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   Chapter 3 The Defence Against Heresy

A Source Book for Ancient Church History By Joseph Cullen Ayer, Jr., Ph.D. Characters: 41097

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The Church first met the various dangerous heresies which distracted it in the second century by councils or gatherings of bishops (§ 26). Although it was not difficult to bring about a condemnation of novel and manifestly erroneous doctrine, there was need of fixed norms and definite authorities to which to appeal. This was found in the apostolic tradition, which could be more clearly determined by reference to the continuity of the apostolic office, or the episcopate, and especially to the succession of bishops in the churches founded by Apostles (§ 27), the apostolic witness to the truth, or the more precise determination of what writings should be regarded as apostolic, or the canon of the New Testament (§ 28); and the apostolic faith, which was regarded as summed up in the Apostles' Creed (§ 29). These norms of orthodoxy seem to have been generally established as authoritative somewhat earlier in the West than in the East. The result was that Gnosticism was rapidly expelled from the Church, though in some forms it lingered for centuries (§ 30), and that the Church, becoming organized around the episcopate, assumed by degrees a rigid hierarchical constitution (§ 31).

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§ 26. The Beginnings of Councils as a Defence against Heresy

Ecclesiastical councils were the first defence against heresy. As the Church had not as yet attained its hierarchical constitution and the autonomy of the local church still persisted, these councils had little more than the combined authority of the several members composing them. They had, as yet, only moral force, and did not speak for the Church officially. With the development of the episcopal constitution, the councils gained rapidly in authority.

Additional source material: See Eusebius, Hist. Ec., V, 16 (given above, § 25, a), V, 24; Tertullian, De Jejun., 13 (given below, § 38).

(a) Libellus Synodicus, Man. I, 723.

For a discussion of the credibility of the Libellus Synodicus, a compilation of the ninth century, see Hefele, History of the Councils, § 1.

A holy and provincial synod was held at Hierapolis in Asia by Apollinarius, the most holy bishop of that city, and twenty-six other bishops. In this synod Montanus and Maximilla, the false prophets, and at the same time, Theodotus the tanner, were condemned and expelled. A holy and local synod was gathered under the most holy Bishop Sotas of Anchialus51 and twelve other bishops, who condemned and rejected Theodotus the tanner and Montanus together with Maximilla.

(b) Eusebius. Hist. Ec., V, 18. (MSG, 20:475.) Cf. Mirbt, n. 21.

The following should be connected with the first attempts of the Church to meet the heresy of the Montanists by gatherings of bishops. It also throws some light on the methods of dealing with the new prophets.

Serapion, who, according to report, became bishop of Antioch at that time, after Maximinus, mentions the works [pg 111] of Apollinarius against the above-mentioned heresy. And he refers to him in a private letter to Caricus and Pontius, in which he himself exposes the same heresy, adding as follows: "That you may see that the doings of this lying band of new prophecy, as it is called, are an abomination to all the brethren throughout the world, I have sent you writings of the most blessed Claudius Apollinarius, bishop of Hierapolis in Asia." In the same letter of Serapion are found the signatures of several bishops, of whom one has subscribed himself as follows: "I, Aurelius Cyrenius, a witness, pray for your health." And another after this manner: "?lius Publius Julius, bishop of Debeltum, a colony of Thrace. As God liveth in the heavens, the blessed Sotas in Anchialus desired to cast the demon out of Priscilla, but the hypocrites would not permit him." And the autograph signatures of many other bishops who agreed with them are contained in the same letter.

§ 27. The Apostolic Tradition and the Episcopate

The Gnostics claimed apostolic authority for their teaching and appealed to successions of teachers who had handed down their teachings. This procedure forced the Church to lay stress upon the obvious fact that its doctrine was derived from the Apostles, a matter on which it never had had any doubt, but was vouched for, not by obscure teachers, but by the churches which had been founded by the Apostles themselves in large cities and by the bishops whom the Apostles had instituted in those churches. Those churches, furthermore, agreed among themselves, but the Gnostic teachers differed widely. By this appeal the bishop came to represent the apostolic order (for an earlier conception v. supra, § 14, b, c), and to take an increasingly important place in the church (v. infra, § 31).

Additional source material: For Gnostic references to successions of teachers, see Tertullian, De Pr?scr., 25; Clement of Alexandria, Strom., VII, 17; Hippolytus, Refut., VII, 20. (= VII, 8. ANF.)

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(a) Iren?us, Adv. H?r., III, 3: 1-4. (MSG, 7:848.) Cf. Mirbt, n. 30.

The first appearance of the appeal to apostolic tradition as preserved in apostolic sees is the following passage from Iren?us, written about 175. The reference to the church of Rome, beginning, "For with this Church, on account of its more powerful leadership," has been a famous point of discussion. While it is obscure in detail, the application of its general purport to the argument of Iren?us is clear. Since for this passage we have not the original Greek of Iren?us, but only the Latin translation, there seems to be no way of clearing up the obscurities and apparently contradictory statements. The text may be found in Gwatkin, op. cit., and in part in Kirch, op. cit., §§ 110-113.

Ch. 1. The tradition, therefore, of the Apostles, manifested throughout the world, is a thing which all who wish to see the facts can clearly perceive in every church; and we are able to count up those who were appointed bishops by the Apostles, and to show their successors to our own time, who neither taught nor knew anything resembling these men's ravings. For if the Apostles had known hidden mysteries which they used to teach the perfect, apart from and without the knowledge of the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the churches themselves. For they desired them to be very perfect and blameless in all things, and were also leaving them as their successors, delivering over to them their own proper place of teaching; for if these should act rightly great advantage would result, but if they fell away the most disastrous calamity would occur.

Ch. 2. But since it would be very long in such a volume as this to count up the successions [i.e., series of bishops] in all the churches, we confound all those who in any way, whether through self-pleasing or vainglory, or through blindness and evil opinion, gather together otherwise than they ought, by pointing out the tradition derived from the Apostles of the greatest, most ancient, and universally known Church, founded and established by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, and also the faith declared to [pg 113] men which through the succession of bishops comes down to our times. For with this Church, on account of its more powerful leadership [potiorem principalitatem], every church, that is, the faithful, who are from everywhere, must needs agree; since in it that tradition which is from the Apostles has always been preserved by those who are from everywhere.

Ch. 3. The blessed Apostles having founded and established the Church, intrusted the office of the episcopate to Linus.52 Paul speaks of this Linus in his Epistles to Timothy. Anacletus succeeded him, and after Anacletus, in the third place from the Apostles, Clement received the episcopate. He had seen and conversed with the blessed Apostles, and their preaching was still sounding in his ears and their tradition was still before his eyes. Nor was he alone in this, for many who had been taught by the Apostles yet survived. In the times of Clement, a serious dissension having arisen among the brethren in Corinth, the Church of Rome sent a suitable letter to the Corinthians, reconciling them in peace, renewing their faith, and proclaiming the doctrine lately received from the Apostles.…

Evaristus succeeded Clement, and Alexander Evaristus. Then Sixtus, the sixth from the Apostles, was appointed. After him Telesephorus, who suffered martyrdom gloriously, and then Hyginus; after him Pius, and after Pius Anicetus; Soter succeeded Anicetus, and now, in the twelfth place from the Apostles, Eleutherus [174-189] holds the office of bishop. In the same order and succession the tradition and the preaching of the truth which is from the Apostles have continued unto us.

Ch. 4. But Polycarp, too, was not only instructed by the Apostles, and acquainted with many that had seen Christ, but was also appointed by Apostles in Asia bishop of the church in Smyrna, whom we, too, saw in our early youth (for he lived a long time, and died, when a very old man, a glorious and most illustrious martyr's death); he always [pg 114] taught the things which he had learned from the Apostles, which the Church also hands down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic churches testify, as do also those who, down to the present time, have succeeded Polycarp, who was a much more trustworthy and certain witness of the truth than Valentinus and Marcion and the rest of the evil-minded. It was he who was also in Rome in the time of Anicetus and caused many to turn away from the above-mentioned heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received from the Apostles this one and only truth which has been transmitted by the Church. And there are those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe in Ephesus, when he saw Cerinthus within, ran out of the bath-house without bathing, crying: "Let us flee, lest even the bath-house fall, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within." And Polycarp himself, when Marcion once met him and said, "Knowest thou us?" replied, "I know the first-born of Satan." Such caution did the Apostles and their disciples exercise that they might not even converse with any of those who perverted the truth; as Paul, also, said: "A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such subverteth and sinneth, being condemned by himself." There is also a very powerful Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who wish to, and who are concerned for their own salvation, may learn the character of his faith and the preaching of the truth.

(b) Tertullian, De Pr?scriptione, 20, 21. (MSL, 2:38.)

Tertullian worked out in legal fashion the argument of Iren?us from the testimony of the bishops in apostolic churches. He may have obtained the argument from Iren?us, as he was evidently acquainted with his works. From Tertullian's use of the argument it became a permanent element in the thought of the West.

Ch. 20. The Apostles founded in the several cities churches from which the other churches have henceforth borrowed the shoot of faith and seeds of teaching and do daily borrow [pg 115] that they may become churches; and it is from this fact that they also will be counted as apostolic, being the offspring of apostolic churches. Every kind of thing must be judged by reference to its origin. Therefore so many and so great churches are all one, being from that first Church which is from the Apostles. Thus they are all primitive and all apostolic, since they altogether are approved by their unity, and they have the communion of peace, the title of brotherhood, and the interchange of hospitality, and they are governed by no other rule than the single tradition of the same mystery.

Ch. 21. Here, then, we enter our demurrer, that if the Lord Jesus Christ sent Apostles to preach, others than those whom Christ appointed ought not to be received as preachers. For no man knoweth the Father save the Son and he to whom the Son has revealed Him [cf. Luke 10:22]; nor does it appear that the Son has revealed Him unto any others than the Apostles, whom He sent forth to preach what, of course, He had revealed to them. Now, what they should preach, that is, what Christ revealed to them, can, as I must likewise here enter as a demurrer, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the Apostles themselves founded by preaching to them, both viva voce, as the phrase is, and subsequently by epistles. If this is so, it is evident that all doctrine which agrees with those apostolic churches, the wombs and origins of the faith, must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing what the churches received from the Apostles, the Apostles from Christ, Christ from God. There remains, therefore, for us to show whether our doctrine, the rule of which we have given above [v. infra, § 29, c], agrees with the tradition of the Apostles, and likewise whether the others come from deceit. We hold fast to the apostolic churches, because in none is there a different doctrine; this is the witness of the truth.

(c) Tertullian, De Pr?scriptione, 36. (MSL, 2:58.)

It should be noted that the appeal to apostolic churches is to any and all such, and is accordingly just so much the stronger in the [pg 116] controversy in which it was brought forward. The argument, whenever it occurs, does not turn upon the infallibility of any one see or church as such. That point is not touched. Such a turn to the argument would have weakened the force of the appeal in the dispute with the Gnostics, however powerfully it might be used in other controversies.

Come, now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the Apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally. Achaia is very near you, in which you find Corinth. Since you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi; there, too, you have the Thessalonians. Since you are able to cross to Asia, you get Ephesus. Since, moreover, you are close upon Italy, you have Rome, from which there comes even into our own hands the very authority of Apostles themselves. How happy is that church, on which Apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood! Where Peter endures a passion like his Lord's; where Paul wins a crown in a death like John's; where the Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island exile! See what she has learned, what taught; what fellowship she has had with even our churches in Africa! One Lord God does she acknowledge, the Creator of the universe, and Christ Jesus born of the Virgin Mary, the Son of God the Creator; and the resurrection of the flesh; the law and the prophets she unites in one volume with the writings of Evangelists and Apostles, from which she drinks in her faith. This she seals with the water of baptism, arrays with the Holy Ghost, feeds with the eucharist, cheers with martyrdom, and against such a discipline thus maintained she admits no gainsayer.

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§ 28. The Canon or the Authoritative New Testament Writings

The Gnostics used in support of their doctrines writings which they attributed to the Apostles, thus having a direct apostolic witness to these doctrines. This they did in imitation of the Church's practice of using apostolic writings for edification and instruction. Marcion drew up a list of books which were alone to be regarded as authoritative among his followers [v. supra, § 23, a]. The point to be made by the champions of the faith of the great body of Christians was that only those books could be legitimately used in support of Christian doctrine which could claim actual apostolic origin and had been used continuously in the Church. As a fact, the books to which they appealed had been in use generation after generation, but the Gnostic works were unknown until a comparatively recent time and were too closely connected with only the founders of a sect to deserve credence. It was a simple literary argument and appeal to tangible evidence. The list of books regarded as authoritative constituted the Canon of Scripture. The state of the Canon in the second half of the second century, especially in the West, is shown in the following extracts.

Additional source material: See Preuschen, Analecta, II, Tübingen, 1910; Tatian, Diatessaron, ANF, IX; The Gospel of Peter, ibid.

(a) The Muratorian Fragment. Text, B. F. Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, seventh ed., Cambridge, 1896. Appendix C; Kirch, n. 134; Preuschen, Analecta, II, 27. Cf. Mirbt, n. 20.

The earliest list of canonical books of the New Testament was found by L. A. Muratori in 1740 in a MS. of the eighth century. It lacks beginning and end. It belongs to the middle or the second half of the second century. It cannot with certainty be attributed to any known person. The obscure Latin text is probably a translation from the Greek. The fragment begins with what appears to be an account of St. Mark's Gospel.

[pg 118] … but at some he was present, and so he set them down.

The third book of the gospels, that according to Luke. Luke, the physician, compiled it in his own name in order, when, after the ascension of Christ, Paul had taken him to be with him like a student of law. Yet neither did he see the Lord in the flesh; and he, too, as he was able to ascertain events, so set them down. So he began his story from the birth of John.

The fourth of the gospels is John's, one of the disciples. When exhorted by his fellow-disciples and bishops, he said, "Fast with me this day for three days; and what may be revealed to any of us, let us relate to one another." The same night it was revealed to Andrew, one of the Apostles, that John was to write all things in his own name, and they were all to certify.

And therefore, though various elements are taught in the several books of the gospels, yet it makes no difference to the faith of the believers, since by one guiding Spirit all things are declared in all of them concerning the nativity, the passion, the resurrection, the conversation with His disciples, and His two comings, the first in lowliness and contempt, which has come to pass, the second glorious with royal power, which is to come.

What marvel, therefore, if John so firmly sets forth each statement in his epistles, too, saying of himself: "What we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears and our hands have handled, these things we have written to you"? For so he declares himself to be not an eye-witness and a hearer only, but also a writer of all the marvels of the Lord in order.

The acts, however, of all the Apostles are written in one book. Luke puts it shortly, "to the most excellent Theophilus," that the several things were done in his own presence, as he also plainly shows by leaving out the passion of Peter, and also the departure of Paul from the city [i.e., Rome] on his journey to Spain.

[pg 119] The epistles, however, of Paul make themselves plain to those who wish to understand what epistles were sent by him, and from what place and for what cause. He wrote at some length, first of all, to the Corinthians, forbidding schisms and heresies; next to the Galatians, forbidding circumcision; then to the Romans, impressing on them the plan of the Scriptures, and also that Christ is the first principle of them, concerning which severally it is necessary for us to discuss, since the blessed Apostle Paul himself, following the order of his predecessor John, writes only by name to seven churches in the following order: to the Corinthians a first, to the Ephesians a second, to the Philippians a third, to the Colossians a fourth, to the Galatians a fifth, to the Thessalonians a sixth, to the Romans a seventh; and yet, although for the sake of admonition there is a second to the Corinthians and to the Thessalonians, but one Church is recognized as being spread over the entire world. For John, too, in the Apocalypse, though he writes to seven churches, yet speaks to all. Howbeit to Philemon one, to Titus one, and to Timothy two were put in writing from personal inclination and attachment, t

o be in honor, however, with the Catholic Church for the ordering of the ecclesiastical mode of life. There is current, also, one to the Laodiceans, another to the Alexandrians, [both] forged in Paul's name to suit a heresy of Marcion, and several others, which cannot be received into the Catholic Church; for it is not fitting that gall be mixed with honey.

The Epistle of Jude, no doubt, and the couple bearing the name of John are accepted in the Catholic [Church], and the Wisdom written by the friends of Solomon in his honor. The Apocalypse, also, of John and of Peter only we receive; which some of us will not have read in the Church. But the Shepherd was written quite lately in our times by Hermas, while his brother Pius, the bishop, was sitting in the chair of the church of the city of Rome; and therefore it ought to be read, indeed, but it cannot to the end of time be publicly [pg 120] read in the Church to the people, either among the prophets, who are complete in number, or among the Apostles.

But of Valentinus, the Arsinoite, and his friends, we receive nothing at all, who have also composed a long new book of Psalms, together with Basilides and the Asiatic founder of the Montanists.

(b) Iren?us, Adv. H?r., III, II:8. (MSG, 7:885.)

The following extract illustrates the allegorical method of exegesis in use throughout the Church, and also the opinion of the author that there were but four gospels, and could be no more than four. It should be noted that the symbolism of the beasts is not that which has become current in ecclesiastical art.

It is not possible that the gospels be either more or fewer than they are. For since there are four regions of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, and the Church is scattered over the whole earth, and the pillar and ground of the Church is the Gospel and the Spirit of Life, it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing forth immortality on every side, and giving life to men. From this it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, who sitteth upon the cherubim and who contains all things and was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four forms, but bound together by one Spirit. As also David says when he prayed for His coming: "Thou that sittest between the cherubim, shine forth" [cf. Psalm 80:1]. For the cherubim, also, were four-faced, and their faces were images of the dispensation of the Son of God. For he says, "The first living creature was like a lion" [cf. Ezek. 1:5 ff.], symbolizing His effectual working, leadership, and royal power; the second was like a calf, symbolizing His sacrificial and sacerdotal order; but "the third had, as it were, the face of a man," evidently describing His coming as a human being; "the fourth was like a flying eagle," pointing out the gift of the Spirit hovering over the Church. And therefore the gospels are in accord with these things, among which Christ is seated. For that according to John relates His original, effectual, and glorious [pg 121] generation from the Father, thus declaring, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God" [cf. John 1:1 ff.], and further, "All things were made by Him and without Him was nothing made." For this reason, also, is that Gospel full of confidence, for such is His person. But that according to Luke, which takes up His priestly character, commenced with Zacharias, the priest, who offers sacrifice to God. For now was made ready the fatted calf, about to be immolated for the recovery of the younger son [Luke 15:23]. Matthew, again, relates His generation as a man, saying, "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" [Matt. 1:1]; and "The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise" [Matt. 1:18]. This, then, is the gospel of His humanity; for which reason the character of a humble and meek man is kept up through the whole gospel. Mark, on the other hand, commences with reference to the prophetical Spirit who comes down from on high to men, saying, "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet," pointing to the winged aspect of the Gospel, and on this account he makes a compendious and brief narrative, for such is the prophetical character. And the Word of God himself had intercourse with the patriarchs, before Moses, in accordance with His divinity and glory; but for those under the Law He instituted a sacerdotal and liturgical service. Afterward, having been made man for us, He sent the gift of the heavenly Spirit over all the earth, to protect it with His wings. Such, then, was the course followed by the Son of God, and such, also, were the forms of the living creatures; and such as was the form of the living creatures, such, also, was the character of the Gospel. For the living creatures are quadriform, and the Gospel is quadriform, as is also the course followed by our Lord. For this reason four principal covenants were given mankind: one prior to the Deluge, under Adam; the second after the Deluge, under Noah; the third was the giving of the law under Moses; the fourth is that which [pg 122] renovates man and sums up all things in itself by means of the Gospel, raising and bearing men upon its wings into the heavenly kingdom.

(c) Tertullian, Adv. Marcion., IV, 5. (MSL, 2:395.)

Tertullian's work against Marcion belongs to the first decade of the third century; see above, § 23, b. In the following passage he combines the argument from the apostolic churches with the authority of the apostolic witness. This is the special importance of the reference to the connection of St. Mark's Gospel with St. Peter, and is an application of the principle that the authority of a book in the Church rested upon its apostolic origin.

If it is evidently true that what is earlier is more true, that what is earlier is what is from the beginning, that what is from the beginning is from the Apostles, it will be equally evidently true that what is handed down from the Apostles is what has been a sacred deposit in the churches of the Apostles. Let us see what milk the Corinthians drank from Paul; to what rule the Galatians were brought for correction; what the Philippians, the Thessalonians, the Ephesians, read; what the Romans near by also say, to whom Peter and Paul bequeathed the Gospel even sealed with their own blood. We have also John's nursling churches. For, although Marcion rejects his Apocalypse, the order of bishops, when traced to their origin, will rest on John as their author. Likewise the noble lineage of the other churches is recognized. I say, therefore, that in them, and not only in the apostolic churches, but in all those which are united with them in the fellowship of the mystery [sacramenti], that Gospel of Luke, which we are defending with all our might [cf. § 23], has stood its ground from its very first publication; whereas Marcion's gospel is not known to most people, and to none whatever is it known without being condemned. Of course it has its churches, but they are its own; they are as late as they are spurious. Should you want to know their origins, you will more easily discover apostasy in it than apostolicity, with Marcion, forsooth, as their founder or some one of [pg 123] Marcion's swarm. Even wasps make combs; so, also, these Marcionites make churches. The same authority of the apostolic churches will afford evidence to other gospels, also, which we possess equally through their means and according to their usage-I mean the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Matthew, but that which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter's, whose interpreter Mark was. For even the Digest of Luke men usually ascribe to Paul. And it may well seem that the works which disciples publish belong to their masters.

§ 29. The Apostles' Creed

By the middle of the second century there were current in the Church brief confessions of faith which had already been in use from a time in the remoter past as summaries of the apostolic faith. They were naturally attributed to the Apostles themselves, although they seem to have varied in many details. They were used principally in baptism, and were long kept secret from the catechumen until just before that rite was administered. They are preserved only in paraphrase, and can be reconstructed only by a careful comparison of many texts.

Additional source material: See Hahn, Bibliothek der Symbole und Glaubensregeln der allen Kirche, third ed., Breslau, 1897; cf. Mirbt, n. 16, 16 a.

(a) Iren?us, Adv. Haer., 1, 10. (MSG, 7:549 f.)

For Iren?us, v. supra, § 3, a.

The Church, though dispersed through the whole world to the ends of the earth, has received from the Apostles and their disciples the faith: In one God, the Father Almighty, who made the heaven and the earth and the seas, and all that in them is; And in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was incarnate for our salvation; And in the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets preached the dispensations and [pg 124] the advents, and the birth from the Virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily assumption into the heavens of the beloved Christ Jesus our Lord, and His appearing from the heavens in the glory of the Father, in order to sum up all things under one head [cf. Ephes. 1:10], and to raise up all flesh of all mankind, that to Christ Jesus, our Lord and God and Saviour and King, every knee of those that are in heaven and on earth and under the earth should bow [cf. Phil. 2:11], according to the good pleasure of the Father invisible, and that every tongue should confess Him, and that He may execute righteous judgment on all; sending into eternal fire the spiritual powers of wickedness and the angels who transgressed and apostatized, and the godless and unrighteous and lawless and blasphemous among men, but granting life and immortality and eternal glory to the righteous and holy, who have both kept the commandments and continued in His love, some from the beginning, some from their conversion.

(b) Iren?us, Adv. H?r., III, 4. (MSG, 7:855.)

The following form of the creed more closely resembles the traditional Apostles' Creed. With it compare the paraphrase in Iren?us. op. cit., IV, 33:7.

If the Apostles had not left us the Scriptures, would it not be necessary to follow the order of tradition which they handed down to those to whom they committed the churches? To this order many nations of the barbarians gave assent, of those who believe in Christ, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit without paper and ink, and guarding diligently the ancient tradition: Believing in one God, Maker of heaven and earth, and all that is in them; through Jesus Christ, the Son of God; who, because of His astounding love toward His creatures, sustained the birth of the Virgin, Himself uniting man to God, and suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again was received in brightness, and shall come again in glory as the Saviour of those who are saved [pg 125] and the judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire the perverters of the truth and despisers of His Father and His coming.

(c) Tertullian, De Virginibus Velandis, 1. (MSL, 2:937).

Tertullian gives various paraphrases of the creed. The three most important are the following and d, e. The date of the work De Virginibus Velandis is about 211, and belongs to his Montanist period.

The Rule of Faith is altogether one, sole, immovable, and irreformable-namely, of believing in one God the Almighty, the Maker of the world; and His Son, Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, on the third day raised again from the dead, received in the heavens, sitting now at the right hand of the Father, coming to judge the quick and the dead, also through the resurrection of the flesh.53

(d) Tertullian, Adv. Praxean, 2. (MSL, 2:156.)

The work of Tertullian against Praxeas is one of his latest works, and is especially important as developing the doctrine of the Trinity as opposed to the Patripassianism of Praxeas. To this theory of Praxeas, Tertullian refers in the opening sentence of the following extract, quoting the position of Praxeas. See below, § 40, b.

"Therefore after a time the Father was born, and the Father suffered, He himself God, the omnipotent Lord, Jesus Christ was preached." But as for us always, and now more, as better instructed by the Paraclete, the Leader into all truth: We believe one God; but under this dispensation which we call the economy there is the Son of the only God, his Word [Sermo] who proceeded from Him, through whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made. This One was sent by the Father into the Virgin, and was born of her, Man and God, the Son of Man and the Son of God, and called Jesus Christ; He suffered, He died and was buried, according to the Scriptures; and raised again by the [pg 126] Father, and taken up into the heavens, and He sits at the right hand of the Father; He shall come again to judge the quick and the dead: and He thence did send, according to His promise, from the Father, the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, the Sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. That this rule has come down from the beginning, even before any of the earlier heresies, much more before Praxeas, who is of yesterday, the lateness of date of all heresies proves, as also the novelties of Praxeas, a pretender of yesterday.

(e) Tertullian, De Pr?scriptione, 13. (MSL, 2:30.)

The Rule of Faith is … namely, that by which it is believed: That there is only one God, and no other besides the Maker of the world, who produced the universe out of nothing, through His Word [Verbum], sent forth first of all; that this Word, called His Son, was seen in the name of God in various ways by the patriarchs, and always heard in the prophets, at last was sent down from the Spirit and power of God the Father, into the Virgin Mary, was made flesh in her womb, and born of her, lived as Jesus Christ; that thereupon He preached the new law and the new promise of the kingdom of the heavens; wrought miracles; was fastened to the cross; rose again the third day; was caught up into the heavens; and sat down at the right hand of the Father; He sent in His place the power of the Holy Ghost, to lead the believers; He will come again with glory to take the saints into the enjoyment of eternal life and the celestial promises, and to judge the wicked with perpetual fire, with the restoration of the flesh.

§ 30. Later Gnosticism

Though Gnosticism was expelled from the Church as it perfected its organization and institutions on the basis of the episcopate, the Canon of Scripture, and the creeds, outside the Catholic Church, or the Church as thus organized, [pg 127] Gnosticism existed for centuries, though rapidly declining in the third century. The strength of the movement was still further diminished by loss of many adherents to Manich?anism (v. § 54), which had much in common with Gnosticism. The persistence of these sects, together with various later heresies, in spite of the very stringent laws of the Empire against them (v. § 73) should prevent any hasty conclusions as to the unity of the faith and the absence of sects in the patristic age. Unity can be found only by overlooking those outside the unity of the largest body of Christians, and agreement by ignoring those who differed from it.

Theodoret of Cyrus, Epistul? 81, 145. (MSG, 83:1259, 1383.)

Ep. 81 was written to the Consul Nonus, A. D. 445. Ep. 145 was written to the monks of Constantinople, A. D. 450.

Ep. 81. To every one else every city lies open, and that not only to the followers of Arius and Eunomius, but to Manich?ans and Marcionites, and to those suffering from the disease of Valentinus and Montanus, yes, and even to pagans and Jews; but I, the foremost champion of the teaching of the Gospel, am excluded from every city.… I led eight villages of Marcionites with their surrounding country into the way of truth, another full of Eunomians and another of Arians I brought to the light of divine knowledge, and, by God's grace, not a tare of heresy was left among us.

Ep. 145. I do indeed sorrow and lament that I am compelled by the attacks of fever to adduce against men, supposed to be of one and the same faith with myself, the arguments which I have already urged against the victims of the plague of Marcion, of whom, by God's grace, I have converted more than ten thousand and brought them to holy baptism.

[pg 128]

§ 31. The Results of the Crisis

The internal crisis, or the conflict with heresy, led the Church to perfect its organization, and, as a result, the foundation was laid for such a development of the episcopate that the Church was recognized as based upon an order of bishops receiving their powers in succession from the Apostles. Just what those powers were and how they were transmitted were matters left to a later age to determine. (V. infra, §§ 50, 51.)

(a) Iren?us, Adv. H?r., IV, 26:2, 5. (MSG, 7:1053.)

That Iren?us, writing about 175, could appeal to the episcopal succession as commonly recognized and admitted, and use it as a basis of unity for the Church, is generally regarded as evidence of the existence of a wide-spread episcopal organization at an early date in the second century. Possibly the connection of Iren?us with Asia Minor, where the episcopal organization admittedly was earliest, diminishes the force of the argument. The reference to the "charisma of truth," which the bishops were said to possess, was to furnish later a theoretical basis for the authority of bishops assembled in council.

Ch. 2. Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church, those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the Apostles; those who together with the succession of the episcopate have received the certain gift [charisma] of the truth according to the good pleasure of the Father; but also to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever.…

Ch. 5. Such presbyters does the Church nourish, of whom also the prophet says: "I will give thy rulers in peace, and thy bishops in righteousness" [cf. Is. 60:17]. Of whom also the Lord did declare: "Who, then, shall be a faithful steward, good and wise, whom the Lord sets over His household, to give them their meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing" [Matt. 24:45 f.]. Paul, then, teaching us where one may [pg 129] find such, says: "God hath placed in the Church, first, Apostles; secondly, prophets; thirdly, teachers" [I Cor. 12:28]. Where, then, the gifts of the Lord have been placed there we are to learn the truth; namely, from those who possess the succession of the Church from the Apostles, and among whom exists that which is sound and blameless in conduct, as well as that which is unadulterated and incorrupt in speech.

(b) Tertullian, De Pr?scriptione, 32. (MSL, 2:52.)

In Tertullian's statement as to the necessity of apostolic succession, the language is more precise than in Iren?us's. Bishop and presbyter are not used as interchangeable terms, as would appear in the passage in Iren?us. The whole is given a more legal turn, as was in harmony with the writer's legal mind.

But if there be any heresies bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down from the Apostles, because they were in the time of the Apostles, we can say: Let them produce the originals of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such manner that that first bishop of theirs shall be able to show for his ordainer or predecessor some one of the Apostles or of apostolic men-a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the Apostles. For in this manner the apostolic churches transmit their registers; as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit their several worthies, whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by the Apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed.

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