Logos Word of God – BT18
Early Church writings validate my research about the use of the Old and New Testaments
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You can also validate my previous BLOG conclusions about OT usage in the NT church if you research early Church practices before 200 AD. For example, in the The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (parts written in 48-50AD, but most within 1st century) included in church services: “break bread and give thanks” using orthodox Jewish forms for prayer before and after the meals that began with thanksgiving over the cup and the loaf. When offering the cup, the worship leader would give thanks for the “holy vine of David,” likely a reference to the Messianic community in Psalm 80:8, following up with a doxology, “To you be glory forever.” After the doxology, the worship leader would give thanks over the broken loaf, thanking God “for the life and knowledge You have revealed through Jesus, Your Child,” concluding with another doxology. That was followed by a community meal called the agape (love) feast. Not that this early Church service makes no mention of either ‘the body or the blood of Christ?’ Instead, the emphasis is on the gathering of the church Body per 1 Corinthians 10.17. The worship service as practiced by the first Christians was a “praise-celebration” of the congregation of God’s people, an event where prayers and thanksgiving, interwoven with doxologies, were offered to God. Do you see how simple the early Church was? Notice the Jewish Orthodoxy in part.
We know from early Clement I of Rome (a) around 92-99 AD that he quotes the OT scriptures ONLY to support the Christian’s resurrection of the dead, to support a Christian’s virtuous life, to cite Messianic prophecies, and to use typology (antitypes and types) to support Christian doctrines. Clement I of Rome, like Ignatius Theophorus of Antioch (b) and Polycarp (c), who were both disciples of Apostle John, looked at Jesus as being the pleroo completed-fulfillment or teleo fulfillment-accomplishment-completing-finishing of the OT scriptures. Bishop Clement of Alexandria (d) used an “open canon, since he seemed practically unconcerned about canonicity,” including many books that had local acceptance such as: Barnabas, Didache, 1 Clement, Revelation of Peter, The Shepherd of Hermas, Gospel according to Hebrews, Gospel of Egyptians, Preaching of Peter, Traditions of Matthias, Sibylline oracles, and the Oral Gospel. <Notes> a) the 1st Apostolic Father, consecrated by Apostle Peter, 2nd or 3rd Bishop of Rome after Peter, b) 35/50 – 98/107 AD, c) 69-155 AD, d) 150-215 AD.
Later in Justin Martyr’s First Apology (155-157 AD) writes: “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles OR the writings of The Prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president (elder-overseer) verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.” Wow, that’s pretty simple! You can still see some use of the prophetic OT but it’s now an option!
Around 200 AD, Hippolytus of Rome, a mostly Gentile church, describes in a manual of church order and worship known as the Apostolic Tradition typical church services that consisted only of water-baptisms, consecrations of bishops with the laying on of hands, greetings or kisses of peace, introductory blessings and congregational responses, thanksgiving for Christ’s coming, a narrative of Christ’s suffering, Christ’s words about the Lord’s Supper, recollection of Christ’s death and resurrection, invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the assembly – see Body-Ministry – BT14, and a doxology. Can you see how the religion of Christianity starts adding more, but not that there are no more OT readings?
That is because by 200 AD the Church was decidedly Gentile, so why would there be any reading of OT scripture prophecies about Jesus? There were so few Jewish-Christians in the Church! After 70 AD when the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed and the Jews scattered, there were many Jewish uprisings and wars in the Roman Empire, making it dangerous to even be associated with the Jews. What’s more important is that the Church was “practicing and persisting in . . . the parklesis summoning, calling near, or invocation” of the Parakletos Holy Spirit (a) as the One who “comes close beside” us to be our “One Teacher” (b) just as 1 Timothy 4:13 was correctly interpreted in Body-Ministry – BT14. <Notes> a) Parakletos: ‘Close-beside’ caller, summoner, or inviter; helper, succorer, or assistant; encouraging teacher, counselor, comforter, or consoler; defense-attorney, judicial-advocate, or court-intercessor, b) Matthew 23:8-10.
However, it wasn’t long before a Catholic theologian Tertullian in 208 AD, started calling NT writings “graphe scripture.” Nobody before then referred to the NT writings as “sacred or holy gramma letters” let alone graphe scripture, and certainly not Peter as some erroneously twist 2 Peter 3:15-16 to say – see Logos Word of God – BT11. “The remaining ‘portions of’ scriptures” in context refers to non-prophetic ‘portions of’ scriptures concerning Christ’s coming judgment that these scoffers were also known for twisting/distorting, the actual emphasis in the text, just as they often twisted the prophetic passages in the OT. They were doing the same with Paul’s prophecies of end times (a) – so “hard to understand” that Paul was forced to write another letter (b) to clear up the confusion! Paul’s very long arguments, side-tracking, leaving of words out to save space (ellipsis), pronouns ambiguity, and relatively-poor Greek indeed make many things Paul said “hard to understand!” However the teachers that Paul and Peter speak of were often profiting off the confusion, often financially taking advantage of confused Christians. I question how many people read verses in their context or really study passages from the original languages before building doctrine from them? Many commentators and translators including the NET Bible correctly note that this “twisting/distorting” is what all cults, denominational sects, and scoffers do, focusing on the more difficult, obscure passages of the bible, often the prophetic and the supernaturally miraculously – not on its plain teachings! However, Mark Twain correctly noted: “Most people are bothered by those passages in scripture which they cannot understand. However, as for me, I have always noticed that the passages which troubled me most are those which I do understand.” <Notes> a) 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 2:19, 4:16-17, 5:2-9, 23, b) 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, 2:1, 8, 12-14.
We also know that the Catholic theologian Origen between 233-254 AD, according to one well-known historian, “single-handedly fixed the place of the Old Testament in the Catholic Church” through ground-breaking publications: 375 sermons as a commentary on the entire OT based his immense, word-for-word comparison in 240 AD of the Greek OT Septuagint/LXX version, the Hebrew Masoretic text, a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew text, and the other Greek translations Aquila of Sinope, Symmachus the Ebionite, and Theodotion. He went from relative insignificance to wealth and fame very quickly! He indeed brought the OT back into the Church for study, preaching, and doctrine!
By then the Church had already become corrupted with power, money (a), inventing the priesthood (b), inventing the mono-episcopacy or “one-bishop” rule (c), a time when all of the bishops were trying to rule larger and larger (richer and richer) cities ultimately to get to become the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), who would receive many favors with the Emperor, thus inventing the division of the Body-of-Christ into “clergy” vs. “laity” (d), and reinstating one OT commandment after another despite all the warnings of the NT, and creating more rules – all to exercise control over the Church. It’s also no coincidence that at this time there had also been a systematic stamping out the charismata grace-gifts, especially prophecy, by labelling it heretical, even though Irenaeus and Tertullian argued for them by giving many proofs. <Notes> a) reinstating OT tithing to pay for a priesthood, b) patterned after the OT, c) patterned after the high-priests of the OT, d) based on the OT idea of the Levites.
It wasn’t until around 300 AD that we have anybody seriously interested in determining the NT canon or “list of official books,” but especially after Emperor Constantine decriminalized Christianity in 313 AD, the writing of Church History by Eusebius in 330 AD, Constantine’s First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, and Constantine’s commissioning of 50 bibles for his Church of Constantinople in 331 AD. It wasn’t until the Council of Laodicea, made up of 30 clergymen in 363 AD, did they “set out of judge which books were to be read aloud in churches,” which excluded Revelation. In 367 AD, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria gave us the current 27 book canon of the NT. One guy! Other canon lists that came after disagreed. It took Pope Damasus I in 383 AD to fix the canon in the Roman Catholic Church. Still there were many challenges to it. The Eastern Church, “had a weaker feeling for the necessity of making a sharp delineation with regard to the canon. Similarly the canons of the Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Egyptian Coptic, and Ethiopian Churches all have minor differences.” Again, if you really dig into this, you will see that there was many political and financial motivations at work here, and there was little agreement that wasn’t somehow forced upon the Church.
According to www.EarlyChristianWritings.com, there were at least 167 early Christian writings that millions of Christians enjoyed reading, but never considered as a “bible” for the first 200 years, and many of the early Church Fathers didn’t even agree on what NT books were “authoritative.” Additionally, 49 more writings came in the next 100 years. And these are just the ones we have found! Many manuscript experts, historians, theologians, and segments of Judaism and the Christian Church still disagree as to exactly what belongs in the bible – check out Wikipedia’s “Biblical Canon” and also “Development of the New Testament Canon.”
This isn’t even dealing with the many debates about the integrity of the text – see Bible Info and Wikipedia’s “Textual Variants in the New Testament.” If you think everybody agrees what the actual text of the bible, guess again! There are “around 400,000 textual variants of the NT, a staggering number when coupled with the fact that there are only 138,000 words in the Greek NT, meaning there are almost 3 variants per word. However, less than 4000 (2.8% of the NT) have a good chance of being authentic and changing the meaning of the text,” writes scholar Tim Barnett 5/24/2016. There are also 3,415 languages translated into and numerous versions within each of these, even 900 English bibles. If you don’t think much is “lost or modified in translation” you need to compare them – see Wikipedia’s “List of English Bible translations” and at www.biblegateway.com I last counted 63 NT versions and I’ve seen radical differences in meaning in so many passages!
It wasn’t until 1611 when the Protestant King James decided to call the bible a “Holy Bible” though the idea of “sacred or holy books” (biblia sacra) or a “bible” (biblia) for short was first coined in the Middle Ages (465 – 1500 AD) by a Latin Catholic theologian. However, it wasn’t until 1611 that King James decided to call the OT and NT collection “The Holy Bible.” 1 king gets to make this decision for everybody!
The more you dive into this, the more you realize that only “wise and learned/understanding” men can even start to scratch the surface of making any sense from all this. This certainly can’t be God’s plan for knowing Him or His will? Is this a perfect God’s plan, or imperfect man’s attempts to get around God’s perfect plan?
Since the NT and the early Church before 200 AD didn’t use more than the OT prophecies concerning Christ and His completely-different-in-kind New Covenant to convert Jews to Christ or keep Jewish-Christians from lapsing back to the Law of Moses as the Logos Word of God – BT6 page and subsequent BLOGs pointed out, then why are we so quick to include OT scripture, even the Law, even writings that have nothing to do with Christ or His New Covenant or His gospel logos message of saving trusting-relying-faith or His cross and resurrection or His supper’s celebration, or His only 2 commandments of having trusting-relying-faith in Him and unconditionally-loving each other like He does? If you think that the text and canon of scripture is solid, you just haven’t looked into this very deeply. If you think that the Church always used the OT, then you haven’t studied history. If you think any of this is God’s idea, then you must have a very imperfect view of a perfect God.
Lord, call us back by Your Holy Spirit to the simplicity of the early Church that You were in control of before legalistic religious men came into to borrow old covenant ideas and drag them forward into your completely-different-in-kind New Covenant to build The Great Wall quenching the Holy Spirit in the Church.
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