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The Great Apostacy
 
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Does anyone know when the church claims the great apostacy happened?

 

I'm trying to figure it out and having some trouble. Here's what I've been thinking over:

 

1) The Great Apostacy happens just after the deaths of the original apostles. If this is the case then the dogma contained in everything except three of the gospels (and that's a bit dodgy) and some of the writings of Paul is suspect. The difficulty is that the Pauline dogma is distinctive from and (according to many biblical historians) antithetical to much of the Petrine (or apostolic) doctrine. So which was the Gospel from which Christianity fell? Was it Paul's gospel which is much better documented but which is based on Paul's own concepts of Christ and not on first-hand knowledge? If so, then we must reject anything that is not actually written by Paul, including the Pauline letters that are by a different author, and we have to wonder why Christ's own apostles fell away. We also have to reject the actual reports of Christ's ministry as those were written later and (supposedly) by those who followed the apostate apostles. After all, Paul does not talk much at all about the acts and ministry of Christ. Or was the Gospel based on the apostolic tradition in which case the majority of the NT has to be given up as it was Pauline and post-Pauline.

 

Maybe the church could point to the Council of Jerusalem as having set down the dogma and practices of Christianity? In that case the 'pure and simple gospel' means:

  •  Gentiles don't have to be circumcised
  • We may not eat blood
  • Nor non kosher meat
  • No idolotry
  • No fornication
This doesn't help a lot in understanding the beliefs and practices of the 'true' church of Christ, and it doesn't explain really clear up whether the correct practice was apostolic (follow the Torah) or Pauline (forget the Torah, follow the gourd! That is, never mind the Torah, here's something new). Possibly the entire simple, pure Christ-based church was the inverted golden rule that came out of the Council: 'and whatever things ye would not have done to yourselves, do not do to another' which is nice and good, but I don't really see how anyone fell away from that as far as dogma.

 

2) The Great Apostacy happens c CE 325 with the council of Nicea.  This is extremely problematic because prior to Nicea there WAS no single Christian worship (despite the Council of Jerusalem). There was no codified 'bible,' there was no creed, no orthodoxy (and therefore no heterodoxy). Instead you had a proliferation of belief systems and practices, usually limited to a single geographic area, overlapping with eachother at times but very, very different in really essential points such as the nature of God, the divinity of Christ, the nature (and need, and purpose) of the Atonement. So how can there have been a 'Great' Apostacy without a majority agreement? Does the Nicean Creed create, or at least codify the 'true' early church, in which case proper practice MUST follow the 20 canons:

 

1. prohibition of self-castration 

2. establishment of a minimum term for catechumen (persons studying for baptism)

3. prohibition of the presence in the house of a cleric of a younger woman who might bring him under suspicion (the so called virgines subintroductae)

4. ordination of a bishop in the presence of at least three provincial bishops and confirmation by the Metropolitan bishop

 5. provision for two provincial synods to be held annually

6. exceptional authority acknowledged for the patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome (the Pope), for their respective regions

7. recognition of the honorary rights of the see of Jerusalem

8. provision for agreement with the Novatianists, an early sect

9–14. provision for mild procedure against the lapsed during the persecution under Licinius

15–16. prohibition of the removal of priests

17. prohibition of usury among the clergy (UH OH!)

18. precedence of bishops and presbyters before deacons in receiving the Eucharist (Holy Communion)

19. declaration of the invalidity of baptism by Paulian heretics

20. prohibition of kneeling during the liturgy on Sundays and during the Pentecost (the fifty days after Easter). Standing was the normative posture for prayer at this time, as it still is among the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics.

or:

 

3) The Great Apostacy happens c CE  381 - 787 which would mean that Nicea got it right, but the next six councils corrupted that purity, in which case perhaps the 'true' church is somewhere in one of the heresies those councils stomped out.

 

 

So does anyone know when the church claims this falling away happened? Was it before Constantine, when there was no unified worship? That's VERY problematic. Or was it post-Constantine which means the church needs to acknowledge the validity of the early Popes which, as far as I understand, they do not (at least not post-Peter).

 

Sorry for the length!

 
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<sarcasm>

wait wait.. that's way too many facts for a mormon discussion about apostasy.  You can't bring actual history to bear in this discussion.  Haven't you read what the prophets say about apostasy?  That should be enough.  Stop trying to use the tools of men to understand the realm of God!

</sarcasm>

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Ok, to answer your question on a more serious note:

 

The general mormon idea of apostasy is that they early church was in a constant battle against apostasy since its inception with Christ.  Even when the apostles were alive there was constant perversion of the gospel due to the lack of the ability of the apostles to exert power beyond where the physically resided.  Once that apostolic authority was lost they already active apostasy continued to worsen without the constant correction from on high.  Even at 90 AD the Lord accuses many of the branches of the church of having fallen into apostasy. (Revelations in the NT).  The real question about the books of the new testament is who actually wrote them and can they be trusted because I think it is pretty clear that apostasy was rampant throughout the early church from its inception.  We are then left with groups of Christians who understand their new faith differently trying to reconcile their beliefs through councils and the like even up to the 5th century AD.  Early church Christians were truly branches and met in individual homes. We don't really see any evidence of actual physical church buildings until long after the 1st century AD.

 

The pure church of Christ never really existed but with a very few select group of individuals in the 1st century AD.

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Jesus himself was accused of apostasy, from being Jewish...so....when did it start?
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The way it was taught to us in the LTM (predecessor to the MTC) was that Apostasy always occurs when the 'top down' spirit of revelation is absent.  Humans err and without the guiding hand at the helm, we get off course.  And we were told this story:

 

WWII severed the ties between SLC and many parts of the world.  When the war ended, TSCC moved with alacrity to reestablish these ties.  GAs were sent out to all the world, and found many situations similar to the one described to us by the speaker.  A GA showed up in a remote part of Argentina.  He was greeted with great joy and a great to do was made of his visit.  On the next Sunday the GA is stunned by the changes that have occurred. There are candles and incense and an extemely ornate covering over the sacrament trays.   The deacons look like altar boys.  Everyone who takes the sacrament does so kneeling.  All the songs are sung standing up.  Many of the women are wearing veils.  Some people kiss the bishop's hand and want to kiss the GAs hand.  

 

According to our speaker, it all started when the mantle covering the sacrament trays was thought to be in need of replacement, and took off from there.

 

The point all being that we must all keep our eyes and ears, and especially our spiritual eyes and ears, focused on Los Quince (the 15), or else we will inevitably stray.

 

So the answer is that the Great Apostasy started when believers tried to figure things out on their own, meaning that it's always has been and always will be ongoing. 

 
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Thanks everyone -

 

so, from what you're saying, it is APOSTOLIC power that was important, and the gospel resided with the original apostles and then was corrupted as that first-contact was lost? Doesn't that mean that all Pauline works have to be either rejected or seriously redacted? After all, Paul was in dissent with Peter over some very, very fundamental things. And as I understand it, at least one of the Pauline letters (can't think which at the moment) was an effort to bring his flock BACK to what he believed was the 'true' gospel when they had been 'led astray' by being taught the gospel according to Peter!

 

 That eliminates the majority of the NT.

 
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Dr.McNinja:

Ok, to answer your question on a more serious note:

 

The general mormon idea of apostasy is that they early church was in a constant battle against apostasy since its inception with Christ.  Even when the apostles were alive there was constant perversion of the gospel due to the lack of the ability of the apostles to exert power beyond where the physically resided.  Once that apostolic authority was lost they already active apostasy continued to worsen without the constant correction from on high.  Even at 90 AD the Lord accuses many of the branches of the church of having fallen into apostasy. (Revelations in the NT).  The real question about the books of the new testament is who actually wrote them and can they be trusted because I think it is pretty clear that apostasy was rampant throughout the early church from its inception.  We are then left with groups of Christians who understand their new faith differently trying to reconcile their beliefs through councils and the like even up to the 5th century AD.  Early church Christians were truly branches and met in individual homes. We don't really see any evidence of actual physical church buildings until long after the 1st century AD.

 

The pure church of Christ never really existed but with a very few select group of individuals in the 1st century AD.

 

 Okay, so the only pure gospel was actually never recorded, right? Since the gospel record of Christ post-dates him and was therefore written in the period of apostacy. Yet at the same time the Mormons 'believe the bible to be the word of god, as far as it is translated correctly' which means that apostate teachings are not actually found in the NT, unless there is an issue with translation. [of course, the Mormons don't really like academic biblical work which does aim to eliminate translation issues since they do not always correspond with Mormon beliefs, particularly the weird one that the KJT is the 'most correct.' Containing the most literary merit, arguable, but correct?] IOW, they want to eat their cake and have it too! 

 

This says to me that the only true gospel came from direct transmission from the actual apostles - so Paul, and all of his writings are apostate and must be rejected, or at least those teachings which are contrary to the apostolic church - ie, we should all be still following the Torah.

 

The problem I have with this is that we don't have very much evidence at all of the dogmatic church as taught by Peter and the original apostles. We have secondary evidence through Paul's writings, usually when he is trying to counter what they are saying, but not much at all from the men themselves (certainly non that is able to be ascribed to a particular apostle without controversy). So it is very hard to definitely state that there was a definable ONE TRUE PRACTICE that was taught by the apostles from which the rest of the church were in apostacy (definitely those taught by Paul, but in the second generation those who were left to try and develop dogma that had not been transmitted, particularly to deal with the fact that the end of the world did not, as Paul and Christ expected, actually happen immediately). In other words, can apostacy be claimed without a clearly defined orthodox? 

 

I guess what I'm wondering is how you would define that select group of individuals. Is there really any evidence within the accepted NT of such a group? I hope this comes across as I mean it - I mean genuinely curious. I know classical history and medieval history and therefore by association I know a reasonable amount about early christian history, but of course it's the Mormons who claim The Great Apostacy, not the rest of the Christian world (for the most part) so such an apostacy is not taught and I'm honestly unclear on just how it could be said to have happened.

 

Personally, it always seemed to me that Jesus expected an apocalypse very, very soon after his own death and so did not really set up a codified dogma that would allow a transmission not only of creed, but of succession of authority etc. The early apostles seem to have shared at least some of this apocalyptic view, certainly Paul did, and so again, they shared the teachings of Jesus (Sermon on the Mount comes to mind) and the acts of Jesus, but not necessarily what those things meant to believers. Think of all the major questions that remained unanswered by the Gospels:

 

Is Christ divine or human?

What is the nature of the Godhead?

Why did the atonement take place and what does it mean to us?

Is Judaic law still necessary (is Christianity an addition to it, or a replacement of it)

What rituals/sacraments define the Christian community and what do they mean?

What is sin?

How is mankind judged?

How is mankind saved?

What is evil and where does it come from?

 

Phew!

 

[edited because I'm an idiot with highlighting]

 
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Ok, let me admit up front that I have strong opinions about this subject having wasted far too much time reading about early Christianity. From a mormon point of view I think the only reasonable time frame for a great apostasy would be the first century (which is the #1 option on your list). The reason why is that we have a fair number of (orthodox) texts from the 2nd century and the church/beliefs that they describe are in no way mormon. Those writings from the so-called ‘church fathers' would include Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, and Justin. That second century church called itself the catholic church, had a hierarchy of bishops, presbyters, and deacons, viewed bishops as the successors to the apostles, worshiped with the Eucharistic sacrifice that was the body and blood of Christ, venerated martyrs, honored celibacy, believed in an immaterial God and creation out of nothing, etc. So if the original Christians were mormons then there must have been an almost immediate reversal on the most important aspects of the faith as soon as the original apostles died. And complete apostasy not just in a few local churches but in churches across the Empire, who strangely enough fell into the same false beliefs.

 

I would disagree with the statement that there was no orthodoxy prior to Nicaea in the 4th century. There is a continuous stream of orthodox writings associated with the catholic church that goes all the way back to around 96 AD. If you read these writings you get a clear sense of a church that was constantly defending what it perceived to be the orthodox faith against various competing groups each of which claimed to have the authentic teaching of Jesus. Of course catholic Christianity eventually became the dominant form of the faith, with the help of state support after Constantine. But catholic Christianity existed well before that. And I know that many scholars disagree, but I think the division between Pauline and Peterine Christianity is often overstated (I think it was Galatians that you were referring to). Paul was certainly very influential, but those earliest Christian looked to all of the apostles as the source of the orthodox faith, not just Paul. That would include people who traditionally are said to have known at least some of the apostles, like Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Smyrna. And the Pauline epistles themselves show that, in spite of disputes, Paul was in communication with the church and the apostles at Jerusalem and he himself scolded those who tried to divide themselves along party lines. There were disagreements, arguments, and sometimes rivalries, but that is to be expected given human nature. The Christian church has never been some sort of smooth functioning corporate machine, rather its more like a family, sometimes contentious and dysfunctional but nevertheless bound together.

 

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oops, posted twice. Is there a way to delete one of your own posts?

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hagiasophia:

Ok, let me admit up front that I have strong opinions about this subject having wasted far too much time reading about early Christianity. From a mormon point of view I think the only reasonable time frame for a great apostasy would be the first century (which is the #1 option on your list). The reason why is that we have a fair number of (orthodox) texts from the 2nd century and the church/beliefs that they describe are in no way mormon. Those writings from the so-called ‘church fathers' would include Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, and Justin. That second century church called itself the catholic church, had a hierarchy of bishops, presbyters, and deacons, viewed bishops as the successors to the apostles, worshiped with the Eucharistic sacrifice that was the body and blood of Christ, venerated martyrs, honored celibacy, believed in an immaterial God and creation out of nothing, etc. So if the original Christians were mormons then there must have been an almost immediate reversal on the most important aspects of the faith as soon as the original apostles died. And complete apostasy not just in a few local churches but in churches across the Empire, who strangely enough fell into the same false beliefs.

 

I would disagree with the statement that there was no orthodoxy prior to Nicaea in the 4th century. There is a continuous stream of orthodox writings associated with the catholic church that goes all the way back to around 96 AD. If you read these writings you get a clear sense of a church that was constantly defending what it perceived to be the orthodox faith against various competing groups each of which claimed to have the authentic teaching of Jesus. Of course catholic Christianity eventually became the dominant form of the faith, with the help of state support after Constantine. But catholic Christianity existed well before that. And I know that many scholars disagree, but I think the division between Pauline and Peterine Christianity is often overstated (I think it was Galatians that you were referring to). Paul was certainly very influential, but those earliest Christian looked to all of the apostles as the source of the orthodox faith, not just Paul. That would include people who traditionally are said to have known at least some of the apostles, like Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Smyrna. And the Pauline epistles themselves show that, in spite of disputes, Paul was in communication with the church and the apostles at Jerusalem and he himself scolded those who tried to divide themselves along party lines. There were disagreements, arguments, and sometimes rivalries, but that is to be expected given human nature. The Christian church has never been some sort of smooth functioning corporate machine, rather its more like a family, sometimes contentious and dysfunctional but nevertheless bound together.

 

 

 Oh brilliant - thank you for chiming in! Selfishly I have to say I don't think your time was wasted, because look how useful it is to ME! (nothing like the true egocentrism of humanity, eh?) I would love to hear more about what you think; for some reason this is really intriguing me right now.

 

 orthodox: Okay, here's where I think I'm still having troubles. Yes, we have a large number of othodox texts from the 2nd century, but why are they orthodox? Because AFTER the 2nd c there was a bloody great conference to hash out what was orthodox and what was not! What I mean is, the definition of orthodoxy post-dates those writings and they are judged orthodox based on that later definition. So Clement of Alexandria could happily count The Apocalypse of St Peter as scripture although it never 'made it,' and not run afoul of anyone, or refer to the Didache as scripture (if I remember correctly) while Eusebius was not nearly as sure. Or what about The Shepard of Hermas, one of the most popular now-noncanonical works and considered scriptural by Ireneaus (among others - and was included in the Codex Sinaiticus I believe?) and yet which contained the VERY heretical concept of adoptionism!

 

At the same time you had loads of writings by the various gnostic groups, or the followers of Sabellius, or the Arians all of which were accepted as valid and true by their followers, and some of whose teachings were at least considered or flirted with by some of the recognized Church Fathers. But the winners write the dogma, and so by definition these are counted heresies while other teachings, some of them equally problematic or contentious, are adopted as 'truth' - ie the 3-in-1 trinity.

 

I am probably over-stating the case, but it was essential to the church at the time of the first Nicean Council to establish, quite firmly, The Truth, The Dogma, The Creed in order to move forward politically and so, at least it seems to me, the tendency POST-council was to overstate the agreement among those involved and to reduce the influence of the also-rans who became heresies. As I see it, the intervention of Constantine, who was (naturally) Rome-centric in thinking, meant that the Rome-centric version of Christianity was inevitably going to win the day, although it would be subject to a bit of revision as the major players jockied for their favorite bit of dogma, while the Eastern sects, which were often heavily Gnostic, would be margianalized. Whether one group or another was closer to a 'ur-Christianity' is completely impossible to say!

 

Again, it just seems to me that Nicea, and the... what... seven? councils that came after created the 'orthodoxy' lens through which we view pre-Nicean writings and which then allows us to sort those writings into orthodox/heterdox. I mean, had the gnostics won the day, wouldn't we be citing the Nag Hammadi library as a source of orthodoxy and rejecting the heretical works of what are now viewed as proto-Christians?

 

ETA: Love your user-name, and it seems most apropriate! (I'm biased. I had a beloved dog named Sophie after the Hagia Sophia)

 
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your average mormon is discouraged from investigating & contemplating such intricacies of Christian history.

 

This is the basic setup:

 

Christ came & established the LDS church - gave the keys to Peter

 

no thought is given to the next 3 centuries

 

the Great Apostacy occurred at the Nicene Council - Catholicism (before splitting off into Anglican, Eastern & Roman variants) was the example of the Great Whore of Babylon.  Catholicism suppressed the True LDS church given to Peter (never mind that there is absolutely no evidence of this from the New Testament)

 

As a convenient backup plan, the Bible is only true so far as it is translated correctly.  Thus bits & pieces can be extracted from it to support the current Mormon orthodoxy.

 

I have also heard it said that Martin Luther & the Protestant Reformation paved the way for the Restoration of the Gospel (aka the First Vision)

 

Also, the pilgrimage of English Puritans & Pilgrims also paved the way for Joseph Smith.

 

In the LDS story, previous events are examples of causation - unless they don't fit with the story.

 

So Clio - you have thought far more about this than most LDS members.  Far too much, obviously, since you've seen that the LDS theology doesn't really add up.

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Clio:

 Oh brilliant - thank you for chiming in! Selfishly I have to say I don't think your time was wasted, because look how useful it is to ME! (nothing like the true egocentrism of humanity, eh?) I would love to hear more about what you think; for some reason this is really intriguing me right now.

 

 orthodox: Okay, here's where I think I'm still having troubles. Yes, we have a large number of othodox texts from the 2nd century, but why are they orthodox? Because AFTER the 2nd c there was a bloody great conference to hash out what was orthodox and what was not! What I mean is, the definition of orthodoxy post-dates those writings and they are judged orthodox based on that later definition. So Clement of Alexandria could happily count The Apocalypse of St Peter as scripture although it never 'made it,' and not run afoul of anyone, or refer to the Didache as scripture (if I remember correctly) while Eusebius was not nearly as sure. Or what about The Shepard of Hermas, one of the most popular now-noncanonical works and considered scriptural by Ireneaus (among others - and was included in the Codex Sinaiticus I believe?) and yet which contained the VERY heretical concept of adoptionism!

 

At the same time you had loads of writings by the various gnostic groups, or the followers of Sabellius, or the Arians all of which were accepted as valid and true by their followers, and some of whose teachings were at least considered or flirted with by some of the recognized Church Fathers. But the winners write the dogma, and so by definition these are counted heresies while other teachings, some of them equally problematic or contentious, are adopted as 'truth' - ie the 3-in-1 trinity.

 

I am probably over-stating the case, but it was essential to the church at the time of the first Nicean Council to establish, quite firmly, The Truth, The Dogma, The Creed in order to move forward politically and so, at least it seems to me, the tendency POST-council was to overstate the agreement among those involved and to reduce the influence of the also-rans who became heresies. As I see it, the intervention of Constantine, who was (naturally) Rome-centric in thinking, meant that the Rome-centric version of Christianity was inevitably going to win the day, although it would be subject to a bit of revision as the major players jockied for their favorite bit of dogma, while the Eastern sects, which were often heavily Gnostic, would be margianalized. Whether one group or another was closer to a 'ur-Christianity' is completely impossible to say!

 

Again, it just seems to me that Nicea, and the... what... seven? councils that came after created the 'orthodoxy' lens through which we view pre-Nicean writings and which then allows us to sort those writings into orthodox/heterdox. I mean, had the gnostics won the day, wouldn't we be citing the Nag Hammadi library as a source of orthodoxy and rejecting the heretical works of what are now viewed as proto-Christians?

 

ETA: Love your user-name, and it seems most apropriate! (I'm biased. I had a beloved dog named Sophie after the Hagia Sophia)

 

Those are all good points. Certainly it is the whole orthodox tradition that defines orthodoxy, which is a bit circular I suppose. So the Eastern Orthodox would reject the Roman Catholic ecumenical councils of the 2nd millenium as unauthorative while the Catholics accept them, with both groups claiming continuity and identification with the early church. Reasonable and devout people have come to different conclusions about which of those two groups best represents the authentic Christian tradition (or neither). A Roman Catholic would argue that it is ultimately the church of Rome that is the touchstone for orthodoxy given its prominence in the early church and association with Peter. And then we have the Copitc church as well, with its own ancient tradition.

 

As far as the gnostic sects go, I think that people like Irenaeus and Tertullian made compelling arguments back in the second century as to why they could not represent the authentic faith of the apostles. To me there is a simple reason why the gnostics usually claimed access to some sort of hidden knowledge. That is because the public preaching of the churches that were associated with the apostles, whether it be Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, or Rome, was clearly different from what the gnostics were trying to pass off as the gospel. So the gnostics had to argue that either the apostles chose only a select few to secretly teach the full truth, or the apostles themselves had limited understading of Jesus' message, or every one of the so called apostolic churches really screwed things up and distorted the truth, which they alone preserved (which is basically the mormon approach). For me each one of those is problematic and not very plausible.

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I do think, however, that in order to accept that what we now call the orthodox tradition is the correct interpretation of Jesus' gospel one does need to have some sort of prior belief that God would somehow arrange things so that the right guys would ultimately prevail. That we can have faith in God's own fidelity to his people. Let's suppose that Marcion or Arius were correct in their views. Then the real truth was lost and we are back to the LDS view of an apostasy. But that would be equivalent to God allowing the Jews to be completely wiped off the face of the earth, which has never thankfully happened (of course if you are Marcion then Israel is associated with the wrong god anyways). I can't quite articulate why, but that seems very unreasonable to me and perverse in a way on God's part. And if we accept the old covenant with Israel then it would also be very inconsistent with God's dealings with his people in the past. And remember that Arianism almost won the day, it had the political support of several Emperors and many of the Germanic tribes that ended up taking over the Western Empire. As the old saying goes: 'Athanasius contra mundum'. It's a miracle in a way that the Nicene doctrine actually ended up being the dogma of the church. Is the survival of the church down through the centuries, whether Roman or Orthodox, parallel to the survival of Israel despite all the odds?

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Clio,

 

Are you English by chance?

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The above statements are reasons why I think this discussion with a mormon mindset is kind of like a discussion on who is stronger, Wolverine or Spiderman.  They are both made up so what does it really matter :)
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I really hate to join an alegorical debate such as this, but, however,  for the record here, Russell Ballard, who wrote "Our Search For Happiness" claimed that when all of the original apostles of the early Christian Church met their mortal demise, their "keys were lost forever"(somewhere between pg 32 & 34 if memory serves me correctly).BUT, just how does he account for all the surviving converts around the world during that time???  This whole debate reeks of legends, fables and myths perpetuated by all....including me!
 
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Except that Jesus, Peter, Paul, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Marcion, Arius, Athanasius, etc. were actual historical figures. We can debate and argue about what they taught and what different groups of early Christians believed and even about which group had a better understanding of Jesus' original teachings. It's not an entirely pointless exercise even for a nonbeliever. It's an important, and to me at least interesting, part of our Western history and heritage. Not to say that I'm not a fan of the X-Men. I'll have to pass on Spiderman though.

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former victim:
I really hate to join an alegorical debate such as this, but, however,  for the record here, Russell Ballard, who wrote "Our Search For Happiness" claimed that when all of the original apostles of the early Christian Church met their mortal demise, their "keys were lost forever"(somewhere between pg 32 & 34 if memory serves me correctly).BUT, just how does he account for all the surviving converts around the world during that time???  This whole debate reeks of legends, fables and myths perpetuated by all....including me!

 

Well, according to Mormon doctrine the apostle John never died, so the 'keys' could not have been lost from the earth. And don't forget about those 3 Nephites!

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I was speaking of the mormon view of the events which is sorely lacking in actual facts.  I agree that there is use in studying and trying to understand the early players in Christianity.
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None of this matters. Jesus didn't practice Mormonism. He didn't wear garments, have secret handshakes, or worship in a temple. Nothing in Jesus's life was even remotely similar to Mormonism. Some people claim Solomon's temple as a link to mormonism (the masons)? BS. The worship in Solomon's temple was nothing like the Mormon temple.

 

How could there have been a great apostacy as Mormons claim if Jesus's religion wasn't Mormonism? 

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hagiasophia:

 

Those are all good points. Certainly it is the whole orthodox tradition that defines orthodoxy, which is a bit circular I suppose. So the Eastern Orthodox would reject the Roman Catholic ecumenical councils of the 2nd millenium as unauthorative while the Catholics accept them, with both groups claiming continuity and identification with the early church. Reasonable and devout people have come to different conclusions about which of those two groups best represents the authentic Christian tradition (or neither). A Roman Catholic would argue that it is ultimately the church of Rome that is the touchstone for orthodoxy given its prominence in the early church and association with Peter. And then we have the Copitc church as well, with its own ancient tradition.

 

As far as the gnostic sects go, I think that people like Irenaeus and Tertullian made compelling arguments back in the second century as to why they could not represent the authentic faith of the apostles. To me there is a simple reason why the gnostics usually claimed access to some sort of hidden knowledge. That is because the public preaching of the churches that were associated with the apostles, whether it be Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, or Rome, was clearly different from what the gnostics were trying to pass off as the gospel. So the gnostics had to argue that either the apostles chose only a select few to secretly teach the full truth, or the apostles themselves had limited understading of Jesus' message, or every one of the so called apostolic churches really screwed things up and distorted the truth, which they alone preserved (which is basically the mormon approach). For me each one of those is problematic and not very plausible.

 

 I could go all snotty and claim that of COURSE they did because they simply chose the bits that supported their opinion, but I don't' think a strong enough case can be made in that direction.

 

I'm interested by this. Unfortunately my reading (unlike yours) is pretty horizontal (broad but shallow) as opposed to vertical (in depth) so I feel very limited. When you say 'public preaching' of the apostolic based churches, what time frame are you talking about? And where are those records found? Because from what I can tell, Gnosticism (in its various forms) evolved over time and became gradually more starkly differentiated from the proto-Christians, so what could be called proto-Gnostics were basing their ideas on sacred writing which were fairly widely acceptable and which weren't condemned as heretical (the writing that is) until the Gnostic tradition had become different enough and large enough to pose a significant threat. Is that a reasonable thing to say? So at least when many of the proto-Gnostic concepts were being introduced and discussed they were probably close enough to the scriptures they had access to to be considered healthily Christian (or were at least not contradicted - honestly a lot of those early scriptures were pretty vague on the important stuff like the nature of Christ).

 

Of course, that brings us back to the basic problem that, although church fathers began to try to impose some sense of order as far as dogma and accepted scripture, these efforts were relatively late and were not entirely successful. During the just post-apostolic time frame people could honestly consider themselves Christian simply because they shared the most fundamental belief in the mission of Christ. The proliferation of heresies is evidence of the fact that Christ did not actually establish the structure of a church (dogma, scripture etc), and so third-generation Christians had to provide those things for themselves, using second-generation writings that all had more or less of a bias, and given the biased, pseudonymous nature of the scriptures they were using, they were all equally justified in declaring that THEIR version was true and correct! 

 

Having thought about it a while though I am going to back off the strong Nicean-orthodoxy claim and soften quite a bit. The efforts to create a codified 'accepted' set of scripture pre-dates Nicea and is an important step in creating orthodoxy. Nicea just solidified who the winners were!

 

Still doesn't help figure out what the Great Apostacy was actually apostate from though...

 

 
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hagiasophia:

Clio,

 

Are you English by chance?

 

 Nope - mongrel. But I lived in England as a child and have very English speech and writing patterns. I'm still irritated by words such as honour and colour!

 
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former victim:
I really hate to join an alegorical debate such as this, but, however,  for the record here, Russell Ballard, who wrote "Our Search For Happiness" claimed that when all of the original apostles of the early Christian Church met their mortal demise, their "keys were lost forever"(somewhere between pg 32 & 34 if memory serves me correctly).BUT, just how does he account for all the surviving converts around the world during that time???  This whole debate reeks of legends, fables and myths perpetuated by all....including me!

 

That's exactly the sort of thing I wanted to know!

 

What this implies is that only the original apostles had the 'keys' which also implies that the Great Apostacy is about priesthood and priesthood alone. As you say, there were all sorts of remaining Christians, many of whom had been personally evangelised by the apostles themselves.

 

Now, this causes a few itty-bitty issues for the church.

 

1) in my memory, Christ does not claim nor is he recorded as having any priesthood. He performs no priesthood ordinances (the sacrament does not follow sacramental prayer form which is one of the few prayers in the Mormon church that MUST be recited word for word) and is himself baptized by someone who quite likely didn't even have the Judaic priesthood (he didn't act like it, and it wasn't claimed for him that I can think of). 

 

2) again, this is memory as I don't have my handy KJT at my elbow, but Jesus did not set his apostles apart in a priesthood.

 

3) Paul certainly did not receive any priesthood keys, unless he did so from Peter or another apostle, which would mean that other members also received the priesthood and therefore it was not 'lost forever.' So either Paul doesn't get to count as providing any truth in his writing (because he did not have the keys) or the claim that the truth was lost with the deaths of the apostles is false.

 
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happyashellexmo:

None of this matters. Jesus didn't practice Mormonism. He didn't wear garments, have secret handshakes, or worship in a temple. Nothing in Jesus's life was even remotely similar to Mormonism. Some people claim Solomon's temple as a link to mormonism (the masons)? BS. The worship in Solomon's temple was nothing like the Mormon temple.

 

How could there have been a great apostacy as Mormons claim if Jesus's religion wasn't Mormonism? 

 

 Well, I'd argue that it matters because a large number of people base their lives and actions around the idea! It's not like debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, because no one is going to give up 1/10th of their income and 1/3 of their time based on the answer! 

 

However, your main point is really vital IMO. The church could try to argue that because the NT was written after the life and death of Christ many 'pure and simple truths' were not recorded (of course, this gets them out of the frying-pan of lack of evidence and into the toasty hot fire of unreliable scripture). But the book that was meant to make up for that lack ALSO doesn't mention garments, temples, secret handshakes (except for the Evil, Evil, Bad secret combinations - that always seemed a bit contradictory to me given the temple stuff!) or any of that other stuff.

 

Question - does the BoM story of Christ returning to the Americas mention priesthood at all? Anywhere?

 
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Clio:
former victim:
I really hate to join an alegorical debate such as this, but, however,  for the record here, Russell Ballard, who wrote "Our Search For Happiness" claimed that when all of the original apostles of the early Christian Church met their mortal demise, their "keys were lost forever"(somewhere between pg 32 & 34 if memory serves me correctly).BUT, just how does he account for all the surviving converts around the world during that time???  This whole debate reeks of legends, fables and myths perpetuated by all....including me!

 

That's exactly the sort of thing I wanted to know!

 

What this implies is that only the original apostles had the 'keys' which also implies that the Great Apostacy is about priesthood and priesthood alone. As you say, there were all sorts of remaining Christians, many of whom had been personally evangelised by the apostles themselves.

 

Now, this causes a few itty-bitty issues for the church.

 

1) in my memory, Christ does not claim nor is he recorded as having any priesthood. He performs no priesthood ordinances (the sacrament does not follow sacramental prayer form which is one of the few prayers in the Mormon church that MUST be recited word for word) and is himself baptized by someone who quite likely didn't even have the Judaic priesthood (he didn't act like it, and it wasn't claimed for him that I can think of). 

 

2) again, this is memory as I don't have my handy KJT at my elbow, but Jesus did not set his apostles apart in a priesthood.

 

3) Paul certainly did not receive any priesthood keys, unless he did so from Peter or another apostle, which would mean that other members also received the priesthood and therefore it was not 'lost forever.' So either Paul doesn't get to count as providing any truth in his writing (because he did not have the keys) or the claim that the truth was lost with the deaths of the apostles is false.

 

 Harry Anderson begs to differ:

 

 

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Clio:
former victim:
I really hate to join an alegorical debate such as this, but, however,  for the record here, Russell Ballard, who wrote "Our Search For Happiness" claimed that when all of the original apostles of the early Christian Church met their mortal demise, their "keys were lost forever"(somewhere between pg 32 & 34 if memory serves me correctly).BUT, just how does he account for all the surviving converts around the world during that time???  This whole debate reeks of legends, fables and myths perpetuated by all....including me!

 

That's exactly the sort of thing I wanted to know!

 

What this implies is that only the original apostles had the 'keys' which also implies that the Great Apostacy is about priesthood and priesthood alone. As you say, there were all sorts of remaining Christians, many of whom had been personally evangelised by the apostles themselves.

 

Now, this causes a few itty-bitty issues for the church.

 

1) in my memory, Christ does not claim nor is he recorded as having any priesthood. He performs no priesthood ordinances (the sacrament does not follow sacramental prayer form which is one of the few prayers in the Mormon church that MUST be recited word for word) and is himself baptized by someone who quite likely didn't even have the Judaic priesthood (he didn't act like it, and it wasn't claimed for him that I can think of). 

 

2) again, this is memory as I don't have my handy KJT at my elbow, but Jesus did not set his apostles apart in a priesthood.

 

3) Paul certainly did not receive any priesthood keys, unless he did so from Peter or another apostle, which would mean that other members also received the priesthood and therefore it was not 'lost forever.' So either Paul doesn't get to count as providing any truth in his writing (because he did not have the keys) or the claim that the truth was lost with the deaths of the apostles is false.

 

 Harry Anderson begs to differ:

 

 

 

Pffft. Beards? Sandals?? 

 

I hardly think this represents a true and sacred moment!

 

Dude - most of them aren't even in white! Do these look like men ready to pass the sacrament?

 

 
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Clio:

 I could go all snotty and claim that of COURSE they did because they simply chose the bits that supported their opinion, but I don't' think a strong enough case can be made in that direction.

I agree with you here, because although the so called ‘Church Fathers' mostly confirm what is traditionally labeled orthodox doctrine, that isn't always the case. Origen is a great example of this. Many of his works were preserved yet he did hold some heterodox beliefs. And also The Shepherd which you mentioned. So it wasn't a complete whitewash, correlation wasn't as easy or thorough back then as it has been for the modern LDS church. We can still get a real sense of how doctrine developed over time just from the orthodox writings. That said, texts that were widely divergent from current teachings were rejected out of hand.

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If you have the time and inclination, the thing that I would recommend is to get aquainted with some of the primary sources themselves. This should give you a better sense of how the ‘proto-orthodox' Christians viewed themselves and their Church. This book would be a good place to start (these texts are also available online, but I'm kind of old fashioned when it comes to serious amounts of reading and prefer a paper copy):


http://www.amazon.com/ANTE-NICENE-FATHERS-Writings-D-Apostolic/dp/1602064695/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1300122944&sr=1-3

 

These are second century texts, with the exceptions being the epistle of Clement of Rome which is normally dated to the end of the first century. The epistles of Ignatius , bishop of Antioch, (107AD?) were very influential in shaping my view of the early catholic church. The importance of unity, avoidance of false teachers, and the authority of the bishop and his presbyters are the main themes. The term ‘catholic church' also makes its first appearance here. They illustrate the sense of communion and communication among the various churches, from Antioch to Rome itself. Ignatius ended his bishopric by being eaten alive by wild animals in the Coliseum.


Tertullian's ‘Against Heretics' (190AD?) is a quicker read that highlights some of the arguments used by the catholics against the various Gnostic groups:


http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/tertullian11.html

 

(Ironically, Tertullian himself later in life became a 'heretic' in the eyes of the catholic christians)

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Clio:

Because from what I can tell, Gnosticism (in its various forms) evolved over time and became gradually more starkly differentiated from the proto-Christians, so what could be called proto-Gnostics were basing their ideas on sacred writing which were fairly widely acceptable and which weren't condemned as heretical (the writing that is) until the Gnostic tradition had become different enough and large enough to pose a significant threat. Is that a reasonable thing to say? So at least when many of the proto-Gnostic concepts were being introduced and discussed they were probably close enough to the scriptures they had access to to be considered healthily Christian (or were at least not contradicted - honestly a lot of those early scriptures were pretty vague on the important stuff like the nature of Christ).

 

By the beginning of the second century there was, for the catholics, already a sense of us vs. them (see Ignatius again). But at the same time, there was some fuzziness as well since doctrine took time to be developed and clarified. It does appear that dogma came to be more defined in response to various challenges/heresies.

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Clio:

 During the just post-apostolic time frame people could honestly consider themselves Christian simply because they shared the most fundamental belief in the mission of Christ.

 

I'm not sure about that one. If by post-apostolic we include the late first and early second centuries then, for the churches associated with Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp and their fellow bishops, one was a Christian if one was under the authority of the local (catholic) bishop. Unity with the church, as personified in its bishop, seemed to have been very important. Perhaps as a way to ensure what they perceived to be correct teaching and worship. There were other groups of course, I'm not sure exactly what their criteria would have been. Many of the gnostics seemed to have divided believers into different levels based on their understanding/access to secret knowledge/mysteries.

 

Keeping in mind that the epistles of Ignatius (107AD) were honored and widely read in the early catholic church, and that he was held up as a great martyr for the faith and celebrated by the local churches on his route to Rome, we have the following quotes (sorry for the KJV wording):

 


Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyraeans:


"See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.


Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness, and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does serve the devil."

 

 

Epistle of Ignatius to the Philidelphians:


"For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ].


Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to God. "

 

 

Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians:


"For if I in this brief space of time, have enjoyed such fellowship with your bishop, I mean not of a mere human, but of a spiritual nature, how much more do I reckon you happy who are so joined to him as the church is to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father, that so all things may agree in unity! Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two possesses such power, how much more that of the bishop and the whole church! He, therefore, that does not assemble with the church, has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself. For it is written, "God resisteth the proud." Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God.

 

Now the more any one sees the bishop keeping silence, the more ought he to revere him. For we ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself. And indeed Onesimus [the bishop of Ephesus] himself greatly commends your good order in God, that ye all live according to the truth, and that no sect has any dwelling-place among you."

 

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Did the "Apostles" appoint those bishops? (Have often wondered.)
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Tessa:
Did the "Apostles" appoint those bishops? (Have often wondered.)

 

Well, we don't have 'ordination certificates' of course. The first Christians didn't appear too worried about putting everything down in writing (that many viewed the end of the world as imminent probably contributed to this). So what we do have are (orthodox) texts from the late first century and the second century that put forward the idea of bishops as the successors to the apostles. Now whether they just made it all up to consolidate power, or whether these later texts are based on oral transmission or now lost written texts is in the eye of the beholder I suppose. The second century catholics seemed to have thought that their list of bishops going back to the apostles was a powerful argument against their gnostic opponents. Here's a sampling of quotes on the topic (I apologize for posting so much on this, like I said earlier I've wasted far too much time reading these things ):

 

 

Clement, bishop of Rome (96AD?). Tradition claims that he knew Peter and Paul, which is at least possible since they were killed in Rome under Nero sometime around 64-67AD:

 

"The Apostles received for us the gospel from our Lord Jesus Christ; our Lord Jesus Christ received it from God. Christ, therefore, was sent out from God, and the Apostles from Christ; and both these things were done in good order, according to the will of God. They, therefore, having received the promises, having been fully persuaded by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and having been confirmed by the word of God, with the full persuasion of the Holy Spirit, went forth preaching the good tidings that the kingdom of God was at hand. Preaching, therefore, through the countries and cities, they appointed their firstfruits to be bishops and deacons over such as should believe, after they had proved them in the Spirit.

 

Our Apostles, too, by the instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ, knew that strife would arise concerning the dignity of a bishop; and on this account, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed the above mentioned as bishops and deacons: and then gave a rule of succession, in order that, when they had fallen asleep, other men, who had been approved, might succeed to their ministry"

 

 

Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (180AD?). He knew Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who is said to have been a disciple of the apostle John in Asia Minor. So according to tradition Irenaeus is just one person removed from an apostle. From his 'Against Heresies':

 

"It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these heretics rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to "the perfect" apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon, but if they should fall away, the direst calamity.

 

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by those who exist everywhere.

 

The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone, for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spake with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the apostolic tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth."

 

 

 

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And let's not overlook Tertullian (late second century), who wrote the following in his 'Against Heretics':

 

"But if there be any [heresies] which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men, a man, moreover, who continued stedfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit, whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed. Let the heretics contrive something of the same kind. For after their blasphemy, what is there that is unlawful for them [to attempt]?

 

Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally. Achaia is very near you, you find Corinth. Since you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi; you have the Thessalonians. Since you are able to cross to Asia, you get Ephesus. Since, moreover, you are close upon Italy, you have Rome, from which there comes even into our own hands the very authority [of apostles themselves]. How happy is its church, on which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood! where Peter endures a passion like his Lord's! where Paul wins his crown in a death like John's where the Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile! See what she has learned, what taught, what fellowship has had with even churches in Africa! One Lord God does she acknowledge, the Creator of the universe, and Christ Jesus [born] of the Virgin Mary, the Son of God the Creator; and the Resurrection of the flesh; the law and the prophets she unites in one volume with the writings of evangelists and apostles, from which she drinks in her faith. This she seals with the water [of baptism], arrays with the Holy Ghost, feeds with the Eucharist, cheers with martyrdom, and against such a discipline thus [maintained] she admits no gainsayer."

 

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None of those folks talk about "laying on of hands to confirm priesthood keys."  Not even a description of baptism.  It's more, stories they heard and agreed with...
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I’ve begun worshiping the sun for a number of reasons. First of all, unlike some other gods I could mention, I can see the sun. It’s there for me every day. And the things it brings me are quite apparent all the time: heat, light, food, a lovely day. There’s no mystery, no one asks for money, I don’t have to dress up, and there’s no boring pageantry. And interestingly enough, I have found that the prayers I offer to the sun and the prayers I formerly offered to God are all answered at about the same 50-percent rate.” George Carlin

 
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peterapostate:

Even though I don't believe in the Bible as sacred scripture, you may want to quote this scripture to TBM's:

 

Matthew 16:18

And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

 

This passage specifically states that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (the church). I don't see how there could had been a great apostacy when Jesus says the church would continue.

 

Most non-LDS interpret church as all of the christian denominations and don't group them into just "one true" church. The only exception are the Roman Catholics who believe the Peter was the first pope of the Catholic Church and that means that their church have the authority to act in Christ's name (priesthood).

 

 You know, I'd never interpreted that scripture in those terms before! What's interesting is that 'church' is the term used in the Oxford bible as well as in KJV - 'church' rather than 'gospel'. I wonder if the modern implication of 'formal structure [complete]' for church rather than 'dogma and religious message' for gospel is valid for the time of Matthew? 

 
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hagiasophia:

If you have the time and inclination, the thing that I would recommend is to get aquainted with some of the primary sources themselves. This should give you a better sense of how the ‘proto-orthodox' Christians viewed themselves and their Church. This book would be a good place to start (these texts are also available online, but I'm kind of old fashioned when it comes to serious amounts of reading and prefer a paper copy):


http://www.amazon.com/ANTE-NICENE-FATHERS-Writings-D-Apostolic/dp/1602064695/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1300122944&sr=1-3

 

These are second century texts, with the exceptions being the epistle of Clement of Rome which is normally dated to the end of the first century. The epistles of Ignatius , bishop of Antioch, (107AD?) were very influential in shaping my view of the early catholic church. The importance of unity, avoidance of false teachers, and the authority of the bishop and his presbyters are the main themes. The term ‘catholic church' also makes its first appearance here. They illustrate the sense of communion and communication among the various churches, from Antioch to Rome itself. Ignatius ended his bishopric by being eaten alive by wild animals in the Coliseum.


Tertullian's ‘Against Heretics' (190AD?) is a quicker read that highlights some of the arguments used by the catholics against the various Gnostic groups:


http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/tertullian11.html

 

(Ironically, Tertullian himself later in life became a 'heretic' in the eyes of the catholic christians)

 

 As an historian I always prefer the primary source of course!

 

[I must admit that I am a happy and committed user of digital texts - I was raised a bibliophile and do love a gorgeous old book, but I also move a great deal and boxes and boxes of heavy texts are quite a burden. I have tried to settle my conscience by repeating the mantra that it's the words that matter and not the medium which helps... sometimes. My colleagues think I'm a heathen and a heretic though!]

 

I read some of these texts ages ago but I will definitely re-acquaint. My initial thoughts are that the themes of unity and false teachers are evidences of how varied Christian belief was at the time and how frantic the literate (at later orthodox) leaders were to reign things in. 

 
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Clio:
peterapostate:

Even though I don't believe in the Bible as sacred scripture, you may want to quote this scripture to TBM's:

 

Matthew 16:18

And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

 

This passage specifically states that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (the church). I don't see how there could had been a great apostacy when Jesus says the church would continue.

 

Most non-LDS interpret church as all of the christian denominations and don't group them into just "one true" church. The only exception are the Roman Catholics who believe the Peter was the first pope of the Catholic Church and that means that their church have the authority to act in Christ's name (priesthood).

 

 You know, I'd never interpreted that scripture in those terms before! What's interesting is that 'church' is the term used in the Oxford bible as well as in KJV - 'church' rather than 'gospel'. I wonder if the modern implication of 'formal structure [complete]' for church rather than 'dogma and religious message' for gospel is valid for the time of Matthew? 

 

 As an ignorant Mormon unware of basic biblical scholarship, I enjoyed finding out that Peter's name literally means 'rock.' It was not a name before him, it was a basic noun. It seems so unneccesary to use the word rock in this situation as it becomes somewhat confusing. It's nearly as intentionally opaque as John's usage of 'logos' in his gospel. Just my thoughts.   

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I don’t see how the highjacking of the term to define something else and to use it in a critical way could be valid. - Phillip

 
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hagiasophia:
Clio:

 During the just post-apostolic time frame people could honestly consider themselves Christian simply because they shared the most fundamental belief in the mission of Christ.

 

I'm not sure about that one. If by post-apostolic we include the late first and early second centuries then, for the churches associated with Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp and their fellow bishops, one was a Christian if one was under the authority of the local (catholic) bishop. Unity with the church, as personified in its bishop, seemed to have been very important. Perhaps as a way to ensure what they perceived to be correct teaching and worship. There were other groups of course, I'm not sure exactly what their criteria would have been. Many of the gnostics seemed to have divided believers into different levels based on their understanding/access to secret knowledge/mysteries.

 

Keeping in mind that the epistles of Ignatius (107AD) were honored and widely read in the early catholic church, and that he was held up as a great martyr for the faith and celebrated by the local churches on his route to Rome, we have the following quotes (sorry for the KJV wording):

 


Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyraeans:


"See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.


Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness, and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does serve the devil."

 

 

Epistle of Ignatius to the Philidelphians:


"For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ].


Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to God. "

 

 

Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians:


"For if I in this brief space of time, have enjoyed such fellowship with your bishop, I mean not of a mere human, but of a spiritual nature, how much more do I reckon you happy who are so joined to him as the church is to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father, that so all things may agree in unity! Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two possesses such power, how much more that of the bishop and the whole church! He, therefore, that does not assemble with the church, has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself. For it is written, "God resisteth the proud." Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God.

 

Now the more any one sees the bishop keeping silence, the more ought he to revere him. For we ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself. And indeed Onesimus [the bishop of Ephesus] himself greatly commends your good order in God, that ye all live according to the truth, and that no sect has any dwelling-place among you."

 

 

 I hate to be tiresome but I think I want to emphasize that what I said was that individual people, and probably entire communities could consider themselves Christian while practicing sacraments and following beliefs that were wildly different from what was being codified as orthodoxy. Whether they were counted Christian (and I think they would be, although rebellious Christians) by the officials who sat in what were traditionally seen as apostolically established sees is sort of beside the point. I suppose it's the difference between the gospel in the ivory towers and the gospel on the street? I mean, if someone considers themself a Christian in that particular time frame then that's rather more significant than whether someone quite distant refuses to give them the label. After all, it's the local, on the street gospel living that will effect their daily life - and possibly death (I cannot imagine that all of the early Christian martyrs were all heterodox!).

 

I mean, if it weren't true that there were significant communities of non-orthodox Christians who confidently self-identified as valid and failthful followers of Christ then the polemic against independent thought and practice wouldn't be so prevalent, would it? The simple fact is that we have the preserved writings of those considered church fathers is because they followed, in their time, what after their time came to be seen as orthodoxy. How many writings of popular leaders who argued passionately AGAINST the proto-orthodox believers and leaders were suppressed? We already know of several very well regarded and sincere early writers who were eventually viewed as heretic and their writings suppressed even though in their own time, under their own understanding, they were perfectly faithful. The definition of heresy, by necessity, became more and more specific as time went on and political need became more acute.

 

 
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Cuzco:
Clio:
peterapostate:

Even though I don't believe in the Bible as sacred scripture, you may want to quote this scripture to TBM's:

 

Matthew 16:18

And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

 

This passage specifically states that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (the church). I don't see how there could had been a great apostacy when Jesus says the church would continue.

 

Most non-LDS interpret church as all of the christian denominations and don't group them into just "one true" church. The only exception are the Roman Catholics who believe the Peter was the first pope of the Catholic Church and that means that their church have the authority to act in Christ's name (priesthood).

 

 You know, I'd never interpreted that scripture in those terms before! What's interesting is that 'church' is the term used in the Oxford bible as well as in KJV - 'church' rather than 'gospel'. I wonder if the modern implication of 'formal structure [complete]' for church rather than 'dogma and religious message' for gospel is valid for the time of Matthew? 

 

 As an ignorant Mormon unware of basic biblical scholarship, I enjoyed finding out that Peter's name literally means 'rock.' It was not a name before him, it was a basic noun. It seems so unneccesary to use the word rock in this situation as it becomes somewhat confusing. It's nearly as intentionally opaque as John's usage of 'logos' in his gospel. Just my thoughts.   

 

 One of the things that Mormons miss is how many puns there are in the scriptures! There are a lot lost in translation of course, but word-play was used a lot in scripture (both OT and NT). When I first learned Greek I remember wondering, just wondering, whether Peter was really originally Peter, or whether he was dubbed Petros because it made such an excellent joke! After all, having The Rock betray Christ is a more interesting and powerful image than having Iggy Zignuts deny that he knew him. 

 

Hmmm... when I think of it, the lack of word-play in the BoM is actually a reasonable, if negative, bit of evidence against it being an ancient Hebraic text!

 
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hagiasophia:
Tessa:
Did the "Apostles" appoint those bishops? (Have often wondered.)

 

Well, we don't have 'ordination certificates' of course. The first Christians didn't appear too worried about putting everything down in writing (that many viewed the end of the world as imminent probably contributed to this). So what we do have are (orthodox) texts from the late first century and the second century that put forward the idea of bishops as the successors to the apostles. Now whether they just made it all up to consolidate power, or whether these later texts are based on oral transmission or now lost written texts is in the eye of the beholder I suppose. The second century catholics seemed to have thought that their list of bishops going back to the apostles was a powerful argument against their gnostic opponents. Here's a sampling of quotes on the topic (I apologize for posting so much on this, like I said earlier I've wasted far too much time reading these things ):

 

 


 

 

 

 

Please don't apologise! It's so useful to have someone able to chime in with such an in-depth knowledge, particularly as this kind of information is very rare to Mormons who prefer not to dig too deeply!

 

I think it's this very lack of evidence of an apostolic sucession that bothers me, combined with the very clear practical need to claim such a succession and to establish an authority that can stand against rival interpretations. 

 

I'm ashamed to say that I don't even know how solid the evidence is for Peter going to Rome and dying there. I mean, Paul talks about travelling to Rome in Acts (I think?) and there is mention of 'Babylon' in Peter, but since the authorship of Peter is in contention that can't really be considered evidence. So doesn't most of the talk about the creation of the See of Rome come from the era of, say, Tertullian?

 

It just seems that the more you pick it apart, the more it appears that the church qua Catholic Organization can be pegged to a time rather post-apostolic, and that any evidence of its establishment prior to that has to be taken with some skepticism as it is either non-contemporary with the apostles, or is vague and easily prone to interpretation.

 
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