Friday, May 28, 2010
But Augustine wanted Truth, not cheap success: such a pressure-cooker psyche can settle for nothing less. He soon abandoned the simple, emotional Catholicism of his mother and adopted something more exclusive and recherché: the religion of Mani, a Persian syncretist who had taken this and that from here and there and come up with something that can only strike us as a California cult -- a little Christian symbolism, a large dose of Zoroastrian dualism, and some of the quiet refinements of Buddhism. It was called Manicheism. For a while, it let Augustine off the hook. For one thing, it absolved him from any responsibility for his raging lusts: in Mani's system, Good was passive, unable to battle the gross and fleshly evils that raged against it. It was a made-to-order religion for a smart young provincial who needed to explore every dark corner of the boiling city and experience every dark pleasure it had to offer -- and at the same time think himself above the herd. But it couldn't keep up with Augustine's fearlessly inquiring mind. Like Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormonism, it was full of assertions, but could yield no intellectual system to nourish the intellect. (Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, p. 49)
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
If Jesus was a legitimate claimant to the throne, it is probably that he was supported, at least initially, by a relatively small percentage of the population -- immediate family from Galilee, certain other members of his own aristocratic social class, and a few strategically placed representatives in Judea and the capital city, Jerusalem. Such a following, albeit distinguished, would hardly have been sufficient to ensure the realization of his objectives -- the success of his bid for the throne. In consequence he would have been obliged to recruit a more substantial following from other classes -- in the same way that Bonnie Prince Charlie, to pursue a previous analogy, did in 1745. [Baigent et al., The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, preface]One must admire that first "If," which is the keystone holding up what follows. Then we have "it is probable." Why is it "probable"? Why is he of the "aristocratic" class? Why a few "strategically place" representatives? Why not many? Why not none? If it was many, then why not enough to realize his objectives? If. Probable. Would. Would. Each possibility is banked, turning into a probability upon which the next mini-hypothesis rests. The whole thing is like this, built brick by unreliable brick. (David Aaronovitch, Voodoo Histories: The Rhole of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, 207-8)
I've made exactly this point dozens of time in discussions and debates to a fairly wide variety of individuals, though probably far less eloquently and precisely than does Mr. Aaronovitch here. Everybody whose beliefs require an alternative history finds themselves doing exactly this. I've seen it done by Baptists and Presbyterians who realize that they can't find their own Calvinist beliefs in the early Church and I've seen it done by atheists and neo-pagans (like Baigent & co.) who want to try to discredit the claims of Christianity. But no matter who is doing it, it is absurd and ultimately reveals the weakness of their own claims.
It is working the opposite direction of the way credible historians work; rather than working with the facts of history these people attempt to impose their own belief systems on history, working backwards to prove their own presuppositions. When they can't find real history to back these presuppositions, they then subtly invent some, such as the "secret Protestants" of the early Church who, although completely and incomprehensibly invisible to history, were the "true Christians" all along. They begin with a hypothesis and support this with another hypothesis and this new hypothesis with yet another hypothesis and so on ad nauseum until the whole nonsensical scheme collapses under the weight of lack of any real evidence.
Such statements would be laughable if they weren't just sad.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Transcript and suggested reading:
The third century opened on a high note for the Christian Church. Although there were still heresies to fight against and pockets of persecution throughout
the Roman Empire and elsewhere, the Christian Church was largely at peace in and experiencing new levels of toleration and even acceptance by the non-Christian
world around it. In fact, one Roman emperor, Philip the Arab, had such a favorable stance toward Christians that rumors circulated claiming that he himself
was a Christian! The Church was also experiencing unprecedented growth during this time, converting even high-ranking members of the Roman government and
military and building large churches across the landscapes of cities and countrysides all over the Roman world and beyond.
This period of peace and toleration gave Christian intellectuals a new and unprecedented opportunity to try their minds and pens at biblical interpretation,
philosophy, and answering hitherto unanswered, and thus far largely unasked, questions in Christian theology. More than a few of these Christian
intellectuals used this opportunity to produce prodigious works of scholarship. Perhaps the most prominent of these intellectuals, and almost certainly
the one who has had the largest and longest lasting impact, was Origen Adamantius.
Origen, the son of a Christian martyr, had been selected as the leader of the Catechical School of Alexandria after the death of his teacher, St. Clement
of Alexandria. During his life, he produced an amazing amount of texts on every subject of relevance to Christians of his day. It is said that a team of
scribes followed him around wherever he went and he would dictate to them as he went about his daily tasks, writing multiple books on different topics
simultaneously. Perhaps his most monumental work was the Hexapla, a side by side, verse by verse comparison of six different versions of the Old Testament
in both Greek and Hebrew.
Unfortunately, Origen became a very controversial if nonetheless influential figure even during his own lifetime and he is probably best known today for
his theological errors. Largely as a result of his allegorizing tendencies in Old Testament studies, he made far too many concessions to the Gnostics
during the course of his disputes with them. He came to assert that human beings were originally made purely spiritual and that the material world was a
result of the Fall. As a result of this scheme, he also came to the conclusion that all humans would eventually be restored to God and none would be
damned. For these and other errors, he would later be condemned by numerous Church Fathers and Church Councils, including, most famously, the Fifth
Ecumenical Council in 553. His influence persisted nonetheless and he was a major influence especially on the Fathers of the Fourth Century, who heavily
borrowed from his methods and terminology, even while rejecting many of his ideas and conclusions.
Christian intellectuals like Origen also took advantage of the relative peace of the early third century to begin exploring many thus far unexplored
corners of Christian theology. Although Christians had held to beliefs such as the Trinity and the simultaneous divinity and humanity of Christ since
the days of the Apostles, more and more Christians began to ask for more precise definitions of exactly what these beliefs meant and consisted of; and
they received a great variety of answers. Sabellius, a priest in Rome, proposed that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were three "masks" or "modes" of a
single Divine Person. To others, such as Tertullian of Carthage, this sounded blasphemous; these instead asserted that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
were three Persons sharing in a single divine nature. And still others proposed instead that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were three different gods.
The relationship of the Persons of the Trinity to each other was also questioned. Some proposed that Father and Son were equal, others that the Son was
divine like the Father but somehow a step below him in rank. A further question was the relationship of the Persons of the Trinity to humans. Just how
divine is Christ? Just how unknowable is the Father? Just how human is Christ? And who or what is the Holy Spirit?
To provide answers to these new questions, Christian theologians and philosophers drew on the writings of the Apostles and friends and disciples of the
Apostles for answers, trying to find solutions to these problems that accorded completely with what these holy men of the earliest Church had taught about
God, about Christ, and about man. Many of the answers were obvious and quickly entered the lifeblood of the Church, others were more difficult and would
take time, in some cases even centuries, to fully explore and resolve.
Unfortunately, the peace that produced scholars like Origen wasn't to last. In 249, the Roman emperor Decius ascended to the throne. He had never been
friendly toward the Church, always being conscientious about excluding Christians from his inner circle, but his possession of the imperial throne brought
out the worst in him. The year following his accession, 250, he launched the first empire-wide persecution of Christians. Decius issued a decree that all
people within the Roman Empire must offer a sacrifice and worship before the image of a pagan god. To ensure that his order was carried out, he dictated
that each citizen would be issued a certificate after the completion of this act and that those without this certificate would be punished.
Hundreds of Christians gave up their lives in the persecution rather than offer sacrifice and worship to a pagan idol. Amongst the Christians who were
martyred included many prominent figures, including Origen Adamantius, St. Cyprian, the famous Church Father and Bishop of Carthage, and St. Fabian, the
Bishop of Rome. As a result of the general anti-Christian attitude that this new persecution engendered in the Roman populace, there were also
anti-Christian riots in Carthage and Alexandria.
In 260, the persecution was repealed by Decius' son Gellienius. Although official empire-wide persecution was ended, relationships of pagans with
Christians remained tense, often breaking out into acts of violence and occassional persecutions. In 284, a vehement anti-Christian, Diocletian,
acceded to the Roman imperial throne; he removed all government officials and members of the military who professed Faith in Christianity; at the beginning
of the Fourth Century, he would launch the greatest persecution that the Christian Church had ever endured up to that point in history.
Although many Christians went willingly to martyrdom for their Faith in Christ during these persecutions, there were also many who chose to save their
lives by sacrificing to the pagan gods, thereby apostasizing from Christianity. Many of these people, called the "lapsed," were later to repent of their
apostasy and seek to rejoin the Christian Church. As a result, a major dispute arose in the Church over how readily these individuals should be
re-received. Most of the Church was understanding of the pressure that these individuals had faced and required only minimal penance before their official
re-reception. Some in the Church, however, especially the Christians of Africa, who had been hit the hardest by the persecutions, opposed this lax policy
and demanded much stricter requirements for re-reception; some of these even went as far as to claim that apostates could never return to the Christian
Faith at all!
As a result of these differences in opinion over the re-reception of the lapsed, the first major schism from the Christian Church took place. Novatian, a
priest in Rome, disputed with the Bishop of Rome, St. Cornelius, on the matter, proclaiming that the lapsed could never be re-received into communion with
the Church and that all heretics who came to the Church had to be re-baptized and not just chrismated. Eventually, he set himself up as an alternative
Bishop of Rome and set up his own Church-in-resistance, taking a large portion of the Roman Christians with him. The schismatic Novatianist sect was to
continue for several centuries.
Also during this time, the great tradition of Christian monasticism began to be established. Since the days of the Apostles, there had been Christians
throughout the Church who had chosen to live in lifelong celibacy, dedicating themselves entirely to God and to the Church, as well as those who had chosen
to take vows similar to the Nazirite vows of the Old Testament. In the mid-3rd century, however, these special Christian devotions began to take on a new
form to more firmly establish itself in the life of the Church.
The earliest known Christian hermit, though there were almost certainly others before him, is St. Paul the Hermit, who took up the life of a hermit in the
Egyptian desert sometime in the middle of the 3rd century.
The most famous Christian hermit, though, who is generally known as the founder of Christian monasticism, is St. Anthony the Great. Upon hearing the words
of Christ in Matthew 19:21 to "go, sell all you have, give it to the poor, and, come, follow me," Anthony did just that. He sold the entire inheritance
which had been given him by his rich parents, gave all the money to the poor, commended his younger sister into the care of a community of celibate
Christian women, and went himself into the desert to battle the demons and devote his life to Christ in prayer and fasting.
Anthony spent most of his time in the desert living in a cave, constantly praying, fasting, and fighting the various demons who assaulted him through
temptation and even physically. Eventually, many people began traveling to the desert to see this holy man for themselves and to speak with him; many of
them decided to stay there and imitate Anthony's way of life. By the end of the following century, men and women would flock to the Egyptian desert in
droves to take up the monastic way of life.
All in all, the third century was the most difficult era that the Christian Church had yet endured. While it had opened with great promise, as the
Christian Church experienced previously unknown levels of toleration and growth, it had, by mid-century, descended into terrible persecution, such as that
under Decius, and seemingly irreperable schism, such as that of Novatian. Nonetheless, the Christian Church persisted through each of these struggles,
always coming out stronger at the end. In spite of the accession of the anti-Christian Diocletian to the Roman imperial throne, Christians had great
prospects of a brighter future. But none expected the upheavals that were to come. As the Church entered the 4th century, its 300th year of existence,
it would experience both the greatest trials and the greatest triumphs in its history.
"Now, driven by love towards all the saints, we have arrived at the essence of the Tradition which is proper for the Churches. This is so that those who
are well informed may keep the Tradition which has lasted until now, according to the explanation we give of it, and so that others by taking note of it
may be strengthened against the fall or error which has recently occurred because of ignorance and ignorant people, with the Holy Spirit conferring perfect
Grace on those who have a correct Faith, and so that they will know that those who are at the head of the Church must teach and guard all these things."
- St. Hippolytus of Rome, The Apostolic Tradition, 1
Although there are many who believe that they themselves hold to the teachings of Christ, there are yet some among them who think differently from their
predecessors. The teaching of the Church has indeed been handed down thorugh an order of succession from the Apostles, and remains in the Churches even to
the present time. That alone is to be believed as the truth which is in no way at variance with ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition. - Origen, Fundamental
Doctrines, 1, Preface, 2
Certain ones among the Christians, from a desire of excelling in chastity, and in order to worship God in greater purity, refrain even from such physical
pleasures as are in accord with the law. - Origen, Against Celsus, 1, 26
Let no one mislead the brotherhood with a lie, let no one corrupt the faith by a faithless perversion of the truth. The episcopate is one, of which each
Bishop holds his part within the undivided structure. The Church also is one, however widely she has spread among the multitude through her fruitful
increase. - St. Cyprian of Carthage, On the Unity of the Church
Although you sent me a letter in which you ask that consideration be given your desire that, after the persecution is over and we begin to gather together
again and to meet together with the clergy, peace be then extended to the lapsed, those [aforemention priests] have dared, -- contrary to the law of the
gospel, contrary even to your respectful petition, before penance has been done, before confession of the most grave and extremest sin has been made, before
a hand has been imposed in penance by the bishop and the clergy, -- to offer on their behalf and to give them the Eucharist; that is, to profane the holy
Body of the Lord. - St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter in reply to certain Martyrs and Confessors
Lawrence and Ignatius, though they fought betimes in worldly camps, were true and spiritual soldiers of God; and while they laid the devil on his back with
their confession of Christ, they merited the palms and crowns of the Lord by their illustrious passion. We always offer sacrifices for them, as you will
recall, as often as we celebrate the passions of the martyrs by commemorating their anniversary day. - St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter to his Clergy and to
All His Poeple
Nor was the Lord then forgetful of Antony's wrestling, but was at hand to help him. So looking up he saw the roof as it were opened, and a ray of light
descending to him. The demons suddenly vanished, the pain of his body straightway ceased, and the building was again whole. But Antony feeling the help,
and getting his breath again, and being freed from pain, besought the vision which had appeared to him, saying, 'Where wert thou ? Why didst thou not
appear at the beginning to make my pains to cease?' And a voice came to him, 'Antony, I was here, but I waited to see thy fight; wherefore since thou hast
endured, and hast not been worsted, I will ever be a succour to thee, and will make thy name known everywhere.' Having heard this, Antony arose and prayed,
and received such strength that he perceived that he had more power in his body than formerly.And he was then about thirty-five years old. - St. Athanasius
of Alexandria, Life of St. Anthony
"Dionysius to his brother Novatian, greeting. If it was against your will, as you say, that you were led, you will prove it by retiring of your free will.
For you ought to have suffered anything rather than divide the Church of God and to be martyred rather than cause a schism would have been no less glorious
than to be martyred rather than commit idolatry, nay in my opinion it would have been a yet greater act; for in the one case one is a martyr for one's own
soul alone, in the other for the whole Church" - St. Dionysius of Alexandria, Letter to Novatian
"No road, no highway, no alley was open to us [Christians], either by night or by day; always and everywhere, everybody was shouting that anyone who did not
join in their blasphemous chants must at once be dragged away and burnt." - St. Dionysius of Alexandria, Letter to Fabius of Antioch
In this video, we take a look at the Church of the third century, learning about the rise of Christian scholars like Origen Adamantius in Alexandria, Egypt, the terrible persecutions of Christians under Roman emperors like Decius, and the rise of Christian monasticism in the Egyptian deserts, largely thanks to the devotion of one man: St. Anthony the Great.
"Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew" - Bart D. Ehrman
"Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It Into the New Testament" - Bart D. Ehrman
"From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith" - L. Michael White
"Heretics for Armchair Theologians" - Justo L. González & Catherine Gunsalus González
"The Story of Christianity: An Illustrated History of 2000 Years of the Christian Faith" - David Bentley Hart
"Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol iii: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian; I. Apologetic, II. Anti-Marcion, III. Ethical"
"Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol iv: The Fathers of the Third Century; Tertullian IV. More Ethical Writings, Minucius Felix, Commodian, Origen"
"Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol v: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novatian"
"Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol vi: Gregory Thaumaturgus, Dionysius the Great, Julius Africanus, Anatolius and Minor Writers, Methodius, Arnobius"
"Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol ix: Gospel of Peter, Diatessaron, Testament of Abraham, Epistles of Clement, Origen, Miscellaneous Works"
"History of the Church" - Eusebius of Caesarea, translated by G.A. Williamson
"From Memory to History: Using Oral Sources in Local Historical Research" - Barbara Allen & Lynwood Montell
"Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations" - Martin Goodman
"Early Christian Doctrines" - J.N.D. Kelly
"The Story of Christianity, Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation" - Justo L. González
"How We Got the Bible" - Neil R. Lightfoot
"The Faith of the Early Fathers, volume 1" - William A. Jurgens (ed)
"Whose Bible Is It? A Short History of the Scriptures" - Jaroslav Pelikan
"The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine; Volume 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition" - Jaroslav Pelikan
"Early Christian Attitudes Toward Images" - Steven Bigham
"The Nag Hammadi Library" - James M. Robinson (ed)
"The Inner Kingdom: Collected Works, vol i" - Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
Suggested Primary Sources:
"History of the Church" - Eusebius
"Life of St. Anthony the Great" - St. Athanasius of Alexandria
Pistis Sophia (Gnostic)
"Refutation of All Heresies" - St. Hippolytus of Rome
"De Lapsis" - St. Cyprian of Carthage
"De Unitate Ecclesiae" - St. Cyprian of Carthage
"Concerning the Trinity" - Novatian
"Declaration of Faith" - St. Gregory Thaumaturgus
"Against the Sabellians" - St. Dionysius
various writings of Tertullian of Carthage and Origen Adamantius
Works quoted in this video:
"The Apostolic Tradition" - St. Hippolytus of Rome
"Fundamental Doctrines" - Origen of Alexandria
"Against Celsus" - Origen of Alexandria
"On the Unity of the Church" - St. Cyprian of Carthage
Letters of St. Cyprian of Carthage
":Life of St. Anthony the Great" - St. Athanasius of Alexandria
"Letter to Novatian" of St. Dionysius of Alexandria
"Letter to Fabius of Antioch" by St. Dionysius of Alexandria
"Church History" - Eusebius of Caesarea
Friday, May 21, 2010
"The only means by which you can spend the day in perfect holiness, peace, and without sin, is the most sincere, fervent prayer as soon as you rise from sleep in the morning. It will bring Christ into your heart, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and will thus strengthen and fortify your soul against any evil; but still it will be necessary for you carefully to guard your heart." - St. John of Kronstadt.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
"But some one will say to us, Was man made by nature mortal? Certainly not. Was he, then, immortal? Neither do we affirm this. But one will say, Was he, then, nothing? Not even this hits the mark. He was by nature neither mortal nor immortal. For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God. Again, if He had made him mortal, God would seem to be the cause of his death. Neither, then, immortal nor yet mortal did He make him, but, as we have said above, capable of both; so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God; but if, on the other hand, he should turn to the things of death, disobeying God, he should himself be the cause of death to himself. For God made man free, and with power over himself. That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him. For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting. For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption." - St. Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, II, 27
Sunday, May 16, 2010
"And as in the sea there are islands, some of them habitable, and well-watered, and fruitful, with havens and harbours in which the storm-tossed may find refuge,—so God has given to the world which is driven and tempest-tossed by sins, assemblies — we mean holy churches — in which survive the doctrines of the truth, as in the island-harbours of good anchorage; and into these run those who desire to be saved, being lovers of the truth, and wishing to escape the wrath and judgment of God. And as, again, there are other islands, rocky and without water, and barren, and infested by wild beasts, and uninhabitable, and serving only to injure navigators and the storm-tossed, on which ships are wrecked, and those driven among them perish, — so there are doctrines of error — I mean heresies — which destroy those who approach them. For they are not guided by the word of truth; but as pirates, when they have filled their vessels, drive them on the fore-mentioned places, that they may spoil them: so also it happens in the case of those who err from the truth, that they are all totally ruined by their error." - St. Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, II, 14
Friday, May 14, 2010
(source of quote: orrologion)
(photo was taken by me yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery)
Thursday, May 6, 2010
John at Ad Orientem has an excellent new post, with which I couldn't agree more, on the newly-canonized St. Justin and ecumenism. Check it out:
Apparently a large number of (big 'C') Catholics and ecumenically minded Orthodox have been disconcerted by the glorification (canonization) of St. Justin Popovic of Celije by the Serbian Orthodox Church, whose ceremony of glorification was held today. It would appear that St. Justin's principal shortcoming was that he lacked the ecumenical spirit. He was hostile (polemically so) to the non-Orthodox in general and Roman Catholicism in particular. One of his better known quotes was...
"In the history of the human race there have been three principal falls: that of Adam, that of Judas, and that of the pope."
Such is unlikely to go over well in the modern age when the answer to all differences is tolerance and endless dialogue. (keep reading...)
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
His Eminence Metropolitan ATHENAGORAS of Mexico expressed his great pleasure in welcoming the Orthodox Catholic Church of Guatemala, which was received in its entirety, including their former clergy, seminarians, lay ministers, catechists and affiliated membership into the canonical family of the Orthodox Church. Following their official reception, the leaders of OCCG, Messrs. Andrew Girón and Michael Castellanos traveled to Mexico City where on the weekend of March 19-21, they were ordained to the Holy Priesthood, receiving the title of Archimandrite.
The OCCG has an approximate membership of 527,000 faithful and catechumens, overwhelmingly indigenous, with 334 churches in Guatemala and southern Mexico, with 12 (formerly OCCG) clergymen and 14 seminarians, who are assisted in their pastoral ministry by 250 lay ministers and 380 catechists. The administrative offices of the OCCG are located on 280 acres of land, with a community college and 2 schools with 12 professors / teachers. Additionally, the OCCG has an established monastery located on 480 acres of land. Fourteen students from Guatemala, with full scholarship, are now enrolled in the St. Gregory Nazianzen Orthodox Theological Institute Licentiate degree program.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Transcript, notes, suggested reading, sources cited, etc.:
The opening of the second century found the nascent Christian Church in its most challenging situation yet. Not only were Christians continuing to be persecuted by Jews, but now, due to the policies of the Roman Emperor Trajan, they were also being actively persecuted by the pagans as well. Compounding the problems the Church was facing, the last living Apostle, John, had passed away at the close of the 1st century, leaving the Church without a living witness of Christ and opening the flood gates for a variety of movements and sects claiming to be the "true Christianity." These groups first began to creep out of the shadows near the end of the 1st century and by the middle of the 2nd century they were openly teaching their false doctrines. The Bishops of the Christian Church, appointed heirs of the Apostles, however, were quick and strong in their response, rescuing the Christian Faith from both destruction at the hands of Jews and pagans as well as distortion at the hands of heretics. A few of the most important of these early Bishops were Ss. Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Papias of Hierapolis, who had together been students of the Apostle John. St. Ignatius of Antioch was appointed, probably by the Apostle Peter, to be the Bishop of Antioch some time in the second half of the first century. In AD 107, as Trajan was returning from a military victory in the East, he visited Syria and ordered that all citizens partake in sacrifices of thanksgiving to the pagan gods for his victory. Ignatius, as Bishop of the area, openly refused to do so. As a consequence, he was arrested and taken to Rome where, the following year, he was martyred by being eaten by lions in the Colisseum. While on his way to Rome, he wrote seven letters to various churches and to his friend Polycarp; all seven of these letters survive to us today, bearing a moving witness to the faith and zeal of this Apostolic Father. Ignatius' friend and fellow-disciple of John, St. Polycarp of Smyrna, was appointed by John as Bishop of Smyrna. He once famously called the heretic Marcion of Sinope "the first-born of Satan" to his face. He also was eventually martyred, bravely facing death for his Faith in Christ in the year 155 at the age of 86. Only one of St. Polycarp's writings survives today, a letter he wrote to the Philippians shortly after the death of Ignatius. St. Papias of Hierapolis was appointed by the Apostle John as Bishop of Hierapolis. Unfortunately, not many of his writings survive to us today, but what we are blessed to have is very interesting. In his writings, Papias recorded and interpreted a variety of the sayings and actions of Christ as they had been reported by the Apostle John and others; some of the sayings he records are not found in the four Gospels in our New Testament. As this great generation of men who had known and been disciples of Apostles passed away, three heretical groups in particular gained momentum with their claim to be the "real" Christianity. All three groups claimed that the disciples of the Apostles or even the Apostles themselves had misunderstood Christ's teachings and said they were either restoring or introducing the "true" Faith. The first of these groups, the Marcionites, was founded by Marcion of Sinope, the same one whom Polycarp had called "the first-born of Satan," in about AD 145. Marcion was born in about the year 85, the son of a Christian Bishop in Sinope. In about 142, he moved to Rome, wooing the Christians there with a large donation to the Church. He began teaching there that Paul was the only Apostle who had really understood Christ's message and, not ironically, that he was the only one who really understood Paul. He taught that the God of the Jews was evil and the Father of Christ was another, good God who had sent his Son to rescue people from the evil Jewish God. He accepted only ten of Paul's letters and the Gospel of Luke as Scripture, editing even these to exclude any reference to the Father of Christ being the same as the God of the Jews. He attempted to rid Christianity of anything that he saw as a Jewish element. As a result, he was excommunicated by the Bishop of Rome, and set up his own rival "Christian" church, making himself the Bishop. The second major heretical group of the second century, the Gnostics, had some similarities with Marcion, such as their rejection of the Jewish God, but also some very different beliefs. The Gnostics attempted to combine elements from other religions and philosophies, especially Platonism, with Christianity. They taught that because of a fall in heaven various sparks of divinity had become trapped in the material world. These sparks were the souls of the "elect" who would return to heaven after their physical death. They claimed that Christ had come to pass on special secret knowledge to these elect who were predestined for salvation. The Gnostics actually consisted of a variety of rival groups, such as the Carpocratians, the Valentinians, and the Cerinthians, with a variety of different beliefs, but these beliefs in particular seems to have been the common foundational beliefs they all shared. The other major heretical group of the second century were the Montanists. This group was founded by a man named Montanus who traveled the Roman Empire with two women whom he called prophetesses. He claimed that his teachings were a new revelation of God and that he and his followers were able to have the Holy Spirit speak guidance for the Church through them, leading he and his followers to reject the authority of the Bishops and set themselves up as leaders of the Christian Church. They even went as far as to claim that their new prophecies superceded the teachings of the Apostles! He and his followers were also rigorists who denied that a person could repent of sins committed after Baptism. For these and other errors, they were excommunicated from the Christian Church. As a response to these groups and to the accusations of pagans and Jews, who claimed, amongst other things, that Christians practiced canibalism and sought to overthrow the Roman Empire, the second half of the second century also saw the rise of a class of Christian authors called the apologists. By far the greatest of these were Tertullian of Carthage and Ss. Justin the Philosopher and Irenaeus of Lyons. Tertullian of Carthage was the first Christian author to write in Latin, the language that would later come to dominate Western European Christian writings. He was a lawyer and used his training in rhetoric, logic, and law to write eloquent and forceful defenses of Orthodox Christianity and to show the weakness of the systems and arguments used by heretics and pagans. Unfortunately, due to his rigorist tendencies, he later, in the early 3rd century, fell away from the Church and joined the sect of the Montanists. St. Justin the Philosopher, often called "Justin Martyr," was born in about 100 in Palestine to a Samaritan mother and a Greek father. After dabbling in various pagan philosophies, he eventually converted to Christianity, saying that he had finally found the "true philosophy." He wrote several apologetic works against the pagans and the Jews and also became a lay teacher of Christianity in Rome. He was eventually, in about AD 165, martyred there after defeating a pagan in a debate. St. Irenaeus of Lyons had been a disciple of St. Polycarp of Smyrna. Later, he became Bishop of the city of Lyons in modern-day France. While Bishop there, he thoroughly investigated the various Gnostic groups by reading their writings and interviewing former members of their sects. Based upon his research, he wrote a great five-volume refutation of these groups called "Against Heresies," countering their claims and expounding the true Faith. He also was eventually martyred. Ireneaus was also a major founding figure in the movement that began at this time to formulate and canonize the books which would later make up what we today call the New Testament. This process was largely initiated as a reaction to various forgeries being produced by the Gnostic heretics. In order to protect Christians from false beliefs, the Bishops began sorting the authentically apostolic writings from later forged, documents. In doing so, they largely used four criteria: ancientness, apostolicity, catholicity, and orthodoxy. In order to be considered authentic, a given writing had to be of a verifiable first century origin, had to agree with the other authentic writings of the Apostles, had to have a history of wide use in the Church, and had to agree with the Apostolic Faith as it had been passed down from Christian to Christian in the years since the Apostles. It was this Faith which the majority of Christians, few of whom were famous authors or Bishops, continued to faithfully and quietly live each day, praying for themselves, the Church, and on behalf of the whole world, teaching others of the Hope of eternal life in Christ, rendering loving service and charity to all, and gathering each Sunday, in homes and in churches, to participate in communal liturgical prayers and to partake of the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. They did this even as they endured slander, hatred, and persecution from their non-Christian neighbors. Those of them who suffered and who died for the Faith were especially honored by the Christian community, earning the title of “martyr.” The remains of the martyrs, called “relics,” were kept as hidden treasures and venerated in homage to the martyrs. The martyrs were also called upon in prayer to intercede before the throne of God on behalf of those still on earth. Near the end of the Second Century, in about AD 190, in Alexandria, Egypt, St. Pantaenus, after traveling as a missionary to India, founded the famous Cathetical School of Alexandria, whose early leaders, including St. Clement of Alexandria and Origen Adamantius, would be major influences -- for better or worse -- in later Christian thought. Suggested Reading:
"Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew" - Bart D. Ehrman “Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It Into the New Testament” - Bart D. Ehrman "From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith" - L. Michael White "Heretics for Armchair Theologians" - Justo L. González & Catherine Gunsalus González "Early Christian Writings" - translated by Maxwell Staniforth, edited by Andrew Louth "The Story of Christianity: An Illustrated History of 2000 Years of the Christian Faith" - David Bentley Hart "Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol i: Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus" - edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson “Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol ii: Fathers of the Second Century; Tatian, Theophilus of Antioch, Athenagoras of Athens, Clement of Alexandria” “Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol iii: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian; I. Apologetic, II. Anti-Marcion, III. Ethical” Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol iv: The Fathers of the Third Century; Tertullian IV. More Ethical Writings, Minucius Felix, Commodian, Origen” "History of the Church" - Eusebius of Caesarea, translated by G.A. Williamson "From Memory to History: Using Oral Sources in Local Historical Research" - Barbara Allen & Lynwood Montell "Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations" - Martin Goodman "Early Christian Doctrines" - J.N.D. Kelly "The Story of Christianity, Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation" - Justo L. González “How We Got the Bible” - Neil R. Lightfoot “The Faith of the Early Fathers, volume 1” - William A. Jurgens (ed) “Whose Bible Is It? A Short History of the Scriptures” - Jaroslav Pelikan “The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine; Volume 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition” - Jaroslav Pelikan “Early Christian Attitudes Toward Images” - Steven Bigham “The Nag Hammadi Library” - James M. Robinson (ed) Primary Sources: Shepherd of Hermas Epistles of Ignatius (To Polycarp, Smyrnaeans, Philadelphians, Romans, Trallians, Magnesians, & Ephesians) Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians Against Heresies - St. Irenaeus of Lyons Exposition of the Oracles (fragments) – St. Papias of Hierapolis Letter of Pliny the Younger on the Christians Dialogue of the Savior (Gnostic) Gospel of Thomas (semi-Gnostic) Gospel of Judas (Gnostic) Infancy Gospel of James Dialogue with Trypho – St. Justin the Philosopher (Justin Martyr) First Apology – Justin Second Apology – Justin Exhortation to the Greeks – Tatian the Assyrian Apology of Quadratus of Athens Muratorian Canon Meditations – Marcus Aurelius Martyrdom of Justin Martyrdom of Polycarp A Plea for the Christians – Athenagoras of Athens History of the Church – Eusebius various writings of Tertullian and St. Clement of Alexandria “Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest.” —St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Magnesians 2, 6:1 “Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us [that is, the docetics], and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.” — St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 “I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God's sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God's wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.” — St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans
“For only the harder portions of his [Ignatius'] holy remains were left, which were conveyed to Antioch and wrapped in linen, as an inestimable treasure left to the holy Church by the grace which was in the martyr.” - Martyrdom of Ignatius, 6
“They [apostates from Christianity] 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.” - Pliny the Younger, letter to Trajan “They [Christians] must not be hunted down; if they are brought before you and the case is proven they must be punished; if, however, some one should deny that he is a Christian, and make it clear that he is not by making sacrifice to our gods, although that person may have been suspect in the past, he should be pardoned for repentance.” - Trajan (Roman Emperor, 97-117), letter to Pliny the Younger “These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymus Judas Thomas wrote down. And he said 'Blessed are the solitary and elect, for you will find the Kingdom'.” - Gospel of Thomas (semi-Gnostic) “But when the magistrate pressed him hard and said, 'Swear the oath, and I will release thee; revile the Christ,' Polycarp said, 'Fourscore and six years have I been His servant, and He hath done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?' “ - Martyrdom of Polycarp, 9
Accordingly, we afterwards took up his [Polycarp's] bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps. - Martyrdom of Polycarp, 18
“And this food is called among us Eukaristia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone.” - St. Justin the Philosopher, First Apology, 66 “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.” - St. Justin the Philosopher, First Apology, 67
“Rusticus the prefect pronounced sentence, saying, “Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to yield to the command of the emperor be scourged, and led away to suffer the punishment of decapitation, according to the laws.” The holy martyrs [Justin and company] having glorified God, and having gone forth to the accustomed place, were beheaded, and perfected their testimony in the confession of the Saviour. And some of the faithful having secretly removed their bodies, laid them in a suitable place, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ having wrought along with them, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” - Martyrdom of Justin, 5
“These opinions, Florinus, that I may speak in mild terms, are not of sound doctrine; these opinions are not consonant to the Church, and involve their votaries in the utmost impiety; these opinions, even the heretics beyond the Church's pale have never ventured to broach; these opinions, those presbyters who preceded us, and who were conversant with the apostles, did not hand down to thee. For, while I was yet a boy, I saw thee in Lower Asia with Polycarp, distinguishing thyself in the royal court, and endeavouring to gain his approbation. For I have a more vivid recollection of what occurred at that time than of recent events (inasmuch as the experiences of childhood, keeping pace with the growth of the soul, become incorporated with it); so that I can even describe the place where the blessed Polycarp used to sit and discourse--his going out, too, and his coming in--his general mode of life and personal appearance, together with the discourses which he delivered to the people; also how he would speak of his familiar intercourse with John, and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord; and how he would call their words to remembrance. Whatsoever things he had heard from them respecting the Lord, both with regard to His miracles and His teaching, Polycarp having thus received [information] from the eye-witnesses of the Word of life, would recount them all in harmony with the Scriptures. These things, through, God's mercy which was upon me, I then listened to attentively, and treasured them up not on paper, but in my heart; and I am continually, by God's grace, revolving these things accurately in my mind. And I can bear witness before God, that if that blessed and apostolical presbyter had heard any such thing, he would have cried out, and stopped his ears, exclaiming as he was wont to do: "O good God, for what times hast Thou reserved me, that I should endure these things?" And he would have fled from the very spot where, sitting or standing, he had heard such words. This fact, too, can be made clear, from his Epistles which he despatched, whether to the neighbouring Churches to confirm them, or to certain of the brethren, admonishing and exhorting them.” - St. Irenaeus of Lyons And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, "Dost thou know me? "I do know thee, the first-born of Satan." Such was the horror which the apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth; - St. Irenaeus of Lyons, 3, 3, 4 “For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?” - St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, 3, 4, 1 “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” - Tertullian of Carthage, Apologeticum, 50