The Early Christian Church - Vol. 1

By Philip Carrington | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15
CHRISTIAN LITERATURE UNDER VESPASIAN

Apostles, prophets, and teachers, p.273. The Epistle as a literary form, p. 275. The Gospel as a literary form, p.277. The excellent Theophilus, p.278. The writing of Luke-Acts, p.279. Luke as an author, p.280. The Pauline controversy, p.283. Collections of Epistles, p.285. Textual variation, p.287. The appendix to Mark, p.289.

It is a fact of considerable significance that when the gospel made its first impact upon the world, it created a literature of the highest genius, which became a classic. It is still a best-seller. The great literary lights of the day were men like Seneca and Pliny the Elder; but the creative immortal literature was produced among the despised and persecuted Christians. Jesus lives for all time in this literature, as Socrates lives in the pages of Plato and Xenophon, so far as the reading public is concerned. Indeed, Plato and Xenophon are left far behind.


APOSTLES, PROPHETS, AND TEACHERS

The first stages in the presentation of the gospel were oral; that is to say it was popular and dramatic. It was in immediate personal contact with the interested public. The first masters of this evangelical mode of communication were the apostles, prophets and teachers, who are mentioned in that order in I Corinthians, in a catalogue of 'graces' or special gifts which were bestowed by the Holy Spirit. Paul is not thinking here of ministerial orders in the ecclesiastical organization; he is thinking of inspired utterance.

The apostles were the primary gospel-bearers and spirit-bearers. The first on the list were the Twelve who had been named and authorized in Galilee; but their ranks were extended from time to time, and if we may judge from the cases of Matthias and Paul it was done on the authority of a sign from heaven, coupled with recognition by the existing apostles; for the solemn casting of lots in the case of Matthias seems to have been a request for the intervention of heaven. Barnabas and Silas may also have been called apostles in this sense of the word; and some would add

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