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Origen And The Early Doctrine Of Pre-mortal Existence Of Souls

Discussion in 'Patristics' started by Clearly, May 29, 2010.

  1. Clearly

    Clearly Newbie

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    POST ONE OF TWO

    I thought I’d offer a bit of balance to the opinions on Origen since he was correct on many, many things; He was very, very influencial in early Christianity and one of the greatest of the early theologians. When you hear of him being called a Heretic, remember that it was three centuries AFTER Origen’s death that the Emporer-Politician issued his Anathematisms (543 a.d.) which gave him that label of heretic and the reasons for anathematisms had mixed motives.


    One might keep in mind that the very doctrine of Pre-mortal Existence of souls which christos Anesti mentioned WAS PERFECTLY ORTHODOX IN JUDAO-CHRISTIANITIES OF THE FIRST CENTURY and, as the Roman Church moved away from such doctrines it only BECAME IN LATER CENTURIES, heretical, whereas it was once orthodox.


    I think this SPECIFIC mistake by the Roman Church was one of it’s greatest errors of theological history and reminds me of the error the Roman Church made in imprisoning Galileo for teaching that the Earth was not the center of the Universe.

    Just as history vindicated Galileo and his discoveries that proved to be true, Historians of early Christianities have similar reason to honor Origen as he became vidicated for the things he got right such as the doctrine of Pre-Mortal existence of Souls.

    Pre-mortal existence of Souls was one of several authentic early doctrines whose abandonment has caused endless headaches, confusion and arguments among philosophers and theologians that the early Christians were not subject to before the doctrine was abandoned.

    Many, many, many of the earliest Judao-Christian sacred Texts, relate the expansive doctrine of the pre-mortal realm and the nature of spirits there and God’s purposes for creation. The theme of pre-creation and what happened there is written into the early sacred texts, their hymns contain the doctrine; virtually ALL of the ascension literature contains the doctrine, the war in heaven texts certainly contain the doctrine; the earliest liturgies contain the doctrine; the midrashic texts contain the doctrine, the Jewish Haggadah contains the doctrine, the Zohar contains it; the testament literature is full of it. One simply cannot READ the earliest sacred Judao-Christian texts without reference to this early Christian doctrine. This vast early literature is part of the context for early christians and illuminates their understanding of biblical texts that reference this pre-creation time period and what happened there.


    For examples :

    Enoch, in his vision of pre-creation heaven, relates :
    The great scribe Enoch is commanded by the angel to :
    In his vision the angel bids Enoch, “Come and I will show you the souls of the righteous who have already been created and have returned, and the souls of the righteous who have not yet been created.” After seeing various souls, a midrashic explanation is given us by Enoch regarding these many souls
    The vast ascension literature, describes the pre-creation realm of spirits. Abraham, in his ascension Vision describes the unnumbered spirits he sees, many of whom are waiting to come into mortality. The angel says to Abraham :
    The doctrine of pre-mortal existence of the spirits within men permeates the Old Testament biblical text as well. A knowledge of this simple principle explains and underlying so many of the quotes in many other texts as well. In the Old testament it was said : “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (ecclesiates 12:7). This principle is mirrored in multiple other early Judao Christian texts as well : When God the Father commands the son to “Go, take the soul of my beloved Sedrach, and put it in Paradise.” The only begotten Son said to Sedrach, “give me that which our Father deposited in the womb of your mother in your holy dwelling place since you were born.” (The Apocalypse of Sedrach 9:1-2 and 5). When the Son finally DOES take the Soul of the Mortal Sedrach, he simply takes it back to God “where it came from”. It is simply a rephrase of Ecclesiates 12:7. And this principle is repeated in many different texts.
    The Early Christian usage of Ecclesiates 12:7 was used in this same way by the Apostle Peter as he explained to Clement that "This world was made so that the number of spirits predestined to come here when their number was full could receive their bodies and again be conducted back to the light." (Recognitions)

    Under this early context, the question God asked Job was NOT rhetorical, but it was a reminder :
    Under the early context, Job KNEW the answer when God asked where Job was when God laid the foundations of the earth “and all the sons of God shouted for joy”. The texts are explicit that the spirits were taught regarding God’s plan to send the spirits of men to earth. They knew they would undergo a fall of Adam and Of the pre-mortal Redeemer. Seth relates this time period when these sons of God shouted for Joy. The redeemer said regarding this time period before creation in a assembly of spirits :
    In explaining the relationship of this life to the pre-mortal realm of spirits, the messiah explained
    The early doctrine of Pre-mortal existence of the spirits of men took the arbitrariness out of God have created spirits unequally. IN this model, the spirits are partly responsible for their nature upon entering this life. Instead of arbitrarily creating spirits with defects (which spirits may be punished for later), in this early christian context, the Lord creates the body in relationship to certain characteristics the spirit has already obtained (or did not obtain) in it’s heavenly abode over vast periods of time. For example from the testament literature :
    In the context of the spirit of man existing long before other spirits, Jewish Haggadah relates that
    This it the very same teaching the Apostle Peter taught Clement in the Clementine Recognitions, (remember, Clement was ALSO in the earlier New Testament Canon), the apostle Peter tells the young christian convert Clement about the pre-earth council and man’s place within this plan :
    This principle (that man’s spirit pre-exists the creation) was one of the FIRST things the Apostle Peter teaches Clement. I believe there is a reason for this. Perhaps, for such theists, the key to understanding what God is doing with mankind is contained inside of the concept that we are eternally spiritual.

    POST TWO OF TWO FOLLOWS
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2010
  2. Clearly

    Clearly Newbie

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    POST TWO OF TWO


    Many early Judao-Christian texts are quite explicit in explaining the doctrines underlying the New Testament Theology on this subject. For example : Speaking of the souls of men and the manner after which they are sent from their heavenly dwelling place to earth, the Haggadah relates :
    Occasionally the spirit is reluctant to leave the untainted pre-mortal heaven for an earth where she knows her existence will be more difficult as she gains her moral education by coming to earth. In such accounts, God is NOT angry but the text says “ God consoles her. The text relates God telling the soul that
    The entire chapter regarding the soul of man discussed in detail what happens with spirits before they enter the body and it relates their forgetting of their prior preparation and existence with God. (I might mention that souls anciently are all described in the female gender - like ships are - in modern parlance)

    Such principles in the Haggadic text (which is related to the talmudic history) is mirrored in several other texts. For example, the Zohar confirms the doctrine as it relates essentially the same description. :
    “” The Zohar - The Destiny of the Soul [/quote]In very symbolic language, the Zohar relates the creation of the souls in heaven to the point that they become formed and cognizant and take on characteristics they will keep with them when they are placed into bodies at birth, even to the point of having gender. Speaking of which fully developed souls it says :
    I have to stop here but will try to post in about 48 hours to give examples of how this early doctrine was still used by several theologians in later years as the usage of the doctrine became less popular and then finally abandoned by the roman church. I’ll also have to return later to check for errors and re-format as I ran out of time at this point.


    Clearly

    END OF POST TWO
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2010
  3. Christos Anesti

    Christos Anesti Junior Member

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    I think some of those quotes could be explained by the foreknowledge of God and thus a "prexistence" in the mind of God "prior" to creation. Many of those quotes come from non-Christian or heretical sources though.
     
  4. Clearly

    Clearly Newbie

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    Hi Christos Anesti;

    I very MUCH agree that early sacred texts could be, have been and will continue to be interpreted in many, many, many different ways as exampled by hundreds of inconsistent, conflicting and competing doctrines that competing Christians proclaim, yet use the same source (Bible) as their justification for teaching various irreconcilable doctrines. Try to remember also that certain books (Old Testament Enoch for example) were popular NOT just to Christians, but to the JEWS as well. (The Old Testament used by Christians today is a JEWISH production...)

    The value of showing that this doctrine of Pre-existence of souls was very orthodox in a VERY wide range of ancient literature is to avoid the temptation to misuse a very small ancient context and apply a global and modern meaning to it. Remember, what was considered heretical CHANGES over historical time periods.

    In my example of Galileo : By teaching that the earth was not the immovable center of the universe, Galileo was clearly teaching HERETICAL DOCTRINE in the 1600s (and he was punished by the roman church for this), whereas his doctrine is NOT HERETICAL (in the main) in the 1900s (and he is now honored by scholars for his advances in knowledge). Thus he was punished by the Roman Church for HERESY in the 1600s whereas he is NOW HONORED for discovering what is NOW become ORTHODOXY in the 1900s. It is very important to understand this historical view of changing orthodoxy and how your personal view of what is heresy and what is orthodoxy is, for most individuals, relative to THEIR personal beliefs (which beliefs are so often dramatically affected by what was taught them during the time and culture in which they live.)

    Thus your own church NOW, may teach as orthodox, the very thing it labeled heresy in the past. If you teach that the earth rotates and is not the center of our solar system, then to a 1600s era pope, you are teaching heresy, whereas, to a 1900s era pope, you are teaching orthodoxy. Heresy is, in this way, a completely relative term. The temptation to misuse and misapply the word "heresy" is strong for those who want to lend an “official” sounding word to a personal opinion.




    I’m NOT saying Origen got ALL early doctrines “right”. I am simply honoring him for what he DID get right.

    AS AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT ORIGEN GOT WRONG : EX-NIHILO CREATION

    Though Origen correctly described the early Christian doctrine of pre-creation existence of souls, he DID become contaminated by the later doctrine of CREATION OUT OF ‘NOTHING”. That is, he started teaching the early “heresy” of “ex-nihilo” creation. This doctrine, which became very popular in the 4th century, virtually took over to become “ORTHODOXY”, (whereas the early Judao-Christian literature taught creation from pre-existing, chaotic matter). THUS ORIGEN WAS OBVIOUSLY CONTAMINATED BY THE LATER DOCTRINE OF "CREATION FROM NOTHING" (i.e. ex-nihilo creation).

    Thus, origens description of early orthodoxy of pre-existence of souls was very orthodox in a very wide range of early sacred judao-christian documents, and later becomes heresy, whereas the heretical doctrine of creation from “nothing” which was heresy (i.e. inaccurate teaching) to the ancients, became very popular to the point that it is, I think, the theory of most christians today. In this way, what was ancient orthodoxy (pre-existence) becomes modern heresy, and what was ancient heresy (ex-nihilo creation) becomes modern orthodoxy.

    I hope these concepts of evolving and changing doctrine over time make sense. I do NOT think Religious history can make sense without some acceptance of and understanding of these basic concepts.

    Good luck in your personal spiritual journey Christos Anesti.


    Clearly
    sise
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2010
  5. Korah

    Korah Junior Member Supporter

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    Clearly,
    You are clearly right! Over in General Theology and in Theologia Crucis we have had polls on whether the soul exists before conception. A large minority have chosen "Yes". Even among Lutherans, stongly committed by Luther to Traducianism that the soul and body are generated simultaneously at conception, nine of 24 have voted for preexistence.
    You seem to have omitted the strongest proof-text for preexistence, Eph. 1:3-5. God knew us before our world was created.
    You castigate the Roman Catholics for anti-Origenism, but it is actually the Eastern Orthodox that are adamant in condemning Origen. RC scholars over a hundred years ago showed the 553 Second General Council of Constantinople considered rebuking Origen, but this was never finally approved. The EO argue that the resolution was finalized at the council.
    And yes, I go for the strong view, that God created out of (and using) the original chaos of physical and spiritual stuff. We humans came out of something that existed before God chose us. This is very important, as it gets us around the Problem of Evil. Evil already existed before God made the universe to redeem us.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2010
  6. Clearly

    Clearly Newbie

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    Korah;


    Korah, I think I contributed to the confusion by an example that was more complex than it needed to be AND, the examples involved BOTH the (#1) condemnation of individuals and the separate issue of (#2) changing orthodoxy (e.g. abandonment of one doctrine and adoption of another doctrine).

    Regarding individuals : I was not castigating the Catholics for Anti-Origenism (2nd century) Per se, but rather for their initial condemnation of Galileo (16th century) and his teaching that the earth moved (though he might now be revered by them for the very doctrine he had been condemned in the 1600s)

    Regarding doctrinal changes : I was criticizing the roman church’s abandonment of the doctrine of pre-existence taught by Origen.


    I hope this added context allows a re-reading of my comments to make more sense :

    In Post #1 - I was speaking strickly of ORIGEN AND THE EASTERN ORTHODOX CONDEMNATION of his teaching by Emporer-Politician Justinian in the Ecumenical Council in 553 ad when I said regarding Origen :
    In Post #4 I was speaking of GALILEO AND THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CONDEMNATION of his teaching
    I apologize if I did not make clear the two examples I was using : 2nd century Origen and 16th century Galileo to demonstrate the principle changing religious orthodoxies.

    Clearly

    eisisiis
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2010
  7. Christos Anesti

    Christos Anesti Junior Member

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    I was just reading "The Pillar and Ground of Truth, An Essay in Orthodox Theodicy in Twelve Letters" by the New Martyr Fr Paul Florensky and came across a quote from Clement of Alexandria that I thought would go good here. It seems he disagreed with his successor Origen.

    "We, already existed before this world, because our creation was decided by God long before our actual creation. Before our creation we therefore existed in the thought of God, we who later turned out to be intelligent creatures of the Divine Word. Thanks to Him, we are very ancient in our origin, because, 'in the beginning was the Word".
    - Clement of Alexandria

    St Gregory Nazianzus seems to say something very similar:

    "the world-generating Reason also considered , in His mind's great representations, the images of the world formed by Him, this world which was generated later, but, which, for God was present even then. Everything is before God's eyes: what will be, what was, and what is now. For me such a division is set by time: that one thing is ahead, another thing behind. But for God all merges into one, and all is held in the arms of the Great Deity."
    -St Gregory Nazianzus
     
  8. Clearly

    Clearly Newbie

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    Hi Christos;

    Thank you for the added quotes from 3rd and 4th century Christianty. I apologize for not writing earlier, but I have limited time, especially as winter approaches. Still, I enjoy our conversations and value your insight.


    The centuries following the death of Christ were described by a logia of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas as follows :

    This logia is one of many sad descriptions of the failed attempt to pass on the doctrines and traditions of the early Christianities to later generations, however, in the last days, when one looks inside of modern Christian Churches, one finds that most of the substance that gave the early Church it’s value, is no longer to be found in it
    . This principle of loss and apostasy was spoken of by many sacred writers and If we are to speak of the loss of early doctrines and HOW such doctrines were lost, despite good efforts to maintain them, one may certainly start with Clement.

    I certainly agree that some later christianities (e.g. 3rd and 4th century) de-emphasize the early doctrine of a literal pre-existence as a foundational principle. As the poster Korah correctly points out in his post number 5 above, many Christians nowadays believe in some form of pre-existence of our spirits despite not having the conscious teaching and reminders of this principle that the ancient Judao-Christians had. Since Korah pointed this out, I have considered why it was that a large portion of Christians on the forums believe in the early doctrine that our spirit lived before birth, yet late second and third century philosophers / theologians felt theological pressures to attempt to abandon this early doctrine.

    I think that for the Egyptian Clement of Alexandria, his Platonist training and views, and the surrounding milieu of Hellenistic / Platonist Philosophy was an intense pressure to eschew materialism (which views encouraged the evolving doctrine of creation from “nothing” and affected the later evolving versions of “the trinity”) and underlie his habit of intellectualizing and spiritualizing and allegorizing and mythologizing prior beliefs (such as pre-existence). I think the eminent Catholic writer Bousset is correct in his assessment of Clement in saying :
    Regarding the sacrament Bousset continues to say Clement intellectualizes the old teachings “until he spiritualizes the sacraments to the point of being incomprehensible, nothing but a mere game of words”.

    H. Wolfson is certainly correct when he maintains that the Jew Philo, in many respects must be considered the forerunner and model of scholastic thinking, because Philo, who was also an important influence for Clement of Alexandria and St. Ambrose of Milan, achieved “a workable assimilation of stoic and biblical thought”. In this specific context, “ASSIMILATION OF stoic and biblical thought” means “CONTAMINATION OF biblical thought THROUGH assimilation of stoic thought”.

    This spiritualizing and allegorizing and mythologizing of prior doctrines the scholars are describing, becomes one dominant doctrinal pattern during this period so that it drives not only the change in a literal pre-existence, but such motives ultimately underlie the evolution from the former Judao-Christian Belief in “creation from matter” into a “creation from NOTHING” since creation from vile and “dirty” matter was unworthy for a pure and unworldly and ineffable God who had little to do with “vile matter”. Such social and theological pressures from without and from platonists within Christianity to change theological thought from within Christianity were not new. I think this neoplatonic shunning of vile and common matter is why Peter the Apostle taught Clement of Rome that “we do not believe that matter is inherently evil” even before teaching Clement of Rome salvational doctrines.

    We modern Christians can appreciate in a SMALL way certain societal and theological pressures placed on a still fledgling Christian religious movement by considering the comparatively light pressure for doctrinal change surrounding modern Christianity and Homosexuality we are seeing today.

    Whether it is Right or wrong, portions of society today are, to a certain extent, pressuring Christian congregations to accept; adopt; and assimilate homosexuality within Christian doctrines and practice. In certain locals, there is a great deal of “Social pressure” and “political expediency” (political "correctness") to change current Christian doctrines and practices to accept; accommodate and assimilate homosexuality with it's accompanying sexual morals into the Christianities of our day.

    Those Christianities who maintain the traditional early Christian moral stance view the “homosexual Christianities” as moral apostates who taint the gospel with moral decadence, while those who accept and assimilate homosexuality into their Christianity may denounce the other Christianities as “homophobic” and as “lacking charity” (and thus clearly not “christian” in their eyes). Both types of christianities may maintain that they represent the current “new orthodoxy” of our age and decry the other as the “new heretical christianity”.

    Such modern theological influences and pressures are only a shadow of ancient pressures which created many martyrs because of friction between Christian beliefs and societal beliefs. (Nowadays, no one is thrown to the lions or burned if they will not recant their doctrine.) Early Christianities in their various forms found themselves between the relative rock of religious pressures on one hand and the hard place of philosophical and societal pressures on the other hand. Such pressures place artificial conditions on doctrinal development. Christian apologists were faced on the one hand with the accusation of polytheism from Judaism on one hand, and on the other hand by the popular and influential Hellenistic interpretations of mythological gods and personified manifestations of the Supreme Unity governing the universe.

    Remember too, many important, foundational doctrines we discuss nowadays had not been even formulated yet.

    For example : Clement of Alexandria in still in the process of formulating his personal belief
    on creation from “nothing”. Clement of Alexandria is one of the first (if not the first) to use apparent creation ex nihilo language, but without the later doctrinal connotations that came to be associated with such language in later centuries. Chadwick argued that although the declaration that the world is made “out of nothing” occurs three times in Clement of Alexandria’s Stromata (his “miscellaneous notes"), his usage is similar to that of Philo, referring to the ordering of formless matter. Chadwick points out that in each case the phrase he employs is “ek me ontos”, and not "ex ouk ontos”, that is to say, it is made not from that which is absolutely non-existent, but from relative non-being or unformed matter, so shadowy and vague that it cannot be said to have the status of “being” which is imparted to it by the shaping hand of the creator.

    Whereas in Clement’s “hymn to the Paedogogus”, he clearly believes in the early creation from pre-existent matter.
    Clement is in a process of changing and DEVELOPING the various doctrines he will ultimately believe in and teach. The point is that Clement is, like everyone else, trying to look at the various data and formulate in his own mind, what he personally believes and it is a PROCESS from one step to another until he feels he has the best version of something he can accept; then believe in and, ultimately, teach to others as doctrine.

    Even Clement’s successor Origen explicitly acknowledges that when he wrote around the middle of the third century a.d., there were still many very, very basic doctrines which had not been settled.

    For example
    : The issue of divine embodiment of God had yet to be settled
    in the Church: Origen wrote :
    At some point, Clement and Origen both consider multiple issues they do not know the answer to; they then consider the data open to them and then ultimately, they decide what they personally believe and they write about it. However, it is important to understand that these influential individuals are not simply EXPLAINING confirmed, accepted, doctrine, but they are THEORIZING and are CREATING new doctrines. It is the creation of doctrine by influential individuals for the consumption of the general masses.


    The influences which drove the creation of the doctrine of “ex-nihilo” and the de-emphasis of “pre-existence” also affected the evolution of other doctrines such as the various versions of the Christian Trinity. As Prestige reminds us : ”The recognition of divine monarchy [monotheism] and the proclamation of a divine triad were originally presented as independent facts".

    Origen’s great value as a witness is not that he was correct on all of his personal speculations (none of the others were either), but much of his value lay in his descriptions as to what the early Christians believed and taught. Many of his statements actually say, in effect, “I do not believe this doctrine, but this is still what the early christians taught.”

    While a prophet or apostle lived, the church was alive and correct doctrine could be had by revelation from an authorized source. However, these great apostolic and prophetic lights went out. Without clear and simple scriptural statements and texts that explained new questions as they arose, then I think these individuals such as Origen and Clement simply did the best they could with what they had.

    And what was it they used to develop doctrines for their particular Christianity? Origen proposed to make theological questions a matter of rational and scriptural investigation with a view to formulating a coherent body of doctrine “by means of illustrations and arguments, – either those...discovered in holy Scripture, or...deduced by closely tracing out the consequences and following “a correct method”. (Whatever “method” meant to Origen). The point is, that Origen is in the same position as the rest of us are. He is left to his own wit and logic and bias and back ground, and whatever limited data he can bring to the task. This is exactly what the rest of us have to determine what we are to believe.

    Origen recieved a literary education of greek classics. He later studied philosophy under the renowned middle-platonist Ammonius, Saccas, who later taught Plotonius, (the thinker usually credited with founding Neoplatonism). Origen also knew and respected works of a number of non-christian middle-platonists, including Numenius, (whose most important contribution to the tradition was his Platonic doctrine of God). Origen's background AND his biases both blesses AND plagues him in his personal development of Christian beliefs. The same can be said for all theologians and for the rest of us.

    For example : In Origen’s sustained polemics against those who affirmed God’s humanlike embodiment, Origen follows his “method” of doctrinal development. First, he tried to show that corporeality is logically incompatible with philosophical (Platonist) conception of the divine nature. This is no different than Augustine, who, disagrees with some of the early doctrines, NOT because they disagree with scripture, but because they disagree with the philosophy or science of his day.

    Secondly, Origen engages in painstaking exegesis and deeply allegorical interpretation that are often tenuous and personal interpretations in his labors to convince his fellow Christians that the scriptures, notwithstanding their literal import, do not disprove divine incorporeality. What we are left with is simply another Philo-like assimilation of a philosophy with biblical verses in the mix.

    I think this represents an oversimplification of motives and methods behind the changes in Christian doctrines over the centuries, but I hope it gives some idea as to a very few issues of import in considering why doctrines evolved and changed.

    Clearly

    drdrfujh
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2010
  9. Christos Anesti

    Christos Anesti Junior Member

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    I was under the impression that it was adherence to Platonic philosophy that caused Origen to accept the idea of the pre-existence of souls despite the lack of apostolic lineage for such a concept. The Neo-platonists teach an eternal "creation" by means of emanation from the One. This doesn't seem to mesh that well with the Christian concept of creation ex nihlio.

    I can agree in part. No one had come up with percise terminology used in later Chistological and Trinitarian disputes for example. The early Fathers knew the Trinity even if they didn't have the more percise terminolgy to express their knowlege though. In that sense doctrine didn't change because the Mystery it was pointing to stayed the same. It was merely expounded more percisly at a later time when the existence of threating heresies demaned greater percision on the part of those who knew the Trinity experientially. I would agree that a great many issues that were important to the Hellenic world were not specifically adressed by the Apostles and that teachings regarding those issues developed over time though.

    Which is percisly one of the reasons he isn't honored as a Saint. He was an excellent philosopher but he relied excessivly on human reason to pry into the mysteries of God. The Saints of the church however teach theology based on illumination and gnosis. Their theology comes from prayer and contemplation. They teach what they have personally experienced. They are taught directly by God.

    I don't believe the Church was ever left without people of that spiritual caliber. St Maximus the Confessor, St Anthony the Great, Sts Barsanuphius and John, St Cyril of Alexandria, St Gregory of Nyssa, St Seraphim of Sarov, St Herman of Alaska, etc... all the way down to our times. God never left the Church. There have alway been people who communicated directly with God and the angels.
     
  10. Clearly

    Clearly Newbie

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    1) FIRSTLY
    Perhaps the confusion lies in your assumptions. Origen may have believed in pre-existence initially, but he ultimately rejected the belief in the pre-existence of souls. What he did do in the final analysis, was to leave us a witness as to what it was the early christians taught.

    As I mentioned, many of the later doctrines such as ex-nihilo, or the modern trinity, or the abandonment of pre-existence for the adoption of other theories had not yet taken place. Origen’s main value as a witness of pre-existence is that he tells us what the early church “used to teach”. His witness is that pre-existence was the earliest teaching and he discusses it in some depth, but he ultimately becomes swayed by more modern theories. You have not described your theory as to the origin of the spirit so I cannot compare the first century theory with yours using early sacred texts.



    2) SECONDLY
    I think it is a fallacy to think the fancy terminology that had to be employed by later philosophers and later theologians were developed to express what the Judao-Christians had already BEEN teaching for centuries. I believe the esoteric terminology was developed by later theologians to express NEW theories and NEW concepts in an attempt to explain the NEWER and much, much, much more complicated modern theories of the later Christianities they were developing.

    The early Judao-christian texts contained language that was very, very simple because the early concepts were very simple
    . The early Judao-Christians needed no rhetorical language or other devices to explain what was, for them, very simple concepts.

    For example, when the Prophet Enoch relates his ascension into heaven, he sees God the Father (who went by many names in such texts such as the “chief of days; he who precedes time; the antecedent of time). Enoch says
    Such descriptions NEEDED no new complicated language to revise or re-interpret it. It simply meant what it seemed to mean. Even non-historians can grasp what is being said. It was only when the early theology is removed from IT'S context, that such texts become unintelligible and require rhetoric to translate them to mean something else.

    In the early Judo-Christian texts, the trinity of three individuals WAS three individuals. There was no fancy attempt to use rhetoric to produce a “three is really one” God, or to try to come up with a “monotheistic polytheism” or a “polytheistic monotheism” that so occupied the minds and over which arguments have ensued over CENTURIES since the later “tri-une” theories were developed. For the last 1700 years (approx) of it's existence, the modern theory of the nature of the trinity continues to be debated and argued and continued attempts are made to try to explain it’s “mystery”.

    In the early Judao-christian texts, the description remained very simple. It was obvious in these texts that God the Father and his Son, (the Son of Man) were separate individuals. It was the pressures of Judaic claims to polytheism which discomforted the later christians and drove the development of fancy language and incomprehensible theories as to how “three is really one”.

    The point is NOT that the early Judao-Christian texts are correct and you are wrong. You could be right and they be wrong. The point is, that, like it or not, these were the early doctrines as their texts indicate. Those non-historians, who are not willing to study the texts from inside the ancient contexts are very likely to make a misjudgement and call early Judo-Chritianity “polytheistic”. Still, inside their ancient context, is was always monotheistic in that there was always a Lord God to which all other beings, god-like or not, were subservient.

    Please, you are VERY WELCOME to use the early sacred texts from the Judao-Christian period to show otherwise and I can be convinced that I and others are in error, but do not expect me to be impressed by a quote from a 4th century theologian who has his own theory as to what is really correct. My interest is in Pre-and FIRST century Judo-Christianity and what THEY believed and how THEY described this early Judao-Christianity from THEIR own texts and from THEIR view point.



    2) THIRDLY

    In trying to explain the concept that early theologians such as Clement of Alexandria, and Origen; and Augustine and St. Ambrose and others were NOT “bad” people who were consciously attempting to make the changes in doctrine that ultimately took place,
    You are getting away from an analysis of the early doctrine of Pre-destination and the circumstances surrounding it’s generation, and veering off into your personal theory and modern theology. I think this is presumptive to think that all theologians that disagree with a specific modern theology that Christo has, were not illuminated, and that yours only, had the “gnosis”, or that only your saints prayed or contemplated. This sort of elitism that “your saints” are better than “their saints” is simply incorrect. I do not know of any historically significant theologians of the first six centuries that did not make significant errors or changes in the early theology. Regarding pre-existence, most of them simply ran their trains of thought along the same tracks others had placed rails on before them.

    Christo Anesti says of his saints “ They teach what they have personally experienced. They are taught directly by God.” I do not deny that your "saints" could have experienced the visitation of angels (that is irrelevant), nor do I deny that your saints may have had ascension visions just like the ancient prophets I am quoting had. What I am saying is that they teach a different Gospel than the sacred judo-christian texts I have quoted concerning prophets who traditionally have taught “what they have personally experienced and were “taught directly by God”.

    To imply your saints are somehow "better" simply sounds like a used car salesman’s technique to one-up his competitor. Christos, I am not protestant, but I cannot claim that catholic or eastern orthodox theologians were any more honest hearted or more correct than the Abraham, or Enoch, or Sedrach, or any other of the ancient Prophets I have quoted in the opening Posts.

    Regardless of revelation, None of your saints, had the advantage of being authorized Prophets of God quoted in the ancient Judao-Christian texts as were Enoch and Abraham, nor are the theologies of your saints superior to the theologies of enoch and Abraham as described by these sacred texts.

    This is what I meant when I said “While a prophet or apostle lived, the church was alive and correct doctrine could be had by revelation from an authorized source. However, these great apostolic and prophetic lights went out. Without clear and simple scriptural statements and texts that explained new questions as they arose, then I think these individuals such as Origen and Clement simply did the best they could with what they had.”



    3) FOURTHLY
    I think I have to agree that there probably have always been individuals who may have had the same level of intelligence as the apostles in all areas of the world; the same care and commitment to moral obedience to God as they understood God in all areas of the world ; had the same quality of and desires for good in their prayers in all areas of the world; i.e. there have always been individuals who have received revelations from God in all areas of the world; etc. However, this is another irrelevant point and it adds nothing about the earliest Judo-christian doctrine of pre-existence. Remember, this is a HISTORICAL THREAD. You simply confirmed that important members of your theology don’t believe in the earliest Judao-Christian doctrines that I expounded on from the early Judao-Christian texts in the original posts. This has been my point. The MODERNS no longer believe in the same theology"

    This statement of yours adds nothing to our understanding of early Christianity.

    I do understand your somewhat disconnected desire to self-confirm the religious theories that you have generated, have come to believe and wish to teach to others. However, this is what all other honest and good individuals are trying to do.

    Please Christos - try to stay on track , If you have another subject you want to discuss, make a new thread, and, if it actually relates to Early, pre- and first century Judao-Christianity, then I will be interested.

    If you simply point out that you do not agree with the earliest theories, this is fine since we are in agreement on this point.

    This was my point from the beginning - Modern's do not believe the same as the ancients when we look at the ancient teaching from the early Judao-Christian sacred texts.


    Clearly
    drsetzhh
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2010
  11. Christos Anesti

    Christos Anesti Junior Member

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    How do you know this?
     
  12. Christos Anesti

    Christos Anesti Junior Member

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    You said that I introduced my own personal theories and deviated from a strict historical discussion but didn't you just do the same thing by saying that?
     
  13. Christos Anesti

    Christos Anesti Junior Member

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    The Bible gives us explicit directions on discernment in that regard (by their fruits you will know them, etc..) . It would only make sense that a Christian would make use of such comparisons. If I was looking at this issue from outside the Christian tradition as a disinterested secular scholar then I might find statements like that meaningless. I'm not a disinterested secular scholar though.



    How many historians and scholars would say that the 1st Enoch was even written by Enoch in the first place ? If the prophet Enoch didn't write the book then it would be pointless to evoke his authority in that regard. I'm not saying the book is worthless. It may very well be written in the tradition of Enoch. There is no evidence that it was actually written by Enoch though.

    Are you saying that pre-existence was THE universal belief among early Christians? I wouldn't debate the fact that some early Christians held to such a theory. I would debate any claim that such was universally held to by early Christians though. Thats why I pointed out that while his pupil Origen may have held to such a view Clement of Alexandria didn't.

    You may be right. That isn't the impression I've gained from books I've read on Origin and Origenism though. Most the scholars I'm aware of point to the pre-existence of souls as one of his more important and cherished beliefs that the rest of his theological structure is based on***. His later followers (Didymous the Blind, Evagrius of Pontus, ...) all continued teaching the pre-existence of souls which would be rather odd if he later admitted to having rejected such a theory. Even if you are correct and he eventually rejected his early position it is still completely possible that his "earlier" support of pre-existence was due to his Platonism rather than his Christianity.

    ***They also point to it being an artifact of his adherence to neo-platonic philosophy. This isn't simply the opinion of Orthodox scholars who want to discredit his view either. I've also read books by authors that were very supportive of Origen and his teaching that noted that his belief in pre-existence were based on his platonic philosophical suppositions. Not to mention the scholars who really don't care one way or the other regarding the truth of theory who claim that it was due to neo-platonic influence.



    Aren't you also leaving the realm of strict historical discussion by making a value judgment like that?

    I agree that Origen did the best he could with what he had. I have a lot of sympathy for Origen actually. He admited that the best he could do was to use philosophical speculation and logic though. He never claimed to have divine inspiration in positing the pre-existence of souls.
     
  14. Clearly

    Clearly Newbie

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    1) Regarding your intimation that your saints may have been the ones the Prophets quoted in ancient texts :

    Unless you believe in and claim re-incarnation, Herman of Alaska, (who was apparently born in the mid 1700s) CANNOT BE the prophet referred to in Enochian, Abrahamic, Noahic, and other sacred ancient Judao-christian texts. The same applies to other individuals you intimate may be prophets. Still, If you are going to claim re-incarnation, then we are NOT discussing ancient Judao-Christian texts nor their authentic doctrines but rather another irrelevant theory.



    2) Regarding your intimation that your modern theory of NO pre-existence of spirits within men is superior to the ancient Judao-Christian theory of pre-mortal existence of within men :

    As a couple of examples :

    A) Regarding the Justness of God concerning moral conditions within the individual man : -
    Philosophers, theologians; agnostics and athiests alike have all questioned the justice of God having created unequal individuals out of nothing and then punishing or rewarding them based on arbitrary characteristics he places within them. If God, having placed evil tendencies into the heart of one man he creates, and places good tendencies into the heart of another man whom he creates, how it is just for God to punish the evil man for the very tendencies God created the man to have?

    1. In Pre-existent theology, the question does not arise since God is not responsible for the absolute creation of the characteristics within the spirit.

    2. In arbitrary “creation at birth”, God IS responsible for his creation AND for it’s characteristicswhich he places into his creation.

    How does your creation of the spirit from nothing at the time of birth relieve the philosopher’s complaint?




    B) Again, regarding the Justness of God and
    mortal conditions God creates : - Philosophers, theologians; agnostics and athiests alike have all questioned the justice of God having created unequal individuals out of nothing and having some be born rich and healthy and care free, having all opportunities to hear of the Gospel, accept Jesus as their savior and share in gospel blessings and, having lived a wonderful and happy life, presumably go to a heaven for eternity.

    We also notice that some individuals are created and placed into atrocious conditions, some suffering indescribable hardships and some being born with disabilities which prevent them from having the Gospel blessings in their lives. Some are born and are retarded and unable to obtain understanding of the gospel, living out their lives in inability to know or understand Jesus, nor able to accept him. Others live only for a few minutes and then die as infants, again, unable to hear about and accept Jesus nor his gospel.

    Others are born into cultures; times; and places when and where the gospel of Jesus is unavailable. If one is born a pagan in deep, “dark” africa in 2000 bc and never has an opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, how is it just for God to arbitrarily place individuals into varying conditions of potential ultimate joy and how may god reasonably and arbitrarily punish this man for not accepting a gospel he never had access to?


    1. In Pre-existent theology, the question does not arise in the same sense because a pre-mortal spirit has eons of time for an individual to develop it’s own characteristics they will be born with and choices the spirit has made over time which partly determine some of the conditions into which the spirit itself will be born.

    2. In your arbitrary “creation at birth”, God IS responsible for his creation AND for the conditions into which he places into his creation.
    He cannot punish a man for not accepting a gospel the man never has access to.

    How does your creation of the spirit from nothing at the time of birth relieve the philosopher’s complaint in this regard?



    C) regarding the existence of evil


    The same philosophers, theologians, agnostics and athiests issue similar complaints about the source of evil and ex-nilo (creation from “nothing”) which is the moral and material manifestion of arbitrary and spontaneous creation. (i.e. “pre-existence of matter or creation of matter from “nothing”)

    1) If God created all things from absolute “nothing”
    , then, if he is also omniscient, then he is responsible for all conditions arising from his creation. If God bakes a cake (having placed all ingredients into it himself), and if he understands before hand what the results will be (i.e. he is omniscient), then he is responsible for the cakes characteristics. If evil does not exist initially and then exists after God creates, then it is part of his creation and he has responsibility for it in your "creation from nothing" theory.

    2) If matter is pre-existent and has it’s own characteristics (as pre-existent spirits were said to have had in the judao-christian texts), then the existence of evil can be explained by these characteristics, rather than evil having been part of God’s creation. In this ancient teaching, God did not create evil’s existence.





    Christos, You are welcome to explain how a modern non-pre-existence theory is superior to the ancient Judao-Christian theory where the spirits of men and angels exist in a pre-mortal “heaven” with God before coming to earth as mortal men. I admit that I’ve never seen your theory successfully argued. Also, I am not a rhetoritician nor a philosopher, but I will try to understand the points you will make and take part in your presentation.


    Clearly
    drsitwgk
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2010
  15. Clearly

    Clearly Newbie

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    POST ONE OF TWO

    Yes and I might remind you of the hypocrisy of you having pointed this out since YOU left historical discussion by your irrelevant, non-historical judgment and claim which brought the comment you complained about. Your claim itself leaves a strict historical discussion and my observation that it is merely an elitist opinion is NOT historical and I wish you had not made the claim. It is IRRELEVANT to a historical discussion of first century and earlier Judao-christianities. Please Christos, If you are not interested in a historical discussion, then drop pretenses. I have been honest with you in telling you that I am not interested in your modern theories or your belief in modern saints that are better than the Catholic saints or any other religions' saints, but I am interested in authentic, first century Christian doctrine from sacred texts used in the earliest eras.



    No, of course it was NOT a universal belief, it was merely a predominant belief among many, many ancient religions having many, many beliefs, including Judao-Christians, as their text clearly show.


    The value of giving you many, many quotes from a wide variety of ancient Judao-Christian texts is to show you that a large group of multiple religionists from many groups over a long period of time and separated by large distances believed in this doctrine. If you are able, perhaps you might offer textual evidence from similar era sacred texts that support your theology? So far, you have not offered a single one but you are doing exactly what you fault Origen for; you are simply attempting to use your bias and logic to support your theory. If you cannot find similar numbers of early sacred texts from this earliest period that teach your religious theory, then you must understand that there is a reason why you cannot do this. If you had some historical background, you would realize that there were very FEW “universal” beliefs, just predominant ones.



    You are not even attempting to think as a historian. For example, we do not know who the author of the book of New Testament hebrews was and yet there is GREAT historical and religious value in it.

    All of the New Testament Books are pseudographical to the extent that we cannot prove who wrote any of them. We simply rely on deep tradition in our attribution of authorship to them. Still, they have great historical value in demonstrating what Christians of this period were taught. Whether John wrote the gospel of John or not, the book represents a set of authentic beliefs of the early Christians. Enoch is clearly a syncretic document as are most (probably all) of the new testament books. Enoch was one of the most common books found in the Jewish Qumran library and quotes from Enoch are scattered throughout the New Testament thus it was well known and used not only by Jews but also by the writers of the new testament.

    "How much of the Gospel of John is truly written by the hand of John in the Book called after his name?" is not the issue, but the historical issue in this case is how it represents early Christian doctrine. In the same manner, "How much of the Enochian literature was written by the hand of Enoch?" was never the historical question in the context of early Judao-Christian beliefs (the answer is obvious), but rather how the enochian literature represents the beliefs of those who read the Enochian literature so common to early Judao-christianity.

    You are still not thinking as a historian, but as a religionist who is asking the wrong questions and simply resisting admitting the obvious initial point that the other readers have understood and accepted. I have already offered multiple textual demonstrations of the early doctrine of pre-mortal existence. It is too obvious a point to deny. I believe that you are resisting the obvious because it disagrees with your modern bias rather than having any legitimate historical knowledge to the contrary. If you have any textual evidence from the sacred texts of the time period we are discussing that shows you are correct, then you are certainly welcome to offer it.

    Lest we become lost in irrelevants, I will repeat my initial textual offering that shows, out of sacred texts that the doctrine that spirits of men existed before birth in this early Judao-Christian theology.



    Enoch, in his vision of pre-creation heaven, relates :
    The great scribe Enoch is commanded by the angel to :
    In his vision the angel bids Enoch, “Come and I will show you the souls of the righteous who have already been created and have returned, and the souls of the righteous who have not yet been created.” After seeing various souls, a midrashic explanation is given us by Enoch regarding these many souls
    The vast ascension literature, describes the pre-creation realm of spirits. Abraham, in his ascension Vision describes the unnumbered spirits he sees, many of whom are waiting to come into mortality. The angel says to Abraham :
    The doctrine of pre-mortal existence of the spirits within men permeates the Old Testament biblical text as well. A knowledge of this simple principle explains and underlying so many of the quotes in many other texts as well. In the Old testament it was said : “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (ecclesiates 12:7). This principle is mirrored in multiple other early Judao Christian texts as well : When God the Father commands the son to “Go, take the soul of my beloved Sedrach, and put it in Paradise.” The only begotten Son said to Sedrach, “give me that which our Father deposited in the womb of your mother in your holy dwelling place since you were born.” (The Apocalypse of Sedrach 9:1-2 and 5). When the Son finally DOES take the Soul of the Mortal Sedrach, he simply takes it back to God “where it came from”. It is simply a rephrase of Ecclesiates 12:7. And this principle is repeated in many different texts.
    The Early Christian usage of Ecclesiates 12:7 was used in this same way by the Apostle Peter as he explained to Clement that "This world was made so that the number of spirits predestined to come here when their number was full could receive their bodies and again be conducted back to the light." (Recognitions)

    Under this early context, the question God asked Job was NOT rhetorical, but it was a reminder :
    Under the early context, Job KNEW the answer when God asked where Job was when God laid the foundations of the earth “and all the sons of God shouted for joy”. The texts are explicit that the spirits were taught regarding God’s plan to send the spirits of men to earth. They knew they would undergo a fall of Adam and Of the pre-mortal Redeemer. Seth relates this time period when these sons of God shouted for Joy. The redeemer said regarding this time period before creation in a assembly of spirits :
    In explaining the relationship of this life to the pre-mortal realm of spirits, the messiah explained
    The early doctrine of Pre-mortal existence of the spirits of men took the arbitrariness out of God have created spirits unequally. IN this model, the spirits are partly responsible for their nature upon entering this life. Instead of arbitrarily creating spirits with defects (which spirits may be punished for later), in this early christian context, the Lord creates the body in relationship to certain characteristics the spirit has already obtained (or did not obtain) in it’s heavenly abode over vast periods of time. For example from the testament literature :
    In the context of the spirit of man existing long before other spirits, Jewish Haggadah relates that
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2010
  16. Clearly

    Clearly Newbie

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    POST TWO OF TWO

    This it the very same teaching the Apostle Peter taught Clement in the Clementine Recognitions, (remember, Clement was ALSO in the earlier New Testament Canon), the apostle Peter tells the young christian convert Clement about the pre-earth council and man’s place within this plan :
    This principle (that man’s spirit pre-exists the creation) was one of the FIRST things the Apostle Peter teaches Clement. I believe there is a reason for this. Perhaps, for such theists, the key to understanding what God is doing with mankind is contained inside of the concept that we are eternally spiritual.

    Many early Judao-Christian texts are quite explicit in explaining the doctrines underlying the New Testament Theology on this subject. For example : Speaking of the souls of men and the manner after which they are sent from their heavenly dwelling place to earth, the Haggadah relates :
    Occasionally the spirit is reluctant to leave the untainted pre-mortal heaven for an earth where she knows her existence will be more difficult as she gains her moral education by coming to earth. In such accounts, God is NOT angry but the text says “ God consoles her. The text relates God telling the soul that
    The entire chapter regarding the soul of man discussed in detail what happens with spirits before they enter the body and it relates their forgetting of their prior preparation and existence with God. (I might mention that souls anciently are all described in the female gender - like ships are - in modern parlance)

    Such principles in the Haggadic text (which is related to the talmudic history) is mirrored in several other texts. For example, the Zohar confirms the doctrine as it relates essentially the same description. :
    In very symbolic language, the Zohar relates the creation of the souls in heaven to the point that they become formed and cognizant and take on characteristics they will keep with them when they are placed into bodies at birth, even to the point of having gender. Speaking of which fully developed souls it says :
    CHRISTOS - PLEASE, OFFER US YOUR EVIDENCE FROM THE EARLIEST JUDAO-CHRISTIAN TEXTS TO SUPPORT YOUR THEORY THAT THE ANCIENTS DID NOT BELIEVE IN THIS PRINCIPLE OF PRE-EXISTENCE.


    CLEARLY
    dracdrht
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2010
  17. Christos Anesti

    Christos Anesti Junior Member

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    Obviously they are not the prophets quoted in the ancient texts. Your statement seems to imply that you know that they are not authorized prophets of God of the same caliber as Enoch (or the whoever the author of 1st Enoch happend to be) . It also implies that you know that enoch was a prophet. In making that statement aren't you doing the same thing I did that you found disagreeable in a historical discussion ? Your statement that the Church no longer had the presence of prophetic voices also leads me to that conclusion.


    I'm not a historian. Heck, I didn't even graduate from high school. If I'm unable to look at this from the perspective a historian then I apologize.

    Many of the ancients did believe in pre-existence. I didn't mean to imply otherwise.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2010
  18. Christos Anesti

    Christos Anesti Junior Member

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    I'm not sure if this would necessarily imply the pre-existence of souls in the Origenist sense. I haven't had the chance to read the whole book though. I will definitely look into it. Couldn't this also be a reference to the preexistence of the ideas or forms of man in the mind of God rather than the pre-existence of the human soul?
     
  19. Clearly

    Clearly Newbie

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    Is post #18 the extent of your data and logic demonstrating the superiority of your non-pre-existent theory as superior to the ancient theory of pre-existence? or is post #18 the extent of your quotes from the early sacred Judao-Christian texts showing pre-existence is not the early orthodox Judao-Christian belief?

    Christos, if this is some "game" you are wanting to play, I have laid down my cards. Now it is time for you to lay down your cards and allow our readers to see if you actually have anything in your hand or if you have simply been bluffing. Explain to us how your "non-pre-existence" theory is superior to the ancient Judao-christian beliefs. Offer us your quotes from the early Sacred Judao-Christian texts of the period, demonstrating that pre-existence is not the orthodox early Judao-Christian belief.

    Lay your cards down for them to see.

    Clearly
    dracfuii
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2010
  20. Rigel1

    Rigel1 Newbie

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    Hello Sunny Seraphim,

    Although this is my first post on this Forum, rather than just say “TEST” I will make a short comment.

    Clearly’s comments are very persuasive, particularly as he proceeds using as his basis writings from “early pre- and first century Judao-Christianity”. This is the basis to which I conform, with the realization of the “Chinese whispers” principle as well as knowing that there were forces at work to undermine early doctrine

    Cheers
    Rigel1
     
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