THE GROWTH OF THE EARLY CHURCH



In its earliest days, Christianity disseminated its message principally through the synagogues. It was among communities of Heilenized Jews - at least, in the greater world of the Diaspora - that evangelization first spread beyond the Church's native confines. Moreover, it was quite common for Diaspora synagogues to include, at the margins of the community, a number of Gentiles who had adopted Jewish customs and beliefs and who, in many cases, were on their way to full conversion.


However, having no houses of worship of their own, Christians met in private dwellings.Their gatherings, therefore, naturally included not only a celebration of the Lord's Supper, but an actual shared meal.They met on the first day of the week, Sunday, the day of Jesus' resurrection.The worship of the community generally consisted in the singing of Psalms and hymns, mutual exhortation and teaching, prophecy, glossolalia (praying in tongues) and healings.This was the form in which the new faith expanded throughout the eastern half and into the western half of the Roman empire, establishing itself in cities like Antioch and Alexandria, as well as in Rome itself.


(THE  AUTHOR  HAS  JUMPED  AHEAD  TO  THE  COMMON  WILD  AND  SILLY  IDEA  THAT  SUNDAY  WAS  ADOPTED  FROM  THE  BEGINNING  OF  THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH.  NOTHING  COULD  BE  FURTHER  FROM  THE  TRUTH,  AS  PROVED  IN  DOZENS  OF  STUDIES,  UNDER  "SABBATH  AND  GOD  FEASTS"  ON  THIS  WEBSITE  -  Keith Hunt)


Orders of Authority


As the Church grew, the issue of authority became increasingly important. As the first generation of Christians died out, and with it the Apostles themselves, Christian communities relied upon the institution of the episkopos (bishop or 'overseer') or presbyteros (priest or elder) to preserve their historical continuity with the first Church in Jerusalem, as well as to maintain theological and moral rectitude.The institution had been established, as it happens, in apostolic times; and, wherever the Church took root, the bishop or priest, with the aid of deacons, was responsible for the baptism of converts, the administration of the Eucharist, the distribution of goods for the relief of the poor and the general governance of the community.


(AGAIN  AS  ABOVE  THE  SO-CALLED  "EUCHARIST"  WAS  NOT  A  PART  OF  THE  TRUE  CHURCH  OF  GOD; WHO  OBSERVED  THE  NEW  TESTAMENT  PASSOVER [BREAD, FRUIT  OF  THE  VINE,  FOOT  WASHING]  ONLY  ONCE  A  YEAR  ON  THE  EVENING  OF  THE  14TH  OF  NISAN;  AS  SHOWN  BY  THE  HISTORY  OF  THE  "QUARTODECIMIN  CONTROVERSY"  -  EVEN  RECORDED  IN  THE  ENCYCLOPEDIA  OF  THE  ROMAN  CATHOLIC  CHURCH  -  Keith Hunt)



For the most part, though, the earliest Christians believed that Christ's return to earth was imminent, and so they probably rarely bothered to consider what fuller significance the bishop's office might have. 


(IT  WAS  ONLY  FOR  A  WHILE  THEY  BELIEVED  CHRIST'S  RETURN  WAS  IMMINENT.  THE  APOSTLE  PAUL  WAS  THEN  GIVEN  PROPHECIES  THAT  HAD  TO  COME  TO  PASS  BEFORE  JESUS  COULD  RETURN.  A  CAREFUL  READING  OF  PAUL'S  LETTERS  PROVE  THAT  POINT  -  Keith Hunt)


But, as the first generation of believers passed on, the bishop's role came to be recognized as an indispensable instrument of Church unity and order. At the beginning of the second century, Bishop Ignatius of Antioch - in a series of letters he wrote as he was being transported to Rome to be executed for his faith - insisted that the Church existed only where a duly appointed bishop was to be found.Without the bishop, understood as a living link to the Apostles, specially commissioned by the Holy Spirit, no Eucharist could be celebrated, and no Christian community established. Ignatius' stress upon the unique authority of the bishop was prompted in part by the prevalence in the Christian world of 'false teachers', such as the 'docetists' (from the Greek dokein, meaning 'to appear') who claimed that Christ had not really possessed a human body, but had only seemed a man of flesh and blood, and so had suffered only in appearance. Yet the institution of bishops was only an imperfect safeguard against dissent and division. Schisms were therefore part of the Church's life from a very early period.


(IGNATIUS  WAS  ALREADY  A  PART  OF  WHAT  BECAME  THE  ROMAN  CATHOLIC  CHURCH,  SO  THEOLOGY  WAS  OFF  THE  MARK.  THE  SUBJECT  OF  "CHURCH  GOVERNMENT"  I  COVER  IN  GREAT  DETAIL  ON  THIS  WEBSITE  -  Keith Hunt)


From an early stage, churches in the more important cities began to enjoy a greater eminence than others. From at least the late second century onwards, the church in Rome began to regard itself as having a special prominence and dignity. As early as the middle of the third century, Bishop Stephen of Rome claimed that the authority Christ had granted Peter was the spiritual patrimony of the bishops of Rome.


(ONCE  MORE  WE  SEE  THE  SPREAD  OF  THE  FALSE  TEACHING  COMING  INTO  THE  ROMAN  CATHOLIC  CHURCH  AS  IT  GREW  TO  BE  THE  "POPULAR"  CHURCH  -  Keith Hunt)


The Word of God


Of course, the other principal source of authority and unity within the Church was scripture; and yet it was a considerable time before the Christian Bible came to exist in its final form. At first, the Christian Bible was simply the Hebrew Bible, in Greek translation, generally the Alexandrian Jewish translation known as the Septuagint (from Latin septuaginta - 'seventy', referring to the number of scholars who are thought to have worked on translating the text). This translation, however, contained a number of later books originally written in Greek that did not appear in the Hebrew canon of scripture. The exact status of these additional books was never entirely settled. Certain of the early theologians of the Church regarded them simply as inspired scripture, some preferred to accord them only a secondary, 'deutero-canonical' value, and a few apparently paid little attention to them at all (though no one rejected them in the way that later Protestant tradition did, or classified them as 'apocrypha').


(NO  IT  WAS  NOT  SOME  TIME  BEFORE  THE  BIBLE  WE  HAVE  TODAY  IN  THE  BASIC  KJV  CAME  INTO  EXISTENCE.  THE  APOSTLES  CANONIZED  THE  NEW  TESTAMENT,  NOT  THE  ROMAN  CATHOLIC  CHURCH.  A  STUDY  ON  THIS  WEBSITE  PROVES  THAT  TO  BE  THE  CORRECT  HISTORY.  GOD  NEVER  LEFT  IT  TO  A  FALSE  CHURCH  TO  CANONIZE  THE  NEW  TESTAMENT  -  Keith Hunt)


The development of the New Testament canon was a somewhat more involved process.There were various Christian texts, more or less universally recognized as 'scriptural', before the end of the first century.The four Gospels were regarded as authoritative from a very early date, though they were often read not as discrete documents, but in a combined, 'harmonized' form.The most virtuosic of these harmonies was called the Diatessaron (literally, 'taken from the four'), which was the work of the Christian philosopher Tatian (d. cA 85), a second-century Hellenized Syrian. Several of Paul's letters had also been collected and were circulating among the churches by the end of the first century.The precise determination of what constituted legitimate Christian scripture, however, was probably prompted by the propagation of rival 'scriptures' and the rise of aberrant teachers in the second and third centuries. It became increasingly necessary to discern which texts could be said to be genuinely connected to the traditions of the Apostles and which could not. It took some time for a consensus to emerge. For instance, the visionary book The Shepherd of Hernias was considered part of the New Testament by many churches, a view that persisted in some places at late as the fourth century. Moreover, other books that became established parts of the Christian canon were not universally accepted for some considerable time: the Book of Hebrews, for example, or the epistles of James and Jude, as well as the third epistle ofjohn.


(AGAIN  THE  AUTHOR  IS  INTO  "ROMAN  CATHOLIC"  THEOLOGY,  WHICH  WAS  WRONG.  THE  APOSTLES  CANONIZED  THE  NEW  TESTAMENT  BEFORE  THE END  OF  THE  FIRST  CENTURY.  SEE  THE  INDEPTH  STUDY  ON  THIS  WEBSITE  CALLED  "CANONIZATION  OF  THE  NEW  TESTAMENT"  -  Keith Hunt)


A People Apart


In form, the early Church could be described as a form of 'mystery religion' — in other words, a faith into which a person was ritually initiated, that offered salvation through participation in a special set of 'mysteries' (that is, the sacraments), and that did not divulge its doctrines and practices to those outside its own circle. Moreover, since its adherents were forced to meet in private homes and usually in secret, early Christianity naturally gave rise to rumours. In so far


(AGAIN  ROMAN  CATHOLIC  MYSTERIES.  THE  TRUE  CHURCH  HAD  NO  "MYSTERIES"  -  PAUL  WAS  CALLED  IT  "THE  SIMPLICITY  THAT  IS  IN  CHRIST"  -  THE  "MYSTERY  RELIGION"  IS  CONDEMNED  AS  THE  WHORE  OF  BABYLON,  THE  MOTHER  OF  HARLOTS - SHE  HAD  DAUGHTERS  COME  OUT  OF  HER - BOOK  OF  REVELATION.  TWO  GUESSES  AS  TO  WHO  THIS  IS,  AND  THE  FIRST  ONE  DAOES  NOT  COUNT  -  Keith  Hunt)



[THE ANTI-POPE

Although the early Church placed great stress on unify among believers, and regarded the bishop as a privileged and necessary focus of that unity, it is not the case that Christians in any given city always agreed on who precisely their bishop was. Even in Rome, during the early centuries of the Church's history, there were often a number of men simultaneously claiming the episcopacy for themselves.

Perhaps the most famous such 'anti-pope' (that is, an alternative bishop or pope of Rome) was Hippolytus (c. 165-c. 235), a Christian scholar and theologian of great erudition and short temper. He had been a severe critic of the theology of Bishop Zephyrinus, who presided over the church in Rome from about 199 to 217 (indeed, according to the doctrinal determinations of the later Church, Hippolytus was in the right). When on Zephyrinus's death the Roman church ejected Calixtus, another 'heretic', as his successor, Hippolytus decided that the authority of the episcopacy had been entirely compromised.

As a result, he broke communion with the new bishop and persuaded a number of the Christians in Rome to join him.They elected him as their bishop, and he continued in that office until 235, a period during which three different men presided as the 'other' bishop in Rome: Calixtus, Urban I and Pontian. In 235, however - as chance or providence would have it - the persecution inaugurated under Emperor Maximinus led to the arrest of both 'popes'.

Hippolytus and Pontian were both condemned to years of hard labour in the mines of Sardinia, and there - before dying together for the faith - they were reconciled with one another. Both resigned their common see, and one man, Bishop Anterus, was elected to succeed both of them; in this way, the two communities were reunited under a single pope. Although Anterus' tenure lasted only until 236, his successor Bishop Fabian (pope until 250) subsequently arranged to have the bodies of both Hippolytus and Pontian transported to Rome for interment as holy martyrs of the one Church.]


(SO  WAS  THE  CONFUSION  IN  THE  CHURCH  AT  ROME.  AND  GOD  SAYS  HE  IS  NOT  THE  AUTHOR  OF  CONFUSION.  BUT  BY  THIS  TIME  ROME  HAD  APOSTATIZED   FROM  THE  TRUTH  CHURCH  OF  GOD  -  Keith Hunt)


as they were noticed at all, Christians appeared to constitute an eccentric, and perhaps somewhat sinister, sect and so scurrilous stories proliferated, claiming for example that Christians indulged in orgies, or practised infanticide and even cannibalism. But as Christians increased in number, and began to form a distinct and substantial community within the empire, a more accurate public perception of them crystallized.


Ultimately, even pagan critics of the new faith - however much they may have deplored the unpatriotic and irrational refusal of Christians to venerate the gods, and however they may have detested the 'rabble' that thronged to the Church -had to acknowledge that Christians were characterized in great part by their sobriety, their gentleness, their fidelity to their spouses, their care for the poor, their willingness to nurse the gravely ill even in times of plague and for their ability to exhibit virtues (like courage and self-restraint) that were generally thought impossible for persons of low estate, without the benefit of philosophical training. And it was this special character of the Christians that, in a very profound way, constituted the chief appeal of the gospel they preached.


(OH  TRUE  INDEED,  MANY  DECEIVED  AND  BLINDED  CHRISTIANS  DID  GOOD  DEEDS  AND  BECAME  EVEN  PERSECUTED  TO  DEATH.  SO  IT  WAS  AS  THE  ROMAN  CATHOLIC  CHURCH  GREW  LARGER  AND  LARGER,  UNTIL  KING  CONSTANTINE  MADE  CHRISTIANITY  THE  STATE  RELIGION  IN  THE  EARLY  4TH  CENTURY.  IT  WAS LIKE  PAUL  SAID  ABOUT  THE  JEWS  "THEY  HAVE  A  ZEAL  FOR  GOD,  BUT  WITHOUT  KNOWLEDGE"  -  Keith Hunt)  

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TO  BE  CONTINUED