In Part 1 we started on a journey evaluating how the New Testament was developed. Anyone who wants to take the time to investigate can find, that the New Testament was simply not just written down in one session, printed, bound, and sent out to every church, much less to every person. It was a process that took time, and needed a outside entity, an authority, to guide its development. I have spoken to some protestants that will say “Oh sure, it took time, but each and every Gospel and Letter as soon as it was written was immediately adopted and recognized as scripture.” That just shows a complete lack of understanding of the Truth. How many have actually read for themselves, actually investigated what they claim? Or, even listen to how illogical and silly that actually sounds. I would venture to say…almost zero. Most people are content with just accepting what has been told to them by their pastor, or other outside authority. But NOT scripture alone. (Even “Bible Alone” Christians have a pope!)
The Road Continues…
Continuing on the road of the development of the New Testament, 70AD was the year that the Romans burned the Jewish Temple to the ground. It would be another 15 years before John’s Revelation would be written. But before that there is another Christian writing that appears around this time period (maybe even earlier).
50 to 80AD – The Didache (The Lord’s Teaching through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations)
The Didache also known as “The Lord’s Teaching through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations,” is one of the earliest written documents of the Church outside of the accepted writings of the Apostles . It was written, in it’s initial form, sometime between 50 and 80 AD. It may not have had a single author but may have been compiled from the Apostolic Teaching as a kind of early catechism and a summary of the essential moral tenets of the Faith. It’s existence demonstrates that many current teachings of the faith, often under attack by modernity, are in fact very ancient, going right back to the beginning. The text, parts of which constitute the oldest extant written catechism, has three main sections dealing with Christian ethics, liturgical rituals such as baptism and Eucharist, and Church organization. It concludes with a chapter on the parousia, the second coming of Christ. Essentially, it was the first Catechism and it contains some teachings that are very Catholic.
Lost for over a thousand years, this anonymous Greek writing appears to have taken its final form around AD 125 in Alexandria Egypt, but is composed of two earlier documents that could date back to the time of the apostles themselves. It was known to and quoted by the Early Church Fathers Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and St. Athanasius, the latter of whom recommended it for the instruction of catechumens. Indeed, the importance of the Didache is such that some of the Fathers considered it part of the New Testament, though ultimately it was not included in the canon. It was left out NOT because of anything inauthentic, but because it didn’t contain anything that was considered inspired and necessary for our salvation. It basically served as one of the earliest catechisms of the Christian Church. It is more of a procedural document on how to run a Christian community than anything.
Here are some excerpts that show some very Catholic practices. Practices that are definitely not protestant.
Concerning the clergy…
Chapter 4. My child, him that speaks to you the word of God remember night and day; and you shall honour him as the Lord; for in the place whence lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord. And you shall seek out day by day the faces of the saints, in order that you may rest upon their words. You shall not long for division, but shall bring those who contend to peace.
We are to honor those who are our teachers, the ones who speak the word of God to us, our pastors, and we are to honor them just as we do the Lord. In other words, they are in the person of Christ, in persona christi, they have His authority. …for in the place whence lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord. We are also not to be divided by have union and peace.
Chapter 15. Therefore, appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proven; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Despise them not therefore, for they are your honoured ones…
So, we are to have bishops and deacons and we are supposed to honor them. This is a very Catholic teaching.
Concerning confessing sins…
Chapter 4. In the church you shall acknowledge your transgressions, and you shall not come near for your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life.
We can see it is a long standing practice of the Church that one ought to confess serious sin prior to attending Mass and surely prior to receiving Holy Communion. In the early church, you were to stand up and confess in front of the entire congregation. Glad that practice was changed. Yikes…
Chapter 7. And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you can not in cold, in warm. But if you have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit.
So, that seems to fly in the face of the thought that Baptism can only be immersion as some Protestants consider to be the only valid form. This text shows that in the ancient practice, simply pouring water over the head is sufficient. Living water (i.e. moving water such as in a stream) is preferred. Cold water is preferred over warm but warm water is allowed (perhaps in winter to avoid colds?). And yet, in the end, if such arrangements are not possible a simple infusion of water over the head suffices.
Concerning the Eucharist…
Chapter 9. Now concerning the Eucharist, thus give thanks. First, concerning the cup: We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David Your servant, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. And concerning the broken bread: We thank You, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom; for Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever. But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, but they who have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, Give not that which is holy to the dogs.
Though the contents of this prayer do not include the words of Institution (This is my Body….This is my Blood….). There is another more detailed description by Justin Martyr (whom I will talk about later) who did write around the same time that does include these words. Note too that there was a restriction of the Eucharist to fully initiated Catholics is an ancient practice. So you had to have faith in the sacraments and be initiated in the Church before you could receive the Eucharist.
Concerning the Mass…
Chapter 14. But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.
Yes, that sure sounds like Mass to me, and sounds nothing like a typical Protestant service. Especially of the Reformed type. Notice also the repeated words concerning a pure sacrifice. This is completely in line with the teaching that the Mass is a representation of the Bloody Sacrifice of Jesus in an Unbloody manner, holy and pure. Also notice, how attendance is mandatory. It also places an emphasis on being reconciled before attending. I like how it also shows that there is already this universal, or Catholic understanding…In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations. This is a universal faith, to be practiced a certain way among all believers throughout the entire world.
It even has a teaching against Sexual Sins and Abortion…
Chapter 2. You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.
We can see that the teaching against abortion is not recent as some have tried to suggest. It was not invented in the 1950s, or in the Middle Ages. It goes right back to the very beginning of the Church. “Pederasty” refers to a homosexual relationship between an older man and a post pubescent adolescent boy, which was a common practice in pagan Greek culture. In the Greek world Homosexual activity was a widespread moral evil and the Didache’s specific mention of it (as also with Paul) indicates this.
So you can see that many of the current practices and teachings of the Church go right back to the beginning. Our Tradition is thus intact and ancient, reaching back to the Apostles and Jesus Christ. Again, this was written between 50AD and 80AD. Just 20 to 50 years after the resurrection.
There is no evidence anywhere to suggest that the Early Church believed in Scripture Alone, but much evidence of the existence of a teaching Church with authority and hierarchy, guided and protected by the Holy Spirit, that is in place to keep believers faithful to the True teachings of Christ…just as it has for 2000 years!
Next Post: Part 3 …more evidence of authority and hierarchy in the Early Church.