New Wineskins: A Thought Experiment on Sola Scriptura and the Historical Argument, Part 1

WineskinsbannerThe tradition of the apostles

Readers have argued that there’s a position in between the Protestant sola scriptura (the scriptures only, as argued by the Reformation leaders) and the Catholic/Orthodox view that the teachings of early church leaders and church councils reflect the will of the Holy Spirit and thus carry the same weight as scripture.

They argue that the early church had the benefit of, not only the scriptures, but also the traditions — the oral teachings of the apostles. Now, in traditional Church of Christ thought, the scriptures are the only true authority, but the historical record gives evidence of what the scriptures truly mean. Thus, we supplement the scriptures with Tertullian and Irenaeus when it suits us. Not that they have any authority in themselves but they bear witness to a recollection of apostolic teaching.

The implicit — and rarely stated — assumption is that there was some body of apostolic teaching transmitted orally that supplements and completes the New Testament. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that we’re now hearing voices that make this implicit assumption explicit — asserting that uninspired writings of the early church fathers must be studied and interpreted in order to understand the New Testament correctly. It’s not that these uninspired sources are themselves inspired, but that these men had access to an oral tradition now lost and recoverable only through diligent study of uninspired writings.

Now, this is not quite the same as the Catholic/Orthodox view, which would claim that the Spirit continues to work through through church tradition — that the church councils themselves carry authority; whereas the implicit (and increasingly explicit) Church of Christ view is that the apostles created an oral tradition that supplements the scriptures. The church has no authority to add to this tradition, but the tradition is binding.

There are verses that seem to support this view —

(1Co 11:2 ESV) Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

(2Th 2:15 ESV) So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

(2Th 3:6 ESV) Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

And this conclusion is supported by such early church teachings as —

“So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by Epistle of ours.” Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther.”

John Chrysostom, Homily on 2nd Thessalonians 4:2 (A.D. 404).

[S]eeing, I say, that the Church teaches this in plain language, that the Only-begotten is essentially God, very God of the essence of the very God, how ought one who opposes her decisions to overthrow the preconceived opinion… And let no one interrupt me, by saying that what we confess should also be confirmed by constructive reasoning: for it is enough for proof of our statement, that the tradition has come down to us from our Fathers, handled on, like some inheritance, by succession from the apostles and the saints who came after them.

Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius 4:6 (c. A.D. 384).

But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men — a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which 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 apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed. Let the heretics contrive something of the same kind … .

Tertullian, On Prescription against the Heretics, 32 (c. A.D. 200).

When heretics show us the canonical Scriptures, in which every Christian believes and trusts, they seem to be saying: ‘Lo, he is in the inner rooms [the word of truth] ‘ (Matt 24.6). But we must not believe them, nor leave the original tradition of the Church, nor believe otherwise than we have been taught by the succession in the Church of God.

Origen, Homilies on Matthew, Homily 46, PG 13:1667 (ante A.D. 254).

Plainly, the early church held to the view that they had received instruction supplemental to the scriptures themselves. They cite “the Fathers” — early uninspired Christian writings — as authority. And so there’s a certain logic: Paul said he passed down certain traditions. The early church claimed to have those traditions. Perhaps there is indeed a body of instruction not found in the scriptures that was passed down generation to generation by the ancient bishops?

In each New Testament passage, “tradition” translates paradosis, which is also found in such passages as —

(Mat 15:2-6 ESV) 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God

(Mar 7:3-9 ESV) 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!

(Gal 1:14 ESV) 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.

(Col 2:8 ESV) 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Paradosis literally means a handing over, but came to be used of any tradition — but especially the oral “law” of the Jews, memorized by the rabbis and passed down by mouth from generation to generation until the writing of the Talmud. The Wikipedia says,

Originally, Jewish scholarship was oral. Rabbis expounded and debated the law (the written law expressed in the Hebrew Bible) and discussed the Tanakh without the benefit of written works (other than the Biblical books themselves), though some may have made private notes (megillot setarim), for example of court decisions.

This situation changed drastically, however, mainly as the result of the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth in the year 70 CE and the consequent upheaval of Jewish social and legal norms. As the Rabbis were required to face a new reality—mainly Judaism without a Temple (to serve as the center of teaching and study) and Judea without autonomy — there was a flurry of legal discourse and the old system of oral scholarship could not be maintained. It is during this period that Rabbinic discourse began to be recorded in writing. The earliest recorded oral law may have been of the midrashic form, in which halakhic discussion is structured as exegetical commentary on the Pentateuch. But an alternative form, organized by subject matter instead of by biblical verse, became dominant about the year 200 C.E., when Rabbi Judah haNasi redacted the Mishnah (????).

Did the apostles create an oral tradition to be preserved by those who followed?

Therefore, when Paul speaks of his own teachings as paradosis, he means they were in some sense to be compared to the oral law. This thought bothered me for quite a long time. After all, Jesus and Paul speak very negatively of the oral law.

And so, to sort this out, I suggest what Einstein called a gedanken experiment, that is, a “thought experiment.” Or as we said in kindergarten, “Let’s pretend.” Let’s pretend that the apostles really did issue an oral law — a tradition — that was to be preserved in addition to the scriptures that became the New Testament. What would they have done?

Well, the idea has a clear parallel in Judaic practice. Quoting again from the Wikipedia

According to Rabbinic tradition, Moses and the Israelites received an oral as well as the written Torah (“teaching”) from God at Mount Sinai. The books of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) were relayed with an accompanying oral tradition passed on by each generation. Jewish law and tradition thus is not based on a strictly literal reading of the Tanakh, but on combined oral and written traditions.

Of course, Christians don’t consider the oral law or “traditions” as binding, and certainly not handed down by God on Mt. Sinai. But that was the Jewish notion. One reason the Christian church has rejected the Jewish view is Jesus’ many harsh words spoken against the oral law and the teachings of the Pharisees, which were taken from the oral law. I think the traditional Christian view of the oral law is right.

But that doesn’t mean the early church couldn’t have had an “oral law” of its own. Indeed, it appears clear, from the passages quoted above, that Paul fully intended his oral instruction to be preserved by his readers and taught. And if his readers had considered Paul’s oral instructions as the equivalent of the oral law, they would have behaved as the rabbis behaved — they would have memorized the teachings and passed them on to the next generation by training each generation to recall the teachings verbatim. And if there ever came a time when the oral transmission of these precious teachings was in doubt, they would have written them down. There would be a Christian Talmud, a compendium of apostolic teachings preserved for generations and finally written down.

Now, the Jewish Talmud may be bought in a 73-volume set. It’s a LOT bigger than the Old Testament, and a scholar could dedicate a lifetime of study to it. And yet it was passed from generation to generation orally. It was memorized! It’s unimaginable to the modern mind that such a massive volume of tradition could be learned, much less memorized, but that’s why we have the Talmud today. It was preserved by memorization.

Therefore, had Paul created an oral tradition of this sort, it was certainly possible for his students to memorize it and pass it down from generation to generation. The Jews had been doing the same thing for centuries — and Paul was a Jewish rabbi. The church continued to have a strongly Jewish flavor for generations after Paul.

And so, yes, it’s totally possible that Paul did exactly this. There is nothing about Paul, the church, or the culture of the day that would prevent Paul (or the other apostles) from creating an oral tradition to supplement the written scriptures and arranging to have that tradition passed on from generation to generation, word for word, to be used by the church to guide it in matters not addressed by the scriptures. It’s totally possible.

But if that happened, where is it? Where is the Christian Talmud? Did someone actually take the time and trouble to write it down during the last 2,000 years? I mean, there were times of grave persecution, where surely the church felt severely threatened. There were surely generations where it would have been difficult to pass the memorized learning to the next generation, time when the tradition would have been written. Did it happen?

This is key: had it been written, it would have been written as apostolic tradition. The writer would have surely made the point that these traditions had been passed down from generation to generation, as such a claim would have been essential to giving these inspired traditions their proper weight in the church. And so, where are they?

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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55 Responses to New Wineskins: A Thought Experiment on Sola Scriptura and the Historical Argument, Part 1

  1. Alan says:

    The NIV translates ????????? as "tradition" in passages that speak of it negatively (Matt 15:3, Col 2:8), and "teachings" in passages that speak of it positively (1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thess 2:15, 2 Thess 3:6). This leaves the reader with the impression that tradition is always bad, although the original text does not carry that idea.

    The problem I have with authoritative tradition is that, if that was the plan, it doesn't seem to have worked. The traditions have not been handed down with the same diligence and precision as the inspired scriptures. We don't know unambiguously what the original traditions really were. In matters of authority, ambiguity is a problem. I don't think God intended us to derive authority from tradition, because if he had intended that he would have ensured that we received the traditions accurately.

  2. Royce Ogle says:

    If there had been a body of truth (apostolic tradition) handed down I can't imagine that it would have contradicted the books and letters in the canon of Scriptures we have today. What some of your readers are clamoring for is a tradition that contradicts Paul specifically and unknowingly Jesus, Peter, and others.

    From my perspective, some of our church of Christ people have elevated church of Christ tradition to the point that it bears more weight for them than the Scriptures and some of them are willing even to toss out like garbage some of Paul's writings because it doesn't fit their man made doctrine.

    My observation is that each of your readers who in their comments seem to insist that more weight be given to church fathers, to early traditions, are not on a track to know Jesus better, or to explore the depth and richness of God's grace, but like the Pharisees, are concerned with details of what is and is not OK for a worship gathering, or that a sinner in some way can help to save himself.

    Traditions change over time don't they? The people of the Restoration Movement were once known among ourselves as people of the Bible. Now some of us are known as editors of the Bible. Sad but true.

    Royce

  3. Price says:

    Jay, would the Apostle's Creed, especially the earlier shorter versions which weren't added to later be an example of this type of tradition? I understand that many early church Patriarchs used portions of it as a baptismal statement of faith….

  4. Keith says:

    I'm a patient guy. I'm sure that in subsequent posts, you'll help me understand how this relates to New Wineskins! 🙂 ~ Keith Brenton

  5. aBasnar says:

    The implicit — and rarely stated — assumption is that there was some body of apostolic teaching transmitted orally that supplements and completes the New Testament. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that we’re now hearing voices that make this implicit assumption explicit — asserting that uninspired writings of the early church fathers must be studied and interpreted in order to understand the New Testament correctly. It’s not that these uninspired sources are themselves inspired, but that these men had access to an oral tradition now lost and recoverable only through diligent study of uninspired writings.

    I think we should read the New Testament as what it was meant to be originally:

    a) The 4 gospels as a descrpition of the life and teachings of Christ
    b) Acts as a glimpse on early church history for a man namen Theophilus (by no means complete or exhaustive)
    c) The letters as clarifications, corrections, exhortations and additions to the (otherwise oral) teachings of the apostles
    d) Revelation as exhortation and preparation for the times to come.

    Especially a) contains almost no teachings on the church. So where doe we get informations about how church and church life ought to be? We get it from the descriptions in acts and from the letters. And the nature of both categories of the New Testament is that they are not exhaustive but were written in the context of the oral teachings of the Apostles.

    In other words: What Paul wrote, he has already taught orally or he came back to it later orally. A good example are his corrections on the Lord's Supper in 1Co 11 which he ends with:

    1Co 11:33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another–
    1Co 11:34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home–so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

    What could that be that he instructed them to do later? We simply don't know when just reading the New Testament. We can try to put everything from the NT together – patterns, precedents, commands – to draw our necessarily fallible inferences; but we have the disadvantage of not having heard his further instructions.

    Yet, these further instructions were as binding (2Th 2:15), and they were followed not only by the Corinthians, but also in every other church where the Apostels taught. So there was basically one ethos, one life style one apostolic practice in all churches (with minor local variances) – something Paul refers to frequently especially in 1 Corinthians (1Co 4:17; 1Co 7:17; 1Co 11:16; 1Co 14:34-36)!

    My point is: Even if he never had to write the first letter to the Corinthians these things mentioned in it were never the less binding Apostolic Teaching! God proveided that these things were at least mentioned in the New Testament. But then, when we take some of these issues, we see that they raise questions that cannot be answered by Scripture alone without ambiguity:

    Some argue for instance, that Paul "condemns" eating together as a church in 1Co 11, because he said "Eat at home" – while others emphasize: "Wait for one another" and see that he was only giving regulations for the common meal. I have had some discussions with a conservative member of the CoC, and I can tell you, that we will never be able to agree based on what Paul wrote in this chapter alone.

    But for the Corinthians and any other church it was crystal clear – remember, this letter was addressed to ALL Christians (1Co 1:2). Why? Because they already had the oral teaching and obeyed it.

    So, please Jay, try to understand: I don't focus on Tertullian or any other post-apostolic writer. But I am convinced that the churches continued to practice what they have been taught for more than a day after John died. So I expect to find clear evidence in the Early Christian Writings of that Apostolic Teaching, when the following criterias are met:

    a) It was a wide spread custom (over more than one region in the Ronman Empire)
    b) It was agreed upon by a significant number of writers – significant is a relative term, though: Some things are not mentioned very often, others were mentioned less frequently.
    c) When there is no record of a controversy
    d) When it makes sense in the light of the NT (when it can be viewed as a consistent or valid exegesis)

    So it is not that I (or others) simply use the ECF as a source of final authority; rather as a trustworthy commentary.

    And so questions such as the one on the Lord's Supper can answered: From the ECF we can see that Christians ate together, that their "love feast" was the main assembly in the beginning, that originally the bread was broken and the cup shared in the course of these meals. And we get some detailed descriptions of what was going on in such meetings. Thus we can rule out the conservative understanding that Paul condems eating together.

    I leave it with this one example to give you an idea why it is important to check on the ECF. I'd like to add: We must not use them for proof-texting either. If we only quote them when they agree with us, then we are terribly dishonest.

    Alexander

  6. Alan says:

    If the ECF is a trustworthy commentary, I'm curious how you view their teachings (Tertullian for example) regarding the role of women.

  7. Ryan Chubb says:

    I, too, find this tension between scripture and tradition very interesting. But what concerns me more in this debate is our underlying conception of history itself—our presuppositions, our framework that makes history intelligible. It seems that our issue with apostolic tradition is closely related to a general bias towards 'primitivism'; i.e., a view that the early church had it ‘closest to perfect’ and everything after was a general descent into error. Such a view leads one to think that the only way to get back to being ‘closest to perfect’ ourselves is to start an ‘archeological dig’ into what the early church did and said. Of course It is possible to be a primitivist and only use scripture; however, as debates get pressed further and further the pressure builds for us to supplement our data with other sources.

    While I agree that the early church had things ‘right’, and while I agree that error did certainly come to the church—I do not think the only right answer for church practice is to emulate the early church—in fact I worry that this can get things completely backwards! For (1), we inevitable end up reading the early church through our modern perspective (which based on the primitivist perspective should be highly distorted!), and so this can repaint the early church in our own image (e.g., reading liberal democracy back onto the ‘autonomy’ of the early churches); and (2) this seems to cut through the whole flow of culture and history, missing the good that prevailed through the ages, and missing how we should respond to our day and age with the gospel.

    My main point is this: there are other ways of reading history other than primitivism (the opposite error would be that of Hegel's historicism)! The life and words of Jesus and the apostles written in the New Testament cast onto the backdrop of the Old Testament which is good for all good works (II Tim. 3:16-17) is solely sufficient for our life and practice. It is this and only this the becomes the ‘seed’ for the church that is the tree. Everything necessary to determine the shape and look of the tree (the church) is held in this seed. The seed, the start, is the model by which everything after follows. But the early tree is not the model for an older tree. So, people who romanticize about when the tree had but one branch, buds on branches to the exclusion of leaves, or before its limbs had ossified with rough bark, are blind to the DNA of the tree.

    Certainly we must value how the early church understood both the Old and New Testament writings—this should ground our exegesis today. But we often go beyond this when we make their voices an authority equal to that of scripture—filling in the gaps we wish were not present. The analogy of a tree, for me, tempers what is good about primitivism (its anchoring of truth at the start), but allows for some sense of development and freedom with the church universal as it moves through time, history, and culture. It does this by trying to get to the heart of what we are doing—who we are following!—as opposed to simply copying how early churches responded to the gospel…

  8. Adam says:

    No one is mentioning humility in their conversations.

    I don't really view it as one of binding authority, or even trustworthy commentary, but as an honoring of the faithful saints that have travelled the Way before me.

    By viewing my own time/place/understanding as contingent on a whole bunch of stuff to which I am blind, I must view my own understanding through humility, giving differing times/places/understandings a chance to breathe into my present. Obviously this doesn't mean being open to all, but the Church Fathers would be a pretty good group to allow to speak to our own understanding.

    Through humility we can be truly open to others, both living and dead, and allow their perspectives and ours to combine into a fuller and more beautiful expression of the Way – one that only we can show as only we are living now and in the present.

    Said another way, only by allowing and accepting the ancient saints as living brothers can we truly have a church that is one. And to me, anyway, the way forward through that is humility.

  9. Almost from the beginning, there were divergent views and traditions in the early church. You can see this even in the Scriptures in the controversies involving the relationship of the Gentile converts to the Law of Moses. Those who were of the "sect of the Pharisees" insisted on the need to circumcise those converts; Paul refused to give way to such, even for an hour.

    So, when we begin to look at the early church fathers (ECF), we see diverging positions. The Gnostics differ from the Traditional (and from the Scriptures) in very significant ways. My point is that the ECF provide fodder for many different positions. How are we to discern which of these positions is the true "apostolic tradition"?

    For example, the monarchial episcopate (single bishop ruling over elders) appeared very early in church history (early 2nd century). Yet, the apostolic record seems to use "elder," "bishop," and "shepherd" to refer to different aspects of the same "office." If there could be such early departure from apparent apostolic precedent, how can we fully trust the ECF to answer our modern questions?

    As commentary on apostolic (Biblical) teaching, they have value – but even commentary requires context. Our understanding of the context of the writings of the ECF is even more dismal than our understanding of the context of the writings of the New Testament epistles.

    Jerry

  10. aBasnar says:

    Did the apostles create an oral tradition to be preserved by those who followed?

    Therefore, when Paul speaks of his own teachings as paradosis, he means they were in some sense to be compared to the oral law. This thought bothered me for quite a long time. After all, Jesus and Paul speak very negatively of the oral law.

    And so, to sort this out, I suggest what Einstein called a gedanken experiment, that is, a “thought experiment.” Or as we said in kindergarten, “Let’s pretend.” Let’s pretend that the apostles really did issue an oral law — a tradition — that was to be preserved in addition to the scriptures that became the New Testament. What would they have done?

    The question is wrong to begin with, Jay.

    It is not about creating a set of oral traditions, but about the “natural process” of apostolic teaching. Most of the apostles never thought of writing down their teaching, but still the church is founded on the foundation of all 12 apostles (Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14). So where is the foundation of those apostles that never wrote a single letter of the NT?

    Apostolic teaching is oral in nature, as strange as this might sound to us. Paul said to Timothy (and read this very carefully):

    2Ti 2:2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

    When in the same letter (2Ti 3:16) he refers to the Scriptures, he had mainly the writings of the OT in mind, because these were the scriptures Timothy knew from childhood on (2Ti 3:15).

    The Gospels were written, to make the “memoirs of the Apostles” (Justin in his 1st Apology) available to all. Matthew wrote first in Hebrew (or Aramaic – which is lost) and translated it into Greek later; Mark wrote as the interpreter of Peter, urged by the church to do so; Luke have an account for a man named Theophilus and John was asked in Ephesus to write down his Gospel. So in the beginning they did not think of writing at all.

    Paul wrote his letters out of need, not out of conviction that he should add to the New Testament Scriptures. Most of the letters he had never written were it not for the infirmities of the Galatians, Corinthians and others …
    Later these letters were recognized by the church as Scriptures, such as Peter did it in his 2nd letter; but we must not forget that none of the Apostles ever set down thinking: “Now I am writing a Part of the New Testament.” They were however very aware of the authority they had as Christ’s carefully chosen Apostles. But Apostolic Teaching is Apostolic Teaching whether it has been written down or not!” And that’s the reason for 2Th 2:15.

    So the Apostles spent most of their time teaching and preaching.
    What they wrote down is built up on this oral teaching, but remains incomplete without the further instructions they gave in the churches. Looking back at 2Ti 2:2 the emphasis seems to have been on their oral teaching!

    I understand that this is very disturbing for all of us (including me). It would be so easy and convenient to be able to say: We have the NT and it contains all that is necessary – which in fact I believe – but it does not contain all of the Apostolic teaching. So in that sense the NT scriptures are an incomplete source for all who want to know, how to run a NT church.
    While I’d add that we find all major issues mentioned in the NT, I stress that there are ambiguities because these letters were never meant to be exhaustive by themselves.

    So we don’t need a “Gedanken-Experiment” on Apostolic Tradition, but just a common-sense-imagination of the Apostolic way of communication the Word of God.

    One of the reasons they did not write down a “Christian Talmud” in later generations was that they did not need such. They were firmly rooted in the Apostolic traditions as churches, they knew from whom they learned, and the accepted only those writings as authoritative that were of authentic apostolic origin. That they did not write down the oral tradition shows clearly, that they did not follow the method of the Pharisees of old.

    On the other hand: All of their writings reflect the oral tradition unintentionally! What they did was not based on a written tradition extra to the scriptures, but on the Scriptures alone (!) which they read in the light of what they have seen, heard and experienced from the apostles and in the context of apostolic churches.

    This is an entirely different concept of “tradition” the Pharisees held to. The Talmud is a 73 volume set, as you stated. The whole works of the Ante-Nicene Fathers are 10 volumes – and not one writer in it claims to authoritative any more than an elder in a congregation has authority!

    So, please don’t read anything into the word “tradition” which was clearly and evidently not on the mind of Paul or the other Apostles.

    I’ll stop here for now – I think it is not that complicated.

    Alexander

  11. aBasnar says:

    Said another way, only by allowing and accepting the ancient saints as living brothers can we truly have a church that is one. And to me, anyway, the way forward through that is humility.

    Vey well said, Adam. To the point!

    Alexander

  12. Ryan Chubb says:

    We do (or should) respect the early church fathers as our living brothers and sisters (showing historical humility)—in the same manner as a branch on the highest limb appreciates the trunk of the same tree. But some of our Restorationist-speak seems to imply that we'd best saw down the whole tree just to find the safety of looking like the inchoate church.

    If we were wise we'd value the early church fathers, and what those who have gone before us have said…and the more we read and listened to them, hopefully the less we would pick and chose from history in order to simply make our opinions appear like timeless truths. For the more we read, the more it should press upon us that our only rock is Jesus, our only hope is Christ crucified and risen again—the hope and anticipation of our God putting things to rights! We must live in each generation in the shadow of the cross, not in the emulation of first century.

    Insofar as the early church points us back to Christ, then we’ve heard them rightly. If, however, they simply fill our itching ears with easy answers to how many cups we should have for communion, or whether we should have Sunday school or not, then I think we’ve missed the point…

  13. guy says:

    Konastephen,

    You said:
    "If, however, they simply fill our itching ears with easy answers to how many cups we should have for communion, or whether we should have Sunday school or not, then I think we’ve missed the point… "

    This takes for granted that we weight issues appropriately and they didn't. There are things in Scripture that don't strike me as intuitively important, yet based on amount of candor of information, certain NT authors found them weighty. Should i find fault with their scales or my own? (Plenty of modern religious bodies choose the former.)

    –guy

  14. Ryan Chubb says:

    It would be so easy and convenient to be able to say: We have the NT and it contains all that is necessary – which in fact I believe – but it does not contain all of the Apostolic teaching. So in that sense the NT scriptures are an incomplete source for all who want to know, how to run a NT church.

    Alexander, what are we suggesting by this tautology—NT church? Why are we digging for the ‘closest to perfect’ NT church?

    Scripture IS sufficient to demarcate the boundaries of what we can and cannot do as a corporate body—for how we are to live day in and day out! The early church gives us a glimpse of this at a particular time and context in action. But the question is: should we read scripture though the lens of (our perception) the early church, or should we read the example of the early church through the lens of scripture?

    Perhaps it is both/and—perhaps it doesn’t matter. But it seems to me that our fascination with the early church is little else than a cop-out from our responsibility to act in the complexities of our time and age. For some cannot possibly accept the fact that perhaps there are multiply ways of expressing biblical sound worship; so we form a system that excludes everything but our own minimalist approach to church.

    I’m glad we want to be ‘right’, and I’m glad we agree that there is so much error and craziness out there today (let’s not kid ourselves)—but we must remember that it is equally wrong, when drawing the lines of fellowship and practice, to draw the lines too loose or too tight! To do either is to add to scripture…

  15. guy says:

    Since Jay used a thought experiment, i'd like to throw in an intuition pump.

    Consider the process of biblical translation/transmission. (Oblige me to border on oversimplification for just a bit–i honestly don't think my point will hinge on it.) There is the phenomenon of textual variants–where the manuscripts available have differing readings for the same passage. If you're a majority text type, what matters to you is, how do *most* of the manuscripts render the passage? If you're a critical text type, other factors can matter more to you than majority readings. For instance, one factor that might mean more to you is, what do the *earliest* manuscripts say? In other words, you take it that earlier manuscripts, for whatever reason, may have a greater chance of preserving the original rendering than later manuscripts, (and in some cases, majority renderings may be comprised of mostly later manuscripts).

    Now, *if* the critical text approach 'rings true' for you at all. Then isn't there an analogous case to be made for giving the comments and views of the ECF more weight than the comments and views of later generations?

    –guy

  16. Ryan Chubb says:

    Can you offer an example? Would the early church’s stance on military service (being a solider/policeman) be a good example???

  17. Price says:

    Has any institution ever seriously considered cannonizing the comments of the ECF's ?? What if ECF (A) commented on a topic and we agreed with it and then commented on another matter to which we disagreed…How does one determine what was divine authority ?? What if two ECF's disagree on a matter…with which do we agree ?? What if one was informed by Paul the other Peter or John ?? How do we know what was cultural and what was for all churches everywhere under any circumstance ?? Did they all agree on a ruling Bishop ?? Who started the Lord's Lunch instead of the Lord's Supper ?? Seems to me that Ryan best kept the whole discussion in proper perspective…I Cor 2:1-2 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
    Seems to me that particular example worked in the 1st century and works in the 21st…

  18. aBasnar says:

    What if two ECF's disagree on a matter…with which do we agree ??

    A simple Example to answer this valid question: Clement of Alexandria understood the angels in 1Co 11:10 to be messengers from other churches (= humans), while Tertullian thought of fallen angels in reference to Gen 6. Both were contemporaries. Tertullian belonged to the "western" part of the Empire (a clearly more Roman way of thinking), while Clement was an "Easterner".

    As for the correct understanding of 1Co 11:10 they disagree. As forthe application, however, they DO agree: Women must be covered.

    In fact: there are by far less disagreements in teh Early church than among the churches of Christ today. So this question of yours is quite funny, when looking at our uncaountable divisions. WE ARE THE ONES who cannot agree on most things! The ECF show a remarkably united church.

    That's why I'd rather learn from them than from any graduate from ACU or Harding or any other Christian University.

    Alexander

  19. aBasnar says:

    How do we know what was cultural and what was for all churches everywhere under any circumstance ??

    We don't even accept the clear scriptural positions on such questions today (see 1Ti 2:12-15 – nowadays explained away as "cultural", but clearly presented by the inspired scriptures as "creational"). Normally – I exclude you from this – my impression is: Such questions are asked in order NOT to get an answer.

    Alexander

  20. guy says:

    Well, one example might be teaching about the nature of the resurrection or the man of perdition.

    But does the particular example matter? If there are things in the Bible that Bible authors made a big deal about but don't seem like a big deal to me, what should i conclude? Probably that there's something wrong with *my* scales, not theirs, no? If so, then why do i get to simply assume that my scales are always better than those of the ECF?

  21. guy says:

    i've subscribed to comments several times now and still am not receiving them in email. anyone else having trouble?

    –guy

  22. Anonymous says:

    Price,

    The Apostles Creed is an example of early church literature credited to the apostles. (Text may be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostles%27_Creed) Of the examples I’m aware of (and I'm no expert) it comes closest to orthodox, scriptural Christianity (I'll have examples of others in the next post), but it's far from certain that the apostles themselves penned the creed.

    Notice that it declares that Jesus descended into "hell" (inferno in Latin), rather than "Hades," which is what the Bible says (the KJV mistranslation notwithstanding) — and they are quite different things. Of course, the Latin text we have may be a corruption of a truer original, in which case the creed seems entirely sound to me.

    But notice that there's nothing else in the Apostles Creed not plainly found in scripture. It's not a supplemental or further revelation, even if it came from the apostles themselves. It hardly qualifies as a tradition creating rules in addition to those revealed in scripture.

    I wouldn't doubt that there may be true memories of the apostles' words outside the scriptures. But I don't think they intended to create a body of supplemental guidance adding additional commands beyond the scriptures.

    Indeed, I think the reason we so disagree over the scriptures is we are looking for answers to the wrong questions and wondering why the apostles didn't give us more rules.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Keith,

    I think one or two people over at Wineskins might have argued that instruments are a sin, theorizing that there are commands found in the early church fathers that supplement, clarify, or create presumptions beyond what we find in the scriptures.

    You see, if the case has to be made from outside the scripture, then the scriptures must be in need of supplementation.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Adam,

    I entirely agree that the ECFs must be included in our conversations, as must the Reformation leaders as well as other great scholars. I just object to the notion that you can bind doctrine based on the ECFs, theorizing that they know apostolic teaching not found in the Bible.

    ECFs are invited to the table to express their human opinions, just as are a great many others. But Everett Ferguson argues, for example, that their opinions create a "presumption" of how to interpret the scriptures — effectively making their view on the silences into law.

    Others argue that they had access to apostolic teaching we no longer have, and so must be considered authoritative (on some topics).

    I deny that they have authority under any theory. But many of them were truly great students of the Bible and have much to offer, and they should be studied – but not as authorities.

  25. Rey says:

    "They argue that the early church had the benefit of, not only the scriptures, but also the traditions"

    What is the canon itself but a tradition? Sola Scriptura defeats itself in that it leaves the canon with no defense. There is no Scripture that lists what books are to be considered Scripture — that is a decision of councils.

    The reality is when you realize this, the illusion of an infallible book automatically falls apart. That's why people refuse to accept the truth in this matter. They want that book that they didn't understand anyway to be infallible so bad that they refuse to admit that by holding that book to be infallible they are following manmade traditions that were invented by persecutors — its was persecutors who decided what books to put in that book, and those who disagreed were all murdered.

  26. Rey says:

    "But if that happened, where is it? Where is the Christian Talmud?"

    Burned by the Catholic Church along with its preservers, of course, since both it and they were "heretical" in the RCC's view.

  27. Rey says:

    What about where two Biblical authors disagree? That happens too.

    Example 1: Exodus says Jews can build personal altars so long as they make no carvings on them. Deuteronomy says no way Joses, there will only be one altar.

    Example 2: In Samuel it says Jehovah provoked David to number Israel. In Chronicles, the same story has Satan provoke David to number Israel.

    Example 3: Jesus' a good man brings forth good things out of the good treasure of his heart vs Paul's there is none that doeth good. Jesus' he that seeks shall find vs Paul's there is none that seeks God. Jesus' God sends the rain on the righteous and unrighteous vs Paul's there is none righteous.

    Example 4: Paul's interpretation that Abraham was justified by faith apart from works vs James' interpretation that Abraham was justified by a combination of faith and works.

  28. Rey says:

    I think it only sends you direct responses to your comments.

  29. Rey says:

    There is precisely this approach also to textual criticism : i.e. following the from quoted by the earliest church fathers when there are variants.

  30. Rey says:

    "What if two ECF's disagree on a matter…with which do we agree ??"

    What about where two Biblical authors disagree? That happens too.

    Example 1: Exodus says Jews can build personal altars so long as they make no carvings on them. Deuteronomy says no way Joses, there will only be one altar.

    Example 2: In Samuel it says Jehovah provoked David to number Israel. In Chronicles, the same story has Satan provoke David to number Israel.

    Example 3: Jesus' a good man brings forth good things out of the good treasure of his heart vs Paul's there is none that doeth good. Jesus' he that seeks shall find vs Paul's there is none that seeks God. Jesus' God sends the rain on the righteous and unrighteous vs Paul's there is none righteous.

    Example 4: Paul's interpretation that Abraham was justified by faith apart from works vs James' interpretation that Abraham was justified by a combination of faith and works.

    So, how do we break the tie? Exodus or Deuteronomy? Samuel or Chronicles? Jesus or Paul? Paul or James?

  31. Rey says:

    Paul's interpretation that Abraham was justified by faith apart from works vs James' interpretation that Abraham was justified by a combination of faith and works.

    Not only do ECFs diagree but Biblical authors too!!!!

  32. Eric Prine says:

    <<Of course, Christians don’t consider the oral law or “traditions” as binding, and certainly not handed down by God on Mt. Sinai. But that was the Jewish notion. One reason the Christian church has rejected the Jewish view is Jesus’ many harsh words spoken against the oral law and the teachings of the Pharisees, which were taken from the oral law. I think the traditional Christian view of the oral law is right.

    I'm lacking in my knowledge of Judaism, but I'm curious if it was the supposed oral law from the time of Moses that Jesus was against or if it was the further laws that rabbis had put in place after the Babylonion Exile. Isn't the handwashing tradition something that came up after the exile?

    Deuteronomy 12:21 says "If the place where the Lord, your God, shall choose to put His Name be too far from you, then you shall slaughter of your herd and of your flock, which the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you…." -The method of ritual slaughter is not found anywhere in the Torah though. IMO Christ seemed to really only speak against traditions if they nullified the word of God or went against the spirit of the law. But he also seemed to be comfortable going against the written law too such as interacting w/ the "unclean"- so idk if he necessarily had a deeper hatred for the oral law.

    I'm going through confirmation classes in the Catholic Church right now, there is alot I still don't know, but I'm pretty sure that everything that is considered a capital "T" Tradition is found atleast implicitly in the Scriptures. That would be a few things like their interpretation of the Eucharist, Baptism, and the Trinity. I believe that for anything to be declared infallible they have to have both scriptural and early writings to back it up. There are "traditions" that they do not consider essential though, which are viewed as things that they could get rid of if they really wanted to such as holy water, Christmas, candles, etc. There are some traditions that had been done since the time of the apostles that aren't mentioned in any of the canon such as fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays (mentioned in the Didache and Tertullian's De Corona) or women having head coverings in Mass (wait-forgot this one is actually mentioned in the Bible;)). The Catholic Church eventually had done away w/ this practice but I heard that the Orthodox Churches are critical of Rome for having done away them.

  33. HistoryGuy says:

    Jay,
    Thanks for this series. I think that both you and Alexander have asked some good questions. Therefore, do you plan to compare/contrast Solo Scriptura and Sola Scriptura and the dangers of interpretive authority from one who is immersed in or, equally as dangerous, completely disconnected from church history? If not, will you?

    grace and peace,

  34. aBasnar says:

    Why are we digging for the ‘closest to perfect’ NT church?

    I'd say, simply because we are "restorationists". The Idea of the RM is restoring the NT-church, the "Ancient Order of Things" in order to free the churches from denominational bonds and unite them again.

    I like this approach very much, although I'd quickly add: This is not necessary for personal salvation. Yet it is necessary when you try do be a faithful teacher to think about these thinks.

    Alexander

  35. aBasnar says:

    There is no disagreemenet between Paul and James on Justification. Both refer to the same statement of God concerning Abraham, but both point to different periods in Abraham's biography. While Paul is referring toe the covenant of Gen 15, James is referring to his willingness to sacrifice Isaak in Gen 22. James then said: In this (act of faithful obedience) the word was fulfilled (!) that was spoken about him in Gen 15. So faith needs to be completed by works. Justification is not a one-time-statement but it is a process.

    Most Protestants fail to see this, however …

    Alexander

  36. aBasnar says:

    Another example of the written and unwritten Apostolic teaching:

    1Ti 3:14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that,
    1Ti 3:15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

    This letter is a very important one because of its theme: How we ought to behave in the household of God. Some things mentioned in this letter we find nowhere else, e.g.:

    The qualifications for enlisted widows
    The qualifications for Deacons
    Men, lifting up hands in prayer

    It is noteworthy, that under "better circumstances" Paul would NOT have written this letter. But he wrote it "just in case" he would delay. What does that mean?

    Of course we could say, the Spirit of God provided for us that this letter would be written, and I agree that it is so. But, on a more "human" level, I add, the content of the letter is binding whether it was written down or not (2Th 2:15). All of this had been taught orally among many witnesses in all churches anyway (2Ti 2:2), so the letter was just a summary of apostolic teaching and practice that was observed in all churches (more or less consistently, of course).

    So we are blessed by Paul's delay.

    These three examples of unique themes in this letter are important; let me address just one of these:

    The service of widows in the NT-church

    This is the only place in the NT where we read about it. But it was a very valued ministry in the Early Church; and it is something unheard of in our contemporary churches – a lost apostolic teaching, so to say.

    Ignatius of Antioch wrote in his letter to the church in Smyrna (around 105 AD):

    (IngSm ch XI) I salute the families of my brethren, with their wives and children, and those that are ever virgins, and the widows.

    Polycarp, the Elder of Smyrna, wrote to the Philippians (around 135 AD)

    (PolPh ch IV) Teach the widows to be discreet as respects the faith of the Lord, praying continually for all, being far from slandering, evil speaking, false witnessing, love of money, and every sort of evil; knowing that they are the altar of God.

    Clement of Alexandria wrote toward the end of his work "The Instructor" (around 195 AD):

    (Instr. Bk III, Ch XII) Innumerous commands such as these are written in the holy Bible appertaining to chosen persons, some as presbyters, some to bishops, some to deacons, others to widows, of whom we shall have another opportunity of speaking.

    So the widows "rank" next to the deacons, they were an important ministry in the Early CHurch, and – going back to 1Ti 5 it does make sense to understand the enlisting of widows (given the qualifications) more weight than usual (a list of widows who will get material support from the church). It is a full-time ministry and we miss the blessing of this ministry today, don't we?

    Now, if it wasn't for Paul's delay, we had no instructions on widows in our Bible – and still, the oral teaching of the Apostle was as binding and it was practiced. So we'd stumble over these testimonies from the ECF and would shake our heads: "What kind of strange innovation is that? Widows in ministry??"

    Now, God provided that this letter has been written down; but still, the text on the widows is without parallel in the NT and a bit ambiguous. We'd need to have more information to "restore" this ministry than what is available from the scriptures.

    So we have a second blessing: We have testimonies of the churches in Smyrna, Antioch, Philippi – whoe were all NT-churches. IN all of these congregations around 135 AD the ministry of widows and virgins was a well established ministry in the churches. These testimonies serve as further information so that we can also encourage single women and widows in our churches to devote themselves fully to a ministry, "ranking" next to the Deacons in a church.

    Now my thesis:

    The church is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, and this foundation includes ALL they taught in the churches. It was being an Apostle that made these men authorities, and being an apostle was not limited to the time when they wrote letters.

    I do believe, however, that all important teachings are at least mentioned once in the NT. I do believe so, because I trust the work and foresight of the Spirit of God. Yet, the consequence is important: This makes us all the more stick firmly to each and every command and precedent in the Scriptures, knowing that all of these are backed up by lots of oral teaching from the same apostolic source. So, even if the widows are only mentioned once, they are as important for the church as having elders!. Lifting up the hands in prayer is only mentioned once in the NT, but it is mentioned frequently in the ECF (beginning with Clement of Rome and the Odes of Salomo) – thus it is an important prayer-posture, which – again – is widely neglected throughoutthe churches. Why? Because – as I have heard more than once – this is only mentioned once, this cannot be important.

    Last but not least: In general, I see that the ECF contain not many things that are not to be found in the NT; so we don't need to be afraid that we end up with a heap of new ideas and traditions – at least not until araund 200 AD (the 3rd century shows some developments, that are very questionable). If – on the other hand – we take everything thae NT contains very literally and seriously – we will end up with quite the same convictions as the ECF.

    Alexander

  37. Ryan Chubb says:

    Alexander,

    I guess there is a fine line between unity and insularity. We are not restorationists, we are Christians! We are to live faithfully in the shadow of the cross, working out our salvation with fear and trembling—for it is God who works in us…

    Again, there is restoring what the early church did, and there is restoring why they did it. I have no issue with restoration; restoration is good! But are we trying to act as we believe the early church would act in our time, or, for safety sake or for unity sake, just trying to copy what they did in the first century? If this is about unity, then I think we'd best realize that we lost that battle long ago.

    The early church is a model for the later church just as much as a sapling is the model for an oak tree. If, however, we really want to have the model for the church throughout time then we must go back to the seed—to Jesus and His Word.

    Now it should be obvious that all church history is important, and it seems obvious (if we have historical humility) that the early church's history and understanding should take precedent over ours—but still, no matter how close we come via some asymptotic approach to the ideal early church, nothing, NOTHING equals scripture!

    In the end, I will be a Restorationist only insofar as the early Christians were Restorationist!

  38. Anonymous says:

    Rey,

    You persist in trying to turn every conversation to inerrancy even though I've repeatedly asked you to stop.

    The new discussion software takes away my ability to moderate you but I can treat you as spam — meaning you be permanently banned here and many other websites.

    There will be no more warnings.

  39. Anonymous says:

    The early church fathers were no more without error than what we see about people in the Bible. As we can see reading from the Bible the church had problems from the beginning making many errors even after being taught under the apostles.

    The understanding through the ages that the early “church fathers” were the authentic teachers of the faith was emphasized. Their infallible authority was exercised to define a matter of faith and morals, whose decisions must be adhered to with the loyal and obedient assent of faith. Such misuse of church history throws a stumbling block an occasion of weakness and stagnation. Much of this misuse is from romanticizing the past and absolutizing the past, as such can hinder true strength and progress in bearing witness to the Truth. This tendency is the notion that the standards of the early “church fathers” are sacrosanct and that it is wrong and impious to seek to bring them to reexamination in the light of Scripture. This absolutizing of the past disparages the authority of Scripture as the absolute standard of faith and life.

    The reason why some religious groups want to go beyond the Scriptures is because they cannot find support for their teaching in the Scriptures. They let the traditions, of particular “church fathers,” they approve of, determine how they interpret the Scriptures.

    It is obvious from the NT that doctrinal confusion and legalism were beginning to find their way into the church well before the second century. The early “church fathers” are not free from such influences. It is therefore a mistake to view the early “church fathers” as infallible.

    During the second century, a distinction grew between those who preached and the other members of the church. Those in the clergy often dressed differently, many wore the title “father.” In stark contrast, Peter, and Paul showed great humility in carrying out their evangelistic missions. They never claimed to be different or exalted. Nor did they ask to be called “father.” Moreover, Jesus warned us: “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.”(Matthew 23:9) Along with this centralization of power, there were fundamental changes in church doctrine. Christ was no longer head of the church. Nor was the Bible the final word of authority. Gentiles usurped that authority. It was a church with a hierarchical structure, usurping the power to rule, a bishop being in charge of each church in the communities. During the second century, baptism of infants had begun. Confessing sins to a priest to be forgiven. Doctrine of purgatory – whereby souls of those who have died in a state of sin are made fit for paradise by temporary banishment, suffering, or punishment. Doctrine of transubstantiation – whereby the bread and wine changes into the flesh and blood of Jesus. Images and prayers to saints and martyrs. Penance – inflicting punishment in payment for sin as evidence of penitence.

    In the Bible Jewish believers kept the faith in its original Jewish form. But the early Gentile church did not seek to understand the Jewish roots of the faith but applied Greek philosophy to it. Because of the Greek outlook the official line was very Anti-Semitic. The early battles between the Gentiles and Jews resulted in a certain Christian ambivalence towards the Hebrew Scriptures. The Gentile church leaders disengaged the church from anything that they thought would be remotely Jewish.

    Many go on unknowingly as a traditional Christian as if they are actually a "follower of Jesus", yet never once begin to compare doctrinally the Jewish faith with their Christian faith.

    Christian values we now hold dear are rooted in theology practiced by the Jewish people for thousands of years. The Jewish people are the bedrock of our very faith. I know this concept flies in the face of the Anti-Semitic poison that has filled the mouths of church leaders for centuries.

    Jesus was born to Jewish parents. He was dedicated in the Jewish tradition. He became a Jewish rabbi and died with a sign over His head that read: “This is the king of the Jews!" If Jesus, Whom we read about in the Bible, came to your church, what would you expect? He would have penetrating dark eyes, an olive complexion and prominent Semitic features. His hair uncut at the corners, and a full beard, and His shoulders would be draped with a tallit (prayer shawl). If Jesus identified Himself to your congregation as a Jewish rabbi who befriended prostitutes, who socialized with tax collectors and other outcasts, and who surrounded Himself with full-bearded, Jewish men with shoulder-length hair, what would people think?

    Jesus of Nazareth was of the tribe of Judah, His name was given by an angel of God, Jesus’ name is originally the Hebrew word Yeshua, which in Hebrew means “Salvation.”

    It was Judaism that believed humans were created in God’s image. Judaism gave us the concepts of hell, heaven, angels, devils, the acceptance of Adam and Eve as the first man and woman, and the creation of the world in seven days. Judaism taught us to sing psalms of praise. It was Judaism that gave us the Lord’s Supper as a part of the Passover celebration. Judaism gave us the prophets and our Lord. Judaism gave us the Hebrew Scriptures, were penned by Jewish writers from which Jesus taught from.

    The whole Bible is an introduction to the true and living God. To sum it all up, the Jewish people gave to Christianity the foundation of the Word of God. The Jewish people do not have to use Christianity to explain their existence, but we cannot explain our existence without our Jewish roots.

  40. Ryan Chubb says:

    Last but not least: In general, I see that the ECF contain not many things that are not to be found in the NT; so we don't need to be afraid that we end up with a heap of new ideas and traditions – at least not until araund 200 AD (the 3rd century shows some developments, that are very questionable).

    So before the 200 AD little really is added by tradition that scripture doesn’t already to speak towards (the bible is replete with exhortations to help the poor and the weak among us—the widows!) But after ~200 AD we see ‘very questionable developments’—by what standard do you reckon this?! Scripture perhaps?!

    I’m trying, I really am, but I cannot understand your view of history. Maybe I’m in the wrong church….

  41. Ryan Chubb says:

    With this topic of scripture and tradition in mind, I’d like to know some of your thoughts on cremation. Ought a Christian be cremated after death? My reading of scripture provides a theology that would see cremation as highly illogical. Of course one can be cremated; however, in light of the central belief in a bodily resurrection, one should not…

    For a group that is so concerned about the ‘ancient paths’ why have we gone along with the rest of the west and restored this ancient pagan practice?!

    What did the early church say (do) on this matter? Does it matter for us?

  42. aBasnar says:

    Maybe it has to do with a little paradigm shift. It is not really that difficult.

    As to the shift from the 2nd to the 3rd century: A few examples might help to see this.

    Infant baptism: while Tertullian in Carthage around 200 AD spoke out clearly against infant baptism which seemed to have begun at that time, Cyprian only 50 years later in the same church of Carthage advocated infat baptism.

    Clergy-Laity: While even in the 1st century Didache the prophets and teachers of a church were likened to the priests of the Old Covenant – in the sense of analogy and material support from the church – in the 3rd century the distinction of clergy and laity in fact introduced a special priesthood no longer in the sense of analogy.

    Such developments are easy to spot.

    And yes, of course I check with the Bible – as did the Early Christians! Yet, while there is very little difference between the Bibel and the church of the 2nd century, the differernces increase significantly in the 3d century; and dramatically from the 4th century on. But this is a natural process. This happened in the churches of Christ as well: Compare the times of Campbell and Stone with the situation of today!

    Yet, on the other hand, the ECF also help to cölarify the meaning and application of the NT writings. That's what makes them so valuable. they don't add, they clarify. It was their writings that convince me ofthe importance of baptism for the remission of sins, for instance. Today I see it everywhere in the scriptures, but when I was still an Evangelical I was blinded to the truth by denominational traditions. THe ECF helped me to become aware of these and to overcome them.

    Alexander

  43. aBasnar says:

    I think its making the bodily resurrectin unnecessarily complicated if we cremate our bodies 😉 (not that it could be hindered). It is a contradiction to our belief in the resurrection. I am opposed to cremation (as were the ECF unanimously – although some of them were cremated by Nero and others …)

    Alexander

  44. Laymond says:

    I believer Paul said, the body that is planted, is not the body raised.
    And yes that is what I read in scripture as well.

  45. Laymond says:

    "unnecessarily complicated" For who?

  46. Ryan Chubb says:

    Yes, what is planted is not what is raised. But traditionally Christians have still seen some sort of relationship between the two—as opposed to our modern dichotomous view of spiritual/physical heaven/earth.
    Again, I’m not saying that we can’t follow the world and cremate—I am asking why this isn’t one of the things us ‘Restorationists’ have tried to restore…

  47. Ryan Chubb says:

    Alexander, I appreciate your response. You get extra points for being consistent. 😉

  48. Anonymous says:

    History Guy,

    I entirely agree that it's foolhardy to interpret in ignorance of interpretive history. We should interpret in community — both with the living and dead — the "dead" being great interpreters who precede us into the arms of Jesus.

    On the other hand, once we hear the wisdom of the ages (including this age), we are not bound by human interpretation — and sometimes the wisdom of the ages needs to be corrected.

    But even then, the correction should be made in community, discussed, defended, and dialogued.

    This is one reason for the blog. It creates an easy way for ideas to be considered and disagreed with and built on. It keeps me on my toes and helps me (and, I hope, others) dig more deeply into the text than we could do on our own.

  49. Anonymous says:

    Ryan wrote,

    The early church is a model for the later church just as much as a sapling is the model for an oak tree. If, however, we really want to have the model for the church throughout time then we must go back to the seed: to Jesus and His Word.

    Excellent! Never heard that metaphor before.

  50. Reyj says:

    Perhaps rather than getting on your high horse you could deal rationally with the examples I gave. I thought not.

  51. Laymond says:

    I don't see it more complicated, than picking up a handfull of dirt and turning it into a man.

  52. Clyde_symonette says:

    Laymond! That's cool! Here's a believer in the power of the O NEwho created man from dirt!

  53. Anonymous says:

    After numerous warnings, over many months, Rey has been blacklisted — not over his opinion re instrumental music but his persistent refusal to comply with blog rules.

  54. Ryan Chubb says:

    There are of course problems with this metaphor—it can be pushed too far. For I’m not suggesting that the contemporary church is the ‘mature’ tree, nor would I want to say that the early church was a fruitless sapling. But what a metaphor like this does do is to show how the tacit assumptions of primitivism (‘returning to the ancient paths’) can blind us to positive developments during church history—causing us to potentially miss the truth that there can be other biblically sound expressions of Christian worship from that of the early church…

  55. Pingback: One In Jesus » Richland Hills, Instrumental Music, and the future of the Churches of Christ: In Reply to HistoryGuy

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