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)
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)
TO BE CONTINUED