Fourth Century Church found in Iraq?

Erica Hunter, a professor of early Christianity at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, says historical evidence shows that by the early third century, the faith was well established in what is now southern Iraq by the Lakhmid dynasty, an Arab kingdom whose final ruler converted to Christianity [...] Hunter is cautious about claims the newly discovered ruins are Iraq’s oldest church, but adds, “They certainly must be very, very early,” perhaps dating to the fourth century dating. (ht)

 

Oh God, Give Us a King That He Would Give Us Peace

“When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.

“Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’

“He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. (Deu 17:14-17 NASB)

_____

As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice. Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel.

“Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the LORD for guidance.

“Do everything they say to you,” the LORD replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”

So Samuel passed on the LORD’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. “This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the LORD will not help you.”

But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”

So Samuel repeated to the LORD what the people had said, and the LORD replied, “Do as they say, and give them a king.” Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home. (1Sa 8:1 NLT)

We turn to the Government or King or the might of men for salvation, either in this world or the next, we have already rejected God.

Donatism: Council of Arles

The first Council of Arles in the South of France was held a.d. 314, in consequence of an appeal of the Donatists to Constantine the Great, against the decision of a Roman Council of 313, consisting of three Gallican and fifteen Italian bishops under the lead of Pope Melchiades. This is the first instance of an appeal of a Christian party to the secular power, and it turned out unfavorably to the Donatists who afterwards became enemies of the government. The Council of Arles was the first called by Constantine and the forerunner of the Council of Nicaea. Augustin calls it even universal, but it was only Western at best. It consisted of thirty-three bishops from Gaul, Sicily, Italy (exclusive of the Pope Sylvester, who, however, was represented by two presbyters and two deacons), North Africa, and Britain (three, from York, London, and probably from Caerleon on Usk), besides thirteen presbyters and twenty-three deacons. It excommunicated Donatus and passed twenty-two canons concerning Easter (which should be held on one and the same day), against the non-residence of clergy, against participation in races and gladiatorial fights (to be punished by excommunication), against the rebaptism of heretics, and on other matters of discipline. Clergymen who could be proven to have delivered sacred books or utensils in persecution (the traditores) should be deposed, but their official acts were to be held valid. The assistance of at least three bishops was required at ordination. (from here)

This is the discussion for today…. This is the time in which as sect of the Church appealed to the Government for help. It didn’t end up well for them.

My Arguments against the ‘Good Constantine’

Mosaics in the Hagia Sophia, section: Maria as...
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So, yesterday evening, during class, the professor (whim I enjoy) asked whether or not the ‘conversion’ of Constantine was a good thing for the Church. My response was ‘Bad for the Church, Good for the World.’

Why? Because there was a certain amount of transference to State of Christian morality, although for the longest, you might be hard pressed to find. Further, Western Civilization was virtually built with Christianity. However, it institutionalized the Church and connected it to the State. As I wrote earlier, I felt that the Church lost its position as the loyal opposition, in which we maintained the Kingdom of God against the kingdoms of this world, the dominions, the powers, etc… When Constantine ‘converted’ he brought the two together and we lost our voice as the moral authority, the prophetic mantle. We gained a sword to enforce the ‘gospel’ message and we did. With blood. And to what extent did that tarnish the Church? We gained power, but look what we’ve done with that power?

And today – where is the Church growing? Under what circumstances did the Church grow then and now grows?

I do not think that Constantine’s conversion was anything but political, and that because of that, the Church lost. Yes, the persecutions stopped, but look at what was lost…

The Sayings of Antony the Great

When Christianity started to become too settled, Antony left and headed into the desert. Then came persecutions. Later, much later, Athanasius, during one of this exiles, wrote the life of Antony, perhaps as statement… Anyway, here are few of the Statements from Antony, one of Christianity’s first Monastics. (ht)

1. When the holy Abba Anthony lived in the desert he was beset by accidie, and attacked by many sinful thoughts. He said to God, “Lord, I wand to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone; what shall I do in my affliction? How can I be saved?” A short while afterwards, when he got up to go out, Anthony say a man like himself sitting at his work, getting up from his work to pray, then sitting down again and plaiting a rope, then getting up again to pray. It was an angel of the Lord sent to correct and reassure him. He heard the angel saying to him, “Do this and you will be saved.” At these words, Anthony was filled with joy and courage. He did this, and he was saved.

2. When the same Abba Anthony thought about the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, “Lord, how is it that some die when they are young, while others drag on to extreme old age? Why are there those who are poor and those who are rich? Why do wicked men proper and why are the just in need? He heard a voice answering him, “Anthony, keep your attention on yourself; these things are according to the judgment of God, and it is not to your advantage to known anything about them.”

3. Someone asked Abba Anthony, “What must one do in order to please God?” The old man replied, “Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes, whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”

4. Abba Anthony said to Abba Poemen, “This is the great work of man: always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath.

5. He also said, “Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” He even added, “Without temptations no-one can be saved.”

6. Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, “What ought I to do?” and the old man said to him, “Do not trust in your own righteousness, do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach.”

7. Abba Anthony said, “I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, “What can get through from such snares?” Then I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Humility.’”

8. He also said, “Some have afflicted their bodies by asceticism, but they lack discernment, and so they are far from God.”

9. He said also, “Our life and our death is with our neighbor. If we gain our brother, we have gained God, but if we scandalize our brother, we have sinned against Christ.”

10. He also said, “Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace. SO like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we will lost our interior watchfulness.”

11. He said also, “He who wishes to live in solitude in the desert is delivered from three conflicts: hearing, speech, and sight; there is only one conflict for him and that is with fornication.”

12. Some brothers came to find Abba Anthony to tell him about the visions they were having, and to find out from him if they were true or if they came from the demons. They had a donkey which died on the way. When they reached the place where the old man was, he said to them before they could ask him anything, “How was is that the little donkey died on the way here?” They said, “How do you know about that, Father?” And he told them, “The demons shewed me what happened.” So they said, “That was what we came to question you about, for fear we were being deceived, for we have visions which often turn out to be true.” Thus the old man convinced them, by the example of the donkey, that their visions came from the demons.

13. A hunter in the desert saw Abba Anthony enjoying himself with the brethren and he was shocked. Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brethren, the old man said to him, “Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.” So he did. The old man then said, “Shoot another,” and he did so. Then the old man said, ‘Shoot yet again,” and the hunter replied “If I bend my bow so much I will break it.” Then the old man said to him, “It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs.” When he heard these words the hunter was pierced by compunction and, greatly edified by the old man, he went away. As for the brethren, they went home strengthened.

14. Abba Anthony heard of a very young monk who had performed a miracle on the road. Seeing the old man walking with difficulty along the road, he ordered the wild asses to come and carry them until they reached Abba Anthony. He said to them, “This monk seems to me to a ship loaded with goods but I do not know if he will reach harbor.” After a while, Anthony suddenly began to weep, to tear his hair and lament. His disciples said to him, “Why are you weeping, Father?” and the old man replied, “A great pillar of the Church has just fallen (he meant the young monk) but go to him and see what has happened.” So the disciples went and found the monk sitting on a mat and weeping for the sin he had committed. Seeing the disciples of the old man he said, “Tell the old man to pray that God will give me just ten days and I hope I will have made satisfaction.” But in the space of five days he died.

15. The brothers praised a monk before Abba Anthony. When the monk came to see him, Anthony wanted to know how he would bear insults; and seeing that he could not bear them at all, he said to him, “You are like a village magnificently decorated on the outside, but destroyed from within by robbers.”

16. A brother said to Abba Anthony, “Pray for me.” The old man said to him, ” I will have no mercy upon you, nor will God have any, if you yourself do not make an effort and if you do not pray to God.

17. One day some old men came to see Abba Anthony. In the midst of them was Abba Joseph. Wanting to test them, the old man suggested a text from the Scriptures, and, beginning with the youngest, he asked them what it meant. Each gave his opinion as he was able. But to each one the old man said, “You have not understood it.” Last of all he said to Abba Joseph, “How would you explain this saying?” and he replied, “I do not know.” Then Abba Anthony said, “Indeed, Abba Joseph has found the way, for he has said: ‘I do not know.’”

18. Some brothers were coming from Scetis to see Abba Anthony. When they were getting into a boat to go there, they found an old man who also wanted to go there. The brothers did not know him. They sat in the boat, occupied by turns with the words of the Fathers, Scripture and their manual work. As for the old man, he remained silent. When they arrived on shore they found that the old man was going to the cell of Abba Anthony too. When they reached the place, Anthony said to them, “You found this old man a good companion for the journey?” Then he said to the old man, ” You have brought many good brethren with you, father.” The old man said, “No doubt they are good, but they do not have a door to their house and anyone who wishes can enter the stable and loose the ass.” He meant that the brethren said whatever came into their mouths.

19. The brethren came to the Abba Anthony and said to him, “Speak a word; how are we to be saved?” The old man said to them, “You have heard the Scriptures. That should teach you how.” But they said, “We want to hear from you too, Father.” Then the old man said to them, “The Gospel says, ‘if anyone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.’” (Matt. 5.39) They said, “We cannot do that.” The old man said, “If you cannot offer the other cheek, at least allow one cheek to be struck.” “We cannot do that either,” they said. So he said, “If you are not able to do that, do not return evil for evil,” and they said, “We cannot do that either.” Then the old man said to his disciples, “Prepare a little brew of corn for these invalids. If you cannot do this, or that, what can I do for you? What you need is prayers.”

20. A brother renounced the world and gave his goods to the poor, but he kept back a little for his personal expenses. He went to see Abba Anthony. When he told him this, the old man said to him, “If you want to be a monk, go into the village, buy some meat, cover your naked body with it and come here like that.” The brother did so, and the dogs and birds tore at his flesh. When he came back the old man asked him whether he had followed his advice. He showed him his wounded body, and Saint Anthony said, “Those who renounce the world but want to keep something for themselves are torn in this way by the demons who make war on them.”

21. It happened one day that one of the brethren in the monastery of Abba Elias was tempted. Cast out of the monastery, he went over the mountain to Abba Anthony. The brother lived hear him for a while and then Anthony sent him back to the monastery from which he had been expelled. When the brothers saw him they cast him out yet again, and he went back to Abba Anthony saying, “My Father, they will not receive me.” Then the old man sent them a message saying, “A boat was shipwrecked at sea and lost its cargo; with great difficulty it reached the shore; but you want to throw into the sea that which has found a safe harbor on the shore.” When the brothers understood that it was Abba Anthony who had sent them this monk, they received him at once.

22. Abba Anthony said, “I believe that the body possesses a natural movement, to which it is adapted, but which it cannot follow without the consent of the soul; it only signifies in the body a movement without passion. There is another movement, which comes from the nourishment and warming of the body by eating and drinking, and this causes the heat of the blood to stir up the body to work. That is why the apostle said, ‘Do not get drunk with win for that is debauchery.’ (Ephes. 5.18) And in the Gospel the Lord also recommends this to his disciples: ‘Take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness.’ (Luke 21.34) But there is yet another movement which afflicts those who fight, and that comes from the wiles and jealousy of the demons. You must understand what these three bodily movements are: one is natural, one comes from too much to eat, the third is caused by the demons.”

23. He also said, “God does not allow the same warfare and temptations to this generation as he did formerly, for men are weaker now and cannot bear so much.”

24. It was revealed to Abba Anthony in his desert that there was one who was his equal in the city. He was a doctor by profession and whatever he had beyond his needs he gave to the poor, and every day he sang the Sanctus with the angels.

25. Abba Anthony said, “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’”

26. The brethren came to Abba Anthony and laid before him a passage from Leviticus. The old man went out into the desert, secretly followed by Abba Ammonas, who knew that this was his custom. Abba Anthony went a long way off and stood there praying, crying in a loud voice, “God, send Moses, to make me understand this saying,” Then there came a voice speaking with him. Abba Ammonas said that although he heard the voice speaking with him, he could not understand what it said.

27. Three Fathers used to go and visit blessed Anthony every year and two of them used to discuss their thoughts and the salvation of their souls with him, but the third always remained silent and did not ask him anything. After a long time, Abba Anthony said to him, “You often come here to see me, but you never ask me anything,” and the other replied, “It is enough fo rme to see you, Father.”

28. They said that a certain old man asked God to let him see the Fathers and he saw them all except Abba Anthony. So he asked his guide, “Where is Abba Anthony?” He told him in reply that in the place where God is, there Anthony would be.

29. A brother in a monastery was falsely accused of fornication and he arose and went to Abba Anthony. The brethren also came from the monastery to correct him and bring him back. They set about proving that he had done this thing, but he defended himself and denied that he had done anything of the kind. Now Abba Paphnutius, who is called Cephalus, happened to be there, and he told them this parable: “I have seen a man on the bank of the river buried up to his knees in mud and some men came to give him a hand to help him out, but they pushed him further in up to his neck.” Then Abba Anthony said this about Abba Paphnutius: “Here is a real man, who can care for souls and save them.” All those present were pierced to the heart by the words of the old man and they asked forgiveness of the brother. So, admonished by the Fathers, they took the brother back to the monastery.

30. Some say of Saint Anthony that he was “Spirit-borne,” that is, carried along by the Holy Spirit, but he would never speak of this to men. Such men see what is happening in the world, as well as knowing what is going to happen.

31. One day Abba Anthony received a letter from the Emperor Constantius, asking him to come to Constantinople and he wondered whether he ought to go. So he said to Abba Paul, his disciple, “Ought I to go?” He replied, “If you go, you will be called Anthony; but if you stay here, you will be called Abba Anthony.”

32. Abba Anthony said, “I no longer fear God, but I love Him. For love casts out fear.” (John 4.18)

33. He also said, “Always have the fear of God before your eyes. Remember him who gives death and life. Hate the world and all that is in it. Hate all peace that comes from the flesh. Renounce this life, so that you may be alive to God. Remember what you have promised God, for it will be required of you on the day of judgment. Suffer hunger, thirst, nakedness, be watchful and sorrowful; weep, and groan in your heart; test yourselves, to see if you are worthy of God; despise the flesh, so that you may preserve your souls.

34. Abba Anthony once went to visit Abba Amoun in Mount Nitria and when they met, Abba Amoun said, “By your prayers, the number of the brethren increases, and some of them want to build more cells where they may live in peace. How far away from here do you think we should build the cells?” Abba Anthony said, “Let us eat at the ninth hour and then let us go out for a walk in the desert and explore the country.” So they went out into the desert and they walked until sunset and then Abba Anthony said, “Let us pray and plant the cross here, so that those who wish to do so may build here. Then when those who remain there want to visit those who have come here, they can take a little food at the ninth hour and then come. If they do this, they will be able to keep in touch with each other without distraction of mind.” The distance is twelve miles.

35. Abba Anthony said, “Whoever hammers a lump of iron, first decides what he is going to make of it, a scythe, a sword, or an axe. Even so we ought to make up our minds what kind of virute we want to forge or we labor in vain.”

36. He also said, “Obedience with abstinence gives men power over wild beasts.”

37. He also said, “Nine monks fell away after many labors and were obsessed with spiritual pride, for they put their trust in their own works and being deceived they did not give due heed to the commandment that says, ‘Ask your father and he will tell you.’” (Deut. 32.7)

38. And he said this, “If he is able to, a monk ought to tell his elders confidently how many steps he takes and how many drops of water he drinks in his cell, in case he is in error about it.”

Yes… this is a topic from my class today.

Constantine’s Summons to Nicaea

Fortunately, such things are preserved for us, as for a while now, I’ve heard that the original call for the Council of Nicaea was over the date of Easter, but Nicaea was far from just about Easter…

Letter of Emperor Constantine summoning the bishops from Ancyra to Nicaea

I believe it is obvious to everyone that there is nothing more honorable in my sight than the fear of God. Though it was formerly agreed that the synod of bishops should meet at Ancyra in Galatia, it seemed to us for many reasons that it would be well for the synod to assemble at Nicaea, a city of Bithynia, both because the Bishops from Italy and the rest of the countries of Europe are coming, and because of the excellent temperature of the air, and in order that I may be present as a spectator and participator in those things which will be done. Therefore I announce to you, my beloved brothers, that all of you promptly assemble at the said city, that is at Nicaea. Let every one of you therefore, as I said before, keep the greater good in mind and be diligent, without delay in anything, to come speedily, that each may be physically present as a spectator of those things which will be done.

God keep you my beloved brothers.

Translation from A New Eusebius, Ed. J. Stevenson (London: SPCK, 1963) no. 299, adapted by GLT

The history of this letter and its authenticity are discussed in Hanson, pp. 146-151

While there was a reason that a meeting was going to be held in Ancrya, Constantine’s intrusion reconstituted the entire Council from a lowly synod to a full blown, imperial court.

What say ye?

Scratch Pad One: Effects of Constantine

Eusebius of Caesarea may have continued the Li...
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I have to submit a paper tomorrow for a class on Church history. The topics are two fold – Constantine and Arianism. I thought I might use this blog as a scratch pad of sorts. So, here is the first part….

Admittedly, as a pluralist in a democratic society with a good start into the 21st century, the notion of a State-controlled church is appalling, and while I acknowledge these biases, I will seek to keep those prejudices to a minimum. There is little doubt that Constantine’s conversion is of great importance not only to Christianity but so to the entire world. His conversion and subsequent involvement into the affairs of the Church gave rise to the Tradition of Ecumenical Councils, involved the Emperor as pontifex maximus (which as a pagan title, Constantine used in his capacities in which he officiated of the Roman religions, only ending near his death) which was a traditional role for the Roman Emperor, codified orthodoxy and led to all sorts of bloodshed against those who opposed the reigning orthodoxy. While in his position, he sought only to unite the various factions of Christianity, there is little doubt that he actually understood the various differences. It was not Constantine so much as those who followed after him, including his sons, and ultimately, Emperor Theodosius I with his decree that leveraged the might of Roman against those whom the Church now found as heretics or otherwise disagreeable. Further, for all his public and political appeals to the Christian God, his personal appeal of a good conscious did not come until his death bed, when we was baptized by an Arian bishop who had been expelled by the soon to be dead Emperor. It was this conversion that, perhaps, was the real one, if there is such a case, in that his time was short and he realized that his baptism was needed to effect his conversion.

His political conversion came during wartime, when in the midst of the battle he looked to his god, the Sun, and was supposedly given a vision of the cross by which he was to conquer. He quickly defeated and then killed his enemy, Maxentius. From there, he paid homage more to his vision of Christianity, paying for the clergy out of the Treasury, called the Nicean Council, expelled Bishops, adopted not only the books of the bible but so too the Lucian text, and even would go so far as to set the date for Easter[i]. As Roman tradition believed, religions were the key to the gods, so to make those religions happy, the Emperors would give divine favor. Constantine must have seen something advantageous in Christianity; of course, the relationship was symbiotic as well. For the Church, they must have seen in Constantine the end of persecutions which in fact he did bring about, a certain safety and security, and, the chance to spread the Gospel to the entire world, albeit with the help of the Roman Legions. There should be no doubt that Constantine took a huge political risk in publicly endorsing Christianity in that while the religion was growing, it was by no means the largest of the Empire. It was still ‘new’, with unsettled doctrines, books and no real central authority. Constantine could have ended his political career by appealing to such a divisive and historically persecuted people, especially since those previous persecutions were generally done in accordance with political motivations of blaming the Christians for the troubles of the Empire.  No doubt that both the Church and the Emperor gained from the relationship, there is no doubt, but to what loss did the Church suffer?

While the West was generally united around certain theological points, the East with its center in Alexandria was still dealing with the remains of Origenism, which is no better expressed than in the third century correspondence between the Bishops of Rome and that city. Yet, there was still unity among the various theological differences as seen in the struggle to gain orthodoxy. I would contend that by the nature of the voluminous correspondence between the factions, and the rare excommunications, that a certain unity even against certain theological differences was being sought. With the State Church, State Doctrines were needed, as was revisionist history and a normalizing of that State Religion. As Gonzalez[ii] points out, with the arrival of Constantine, the Church settled down and gave up certain theological expectations. One of those expectations was for the Parousia, which as often is the case in secure times Christians have failed to look for since they are experiencing what they deem as divine favor.

What the Church lost most of all was the independence as loyal opposition status as the Kingdom of God on earth. Admittedly, while this view is theological, there was a certain amount of loyal opposition to Rome’s Imperialism and the Emperors’ divine claims. With Paul’s writings and the Gospel of Mark[iii], we see the Christian communities encourage to both obey the Empire, but up to the infringement of declaring Caesar Lord and God. This anti-imperialism bent in the New Testament is prevalent not only Mark’s opening assault against Emperor Vespasian, but so too Paul’s open declaration that Jesus is Lord as well as the Apocalypse’s revelation of the evils of Rome (via Babylon) and the reward that the Empire must eventually suffer for the persecution of Christians. The Revelator’s work stands as a summons for Christians to remember that Christ alone is the master of human history. When the Church quickly allied with Constantine and was suckled by the State Treasury, the Community lost the need to stand against the Empire as suddenly, the fortunes of the Empire and the Church seemed to be one and the same. Granted, this didn’t happen all at once, but with Constantine’s conversion, the road was paved with good intentions.

The Church also lost its social concerns. Widely read is the history of the early Church were the Christians were known for their hospitality, their pacifism, and their duty to the poor of their secular communities. They would take in orphaned children and widowed women, as well as provide for the poor. As Gonzales points out, the glory of Rome was not bound in helping or otherwise uplifting the poor, but in military might, the wealth of the nations, and the adoration by the subjects of the Emperor. Opposed to this is the book of James, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christians were to treat even the rich equally, to see the poor as God’s children and blessed, and to engage in pacifism[iv]. With the Glory of God confused with the glory of Rome, these things were done away with. Now, instead of Tertullian[v] and Origen[vi]’s insistence of non-involvement with the State, suddenly, Bishops and Priests assumed diplomatic roles as well as other servants of the Imperial Government. Further, even Constantine’s favorite historiographer, Eusebius of Caesarea, lamented the ‘increasing freedom’ under Constantine which ‘transformed our character to arrogance and sloth.[vii]’ What the Church would not return, at least in the West, as the centuries progressed, and it was the most vital gift given to it by Christ – the moral authority enshrined in the voice of the loyal opposition.


[i] David L. Dungan, Constantine’s Bible, Politics and the Making of the New Testament, 94-95, Fortress Press, Minneapolis.

[ii] Justo L. Gonzales, The Story of Christianity, Vol 1, The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation, 133-135, Harper One, New York

[iii] See Adam Winn, The Purpose of Mark’s Gospel, Berlin, for a his views, which have informed this author’s view of Mark’s aim, on the purpose of Mark’s Gospel as an early Christian communities attempts to rebut the Emperor Vespasian’s claims to be Judah’s Messiah.

[iv] Christians are not allowed to use violence to correct the delinquencies of sin – Clement of Alexandria

[v] In us, all ardor in the pursuit of glory and honor is dead. So we have no pressing inducement to take part in your public meetings. Nor is there anything more entirely foreign to us than affairs of state. – Tertullian

All the powers and dignities of this world are only alien to, but are enemies of God. Through them, punishments have been determined against God’s servants. Through them, too, penalties prepared for the impious are ignored. – Tertullian

[vi] We are to scorn trying to ingratiate ourselves with kings or any other men – not only if theirfavor is to be won by murderers, licentiousness, or deeds of cruelty – but even if it involves impiety towards God, or any servile expressions of flattery and fawning. – Origen

[vii] “But increasing freedom transformed our character to arrogance and sloth; we began envying and abusing each other, cutting our own throats, as occasion offered, with weapons of sharp-edged words; rulers hurled themselves at rulers and laymen waged party fights against laymen, and unspeakable hypocrisy and dissimulation were carried to the limit of wickedness. At last, while the gatherings were still crowded, divine judgement, with its wonted mercy, gently and gradually began to order things its own way, and with the Christians in the army the persecution began. But alas! realizing nothing, we made not the slightest effort to render the Deity kindly and propitious; and as if we had been a lot of atheists, we imagined that our doings went unnoticed and unregarded, and went from wickedness to wickedness. Those of us who were supposed to be pastors cast off the restraining influence of the fear of God and quarrelled heatedly with each other, engaged soly in swelling the disputes, threats, envy, and mutual hostility and hate, frantically demanding the despotic power they coveted.” – History of the Church, 8.1

Arius’s Thalia

Our assignment this week for the Church History Intro class is on Constantine, essentially. Of course, again, one my academic loves is this time period. There are heroes here, and villains. Athanasius, Marcellus, and Arius. You can decide which is which…

Anyway, this is part of Arius’ writings. Thought I might share.

From here,

We have reproduced William Bright’s text of On the Councils 15, (The Historical Writings of St. Athanasius according to the Benedictine Text, Oxford: Clarendon, 1881, pp. 259-60). When compared to Opitz’ more recent edition of the text, we found that our text varies only in punctuation, capitalization, and one variant reading (χρόνῳ for χρόνοις, line 5)

Αὐτὸς γοῦν ὁ Θεὸς καθό ἐστιν, ἄῤῥητος ἅπασιν ὑπάρχει.
Ἴσον, οὐδὲ ὅμοιον, οὐχ ὁμόδοξον ἔχει μόνος οὗτος.
Ἀγέννητον δὲ αὐτόν φαμεν διὰ τὸν τὴν φύσιν γεννητόν,
τοῦτον ἄναρχον ἀνυμνοῦμεν διὰ τὸν ἀρχὴν ἔχοντα,
ἀΐδιον δὲ αὐτὸν σέβομεν διὰ τὸν ἐν χρόνῷ γεγαότα.
1. …And so God Himself, as he really is, is inexpressible to all.
He alone has no equal, no one similar, and no one of the same glory.
We call him unbegotten, in contrast to him who by nature is begotten.
We praise him as without beginning in contrast to him who has a beginning.
We worship him as timeless, in contrast to him who in time has come to exist.
Ἀρχὴν τὸν Υἱὸν ἔθηκε τῶν γενητῶν ὁ ἄναρχος,
καὶ ἤνεγκεν εἰς Υἱὸν ἑαυτῷ τόνδε τεκνοποιήσας,
Ἴδιον οὐδὲν ἔχει τοῦ Θεοῦ καθ’ ὑπόστασιν ἰδιότητος·
οὐδὲ γάρ ἐστιν ἴσος, ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ὁμοούσιος αὐτῷ.
6. He who is without beginning made the Son a beginning of created things.
He produced him as a son for himself by begetting him.
He [the son] has none of the distinct characteristics of God’s own being
For he is not equal to, nor is he of the same being as him.
Σοφὸς δέ ἐστιν ὁ Θεός, ὅτι τῆς σοφίας διδάσκαλος αὐτός.
Ἱκανὴ δὲ ἀπόδειξις, ὅτι ὁ Θεὸς ἀόρατος ἅπασι,
τοῖς τε διὰ Υἱοῦ καὶ αὐτῷ τῷ Υἱῷ ἀόρατος ὁ αὐτός.
10. God is wise, for he himself is the teacher of Wisdom -
Sufficient proof that God is invisible to all:
He is is invisible both to things which were made through the Son, and also to the Son himself.
Ῥητῶς δὲ λέξω, πῶς τῷ Υἱῷ ὁρᾶται ὁ ἀόρατος,
Τῇ δυνάμει ᾗ δύναται ὁ Θεὸς ἰδεῖν ἰδίοις τε μέτροις
ὑπομένει ὁ Υἱὸς ἰδεῖν τὸν Πατέρα, ὡς θέμις ἐστίν.
13. I will say specifically how the invisible is seen by the Son:
by that power by which God is able to see, each according to his own measure,
the Son can bear to see the Father, as is determined
Ἤγουν Τριάς ἐστι δόξαις οὐχ ὁμοίαις·
ἀνεπίμικτοι ἑαυταῖς εἰσιν αἱ ὑποστάσεις αὐτῶν,
μία τῆς μιᾶς ἐνδοξοτέρα δόξαις ἐπ’ ἄπειρον.
Ξένος τοῦ Υἱοῦ κατ’ οὐσίαν ὁ Πατήρ, ὅτι ἄναρχος ὑπάρχει.
16. So there is a Triad, not in equal glories.
Their beings are not mixed together among themselves.
As far as their glories, one infinitely more glorious than the other.
The Father in his essence is foreign to the Son, because he exists without beginning.
Σύνες ὅτι ἡ μονὰς ἦν· ἡ δυὰς δὲ οὐκ ἦν, πρὶν ὑπάρξῃ.
Αὐτίκα γοῦν, Υἱοῦ μὴ ὄντος, ὁ Πατὴρ Θεός ἐστι.
Λοιπὸν ὁ Υἱὸς οὐκ ὢν (ὑπῆρξε δὲ θελήσει πατρῴᾳ),
μονογενὴς Θεός ἐστι, καὶ ἑκατέρων ἀλλότριος οὗτος.
20. Understand that the Monad [eternally] was; but the Dyad was not before it came into existence.
It immediately follows that, although the Son did not exist, the Father was still God.
Hence the Son, not being [eternal] came into existence by the Father’s will,
He is the Only-begotten God, and this one is alien from [all] others
[Williams suggests a section on the Holy Spirit may have been omitted here (p. 310).]
Ἡ Σοφία σοφία ὑπῆρξε σοφοῦ Θεοῦ θελήσει.
Ἐπινοεῖται γοῦν μυρίαις ὅσαις ἐπινοίαις Πνεῦμα,
δύναμις, σοφία, δόξα Θεοῦ, ἀλήθειά τε καὶ εἰκὼν καὶ Λόγος οὗτος.
Σύνες, ὅτι καὶ ἀπαύγασμα καὶ φῶς ἐπινοεῖται.
Ἴσον μὲν τοῦ Υἱοῦ γεννᾷν δυνατός ἐστιν ὁ κρείττων·
διαφορώτερον δὲ, ἢ κρείττονα, ἢ μείζονα, οὐχί.
Θεοῦ θελήσει ὁ Υἱὸς ἡλίκος καὶ ὅσος ἐστίν,
ἐξ ὅτε καὶ ἀφ’ οὗ, καὶ ἀπὸ τότε ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ὑπέστη,
ἰσχυρὸς Θεὸς ὢν, τὸν κρείττονα ἐκ μέρους ὑμνεῖ.
24. Wisdom came to be Wisdom by the will of the Wise God.
Hence he is conceived in innumerable aspects. He is Spirit,
Power, Wisdom, God’s glory, Truth, Image, and Word.
Understand that he is also conceived of as Radiance and Light.
The one who is superior is able to beget one equal to the Son,
But not someone more important, or superior, or greater.
At God’s will the Son has the greatness and qualities that he has.
His existence from when and from whom and from then — are all from God.
He, though strong God, praises in part his superior .
Συνελόντι εἰπεῖν τῷ Υἱῷ ὁ Θεὸς ἄρρητος ὑπάρχει,
ἔστι γὰρ ἑαυτῷ ὅ ἐστι, τοῦτ’ ἔστιν ἄλεκτος·
ὥστε οὐδὲν τῶν λεγομένων κατά τε κατάληψιν συνίει ἐξειπεῖν ὁ Υἱός.
Ἀδύνατα γὰρ αὐτῷ τὸν Πατέρα τε ἐξιχνιάσαι, ὅς ἐστιν ἐφ’ ἑαυτοῦ.
Αὐτὸς γὰρ ὁ Υἱὸς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ οὐσίαν οὐκ οἶδεν,
Υἱὸς γὰρ ὢν, θελήσει Πατρὸς ὑπῆρξεν ἀληθῶς.
33. In brief, God is inexpressible to the Son.
For he is in himself what he is, that is, indescribable,
So that the son does not comprehend any of these things or have the understanding to explain them.
For it is impossible for him to fathom the Father, who is by himself.
For the Son himself does not even know his own essence,
For being Son, his existence is most certainly at the will of the Father.
Τίς γοῦν λόγος συγχωρεῖ τὸν ἐκ Πατρὸς ὄντα
αὐτὸν τὸν γεννήσαντα γνῶναι ἐν καταλήψει;
δῆλον γὰρ, ὅτι τὸ ἀρχὴν ἔχον, τὸν ἄναρχον, ὡς ἔστιν,
ἐμπερινοῆσαι ἢ ἐμπεριδράξασθαι, οὐχ οἷόν τέ ἐστιν.
39. What reasoning allows, that he who is from the Father
should comprehend and know his own parent?
For clearly that which has a beginning is not able to conceive of
or grasp the existence of that which has no beginning.

Translation by AJW

To that, I simply refer to Ignatius (Ephesians 7.2)

There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both begotten and unbegotten; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible, even Jesus Christ our Lord.

εἷς ἰατρός ἐστιν σαρκικός τε καὶ πνευματικός γεννητὸς καὶ ἀγέννητος ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ θεός ἐν θανάτῳ ζωὴ ἀληθινή καὶ ἐκ Μαρίας καὶ ἐκ θεοῦ πρῶτον παθητὸς καὶ τότε ἀπαθής Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν

Anyone else want to contend with Ignatius?

4th Century Renderings of John and Andrew found in Italy

On of my favorite search terms is ‘photos of the Apostle Paul’. Kodak is old, but not that old. Now we have more pictures of other Apostles. Yes, there were more than just Peter and Paul.

Archaeologists exploring a Christian catacomb under a residential Roman street have unearthed the earliest known images of the apostles Andrew and John.

Using a newly developed laser to burn away centuries of calcium deposits without damaging the paintings beneath, the team found the late 4th-century images in the richly decorated tomb of a Roman noblewoman.

“John’s young face is familiar, but this is the most youthful portrayal of Andrew ever seen, very different from the old man with grey hair and wrinkles we know from medieval painting,” said project leader Barbara Mazzei.

Apostle images from 4th centry found under street in Italy | Science | The Guardian.

(ht Janelle Peters via Twitter.)

Eusebius on the Results of Christian Political Freedom

“But increasing freedom transformed our character to arrogance and sloth; we began envying and abusing each other, cutting our own throats, as occasion offered, with weapons of sharp-edged words; rulers hurled themselves at rulers and laymen waged party fights against laymen, and unspeakable hypocrisy and dissimulation were carried to the limit of wickedness. At last, while the gatherings were still crowded, divine judgement, with its wonted mercy, gently and gradually began to order things its own way, and with the Christians in the army the persecution began. But alas! realizing nothing, we made not the slightest effort to render the Deity kindly and propitious; and as if we had been a lot of atheists, we imagined that our doings went unnoticed and unregarded, and went from wickedness to wickedness. Those of us who were supposed to be pastors cast off the restraining influence of the fear of God and quarrelled heatedly with each other, engaged soly in swelling the disputes, threats, envy, and mutual hostility and hate, frantically demanding the despotic power they coveted.” – History of the Church, 8.1 (HT to Looney in a previous comment)

4th Century Christianity: Damasus and Theodosius, 381

As we close the 4th Century, at least in this aspect (we must remember that Augustine did his fair share of doctrinal development regarding the Trinity) we find that in the end, a young Emperor used the force of Rome to settle the councils and their questions.

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