Best sources for early Christian teachings (contemporary to NT texts?)

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Amorphous, Sep 12, 2016.

  1. Former Member Amorphous

    Former Member Amorphous
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    What are the best sources for learning about early church doctrine, and how they viewed the scriptures? Any free grace material on the early church?

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  2. Jordan Kurecki

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    Quite honestly, the scriptures are the final authority, the Apostles warned of false teachers who existed even in their days. How is one to know that writers from the "early church" are even true believers and followers of Christ and not false teachers? Only by checking them according to the word of God. God gave us what we need to know in the scriptures. historical arguments when it comes to theology are weak arguments.
     
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  3. Internet Theologian

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    Yes, the Scriptures are the final authority, but your latter statements are prematurely dismissive.
     
  4. TCassidy

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    Collectively the saints were led of the Spirit to properly understand and teach the true biblical accounts. God would not allow his churches to be without the Truth.

    What is true is not new, and what is new is not true.
     
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  5. Jordan Kurecki

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    Yes but there isn't always going to be a paper trail of writings available from the true Christians throughout the years.

    Islam and Roman Catholicism are famous for their destruction of the writings of those who disagree with them.
     
  6. rsr

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    If you want to read the earliest extant writings, check out the sub-Apostolic fathers, that is, those who were disciples of the Apostles or of their disciples, roughly A.D. 100 to 200. What you will not find is a good deal of systematic theology, but rather very practical exhortations for churches undergoing persecution and growing and dealing with how to live a Christian life. (This is especially true of Ignatius of Antioch, whose writings are short and breathless exhortations to various churches to endure persecution and reject heresies.)

    One thing that you notice immediately is that the sub-Apostolic fathers ground everything upon Scripture. Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians, for example, repeats vast amounts of the Old Testament, sometimes whole sections. Polycarp obviously is familiar with Paul, and in his Epistle to the Philippians he quotes large segments of Paul's writings, as well as the Gospels.

    All of this, or course, gives the lie to contentions that the early Christians didn't know which writings were inspired. If you are familiar with the Scriptures, you will find that the vast majority of their writings are either quotations or paraphrases of what we know are Scripture.

    In addition, they are mute testimony to the belief that Christ was God. How? They rarely address it because they take it for granted. If there really was disagreement in the early church, they would have mentioned it. They wrote their letters is response to the problems they saw firsthand, not to theoretical heresies yet to arise. (As an example, Ignatius takes on the Gnostics who said Christ did not have a body after the resurrection, quoting the Gospels as proof.)
     
    #6 rsr, Sep 12, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2016
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  7. Former Member Amorphous

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    If someone like polycarp were teaching heresy, why would he be a martyr for a lie?

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  8. Squire Robertsson

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    For the same reason adherents to false religions have been martyrs to their causes of the centuries.
     
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  9. TCassidy

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    Of course, Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John so my assumption is he was doctrinally correct. Any supposed departure from strict orthodoxy is probably attributable to the RCC "adjusting" his writings to make it appear he was one of them. :)
     
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  10. Jordan Kurecki

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    You beat me to it.

    Also, just because Polycarp was a disciple of John does not mean that he was doctrinally correct in what he taught. Again...everything must be tested with the scriptures...even Polycarp.
     
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  11. TCassidy

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    So tell me, where was Polycarp wrong in his teachings?
     
  12. HankD

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    Depends on who you ask.

    Was he KJVO?

    HankD
     
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  13. Van

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    If the KJV was good enough for Paul, I am sure it was good enough for Polycarp. :)
     
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  14. HankD

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    Amen!

    HankD
     
  15. HankD

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    Now that I think about it he might have been an Original Manuscript man.
    Why not?

    :)

    HankD
     
  16. John of Japan

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    Try the Apostolic Fathers (what rsr called the sub-Apostolic fathers) translated by Michael W. Holmes, and the church history of Eusebius (c. 260-340), translated by Paul L. Meyer. Both are available on Amazon.

    Both of these are from the pre-Catholic era, putting Gregory the Great (540-604) as the inventor of the Catholic religion. Heretical influence is minimal, especially among the Apostolic Fathers. Though Eusebius was wishy-washy, he was still a good historian, and chronicled the early heresies well. The main heresy of the first couple of centuries was Montanism, similar to the modern Charismatic movement, and of course the Apostolic Fathers came even before Montanus and his movement.
     
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  17. rsr

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    An online resource is J.S. Lightfoot's translation which, though dated, is free. (Holmes, whose book appears to be very interesting, based his original edition on Lightfoot, although the new edition incorporates extensive textual criticism and retranslation.)

    http://www.katapi.org.uk/ApostolicFathers/ApFathers-Contents.html#contents

    BTW: Apostolic and subApostolic are the same thing; subApostolic is the term used by H.B. Swete to distinguish the later writings from those of the Apostles themselves.
     
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  18. Zenas

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    There are several compilations of these materials and a couple of them have already been mentioned in this thread. A very good commentary on these men and their beliefs, often called the early church fathers, is a book by J.N.D. Kelly called "Early Christian Doctrines." It was originally published in 1960 and is available through any of the major book sellers.
     
  19. rsr

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    I happen to have that book. Kelly's work essentially traces the development of what we would consider to be core doctrines, like the Trinity, but my recollection (it may be faulty) is that he primarily deals with the later fathers who were more interested in doctrinal niceties than were the subapostolic fathers.
     

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