Archive for the ‘Church Fathers’ Category

Here are some quotes from Ronald Kydd’s volume, “Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church”:

Kydd (1997:27) notes that Justin Martyr (100-168? A.D.), in his dialogues with Trypho, actually taught that Spiritual gifts existed, not due to some “apostolic” pre-canon ad hoc intent, but as part of the ongoing ministry of Christ to His people:

…Justin hurried on to point out that even in the present, some 50 or 60 years after John’s death, there were Christians who prophesied. He also told Trypho very plainly that these gifts had been transferred to the Christians from the Jews.

Kydd (1997:27) notes that Justin understood the transfer from Jew to Christian of the Spiritual gifts to take place through Christ as part of God’s plan, and not because of some lack of divinity in Christ:

What Trypho wanted to know was if Christ needed these gifts of the Spirit, how could he be regarded as preexistent. An absence of these abilities or characteristics would imply that Jesus was something less than fully divine. The answer Justin gives is noteworthy. Christ did not receive these gifts because He needed them but rather because His having them was part of God’s intention to remove all gifts from the Jews, and He carried this out by giving them all to Christ.

Kydd (1997:27-28) continues, “Then, in fulfillment of prophecy (Justin cites Ps 68:16 and Joel 2:18f.), Christ began to dispense these among Christians.”

Kydd (1997:28) thinks that the rationale provided in Justin’s thought on Spiritual gifts presumes that they continued in the Church and would continue in the Church as related to her endowment with the gifts in the first place:

The obvious goals of this material are to show why Christ received the gifts of the Holy Spirit and to explain what he then did with them. This is the first attempt in early Christian literature to account for the presence of the spiritual gifts in the Church. In the process of developing his thinking on this question, Justin, almost incidentally, provides evidence supporting the idea that spiritual gifts were still to be found among Christians of his day….He thought they were still part of Christian experience.

This is an excerpt of the referenced material from Justin’s dialogue with Trypho:

Now, that [you may know that] your prophets, each receiving some one or two powers from God, did and spoke the things which we have learned from the Scriptures, attend to the following remarks of mine. Solomon possessed the spirit of wisdom, Daniel that of understanding and counsel, Moses that of might and piety, Elijah that of fear, and Isaiah that of knowledge; and so with the others: each possessed one power, or one joined alternately with another; also Jeremiah, and the twelve [prophets], and David, and, in short, the rest who existed amongst you. Accordingly He346 rested, i.e., ceased, when He came, after whom, in the times of this dispensation wrought out by Him amongst men,347 it was requisite that such gifts should cease from you; and having received their rest in Him, should again, as had been predicted, become gifts which, from the grace of His Spirit’s power, He imparts to those who believe in Him, according as He deems each man worthy thereof. I have already said, and do again say, that it had been prophesied that this would be done by Him after His ascension to heaven. It is accordingly said,348 ‘He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, He gave gifts unto the sons of men.’ And again, in another prophecy it is said: ‘And it shall come to pass after this, I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh, and on My servants, and on My handmaids, and they shall prophesy.’[1]

[1] Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol.I : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325 (243). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

Justin Martyr before the prefect of Rome

Posted: November 17, 2009 by Scott Kistler in Church Fathers

Through reading Litfin’s Getting to Know the Church Fathers, I found out that the short narrative of Justin’s martyrdom is online at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, maintained by Calvin College.  Justin and others were arrested in Rome about AD 165.  The prefect (chief magistrate) of Rome first ordered Justin to sacrifice to the gods and then examined him about his beliefs and the meetings of Christians that followed him (see Chapter I and Chapter II).  The prefect, Rusticus, then asked the others if they were Christians and asked Liberianus if he would worship the gods.  Their responses, recorded in Chapter III give a brief glimpse into what seems to have been a diverse group of Christians in Rome.  Two had been taught the faith by their parents, while another claimed that “Christ is our true father, and faith in Him is our mother; and my earthly parents died.”  This latter man, Hierax, had originally come from “Iconium in Phrygia” and came to Rome after he was driven out, while Euelpistus’ parents were in Cappadocia.  Euelpistus, “a servant of Caesar,” gave my favorite response to the prefect: “I too am a Christian, having been freed by Christ; and by the grace of Christ I partake of the same hope.”  In the face of their commitment, the prefect informed the Christians of the fate that they faced.  I have quoted in full the last two chapters (IV and V) of the story:

The prefect says to Justin, “Hearken, you who are called learned, and think that you know true doctrines; if you are scourged and beheaded, do you believe you will ascend into heaven?” Justin said, “I hope that, if I endure these things, I shall have His gifts.2646 [alternate reading: “I shall have what He teaches [us to expect].”] // For I know that, to all who have thus lived, there abides the divine favour until the completion of the whole world.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Do you suppose, then, that you will ascend into heaven to receive some recompense?” Justin said, “I do not suppose it, but I know and am fully persuaded of it.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Let us, then, now come to the matter in hand, and which presses. Having come together, offer sacrifice with one accord to the gods.” Justin said, “No right-thinking person falls away from piety to impiety.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Unless ye obey, ye shall be mercilessly punished.” Justin said, “Through prayer we can be saved on account of our Lord Jesus Christ, even when we have been punished,2647 [alternate reading: “It was our chief wish to endure tortures for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so to be saved.”] // because this shall become to us salvation and confidence at the more fearful and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Saviour.” Thus also said the other martyrs: “Do what you will, for we are Christians, and do not sacrifice to idols.” (more…)

Ignatius, bishop of Antich, wrote 7 letters on his way to be martyred in Rome, addressed to his friend Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, and to the churches in Rome, Ephesus, Tralles, Smyrna, Philadelphia, and Magnesia.  He appears to have died as a martyr around AD 110.  In each letter, he refers to himself as “Theophorus,” which translator Michael Holmes renders “Image-bearer” and others have rendered “God-bearer.”  Holmes argues that he is drawing on the image of pagan religious processions.

As Holmes’ introduction states, we don’t know why Ignatius was arrested, but he apparently escorted to Rome by 10 Roman soldiers.  His letters are often used as sources for the history of the Church in the early centuries.  Holmes writes that his three major concerns throughout the letters are the purity of doctrine against Judaism and Gnostic teachings; unity of the Church, especially under the bishops; and his coming martyrdom.

His theological opponents seem to be two-fold: Judaizers and Gnostics (see here for Peter Leithart’s comments on the interpretation that they were actually Jewish Gnostics – from reading the letters I’m not sure that I agree).  To combat false teachings, Ignatius includes over the course of his letters four creedal statements that affirm Christ’s humanity.  Here’s an example from his letter to the Trallians:

Be deaf, therefore, when anyone speaks to you apart from Jesus Christ, who was of the family of David, who was the son of Mary; who really was born, who both ate and drank; who really was persecuted under Pontius Pilate, who really was crucified and died while those in heaven and on earth and under the earth looked on; who, moreover, really was raised from the dead when his Father raised him up.  In the same way his Father will likewise also raise up in Christ Jesus us who believe in him.  Apart from him we have no true life.

But if, as some atheists (that is, unbelievers) say, he suffered in appearance only (while they exist in appearance only!), why am I in chains?  And why do I want to fight with wild beasts?  If that is the case, I die for no reason; what is more, I am telling lies about the Lord (Chapters 9 and 10). (more…)