In part three I said I would get to Valentinus and Irenaeus, but that will have to wait for part five. It is important that you realize history is always written by the victor. Sometimes it is necessary to erase from our minds what we think we know about a subject so that we can be more objective. All of us have some preconceived notion of what Christianity was like and how it developed based on our experiences with the Bible, the church, our parents and family, scholarship and our own life experiences.
Even those of us who were not raised Christian have preconceived notions. Forget those for the next few minutes, and consider what some of the evidence says. What is written in this series will in no way definitely prove anything, but it can give us insight that may alter what we think we already know.
Browse By Title W Project Gutenberg
The study of the New Testament is a complicated, convoluted mess. In the first few centuries after Christ is supposed to have lived, everyone was arguing and bickering over the message of the scriptures.
It continues to this day, even among those who share the common faith. It was much more so in the past, and different sects claiming to have the truth of the Biblical message was even more divided when Orthodoxy was fighting to take hold. That is because it took more than a few centuries for any kind of permanent New Testament canon to be formed.
CHURCH FATHERS The Paedagogus (Clement of Alexandria)
Even some of the greatest early church fathers who carried the message of the faith became heretics in later centuries because of diverging beliefs about Christ. At least that much I am certain. This series is not an attempt to prove any one thing about early Christianity, but just to show you more of the complicated picture we have.
Yes, I will share my personal beliefs about what happened, but I also admit that the entire situation is too complicated for any one person to understand without the original documents, which we may never see.
The Didache The Didache, also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, is an early Christian treatise with the intent of instructing the gentiles on how to live a Christian life according to the teaching of the apostles. Its contents focus on Christian ethics and rituals such as baptism, fasting, and the Eucharist. Many scholars now place the Didache at about A. The Didache shows that the earliest Christian communities were strictly rooted in Judaism.
Why do I mention this? The Didache is silent about so many important doctrines that Orthodoxy holds dear today. Even though the Didache is an instruction manual on Christian living, it says nothing about atonement and redemption.
Could it be that most of the earliest Jewish-Christian communities had no such teaching? The Didache lacks any doctrine about Jesus period. I find it hard to believe that such an early instruction manual on Christian living lacks any doctrine about Christ. What can we really conclude about the Didache? It focuses on living a pure moral life rather than having to believe in anything, which is more akin to Jewish theology, certainly nothing like Pauline Christology.
Jesus was certainly known about in this period, but was it the same Jesus of Orthodox Christianity? Rather, the Didache points to a community that followed strict moral observance of living a clean moral life for oneself and brother, just as the Jews would have stressed. By the way, still no Virgin Birth mentioned here. Did the early Christian community know of it? What we have already said in the first posts to this series and the rest of this one leads me to believe that they probably did not.
Pope Clement 1 At about the same time the Didache was written, we have an important authentic Christian epistle that surfaced. According to tradition, Clement of Rome was the third bishop of the city. But these dishonour the reverence of age, the head covered with grey hairs.
CHURCH FATHERS The Stromata (Clement of Alexandria)
It is not, it is not possible for him to show the head true who has a fraudulent head. But you have not so learned Christ; if so be that you have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: And, in truthunless you saw them naked, you would suppose them to be women. For although not allowed to wear gold, yet out of effeminate desire they enwreath their latches and fringes with leaves of gold; or, getting certain spherical figures of the same metal made, they fasten them to their ankles, and hang them from their necks.
This is a device of enervated men, who are dragged to the women's apartments, amphibious and lecherous beasts.
For this is a meretricious and impious form of snare. For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with shaggy breasts — a sign this of strength and rule. So also cocks, which fight in defense of the hens, he has decked with combs, as it were helmets; and so high a value does God set on these locks, that He orders them to make their appearance on men simultaneously with discretion, and delighted with a venerable look, has honoured gravity of countenance with grey hairs.
But wisdom, and discriminating judgments that are hoary with wisdom, attain maturity with time, and by the vigour of long experience give strength to old age, producing grey hairs, the admirable flower of venerable wisdom, conciliating confidence. This, then, the mark of the man, the beard, by which he is seen to be a manis older than Eve, and is the token of the superior nature.
In this God deemed it right that he should excel, and dispersed hair over man's whole body. Whatever smoothness and softness was in him He abstracted from his side when He formed the woman Eve, physically receptive, his partner in parentage, his help in household management, while he for he had parted with all smoothness remained a manand shows himself man.
And to him has been assigned action, as to her suffering; for what is shaggy is drier and warmer than what is smooth. Wherefore males have both more hair and more heat than femalesanimals that are entire than the emasculated, perfect than imperfect.
It is therefore impious to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness. But the embellishment of smoothing for I am warned by the Wordif it is to attract men, is the act of an effeminate person, — if to attract womenis the act of an adulterer; and both must be driven as far as possible from our society.
There must be therefore no plucking out, contrary to God's appointment, which has counted them in according to His will. Do you not know yourselves, says the apostle, that Christ Jesus is in you? But the using of pitch to pluck out hair I shrink from even mentioning the shamelessness connected with this processand in the act of bending back and bending down, the violence done to nature's modesty by stepping out and bending backwards in shameful postures, yet the doers not ashamed of themselves, but conducting themselves without shame in the midst of the youth, and in the gymnasium, where the prowess of man is tried; the following of this unnatural practice, is it not the extreme of licentiousness?
For those who engage in such practices in public will scarcely behave with modesty to any at home. Their want of shame in public attests their unbridled licentiousness in private. For he who in the light of day denies his manhood, will prove himself manifestly a woman by night. There shall not be, said the Word by Mosesa harlot of the daughters of Israel ; there shall not be a fornicator of the sons of Israel.
Nay, it defames, say I. No one who entertains right sentiments would wish to appear a fornicator, were he not the victim of that viceand study to defame the beauty of his form.
No one would, I say, voluntarily choose to do this. The man, who would be beautiful, must adorn that which is the most beautiful thing in man, his mindwhich every day he ought to exhibit in greater comeliness; and should pluck out not hairs, but lusts. I pity the boys possessed by the slave-dealers, that are decked for dishonour. But they are not treated with ignominy by themselves, but by command the wretches are adorned for base gain. But how disgusting are those who willingly practice the things to which, if compelled, they would, if they were men, die rather than do?
But life has reached this pitch of licentiousness through the wantonness of wickednessand lasciviousness is diffused over the cities, having become law. Beside them women stand in the stews, offering their own flesh for hire for lewd pleasure, and boys, taught to deny their sex, act the part of women. Luxury has deranged all things; it has disgraced man. A luxurious niceness seeks everything, attempts everything, forces everything, coerces nature. Men play the part of womenand women that of mencontrary to nature; women are at once wives and husbands: Such are the trophies of your social licentiousness which are exhibited: Alas for such wickedness!
Besides, the wretches know not how many tragedies the uncertainty of intercourse produces. For fathers, unmindful of children of theirs that have been exposed, often without their knowledgehave intercourse with a son that has debauched himself, and daughters that are prostitutes; and licence in lust shows them to be the men that have begotten them.
These things your wise laws allow: They who commit adultery against nature think themselves free from adultery. Avenging justice follows their audacious deedsand, dragging on themselves inevitable calamity, they purchase death for a small sum of money.
The miserable dealers in these wares sail, bringing a cargo of fornication, like wine or oil; and others, far more wretched, traffic in pleasures as they do in bread and sauce, not heeding the words of MosesDo not prostitute your daughter, to cause her to be a whore, lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.
I admire the ancient legislators of the Romans: For it is not lawful to pluck out the beard, man's natural and noble ornament. A youth with his first beard: By and by he is anointed, delighting in the beard on which descended ointment with which Aaron was honoured. And it becomes him who is rightly trained, on whom peace has pitched its tent, to preserve peace also with his hair. What, then, will not women with strong propensities to lust practice, when they look on men perpetrating such enormities?
And such creatures are manifestly shown to be what they are from their external appearance, their clothes, shoes, form, walk, cut of their hair, look. For from his look shall a man be knownsays the Scripturefrom meeting a man the man is known: Lions glory in their shaggy hair, but are armed by their hair in the fight; and boars even are made imposing by their mane; the hunters are afraid of them when they see them bristling their hair.
The fleecy sheep are loaded with their wool. And their wool the loving Father has made abundant for your use, O man, having taught you to sheer their fleeces.
Of the nationsthe Celts and Scythians wear their hair long, but do not deck themselves. Both these barbarian races hate luxury. As clear witnesses will be produced by the German, the Rhine; and by the Scythian, the waggon. Sometimes the Scythian despises even the waggon: For a house sufficient, and less encumbered than the waggon, he takes his horse, and mounting it, is borne where he wishes. And when faint with hunger, he asks his horse for sustenance; and he offers his veins, and supplies his master with all he possesses — his blood.
To the nomad the horse is at once conveyance and sustenance; and the warlike youth of the Arabians these are other nomads are mounted on camels. They sit on breeding camels; and these feed and run at the same time, carrying their masters the while, and bear the house with them.
And if drink fail the barbarians, they milk them; and after that their food is spent, they do not spare even their blood, as is reported of furious wolves. And these, gentler than the barbarians, when injured, bear no remembrance of the wrong, but sweep bravely over the desertcarrying and nourishing their masters at the same time.
Perish, then, the savage beasts whose food is blood! For it is unlawful for men, whose body is nothing but flesh elaborated of blood, to touch blood. For human blood has become a partaker of the Word: Man may, though naked in body, address the Lord.
But I approve the simplicity of the barbarians: Such the Lord calls us to be — naked of finery, naked of vanity, wrenched from our sinsbearing only the wood of life, aiming only at salvation. With Whom We are to Associate But really I have unwittingly deviated in spirit from the order, to which I must now revert, and must find fault with having large numbers of domestics.
For, avoiding working with their own hands and serving themselves, men have recourse to servants, purchasing a great crowd of fine cooks, and of people to lay out the table, and of others to divide the meat skilfully into pieces.
And the staff of servants is separated into many divisions; some labour for their gluttonycarvers and seasoners, and the compounders and makers of sweetmeats, and honey-cakes, and custards; others are occupied with their too numerous clothes; others guard the gold, like griffins; others keep the silver, and wipe the cups, and make ready what is needed to furnish the festive table; others rub down the horses; and a crowd of cup-bearers exert themselves in their service, and herds of beautiful boys, like cattle, from whom they milk away their beauty.
And male and female assistants at the toilet are employed about the ladies — some for the mirrors, some for the head-dresses, others for the combs. Many are eunuchs; and these panders serve without suspicion those that wish to be free to enjoy their pleasures, because of the belief that they are unable to indulge in lust.
But a true eunuch is not one who is unable, but one who is unwilling, to indulge in pleasure. And there are many Celts, who bear aloft on their shoulders women's litters. But workers in wool, and spinners, and weavers, and female work and housekeeping, are nowhere. But those who impose on the womenspend the day with them, telling them silly amatory stories, and wearing out body and soul with their false acts and words.
But it is not for grounds of propriety, on account of not wishing to be seen, that they purchase bearers, for it were commendable if out of such feelings they put themselves under a covering; but it is out of luxuriousness that they are carried on their domestics' shoulders, and desire to make a show. So, opening the curtain, and looking keenly round on all that direct their eyes towards them, they show their manners; and often bending forth from within, disgrace this superficial propriety by their dangerous restlessness.
Look not round, it is said, in the streets of the city, and wander not in its lonely places. And these women are carried about over the temples, sacrificing and practising divination day by day, spending their time with fortune-tellers, and begging priestsand disreputable old women ; and they keep up old wives' whisperings over their cups, learning charms and incantations from soothsayers, to the ruin of the nuptial bonds. And some men they keep; by others they are kept; and others are promised them by the diviners.
They know not that they are cheating themselves, and giving up themselves as a vessel of pleasure to those that wish to indulge in wantonness; and exchanging their purity for the foulest outrage, they think what is the most shameful ruin a great stroke of business. And there are many ministers to this meretricious licentiousness, insinuating themselves, one from one quarter, another from another.
For the licentious rush readily into uncleanness, like swine rushing to that part of the hold of the ship which is depressed. Whence the Scripture most strenuously exhorts, Introduce not every one into your house, for the snares of the crafty are many. For know this well, says the apostle, that no fornicator, or unclean person, or covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
And sometimes, when inflamed by any provocation, either these fornicators, or those that follow the rabble of abominable creatures to destruction, make a sound in their nose like a frog, as if they had got anger dwelling in their nostrils.
The Didache, Clement, Hermes and Marcion Development of the Modern Church Part 4
But those who are more refined than these keep Indian birds and Median pea-fowls, and recline with peak-headed creatures; playing with satyrs, delighting in monsters. And they squander and throw away their wealth on fading dyes, and bought slaves; like crammed fowls scraping the dung of life. Poverty, humbles a man.