Colossians-Ephesians, The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the Early Church

English: Peresopnytsia Gospels. 1556-1561. Min...

English: Peresopnytsia Gospels. 1556-1561. Miniature of Saint Matthew. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I realize that the title is a wholly anachronistic view of these two books. I admit and I own my guilt, if not shame, here. However, I cannot think of a better analogy by which to view these two books.

In reading these books for Sunday School class, in which we surface grazed both books, I read Ephesians first, giving preference to both the canonical order and my favorite of the two. However, in discussing some of this on Facebook that Saturday evening, Jeremiah Bailey said he felt like Ephesians was an expansion of Colossians. While I am not so sure as he is about that, and since he never offered up a second opinion, I am hesitant to cast my lost with him. Yet, there are some expansive elements in Ephesians developed from Colossians. I can admit that.

I would classify Colossians-Ephesians as a Deutero-Pauline book set for a variety of reasons. First, Colossians carries something of 2 Corinthians in it and seems to really develop certain themes from 2 Corinthians 5. Ephesians, however, develops Romans 8 extensively while pulling the developed Christology from Colossians. Thus, I think Brian LePort is most correct via our conversation on Facebook.

The reason I would anachronistically call Colossians the Declaration of Independence is because there is still a tinge of impetus in the letter. The author is writing against a few things. I find a possible impetus in 2.8, or rather two impetuses. The first are the Greeks (maybe proto-Gnostics of some sort) and the Jews who do not believe in Jesus as Messiah. I say this because of the remark of philosophy and the elementary principles of the world, with the latter phrase referencing the Law of Moses and the former the empty (a pun?) philosophy of proto-Gnostics.

Ephesians carries almost no trace of opposition, but instead establishes the cause of the Church, the mission of the Church, and the operations of the Church. One thing I will point out here, is that our chapter 3 of Ephesians is strikingly Pauline. It includes a greeting and a benediction, amen. Perhaps Ephesians is built around this letter by Paul as a way to give a wider authority to the whole of the letter. This is, at best, circumstantial.

Anyway, these are just some thoughts on these two books.

Next week, we are reading through the pastorals, the pseudo-Pauline books.

Ephesians 2.11-22 – The Destruction of the Temple, Theomachy, Necessity of the Gentile Mission

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This is a, um, you know… rough draft for a paper for NT2. 

What is commonly called Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians is a short letter which is being written to a community that is being built across ancient lines of separation between the Jew and the non-Jew which many believed had been ordained of God. To couch it in the terms of racism and to seek to pin it to recent movements against modern racism is too neat of an analogy as within this epistle, there are physical and psychological barriers which are being torn down. The author of Ephesians is envisioning a community which is being built into a Temple upon the very real remains of the previous Temple and with a Temple ideology which stressed the cosmic struggle. I believe that there is in the text sufficient evidence in which the author envisions a particular cosmology as well as a Creation theology which functioned to decipher an understanding of the trajectory of the Jewish Christian mission to the Gentiles. Specifically, in 2.11-22, I contend that the author is rehearsing a theomachy myth in which Christ is the god defeating the other gods, or in the language of the Ephesian epistle, the powers, but this time, through death which was actually a victory and further, that the author is taking his cue from the actual destruction of the Temple. It is, then, from the body of Christ which springs forth the καινὸν ἄνθρωπον, mimicking other cultural myths. To that end, I will argue that the author is writing a dramatic piece in which the community is being built into a Temple to serve the victorious Christ who had, through the death of his body, defeated the powers with the Gentile mission being produced as a direct result.

Theomachy is a type of cosmological origin myth which focuses on divine warfare as the cause of order or creation. D.E. Aune submits that the “mythic narrative pattern of a primordial cosmic struggle between two divine beings and their allies for sovereignty was widespread throughout the ancient world… while the names of combatants, as well as their roles, change from culture to culture, many of the constituent folklore motifs of the combat myth or legend either remain constant or are subject to a limited range of variation.[1]” Among the earliest myths related to the biblical text is Enuma Elish, in which the Babylonian goddess Tiamat is murdered by Marduk leaving her decaying body to become a part of creation. There is also the story of the Greek demigod Theseus who fought the mythical Minotaur only to later overturn archaic life and laws and institute a new Athens. This cosmic warfare motif is not absent from the Hebrew Bible itself and can be seen in Isaiah 51.9 as YHWH battles Rahab the great dragon and in Job 40.15-41.26 in which YHWH battles Behemoth and Leviathan. There are also images of this throughout the Old Testament in which YHWH battles the gods of other nations to protect Israel such as the most famous example found in Exodus 12-15 in which YWHW defeats the gods of Egypt (Exodus 12.12) and is declared the universal God (15.11)[2]. Further, there is this motif in the New Testament as well when we read John’s Apocalypse, especially chapter 12. We must then allow that the theomachy motif could be present in describing the new age if Jesus was seen as an apocalyptic prophet and his crucifixion as the beginning of the eschatological age.

Ephesians 2.11-22 speaks directly to the Jewish/Gentile divide which was happening in the early Church, but this only follows 2.1-10 in which a more universal view point, without mention of ethnocentrism, is established. The author builds his argument first by going into some detail about the grand cosmic transformation that has taken place in creation. The story of the Christ Jesus on the cross is first, for the epistle’s writer, very much into the theomachy motif. An understanding of the Cross as a theomachy myth means that we pay close attention to the language of vindication, restoration, and enthronement which is explicit in Ephesians. This section ends with a pointed expression of the Creation story in which the author notes that the great ‘we’, which by the end of the chapter is discovered to be the new humanity in the Temple of God, are indeed a creation, a “workmanship” which God has created beforehand (Ephesians 2.10) to walk in the good works (or open grace) which must pull the reader’s attention back to the Garden of Eden wherein Adam and Eve were said to walk with God.

After the description of what cosmic salvation is, the author speaks to both the Jews and the Gentiles in Ephesians 2.11-12 but seemingly only speaking to the Gentiles. In fact, I would consider that the author is speaking through the Gentiles to the Jews. For instance, in verse 11, the author says that Circumcision is an act by human hands. Throughout the Epistle, the themes of mystery take precedence over the flesh so that everything good and lasting is from God whereas those things which the Church wars against are that of the flesh. Here, it is no different. The circumcision that only exists in the flesh is not lasting, only serving until such a time as Christ has come in the flesh and dead. The connection between the circumcision which is the flesh and thus temporary and the flesh of Christ is temporary should not be missed, especially considering that both give way to something more lasting.

We may be easily lulled into thinking metaphorically about the great psychological barriers which existed between the Jews and the Gentiles[3]. In Romans, Paul gives a detailed argument against the barrier which was ethnocentric no doubt, so we might easily take Ephesians 2.14-16 as something along those lines, however, we would miss the larger and historically tangible picture of the author of Ephesians. If this was only a psychological barrier or even just a religious barrier, then the cosmic view becomes muted at best and non-existent at worst, but if we turn to the Second Temple, we find that such a barrier physically existed. Josephus records it in Wars 5.193-194[4], but actual evidence was later found by Clermont-Ganneau. In 1871, the French archeologist found a stone which read,

NO FOREIGNER
IS TO GO BEYOND THE BALUSTRADE
AND THE PLAZA OF THE TEMPLE ZONE
WHOEVER IS CAUGHT DOING SO
WILL HAVE HIMSELF TO BLAME
FOR HIS DEATH
WHICH WILL FOLLOW

This supports the scene in Acts 21.29 in which Paul was condemned for supposedly bringing Trophimus, an Ephesian, past the Court of the Gentiles[5]. It is possible, then, that the barrier which the author of the Epistle was referring to was indeed the barrier which kept Jews and Gentiles separated[6].

Solomon’s Temple contained the ability to have the foreigner worship YWHW in the Temple (see 1 Kings 8.41-43). It wasn’t until later, during Herod’s rebuilding project, that barriers were put into place to keep Gentiles and women in their respective places, with promises of punishment, as we have seen, for those who disobey. This may be because of the political reality of the time. Herod was a non-Jew himself and all of Israel was overrun by the Romans. As a reactionary move, the Temple priests, with Herod’s support, would have had barriers built to keep out the undesirables. Or, alternatively, given the political reality, Herod could have built the barriers on his own accord so as to keep down the threatening tensions which would soon erupt, as history records. Regardless, we know three things. First, the exclusion of Gentiles from Temple worship stood against First Temple Tradition. Second, it was spoken against in the Gospels and now, it seems, in this Epistle as well. And finally, the exclusion of the Gentiles from Temple worship prevented a barrier in and of itself to the Christian community which by necessity included Gentiles and Jews worshipping together.

What is commonly called the Third Temple is found in Ezekiel 40-48 which follows three well known passages involving dry bones, Gog and Magog filled with apocalyptic imagery and promises of the end of Exile. It is a Temple of the Eschaton and was not seen as Herod’s great establishment. It is this passage in Ezekiel, 37-48, which I believe gives depth to the epistle’s author as he pictured the new community as the New Temple. To begin with, there is the connection made in 2.15 in which we read “the two into one new man.” This image fits well with the imagery in Ezekiel 37.15-23 in which the prophet joins two sticks, one representing Judah and another representing Israel, and they become one. Throughout the larger passage, there is a constant refrain of combining the two nations as well as in 38.16-39.7 of the Gentiles coming to know God through his sanctification and judgment of Israel. Further, there is in Ezekiel 43.1-12 a parallel of 1 Kings 8 but as well of Ephesians 2.18 and 2.22 in which the Spirit of God is said to occupy the Temple. Along with this connection, Ezekiel writes of the Prince who will have his own gate into the Temple[7].

Nothing in the Gospels records the move by Jesus to destroy the actual barrier, although we do know that Jesus preached and taught from the outer courts where women and Gentiles were welcomed (Jn 2:14, Mt 21:12, Lk 19:45, among other places). The wall which separated the courts, that separated the non-Jew and the Jew, was not actually torn down until the Temple itself was destroyed by the Roman Legions in 70CE. If this letter was written after the destruction of the Temple (I would argue for a date post 70[8], but before 110[9]), then the image which the author is presenting is an apocalyptic one in which the readers could have associated the destruction of Herod’s Temple with the fulfillment of the New Covenant. Rather, the final destruction of Herod’s Temple finally erased the physical boundaries which kept the Gentile and Jewish Christian from worshiping one with another.

Creation language is inextricably tied to Temple theology, something we can see expressly in this passage. In Ephesians 2.14, the author uses the verb ποιέω while in 2.15 he is found using κτίζω. Both of these words are used in the Septuagint version of Genesis in regards to the Creation accounts in relation to ‘create’ and ‘made’. Space does not permit the interconnection of thought between Creation, New Creation, and the Eschatology of the New Testament writers, but I mention this here to maintain that within this passage is a diffident view towards a New Creation while the phrase itself is not mentioned, and if there is a New Creation, then there is a New Temple.

That the author of the epistle is looking towards the promised eschatological age is not surprising and should be noted when we turn to 2.17. Beale suggests that this verse is a conflation of several Isaianic promises of the Messianic Age to come[10]. It is a quotation, although not given with the usual formula of καθὼς γέγραπται·, which is making use of Isaiah 52.7 and 57.19. Further, it could be part of a third which includes Micah 5.5, as the chart below demonstrates:

17 AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; (Eph 2:17 NASB) 7 How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isa 52:7 NASB) 19 Creating the 1apraise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,” Says the LORD, “and I will heal him.” (Isa 57:19 NAU) 5 This One will be our peace. When the Assyrian invades our land, When he tramples on our citadels, Then we will raise against him Seven shepherds and eight leaders of men. (Mic 5:5 NASB)

 

In all of the above Old Testament passages, there is a battle taking place between God and the nations which surround Israel, although admittedly, the connection in Isaiah 52 is weaker than the other two. If the author is indeed conflating from all or a combination of the two, the author may be also trying to drag along through the use of a merism[11] the complete narrative contexts of the passages which relate well to the theomachy mythos. Further, we must consider that Isaiah is replete with promises of the inclusion of the Gentiles, including an important one to the argument here which is about the destruction of a barrier which prevented the Gentiles.

In Isaiah 56.6-7, we read,

“Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, To be His servants, everyone who keeps from profaning the sabbath And holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” (Isa 56:6-7 NASB)

If this was in the backdrop of the author’s vision, he might have assumed that his readers would have understood it as well. Further, this idea of an eschatological peace or herald of peace, in 2.17 is completed with the full realization of the Spirit now working in the new community as seen in 2.18[12]. Thus, because of the presence of the Spirit (which is activity working to build the community and is present in the community, 2.22), the victory of Christ has been assured. It is because of the death of Christ, then, that the New Temple can be built, which is the community. If the New Temple is built, it will be more glorious than the smoldering ruins which now occupy Jerusalem, assuming that Ephesians is post-70CE.

The closing section of this passage deals expressly with God’s building. An architectural formula is used as well. The Gentiles are said to be of God’s οἰκεῖοι which stands on a θεμελίῳ. At the beginning of all this is the ἀκρογωνιαίου which is said to be Christ. Further, we find the author repeating these concepts using οἰκοδομὴ, συναρμολογουμένη, ναὸν, συνοικοδομεῖσθε and κατοικητήριον in the short space of 2.21-22 to hammer home the constructive concept which he has been building as if he was using a master plan to show that the community was established to be the New Temple. These latter points of the holy temple founded with Christ as the first laid stone is found as well in Ephesians 1.22-23 in which the Church is said to be the body of Christ[13].  It is then, not merely Tradition that the author is suggesting the community stands upon, but the cosmic outcome of Christ defeating the powers (1.19-2.2) through his death which is the sacrificed body of Christ, combining two mythos which the author was sure to know of and have access to and which we know was extent during the supposed time of composition of the Epistle.

The crescendo of this passage hits its peak in 2.14-16 and is followed by an adagio in 2.17-18 wherein the consonance of the passage is harmonized in 2.19-22. The author is orchestrating an elegy for the dead Christ and is employing an energico to build to the oratio in that because of the death of Christ, a new Temple can be built upon the remains of the old and accomplish by divine might what had been hindered by human hands. A recapitulation is seen then, not just of the Old Covenant but of the entire Creation theology in which through the death of the divine, and in this instance this death does not mean defeat but victory, a new creation has been established. In this passage, the author uses the theomachy motif, which includes the destruction of the old Temple, to call for the establishment of the new Temple. Because of the destruction of this barrier, and as I argue the visible image here is that of the destruction of the Temple, it has become necessary that the Gentiles be included in the mission of the community as without both Jew and Gentile, there will be no new Temple. It is through the death of Christ that the Powers which enslave the world are defeated; it is on an out of the body of Christ that the Temple is built.

 


[1] Aune, D.E, WBC 52B; Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998, p 667

[2] I do not mean to suggest that the author of the Epistle to the Ephesians was drawing from ANE mythology nor do I mean to suggest that the Christ Myth is pulled from Greco-Roman mythology, only that like the authors of 2nd Baruch 29.3-4 and 1st Enoch 60.7-8, the author was drawing subconsciously from the ANE mythology behind parts of the Old Testament and that like other New Testament writers, this writer made use of his cultural surroundings.

[3] Timothy Gombis, in his works on Ephesians, including his book, The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God, and an article published in 2004 (JSNT 26.4 (2004, 403-418), allows that this is only a metaphorical wall, as do most commentators, and yet calls for a strong position on the destruction of the Law as enmity.

[4] When you go through these [first] cloisters, to the second [court of the] temple, there was a partition made of stone all around, whose height was three cubits: its construction was very elegant; upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some in Roman letters, that “no foreigner should go within that sanctuary;” for that second [court of the] temple was called “the Sanctuary,”(Jwr 5:193-194)

[5] See also, Craig S. Keener and InterVarsity Press, The IVP Bible Background Commentary : New Testament, Eph 2:11–19 (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993), for a further discussion on the likelihood that the barrier was a physical barrier in the Temple.

[6] It is worth noting that Joel Marcus has effectively argued that Mark 11.17 is speaking to the situation in which Gentiles were being excluded from the Temple worship which Jesus is able to speak against as something that angered his Father. (See: Marcus, Joel. “The Jewish War and the Sitz im Leben of Mark.” Journal of Biblical Literature 111 (1992): 441-462.)

[7] The Prince is not given the same role as Solomon and could very well be the Chief Priest of a new, Zadokite, line in which the Chief Priest serves as both the cultic and political figure.

[8] I would argue for a more middle date, given the psychological aspects of the destruction of the Temple is not as evident as it would be had the Temple just been destroyed. Further, Ignatius of Antioch, writing about 110 to the church at Ephesus, makes use of this Epistle.

[9] See Markus Barth, Ephesians: Introduction, Translation, and Commentary on Chapters 1–3 (New York: Doubleday and Company Inc., 1974), 50-51

[10] G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 817-18 (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007).

[11] Jackson, T. Ryan. New Creation in Paul’s Letters. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010 ; Jackson makes the point that Paul’s use of ‘new creation’ is a merism which relates not just to the phrase but to the whole Isaianic thought.

[12] Isaiah 44.3, 59.21; Ezekiel 39.29; and Joel 2.28-32 are passages which relate the eschatological belief that the Spirit would be present in the Eschatological Age.

[13] cf Eph 4.12

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Review: The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God

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Did  you know that God is the most high but not  alone on the cosmic stage? It so declares Timothy Gombis in his book, The Drama of Ephesians. What Gombis has done is to take his doctoral thesis and novelize it and in doing so brings to light some modern thoughts in monotheism studies which, at least for him sets the stage for a radically different interpretation of Ephesians which is cosmic in scope.

His second chapter calls us to remember that the Jewish worldview at the time included cosmic actors on the supernatural stage and asks not to forget them in the great drama which is Ephesians. After a brief tour through the thought world that Paul inhabits, Gombis moves into a discussion on a modern take on these powers. On 49-57, Gombis launches into a needless and seemingly out of place explanation of modern powers. I say needless because it seems out of place in a scholarly assessment of Ephesians and a better way to read it, however, he does remind us through this action that he is a Christian scholar and theologian, with the adjective of the two positions being the most important. He is careful to point out that we are not to directly engage these spiritual powers (pg49) although he does follow in Yoder’s footsteps and sees the Church as confronting the results of their influence. In this, he seeks to connect first, before he explains Ephesians in detail, the story to the modern reader. Do we still face unnamed powers and authorities? He contends yes, and cautions us not to go further than Paul (not to be adventurous, he writes) in confronting these powers but to simply recognize that the supernatural is still at play.

Gombis is low on Christology (although throughout the book, Christ is still Lord and still sent from the Father (p89), at least in content as his vision of Christ is somewhat muted (as it necessarily must be in a book such as this), but what he does for (Protestant) Ecclesiology is powerful (see his section on the Church as Divine Warrior, p157-158). He takes Ephesians and dramatizes it (p19), setting what would normally be a stiff commentary into an easily readable format. Gombis does what others should – he takes his doctoral thesis from his work at St. Andrews and shows that all of that time was not wasted and applies it to practical theology. He novelizes his doctoral work to make it available and useful to the Church at large. In other words, his first concern is for the church of Jesus Christ and her mission in the world. He simply wants to make use of his talents towards that goal. What’s more, is that he sees the Church as the single most important force in the world for God. As he reiterates several times, the Church serves as the source in which Christ liberates the world (p90). His cross was the start of the new age, and the Church is pushing the world towards that goal.

His central thesis, that of the supernatural being a cosmic battlefield, is one not foreign to either the Scripture or to modern biblical studies. We see it in Job, Genesis (especially the first Creation account which is explained further in Job and Psalms), and especially developed during the so-called intertestamental period (which fed Paul’s thought world, p36) where in the supernatural realm was a scene of battles between lower deities. He takes this and applies the divine warfare motif to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (he maintains Pauline authorship) and while not labeling the ‘powers’ notes how Paul instructs the Church to rescue the perishing. In this, a new community is built upon the victory won by Christ who was sent by the Most High God to finally free humanity from the bondage to these powers (p40). It is interesting, then, his take on these powers (who he insists that we simply do not fight against) and how they play into our Church. From the need to have larger than life images of pastors and churches (‘triumphalism, p119) to our (American) notion that we are a religious nation and that the Grace of God can be shed abroad not by the Spirit but by man-made laws (he calls us to resist these cultural challenges and fears, p125, and to give up all control in these issues to God). For him, political systems, financial systems, and even identifiable sociological preconceptions are ‘powers’ in the Pauline sense, and it is these powers which Christ is waging war against through the Church, a church which meets these challenges by being the dramatized community of believers that Paul called it to be.

Gombis has written a book with several facets which highlights the importance – the equal importance to such books as Romans – of Ephesians. There is the commentary feature which takes passages and shows their interconnectedness where he argues against modern thought that Ephesians is not merely a set of theological reflections, but a cohesive book with a central theological goal. Further, there is the running commentary on this commentary wherein he applies his theological exploration to practical theological application. In this, he tackles not only what the powers mean to us today in examples such as poverty and government bureaucracy (as a Government bureaucrat, I found this true) but what the passages in Ephesians teaches us about dealing with those powers. Further, there is the simmering call to be the Church of Jesus Christ as Paul saw it (p113), as Paul preached it, and as Paul lived it (p11). But, what I found the most interesting is that Dr. Gombis was able to transform what to many, most likely, would be a boring doctoral thesis into a readily applicable tool for the Church at large, even if you don’t accept that the ancient world and the modern world interact daily with the ‘powers.’

________

Be sure to check out Brian’s review as well!

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Timothy Gombis on the Church as the Temple

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I admit – I enjoy a good historical drama mixed with a lot of science fiction. While not exactly the same, Gombis is highlighting the idea of cosmic warfare in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He notes that when one god defeated another, the people would set up shop in the national deity’s temple. Paul is using, according to Gombis, the same backdrop in Ephesians.

He writes,

Paul dramatically transforms this notion, however, because it is not that God’s people gather at the temple to celebrate God’s victory in Jesus. The church gathers as the temple of the victorious Christ Jesus…. In this sense, then, the church also functions as a lasting monument to the victory of God in Christ over  the powers. (p104)

Are we really serving as that monument? Do we still have the same authority, the same standard? Do we still have the same mission? Or maybe, are we still carrying out that mission in the manner desired by our glorious victor?

Montonini’s interview with Tim Gombis, author of The Drama of Ephesians

Matthew Montonini has interviewed Tim Gombis, author of The Drama of Ephesians, which is on my list.

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2. Your main goal in this book is to perform ‘a dramatic reading’ of Ephesians (9). Could you explain how this differs from the typical way Ephesians is mined for doctrinal truths in order to produce a coherent theological system?

Christians sometimes fall into the habit of reading the Bible as a resource for something else—something outside of the Bible, like a doctrinal system. So, we see Paul mention justification in Galatians 2 or Romans 3 and we call to mind our doctrine of justification and note mentally that these passages are ones that can be utilized when speaking of that doctrine. Any part of Scripture, then, becomes a collection of bits of data to be taken elsewhere and arranged along with loads of other bits to create something else.

But we seldom imagine that there are narratival and theologically rich trajectories in Scripture, even in Paul’s letters. We need to learn to read “across” the text to determine these trajectories and then immerse ourselves in them to see how the gospel that Paul articulates to churches in Rome or Asia Minor might rebuke, redeem, and transform us. It’s a far more compelling exercise to find ourselves as characters in these gospel narratives, trying on different roles and gaining wisdom for creative Christian action in the world.

Please read the rest of the interview here.

New Testament Perspectives: Tim Gombis: The Drama of Ephesians Interview.

Psalms of Solomon, Psalm 3 – Analysis

Psalm 3 – A Psalm. Pertaining to Salomon. Concerning the Righteous.

A psalm of Solomon; concerning the righteous. Why do you sleep, O my soul, and do not bless the Lord? Sing a new song, to God who is worthy to be praised.
Sing and be wakeful against his awaking, for good is a psalm (sung) to God from a glad heart.
The righteous remember the Lord at all times, with thanksgiving and declaration of the righteousness of the Lord’s judgments
The righteous despise not the chastening of the Lord; his will is always before the Lord.
The righteous stumbles and holds the Lord righteous: he falls and looks out for what God will do to him; he seeks out when his deliverance will come.
The truth of the righteous is from God their deliverer. There lodges not in the house of the righteous sin upon sin.
The righteous continually searches his house, to remove utterly (all) iniquity (done) by him in error.
He makes atonement for (sins of) ignorance by fasting and afflicting his soul, and the Lord counts guiltless every pious man and his house.
The sinner stumbles and curses his life, the day when he was begotten, and his mother’s travail.
He adds sins to sins in his life, the day; he falls — for evil is his fall — and rises no more.
The destruction of the sinner is forever, and he will not be remembered, when the righteous is visited.
This is the portion of sinners forever. But they that fear the Lord will rise to life eternal. And their life (shall be) in the light of the Lord, and will come to an end no more.

The Righteous is introduced in the third psalm and stand in contrast to the sinners. The first verse which speaks of one who sleeps combined with the second verse with the command to awaken finds its parallel in Ephesians 5.14, where Paul quotes (διὸ λέγει· introduces a quote, see Ephesians 4.8 and James 4.6) an unknown source. While the third psalm does not provide an exact quote for Paul, it does hold the same imagery. Along with this is the crowning achievement in later chapters of the Messiah, it is plausible that Paul may have been quoting, at least in part, these verse. Further, the Paul mentions the singing of hymns, psalms and spiritual songs while making a melody from the heart. Again, the same image is found in Psalm 3.1-2;

ἵνα τί ὑπνοῖς ψυχή καὶ οὐκ εὐλογεῖς τὸν κύριον ὕμνον καινὸν ψάλατε τῷ θεῷ τῷ αἰνετῷ

ψάλλε καὶ γρηγόρησον ἐπὶ τὴν γρηγόρησιν αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἀγαθὸς ψαλμὸς τῷ θεῷ ἐξ ἀγαθῆς καρδίας (Pss Sol 3.1-2)

λαλοῦντες ἑαυτοῖς [ἐν] ψαλμοῖς καὶ ὕμνοις καὶ ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς, ᾄδοντες καὶ ψάλλοντες τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν τῷ κυρίῳ, (Ephesians 5.19)

The rest of the Psalm is filled with a comparison between the Righteous and the laborious atonement which occurs while waiting for God and the sinner which, like the impious in the Wisdom of Solomon 2-6, sees nothing after this life. The Psalm finishes with a warning to the sinner who will suffer destruction forever (v11) while the righteous will have everlasting life, a dichotomy which figures heavily in the New Testament.

De Unitate Ecclesiae, pt 4

16. This evil, most faithful brethren, had long ago begun, but now the mischievous destruction of the same evil has increased, and the envenomed plague of heretical perversity and schisms has begun to spring forth and shoot anew; because even thus it must be in the decline of the world, since the Holy Spirit foretells and forewarns us by the apostle, saying, “In the last days,” says he, “perilous times shall come, and men shall be lovers of their own selves, proud, boasters, covetous, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, hating the good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a sort of form of religion, but denying the power thereof. Of this sort are they who creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, which are led away with divers lusts; ever learning, and never coming to the knowledge of the truth. And as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth; but they shall proceed no further, for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, even as theirs also was.” (2nd Timothy 3:1-9) Whatever things were predicted are fulfilled; and as the end of the world is approaching[1], they have come for the probation as well of the men as of the times. Error deceives as the adversary rages more and more; senselessness lifts up, envy inflames, 427 covetousness makes blind, impiety depraves, pride puffs up, discord exasperates, anger hurries headlong.

17. Yet let not the excessive and headlong faithlessness of many move or disturb us, but rather strengthen our faith in the truthfulness which has foretold the matter. As some have become such, because these things were predicted beforehand, so let other brethren beware of matters of a like kind, because these also were predicted beforehand, even as the Lord instructs us, and says, “But take ye heed: behold, I have told you all things.” (Mark 13:23) Avoid, I beseech you, brethren, men of this kind, and drive away from your side and from your ears, as if it were the contagion of death, their mischievous conversation; as it is written, “Hedge thine ears about with thorns, and refuse to hear a wicked tongue.” (Sirach 28:24, Vulgate) And again, “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” (1st Corinthinians 15:33) The Lord teaches and warns us to depart from such. He saith, “They are blind leaders of the blind; and if the blind lead the blind, they shall both fall into the ditch.” (Matthew 15:14) Such a one is to be turned away from and avoided, whosoever he may be, that is separated from the Church. Such a one is perverted and sins, and is condemned of his own self. Does he think that he has Christ, who acts in opposition to Christ’s priests[2], who separates himself from the company of His clergy and people?[3] He bears arms against the Church, he contends against God’s appointment. An enemy of the altar, a rebel against Christ’s sacrifice, for the faith faithless, for religion profane, a disobedient servant, an impious son, a hostile brother, despising the bishops, and forsaking God’s priests, he dares to set up another altar, to make another prayer with unauthorized words, to profane the truth of the Lord’s offering by false sacrifices, and not18 to know that he who strives against the appointment of God, is punished on account of the daring of his temerity by divine visitation.

18. Thus Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who endeavoured to claim to themselves the power of sacrificing in opposition to Moses and Aaron the priest, underwent immediate punishment for their attempts. The earth, breaking its fastenings, gaped open into a deep gulf, and the cleft of the receding ground swallowed up the men standing and living. Nor did the anger of the indignant God strike only those who had been the movers (of the sedition); but two hundred and fifty sharers and associates of that madness besides, who had been mingled with them in that boldness, the fire that went out from the Lord consumed with a hasty revenge; doubtless to admonish and show that whatever those wicked men had endeavoured, in order by human will to overthrow God’s appointment, had been done in opposition to God. Thus also Uzziah the king, – when he bare the censer and violently claimed to himself to sacrifice against God’s law, and when Azariah the priest withstood him, would not be obedient and yield, – was confounded by the divine indignation, and was polluted upon his forehead by the spot of leprosy: he was marked by an offended Lord in that part of his body where they are signed who deserve well of the Lord. And the sons of Aaron, who placed strange fire upon the altar, which the Lord had not commanded, were at once extinguished in the presence of an avenging Lord.

19. These, doubtless, they imitate and follow, who, despising God’s tradition, seek after strange doctrines, and bring in teachings of human appointment[4], whom the Lord rebukes and reproves in His Gospel, saying, “Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” (Mark 7:9) This is a worse crime than that which the lapsed seem to have fallen into, who nevertheless, standing as penitents for their crime, beseech God with full satisfactions. In this case, the Church is sought after and entreated; in that case, the Church is resisted: here it is possible that there has been necessity; there the will is engaged in the wickedness: on the one hand, he who has lapsed has only injured himself; on the other, he who has endeavoured to cause a heresy or a schism has deceived many by drawing them with him[5]. In the former, it is the loss of one soul; in the latter, the risk of many. Certainly the one both understands that he has sinned, and laments and bewails it; the other, puffed up in his heart, and pleasing himself in his very crimes, separates sons from their Mother, entices sheep from their shepherd, disturbs the sacraments of God; and while the lapsed has sinned but once, he sins daily. Finally, the lapsed, who has subsequently attained to martyrdom, may receive the promises of the kingdom; while the other, if he have been slain without the Church, cannot attain to the rewards of the Church.

20. Nor let any one marvel, beloved brethren, that even some of the confessors advance to these lengths, and thence also that some others sin thus wickedly, thus grievously. For neither does confession make a man free from the snares of the devil, nor does it defend a man who is still placed in the world, with a perpetual security from temptations, and dangers, and onsets, and attacks of the world; otherwise we should never see in confessors those subsequent frauds, and 428 fornications, and adulteries, which now with groans and sorrow we witness in some. Whosoever that confessor is, he is not greater, or better, or dearer to God than Solomon, who, although so long as he walked in God’s ways, retained that grace which he had received from the Lord, yet after he forsook the Lord’s way he lost also then Lord’s grace.[6] And therefore it is written, “Hold fast that which thou hast, lest another take thy crown.” (Revelation 3:11) But assuredly the Lord would not threaten that the crown of righteousness might be taken away, were it not that, when righteousness departs, the crown must also depart.


[1] Each generation seems to think itself the last.

[2] It should be noted that Cyprian’s ‘priests’ are not the priest of Rome. The word comes to us form the presbytery.

[3] Cyprian could not see an individual relationship with Christ, but a relation of the individual through the corporate body of Christ.

[4] One has to wonder what Cyprian would have said of the doctrinal development a generation removed from him, as well as the doctrines of today.

[5] Cyprian notes the difference between the ‘backsliders’, or the lapsed, and the apostates. One is due to ineffectual human will, while the other is willed by the human. The writer of Hebrews calls it a willful sin.

[6] Did Solomon ‘make it’? Cyprian seems to point to a feeling, at least among some in the early Church, that the ancient king did not, but fell from Grace with his heresies.

De Unitate Ecclesiae, pt 3

Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage, continues his treatise on Church Unity. For him, love, accord, and unity are needed, prefering on two or three that gather in His name above the many that don’t. His stark language would offend many today, with his callous disregard for those that would lay down their life for the name of Christ but are not part of His Church. He also speaks words that are needed today, when in the age of prosperity preachers, false prophets, and other vile miracle workers, he reminds us that these are due course for the Church, but it is the Church that we must stand in, not miracles.

11. Against people of this kind[1] the Lord cries; from these He restrains and recalls His erring people, saying, “Hearken not unto the words of the false prophets; for the visions of their hearts deceive them. They speak, but not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say to those who cast away the word of God, Ye shall have peace, and every one that walketh after his own will. Every one who walketh in the error of his 425 heart, no evil shall come upon him. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. If they had stood on my foundation (substantia, ὑποστάσει), and had heard my words, and taught my people, I would have turned them from their evil thoughts.” (Jeremiah 23:16-21) Again, the Lord points out and designates these same, saying, “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewed them out broken cisterns which can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) Although there can be no other baptism but one, they think that they can baptize; although they forsake the fountain of life, they promise the grace of living and saving water. Men are not washed among them, but rather are made foul; nor are sins purged away, but are even accumulated. Such a nativity does not generate sons to God, but to the devil. By a falsehood they are born, and they do not receive the promises of truth. Begotten of perfidy, they lose the grace of faith. They cannot attain to the reward of peace, since they have broken the Lord’s peace with the madness of discord[2].

12. Nor let any deceive themselves by a futile interpretation, in respect of the Lord having said, “Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) Corrupters and false interpreters of the Gospel quote the last words, and lay aside the former ones, remembering part, and craftily suppressing part: as they themselves are separated from the Church, so they cut off the substance of one section. For the Lord, when He would urge unanimity and peace upon His disciples, said, “I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth touching anything that ye shall ask, it shall be given you by my Father which is in heaven. For wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them;” (Matthew 18:19-20) [compare John 20:26-29] showing that most is given, not to the multitude, but to the unanimity of those that pray. “If,” He says, “two of you shall agree on earth:” He placed agreement first; He has made the concord of peace a prerequisite; He taught that we should agree firmly and faithfully. But how can he agree with any one who does not agree with the booty of the Church itself, and with the universal brotherhood? How can two or three be assembled together in Christ’s name, who, it is evident, are separated from Christ and from His Gospel? For we have not withdrawn from them, but they from us; and since heresies and schisms have risen subsequently, from their establishment for themselves of diverse places of worship, they have forsaken the Head and Source of the truth. But the Lord speaks concerning His Church, and to those also who are in the Church He speaks, that if they are in agreement, if according to what He commanded and admonished, although only two or three gathered together with unanimity should pray – though they be only two or three – they may obtain from the majesty of God what they ask. “Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, I,” slays He, “am with them;” that is, with the simple and peaceable – with those who fear God and keep God’s commandments. With these, although only two or three, He said that He was, in the same manner as He was with the three youths in the fiery furnace; and because they abode towards God in simplicity, and in unanimity among themselves, He animated them, in the midst of the surrounding flames, with the breath of dew: in the way in which, with the two apostles shut up in prison, because they were simple-minded and of one mind, He Himself was present; He Himself, having loosed the bolts of the dungeon, placed them again in the market-place, that they might declare to the multitude the word which they faithfully preached. When, therefore, in His commandments He lays it down, and says, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them,” He does not divide men from the Church, seeing that He Himself ordained and made the Church; but rebuking the faithless for their discord, and commending peace by His word to the faithful, He shows that He is rather with two or three who pray with one mind, than with a great many who differ, and that more can be obtained by the discordant prayer of a few, than by the discordant supplication of many.

13. Thus, also, when He gave the law of prayer, He added, saying, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25) And He calls back from the altar one who comes to the sacrifice in strife, and bids him first agree with his brother, and then return with peace and offer his gift to God: for God had not respect unto Cain’s offerings; for he could not have God at peace with him, who through envious discord had not peace with his brother. What peace, then, do the enemies of the brethren promise to themselves? What sacrifices do those who are rivals of the priests think that they celebrate? Do they deem that they have Christ with them when they are collected together, who are gathered together outside the Church of Christ?

14. Even if such men were slain in confession of the Name that stain is not even washed away by blood: the inexpiable and grave fault of discord is not even purged by suffering. He cannot be a martyr who is not in the Church; he 426 cannot attain unto the kingdom who forsakes that which shall reign there. Christ gave us peace; He bade us be in agreement, and of one mind. He charged the bonds of love and charity to be kept uncorrupted and inviolate; he cannot show himself a martyr who has not maintained brotherly love. Paul the apostle teaches this, and testifies, saying, “And though I have faith, so that I can remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity is magnanimous; charity is kind; charity envieth not; charity acteth not vainly, is not puffed up, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; loveth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things Charity never falleth.” (1st Corinthians 13:2-5-8) “Charity,” says he, “never faileth.” For she will ever be in the kingdom, she will endure for ever in the unity of a brotherhood linked to herself. Discord cannot attain to the kingdom of heaven; to the rewards of Christ, who said, “This is my commandment that ye love one another even as I have loved you:” (John 15:12) he cannot attain who has violated the love of Christ by faithless dissension. He who has not charity has not God. The word of the blessed Apostle John is: “God,” saith he, “is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God dwelleth in him.” (1st John 4:16) They cannot dwell with God who would not be of one mind in God’s Church. Although they burn, given up to flames and fires, or lay down their lives, thrown to the wild beasts, that will not be the crown of faith, but the punishment of perfidy; nor will it be the glorious ending of religious valour, but the destruction of despair. Such a one may be slain; crowned he cannot be. He professes himself to be a Christian in such a way as the devil often feigns himself to be Christ, as the Lord Himself forewarns us, and says, “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many.” (Mark 13:6) As he is not Christ, although he deceives in respect of the name; so neither can he appear as a Christian who does not abide in the truth of His Gospel and of faith.

15. For both to prophesy and to cast out devils, and to do great acts upon the earth is certainly a sublime and an admirable thing; but one does not attain the kingdom of heaven although he is found in all these things, unless he walks in the observance of the right and just way. The Lord denounces, and says, “Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name have cast out devils, and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22) There is need of righteousness, that one may deserve well of God the Judge; we must obey His precepts and warnings, that our merits may receive their reward. The Lord in His Gospel, when He would direct the way of our hope and faith in a brief summary, said, “The Lord thy God is one God: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. This is the first commandment; land the second is like unto it: Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mark 12:29-31) He taught, at the same time, love and unity by His instruction. He has included all the prophets and the law in two precepts. But what unity does he keep, what love does he maintain or consider, who, savage with the madness of discord, divides the Church, destroys the faith, disturbs the peace, dissipates charity, profanes the sacrament?


[1] The Apostates and Heretics

[2] Cyprian lays out well the argument even against stand alone congregations of the True Church. There cannot be members of the Body who are not part of the Body. If we all baptize the same, and all have the same gospel, the unity of the Church must then be attained.

De Unitate Ecclesiae, pt 2

One has to admire the strength of the early writers who were quick to use strong words, such as adultery as Cyprian uses it of anyone who separates from the Church of Christ.

6. The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous[1]; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress[2], is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. If any one could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church. The Lord warns, saying, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who gathereth not with me scattereth.[3]” (Matthew 12:30) He who breaks the peace and the concord of Christ, does so in opposition to Christ; he who gathereth elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord says, “I and the Father are one;” (John 10:30) and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, “And these three are one[4].” (1st John 5:7) And does any one believe that this unity which thus comes from the divine strength and coheres in celestial sacraments, can be divided in the Church, and can be separated by the parting asunder of opposing wills? He who does not hold this unity does not hold God’s law, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation.

7. This sacrament of unity, this bond of a concord inseparably cohering, is set forth where in the Gospel the coat of the Lord Jesus Christ is not at all divided nor cut, but is received as an entire garment, and is possessed as an uninjured and undivided robe by those who cast lots concerning Christ’s garment, who should rather put on Christ. Holy Scripture speaks, saying, “But of the coat, because it was not sewed, but woven from the top throughout, they said one to another, Let us not rend it, but cast lots whose it shall be.” (John 19:23-24) That coat bore with it a unity that came down from the top, that is, that came from heaven and the Father, which was not to be at all rent by the receiver and the possessor, but without separation we obtain a whole and substantial entireness[5]. He cannot possess the garment of Christ who parts and divides the Church of Christ. On the other hand, again, when at Solomon’s death his kingdom and people were divided, Abijah the prophet, meeting Jeroboam the king in the field, divided his garment into twelve sections, saying, “Take thee ten pieces; for thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and I will give ten sceptres unto thee; and two sceptres shall be unto him for my servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen to place my name there.” (1st Kings 11:31) As the twelve tribes of Israel were divided, the prophet Abijah rent his garment. But because Christ’s people cannot be rent, His robe, woven and united throughout, is not divided by those who possess it; undivided, united, connected, it shows the coherent concord of our people who put on Christ. By the sacrament and sign of His garment, He has declared the unity of the Church.

8. Who, then, is so wicked and faithless, who is so insane with the madness of discord, that either he should believe that the unity of God can be divided, or should dare to rend it – the garment of the Lord – the Church of Christ? He Himself in His Gospel warns us, and teaches, saying, “And there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16) And does any one believe that in 424 one place there can be either many shepherds or many flocks? The Apostle Paul, moreover, urging upon us this same unity, beseeches and exhorts, saving, “I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that ye be joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1st Corinthians 1:10) And again, he says, “Forbearing one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3) Do you think that you can stand and live if you withdraw from the Church, building for yourself other homes and a different dwelling, when it is said to Rahab, in whom was prefigured the Church, “Thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all the house of thy father, thou shalt gather unto thee into thine house; and it shall come to pass, whosoever shall go abroad beyond the door of thine house, his blood shall be upon his own head?” (Joshua 2:19) Also, the sacrament of the passover contains nothing else in the law of the Exodus than that the lamb which is slain in the figure of Christ should be eaten in one house. God speaks, saying, “In one house shall ye eat it; ye shall not send its flesh abroad from the house.” (Exodus 12:46) The flesh of Christ, and the holy of the Lord, cannot be sent abroad, nor is there any other home to believers but the one Church. This home, this household of unanimity, the Holy Spirit designates and points out in the Psalms, saying, “God, who maketh men to dwell with one mind in a house.” (Psalms 68:6) in the house of God, in the Church of Christ, men dwell with one mind, and continue in concord and simplicity:

9. Therefore also the Holy Spirit came as a dove, a simple and joyous creature, not bitter with gall, not cruel in its bite, not violent with the rending of its claws, loving human dwellings, knowing the association of one home; when they have young, bringing forth their young together; when they fly abroad, remaining in their flights by the side of one another, spending their life in mutual intercourse, acknowledging the concord of peace with the kiss of the beak, in all things fulfilling the law of unanimity. This is the simplicity that ought to be known in the Church, this is the charity that ought to be attained, that so the love of the brotherhood may imitate the cloves that their gentleness and meekness may be like the lambs and sheep. What does the fierceness of wolves do in the Christian breast? What the savageness of dogs, and the deadly venom of serpents, and the sanguinary cruelty of wild beasts? We are to be congratulated when such as these are separated from the Church, lest they should lay waste the doves and sheep of Christ with their cruel and envenomed contagion. Bitterness cannot consist and be associated with sweetness, darkness with light, rain with clearness, battle with peace, barrenness with fertility, drought with springs, storm with tranquility. Let none think that the good can depart from the Church. The wind does not carry away the wheat, nor does the hurricane uproot the tree that is based on a solid root. The light straws are tossed about by the tempest, the feeble trees are overthrown by the onset of the whirlwind. The Apostle John execrates and severely assails these, when he says, “They went forth from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, surely they would have continued with us.” (1st John 2:19)

10. Hence heresies not only have frequently been originated, but continue to be so; while the perverted mind has no peace – while a discordant faithlessness does not maintain unity. But the Lord permits and suffers these things to be, while the choice of one’s own liberty remains, so that while the discrimination of truth is testing our hearts and our minds, the sound faith of those that are approved may shine forth with manifest light. The Holy Spirit forewarns and says by the apostle, “It is needful also that there should be heresies that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” (1st Corinthians 11:19) Thus the faithful are approved, thus the perfidious are detected; thus even here, before the day of judgment, the souls of the righteous and of the unrighteous are already divided, and the chaff is separated from the wheat. These are they who of their own accord, without any divine arrangement, set themselves to preside among the daring strangers assembled, who appoint themselves prelates without any law of ordination, who assume to themselves the name of bishop, although no one gives them the episcopate; whom the Holy Spirit points out in the Psalms as sitting in the seat of pestilence, plagues, and spots of the faith, deceiving with serpent’s tongue, and artful in corrupting the truth, vomiting forth deadly poisons from pestilential tongues; whose speech doth creep like a cancer, whose discourse forms a deadly poison in the heart and breast of every one.


[1] Hosea is often used to preach against spiritual adultery.

[2] A heretical sect or false church

[3] It should be remembered by readers, that the translator used the KJV for biblical quotes; Cyprian, nor any of the Church Fathers, actually quoted the King James Version.

[4] This is the earliest reference to the Johannine Comma, which is not found in the Critical Text.

[5] This is pure typology, almost reminiscent of Origen, but more in line, I believe with Tertullian and later, John Chrysostom.

The Goal of Unity – The Apocalypse

I know, the title is a little bit odd, but, I have been toying with this idea for a while and last Sunday morning, we were near the verse in 2nd Peter where it says that we can hasten the Day of the Lord. Now, I have long fought against the idea that we can hasten the Day of the Lord with physical violence, such as destroying the Dome of the Rock and rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, I always thought we played no part in the hastening. I take Vincent’s part, in that we become instruments, not in speeding up the clock, but in completing the works for the Day of the Lord.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV)

Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians is without a doubt one of the single most important letters from the Apostle on the Nature and Unity of the Church. (1.22; 2.19-22; 3.9-10, 14-15; 21, 4.4-16; 5.22-32). In this we find that Paul gives us at once the mystery and the revelation of the New Man, the Body of Christ, and the Bride of Christ, all which is the Church by Jesus Christ. He gives the doctrine of unity among Jew and Gentile, showing that God has bestowed the promises of Israel upon the Church. We may easily learn of the head of the Church and the immediate goal of the Church, but in a small phrase, I find that Paul gives us, at least seemingly a shadow of what the goal of doctrine is – the Unity, or oneness, of the Faith, and in doing so presents the idea of the final consummation of the Church.

It is implied that the offices of the Church will cease when all come into the unity of the Faith and to the knowledge of the Son of God. If these offices cease, then the instruction of doctrine will as well; if instruction cease, then perfection will exist. Perfect is the consummation of the Church at the marriage banquet of the Lord and His bride.

The Apostle Peter, in his second Epistle, tells us

Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 2 Peter 3:11-12 NKJV)

Vincent, for this phrase, says,

I am inclined to adopt, with Alford, Huther, Salmond, and Trench, the transitive meaning, hastening on; i.e., “causing the day of the Lord to come more quickly by helping to fulfil those conditions without which it cannot come; that day being no day inexorably fixed, but one the arrival of which it is free to the church to hasten on by faith and by prayer” (Trench, on “The Authorized Version of the New Testament”).

Let us examine Peter’s intentions in writing this letter.

For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. (2 Peter 1:12-15 NKJV)

‘These things’ does not refer to the attributes of the Christian in v5-7, but the knowledge of v8. By building those things upon our faith, we receive knowledge, and with this knowledge we are not cast into blindness and denied our entrance to heaven.

Doctrine in the Second Epistle from Peter is clearly on the writer’s mind as something that is important to the life of the Christian. In v16, Peter demands that we put away false doctrines, these cunningly devised fables of Man, and instead focuses on one thing -  the Son of God, and the words of not only prophecy, open and public, but the very words of confirmation which Peter, James, and John heard upon the Mount of Transfiguration. Return to Paul and notice that he too echoes Peter when he hearkens to the knowledge of the Son of God. Peter moves then against false prophets and heresies that bring about destruction and disunity. This is not new nor long dead, but something that the Church has experienced from the very first. We fool ourselves if we think that the Church is impervious to false doctrines today. Chapter 2 of 2nd Peter deals not only with these false prophets, but those that leave the Church to go after them. The Apostle tells us that he writes to stir up our minds to the words spoke by the Apostles and the Prophets, the doctrines that dripped from their mouths. He tells us of scoffers and of the reason for delay in the returning of Christ – that all should come to repentance.

Returning to Paul’s view, the offices of the Church are to guide the Church into the perfection of Unity. This is not the perfection of the individual Saint in holiness, but the perfection of Doctrine that we all believe the same thing.

John Chrysostom says,

“To the unity,” saith he, “of the faith.”That is, until we shall be shown to have all one faith: for this is unity of faith, when we all are one, when we shall all alike acknowledge the common bond. Till then thou must labor to this end.

Now when we shall all believe alike then shall there be unity; for that this is what he calls “a perfect man,” is plain. And yet he elsewhere calls us “babes” (1Co 13,11), even when we are of mature age; but he is there looking to another comparison, for there it is in comparison with our future knowledge that he there calls us babes. For having said, “We know in part” (1Co 13,9 13,12), he adds also the word “darkly,” and the like: whereas here he speaks with reference to another thing, with reference to changeableness, as he saith also elsewhere, “But solid food is for full-grown men.” (He 5,14). Do you see then also in what sense he there calls them full-grown? Observe also in what sense he calls men “perfect” here, by the words next added, where he says, “that we may be no longer children.” That we keep, he means to say, that little measure, which we may have received, with all diligence, with firmness and steadfastness. – (Chrysostom on Ephesians)

This does not give itself to the idea of doctrinal development by the Church, but the development of the Church by the Doctrine. Paul saw the life of the Church as maturing to the ‘new man’, not the new child, but an adult, and with Paul seeing that the Church is not the individual saint, but the corporate body of Christ, it becomes apparent that the Church – all the Saints – must believe the same thing. This calls for us to strip away those traditions that have become doctrine, and thereby strip away the walls of separation. We seek the doctrine of the Church, as true unity depends on corporate Faith in, and knowledge of, the Son of God. This is not a mere acknowledgment, but a knowledge through revelatory doctrine. It is not enough to acknowledge that Jesus was the Son of God, or that He was virgin born, but to know Him and His Church by His Doctrine.

It is high time for those leaders in the Church to begin feeding meat, to push for unity, not by lowering standards and erasing essential doctrines, but by coming to the central doctrines of the Church. We must strip away those things, those traditions of men, that have become doctrines which take away from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Peter says that we actually hasten the Day of the Lord; Paul says that these offices of the Church exist until we come to the unity of the Faith. To Hasten that Day, we must strive for a Doctrine common to all and have all common to the Doctrine. In Acts 2, we read that when the Apostles were in one place, in one mind, and in one accord, the Spirit of God descended upon them. We find the end of the Church as the beginning was, requiring that we are all in one place, in one mind, and in one accord.

De Unitate Ecclesiae, pt 1

Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage during some of the most severe persecutions, left the world with a great deal of writings, himself being the most significant of the early Latin writers for Christendom. During and after the persecutions, Cyprian experienced a struggle with Rome, as other both before and after him, did one Roman primacy. Victor I had caused great controversy by assuming greater powers when he excommunicated Polycrates of Ephesus over the Quartodeciman controversy.

I will continue posting on Cyprian’s call for Church unity, as I find the subject intriguing. I believe that the Apostle had the idea that the Church must be united as he wrote Ephesians, and perhaps there is a tingle of apocalyptic thought in his words. I find it of historical interest as well, that Cyprian fought so strongly against Roman primacy while maintaining the position that he had on the Episcopate.

1. Since the Lord warns us, saying, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” (Matthew 5:13) and since He bids us to be simple to harmlessness, and yet with our simplicity to be prudent, what else, beloved brethren, befits us, than to use foresight and watching with an anxious heart, both to perceive and to beware of the wiles of the crafty foe, that we, who have put on Christ the wisdom of God the Father, may not seem to be wanting in wisdom in the matter of providing for our salvation? For it is not persecution alone that is to be feared; nor those things which advance by open attack to overwhelm and cast down the servants of God. Caution is more easy where danger is manifest, and the mind is prepared beforehand for the contest when the adversary avows himself. The enemy is more to be feared and to be guarded against, when he creeps on us secretly; when, deceiving by the appearance of peace, he steals forward by hidden approaches, whence also he has received the name of the Serpent. That is always his subtlety; that is his dark and stealthy artifice for circumventing man. Thus from the very beginning of the world he deceived; and flattering with lying words, he misled inexperienced souls by an incautious credulity. Thus he endeavoured to tempt the Lord Himself: he secretly approached Him, as if he would creep on Him again, and deceive; yet he was understood, and beaten back, and therefore prostrated, because he was recognised and detected.

2. From which an example is given us to avoid the way of the old man, to stand in the footsteps of a conquering Christ, that we may not again be incautiously turned back into the nets of death, but, foreseeing our danger, may possess the immortality that we have received. But how can we possess immortality, unless we keep those commands of Christ whereby death is driven out and overcome, when He Himself warns us, and says, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments?” (Matthew 19:17) And again: “If ye do the things that I command you, henceforth I call you not servants, but friends.” (John 14:15) Finally, these persons He calls strong and stedfast; these He declares to be founded in robust security upon the rock, established with immoveable and unshaken firmness, in opposition to all the tempests and hurricanes of the world. “Whosoever,” says He, “heareth my words, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, that built his house upon a rock: the rain descended, the floods came, the winds blew, and beat upon 422 that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” (Matthew 7:24) We ought therefore to stand fast on His words, to learn and do whatever He both taught and did. But how can a man say that he believes in Christ, who does not do what Christ commanded him to do? Or whence shall he attain to the reward of faith, who will not keep the faith of the commandment? He must of necessity waver and wander, and, caught away by a spirit of error, like dust which is shaken by the wind, be blown about; and he will make no advance in his walk towards salvation, because he does not keep the truth of the way of salvation.

3. But, beloved brethren, not only must we beware of what is open and manifest, but also of what deceives by the craft of subtle fraud. And what can be more crafty, or what more subtle, than for this enemy, detected and cast down by the advent of Christ, after light has come to the nations, and saving rays have shone for the preservation of men, that the deaf might receive the hearing of spiritual grace, the blind might open their eyes to God, the weak might grow strong again with eternal health, the lame might run to the church, the dumb might pray with clear voices and prayers – seeing his idols forsaken, and his lanes and his temples deserted by the numerous concourse of believers – to devise a new fraud, and under the very title of the Christian name to deceive the incautious? He has invented heresies and schisms, whereby he might subvert the faith, might corrupt the truth, might divide the unity.[1] Those whom he cannot keep in the darkness of the old way, he circumvents and deceives by the error of a new way. He snatches men from the Church itself; and while they seem to themselves to have already approached to the light, and to have escaped the night of the world, he pours over them again, in their unconsciousness, new darkness; so that, although they do not stand firm with the Gospel of Christ, and with the observation and law of Christ, they still call themselves Christians, and, walking in darkness, they think that they have the light, while the adversary is flattering and deceiving, who, according to the apostle’s word, transforms himself into an angel of light, and equips his ministers as if they were the ministers of righteousness, who maintain night instead of day, death for salvation, despair under the offer of hope, perfidy under the pretext of faith, antichrist under the name of Christ; so that, while they feign things like the truth, they make void the truth by their subtlety. This happens, beloved brethren, so long as we do not return to the source of truth, as we do not seek the head nor keep the teaching of the heavenly Master.

4. If any one consider and examine these things, there is no need for lengthened discussion and arguments. There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mathew 16:18-19) And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, “Feed my sheep.” And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power[2], and says, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins ye retain, they shall be retained;” (John 20:21) yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity. Which one Church, also, the Holy Spirit in the Song of Songs designated in the person of our Lord, and says, “My dove, my spotless one, is but one. She is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her.” (Song of Songs 6:9) Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church trust that he is in the Church, when moreover the blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same thing, and sets forth the sacrament of unity, saying, “There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God?” (Ephesians 4:4)

5. And this unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the Church, that we may 423 also prove the episcopate itself to be one and undivided[3]. Let no one deceive the brotherhood by a falsehood: let no one corrupt the truth of the faith by perfidious prevarication. The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole. The Church also is one, which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun, but one light; and many branches of a tree, but one strength based in its tenacious root; and since from one spring flow many streams, although the multiplicity seems diffused in the liberality of an overflowing abundance, yet the unity is still preserved in the source. Separate a ray of the sun from its body of light, its unity does not allow a division of light; break a branch from a tree, – when broken, it will not be able to bud; cut off the stream from its fountain, and that which is cut off dries up. Thus also the Church, shone over with the light of the Lord, sheds forth her rays over the whole world, yet it is one light which is everywhere diffused, nor is the unity of the body separated. Her fruitful abundance spreads her branches over the whole world. She broadly expands her rivers, liberally flowing, yet her head is one, her source one; and she is one mother, plentiful in the results of fruitfulness: from her womb we are born, by her milk we are nourished, by her spirit we are animated.


[1] (Schaff) Here note that our author’s entire ignorance of any Centre of Unity, of any one See as the test of communion; in short, of any one bishop as having more of Peter’s authority than others, – is a sufficient disproof of the existence of any such things. Otherwise, how could they have been overlooked in a treatise devoted to the subject of unity, its nature and its criteria? The effort to foist into the text something of the kind, by corruption, demonstrates how entirely unsatisfactory to the Middle-Age theorists and dogmatists is the unadulterated work, which they could not let alone.

[2] Cyprian is known for placing the episcopate on a higher footing that it had enjoyed before, but he was careful to note that the Apostles were equal in authority, so that no one Apostle was above another. This was his argument against the Bishop of Rome, then Stephen, who sought to follow in Victor I’s footsteps in declaring Rome as the center of unity. The center of unity is the Doctrine universal and the Tradition.

[3] Cyprian, many have stated, indicates that he sees the episcopate as one Chair, that of Peter, but that each Bishop holds a piece of it. Cyprian has to be commend, even by those that would not normally do so, for his fight against the encroachment of the papacy. For him, the Bishops were the Church universal, with each existing as a sunbeam from the Chair of Peter. His beam, though, was equal to that of Rome or Alexandria, or Antioch.