Sunday, May 20, 2007

First century christian beliefs and theology

Belief about the eucharist:

Ignatius of Antioch, 110 AD (a direct student of John the apostle, appointed Bishop of Antioch in AD 69):

"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again... Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."
(Epistle to the Smyreans)

Belief about the canon of scripture:

The first century Christians used the Septuagint which has more books than the Jamnian canon which was not agreed by the Jews until AD 90.

Clement did not consider the writings of the apostles to be scripture (see 1 Clement, c AD 70-95) and this seems to have been the standard accepted position.

Belief about baptism:

Did not need to be by full immersion and should be proceeded by fasting.

Didache (50-100AD):

7:1 But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize.
7:2 Having first recited all these things, baptize {in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit} in living (running) water.
7:3 But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water;
7:4 and if thou art not able in cold, then in warm.
7:5 But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
7:6 But before the baptism let him that baptizeth and him that is baptized fast, and any others also who are able;
7:7 and thou shalt order him that is baptized to fast a day or two before.

What we can learn from this is that the modern day "restorationist" movements are not seeking a return to 1st Century practices. If they were then we would not have any New Testament scriptures, as these were collected and defined as scripture in the second century. They would include the Apocrypha as part of the old testament. They would also be preaching a belief in some sort of real presence of Christ in the eucharist (which they are not, normaly being Zwinglian) and they would not be rigidly insisting on baptism by full immersion. The Eucharist would only be presided over by a priest who was appointed by a bishop, not by any elder or deacon.

What the restorationists have is a view of the first century church as some sort of "Camelot". A perfect court where all was chivalry, miracles and earthly perfection, quite unlike the church described in 1st Corinithians or the churches described in Revelation.

In fact, the 1st Century church sounds closer to the Roman Catholic Church of today than the restorationist sects.