Chicago Theological Seminary.

Current discussions in theology (Volume 6) online

. (page 13 of 32)
Online LibraryChicago Theological SeminaryCurrent discussions in theology (Volume 6) → online text (page 13 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

as also a historic caricature, so afraid is he of
connecting any term, that looks toward philosophy,
with the Saviour.


What the visible Church of God is, whose history man
can write, has been well set forth by Ross, from the Con-
gregational, and, as most patristic scholars now admit,
primitive point of view. 1 He treats of the Roman Cath-
olic, the Episcopal, the Presbyterian, and the Congrega-
tional theories of the Church. The larger part of his
treatise is then devoted to the Doctrine of the Christia

i The Church- Kingdom. Lectures on Congregationalism. Con-
gregational S. School and Publishing Society. Chicago, 1887,


Church, under which he discusses its government, worship,
discipline, fellowship, creed and activities. The general
principles underlying all his treatment of the subject in
detail, Boss sums up more than once in the words of
Hatch, the Episcopalian : "All organizations, Avhether
ecclesiastical or civil, must be, as the early churches were,
more or less democratical ; and the most significant fact
of modern Church history is that, within the last hundred
years, many millions of our race and our Church, without
departing from the ancient faith, have slipped from be-
neath the inelastic framework of the ancient organization
and formed a group of new societies on the basis of a
closer Christian brotherhood and an almost absolute de-
mocracy." A similar general position is taken by Rigg,
who holds that all forms of Church government are mat-
ters of Christian expediency. 1 The New Testament lays
doAvn a few general principles, and leaves the details of
application to the Church of each age for the needs of that
age. He rejects the High Church theory, as without sup-
port in the Apostolic Church. He says the first churches
formed were Congregational in government, but adds,
u The apostolic history and letters prove that the Congre-
gational form represents, not an ideal model, but particu-
lar instances arising out of circumstances : that its limits
and its special features represent, not perfection of form
and full development, but defect of opportunity and arrest
of influence and extension arising from such defect, and
that its fundamental principles of negation, erected as they
are into dogmas of limitation, are in contradiction to the

i A Comparative View of Church Organizations. London. T.
Woolmer. 1887.


spirit and vital tendency of Church development in the
apostolic age.'" He urges the same objections against
Presbyterianism ; it is not only ' ' contrary to the prece-
dents of the primitive Church and to the spirit which gov-
erned its development," but its " economy fixes as the
necessary and universal law of the Church some points of
usage which, so far as they obtained in the apostolic age,
were occasional and accidental." In the line of these re-
marks, most modern critics, whether rationalistic or evan-
gelical, proceed to trace the rise of the constitution of the
Early Church as a historic growth. Manchot sets out
from the idea that there was a sort of aristocracy, or
brotherhood within the Church until the beginning of the
persecutions under Trajan. 1 It had its center in Asia
Minor, and extended its connections thence as far as Ju-
dea, on the one side, and to Italy, by way of Greece, on
the other. They were the "saints," a society that re-
garded its members as inspired, and to which there be-
longed, on the one hand, the active promoters of Christi-
anity, Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, and, on the other,
those who formed an inner circle about those leaders, and
provided the first outlines for the formation of local socie-
ties. Hence the "saints" in Early Church literature do
not mean all Church members, but a particular circle,
around which all others were to rally. These are the
"saints" of the Apocalypse, which he puts in the time of
Trajan, and these were the "clubs' 1 that Pliny sought
to suppress. The model circle of this kind Manchot finds

l Cf. Die Heiligen. Em Beitrag zum Verstandniss der Often ba-
rung Johannis unci der altehristlichen Verfassung. Leipzig. Veit
& Co. M. 5.


in the Roman Church, where this form of activity took
shape in imitation of the stricter Roman club organization,
rather than of the more elastic and democratic constitu-
tions of the Greek committees. In this connection there
arose also in Rome the monarchical Episcopate.

Weingarten finds (1. c.) the officers of the original con-
gregation to have been "the seven" and the "pillar"
apostles (Gal. ii, 9). Presbyters appear first in the later
view (Acts xi, 30; xv, 22). The Pauline . churches were
free in their organization. First Cor. xii, 28 shows the
KvjSepvT/aeis reckoned to the charismata, and the Apostles,
Prophets, and Teachers of this passage (cf. Eph. iv, 11)
were not permanent officers, neither of the single congre-
gation nor of the rising Church Universal. We see in
Corinth that the congregation was the ruling body both in
discipline and government. He says the first Pauline or-
ganization consisted in subjection to the a7rapxoa (I Cor.
xvi, 15), a family patronship in connection with service of
the saints. (Rom. xii, 8; xvi, 2, of Phoebe; Phill. iv, 2,
of Euodia.) The office of elder did not arise in connection
with the synagogue system. Presbyter and bishop are
identical in the Pastoral Epistles. Through the band of
elders the charismatic gift was imparted to Timothy. The
Epistle of Clement shows a feeling of superiority in the
Roman Church. The letter opposes irregularities which
had arisen in Corinth through the desire to apply to the
Christian Church the democratic principles of the Greek
societies. He allows the "honorable men" in the Church
to nominate, but the "whole Church" should utter its
voice in the election of presbyters. Until Soter and Victor,
the leaders of the Roman conareofation were called elders,


after that bishops. The work of turning the original con-
gregational churches into one Episcopal Church, Wein-
garten ascribes essentially to the churches of Asia Minor,
led by Polycarp, Serapion of Antioch and others. He
finds this change in the Church to be a reflection of a sim-
ilar change taking place in the State. The Empire suc-
ceeded the Republic, and c, the idea of all civil life as ex-
isting in the form of a society was replaced by that of a
permanent institution.'" So the Catholic Church arose
upon the ruins of the free Christian Brotherhood, and
clergy and laity began to be distinguished, just as ordo and
po-pulus collegii w T ere distinguished in the heathen clubs.
And, as those wo represented these clubs w r ere called an
Ordo, so the Church came to have its representation in the
clergy, as an Order. Imperial development in the State
and hierarchical development in the Church had many
points of analogy in the middle of the second century.
Thus the deification of the bishop was like the honor paid
to the summus sacerdos. An inscription describes a priest
as sacerdos sanctm regince judicio majestatis ejus electus.
Parallel, too, with the distinction of magistratus majores
et minores, in the State, there ran, during the third cent-
ury, the distinction of ordines majores, that is, bishops,
presbyters, and deacons, and ordines minores, that is sub-
deacons, acolytes, exorcists, ostiarii, lectors, in the Church.
Milligan thinks that the term presbyter in the Apostolic
Church did not describe an office at all ; it was, like
44 Reverend," a general title of honor applied to religious
officers. 1 But if The Acts is a historic book such a title

i The Expositor, Nov., 1887.


must have indicated official rank. (See xi, 30 ; xiv, 23).
Heron, on the other hand, says, 1 it is clear that the
writer of Acts considered the primary official title to be
that of elder; that of bishop Avas only secondary and des-
criptive of work. He holds, further, that the Jewish
elder k " was the original and archetype of the Christian
functionary." The important fact is, that, by whatever
name or names those officers may have been designated,
whether bishops or presbyters, or both, * c there was a plu-
rality of these office-bearers in each congregation, and they
were elected by the free choice of the Christian people."
They formed a council or committee, chosen by the con-
gregation, and constituted the free governing power of the
early churches. Heron thinks the apostles, other than
the Twelve, mentioned in the New Testament and the
Didache, were evangelists, or itinerant missionaries, like
Timothy and Titus, whose one business it was to preach
the Gospel, and start churches among the heathen ; then
depart to other regions to be evangelized. He considers
Hatch's theory of Early Church organization completely at
variance with the history which the Acts gives of the
development of the Primitive Church. If that book is
historic authority, Hatch's view is untenable. The term
"bishop" (Acts xx, 28), is a synonym for "presbyter,"
and there is no hint that his work was chiefly financial.
Acts xi, 30 shows the presbyters in charge of the offerings,
just as Clement of Rome and Polycarp represent them.
The Acts also contradicts Hatch's statement that the Jewish
term "elders," and the office meant by it, did not at once

i The Church of the Sub-Ajwstolic A</< . London. Hodder and
Stonghton. 1888.


prevail among the Gentile churches, as indicated Actsxiii,
48 ; xiv, 1. Heinrici also admits this, if the Acts be
accepted as historic and authoritative. In reference to
the test case of Corinth, Heron holds there must have
been a regular organization here also, for Clement of Rome,
writing not forty years after Paul to this Church, speaks
of the Apostles having appointed " presbyters' there
"who had for a long time' been honored. There were
men then living in Corinth who could remember Paul, and
know if Clement was wrong. " Hatch's attempt to show
that the organization of the Gentile Church was an hide-
pendent and spontaneous growth," Heron calls " a com-
plete failure." Apostolic church government was not a
chance growth, he maintains ; the Apostles adopted the
plan of having a committee chosen by every congregation
to guide its affairs, because that method was best suited
to the free spirit of Christianity. Neither Jewish nor Gen-
tile models were slavishly followed. This plan can be
applied to the most varying circumstances. It is worthy
of the Lord, to whom it is referred by the Scriptures them-
selves (Eph. iv, 11 ; I Cor. xii, 28). Heron about proves
the identity of bishops and elders in the first century,
against Harnack, who holds that they were different officers
from the first.

A similar view of the growth of the Early Church is set
forth in a valuable series of articles by Seyerlen. 1

He thinks the organization of the Early Church grew
up naturally to meet the peculiar needs of the Christian

i Die Entstehung des Episkopats in der christlichen Kirche, in
Zeitschrift f. prak. Theologie, Frankfurt, 1887 ; pp. 97-143 ; 201-244 :


congregation. It was not deeply influenced either by the
synagogue or by heathen societies, by clubs or by munici-
palities. In the congregation in Jerusalem, there sprang
up about the Apostles and James, a council of presbyters.
The "seven," who cared for the poor, were analogous to
the deacons in the Pauline churches, in both cases the
product of felt needs. In the Gentile churches, there
developed from the diaxovia of the anapxai which,
at first included functions both higher and lower, the
two congregational offices of bishops and deacons, the
iirst being the same as the presbyters in the Jewish
churches. The names, however, soon became exchange-
able, and the officers meant were at first identical. He
rejects the theory, as groundless, that presbyters .formed
the general council, and bishops an official board within it.
The fact that the congregational offices were charismatic
opposes such views. Hence, after election by the people
came in, respect for the charisma remained and men were
officers for life. The work of this presbyter or bishop
council was, direction of public worship, pastoral oversight,
discipline, finance, and representation of the congregation
abroad. The diaconate was an office of service, executive,
especially to care for the poor. The work of teaching lay
outside all these offices ; the call to it was purely charis-
matic. We can see, however, the transfer of this office to
the bishop-presbyters already in the Epistle to the Ephe-
sians and the Shepherd ; to bishops and deacons in the
didache; and to one bishop in the Church Constitutions.
The germ of the monarchical bishop, he finds, even in the
Pastoral Epistles, especially in the duty of the bishop (sin-
gular) to represent sound teaching against error. " Those


letters show at the same time, that the change of the mere
president, which the committee of presbyters must have
had already a long time, into a regular moderator of the
higher rank, had its roots in movements, which called forth
the Gnostic danger." The functions assigned Timothy
and Titus already outline the monarchical-congregational
bishop. These with the Episcopal name in the singular,
form the elements here, from the union of which arose the
Catholic idea of a bishop. These bishops could be mode-
rators of a congregation ; at the same time tfrey might
have a number of congregations, but with different con-
gregational presbyteries, not with monarchical bishops,
under them. These were the similarities and dissimilari-
ties, as compared with the later metropolitans. As soon
as the committee of elders saw in the bishop, not only a
moderator of itself, but also the head of the whole con ore-
gation, a change arose in the mode of election ; he must
be chosen as a well qualified official by the whole congrega-
tion, and now the choice was no longer limited to a par-
ticular circle, as the elders. A further result of the promi-
nence of the bishop was a closer connection of the deacons
or executive officers with him.


With the decline of the school of Baur, who made
primitive Christianity little more than an outgrowth of
Essenism, the reaction has gone so far, that it now looks
as if we may soon be told there was no such thing as an
Essene known, when the Gospel was first preached. Ohle
agrees with Lucius, that the Philonic writing De Vita Con-
temjplativa is spurious, and its Therapeutse were Christian


monks ; he then proceeds to show 1 that the sections in
Philo's Quod Omnia Probus Liber (12-13), which speak of
Essenes, were interpolated by the fabricator of the De Vita,
and hence the Essenes u as representatives of pre-christian
heresy in Israel are to be struck out of Church History."
Like the supposed Therapeutge, they are simply fictitious
pictures of Christian hermits, given a fancied existence
among the Jews. He then turns to the "enigmatical
Essenes of Josephus," and finds that the sections of this
writer's works (Bell. Jud. ii, 8 and Antiq. xviii, 1), which
represent Neo-Pythagorean Essenism, are also spurious ;
and we have left in Josephus only a few scattered notices
of very simple Essenes. Hilgenfeld opposes this criti-
cism, in behalf of Quod Omnis, as a genuine work of Phil o,
and the Essenes in it* as historical personages. So does
Masse bieau, who defends also the De Vita as a work of
Pnilc. 3 He thinks the Therapeutae were neither Christians,
nor Neo-Pythagoreans, nor Buddhists ; they were Jews,
or Jewish philosophers, who retired for study, and formed
a sort of brotherhood, which did not exist, however, much
later than the time of Philo.

But it is not to groups of Jewish recluses that we must
look for forecasts of Christian monasticism ; heathen asce-
ticism, especially in Egypt, forms a much nearer subject
of comparison. The more minute the study into early
monastic life, the more intimate the connection is found
to be between the pagan anchorite and the Christian her-
mit. Amelineau has shown this afresh in a recent study

i Jahrbilchcr f. Prot. Theologie, 1887. Hh. 2, 3; 1888, H. 2.
a Die Esscier Philo's, in Ztft.f. wiss. Theologie, 1888, H. 1.
3 Revue de Vhistoire des religions. T. xvi, No. 2 & 3.


of Pachomius, the founder of the coenibite system in
Egypt. 1 Returning as a conscript from the Roman army,
this young Egyptian, having learned something of the
Gospel, took possession of a ruined temple of Serapis on
the Nile, and became a Christian hermit, though not yet a
member of the Church. He had been won to the new
faith by seeing the kindness of Christians to the poor and
wretched. Finally some zealous believers took him to a
church and baptized him L ' without the new convert (adepte)
knowing what they did to him." After three years he
became a monk under an old ascetic, Palamon, with whom
he remained seven years, till his thirtieth year, when he
withdrew to Tabennisi, "the place of the palms of Isis,"
where, after the manner of Egyptian heathen hermits, he
became a Christian anchorite. Amelineau finds this
Egyptian love of solitude a fruitful soil for both the Jew-
ish Therapeutre and the first Christian monks. The three
stages of the ascetic life, (1) the spiritual recluse, though
still in the midst of men, (2) the solitary hermit, and (3)
hermits in groups, under rules, or monks, all appear in
Egyptian heathenism, before the tendency ran through the
same stages in Christian circles. Hermits, like Paul,
Antony, 2 Macarius, and their followers, had already
formed communities in the latter part of the third cent-
ury ; that was an advance, but now Pachomius proceeded

1 Etude historique stir St. Pachome et le cenobitisme primitif dans
la Haute Egypte, d'apres les monuments Coptes, Paris, 1887.

2 For a handy edition of the supposed Life of St. Antony, as-
cribed to Athanasius (see against this Farrar, in Contemp. Review,
Nov. 1887, and Weingarten, 1. c. p. 22), see Vie de St. Antoine,
edited by Maunoury, Paris, Delagrave, 1887. Fr.l. Has Greek Text,
French notes, and Lexicon.


to a higher and more rational view of monastic life.
Anions: the hermits that flocked about him, he established
a period of probation, he refused to accept brothers from
other monasteries, three were to occupy a cell together,
prayers were not to be numerous but sincere, certain gen-
eral rules were binding, but "in other respects, the great
principle governing the new institution was that of indi-
vidual liberty.'' A minimum of obligation was demanded
of every monk, and that must be kept. Beyond that, each
was free, provided general order was not disturbed. This
was a great advance on the mechanical system that had
spread among other Egyptian monks. Remembering his
army experience, Pachomius divided his monks into sec-
tions, with an officer over each. There were regular
classes for the instruction of the brothers, who numbered
two thousand five hundred. Branch monasteries also
arose, and the whole brotherhood soon included seven
thousand men. Now Mary, the sister of Pachomius, vis-
ited him, and a monastery for women was founded, under
the same rules as for men. Of the general character of
these monks, Amelineau says, they were "at heart, far
from true virtue," and from the nature of the case it could
not be otherwise. "The great majority of them were
simple fellah m, without education, or artisans of low class ;
all were by nature rude, gross, and of violent passions/'
"Almost all were eye-servers," who believed that their
salvation was secured by the fact of their becoming monks,
and the risks were great of merely formal piety. Jeal-
ousy arose between the Pachomian monks and those that
st retched along the Libyan chain, and Pachomius spent all
his time visiting among his monasteries to keep them pure.


The Coptic accounts give horrible details of the violence
and licentious habits of many monks.

Sodomy was the crime most frequent among the Pacho-
mian hermits ; among others, we hear of abortion, infanti-
cide, and insubordination. Amelineau makes prominent
the idea that Pachomius was Christian chiefly in name, so
far as doctrines were concerned ; it was just the same with
all Egypt, apart from Alexandria, where Greek culture
met the Gospel. The Copts gradually became Christians,
by means of monastic methods and ideals, hence bishops
were never held in great respect, or the hierarchy honored
as among the Greeks and Romans. "Even at the present
day, a monk, who becomes a bishop, seems to be
degraded." "The true heroes and the true teachers of
Christian Egypt were the martyrs and the monks, men
drawn most frequently from the common people.'' Theo-
logical questions never took hold of the native Egyptians.
"Never in the Coptic writings does a prayer occur
addressed to the Trinity, to Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
except from some scholar like Schnoudi." The name of
the Virgin Mary is not once mentioned in the lives of
Pachomius, Macarius and Antony. "The Copts of the
fourth century had only three sacraments, Baptism, the
Lord's Supper and Orders; the others were unknown."
Along simpler lines of practical life, the transition was
made from Pagan morals to Christian living. 4t One of
the causes which hastened the Egyptian people into Chris-
tianity, was the horror, which the disciples of Christ had
of Greek polytheism, which was equally odious to the
children of the Nile valley." And, on the other hand, not
a little of the old Egyptian religion still lingered among


these Coptic Christians. Amelineau goes so far as to
think that the common people in most cases did little more
than put Jesus in place of Osiris, and go on as before. 1


Alexandria was the center of the Hellenistic influences,
which from the second century on, have left an abiding
impression upon the Christian Church. Not only did
Greek philosophy help mould the theology of the Early
Church, but the methods and spirit of the Greek religion
gave a perceptible coloring to the worship of the first
Gentile believers. Bratke has just illustrated this with
special reference to Clement of Alexandria and his relation
to the ancient mysteries. 2 It is striking to see how very
often he refers to the Greek mysteries, compared with his
reference to the Old Testament and its mysteries. In
only one respect does he exalt Mosaism, that is when he
speaks of the wisdom of all other nations as drawn, directly
or indirectly, from the Old Testament. In the history of
religion, the Law and the Prophets held an important
place, but for the Christian thinker their peculiarities were
little more than matters of antiquarian interest. Clement
calls Christ the high priest only once, but he frequently
calls him a hierophant and mystagogue. Christianity, he
regards, as the religion of the future. In it alone are the

i For an interesting picture of the life of an Irish Monk, of a gen-
eration later than Pachomius, ef. The Writings of St. Patrick,
with Notes, etc. By Stokes and Wright. London : Nisbet & Co.
1887. Is.

2 Die Stellung des Clemens Alexandrinus zuiu Antiken Mysterien-
wese?i } in Studien und Ki'itiken, 1887. H. 1.


true mysteries to be found ; all others are delusions and
vanity. This progressive faith must give, in its true
worship, that peace, which pagans sought in vain at their
own most secret shrines. So, to meet heathen gnosis and
heathen mysteries, Clement tried to set forth Christian
Gnosis and Christian Mysteries. From his knowledge of
the Eleusinian, Dionysian, and some Oriental mysteries,
which underlay the popular life of the time, both common
and educated, he endeavored to lead men to a syncretistic
theology and worship of truth and virtue. He accepts
two classes of men, those who wish to see the mysteries,
and those who have no such desire. Few attain to eso-
teric truth. Religion is the highest good, and can be
presented only allegorically, hence revelation must be alle-
gorical. This principle Clement held in common with the
mysteries. He also apprehended salvation, not as an act
of God, but as taking place through the place of the mys-
teries itself. The highest good presented in the ancient
rites was that of immortality ; so, Clement puts it first.

Online LibraryChicago Theological SeminaryCurrent discussions in theology (Volume 6) → online text (page 13 of 32)