Early Christianity

Finished reading some of Early Christian Writings – a collection of works that seem to go from about 120 CE to about early 300 CE. Containing the works (letters) of the Didache, Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Barnabas, and Justin Martyr. Some things seem clear from that time:

(a) By at least 120 CE, they believed in a Trinity

(b) By 120 CE and after, the bigotry towards the Jews was an adamant thing

(c) There was an atonement theory that seemed to discuss the remission of sins (ie: via the blood)

(d) They had an early community rule (ie: Didache) and a system of leadership in each area (and they demanded full submission to that order)

(e) They were being persecuted in a variety of places for their belief in this new system of beliefs (ie: Christianity) – some of the earliest letters reveal this problem

It still leaves me with the same questions I always have.

They are confused at times with regards to rules and codes of conduct, they blatantly bash the laws in Judaism and then they go and use them in some convoluted way. They knew there was a need for a code of conduct for their faith but they deliver a message that ends in a conundrum, should they are shouldn’t they use the Tanakh?

They have a trinitarian idea, which was a sour one and they bash it off of Judaism to prove that faith is ‘wrong’…yet they use their books to prove the theory. As for the atonement, it’s not crystal clear, and one could say the messiah allowed in the Gentiles to the same access as the Jews…and all the blood did was allow this way. There is some usurption in the early church about which faith is right (ie: Christianity vs. Judaism).

However, they did have standards they lived by that did fly in the face of their current society…and they were definitely not capitalists since they teach against the use of money for personal riches and to be shared with society (namely to the poor and widows). They adamantly want people to follow their leaders like they follow Christ, makes sense, there were movements to change the gospel to various ideologies (proving their need for a community rule). The ethics seem applaudable and were seeking to change society to something more balanced.

For me it shows an early church trying to make it’s mark in a century of variable ideologies (both ethically and theologically). It also shows a church that was trying to be more ethical than it’s surroundings and not being swallowed up by them.

I wonder, how come Christianity is losing this touch?

5 thoughts on “Early Christianity

  1. Well, I don’t know for sure. But I think it has something to do with the fact that doctrines have been fully set in place with no room for discussion. Plus the chirch has jumped in bed with the government, and is more capitalist than any time in history.

  2. JT, thanks for the clarification – changes made.

    Chris, I agree, I am rather disappointed in the church being another cog in the wheel of an economic system proposed to make more people poor than rich.

  3. My folks gave me a book to read by Harvey Cox where he breaks down the history of Christianity into three parts:
    – time of faith — 1- 400 or so, where the social factor is key, communities supporting each other and individuals, martyrdom and all that
    – time of belief — Constantine to maybe 1900 or 1950, where creeds and doctrines ruled, and the religion was closely tied with the politics
    – time of ‘spirituality’ — the new age of the church today where beliefs are giving way to services offered to the community, and the focus is on making this world good for each other rather than securing placement in the next. (Cox tries to justify the word ‘spirituality’ but it still has that not-so-serious taint for me… you know… spiritual people…)

    So, he would suggest there are pockets of communities getting back to that place of ethics and not losing the touch after all. It’s a time of struggle though, right. Many voices.
    Besides, it’s tough to convince moderates and open-minders to be militant… except for maybe the karma army [http://www.join-me.co.uk/]. 🙂

  4. One of my greatest “awakenings” was reading the entire “Nag Hamaddi Library, which is made up entirely of non-canonical works from early Christianity. I knew this would not be an easy task given the number of “books” in it. But I did realize, even then, how valuable digesting them could be to my journey. I am very glad I stuck with it to the end. Nag Hamaddi present a very different view of early Christianity than we are ususally given.

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