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Understanding the language of the Bible is critical. The language of the N.T. is written in the later Greek, and the writers applied the Greek to subjects on which it had never been used by native Greek writers. The things concerning Jewish affairs, their theology, and rituals. I have committed the work of the Greek dictionary found within, to assist in your personal study, and in repelling those who choose to distort the word. Acquaint yourself with the language of the Greek N.T., you will find it to be of an indispensable importance.
The author of these articles and features quotes verses from the King James Version. We investigate the Bible's original text, examine the Greek, Hebrew, text, context, symbols, and terminologies. We will continue to make every effort to aid readers to grow in their individual faith. We will also make every effort to assist, and to support those who have vowed to honor our Lord Jesus Christ, and His finished work.
Overview of 1st and 2ed century Christian Church. See part 1 in lower left had column.
Part 2: The persecutions of the Church coming from the Pagan Gentile world were at times relieved by those Emperors of Rome who were friendly to the Christian cause. In the year 203 A.D., Severus made a law forbidding any subject of his empire to change his religion. This law was designed to retard the spread of the Gospel; and because it was strictly enforced, it brought many, of both sexes, to a cruel death. A few years after, the fires of persecution raged under Maximin. But the most dreadful persecution, of the 3e century, was under Decius, who ascended the imperial throne in 249 A.D. He ordered the pretors (officers of the Romans) on pain of death, to root out the whole body of Christians without exception; or force them, by torments, to bow to heathen gods. This persecution raged about two years; and many were murdered. But other emperors were extremely lenient toward Christians, especially Philip and his son giving the general impression that they were one with them, and because of Philip, the church advanced greatly in the 3ed century; the persecutions doing little to retard and much to purify by fire the body of Christ. Freedom for Christians increased considerably and under most of the Roman Emperors, they were promoted to places of power and trust.
The limits of the church were considerably extended. Origen carried the Gospel into Aribia; Pantaenus into India; and some high energy missionaries planted churches at Paris, Tours and Aries in France, also at Cologn, Treves, and Metz, in Germany, and passed into Scotland.
Almost proportionate with the extension of Christianity, there came a significant decrease in holiness and virtue. A philosophizing spirit among the higher orders, and a wild monkish superstition among the lower orders, quickly took the place of the faith and humility of the earlier Christians. Many of the clergy became corrupt, as did their excessive ambitious. In consequence many defected under the persecution of Decius, some renouncing Christianity, while others saved themselves either by offering sacrifices to the god’s of Rome, by burning incense or purchasing certificates from the heathen priests.
Amid the decline of piety and certain influences, useless rites and ceremonies increased. The mind of man was filled with the oriental superstitions concerning demons and apparitions, and with the practice of exorcism and spells. Those who were not baptized or had been excommunicated were carefully avoided, and perceived as being possessed of some evil spirit. And when any were baptized, the evil demon with much form and ceremony, and loud shouting, was said to be driven out, and the baptized were crowned and clothed with white garments, as conquerors over both sin and the world. The sign of the cross was supposed to possess power to avert calamities, to drive off demons, and was carried by Christians wherever they went. Fasting was in high repute. Prayers were offered three times a day, and prescribed modes of worship began to be introduced. Sermons were long, full of rhetoric, metaphors, and language of Grecian eloquence. Christians soon began to feel there could be no holiness out of the bounds of a particular church government.
But yet, the fruits of the Spirit continued in great abundance. The Church existed in the most corrupt and abominable empire the world had ever seen. But amid the grossest sensualities practiced without any sense of guilt, or the loss of character by those in the highest ranks, yet some of her fruits were good to the Lord. If the church had not yet retained the purity of the first century, she still had a self-denial and elevation above the world, and fortitude under suffering, and a spirit of subordination which no where else to be found; and a spirit of good will that made the Gentiles exclaim, “Behold how these Christians love one another.”
As a proof of the strictness of her discipline, it is observed, that a clergyman, once deposed for immorality, was to never be restored to his order; and when one who had communed at the Lord’s table was cast out for a vice, they might be restored, but, on a second ejection they could never again be admitted to the Church; though it was thought they might not be entirely beyond the mercy of God and His salvation. Also men of this period spared no pains, or expense, to obtain multiplied copies of the word of God.
The Sabbath was strictly observed, and the sacrament was administered weekly. But this ordinance began to be misused—as the sacrament was soon considered to be essential to salvation, and administered with a great deal of pomp, even to infants.
Yet the fires of persecution raged; the most odious false accusations were invented; vile men, contemptible men exercised the most wanton barbarities, under the ensigns of their offices. But Christians became amazingly numerous, were well studied, had some wealth and talents; many were officers and soldiers in the Roman armies, and, had they been disposed, might have given the government the greatest trouble, and perhaps may have overturned it completely; yet, no instances of insurrection, or resistance to civil authority, was known among them, for they remembered the words of the Lord, “Vengeance is mine.” Yet their bitterest enemies could bring no other charge of treason against them except they refused to worship the gods of Rome.
Their benevolence was such as the world had not before seen. They not only gave their treasures to their own poor, but they exerted themselves to relieve any distress or suffering wherever they found it. The Jew passed by the wounded Samaritan, and the Greek harangued about virtue, but they never erected a hospital or a house to care for the sick.
But the church in Rome supported, at one time, a thousand and fifty widows. Christians felt that they did not deserve the appellation they bore, unless they spent their lives doing well for others. Whole and immense estates were consecrated to public charity. Having renounced the luxuries of the world, they did not need great wealth, and they viewed their poor brothers and sisters as on a level with themselves, as sinners, ransomed by the blood of the Son of God.
But their number and character is best shown by a writer of their own times. Tertulian lived at the latter part of the 2ed and beginning of the 3ed centuries. As a young man, he was a lawyer; but became a presbyter of the church. He was a man of great learning, warm, well founded in the faith, pious; had a melancholy temperament and austere; and unhappily adopted near the end of his life, the visions of Montanus. He is the first Latin writer of the church, whose works have been transmitted down to us.
About the same period flourished Ireneus bishop of Lyons. He was a Greek by birth, and a disciple of Polycarp. He said,
“I can describe, the very spot in which Polycarp sat and expounded, and his coming in and going out, and the very manner of his life, and the figure of his body, and the sermons which he preached to the multitude, and how he related to us his converse with John and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord; how he mentioned the particular expressions, and what things he had heard from them of the Lord and of his miracles and of his doctrine. As Polycarp had received from the eye witnesses of the word of life, he told us all things agreeable to the Scriptures. These thing then, through the mercy of God inviting me, I heard with seriousness; I wrote them, not on paper, but on my heart; and ever since, through the grace of God, I have a genuine remembrance of them; and I can witness before God, that if that blessed Apostolical Presbyter had heard some of the doctrines which are now maintained, he would have cried out and stopped his ears, and in the usual manner, have said, “ O good God, to what times hast thou reserved me, that I should not endure such things?” And he would immediately have fled from the place in which he heard such doctrines.”
Ireneus was ordained successor to Pothinus in 169 A.D. and suffered martyrdom under the persecution of Severus, in the beginning of the 3ed century. He was a meek man, humble, skill and resolution, having a true missionary spirit. He was a superior Greek scholar, and doubtless might have obtained the luxuries and pleasures of Asia, but he renounced these for the love of Jesus Christ. He went among the Gauls; learned their barbarous dialect and conformed to their plain and homely ways. He wrote five books against the heresies of the age, which have been handed down to us;
About the middle of this 3ed century, two men were found to have a great deal of intelligence; Origen, a presbyter and catechist of Alexandria, and Cyprian, bishop of Carthage.
In his youth, Origen saw his father beheaded, for professing Christianity, and all the family estate confiscated. But providence provided for him. A rich lady in Alexandria became his friend and patron. He applied himself to study, and soon acquired extent of stores and was highly educated. While pursuing his studies, he distinguished himself by his attachment to the martyrs, and was often in peril of his life. He soon became a catechist in the school of Alexandria. Multitudes came to hear him, and were impressed by his instructions. His daily habit was one of excessive austerity. Hearing of the power of his doctrine, Mammea, the mother of the Emperor, sent for him, to hear him. At the age of forty-five, he was ordained a priest, and delivered theological lectures in Israel. In diligence and learning, he surpassed all men. Of this, the remains of his Hexapla is the memorial. To confront the Jews, who always objected to those passages of scripture which were quoted against them, as not agreeing with the Hebrew version, he undertook to reduce all the Latin and Greek versions then is use, into a body with the Hebrew text, that they might be at once compared.
He made six columns. In the first, he placed the Hebrew, as the standard, and in the next, the Septuagint, and then the other versions according to their date’s passage against passage. The whole filled fifty large volumes. It was found fifty years after his death, in an obscure place in the city of Tyre and deposited in a public library. The most of it was destroyed in the capture of the city in 653 A.D. It was called the Hexapla or work of six columns.
As a theologian, he was ruined by the Platonic philosophy; and unhappily introduced a mode of explaining scripture which was of incalculable injury to the Church. He may have reasoned it was not to be explained in a literal manner, but in an allegorical manner; and that the meaning of the sacred writers was to be sought in a hidden sense, arising from the things themselves. This hidden sense he endeavored to give, and always did it at the expense of truth. This hidden sense he farther divided into the moral and mystical. The latter was of his own creation and very wild. He seems to have little acquaintance with the plain, evangelical doctrines of the Gospel; and to have adopted some fatal errors; to careful to give no offence in his preaching to the men of the world; and to have sought after popularity with philosophers and philologists. He was a man of wild fancies and visionary ideas; and was greatly honored by courts.
He introduced the practice of selecting a single text as the subject of discourse. Origen suffered martyrdom; but no man did more to corrupt the simplicity of the Gospel, and his vast popularity gives us a low idea of the state of religion at that period.
Phillip LaSpino www.seekfirstwisdom.com
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