This article is composed of quotes and my commentary from the book History of Dogma, Volume 1 & 2, by Adolph Harnack, 1894. This book is rather slow reading as is common in books from this time period.

By dogmas are denoted: the historical doctrines of the Church.

The author provides many quotes from the early church fathers.

Adolph Harnack's viewpoint . . .

The Catholic Encyclopedia uses him as a source in several articles (sometimes unfavorably) but quotes him favorably in an article on Augustine.

I should mention that I use the terms "doctrine" and "dogma" interchangeably. The term "dogma" has a negative connotation in some people's minds which is unfortunate considering that they would not object to the term "doctrine". These terms mean the same thing in the context of the Christian faith.

In this article I use the term "author" to refer to Adolph Harnack, not to myself.

Calendar of Development ...

One of my goals is to identify when certain beliefs, practices, or doctrines first became prevalent. Several categories:

  1. Immediately; passed-down from the apostles; apostolic.
  2. After several generations — before 150 A.D.
  3. Later — before First Ecumenical Council, 325 A.D.

I ignore developments that occurred by the apostles themselves; they are the authorities so they had complete freedom to teach whatever they chose and to change their teaching over time.

Here are the many details of the calendar of development ...


Read also...

These are the essentials of the faith expressed in their proper emphasis. Note that not all topics are written about in the New Testament or the earliest church fathers, so this list is incomplete.

After several generations — before 150 A.D.

Those in this period began to be influenced by the culture and by sociological, historical, and political forces. These are non-essentials but many are true.

Later — before First Ecumenical Council, 325 A.D.

Those in this period were strongly influenced by the culture and by sociological, historical, and political pressures. These are non-essentials but many are true nevertheless.

Dogma ...

The most difficult part of the history of dogma is the beginning, not only because it contains the germs of all later developments, and therefore an error in observation here endangers the correctness of the whole following account, but also because the selection of the most important material from the history of primitive Christianity and biblical theology is a hard problem.

The doctrines of the early church are the most important because they were taught and defended by those closest to the apostles. But heresy appeared from the beginning and the opposition to it resulted in rigid church structures (bishop, ordination rules, creeds). There was fierce contention and disagreement at every stage; not a very auspicious beginning for a church claiming the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

I believe that the Holy Spirit used consensus over time to validate true doctrine and therefore we should feel free to reject teachings by ill-mannered and harsh bishops, theologians, and other church leaders who were involved in all this.

But as the adherents of the Christian religion had not these dogmas from the beginning, so far, at least, as they form a connected system, the business of the history of dogma is, in the first place, to ascertain the origin of Dogmas (of Dogma), and then secondly, to describe their development (their variations).

We cannot draw any hard and fast line between the time of the origin and that of the development of dogma; they rather shade off into one another.

Origin of dogma

The Apostolic Catholic system of doctrine based on the foundation of the tradition authoritatively embodied in the creeds and Holy scripture, and extends to the beginning of the fourth century [early 300's A.D.]

Dogma originated before the time of Constantine.

Now that first happened when the doctrine of Christ, as the pre-existent and personal Logos of God, had obtained acceptance everywhere in the confederated Churches as the revealed and fundamental doctrine of faith, that is, about the end of the third century [end of 200's A.D.] or the beginning of the fourth [early 300's A.D.]

In other words, any changes in dogma after the early 300's are developments.

The author limits the origin of dogma to Christology. This seems arbitrary to me. But even in this period there is a great deal of disagreement and politicizing as we shall see.

Development of dogma

As to the development of dogma, it seems to have closed in the Eastern Church with the seventh Ecumenical Council (787). After that time no further dogmas were set up in the East as revealed truths.

Or so they say. The Orthodox Churches claim that their doctrines have been complete since 787 A.D. but they nevertheless clearly have more recent dogmatic developments.

In my view, doctrines which developed after 787 A.D. are non-essential (but many of these are true nonetheless) because once the east and west became divided, doctrines were no longer developed by the whole church at large. Therefore, all essential doctrines appeared before this time.

As to the Western Catholic, that is, the Romish Church, a new dogma was promulgated as late as the year 1870, which claims to be, and in point of form really is, equal in dignity to the old dogmas. Here, therefore, the History of Dogma must extend to the present time.

Certainly the Catholic Church even today considers itself to be capable of declaring new dogmas.

As regards the Protestant Churches, they are a subject of special difficulty in the sphere of the history of dogma; for at the present moment there is no agreement within these Churches as to whether, and in what sense, dogmas (as the word was used in the ancient Church) are valid.

Protestants hold doctrines as an important part of their faith but they have rejected the historical aspects, the "Catholic" aspects, of the faith. Thus they often claim that they have determined doctrines simply from the Bible only — this, of course, is nonsense. In fact, they have accepted the doctrines of the early church as true when they can be adequately supported from scripture.

Three stages [of development of dogma]:

  1. The doctrine of faith appears as Theology and Christology. The Eastern [Orthodox] Church has never got beyond this stage, although it has to a large extent enriched dogma ritually and mystically.

    The statements of the Nicene Creed. I generally agree that only these doctrines are essential.

  2. Initiated by Augustine. The doctrine of faith appears here on the one side completed, and on the other re-expressed by new dogmas, which treat of the relation of sin and grace, freedom and grace, grace and the means of grace. The number and importance of the dogmas that were, in the middle ages, really fixed after Augustine's time.

    Many of the doctrines in this category are disputed or reinterpreted by Protestants but I consider them generally to be true.

  3. The third stage begins with the Reformation, which compelled the Church to fix its faith on the basis of the theological work of the middle ages [Trent and beyond].

    I am not convinced that the Reformation provided the motivation for doctrinal reforms of the Catholic Church, because the Council of Trent rejected all the Protestant doctrinal innovations.

[Today] dogma everywhere has fallen into the background; in the Eastern Church it has given place to ritual, in the Roman Church to ecclesiastical instructions, in the Protestant Churches, so far as they are mindful of their origin, to the Gospel. At the same time, however, the paradoxical fact is unmistakable that dogma as such is nowhere at this moment so powerful as in the Protestant Churches, though by their history they are furthest removed from it, . . . it may be said that the period of development of dogma is altogether closed.

The author wrote this before the Catholic ecumenical council Vatican II in which new dogma was defined.

The church has recognised her faith, that is religion itself, in her dogmas. Accordingly, one very important business of the History of Dogma is to exhibit the unity that exists in the dogmas of a definite period. . . . But, as a matter of course, this undertaking has its limits in the degree of unanimity which actually existed in the dogmas of the particular period.

In studying the history of dogma it is clear that there were various conflicting opinions, and the ideas which finally won didn't always seem to do so under the most favorable circumstances. How could the Holy Spirit operate in the midst of such obvious flaws? We should prefer to expect the church leaders to have unity of mind.

A solution to this difficulty is to emphasize doctrines that were finally accepted by everyone (even though there may have been sharp disagreement at an earlier stage). Thus we should reject Arianism even though it was the majority view at first because the whole church finally rejected it and stated this in the canons of ecumenical councils.

It may be shewn without much difficulty, that a strict though by no means absolute unanimity is expressed only in the dogmas of the Greek Church. The peculiar character of the western post-Augustinian ecclesiastical conception of Christianity, no longer finds a clear expression in dogma, and still less is this the case with the conception of the Reformers. The reason of this is that Augustine, as well as Luther, disclosed a new conception of Christianity, but at the same time appropriated the old dogmas.

Once the Churches of east and west split, the era of trustworthy doctrinal development ended, in my view. And once the bishops of east and west began to reject each others' authority it was time for all Christians to reject the authority of bishops. Unfortunately, this didn't occur until the Protestant reformers courageously stood against it.

Trustworthy Christian doctrines must have a continuity from the early church because the apostles and those they taught and ordained are the primary authority in such matters. Unfortunately, the Protestant reformers did not consider this important so they rejected many early doctrines preferring instead to invent innovative new doctrines never before taught by the church.

The authority of the bishops was based on their teaching and defending of the true apostolic faith and on their living a holy lifestyle. Once these factors were no longer the norm the era of the bishops ended, in my view.

Thus we have the sorry state of the church today with its many conflicting doctrines and its many denominations each claiming to be the true church. Today, unity only exists in the adherence to the essentials of the faith; institutional unity doesn't exist at all, although the Catholic and Orthodox Churches both claim to be the true church to the exclusion of the other. And many Protestant doctrines are simply wrong (examples are: Sola Fide; Sola Scriptura; Eucharist is merely symbolic; baptism doesn't remit sins; rejection of icons, statues, and images; rejection of monastic life; rejection of liturgy.)

We can clearly distinguish three styles of building in the history of dogma, but only three; the style of Origen, that of Augustine, and that of the Reformers.

Only the first are treated in the author's first two volumes.

The most diverse factors have at all times been at work in the formation of dogmas. Next to the effort to determine the doctrine of religion according to the finis religionis [the goal of religion which is] the blessing of salvation, the following may have been the most important:

  1. The conceptions and sayings contained in the canonical scriptures.

    Clearly this is a critical component of doctrine but could not occur until the canon of scripture was determined. This itself took hundreds of years.

    In my view, we must not reject doctrines developed by the same people and at the same time as the canon of scripture (as is commonly done by Protestant theologians). In other words, since we accept the canon of scripture, we must also accept other doctrines developed by the same people and at the same time — it is a package deal.

    The canon of scripture is itself a set of doctrinal assertions:

    • The list of books.
    • That these books have apostolic authority.
    • That these books are the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God.
    • That these books require interpretation (doctrines do not merely consist of repeating the words of these books).
    • That the words in these books are to be emphasized (and never contradicted) in determining other doctrines.

  2. The doctrinal tradition originating in earlier epochs of the church, and no longer understood.

    In other words, the early church may have believed and practiced things which we don't know about.

  3. The needs of worship and organisation.

    The development of doctrine had a practical aspect.

  4. The effort to adjust the doctrine of religion to the prevailing doctrinal opinions.

    The political, psychological, and sociological aspect. The Holy Spirit must take these into account in guiding the church into all-truth.

  5. Political and social circumstances.

    Same comment as above.

  6. The changing moral ideals of life.

    Same comment as above. But certain aspects of morality are unchanging. The modern liberal Christian movement claims that the church should adapt to modern moral views.

  7. The so-called logical consistency, that is the abstract analogical treatment of one dogma according to the form of another.

    The use of reason in determining doctrines.

  8. The effort to adjust different tendencies and contradictions in the church.

    Certainly the Holy Spirit would be guiding the church into all-truth.

  9. The endeavour to reject once for all a doctrine regarded as erroneous.

    Because the church has teaching authority it must declare certain teachings as false.

  10. The sanctifying power of blind custom.

    The author reveals his bias; that Christianity developed in part by people blindly following tradition. But we need to consider that the traditions and customs of the first generation were apostolic; that is, they were passed-downdirectly from the apostles.

Presuppositions ...

Presuppositions of the origin [ending in early 300's A.D.] of the Catholic Apostolic doctrine of faith, the following topics, though of unequal importance as regards the extent of their influence:

  1. The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to His own testimony concerning Himself.

    The gospel message received by Jesus and taught by the apostles influenced Christian doctrine (as it should have).

  2. The common preaching of Jesus Christ in the first generation of believers.

    The message of those who heard the apostolic preaching first-hand influenced Christian doctrine.

  3. The current exposition of the Old Testament, the Jewish speculations and hopes of the future, in their significance for the earliest types of Christian preaching.

    Christian doctrine was influenced by Jewish thought. Certainly there is to be a continuity from Old Testament to New Testament. But Jewish ideas should not be completely trusted as some were provably wrong (for example, eschatological ideas.)

  4. The religious conceptions, and the religious philosophy of the Hellenistic Jews, in their significance for the later restatement of the Gospel.

    Hellenistic Judaism influenced Christian doctrine. It is reasonable to reject doctrines influenced by this.

  5. The religious dispositions of the Greeks and Romans of the first two centuries, and the current Graeco-Roman philosophy of religion.

    Graeco-Roman philosophyinfluenced Christian doctrine. It is reasonable to reject doctrines influenced by this.

These are the factors present in the early church and the assumptions of the early church; the influences upon doctrine that made it become what it became.

It is very evident how the mediaeval and old catholic dogmas were transformed in the view which Luther originally took of them. In this view we must remember that he did away with all the presuppositions of dogma, the infallible Apostolic Canon of Scripture, the infallible teaching function of the Church, and the infallible Apostolic doctrine and constitution. On this basis dogmas can only be utterances which do not support faith, but are supported by it.

In other words, Luther discarded all these factors and influences which shaped Christian doctrine and instead developed doctrine based on his view of the faith (supposedly derived from scripture). But what basis does anyone have for discarding the teaching and influences of the early church? Whatever Christianity is, it must be based on the teaching, beliefs, practices, and doctrines of the early church.

Early Gentile Christianity ...

The first century of the existence of Gentile Christian communities is particularly characterised by the following features:

  1. The rapid disappearance of Jewish Christianity.

    This trend appears in the New Testament and is validated by the apostles themselves.

  2. The enthusiastic character of the religious temper; the Charismatic teachers and the appeal to the Spirit.

    Unfortunately, most of these Charismatic teachers became heretics which is not surprising since they considered their prophetic messages to be more authoritative than scripture. Some modern Charismatics validate their views by referring to the charismatic practices of the early church, but they reject certain emphases of the Charismatics of the early church such as virginity and rigorous discipline.

  3. The strength of the hopes for the future, Chiliasm.

    Modern premillennialists and rapturists often base their teachings on the beliefs of the early church.Unfortunately, this is misguided because these early views proved to be false — Jesus did not return soon.

  4. The rigorous endeavour to fulfil the moral precepts of Christ, and truly represent the holy and heavenly community of God in abstinence from everything unclean, and in love to God and the brethren here on earth.

    A noble goal. I wish modern Christians were so inclined.

  5. The want of a fixed doctrinal form in relation to the abstract statement of the faith, and the corresponding variety and freedom of Christian preaching on the basis of clear formulae and an increasingly rich tradition.

    They had no doctrinal foundation (but sensed they needed one) with the result that Christianity began to have many conflicting and contradictory teachings. It took a very contentious effort to derive unified doctrine.

  6. The want of a clearly defined external authority in the communities, sure in its application, and the corresponding independence and freedom of the individual Christian in relation to the expression of the ideas, beliefs and hopes of faith.

    The strong, hierarchical church developed. It was needed at the time but later became a problem in itself.

  7. The want of a fixed political union of the several communities with each other—every ecclesia is an image complete in itself, and an embodiment of the whole heavenly Church—while the consciousness of the unity of the holy Church of Christ which has the spirit in its midst, found strong expression.

    They longed for institutional unity. Perhaps they should have been content with doctrinal unity (in the essentials) which is all we have today.

  8. A quite unique literature in which were manufactured facts for the past and for the future, and which did not submit to the usual literary rules and forms, but came forward with the loftiest pretensions.

    The author reveals his bias; that the stories and miracles of scripture are untrue. But this view leads ultimately to the rejection of the gospel message and of Christianity. If we don't trust the historicity of the apostolic teaching we cannot trust the gospel message either.

  9. The reproduction of particular sayings and arguments of Apostolic Teachers with an uncertain understanding of them.

    The author believes that those who passed-on the faithfrom the apostles didn't understand their teachings. I find this hard to believe.

  10. The rise of tendencies which endeavoured to hasten in every respect the inevitable process of fusing the Gospel with the spiritual and religious interests of the time, viz., the Hellenic.

    The author seems to believe that the gospel message was corrupted by Hellenist philosophy. I believe we must emphasize the writings of the early church fathersbecause their teachings will have less influence from their culture.

Elements Common to All Christians ...

These should be considered as the essentials of the Christian faith. They were believed very early and by most Christians at large.

On account of the great differences among those who, in the first century, reckoned themselves in the Church of God, and called themselves by the name of Christ, it seems at first sight scarcely possible to set up marks which would hold good for all, or even for nearly all, the groups. Yet the great majority had one thing in common, as is proved, among other things, by the gradual expulsion of Gnosticism. . . . The following particulars [of this one thing]:

  1. The Gospel, because it rests on revelation, is the sure manifestation of the supreme God, and its believing acceptance guarantees salvation.

    We are saved by faith in the gospel.

  2. The essential content of this manifestation . . . is, first of all, the message of the resurrection and eternal life, then the preaching of moral purity and continence, on the basis of repentance toward God, and of an expiation once assured by baptism, with eye ever fixed on the requital [repayment] of good and evil.

    Four emphases in the life of early Christians (we should still emphasize these today):

    • Resurrection and eternal life.
    • Moral purity and continence [self-restraint, moderation].
    • Our sins are remitted via baptism; it is not merely an act of obedience.
    • God judges our good and bad actions — our works matter.

  3. [The] manifestation of the supreme God . . . is mediated by Jesus Christ, who is the Saviour sent by God, . . . and who stands with God himself in a union special and unique. . . . He has brought the true and full knowledge of God, as well as the gift of immortality . . . as an expression for the sum of the Gospel . . . and is for that very reason the redeemer . . . on whom we are to place believing trust. But he is, further, in word and walk the highest example of all moral virtue, and therefore in his own person the law for the perfect life, and at the same time the God-appointed lawgiver and judge.

    Emphasis on Jesus.

  4. Virtue as continence, embraces as its highest task, renunciation of temporal goods and separation from the common world; for the Christian is not a citizen, but a stranger on the earth, and expects its approaching destruction.

    Emphasis on virtue.

  5. Christ has committed to chosen men, the Apostles (or to one Apostle), the proclamation of the message he received from God; consequently, their preaching represents that of Christ himself. But, besides, the Spirit of God rules in Christians, "the Saints." He bestows upon them special gifts, and, above all, continually raises up among them Prophets and spiritual Teachers who receive revelations and communications for the edification of others, and whose injunctions are to be obeyed.

    The role of Christians ...

    • Apostlic teaching is trustworthy.
    • Christians are ruled by the Holy Spirit.
    • God bestows special gifts on Christians.
    • Prophets and teachers are to be obeyed.

  6. Christian Worship is a service of God in spirit and in truth (a spiritual sacrifice), and therefore has no legal ceremonial and statutory rules. The value of the sacred acts and consecrations which are connected with the cultus [religious rites and ceremonies], consists in the communication of spiritual blessings.

    The role of the Spirit in worship as opposed to a legal, rule-based system. This is not to say that there were no rites and rituals but, rather, that the purpose of these was for God to impart blessing. We should not think that the solution to spiritually dead worship (focused on the rules) requires rejecting all rites and rituals.

  7. Everything that Jesus Christ brought with him, may be summed up in . . . the knowledge of immortal life. To possess the perfect knowledge was, in wide circles, an expression for the sum total of the Gospel.

    Emphasis on knowledge.

  8. Christians, as such, no longer take into account the distinctions of race, age, rank, nationality and worldly culture, but the Christian community must be conceived as a communion resting on a divine election. Opinions were divided about the ground of that election.

    All Christians are equal, the brotherhood of believers.

  9. As Christianity is the only true religion, and as it is no national religion, but somehow concerns the whole of humanity, or its best part, it follows that it can have nothing in common with the Jewish nation and its contemporary cultus [religious rites and ceremonies]. The Jewish nation in which Jesus Christ appeared, has, for the time at least, no special relation to the God whom Jesus revealed. Whether it had such a relation at an earlier period is doubtful; . . . but certain it is that God has now cast it off, and that all revelations of God, so far as they took place at all before Christ, (the majority assumed that there had been such revelations and considered the Old Testament as a holy record), must have aimed solely at the call of the "new people", and in some way prepared for the revelation of God through his Son.

    Christianity appropriated the Old Testament and used it for its own purposes. Old Testament passages were used prophetically to refer to Jesus (even Jesus himself used them this way).

Church and Community ...

The communities stood to each other in an outwardly loose, but inwardly firm connection, and every community . . . by unfeigned love, unity and peace, was to be an image of the holy Church of God which is in heaven, and whose members are scattered over the earth.

The Christian communities were in unity based on their common faith, not on an institutional organization.

The Church, that is the totality of all believers destined to be received into the kingdom of God . . . is the one Church, not because it presents this unity outwardly, on earth the members of the Church are rather scattered abroad.

The unity of the church is not institutional.

The mere fact, however, that from nearly the beginning of Christendom, there were reflections and speculations . . . about the Church, teaches us how profoundly the Christian consciousness was impressed with being a new people, viz., the people of God. These speculations of the earliest Gentile Christian time about Christ and the Church, as inseparable correlative ideas, are of the greatest importance, for they have absolutely nothing Hellenic in them, but rather have their origin in the Apostolic tradition.

The teachings about the church was passed-down from the apostles;they are apostolic. Therefore, we do not need to look to developments of these early teachings.

Besides the teachers, elders, and deacons, the ascetics (virgins, widows, celibates, abstinentes) and the martyrs (confessors) enjoyed a special respect in the Churches, and frequently laid hold of the government and leading of them.

The Early Faith ...

The main articles of Christianity were ...

  1. Belief in God . . . and in the Son in virtue of proofs from prophecy, and the teaching of the Lord as attested by the Apostles.

    Authority of Old Testament and the apostles' teaching.

  2. Discipline according to the standard of the words of the Lord.

  3. Baptism.

    Often neglected today by thinking of it as merely a symbolic act of obedience.

  4. The common offering of prayer, culminating in the Lord's Supper and the holy meal.

    The mass and the Eucharist.

  5. The sure hope of the nearness of Christ's glorious kingdom.

    The modern premillennialand rapturemovement captures the spirit of this but unfortunately bases it on novel interpretations.

In these appears the unity of Christendom, that is, of the Church which possesses the Holy Spirit

These elements should be present in modern Christianity but sadly some of these have been rejected as unimportant.

The author seems to disdain for what he calls "tradition",implying that it is composed of myths and is therefore untrustworthy.

The traditions concerning Christ on which the communities were based, were of a twofold character.

  1. Words of the Lord, mostly ethical, but also of eschatological content.

    In other words, we can't trust the moral teachingnor the eschatologyof the early church.

  2. Proclamation of the history of Jesus concisely expressed, and composed with reference to [Old Testament] prophecy.

    These statements of history about Jesus make up an important part of the creeds.

When in the "Teaching of the Apostles [Didache]", which may be regarded here as a classic document, the discipline of life in accordance with the words of the Lord, Baptism, the order of fasting and prayer, especially the regular use of the Lord's prayer, and the Eucharist are reckoned the articles on which the Christian community rests.

These should be foundational aspects of Christian life.

Creeds ...

The creeds should form a basic cornerstone in our Christian faith today.

The confession thus conceived had not everywhere obtained a fixed definite expression in the first century (c. 50-150). It is highly probable, however, that a short confession was strictly formulated in the Roman community before the middle of the second century, expressing belief in the Father, Son and Spirit, embracing also the most important facts in the history of Jesus, and mentioning the Holy Church, as well as the two great blessings of Christianity, the forgiveness of sin, and the resurrection of the dead.

The creeds appeared very early and in every part of the church. Thus, we should consider the truths they express as essential.

The conceptions of Christian salvation, or of redemption, were grouped around two ideas:

  1. Salvation . . . was regarded as the glorious kingdom which was soon to appear on earth with the visible return of Christ, which will bring the present course of the world to an end, and introduce for a definite series of centuries, before the final judgment, a new order of all things to the joy and blessedness of the saints. In connection with this the hope of the resurrection of the body occupied the foreground.

    This idea proved to be false since Christ did not return soon.

  2. Salvation appeared to be given in the truth, that is, in the complete and certain knowledge of God, as contrasted with the error of heathendom and the night of sin, and this truth included the certainty of the gift of eternal life, and all conceivable spiritual blessings.

    That truth consists of right knowledge.

Words of Jesus and, in general, directions for the Christian life were not, as a rule, admitted into the short formulated creed. In the recently discovered "Teaching of the Apostles" (Didache) we have no doubt a notable attempt to fix the rules of Christian life as traced back to Jesus through the medium of the Apostles, and to elevate them into the foundation of the confederation of Christian Churches; but this undertaking, which could not but have led the development of Christianity into other paths, did not succeed. That the formulated creeds did not express the principles of conduct, but the facts on which Christians based their faith, was an unavoidable necessity. Besides, the universal agreement of all earnest and thoughtful minds on the question of Christian morals was practically assured.

The Creeds do not mention the conduct of Christians because there was no dispute about this.

Salvation ...

The moralistic view, in which eternal life is the wages and reward of a perfect moral life wrought out essentially by one's own power, took the place of first importance at a very early period. On this view, according to which the righteousness of God is revealed in punishment and reward alike, the forgiveness of sin only meant a single remission of sin in connection with entrance into the Church by baptism, and righteousness became identical with virtue.

Sinlessness rests upon a new creation (regeneration) which is effected in baptism

There is no other blessing in the Gospel than the perfect truth and eternal life. All else is but a sum of obligations in which the Gospel is presented as a new law. The christianising of the Old Testament supported this conception.

By the "law" was frequently meant in the first place, not the law of love, but the commandments of ascetic holiness, or an explanation and a turn were given to the law of love, according to which it is to verify itself above all in asceticism.

In Hermas, however, and in the second Epistle of Clement, the consciousness of being under grace, even after baptism, almost completely disappears behind the demand to fulfil the tasks which baptism imposes. The idea that serious sins, in the case of the baptised, no longer should or can be forgiven, except under special circumstances, appears to have prevailed in wide circles, if not everywhere.

Old Testament ...

The sayings of the Old Testament, the word of God, were believed to furnish inexhaustible material for deeper knowledge. The Christian prophets were nurtured on the Old Testament, the teachers gathered from it the revelation of the past, present and future . . . for they were all dominated by the presupposition that this book is a Christian book. . . . But the Old Testament sayings and histories were in part unintelligible, or in their literal sense offensive; they were at the same time regarded as fundamental words of God.

The following are the most important points of view under which the Old Testament was used.

  1. The Monotheistic cosmology and view of nature were borrowed from it

  2. It was used to prove that the appearance and entire history of Jesus had been foretold centuries, nay, thousands of years beforehand, and that the founding of a new people gathered out of all nations had been predicted and prepared for from the very beginning.

  3. It was used as a means of verifying all principles and institutions of the Christian Church,—the spiritual worship of God without images, the abolition of all ceremonial legal precepts, baptism, etc.

  4. The Old Testament was used for purposes of exhortation.

  5. It was proved from the Old Testament that the Jewish nation is in error, and either never had a covenant with God or has lost it, that it has a false apprehension of God's revelations, and therefore has, now at least, no longer any claim to their possession.

  6. But beyond all this there were in the Old Testament books, above all, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, a great number of sayings—confessions of trust in God and of help received from God, of humility and holy courage, testimonies of a world-overcoming faith and words of comfort, love and communion—which were too exalted for any cavilling [fault-finding], and intelligible to every spiritually awakened mind. Out of this treasure which was handed down to the Greeks and Romans, the Church edified herself, and in the perception of its riches was largely rooted the conviction that the holy book must in every line contain the highest truth.

The Old Testament became a new book in the hands of the Gentile Christians.

Worship ...

It is necessary to examine the original forms of the worship and constitution.

In accordance with the purely spiritual idea of God, it was a fixed principle that only a spiritual worship is well pleasing to Him, and that all ceremonies are abolished. . . . But as the Old Testament and the Apostolic tradition made it equally certain that the worship of God is a sacrifice, the Christian worship of God was set forth under the aspect of the spiritual sacrifice. In the most general sense it was conceived as the offering of the heart and of obedience, as well as the consecration of the whole personality, body and soul to God.

The general idea of a pure spiritual worship of God has nevertheless been realised in definite institutions.

The worship of God is not just a private matter; Christianity is to be practiced in community of believers.

Sacrifice ...

Prayer as thanksgiving and intercession, was regarded as the sacrifice which was to be accompanied, without constraint or ceremony, by fasts and acts of compassionate love.

[In] the following period, however, it became of the utmost importance:

  1. That the idea of sacrifice ruled the whole worship.

  2. [The idea of sacrifice] appeared in a special manner in the celebration of the Lord's supper, and consequently invested that ordinance with a new meaning.

  3. The support of the poor, alms, especially such alms as had been gained by prayer and fasting, was placed under the category of sacrifice, for this furnished the occasion for giving the widest application to the idea of sacrifice, and thereby substituting for the original Semitic Old Testament idea of sacrifice with its spiritual interpretation, the Greek idea with its interpretation.

It may, however, be maintained that the changes imposed on the Christian religion by Catholicism, are at no point so obvious and far-reaching, as in that of sacrifice, and especially in the solemn ordinance of the Lord's supper, which was placed in such close connection with the idea of sacrifice.

Baptism ...

As to Baptism, which was administered in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit . . . . it was regarded as the bath of regeneration, and as renewal of life, inasmuch as it was assumed that by it the sins of the past state of blindness were blotted out. But as faith was looked upon as the necessary condition, and as on the other hand, the forgiveness of the sins of the past was in itself deemed worthy of God, the asserted specific result of baptism remained still very uncertain, and the hard tasks which it imposed, might seem more important than the merely retrospective gifts which it proffered.

Several aspects of baptismwhich are rejected by Protestantism, however, these should not be rejected since they are apostolic:

Eucharist ...

As regards the Lord's Supper, the most important point is that its celebration became more and more the central point, not only for the worship of the Church, but for its very life as a Church.

The Eucharistshould be a key ingredient in Christianity but many Protestants have rejected it or changed it to a merely symbolic rite.

The form of this celebration, the common meal, made it appear to be a fitting expression of the brotherly unity of the community, . . . as a sacrifice of the community, and indeed, as it was also named . . . sacrifice of thanksgiving.

As an act of sacrifice, . . . the wealth of ideas which the Old Testament connects with sacrifice, could be transferred to it; . . . [even though these] had nothing whatever in common, either with the purpose of the meal as a memorial of Christ's death, or with the mysterious symbols of the body and blood of Christ.  . . . The result was that the one transaction obtained a double value.

[It is] doubtful . . . whether in the idea of its founder [Jesus] the meal was thought of as a sacrificial meal.

The blessings mediated through the Holy Supper could only be thought of as spiritual (faith, knowledge, or eternal life), and the consecrated elements could only be recognised as the mysterious vehicles of these blessings. There was yet no reflection on the distinction between symbol and vehicle. . . . We shall search in vain for any special relation of the partaking of the consecrated elements to the forgiveness of sin.

The idea of "sacrament" was not an early teaching and thus I reject it as not being passed-down from the apostles.

That on which value was put was the strengthening of faith and knowledge, as well as the guarantee of eternal life.

Development of Clergy ...

The natural distinctions among men, and the differences of position and vocation which these involve, were not to be abolished in the Church, notwithstanding the independence and equality of every individual Christian, but were to be consecrated.

Every relation of natural piety was to be respected. Therefore the elders also acquired a special authority, and were to receive the utmost deference and due obedience. . . . The Apostolic age therefore transmitted a twofold organisation to the communities:

  1. [Elders/bishops — prophets and teachers???] were men speaking the word of God, commissioned and endowed by God, and bestowed on Christendom, not on a particular community, who had to spread the Gospel, that is to edify the Church of Christ

  2. [Helpers/priests, young men 1 John 2:13 — bishops???] stood in the closest connection with the economy of the church, above all with the offering of gifts, and so with the sacrificial service ; . . . appointed by the individual congregation and endowed with the charisms of leading and helping, who had to receive and administer the gifts, to perform the sacrificial service (if there were no prophets present), and take charge of the affairs of the community.

But, however important the organisation that was based on the distinction between [elders/bishops] and [helpers/priests], it ought not to be considered as characteristic of the Churches, not even where there appeared at the head of the community a college of chosen elders, as was the case in the greater communities and perhaps soon everywhere. On the contrary, only an organisation founded on the gifts of the Spirit, bestowed on the Church by God, corresponded to the original peculiarity of the Christian community.

It was not long before most, if not all, the local congregations had several elders at the head.

But a very important development takes place in the second half of our epoch. The prophets and teachers—as the result of causes which followed the naturalising of the Churches in the world—fell more and more into the background, and their function, the solemn service of the word, began to pass over to the officials of the community, the bishops, who already played a great role in the public worship. At the same time, however, it appeared more and more fitting to entrust one official, as chief leader (superintendent of public worship), with the reception of gifts and their administration, together with the care of the unity of public worship, that is, to appoint one bishop instead of a number of bishops, leaving, however, as before, the college of presbyters, as . . . a kind of senate of the community.

Moreover, the idea of the chosen bishops and deacons as the antitypes of the Priests and Levites, had been formed at an early period in connection with the idea of the new sacrifice. But we find also the idea, which is probably the earlier of the two, that the prophets and teachers, as the commissioned preachers of the word, are the priests.

But it must have been still more important that the bishops, or bishop, . . . took over also the profound veneration with which they were regarded as the special organs of the Spirit.

The condition of the organisation in the communities about the year 140, seems to have been a very diverse one. Here and there, no doubt, the convenient arrangement of appointing only one bishop was carried out, while his functions had not perhaps been essentially increased, and the prophets and teachers were still the great spokesmen. Conversely, there may still have been in other communities a number of bishops, while the prophets and teachers no longer played regularly an important role.

A fixed organisation was reached, and the Apostolic episcopal constitution established, only in consequence of the so-called Gnostic crisis, which was epoch-making in every respect.

The Churches . . . traced back their organisation of presbyters, i.e., of bishops and deacons, to Apostolic appointment. The notion which followed quite naturally, was that the Apostles themselves had appointed the first church officials.

The twelve Apostles were in every respect the middle term between Jesus and the present Churches. This conception is earlier than the great Gnostic crisis, for the Gnostics also shared it.

But no special qualities of the officials, but only of the Church itself, were derived from it, and it was believed that the independence and sovereignty of the Churches were in no way endangered by it, because an institution by Apostles was considered equivalent to an institution by the Holy Spirit, whom they possessed, and whom they followed. The independence of the Churches rested precisely on the fact that they had the Spirit in their midst.

The conception . . . was completely transformed in the following period by the addition of another idea—that of Apostolic succession, and then became, together with the idea of the specific priesthood of the leader of the Church, the most important means of exalting the office above the community.

This review of the common faith and the beginnings of knowledge, worship and organisation, in the earliest Gentile Christianity, will have shewn that the essential premises for the development of Catholicism were already in existence before the middle of the second century [150 A.D.], and before the burning conflict with Gnosticism.

The Early Church ...

From the disquisitions [discourses] of Clement of Alexandria we see how vigorous the old conception of the Church, as the heavenly communion of the elect and believing, still continued to be about the year 200.

Cyprian did not yet regard uniformity of Church practice as a matter of moment—or rather he knew that diversities must be tolerated. . . . Every bishop who adheres to the confederation has the greatest freedom even in questions of Church discipline and practice

There was absolutely no current doctrine of faith in the communities, in the sense of a completed theory, and the theological speculations of even closely related Christian writers of this epoch, exhibit the greatest differences. The productions of fancy, the terrible or consoling pictures of the future pass for sacred knowledge, just as much as intelligent and sober reflections, and edifying interpretation of Old Testament sayings.

The communities gave expression in the cultus [religious rites and ceremonies], chiefly in the hymns and prayers, to what they possessed in their God and their Christ

The main unifying factor in the early church was the liturgy.

The second century [100 - 199 A.D.] of the existence of Gentile-Christian communities was characterised by the victorious conflict with Gnosticism and the Marcionite Church, by the gradual development of an ecclesiastical doctrine, and by the decay of the early Christian enthusiasm.

But the conflict with the so-called Montanism showed that there were still a considerable number of Christians who valued that immediateness and freedom; these were, however, defeated. The fixing of the tradition under the title of apostolic necessarily led to the assumption that whoever held the apostolic doctrine was also essentially a Christian in the apostolic sense. This assumption, quite apart from the innovations which were legitimised by tracing them to the Apostles, meant the separation of doctrine and conduct, the preference of the former to the latter, and the transformation of a fellowship of faith, hope, and discipline into . . . a union which, like the philosophical schools, rested on a doctrinal law, and which was subject to a legal code of divine institution.

The general result was the establishment of a great ecclesiastical association, which, forming at one and the same time a political commonwealth, school and union for worship, was based on the firm foundation of an "apostolic" law of faith, a collection of "apostolic" writings, and finally, an "apostolic" organisation. This institution was the Catholic Church.

The main articles forming the estate and possession of orthodox Christianity were raised to the rank of apostolic regulations and laws, and thereby placed beyond all discussion and assault.

The movement which resulted in the Catholic Church owes its right to a place in the history of Christianity to the victory over Gnosticism

The older Catholicism never clearly put the question, "What is Christian?" Instead of answering that question it rather laid down rules, the recognition of which was to be the guarantee of Christianism. . . . In throwing a protective covering round the Gospel, Catholicism also obscured it. . . . In the interests of its world-wide mission it did not indeed directly disguise the terrible seriousness of religion, but, by tolerating a less strict ideal of life, it made it possible for those less in earnest to be considered Christians. . . . It permitted the genesis of a Church, which was no longer a communion of faith, hope, and discipline, but a political commonwealth. . . . In ever increasing measure it invested all the forms which this secular commonwealth required with apostolic, that is, indirectly, with divine authority.

Catholic Christianity grew out of two converging series of developments. In the one were set up fixed outer standards for determining what is Christian, and these standards were proclaimed to be apostolic institutions. The baptismal confession was exalted to an apostolic rule of faith, that is, to an apostolic law of faith. A collection of apostolic writings was formed from those read in the Churches, and this compilation was placed on an equal footing with the Old Testament. The episcopal and monarchical constitution was declared to be apostolic, and the attribute of successor of the Apostles was conferred on the bishop. Finally, the religious ceremonial developed into a celebration of mysteries, which was in like manner traced back to the Apostles. The result of these institutions was a strictly exclusive Church in the form of a communion of doctrine, ceremonial, and law, a confederation which more and more gathered the various communities within its pale, and brought about the decline of all nonconforming sects.

One of the most important problems to be investigated in the history of dogma, and one which unfortunately cannot be completely solved, is to show what necessities led to the setting up of a new canon of Scripture, what circumstances required the appearance of living authorities in the communities, and what relation was established between the apostolic rule of faith, the apostolic canon of Scripture, and the apostolic office. The development ended with the formation of a clerical class, at whose head stood the bishop, who united in himself all conceivable powers, as teacher, priest, and judge. He disposed of the powers of Christianity, guaranteed its purity, and therefore in every respect held the Christian laity in tutelage.

Three standards are to be kept in view, viz., the apostolic doctrine, the apostolic canon of Scripture, and the guarantee of apostolic authority, afforded by the organisation of the Church, that is, by the episcopate, and traced back to apostolic institution. It will be seen that the Church always adopted these three standards together, that is simultaneously. As a matter of fact they originated in Rome and gradually made their way in the other Churches.

Chiliasm ...

Chiliasm . . . is found wherever the Gospel is not yet Hellenised . . . and must be regarded as a main element of the Christian preaching

The hopes springing out of Judaism were at first but little modified, that is, only so far as the substitution of the Christian communities for the nation of Israel made modification necessary.

In the Christian hopes of the future as in the Jewish eschatology may be distinguished [various] elements:

  1. A final fearful conflict with the powers of the world which is just about to break out.

  2. The speedy return of Christ.

  3. After conquering the secular power . . . Christ will establish a glorious kingdom on the earth and will raise the saints to share in that kingdom.

  4. He will finally judge all men.

  5. Antichrist

    Various views.

  6. The secular power culminating in the Antichrist.

    Various views.

  7. The place, the extent, and the duration of Christ's glorious kingdom.

    Various views.

But it is worthy of special note that Justin regarded the belief that Christ will set up his kingdom in Jerusalem, and that it will endure for 1000 years, as a necessary element of orthodoxy, though he confesses he knew Christians who did not share this belief

Justin's views are provably false.

The great inheritance which the Gentile Christian communities received from Judaism is the eschatological hopes.

On the contrary the eschatological hopes in all their details and with all the deep shadows which they threw on the state and public life were at first received and maintained themselves in wide circles pretty much unchanged and only succumbed in some of their details—just as in Judaism—to the changes which resulted from the constant change of the political situation. But these hopes were also destined in great measure to pass away after the settlement of Christianity on Graeo-Roman soil.

[Chiliasm —] that Christ would set up the kingdom in Jerusalem, and that it would be an earthly kingdom with sensuous enjoyments.

A history of the gradual attenuation [weakened] and subsidence of eschatological hopes in the II. [100's]—IV. [300's] centuries can only be written in fragments.

From Judaism ...

The great inheritance which the Gentile Christian communities received from Judaism is the . . . Monotheism assured by revelation and belief in providence. The law as a national law was abolished.

Christology ...

Christological doctrinal conceptions are frequently constructed by a combination of particular passages, the nature of which does not permit of combination. But the fact that there was no universally recognised theory about the nature of Jesus till beyond the middle of the second century [150 A.D.], should not lead us to suppose that the different theories were anywhere declared to be of equal value, etc., therefore more or less equally valid; on the contrary, everyone, so far as he had a theory at all, included his own in the revealed truth. That they had not yet come into conflict is accounted for, on the one hand, by the fact that the different theories ran up into like formulae, and could even frequently be directly carried over into one another, and on the other hand, by the fact that their representatives appealed to the same authorities. But we must, above all, remember that conflict could only arise after the enthusiastic element, which also had a share in the formation of Christology, had been suppressed, and problems were felt to be such, that is, after the struggle with Gnosticism, or even during that struggle.

Gnosticism ...

The author strongly emphasizes the influence of Gnosticism.

The importance of studying Gnosticism is in learning how the church changed in responding to it.

The belief that Christianity guarantees the perfect knowledge, and leads from one degree of clearness to another, was in operation from the very beginning.

In other words, Christianity taught that its teachings were true.

This conviction had to be immediately tested by the Old Testament, that is, the task was imposed on the majority of thinking Christians, by the circumstances in which the Gospel had been proclaimed to them, of making the Old Testament intelligible to themselves, in other words, of using this book as a Christian book, and of finding the means by which they might be able to repel the Jewish claim to it, and refute the Jewish interpretation of it.

Even the New Testament makes reference to the truthfulness of the Old Testament and the need to properly interpret it in light of the new revelation of Jesus.

Those writers who made a diligent use of the Old Testament, had no hesitation in making use of the allegorical method. That was required not only by the inability to understand the verbal sense of the Old Testament, presenting diverging moral and religious opinions, but, above all, by the conviction, that on every page of that book Christ and the Christian Church must be found. How could this conviction have been maintained, unless the definite concrete meaning of the documents had been already obliterated by the Jewish philosophic view of the Old Testament?

Many fundamentalist Protestants claim that the Old Testament is to be interpreted literally(but they themselves violate this whenever is suits them) but the early Christians did not do this.

This necessary allegorical interpretation, however, brought into the communities an intellectual philosophic element, a gnosis.

Special knowledge is required to allegorizeOld Testament passages because you have to know ahead of time what the passage really says even though the words don't seem to say that.

But once the intellectual interest was unfettered, and the new religion had approximated to the Hellenic spirit by means of a philosophic view of the Old Testament, how could that spirit be prevented from taking complete and immediate possession of it, and where, in the first instance, could the power be found that was able to decide whether this or that opinion was incompatible with Christianity?

Rather than merely accepting the teachings of the apostles, the early Christians began figuring out the meaning of the Christian faith and developing doctrines. Some of these were heretical so there had to be a way to distinguish truth from error. This was done in a heavy-handed manner, with brute force.

The Catholic Church afterwards claimed as her own those writers of the first century (60-160) who were content with turning speculation to account only as a means of spiritualising the Old Testament, without, however, attempting a systematic reconstruction of tradition. But all those who in the first century undertook to furnish Christian practice with the foundation of a complete systematic knowledge, she declared false Christians.

The traditions passed-down from the apostles formed the foundations of Christianity. However, I think it is incorrect to state that later developments of doctrine were actually passed-down. In my method, we should search the early church fathers to determine which teachings were passed-down and which were invented in response to various external forces.

Certain Christian doctrines such as Christology, the Trinity, and the Canon of scripture were determined in church councils. In my view, councils occurring after the split between east and west do not represent the mind of the church and should therefore be rejected.

The Gnostic systems represent the acute secularising or hellenising of Christianity, with the rejection of the Old Testament.

Acceptance of the Old Testament as a foundation of Christianity was essential in preventing the church from sliding into heresy.

But the significance of the Old Testament in the religious history of the world, lies just in this, that, in order to be maintained at all, it required the application of the allegoric method, that is, a definite proportion of Greek ideas, and that, on the other hand, it opposed the strongest barrier to the complete hellenising of Christianity. Neither the sayings of Jesus, nor Christian hopes, were at first capable of forming such a barrier.

In order to appropriate the Old Testament it had to be allegorized.This implies that Jesus did not teach the apostles literal interpretations of the Old Testament. Certainly, Old Testament prophecies were applied to Jesus and the church in ways never imagined by the Jews. For more, please read.

The Christianity which dispensed with "doctrines" seemed capable of union with every form of thoughtful and earnest philosophy, because the Jewish foundation did not make its appearance here at all.

To fight Gnosticism, Christians had to develop doctrines which explained what the faith was.

Marcion ...

Marcion's views, similar to gnosticism, were dualistic. But he emphasized the faith rather than knowledge as the gnostics did.

In the exposition of his ideas he neither applied the elements of any Semitic religious wisdom, nor the methods of the Greek philosophy of religion.

This seems like a good approach.

It was only after the failure of his attempts at reform that he founded churches of his own, in which brotherly equality, freedom from all ceremonies, and strict evangelical discipline were to rule.

He gained no support in his efforts so he created his own churches.

Completely carried away with the novelty, uniqueness and grandeur of the Pauline Gospel of the grace of God in Christ, Marcion felt that all other conceptions of the Gospel, and especially its union with the Old Testament religion, was opposed to, and a backsliding from the truth.

Often innovators are extremists who emphasize one aspect of teaching to the exclusion of the others.

He accordingly supposed that it was necessary to make the sharp antitheses of Paul, law and gospel, wrath and grace, works and faith, flesh and spirit, sin and righteousness, death and life, . . . the foundation of his religious views.

Marcion became a dualist.

This Paulinism in its religious strength, but without dialectic [logical arguments], without the Jewish Christian view of history, and detached from the soil of the Old Testament, was to him the true Christianity.

He misunderstood Paul's purpose in contrasting the Old Testament religious system with the new revelation. Protestants do the same in claiming that Paul meant to teach we are saved by faith only.

Marcion explained the Old Testament in its literal sense and rejected every allegorical interpretation.

Many fundamentalist Protestantists also claim to do this, but they typically interpret passages figuratively whenever it suits them.

Foreknowledge ...

According to the theory held by the ancient Jews and by the whole of the Semitic nations, everything of real value, that from time to time appears on earth has its existence in heaven. In other words it exists with God, that is, God possesses a knowledge of it; and for that reason it has a real being.

The idea of God's foreknowledge plays a key role in discussions about Calvinism.We should understand the ideas in fashion at the time of the apostles.

But it exists beforehand with God in the same way as it appears on earth, that is with all the material attributes belonging to its essence. Its manifestation on earth is merely a transition from concealment to publicity. . . . In becoming visible to the senses, the object in question assumes no attribute that it did not already possess with God. Hence its material nature is by no means an inadequate expression of it, nor is it a second nature added to the first. The truth rather is that what was in heaven before is now revealing itself upon earth, without any sort of alteration taking place in the process.

The old Jewish theory of pre-existence is founded on the religious idea of the omniscience and omnipotence of God, that God to whom the events of history do not come as a surprise, but who guides their course. As the whole history of the world and the destiny of each individual are recorded on his tablets or books, so also each thing is ever present before him. The decisive contrast is between God and the creature. In designating the latter [creatures] as "foreknown" by God, the primary idea is not to ennoble the creature, but rather to bring to light the wisdom and power of God.

The book of Revelation uses the image of books in this sense.

Earthly occurrences and objects are not only regarded as "foreknown" by God before being seen in this world, but the latter manifestation is frequently considered as the copy of the existence and nature which they possess in heaven, and which remains unalterably the same, whether they appear upon earth or not. That which is before God experiences no change. As the destinies of the world are recorded in the books, and God reads them there, it being at the same time a matter of indifference, as regards this knowledge of his, when and how they are accomplished upon earth, so the Tabernacle and its furniture, the Temple, Jerusalem, etc., are before God, and continue to exist before him in heaven, even during their appearance on earth and after it.

As regards the second point, the distinction between a heavenly and an earthly Jerusalem, a heavenly and an earthly Temple, etc., is sufficiently known from the Apocalypses and the New Testament. But the important consideration is that the sacred things of earth were regarded as objects of less value, instalments, as it were, pending the fulfilment of the whole promise. The desecration and subsequent destruction of sacred things must have greatly strengthened this idea. The hope of the heavenly Jerusalem comforted men for the desecration or loss of the earthly one. But this gave at the same time the most powerful impulse to reflect whether it was not an essential feature of this temporal state, that everything high and holy in it could only appear in a meagre and inadequate form.

Messiah ...

These, however, are also the general conditions which gave rise to the earliest Jewish speculations about a personal Messiah.

Most Jews, as Trypho testifies in Justin's Dialogue, 49, conceived the Messiah as a man. We may indeed go a step further and say that no Jew at bottom imagined him otherwise; for even those who attached ideas of pre-existence to him, and gave the Messiah a supernatural background, never advanced to speculations about assumption of the flesh, incarnation, two natures and the like. They only transferred in specific manner to the Messiah the old idea of pre-terrestrial existence with God, universally current among the Jews. Before the creation of the world the Messiah was hidden with God, and, when the time is fulfilled, he makes his appearance. This is neither an incarnation nor a humiliation, but he appears on earth as he exists before God, viz., as a mighty and just king, equipped with all gifts.

The Jewish idea of the Messiah.

Jesus Christ designated himself as the Messiah, and the first of his disciples who recognised him as such were native Jews. The Jewish conceptions of the Messiah consequently passed over into the Christian community. But they received an impulse to important modifications from the living impression conveyed by the person and destiny of Jesus. Three facts were here of pre-eminent importance. First, Jesus appeared in lowliness, and even suffered death. Secondly, he was believed to be exalted through the resurrection to the right hand of God, and his return in glory was awaited with certainty. Thirdly, the strength of a new life and of an indissoluble union with God was felt issuing from him, and therefore his people were connected with him in the closest way.

Liturgy ...

Liturgy and the Origin of Dogma.

The reader has perhaps wondered why I have made so little reference to Liturgy in my description of the origin of dogma. For according to the most modern ideas about the history of religion and the origin of theology, the development of both may be traced in the ritual. Without any desire to criticise these notions, I think I am justified in asserting that this is another instance of the exceptional nature of Christianity. For a considerable period it possessed no ritual at all, and the process of development in this direction had been going on, or been completed, a long time before ritual came to furnish material for dogmatic discussion.

The Catholic Church teaches that we can discover the apostolic teaching in the liturgy. But this can only be true in the earliest liturgy, the liturgy of the time of the apostles before changes took place.

The worship in Christian Churches grew out of that in the synagogues, whereas there is no trace of its being influenced by the Jewish Temple service. . . . Its oldest constituents are accordingly prayer, reading of the scriptures, application of scripture texts, and sacred song. In addition to these we have, as specifically Christian elements, the celebration of the Lord's Supper, and the utterances of persons inspired by the Spirit. The latter manifestations, however, ceased in the course of the second century, and to some extent as early as its first half.

Apart from the responsory hymns in the Book of Revelation, which can hardly represent fixed liturgical pieces, the only portions of the older stratum in our possession are the Lord's Prayer, originating with Jesus himself and used as a liturgy, together with the sacramental prayers of the Didache. These prayers exhibit a style unlike any of the liturgical formulae of later times; the prayer is exclusively addressed to God, it returns thanks for knowledge and life; it speaks of Jesus the . . . Son of God as the mediator; the intercession refers exclusively to the Church, and the supplication is for the gathering together of the Church, the hastening of the coming of the kingdom and the destruction of the world. No direct mention is made of the death and resurrection of Christ. These prayers are the peculiar property of the Christian Church. It cannot, however, be said that they exercised any important influence on the history of dogma.

Changes in Christianity ...

The older Catholicism never clearly put the question, "What is Christian?" Instead of answering that question it rather laid down rules, the recognition of which was to be the guarantee of Christianism. This solution of the problem seems to be on the one hand too narrow and on the other too broad. Too narrow, because it bound Christianity to rules under which it necessarily languished; too broad, because it did not in any way exclude the introduction of new and foreign conceptions. In throwing a protective covering round the Gospel, Catholicism also obscured it. It preserved Christianity from being hellenised to the most extreme extent, but, as time went on, it was forced to admit into this religion an ever greater measure of secularisation. In the interests of its world-wide mission it did not indeed directly disguise the terrible seriousness of religion, but, by tolerating a less strict ideal of life, it made it possible for those less in earnest to be considered Christians, and to regard themselves as such. It permitted the genesis of a Church, which was no longer a communion of faith, hope, and discipline, but a political commonwealth in which the Gospel merely had a place beside other things. In ever increasing measure it invested all the forms which this secular commonwealth required with apostolic, that is, indirectly, with divine authority. This course disfigured Christianity and made a knowledge of what is Christian an obscure and difficult matter. But, in Catholicism, religion for the first time obtained a formal dogmatic system. Catholic Christianity discovered the formula which reconciled faith and knowledge. This formula satisfied humanity for centuries, and the blessed effects which it accomplished continued to operate even after it had itself already become a fetter.

Catholic Christianity grew out of two converging series of developments. In the one were set up fixed outer standards for determining what is Christian, and these standards were proclaimed to be apostolic institutions. The baptismal confession was exalted to an apostolic rule of faith, that is, to an apostolic law of faith. A collection of apostolic writings was formed from those read in the Churches, and this compilation was placed on an equal footing with the Old Testament. The episcopal and monarchical constitution was declared to be apostolic, and the attribute of successor of the Apostles was conferred on the bishop. Finally, the religious ceremonial developed into a celebration of mysteries, which was in like manner traced back to the Apostles. The result of these institutions was a strictly exclusive Church in the form of a communion of doctrine, ceremonial, and law, a confederation which more and more gathered the various communities within its pale, and brought about the decline of all nonconforming sects.

The legal and political forms by which the Church secured herself against the secular power and heresy, and still more the lower moral standard exacted from her members in consequence of the naturalisation of Christianity in the world, called forth a reaction soon after the middle of the second century. This movement, which first began in Asia Minor and then spread into other regions of Christendom, aimed at preserving or restoring the old feelings and conditions, and preventing Christendom from being secularised. . . . Moreover, she renounced her character as the communion of those who were sure of salvation, and substituted the claim to be an educational institution and a necessary condition of redemption.

The completion of the old Catholic conception of the Church, as this idea was developed in the latter half of the third century [250 A.D.], is perhaps most clearly shown in the attribute of priesthood, with which the clergy were invested and which conferred on them the greatest importance.

Tradition ...

In the widest sense the expression . . . [the] canon of tradition originally included all that was traced back to Christ himself through the medium of the Apostles and was of value for the faith and life of the Church, together with everything that was or seemed her inalienable possession, as, for instance, the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament. In the narrower sense that canon consisted of the history and words of Jesus. . . . But the very fact that the extent of what was regarded as tradition of the Apostles was quite undetermined ensured the possibility of the highest degree of freedom; it was also still allowable to give expression to Christian inspiration and to the intuition of enthusiasm without any regard to tradition.

There was a time when the majority of Christians knew themselves to be such, (1) because they had the "Spirit" and found in that an indestructible guarantee of their Christian position, (2) because they observed all the commandments of Jesus. But when these guarantees died away, and when at the same time the most diverse doctrines that were threatening to break up the Church were preached in the name of Christianity, the fixing of tradition necessarily became the supreme task. Here, as in every other case, the tradition was not fixed till after it had been to some extent departed from. . . . There could be no doubt that the needful thing was to fix what was "apostolic," for the one certain thing was that Christianity was based on a divine revelation which had been transmitted through the medium of the Apostles to the Churches of the whole earth.

As soon as the empiric Church ruled by the bishops was proclaimed to be the foundation of the Christian religion, we have the fundamental premises for the conception that everything progressively adopted by the Church, all her functions, institutions, and liturgy, in short, all her continuously changing arrangements were holy and apostolic. But the courage to draw all the conclusions here was restrained by the fact that certain portions of tradition, such as the New Testament canon of Scripture and the apostolic doctrine, had been once for all exalted to an unapproachable height. Hence it was only with slowness and hesitation that Christians accepted the inferences from the idea of the Church in the remaining directions, and these conclusions always continued to be hampered with some degree of uncertainty. The idea of the unwritten tradition; i.e., that every custom, however recent, within the sphere of outward regulations, of public worship, discipline, etc., is as holy and apostolic as the Bible and the "faith", never succeeded in gaining complete acceptance. In this case, complicated, uncertain, and indistinct assumptions were the result.

Canon of Scripture ...

We must not think that the four Gospels now found in the canon had attained full canonical authority by the middle of the second century [150 A.D.], for the fact—easily demonstrable—that the texts were still very freely dealt with about this period is in itself a proof of this. Our first three Gospels contain passages and corrections that could hardly have been fixed before about the year 150.

The author claims that the texts themselves were still being changed until about 150 A.D.

The compilation and formation of a canon of Christian writings by a process of selection was, so to speak, a kind of involuntary undertaking of the Church in her conflict with Marcion and the Gnostics, as is most plainly proved by the warnings of the Fathers not to dispute with the heretics about the Holy Scriptures, although the New Testament was already in existence. That conflict necessitated the formation of a new Bible.

The combating of heresy apparently did not provide the main motivation for determining the canon of scripture since heretics were able to interpret the writings to support their teachings.

The exclusion of particular persons on the strength of some apostolic standards, and by reference to the Old Testament, could not be justified by the Church in her own eyes and those of her opponents, so long as she herself recognised that there were apostolic writings, and so long as these heretics appealed to such.

The scriptures could not be used to fight heresy. If apostolic writings were authoritative and if heretics used these writings to support their teachings then who could object?

She was compelled to claim exclusive possession of everything that had a right to the name "apostolic," to deny it to the heretics, and to shew that she held it in the highest honour. . . . Hitherto she had "contented" herself with proving her legal title from the Old Testament, and, passing over her actual origin, had dated herself back to the beginning of all things. Marcion and the Gnostics were the first who energetically pointed out that Christianity began with Christ, and that all Christianity was really to be tested by the apostolic preaching, that the assumed identity of Christian common sense with apostolic Christianity did not exist, and (so Marcion said) that the Apostles contradicted themselves. This opposition made it necessary to enter into the questions raised by their opponents. But, in point of content, the problem of proving the contested identity was simply insoluble, because it was endless and subject to question on every particular point. The "unconscious logic," that is the logic of self-preservation, could only prescribe an expedient. The Church had to collect everything apostolic and declare herself to be its only legal possessor. She was obliged, moreover, to amalgamate [combine] the apostolic with the canon of the Old Testament in such a way as to fix the exposition from the very first. But what writings were apostolic? From the middle of the second century great numbers of writings named after the Apostles had already been in circulation, and there were often different recensions of one and the same writing. Versions which contained docetic elements and exhortations to the most pronounced asceticism had even made their way into the public worship of the Church. Above all, therefore, it was necessary to determine (1) what writings were really apostolic, (2) what form or recension should be regarded as apostolic. The selection was made by the Church, that is, primarily, by the churches of Rome and Asia Minor, which had still an unbroken history up to the days of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. In making this choice, the Church limited herself to the writings that were used in public worship, and only admitted what the tradition of the elders justified her in regarding as genuinely apostolic. The principle on which she proceeded was to reject as spurious all writings, bearing the names of Apostles, that contained anything contradictory to Christian common sense, that is, to the rule of faith—hence admission was refused to all books in which the God of the Old Testament, his creation, etc., appeared to be depreciated,—and to exclude all recensions of apostolic writings that seemed to endanger the Old Testament and the monarchy of God. She retained, therefore, only those writings which bore the names of Apostles, or anonymous writings to which she considered herself justified in attaching such names, and whose contents were not at variance with the orthodox creed or attested it. This selection resulted in the awkward fact that besides the four Gospels there was almost nothing but Pauline epistles to dispose of, and therefore no writings or almost none which, as emanating from the twelve Apostles, could immediately confirm the truth of the ecclesiastical Kerygma. This perplexity was removed by the introduction of the Acts of the Apostles and in some cases also the Epistles of Peter and John, though that of Peter was not recognised at Rome at first.

The Holy Spirit and the Apostles became correlative conceptions. . . . The Apostles, however, were more and more overshadowed by the New Testament Scriptures; and this was in fact an advance beyond the earlier state of things, for what was known of the Apostles? Accordingly, as authors of these writings, they and the Holy Spirit became correlative conceptions. This led to the assumption that the apostolic writings were inspired, that is, in the full and only intelligible sense attached to the word by the ancients. By this assumption the Apostles, viewed as prophets, received a significance quite equal to that of Old Testament writers. But, though Irenaeus and Tertullian placed both parties on a level, they preserved a distinction between them by basing the whole authority of the New Testament on its apostolic origin, the concept "apostolic" being much more comprehensive than that of "prophet." These men, being Apostles, that is men chosen by Christ himself and entrusted with the proclamation of the Gospel, have for that reason received the Spirit, and their writings are filled with the Spirit. To the minds of Western Christians the primary feature in the collection is its apostolic authorship. This implies inspiration also, because the Apostles cannot be inferior to the writers of the Old Testament. For that very reason they could, in a much more radical way, rid the new collection of everything that was not apostolic. They even rejected writings which, in their form, plainly claimed the character of inspiration; and this was evidently done because they did not attribute to them the degree of authority which, in their view, only belonged to that which was apostolic. The new canon of Scripture set up by Irenaeus and Tertullian primarily professes to be nothing else than a collection of apostolic writings, which, as such, claim absolute authority. It takes its place beside the apostolic rule of faith; and by this faithfully preserved possession, the Church scattered over the world proves herself to be that of the Apostles.

But we are very far from being able to show that such a rigidly fixed collection of apostolic writings existed everywhere in the Church about the year 200.

Authority ...

One of the most important problems to be investigated in the history of dogma, and one which unfortunately cannot be completely solved, is to show what necessities led to the setting up of a new canon of Scripture, what circumstances required the appearance of living authorities in the communities, and what relation was established between the apostolic rule of faith, the apostolic canon of Scripture, and the apostolic office. The development ended with the formation of a clerical class, at whose head stood the bishop, who united in himself all conceivable powers, as teacher, priest, and judge. He disposed of the powers of Christianity, guaranteed its purity, and therefore in every respect held the Christian laity in tutelage.

From the time that the clergy acquired complete sway over the Churches, that is, from the beginning of the second third of the third century, the development of the history of dogma practically took place within the ranks of that class, and was carried on by its learned men. Every mystery they set up therefore became doubly mysterious to the laity, for these did not even understand the terms, and hence it formed another new fetter.

But the dogmatic conception that the ecclesiae (or ecclesia) are the abode of the Holy Spirit, was incapable of making any impression on the heretics, as the correct application of this theory was the very point in question. To make their proof more precise Tertullian and Irenaeus therefore asserted that the Churches guaranteed the incorruptness of the apostolic inheritance, inasmuch as they could point to a chain of "elders" [bishops in apostolic succession] which was a pledge that nothing false had been mixed up with it.

But when the bishops are corrupt or heretics . . .

Consider: the doctrine of the apostolic origins of the church and the canon of scripture occurred at the same time — in fact, they occurred because of the same drivers.

Unity ...

With the freedom that still prevailed Christianity was in danger of being resolved into a motley mass of philosophic speculations or of being completely detached from its original conditions. "It was admitted on all sides that Christianity had its starting-point in certain facts and sayings; but if any and every interpretation of those facts and sayings was possible, if any system of philosophy might be taught into which the words that expressed them might be woven, it is clear that there could be but little cohesion between the members of the Christian communities. The problem arose and pressed for an answer: What should be the basis of Christian union? But the problem was for a time insoluble. For there was no standard and no court of appeal." From the very beginning, when the differences in the various Churches began to threaten their unity, appeal was probably made to the Apostles' doctrine, the words of the Lord, tradition, "sound doctrine", definite facts, such as the reality of the human nature (flesh) of Christ, and the reality of his death and resurrection. In instruction, in exhortations, and above all in opposing erroneous doctrines and moral aberrations, this precept was inculcated from the beginning: "Let us leave off vain and foolish thoughts and betake ourselves to the glorious and august canon of our tradition". But the very question was: What is sound doctrine? What is the content of tradition? Was the flesh of Christ a reality? etc.

The essential character of Christendom in its first period was a new holy life and a sure hope, both based on repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ and brought about by the Holy Spirit. Christ and the Church, that is, the Holy Spirit and the holy Church, were inseparably connected. The Church, or, in other words, the community of all believers, attains her unity through the Holy Spirit. This unity manifested itself in brotherly love and in the common relation to a common ideal and a common hope. The assembly of all Christians is realised in the Kingdom of God, viz., in heaven; on earth Christians and the Church are dispersed and in a foreign land. Hence, properly speaking, the Church herself is a heavenly community inseparable from the heavenly Christ. Christians believe that they belong to a real super-terrestrial commonwealth, which, from its very nature, cannot be realised on earth. The heavenly goal is not yet separated from the idea of the Church; there is a holy Church on earth in so far as heaven is her destination. Every individual congregation is to be an image of the heavenly Church. . . . Only the saints of God, whose salvation is certain, belong to her, for the essential thing is not to be called, but to be, a Christian. There was as yet no empirical universal Church possessing an outward legal title that could, so to speak, be detached from the personal Christianity of the individual Christian. All the lofty designations which Paul, the so-called Apostolic Fathers, and Justin gathered from the Old Testament and applied to the Church, relate to the holy community which originates in heaven and returns thither.

But, in consequence of the naturalising of Christianity in the world and the repelling of heresy, a formulated creed was made the basis of the Church. This confession was also recognised as a foundation of her unity and guarantee of her truth, and in certain respects as the main one. Christendom protected itself by this conception, though no doubt at a heavy price.

Apostolic ...

Read also...

It was not sufficient to prove that the rule of faith was of apostolic origin, i.e., that the Apostles had set up a rule of faith. It had further to be shown that, up to the present, the Church had always maintained it unchanged. This demonstration was all the more necessary because the heretics also claimed an apostolic origin for their regulae [rules], and in different ways tried to adduce proof that they alone possessed a guarantee of inheriting the Apostles' doctrine in all its purity. . . . The proof that the Church had always held fast by apostolic Christianity depended on the agreement in doctrine between the other communities and these. But Irenaeus as well as Tertullian felt that a special demonstration was needed to show that the Churches founded by the Apostles had really at all times faithfully preserved their genuine teaching.

Heretics claimed their teachings were apostolic. It became necessary to define the apostolic doctrines and measure heresy against these doctrines.

But an additional step was taken — the institution of the church with a hierarchy of bishops was declared to be apostolic.

This Church, however, was declared to be apostolic, i.e., founded in its present form by Christ through the Apostles. Through this idea, which was supported by the old enthusiastic notion that the Apostles had already proclaimed the Gospel to all the world, it came to be completely forgotten how Christ and his Apostles had exercised their ministry, and an empirical conception of the Church was created in which the idea of a holy life in the Spirit could no longer be the ruling one. It was taught that Christ received from God a law of faith, which, as a new lawgiver, he imparted to the Apostles, and that they, by transmitting the truth of which they were the depositaries, founded the one Catholic Church (Iren. III. 4. I). The latter, being guardian of the apostolic heritage, has the assurance of possessing the Spirit; whereas all communities other than herself, inasmuch as they have not received that deposit, necessarily lack the Spirit and are therefore separated from Christ and salvation. Hence one must be a member of this Church in order to be a partaker of salvation, because in her alone one can find the creed which must be recognised as the condition of redemption. Consequently, in proportion as the faith became a doctrine of faith, the Catholic Church interposed herself as an empiric power between the individual and salvation. She became a condition of salvation; but the result was that she ceased to be a sure communion of the saved and of saints. . . . It was quite a logical proceeding when about the year 220 Calixtus, a Roman bishop, started the theory that there must be wheat and tares in the Catholic Church and that the Ark of Noah with its clean and unclean beasts was her type. The departure from the old idea of the Church appears completed in this statement. But the following facts must not be overlooked:—First, the new conception of the Church was not yet a hierarchical one. Secondly, the idea of the union and unity of all believers found here magnificent expression. Thirdly, the development of the communities into one solid Church also represents the creative power of the Christian spirit. Fourthly, through the consolidation effected in the Church by the rule of faith the Christian religion was in some measure preserved from enthusiastic extravagancies and arbitrary misinterpretation. Fifthly, in consequence of the regard for a Church founded on the doctrine of faith the specific significance of redemption by Christ, as distinguished from natural religion and that of the Old Testament, could no longer be lost to believers. Sixthly, the independence of each individual community had a wide scope not only at the end of the second but also in the third century.

The notion that Christ intended to work through an apostolic, institutional church.

Succession ...

It partly preserves a historic and partly assumes a dogmatic character. The former [historic] aspect appears in the appeal made to the foundation of Churches by Apostles, and in the argument that each series of successors were faithful disciples of those before them and therefore ultimately of the Apostles themselves. But no historical consideration, no appeal to the "Elders" was capable of affording the assurance sought for. Hence even in Irenaeus the historical view of the case had clearly changed into a dogmatic one.

The doctrine of apostolic successioncannot be proved historically, it can only be assumed.

Valid successors of apostolic teaching must faithfully transmit the apostolic teaching. This faithfulness can be shown as violated very early — developments were taught as if apostolic.

This, however, by no means resulted merely from the controversy with the heretics, but was quite as much produced by the altered constitution of the Church and the authoritative position that the bishops had actually attained. The idea was that the Elders, i.e., the bishops, had received . . . their office conferred on them the apostolic heritage of truth, which was therefore objectively attached to this dignity as a charism. This notion of the transmissibility of the charism of truth became associated with the episcopal office after it had become a monarchical one, exercising authority over the Church in all its relations; and after the bishops had proved themselves the strongest supports of the communities against the attacks of the secular power and of heresy.

That the bishops at ordination received a gift of teaching truth. But how can they be teaching apostolic truth when their teachings contradict apostolic teaching? And which bishops today have this gift, Catholic or Orthodox (their teachings contradict).

Hierarchy ...

The Church . . . became a union based on the true doctrine and visible in it; and this confederation was at the same time enabled to realise an actual outward unity by means of the apostolic inheritance, the doctrinal confession, and the apostolic writings. . . . But there was never a time in history when the conception of the Church, as nothing else than the visible communion of those holding the correct apostolic doctrine, was clearly grasped or exclusively emphasised.

The church protected apostolic doctrine but changed its form in doing so.

When people defined the nature of the church it was in institutional terms with an emphasis on the structural form.

In Irenaeus and Tertullian we rather find, on the one hand, that the old theory of the Church was still to a great extent preserved and, on the other, that the hierarchical notion was already making its appearance. As to the first point, Irenaeus frequently asserts that the Spirit and the Church, that is, the Christian people, are inseparable; that the Spirit in divers ways continually effects whatever she needs; that she is the totality of all true believers, that all the faithful have the rank of priests; that outside the holy Church there is no salvation, etc.; in fact these doctrines form the very essence of his teaching. But, since she was also regarded as the visible institution for objectively preserving and communicating the truth, and since the idea of the Church in contradistinction to heresy was necessarily exhausted in this as far as Irenaeus was concerned, the old theories of the matter could not operate correctively, but in the end only served to glorify the earthly Catholic Church. The proposition that truth is only to be found in the Church and that she and the Holy Spirit are inseparable must be understood in Irenaeus as already referring to the Catholic Church in contradistinction to every other calling itself Christian. As to the second point, it cannot be denied that, though Irenaeus desires to maintain that the only essential part of the idea of the Church is the fact of her being the depository of the truth, he was no longer able to confine himself to this (see above). The episcopal succession and the transmission to the bishops of the magisterium of the Apostles were not indeed of any direct importance to his idea of the Church, but they were of consequence for the preservation of truth and therefore indirectly for the idea of the Church also.

The Catholic and Orthodox churches hold the view that the church is a hierarchy with apostolic succession.

Allegory ...

The application of an unhistorical local method in the exposition of the Old Testament—Haggada and Rabbinic allegorism—may be found in many passages of Paul (see, e.g., Gal. III. 16, 19; IV. 22-31; 1 Cor. IX. 9; X. 4; XI. 10; Rom. IV. etc.).


Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)

Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. (Galatians 4:24)

For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? (1 Corinthians 9:9)

And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:4)

For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. (1 Corinthians 11:10)

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. (Romans 4:13)

It's not surprising that the early church fathers allegorizedthe New Testament as they did; after all, they were just mimicking the apostles who allegorized the Old Testament.

In studying New Testament passages which refer to Old Testament passages I have noticed that the Old Testament meaning has been altered. Certainly this is a result of seeking to find prophetic references to Christ and the church in the Old Testament. Some examples.

Here is an example from Jesus himself which I have always found troubling concerning the coming of Elijah:

And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:10-13)

The difficulty with allegoricalinterpretations is in determining which interpretations are valid and which are invalid. Should we only accept the allegories we find in the New Testament? If so, do we base this on a special charisma (gift) of infallibility that the apostles had?

Extensive spiritualising of the Old Testament religion had already taken place. This spiritualising was the result of a philosophic view of religion, and this philosophic view was the outcome of a lasting influence of Greek philosophy and of the Greek spirit generally on Judaism. In consequence of this view, all facts and sayings of the Old Testament in which one could not find his way, were allegorised. "Nothing was what it seemed, but was only the symbol of something invisible. The history of the Old Testament was here sublimated to a history of the emancipation of reason from passion." It describes, however, the beginning of the historical development of Christianity, that as soon as it wished to give account of itself, or to turn to advantage the documents of revelation which were in its possession, it had to adopt the methods of that fantastic syncretism. We have seen above that those writers who made a diligent use of the Old Testament, had no hesitation in making use of the allegorical method. That was required not only by the inability to understand the verbal sense of the Old Testament, presenting diverging moral and religious opinions, but, above all, by the conviction, that on every page of that book Christ and the Christian Church must be found.

The hermeneutic principles (the "Biblical alchemy"), above all, became of the utmost importance for the following period. These were partly invented by Philo himself, partly traditional,—the Haggadic rules of exposition and the hermeneutic principles of the Stoics having already at an earlier period been united in Alexandria. They fall into two main classes; "first, those according to which the literal sense is excluded, and the allegoric proved to be the only possible one, and then, those according to which the allegoric sense is discovered as standing beside and above the literal sense." That these rules permitted the discovery of a new sense by minute changes within a word, was a point of special importance. Christian teachers went still further in this direction, and, as can be proved, altered the text of the Septuagint in order to make more definite what suggested itself to them as the meaning of a passage, or in order to give a satisfactory meaning to a sentence which appeared to them unmeaning or offensive. Nay, attempts were not wanting among Christians in the second century—they were aided by the uncertainty that existed about the extent of the Septuagint, and by the want of plain predictions about the death upon the cross—to determine the Old Testament canon in accordance with new principles; that is, to alter the text on the plea that the Jews had corrupted it, and to insert new books into the Old Testament, above all, Jewish Apocalypses revised in a Christian sense.

The Judaisers were those Christians, who, in principle, or to some extent, objected to the allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament.

My Scheme ...

There are various schemes about what Christianity is and about where the authority of teaching and discipline resides; in other words, about who we should trust.

Three common schemes — each group claims to be "true" Christianity ...

I accept the Catholic Church but I am sympathetic to the Protestant perspective. For this reason I have provided a model for an Apostolic Reformation of the Churchto take them back to apostolic Christianity. The key ingredients are ...

Difficulties with my scheme ...

Even though my scheme has difficulties I am hoping some will find it useful. Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant: each claims to be the "true" church to the exclusion of the others. In trying to decide who to believe I have no choice but to accept the apostles as the final authority. So the question becomes, "Where to look to find apostolic teaching?"

Improvements of the various denominations, churches, communities. It would be more satisfying going to church if they improved ...

Seven Ecumenical Councils ...

These are considered authoritative by the Catholic and Orthodox churches. The Catholic Church has continued to have councils that it refers to as ecumenical.

  1. First Council of Nicaea, 325 A.D.

    Nicene Creed; condemned Arianism; date of Easter; whether to accept back Christians who had renounced their faith under persecution; baptism by heretics; ordination of bishops; sees of Alexandria, Rome, Jerusalem; term for catechumens (teachers); no removal of priests; clerical usury; Eucharist; no kneeling during mass; no self-castration; women living in homes of clergy; ordination of bishop; regional synods.

  2. First Council of Constantinople, 381 A.D.

    Holy Spirit in Nicene Creed; Trinity; Arianism; limits on bishops; see of Constantinople; removal of a certain bishop.

  3. First Council of Ephesus, 431 A.D.

    Nicene Creed; Nestorianism; clergy must accept decrees of council; Theotokos (Mother of God); rights of bishops.

  4. Council of Chalcedon, 451 A.D.

    Simony; rights and authority of bishops; deaconesses, cantors, lectors; celibacy; local synods.

  5. Second Council of Constantinople, 553 A.D.

    Monophysite; Against Origen heresies;

  6. Third Council of Constantinople, 680-681 A.D.


  7. Second Council of Nicaea, 787 A.D.

    Icons; relics; rights and responsibilities of bishops; local synods; phony converts.

I find it disturbing that some of these councils contain disciplinary canons about the proper conduct of bishops and other church leaders. This implies that these practices were common. I reject the authority of any church in which practices such as these occurred especially when they were common.