1.3 canon, creeds and heresy presentation

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1.3 canon, creeds and heresy presentation

  1. 1. Canon, Creeds and HeresyStrong Meat, Church Roots, Week Three Early Church Part 3/3
  2. 2. • Christianity began as a Jewish sect; it initially involved Jews who recognised the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfilment of the hope for a Messiah – but soon it became clear that the new wine was putting a strain on the old wine skins• The first Christians didn’t have time to stop and think; but their special identity could be recognised by the embodiment of certain actions
  3. 3. What actionscharacterised the early church? • Mission • A New Ethics • Sacraments • Worship • A New Politics
  4. 4. Challenges• Persecution• Understanding, Explaining and Defending the “Way” in a hostile world (i.e. creation of doctrine)
  5. 5. • Theological debate is at the heart of Christianity – but it was not a leisure activity!!! The first Christians were forced to explain and defend what their new way of being in the world (followers of the messiah Jesus) against internal and external threats, but this activity made them think deeper about what had actually happened
  6. 6. Threats• Death of the Apostles• Judaism (Acts 15, council of Jerusalem, Jamnia)• Heresies that threatened the “new way”
  7. 7. Ebionites ‘The Poor’ Jewish Christian sect which practiced circumcision and observed Jewish law. Regarded Jesus as human prophet, not divine.Gnosticism  Most important heresy of 2nd-3rd centuries.  Rooted in dualism of Matter (evil) vs. Spirit (good).  Human being: divine spirit entombed in evil body.  Salvation by secret knowledge (gnosis) – enlightens, liberates, enables spirit to escape from body and material world.  Ethics: either asceticism or libertinism.  Marcion?Docetism  Christ is purely divine, not a real human being  only seemed to have a real body  did not really suffer or die  calls into question both incarnation and atonement. 1, 2, 3 John confront Gnostic heresy of libertine type.
  8. 8. Early Christian Writings Did Paul and the others sit down and say, “let’s add some new parts to the Bible?”Luke - “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderlyaccount of the events that have been fulfilled among us,2 just as they were handed on to us by thosewho from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,3 I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the veryfirst, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,4 so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you havebeen instructed.Paul – didn’t set out to write theology; he was a pastor, but had apostolic authority
  9. 9. Apostles used the authority of the Jewish Scriptures tosupport their writings: “The fourth edition of the United Bible Societies Greek Testament (1993) lists 343 Old Testament quotations in the New Testament, as well as no fewer than 2,309 allusions and verbal parallels. The books most used are Psalms (79 quotations, 333 allusions), and Isaiah (66 quotations, 348 allusions). In the Book of Revelation, there are no formal quotations at all, but no fewer than 620 allusions."Furthermore, "the OT is quoted or alluded to in every NT writing except Philemon and 2 and 3 John.“ (Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology)
  10. 10. CanonCanon (scripture) = reed g measuring stick g collectionof authoritative writings by which right doctrine is measured“sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei”“Canonical scripture is the sole rule of faith”(St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on John, c. 1260)
  11. 11. by the end of the 1st century Christians werequoting Paul’s letters and the first three gospelsto defend orthodoxy: 2 Peter 3:15-16 15Bear in mind that our Lords patience meanssalvation, just as our dear brother Paul alsowrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.16 He writes the same way in all his letters,speaking in them of these matters. His letterscontain some things that are hard to understand,which ignorant and unstable people distort, asthey do the other Scriptures, to their own
  12. 12. NT – developed over several centuries, what books were “canonical”? Irenaeus (c.160) Argued for a four gospel canon Origen (c.185-254) Our NT minus James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John added Shepherd of Hermas Athanasius (293-373) Easter letter 367 included modern NT books Jerome’s Vulgate commissioned in 383 Synod of Hippo 393: NT Books and Septuagint Council of Carthage 397 and 419But what if they got it wrong?“Authority precedes canonicity” (F. F. Bruce)
  13. 13. Church LeadershipBut: writings only had authority because of the apostolicauthority of the authorsDid the apostolic office pass on? Episcopal structure (rule by bishops) Hierarchical structure emerged: Bishop (episkopos) = overseer. Presbyters = elders (priests). Deacons = servants.
  14. 14. “Heresies Exist Because Christ, theHead of the Church, is Not Looked To,that the Common Commission FirstEntrusted to Peter is Contemned, andthe One Church and the One Episcopateare Deserted.”(Cyprian, The Unity of the Church, c. 200)
  15. 15. CreedsShort statements of core beliefs to teach doctrine andrefute heresy. Early forms:- Rom. 10:9 – ‘That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’.- 1 Cor. 12:3 – Therefore I tell you no-one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed”, and no-one can say, “Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit”.Apostles’ Creed: probably pre-AD 250
  16. 16. I believe in God,the Father almighty,Creator of heavenand earth,and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,whowas conceived by the Holy Spirit,born of the VirginMary,suffered under Pontius Pilate,was crucified, diedand was buried;he descended into hell;on the third day herose again from the dead;he ascended into heaven,and isseated at the right hand of God the Fatheralmighty;from there he will come to judge the living andthe dead.I believe in the Holy Spirit,the holy catholicChurch,the communion of saints,the forgiveness of sins,theresurrection of the body,and life everlasting. Amen
  17. 17. The Church Fathers Apologists & Theologians
  18. 18. • Ignatius (c. 55 – d. 98/117) - Bishop of Antioch – Possibly a disciple of John – Known almost exclusively through seven letters authenticated by James Ussher (17th C.)• Polycarp (c. 70-155/60) - Bishop of Smyrna – Disciple of John• Justin Martyr (c. 100 - 165) – Philosopher; First of the apologists – Wrote Apology to the Emperor Antonius Pius• Irenaeus (fl. c. 175-c.195) - Bishop of Lyons – Disciple of Polycarp – Wrote Against Heresies to combat Gnosticism
  19. 19. • Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225) – Powerful thinker, philosopher in Carthage; helped formalize the Trinity• Origen (c.185 – c.254) – Perhaps the greatest scholar of early church• Cyprian (c. 200/10-258) – Wrote The Unity of the Church• St. Anthony (c. 251 -356) – Pioneer of anchoritic monasticism
  20. 20. Recommended Books on Church History:• Roger E. Olson and Adam G. Smith, A Pocket History of Theology• Henry Chadwick, The Early Church• Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History• Thomas Cahill, Desire of the Everlasting Hills• James Stevenson and W. H. C. Friends, The New Eusebius• Robert Webber, The Divine Embrace• F. F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame• Wayne A. Meeks, The First Urban Christians• N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God

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