Apostasy and Restoration
“Mormonism has no claim to be a viable religion in the present unless it has been a viable religion in the past.”
- Truman Madsen1
The simple fact is that had there been no “apostasy,” or “falling away,” from Christ’s original Church, there would have been no need for God to restore the Church through Joseph Smith. In this chapter we will establish the fact that there was, indeed, such an apostasy and describe its history and some of its effects.2 Finally, we will present evidence that a restoration of the gospel was also predicted in the early Church.
The Apostasy–A History
The Apostasy Foretold
When faced with the LDS belief in a “great” apostasy, many people ask, “If God is omnipotent, how could He let His Church fail and fall away?” We will address this question directly later on, but for now it should be enough to point out that not only did God let it happen–He even predicted it through His prophets and Apostles.
Paul spoke of this apostasy (“falling away”) when he told the elders at Ephesus that “after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30) Thus the Church would be under attack both from without (persecution) and from within (heresy). Indeed, Paul had serious concerns about the Church’s stability when he wrote to Timothy that the saints would turn away from sound doctrine:
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (2 Timothy 4:3-5)
Notice how Paul entreated Timothy to do his duty as an evangelist, but indicated that the Church in general would forsake the faith. In the same letter Paul intimated that “all they which are in Asia be turned away from me” (2 Timothy 1:15)–and Asia Minor was exactly where most of the Christian converts lived.3
Peter also warned the saints that “there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” (2 Peter 2:1-2)
The Apostasy–Rebellion in the Church
What exactly was this “apostasy,” and when was it supposed to happen? According to LDS scholar Kent Jackson, the word apostasy is derived from the Greek word “apostasia,” which means “‘rebellion,’ ‘mutiny,’ ‘revolt,’ or ‘revolution,’ and is used in ancient contexts with reference to uprisings against established authority.”4 Thus, the apostasy was to be a rebellion against God’s established authority on earth.
Latter-day Saints believe that the apostasy was underway even while the Apostles were alive, and that it inevitably completed its course after the last Apostles were gone. While the New Testament does not give many specifics about the timetable of the rebellion in its predictions, it contains a number of clues pointing to the fact that a massive rebellion was taking place in the Church, and that there was not much time left.
The apostasy was to happen before the second coming of Christ. Paul told the Thessalonians not to worry about Christ coming back anytime soon saying, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away [Greek apostasia] first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) This apostasy was already underway. “For already the secret power of wickedness is at work, secret only for the present until the Restrainer disappears from the scene.” (2 Thessalonians 2:7 NEB) Who was the “Restrainer” Paul spoke of? When we remember that Paul told the elders at Ephesus that persecutions would rage and heretics would arise from within the Church after he departed (Acts 20:29-30), it becomes clear that this was a reference to the Apostles themselves.
Such references to an apostasy already underway are to be found throughout the New Testament. For instance, Paul rebuked the Galatians for turning to a perverted form of the gospel:
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another, but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-8)
Paul also warned the Corinthians against “false Apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:13) who preached “another Jesus, whom we have not preached.” (2 Corinthians 11:4) Remember also that Paul told the elders at Ephesus that as soon as he was gone, false teachers would arise out of their ranks and deceive many.
Paul and Peter wrote in the 50′s and 60′s, and evidently they were witness to serious troubles within the Church. However, when we turn to later writings, such as Jude (ca. 80 A. D.) and John (late 90′s), clearly the situation had become critical.
Jude, the brother of Jesus, wrote a general epistle to combat the many false teachers who had crept into the Church:
It was needful for me to . . . exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-4)
The Jerusalem Bible is more specific about the identity of these false teachers. “Certain people have infiltrated among you, and they are the ones you had a warning about, in writing, long ago.” Who warned the saints “in writing” about the infiltration of false teachers? Jude goes on to explain that this warning came from the Apostles, so it stands to reason that this was the apostasy foretold in the earlier New Testament writings. “But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.” (Jude 1:17-18)
“The Last Time”–The Totality of the Predicted Apostasy
Many mainstream Christians will admit that the predicted rebellion did occur at this time. However, they reason that the rebellion did not completely overrun Christ’s Church, and eventually true Christianity triumphed over heresy.5 The passage last quoted from Jude’s epistle brings up an important question with respect to this reasoning. That is, why did Jude refer to his day as “the last time?” John wrote, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” (1 John 2:18) Did Jude and John believe it was “the last time” because Christ was about to come back, or because the Church was filled with antichrists, and would not long survive?
The Apostles were apparently indifferent to the specific time of Christ’s return, as we saw with Paul’s comment to the Thessalonians.6 Peter even told the Church not to worry about the Lord fulfilling his promise to return because, “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8) Therefore, it was not the “last time” because the Lord was about to return (a fact that should be obvious by this time), but because the Antichrist had come and the Church was about to be taken from the earth.
In the last few years before John, the last Apostle, was taken from the Church, he recorded more indications of the rebellion that was about to find its fulfillment. John complained that a certain local leader in the Church, Diotrephes, would not receive John’s letters and turned out “the brethren” from the Church as well as those who would receive them:
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth [them] out of the church. (3 John 9-10)
Finally, John recorded “letters” from the Lord to seven churches in Asia in Revelation 2-3. These churches were obviously meant to represent the Church as a whole.7 The messages in the letters ranged from praise to rebuke, but it is instructive to look at the consequences the Lord promised for the actions of the Church members. In the cases where praise was given, the Lord said, “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) Where rebuke was given the Lord commanded them to “repent . . . or else I will . . . remove thy candlestick out of his place . . . .” (Revelation 2:5) Earlier the Lord had stipulated that “the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20) Therefore, the faithful were promised a crown of life after their martyrdom, and the unfaithful were threatened with the expulsion of their entire churches. Certainly this was a time of crisis for the Church, and it is clear why the Apostles called it the “last time.”8
Several of the Biblical prophecies of the apostasy support the conclusion that God’s authority was to be completely removed from the earth. Amos prophesied that there would be a famine of hearing the word of God:
The time is coming, says the Lord God, when I will send famine on the land, not hunger for bread or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord. Men shall stagger from north to south, they shall range from east to west, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it . . . . (Amos 8:11-12 NEB)
It might be countered that Amos referred to the time of apostasy in Israel between the Old and New Testaments, when we have no further record of any prophets adding their witness to the Bible. However, the New Testament clearly demonstrates that Israel had not undergone a total apostasy, which is clearly what was predicted in this passage. For example, the case of Zacharias shows that the Aaronic priesthood was still operative (see Luke 1), and Jesus’ statement to the Samaritan woman that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22) indicates that their laws and ordinances retained some efficacy. Indeed, Luke referred to Anna as a “prophetess” (Luke 2:36), so clearly the word of the Lord could be found during the intertestamental period, even though it was not generally accepted. Latter-day Saints do not argue that there was absolutely no inspiration or revelation during the period between the apostasy and Restoration, but post-Apostolic Christianity in general does not claim to have had any prophets who could speak the word of the Lord with authority.
Similarly, John saw in vision that a beast, representing an agent of Satan, was allowed to “make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” (Revelation 13:7)
The most specific reference to the totality of the apostasy, however, is in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians. Here Paul noted not only that an apostasy was inevitable, but that the “son of perdition” would sit “as God . . . in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4) It is difficult to imagine how this prophecy was to be fulfilled if the Church was to remain.
The Loss of Apostolic Authority in the Church
As a consequence of the apostasy, the Apostolic authority was taken from the Church. That is, the Church was in rebellion so God took away the Apostles from the earth, and with them, the Apostolic authority. Although Catholics since the second century have been fond of calling their church “Apostolic,” by virtue of having descended from the churches established by the Apostles, we shall see that living Apostles are meant to be part of the true Church of Christ, and a Church cannot be “Apostolic” without Apostles.
Some have espoused the idea that the Apostles were just twelve men whom Christ ordained for a specific mission–and were thus no longer needed after the Church was established in the world. However, it is admitted by some prominent Christian scholars that the Apostles “did not live to see the Church fully organized and at work,”9 and the New Testament record is quite clear that when vacancies occurred in the Twelve they were promptly filled. Matthias was chosen to take the place of Judas, who betrayed Jesus (Acts 1:23-26), and Paul said he had been “called to be an Apostle.” (1 Corinthians 1:1) Barnabas was called an Apostle along with Paul by the writer of Acts (probably Luke), (Acts 14:14) and apparently Jesus’ brother James had become an Apostle, for Paul reported to the Galatians that on a trip to Jerusalem, “other Apostles [besides Peter] saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.” (Galatians 1:19)10 Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus near the end of the second century, reported the tradition that Philip had become “one of the twelve Apostles.”11
Furthermore, Paul insisted that the organization set up by Christ, headed by Apostles and prophets, should remain essentially unchanged:
And he gave some, Apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. (Ephesians 4:11-14)
Has there ever been a time when Christianity or the world in general has been “in the unity of the faith?” Has the Church been perfected? Are not the sects of Christendom “tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine”? Latter-day Saints answer that none of Paul’s conditions have ever been satisfied, and so the Church still needs Apostles and prophets. For “surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) Paul also revealed that the Church is “built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Ephesians 2:20) So what happened to the Church when it lost its foundation?
The Rebellion Continues
The New Testament clearly indicates the need for Apostles to continue in the Church, but certainly there were still those with legitimate authority still around even after the Apostles all left the scene. After all, John’s last recorded communications all contain pleas for the faithful to endure to the end. Those hailing from Catholic traditions claim the Apostolic authority continued with the episcopate, or the brotherhood of bishops whom the Apostles ordained. Some cite the following passage from Clement of Rome’s letter to the Corinthians (ca. A.D. 96) as evidence:
Our Apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate . . . . For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.12
In fact, the Apostles may have approved certain men to succeed the bishops they personally ordained. However, just as the Church turned away from the Apostles, why would they not also rebel against those the Apostles appointed to the ministry? For example, in the passage cited above Clement was actually giving the Corinthians a stern rebuke for rejecting those ministers who had been approved by the Apostles. He continued:
We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties.13
In another passage Clement asked, “Why are there strifes and tumults, and divisions, and schisms, and wars among you?”14 To prove the point that rejection of approved authority was widespread, a few more examples will be provided.
Ignatius of Antioch chastised some of the Magnesian Christians for rebelling against their bishop in the first decade of the second century: “It is fitting, then, not only to be called Christians, but to be so in reality: as some indeed give one the title of bishop, but do all things without him . . . .”15 And there seems to have been some general problem in this area at the time, since Ignatius included exhortations to submit to the authority of the bishops in all but one of his six epistles to various churches.16 Apparently there had been some serious schism even in Ignatius’ own church at Antioch, for he requested that the Smyrnaeans send a delegate to Antioch to “congratulate them that they are [now] at peace, and are restored to their proper greatness, and that their proper constitution has been re-established among them.”17 Indeed, W.H. Wagner notes that Ignatius willingly gave himself up to be martyred as a sacrifice for problems within the whole church. “He prayed not for pagans to stop hounding Christians, but for Christians to stop fighting one another and for them to recover unity and harmony.”18
In one passage Ignatius wrote, “Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria [i.e. his own church at Antioch], which now has God for its shepherd, instead of me. Jesus Christ alone will oversee it . . . .”19 This fits very nicely with the LDS theory that the Church was in the process of shutting down at the time, and the true “succession” was about to end, especially when one remembers that Ignatius insisted that “Apart from [the bishops, deacons, and presbyters], there is no Church.”20 These statements take on even greater significance in light the familiar warning he gave the Ephesians, “The last times are come upon us.”21
The angel in Hermas’s vision invited the Church to heal its schisms, but gave a stern warning if they would not:
Lay aside, therefore, the recollection of your offences and bitternesses, and you will be formed in one spirit. And heal and take away from you those wicked schisms, that if the Lord of the flocks come, He may rejoice concerning you. And He will rejoice, if He find all things sound, and none of you shall perish. But if He find any one of these sheep strayed, woe to the shepherds! And if the shepherds themselves have strayed, what answer will they give Him for their flocks?22
Around the turn of the third century Hippolytus wrote his Apostolic Tradition ”because of that apostasy or error which was recently invented out of ignorance.”23 Who were these apostates? Hippolytus asserted that the “many heresies increased because those who were at the head would not learn the purpose of the Apostles but according to their own pleasure do what they choose and not what is fitting.”24 Whether one accepts Hippolytus’s version of the “Apostolic tradition” or not, it is clear that heresy and schism reached even the highest levels of the Church during this early period.
Hermas and the Final Curtain Call
The final call to repentance was given in the early second century by one of the “Apostolic Fathers.”25 The Pastor of Hermas records a series of revelations, probably given over a period of a few decades in the first half of the second century, to Hermas, brother of Pius, bishop of Rome.26 For centuries it was considered inspired scripture by many Christians, although it did not end up being canonized.27 One aspect of the Pastor that has excited a great deal of heated controversy is the repeated insistence that there would be but one opportunity for repentance of post-baptismal sins.28 Why would Hermas have preached such a harsh doctrine?
The key to interpreting Hermas’s purpose is contained in the first section of his work, the Visions. Here the Church was represented as a tower being built of stone, the stones representing individual Christians. Hermas related:
“And I began to ask her about the times, if the end were yet. But she cried out with a loud voice saying, “Foolish man, do you not see the tower still being built? Whenever therefore the building of the tower has been finished, the end comes. But it will quickly be built up; ask me nothing more.”29
The impending completion of the tower was given as the reason for the urgent call to one more chance for repentance. When asked what was represented by some stones which had been cast away by the builders but left on the ground near the tower, the angel explained that these were Christians who had sinned, but could still become part of the tower if they repented immediately. “For if the building be finished, there will not be more room for any one, but he will be rejected. This privilege, however, will belong only to him who has now been placed near the tower.”30
Here we must ask the same question we asked in relation to the New Testament references to “the last time.” Did Hermas mistakenly believe that Christ was about to return, or that the Church was about to be taken from the earth? Just as with Jude, John, and Ignatius, Hermas gave no indication that the completion of the tower (or Church) coincided with the end of the world. Quite the opposite! “Filled up are the days of repentance to all the saints; but to the heathen, repentance will be possible even to the last day.”31 ”Ye, therefore, who are high in position, seek out the hungry as long as the tower is not yet finished; for after the tower is finished, you will wish to do good, but will find no opportunity.”32
Obviously the wicked world was to continue, but not the Church. What was to take the place of the Church? Of those who delayed their repentance, the angel said:
“Repentance . . . is yet possible, but in this tower they cannot find a suitable place. But in another and much inferior place they will be laid, and that, too, only when they have been tortured and completed the days of their sins. And on this account will they be transferred, because they have partaken of the righteous Word.”33
The tower was built and the Church of that age completed. Another “and much inferior” institution took its place. This was the final curtain call.
Politics and Christianity
It is unclear exactly when all priesthood authority was lost, but the evidence from Hermas suggests sometime in the early to mid-second century. However, some may not have been convinced by the foregoing discussion that the apostasy was to be complete, so what of the claim that the episcopal authority weathered the apostasy and continued in the Church? It can be conclusively shown that even if we grant that Priesthood authority continued beyond the second century, Christianity cut itself off from that authority after it became embroiled in the politics of the Empire in the fourth century.
The Emperor Constantine allied the Roman Empire with Christianity in the early fourth century, and immediately began asserting control over the affairs of the Church. It was he who called the council at Nicea, although he was never a baptized Christian until he was on his deathbed. As evidence for his meddling, consider the Emperor’s relationship with Eusebius, the great Church historian of the fourth century and bishop of Caesarea:
Constantine had called on him to deliver the opening address at Nicea, and six years later, declaring that he was fitted to become bishop of the whole world, he had desired to translate him from Caesarea to the much more important see of Antioch, an offer which Eusebius was humble enough to decline.34
How could the emperor of Rome, who was not even a Christian, have the authority to appoint bishops? Apparently he assumed he had that authority, but obviously it was not authority from God by revelation.
Indeed, after the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., J.N.D. Kelly notes that the “success or failure of a doctrine might hinge upon the favour of the reigning emperor . . . .”35 Thus secular authority intruded into all the central aspects of the Church.
Once the Church had become so inextricably tied to the government of Rome, politics was the driving force in the administration of the Church. Former Anglican Bishop of London, J.W.C. Wand, admits that by the fifth century there was “a much closer association between the Church and the State than is sometimes recognized.” He illustrates his point by showing that a large number of public officials were given the office of bishop, and if a conqueror wanted to remove his rival from contention, he would compel him to become a priest.36 He goes on to state that “the new Christian church was frankly national. The people were converted en bloc; the temples were turned into churches and the pagan priests were ordained into the Christian ministry.”37
Consider the seriousness of the charge–bishops, popes, patriarchs, etc. were at one time or another appointed by worldly rulers in nearly all the catholic and orthodox branches of Christianity. The Apostolic Constitututions, a fourth century collection of Catholic canon law (some of which dates from the first and second centuries) states the following: “If any bishop makes use of the rulers of this world, and by their means obtains to be a bishop of a church, let him be deprived and suspended, and all that communicate with him.”38 Therefore, by the standard of the canon law of early Christianity, the authority of nearly the Catholic and Orthodox branches of Christianity is in question. Every bishop, pope, or patriarch who was appointed by political machinations, as well as all those who submitted to his authority in any way, have cut themselves off from the Church.39
Floundering in the Dark
When discussing this loss of authority, it is instructive to compare the way doctrinal disputes were settled before and after the loss of the apostolate. Consider, for instance, the mandate to carry the gospel to the gentiles. The tenth and eleventh chapters of Acts record that Peter, the senior Apostle, had a vision in which God made it clear that gentiles were to be accepted in the Church and not avoided as “unclean.” When Peter returned to Jerusalem “they that were of the circumcision [Jewish Christians] contended with him, saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and did eat with them.” (Acts 11:2-3) But then Peter rehearsed his vision to them and the matter was settled. “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:18)
Clearly the Apostolic Church had well-defined methods for solving doctrinal disputes and other matters. On the other hand, when the Apostles were lost to the Church, Christianity split into a multitude of factions all of which accused each other of being apostate. The Marcionites, Gnostics, Montanists, Arians, etc., all accused each other and the main church of having rebelled against the Apostolic faith.40 Jean Cardinal Daniélou admits that in the late second century, “the situation, so far as ideas about tradition were concerned, was . . . extremely confused. The word . . . was fashionable enough; but it meant something different to almost everyone who used it.”41
The Catholic Church took to solving its disputes through councils of bishops, but conditions were such that it took decades and sometimes centuries to decide even the most fundamental issues. For instance, it took fourteen ecumenical councils between the years 325 and 381 A.D. to settle the controversy about the doctrine of the Trinity42, and there seems to have been no generally accepted solution to this problem for centuries before.43 Even Athanasius, a leading figure at many of these councils, had grave doubts about the way in which the theological controversies of his age were solved. He asked:
What defect of teaching was there for religious truth in the Catholic Church, that they should enquire concerning faith now, and should prefix this year’s Consulate to their profession of faith? . . . Next, this too was on the mind of myself and my true brethren here, and made us anxious, the impropriety of this great gathering which we saw in progress; for what pressed so much, that the whole world was to be put in confusion, and those who at the time bore the profession of clergy, should run about far and near, seeking how best to learn to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ? Certainly if they were believers already, they would not have been seeking, as though they were not. And to the catechumens [investigators], this was no small scandal; but to the heathen, it was something more than common, and even furnished broad merriment, that Christians, as if waking out of sleep at this time of day, should be enquiring how they were to believe concerning Christ; while their professed clergy, though claiming deference from their flocks, as teachers, were unbelievers on their own shewing, in that they were seeking what they had not.44
Cyril of Jerusalem, who also lived during this period, claimed outright that this state of affairs was the beginnings of the apostasy predicted by Paul:
Thus wrote Paul, and now is the falling away. For men have fallen away from the right faith; and some preach the identity of the Son with the Father, and others dare to say that Christ was brought into being out of nothing. And formerly the heretics were manifest; but now the Church is filled with heretics in disguise. For men have fallen away from the truth, and have itching ears. Is it a plausible discourse? all listen to it gladly. Is it a word of correction? all turn away from it. Most have departed from right words, and rather choose the evil, than desire the good. This therefore is the falling away, and the enemy is soon to be looked for . . . .45
This state of affairs had prevailed since the second century, which is commonly known as the “age of heresy.” “Well into the second century, . . .” as R.M. Grant observes, “there was within Christianity no sharp dividing line between what was orthodox and what was heretical.”46 With the Apostles gone and the papacy not yet established, who was to draw the line between orthodoxy and heresy? No wonder the second century Christian writer Hegesippus could theorize that “the Church remained a ‘pure virgin’ in the Apostles’ day (until the reign of Trajan [A.D. 98-117]) and was then corrupted by heresies.”47
It is perhaps easy to see why the controversies about the nature of God in the fourth century were so troubling to Christianity. However, the atmosphere in the Church of the second century was such that even minor disputes were the cause of great upheavals. For example, in the middle of the century there was a dispute about the day Easter was to be celebrated. R.M. Grant comments on the situation:
To us to-day such questions [as the date Easter is to be celebrated] may not seem important. But to early Christians, especially Asiatics, anything involving the rites which the Lord instituted was an essential matter. Irenaeus has to plead with Victor of Rome not to try to excommunicate whole churches.48
Without the light of revelation, or even any semblance of a central authority49, Christianity floundered in the dark, grasping for any bits of information left from the days of the Apostles. And yet we shall see that in their anxiousness to put these bits together, the early Christians persistently adopted many pagan philosophical ideas in place of older doctrines, and reinterpreted the Christian message in light of them. How different the post-Apostolic period would have been if revelation had not ceased, and there had been even one person who “taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matthew 7:29)
Directions of Apostasy
Up to this point we have concentrated on what happened to the tradition of Christianity, namely the Catholic tradition, which has survived till the present. However, we have seen that in the first centuries after the Apostles Christianity was extraordinarily fragmented, and indeed, the Catholic tradition was only one branch of a larger movement. For the purposes of this study, we will briefly describe three main branches of apostate Christendom–Jewish Christianity, Gnostic Christianity, and Catholic Christianity.
The first forms of the Christian faith can be described as “Jewish Christianity” because, as has often been recognized, their theology “was taking shape in predominantly Judaistic moulds.”50Also, the Jews of the diaspora “provided the initial basis for church growth during the first and early second centuries [and] continued as a significant source of Christian converts until at least as late as the fourth century . . . .”51
In fact, Mormonism has significant ties to this first form of Christianity. W.D. Davies of Duke University observed that “Mormonism is the Jewish-Christian tradition in an American key . . . . What it did was to re-Judaize a Christianity that had been too much Hellenized.”52 So what happened to Jewish Christianity when it was set adrift through apostasy?
The New Testament gives evidence that certain factions within Jewish Christianity rebelled against the authority of the Apostles, and refused to accept the fact that Christ had fulfilled the Law of Moses. As the missionary efforts of the Church moved beyond Palestine, the question came up as to whether Gentile converts should be circumcised and be subject to the Law of Moses. Acts 15 describes a council in Jerusalem where the “Apostles and elders” considered the matter and decided that the converts did not have to keep the ritual requirements of the Law. However, many of those who had originally insisted on the continuity of the Law would not accept this decision, and went around preaching their views to the churches. For instance, Paul complained the Galatians had turned to “another Gospel” (Galatians 1:6), and specifically censured those who desired “to be under the law.” (Galatians 4:21) He further explained, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Galatians 5:14) Paul also dealt with this issue in other letters, such as that to the Romans.
Cardinal Daniélou53 describes a host of Jewish Christian heretical sects, including the Ebionites, Elkesaites, and others. These ranged from strictly Jewish groups who merely believed in Jesus as the greatest of the prophets, to Gnostic speculations that drew heavily on the apocalyptic tradition of Israel for their beliefs. Apart from these were more moderate strains of Jewish Christianity known to us from their apocryphal literature, as well as such writings as Barnabas, the Pastor of Hermas, and miscellaneous traditions scattered throughout the writings of more Hellenized Christians. Gradually, these groups lost their vitality and were melded into the Hellenized congregations.54
It is well known that for a few centuries there existed alongside the Catholic Christian tradition various heretical groups categorized as “Gnostic.”55 This name comes from gnosis, the Greek word for “knowledge.” Hans Jonas explains that Gnostics believed they were saved by knowledge, specifically the knowledge of God, or that knowledge was the form of salvation itself. They believed in a radically transcendent God, however, so this knowledge was not something innate, but something that had to be divinely bestowed on the gnostic.56
While it may be tempting to equate this sentiment to Jesus’ statement: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32) or to Joseph Smith’s that “a man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge,”57 upon further reflection it becomes obvious that the gnostic belief was very different from the original Christian teaching. Knowledge itself cannot save without the atonement of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, in Gnostic circles Christ’s incarnation and atonement were thought to have been illusory, since Gnosticism radicalized the common notion that matter is a lesser reality into the doctrine that matter is evil. (If matter is evil, how could a divine being associate himself with it?) And while true Christians viewed the physical body as necessary, the Gnostics thought of it as a prison into which the pre-existent spirit had fallen and from which it must escape.58 A Manichean Gnostic prayer poignantly made this point: “As I have been born in this terrible, phantasmic house, this castle of death, this poisonous form, the body made of bone . . . .”59
The birth of the Gnostic Christian movement took place during the Apostolic period, but Gnostics probably never became terribly prevalent at that time because the Apostles actively combated this heresy, calling it the “science [gnosis] falsely so called.” (1 Timothy 6:20)60 John condemned these “docetists” (from the Greek dokein = “to seem”) who claimed Jesus only “seemed” to come in the flesh as antichrists. “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist . . . .” (1 John 4:3) But according to Eusebius, Gnostic teachers came out of the woodwork in great profusion after the Apostles were all gone:
But when the sacred college of Apostles had suffered death in various forms, and the generation of those that had been deemed worthy to hear the inspired wisdom with their own ears had passed away, then the league of godless error took its rise as a result of the folly of heretical teachers, who, because none of the Apostles was still living, attempted henceforth, with a bold face, to proclaim, in opposition to the preaching of the truth, the “knowledge [gnosis]which is falsely so-called.”61
Why did the Gnostic teachers become so popular? We shall see in a later discussion of early Christian esoteric rites and doctrines that it is clear the original Church had a true “gnosis,” in contrast to the “knowledge falsely so called.” Perhaps a good portion of the true gnosis was lost when the Apostles left the scene, however, and many in the Church were so hungry for what had been lost that they were willing to accept the hodgepodge of “oriental mythologies, astrological doctrines, Iranian theology, elements of Jewish tradition, . . . Christian salvation-eschatology, [and] Platonic terms and concepts,”62 that the Gnostics had to offer in its place.
That said, there are some significant parallels between Gnostic Christianity and Latter-day Saint beliefs and practices, and since the latter considers Gnosticism just another branch of apostate Christianity, it is legitimate for us to point out some of these as we explore the relationship of the LDS faith with early Christianity. However, we should be careful to note from the outset that in our view none of the various branches of post-Apostolic Christianity had “the fulness of the gospel.” Therefore, it might be misleading to note only the similarities and ignore the differences.
Catholic Christianity grew out of the original Jewish Christianity as the faith moved more and more into a Gentile world saturated by Greek, or “Hellenistic” culture. As Adolf von Harnack observed, this move catalyzed “the greatest transformation which the new religion ever experienced . . . .”63
Christianity in the Greek World
Although the Jews of the diaspora were probably the major source of converts for Christianity well into the second century, especially after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., these Jews had already accommodated Hellenistic culture and thought-forms to a large extent. As Rodney Stark puts it, “the Jews outside Palestine read, wrote, spoke, thought, and worshipped in Greek . . . . Moreover, many Hellenized Jews had embraced some elements of pagan religious thought.”64
However, these “elements of pagan religious thought” were not what one might think. Every age and culture has a set of ideas used to explain the world that practically everyone just assumes to be true, and these ideas may be called the “science” or “common wisdom” of the day. While the Hellenized Jews certainly would not have adopted the pantheons of pagan mythology, which were not taken seriously by the Greek intellectual community either, they did adapt their religion to the “science” of the day, which was an amalgamation of the thought of various Greek philosophical schools, especially the Middle Platonists and the Stoics. Therefore, when Hellenized Jews and Gentiles converted to Christianity, they naturally sought to make sense of their new faith in terms of their cultural assumptions.
At first, Christian thought was quite foreign to Greek philosophy. As Harnack notes, “Yet we cannot say that the earliest Christian writings, let alone the gospel, show, to any considerable extent, the presence of a Greek element.”65 For instance, Paul warned, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) James Shiel of the University of Sussex agrees that “Saint Paul’s letters [contain] a severe warning against Greek philosophy as a dangerous deception”66 Cardinal Daniélou writes that “If we now examine the forms of thought and philosophical systems current at the time when Christianity first made its appearance in the world, it is clear that they were by no means ready to assimilate this Christian conception: on the contrary, they were wholly antagonistic thereto.”67 However, Shiel notes that a few generations after the Apostles, one “comes upon a reversed situation. The religious message is now framed in philosopher’s language, reminiscent at every turn of Heraclitus or Plato or Aristotle or Cleanthes or Epictetus. Indeed, the Christian religion is now occasionally called a philosophy and its founder described as a philosopher.”68
An example of this clash of cultures can be seen in Paul’s attempt to preach to a group of intellectuals at Mars Hill in Athens. (Acts 17:22-32) Although Paul made a serious attempt to create common ground from which he could preach Christ, “when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked . . . .” As will be shown in the next chapter, the very idea that God would come to earth and live as a human being, and then that he would actually want the body back after he was done with it was patently ridiculous to the Greek mind. Therefore, pagan intellectualism was viewed with suspicion by the earliest Christians,69 and it is no coincidence that Paul chastised the Corinthians for doubting the reality of the resurrection in the same letter where he intimated that the gospel was “unto the Greeks foolishness,” and contrasted the wisdom of God with the “wisdom of the world.” (1 Corinthians 15; 1-2.)
The Influx of Greek Philosophy
And yet, it was not possible for the Church to stay completely sheltered from the sphere of Greek culture and thought, for if the gospel was to be preached in the Hellenistic world, it had to be done on Hellenistic terms. Thus, even the Apostles sometimes used Greek terms (e.g. John’s logos) to get across their message, and it was recognized that the “wisdom of the world” contained some kernels of truth.70 By the middle of the second century, however, the situation had changed.71 A class of Christian writers came on the scene which later historians have termed the “Apologists.” These included Aristides, Justin, Tatian, Athenagoras, and others. Intellectuals themselves, they sought to express their faith in intellectually respectable terms, but the net result of their labors was not just to translate Christian ideas into a Hellenistic idiom. Rather, they imported philosophical ideas into their thought that had been anathema to the original Christians.72 One can certainly understand the temptation to make such accommodations, since the Greeks normally saw the Christians as intellectually feeble barbarians, but in the end “the efforts of the apologists succeeded in enabling Christianity to be labeled a third-rate philosophy rather than a first-rate superstition.”73
The position of the Apologists and later second and third-century Catholic writers was an unenviable one. While on the one hand they were trying to convince the pagan world that they had not accepted some unreasonable superstition, on the other, they found it necessary to assuage the fears of more conservative Christians, to whom pagan philosophy was still anathema.74Edwin Hatch of Oxford University summarizes how these writers presented themselves to the pagans:
“We teach the same as the Greeks,” says Justin Martyr, “though we alone are hated for what we teach.” “Some of our number,” says Tertullian, “who are versed in ancient literature, have composed books by means of which it may be clearly seen that we have embraced nothing new or monstrous, nothing in which we have not the support of common and public literature . . . .” “The teachings of Plato,” says Justin Martyr, “are not alien to those of Christ, though not in all respects similar . . . .For all the writers (of antiquity) were able to have a dim vision of realities by means of the indwelling seed of the implanted Word . . . .”75
Hatch also points out the patent hypocrisy of this class of writers:
For Tatian, though he ridicules Greek philosophy and professes to have abandoned it, yet [he] builds up theories of the Logos, of free-will, and of the nature of spirit, out of the elements of current philosophical conceptions. Tertullian, though he asks, “What resemblance is there between a philosopher and a Christian, between a disciple of Greece and a disciple of heaven?” expresses Christian truths in philosophical terms, and argues against his opponents–for example, against Marcion–by methods which might serve as typical examples of the current methods of controversy between philosophical schools. And Hippolytus, though he reproves another Christian writer for listening to Gentile teaching, and so disobeying the injunction, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles,” is himself saturated with philosophical conceptions and philosophical literature.76
Indeed, Harnack calls the influx of Greek thoughtforms into Christianity “the greatest fact in the history of the Church in the second century,” 77 and, once it was thus established, the trend continued through the centuries. Hatch summarizes his study with the following observation:
A large part of what are sometimes called Christian doctrines, and many usages which have prevailed and continue to prevail in the Christian Church, are in reality Greek theories and Greek usages changed in form and colour by the influence of primitive Christianity, but in their essence Greek still.78
In fairness it should be noted that these Christian theologians who imported Greek ideas into their faith were generally not the wolves among the sheep of whom Paul spoke. They were the inheritors rather than the perpetrators of apostasy, and by their time the light of revelation had essentially been extinguished. Indeed, the early Christian Fathers made honest attempts to make sense of their religion in light of the cultural assumptions they had inherited, and in point of fact they did reject many of the doctrines of philosophy as incompatible with the Christian revelation.79 But in the absence of direct divine guidance it was only natural for there to have been some drift from the pure faith.
Philosophy vs. Revelation
The “chronic Hellenization” of Christianity80 culminated with the greatest theologian in Christian history–St. Augustine (b. 354 A.D.) Etienne Gilson, perhaps the greatest twentieth century authority on the middle ages, reports that Augustine was the greatest of a long line of Christian fathers who had “built up theological doctrines in which the fundamental agreement of natural and revealed knowledge was everywhere either stated or pre-supposed.” Augustine was thoroughly converted to the philosophy of Plato as it was reinterpreted by the Neoplatonists. “Consequently, . . . the whole philosophical activity of Saint Augustine had to be a rational interpretation of the Christian Revelation, in terms of platonic philosophy.”81 Even now Augustine’s theology forms the bulk of Catholic doctrine.
Augustine, however, realized that philosophy could only go so far. In one passage he recounted how his mother and he longed to hear the voice of the living God, even if just for a brief moment:
If this could be sustained, and other visions of a far different kind be withdrawn, and this one ravish, and absorb, and envelope its beholder amid these inward joys, so that his life might be eternally like that one moment of knowledge which we now sighed after, were not this “Enter thou into the joy of Thy Lord”? And when shall that be ?82
What a poor substitute for revelation philosophy is. Augustine and the earliest Christians knew it. Unfortunately, the new generation of Christians decided they could throw off the “ignorance” of their forbears–and substitute intellect for spiritual inspiration. Consider the example of Justin Martyr, who continued to wear his philosopher’s cloak even after he became a Christian.83Sadly, he didn’t listen to the old Christian man who was responsible for his conversion: “‘How then,’ he said, ‘should the philosophers judge correctly about God, or speak any truth, when they have no knowledge of Him, having neither seen Him at any time, nor heard Him?’”84
The Effect of the Apostasy
We have seen the causes of the apostasy–rebellion against God’s appointed ministers and accommodation of false doctrines. The effect of the apostasy, on the other hand, was the loss of certain distinguishing marks of the true Church of Christ–namely, the gifts of the Spirit and continuing revelation.
The Loss of Spiritual Gifts
The Necessity of Spiritual Gifts
Mark recorded that the resurrected Christ promised certain gifts and powers to his disciples:
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)
Paul gave a more complete list of these spiritual gifts to the Corinthians:
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues . . . . (1 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Admittedly, Paul indicated that these gifts would one day pass away, but only when they were not needed because “that which is perfect” had come:
But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10)
Have we received perfect knowledge? Have all things been prophesied? Certainly the world still needs prophecy, since the angel indicated to John that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10) Indeed, the Book or Mormon insists that “it is by faith that miracles are wrought; . . . wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.” (Moroni 7:37)
Grasping At Straws
But what happened to the gifts? Few Christians today, besides some Pentecostals and charismatic Evangelicals, as well as the Mormons, claim to have all the gifts of the Spirit. The ancient American prophet Nephi predicted the cry of latter-day religionists when they were presented with the Book of Mormon: “A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.” (2 Nephi 29:3) And, true to this prediction, the most damning charge they brought against Joseph Smith was that he had the temerity to claim a new revelation.
We shall see, on the other hand, that the earliest Christians did not see the gifts of the Spirit as dispensable, even though they could see them being gradually lost. Although Hennecke and Schneemelcher report, “By the end of the 1st century prophecy has lost its original significance . . .,” and show that this gift was considered heretical after the middle of the second century 85, the Christian fathers of the second and early third centuries consistently used the presence of a remnant of the gifts of the spirit in the Church to argue for the Catholic faith against various heretical sects and the Jews. For example, Justin Martyr, in the mid-second century, cited the presence of the prophetic gifts in the Church and their absence in Judaism to argue that the Lord’s favor had been transferred.
For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time. And hence you ought to understand that [the gifts] formerly among your nation have been transferred to us. And just as there were false prophets contemporaneous with your holy prophets, so are there now many false teachers amongst us, of whom our Lord forewarned us to beware . . . .86
In the fourth century Eusebius recorded that Irenaeus of Lyons (late second century) also appealed to the presence of the gifts in the Catholic church against the claims of the heretics. “‘As also we hear that many brethren in the Church possess prophetic gifts . . . .” And Eusebius, in turn, used this evidence to show that even though the church of his day had none of these gifts, at least the succession could be shown to have lasted until nearly the end of the second century.87 Thus, Eusebius wanted to claim spiritual authority for the Catholic Church on the basis of spiritual gifts that had been completely lost for more than a century.88
On the contrary, Irenaeus had earlier claimed that “where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace . . . .”89 (It should also be noted that Irenaeus had only heard of the gifts, but said nothing of actually seeing them, although he was bishop of Lyons.)
Origen, in the early third century, used the same argument against the Jews of his time, but could only point to traces of the gifts:
Therefore we may see, that after the advent of Jesus the Jews were altogether abandoned, and possess now none of what were considered their ancient glories, so that there is no indication of any Divinity abiding amongst them. For they have no longer prophets nor miracles, traces of which to a considerable extent are still found among Christians . . . .90
Commenting on this passage, Roberts and Donaldson reveal that “The Fathers, while they refer to extraordinary divine agency going on in their own day, also with one consent represent miracles as having ceased since the Apostolic era.”91 Thus, it appears that after the passing of the Apostles, the Church gradually lost the gifts of the Spirit, until in the late second and early third centuries, only traces and hints of the Church’s former glory remained.
The Montanist Crisis
Shortly before Origen’s time, the Church faced a crisis of sorts related to the loss of the gifts of the Spirit. In Syria there arose a sect that was strictly orthodox in belief, but claimed to have received the lost gifts of the Spirit. These Christians were led by a man named Montanus and his two female consorts, Priscilla and Maximilla. Apparently these charismatics would go into some sort of trance, uttering various prophecies. According to Apolinarius of Hierapolis, the guiding lights of the Church were quite distressed about this development:
There first, they say, when Gratus was proconsul of Asia, a recent convert, Montanus by name, through his unquenchable desire for leadership, gave the adversary opportunity against him. And he became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning. Some of those who heard his spurious utterances at that time were indignant, and they rebuked him as one that was possessed, and that was under the control of a demon, and was led by a deceitful spirit, and was distracting the multitude; and they forbade him to talk, remembering the distinction drawn by the Lord and his warning to guard watchfully against the coming of false prophets? But others imagining themselves possessed of the Holy Spirit and of a prophetic gift, were elated and not a little puffed up; and forgetting the distinction of the Lord, they challenged the mad and insidious and seducing spirit, and were cheated and deceived by him.92
Note that the churchmen had no genuine gifts to offer in contrast to whatever it was the Montanists had, but they had received instructions from their forebears about how to tell true from false prophecy. Apolinarius wrote that it had been passed down in the Church “that a prophet ought not to speak in ecstasy . . . .”93 Perhaps this statement referred to Paul’s pronouncement that “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” (1 Corinthians 14:32)
But in the next passage Apolinarius unintentionally condemned his Church, as well. Here he lambasted the Montanists because, although they claimed Montanus and his colleagues had received the gifts as part of a prophetic succession from the Apostles, after these “prophets” died they could point to no others of their sect who were thus gifted. But, insisted Apolinarius, the prophetic gifts must continue in the church until the end of the world:
They cannot show that one of the old [Testament] or one of the new [Testament] prophets was thus carried away in spirit. Neither can they boast of Agabus, or Judas, or Silas, or the daughters of Philip, or Ammia in Philadelphia, or Quadratus, or any others not belonging to them . . . . For if after Quadratus and Ammia in Philadelphia, as they assert, the women with Montanus received the prophetic gift, let them show who among them received it from Montanus and the women. For the Apostle thought it necessary that the prophetic gift should continue in all the Church until the final coming. But they cannot show it, though this is the fourteenth year since the death of Maximilla.94
Notice also that the last bona fide example of a prophet he gave was that of Quadratus, who wrote an apology for the Christians during the reign of Hadrian (117-138 A.D.)95
But if the “Apostle thought it necessary” that the “prophetic gift must continue in the whole Church until the final coming,” how does this affect mainline Christian claims to spiritual authority? Tertullian, an important early Christian writer who defected to the Montanist camp, rebuked Catholic officials for claiming Apostolic authority to forgive sins, while having no gifts to back up their claims: “Exhibit therefore even now to me, Apostolic sir, prophetic evidences [or, "Apostolic and prophetic evidences"], that I may recognize your divine virtue, and vindicate to yourself the power of remitting such sins!”96
What was the Church to do? The leaders realized that they should have the prophetic gifts, and those of the Montanists were clearly counter to the rule of the Church, but they had nothing to exhibit in their place.97 It should be noted here that instead of resolving the conflict through revelation, as the Apostolic Church did, the Catholics were forced to hold councils to put down this heresy. Indeed, J.G. Davies reports that the first councils or synods known in Christian history were the result of the Montanist controversy.98
By the fourth century, as we saw with the example of Eusebius, the churchmen still realized that the gifts were essential for any claim to spiritual authority, but contented themselves with tracing the gifts as far as they could in the Catholic tradition and then announcing that they were no longer needed.99
The Closing of the Canon of Scripture
As a result of the Montanist controversy, the Church was forced to face the fact that the gifts were essentially gone. And in order to deal with that fact they were compelled to do an about-face on the issue of the canon of scripture.
As was mentioned above, modern Christians are adamant that they have a Bible and there can be no more Bible. But was this always the case? Bishop Wand discloses that the canon was not closed by divine decree, but out of the necessity to combat the Montanist heresy. “The best defence set up by the Church against such conversions [as Tertullian's] was to close the canon of scripture, and by so doing to deny any authority to the Montanist prophecies.” In this way “the possibility of a new revelation was excluded . . . .”100
But it never occurred to anyone to close the canon until nearly the third century! Historian Willem Van Unnik notes that until that time the Christians would have had no objection whatever to “someone . . . add[ing] something to the word of the Gospel.”101 The very existence of a document such as the Shepherd of Hermas shows that the possibility of a new word of revelation was nothing to be wondered at. The Shepherd, which purports to be a series of revelations given to one other than the Apostles or their associates in the first half of the second century, hovered on the edge of the canon for centuries.102 Indeed, included in the Shepherd is a series of mandates which Hermas was commanded to write for the benefit of all who might read them.103
Andrie B. du Toit, Professor of New Testament at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, explains that before the middle of the second century the “oral tradition was used alongside and even preferred to the Gospels.”104 Even in the latter half of the second century, Clement of Alexandria could report that “the first elders . . . preferred to speak the truth rather than write it down.”105 Therefore, while there was always a set of authoritative texts, the idea that the canon was forever fixed, or that the prophetic word was only to be found in a certain set of written works, was foreign to the first Christians.
Mainstream Christians, especially Protestants, often counter Mormon arguments on this point by citing a statement near the end of John’s Revelation:
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)
Since Revelation is placed last in the New Testament, many assume that this is an official proclamation that the canon was to be closed. However, apart from the fact that Revelation may not have been the last New Testament book written by John, it should be pointed out that the New Testament canon was not even established at that time. It would be centuries before a final list of canonical books was agreed upon. Another fact that must be taken into account is that the Lord made an identical proclamation through Moses: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2) Were all the prophetic books written after the Law of Moses false? Jesus took away certain commandments of the Law, so was he just another false prophet? The answer, of course is that Jesus was God, and God can add or take away whatever He wants from His word. True prophets and Apostles speak for God, so their writings can be added to God’s word, as well.
Why did God include these warnings about tampering with His scriptures and commandments? Evidently the Jews of Jesus’ time had added many of their own commandments to the Law of Moses, and in the next section we shall see that God had ample reason for including a warning not to tamper with His holy scriptures, for such tampering was almost standard procedure in ancient times.
Not only did the Church close the door on any further revelation when they closed the canon, but they excluded certain writings that earlier generations of Christians had considered inspired–e.g. certain “apocryphal” writings. For instance, J.N.D. Kelly notes that during the first two centuries Christianity treated the apocrypha now contained in Catholic Bibles as scripture without question.106
And even when it was agreed upon that the canon should be fixed, there was great disagreement over which books should be included or excluded. Kelly calls the final fixation of the canon a very gradual process, and notes that even when its broad outline was agreed upon in the second century, churches in different localities still maintained different canonical traditions. In addition, some localities were less inclined to a fixed set of books than others. 107 The final list of canonical books was not agreed upon until the fourth century108, and even today the various Christian traditions have some differences in their canons.109
Editing the Scriptures
Aside from the differences of opinion about which books should be canonical, it appears that certain parts of the canonical books have been removed by Jews and Christians alike! Justin Martyr accused the Jews of having removed certain passages from the Old Testament related to the Christian message:
Here Trypho [the Jew] remarked, “We ask you first of all to tell us some of the Scriptures which you allege have been completely cancelled.” [Justin quotes some passages which the Jews evidently removed from Esdras and Jeremiah.] “And again, from the sayings of the same Jeremiah these have been cut out: ‘The Lord God remembered His dead people of Israel who lay in the graves; and He descended to preach to them His own salvation.’”110
We will deal with this doctrine of Christ’s preaching to the dead in a later chapter, but for now it is sufficient to note that Justin claimed some of the Biblical manuscripts in his time still had these verses in them. But where are they now?
Henri Daniel-Rops quotes Origen saying that even the New Testament texts of his time (early third century) had been corrupted extensively: “Today the fact is evident, that there are many differences in the manuscripts, either through the negligence of certain copyists, or the perverse audacity of some in correcting the text.”111 Harnack reminds us that the question of the canon was complicated by the fact that “there were often different recensions of one and the same writing.”112
Sadly, this habit of “correcting the text” seems to have been quite common in antiquity. For instance, commenting on a passage by Clement of Alexandria preserved in the writings of a later church father, Cassiodorus, Roberts and Donaldson reveal that “Cassiodorus says that he had in his translation corrected what he considered erroneous in the original.”113 And Bishop Dionysius of Corinth (110-180 A.D.) complained that “the devil’s Apostles” had not only tampered with the scriptures, but his own writings: “It is, therefore, not to be wondered at if some have attempted to adulterate the Lord’s writings also, since they have formed designs even against writings which are of less accounts.”114
In a recent study of the New Testament variants, Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina shows that many of them were created by scribes in the second and third centuries for theological reasons. That is, these scribes lived in an age when the proto-Catholic Church had not even achieved an absolute majority within Christianity, and its ideas of how various passages in the New Testament writings should be interpreted were challenged on all sides. Therefore, scribes often rewrote passages of the scriptures to make them conform more easily to their interpretations, and exclude those of the “heretics.” This was not necessarily done in bad faith–the scribes merely rewrote passages according to what they already “knew” they meant. 115Under these conditions, it was inevitable that significant corruptions would creep into the text.
Interpretation of Prophecy Without Prophets?
Clearly the loss of the prophetic gifts was the source of great upheaval in the Church–and just picking a set of books as scripture and relying on them did not solve the problem, for the earliest Christians insisted that one cannot interpret the words of the prophets without the aid of prophecy itself. Peter warned the Church that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20) But who is to interpret it? One modern Roman Catholic author, Marie Joseph Le Guillou, admits that the post-Apostolic Church did not have the gift of inspiration, but still had the gift to correctly interpret scripture: “The Church of the Fathers did not have the charism of inspiration, but it did have the charism of interpretation of Christ’s mind . . . .”116
On the other hand, according to the earliest Christians there were many truths hidden in the text of the scriptures that could not be removed without the aid of a prophet or the gift of prophecy. In the Clementine Recognitions Peter told Clement of Rome: “For otherwise it is impossible to get knowledge of divine and eternal things, unless one learns of that true Prophet . . . .”117 In a later passage Peter went on to say that a seeker should not only examine the credentials of a prophet and seek truth by the exercise of reason, “but that they should ask it, not from themselves, but from Him who has hidden it, and should pray that access and the way of knowledge might be given to them . . . .” 118 As Jesus told Peter, “flesh and blood hath not revealed [that I am the Christ] to thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17)
Indeed, Ignatius of Antioch rebuked those who naively assumed that if any truth was to be had they could just read it out of the scriptures:
For I have heard some saying, ‘If I do not find the Gospel in the archives [i.e. the Old Testament], I will not believe it.’ To such persons I say that my archives are Jesus Christ, to disobey whom is manifest destruction. My authentic archives are His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which bears on these things, by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified. He who disbelieves the Gospel disbelieves everything along with it. For the archives ought not to be preferred to the Spirit.119
And Papias, who heard John preach, said he tried to gather together all the oral teachings of the inspired men because they could not be found in books:
If, then, anyone who had attended on the elders came, I asked minutely after their sayings,–what Andrew or Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the Lord’s disciples: which things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I imagined that what was to be got from books was not so profitable to me as what came from the living and abiding voice.120
Irenaeus, living at a time when there were few, if any, prophets still around, insisted that one could not interpret the Scriptures correctly without the aid of the elders who had passed down the unwritten tradition from the Apostles: “And then shall every word also seem consistent to him, if he . . . diligently read the Scriptures in company with those who are presbyters in the Church, among whom is the Apostolic doctrine . . . .”121
So we see that prophets and prophecy are indispensable–and yet both were dispensed with. As Justin Martyr told Trypho the Jew:
For neither by nature nor by human conception is it possible for men to know things so great and divine, but by the gift which then descended from above upon the holy men, who had no need of rhetorical art, nor of uttering anything in a contentious or quarrelsome manner . . . .122
But as we have seen, even as Justin spoke those words the Church was changing in such a way that men were indeed left to try to know divine things through “human conception.”
The Necessity of a Restoration
Unless one considers the substitution of Greek philosophical methods for revelation a good thing–and some people do123–it must be admitted that an apostasy did, indeed, take place just as early Christian leaders had warned it would. After all, Paul did say that the gospel as it was originally preached was “unto the Greeks foolishness.” (1 Corinthians 1:23) Over time, as sacred principles became mingled with the “foolishness” of Greek philosophy, pure, unadulterated gospel truth was lost. And, as a result, a restoration of the gospel was necessary–a restoration that could have only taken place through the agency of prophets. We shall explore several avenues of evidence for this fact.
The Restitution of “All Things”
While speaking to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, Peter predicted that the heavens must receive Jesus “until the times of restitution of all things.” (Acts 3:20-21) Was this merely a reference to the Millennial reign of Christ, or was it an oblique reference to the fact that the gospel would have to be restored in preparation for that reign? Peter gives us a clue in his first general letter where he announced that “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7); later he warned the saints of the “fiery trial” which was coming to them, for “judgment must begin at the house of God.” (1 Peter 4:12, 17) “All things” was here a reference to the pure gospel teaching. “According to his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Peter 1:3, italics mine) Therefore, unless Peter was greatly mistaken about the timing of the Lord’s second advent–and Peter’s second letter makes it clear that he had no such starry-eyed expectations (see 2 Peter 3:8)–what was the “end of all things” but the loss of the pure gospel message through apostasy? And what could a “restitution of all things” be but the restoration of the gospel?
Elias and the “Restoration of All Things”
This point is supported by the Latter-day Saint and early Christian doctrine of Elias. “Elias” is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Elijah.” In the last verses of the Old Testament the promise is made: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord . . . .” (Malachi 4:5) After Elijah himself appeared before Jesus, Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus told his disciples to tell no one of the vision until after His resurrection from the dead. But then the Apostles asked:
Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.” (Matthew 17:3-13)
What did Jesus mean when He said that John the Baptist was Elias, even though Elijah and Moses had just appeared? The angel Gabriel told John’s father that he would “go before him [Christ] in the spirit and power of Elias . . . .” (Luke 1:17) Therefore, it must be that certain people who are called of God to be forerunners of the Kingdom, as John was, act in the “spirit and power of Elias.”
This principle must apply to other prophets as well as John, for Jesus not only said that “Elias has come already,” but also that “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.” Thus, a restoration would still be needed in the future, just as Latter-day Saints have proclaimed. Noting the many persons the revelations of Joseph Smith identify as “Elias,” modern Apostle Bruce R. McConkie summarized the LDS doctrine: “Elias is a composite personage. The expression must be understood to be a name and a title for those whose mission it was to commit keys and powers to men in this final dispensation.”124 And as with the Lord’s first advent, Latter-day Saints believe that Elijah himself was one of the heavenly visitors who appeared to Joseph Smith (as well as Oliver Cowdery) to restore the original “keys and powers.” (See D&C 110)
Although one might argue that Joseph Smith could have extracted this doctrine from the Bible, but the fact that no other group has developed a similar dogma would seem not to support such a conclusion. Here again, Joseph struck upon a prominent doctrine of the early Church that had been lost. For example, Hippolytus (ca. 200 A.D.) indicated that various forerunners would appear to prepare the way for the second advent of the Savior:
[The Savior] is to be manifested again at the end of the world as Judge. It is a matter of course that His forerunners must appear first, as He says by Malachi and the angel, [Malachi 4:5-6]. These, then, shall come and proclaim the manifestation of Christ that is to be from heaven; and they shall also perform signs and wonders, in order that men may be put to shame and turned to repentance for their surpassing wickedness and impiety. 125
Justin Martyr explained the doctrine of Elias in similar terms to Trypho the Jew, asking, “shall we not suppose that the word of God has proclaimed that Elijah shall be the precursor of the great and terrible day, that is, of His second advent? . . .” 126 According to John Chrysostom, John was to be the forerunner of Christ’s First Advent, and Elias would be the forerunner of the Second: “John is Elias, and Elias John. For both of them received one ministry, and both of them became forerunners.”127 Similarly, Victorinus, Methodius, Cyprian, Lactantius, Jerome, Augustine, and Theophylact all expressed the belief that Elijah would come to “restore all things” before the Second Coming of the Lord.128
Therefore, it is safe to say that the early Christians had a certain belief that the way would be paved for the Lord’s Second Advent through the agency of various prophetic forerunners, including Elijah the prophet, who the Savior said would come and “restore all things.” And it is also safe to say that Joseph Smith preached a very similar doctrine. What is more important, this belief of the early Church, combined with the evidence for the apostasy, underscores the fact that a restoration of the gospel was necessary and expected.
The Angel of the Restoration
Of what was the restoration to consist? Joseph Smith promised not only to restore all the knowledge and powers of past dispensations, but also “things that have not been before revealed.”129 A striking confirmation of this interpretation comes from an early Christian exegesis of Revelation 14:6. In this verse John spoke of an angel who was to appear before the second coming of Christ, “having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” Traditionally, Latter-day Saints have interpreted this as a reference to the restoration of the gospel, which was accomplished through the agency of various angels. Similarly, the third-century theologian, Origen, interpreted the verse as a reference to the preaching of a gospel that was even greater than the one had by the Christianity of his day. More than a century after Origen wrote, Jerome gave this summary of Origen’s teaching, which was condemned by the Church of his time:
[Origen says] that according to the apocalypse of John “the everlasting gospel” which shall be revealed in heaven as much surpasses our gospel as Christ’s preaching does the sacraments of the ancient law . . . .130
Referring to the same passage, Origen remarked that the gospel would be preached to the world for those who had fallen away. ”For at the end an exalted and flying angel, having the Gospel, will preach it to every nation, for the good Father has not entirely deserted those who have fallen away from Him.”131 Origen did not make clear whether he was referring to a total apostasy from Christ’s Church. The restoration of the gospel was not only necessary and expected, but Joseph Smith correctly promised an expansion of the principles formerly revealed.
Note 1: Upon This Rock . . .
The Gates of Hades
Unwilling to accept the possibility that a total apostasy occurred, mainline Christians often counter that Christ told Peter “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) To interpret this passage we must first define terms.
What is “the Church” (Greek ekklesia = “assembly”) that Jesus spoke of? The mainline interpretation suggests it was “the Church” in its manifestation as an earthly organization. However, in a broader sense, “the Church” is much more inclusive. Two of the earliest post-New Testament Christian writings, The Pastor of Hermas and 2 Clement (both early second century) claimed that God created the Church even before he created the world. “She was created first of all . . . and for her sake was the world made.”132 ”Moreover, the books and the Apostles declare that the Church belongs not to the present, but existed from the beginning.”133 Paul wrote, “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” (Ephesians 1:3) The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews went on: “But we are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and in an innumerable company of angels. To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” (Hebrews 12:22-23) The message here is clear. “The Church” is not just an earthly organization–it existed before the foundation of the world, and it exists with the saints of all ages, both those who are on the earth and those who have passed on. Therefore, even if the Church as an earthly organization disappears and reappears periodically, the Church will always survive!
But is there any reason to believe Jesus was speaking primarily of the earthly Church? On the contrary, the text says that “the gates of hell [Greek hades = "the world of the dead"] shall not prevail against it.” What are “the gates of “? Hades is not hell–it is the underworld, and in early Christian and Jewish thought it was believed to be a place of waiting where the spirits of the dead, both the just and unjust, remained until the resurrection. (If Jesus had been speaking in Roman Catholic terms he might have said, “the gates of Purgatory shall not prevail against it.”) Thus Tertullian (ca. 200 A.D.): “All souls, therefore; are shut up within Hades: do you admit this? (It is true, whether) you say yes or no . . . .”134 The “gates of hades,” then, represent the “powers of death”135, and “the sting of death is sin.” (1 Corinthians 15:56) Thus the text seems to be a promise of protection from the powers of death and sin for Christ’s assembly (ekklesia) of believers. For this reason Michael M. Winter, former lecturer in Fundamental Theology at St. John’s Seminary (Roman Catholic), in his excellent scholarly defense of the papacy, admits that “although some writers have applied the idea of immortality to the survival of the church, it seems preferable to see it as a promise of triumph over evil.”136
Furthermore, there are numerous allusions in the early Christian literature to Christ, when he died and went to hades, breaking down the gates of Hades and leading out the faithful to glorious resurrection. For instance, Athanasius related the following tradition: “He burst open the gates of brass, He broke through the bolts of iron, and He took the souls which were in Amente [the Coptic equivalent of Hades] and carried them to His Father . . . . Now the souls He brought out of Amente, but the bodies He raised up on the earth . . . .”137 Therefore it is clear what Jesus was talking about when he said “the gates of hades” would not prevail against the Church, and to apply this statement to the perpetuation of the earthly Church would make no sense.138
There are a few other passages in the New Testament which some interpret to mean that there could never be a total apostasy. For example, some Bible translations have Jude referring to “the faith which God entrusted to his people once and for all.” (Jude 1:3 NEB) “Once and for all” certainly has a ring of finality about it, but a quick look in the lexicon reveals that the Greek word translated as “once and for all,” hapax, can also be rendered as “once,” and other translations such as the KJV speak only of the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Indeed, two verses later Jude wrote, “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once (hapax) knew this . . . .” (Jude 1:5) Clearly it is preferable to translate hapax as “once” in this case, and thus it is also clear that Jude was warning the saints to cling desperately to the faith that had once been delivered to them, but which was already being forgotten. Also, we will see in a later discussion of the doctrine of dispensations that the idea of the faith being delivered “once for all” would have made absolutely no sense in the context of early Christian salvation history.
Another passage marshaled in defense of mainline Christian claims is Galatians 1:8: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” Did this mean that no more revelations of truth were to be expected, or does it just mean that “revelations” which contradicted the fundamentals the Apostles had laid out were to be rejected as spurious? Our discussion of the closing of the canon in this chapter should make clear that the second option is much more plausible.
A Witness to the Wickedness of the World
Why did God allow his Church to be subverted by “another Gospel” (that of the Greek philosophers)? Certainly it cannot be denied that God allows humans free will. Thus, when Christians chose to “turn away from the truth, and be turned to fables,” God allowed them to reject His Church.
Why did Christ set up a Church in the first place if its light was to be so quickly extinguished? Christ said repeatedly of Himself that he would suffer and be killed, not only to save repentant sinners, but to condemn the wicked generation into which He was born. “But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.” (Luke 17:25) And his disciples were not to be immune:
I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. (Matthew 23:34-35)
It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? (Matthew 10:25)
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Mark 13:13)
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you . . . . If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you . . . . (John 15:18-20)
They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. (John 16:2)
What a dismal picture! The disciples were not only sent out into the world to preach the Kingdom of God, but to give themselves up as martyrs for the faith. The word martyr, of course, comes from the Greek word for “witness”–and that is exactly what Jesus’ disciples were. They were martyred as witnesses to the truthfulness of the message and the wickedness of the world.
Note 2: Monasticism–Replacing the Spiritual Gifts
What replaced the spiritual gifts? We have seen that, in large part, the light of revelation was replaced by the philosophies of men. However, another movement, known as “monasticism” was born out of the effort to reclaim the lost gifts. In Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism today, there are thousands of ascetic monks and nuns who separate themselves from the world to live apart, seeking union with God. This lifestyle is held out as the ideal of human life, and many devout seekers are attracted to the movement.139
How did this ascetic movement get started? No mention of such a thing is made in the New Testament140, although the roots of Christian monasticism can be traced back to the second century, when Christianity was rapidly incorporating pagan culture and belief.141 It never really took hold in the Church142, however, until the persecutions had ended and Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the state in the fourth century.143 In this atmosphere, a great number of “lukewarm” Christians were attracted to the Church, and many were disturbed at the course the Church was taking.144 As J.G. Davies says, “The desert fathers indeed fled not so much from the world as from the Church.”145
What were these desert fathers seeking? It was not just seclusion from worldliness they sought, but the development of techniques that would produce the lost gifts. Even today in the Eastern Orthodox Church, monks and nuns “are often called the prophets of the New Covenant and the forerunners of the Kingdom to come.”146 One modern champion of the monastic way, Robin Amis, compares this discipline with Zen or Raja Yoga and explains that the gifts of the spirit are produced by following certain psycho-spiritual techniques:
The inner tradition is a Christian equivalent of Zen or Raja Yoga . . . . In its full form, the psychological method to which I refer represents what was known in the early church as the Royal Road. This name was once given to certain therapeutic psychological and psycho-spiritual techniques developed by Christians who followed Christ’s narrow way. The Royal Road was a science based on the gospel teaching about the cure of the soul–by curing the nous [Greek "mind"], sometimes known as the eye of the soul. This leads to what was then known as the illumination of the nous, and so develops the hidden potential or talents of the individual, once described by Saint Paul as the Gifts of the Spirit.147
In contrast, the Didache warned that a true prophet will not teach others to prophesy, etc., by following any “psycho-spiritual technique”–it is a gift of God! “And every prophet, proved true, working unto the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself doeth, shall not be judged among you, for with God he hath his judgment; for so did also the ancient prophets.”148 In addition, the author of Barnabas warned the Church not to go live apart from the world: “Do not, by retiring apart, live a solitary life, as if you were already [fully] justified; but coming together in one place, make common inquiry concerning what tends to your general welfare.”149 Indeed, the acceptance of monasticism by the Church in general was a very gradual process, and even as late as ca. A.D. 360 a converted pagan is reported to have asked: “Explain to me now what is the congregation or sect of monks, and why it is an object of aversion, even amongst our own people?”150 Robert Markus calls the ascetic takeover of the Church “the end of ancient Christianity.”151
1 Truman G. Madsen, ed., Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1978), xvi.
2 For more complete reviews of the evidence for an apostasy, see Kent P. Jackson, “‘Watch and Remember’: The New Testament and the Great Apostasy,” in John M. Lundquist and Steven D. Ricks, eds., By Study and Also By Faith, vol. 1 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and F.A.R.M.S., 1990), 81-117; Hugh W. Nibley, “The Passing of the Primitive Church: Forty Variations on an Unpopular Theme,” in Mormonism and Early Christianity (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and F.A.R.M.S., 1987), 168-208.
3 John G. Davies, The Early Christian Church (New York: Anchor Books, 1965), 86.
4 Kent P. Jackson, From Apostasy to Restoration (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996), 9.
5 See Chapter Note 1 for a refutation of this line of reasoning.
6 One might object that Paul implied the belief that some in his generation would remain living until Christ’s return in 1 Thess. 4:15, but if Paul gave that impression in his first letter to the Thessalonians, he corrected this misconception within a year or two when he wrote his second letter. 2 Thess. 2:1-3 reads, “Now we beseech you . . . That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled . . . as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first . . . .”
7 Richard D. Draper, Opening the Seven Seals: The Visions of John the Revelator (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991), 37.
8 Certain of the earliest non-canonical Christian writings also testified of the coming apostasy. The Didache (Greek “teaching”-short for “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,”) which was probably written in the first century, recorded:
For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for when lawlessness increaseth, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, and then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Didache 16, in ANF 7:382.
In an early second-century apocryphal document, the Epistle of the Apostles, the resurrected Jesus told his apostles:
There shall come forth another doctrine, and a confusion, and because they shall strive after their own advancement, they shall bring forth an unprofitable doctrine. And therein shall be a deadly corruption (of uncleanness,) and they shall teach it, and shall turn away them that believe on me from my commandments and cut them off from eternal life. Epistle of the Apostles 50, in ANT, 503.
9 Robert M. Grant, Second Century Christianity (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1946), 9.
10 ”With the apostles James the brother of the Lord received the succession in the church.” Hegesippus, quoted in Grant, Second-Century Christianity, 58.
11 Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus, in Grant, Second-Century Christianity, 82.
12 1 Clement 44, in ANF 1:17, brackets in original.
13 1 Clement 44, in ANF 1:17. Notice that Clement indicated the bishops were chosen by the apostles, or “other eminent men.” So perhaps even after the apostles disappeared there were some men left over who had general, rather than merely local, authority in the Church, such as Jesus’ seventy disciples. (See Luke 10:1) In any case, there is no indication of any provision for the people themselves to choose a bishop, or for other bishops to ordain them, as later became the custom.
14 1 Clement 46, in ANF 1:17.
15 Ignatius, Magnesians 4, in ANF 1:61.
16 See Ignatius, Trallians 7, in ANF 1:68-69; Ephesians 2, in ANF 1:50., Magnesians 6-7, Philadelphians 3, and Smyrnaeans 8.
17 Ignatius, Smyrnaeans 11, in ANF 1:91, brackets in original.
18 Walter H. Wagner, After the Apostles: Christianity in the Second Century (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994), 142.
19 Ignatius, Romans 9, in ANF 1:77.
20 Ignatius, Trallians 3, in ANF 1:67.
21 Ignatius, Ephesians 11, in ANF 1:54.
22 Pastor of Hermas, Sim. 9:31, in ANF 2:53-54.
23 Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition 1:4, edited by Gregory Dix and Henry Chadwick (Ridgefield, CT: Morehouse Publishing, 1991), 2.
24 Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition 38:4, p. 72.
25 The Apostolic Fathers were Christian writers from the generation just after the apostles.
26 Johannes Quasten, Patrology, 4 vols., (Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, Inc., 1983-1986), 1:92-93.
27 ECD 60. A number of prominent early Christian writers, including Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen quoted the Pastor as one of the books of Holy Scripture. Quasten, Patrology, 1:103; cf. Origen, De Principiis 2:1:5, in ANF 4:270.
28 Quasten, Patrology, 1:97-99.
29 Pastor of Hermas, Vision 3:8, in Kirsopp Lake, tr., The Apostolic Fathers, 2 vols. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1912-13), 2:49. See also Grayden Snyder, The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation and Commentary (Camden, NJ: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1968), 6:50. Some other translations (e.g. see ANF 2:16, where Hermas asks if it is the “end of the ages”) seem to imply that Hermas was asking if the world was about to end, but the more literal translations of Lake and Snyder leave a number of interpretations open, and certainly the other passages quoted make it clear that it was the end of the Church being spoken of, not the end of the world. For the Greek text of the passage, see 48 of Lake’s volume.
30 Pastor of Hermas, Vision 3:5, in ANF 2:14.
31 Pastor of Hermas, Vision 2:2, in ANF 2:11.
32 Pastor of Hermas, Vision 3:9, in ANF 2:16.
33 Pastor of Hermas, Vision 3:7, in ANF 2:15.
34 Eusebius, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, translated by G.A. Williamson (New York: Penguin Books, 1965), 13.
35 ECD 237.
36 J.W.C. Wand, A History of the Early Church to A.D. 500 (London: Methuen & Co., 1937), 256-257.
37 Wand, A History of the Early Church to A.D. 500, 244.
38 Apostolic Constitutions 47:31, in ANF 7:501.
39 David Bercot, a member of the Society of the Good Shepherd, which seeks to reestablish the faith of the pre-Nicene Church, noted that the only possible candidates for an episcopal succession unsullied by the political authorities are a few of the Oriental Orthodox churches, such as the Orthodox Church of India. See David W. Bercot, “Apostolic Succession,” in What the Early Christians Believed, audio tape set (Tyler, TX: Scroll Publishing Co., 1994), tape 4. Take, for instance, the popes. From 867 to 962 A.D. the papacy was virtually controlled by some powerful Italian families. Roman Catholic historian Lortz-Kaiser comments, “The papacy, which had many immoral incumbents a this time, sank to its lowest depth.” Lortz-Kaiser, History of the Church, translated from the German, 2nd ed. (Milwaukee, 1939), 183. Another Roman Catholic historian, Poulet-Raemers, notes that for more than fifty years the powerful family of the Roman vestiary Theophylactus, especially his daughter Marozzia, “dominated Rome and imposed the candidates of their choice upon clergy and people.” When John X, who owed his election as Pope to Marozzia, shook off her yoke, Marozzia stirred up a revolt in Rome and had the Pope killed. “Marozzia was now able to control the papacy. She gave it in turn to her puppets, Leo VI (928-929,) Stephen VII (929-931,) and finally to her own son John XI.” Poulet-Raemers, Histoire de l’Eglise, (Paris, 1926,) 1:418-419, translated in Barker, The Divine Church, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1951), 3:136-137.
40 Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 108-109
41 Jean Daniélou, Gospel Message and Hellenistic Culture, translated by John A. Baker (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1973), 140.
42 Wand, A History of the Early Church to A.D. 500, 379-280; note also this comment by Edwin Hatch: “The theory [upon which the ecumenical councils were based] assumes that God never speaks to men except through the voice of the majority. It is a large assumption.” Edwin Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages Upon the Christian Church (London: Williams and Norgate, 1914), 331.
43 Hansen, R., “The Achievement of Orthodoxy in the Fourth Century AD,” in Williams, ed., The Making of Orthodoxy, 143-144.
44 Athanasius, De Synodis 1:2-3, in NPNF Series 2, 4:451-452.
45 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 15:9, in NPNF Series 2, 7:106-107.
46 Grant, Second-Century Christianity, 13.
47 Grant, Second-Century Christianity, 57.
48 Grant, Second-Century Christianity, 15-16.
49 Catholic scholar and apologist Michael Winter admits, “In the first place it appears, from the records which have survived, that of the thirteen bishops who ruled in Rome from the death of St. Peter until the end of the second century, only two of them exerted their authority outside the city in a manner which could be called papal.” Michael M. Winter, Saint Peter and the Popes(Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1960), 113. The two popes here referred to were Clement of Rome (ca. 96 A.D.,) who wrote a letter exhorting the Corinthians not to eject their priesthood officers, and Victor (ca. 190 A.D.,) who threatened to excommunicate the Asian Churches for refusing to follow the Roman tradition of when to celebrate Easter. However, Clement claimed only the authority of the Holy Spirit in his letter (1 Clement 63, in ANF 10:248), and the Asians paid no attention to Victor’s threats. Funk-Hemmer, Histoire de l’Eglise, Paris, 1904, 1:294, 194; translated in Barker, The Divine Church, 1:170. Winter goes on,
In the face of this strong probability of a popedom, the events of the first two centuries present an unexpected enigma. It must be admitted that the activities of the early bishops of Rome do not harmonize with this expectation. . . . Winter, Saint Peter and the Popes, 116.
That is, it seems probable that if there were a central authority in the New Testament Church (Peter,) there should have been one in the post-apostolic Church, so the fact that no one exerted or even claimed such authority during this period is baffling.
50 ECD 6; “The thesis is that there was a first form of Christian theology expressed in Jewish-Semitic terms.” Jean Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, translated by John A. Baker (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1973), 10, emphasis in original; cf. Adolf von Harnack, History of Dogma, 7 vols., translated by Neil Buchanan (New York: Dover, 1961), 1:287.
51 Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 49.
52 Davies, W.D., “Israel, the Mormons and the Land,” in Madsen, ed., Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels, 91.
53 Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, 55-85.
54 Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, 8.
55 Kelly (ECD 26) points out that Gnosticism was not really a movement, as such, since although there were a multitude of Gnostic teachers, there was no single Gnostic organization or church.
56 Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), 32, 34.
57 Joseph Smith, in TPJS 217.
58 Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, 49-51.
59 Hans-Joachim Klimkeit, Gnosis on the Silk Road (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1978), 149.
60 See 2 John 7 for John’s warning to reject those who did not confess that Jesus had come in the flesh.
61 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3:32, in NPNF Series 2, 1:164.
62 Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, 25.
63 Harnack, What is Christianity?, 191-192.
64 Stark, The Rise of Christianity, 58.
65 Harnack, What is Christianity?, 200.
66 James Shiel, Greek Thought and the Rise of Christianity (London: Longmans, Green and Co., Ltd., 1968), 1.
67 Daniélou, J., The Lord of History: Reflections on the Inner Meaning of History, translated by N. Abercrombie (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1958), 1.
68 Shiel, Greek Thought and the Rise of Christianity, 1.
69 Wagner, After the Apostles, 138. “Do you accept of the vain and silly doctrines of those who are deemed trustworthy philosophers?” Mathetes to Diognetus 8, in ANF 1:28.
70 Harry A. Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, vol. 1 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964), 1:9-10.
71 Harnack fixes the first real influx of specifically Greek thought into Christianity to about A.D. 130. Harnack, What is Christianity?, 201.
72 Harry Wolfson of Harvard University gives three reasons for the rise of this “philosophized Christianity.”
First, it came about through the conversion to Christianity of pagans who had been trained in philosophy. . . . Second, philosophy was used by Christians as a help in their defense against accusations brought against them [by the pagans]. . . . Third, philosophy. . . was found to be of still greater usefulness as an immunization or an antidote against the heresy of Gnosticism. The Gnostics happened to have done what Paul said he was not going to do: they adorned the faith of the New Testament with ‘persuasive words of wisdom’. . . . [Therefore, some of the Fathers] undertook to set up a new Christian philosophy in opposition to that of the Gnostics. . . . Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, 1:11-14.
73 J. Rebecca Lyman, Christology and Cosmology: Models of Divine Activity in Origen, Eusebius, and Athanasius (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 10.
74 Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages Upon the Christian Church, 130-131.
75 Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages Upon the Christian Church, 126. R.M. Grant points out that the Apologists devoted large portions of their writings to proving that the philosophers actually stole their ideas from the Jews. Grant, Second-Century Christianity, 15. Note also Theophilus of Antioch’s strange comparison of the Hebrew prophets to the Greek Sibyls, a class of pagan female oracles. Theophilus, To Autolycus 2:9, in ANF 2:97. Wolfson shows that the Fathers at different times used all three of the explanations proposed by Philo the Jew-namely that certain true principles could have been borrowed from the Jews, discovered by the native reason of the philosophers, or given them by God as a gift. Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, 1:21-23.
76 Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages Upon the Christian Church, 133-134.
77 Harnack, What is Christianity?, 200.
78 Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages upon the Christian Church, 350.
79 Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, 1:15-23.
80 Harnack, A., quoted in Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, 36.
81 Etienne Gilson, Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages (New York: Scribner’s, 1938), 16, 22.
82 Augustine, Confessions 9:10, in NPNF Series 1, 1:137-138. Compare the other pillar of Catholic doctrine, St. Thomas Aquinas, who reinterpreted Christianity in light of the philosophy of Aristotle. Before completing his great theological treatise, the Summa Theologica, Thomas had some sort of revelation or spiritual experience that convinced him to stop writing. Anne Fremantle writes:
Some time before he died, St. Thomas himself stopped writing, leaving his greatest work, the Summa Theologica, forever unfinished, because he said it had been granted him to experience such things as made all he had ever written seem to him to be “of straw.” Anne Fremantle, The Age of Belief (New York: Penguin Books, 1982), 148.
83 Wand, A History of the Early Church to A.D. 500, 38-39.
84 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 3, in ANF 1:196; cf. Clementine Recognitions 10:51, in ANF 8:205.
85 NTA 2:607.
86 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 82, in ANF 1:240.
87 Eusebius’s exact words were:
And in another place the same author [Irenaeus] writes: “As also we hear that many brethren in the Church possess prophetic gifts, and speak, through the Spirit, with all kinds of tongues, and bring to light the secret things of men for their good, and declare the mysteries of God.” So much in regard to the fact that various gifts remained among those who were worthy even until that time. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5:7, in NPNF Series 2, 1:222.
88 Robert A. Markus describes the appeal of Eusebius’s approach to his contemporaries:
It’s [Eusebius's Church History's] form and it’s choice of themes both set the pattern for all the Church historians at least until the end of the sixth century, even though the Church’s history as it was taking shape was beginning to press on the conventions uncomfortably. In the very genre they adopted, its unchanging consistency and almost monolithic uniformity, the Church historians were proclaiming the identity of the Church of the fourth, the fifth and the sixth centuries with the persecuted Church of the first three. Reading Eusebius and the translations and continuations of his Ecclesiastical history was thus one way by which later Christians could convince themselves that they were the true descendants of the martyrs. Robert A. Markus, The End of Ancient Christianity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 92.
89 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3:24:1, in ANF 1:458.
90 Origen, Against Celsus 2:8, in ANF 4:433.
91 ANF 4:433.
92 Apolinarius of Hierapolis, quoted in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5:16, in NPNF Series 2, 1:231.
93 Apolinarius of Hierapolis, quoted in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5:17, in NPNF Series 2, 1:234. So also Origen:
Moreover, it is not the part of a divine spirit to drive the prophetess into such a state of ecstasy and madness that she loses control of herself. For he who is under the influence of the Divine Spirit ought to be the first to receive the beneficial effects; and these ought not to be first enjoyed by the persons who consult the oracle about the concerns of natural or civil life, or for purposes of temporal gain or interest; and, moreover, that should be the time of clearest perception, when a person is in close intercourse with the Deity. Origen, Against Celsus 7:3, in ANF 4:612.
Compare this remark by Tertullian, who converted to Montanism:
For when a man is rapt in the Spirit, especially when he beholds the glory of God, or when God speaks through him, he necessarily loses his sensation, because he is overshadowed with the power of God. Tertullian, Against Marcion 4:22, in ANF 3:383. Cf. Maurice Wiles, The Making of Christian Doctrine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 46.
94 Apolinarius of Hierapolis, quoted in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5:17, in NPNF Series 2, 1:234.
95 Hippolytus, at least, claimed the presence of the gift of healing at the turn of the third century. See Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition 15, p. 22.
96 Tertullian, On Modesty 21, in ANF 4:99-100.
97 For one attempt at replacing the gifts, see Chapter Note 2.
98 Davies, The Early Christian Church, 135.
99 For example, John Chrysostom “repeatedly deals with the nature and purpose of miracles. . . and points out that it is better to suffer for Christ and to cast out sin than to expel a demon.” Quasten, Patrology, vol. 3, 440-441. Certainly this is true, but it completely evades the issue at hand.
100 Wand, A History of the Early Church to A.D. 500, p.59. Harnack makes the same point:
The New Testament, though not all at once, put an end to the composition of works which claimed an authority binding on Christendom (inspiration); but it first made possible the production of secular Church literature and neutralised the extreme dangers attendant on writings of this kind. Harnack, History of Dogma, 2:62.
Harnack also gives the following unflattering description of the motives of those who closed the canon:
Men, however, conceal from themselves their own defects, by placing the representatives of the past on an unattainable height, and forming such an estimate of their qualities as makes it unlawful and impossible for those of the present generation, in the interests of their own comfort, to compare themselves with them. Harnack, History of Dogma, 2:53.
101 Van Unnik, Willem Cornelis, “De la Regle mete prostheinai mete aphelein dans l’histoire du canon,” Vigiliae Christianae 3 (1949): 1-2, quoted in Hugh W. Nibley, The World and the Prophets (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and F.A.R.M.S., 1987), 202.
102 ECD 60. A number of prominent early Christian writers, including Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen quoted the Shepherd as one of the books of Holy Scripture. Quasten, Patrology, 1:103; cf. Origen, De Principiis 2:1:5, in ANF 4:270.
103 The Pastor of Hermas Vision 5, in ANF 2:19.
104 du Toit, A.B., “Canon,” in Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds., The Oxford Companion to the Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 103.
105 Clement of Alexandria, Selections from the Prophets 11:27, in Eberhard Arnold, The Early Christians After the Death of the Apostles, (Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing House, 1970), 116.
106 ECD 54.
107 ECD 59-60.
108 Davies, The Early Christian Church, 85.
109 In the case of the Old Testament canon, Jews, Protestants, and some Orthodox churches follow the Hebrew Bible, while Roman Catholics and some Orthodox churches accept fourteen or fifteen extra books known as the “Apocrypha” found in the Septuagint. The New Testament canon is more standardized, with some minor exceptions. For instance, the canon of the Ethiopian Church consists of 38 books to this day. Metzger and Coogan, eds., The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 102-104.
110 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 71-72, in ANF 1:234-235. Irenaeus also gives witness to this reading:
And in Jeremias He thus announces His death and descent into hell, in the words: “And the Lord the Holy One of Israel bethought Him of His dead, who in the past had slept in the dust of the earth, and went down unto them, to bring the good news of salvation, to deliver them.” Here He also gives the reason for His death; for His descent into hell was salvation for the departed. Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 78, translated by Joseph P. Smith (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1953), ACW 16:97.
It is also interesting that the Clementine Homilies maintained that certain inaccurate statements about God had been allowed to creep into scripture. Latter-day Saints would disagree with theHomilies about exactly which passages had been corrupted, but it is interesting to note that it was commonplace in the second century to represent the scriptures as having sustained some deletions and corruptions. Clementine Homilies 2:38-39, in ANF 8:236. Note also Origen’s assessment of the Old Testament texts available to him: “And in many other of the sacred books I found sometimes more in our copies than in the Hebrew, sometimes less.” Origen, Letter to Africanus 3, in ANF 4:386.
111 Daniel-Rops, L’Eglise des Apotres et des Martyrs, 313, translated in Barker, The Divine Church, 1:16. A non-Mormon scholar of Church History confirmed Barker’s translation for me, although the quotation appeared on 309 of his copy of Daniel-Rops. Unfortunately, Daniel-Rops gave no reference for his quotation of Origen, and I have been unable to locate it in any of the extant English translations of Origen’s writings. (Since some of Origen’s works have never been translated into English, it may well be that it is from an untranslated work.)
112 Harnack, History of Dogma, 2:47.
113 ANF 2:571.
114 Dionysius of Corinth, quoted in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4:23, in NPNF Series 2, 1:201-202.
115 Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), xi-46. Many of these changes might seem to us to be minor, but Ehrman shows how even simple variations such as “Jesus” vs. “Christ” were of great significance in the theological debates of the second and third centuries. (See 137-165.)
116 M.J. Le Guillou, The Spirit of Eastern Orthodoxy, translated by Donald Attwater, (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1962), 20.
117 Clementine Recognitions 1:16, in ANF 8:81; cf. Clementine Recognitions 10:42, in ANF 8:203.
118 Clementine Recognitions 3:53, in ANF 8:128. Although critics of the LDS Church often urge people not to pray about the message of Mormonism (e.g. see Decker and Hunt, The God Makers, 170,) the Latter-day Saints are again in harmony with early Christianity when they ask investigators to study and pray to confirm their message.
119 Ignatius, Philadelphians 8, in ANF 1:84.
120 Papias, Fragment 1, in ANF 1:153. “. . . . which things were indeed plainly spoken by Him, but are not plainly written; so much so, that when they are read, they cannot be understood without an expounder, on account of the sin which has grown up with men, as I said before.” Peter, in Clementine Recognitions 1:21, in ANF 8:83.
121 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4:32:1, in ANF 1:506.
122 Justin Martyr, Address to the Greeks 8, in ANF 1:196.
123 E.g. see Gilson, Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages. Likewise, in his penetrating study of the influence of philosophy in ancient Christianity, Cambridge Divinity Professor Christopher Stead calls the influx of Platonic philosophy “a godsend for the Church, whether by fortunate chance or literally by a divine dispensation . . . .” However, he admits that “it formed no part of the original message of Christ or his Apostles,” and he suggests that Christian theology has reached the point where it ought to move beyond the limits imposed by the Platonists. Christopher Stead, Philosophy in Christian Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 243-244.
124 Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 221.
125 Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Anti-Christ 44-46, in ANF 5:214.
126 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 49, in ANF 1:219.
127 John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew 37:4, in NPNF Series 1, 10:245.
128 J.A. Seiss, The Apocalypse, 3 vols. (New York: Charles C. Cook, 1901), 2:192-193.
129 Joseph Smith, in TPJS 345.
130 Jerome (quoting Origen,) Letter 124:13, in NPNF 2, 6:243; see also Origen, De Principiis 4:1:25, in ANF 4:375.
131 Origen, Commentary on John 14, in ANF 10:305
132 The Pastor of Hermas, Vis. 2:4, in ANF 2:12.
133 2 Clement 14:2, in Robert M. Grant, ed., The Apostolic Fathers, 6 vols. (New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1964-1968), 2:126.
134 Tertullian, On the Soul 58, in ANF 3:234-235.
135 The verse is actually rendered thus in some modern translations, notably the Revised Standard Version and the NEB.
136 Winter, Saint Peter and the Popes, 17.
137 Discourse of Apa Athanasius Concerning the Soul and the Body, in E.A.W. Budge, Coptic Homilies (London, Longmans and Co., 1910), 271-272.
138 An alternate opinion was expressed to me by one of the reviewers of this book. In his view, this passage refers symbolically to the earthly Church, but the phrase, “the gates of hades shall not prevail against it” suggests that the Church would at some future time be located behind the gates of hades, but would not remain there. Thus the passage is actually a prediction of the future apostasy and Restoration.
139 Le Guillou, The Spirit of Eastern Orthodoxy, 60.
140 Harnack notes:
We find nothing in the apostolic age which suggests a community of men who were ascetics on principle; on the contrary, we find the conviction prevailing everywhere that it is within the given circumstances, in the calling and position in which he finds himself, that a man is to be a Christian. Harnack, What is Christianity?, 83.
141 R.A. Markus asserts the following:
The ideal of the philosophic life was among the most important of the sources which nourished Christian monasticism. It was especially well suited for this because it was often associated with some degree of self-denial. In contrast with Judaism, where asceticism played only a minor role and one largely confined to the fringes of orthodox circles, the whole Hellenistic and Roman philosophical tradition offered a rich store-house of commonplaces extolling the ascetic life. Markus, The End of Ancient Christianity, 73.
An example of the adoption of these pagan ideals in the second century can be found in Justin’s writings, where he extolled a certain young Christian man who tried to get a surgeon to remove his testicles. The Roman governor wouldn’t allow it, so the young man contented himself with living a celibate life intact. See Justin Martyr, First Apology 29, in ANF 1:172.
142 Note this comment by Tertullian near the turn of the third century:
We are not Indian Brahmins or Gymnosophists, who dwell in woods and exile themselves from ordinary human life. We do not forget the debt of gratitude we owe to God, our Lord and Creator; we reject no creature of His hands, though certainly we exercise restraint upon ourselves, lest of any gift of His we make an immoderate or sinful use. So we sojourn with you in the world, abjuring neither forum, nor shambles, nor bath, nor booth, nor workshop, nor inn, nor weekly market, nor any other places of commerce. We sail with you, and fight with you, and till the ground with you; and in like manner we unite with you in your traffickings-even in the various arts we make public property of our works for your benefit. Tertullian, Apology 42, in ANF 3:49.
143 Davies, The Early Christian Church, 185.
144 Robin Amis, A Different Christianity: Early Christian Esotericism and Modern Thought , (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), 21.
145 Davies, The Early Christian Church, 184-185.
146 Le Guillou, The Spirit of Eastern Orthodoxy, 60.
147 Amis, A Different Christianity, 19.
148 Didache 11, in ANF 7:380-381.
149 Barnabas 4, in ANF 1:139, brackets in original.
150 Davies, The Early Christian Church, 185.
151 Markus, R.A., The End of Ancient Christianity, 17.