, very clearly, as a good lawyer would. When the bishop of Rome, for a time, received a heretic—we look at that later—a man who denied that Christ and the Father were separate, and presented it in such simple language, in such clever language, that he deceived the bishop of Rome for a time; though the bishop of Rome later saw the error, and opposed it; but for a time he deceived him; and this man said, "Jesus and the Father are one person, not two persons, it was the Father who was crucified on the cross." And then when this same bishop of Rome was very strong against the Montanists—who so stressed the work of the Holy Spirit—Tertullian said of this bishop of Rome, "He has driven the Holy Spirit away and crucified the Father." And that's typical of the way he would take the facts and present them in such a way that it would make an impression that people remember, hard to get away from.

His third stage of life, of course, is this stage when he was with the Montanists and he was taking their view; though he was still continuing to write many works similar to those which he wrote in the second stage. He discusses in his writings apologetics, the polemic writings, and then he takes up all sorts of doctrines, and matters of Christian life. Whatever he feels strongly about, he writes on, women's dresses for instance, He writes on second marriage. He writes on the attitude of soldiers in the army if they're Christians, all sorts of things he takes up; and he gets his view in mind, and then presents it in such a way as to drive it home.

I always feel—and I often have stressed the fact—that a Christian worker has two distinct things to do in his Christian work; and I think we should keep them separate. One of these is to decide what we're going to think on certain principles, questions, qualities, attitudes, and interpretations of the word.   And that I feel is very, very important that we do this calmly and clearly; we should look at everything we can possibly see against the position we're taking; look at it calmly and fairly, and give it the fullest weight you can; in order to be sure you get absolutely the correct answer on any particular point you take up. I think that's very, very important; and if you do not do that, most of us will get off into false paths and will put much of our emphasis where it will do harm rather than do good.

But some people are so obsessed with that, that they spend all their time trying to decide what the truth is; and when they get through, they have a statement that would be of interest to a philosopher but has no influence on the world. I think we should accept the two phases of our Christian work. First to look at the Bible and study it clearly, carefully, calmly, see what it means, and examine every possible argument against it—and get your decision you're convinced is correct. But secondly, to make it a live force in the world today; and for that in your sermons, in your presentations, you take the truth as you come to believe it is, decide how you can drive it home to hearts, how you can get it across. And in getting it across you will stress emotionally the vital truth that you want to get across.

But I think it's good to keep the two parts of our activity sharply distinct in our attitude; because either of them can interfere with the effectiveness of the other, if they're not kept apart in our thinking. I think Tertullian did that to a greater extent than most people do. Because Tertullian had a very sharp intellect; but he was outstanding for the second, he was outstanding for the way he got across the idea he wanted to get across.

Now, I'm not saying that we would agree with every one of his conclusions. Everyone makes mistakes, but he made comparatively a small number. I doubt if nearly as many as the other writers of the ancient Christian church.

 

4. Tertullian's Influence. Again for the sake of completeness, we give it a point in the outline but we can't discuss it by itself. Under the other three heads we have mentioned how great his influence was and how much  it continues to this very day in our whole terminology of theology, and his influence of course contributed to the driving home the viewpoints that he held, and making them very important in the life of the ancient church.

 

K. Montanism. And Montanism is a movement which we would probably not know nearly so much about if it weren't for Tertullian; since the church as a whole rejected the Montanist movement, and until comparatively recently most books of Church History would speak of them as heretics. But after careful investigation, most present-day church histories will clearly state that the Montanists were orthodox on all the great doctrines of the Christian church. But Montanism was a movement which started among some uneducated people in Asia Minor. It started with a man called Montanus. We don't know a great deal about this man called Montanus. You will read in some church histories the statement that Montanus declared that he was the promised paraclete, or advocate of John, he was the helper and comforter in these last times.

Of course if a man came to be the Holy Spirit, that of course would definitely be heretical. But as we look at the later history of Montanism, it does not seem to be a reason to think that from such a start, such a development could have come. And Schaff, for instance who was quite against Montanism very definitely declared that he believed that the adversaries of Montanists wrongly inferred that he claimed to be the organ of the Holy Ghost, but Montanus considered himself the inspired organ of the Holy Ghost, the helper and comforter in these last times of distress and made use of the first person, claiming to be the spokesman of the Holy Spirit, and that his adversaries said that he himself claimed to be the Holy Spirit.

Well it was during the bloody persecution which came about the time of the death of Polycarp in Asia Minor, that he and two prophetesses went forth as prophets and reformers to proclaim the near approach of the age of the Holy Spirit, and of the millennial reign of Christ, in a small village in Phrygia where they said the new Jerusalem was going to come down; and many people of little education followed these, and they became tremendously excited, claimed to be prophesying; and there were what the opponents considered to be very violent scenes among these people; which the opponents claimed had considerable that was licentious and harmful in it, and there may have been. But as Montanism went on, the evidence seems to be, that it developed largely and perhaps even from the first, simply a movement of people who were stressing the main teaching of the Scriptures, putting their stress upon them, also stressing the near-return of Christ, which they thought was coming very, very soon, and were opposing strongly the widespread laxness in the Christian church.

They called themselves spiritual Christians; and those who were not with them they called carnal Christians. Many of the church leaders wrote against them; but the movement spread from Asia Minor; it spread to the west, and the bishops of Rome were hesitant about it; but after some hesitation they came out against it, and declared that it was not a Christian group; it should not be permitted in the church at Rome.

The people in Gaul who were facing persecution and martyrdom took a conciliatory view to them; and they sent their presbyter—afterwards bishop—Irenaeus, to the Bishop of Rome to intercede with him; not to stand against the Montanists, but to recognize them as true, even if little educated, Christians. And Irenaeus seems to have had an influence with the Bishop of Rome for a time, but then he came out strongly against the Montanists.

In North Africa, the Montanist movement spread quite widely. Two of the most distinguished female martyrs of the beginning of the third century were Montanists; and of course when Tertullian joined them, he became the most energetic and influential man among the Montanists; and it tremendously increased their influence, the fact that Tertullian was with them. 200 years later, Augustine said that Tertullian left the Montanists, and founded a new sect named after himself; but this is 200 years later and we just can't be sure. But we know that 200 years later the group in North Africa, which followed Montanist principles to some extent, called themselves Tertullianists; and then Augustine persuaded them back to the catholic church of that time.

The Montanists put great stress on asceticism and church discipline, very, very strict church discipline. They longed for martyrdom, and argued that the finest thing that could happen to a person was to die for the cause of Christ; they were extremely zealous, and doubtless some of them fell into error on minor points; but there is no evidence that any large group fell into error on any vital point of Christian doctrine.

Well, we've discussed the origin of Montanists, their nature and their stress. There were many groups in the early days which slid off in one direction or another; but most of them we know very little about, because naturally their writings disappeared; but the Montanists—we have the writings against them of various church leaders; and then of course we have Tertullian's writings.

 

L. The Papacy in the Second Century. And since I used the word papacy, we'll have

 

1. The word Pope.  That word "pope" in those days does not mean at all what pope means today; "pope" in those days simply meant father, and was used of anyone who was considered a spiritual leader; and this continued for centuries after that time. Gradually it came to be applied to the great leaders of churches; but then it was used more commonly of the bishop of Alexandria than of the bishop of Rome, for a long time. They regularly referred to him as the pope of Alexandria. It's only in medieval times that it has come to be restricted to the Bishop of Rome. And when I speak now of the papacy of the 2nd century, I don't mean to imply that anything similar to the papacy today existed in the 2nd century. But according to the claims of the Roman Catholic Church, there was something similar to the papacy today existing in the 2nd century; and so we are looking at the bishops of Rome of the second century and seeing what we find at that time.

 

2. The insignificance of most of the Roman bishops in the 2nd century. Now I have here this book of McSorley's, Outline History of the Church. McSorley, as I told you earlier, is a very good Roman Catholic church history. In this book he does not have many pages on the 2nd century, because our knowledge of it is very slight compared with our knowledge of later centuries. Nevertheless he has 18 pages on it; he discusses the Roman Empire at this time; the views of the church; the various councils—there were very few of them—but the various writers, heretics, and so on.

For each century he has a subsection he calls the papacy; in each section he has that, and often it is several pages in length. Here it is a little over a third of a page; out of 18 pages, a little over a third of a page called the papacy. Being so little, I can easily read everything that he says. You'll be interested to see what he says about the papacy in the 2nd century. He starts in with a statement which assumes the Roman Catholic position without proof.

"Several of the 11 popes who ruled the church in the 2nd century..." Now there is no evidence that any pope ruled the church in the 2nd century—no evidence whatever; but these were bishops of Rome at that time, those that we meet. So now listen to what he says about them:

"Several of the eleven popes who ruled the church in the second century were martyred, but excepting" (and here he names three and gives their dates—except for these 3, one of them served 11 years, one for 15 years and one for 10, you see that's about 36 years out of the whole time—except for these 3, he says) "they remain rather shadowy figures with pontificates of uncertain date." 11 popes, he says, ruled the church, but only 3 of them do we know much about. We have the names of the rest and we have approximate dates; but he says they remain rather shadowy figures with pontificates of uncertain date. Then he has six lines about these 3 popes; and when we read what he says about these 3 popes, we find that one of them Polycarp paid a visit to; two of them Irenaeus visited; and that makes them important. Irenaeus was an important man, an important writer. Polycarp was an important man; he was the bishop of Smyrna. You'll be interested to see what he says about them in the 2nd century.

["Several of the eleven popes who ruled the church in the second century were martyred, but excepting St. Anicetus (c. 155- c. 166), St. Eleutherius (175-189), and St. Victor I (189-199), they remain rather shadowy figures with pontificates of uncertain date.

"To Anicetus, St. Polycarp came in order to discuss the dispute between East and West as to the date of Easter; but no decision was reached—'Polycarp could not persuade the Pope, nor the Pope, Polycarp,' says Eusebius. We read that the Christians of Gaul twice appealed to Eleutherius to check the Montanist heresy; and Victor, we know, threatened to excommunicate the Asiatic bishops for their refusal to adopt the Roman usage in the celebration of Easter." ibid., p32.]

McSorley starts in with a statement which assumes the Roman Catholic position without proof. "Several of the eleven Popes who ruled the church..." Now, as I said, there's no evidence that any pope ruled the church in the 2nd century, no evidence whatever. But there were bishops of Rome at that time, those that we named. But now listen to what he says: one of them Polycarp paid a visit to. Two of them Irenaeus visited, and that makes them important. Irenaeus was an important man, an important writer. Polycarp was important, he was the Bishop of Smyrna; his martyrdom made a great impression on the ancient church; and these two important men visited Rome and tell us in their writings; or other writers tell us about their contacts with these bishops; and that's the only way we know anything about these three bishops, or at least about the early church.

Now McSorley, of course, tries to put that in such a way as to show the power of the papacy. And then he quotes Eusebius, "Polycarp could not persuade the pope, nor the pope Polycarp." Well, that doesn't sound as if the Bishop of Rome was ruling the church, if he couldn't persuade Polycarp and Polycarp couldn't persuade him. Then, he says, "We read that the Christians of Gaul twice appealed to Eleutherius," the 2nd of these, "to check the Montanist heresy." He doesn't say he checked it.

Actually, what we know is that the bishop of Rome was stirred by a bishop of Asia Minor to oppose in Rome the activities of Montanism; and then Irenaeus was sent down from France to urge him to go slow on this, and to direct his fire against unbelievers, instead of against men who, while they might be off on certain points, were in doctrine thoroughly Christian. And we know that from Irenaeus, and that's how we come to know anything about Eleutherius.

And then the third one, he says, "Victor, we know, threatened to excommunicate the Asiatic bishops for their refusal to adopt the Roman usage on the celebration of Easter." And this third one, we do know more about than the others; and he was a real Roman; he wanted to rule the world. But you'll get people like that in every kind of organization once in a while. And for the Roman church to run for nearly 2 centuries before it got one, I think that speaks well of it.

But that is what McSorley says about the papacy in the 2nd century. There were many important people in the second century, as we noticed. There were a few important writers; there were a few important martyrs. According to Roman tradition, practically all the popes were martyrs. But no one of them did somebody think it worthwhile to write about, telling about the martyrdom, and sending it about through the Christian world, as they did about Polycarp, or as they did about the martyrdom of some of his friends. They may, some of them, been good church administrators; some of them may have been excellent preachers, presenting the truth in a way that was very effective; but we don't know that they were; we have no evidence about these men; they are, as McSorley says, rather shadowy figures.

In fact, we go for four and a half centuries before we find men in the position of bishop of Rome who are really outstanding leaders in the Christian church. We have many of them in other churches. Now that's not saying but what there might have been very outstanding leaders in the headship of this very important church, in the capital of the Empire; but it so happened in the providence of God that the important leaders were elsewhere during these early centuries.

Now I'm going to give three numbers, 3, 4, 5, to the three of these bishops who McSorley says are not simply shadowy figures. These are the three whom I mentioned. The first, which will be

 

3. Anicetus (155-166). And Anicetus, McSorley says—he calls him St. Anicetus—the Roman church called all the popes for—I forget the number now, I think it's the first 50 popes—every one of them they call saint; and of the last fifty, there are only two they call saint. I don't think that they would admit that shows degeneracy; what it actually shows is that we know little about them. The fact is that in the last four centuries there have only been two whom the Roman church has felt were worthy to give the title of saint to, but they give it automatically to all the early bishops of Rome.

Now Anicetus he gives the date 155 to 166. Anicetus we probably would know nothing about if it were not for Polycarp. Of course that doesn't mean that he might not have been a very fine Christian leader and a very active man; because Polycarp said of himself that he had served the Lord for 86 years; he had served the Lord and then was martyred; and we know nothing about Polycarp's activities through all those years. From Polycarp's death and from his epistle that he wrote just before his death we can gather that he was a man of tremendous influence, but we just don't have the evidence.

But we find that Irenaeus, who was a pupil of Polycarp, tells us in one of his writings; he says, "When the blessed Polycarp sojourned at Rome in the days of Anicetus, they had some little difference of opinion likewise in regard to other things. They forthwith came to a peaceable understanding on this head, the observance of Easter—having no love for youthful disputes. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe it the day that Polycarp did, inasmuch as Polycarp had always observed it with John the disciple of our Lord and the other apostles with whom he had associated. Nor could Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe, who said he was bound to maintain the custom of the presbyters before him. These things being so, they communed together; and in the church Anicetus yielded to Polycarp, out of respect no doubt to celebration of the eucharist; and they separated from each other in peace; all the courts being at peace, both those that observed and those that did not observe the forces of maintaining peace." That is, here was a dispute over the date of Easter; and Polycarp, prominent in the eastern church, held one system; Anicetus, in common with the west, held a different system; but Polycarp and Anicetus communed together in closest friendship; and Anicetus deferred to Polycarp, who was the old venerable leader of the Christian church in Smyrna; they did not let their difference divide their fellowship over what is the date of Easter.

It's quite different with Victor. Victor declared he was going to excommunicate anybody who doesn't observe Easter when he says it ought to be. But we won't get to Victor till tomorrow morning...

We were at L, the papacy in the 2nd century. Under that we noticed 1, the word pope; 2, the insignificance of most of the Roman bishops in the 2nd century. And then there were three of them, the only 3 of whom we know anything to speak of in the whole century. So I thought I'd just say a word about the three; so I made 3, Anicetus. Not to be confused with Anacletus in the first century, of whom we know nothing, we don't even know whether he was one man or two men. But in the 2nd century Anicetus we know a very little about, thanks to the fact that Polycarp listed him. Then

 

4. Eleutherius (177-190). Eleutherius is interest to us because of the fact that Irenaeus visited him; and that's what makes him known. You see how these bishops of Rome were quite secondary characters, as far as what we know of church history is concerned. Of course, as I said, some of them might have been excellent organizers; some of them may have been fine preachers; they might have been men of real influence in their day; but apparently not men of literary or theological ability such as left something that we would know of later on. The only way we know anything about any of them is the fact that they had a contact with Polycarp or with Irenaeus; and those two men left a mark on posterity, on account of their excellent outstanding character or their excellent writings.

Irenaeus urged him not to make a division against the Montanists; and a strong stand against them was postponed on account of Irenaeus—Irenaeus was not yet at this point a bishop. And that's really about all we know about Eleutherius.

5. Victor (190-202). He is at the end of the century, and Victor was a real Roman. The little we know of him shows him feeling that he is the head of the church in the most important city in the Empire. Rome is the capital of the Empire; the Romans are used to lording it over the rest of the world; and Victor is head of the church in Rome; and when he decides something, he wants the rest of the churches to take notice. He may have been a very estimable man, for all we know; we know very little about him; he may have been a good preacher; he may have been a fine minister; he may have been a very poor minister; we just don't know; but this is preserved about him—in the record—the fact that Victor declares that the Montanists were heretical, and the church would not have fellowship with the Montanists; and Victor declares that all the churches of Asia Minor—the whole eastern section—must observe Easter on the same day that the Roman church did; or they would break off connections with them. He said he would excommunicate them; he would break off communication with them as members of the Church. Excommunicate—break off communication, break off fellowship with them—if they did not observe Easter on the same day as the Romans Church did.

Irenaeus pled with him not to do this; and Irenaeus said, "Don't break off fellowship with a large part of the church on account of a difference over days." Irenaeus said, "The apostles have observed we should judge no one in meat or in drink or in respect of a feast day, or of a new moon or Sabbath day." He said, "Don't break off fellowship with large part of the church for just a matter of form, of the day we observe." But Victor branded the Asiatics as heretics and threatened to excommunicate them.

Irenaeus agreed with Victor as to what the day ought to be. The Roman bishop made no claim to say, "Now this is the day on which all Christians are to observe Easter. I set it down and you're to take it." Nothing like that. In fact, it is very seldom in history that you find a pope claiming the right to lay down rules. The pope claims merely to have the authority to tell us what the true situation is; that is his claim. Of course actually, sometimes, he does lay down rules; but that is his claim, and it's very interesting to see how the pope just before this present one, when he officially proclaimed and declared that Mary had been taken up to heaven—the assumption of Mary. He did not say "I am going to make a doctrine." He didn't say, "I am going to declare this is the thing we should believe," nothing of the kind. He said that he, as infallible teacher, would explain the matter to people just what the truth was on this matter; that's what he said, not that he had authority to lay down the doctrine; to establish something new in any sense; but he claims that this is a tradition handed down from the times of the apostles; and he is giving us an explanation of it we so that we'll know what the true facts are, on account of an authority God has given him to know and understand and explain the true situation, not to make anything new.

It's a very interesting thing about the papacy; while all sorts of new developments have come from the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope has never claimed any right to initiate them; but merely to explain what the true situation is. And so in this case, Victor does not declare, "I want people to celebrate Easter on a certain day," nothing of the kind. In the course of nearly two centuries of Christian history up to the time we are discussing, two customs have developed about Easter; the one custom is the one which has been followed in the east, and which Polycarp said was the practice of the apostle John. And that was the practice of taking the Jewish day, according to the Jewish calendar, of the 14th of Nisan, and that day they observed by fasting; and then they would have in the evening—which of course on the Jewish calendar would be the 15th—and on that day they would remember the great sacrifice, the Son of God in place of the lamb.

So that was the custom in the eastern church, the custom all through the Asiatic churches, and it continued there until about the 4th and 5th century; and it continued in Ireland—that custom—until I believe about the l0th century. It lasted a long time in certain countries. But in Rome, where the Jewish calendar was not known very well; and also where the people not being so accustomed to the Jewish calendar anymore; and  being accustomed more to the established Gentile habits; a different custom had developed in the west; and that is the custom which we observe today. It was the custom of having Easter on a Sunday. Now the 14th of Nisan might come any day of the week. But this custom which we have about Easter is a custom of taking a Sunday for Easter, and then having two days before be Good Friday. And that custom of remembering the death of Christ on a Friday, and remembering his resurrection on a Sunday is the custom which came to be followed in the Western churches. And this difference had existed for many decades. And naturally it brought a certain amount of confusion because everybody who came west from the East said, "Oh, the right day is the 14th of Nisan".

Paul remembered the Lord's death as a special remembrance of the Passover, and the people in the West said, "No, it was on the first day of the week that he was raised from the dead." And they said it was three days before that he was crucified; we should remember it at the right time of the week. And we don't care when the Jews hold Passover; what do we care about the Jews' calendar? We observe Easter on the right day of the week, in the springtime. And so in the West they developed a complicated system of saying, "When is the spring equinox—the time in the spring when the day and night are the same length, when is that?" The Equinox. Then they say after that, when is the first full moon? After the first full moon, what's the first Sunday? Well, that'll be Easter, and Good Friday two days before.

You have to be an astronomer to figure that out; or else get your information from an astronomer. A much simpler way would be to simply observe the 14th of Nisan. We observe Christmas on the 25th of December. It may be a Sunday; it may be a Friday; it may be a Tuesday; we don't pay any attention. And that's what the Eastern Church did for Easter. They observed a certain day of the Jewish calendar; but in the West they went by the Equinox, first full moon after that, then the first Sunday after that, so Easter may vary, over a period of a full month, maybe six weeks, from one year to another. But that was the custom the Roman church had.

We're not at the moment so worried in this class about what the right date for Easter is; in fact there isn't any right day for it at all. The important thing is that we remember the Lord's death till He come; and that we remember His resurrection. We do that on the first day of every week; and through the whole week too, I hope. It's rather in the spring—some say—to give particular attention to it; but if there's anything I hate, it's the idea that Easter hymns can only be sung at Easter time; and that we only remember the resurrection once a year, because we certainly should remember it every day. But Victor said, "I'm going to excommunicate these churches; this is heresy if they observe Easter on the wrong day."

And for the first time we see the attitude, which has been characteristic of many a pope, of claiming an authority over the whole world. But I don't think we can properly say that was the attitude of the bishops of Rome in that day. And I think it's quite reasonable to say, "He was a Roman; and he was head of the church in the capital of the empire; and he tended to look down on the people out in the provinces; and when he knew what he thought was right, he was apt to be arbitrary in telling them why." But it made a precedent for later ages; and the Roman Catholic books will quote some Protestant writer as saying that "Victor had an attitude that was really papal." They will quote that and say this proves we had a real pope.

Well, this early, close to the very beginning of the church you find the pope saying he had authority over the world. Yes, this is the beginning of the church; 190 AD. 160 years after the death of Christ. 160 years ago would be 1799, with John Adams president of the US. How many of us would think that that was yesterday? How many of us know anything about the time of John Adams, except what we read in books, which may or may not be reliable? How many of us know anybody, who has told us the things that they know of that happened about 1800? It's a long time ago, and all sorts of changes can come in by that time. And 160 years passed before we find evidence of such an attitude; and then pretty much limited to this one man. It's very, very hard to say that it began at the beginning of the Christian church. We move on to

 

M. Conclusion of our discussion about this century. The situation at the end of the 2nd century.

 

1. The Growth During This Century. We do not know a great deal about the 2nd century, but we know far more about it than we know about the first century, aside from the book of Acts, and the epistles. Far more about it, but comparatively little.

We have a few men of whom we know a good deal, like Irenaeus; and of course we know a little about Polycarp's death, Ignatius' death; we know Irenaeus' writing. Tertullian is at the very end of the century, and we know quite a bit about him; we know from Irenaeus' and Tertullian's writings, and one or two others, we know a lot about Gnosticism; though none of the gnostic writings themselves have come down to us [this course was given in 1959, before the Nag Hammadi materials were widely known]. But we do know that the Christian movement, which had started in with a few disciples in 30 AD; that this movement by the end of the century, at least in Asia Minor, was large enough that it seemed as if the temples were deserted, until Pliny began to be strict and then they began to be filled up again. Remember how the mob yelled against Polycarp, later on. But still Christianity was a sizeable movement at the end of the first century. There was a great growth during the first century, a very considerable movement. Even in Caesar's household we find Paul speaking, there being some who believed. But by the end of the 2nd century it had spread until at that time we know of very substantial groups of Christians in just about every part of the Empire. And so we'll look at a few of these, just to glance at them.

 

2. Principal Centers of Christianity. Principal centers of Christianity at the end of the 2nd century.

 

a. Asia Minor. I mention this because that's the center which we first knew of at the beginning of the century. Asia Minor was in that day simply called Asia; we have extended the name to the whole continent, the name the Romans gave to this one small—well, it's a very good size section, but compared to all of Asia—very small. This area was the Roman province of Asia. In that section there were various important subsections, but it was there that Pliny was governor of Bithynia near the beginning of the century; and he mentioned how many Christians were there. It was in Asia Minor that Montanism began and spread through many sections of the Empire. It was from Asia Minor that Irenaeus had come, and of course had gone clear to France; he was quite a leader in the church of France. Asia Minor was an important center of Christianity then, and it continued to be so in succeeding centuries. But the leaders from there are usually spoken of by their particular section rather than by Asia Minor as a whole. 

 

b. Antioch. We move a little bit east and south and we come to the second largest city of the Empire, Antioch, a very highly populated area until the time of the Turkish conquests, around 1100, 1200 AD. It was an important province and quite a center of Christianity in those days. Today of course it's almost entirely Mohammedan.

Today there's nothing there; it's just farmland. For Ephesus there's just a very small town; but Antioch is just gone. But for centuries, Antioch was the second largest city of the Roman Empire, a very, very important place. It was from that place that Paul started on his missionary journeys. It was there that the Christians were first called Christians. It's a very important center, though we have not said much about it as yet. But we will speak of the bishop of Antioch, of very great importance during the next two or three centuries. It was a very important Christian center.

 

c. Jerusalem. And Jerusalem we mention here only because of its great historic interest, not because it was an important center at this time. It was an important center in the sense that great respect was paid to the head of the church in Jerusalem, but it wasn't much of a church. The reason for that was that in 70 AD the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, and all the Christians fled. They read in the New Testament that when you see the abomination of desolation standing in the Holy Place where he should not be, flee to the hills.

And some people said, "The abomination of desolation means the evils of the Roman legions; and the Holy Place is Palestine, and the Roman soldiers are coming in; we'd better flee." And others said, "That's not what that passage means; for we find the same teaching in Luke, where he says 'When ye see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, flee to the mountains.'" At any rate, all the Christians seem to have fled from Jerusalem, about 68 AD.

And the Jews in Jerusalem said, "Well, the Messiah is coming soon; he's going to deliver us; look, the Romans gathered in; they've taken northern Palestine, but now they're retreating again; they're going to go off and leave us, we'll be all right." The Christians said, "No, let's get out when we can. Jesus said, 'Jerusalem is going to be destroyed.'" So the Christians left; thousands of Jews had crowded in; and Titus after a long siege took the city; he made that terrible slaughter there; of course, terrible destruction after burning the Temple; and the city was reduced to a city of comparatively little importance.

Gradually Jerusalem regained importance; but in 132 AD, this Jew who said he was the son of a star [kokbah, BDB 456d] described in Numbers [24:17], so they called him Bar Kochba—this Jew at that time gathered a group of Jewish zealots and they had a great uprising against the Romans, which the Romans weren't expecting at all. The little garrison there was defeated, and driven back; they seized a large part of Palestine; they hurriedly built new walls around Jerusalem; but then the Roman soldiers came again, and they attacked Jerusalem and destroyed it; and Bar Kochba and his little group fled out of Jerusalem just a few miles and there made a stand on a hilltop; and there they were seized, and they were all killed.

Then Hadrian the Emperor said, "We're not going to have any more trouble with Jerusalem. Twice we've had to put down rebellion; they'll never again do that." So he said, "It won't even be called Jerusalem any more; it will be called Aelia Capitolina, after one of the names of the god Jupiter; and where the Temple used to stand, we're going to have a pagan temple." And he said, "No Jew is going to be allowed to come within ten miles of the city on pain of death." But strangely, he recognized that the Christians were different from the Jews; and any Christians could go into Jerusalem that wanted to, even if he had been a Jew. He was now considered a Christian, regardless of whether he was a Jew or a Gentile Christian; he could go into Jerusalem. But a Jew could not. However, the city had been so destroyed at this time; and such havoc wrought in Palestine; that the Jews had their great center in Tiberias up on the Sea of Galilee; that became their center of rabbinic learning after the fall of Jerusalem. And Jerusalem remained a comparatively insignificant place; it never was a great important Christian center, because it never became a great important city; but the head of little Christian church in Jerusalem had a standing of awe throughout the Christian world, because of the great importance of Jerusalem to antiquity. So Jerusalem we mention because of the honor that is always accorded to the city of Jerusalem; but not because it was an important center in these particular things.

 

d. Alexandria. It is that place, little mentioned in our course till this time, and that is Alexandria. And that is down here where the Nile empties into the Mediterranean Sea. There is a port there built by Alexander the Great and named after him Alexandria. The city of Alexandria in northern Egypt was one of the great cities of the Roman Empire. It was quite a cosmopolitan city; I believe there were about 200,000 Jews in the city of Alexandria, out of the million and a half of people, of Egyptian and Greek background. It was a very highly cultured city; it had one of the great libraries of the ancient world in it; and in this city of Alexandria, it's the only one of the great centers that didn't claim some apostle had established Christianity in it. Later on, they seemed to talk about St. Mark as the patron of it, but certainly no one of the apostles was credited with having ever gone to Alexandria by tradition.

For Alexandria, we don't know when the church started, or how it started; but at the end of the second century, it is a very important church; and there are many congregations in Alexandria. And Egypt is one of the great Christian centers, and continues to be so until the Mohammedan conquest. So Alexandria is a very important place in the Christian history of the next two or three centuries; and it is good for you to have it in mind.

Then from Alexandria we move westward a distance across the desert, then we go north—quite a hump there

 

e. North Africa (Carthage). In the area of North Africa—not the northern half of Africa, nor even the northern tenth—it's the hump that reaches north of the rest of that. It is about south of Italy, a little bit west. And there's the reason why we call North Africa the region where the Romans had important colonies; the remains of the old Punic people were there—the people from ancient Carthage—and it was a great center at this time of culture and of learning and of Roman civilization; and it was there that Latin was first used as an important theological language. Greek continued to be the language of the Church of Rome for decades after this; but Latin is the language of the churches in North Africa; we've already noticed Tertullian, the great writer of the North African church. After him you will have two more characters of tremendous importance; one of them—certainly one of the two or three most important characters all of ancient church history—if not in all church history—from North Africa.

 

f. Gaul. This was the name used then; the modern name is France. This area we would probably not know anything about in those days, if it were not for one man who lived there of any importance; and that was Irenaeus. But through his writing, we know that Gaul had a bishop preceding Irenaeus, who was over 90 when he was martyred for the faith. It had a number of churches; it had a thriving Christian group, which sent Irenaeus to represent them in Rome on various occasions. So already at this time, the church in Gaul was an important church; though in our ancient church history, we have comparatively little mention of it aside from Irenaeus. And then

 

g. Rome. And the churches of Italy; bound to be of importance, because it is the great capital of the empire; even though the church was largely a church of foreigners, even after 2 or 3 centuries of having a church there, they didn't speak Latin; they spoke Greek. They were mostly people who had come in from elsewhere and were living there. It was a foreign church in Rome.

When Hudson Taylor began the great missionary work in China, some people thought it was quite disgusting the way he operated, because of course his interest was to get to the Chinese people. The other missions were all in the ports, and he wanted to go inland—and he called it the Inland Mission. Well, he went inland; and he comes to a great inland province, with no churches in it; no Christians whatever; and he comes to a populated village—a few thousand people—and he goes right through it; doesn't even try to start a church, or speak to anybody there or anything; he goes right on; he comes to a larger city; he doesn't stop there; he heads for the capital of the province. And after a long trip he gets to the capital of the province; and there he starts in to try to convert people, to build a church.

And people said to Hudson Taylor, "Why do you pass by all these villages? Why do you go by these big cities, and don't try to start a work there? Why do you go right to the capital?" And Hudson Taylor said, "If I go to the capital of the province, and I gather all those people around me, and I teach them about Christianity, and I get a Christian church started; then, after we've done that, we can go to one of these larger cities of the province, smaller than the capital; and we go and they say, 'What is this anyway?' They say, 'Oh, this is something come down from the capital; they've got a church up there in the capital; they want to bring us a message.' Then they say, 'Oh, something that's come from the capital; we want to hear about that.'" Then, he says, "After we get it in the larger cities, then they go to the smaller cities and they say, 'oh, it comes from that important town over there'; they go down to the villages and say, 'it comes from the city.' But if they did it the other way around, start in the village and then go up to the city, 'what's this?' 'Oh, something they got in that little village; oh that's some sort of an outlandish thing, of no special importance.'" He says it's quite hard to get a hearing. It's no harder to get started in the capital than it is in a little village, perhaps easier. But once you get started you have a center, a springboard from which you can reach out.

I mention that story not to give you ideas about missionary methods—though it may have a valuable purpose in that regard—but simply to illustrate the fact that in spite of themselves, the Roman Christians would inevitably have a real influence in the Empire, because they were in Rome; even if they were the most unimportant people in Rome, they were at the capital of the Empire; and anything that people could say, "Oh, this comes from Rome," would have a great importance. Just like you go out to somewhere and you say, "Here's something that's just come from Podunkville." You say, "Oh, who cares." But "Here's something that's just come from New York." "Oh, my, let's hear about it." Even if it's the least important thing in the whole city of New York, the name of New York will give it a standing all through the United States.

Similarly, the name of Rome had a standing all through the Roman Empire. And so the Romans inevitably assumed a place of real importance; and the remarkable thing is that, after two centuries we have hardly a Roman Christian—that is a member of the Roman church—who has been of much importance as an individual. Hardly any. Clement we know nothing about, except his excellent letters. There are all sorts of traditions about his life, but we don't know whether there's truth to them or not. McSorley says of the bishops of the Roman church in the first century, we don't even know how many there were; we don't know anything about them. In the second century they are all shadowy figures; three of them we happen to know about because Irenaeus and Polycarp visited them. The Roman Bishop, under normal circumstances, would automatically have assumed a vital position because everybody would naturally look to the capital. But for two centuries their influence had been comparatively small.

V. The Third Century.

 

We noticed the situation at the end of the 2nd century; and in the 3rd century it is substantially the same, at the beginning of the third, as it was at the end of the 2nd.

In 1900, December 31st, 1899 ended, and January 1st, 1900 began; and all over the country everybody felt a new century has started. What would come, what would happen? But when the beginning of 200 AD came, nobody took that attitude, not even the Christians; they didn't even know a new century had started. Our system of centuries wasn't even invented until 200 years later. But for us it is a convenient division; and it is particularly a convenient division because of the fact that the Roman Empire had a natural division in its history of 193. And 193 was the time when everybody knew that a great thing had occurred in the Roman Empire.

 

A. The Roman Empire. Now perhaps that important thing was the fault of Marcus Aurelius; I think it was, but it may not have been; it may have been other circumstances entering in. But you remember that Marcus Aurelius, instead of following the good custom of his predecessors all through the century: selecting a man of outstanding character, and adopting him as his successor, Marcus Aurelius passed on his power to his son, Commodus—his unworthy son. And this, one of the finest men, according to everybody's judgment, who ever sat on the throne of the Roman Empire, was succeeded by one of the worst.

Commodus was a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant, who reigned for over ten years; the Empire was solid and secure, steady; they'd had a succession of good emperors; but people got more and more dissatisfied and disgusted with him. He did not persecute the Christians, you remember; he freed the Christians from their dungeons and their prisons, because his concubine, Marcia, had for some reason—a desire perhaps to help her conscience for the wickedness she was doing, she thought she'd do some good—persuaded the emperor to stop the persecution. So this wicked emperor was not a persecutor of Christianity.

But he was killing many people; and the day came when the chief of the Praetorian Guard—they guarded the palace of the Caesar and his particular establishments in Rome—the chief of the Praetorian Guard happened to glance at a paper lying face down on Commodus' table; he saw it was a list of those who were to be murdered the next day, and he saw his own name on the list. And he decided that, rather than be victim of a murder, he'd rather be the instigator of a murder. So he and one of the others who were on the list killed Commodus. That put an end to Commodus' wicked reign; and the Senate immediately proceeded to elect a very good man as emperor; but the Senate did not have the power to elect an emperor.

The power of the emperors rested on force; and though the office had been passed on for a century, from one man to the other for his excellence—a good man selecting a good man to succeed him—this tradition was not in effect now; there was not a powerful man making the decisions. The Senate made the vote and chose an excellent man, but the Praetorian Guard—after the upheaval and turmoil of Commodus' reign—weren't satisfied so they killed him. And they felt, "We've got the power here; we can have anybody emperor we want. We will sell the emperorship to the man who is the highest bidder." So one of the Roman Patricians thought he would like to be emperor; he came and offered them money; they had 1 or 2 offers, and they auctioned off the emperorship; they got a large amount of money from the man with the highest bid, and they proclaimed him emperor.

But if the Praetorian Guard wouldn't recognize the Senate's right to select the emperor, the rest of the army wouldn't recognize the Praetorian Guard's right; and so we have three different legions that converged on Rome, each of their commanders thinking he ought to be emperor; and there is a period of chaos in which 2 or 3 of them are killed in the fighting and so on; and it ends up with

 

1. Septimius  Severus (193-211) establishing himself as emperor.

Now we have the stability of the 2nd century ended by this catastrophe. You have the continuity of one emperor choosing the next and so on, come to an end.

And you have a new man—a man from Africa—a man who was a lawyer, and then he was  a general; he was a good general, and he manages hold his power till his death in 211, when he passes it on to his son. But it starts a new era. And in the succeeding century we have a great succession of emperors, with many of them only lasting a year or two before they are assassinated. The bulk of the emperors are assassinated during this period; and it is an end to the fine stability and good government which characterized Rome during the 2nd century; and yet the general stability of government continues through this next century. You have in general a very stable situation; and a very great amount of freedom, for traveling through the Empire, for distribution of literature and so on, with occasional bursts of persecution. Septimius Severus reigned from 193 to 211; there is no direct evidence of his making any efforts to start a persecution until the beginning of the next century. But we do find that an Alexandria leader made the statement, "many martyrs are being burned or imprisoned or beheaded before our eyes." Now this statement which this Alexandrian made is maybe after—the date is gone—a little later; but so far as our historical evidence goes, the persecution didn't start until Septimius had been emperor about ten years; but in the beginning of the next century, in 202, Septimius Severus enacted a rigid law against the further spread either of Judaism or Christianity. Nobody could adopt Judaism or Christianity as a religion.

Now there has been much argument, "What did he mean by it? Does this recognize people who have been Christians have a right to be?" Others say, "No it simply says you can't become a Christian; it doesn't matter when you did; if you became a Christian 30 years before, you had changed your religion and were subject to penalty under his law." Whatever the case is on that, we have no way of finding out; but we do know that the statement has come—while it may not be very true at the end of this century, it is certainly true at the beginning of the next. There was violent persecution in Egypt and in North Africa.

There was violent persecution, and a theologian in Alexandria was beheaded; and his son rushed out of the home and said, "I want to die with my father, I am a Christian too." His friends managed to persuade him not to go and denounce himself to the authorities, but to live for Christ; and this young fellow, was 16 years old; there were 4 or 5 children in the family; the mother and the children were left without his father, so he had a responsibility to try to help the family to survive at the father's death. And this young man was persuaded; and for the next 50 years he became one of the great leaders of the Christian Church, and then finally suffered in the great persecution in the middle of the century. You have a separate discussion of him later; his name was Origen.

But I mention that his father was killed in this persecution. There was a virgin, of rare repute of body and spirit, who was taken and cruelly tortured; she and her mother were slowly burned in boiling pitch. One of the executioners, possibly smitten with sympathy, shielded them somewhat from abuse, and after their death, embraced Christianity; and then he was martyred. In Carthage there were some people—some of them Montanists—who were seized and put into prison, and many of them were killed.

A woman was taken to the prison with her babe in her arms, and killed there. A slave woman, Felicitas, was delivered of a child while in the dungeon there; and she cried out in pain, and the jailer said, "Well, what's the matter with you? You can't stand this ordinary pain that women have, you're yelling in such misery; how do you think you're going to stand the torture? Why don't you sacrifice, and get out of this prison?" Well, she said, "Now I'm suffering; but what I'm suffering is my lot to suffer. I can hardly stand it." But she said, "Tomorrow, I'll be suffering for another." And so the next day they put her out with the others, to be cast to the wild beasts; and she let out never a sound; she met her death, feeling that Christ was with her as she met this terrible torture.

 

2. Caracalla (211-217). And this same situation of persecution continued during the reign of Septimius Severus' son, Caracalla, familiar in Roman history. He reigned the next six years, 211-217; he is not important to church history, because the persecution continued to some extent but we have no particular reason to think that he was much interested in it; nor was it as severe as during the reign of his father. Caracalla did considerable important building in Rome. If you're ever there now, you see the great baths of Caracalla, where thousands of Romans used to go; and today they have great concerts there in the open air. You see the signs all over—the great ruins still there from the baths of Caracalla—but in church history he is not very important. He was succeeded by a man, who perhaps we should mention in this list, though he's not of great importance in church history,

 

3. Elagabalus (218-222). Now Elagabalus did not take any great interest in Christianity. But perhaps he had a part in the spread of Christianity in this way: he was a great lover of oriental religion. And he brought an idol from Syria to Rome, and he declared this was the great god—all Romans should worship it. And then he took Minerva, the great goddess of war among the Romans, and declared that this heathen idol from Syria was going to marry Minerva. And so there was a wedding between this idol from Syria and the great Roman goddess Minerva; and then after a little while, this Syrian god divorced Minerva, and got another goddess from North Africa. And the fact that the ancient gods of Rome were thus insulted, and the worshippers compelled by the emperor to bow down to this oriental deity—a very violent oriental deity—may have weakened the general public belief in the power of Roman gods. If the leading gods of Rome could be treated in this way by this abandoned youth who engaged in all kinds of vices and follies... So finally somebody put end to his misery in 222. And he was succeeded by a cousin called

 

4. Alexander Severus (222-235). He was about as different as any man could be from Elagabalus. He was a man of culture and of humanitarianism; he put up on the walls of his palace and on the public monuments, the moral, "As ye would that men should do, do ye even so to them." And in the palace chapel, along with the statues of the gods of Rome, he put up one of Abraham and one of Jesus Christ. He worshipped all gods; they all were good. People were exhorted to live good lives  and be decent people. He liked this out of the New Testament so much that he put the Golden Rule up all around; and he put Abraham and Christ up along with the Roman gods.

Naturally, there was no persecution during his reign; but there was opposition to Christian claims of Christ, belief in Christ, which might be worse in its effect on Christianity than persecution. He was assassinated in 235; and his assassin was a man who'd been a herdsman and then a soldier; he was not a man of special importance to the church; I think we'd better mention him though, because of his relation to Christianity here.

 

5. Maximinus (235-238). He reigned hardly any time. But Maximinus—this brutal soldier who assassinated Alexander Severus and took power—felt because Severus had been good to the Christians, he figured they were on Alexander's side; so he persecuted them just on general principles. So the Christians suffered during his brief reign, and according to one tradition there were thousands of Christians martyred: 11,000 virgins killed in Gaul during his reign; and you'll see the picture—it must be true because I've seen the picture of that reign—picture up there on the wall of a museum, showing these 11,000 virgins. Present-day historians think it probably was 11 of them who were killed, and that it has become exaggerated to 11,000. We just don't know of course; we don't know much about the situation. He was not so much an enemy of the Gospel; he simply was a cruel sort of fellow who disliked anybody that his predecessor had treated decently. We won't say anything about the next ruler who reigned for six years but the one after that I'll mention here as

 

6. Phillip the Arabian (244-249). He was supposed by some to be a Christian. Origen wrote letters to him and to his wife, and he was considered by many to be a Christian. These emperors that we see during this period of 50 years are not of great importance in Christian history, but the general situation is important. The big persecution under Septimius Severus, and intermittent general imperial liking of Christians—even putting up a statue of Christ—and then the successor killing and persecuting; it's a time of uncertainty, a time when things can change very rapidly; and it ends in our next part; right in there is a great persecution which I'm going to deal with as a separate heading. So this is all we'll speak of the Roman Empire at this point, this 50 years of the history of the Roman Empire. I'm not going to continue with the Roman Empire in this century till we look at the events in the first half of the century. So we go on to

 

B. Monarchianism. That is a word which to peop1e today conveys no meaning at all. Actually, it means one power, one control; and it's used for a view of those who were afraid of the idea that God and Christ and the Holy Spirit, were actually three gods; and so in opposition to that danger—and it is a very real danger into which people fall when they don't think the thing through and see what the scripture really teaches—because Christianity, like Judaism, and Mohammedanism, stands very, very, strongly on the principle there is one God, and one God alone.

But Monarchianism carried the great Christian teaching of their being one God to the extreme point where it lost the separateness of the persons—the fact that this one God from all eternity consists of three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And this was a matter which, at the end of the second century and the beginning of the third, exercised a great deal of attention in the Christian world. There were various individuals who felt that they had the answer to the problem; you'll meet them today. These people who say, "Oh, I get all confused about this." As one man said to me once, "It says in the Bible to baptize in the name of the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Then you go on and you actually baptize in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." So he said, "That's what the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit is—the Lord Jesus Christ." And I've run onto people who are baffled by this problem—they think they've got a new answer to it—and the new answer they've got is usually one somebody had back in the 2nd, or 3rd, or 4th century; and the people thought through these and saw they were nothing. That's one great value of studying church history: to see the various explanations which have been advanced sometimes by good people, backed by the intellectual crowd; and sometimes by bad people, moved to injure Christianity by leading it off on a side track. But in any event, things which when thought through, are seen to be wrong; and they were abandoned by the church some time during its long history.

Well, this is a period when this exercised people's thoughts a great deal: Monarchianism. And it is often said that Monarchianism at that time was in three different types. I'm sure no one at that time called it three different types; they thought of this man's teaching, that man's teaching, the other man's teaching. But certain of these peoples sort of got together, and felt themselves to have this in common; and as we look back at it now, it can be divided into three main types.

 

1. Dynamic Monarchianism. This Dynamic Monarchianism is the view that there was one Father, God; and highly educated people didn't think of Jesus as God, because there's only one God. And so a man named Theodotus was one of the first to strongly present this view, a man who came from Asia Minor, or just across the Bosporus from Asia Minor, in Europe. He came to Rome, and he gathered people around him. He explained his views, too; and they felt this man had the real explanation. But as he went on, he went so far as to say that Christ, being only a man, acted upon by the power of the Holy Ghost, was inferior to Melchizedek, who was the chief of the angelic hosts. And thus God was the power; and He used Jesus Christ, who was a very fine man; he was endowed with divine wisdom and power, but he was not God. Now this view, Dynamic Monarchianism, got quite a few followers in Rome. The Bishop of Rome said, "Jesus is God; it is clearly taught in the Scripture; there's no question of it; these people are not Christians. They are not to participate in our communion service; they are not to be recognized as true Christians by our people." He would excommunicate them—cut off fellowship with them—because they definitely were denying one of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith.

Now the second form of Monarchianism, Tertullian gave a name to it; and that name is generally used today to indicate it. It's called

 

2. Patripassianism. They didn't use that name themselves; they certainly wouldn't use such a peculiar name. Now this word, as you immediately recognize, means "the father is suffering." And this, in a way, went to the opposite extreme of the Dynamic Monarchianism, but the net result was about the same.

Jesus Christ was God the Father; He was not a mere man whom God used; He was God the Father. And there's no difference between God the Father, and God who was on earth here and suffered and died for us. This is a much less anti-Christian view than the first one, because it recognized Jesus as God. But it denied the distinction of persons between Jesus and the Father. This can be made to appear much more Christian than the other view. And its two leading followers came to Rome, and they declared this was the true interpretation; the first of the two was a man named Praxeas—famous because Tertullian wrote an article against him—and the first clear statement of the doctrinal trinity we have from a non-Biblical source was by Tertullian in opposing the ideas of Praxeas; he calls the writing just Against Praxeas, Contra Praxeas.

Now this Praxeas was called a confessor—a term that came into use then; a martyr was a man who had died for Jesus' sake. A confessor was a man who had been brought before the court and accused of being a Christian, and who said, "Yes I am"—he confessed the faith, but for some reason or other he was let go. He might have been tortured some, and let go; there might have come a stop in the persecution; something might have happened; but often they didn't want to kill a lot of people, they wanted to make a few examples in order to scare everybody. But a man who was a confessor was accorded a high regard all through the Christian church; the fact that he wasn't a martyr was due to some other circumstance than himself; he had boldly confessed the truth in the face of danger of martyrdom. Now Praxeas had done this, and that gave him great prestige. And when he came from Asia Minor to Rome, and he was a confessor, people recognized him as a man who really stood for the truth; and he had been willing to suffer for it; and he taught the absolute unity of Go;, and the Bishop of Rome—the successor of the one who had dealt with Dynamic Monarchianism—thought this man would be a help in his opposition to those who denied the deity of Christ. This man said, "Yes, Jesus is God; he is very God; he is the God who reigns over the universe; that's not just a man; that's no man, that's God." I don't whether he actually said Jesus was God the Father, but he made that when the Bishop of Rome supported him.

Tertullian said that the Bishop of Rome had driven the Holy Spirit away—meaning that he opposed the Montanists who made much of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit—and that he had crucified the Father—meaning that he had considered that Jesus actually was the Father when he was crucified. And so this Praxeas, his name has a place in church history much more than Theodotus, because of his importance in Tertullian's attack, and the fact that the Bishop of Rome was misled into supporting him for a while, though he then saw his error and turned against him eventually.

And Praxeas had an associate named Noetus; and Noetus took the teaching of Praxeas and tried to make it less objectionable. He said, "No, the Father didn't suffer; there's one God; this talk about 3 persons is all nonsense; this is one God. And it is this one God the Father, who in the person of Jesus suffered on the cross." But he said, "You can't call Him the Father, because He was manifesting Himself in a different way; so it isn't right that you say the Father suffered on the cross."

Well that is a distinction that is rather difficult to draw; and when you get it drawn, you wonder whether there's anything there actually; it is a step in the direction of the next, the third type of Monarchianism. And the third type of Monarchianism is one which lasted longer than either of these first two. The second lasted longer than the first, and made more stir at the time. It deceived more people; but the 3rd one lasted still longer, and the name is still used to this day. We call it

 

3. Sabellianism or Modalism. Now Sabellianism is not like the first two, which are named after the views of the sect; this one is named after the man who originated it. This man's name was Sabellius; and you will find in theological works—even at the present day—we will find, people will accuse  someone else of Sabellianism. You're not apt to find the other two mentioned; they are dead theologically.

Now Sabellius was a presbyter from Libya, in North Africa; and Sabellius, like most people who felt they had something really important, came to Rome. Rome was the center of the empire, the place where intellectuals and where people of importance congregated; and someone who had an idea in mind he thought was vital came to Rome to spread it. So Sabellius came from North Africa, and he was active at the same time as these others—the first fifteen years of the third century. But Sabellius said that there is one God, and this God reveals Himself in different modes. There's no such thing as three persons existing from the very beginning, but there is one God who show showed Himself as the Father as He revealed Himself to Abraham; He shows Himself as the Logos when He comes to earth for the earthly ministry, and when He dies on the cross; He shows Himself as the Holy Spirit when He comes upon the disciples at Pentecost.

These are just different ways of His manifesting Himself. Like I'm here on the platform; I am showing myself as a teacher. I am acting in the capacity of a teacher here. If one of you would make a disturbance and would confuse the rest, I would immediately put a stop to it; it would be my function; it would be my duty here. Now I attend lectures every now and then, on the latest archeological discoveries, at the University of Pennsylvania. And when I go there, I am in the function of a listener. I sit there; and as I sit over in one corner, if somebody over in the other corner were to make a disturbance, I would be very much disgusted; but the chances of my settling anything would be very slight. That would not be my function there. I would be quite irritated if the man who was on the platform did not put a stop to it. But I would have no authority to put a stop to it; I would be displaying myself in a different function altogether. Now I go and climb a mountain over in Switzerland, or out in California, and I'm in a different function altogether over there. If I give any lectures there, I give them to the birds, to the mountains, to the sky; I don't give them in that function as a lecturer; and it is a different mode, different ways of showing myself; and all of us are in different functions in different situations; and yet we are the one person, the one entity; sometimes it's hard to combine all those entities—different theories in your mind—into the one entity, but it is one entity.

But that is his conception of God, Sabellianism. God displayed Himself in different activities, but He is the only the one person, the one God; and actually, Sabellius said, "The Logos was God the Father, because the display as the Son, the Redeemer, was a greater way of manifesting Himself than as the Father who talked to Abraham and to Jacob." So said Sabellius; this was the greater manifestation of God; God was the sub-manifestation of the Logos manifestation, they would call it, as the manifestation of the Father. But they were just different manifestations.

Now this Sabellianism appealed much to people; they felt the great importance of standing by the unity of God against the errors of heathenism. It has had a great appeal through the ages. It's the emphasis on God's unity; God's power; God's individuality; but it loses the person of Christ, who is our friend; our companion; who dies specifically for us, as one of us. And that of course makes impossible, in the true understanding, the atonement; because Jesus has to be one of us, or how could he bear our sins?

So it strikes at the foundation of our true Christianity; but it has had a great appeal for people through the ages, and has been one of the heresies which has recurred from time to time all through the ages; and if you have very much experience with the church, one of these days you'll find some bright person in your church who'll say, "Oh, I'm so puzzled about this, how can there be three Gods? After all, we believe in one God; and you know, I think I've found the answer." And he'll tell you what he's worked out, and he'll think that. And if he does, don't say, "Oh, you heretic, get out of the church; we don't want any heretics around here." Say, "Well, now this is fine, that you're thinking about these matters, that you're studying these problems and trying to work them out; and the solution you suggested is one that has appealed to people at various times. Back in the third century there was a man who came forward with that, a man named Sabellius; and many people thought it was wonderful; but the more the church thought about it; the more they studied the Bible; the more they saw it was not a satisfactory explanation," and show him how this bright new idea he came up with is one other people have come up with; but that people after they studied the Bible found it wasn't right. And he'll be grateful to you for helping to clarify his mind on it.

And don't go at it in a way that would solidify his attitude, and make him think he is persecuted for his desire to think the thing through, and for his desire to really understand. Then he makes it known to just a little group of dissatisfied around him, and either forms a little sect, or he goes off and joins some heretical group. There's a place where your knowledge of church history is helpful to people; it helps people who are groping for an understanding, but who groped in the wrong direction, to bring them back to a clear understanding of God's Word.

And many people—as they grow—have gone in one or another false direction; and then other people have had to think about them and find out where they were going. And so Sabellianism as a specific force began at that time, but it's not a continuous movement; it's simply a viewpoint which has occurred and recurred from time to time. We find it coming out again in New England a hundred and fifty years ago—the Unitarian movement, one God, the unity of God, not Christ as separate, the great leader Christ. God was true God, and the early Unitarians in New England would be considered markedly orthodox today; the modernists would look on them as old fogies—almost fundamentalists. But they had made a variation at a vital point; and they started off on a false direction; and after many decades New England Unitarianism became a movement which gave up completely the Deity of Christ; then the Atonement; then they gave up the Bible; in many areas the Unitarians today are simply humanistic churches that have no belief in a personal God at all.

The founders of Unitarianism would be shocked and horrified that Unitarianism would ever develop as it has today. But it began to deviate from clear Christian teaching, but it's another of this same viewpoint which we find as early as 200 AD, coming in through the church, and misleading many intelligent people desiring to understand the truth better. But getting started, and then little by little getting further and further away from the creeds of the Church.

Now those are the three different types of Monarchianism that you need to know about; but I want to mention under this head one particular Monarchian, because he attracted very considerable attention a little later than the period at which these three were such vital forces at Rome. You notice all 3 of these were very prominent in Rome during the first fifteen years of the century. But it was a few years later that there was a Bishop in Arabia named

 

4. Beryllus of Bostra. Beryllus of Bostra was nearer, perhaps; well he was a combination of these three varieties of Monarchianism. He taught that Jesus' personality was purely human; it did not exist before his incarnation. The divinity of Christ was derived from the Father; he was not a separate person of the Godhead. God the Father used the human personality of Jesus to produce the seed of Christ who is the foundation of our religion. Beryllus thought he had worked out an answer to the problem; he presented his views and was very strong; he had many supporters, and the bishops of other towns decided this is a very dangerous tendency; people should be informed of the error.

So they assembled a synod at Bostra in 244; the synod met there, and the bishops from quite an area came together; and they asked him to describe his view to them; and they examined it and declared it was a false view; it was a non-Christian view, and so a view which should not be held in the church. And this they did at this synod in 244; but Beryllus was unconvinced, He was unconvinced, and it looked as if the result would be that even if most of the Christians in Bostra were to say Beryllus is wrong, there would be a few there who would say he is right; and he would probably take them and form a separate church outside of the catholic church; or if the people, the majority of them, would think so highly of him, and think he must be right, they would separate their church from the alliance, working with the other churches, so that the great mass of churches, the all-embracing, the catholic church (the term used in that day) would have to look on the church at Bostra as a heretical church, a church outside the fold.

But right at this point, when they didn't know which of these two things would happen; Beryllus had listened to them, had been condemned by them; but he still held his views, a man who was present who was not a bishop, but was a teacher named Origen—of whom we will speak more later—this Origen asked if he could not talk privately with Beryllus about this matter; and the synod said, "Yes, before pronouncing judgment we will wait; we will adjourn for a few hours and let Origen talk personally with Beryllus." And Origen talked with Beryllus and discussed his ideas and examined the Scriptural evidence in relation to it.

And when they got through, the synod reconvened; and Beryllus came before them and told them that he would like to acknowledge that he had been wrong, that his interpretation had been quite untrue and contrary to the Scriptures; he had been misled by his own thinking on the matter; and Origen had convinced him of his mistake, and he wanted publicly to thank Origen for helping him verify Scriptures and show him where he was wrong. Well, we will speak more of Origen later. I just mention at this point one of the great services that he rendered to the Christian church at that time.

So we go on now; but before we get to Origen, we'll go back to Rome again and take

 

C. Hippolytus. And Hippolytus is a most controversial figure. He is one concerning whom there have been many, many different viewpoints.  He was probably the greatest scholar of the Roman church in the first few centuries. He wrote in Greek. The Roman church at this time, as you know, was a Greek speaking church; its writings, all these things we know about it, practically, are in Greek, at this time; even though Rome was the very capital of the land before there was a Greek-speaking church. It was in North Africa that they used Latin to write theological works; but Hippolytus is the greatest scholar of the first three centuries in Rome.

He is a man who is not as great a scholar as Tertullian or Irenaeus or any one of some of these other great ones; but he is a man of very high caliber, as a scholar, as a writer, and an influence; and we find references to him in church history written in the east, like Eusebius' Church History, where they refer to him as a bishop; but his name does not appear on the list of the bishops of Rome. Sometimes he is referred to as a bishop, sometimes referred to as a presbyter, often referred to as a great scholar. And the Roman church thought so highly of him that they recognized him as one of their great saints; and in the middle ages, when the great period of superstition came, saints were idolized and looked to for help and every sort of virtue, Hippolytus was one of the very greatest of the Roman saints.

Well, in modern times, discoveries that were made about Hippolytus which caused people to wonder just what he really was; what his relation was to the bishop at Rome. And discoveries which led the Romans of today to be in a tremendous quandary; this was a hundred years ago now, a tremendous quandary as to what attitude to take toward Hippolytus; till they worked out an interpretation of his history to satisfy them today. So that the result was that Philip Schaff says of Hippolytus, "This famous person has lived three lives: one in the third century as a real person, a pope," Schaff says, "Then a fictitious one in the middle ages, as a great canonized saint; and a literary  one in the l9th century, after the discovery of his works." Of course that's just a figure of speech; but it's an interesting thing, how this man Hippolytus has had these three definite periods of very considerable importance.

In 1551 there was discovered in Rome a statue; it was a bishop's chair with a man sitting in it, having on it the name "Hippolytus"; and on the back of it was a list of his writings, and also a calendar for Easter, to show how to figure Easter for many years to come. Those were the days of Easter calendars.

That was about 1551. I believe it was 1851 that there was discovered a writing, which people thought was by Origen; but someone in it referred to other writings by the same man, and these were writings named on the back of his chair. So this long writing, Against all Heretics, a writing which goes by the name of the Philosophumena, or refutation of all heresies. Well, this work which was discovered in 1851, was, on account of its relationship to the evidence on the statue, was declared by scholars to be a writing by Hippolytus; but when you read this writing, you'll find that it speaks about the first two bishops of Rome during the 2nd century. The first of them was, according to Hippolytus, a weak sort of man, a man who got terribly confused over various heretical views and gave his support to the Monarchians; and the second, according to this work of Hippolytus, was a man who was a crook, a man who had engaged in all kinds of shady business practices, and who had made himself a favorite of the previous pope, the bishop of Rome. And through that influence he had become bishop of Rome in his place. So he called the first bishop Zephyrinus, who was Bishop of Rome from 202-218; he called him a weak sort of a fellow, who got all confused by heretical views; not very dependable as a leader of people's thinking. And the second one, Callistus, Hippolytus tells us, had been the slave of a pious and wealthy Roman; he had induced many of the poorer members of the community to trust their money in a commercial enterprise that his master put in his hands; and then it failed, and Callistus ran away, in order to evade having to make up what he lost; he jumped into the sea, and when the sailors caught up with him to catch him, he was rescued and delivered to his master; he put in jail for a time, and then eventually he was brought before the court. The church was ashamed of him, of course, because Hippolytus declared he wasn't a Christian; and they sentenced him to work in the mines of Sardinia; and he was working there when Commodus set the Christians free from the mines. He managed to be included in the amnesty, and return to Rome; and then he got into high favor with the next bishop, Zephyrinus, who put him in charge of the cemetery; this was one of the leading positions, to be in charge of the cemetery.

To this day, one of the catacombs is called the Catacomb of Callistus. He was in charge of the cemeteries there, and had great influence with Zephyrinus; and when Zephyrinus died, his influence was sufficient to make Callistus the Bishop of Rome in his place. Well, now you can imagine, after the Roman church, through the middle ages, had admired Hippolytus as one of the great saints of the church, and almost then worshipped him; then you find a book which scholars say is by Hippolytus, which says that the two popes who ruled between them for thirty years—you see, much longer than most popes, they ruled for 30 years after 200 AD—were, one of them a weak poor sort of a stick, and the other one practically a crook, well, that put them in a quandary.

So immediately, of course, they said this isn't like Hippolytus at all; this is the work of a heretic. No saint like Hippolytus would ever talk that way about a pope. But the more scholars studied the matter, the more they felt that this was by Hippolytus; and today I believe all scholars admit the work is by Hippolytus.

And a German scholar, Döllinger, whose name you ought to know, because he was a very brilliant defender of  the Roman Catholic Church in the last century. Döllinger rendered the Roman Catholics a tremendous service. He worked out an explanation according to which they could admit this was by Hippolytus, and yet say that what he said wasn't true. So Döllinger worked out this explanation, and today all the Roman Catholics accept Döllinger's explanation; and Protestants, many of them, do also. And this may be true, we don't know.  We really know very little about the personal life of Hippolytus; but we have various little writings about him, and references to him in ancient writings; and they're very hard to fit together.

For instance, in one of them, he was dragged to death by wild horses in Rome. That's one of the stories which may be true; on the other hand, his name Hippolytus was the Greek for horse; it may have given leave to somebody to imagine his death this way; we don't know. There's no proof that he was killed in that way. But there are a lot of legends about him, but according to Döllinger's theory, Hippolytus was an opponent of these popes; he started a schismatic movement, and established his own church in Rome; a man who was thoroughly orthodox, but for personal reasons disliked these popes.

Now maybe the personal reasons were that these men were crooks; he had no opposition to their doctrines—Zephyrinus had given up his support of the Monarchians, and Callistus didn't go to any great extent for that. Maybe. There was no doctrinal difference, but he did feel they were unworthy to be leaders of the church and many people followed him.

Now we don't know; there's no proof of this at all, but that's Döllinger's theory: that he was an anti-pope, thoroughly orthodox, but for personal reasons said he was the bishop of Rome, and had his own church. And then that, he and the next bishop of Rome after Callistus, were both of them seized by the Roman Emperor; they were sent to work in the mines—persecuted that way for their Christianity—and that there they became reconciled; and Döllinger theorizes that when they were released, they came back to Rome, and Hippolytus asked his people to join with the established church again, and confessed his error; and consequently the Catholic Church forgave him for his sins of establishing a separate church and even made him a saint.

Now that's pure theory; we don't know, because we have no proof as to what the facts are about it. We know he was a great scholar; and we know he was a great opponent of heresy; a man of great Christian understanding; a man greatly respected not only in Rome but throughout the Christian world; a man whose writing against heresy is not as great as the writing of his teacher, Irenaeus, but is a very great writing; and it is one of our great sources of our knowledge of heretical movements of the day. He was a man who greatly disliked the first two bishops of Rome of that century, and tells us these things about them, which he certainly believed were true. And Döllinger can say, "Well he was just moved by personal prejudice, personal feeling." Well that's simply theorizing. But the fact is he did think very, very badly of Zephyrinus and Callistus, and he wrote what he said about them.

[student question] McSorley follows Döllinger's theory. Hippolytus was a great and godly man, but he was misled by personal animosity against these two individuals, who perhaps in all sincerity believed things that were utterly false about them. Yes? [student: Is McSorley reliable?] Yes, I would say that McSorley, on matters of fact is very accurate; but on matters of theory he adopts the views that he feels will cement the Roman Catholic position. But on matters of fact he's very accurate; he will try to explain, but he won't deny. Now of course, some facts, naturally, he would ignore. Anybody has to, because you can't put in all facts in any one book. He puts in the ones he thinks are important. Sometimes we feel it's his prejudice that makes him feel they're important. But on the whole he gives a very good summation of the facts, though his interpretation at times is definitely different from what we believe is true.

Well, then, this is very interesting: that a man who was honored through the centuries as one of their great saints, without ever, through the ages, any question being raised against him, should now be proven, in the last hundred years, to be a man who detested two of the bishops of Rome, and spoke so very, very strongly against them. Schaff was so amused by it that he inclined to give—and I think it's of interest to give at this point—a legend which has come down to us from the middle ages; and this legend states—it was found in medieval writings—states that in 1159 AD, Pope Alexander III went to Paris; and there in Paris, he visited the church of St. Denis; and he was shown the shrine of St. Bartholomew in the church. According this medieval writing, the bones of St. Bartholomew had been taken by Charlemagne, the great king of France, about 800 from Rome to Paris, and put into this shrine. And Pope Alexander III, even though he was infallible, didn't know this.  I guess in those days they hadn't yet learned the pope was infallible; that was discovered later. But Pope Alexander III, according to this medieval writing, came to the threshold of one of the chapels, and asked the man who was showing him through, whose relics were they; and the man said those are St. Hippolytus. And the Pope said, "I don't believe it. The bones of Hippolytus were never removed from the Holy City." Schaff continuing his summarizing says: but St. Hippolytus, whose dry bones apparently had as little reverence for the spiritual authority of the successor of Zephyrinus and Callistus as the ancient bishop's tongue and pen had manifested toward those saints themselves, was so very angry that he rattled his bones inside the reliquary with a noise like thunder. To what lengths he might have gone if he had not departed, we dare not conjecture; but the Pope  fell on his knees, exclaimed in terror, "I believe, O my Lord Hippolytus, I believe!" And he built an altar of marble there to appease the saint. A very interesting legend of the middle ages; but you might say a legend that looked forward to the discovery of Hippolytus' writings today, and suggested the very interesting developments which happened in connection with him in modern times.

Now before we leave Hippolytus though, I think it will be worth taking just a second to say a word more about this German scholar, Döllinger. He was a very  great scholar, a very earnest man, and a very great defender of Roman Catholic orthodoxy and the Roman Catholic viewpoint in Germany; he was in constant controversy with the Protestants over matters of church history; and his scholarship was so great he was considered a very, very great scholar by Roman Catholics and by Protestants alike.

But in 1870, when there was held a council in Rome in order to declare the doctrine that the Pope is infallible as a teacher, Döllinger said, "This is casting all history to the winds." He said, "Many of the Popes, though they are the great leaders of the church, have made serious errors of fact and of doctrine in their judgments." And so Döllinger strongly opposed this view—as did various other leaders, including some bishops, in the Roman Catholic church at this time.

But in 1870 the majority voted that the Pope is infallible; and the result was that at the Vatican Council, that was adopted as a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church; so that thereafter all Roman Catholics must accept this dogma or be excommunicated from the Church. There were some bishops who left the church over this, but the majority submitted, accepted the doctrine, and declared they now believed the Pope's word infallible; but Döllinger said, "I must stand on truth." He believed all the Roman Catholic dogma thoroughly; he believed in the leadership of the Pope; but he did not believe the Pope was infallible, because he said it was impossible to deny the facts of history; and as a result Döllinger was excommunicated by the church; and he spent the rest of his life excommunicated by the church, but the church was constantly trying to persuade him to change his mind, to accept the infallibility of the pope, and to come back to the church. But Döllinger said the facts were too strong against it; he could not. Now that, of course, would properly belong to modern church history; it connects up with the facts about the politics and also with the history; if we look clear through the history, we see what the facts were in regard to the claim they make today, that the popes were infallible. So I thought it important to give it to you at this point.

Now we go on to

 

D. Clement and Origen. We have already discussed Clement of Rome, in the first century. He and Hippolytus are the only two writers of any importance in the Roman Church in the first three centuries of ancient history. All our great writers came from other places; but Clement of Rome, whom we have discussed, we call him "of Rome" to differentiate him from the man I am speaking of now.

 

1. Clement of Alexandria. Alexandria was a very important city in the Roman Empire, perhaps the third city in the Roman Empire, a city in Egypt at the mouth of the Nile. It has been important in history ever since Alexander founded it, a very important city inhabited by many Jews and many Greeks. But Alexandria was a great center of Greek culture. And there was a very important Christian church in Alexandria, and many Christians in Alexandria. So Alexandria naturally had an influence in training the young Christians, and in raising up leaders for His church in days to come.

Alexandria is, so far as we know, the first of the churches that established a formal school for Christian leaders. They called this a catechizing school, but actually it was rather like what we would call a seminary today—perhaps a college and seminary combined—it did not have the formal system we have today, but it was a very important school; and this man Clement, who had come from Greece, probably from Athens, born about 150, was the Head of the Catechetical School in Alexandria. He was Head of this school from 189 until 202. Clement was a man who was very, very familiar with Greek culture. He seems to have been a genuine Christian—an orthodox Christian—a man whose understanding of doctrine was on the whole quite sound, but a man who was tremendously interested in showing that the Christian doctrine is intellectually respectable. And so he was bringing to bear his tremendous knowledge of Greek philosophy and Greek thought, bringing it to bear upon Christian doctrine; and in so doing there are many points at which he takes scriptural verses and twists them just a little to make them fit with his interpretation of the wisdom of the Greeks.

He is a man of tremendous knowledge. Now his approach here is rather different from Hippolytus' approach in the Philosophumena. Hippolytus gives the first half of the work to discussing the various philosophical views; and with every one of them, Hippolytus considers two matters: first he shows that the view is fundamentally pagan, and that it is not of the high standard of Christian ethics and Christian morality; and he shows its weaknesses and its error as paganism. But second, in connection with every one of them, he shows that it has an element of truth in it, that it displays a longing after something it doesn't have; and that the answer to its aspirations is Christianity. Thus Hippolytus had a very sane and sound approach for Greek philosophy.

Now Clement was interested in showing the reasonableness of Christianity, and in showing that the normal elements of heathenism found their fulfillment in Christianity; and his works are just filled with the learning of the day; he was a very learned man. But he introduced a method of interpretation which he called the allegorical method of interpretation. And this allegorical method of interpretation is one which has, I think, wrought great havoc in Christian circles through the years. We have to leave that till tomorrow morning.

We were talking about C, Hippolytus, and then we began D, Clement and Origen. Under that 1, Clement of Alexandria.

Before we go on further with Clement of Alexander, I want to briefly speak about three questions that I have here.

Here is one: "If the Papacy is actually a continuance of the Pharisee group, stressing ritual and ceremony, why weren't the early Popes all Jews in nationality?" Now, when did I ever state it was a continuance of the Pharisee group? I don't remember ever making such a statement. I am glad the question was raised, because it is very important that we have thoroughly in mind what is meant by the Papacy. The word "Pope" originally just is "father". Paul spoke of Timothy as his son in the faith. So all Christian leaders were called Father, or papa. Now the pope of Rome was the head of the church in the most important city in the empire; and naturally considerable importance attached to the position. In the course of the middle ages, the church fell into all kinds of superstition; and much of this superstition had been continued because of the bishop of Rome, now being the only one called Pope, giving his support to this. But I doubt very much if there was any more ritual and ceremony in the Church of Rome in the first few centuries than anywhere else in the empire—perhaps less than in some other places. So I don't think that this is quite the true situation: that the Papacy in early days, in ritual and ceremony, was any more so than any other part of the empire. That is using the papacy in the sense of carrying back what we have today to that time.

I doubt if the Roman church in the early days had much ritual and ceremony at all. They were a Greek-speaking church in Rome; they were like foreigners, strangers, gathered to hear the Word of God; and probably it was a very simple sort of a service that the church had at that time. But that naturally, from all over the empire, they looked to the capital as a place of great influence; and of course in addition, Paul at least had been there; and according to a very early tradition, Peter too. There were men there who had known the early apostles; so naturally the church had tremendous influence; but that it was characterized by ritual and ceremony in the early days, there is no evidence for it. That is something that is very characteristic now, but I doubt if it was then.

But on the other hand, I don't think the Pharisees either were particularly characterized by ritual and ceremony. It was the Sadducees who carried out ritual and ceremony. The Pharisees were the ones who studied the law; but in the law, whenever they found a statement they took it extremely literally; and they put tremendous  stress on precise little details, while sometimes missing the big main force of them; and that was the main difficulty with them. The ritual and ceremony was largely in the hands of the Sadducees.

Now the second question here is: "Can Tertullian rightly be called the Father of the Reformation in view of the stand he took to expose the evil?" Well the Reformation wasn't exposure of evils which had come in at that time. Tertullian was one of many who exposed evil that came in at various earlier times. And you might say the Reformation has a thousand fathers, because everybody was in a sense a father of it who ever exposed any evils. But Tertullian, I don't think, had any more direct relation with it than a thousand others who exposed evils at one time or another.

Then here are a number of questions about Montanists. "What were the circumstances that led the Montanist movement to extend all the way to North Africa from Asia Minor?"

Well, the Montanists were a group of comparatively uneducated people, led by two or three very enthusiastic people in Asia Minor who thought they were receiving visions and dreams and new ideas. And others were very suspicious of this, because the Montanists were receiving new ideas which seemed to be contrary to the Word of God. But the Montanists—in the light of what we can look back now—these people seem not to have been receiving ideas that were contrary to the scripture. The evidence seems to be that they were very enthusiastic, little educated people, who were stressing the orthodox teachings of the scripture and who did not, as so many groups like that have, fall into serious error at various points.

But many other people interpreted some of their statements—for instance, you will read in most church history books that the originator of the Montanists, Montanus, said he was the Holy Spirit, but that of course would be rank heresy. But present-day scholars largely say that what Montanus said, was that the Holy Spirit was speaking through him, that he was representing the Holy Spirit, not that he was the Holy Spirit. Well, it's very easy to have such a misunderstanding. The Montanists were an enthusiastic movement which was in the main very true to the scripture, in its main teaching. But Montanism—and if it had been heretical at any point, I am sure Irenaeus who wrote his great book against all heretics, would have been very much against it—but Irenaeus made a trip to Rome to urge the Bishop of Rome to be tolerant towards them, not to break off Christian relations with them. The Montanists probably would have died out, within a brief time, because of their lack of solid leadership of educated people, if it were not for the fact that Tertullian joined them. And Tertullian's solid and broad understanding caused, doubtless, that the movement should continue for a couple of centuries longer, till his following finally merged back into the catholic church shortly after 400 A.D. But that is the situation about the Montanists.  

Now a second question here: "Were there any Montanists in Rome at the time of Irenaeus?" Yes, there definitely were. And third: "What doctrines of the Montanists caused the early church to proclaim it to be heretical?" My guess would be that there was a misunderstanding somewhere there—it's pretty hard to prove one, that far back, because we have no Montanist literature. Anything that was written from those days most certainly has disappeared, except what people thought was worth copying and re-copying. And we know about them mostly from the statements of their opponents. But examining those statements carefully, we feel—it is felt by most scholars today—that actually there was no heretical teaching which the Montanists were pushing. But it was a misunderstanding of their doctrine which led people to think it was heretical. So much then for these three questions.

Now to come back again to our main outline. 1, Clement of Alexandria. Under that:

 

a. The Catechetical School. I mentioned briefly yesterday, how Alexandria had its school at which there was a leader who directed the teaching; and the church of Alexandria which was a large church had its bishop who had very considerable authority over it; and then a group of presbyters who were in charge of various churches under him, or were the counselors with whom he worked; and they appointed a man to be head of the school of Alexandria; and then one of his best students was appointed to succeed him. This was a man named Clement, who became the leader of the school in 180 and was head of it until 202. He did not die in 202; he fled in the persecution. He lived about 20 years more. But his activity was mostly in these years from 180 to 202.

He was a man of Greek background, born in Athens, a man of very great learning. And Clement faced the paganism and the philosophic movement; and he was anxious to show the pagans that the truth they were seeking was in Christianity; that Christianity was the fulfillment of their learning. His emphasis thus was not so much their turning out of the evil of paganism as in showing the pagans that the answer to their needs was in Christianity. He was particularly interested in the philosophic aspects of paganism, trying to show how their answer was in Christianity. Now

 

b. His writings. There were three principal writings of Clement of Alexandria. The 3 principal writings were:

(1) Exhortation to the Greeks, which was his main writing; a book trying to show the Greeks how the answer to the need found in their philosophies was to be found in Christianity; and there is tremendous learning, as he deals with so many of their various writings and shows the incompleteness of them, the need of something further.

(2) Then he wrote a book he called The Educator in which he examines Christian morality, and exhorts to a holy walk, with constant reference to heathen practices which he opposes. And then

(3) The Miscellanies, is an attempt to lead people into a deeper knowledge.

 

c. The Allegorical Method. It is too bad that a good man like Clement, who was seeking to advance Christianity, should have one thing for which he is known more than anything else. But that one thing is a tendency into which he fell, which has had very harmful consequences in the Christian church. This we call the allegorical method.

The allegorical method of interpreting scripture is not something which began with Christians. It began with the attitude of the pagans in dealing with pagan mythology. The Greek philosophers, when they were teaching the stories of the Iliad and the Odyssey—the Greek legends which were the educational manuals for boys, and which were general standards for philosophy and religion in Greece—they would take the narrative and try to show that the events described there didn't matter; they weren't so important, but they were a peg for the attachment of great truth.

For instance, they would tell how the beginning of the war against Troy came when Paris, Prince of Troy, made his choice between the three goddesses; he had the apple of discord; each wanted to have the apple, and it was to go to the most beautiful; and so he had to make his choice; and each of them made him an offer; and it was the goddess of love whose offer he accepted; the most beautiful woman in the world to be his wife, and gave her the apple. The result was that he went and stole Helen of Greece; and the Greeks came and fought ten years to get her back, and destroyed Troy.

Well now the story of Paris—according to this allegorical interpretation—was the story of the soul; in its sensuous life, seeing only beauty and selecting it, instead of wisdom, knowledge and the other things that are offered; and showing the error in human life with the terrible effect it has in the world.

And the story of the Odyssey, Homer's second great poem, shows Ulysses on his way back from Troy, ten years wandering in the Mediterranean before he finally gets back to Greece. They said this is a picture of man carried here and there on the sea of life, drawn by his passion, and tempted by the siren voice  of pleasure; and they were thus taking these Greek myths and trying to interpret them to make them simply the instruments to present truth.

There was a Jewish teacher in Alexandria, called Philo, just after the time of Christ, who did the same thing in relation to the OT; Philo allegorized the OT; and he would take everything as a symbol of something else; and that way he would believe everything in the OT, but he would interpret it all as conveying great truths instead of individual matters of history.

Well, now of course it is true that the great truths—the great principles—are what matter, rather than the little details and activities. But the great danger of this is that we read into the scripture our own particular ideas, instead of going to it to see exactly what's there; and getting out of it what is there. And it can very easily be carried to tremendous lengths, which can lead anybody to think it just means anything at all; anybody can get anything out of it that they want. There is a tremendous danger in that way.  

During the middle ages, the allegorical method was applied a great deal to the Bible. For instance you would read in one of the Psalms, "O daughter of Babylon, happy is he that shall take thy little ones and cast them against the stones." Well this, of course, is showing the terrible things for the cities and countries that follow the wicked practices of Babylon; what is going to happen. It is not encouraging brutality on the part of people; but simply showing God's judgment for its wickedness against Babylon; and what's going to happen. So, it's quite a rhetorical language.

But in the middle ages that was interpreted—it says, Daughter of Babylon, happy is he that takes thy little ones and casts them against the stones—well, they looked in the NT and find the stone is Christ. He is the stone the builders rejected; and therefore if Christ is the stone, why this means happy are those who take the descendants of the Babylonians and bring them in contact with Christ, and give them the gospel. Well, you see, that is interpreting the thing without relationship to the context whatever; and you soon get to where anything at all can mean anything.

A man told me, not long ago, of going into a church where there was a fine orthodox preacher—a very godly man—who was giving a message; and in this message he taught the story of the Good Samaritan. And he said that the high priest is condemned in this story—he passed the man by—and the Levite is condemned—he passed the man by. Now what was wrong with the high priest or the Levite? Well, they were going down into Jericho; they were going downhill, away from the truth; they weren't going to Jerusalem; they were going down to Jericho. So naturally they're condemned. Well, then what about the Good Samaritan? Well, he said, he wasn't going down; he was going up. He was on his way up to Jerusalem, so he was saved. And he brought a beautiful message about the importance of our going up to Jerusalem instead of down to Jericho; but it's not in the story at all. It's reading into it something that isn't there. And when we read Christian teaching into stories or statements which are not there, you can't blame somebody else for reading anti-Christian or wrong interpretations into them.

We want to go to Scripture and see just what it says, and stand upon what is there; not read into it something that isn't there, no matter how good it is. On the other hand, we must interpret scripture in the light of other scripture. And so very often the meaning of something is not clear by itself; you get it from elsewhere; and others may not see how you get it from elsewhere; and therefore they may think you're following this allegorical method. It's not just a simple matter: here's the Bible, we just take it literally. We don't mean, take it literally; we take it just as it stands. And when it says the trees of the field together will clap their hands, it does not mean trees have hands and clap them; it means that all  nature rejoices; and it's perfectly obvious what it means, but we're not taking it literally, but we're taking it as it stands.

And you interpret scripture in the light of scripture; you have to interpret, but you should go slowly and carefully; have your evidence that you're really interpreting and not reading into it. And this allegorical method then, very soon, led people to reading in of all sorts of things that aren't there; so it is something we must be very careful about.

Well, Clement in Alexandria got this allegorical method from the pagans, and from Philo the Jew. He took it from them, but used it a great deal in his interpretations of scripture; and Origen his successor went even further in using this allegorical method; so the Alexandrian school has been known for this allegorical method. But the leaders of the allegorical school—of the Alexandrian school—kept true to the great fundamentals of the faith; they put their major stress on advancing that; so that it was a school which did much for the furtherance of the gospel, which deserves praise on our part, for the contribution it made for the advance of Christianity; but it had certain unfortunate things about it, of which one of them is the stress it gave to this allegorical method.

And quite naturally, along with that, it allegorized the statements about the return of Christ. It put the big stress on the coming of Christ as our Savior, and that is where we should put our stress; because that is what affects us and our salvation, what he has already done; it is through that we are saved; that is the gospel; that is what we need to know. But the scripture also teaches he is going to come back, to fulfill the hope that many thought he was going to fulfill when he first came; to put an end to wickedness on this earth; to cleanse this earth; and to set up his kingdom of righteousness and joy upon this earth. And that had been believed by just about all the leaders of the Christian church up to this time. Papias very strongly presents it; Irenaeus very strongly; the Montanists, of course, put great emphasis on the expectation of the return of Christ. Hippolytus very clearly and strongly presents his expectation of Christ coming back to set up his kingdom.

Now the Alexandrian school did not deny the physical return of Christ; but the things connected with it they largely allegorize; and they oppose the belief in the thousand-year reign of Christ, which they call chiliasm—chilias being the Greek word for a thousand—the people who believe in the millennium—millennium being the Latin word and chiliasm the Greek word.

So the Alexandrian school was largely responsible for the dying down of the expectation of the millennial reign of Christ which had been universal during the first century and during most of the second century. Then,

 

d. Clement's reference to the Didache. Now the Didache was a work to which we find a reference in Clement's writings. Until a few years ago we knew nothing about it whatever. But we have in Clement's writings this reference to the Didache, which is the Latin word for teaching, short for the Teaching of the 12 apostles. He referred to the book which was so designated; and references to this book in Eusebius, the church historian, and other writers subsequently, showed us that this book, between the time of Clement and 600 AD, was quite a bit read in the Christian church. After 600, we have absolutely no reference to it whatever. The book was then completely unknown till modern times, until the last third of the last century. Then there was discovered in Constantinople a manuscript which was this writing to which Clement refers, the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles.

Now this book has nothing to do with the apostles. It is a book which got that title some way; the man who wrote it evidently believed that he was giving what the apostles had actually held, to throw much light on recent church history. If we're going to study in great detail the practices of the church of the 2nd century, it is a book which deserves much consideration; but for general church history it is important to be aware of its existence; but that's about all we need in general church history. It was discovered in the last third of the 19th century, somewhere between 1870 and 1900—I can't tell you the exact date—but it was discovered in Constantinople; and immediately it was translated and published; theories have been made that part of it is very early, and part later and combined, and then other parts put in later; and whether there's anything to these theories, we cannot tell; because we have only one manuscript, and we have only internal evidence on which to base anything. And we have no reference to it anywhere before Clement of Alexandria.

 

2. Origen. Origen's life is, in some ways, one of the most interesting of the lives of any of the ancient church fathers. The Latin Church will not call him a father. Many of these writers they call saints. Clement they observed as a saint until along in the late middle ages, when they stopped calling him saint; but Origen they do not; but from our viewpoint we certainly would call him a father, because he was a Christian writer; in fact, he was the most voluminous of all Christian writers of the early centuries.

Origen was the successor of Clement as the head of the Catechetical School in Alexandria. Origen was an Egyptian living in Alexandria there—I mention that because, though Clement was in Alexandria, he was an Athenian, who had come from Greece. Clement had come from a pagan family, had a fine pagan education, and had then been converted. Origen was raised in a Christian family. His father Leonidas was probably a teacher of rhetoric. His father gave him a good education, particularly in Christian things; he also studied under Clement; while yet a boy he knew whole sections of the Bible by memory; and often he had all sorts of difficult philosophical questions and problems about the things of scripture even as a boy; and his father used to reprove him for being curious about some of these things that nobody knows; but then when he went to sleep, his father thanked God for such a son with such an intellect as he had, and the desire to understand the Holy things of the Word.

In 202 Septimius Severus began his great persecution; and Leonidas was taken to prison; and the young boy wrote his father a letter beseeching him not to deny Christ for the sake of the family, but to stand true to the Lord, which Leonidas doubtless would have done anyway; and Leonidas was killed and his property confiscated. Origen was then in his middle teens; and he was so disturbed at his father's death, that he declared he was going to go and announce himself to the court as a Christian; and if his father was killed for His sake, he certainly should be too. His mother hid his clothes in order to make it impossible for him to go out, and urged him not to do this. His father's property being confiscated, his mother was left a widow with seven children, of whom the oldest was Origen, only about 17 years of age at that time.

Origen then set to work; the persecution did not last a very long time; Origen set to work giving instruction in Greek language and literature and copying manuscripts. And in 203, though he was only 18 years of age—Clement having fled from the persecution, and not being there any more—Origin was made head of the Catechetical School in Alexandria. He desired to fill his office as best he could, so he attended the lectures of the various heathen philosophers, and all the various heretical teachers in the area; he tried to learn all he could about their teachings; and tried to advance his understanding of the Word of God; and soon he had a great number of students who were very, very devoted to his classes, and to his teachings.

Origen was a brilliant man, with a very great knowledge of literature, and of the knowledge of the time in just about every field. There was a wealthy man who became tremendously interested in him; he furnished him a costly library; provided seven stenographers for him and a number of copyists; to take down his lectures, and to make copies of them; his fame spread far and wide, far away from Egypt; the mother of the emperor Alexander Severus had him come to Antioch, where she was, in order to teach her the Gospel of Christianity; and he became very widely known. Though he had much means for borrowing books and for having his lectures copied and so on, he lived a very simple life. He rarely touched meat; never drank wine; he literally followed the Savior's injunction to have but one coat, and to take no thought for the morrow. In fact, he read the verse that said some are born eunuchs and some are made eunuchs and some make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake; and he was so anxious to devote himself to his studies and the advancement of the gospel, with nothing in the world to interfere, that he emasculated himself, in order that there would be no impulses within him to take his attention from the advancement of Christian studies; and also because in his work he had to have much contact with inquiring young women; and he wanted there to be not the slightest possibility of any scandal or anything being said which would be injurious to the church.

Now nobody else approved of his doing this at that time; and it seems in later life there is some evidence that he himself regretted what he had done. But that was taking a statement in the scripture extremely literally, as you see, and carrying it out specifically in that extremely literal way. And it shows how very different he was in his attitude from that of so many; when they have all the admirers and all the support that he had, because of his brilliant lectures, so many indulged in luxury and personal showing off, and they become conceited with it; he himself always slept on a bare floor; spent the greater amount of the night in prayer and study; and was absolutely devoted to his studies and to his teaching.

In 228 he was visiting in Caesarea; and the Bishop of Caesarea and the Bishop of Jerusalem, who were great admirers of his, invited him to teach publicly in their churches; to expound scripture to their people; and they ordained him a presbyter. This made the Bishop of Alexandria very angry. He said that a person who was emasculated could not possibly be an officer in the church; and that this was a wicked act on the part of these bishops to ordain Origen as presbyter; and he refused to allow Origen to come back to Alexandria or to continue in the school there. And he held two councils in Alexandria against Origen. He accused him of false doctrine, false mutilation, violation of the church laws, and declared that he should be deposed from his office and excommunicated.

But the church as a whole did not take this attitude—though the Bishop of Alexandria did—and Origin himself said of these people who were persecuting him: he said you must pity them rather than hate them. Pray for them rather than curse them, for we are made for blessing and not for cursing. But the Bishop of Caesarea then opened a new school in Caesarea. There Origen taught; and the fame of this school soon outshone that of Alexandria. It was while he was there that he had correspondence even with various emperors, presenting to them the Word of God; and in 244 he went to Arabia,  to the council to consider the heresies of Bishop Beryllus, whom we mentioned yesterday; and you remember after the Council condemned Beryllus, that Beryllus insisted they were wrong, Origen talked with Beryllus, and convinced him of his errors; and Beryllus publicly retracted his errors and thanked Origen for what he had done.

Now we had discussed the Roman emperors up to 249. Later we'll be looking at the emperors during the succeeding period. We noticed that after Septimius Severus, there was very little persecution—just a brief period under Maximinus—but otherwise very little persecution between the early years of the third century and the middle of the century. But in 252 a very severe persecution broke out, which we'll look at later. Now we want to look at this in relation to Origen.

But first, when this persecution broke out, he was cast into prison, cruelly tortured, and condemned to the stake. But before he was executed the emperor died, and the persecution came to an end; and so he was released; but he had been cruelly tortured, and within a few months he died at the age of 59; and most people consider his death to be the result of the torture that he had gone through. So we have Origen as a boy wanting to go and denounce himself as a Christian in the persecution, but being held back from it. Then we have his long life of active study and teaching; and then we have him at the end of his life being arrested by the persecutors and cruelly tortured, and would have been killed if it had not been for the emperor's death.

Now they—in those days—called a man a martyr who died at the stake. A man who stood up nobly and admitted his Christianity and risked death for it, but wasn't killed, they called a confessor. So Origen would be a confessor, not having actually been killed. But if his death later was a certain result of the torture, then he certainly deserves to be called a martyr. Now that very briefly is the summary of Origen's life.

 

3. Origen's Writings. And Origen, of course, as a fairly young man had this wealthy man who gave him seven stenographers to take down his lectures, and then many copyists; so he had unique opportunities for writing, and for getting his material out. But that wouldn't have been enough if the material hadn't been good enough that people wanted to have it. The fact is that St. Jerome, who lived 150 years later, said that Origen wrote more than other men would be able to read in a lifetime. And a cousin of his said that his writings actually amounted to 6,000 different writings, and if you include all his church tracts, commentaries and letters, much more. Some of these works were very, very long.

And he was not simply a man who gave general thin discourses on matters. He did a great deal of very close and careful study. One of his great works, for instance, was the so-called Hexapla, or 6-fold Bible. This was a copy which he made of the Old Testament in 6 columns. In the first column, he copied it all out in Hebrew. In the second, he put the Hebrew into Greek letters—a transliteration into Greek letters. Then he had three translations into Greek, that were in his day distributed quite a bit, by men called Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus. We will discuss these men in OT Introduction, so I won't go into details here; but I mention that in his third, fourth and sixth columns, he had these Greek translations. In the 5th column, between these, he had the translation which he called the translation of the Seventy; we call it the Septuagint, the word 70 in Greek form.

Now the Septuagint was the common translation in the Greek of the Old Testament. And Origen copied the Septuagint here; but when he found something in the Septuagint that wasn't in the Hebrew, he put a little mark after it to indicate "this is not in the Hebrew"; and when he found something in the Hebrew that wasn't in the Septuagint, he would put it in but with a little mark of a different kind to indicate "this is in the Hebrew but not in the Septuagint." So you see, to do the whole Bible this way would be a lifetime work for most people, but that is only one of his  6,000 writings. However, of course, one that would equal perhaps 100 or more books.

They say he put 28 years of unwearied labor on making his Hexapla. This Hexapla, if we only had it today, would be of tremendous value in studying the OT. Unfortunately the copy of it which was in Caesarea was destroyed when the Mohammedans conquered Caesarea about 4 centuries later. But before that time, it was there in the library and was studied by many scholars. Fortunately the fifth column—which had these diacritical marks in it—was translated into other languages with the marks included. And in modem times, quite a few fragments of it have been found—translations of the 5th column, with the diacritical marks included—and that is very interesting to us for Old Testament critical study.

Now, he wrote commentaries on almost all the books of the Old and New Testaments; and in these commentaries, he gives much defense of the great doctrines of the faith. He gives exposition and discussion of difficult passages and problems; and he also gives a tremendous amount of allegorical interpretation of passages, but much of this is very extreme and of very little value. But with the allegorical he has much of very sound interpretation, and, on the great fundamentals of the faith, he stood true and firm; and he convinced many men like Beryllus, who were getting off on heretical tangents with their errors; and he brought them back to a true understanding of the scripture.

There was a heathen named Celsus who had written an attack on Christianity. We don't know who Celsus was, or when he wrote it, but he evidently was a man of considerable learning and ability as a writer; and this had been distributed for perhaps half or two-thirds of a century; and many were reading it, and using its arguments against Christianity. Origen wrote 8 books of refutation of Celsus' attack on Christianity; he went into Celsus' very detailed attacks, his denials of its truth, answering his attacks upon it. His argument against Celsus was very famous, very important; his Hexapla is, as you see; and of course his commentaries are of tremendous importance to NT textual criticism, because you have perhaps two-thirds of the New Testament actually quoted in the commentaries in connection with his discussion of it; and it is earlier than many of our manuscripts of the NT, and therefore of tremendous interest in consideration of the text of the NT.

He also wrote writings on various documents, and discussions on all the great doctrines; he took a strong stand in defense of these; though, unfortunately, on some of the minor doctrines he adopted positions which are contrary to those which most Christians believe to be taught in the scriptures. For instance, we believe that it is clearly taught in the scripture that the wicked are to suffer eternally for their sins. Now Origen felt that there was reason to hope that in the mercy of God he would eventually lead all the lost to a knowledge of Christ in salvation, possibly even Satan himself. And there were various points like these, which are not the main points of the faith, on which he stood very strongly and taught very clearly, on which he adopted theories which are not what we believe to be the teaching of the scriptures. And there were many matters in which he tried to get an answer, where the evidence was insufficient; and he worked up a theory which is doubtless wrong.

A great English scholar of the last century said that Origen's principal error was in trying to know the unknown; and it is his theories on some of these points which led quite a number of people to become very hostile to him. And of course, he did great harm with his denial of the pre-millennial return of Christ; he followed in the footsteps of Clement and helped to push into the background that doctrine which had meant so much for the purity of the church; and for its loyalty to the faith; and for this blessed hope that the Lord had given.

Origen is an extremely interesting man and extremely important for us, one who did a great deal of good, but one who also did a certain amount of harm.

Well, I got so interested in Origen that I didn't notice the clock. I have to leave almost immediately to go downtown, so if any of you have questions to ask, please hold them till a week from Monday. If they can't be held that long, maybe you could see me tomorrow; but I have to be running along now.

Under D, Clement & Origin, we discussed 2, Origen's Life, and 3, Origen's Writings. Next

 

4. Origen's Views. I think actually you can't separate his views from the writings very well, and I had discussed most of his views under the heading of writings. His writings were the most extensive of perhaps any writer in ancient times; he was an extremely voluminous writer, and a very careful student; and a very, very valuable contribution he made to the development of the Christian church. His careful study of text; his desire to know exactly what was there; 28 years of study of the Old Testament to get the exact correct text; it was a monumental contribution; and of course in his life, we noticed his martyrdom; his suffering for the faith; his ascetic life; his constant labor to spread the knowledge of the Bible. He was a very great and good man.

His answer to Celsus would be almost a lifetime work to many people. this learned pagan Celsus, a brilliant atheist, who made a great attack on Christianity, worked out so carefully, and Origen refuted him point by point.

We notice, however, that he had certain unfortunate things in his teachings. On all the great points of Christian doctrine he was sound. I don't think there's any question of that. But where the Scripture isn't clear, he let his imagination run. And he tried to solve problems for which we do not have sufficient evidence in scripture. And consequently, on some points on which the Christian world is pretty well agreed the scripture is clear, but it isn't obvious—it takes a certain amount of investigation on some of these points—he came up with answers which we would consider as definitely contrary to Christian teaching. And he made guesses on many points which scripture does not cover. Some of these things, others took up and followed, and there was harm done by it; and of course he did great harm by his abandonment of the pre-millennial position which had been almost universal in the church up to a comparatively short time before. All of the early church fathers strongly held the expectation of Christ's return to set up his kingdom upon this earth; and Origen gave that up and opposed it; and that of course did harm to the spiritual life, fervor and devotion of the church.

Under these points and others I've mentioned, we've covered under Origen's Views; we'll go on now to

 

E. Roman Emperors from 249 to 300. We have discussed the Roman Emperors up to 249, because the important things we've been talking about so far have been up to that period. I didn't want to confuse you by going further in the Roman Empire at that time.

Now we're going to start the second half of the century, and so we are taking the Roman Emperors from 249 to 300. You remember that Heliogobalus was one of the emperors in the earlier period; he began to reign in 218. Between him and 283, there were 17 different emperors in that period of 65 years—17 emperors, an average of less than 4 years to an emperor. And possibly every one of these 17 died a violent death; some of them died in battle, but most of them were assassinated. The Roman Empire in its general organization was quite solid, and there was a general situation of peace within the empire; but there was constantly the danger of upheaval and chaos through the many changes in the headship of the Empire. And, of course, as we noticed the emperors often had particular attitudes which affected the whole of the Roman Empire very definitely. We've noticed how previous to 249, after the great persecution of Septimius Severus there was comparatively little persecution; between 218 and 249 there was a 30-year period with hardly any persecution at all—just a brief period when Maximinus, who was a rather savage ruler—had a rather severe persecution which was extremely brief. But there was a 30-year period of hardly any persecution at all.

During this period there had been these able writers like Origen, Hippolytus, and of course Tertullian just shortly before; his writings were widely read; and the church was growing, and knowledge of Christianity was spreading. But now we come to a man who was perhaps a more able ruler than anyone since Septimius Severus up to this time. His name is

 

1. Decius (249-251). Decius was an able man, a ruler who wanted to revive the ancient Roman discipline, and he wanted to establish the empire once more on a very solid foundation; it is possible that he might have done so, had he not been killed in battle against the Goths on the borders of the empire in 251. He reigned just over two years. But during those two years he is constantly trying to stabilize conditions in the Empire, to get it established on a more firm foundation. He was an able ruler, and one we must say, from the viewpoint of political history of the Empire, had good ideas in general and was able in carrying them out.

But it was noticed very often during these years, that it was good rulers who felt that Christianity was a menace and persecuted them; and evil rulers, often, were indifferent to Christianity, or even favored it to some extent. Well, Decius here felt that one of the reasons for increasing anarchy and for demoralization coming into the Empire, was that people were losing their religion. There was no longer the thought of trust in the old Roman gods that there used to be. The temple services were not attended as they had formerly been. He felt that in order to have stability in the army, stability in the government, and stability in the nation, you must have a strong religious background; and as it was the pagan religion that had made Rome great, therefore, it should be established again in strength.

And so Decius very carefully looked about to find what was causing the falling away of belief in the pagan gods; and he came to the conclusion that one cause was this movement known as the Christian church. And he felt that a stop must be made to this; that the Christian church should be rooted out. You notice his attitude is very, very different from that of any Roman emperor before this time.

There is no Roman emperor before this time who had deliberately, carefully planned how to destroy Christianity out of the empire. Nero and Domitian struck out at it—in excuse and for protection for themselves—Trajan understood it was an evil thing, but he wanted his people protected against false accusations. He did not order any of his men to ever go looking for Christians. But if a man was accused of Christianity, and he could not prove that he was not a Christian, naturally he had to be punished; but a false accuser was in great danger with Trajan's very, very careful rule made about this matter which he did not understand. Marcus Aurelius had gone to quite a length to oppose Christianity, but he did not have a carefully thought-out system like Decius. Decius said, "What we want to do is to lead the rank and file of Christian people who have adopted this superstition to give it up; we don't want to destroy them; we want to bring them back to the pagan system." And he said, "The leaders we doubtless had better get rid of, because they will be pretty hard to stop."

And so he gave orders suddenly that the Christians should be gathered together, everybody who there was any reason to think might be a Christian. And when they were gathered together—with severe penalties if they didn't come—once they got together, then they were to be commanded to sacrifice to the gods. And if they sacrificed to the gods, they could go and nobody would bother them at all. If they refused to come but fled away, they were to have their goods confiscated and be forbidden to return to their home under pain of death. If they refused to sacrifice, then they were to be examined by the magistrate, given punishment: imprisonment, whatever was necessary to persuade them to alter their resolution and sacrifice and become good loyal Roman citizens.

Well, this was as you see, a plan not to strike here and there, where there was general mass hatred, or anything like that; but to go through the empire systematically to force people to give up Christianity; to bring them away from it in some way. It was seen that a great many of the magistrates did not see the reason for what Decius did; and consequently these magistrates often were very, very lax. They would say. "Well now, you don't want to sacrifice? Now you just slip me ten dollars under the table, and I'll give you a slip saying you have sacrificed; and you won't have to sacrifice; you won't have to do anything against your conscience; but neither will you be in any danger because you will have this certificate that says you have sacrificed." So he gave them a simple paper which they called a libellus; and the man who had one of these they called a libellaticus, a man who had a libel. I don't know whether the fact that libel today, which has a bad sense, has developed from that use of it then; there was nothing bad in the sense then; it simply meant anybody who had a certificate that he had sacrificed.

But when you would see a man very strong in the church, and you would say, "Well now, how is that man able to get along and not be suffering for his Christianity?" "Oh, he has got a certificate from the magistrate; nobody can bother him." "Well what does the certificate say?" "Well it says he sacrificed." "Did he sacrifice?" "Oh, no, no; he didn't sacrifice, but the magistrate gave him that." Well you say, "Did he buy it from the magistrate?" "Oh no, no, this is a good magistrate and he wanted to help him out, he gave it." You couldn't prove whether he had bribed the magistrate or not. In some cases they doubtless had; in other cases they hadn't. But they had the certificate and therefore they couldn't be bothered. This certificate was called a libellus. One who had a libellus was a man who possessed one of these certificates.

Well, Decius' persecution at first succeeded beyond his wildest hopes. Thousands of people, who had been faithful church goers, and who had seemed to be the best of Christians, when faced with this danger of torture, imprisonment, could take a few grains of incense and burn them before the statue of a god or something; and some of them would say, "Well it's just political; it's just a sign of patriotism to the emperor; and of course here it doesn't affect our Christianity at all; we'll make this sacrifice." And thousands of them did it; but the others who didn't, they didn't look in a very light way upon it; they felt that these people had apostatized; they had given up their faith in Christ by doing this sacrifice.

Then of course there were many others who didn't sacrifice, but who got these libelli which stated that they had; and of course if they had one of those, then they were safe; you couldn't make him sacrifice over again; he has already proven he is a good pagan by the certificate.

[student: Didn't Japanese Christians face a similar persecution? Do we have a similar question regarding reverence for the flag?] Well, nobody says that the American flag is a god, or that it represents a god, or that it is a religious act. It is recognized by all as an act of patriotism; but the Shinto religion declares that the shrine at which they bow is the abiding place of the spirits of the ancestors, of the Japanese gods who bring success; and they are being asked to give success to the nation. It is in the Shinto religion explicitly a religious act, and it is bowing to a heathen deity.

Now somebody may try to tell himself that this is just a patriotic act; but that is not the way the Shinto people themselves consider it. Well, it would be just as easy for these people to say, when they worshipped the emperor's statue, they were just doing a patriotic act; but the rest of the church did not understand that. And this was the first great effect of Decius' persecution—to lead a great many to apostasy—and others to become hypocrites by carrying around these libelli and trying to be still good faithful church members; but carrying this certificate that they were pagans; that they had sacrificed. That was the first effect.

The bishops, the leaders of the church, many of them fled; others were forced to go into exile; and in exile they wrote letters to their churches, directing things; so that they helped the church still; and then they proved to be good missionaries where they were in exile, and they won others there too. So Decius wasn't very well satisfied the way that worked out. Some of them, then, were killed. The bishop of Rome, for instance, died in prison. Quite a few of the leading bishops died under torture or in prison, in connection with Decius' persecution.

Soon, however, there was, you might say, the second wave of the effect of the persecution. The first was the great amount of apostasy. The second was the people who were ready to stand up bravely and testify to Christ; and among them there were many who had been living dissolute lives. There were many who had not been faithful Christians in their lives at all; but they seemed to think that now, by bravely standing torture, they would make up for all their deficiencies of life; and people were highly honored and confessed their faith, regardless of torture and persecution; and the confessors, as they called them, began to be looked up to in the church, having tremendous honor being paid to them, which of course many of them deserved. Though some of them were people who were simply trying to atone by suffering for their Christian lives, most of them were doubtless good people who were truly and loyally standing for the Lord.

These confessors came to be very highly exalted in the Christian church; and they had a tremendous standing there; and many of them were very ignorant people who began now to exert a tremendous influence in the church, through the honor they had as being confessors; all the more so, because Decius died very soon in this battle; and when the persecution stopped, you had this great number of confessors in the Christian church that everybody looked up to and idolized; and they exerted tremendous influence.

So you had the problem: what to do about the latter? How much standing should a confessor have in the church? Now if a person had died as a martyr, you could honor them, you could praise them, you could say all kinds of wonderful things about them; and there was no backfiring from it; they deserved all this; it was fine. But if they were confessors, and would have been killed except that the persecution ended before they were; in some way they were let loose; now they were in the church; and whatever they said, most of the people were just ready to accept.

For instance, here would be somebody who, you had pretty good proof, he had paid to get a certificate, or that he had sacrificed in order to not risk having any personal danger to himself. He paid for his peace; he committed two crimes: he was a hypocrite, he carried a paper saying he had made pagan sacrifice when he hadn't, and he bribed the magistrate to get it.

What are you going to do with such a man, now the persecution was over? Is he going to continue to be one of the leaders in your church? Or is he going to have to give some true sign of real repentance before you let him do so? Well, he's got a good friend who is a confessor, who nobly bore the danger of death for his devotion. This confessor gives him a statement: "I do confess my faith and risked death for it. I want that this other fellow shall be restored to his full position in the church, and not be in any way looked down upon because of what he did." Well there was a real problem there.

So they had some tough problems here in the beginning of this period. We will look more at them later, but at present we are simply looking at the Roman emperors; I'm not going to take time to tell about Decius' successor, who carried on the persecution to some extent, but it didn't last long. We'll call

 

2. Valerian (253-260). And Valerian when he became Emperor in 253, he reigned from 253 to 260; he stopped the persecution. The church again had peace; the people in the prisons were released; and they understood that they had nothing more to worry about now. But Valerian was addicted to the practice of black magic; and he was inquiring into the secrets of the future; perhaps the black magicians influenced him against the Christians; we don't know. At any rate, from 253 to 257 the church had peace.

But in 257, he issued a persecuting edict, prohibiting Christians to assemble; threatening death to any bishop, priest, or deacon who resisted the anti-Christian orders of the empire; he exiled many of the bishops away from their place of service.

In 258 he issued a second edict, in which he said all ordained leaders of the Christian church were to be killed, without any hope of escape by recantation. All persons among the ranks of senators and knights were to lose their lives and all their property, if they were Christians and did not recant. Anyone who is a dependent of the empire, if he has ever professed Christianity, is to be sent to work on one of the imperial estates. So Valerian in 257 and 258, issued these strong edicts, carrying on the policy of Decius.

So you see what happened. Thirty years of no persecution. Then suddenly, without warning, Decius begins a great persecution, which lasts intermittently for about three years. Then there are four years of no persecution; and then it starts again. And you have a period of about three years of very intensive persecution. But Valerian died and was succeeded by his son

 

3. Gallienus (260-268). And Gallienus was not a man like Decius or like Valerian, anxious to establish the empire solidly, and to reestablish the old conditions of the old days; he was a cynical trifler,  who considered himself a philosopher, thinking about all sorts of things; but just sort of like a mental puzzle, comparing arguments for and against, and so on; and he didn't see why this people should be molested, and so he issued an edict stopping all persecution; it was addressed to certain of the Christian bishops, named by name in this edict, telling them that he was declaring it shall be unlawful to molest Christians. Christians are to have permission to carry on services; the church is entitled to hold properties; they are to be permitted to recover possession of their cemeteries; which they had been forbidden before by this edict; and it was an edict of toleration for Christianity which lasted for 40 years.

As soon as he became ruler, he made this edict; and it was more than 40 years before any edict was made that contradicted it. So it continued in force 40 years. If it had not been for the taking back of that edict, we would consider Gallienus as the man who put an end to persecution of Christianity.

This was the first edict of toleration. Christianity was tolerated; it was permitted; it was no longer illegal to be a Christian. You remember how under Trajan, all through the empire, it was understood to be illegal, but most of the emperors made no attempt to persecute them. If somebody would be brought before them—one of their magistrates—and they said he's a Christian, why they'd say, "That's a terrible accusation to make, is it true?" The man would say, "No, I'm not a Christian." "That's fine; now you just sacrifice to the god here; we'll let you go; no further questions." But if he would insist he was a Christian, would refuse to sacrifice, he might of course be persecuted under any of the emperors, But in general there was very little persecution

Now, all sorts of terrible calamities came upon the Roman Empire. There were pestilences—one after the other—that cut the population nearly in half. Terrible epidemics spread over the empire in the reigns of Valerian and of Gallienus. Thousands of people died in the pestilence; there were tidal waves; there were famines; there were attacks by barbarians; there were all sorts of difficulties at this time. And in these difficulties the pagans, as a rule, would flee even when their best friend or some member of their family, suddenly became sick with the terrible pestilence; they knew most people would die; they would run and keep away from them as much as possible, trying to save themselves; while the Christians were caring for each other, and also caring for the heathen.

And it made a tremendous impression on the Roman world—the attitude of the Christians in helping out in these times of plague. In fact between the two persecutions of Decius and Valerian, in that brief four-year period, there had been so much help given to the pagans by the Christians during the terrible pestilence, that they say you could see a difference in the attitude of the general mass of people toward Christianity. The persecution of Decius—well that's what the emperor wants to do—the people were not hostile to Christianity now like they were fifty years before; and many of the mobs trying to get the Christians killed, that attitude wasn't there anymore; but they were indifferent. Whereas in Valerian's persecution, a great many of the people actively sympathized with the Christians, even if they were not Christians themselves. And the good deeds the Christians had done during those terrible calamities seems to have had a good deal to do with changing the attitude of people toward the Christians.

Now an emperor I want to mention, who was not nearly so important in relation to persecution, but was an important emperor at this time, is

 

4. Aurelian (270-275). As you can see, I'm not taking nearly all the emperors, but just the ones who are quite important, for our present purposes. And this man, Aurelian, is from our present viewpoint much less important than Decius or Valerian, or Gallienus. He was a devoted worshipper of the sun-god, and there's some evidence that at the end of his reign, he was thinking of starting a persecution of Christians. But he did not actually do it.

During his reign, at one time, there was a great dispute in the great city of Antioch, because the Bishop was declared to be heretical in his views. We will look at him later. Now I just want to mention the part of Aurelian. The bishops of the surrounding territory met, examined the Bishop of the great city of Antioch, second largest city in the Roman Empire, they found he was heretical, unworthy of being bishop, ordered him to be deposed from being bishop. And the bishop there kept on and ignored them, and later on both parties appealed to the emperor, and this pagan emperor, worshipper of the sun-god, gave orders that the Bishop of Rome and of Italy, should be asked to render a decision on the matter, and said that the church of Antioch, the building, the property should go to whichever group the Bishops of Italy should decide was the right one. Now this was a natural decision for the emperor to make. He had to make the decision. What did he know about the internal affairs of the church? But here are these many churches in Italy, the headquarters, the center of the Empire, let their leaders decide the matter and we will abide by their decision. But it is quite a far cry from the days of Trajan, When Christianity was a forbidden religion to a situation where a pagan emperor is asked to decide to whom the property right belongs.

Now Aurelian, then, reigned from 270-275, then you have a period of various rather weak emperors until 284.

 

5. Beginning of Diocletian's Reign (284-305). This is 284 and he was still reigning at the end of the century. So you see he reigned longer than any emperor had except Septimius Severus. So we want to note just a little about Diocletian, though the most important things about him we will discuss under the next century. But in this century was a man who had been the son of a slave, and by his hard work and energy and ability he had worked himself up in the Roman Empire until he was now the head of the imperial guard; and Diocletian, as the head of the imperial guard, had during his life seen the constant change of emperors; he had seen the unsettled conditions; he meditated doubtless on the fact that some change was needed. And when an emperor suddenly died, and it was announced the emperor was dead, and his two sons succeeded him. They were rather worthless young fellows. One of them was with the army, and he died immediately; it was said that he was murdered by his father-in-law, who was there in the army and who now ruled in the name of his deceased son-in-law.

When the army discovered their emperor was actually dead, and this man had done this, Diocletian the chief of the imperial bodyguard attended the funeral; he had the man who was ruling in the name of his son-in-law—whom he had murdered—brought before him in chains; and without any investigation, Diocletian declared, "This is the murderer of Numerianus!" and plunged his sword into the man's breast. The troops then saluted Diocletian as their emperor. And after a short war, the other son was defeated, and Diocletian became the sole master of the Roman world.

Well, now this is exactly the sort of thing that was going on in the leadership of the empire for the previous 60 years; sudden changes like this, with one man murdering another and becoming emperor. But Diocletian saw that the situation was too well established to be brought to an end by peaceful measures; the only way to establish things on a solid basis was for somebody to get control by force and then to set up a new system; so he did not have an investigation; some people think perhaps if he had, he would have found the father-in-law was innocent in the whole business; but whether he was or not we don't know. But judging by his subsequent history, we are justified in thinking that Diocletian desired to establish the empire on a more solid foundation than it had been in recent years; and he felt that something drastic was necessary; and in this way, he who was well-established, was well liked, and known to be a man of great ability, he got control and then proceeded to make changes.

One thing was, he said, "The Empire is too large for one man to administer." So he said, "We will divide the empire into two parts; each part will have an Augustus, who will reign over it. One will be the head Augustus; he will be the supreme ruler; but the other, who is his associate, will reign with him, and each of them will have half the empire to administer." So he divided the Empire in half, a division which never wholly ended; the Empire was sometimes one again; but during the succeeding centuries, it was usually in two parts; and eventually the western part ended, and the eastern continued for another thousand years. So Diocletian made this division of the empire.

But then he went further. Now, he said, "Instead of 17 emperors in 65 years, many of them assassinated, we will establish a situation where it will not be to a man's advantage to assassinate the emperor." He said, "We will call each of the two emperors 'Augustus'; each emperor will have an assistant, whom we will call 'Caesar.' So there are four men running the empire, and these two Caesars will be picked out with great care; and each Augustus will have a Caesar working with him; and these two can administer one half of the empire, or they can divide their half into two parts, if they like, and each administer one; but the Augustus is supreme in that half; and there's one Augustus who is over the whole thing." And he said, "It's understood that each Caesar should succeed each Augustus; so if someone should assassinate Augustus, he can't become emperor, because Caesar is next in line; and that's thoroughly understood."

And then, he said, "We will make a rule that each Augustus after 20 years must resign. Twenty years is his term, then he resigns and the Caesar moves up to Augustus, and he takes another Caesar." Now you see, it's somewhat like the plan that worked so well in the 2nd century, where you had each emperor adopting a man, carefully selected, to be his successor. In fact, that system I think had worked better; but now you have had this century of upheaval and of turmoil, and all that to build on; whether you could introduce a system like that and have it work as well, who knows?

Then Diocletian saw how many assassinations there had been in these rapid turnovers; and some of these emperors had such freak ideas, that it lowered the general respect for the emperors. Diocletian said, "In order to establish unity in the state, we will do away with the old Republican forms in which nominally the emperor was elected, and the Senate had a lot of power and all that. The emperor will be thought as a representative of the gods; and people will bow down; keep their heads down as they crawl up to him; go through all these forms and ceremonies of recognizing him as almost a superhuman being; and that will keep him out of contact with the ordinary people, and there'll be less chance of his being assassinated; and over a period of time, we can again establish a condition in which the emperor's life will be safe for longer reigns and better stability in the nation."

Well, now for the next 16 years, Diocletian seems to have reigned, on the whole, very well. The Christians were not molested. In fact, Diocletian's own wife became a regular attendant in Christian churches, as did his daughter also—his daughter who was the wife of the Caesar who was associated with him. They regularly attended the Christian services. He established his capital In Asia Minor, in a town called Nicomedia; and in this city, the great Christian church that was built was right across the street from the imperial palace; it was the finest building in the city, next to the imperial palace. There was this long period of 40 years of no persecution, of which the last 16 were under Diocletian; and the church grew all over the empire. Lovely buildings were constructed everywhere, and great numbers of people were turning to Christianity; and it looked as if never again would there be any persecution against it.

This gives you a survey then of the history of the Roman Empire during this period; and, as you see, it is the early part of the period when the history of the empire is most important for us, because these persecutions had tremendous effect on the Christian church. And this shows itself particularly in connection with one of the greatest figures of early church history who lived at that time. So we will consecrate to him the capital letter F, as our next head.

 

F. Cyprian. He is one of truly great figures of early church history, a man who had a tremendous effect upon the development of the church.

 

1. His life in general. Cyprian was a man who lived in North Africa. We have already discussed one man, Tertullian, who lived in North Africa. One of the greatest writers of the early Christian church, Tertullian lived a little earlier, and he died about 220. Cyprian was probably born about 200; whether he ever knew Tertullian personally or not, we do not know. But like Tertullian, Cyprian was educated to be a lawyer. He was highly trained in the literary abilities and the organizational abilities of the day, highly trained; he was a wealthy man; he had great estates; he was prominent in law, in rhetoric, and very much looked up to. But there was a fine presbyter  named Caecilius who lived in Cyprian's home; he became such a good friend of Cyprian that he asked Cyprian to take care of his family after his death. And this man told Cyprian about Christianity, and got Cyprian to reading the Bible; he got him interested, and eventually Cyprian became a member of the class in this church.

Cyprian sold his estates and gave the money to the poor; but his friends thought so highly of him that they raised a collection, enough money to buy the estates back and give them back to him. He was baptized; he became a Christian; and he proceeded to go off alone, to study the Bible, and to study the works of Tertullian. We are told by a writer a century later, that he would say, "Hand me the map—asking for the writings of Tertullian—but he never mentioned Tertullian specifically by name in those writings. He copied a great deal from him, and was tremendously influenced by him; he thought very highly of Tertullian's ideas and Tertullian's writings. But not of the fact that Tertullian had become a heretic, because Cyprian himself became very much devoted to the idea of the church, loyalty to the church, the unity of the church.

But when he was studying and devoting himself this way to Christian studies and doing good work, the Bishop of Carthage, the leading city in North Africa there, died; and the people said, "Cyprian should be our bishop!" And Cyprian said, "No, 1 Tim. 3:6 says lay hands suddenly on no man; a neophyte should not be a bishop." He said, "I should not be the bishop. Get a man who is experienced in Christian things, who has been a member of the church for years." But no, they said, "Cyprian, you're the man who should be our bishop," and the people seem to have been united in wanting him; but five of the presbyters didn't want him. And these five presbyters opposed his election, and later on they formed a sect opposing his claim to be bishop; but the people seem to have been unanimous.

He was elected bishop, though he declared that he was not worthy and did not wish to be bishop; but after he was made bishop, he devoted himself to the administration of the church; and from the viewpoint of administration, of leadership, of factual matters, he is the most outstanding man in the history of the first three centuries—way ahead of anyone else who had been Bishop of Rome at that time, so far as any evidence that we have goes. And Cyprian, when the persecution broke out under Decius—for 13 months before that broke out, he had been bishop—he felt that the increasing worldliness in the church, and a superficiality in the church, there was a situation in which some fiery test was needed, to find out who really was Christian and who wasn't; and he became convinced God was going to send such a test; and he began preaching to the people on the necessity of forsaking worldliness and standing loyally and firmly for the Lord, regardless of what it would cost; and told them he felt that something was going to come in order to test who really was Christian and who wasn't.

And then suddenly the persecution broke out; and when the persecution broke out Cyprian fled; and he hid himself, and from his place of hiding he wrote letters to the church, dealing with the problems and trying to lead on in the administration of the church; and the presbyters who had opposed his election said, "This man is unworthy; he should stand here nobly, and should be killed if necessary for his faith, rather than to run and hide." But Cyprian said the church has not faced a problem like this for 30 years. He said there are tough problems and situations ahead; there are things that are difficult to handle, that need a strong hand and a clear head. He said the Lord has put me in this place for the good of the church; and it is my duty in this crisis to do everything I can to last until the crisis is over, in order that I may help keep the church on a firm foundation; and Cyprian had a great deal of criticism, but he stood his ground on that; and when the persecution stopped, he came back; and there was a little group that stood off from him, but most of them stood by him; and this small schism eventually disappeared. Well, we'll continue with Cyprian tomorrow morning.

We noticed that Cyprian was the greatest ecclesiastical leader, the greatest organizer, the greatest administrator of the first 300 years of the Christian church, from the time of the apostles. We took up number 1, His Life in General, and we noted something of his previous training and background; his conversion; how he was made Bishop comparatively soon after he had been baptized; and this of course was not a usual practice; it's something that the NT says should not be done, but I think we can understand that it is something that is not ordinarily the right thing to have done. The NT is here, as in many other cases, not giving us an inflexible rule, but giving us advice which in the majority of cases is wise. In the majority of cases, to take a man who has little training and a short time of Christian experience and promote him, goes to his head; it gives him a pride that he shouldn't have; it results in bringing out the worst in his character; and many a terrible failure has been made in the Christian church by a man who, humanly speaking, might have done a good work, if he were given more time to season, to develop, and to be ready before he was pushed ahead.

But there are exceptions, as there are for all rules of this type; which are not rules of right and wrong, but rules of what is wise procedure; and there are exceptions. And Cyprian is a very striking exception; and there are a few others also. But in his place, he was certainly a man who was fitted to be a leader beyond most of his generation; and they were very wise to take advantage of the opportunity to have a man of such unusual ability as head of the church of Carthage; and what none of them could have foreseen, nobody knew that those days would bring times of crisis, such as the church had never had; unless it be in Rome at the time of Nero. And a time of crisis was coming, in which unusual leadership was needed; and Cyprian gave that unusual leadership.

So we noticed that after he had been bishop for 13 months, there broke out this terrible persecution; and in the persecution he did not do the good thing, which—of course the bad thing to do would be to flee to save his life; or worse than that, to deny the faith. Those would be the very worst things—to deny the faith—and many did. And the next worst would be to flee to save his life. The good thing to do would be to bravely and nobly acknowledge his faith and suffer martyrdom for it. But Cyprian knew that in this particular day, there was a better thing to do than that. And that was to make available for the church the leadership that it needed in this time of crisis, which would have been lost to it if he had been martyred.

And so Cyprian fled and hid; but he did not in order to save his life; he did it in order to help the church with the leadership that was needed in this time of terrible crisis. Naturally, some called him a hireling—a hireling flees, abandons the sheep—John quoted the Lord. They called him a hireling; he was greatly criticized; but he displayed that rare sort of courage: the courage that goes beyond the courage that steps out and suffers for what is true; the courage that is ready not simply to stand the attacks and criticisms of the enemy of what you believe, but is ready to stand the misunderstanding of those who believe in what you believe, and the criticism of those who have the same objective you do, because you are doing the thing that will accomplish that which they desire, and that is the sort of courage that Cyprian displayed.

He kept his strong hand on the church from his place of hiding, constantly directing with letters and advice; he helped the church at Carthage to go through the crisis; and more than that, was available in the still more crucial time immediately after the crisis, when you had the two very tough problems of the people who had lapsed; they now wanted to be back in the church, and what are you going to do? Are you going to say, "Everybody who has denied the faith, everybody who has refused to suffer for the cause of Christ, is forever lost"? That of course was not true; it can't be true. On the other hand, are you going to say, "Well anybody who wants to come back—the danger is over now—just come; take leadership in the church; go forward as if nothing had ever happened." You can't say that. You have to distinguish between the true and the counterfeit. The people who really have regretted what they've done, and have truly repented, and are praying the Lord to give them greater strength, if such a crisis comes again; and the people who simply gave up in the time of danger and now are ready to go ahead as if nothing had happened, and, in fact, even to have leadership to which they certainly are not entitled. And they needed strong, wise hands for that; and they also needed them for that other danger which one might not expect at all: the danger of those who have nobly, bravely stood for the truth, now assuming a leadership for which they do not have the character or ability; and proceeding to lead the church in wrong directions; directions of ultra-fanaticism; directions of various extremes; or on the other side, directions of too much readiness to receive the lapsed back, without careful consideration, into the church.

These were the two opposite dangers; and a wise leadership was greatly needed at this time. And Cyprian was available for that leadership; and so for four years, Cyprian led the church wisely; carried on correspondence with the leaders of other churches all through the Roman Empire; exerted a great influence in favor of benefits to the church at that time; and also in favor of Cyprian's own particular ideas, some of which were very good and some weren't perhaps so good in the light of our understanding. But he exerted a great influence at that time.

And then, as you know, the persecution broke out again, under Valerian. This time the Proconsul ordered the bishops into exile; and Cyprian was sentenced to exile; but when they found that the many bishops in exile were acting as very effective missionaries—at the same time were directing their own churches by letter—Valerian saw that wasn't a satisfactory policy. He called them back from exile; and many of them were martyred; and during that ten years, I believe, there were four bishops of Rome who were martyred. But Cyprian was called back and the Proconsul called him before him; he asked him if he was a Christian; he gave him an opportunity to sacrifice, he pled with him to sacrifice, because he did not want to kill him; but when Cyprian boldly declared faith, he was taken out to the public square and publicly executed there. So he died a martyr, one who bravely and nobly declared his faith; he was ready to suffer and die for the cause of Christ; but he first had done the still braver thing of risking the criticism, opposition, and misunderstanding of those who stood for what he did, because he could do more for the church than if he had gone out and taken a martyrdom a few years earlier.

Now that is a brief survey of his life; and we want to look in more detail at some portions of it; I did it rather hastily, because I want to go on to some of the important individual features.

 

2. Cyprian's Idea of the Church. And Cyprian's idea of the church is one which we do not think we find clearly taught in the NT. It is our feeling that it goes beyond the NT teachings. And we Protestants feel that harm was done in the development of the church through the attitude that Cyprian's great ability advanced about the church. That is, Cyprian held—like Ignatius had—to the very, very great authority of the bishop in the church. Cyprian held that the bishop was the authority in the church; and that the people in the church should obey the bishop; he was studying the scripture; he was giving himself over to the things of the Lord; he was devoted to the Lord for that service; so the people should obey him in any particular situation that arose. He said the bishop is in the church and the church is in the bishops; and if anyone is not with the bishops he is not with the church.

He took a very, very strong position as to the authority of the bishops in the local church. He held that each church was a unit; the bishop was the divinely established leader of the church; and that for salvation one must belong to the church. Now he would not make church membership per se a way to be saved; nothing of the kind. He had a very definite understanding of salvation through faith in Christ; but he felt that the one who was saved through Christ should then go on to become a member of the church; and if he truly was saved he would become a member of the church. Now as you hear that much today, you will immediately say, "Well, now Cyprian then had the Roman Catholic position, didn't he? The church is one church; with one bishop supreme over it; and that a true Christian must be a member of that church, and subject to the bishop of Rome."

Well, Cyprian did not hold that position. The Roman Church may try to make it look as if he did; but from his writings, it is very clear that that is not the position Cyprian held. Cyprian held more like the view of Ignatius—that each individual church was under the direction of its bishop. The person in that area who was a Christian should be a member of that church, and should follow that bishop. And all the bishops together were a unit; and the true church throughout the world was a single unit; but there was no one bishop superior to other bishops. And therefore, in North Africa, they kept on as they had been doing before; having synod meetings, at which the bishops from all the towns in Africa came together; there might be 80 different bishops, that is, heads of the different churches in particular towns. One might be Cyprian, head of the church in Carthage the great metropolis; another might be the head of a church in a town of 150 people; but they were bishops; they were the heads of their local churches; and they together were a unit; and in the synod, they would discuss and make decisions on matters of common interest.

He held that Rome—as it was the capital of the empire, as Peter and Paul had established the church at Rome—that the church at Rome had a position of honor at the head of all the churches of the empire; as the capital city and the city where the two greatest apostles had reigned; but that it was only a position of honor, not a position of authority to give any commands to any other bishops. That was his viewpoint, which is made very clear in his letters and articles which he wrote.

Now of course, it is a very interesting thing that Cyprian so greatly admired the writings of Tertullian; he read them constantly, and is tremendously affected by Tertullian; and yet at this point, Tertullian would be utterly contrary to him; because Tertullian had left the Catholic Church; and whether he actually joined the Montanists, or whether he simply worked along with them, we don't have proof. He was generally considered a Montanist. And two centuries later, there were people who called themselves Tertullianists, who were separate from the catholic church. Well, this probably is the reason why Cyprian never mentioned Tertullian in any of his writings. He probably was very much offended at what Tertullian had done in that regard. But nevertheless, he took Tertullian as his great master and constantly read his writings, and was tremendously influenced by him.

Well, now so much then on Cyprian's idea of the church which, you can see, would have an influence on the development of the church throughout the world, and an effect on people's attitude, an effect in the direction of strengthening the authority of the bishops. Now, in a time of persecution like this, a time of difficulty, a strong hand of leadership meant a great deal to the church; no question of that, and for the particular situation it was a good thing; but whether for its development over the long period, there might be great difference of opinion on that. But that's his idea of the church; that is what Episcopalians are apt to stress about Cyprian; that is what Romanists are apt to stress about Cyprian; it is an important fact about him, though by no means the only fact about him. So we go on to

 

3. The Controversy over his Flight. We've already mentioned this in connection with his life, but it is important enough to give a separate head to it. As we mentioned, in the persecution he fled. And "the hireling flees because he is an hireling and cares not for the sheep." And that is what was said about Cyprian. But Cyprian fled not because he was a hireling and didn't care for the sheep, but because he was a leader who did care; and he knew that they needed his leadership in this time of crisis; and the majority of the people—the majority of the Christians, I mean—understood. They realized that this was the fact. And that was true of people in any sort of a church undertaking or situation. You cannot say, "This man does this, acting bad; this man does this, acting good." You cannot say that. Because the particular view can say a certain act is, in most cases, good; or a certain act is, in most cases, bad; but there are a few acts which, in certain circumstances, are that which best advance the cause of Christ. God alone judges the heart; and we're grateful for this, because he sees what the motives were in the act; what the purpose was; what was really involved in the particular situation.

But Cyprian fled and hid; yet he carried on his correspondence, and his direction of the church; and he received a letter from the presbyters in Rome, who were in prison, a letter which spoke in very high terms—realizing what he was doing—and the same time telling him of the blessing they were receiving in their suffering for Christ. Cyprian, in defending himself, made this statement: he said our Lord commanded us in times of persecution to yield and to fly. He taught this and he practiced it himself. For the martyr's crown is by the Grace of God, and it cannot be gained before the appointed hour; he who retires for a time and remains true to Christ, does not deny his faith; he only bides his time. Of course, that might have been just an excuse to cover up personal cowardice, but the Lord knows. And most people felt Cyprian was sincere; and all felt that had been proven when in the next persecution he was martyred. But it is an important thing in connection with his life, this controversy over his flight.

 

4. The Problem of the Lapsed. What was to be done about the people who had denied the faith? Were these people to be told, "Now you have sacrificed; you have bought a libellus; you have failed to suffer for the cause of Christ; you are lost forever"? They were not to be told that, because we are told in the scripture that there is hope of deliverance for those who fall into sin.

Well, of course, in a sense we all are lapsed, because every person sins every day. But a true Christian when he sins, repents; he sincerely regrets what he has done, and he determines that he will not do it again; that he will ask the Lord to strengthen and enable him not to do it again; and knows that gradually the Lord will sanctify him; so that he will do less and less that is contrary to God's will; though he will constantly have a better understanding of what it is; so that to himself he may seem a greater sinner after 50 years of the Christian life than he did when he started; he is more aware of his sins. But in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of the Lord, he will have gone very far in his sanctification.

Well, this is not a case of ordinary sin, but a case of doing a terrible thing—of sacrificing to idols—or of getting a certificate that you had sacrificed—which is deceit and may involve bribery—even if you hadn't actually sacrificed. And it is a terrible thing—falling into idolatry—but it is a sin which occurred in a crisis, because of inability to face the terrible torture and misery which was ahead if one stood nobly by his faith. Well, these people had lapsed; they had left the church; they had sacrificed; they had given up the faith. Now what's going to happen? The persecution is over; these people want to be members of the church; they want to be recognized and go on; what's going to happen? Well, you can't just say, "Come back; we know it was tough to face that persecution; but it's over now; come back; so happy to have you to be a member of the church." You cannot do that. The church would cease to be a church if you take that attitude. You have to have evidence of true repentance; evidence of true turning away from the thing; evidence of true desire that the Lord will give strength, never again to fall before temptation. How are you going to be sure you have that strength? Just what sort of test is going to be made? How are you going to be certain? How long are you going to keep them waiting before you receive them again into full and easy communion? What are you going to do?

Well, the lapsed—many of them—found a way out. They had a friend who was a brave, noble confessor, who gave them a letter; he said, "You recognized what I did; you venerate me as a saint, because of the way I stood for the Lord. Now I want you, for my sake, to forgive my friend." And of course it's true; we are forgiven for Jesus' sake, because he suffered bravely; suffered the results of sin in our behalf. And his merits are secured to us; then why can't our merits be imputed to somebody else? Well, we don't have any merits worth anything; we don't deserve any credit, any of us; and in addition to that, it is not as in the case of Christ's saving us—a matter of delivering us from the wrath of God into His eternal salvation. It's an entirely different matter. If we are to be delivered from eternal wrath, it cannot be through what some other man has done. That's impossible. No one of us could suffer enough to pay for our own sins. It must be through Christ and Him alone.

Here we are not speaking of a question of eternal wrath; this is a question of human wrath, of destruction to the church, here in this world; and that is a matter in which these things must be determined; not as a matter of whether one is really saved or not, because we can't judge; but as to what is for that soul's welfare and for the welfare of the church? And it is for the soul's welfare and the welfare of the church, to receive people back into full communion if they are saved; and are truly repentant; and have truly turned away from the sin. Consider the sin of David. David was received back into full forgiveness, even called the man after God's own heart. But if we do not have the true repentance, it is harmful to us and harmful to the church. So Cyprian wanted to examine each case on its merits; but the confessors—many of them were very wonderful people—deserving all veneration and praise given them; but some of whom were rather weak people—made vain by the praise they were given—and anxious to please others. And some of them may perhaps have been people who lived rather wicked lives, and who had thought that, by their bravery in standing for the faith, were making up for it. A lot of these confessors were giving letters to other people, saying now they ought to be received back into the church; that's what we want you to do; we're confessors.

And some of the confessors even wrote letters in which they said, "I want all the lapsed to be received back." So Cyprian had to face this problem. And they would say to him, "Well who are you to talk? We stood up and faced the Roman Government; we declared our faith and risked being killed; and you fled, you went off and hid. What right have you got to talk about what we should do in this situation? We are the real saints; you don't have a right to speak, and we think these people should be brought back into full communion." Cyprian said, "Yes, I think they should be too if they are truly repentant. I've got to examine them and to know."

So there was a big controversy over the lapsed in Carthage; and Cyprian succeeded in carrying through his policies pretty well, though he ran into some pretty tough situations. One that was particularly bothersome was that somebody would come and say, "Cyprian, this man here is dying he is dying; and he lapsed; he couldn't stand the thought of the suffering and the persecution; and he just poured a little incense in front of the altar, when he couldn't stand the thought of it; and they offered him a certificate of sacrifice and he took it. And now he's dying and he is crying out on account of his sins; and he wants to die knowing that he is a member of the church, and that you've forgiven him for his sins; and that Christ is ready to receive him; do come and see him!"

So Cyprian would go and he would try to comfort the dying man; he'd tell him, "Oh yes, you're dying, and I believe you're truly repentant; we recognize you as a full member of the church in every way." And then in some cases the person got well. And then when he got well, he came in the church as fully a member of the church in every way, while somebody else was being held in probation. This problem of the lapsed was one which almost split the church in Carthage at this time; and it did split it 50 years later, but that's in the next century. But at this time, it almost split. Now there was a man there in Carthage named Novatus—not to be confused with Novation. But Novatus, according to all the accounts—which may be corrupt because they're also his enemies—but according to the accounts, Novatus was one of the presbyters who had told Cyprian off and who had been against his being appointed in the first place and was constantly attacking him; and Novatus went around among the lapsed and said, "This fellow Cyprian here is taking an extreme attitude; and Cyprian has no right to take it; he himself fled, and he should be thrown out as bishop." And finally Novatus got tired of having a little group around him—his little group that was broken away—and not getting far; and he said, "I'm going over to Rome, and see what I can do there."

So Novatus went across the Mediterranean to Rome, the capital of the empire. But he had sense enough before he started talking to listen a little; and according to the story, when he listened he found the situation in Rome was just the opposite of what it was in Corinth. So,

 

5. The Novatian Schism. Now Novatian is the name of a man; and Novatian is a man whose name sounds very much like the name Novatus, whom I mentioned to you as in Carthage who went to Rome. But actually—judging by what we find in the records, what has come down to us from the time—he was a very, very different sort of person from Novatus. Now they say we know about a person by his enemies. Nothing that Novatus wrote has been kept; of course, nothing would be kept unless people copied or preserved it; who cares? On the other hand, Novatian had written some theological treatises of real value, which are highly thought of. Novatian had been a presbyter in Rome. He had been imprisoned for his faith. It was only the end of the persecution by the death of Decius and the accession of Valerian—it was only that which saved Novatian from being killed for his faith. He had nobly confessed the faith; he had written theological treatises before which were widely used and highly thought of. Of his Christian character I have found no question anywhere.

But the Bishop of Rome had been killed in the persecution; and they proceeded to elect a new bishop; they elected a man named Cornelius, not particularly important except that he happened to be the man who was elected; and Cornelius took a very mild attitude toward the lapsed, like others had done before. Cornelius made it easy: "Well, the church wants to welcome back her erring children. They have failed in the persecution; they have, of course, failed; how do you know that you would have the courage to stand up to having your eyes plucked out or having terrible torture given to you? How do you know you could do it? If these people say they're repentant, we'll take their word and receive them back." Cornelius was very, very mild toward the lapsed.

And many people thought Novatian should have been elected bishop. Novatian was a good theologian, a man of much more ability than Cornelius; a man who had a standing in the church; he'd been a presbyter for many years; he had known and confessed the faith in prison; why wasn't Novatian elected as the bishop? Well, Novatian said, "It is in the Lord's hand who is elected bishop. I'm perfectly content; if the people want me for bishop, I will be glad to do what I think is right; but if the people elect Cornelius, why that's not for me to worry about."

There's no evidence that Novatian was a grasping man, a man trying to push himself ahead, or anything of the kind. But Novatian did feel that Cornelius was absolutely wrong in his treatment of the lapsed. It was exactly the reversed situation to Carthage. In Carthage, Cyprian was strict, and the lenient people were criticizing Cyprian. Well, Novatian would have been much stricter than Cyprian was. The writers usually speak of him as the stern, ruling presbyter. That's the way they like to speak about Novatian—the puritan who stood exactly on the letter of the law, felt that people should be punished for their sins; and whether that is just the view of his enemies, we don't know. But that's the way they talk.

But nobody that I've seen accuses Novatian of personal ambition—personal pushing himself, personal pique because he wasn't elected bishop. But according to the best you can get from the few statements we have about him from this time, this man Novatus—who came over from Carthage, who got to Rome and who in Carthage had so severely criticized Cyprian for being too strict—got to Rome and instead of talking right away, he stopped and listened; then he saw that the situation was just reversed, and he began to criticize the Bishop of Rome for being too lenient. So he began throwing his active propagandizing influence in support of the little group that was standing with Novatian in criticizing Cornelius for being too lenient. And Novatus would stir them up and say, "Look here, that is not the true church of Christ, with a man like Cornelius who is so easy-going with the people who have fallen into sin; they ought to have a real theologian like Novatian as Bishop, a man who stands firmly for the truth, who would not promise the way Cornelius does." And he talked it up to the point where the followers of Novatian said, "Novatian, we don't believe this man Cornelius is the real bishop at all." They said, "You're the one who should be bishop and we're going to say so; and we're going to have our own church and you're going to be our bishop."

Novatian didn't want to do it; he didn't want to be the leader unless it was what the Lord called him to be. But he did want to see the stand taken, that he felt was the right stand in this matter. So Novatian gave in and there was formed what I call here "The Novatian Schism," because it was not a division over doctrine. There was no claim of unbelief in the catholic church, no such claim. There was no heresy on the part of the Bishop of Rome. But there was an attitude which Novatian thought was wrong and had criticized; and others persuaded him to make a sufficient issue to form a separate group, a separate communion.

So in Rome a sizeable number of people joined with Novatian to form a separate church. And then all the churches in the empire faced the question, "What is the true church in Rome, is it that of Cornelius or that of  Novatian?" And Cyprian said, "Which side did the majority vote for?" Well, the majority had voted on the side of Cornelius. And the organization was continuing; there was no evidence of heresy or unbelief in the organization. Cyprian said, "It sounds to me as if they are taking a wrong position on this vital matter. But it is the true church, the church of which Cornelius is the head, the capital church." And consequently, Cyprian said, "We consider that the true church of Christ is the church of which Cornelius is head; and although these people who are following Novatian are not heretics, we know one of them Novatus, and he's a bad troublemaker. But they are not heretics, they are true Christians. Nevertheless, they are out of the body of Christ; they are outside of the capital church. That's the attitude Cyprian took toward the Novatian schism. But there were other people, we think, in other churches, who said, "We think Novatian is right; he is the true church. We will enter into correspondence with Novatian as the true church; and three centuries later you have churches in many parts of the Roman empire in the Novatian movement.

This is a real denomination. It is a denomination which lasted for at least three centuries. It disappeared with the coming of the middle ages. I'm not sure anybody knows just how long it lasted, or just where the last remnants of it were. But I have never seen any accusation of heresy connected with any part of the Novatian branch of the church, which continued for at least three centuries. We don't know much about it, because practically all our records have come through the catholic church, and they don't like Novatian; they call him a schismatic, but they do not call him heretic.

Well, actually, I would like to go there, and talk with the people, and look into the facts a little more clearly. I have no evidence on it except from the statements that have been preserved, all by enemies of Novatian; but as to who is right in the situation, I would personally feel that the difference of opinion was a difference over method, rather than difference of doctrine. I don't think there's any question that we will find that Cornelius and Novatian are both of them earnest men—and I'm certainly sure that Cyprian was—honored men in the kingdom of God. I don't think there's any question of that. And I personally incline to believe that Novatian's followers did a great and good work during the next three centuries, and deserve much praise of the Lord for the particular work that they did. But they never became a great movement—though they were a very valuable one—and spread rather widely in the church. They probably never became more than a fifth as large as the catholic church, if that much. But in a small area they did a good work; and we will see some vestiges of that in a later time. Now it is important enough to warrant a heading by itself; but we know so comparatively little about it, that I've simply taken it up here as a subhead under Cyprian because it is so tied up with the whole movement of which he was the great individual at this time.

So my outline here is not purely a matter of what is important, but also do we have enough material to make a heading of it? I'd be tempted to give a separate heading to the Novatian schism as G or something like that. But I'll just make it 5.

[student] In the end, according to the best we can gather, from the statements of their enemies, it was Novatus' propaganda and Novatus' personal attitude that produced the Novatian schism. Now that may not be so, but the schism took the opposite stand to that which Novatus took in Carthage; and its leader was a great and good man, of whom the worst that can be said, as far as I can gather—but it is said—is that he was a gloomy person; that's the worst they can say about him.

Of course, the Roman Church calls him an anti-pope; they call him the second anti-pope; the first anti-pope being Hippolytus, because of their present theory that Döllinger worked out—that Hippolytus became a bishop in Rome, claiming to be the true bishop in Rome. Well, we don't know whether that's true or not, but Novatian certainly did; they called him an anti-pope; but the fact of the matter is that we don't have records of this time calling the bishop of Rome pope. But we do have a letter from the Roman presbyter in prison written to Cyprian. It was addressed to him as "Dear Pope Cyprian." They called Cyprian pope because pope was a name applied to any great Christian leader; and evidence shows that the name pope was applied by a Roman to the bishop of Carthage and the bishop of Alexandria, before there's any evidence of its ever having been applied to the bishop of Rome.

So much then for the Novatian schism, perhaps I should have called it the beginning of the Novatian schism. We unfortunately will not have much more to say about the Novatian schism, because we don't know much about it. But we will—when we get to a period about 130 years after this—we will have a very brief reference to it, which is rather illuminating and quite important; it makes me think that there must be a great deal of real interest about the Novatian church through the next two or three centuries, if we had the evidence. But all the evidence has disappeared; there was nobody left to keep it alive, and copy the accounts of it, and to tell us about it. The most we know is its beginning, and this one brief bit of light thrown on the Novatians 130 years later, which we will mention when we get to it. So we go on to

 

6. The Problem of Heretical Baptism. This is a problem which has been with the church all through history, and still is today. What is heretical baptism? Well, like so many cases where we have a noun with an adjective before it, you have to tell what is its relation to the noun. In this case, by heretical baptism, we mean baptism by a heretic. Here is a man who wants to be received into your church; and he professes faith in Christ; and he professes to accept the teachings of your church; and you want to receive him but you say, "Have you been baptized?" And he says, "Yes I was baptized but the man who did it was an unbeliever," or "the man who did was a little bit off on his ideas, he was a post-tribulation rapturist, and he baptized me." Now should that be accepted as true baptism? You were baptized by a man who was off on that particular doctrine. What should your attitude be? Well, if I am correctly informed, the Southern Baptist church takes no chances on it; if a man wants to join their church, even if he has been baptized in another Baptist Church six miles away, they baptize him over again to make sure that he's been baptized by a true believer.

Well, now that I believe is the practice of the Southern Baptist Church; whenever you join a local church you are baptized again. There are many other Baptist churches which hold you have to be baptized by a Baptist minister, but he doesn't have to be in that particular local church or in that particular denomination. But the attitude of the Christian church from the beginning has usually been this: that baptism is the initiatory rite to the Christian church; and that no man can bring somebody into the Christian church; that that is done by the Lord; and what matters is baptism of the Holy Spirit, baptism into the body of Christ, not the act that some human being performs for us; and therefore that if a person has been baptized; and the words have been used in connection with the baptism, that they are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; and it has been the purpose to give a real Christian baptism; that that man is baptized; and that that baptism is not to be repeated.

Now that was the attitude which was taken in general by the Christians, as far as our evidence goes, until this time. But at this time, we find that Cyprian, for one, felt that the Church was definitely a unit; and that you must be a member of the Church; and here comes somebody that is a member of some other group that calls themselves a Christian church; and he's not sure it is; and while they believe they want to belong to his church; well, we'd better baptize them again. And we won't say they've been baptized before; we'll baptize them now. And the Novatian group, when someone from the Catholic church came to the Novatian group they said, "Well, now, he's joining us; now he's getting the truth on these things; we're going to baptize him again." So the Novatians were re-baptizing people who, having been in the other groups, came and joined their group; and Cyprian was re-baptizing people who had been in heretical groups, or schismatic groups, and came and joined his group. But Cornelius said, "No, if a person is baptized in the church, only Christ can baptize; man only performs an outward expression, it is God who baptizes into the body of Christ." And he said, "If a person has been baptized, he has been baptized; and we cannot baptize him over again." And therefore, Cornelius took the attitude that if a person has been baptized, and the words which relate to true belief in the Trinity and the true baptism into Christ have been used, then that man is baptized and does not need to be baptized again. That is the view of the Roman Church to this day.

To this day—theoretically—the Roman Church accepts baptism no matter by whom it is performed. The Lord's Supper is different. Most churches feel that an ordained man must perform the Lord's Supper. In the Roman Church, only a priest can perform the mass; but in the view of the Roman Church, anybody can baptize. Ordinarily it should be done by a minister; but anyone who is using the words of baptism, "into the name the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit," can baptize. That is the view which is taken by a great many Christian leaders, and it is the official view of the Roman Church today. Well, of course, later the Roman Church came to take a superstitious attitude toward baptism, that the action itself gave new birth; and a person who has been baptized has accomplished something, but they felt that that was accomplished no matter who did it. So every one of you could baptize anybody, and the Roman Church feels that made a difference in that man's becoming saved. Well, Cyprian didn't hold that view. And there was a big controversy over this question of heretical baptism, in which Cyprian and many other Bishops took a different view. But Cornelius took the view which has prevailed.

Well, I see our time is up we'll continue tomorrow morning.

We looked at 5, the Novatian Schism, which was worthy of a main heading because it was an important movement. But we do not know a great deal about it, and it fits in one connection with the life of Cyprian, about whom we do know a great deal; so I've put it as 5 under that, though I'm not particularly well satisfied with that. That's the problem with any outline you do. You have to deal with the importance of the material, also with the amount available, and the amount of time you have. So when our outline doesn't satisfy me, I like to call your attention to that. Number 6 was the problem of heretical baptism. And we noted that in this, Cyprian took a very strong stand against recognizing heretical or even schismatic baptism. They had to be baptized when they entered the church. He found that in the case of infants born of Christian parents who promised to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, there was reason to postpone the baptism. He would perform it sometimes even within the first week, which some thought was too early.

But when it came to people who had been in heretical groups or schismatic groups, he insisted that when they come into the church, they should be baptized regardless of what might have happened to them in the past. The Bishop of Rome very, very strongly opposed this view; and the view of the Bishop of Rome has prevailed in the Roman Catholic Church, and in the greater number of the Protestant churches. In the greater number of Protestant churches it is felt, while the giving of the Lord's Supper should be limited to those who are specially ordained for the purpose, and the normal thing is to have a minister perform the baptism, yet in the majority of Christian church, it is recognized that anyone who has performed something that is indeed Christian baptism, and it is done in the name of Christ, that such a one is regarded as having been baptized.

Now this view Cyprian opposed; the Bishop of Rome favored it; it is the view of the Roman Catholic Church to this day. Any Protestants who become convinced of Roman Catholicism and join the Roman Catholic Church, today, may feel that they have never been baptized, and they want to be baptized by the priest; and so the Roman Church in recent years made a formula to cover that—it is against the law of the church to baptize anyone who has already been baptized—but they do say, "How do we know that this man has been baptized? How do we know for sure that it has happened? And how do we know that the words 'in the name of Christ' really were used?" So they say, "If this person has never been baptized, I now baptize thee." They use that formula in order to protect themselves from breaking the law of the Church. But I think even then, they only do it if the people request it.

Now, of course, according to our viewpoint, what matters is not whether any man has baptized a person, but if a person really believes, he is baptized into the Lord and saved whether any human rites have been gone through or not. And I would think personally, if the situation was like that described there, if the young man were one who had been considering the claims of Christ—she perhaps had been witnessing to him, she had reason to believe that he had really accepted the Lord, he was dying—I would think that it might be in a such a case an interesting gesture for her to give a symbol of his belief, but I don't think it would make the slightest difference in his salvation whether any human rite was ever performed or not. We  hold that if a person truly accepted Christ and believed on him, the Holy Spirit baptized him into Christ, whether there was any human ceremony or not.

Well, the Baptist Church is divided into many different groups; and there are Baptists who believe that it is a visible witness to the world of what is in their hearts; and there are others who call themselves Baptists who believe that it is absolutely necessary to salvation. There are many different groups. But I think most of us—whom we would call real Christians, Baptists—would hold that it was a symbol rather than that it was necessary to salvation.

In the early days—in the Roman Empire, in the 2nd or 3rd centuries—there were certain pagan mysteries, so-called, into which people were initiated by various types of so-called baptism; and in one of these, they had what they called the Taurobolium, in which a man was put in a little room with rafters above, a space between them; and above on those rafters they would kill a bull, so that the blood would flow down, would sprinkle down over the man; and that was the initiatory rite into this particular mystery; it was supposed to give that person a blessed eternity.

Now some have tried to make it out that Christian baptism comes from that; but it's more likely that that was an imitation of Christian baptism. We have baptism long before that. But there've been many, many different forms; and to this day, we have groups in America which insist you have to be baptized in one particular mode, another particular mode; some say you have to be immersed forward; some say you have to be immersed backward. I know of a man here in Philadelphia who was a Presbyterian thirty years ago; and he went to a school, and one of the teachers there persuaded him that in order to be saved you have to be immersed; and they had a big service at which this man was immersed; and one of the other students in this fine Christian school, who belonged to a different group, persuaded the man that in order to properly be saved, he must be immersed three times. So they had another service in which he was immersed three times. Now these two men are both wonderful Christian men, with whom I have very excellent fellowship, but they're in two different denominations, one of which baptized by one immersion, the other is very insistent on triple immersion; but I think if the Lord cared what sort of method we used, he would have specified it in Scripture.

The important thing is that we're baptized into the Lord; and if the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the Lord, it is a very fine thing to give a witness for Christ by some sort of a manifestation to the world; that we believe; that we have been born into Christ, united with him; but certainly no word in the Bible says that it is necessary for salvation, to have an external baptism.

But our present subject here is Cyprian's attitude on this, and we've noticed how Cyprian and some others held a very strong position on it; but the Bishop of Rome took a very strong position in the other direction, and so we mention

 

7. Cyprian's Relation to Rome. And it is rather important that we understand Cyprian's relation to Rome; because in the case of Cyprian, we have already noticed his idea of the church; and his idea of the church is one which doubtless gave an impetus in the direction which eventually resulted in the present organization of the Roman Catholic Church. And his idea of the unity of the catholic church, and the powers and leadership of the bishop, was something which helped in the development of its present type of organization. It is a type of organization which, in a practical way, is certainly not confined to the Roman Catholic Church at all; there are other organizations which have followed a similar type of organization.

I don't know just how the Methodist Church organization is today, I haven't been in close touch with it; but when I was a boy, I remember understanding that in a Methodist Conference, the bishop and one of the ministers could outvote all the rest of the ministers together. The bishop was the absolute authority in the conference. And in the church the minister and one member could outvote all the rest of the members. In the Methodist Church at that time, there was a hierarchical, monarchical type of government similar to that which developed to quite an extent in the Roman Catholic Church. Now that may have been loosened up quite a bit, I don't know.

On the other hand, the Episcopal—the Anglican—church, has developed in the last 300 years in a direction in which the bishop today has practically no power, except a ceremonial power. In the Anglican Church a few years ago, the Bishop of Birmingham (in England) denied that there was almost anything in the Scripture you could believe. And the Archbishop of Canterbury declared that this was wicked and wrong; that nobody should accept these views; but the Bishop of Birmingham went right on, saying what he wanted. In fact, in more recent years, the Archbishop of Canterbury has stood, in the main, for the teachings of Scripture, while the Dean of Canterbury is an out-and-out Communist, who preaches Communism. He's the Dean in the Cathedral there, at the headquarters of Canterbury; and the Archbishop of Canterbury is the head of the church of England; yet there's nothing in the world he can do to affect his dean. And the Episcopal organization has become one in which the power of the bishops is very, very nominal today. But that's a historical development—of the Episcopal church; while the Methodists, which came out of the Episcopal, developed into a very tight sort of organization.

Now Cyprian never thought of the present organization of the Roman Catholic Church, with one head over it all; his attitude was of one head over the local church; and by the way you find that in Baptist churches today. In most of the Baptist churches, the theory is that every Baptist church is a separate unit; absolutely independent, with nothing to do with any other. But there is no denomination—outside the Roman Catholic, and perhaps the Methodist—in which the minister has been as autocratic and as dictatorial as in many Baptist churches in the last half century. In many of them, you see the minister has been the Pope of that local church; it is a situation which has occurred in a great many. We have these varieties of development in church governments and organizations. Well, Cyprian, holding as he did to the bishop's power, and holding to the unity of all the bishops in the catholic church—that's a theoretical thing but it's very hard to carry out in practice—and it has developed in the direction of the present Roman idea that the Bishop of Rome is over all the bishops; and he has complete power over them, as they have over their people. But Cyprian himself conceded a leadership to the bishop of the capital of the empire. He had the first place of honor.

Now Cyprian wrote to the contemporary Bishop of Rome and told him in no uncertain terms where he thought he was wrong. And when the Bishop of Rome told Cyprian that Cyprian must not re-baptize people baptized by heretics, Cyprian wrote back to the Bishop of Rome and told him he was completely wrong, and that he should do it; and the language which Cyprian used showed that he recognized no authority in the Bishop of Rome superior to his own authority. So his relation to Rome is an interesting thing in connection with his idea of the church, to show that actually he is not a witness for the present Roman Catholic organization. Now these things were not mentioned in their discussion, but they said a good deal about the other things—in what he says about the Bishop—because he did help in the development of that which came to be the present theoretical organization of the Church of Rome.

 

8. Cyprian's Martyrdom. We notice how Cyprian fled at the first persecution. He was subjected thereby to great criticism; but he showed the greatest kind of courage, not simply the courage to stand up and take things from your enemies, but the courage to take misunderstanding from your friends; to do that which will advance the cause of Christ, even though the other people who are standing for Christ misunderstand you and criticize you. And the people about whose goodwill you care are many of them alienated by it. He had that sort of courage. And that's one of the things which made him a great leader.

But now, in these four years of safety from persecution, Cyprian was able to deal with this problem which had come out of the persecution; he was able to get his ideas understood pretty well by a great part of the church; he was able to get a substantial portion of the church into thorough support of his ideas; and the little groups that had come out of the church had formed a new schismatic group in Carthage had broken up and disappeared, and most of them had come back into the church, into the catholic church as they called it. And Cyprian was no longer as vitally needed as he had been before; and the opportunity came for him then to remove the stain upon his name, which had been placed there by the misunderstanding of other Christians who could not see his heart, and went only by his actions, and interpreted the actions the wrong way.

The great persecution—as you remember—under Valerian broke out, an edict that all the bishops should be exiled; and Cyprian was ordered to go away from Carthage; and he went away to another section, but he kept on writing to his people and exerting considerable influence. And then the second edict came out the next year; a new proconsul was sent to Africa, and he had very strict orders; though Cyprian was only the bishop of one church—he had no authority over any part of North Africa except Carthage, yet Carthage was the largest city, and this was the largest church, and he was by far the most able man; so his actual leadership over the church of North Africa was very well known, and widely recognized. And this proconsul gave the order that Cyprian be brought back from exile, and put on his own ground; and there he was out of communication with others—with guards around him—and there he was for a time.

And then the proconsul sent the order to have Cyprian brought before him; Cyprian came before the proconsul, and the proconsul addressed him very kindly; he recognized him as a man of great ability, a man of standing in the Roman Empire; he asked him if he would not show his support of the Emperor, and his support of good order in Rome, by giving up this superstition that was undermining the solid basis of the Roman state; and just offering a little sacrifice. And Cyprian declared in round terms that he was a Christian; that he was a loyal subject of the Emperor, and obeyed him in all lawful matters; but that he was a Christian, and he could not sacrifice to any deity, or offer any service to any alleged superhuman being except Christ.

And when he had tried to persuade him and argued with him, the proconsul said, "Well there is nothing we can do then but carry out the orders from the Emperor. We will have to have you executed." And Cyprian said, "The Lord be praised! He has sent me the opportunity of suffering for Christ!" So that night Cyprian was allowed to meet for the last time with his elders and deacons; and he had a meeting with them, and a farewell service with them; and then the next day they took him out to a great place—out in the plain—outside of Carthage where a platform had been erected; and when they got out there they found that thousands of people had come out; but the attitude of these people was very, very different from the attitude of the people a century before—in the tine of Marcus Aurelius—when the people were calling these the wicked followers of this new superstition; this was only 150-170 years after Christ's time; the mob knew nothing about Christianity except that these were the people who were bringing the calamity upon the empire; and they were calling for the Christians be killed.

Now, there was no calling of the mob for Cyprian's blood at all; the officers were sorry they had to carry out the orders against this man they recognized as a good man, and a fine character. The people out there were respectful; there was no calling out against him, nothing; no attitude like that on the part of the general mob, though of course the great bulk of people were still pagan. One thing too that had contributed to this; in those four years after the first persecution, there had been these terrible pestilences, when the pagans would leave their best friends and run in terror lest they catch the thing; and when the Christians were caring, not only for the Christians, but for the pagans; and risking their own lives, and many of them dying in the pestilence because of way that they tried to alleviate the sufferings of others. And what the Christians had done to help alleviate human suffering had done a great deal to change the attitude of people toward them during this time.

So they took Cyprian out there, they brought him up onto the platform there; and Cyprian was dressed in his very best; and there Cyprian said farewell to his elders and deacons; and then he took his purse and took out a sum of gold and handed it to the executioner as a gift; and then he took his coat off, laid it down smoothly beside him there; one of his elders came up and took a linen cloth, and put it down on the platform there; then he turned to the executioner and said, "I am ready." And he bowed over, the executioner was holding the sword, and with one hit with the sword his head was severed from his body; they left the body lying there until night, when no interference was made with Christians coming and taking the body; and they carried it in a procession with candlelight to the Christian cemetery where they buried him. Thus the death of Cyprian deprived the church of one of the great leaders; but his death at this time did not do a tenth of the harm it would have done if he'd been killed in the Decian persecution; because he had had the opportunity to do so much good during that period. And at the same time now, it was a witness to all the world, that unflinchingly he was ready to give up everything he had, when just a pinch of incense would have saved his life and given him a place of honor among the pagans.

He was ready to suffer for the cause of Christ; and when the persecution ended a year or two after, there were great numbers who flocked into the church; and the blood of the martyrs truly became the seed of the church, as in the phrase Tertullian had invented fifty years before.

In Rome there was no leader of the stature of Cyprian at this time. But the position of Bishop of Rome was a far more dangerous position than that of the Bishop of Carthage; because in Rome, a city of well over a million people, the presence of say 50,000 Christians constituted a group right in the center of the capital which an Emperor might think of as a great potential danger. And someone made the statement that Decius considered selection of a new Bishop of Rome as a greater menace to himself than the stepping forward of a genera1 claiming to be the Emperor against him.

I believe during these ten years, there were four bishops of Rome who were martyred. It was a very, very dangerous position. It was sometimes two or three years when they did not elect a bishop, because the Roman Empire was just determined to destroy the Bishop of Rome. The Bishop of Carthage was not in quite as prominent position as this; it was a province off to the side; the orders came from Rome; and in Carthage by this time, though the great bulk was still pagan, the general attitude had become one of respect for the Christians; and it was becoming more so in Rome than it had been before.

So much then for the account of this very great man—a great Christian leader; he was a man of important influence in many ways in the development of the early church. We call it early, but it still was well over 200 years after the death of Christ. The Church has already gone on a long time. From our viewpoint, you might say it's a very primitive church; but from their time, it's further back to the death of Christ than the Declaration of Independence is from now; that's the early church. The United States is just an infant in arms as far as a nation is concerned. Many people think that anything in the early church shows what we ought to do. Well, that's true, I'd say, if it's the church of the first fifty years. We know nothing of the church in the first fifty years, except what's in the book of Acts. And by this time, all sorts of changes have taken place. But Cyprian was a man of great abilities, a true Christian, a man who had a tremendous influence upon his day and his influence has remained in many ways to this day.

And yet, strangely, it is my impression that of all the leaders of the early church, of all the great leaders he was certainly one of the top dozen; yet he is perhaps the least known. I confess that though I had Church History in Seminary, when I began to teach Church History, if somebody had asked me the first day who Cyprian was, I don't believe I could have told them. And each time I've gone over the material, I've been more impressed with his importance as an individual in the early days of the development of the Christian Church. But now we go on to something of quite a different type.

 

G. Mythraism and Manichaeanism. I was tempted to call this "Three Great Enemies of Christianity in the 3rd Century." Sometimes we call it Manichaeism, sometimes Manichaeanism, which is perhaps more correct.

 

1. Mythraism.  The Christian Church during the 1st and 2nd centuries was a very small movement, little known by this pagan world. Little-known and most people didn't recognize it as a great danger to other movements. But by the third century, while still very, very far from a majority, perhaps not over a fifth of the people, yet it was a very substantial movement, and one which people recognized as a force to be reckoned with. And in this century we find three other forces coming up to great prominence; and an educated, objective-minded pagan in those days, not connected with any one of these, might have great difficulty deciding which of them would most likely survive. Strangely, one of the most active and powerful of these—Mythraism—is largely forgotten today. It will not be necessary for me to say much about it. It is necessary that we be aware of it at least, because it was a very powerful movement in its day. Now Mythraism is the worship which is built around the god Mythras; and Mythras is a very old god; that is to say in early Persian mythology, and early Hindu mythology, there is reference to a Mythra; so it is thought by scholars, that it must date back before the Persians and Indians divided, that there was a belief in this god Mythras.

Well, Mythras—particularly among the Persians—was quite a powerful deity, connected up with the Sun to quite an extent. He eventually came to be identified with the Sun. And when the Roman soldiers went to Persia before the time of Christ, there were a few of them who were converted to the worship of Mythras and brought it back with them to Rome. Mythraism never had much success in Greece; it was never known to any great extent in Greece. But from Persia it was brought back to Rome, particularly about 200 AD, though we have traces of it before that time. But between 200 AD and 300 or 350 AD, it was an increasing force in the Roman Empire. And there have been found remains of—I believe—fifty different shrines in Rome from that period, which have been excavated within the last two or three centuries, showing that there were many centers in Rome of the worship of Mythras. It was particularly common in the outskirts of the Roman Empire, where there were large garrisons, because the Mythras religion was particularly the soldier's religion. It was a religion of virility; in fact, there's no place in the Mythras religion, as far as we know, for women at all. It is a religion of men. It is a religion of soldiers. It is a religion which stressed the soldierly virtues: which stressed courage, which stressed honesty, which stressed honor; it had many ethical points to recommend it.

In Britain, where there were Roman garrisons, there have been found Temples to Mythras, from this century, which have been found there in recent times. When the barbarians flooded in—in the last part of the 3rd century—into the territory that is now Romania, it was a great blow to Mythraism because there were so many centers of Mythraism in that area. It was a religion which was growing rapidly during this century—during this century growing faster than Christianity was—but at the beginning of the century Christianity was way ahead of it. And many would have thought that it was the wave of the future. Today it's practically completely forgotten; it is hard to realize that for a period of centuries it was such a rapidly growing movement at that time. Now we will go on to mention

 

2. Manichaeanism. And this I mention second because it began later than Mythraism; but Manichaeanism, though it began later than Mythraism, continued later; there are traces of it found as late as the 12th century AD. It was a movement which, like Mythraism, began in Persia. But it was not an ancient movement in Persia. Mani, the founder of Manichaeanism, was a man of great ability, who lived in Persia about the middle of the 2nd Christian century; so you see it is a comparatively late religion.

Mani, a Persian, studied the Persian religion, but he came in contact with gnostic ideas; and he traveled into the Roman Empire; he had contact with various teachings of various lands, and he built it together into a system which is, you might say, the logical development of the gnostic views of the 2nd century AD. Manichaeanism can be said to be the climax of Gnosticism.

It was around the middle of the 3rd century that Mani was killed in Persia by the Emperor. The Persian Emperor had Mani crucified; and then he took his skin off from his body—flayed his body—he was subjected to the most terrible torture; and his body was desecrated; and the persecution of his followers by the Persian Emperor was very intense.

But his beliefs had spread beyond the Persian Empire; and they spread rapidly at this time, through the Roman Empire; and all the various  gnostic movements, the followers of Marcion and of Simon Magus, and the gnostic movement in the Roman Empire, recognized Manichaeanism as being a related movement. The gnostic movements were individual groups following a teacher with a certain system of ideas. But Mani developed not only a system of ideas very similar to the gnostics, but also an organization; and that is one reason why his system lasted to some extent until the 12th century AD in western Europe, while the other gnostic movements pretty well died out by the end of the 3rd century, most of them by the end of the 2nd.

Mani had a system with twelve apostles; and these apostles had the leadership; and then other people under them; and they had a definite, worked-out system of organization; they had ceremonies for initiation into their movement, and they had the advanced secrets that were not supposed to be told to anyone till he had gone through the various stages of development in the organization.

They claimed to have the true understanding of life; and their understanding was that matter is evil, and what we want to do is to get away from that. This was the gnostic idea; we want to get away from matter; Satan was the creator of this world; he had done a wicked thing in creating the world. Cain and Abel were not the children of Adam and Eve, but of Satan; and Satan was the force of evil, whom we must oppose. We must oppose all matter; everything connected with Satan or with matter. So there was much asceticism in the teaching of the Manichaeans; much was taken over from the gnostics; and they had secret ceremonies which only the initiated could take up; advanced teaching which those who had proceeded a certain distance in the religion could go into. As late as 400 AD—slightly before—we find St. Augustine, before he became a Christian, to be tremendously attracted by the Manichaeanism; he considering joining them—this powerful, widespread Manichaean Movement. It lasted much longer than Mythraism; it was a very great enemy of Christianity. Of course, it very strongly denied the incarnation; it was blasphemy to think that God—the great and good God—would be coming and mating with matter which is evil, an incarnation which according to gnostic views...

[student: Does it have any relationship to Rosicrucianism?] Actually, all we know about Manichaeanism today is from the writings of its opponents; and we have certain Chinese writings—it had spread as far as China—we have certain Chinese writings by some of its adherents which have been found. We have a few of the Manichaean statements of their beliefs, which have been found very recently; but most we know about it is from its enemies. Now the Rosicrucians would say that they have the original wisdom of the pyramids going back—passed on secretly down through the ages—and most of the great men in American history were great because they were Rosicrucians; but that is, as far as I know, pure imagination. But whether there is a tie-up somewhere between Manichaeanism and Rosicrucianism, it would be very hard for anybody to prove; there might be and there might not. It takes the central teachings of the various gnostic groups and they are its central attitude; and they are organized into a more definite system at this time.

[student: how did they view Jesus?] Well they might hold that God pretended to be a man, looked like a man, but wasn't a real man. It would be such a thing as God assuming human form, but not actually taking matter on, not actually assuming a body; they denied any virtue in the death of Christ, but they did honor Christ greatly—or Jesus, they called him.

Aspects of their ideas about matter would be somewhat similar to the view of the Eddyists, or Christian Science; but in other ways they would not be like them. The Rosicrucians are a group which may be somewhat like them; but the Rosicrucians, like the Manichaeans, claimed to have their inner secrets that only the initiated can know; and therefore unless you've been initiated into both of them you just can't compare them; and we haven't been initiated into the Rosicrucians, and we couldn't be in the Manichaeans, so we can't compare them. But that there's that similarity; there are many points of similarity, but I don't think there's any group today that's really altogether like them.

Dr. Machen, in his book, The Origin of Paul's Religion, has gone into it quite fully; and he has done an excellent job of showing that the bulk of the evidence would point in the direction of their having been in many ways copies of Christianity, rather than vice versa. But the evidence is insufficient to prove it. In the end, if we believe that Christ is the Lord and Savior; believe that the Bible is true; we find nothing in these claims today to be a strong evidence against this belief. But we could not simply, on a historical ground, prove the contrary, because the evidence is just not there. But there's a great deal written very, very dogmatically, stating that Christianity has taken things over from these religions, which simply is not true.

I was in a class at the University of Pennsylvania, reading Babylonian documents; there was a young Jewish fellow—from quite an orthodox background—and myself, in the class; we were the whole class. And this noted professor—this was about 35 years ago—directing the reading of this document; and we read about Gilgamesh, the old Babylonian leader; and it said in the beginning of the text, he was two-thirds man and one-third god. And the professor, who had been a Quaker, and was then an ordained minister in the Episcopal church, said, "That's where they get the idea for god-man, its genesis, from Gilgamesh—two-thirds god and one-third man.

And I remember this Jewish fellow looked so interested—so tremendously impressed to know where Christianity really did come from. And there was a professor Jensen in Germany, a very noted professor of Baylonian forty years ago, who wrote a book on the Gilgamesh epic in world literature [Prof. Peter Christian Albrecht Jensen, Das Gilgamesch-Epos in der Weltliteratur, (1906)-dcb], and he ended up his book with the statement something like this—it's a book of a thousand pages, and it ends up with the words that the one whom Christians worship in great cathedrals and in little shanties, in meeting houses and temples of all sorts, this one is no other than the development of the old Babylonian Gilgamesh, and that was the claim that many make, but there's absolutely no evidence.

Personally, to my mind, it's utterly silly to think that the idea that one is two-thirds god and one third man has anything to do with the idea of one who was a god-man, with a human mother and true human ancestors and an incarnation of the Lord. But when you look for verbal similarities, you can find them everywhere. And once you get in that frame of mind, you can develop most anything. There is such a thing as one system being tremendously affected by another, and drawing from it; but we have to have proof, not just ifs, too many of these are dogmatic statements without proof—and I don't think we can expect to prove the contrary; but if we can know the material to the point where, when somebody comes up with a strong train of something like this, we can point out one or two weaknesses, points in the material where we have absolute evidence of the weakness of the particular point, often you can shake a person's faith in what they've been given, and make them open to hearing something more about the truth.

[student: Did the Persian Zoroastrians persecute the Manichaeans?] Yes, the Zoroastrians persecuted them; they considered them as heretics and killed them and tortured them, were very much opposed to them; but it doubtless was related to Zoroastrianism; it took many ideas from it, but added to them these gnostic ideas; it made the changes, which Zoroastrians considered, as they said, as corrupting the true teaching of Zoroastrianism; and it was for this reason that they were terribly persecuted. If you say that the fact that the system can stand persecution proves it's true, you'd better go slow about giving that as a complete truth; because the Manichaeans withstood the most terrible persecution from the Persians. And then in the Roman Empire many of them were persecuted to quite an extent; and then when the Roman Church got to be quite powerful, they persecuted the Manichaeans and still they survived, quite a few of them, until as late as the 12th and 13th century AD, when thousands of them were killed in the persecutions. So the proof that something is true is if it is in accordance with the Word of God; not, are people willing to die for it? The fact that people are willing die for it may bring converts to it, but not prove its truth. 

So much then for this very brief introduction to the two great enemies of the Christian Church. They were movements.

The third group we look at was not so much a movement as a system of thought; but the third has continued to this day. It's had its ups and downs in between. The third we will call

 

H. Neo-Platonism. And Neo-Platonism was a movement of thought which came to the fore also during this 3rd century; it was not an organized group like the Manichaeans; it was not an oriental sect like the Mythraists; but it was something which claimed to be derived from the philosophers of ancient Greece, but tremendously changed from them; and this Neo-Platonism was a system of thought which the Encyclopaedia Britannica article on it claimed was eventually adopted into the Christian Church; and although it had utterly repudiated the central ideas of Christianity—such as the incarnation and atonement—the Encyclopaedia Britannica claims that its other ideas were taken into the Christian Church and became largely dominant in it.

Now I'm not saying that I believe that is true, but it's interesting that that can be found in the latest edition, or next to latest, of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, such a strong statement as that. And I found one article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica on its greatest leader, in which he is praised almost as if he is the greatest man who ever lived; and in another article on Neo-Platonism in general, it is branded as a mixture of contradictory elements doomed to failure by its very irrational type of thought; and to find these two articles there in the recent appraisal of it shows how it is a real force today—Neo-Platonism.

So it is well that we know something about Neo-Platonism, though again we cannot take the time to go into it fully. Its greatest leader was a man named Plotinus; and the Great Books series published by the University of Chicago has the whole volume of Plotinus' Enneads included as one of the great books of the Western World. And my brother-in-law has been working on the Greek of a section of Plotinus for a thesis for the University of Pennsylvania for the last 10 years. Every year I've thought he finished his work and would get his Ph.D. the next year. He may this year, I don't know. But he's still working at it, and has been all this time on the study of Plotinus. But you see it is a limited thing.

Plotinus was translated into Arabic and—through the middle ages—people in Arabia and Syria studied Plotinus and referred to him as the Master; and Neo-Platonism went through the Mohammedan world and came up into Spain, and it exerted influence again in the Christian world. So you see it has been an important force in Christian history, although never quite so important as it was in the third and in the fourth century; and one time in the fourth century, it looked as if Neo-Platonism was utterly destroying Christianity, when one of its men became Emperor; he set about, consciously and definitely, to bring an end to the whole influence of Christianity.

 

1. Its Background. There are two elements in it. One element in Neo-Platonism is the philosophy of ancient Greece, Plato and Aristotle, particularly Plato. But another element, which is perhaps just as important in it, is a desire to hold to the old pagan religion, while re-interpreting it; you might call it a sort of modernistic paganism. That is to say, they took their myths, the old pagan gods, and tried to make out that these are really presentations of great virtues. And they tried to present Christian virtues under the claim that these were derived from the old pagan gods; they tried to hold to the old mythology, but to re-interpret it.

But there's this about the Neo-Platonists: they were not altogether partial to the pagan religion; they were ready to take any religion and re-interpret it. I've seen that tendency even in the modern times. One time I was in Germany having dinner—when I was a student there one evening—with a young fellow from India and a young fellow from Persia; they belonged to different religions and hated each other because of their different religious backgrounds. But we got to talking about what they really believed, and we found that both of them had soaked up German rationalism to the point where they both were thorough-going German rationalistic modernists. Only one of them interpreted it in the terms of his particular heathen religion and the other in the terms of his particular religion. But their view was absolutely identical, when you found what it was.

Now that is the Neo-Platonist attitude toward most religions. They were ready to recognize Jesus as a great teacher; and they were ready to use some of the Old Testament stories as myths and legends to illustrate ethical principles. But they were somewhat similar to the Gnostics in their attitude toward matter. They could not believe in the incarnation because they could not believe that God would tie Himself up with matter. Such a belief to them was absolutely impossible. We'll look at a few of the great leaders and see a little of their influence next Monday.

Now we were speaking last time about H, Neo-Platonism; and Neo-Platonism is a difficult matter to make clear. In fact I was talking yesterday with a brother-in law of mine who has for ten years been working on a PhD thesis on perhaps the leading of all the Neo-Platonists. And he said that it is impossible to prove whether the leading Neo-Platonists follow Plato or completely misunderstood Plato. Authorities today differ. Whether what they were giving was a new form of Plato's views or something entirely different, that they utterly misunderstood Plato. It is very difficult to understand exactly what Neo-Platonism is in full. But this is important for us as studying not philosophy, but history; it is important to recognize that it was a very important force in the latter part of ancient church history; and it is an influence which has had considerable importance since that time also, whether one really understands it or not.

Now it's interesting in the Encyclopaedia Britannica to find an article about Plotinus—don't bother with the name now, we'll have a separate heading about him—but he is probably the greatest of all the Neo-Platonists; we find an article about him which lauds him to the skies and also makes him appear to be the greatest philosopher, the most influential one that almost ever lived; and at the same time we find in that same encyclopedia an article on Neo-Platonism which speaks of Neo-Platonism as folly from its own absurdity; and the article on Neo-Platonism has a very interesting contradiction in it—that is, a conflict rather—it says that Neo-Platonism, judged from the standpoint of empirical science and philosophy, passed its meridian in Plato and Aristotle, declined in the post-Aristotelian system, and set in the darkness of Neo-Platonism. It says, but from the religious and moral point of view it must be admitted that the ethical mood which Neo-Platonism endeavored to create and maintain is the highest and purest ever reached by antiquity. That's quite a compliment, isn't it? And that is what the article here in the Encyclopaedia Britannica says in summarizing it at the start. It was a very important influence and a very extensive influence in the latter part of ancient church history.

Now as to how great an extent it was, of course, influenced by Christianity and affected by it is hard to know. Because very often the greatest enemy of a movement is something that is very similar, that perhaps is without its most important feature, but that imitates it from many of the features from which its strength comes. I have a book here by a professor of fifty years ago in the University of Chicago, who says the struggle of Neo-Platonism with Christianity was brilliant and pathetic. But it represented the exhaustion of the ancient world, and its problems remained unsolved.

Neo-Platonism represents certainly an attempt to make philosophy a guide of life, there's no question of that. It is an attempt to make philosophy the guide of life, and to make deductive thinking the greatest thing in the universe. It tries to exalt the understanding of thought forms, principles and ideals and that sort of thing, to the point where the physical becomes comparatively unimportant; but yet it doesn't take the gnostic and Manichaean attitude that matter is in itself evil. It has something of the attitude of Manichaeanism but without a definite antagonism to matter. It makes matter subordinate. The important thing is great principles, which it claims to derive from speculation about the universe; it is to some extent Monotheistic in that it talks about God and his relation; we have come from God and our ideal is to go back to God, and to sink ourselves into nothingness in the Godhead. And that is the desire, the ideal; but it finds expression of its ideals in every religion; and whatever religion is near, it can take its myths and legends and use them as containers for its own ethical ideas and its own philosophical ideas.

Some of the Neo-Platonists tried to do that with Christianity; but at the time of which we are speaking, most of them devoted themselves to the pagan religion, and tried to explain all of their myths in such a way that you could carry them into great, beautiful philosophical ideas.

 

2. Ammoniacus Saccas. For the little I'm going to say about him, it's a very involved name to give. Ammoniacus, sometimes is given in the briefer form of Ammonias; and the second name, Saccas. Ammoniacus Saccas was a man who is said to have been born in Athens; we're not sure about that, but he spent most of his life in Alexandria, and during the years following 200 AD he was teaching in Alexandria. He had quite a following there; he was considered as a very prominent philosophical leader; he did not wish his views to be widely disseminated. He felt that they were too advanced for the common run of people to understand; he wanted his people to keep them to themselves and advance in their understanding, and to help one another—those who really could understand—but not to give them to the knowledge of the general mass of people; and we have no writings left of his; we have nothing left that he wrote and no accounts, to speak of, of what his views were; but we know about some of those who were influenced by him. We know of him—for one thing—because Origen tells us that he attended the lectures of Saccas; that he went to the lectures in order to get the view of the pagan and understand it in order to refute its errors. And he considered this teacher as of sufficient importance and sufficient brilliance that it was worth his time to go and attend his lectures. But we know more particularly, because the man who had most influence of all the Neo-Platonists said himself that he secured his viewpoint from this teacher in Egypt. So we'll go on to him,

 

3. Plotinus. Now Plotinus is thought of as being of sufficient importance that the series that the Encyclopaedia Britannica has issued, the Great Books, devotes a whole volume to the writings of Plotinus. His writings have been studied ever since the time of Plotinus, and his views have had a great deal of influence. His name is one you can remember, Plotinus. He would seem to have lived from 205 to 270; but his principal disciple, who wrote his biography, said that Plotinus seemed to be ashamed of being in a body, and hence he refused to tell anything about his parents, his ancestry or his country.

It is generally thought that he was an Egyptian, but we cannot prove it. We do know that he was in Egypt, and that he studied under Ammonias Saccas; that the first time that a friend took him to hear this man, he exclaimed to his friend, "That is the man I have been seeking for!" And then for 11 years he studied there in Alexandria under Saccas; and at the age of 39 he left, determined to get direct knowledge of the philosophy practiced among the Persians and honored among the Indians. So he traveled with the Roman Army over to Persia; but the Emperor was assassinated, and Plotinus with difficulty escaped and got back to Rome; and in Rome he set up his school; and there for 25 years he was the leader of a school in Rome which was attended by many highly intellectual people. Professional philosophers, several physicians, senators, popes, a banker, and many distinguished women attended his school. One senator said that, as a result of his associating with Plotinus, he reached such a state of detachment that he abandoned all his goods, dismissed his servants, gave up all his offices. The emperor Gallienus—you haven't mentioned this in your paper about Gallienus just now because I hadn't yet told it about it—but Gallienus and his wife held Plotinus in very great esteem, and often studied philosophy with him.

Plotinus, during his first ten years, refused to commit any of his teachings to writing. He had taken a pledge not to reveal any of the teachings of his teachers; they were to be kept just among the elect, those who studied carefully and got into the deeper things of it; but he found that others were talking about these teachings, and so he began to write, and he wrote 54 treatises. He didn't pay much attention to his style, and wasn't very interested in the writing; he was more interested in his teaching; and he produced the greater part of these—in fact 30 of the 54—during his last six years. But these writings which he wrote doubtless summarized pretty well what he taught; but he did not work over them carefully to make sure they expressed exactly what he meant; and scholars have debated ever since what they really did mean. And today there are several in this world giving a great part of their time trying to decide exactly what Plotinus meant by what he wrote. After Plotinus' death, his disciple Porphyry wrote a life of Plotinus; and he took his 54 treatises and he arranged them, and put them in 6 groups of nine; and since there were nine in each group he called these the Enneads [ennea is Greek for nine]. So the Enneads, the Six Enneads, is the title given to Plotinus' 54 treatises, which Porphyry arranged in order to publish subjects about the nature of the soul, the kinds of being, the meaning of providence, the relation of soul to the body, and so on. He called them the Enneads, the Six Enneads.

Well, these Enneads were written and were studied in the later Roman Empire. During the middle ages they were pretty well forgotten in the Western World, though many of the teachings going through different hands were still effective and important in the middle ages. His actual writings had little influence then in the Western World until modern times, when they have been translated and disseminated. I understand there is a new edition just being prepared in Paris now of this. But these writings were translated into Syriac and then into Arabic, and the Arabic philosophers in the middle ages studied them a considerable amount, and always referred to Plotinus as the Master. But they had a connection with Mohammedan philosophy through the middle ages.

They have been, you see, very influential, though they are quite vague and difficult to understand at many points. But for those who like to think that by their own human reasoning and speculation they can arrive at higher satisfaction and understanding of the universe, the speculative method instead of by the hard method of scientific experimentation or by the Christian method of getting the revelation from God, they have found great inspiration in the writings of Plotinus and in the whole Neo-Platonist approach. There are Arabic writings which quote extensively from it, written in the middle ages, which refer to him as The Master. I don't suppose they even knew where he lived; they knew the writings and they valued them very highly. Now we go on to

 

4. Porphyry. Porphyry was the disciple of Plotinus who was so interested in making Plotinus' work available and in telling about the life of Plotinus. But in Porphyry the opposition to Christianity comes more to the fore; and Porphyry devoted a great deal of effort to direct attack upon Christianity. We do not find Plotinus much recognizing the existence of Christianity—though he is presenting another system—a system which probably has actually borrowed much from Christianity. But Porphyry wrote, in addition to his writings about Plotinus, he wrote extensively against Christianity. These works of his against Christianity, the Christian monks did not feel it important to copy through the middle ages, and they have disappeared. We do not have his writings any more than we have those of Celsus 150 years earlier; but we have elaborate answers to his writings, and from them we can tell a great deal about what is in his writings.

He distinguished the original pure doctrine of Jesus from the second-handed adulterated doctrine of the apostles. Jesus, in his opinion, was a great teacher, a man who had beautiful ideas, and it was very lovely to follow; but when the Christians considered Jesus God, that of course he considered absolutely wrong and harmful. He wrote very extensively on the book of Daniel, trying to show that Daniel was a fraud; that it did not describe predictions, but that it was written after they occurred, and described history after it occurred, pretending that it was a prediction.

You might say he's one of the very earliest of the higher critics; and his methods of attacking the Scripture have been followed by many in modern times. He was a very able man, and a very active opponent of Christianity. The Neo-Platonists continued for another two hundred years; they were very active in propagating their beliefs, and very constantly on the watch for means to injure Christianity. Porphyry's view is that Jesus was a fine man, he was a good teacher; and his teachings about not being concerned about material things are very excellent; but the idea of thinking of him as a saint or a god, according to him, is superstition and mythology. It's just about like the old-fashioned liberalism of today, which is very similar on this point to the Neo-Platonism.

Well, this does not complete Neo-Platonism, because it had much influence after this time; but we have not completed Manichaeanism either; it continues, but I'm not going to anticipate and go on to succeeding centuries, merely wishing to summarize them and to refer to them a number of times in the course of the next month, where we have important aspects of it entering.

I want to take a minute to answer three or four questions on your sheets—rather interesting questions. Here is a question saying, "Why do we know so little of Cyprian if he was so important?" That is a good question, but I have to interpret it. There are two possible interpretations; one would be, "Why is so little known about this? And that would not be true; a great deal is known about it. We have many of his letters; we have a great deal of information; probably as much as about any individual—any Christian—between the time of the apostles and 300 AD. But what I meant to say was that the Christian world today as a whole—at least our evangelical churches—know very little about Cyprian. And I think that the fact is that we don't know much about many of these early Christian leaders. Cyprian is not unique in that regard, at all. But his influence helped to build the Roman Church; consequently the evangelicals and Protestants as a whole aren't so much interested in him.

On the other hand, his influence helped to build the Roman Church; if you study it carefully, it definitely denies the Papal claims that the Bishop of Rome had any superiority over any other bishops. Well, when you get into it a little, you find these things out. But there are a few men—like there was an English Anglican Archbishop who devoted his life to the study of Cyprian—wrote a very valuable book about him; there are individuals who study him greatly, but he's not the sort of figure like the early martyrs who give good illustrations for our sermons. Cyprian held very strongly to what we hold, and I don't think he ever bowed to anybody else's authority, except when he was convinced they were right.

But Cyprian held that the bishop has a place of supremacy in the church; and that all the bishops together are one unit; that the church is a unit; and among these units, the Bishop of Rome has the place of honor, as the Bishop of the leading city in the Empire, and the successor of Peter and Paul. His authority was in Rome, but not anywhere else except in Rome. There's no evidence that he ever gave any recognition to any other bishop as having authority over Carthage—Cyprian, that is—but he held that the bishop had the authority in the church of which he was bishop; and that all the bishops together made one unit; and the leading one is the Bishop of Rome, but it is a leadership of honor, not of authority; that was Cyprian's view. And if somebody interpreted it as authority, we have his letters to the Bishop of Rome, in which he so strongly rebukes him for not requiring strictness that time. In the end, the Bishop of Rome's views won out, but not in Cyprian's lifetime. I'm glad we had an opportunity to make it clearer, because this is quite important.

And then here's a very good question: "How could Novatus, who opposed Cyprian's strictness, go in with Novatian, who was even stricter in his attitude toward the lapsed?" Half of you got to discuss that in your papers today; but the answer to that, "how could he?" is, if I knew I would be able to understand the attitude of many people with which I have had close relationships at different times. In other words, human beings are not consistent; and you will find—I have found this—whenever I see a man who thinks that some other man has got the last word on everything; and whatever that man says, that's just exactly right; whenever I see somebody like that, I say, "Just let's watch that man twenty years from now, and see if he won't think that that other man was 100% wrong on everything that he ever held." Because I find that most men who follow another man 100% turn around and are 100% against him later. It is a human fallacy, a fault, to be inconsistent. And I personally feel that we should recognize that all are sinners; and all have their errors; and find how much there is of Christ in another individual, and follow that. And the man who follows critically is one I have far more confidence in; I'm far more apt to think he'll keep on following, because he's thought it through himself; and he really knows what he's doing; than the man who is just blindly following someone else's ideas, or somebody's attitudes.

But I have known at least 20 people—and I don't mean following any other one individual—I know of quite a number of individuals; I guess it wouldn't hurt to mention a specific instance; Dr. Chafer, of Dallas. Dr. Chafer, during his lifetime, had many students who almost worshipped the ground he stood on; and anything he said was just about the last word on everything. I have known at least five individuals who left that seminary, thinking Dr. Chafer was just the last word on everything; and ten years later they were against anything whatever it could be proven that Dr. Chafer had stood for. They went from the one extreme—which was the wrong attitude toward any man—to the exact opposite extreme—which was 100 times worse—because Dr. Chafer, while he made his errors as every human being does, the great bulk of his teaching was very excellent, and very Christian, and very fine.

And I've known individuals I could name who've done exactly that—in relation to him—and I've known a good many others too, and I'm just afraid when anybody takes an attitude of extremely thorough-going loyalty to another individual's ideas, or leadership. It's human to be inconsistent. That's human. People swing and they swing widely. And if Novatus, taking a strong attitude against Cyprian's strictness, had gone up to Rome and stood strongly for the Bishop of Rome, we would say, "Well, probably Novatus has thought to himself this is the thing he thought was right," but when we find him swinging to the opposite extreme up there, we don't say he was insincere.

Many a man does it in perfect sincerity. He may have been insincere, but we have no proof of that. But it does look as if the underlying motive was a desire for his own advantage; against the leadership whatever it was; and I've known people like that; I've known excellent teachers who've been very helpful influences in many ways; but they have something in them, that makes them just pick out some little point wherever they are; and they become so indignant at it, that it makes it pretty soon hard for them to get along; and then they'll go to some other place that holds a very different view; and they'll be very happy here too; and then they get some little point there... Novatus was probably that way. Novatus in Carthage criticized Cyprian for being strict, and he organized a group that said Cyprian was too strict and opposed him. Then when he moved to Rome, and he found that the Bishop of Rome was under criticism because he was not strict enough; he joined with the criticizers there, and it is said that he urged Novatian to start the new church. Now we can't prove he did. Novatian seems to have been a thoroughly good man; but all the evidence is that Novatian did not want to pull out on that particular issue, but that he would listen.

Novatian wrote a number of very excellent theological writings; he was a very high class writer. The only thing I've ever read against him is that he was a very stern, gloomy fellow who was very strict on the law. Nobody has ever accused him of anything else that I've found.

I think that covers the time we'll take for questions.

 

J. Forty Years of Freedom from Persecution. We spent a good bit of time talking about the ten years of persecution under Decius and Valerian. We've spoken a good deal about the previous fifty years because of the great men there were then—the end of Tertullian's life, the activity of Origen, and the activity of Cyprian. They were years that we had a good bit to speak about.

Now we have a period of forty years concerning which we do not have a great deal to say. We have very few important writers—hardly any during this period. We have no great leaders like Cyprian that are known during this period. Perhaps it is partly due to the fact that Decius and Valerian killed so many of the leaders. They had definitely set out to destroy the leadership of the church, and it may be that the first-class men, of whom we would have known during this period, had been killed during the persecution. There are hardly any names that really stand out during these 40 years; but 40 years is a sizeable length of time. It is practically a whole generation of life, and we should be aware of the fact that during this time from Gallienus' accession, when he made his edict of toleration, up to the beginning of the next century, there was practically no persecution.

Now I don't say that it was a period when there was no persecution; there were doubtless instances where the pagans mistreated Christians; in the army there were many Christians, and the army often had to take part in pagan ceremonies; and occasionally the Christian who refused to do so might be set upon by his fellow soldiers and mistreated, or even might be considered by his officer to be disobedient and be killed—not theoretically for being a Christian—but for being disobedient and refusing to carry out orders. There were doubtless occasional martyrs during this period, but any definite program of persecution on the part of the state was not done; and there was this edict of Gallienus who recognized Christianity as a permitted religion, having its right to exist.

 

1. Growth of the Church. There was ten years of growth in two waves, at the beginning and end of it; there was heavy persecution between 250 and 260; at the beginning of that persecution, great numbers of people had left the church; but now the persecution had ended, the people were glorifying the martyrs; the other people were admiring the way other Christians had stood up and faced the tortures, and suffered through it; and there came a terrible pestilence and many calamities in the reign of Gallienus at that time; and the Christians had done so much for other people, that the result was that it led many people toward Christianity; and while Mythraism was growing and active during this period, Manichaeanism just beginning to grow at this period; but Mythraism was very active, and Neo-Platonism very active, particularly among the educated classes; great numbers of people were joining the Christian church during this period.

It is possible, even, that by 300 as many as one-fifth of the people of the empire may have been Christians; perhaps not that many, certainly at least a tenth of the people of the Empire had become Christians in the course of the nearly 300 years since the death of Christ, by the end of the period. And a great part of that number had become Christians during this period of forty years. Since Christianity was a permitted religion now, people were allowed to build churches; previously they mostly met in homes, in small halls, or out in the country, or sometimes even in cemeteries. It was hard to meet in the cemeteries, because the rooms in the cemeteries were underground caverns in which the dead were buried; and it was hard to find any room large enough for a large meeting; but sometimes meetings were held in the catacombs, though that was not the purpose of the catacombs.

[student: Did the public accept Christians?] Well, it varied. It was much more fashionable than it had ever been before. There were sections where people were looked down upon for being Christians; there were other areas in which they doubtless were looked up to. And a great mixed multitude came into the church; but with this mixed multitude, there were many very real Christians too; there's no question of that. But it was a time of great growth on the part of the church; and a time of the building of many church buildings. And at the end of the century in Nicomedia—in Asia Minor—which was Diocletian's capital, where he had his great palace; there was a larger building even than Diocletian's palace, and a building which stood up higher than the palace; and this building was the church, the leading church, of Nicomedia. It was a very large and splendid building in which great multitudes came together for the services, a building very beautifully built.

There were very fine churches in many parts of the Empire, by 300 AD. It was a time then of growth in material things, growth in building. As to whether it was—to any great extent—a time of spiritual growth, we are lacking in evidence; we have no great writings from this period; we have no one at the time writing a history; we have histories written later, looking back to it, but not one right at that time; and there doubtless were many real Christians among them; doubtless many who were not real Christians, but I want practically to mention

 

2. Worldliness. It was a period in which, as in practically every period when there has not been persecution, worldliness comes into the church. It was a period when there was worldliness; there was a certain amount of heresy, undoubtedly, but we have no evidence of many great strong heretical movements like we've had in earlier periods. But some of those movements were still exerting their influence. And under this, we should mention a man who was the bishop of the church in the 2nd most important city in the Empire. That was the city of Antioch. This man's name was Paul.

 

3. Paul of Samosata. He is called Paul of Samosata, which is the name of the place from which he came. They didn't have last names then, so very often they named people after the town where they had formerly lived. There are many Pauls of this period, so he is called Paul of Samosata. He was for a number of years the bishop of the church in the second largest city of the Empire, the city of Antioch. And Paul settled into heresy. He held a form of Monarchianism which he taught; and on account of his heretical views, there were three assemblies held in Antioch of bishops from the whole area between 264 and 269; three different synods of bishops were held to examine the question of Paul's Gospel soundness. And he explained to them his views; he believed that God is one, God the Father, God the Son, he said are the same identical nature; there's only one God. God is one, Jesus Christ was a mere man in whom God dwelt. Jesus or Christ, while on earth, progressed toward the attainment of divinity.

Now these views which Paul held resulted in the bishops holding these three meetings at which they examined these views; and at the third of these synods they declared that his view was heretical; that he should not be a bishop in the catholic church; that he should leave the fine buildings of the church in Antioch; turn over his property and the congregation to sound Christian teaching. That was what the bishops decided; and in what they said about him, the bishops did not stop with criticizing his heretical views, though  that was the ground of his being ordered to be defrocked from the bishopric.

But they said that in his preaching, he had a theatrical and affected style; that he tried to make a show of his preaching. They said that he had a group of men hired, who would sit in the congregation and clap at his high points of oratory. They said that he always had crowds of servants who went with him everywhere, and made him seem to be a very great man. They said that he had a position in the government, and that he was doing that along with his church work, and receiving a very high salary for it; and the criticisms they made of him were difficult for us to think of a bishop of the early church being like that; but realize that though this is the early church, it is 250 years after the time of Christ; and probably it was very unusual for a bishop to be like this; but here was one of these men who had condemned him made these statements, saying all these things were true of his life and of his activity; and they point out the great wealth which he had, which they say could not possibly have come from his salary—even though it was quite high—whether from the state or from the church.

And after the bishops voted to condemn Paul, and that he should be deposed from the bishopric, he kept right on preaching and having his great applause for another six years. And then, the emperor Aurelian, having settled certain matters in the East which had involved him in a very difficult war there; that having been settled, Aurelian came to Antioch, and petitions were presented to him by the church and by Paul's people, that he should either dispossess him from the church, or that he should declare his right to have it. And Aurelian was a sun-worshipper—a pagan—but as the Emperor, he was in charge of the preservation of law and order in the Empire; and Aurelian listened to these claims made by both sides; and he said, "I don't understand these ecclesiastical matters; we will ask the bishops of Italy to decide the matter."

Now you see how that would advance the growing