Early Church In The New Testament And Apostolic Fathers

Just came across a fellow blogger’s interview with Dan Wallace.

In asking Dan what some of the biggest trends in NT studies might be over the next decade or so, I found this quote interesting:

“There are also key areas in NT study that are heating up, issues that need to be honestly examined in the next couple of decades by all sides. Among these are the relation of the Apostolic Fathers to the NT (in terms of quotations from the NT, emerging canon consciousness, ecclesiological developments, the Fathers’ view of grace, and whether the AF and the NT reflect the earliest form of Christianity or just that form that became the dominant one).” (Emphasis mine)

Apparently Dan thinks that there will be/should be an emphasis on the Apostolic Fathers (AF) specifically to ask if their representation of the early church is an accurate reflection.  He also obliquely suggests in this statement that perhaps the New Testament (NT) itself may or may not accurately reflect “the earliest form of Christianity.”

Now, I found this fascinating!  Mostly because it is my personal opinion that most of the writings from Apostolic Fathers do not accurately reflect the earliest forms of Christianity.  I am persuaded that what they do reflect accurately is how the church looked and functioned as it was on an organizational and institutional trajectory. 

To ask this same question of the New Testament is ultimately compelling. 

Could it be that we don’t have an accurate picture of the first Christians and how their communities looked and functioned? 

Is it possible that what we see today is more a picture of how those early churches developed in two, three or four generations? 

How might this have affected our canon? 

Could certain books have been chosen because they were a better representation of the dominant trends among the churches?

I believe that indeed we are missing some of the clearest pictures of the earliest churches in the New Testament.  The Bible simply does not answer the specific questions asked by a Westerner (especially a California native) in the 21st Century, but the essence of it is there.  Frankly, I have always wondered if some of the material in the New Testament reveals more or less of the trends and changes in the earliest church practices and beliefs.  Of course, I would love to have more pointed and specific answers, but I still believe that all that is truly necessary is there in the texts we currently call the New Testament. 

Thoughts???

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The Problem With Old School Theology

I knew there was a problem with the old school Protestant System of theology!  I knew it!

For years I have said that this system, in various forms, essentially turns back to the old covenant for its foundation.  It is as though Christ is not enough.

Now, as I am reading Doug Campbell’s Deliverance of God, I see the arguments laid out with an incredible depth and clarity.  This old school system is bankrupt and lacks clear biblical warrant.  Indeed in some ways, it promotes another gospel.

I know this may sound shocking, but I challenge anyone to read/study/discuss this book along with me and come away with a hearty approval of the fundamental Protestant system.  Now, that does not at all mean that I am endorsing or approving Roman Catholicism either.  No, the issues are far deeper than an “either this or that” conclusion.

Indeed, there is nothing new in trying to grasp the truth and depth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Read Galatians or Hebrews and we see the early church struggled with how truly liberating it is.

But, those who know me recall my Reformed phase not too many years ago, and how I walked away from that system for one primary reason: it is grounded in the old covenant.  It affirms Christ, yet reaches back for the chains of the old system.  And let’s be honest, folks, that denies Christ in many, many ways.

I still have quite a bit of respect for the Reformers.  But, Campbell’s book certainly lays out a solid argument that this system of thought should at least be questioned and at best be replaced.

I read on…and will post more as I go!

This Is A Great Picture…

I happened upon this over at April DeConick’s blog and was so fascinated by it I had to post it up over here with some commentary.

What immediately struck me was the six that are lying down. 

I thought, what a great picture of an early church rendering of an agape meal or Lord’s Supper.  Then, I realized that there were also six seated, plus one standing who appeared to be officiating and who stood out due to the ring around his head – a sign of holiness.  Then (yes, I can be a little slow, especially when it comes to art) I realized this was, in fact, a rendering of the Lord’s Supper!

So, why did the artist portray six of the apostles lying down???  Why not all of the twelve?  Hmmm…

One person on April’s blog commented that they believed this to be Eastern in origin, perhaps 8th Century.

Another revealed that this is on the cover of Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses  and stated that they attributed it to the 13th Century.

Now, considering that by the mid-fourth Century, many such practices as reclining or lying on the floor during church meetings had been banned (cf. Canon 28, Synod of Laodicea), I would interpret this picture as asserting that the apostles, at least some of them, were indeed reclining at the table during the actual final meal with Christ. 

So, the implication is that this was either acceptable or normative for such a gathering, even in the presence of Christ himself!  Quite different from our Western understanding of how the Last Supper happened – one long table with Jesus in the middle…nice and orderly!

So, whether this picture was painted early (1st to 3rd Century) or late (4th to 13th Century) would be interesting to know. 

Was the artist trying to tell us something?  Was it a rebellious move on their part to portray it in such a manner?  Or could it simply be completely typical posing no agenda whatsoever?

If anyone knows more about this picture, I would love to know the history behind it.

Also, what are your comments?  What do you see here?

Most Pressing Issues In Early Church Studies – A Top 10 List

Here is a partial list that I will update and edit as needed.  In general, this will serve as a guide to future posts as the site develops. 

My hope is that my readers may help me fill in the blanks and/or rearrange the list a bit, so let me know what you think!

10.

9.  Gender issues in ministry.

8.

7.  Application of the kingdom of God to governmental rule.

6.

5.  The role of tradition and non-canonical writings in the early church. 

4. 

3.  The distinction/development of offices and gifting in ministry.

2.

1.  The definition and/or perception of the term “church.”