In the post-apostolic period are to be traced the beginnings of
distinctive forms of religious and ethical ideas as distinguished from
mere repetition of New Testament phrases. The most influential writer was
Ignatius of Antioch, the founder, or earliest representative, of what may
be called the Asia Minor theology, which is to be traced through Irenaeus,
Methodius, and Athanasius to the other great theologians of the Nicene
period, becoming the distinctive Eastern type of piety. It probably
persisted in Asia Minor after Ignatius. Among its characteristic features
was the thought of redemption as the imparting to man of incorruptibility
through the incarnation and the sacraments.
(a) Ignatius, Ep. ad Ephesios, 18 ff.
The Epistle to the Ephesians is doctrinally the most important of
the writings of Ignatius. In the passage that follows there is a
remarkable anticipation of a part of the Apostles' Creed (cf.
Hahn. § 1). The whole passage contains in brief the fundamental
point of the writer's teachings.
Ch. 18. My spirit is an offering(15) of the cross, which is a
stumbling-block to unbelievers, but to us salvation and life eternal.
"Where is the wise man? where the disputer?" [I Cor. 1:20.] Where is the
boasting of those called prudent? For our God, Jesus Christ, was,
according to the dispensation of God, conceived in the womb of Mary of the
seed of David, but of the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by
His passion He might purify the water.
Ch. 19. And the virginity of Mary was hidden from the Prince of this
World, and her bringing forth, and likewise the death of the Lord; three
mysteries of shouting, which were wrought in silence of God. How, then,
was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth from heaven above all
other stars, and its light was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men
with astonishment, but all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon,
formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above
them all. And there was agitation whence this novelty, so unlike to
everything else. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed and every bond of
wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed and the old kingdom
abolished, for God had been manifested in human form for the renewal of
eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by
God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult because He meditated
the abolition of death.
Ch. 20. Especially [will I write again] if the Lord make known to me
that ye all, man by man, through grace given to each, agree in one faith
and in Jesus Christ, who was of the family of David according to the
flesh, the Son of Man and the Son of God, so that ye obey the bishop and
the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one bread, which is the
medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent dying, but which is
life forever in Jesus Christ.
(b) Ignatius, Ep. ad Smyrnaeos, 7.
The following passage may be regarded as a parallel to part of the
preceding extract from the same writer's Epistle to the Ephesians.
They abstain from the eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not
that the eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which
suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up
again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, die while
disputing. But it were better for them to love it, that they also may rise
again. It is fitting, therefore, that ye should keep aloof from such
persons, and not speak of them either in private or public, but to give
heed to the prophets and, above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion
has been revealed to us and the resurrection fully proved. But avoid all
divisions as the beginning of evils.
(c) Ignatius, Ep. ad Trallianos, 9, 10.
The heresy which the writer fears is that known as Docetism, which
denied the reality of the body of Jesus. Reference is made to it
in the New Testament, I John 4:2. It was based upon the same
philosophical idea as much of the later Gnostic speculation, that
matter is essentially evil, and therefore a pure spirit could not
be united to a real body composed of matter. See J. B. Lightfoot,
Apostolic Fathers, pt. II, vol. II, p. 173 ff.
Ch. 9. Be ye therefore deaf when any one speaks to you apart from Jesus
Christ, who was of the race of David, who was born of Mary, who was truly
born and ate and drank, who was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, who
was truly crucified and died while those in heaven and those on earth and
those under the earth looked on; who, also, was truly raised from the
dead, His Father having raised Him, who in like fashion will raise us who
believe in Him; His Father, I say, will raise us in Christ Jesus, apart
from whom we have not true life.
Ch. 10. But if it were as certain persons who are godless, that is,
unbelievers, say, that He only appeared to suffer, they themselves being
only in appearance, why am I bound? And why, also, do I desire to fight
with wild beasts? I therefore die in vain. Truly, then, I lie against the
§ 13. Worship in the Post-Apostolic Period
The worship of the Christian Church in the earliest period centred in the
eucharist. There are references to this in the New Testament (cf. Acts
2:42; 20:7; I Cor. 10:16). How far the agape was connected with the
eucharist is uncertain.
Additional source material: See Pliny's letter to Trajan (v.
supra, § 7); the selections from Ignatius already given (v.
supra, § 12) and the Didache (v. infra, § 14, a).
Justin Martyr, Apologia, I, 61:65-67. (MSG, 6:428 ff.) Cf. Mirbt, n.
The First Apology of Justin Martyr was written probably about
150. As Justin's work is dated, and is of indisputable
authenticity, his account of the early worship of the Christians
is of the very first importance. It should be noted, however,
that, inasmuch as he is writing for non-Christians, he uses no
technical terms in his description, and therefore nothing can be
determined as to the exact significance of the titles he applies
to the presiding officer at the eucharist. The following passage
is of importance, also, as a witness to the custom of reading, in
the course of Christian public worship, books that appear to be
the Gospels. Irenaeus, thirty years later, limits the number of the
Gospels to four, v. infra, § 28. On the eucharist, v. infra, §
Ch. 61. But I will explain the manner in which we who have been made new
through Christ have also dedicated ourselves to God, lest by passing it
over I should seem in any way to be unfair in my explanation. As many as
are persuaded and believe that the things are true which are taught and
said by us, and promise that they are able to live accordingly, they are
taught to pray and with fasting to ask God forgiveness of their former
sins, while we pray and fast with them. Thereupon they are brought by us
to where there is water, and are born again in the same manner of a new
birth as we, also, ourselves were born again. For in the name of God the
Father and Lord of all, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy
Spirit, they then receive the washing in the water. For Christ said:
"Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
But that it is impossible for those once born to enter into the wombs of
their mothers is manifest to all. And this washing is called
enlightenment, because those who learn these things have their
understandings enlightened. But, also, in the name of Jesus Christ who was
crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Spirit who by
the prophets foretold all things pertaining to Jesus, he who is
illuminated is washed.
Ch. 65. But after we have thus washed him who is persuaded and has
assented, we bring him to those who are called the brethren, to where they
are gathered together, making earnest prayer in common for ourselves and
for him who is enlightened, and for all others everywhere, that we may be
accounted worthy, after we have learned the truth, by our works also to be
found right livers and keepers of the commandments, that we may be saved
with the eternal salvation. We salute each other with a kiss when we
conclude our prayers. Thereupon to the president of the brethren bread and
a cup of water and wine are brought, and he takes it and offers up praise
and glory to the Father of the universe through the name of the Son and
the Holy Spirit, and gives thanks at length that we have been accounted
worthy of these things from Him; and when he has ended the prayers and
thanksgiving the whole people present assent, saying "Amen." Now the word
Amen in the Hebrew language signifies, So be it. Then after the president
has given thanks and all the people have assented, those who are called by
us deacons give to each one of those present to partake of the bread and
of the wine and water for which thanks have been given, and for those not
present they take away a portion.
Ch. 66. And this food is called by us eucharist, and it is not lawful for
any man to partake of it but him who believes the things taught by us to
be true, and has been washed with the washing which is for the remission
of sins and unto a new birth, and is so living as Christ commanded. For
not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but just as
Jesus Christ our Saviour, being made flesh through the word of God, had
for our salvation both flesh and blood, so, also, we are taught that the
food for which thanks are given by the word of prayer which is from Him,
and from which by conversion our flesh and blood are nourished, is the
flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the Apostles in the
memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, thus delivered what
was commanded them: that Jesus took bread and gave thanks and said, This
do in remembrance of Me, this is My body; and that He likewise took the
cup, and when He had given thanks, said, This is My blood, and gave only
to them. And this the evil demons imitating, commanded it to be done also
in the mysteries of Mithras; for that bread and a cup of water are set
forth with certain explanations in the ceremonial of initiation, you
either know or can learn.
Ch. 67. But we afterward always remind one another of these things, and
those among us who are wealthy help all who are in want, and we always
remain together. And for all things we eat we bless the Maker of all
things through His Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. And on
the day called the Day of the Sun there is a gathering in one place of us
all who live in cities or in the country, and the memoirs of the Apostles
or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time allows. Then,
when the reader has ceased, the president gives by word of mouth his
admonition and exhortation to imitate these excellent things. Afterward we
all rise at once and offer prayers; and as I said, when we have ceased to
pray, bread is brought and wine and water, and the president likewise
offers up prayers and thanksgivings as he has the ability, and the people
assent, saying "Amen." The distribution to each and the partaking of that
for which thanks were given then take place; and to those not present a
portion is sent by the hands of the deacons. Those who are well-to-do and
willing give, every one giving what he will, according to his own
judgment, and the collection is deposited with the president, and he
assists orphans and widows, and those who through sickness or any other
cause are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers that are
sojourning, and, in short, he has the care of all that are in need. Now we
all hold our common meeting on the Day of the Sun, because it is the first
day on which God, having changed the darkness and matter, created the
world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.
For on the day before Saturn's they crucified Him; and on the day after
Saturn's, which is the Day of the Sun, having appeared to his Apostles and
disciples, He taught them these things which we have offered you for
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