Tag Archives: Patristics

Apostolic and Patristic (and 2000th post!)*

An interesting bit from Evangelicals and Tradition: The Formative Influence of the Early Church, one of the texts for the “Patristic Fathers” seminary course I am taking:

I want to emphasize the indissoluble connection that existed between the apostolic and the patristic church.  The two should indeed be distinguished, the apostolic representing the voices of those who were the first disciples and hearers of the Lord.  But far too often we take the artificial boundaries established in textbooks for purposes of clarifying the stages in church history as real divisions.  Calling the time of the apostles “apostolic” and what followed “catholic” [small-“c”] has served not only to distinguish the latter period as post-apostolic but also to depict it as a series of developments not in keeping with the original apostolic charter. . . [by this division] the apostolic reliance on the gifts and freedom of the Spirit  was transformed in into the fixing of tradition and doctrinal content known as “catholicism,” in which a “canon of faith” eclipsed the spiritual simplicity of Jesus.  But it is one thing to observe changes of development and quite another to create a disjunction.  One can point to a formation of doctrinal tradition in the earliest apostolic writings and dependency upon the Spirit’s leading in later patristic texts.  A strict delineation between the apostolic and the patristic is no more than a theoretical construct that fails at integrating the historical evidence.  The manual of Christian practice and worship known as the Didache originated in the area of northern Syria, as did the Gospel of Matthew, and was produced within a generation or less of the Gospel.  First Clement was written, just like Revelation, in the mid 90s of the first century.  Yet one was eventually regarded as apostolic and the other patristic.  The reasons for this distinction are not always apparent, underscored by the evidence that 1 Clement and the Didache were regarded as Scripture (as were some other patristic works) by certain churches.  The distinctions we so readily make today between the apostolic  and patristic were not clear to the Christians who were living in those times. (pp. 52-3)

Still with me?  I bet I lost 95% of you or more.  Anyway, interesting stuff.  Here’s the nutshell version: historically, there is no clear division between the apostolic age (that is, the age  of those who were direct disciples of Jesus, or at least taught by an direct disciple) and the apostolic age (the age of the direct successors of the apostles) and therefore no basis on which to say former age was purer period of the church than the latter.

(I admit you came to mind as I read this, Toni, and your comment here—though now that I’ve read the comment again, it only marginally relates.  🙂 )

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*I never imagined that my 2000th post would be such a dull one.

3-2-1 Homework!

I started the coursework for my seminary course on the Patristic Fathers tonight.  Cup of Evening Delight tea (Safeway Select’s peppermint chamomile concoction) in one hand, Henry Chadwick’s The Early Church in the other, the fire crackling in the TV (a fireplace DVD—need to get our real fireplace safety-checked*) I set about my task to read 2 chapters in the book and listen to the first lecture.

The verdict to this point:

1.  I am an incredibly slow reader and probably for that reason not worthy of the “Seminary Student” title.  Consider: it took me 2 hours to read the 40 pages that made up the first two chapters of the book.  Not good.  While it’s true that the flow of the text isn’t great (and I’m tired, which is a bad combination), I will need to learn to read much faster than I do.**

2.  The lecturer isn’t particularly engaging, but he sticks to the outline and the lecture is pausable and rewindable, so I can’t complain.  I’m about halfway through the lecture.  I don’t think I’ll finish tonight.

3.  Despite #s 1 and 2 above, the topic is fascinating from the get-go: church history, church order and heresies from the get-go.  Much of this was familiar territory (thanks to Mr. Gonzalez in 2006), but I don’t mind the refresher (Boo, Gnosticism!  Boo, Marcion!)

4.  Fireplaces on DVD aren’t so bad.

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*We’ve lived in this house for more than a year and have yet to use our fireplace.  I’m not sure what to make of that.  Every time I consider just lighting something in there already, I get images of chimney fires in my head.  I just keep forgetting to call someone (and when I did in the past, no one got back to me).
**The slowness of my reading is mostly due to wanting to catch everything in the text, which results in going back and re-reading.  This gets worse when I’m tired, as I’ll suddenly find myself “reading” the book without comprehending a single word.  My concern with reading faster is missing a lot more information, but maybe that’s OK.