Rev. John by Lady Church in Glastobury, built on the spot of the first church in Britian - Click image to learn more about early Christianity in Britian
Development of the Early Churches
Evenin the days of the Apostle Paul
from the book/video, "From Jesus to Constantine" by Prof. Bart D. Ehrman, PhD
Notes from Video Lecture Twenty -The Development of Church Offices
An important feature in the building of Orthodox Christianity was the establishment of a clerical hierarchy to oversee the life, beliefs, liturgy, practices, and ethics of the Christian community.
A. Christianity in its early years had nothing like a clerical hierarchy. Our oldest evidence of the organization of the Christian churches comes in our earliest Christian author, Paul.
B. Paul's churches were not clerical (run by "clergy") but charismatic (run by "gifts of the Spirit").
C. As an apocalypticist, Paul, like most other early Christians, believed that he was living at the very end of the age.
1. This was the short interim period between the beginning of the end of all things—which started with Jesus' Crucifixion, God's decisive act of redemption for the world—and the climax of all things—to come with the return of Jesus from heaven to bring in a Utopian kingdom on Earth.
Given that the end was near, there was no driving need to establish permanent social structures for the churches that had been established.
God had, therefore, made a temporary provision for governance in this brief interim. Each person who came into the church was endowed with the Spirit of God, which provided the person with a "gift" (Greek: charisma) that could be used to promote the good of the community in its life together.
These gifts included such things as the power to know God's will (knowledge); the ability to speak prophecy directly from God (prophecy), sometimes in strange, unknown languages (tongues) that could be interpreted by others (interpretation of tongues); and the abilities to heal the sick (healing), to tend to the needs of the poor (giving), and to teach God's truth to members of the congregation (teaching).
D. The nature and difficulty of the charismatic organization of Paul's churches can be seen in his First Letter to the Corinthians, which shows that the gifts were being abused and that, without any one person in charge, chaos was erupting.
So, eventually, this charismatic structure gave way to a more top-down form of organization, with church leaders with established qualifications who were appointed and given charge over church affairs.
The Church that Won
... the bible came into being and eventually evolved out of the infighting of the various factions of early Christianity. You basically had the factions and the followers of Peter and Paul (Pauline Christianity) against the Jewish Christians headed by James (Jesus' brother), and then you also had the Gnostic influence, with various Gnostics in both camps. It wasn't until the late fourth century and early fifth century that the basic structure of the Catholic Bible took place, and it has been honed and polished ever since.
During the first three centuries, early Christianity was really not organized under one banner. You had many churches in different areas that belonged to different "divisions" or traditions of Christianity, and each had its own favored Christian writings. You had the Armenian, Assyrian Church of the East, Byzantine, Coptic, Eastern Orthodox, Ethiopian, Oriental Orthodox, and Syrian, to name just the main ones. All had different slants on how the Christian religion should be practiced and how it should be run. Emperor Constantine wanted to put an end to that and put them all under one roof, which evolved to be the (Roman) Catholic Church.
Author and history professor Richard Carrier puts forth this description of how the early Catholic church was formed in the opening paragraph of his essay "The Formation of the New Testament Canon," which follows:
"Contrary to common belief, there was never a onetime, truly universal decision as to which books should be included in the Bible. It took over a century(s) of the proliferation of numerous writings before anyone even bothered to start picking and choosing, and then it was largely a cumulative, individual and happenstance event, guided by chance and prejudice more than objective and scholarly research, until priests and academics began pronouncing what was authoritative and holy, and even they were not unanimous. Every church had its favored books, and since there was nothing like a clearly-defined orthodoxy until the fourth century, there were in fact many simultaneous literary traditions. The illusion that it was otherwise is created by the fact that the church that came out on top simply preserved texts in its favor and destroyed or let vanish opposing documents. Hence what we call "orthodoxy" is simply "the church that won."
The above is quoted from the book, "The Two Marys" by Silvia Brown
P.S. Any one view of life is just single perspective, out of many possibilities. So, what the Christians call "Resurrection", the Buddhists call "Reincarnation"; two views of the same natural process of The Living Spirit renewing life! Thus, the cards are stacked in your favor!
COMING IN 2013 @ Prescott OLLI
Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication
In the first centuries after Christ, there was no "official" New Testament. Instead, early Christians read and fervently followed a wide variety of Scriptures—many more than today. Some believed that there were two, 12, or as many as 30 gods. Some thought that a malicious deity, rather than the loving God, created the world. Some maintained that Christ's death and resurrection had nothing to do with salvation while others insisted that Christ never really died at all.
What did these "other" Scriptures say? Do they exist today? How could such outlandish ideas ever be considered Christian? If such beliefs were once common, why do they no longer exist? In this two part class, we will explore the lost books and beliefs of early Christianity, with the help of Prof. Bart D. Ehrman and see what we might be missing.
Prof. Bart D. Ehrman's video presentation is based on his book: "Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
See Spiritual Study Classes webpages for more!
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