Lex Rex

verbum sat sapienti

Lex Rex

Friday, March 11, 2005

Early Church

BGM & Lex Rex,

I would like to return to a direct review of what the earliest part of the 'Early Church' believed, if there is no objection. I am thinking that, atleast for an initial starting point, we could look at the period up to approximately 200 AD, give or take. We have been looking at the 7 epistles of Ignatius and should continue to do so, but what other writings have been passed down from this earliest period? Justin Martyr, Polycarp, etc.? Maybe after reviewing a particular resource, we should each point out a list of topics that we see raised in it. Thoughts?

Also, in addition, I would like to have the freedom to discuss general principals that may affect the above discussion. I know this has been abused, but I will try harder to avoid ranting and raving. For example, what of the 'dog that didn't bark' principle? Should we not also consider 'Sherlock' in all of this (not as a theologian of course - I hope that much is obvious)?

If there is nothing written on a particular topic, why? Or, if a practice is not evident from the record, why? Just to say a practice was passed on in secret, as some of the writers from the later periods claim (ie, Basil), like a secret handshake, bothers me to a degree. I understand that not everything was written down, but it could be argued that the important things were. In other words, if not written down, the question begs itself, is it as important as what was written down? To simply say it was meant to remain hidden due to the years of persecution is not persuasive to me, in that the whole of the Gospel, by our Lord's very own words, was conveyed in parables to be hidden from the world during times of persecution, and yet was still written down.

Another example of the dog that didn't bark is as follows. The first, and only biblically recorded, council occured at Jerusalem under the direction of the Apostles in about 48 AD. Why was there apparently no other council until the First Council at Nicaea in 325 AD (about 277 years later)? This period of time is quite lengthy. In other words, not only did the earliest Christians lack the canonized New Testament, as BGM has pointed out, but they also apparently did not look to a system of Councils as the determining factor of defining Christianity. Furthermore, if we take the First Jerusalem Council of 48 AD as the Apostolic Guide, it does not seem as though all localities or Bishops were consulted on the issue being decided, let alone even invited to the Council. (Persecution is the inevitable justification, but, again, seems weak to me in that persecution was certainly present at the 48 AD Council, but did not stop it.)

And even when the Church finally did have another Councel, 277 years after the Apostles met in Jerusalem, it seemed very limited to the topic of avoiding a major split in the Church over Arianism versus the Trinity. It also must be pointed out that, historically speaking of course, it was not really the Church that called said Nicene Council, but the Emperor who actually presided over the Council during the entire lengthy session. It could be argued that, again from a historical point of view, the Emperor's motivation did not arise from a great concern over purity of doctrine, but from the fact that a split in the Church would cause instability in the empire and, perhaps some level of embarassment to the Emperor as he had set it up as the standard of religion.

A quick (very quick mind you) read over the topics addressed at subsequent councils, atleast beginning with the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD, seems to show an increased dependence on said format of looking to Councils over what the earliest Christians practiced. It seems to me that the progression of said Councils also grows more and more polictical in motivation and the topics much less weighter than the original 3. But that is just my gut reaction.

Again, just some thoughts, let me know if you have evidence to the contrary.