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Early Christian Writings

Discussion in 'Christian History' started by BrookeGF, Jan 18, 2012.

  1. BrookeGF

    BrookeGF Newbie

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    Someone at my church sent me a link to this website. I'm not sure of the accuracy of any of this, since it's not in the biblical canon, but it should be pretty interesting to read and get some extra background information. It's supposed to have lost letters that Paul wrote. The website is earlychristianwritingsdotcom
     
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  2. Root of Jesse

    Root of Jesse Admiral of the Fleet/First Sea Lord Supporter

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    That is a good site if you're interested in what the early Church taught and believed.

    The reason much of it is not canonical is that there were strict rules as to what was 'scripture' and what wasn't. If it wasn't certain to be at least from a disciple of the Apostles, it couldn't be considered scripture. If you want things that will not contradict the Bible in any way, you're better off at www.newadvent.org, there's a tab called Fathers. EarlyChristianWritings has gnostic writings and others that might contain contradictions. You can either read them online, print them from there, or order the CD that has all of it.

    In the first four centuries of the Church many books, such as the seven letters of Ignatius, the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians, the Didache, and The Shepherd were revered by many Christians as inspired but were later shown to be non-inspired.
    It was not until the Councils of Hippo and Carthage that the Catholic Church defined which books made it into the New Testament and which didn't. Probably the council fathers studied the (complete) Muratorian Fragment and other documents, including, of course, the books in question themselves, but it was not until these councils that the Church officially settled the issue.
    The plain fact of the matter is that the canon of the Bible was not settled in the first years of the Church. It was settled only after repeated (and perhaps heated) discussions, and the final listing was determined by Catholic bishops. This is an inescapable fact, no matter how many people wish to escape from it.
     
  3. 1watchman

    1watchman Overseer Supporter

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    There is always a danger of listening to what some writer said (who may have been part of a religious sect of his own preference). We will all be held accountable for "all the counsel of God" in His Word, not religious doctrines, traditions, and ideas.

    The number one Christian truth is to hold to the infallible Word of Truth and receive God's salvation in His beloved Son --a personal relationship, not a religion. Then we must see what the church is --the "one body in Christ" --the spiritual body of Christ.

    Religion only draws one away from the Word of God and devotion to the Savior. A faithful fellowship of "born again" believers (John 3) will hold the Bible as the only authority for the Christian faith.
     
  4. Root of Jesse

    Root of Jesse Admiral of the Fleet/First Sea Lord Supporter

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    But who decided what was the infallible Word of Truth and what wasn't?
     
  5. Standing_Ultraviolet

    Standing_Ultraviolet Dunkleosteus

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    Early Christian Writings contains texts that vary in their adherence to Christianity. Remember, the site is a historical archive and not a religious site. It also contains Gnostic writings that were created as competitors to early Christianity. It can be interesting if you want to know what the early Church believed, but remember that not every text on the site is canonical or even Christian in any real sense. I'm not sure what the 'extra' letters of Paul are like (since I've not seen them), but forgeries were common early in Church history, and these letters are very likely to be forged.

    I would second the reference to New Advent. It contains early Patristic writings along with Gnostic texts, but instead of being interspersed with orthodox writings, Gnostic, Nestorian, or otherwise heretical texts are clearly tagged as such. The dates given for Gnostic writings are also the more likely dates determined by historians, rather than the unusually early dates that a handful of scholars attach to them which are included in the range presented on Early Christian Writings. Here's a link, if you're interested. To get there otherwise, just go to NEW ADVENT: Home, and click on the "fathers" tab in the upper right-hand corner.
     
  6. Clearly

    Clearly Newbie

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    Hi BrookGF :

    I have enjoyed a study of the early Judao-Christian documents and have found that specific quotes from a single text might have little value depending upon the quote and the text. Hermas and Barnabas were included in the early New Testament Sinaiticus, and the great apocryphologist Charles noted more than a 127 quotes from enoch that found their way into the New Testament (as a shared earlier source material for New testament text).

    We know that many other texts were used by Judao-Christians as sacred text. Barnabas and Enoch still remain firmly INSIDE the ethiopic canon nowadays.

    However, In trying to elucidate early Judao-Christian Doctrines, what I find most helpful in a survey of these texts are themes that recur multiple times in multiple texts that are separated by a great deal of time and space. Such themes are much more likely to represent early orthodoxy than a single occurrence of a doctrine in a single text (which is found represented nowhere else).

    For example : Pre-creation council texts are wonderful for recurrent themes and for a rough representation of early Judao-Christian doctrines that Jews and Christians are much less aware of nowadays.

    The origin and fall of Lucifer and it's relationship to Adam is a theme that is found in many, many jewish, Christian, Judao-Christian, and Islamic literature. Such a doctrine that spans a great deal of time and space is very likely to represent early orthodoxy, especially one that has so many great witnesses.

    The abrahamic childhood literature is also a genre that contains many inter-religional connections between Judao-christian literature with Islamic Literature and the Dead Sea Library.

    I do not think that modern Christian theory has any advantage of logic or doctrinal cohesiveness over such major themes found in early Judao-Christian literature.

    I wish you the best of luck if you try to tackle such early literature. Perhaps you might want to choose a couple of books that used to be in the early new Testament but did not make it into our western new Testament as these have a greater chance to have early orthodox material in them.

    Clearly
    funeop
     
  7. 1watchman

    1watchman Overseer Supporter

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    That's elementary! It is always the Word of God, not the religious ideas of men; and serious Bible students have also the benefit of much sound ministry by godly Bible scholars down through history to help us. When men deviate from the Word of God they get religions, as has happened since the Apostles were taken up by God. We are given the complete Word, the Holy Spirit, and many godly teachers, not religious rulers.
     
  8. Standing_Ultraviolet

    Standing_Ultraviolet Dunkleosteus

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    Since the Bible does not say what its contents should be, however, it was necessary for the Church to determine which books should and should not be included. They did so over time, and the Church is the pillar of the truth for Christians, so we look to her to define Holy Texts.
     
  9. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    I don't see any lost letters of Paul. It looks more skeptical than that - dating 2 Thess as post-Pauline. I does include hypothetical documents like Q.
     
  10. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    The site uses critical views on authorship. I generally agree. However I think their dating tends to be a bit later than the current consensus.
     
  11. wkmt2819

    wkmt2819 Newbie

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    I love the site and find it extremely valuable to glimpse into the views of the early Church. I find it especially interesting that nowhere in all of those writings will you find any of the leaders and martyrs of the early Church taking the view of baptism that modern-day evangelicals and Baptists espouse.

    Peace
     
  12. wkmt2819

    wkmt2819 Newbie

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    As a former evangelical Protestant, I've found that many of them believe that those with whom they agree are "godly teachers" and those with whom they disagree are "religious rulers". Those with whom they agree are "following the Word of God" and those with whom they disagree are following "religious ideas of men".
     
  13. wayseer

    wayseer Well-Known Member

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    A pretty good site if you use for what it is - an archive.

    No idea about the 'lost letters of Paul' - seems like a contradiction.
     
  14. Protos

    Protos Junior Member

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    That website is not very good nor useful except if you're looking for particular translations or other such technical things. For example, Colossians and 2 Thessalonians, while rejected by about 60% of scholars today are most certainly Pauline - see bible-apologetics[dot]com/2thessalonians.htm for example. The consensus isn't always right and it's never final - 100 years ago Colossians and 2 Thessalonians were unanimously held as Pauline and 150 years ago they were rejected along with 1 Thessalonians, Philemon, and Philippians. That website just cites authorities with brief quotations for the dates.

    Other than that, its collection of texts is very interesting but it's not placed in its socio-chronological context: everything is just placed on a timeline. But in general I wouldn't go on the website due to its highly erroneous dating of the New Testament which is more or less the secondary purpose of the website.
     
  15. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    A couple of corrections:

    thinking a book is Deutero-Pauline is not the same as rejecting it.

    I doubt it's as high as 60%. Figures as high ad 80% used to be quoted for Ephesians, but meta-studies indicate that it never actually got above about 60%, and that was back at the peak for skepticism on Pauline authorship 30 years ago. Since then the movement has been back towards accepting most of the books as actually Pauline.
     
  16. Protos

    Protos Junior Member

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    To say that a book is Deutero-Pauline might not be the same as rejecting it for some scholars, but for most it's undoubtedly their nice way of saying it. And I'm pretty sure that 80% for Ephesians was fairly accurate - absolutely every book I picked up on the topic that has been written since 1950 claimed it wasn't by Paul - Introduction to the New Testament - Kummel (1966), Marxsen (1960), Perrin (NT Introduction: 1982), Raymond Brown (1997), Sturvy (Redrawing the Boundaries - 2008), Edgar Goodspeed, Richard Heard (I think), and the list goes on and on reject. Practically the only books I know of that accept it are JAT Robinson (Redating the New Testament - 1976), A.M. Hunter (INT - more like a commentary), and A. van Roon (Authenticity of Ephesians) who received a really harsh review by obviously someone who also thought Ephesians was inauthentic. Today it might be, thankfully, lower.

    I can tell you how it stands from 1950-2000:

    I. 1 Thessalonians, Romans, Galatians, 1-2 Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians - Universally accepted

    II. 2 Thessalonians, Colossians - 60% reject it. 2 Thessalonians dated to more or less as that site has it 75-95 (since 1 Clement has it but the website erroneously dates it 95-140). Colossians is c.58-70 (John Dominic Crossan for the later date).

    III. Ephesians - 80%. No one dates it earlier than 75-80 due to its (perceived) dependence on Colossians.

    IV. 1 Peter - 85-120. Definitely not accepted as Petrine. Brown is about the only one who says it might have been written by Peter. (JAT Robinson and I think Donald Guthrie accept it).

    V. 2 Peter - 100-150. Virtually no one accepts this book.

    VI. Jude - 100+. Same as 2 Peter - no one thinks it was written by the apostle, but perhaps an early 2nd century church leader named Jude.

    VII. James - 100+. Not by James (according to most).

    VIII. Pastorals - Not by Paul (by virtually everyone except a handful of scholars - slightly better than for 2 Peter). 100+ A.D. by most.

    IX. Hebrews - 70+ AD as date of composition. Not by Paul and I sort of agree with that judgment, though I cannot really be certain. I personally think it should be 60-65.

    X. 1 John - Most actually think it was written by the final redactor (as they see it) of the Gospel of John. However, they say this was not the Apostle. 100+ AD.

    XI. 2-3 John - Most scholars see these as written by an important Christian such as perhaps the Presbyter John mentioned by Papias. I think some consider it possible that the author was the same as that of 1 John and the Gospel, but certainly not the Apostle. 100+ AD.
    XII. Revelation - Neither by the author of 1 John nor the Apostle. In this they might be correct.
    XIII. The Gospels - Many scholars consider Mark the follower of Peter to have written Mark but I personally find that somewhat doubtful. The Gospels are assigned a date of 70-100 and I think that's about right. However, their content is I believe much more authentic than the identity of their authors and here the era after Bultmann/Dibelius/Wellhausen and the rest of the late 19th/early 20th century writers (such as K. L. Schmidt's Geschichte...) are the apex of absurdity.
    XIV. Acts - Wendland, Dibelius, Haenchen, and so on have successfully confirmed that for the most part Acts is a reliable historical narrative for Paul's travels in its second half. However, from those that I've read, Haenchen's reasons for assigning the "Writer" hypothesis (that Luke created most of the narrative of Acts for the purpose of a "creative writer") are beyond ridiculous. I can give an example, but there's no point making the post longer. Acts is dated c.90 and I think that's about right. However, it was most certainly by a follower of Paul's as the we-sections attest (and many other things that point to a contemporary of the mid 1st century locations named).

    Now if you honestly think that after this assessment scholars who maintain Colossians, Ephesians, and so on as Deutero-Pauline are not rejecting them, then you are purposefully deluding yourself.

    But overall, the website earlychristianwritings[dot]com, I can assure you, has many erroneous statements and conclusions that my website at bible-apologetics[dot]com can show you (where I actually use arguments and not just quotes from authorities like him).
     
  17. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    Peter Williamson (online postscript to his commentary on Ephesians):

     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2012
  18. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    There's quite a lot of your assessment I wouldn't agree with, but even if one accepted it as data I don't see how you think your conclusion follows from it.
     
  19. Protos

    Protos Junior Member

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    I could be wrong about Ephesians, I've simply seen numerous sources that give the impression of an almost universal rejection of it very near that of the Pastorals. And all the scholars I've read except JAT Robinson reject it: Kummel, Marxsen, Grant, Heard, Brown, and many others whom I haven't even read I know also reject it from the statistics in JAT Robinson's Redating the New Testament who more or less confirms the 70-80% figure for Ephesians and for the numbers I've given for the rest of the NT which more or less remain the same today (there really isn't any new progress anywhere except in the historical Jesus area and the new perspective on Paul).

    And I mean, I personally always saw the placement of NT books 50-100 years after the apostles' that the books say wrote them deaths as more or less inauthentic books. I don't see how that conclusion wouldn't follow from it :/ . That's all I was saying

    From an unbiased point of view I can personally say that I think Ephesians should be seen as Pauline given the evidence. There are indeed factors that seem to weigh against it but they aren't such that should force its inauthenticity or "deutero-Pauline" status, especially not with such an early acceptance as it has (cited by 1 Clement as authoritative and thus Pauline - 96 AD). Overall, I think that much of Biblical scholarship is plagued by the problem of necessitating that a writing be guilty until some extraordinary piece of evidence proves its authenticity and this is demonstratable in the 7 Pauline letters - the Hauptbriefe which have always been accepted: Romans, 1-2 Cor. and Gal. have the problems of Judaizers. The other 3 simply don't have any reason to be rejected as Pauline especially due to the similarity of style (which all 13 Pauline letters share by the way, except that some have other peculiarities that seemingly set them apart such as 2 Thess. "looking as if" it's a copy based on 1 Thess., etc). This is one of the main, if not the main, problem with biblical scholarship since the mid-19th century.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2012
  20. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    The cited study suggests otherwise; that the common impression of scholarly consensus is wrong.

    Anecdotal evidence and a statistical study are quite different things.

    One can still regard the text as canonical and some do. Also, regarding a text as deuteropauline doesn't automatically mean a very late dating - there are those who would accept that one or more of the pastoral letters are post-Pauline, but fairly immediately so, for example.

    "80% of statistics are made up".
     
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