Archives For Early Church

 

Gerhard-Lohfink

Yesterday (Aug. 29) marked the birthday of theologian Gerhard Lohfink, one of the thinkers whose work has been most formative for us at Englewood Christian Church…

His work also was a major contributor to the theological foundation of my book Slow Church (co-written with John Pattison).
 

*** Read an excerpt from Lohfink’s most significant book, 
Does God Need the Church?

 
Here is a recent talk that Lohfink gave that has been translated into English and published by the Bruderhof in their Plough magazine
(If you know German, there is also a video recording of this talk…)
 
 

Did the Early Christians Understand Jesus?
Nonviolence, Love of Neighbor, and Imminent Expectation

Gerhard Lohfink

 

This is a translation of Gerhard Lohfink’s keynote address on November 21, 2015 at a conference commemorating Eberhard Arnold.

There are statements so ­bewildering that they are quoted again and again. Among these is a remark, now a century old, by the French biblical scholar Alfred Loisy: “Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God – and what came was the church.” I’ll leave to the side the question of what Loisy himself meant by this sentence. Rather, I’ll focus on how it’s understood by those who gleefully quote it. Usually, they understand it as bitterly ironic.

Here, on the one side, is the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed: the immense, all-comprehensive, yet incomprehensible trans­form­ation of the world under God’s reign – and there, on the other side, is the church that came after Easter: a finite body with all the limitations of any other social structure. Clearly, then, there’s a gaping chasm between Jesus’ proclamation and the post-Easter reality! Here the glory of the kingdom of God; there the bitter paltriness of the actual existing church.

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St. Ignatius of Antioch

Today is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was martyred near the end of the first century.

Here is the story of his martyrdom, from The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Volume 1).
[ Which is available as a FREE ebook from CCEL ]

This story was told and recorded for the encouragement and empowerment of the Church of that day, who were faced with widespread persecution.  Not all details in this story should be taken as factual, although the basic story of how Ignatius is martyred is usually accepted as fact.

 

The Martyrdom of
St. Ignatius of Antioch   

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St. CyprianThe roots of my interest in Slow Church could perhaps be traced back to my reading of two Early Christian treatises on patience

that I read as a I was writing my first book, Water, Faith and Wood: Stories of the Early Church’s Witness for Today. We are pleased to share one of these treatises, St. Cyprian’s On the Advantage of Patience, here with you today.  Cyprian was bishop of Carthage and an important Early Christian writer. He was born around the beginning of the 3rd century in North Africa, where he received a classical education. After converting to Christianity, he became a bishop in 249 and eventually died a martyr at Carthage.

In his martyrdom, Cyprian embodied the sort of patience that he defends in this treatise. “Cyprian courageously prepared his people for the expected edict of persecution by his ‘De exhortatione martyrii,’ and himself set an example when he was brought before the Roman proconsul Aspasius Paternus (August 30, 257). He refused to sacrifice to the pagan deities and firmly professed Christ.  The consul banished him to Curubis, modern Korba, whence he comforted to the best of his ability his flock and his banished clergy. In a vision he saw his approaching fate. When a year had passed he was recalled and kept practically a prisoner in his own villa, in expectation of severer measures after a new and more stringent imperial edict arrived, demanding the execution of all Christian clerics, according to reports of it by Christian writers. On September 13, 258, he was imprisoned at the behest of the new proconsul, Galerius Maximus. The day following he was examined for the last time and sentenced to die by the sword. His only answer was “Thanks be to God!” The execution was carried out at once in an open place near the city. A vast multitude followed Cyprian on his last journey. He removed his garments without assistance, knelt down, and prayed. After he blindfolded himself, he was beheaded by the sword. (Wikipedia)

We are pleased today to offer this treatise on patience today, on the anniversary of St. Cyprian’s martydom…

Download a FREE PDF ebook of

St. Cyprian’s On the Advantage of Patience

We intend to make the “Freebie of the Week” a regular column… So stay tuned in coming weeks for other free ebooks, downloads, etc.!

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A Brief Review of

Early Christian Thinkers:
The Lives and Legacies of Twelve Key Figures

Paul Foster, ed..
Paperback: IVP Books, 2011.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ] [ Amazon – Kindle ]

Reviewed by Maria Drews.

With one foot in the Biblical text and another in our modern world, church history gets stepped over all too often. Yet tracing the development of Christian theology from the apostolic age to today provides an important understanding of how Christian thinking developed and matured, interacting with culture and time, weathering heresies and seeking unity. Like setting out on a journey, the first steps of Christian thought in the apostolic age were important for setting the direction and method of Christian thinking for the church.

In Early Christian Thinkers: The Lives and Legacies of Twelve Key Figures, edited by Paul Foster, twelve leading scholars explore the writing, theology, setting, impact, and study of important thinkers as they strove to create an intellectual account of faith in the first four centuries of the church. The book covers well-known church fathers, such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen, as well as lesser-known thinkers, such as Tatian and Hippolytus of Rome, while thankfully including one early church mother, Perpetua.

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** Note: Due to our efforts to get the print issue completed
this week, we our postponing our next full online issue until next week **

Redeeming Our Own
Muddled History Toward Women

A review of
Holy Misogyny:
Why the Sex and Gender Conflicts
in the Early Church Still Matter.

by April DeConick.

Review by Jasmine Wilson.

HOLY MISOGYNY - April DeConickHoly Misogyny:
Why the Sex and Gender Conflicts
in the Early Church Still Matter.

by April DeConick.
Hardback: Continuum, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

In the new book Holy Misogyny, April DeConick is answering two different but related questions: first, “Where is Lady God?” or putting it differently, “Where are the feminine aspects of God’s nature?” The second question she tackles is, “How were women understood in the early church?” These questions are related, because as DeConick concludes, when the female body was devalued, it is no wonder the female Spirit of God did not remain.

DeConick first traces the femininity of God in the ancient Jewish tradition, and how that carried over into the Christian tradition. She talks about how the “Spirit” of God had been understood by its original audience as feminine. Giving the example of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus at his baptism, when the skies open up and a voice is heard, “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased,” DeConick asserts that modern readers most likely hear that voice as either male or genderless, coming from the Father. She argues the original audience would have heard it as female, coming from the Spirit of God, and that in some places Christians wrote about the Spirit being Jesus’s true mother. DeConick also gives fascinating historical evidence for how the early Christians might have understood their own baptism in more feminine ways, with baptismal fonts in the shape of a womb, and along with consuming the bread and wine during the service, how some would also drink milk, as if from Mother Spirit.

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838861: Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy: Engaging with Early and Medieval Theologians

A Brief Review of

Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy:
Engaging with Early and Medieval Theologians

By Edited by Bradley G. Green.
Paperback: IVP Academic, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by John Schaaf.

With an eye to the original context in which they were written, the authors in this collection of essays, edited by Bradley G. Green (Ph.D. Baylor University), seek to place some of the early and medieval church’s most influential theologians in within their original context. In so doing, their theological constructs become more understandable and, thus, more palatable. The work engages such early theologians as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius, the Cappadocian fathers (Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianus) and Augustine. Additionally, it examines two of the best-known medieval theologians, Anselm and Thomas Aquinas.

In each chapter the finer points of the theologians’ positions are briefly expounded upon (after a short biography) leaving the reader with enough insight to gain a concise understanding while still leaving a thirst for more, as one repeatedly reads short excerpts of the theologians’ positions in their own words. Such a practice could only serve to encourage the reader to seek out the primary materials that are listed at the end of each chapter. Coupled with prolific footnotes and lists of primary materials is a succinct bibliography of secondary materials infused with commentary to lead the reader toward the materials that may be best suited for their interests.

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“The Fundamentally Local Nature of Theology?

A Review of
The Other Christs:

Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom
.
By Candida Moss
.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.


The Other Christs:
Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom
.
Candida Moss
.
Hardback: Oxford UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

THE OTHER CHRISTS - Candida MossFor many years now, I have been intrigued by the martyrs of the Early Church era, their faith that did not waiver amidst threats of death and their significance in the life of the Church.  Thus, I was excited when I heard about Oxford University Press’s release of the new book The Other Christs: Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom by Candida Moss, a professor of theology at Notre Dame.  This new work is a study of the “Acts of the Martyrs,” the mostly extra-canonical accounts of the deaths of the martyrs, and seeks to understand “the presentation of the martyrs in the early church, both the ways that the martyr acts interpret the person and death of Jesus and the manner in which this interpretation can inform our understanding of martyrdom in early Christianity” (vii).  Acknowledging that the act of martyrdom is generally accepted as following in the footsteps of Jesus, she notes that this sort of imitation has yet to be explored in depth, and undertakes to do so in this volume.

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Two New Books on Early Christianity

What’s With Paul and Women?
Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2
.
Paperback: Ekklesia Press, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Commentary on the Gospel of John
(Ancient Christian Texts Series)

Theodore of Mopsuestia
Hardback: IVP Academic, 2010.
Buy Now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Jon Zens’ newest book with the Seinfeld-esque name What’s With Paul and Women? offers a brief, but pointed critique of the literal and superficial reading of I Timothy 2 that understands that passage as saying that women should categorically never be able to teach men in churches.  Zens, who is editor of the engaging and long-thriving periodical Searching Together, does a wonderful job here of confirming my intuitions (and I suspect those of others as well) that Paul’s instruction was contextual – for the church in Ephesus in that time – and not universal.  Many objections that might be raised are identified and delicately dismantled.  This clear and thorough treatment of this passage is essential reading for anyone who has questions about the place of women teachers in the church, or for anyone in dialogue with those who doubt that women should teach.

The newest volume in IVP’s Ancient Christian Texts Series is Theodore of Mopsuestia’s Commentary on the Gospel of John.  Before I picked up this volume, Theodore was not a figure with whom I was familiar, and there is good reason why Theodore’s name is not a familiar one: in the mid-sixth century, more than a hundred years after his death, his writings were condemned as Nestorian and thus heretical and were in large part destroyed.  However, as described in the book’s introduction, the latest scholarship (and specifically variant versions of this text that have survived the centuries) calls into question Theodore’s condemnation as a Nestorian.  Since the Nestorian controversy centered on the nature of Christ’s person, this commentary on John’s Gospel gives us a excellent vantage point for exploring Theodore’s position, and for broadening our own perspectives on Church History, reminding us of the reality that historical situations – even within the Church – are almost always more complex than what we learn in our basic historical introductions.

 

Almighty God, great Source of All
A Hymn of the Early Church
Translated by John Brownlie
(from Hymns of the Early Church )

Almighty God, great Source of all,
Upholder of the earth and sea,
To whom Thy works unceasing call,
Throughout their vast immensity;
The heaven reflects Thy glory bright,
From sunlit dome, and starry height.
Dark clouds surround Thy kingly seat;
But where Thou art is peerless light;
There righteousness and mercy meet
In all their gentleness and might;
The beauty of Thy place of bliss
Is purity and holiness.

Almighty God! Thy power supreme
The rebel arm presumes to win,
While all the hosts of hell blaspheme,
And hurl the darts of death and sin;
But lo, the God-man, girt with might,
Hath turned the hosts of hell to flight.
Almighty God! we lift our eyes
To where the awful cross is raised,
And there, by holy sacrifice,
Behold the pride of sin abased;
And at His feet, whose love o’ercame,
Renew our fealty to Thy name.

 

An excerpt from:

The Other Christs:
Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom
.
Candida Moss.
Hardback: Oxford UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Watch for our review next week!