Polycarp is my homeboy…

March 17, 2005 § 10 Comments

I don’t believe I have heretofore expressed my passion for the writings of the early church. I have not nearly studied it with any kind of consistancy, but i love reading, listening to, and talking about church history. And I don’t mean Luther, Spurgeon, and Edwards. I’m talking Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Tertullian, and Origen. Unfortunately, this is a rather specialized geekdom (tho geekdom is an inapproptiate epithet) so I have few people with whom I may discuss.

What I love discovering is how simply these early brothers and sisters accepted Scripture at face value. It probably helped that they had the Apostles, or those directly taught by the Apostles, on hand to ask questions, or to give correction. We have the benefit of those corrections today in Scripture, but for some reason, we are not happy unless we can complicate things. It grieves me how much argument and division exists throughout the Church today over matters that were so simply understood by the Church of the 1st and 2nd century.

Back before heretics were burned at the stake. Define irony.

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§ 10 Responses to Polycarp is my homeboy…

  • This reminds me– what did you think of Josephus?
    I mostly read him when learning about Masada. But I remember you said you’d found his writings online. What do you think?

  • DT says:

    Oh! I enjoyed reading them! It’s sooo cool to read first person accounts of history and stuff. You hear about things in history, but it is cool to see it through the eyes of someone who was there.

  • I want to read stuff like this! *flail*

  • DT says:

    There are lots of good resources to be found on the web, and some great books out there. I love “The Early Christians: In their Own Words” by Eberhard Arnold. He started the Bruderhoff– a Christian Community– in the early part of the 20th century. This book is a collection of quotes from the first couple of centuries of the Church.
    A great teacher on the subject of early church fathers and their writings is David Bercot (pronounce bur-SOE.) He has actually gathered if not all, then a good portion of, the writings of Tertullian, Justin and others into an encyclopedia divided and cross-referenced by subject. He also has teaching tapes on how the early church practiced and understood various doctrines. Issues such as baptism, salvation: works vs. faith, Communion, headcoverings, and gifts of the Holy Spirit among others. He also has indepth teachings on the various heretical movements of the times, and throughout history. It is *very* interesting.
    Because all of the writings are public domain, you can read them for yourslef here and even here.
    Be careful with Tertullian. His teachings were strong and solid until later in life. He became a Montanist (a movement to which the modern Catholics and pentecostals trace their roots) and even tho this movement was heretical (they believed that the Holy Spirit continues to give new revelation beyond the canon of Scripture) his writings from that time were still preserved (unlike other heretical writings, which the elders would destroy) simply because, heh, he was Tertullian. haha
    But overwhelmingly what strikes me through the writings is how unified they were in purpose and doctrine. There was no such things as “agreeing to disagree.” You either agreed with Scripture (and thereby one another) or you were a heretic. And they were much more tightly knit and community minded than we are today. They literally put their lives in the hands of each other. It’s amazing and inspiring, and at the same time disheartening, because we have strayed so far from what they had…

  • koinegeek says:

    I have studied the early church fathers primarily to trace the origination and canonicalization of the scriptures we have today. However, I’ve read them also to see what the early church was like (the church I attend purposes to try to restore the 1st century church… I think we have a little ways to go…).
    Thanks for the links! I’ll have to check them out. I may also have access to many of the writings through my Logos software.
    I am under the impression that there were many short-lived splinter groups in the early church, though I forget exactly what sources gave me that impression.

  • DT says:

    I am under the impression that there were many short-lived splinter groups in the early church
    Yeah, they were called heretics. 😉 Groups like the Gnostics were there at the beginning, and they are referenced in Scripture– they (and some other groups) were the “False Teachers” that Paul and Jude and other Apostles warned against. Heretical teaching was taken deadly seriously– because it was just that– deadly. A lot of the commonly accepted teachings in our modern churches were poisonous heresies back in the day, and were vociferously warned against.
    But just *try* telling a modern Protestant that baptism saves you… See how well *that* conversation goes. 😉
    The CoC (that’s what you attend, correct?) have much doctrine restored, but, as you alluded, still have a ways to go.
    *geeky joy in discussing doctrine and denominations*

  • koinegeek says:

    Heh. The Gospel of Thomas, now that’s some strange readin’ 🙂
    I find it amazing how Christianity grew as fast as it did and yet maintained doctrinal integrity – thanks in part to the early church fathers (and primarily the Holy Spirit, of course!).
    Heh, yes, I go to a CofC. No need to tell us about baptism (Acts 2:38 is one of our battle cries 🙂 ). But many in the CofC believe the work of restoration is complete and not an ongoing process. I do wholeheartedly agree with the doctrine of restoration since that’ll get us closer to the intent of the Church, I believe. Plus, to me it seems a little arrogant when we think we know all there is to know.

  • DT says:

    Yes, I knew you would appreciate the baptism thing. 😉
    It was the Bereans that Paul approved of, because they searched Scripture, and didn’t just take the Apostles at their word..
    We should just as ardently today search Scripture,and let it speak to us. And were there is division or two different interpretations of the same passage, we have the weight of the early church writings to help us clarify.

  • koinegeek says:

    Very well said!!! Many denominations and groups throughout history simply ‘voted on it’ when there were tough issues. Using other early writings can help develop the context of the 1st century ideas and customs we read in the New Testament and allow us properly underdstand what was intended.
    You’ve motivated me to dig deeper into those writings again 🙂

  • DT says:

    Yay!! Have fun!!

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