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The early days of Christianity

1.2.       Considered as a danger

1.2.3.                    Raising digression

Christianity reached proconsular Africa in the second, perhaps already at the close of the first century. There was constant intercourse with Italy. It spread very rapidly over the fertile fields and burning sands of Mauritania and Numidia. Cyprian could assemble in 258 a synod of eighty-seven bishops, and in 308 the schismatical Donatists held a council of two hundred and seventy bishops at Carthage. The dioceses, of course, were small in those days.

File:Great Isaiah Scroll Ch53.jpg

Portion of a photographic reproduction of the Great Isaiah Scroll, the best preserved of the biblical scrolls found at Qumran. It contains the entire Book of Isaiah in Hebrew, apart from some small damaged parts. This manuscript was probably written by a scribe of the Jewish sect of the Essenes around the second century BC. It is therefore over a 1000 years older than the oldest Masoretic manuscripts.
This picture shows all of Isaiah 53 (and is mostly identical to the Masoretic version).

The oldest Latin translation of the Bible, miscalled “Itala” (the basis of Jerome’s “Vulgata”), was made probably in Africa and for Africa, not in Rome and for Rome, where at that time the Greek language prevailed among Christians. Latin theology, too, was not born in Rome, but in Carthage. Tertullian (Tertullianius) is its father. Minutius Felix, Arnobius, and Cyprian bear witness to the activity and prosperity of African Christianity and theology in the third century. It reached its highest perfection during the first quarter of the fifth century in the intellect and burning heart of St. Augustin, but soon after his death (430) it was buried first beneath the Vandal barbarism, and in the seventh century by the Mohammedan conquest. Yet his writings led Christian thought in the Latin Church throughout the dark ages, stimulated the Reformers, and became a vital force for many today.

From the second half of the first century C. T. the going astray increased and apostasy entered however the municipalities and many were influenced through it. So-called Christians got integrated with the nations of the world and could not distinguish themselves of the world. After the so-called conversion of Constantine in the fourth century the heathen streamed in large numbers to the form of Christianity that then led the dominant tone. With which consequence? The book Early Christianity and Paganism declares: “The relatively small group really serious religiously went lost in the large mass so-called Christians.” How true were to be Paul’s words! It was as if Christianity were swallowed by pagan decay. And nowhere this rot was clearer noticeable than in the celebration of holidays.

The first fifteen bishops of Christianity were circumcised Jews, they observed the Law and were rather unfriendly to heathenism[1], while they held friendly intercourse with the leaders of the synagogue[2]. Many a halakic and haggadic discussion are recorded in the Talmud as having taken place between the Christians and the Rabbis[3]. Probably the Christian Congregation, or Church of the Saints, did not distinguish itself in outward form from the “Ḳehala Ḳaddisha”[4] at Jerusalem, under which name the Essene community, to which John the Baptist seems to have belonged, survived the downfall of the Temple[5].

Between the ethical and the apocalyptic teachings of the Gospels and the Epistles and the teachings of the Essenes of the time, as given in Philo, in Hippolytus, and in the Ethiopic and Slavonic Books of Enoch, as well as in the rabbinic literature, the resemblance is such that the influence of the latter upon the former can scarcely be denied. Nevertheless, the attitude of Jesus and his disciples is altogether anti-Essene, a denunciation and disavowal of Essene rigor and asceticism; but, singularly enough, while the Roman war appealed to men of action such as the Zealots, men of a more peaceful and visionary nature, who had previously become Essenes, were more and more attracted by Christianity, and thereby gave the Church its otherworldly character; while Judaism took a more practical and worldly view of things, and allowed Essenism to live only in tradition and secret lore (see Clementina; Ebionites; Gnosticism).[6] The Essenes broke not with the official priesthood, took no part at religious services and offerings in the temple, but otherwise held themselves strict at the Law. As the Pharisees, with who they in many respects shown some similarity, they fell prey to Hellenic influences and went to believe in an immortal soul.

The apostles were aware that the Gospel must be preached to all nations, and then the consummation shall come, and therefore they expressed their hope people would continue to study the Word of God and evangelise.


[1] “Historia Sacra,” Sulpicius Severus, ii. 31; Eusebius, “Hist. Eccl.” iv. 5; compare Matt. xv. 26)

[2] see Grätz, “Gesch. der Juden,” iv. 373 et seq.; and Ebionites, Minim, and Nazarenes

[4] Meshullam formed a society called “Ḳehala Ḳaddisha” (the Holy Community), because its members devoted one-third of the day to the study of the Torah, one-third to prayer, and the remaining third to work (Yer. Ma’as. Sheni 53d; Eccl. R. ix. 9).
Read more: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=758&letter=S#ixzz15AWdlkt6

[5] Ber. 9b; compare Eccl. R. ix. 9: ‘Edah Ḳedoshah

  • 7 Christological heresies that you should know about… (patheos.com)
    Ebionism teaches that Jesus is just a man and not divine. The Ebionites were Jewish Christians in the early church. The Ebionites rejected the virgin birth, regarding Jesus as a man normally born of Joseph and Mary; they held he was the predestined Messiah, and in this capacity he would return to reign on earth. There are plenty of “Ebionites” around today. Everybody who says Jesus was just a good man or one prophet or holy man or good religious teacher among many.
  • BONUS: An Introduction to Colossians (kingdomnewtestament.wordpress.com)
    We know that by the second century AD there was a Christian philosophy in place in many churches that accepted a dualistic worldview.  A Gnostic thought the world was composed of two parts: the evil and degrading physical layer of life, and the pure and edifying spiritual aspects of life.
    +
    Consider how Gnosticism would affect beliefs and ethics.  They did not believe that Jesus was physical.  Jesus did not die a physical death on a cross, it only seemed that way.  Our greatest mission is to escape this physical world, not redeem it.  There were also two opposing views on how to deal with this physical body we live in: 1) deny your flesh and beat it into submission to your superior spiritual willpower, and 2) indulge your flesh and satisfy your physical desires wantonly showing that you have the spiritual strength within your pure soul to wallow in the mire of life and not be affected adversely by your physical behaviors. If an early form of Gnosticism was present in Colossae, the details of the letter suggest it was of the ascetic variety.
  • Ancient Heresies and Why They Still Matter (steakandabible.com)
    Johnson said “Gnosticism is an attempt to blend pagan philosophy with Christianity.” “This heresy is so diverse and so complex that it is notoriously difficult to define,” but “the central idea” is that “Gnostics believe that the key to saving truth lies in a hidden knowledge that goes beyond what is revealed in Scripture.” Salvation requires “possessing the secret knowledge.”
  • A Prayer for Sunday (Irenaeus of Lyon) (marccortez.com)
    Irenaeus of Lyons, who died sometime around AD 202. One of the most important early theologians of the Christian church, Irenaeus is best known for his Against Heresies, a lengthy refutation of gnosticism, which was one of the major challenges to orthodox Christianity at the time.
  • There’s no 3rd chance. (revessie.com)
    Peter was trying to tell us that there were false doctrines already circulating. Imagine the level that we are at now.There was a man named Cerinthus who believed in heresy so much that even John ran away from a Bath House when he saw him in there and told people to run also. This is how bad this man was. He was a mystical believer. He allegedly began the Millennial heresy. Watch what you believe in.
  • Noisy Worship versus the Discipline of Silence (kiwianglo.wordpress.com)
    A suspicion of silence took root in the second and third centuries, when bishops penned diatribes against the so-called gnostikoi, Christians who claimed that God was most fully known as unknowable, and so therefore in silence. To be branded a gnostic was to be cast out of the fold. Then, in the fourth century, came the conversion of Constantine. The church aligned itself to secular power and now what you thought was of political importance too. Thereafter, western rites included creeds to be audibly confessed. They policed who was in and who out.
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