The Apostolic Age in Patristic Thought

The Apostolic Age in Patristic Thought

The Apostolic Age in Patristic Thought

The Apostolic Age in Patristic Thought

Synopsis

This volume deals with how Christians of the first centuries looked back on the period of the nascent Church. Thanks to the incomparable stature of its founder, Jesus Christ, who had descended from heaven and commissioned his Apostles, this period was authorative for all Christians in matters of doctrine, institutions, rites and morality, a new phenomenon in the Graeco-Roman world. Its implications are explored in sixteen essays dealing with various subjects such as liturgy, the canon of Scriptures, the role of miracles, art, monasticism, and ministry. All contributions, taking into account both the views of individual Church fathers and Gnostic and Manichaean texts, make a large amount of primary material available.

Excerpt

In March 2001, the Dutch Foundation for Early Christian Studies celebrated its fortieth anniversary with a conference entitled Aetas Apostolica—Tertullian's term for the founding period of Christianity. As could be expected, the theme proved to be a most rewarding one. Any movement or association will tend to assign a special prestige to its starting time, but in the case of nascent Christianity this prestige was plainly due to the divine stature of its founder, Jesus Christ, who had personally commissioned his Apostles and assured them of the unfailing guidance of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the authority of the Apostolic Age was acknowledged by all who regarded themselves as Christians, no matter whether or not they were accepted as such by a later orthodoxy. It was appealed to in questions of doctrine, of ritual and conduct, and it mirrored itself in literature and art. Thus, the speakers at the conference could choose from a number of important subjects. Their papers, duly revised and footnoted, are collected in this volume. Below is a summary of the contents.

There has been much discussion about the origin of the office of apostle. Korteweg shows that a Jewish precedent is hardly plausible. An apostolos is an unspecific term for someone sent. Paul introduces a specific sense for the word—to him, an apostle is a messenger sent by God from heaven. There may be a connection with an ancient oriental concept, as discussed by G. Widengren and W. Schmithals. After Paul, a horizontal dimension becomes prominent: an apostle is sent by the earthly Jesus, from Palestine and Jerusalem. The apostles are identified with the Twelve; the concept of apostolic succession comes into being.

Studying the earliest liturgy of the Eucharist, Ysebaert considers that from Homer onwards a sacrificial meal was normally a full meal. This holds well for the Jewish Passover meal, the Last Supper, and all Christian Eucharistic meals. The consecrated bread and wine were consumed together with other food taken from home. The typical order of blessing the wine first continues a Jewish tradition and is still found in Didache 9, 1 Cor. 10.16 and parts of the Syrian tradition. The conflict in Antioch, Gal. 2.11–14, is due to the new situation that Gentile Christians might take unclean food with them.

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