Michael Jackson, the FIRST CHRISTIAN in the pagan world
1. An Early Christian
When making my little study about Jehovah’s Witnesses whose beliefs Michael Jackson shared until the end of his life (despite being no longer their formal member) I encountered the following definition of JW from the Office of Public Information of Jehovah’s Witnesses which attracted my attention by one detail:
- “Jehovah’s Witnesses base their beliefs solely on the principles found in the Holy Bible and view first-century Christianity as their model.”
Wow, no one ever told us that they are keeping to the first-century Christianity as their model!
This was quite a revelation to me and rang a very personal note – I myself am totally intrigued by the first Christians, their life and beliefs, especially after watching at a close distance the present-day practices of some Christian churches which left me a little confused to say the very least.
Who can tell us better than the first Christians what Jesus’s teaching is all about? Studies show that even the ancient written word is not that flawless – the four present-day Gospels were compiled only in the 4th century after a long tradition of oral passing of Jesus’s words from one generation to another and in the process of it what-not could have happened to His word! It’s people who were retelling it to one another, not gods…
Why argue who is “saved” and who is not by shuffling and reshuffling all those modern interpretations of the Scripture if we can get direct instructions from the first Christians from 2000 years ago on how to live our life in accordance with Jesus’s words? They knew of it from His immediate disciples who saw their teacher with their own eyes, listened and talked to him and passed it on to the people around them. Reading about their life and faith is like looking at the very heart of the truth shaved of all the layers of further interpretations which could have been added there by mistake or for various national, social or political reasons.
You cannot imagine what an incredible treat it is for me to find that the man I am trying to clean of all the dirt thrown at him was also interested in early Christianity as his Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs show it! Now I can bet whatever you like that besides all those photography books which were such a hit with the prosecution at the 2005 trial, Michael Jackson must have kept a huge selection of books on religious matters and early Christianity which – as I’ve learned – is the foundation of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs.
If someone asks me why we should discuss early Christianity in a blog devoted to vindicating Michael Jackson I will refer them to Dr. Patrick Treacy who treated Michael’s skin condition in Ireland and summed up Michael Jackson’s life and faith very simply – he said that Michael was unique and that HE LIVED HIS FAITH.
- Nelson Mandela stood against the injustice of apartheid, Mother Theresa and Bono against the injustice of poverty, John Lennon against the injustice of war but Michael Jackson went further. His body of artistic work carried a spiritual message for these and all of the other injustices of the human race…those of racism, inequality, disease, hunger and corruption. ..“I’m starting with the man in the mirror; I’m asking him to change his ways; no message could have been any clearer; if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.
- Few people remember that he donated all of the money from the song we just mentioned above to charity. Following the 1984 Victory Tour, he donated his $5 million share from the tour’s profits to charity.
- In 1985, he co-wrote the single “We Are the World” with Lionel Richie and donated all of the proceeds to help the needy in Africa. Almost 20 million copies of “We Are the World” were sold, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time. The project raised millions for famine relief.
- And his humanitarianism did not stop on the African continent. $1.5 million settlement to the Brotman Medical Centre in Culver City, California. This facility was later renamed the “Michael Jackson Burn Center” in honour of his donation. Using this money the facility was able to get the best available technology for treating burn victims, especially children.
- In 1993, he gave all the profits from 67 concerts over eighteen months on the Dangerous World Tour to the Heal the World Foundation.
- In 1999, he organised a series of benefit concerts with Mariah Carey, Slash, Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti in Germany and Korea. He donated the total proceeds to the “Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund”, the Red Cross and UNESCO.
- After 911, he helped organise the ‘United We Stand: What More Can I Give’ benefit concert at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. He also was given a special award from President Ronald Regan for his support of American drug and alcohol charities.
His last album, Invincible has a song called Cry.It is a song about the collective humanity of the earth. It carries a mission to change the world and create a better version of the human. It is a cry from another world.
Michael had a never-ending ability to surprise you with his honesty and his unique approach to life.
HE LIVED HIS FAITH.
(Dr. Patrick Treacy)
We need to know about early Christianity because even if we agree that Michael lived his faith how shall we know what exactly he tried to live up to if we have no idea what ideals he was keeping to? After all different people have different faiths… And vice versa, won’t early Christianity help us to understand Michael’s way of thinking and his approach to life?
It is through this comparison that we will be able to decide on our own, without any outside help from any minister, preacher or self-appointed “Biblical Christians” whether Michael Jackson was a true Christian or not, and our decision will be all the more correct as his life will be measured not by today’s extremely low standard of salvation by formal “accepting Jesus” only, but by the extremely high standards set for themselves by early Christians.
The English-language source to help us will be a Godsend of a book which I came across only a few days ago (when making a short study of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs).
2. The Book of Miracles
The fact that we have such a book is a miracle in itself. It was written by a German researcher Eberhard Arnold and is a collection of the original texts of the early Christians memoirs published in 1926.
The book is called “The Early Christians In Their Own Words” (to download the book please click on the title).
Its subtitle says that it is a “Source book of original writings including texts by TERTULLIAN * HERMAS * IGNATIUS * JUSTIN * POLYCARP * IRENAEUS * ORIGEN * CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA * EXTRA-BIBLICAL SAYINGS OF JESUS”.
Here are some reviews about the book:
- A Clear and vibrant faith lives in these writings. Now, almost two thousand years later, they remind us of the stark simplicity and revolutionary fervor that is at the heart of our faith. – Spiritual Book News
- Arnold’s selection of texts suggests the richness and diversity of early Christian faith, and stands as a yardstick with which to measure the poverty of our own spiritual life. Arnold finds his norm for the Christian life in the transitional century ending in A.D. 180. A Christianity as yet unspoiled by ecclesiastical or philosophical structures, marked by longing for the end, pledged to love and sharing of worldly good, unencumbered as yet by high-placed or highly educated members, free of prohibital crafts, trades or professions – this is the golden age from which Arnold takes inspiration. – Ford Lewis Battles, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
- If you hold, like Arnold does, that Christianity is no longer Christianity if it departs too radically from its beginnings, then you must read this book. — Roland H. Bainton, Yale University
- The Early Christians is not merely a volume of historical sayings and recorded events; it reflects a faith and way of life aflame with uninhibited zeal and unwavering devotion. To anyone who has experienced the “first love” born of answering Jesus’s call to follow him, this will be no surprise. For nowhere else, and at no time since, has the world seen a more vibrant, unyielding (and even reckless, when one thinks of the thousands who paid for it with martyrdom) surge of enthusiasm than that shown by the early believers. The texts selected here were originally translated and compiled some seventy-five years ago. We are not unaware of many important discoveries made since then, or of the new light shed on previously discovered documents by recent and ongoing research [a reference to the new Gospel texts found in Egypt in 1945]
- The early Christians challenge us to see discipleship as a path away from “self” toward a wholly transformed social order. To them, it demanded a solidarity in which men and women of all backgrounds, creeds, and cultures would join hands in rejecting the spirit of the age and giving their lives instead to a new, diametrically opposed cause: the rulership of Christ on earth. In stark contrast to their pagan contemporaries (the Latin pagani means “civilian” and implied indulgence in creature comforts) they saw themselves as soldiers under oath; as fighters in a deadly battle against the Prince of this world. To read the early Christians in their own words is to be confronted with a primal boldness and clarity that sweeps the horizon clean and forces us to take a new look at our own situation. - The Editors, November 1997
Eberhard Arnold addresses his readers with the words the title and content of which startled me by the exact wording of what Michael Jackson talked about throughout his whole life – the necessity for grown up people to retain the childlike spirit in their souls.
Could Michael be reading Eberhard Arnold or did they come to one and the same idea independent of each other based on reading the Bible? Whatever it is, Eberhard Arnold explains the idea in a way which makes it much easier to understand Michel Jackson too:
The Childlike Spirit
Eberhard Arnold: spoken August 10, 1933; printed in Writings (Orbis 2000).
The kingdom of God belongs to children. For this reason we can be led to the divine truth only if we have the childlike spirit. Certainly that does not mean that we should not be real men and women; the childlike spirit is not childish but rather unites itself with real manhood and real womanhood.
It is the spirit of confident trust, of humility and endurance – the spirit that rejoices and loses itself in the object of its love and is released from self-contemplation. It gives itself completely, unaware of strain and sacrifice, and spends itself as though absorbed in play. It is the spirit of courage, for the true child – like the true man or woman – is never afraid or fearful.
It is the answer to all our needs, for the childlike spirit comes from the Holy Spirit. And we must believe that this Spirit really exists and that we can receive it.
This post will be long but will still include only a minimum of the original texts from early Christians quoted by Eberhard Arnold and very few notes from the author himself (to learn more about both I urge you to read the whole of the book).
But the minimum I’ll post here will surely help you not only to answer our questions about Michael Jackson’s Christianity but will be instrumental in deciding for yourself which present-day church, minister or ordinary believer suits the name of a true Christian best of all.
In my opinion comparing our today’s beliefs and practices with what the immediate followers of Christ thought and did is the only way to learn who stands up to the name of a true Christian and who does not, independent of the branch of Christianity we belong to.
At the same time it will also be a perfect way to learn if Michael Jackson fits true Christianity and how well this 20th century entertainer and King of Pop compares with the first Christians.
I don’t know what conclusions you will come to, but the very least I am sure of is that you will be astonished by the fact that the enemies of early Christians employed exactly the same methods as Michael Jackson’s harassers 2000 years later – lies, slander and accusations of unspeakable crimes which they themselves were guilty of!
The incompatibility of the first Christians’ “misdeeds” and the punishment the ancient crowd fiercely demanded for them will also be quite a revelation to you. It really does look like the ways of evil are still the same and have not changed that much for the past 2 millenia…
The Early Christians In Their Own Words, by Eberhard Arnold
A Source book of original writings including texts by TERTULLIAN * HERMAS * IGNATIUS * JUSTIN * POLYCARP * IRENAEUS * ORIGEN * CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA * EXTRA-BIBLICAL SAYINGS OF JESUS
3. What they accused Christians of
- Let no one have gods of his own, neither new ones nor strange ones, but only those instituted by the State. No one may hold meetings at night in the city.
Law from the Twelve Tables, 450 B.C. Cicero, On the Laws II.19.
- Of those who introduce new religions with unknown customs or methods by which the minds of the people could be disturbed, those of the upper classes shall be deported, and those of the lower classes shall be put to death.
Legal decree according to the second-century pagan jurist Julius Paulus. Collected Sentences V.21.
- On the sixteenth day before the Calends of August [July 17, 180] … the Proconsul Saturninus said, “You can win the leniency of our lord the Emperor if you return to reason.” Speratus answered, “We have never done wrong. We have not taken part in any crime at all. We have never cursed. Even if we were ill-treated, we only gave thanks. Therefore we honor our Emperor.”
The Proconsul Saturninus said, “We too are religious people, and our religion is simple. We swear by the genius of our lord the Emperor and offer sacrifices for his well-being. You must do that too.”
Speratus answered, “If you lend me a quiet ear I will tell you the secret of simplicity.”
Saturninus said, “As soon as you begin to say evil things about our rites, I will not lend my ear to you. Swear by the genius of our lord the Caesar!”
Speratus answered, “I do not recognize any empire of this present age. I serve that God whom no person has seen, or can ever see with these eyes. I have not stolen. On the contrary, when I buy anything I pay my taxes, for I know only one Lord, the king of kings, the ruler of all nations.”
The Proconsul Saturninus said to the others, “Give up this persuasion.”
Speratus replied, “It is an evil persuasion to commit murder and bear false witness.”
The Proconsul Saturninus said, “Do you want some time to consider?”
Speratus replied, “In such a just cause there is nothing to consider.”
The Proconsul Saturninus ordered it to be proclaimed by the herald: “I have commanded that Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Veturius, Felix,Aquilinus, Laetantius, Januaria, Generosa, Vestia, Donata, and Secunda be led forth to execution.” They all said, “Thanks be to God,” and were immediately executed with the sword.
Acts of Martyrs, official court minutes fromCarthage, July 17, 180.
We are charged with being irreligious people and, what is more, irreligious in respect to the emperors since we refuse to pay religious homage to their imperial majesties and to their genius and refuse to swear by them. High treason is a crime of offense against the Roman religion. Christians are considered to be enemies of the State, enemies of the public well-being…
Guards and informers bring up accusations against the Christians as sexual deviants and murderers, blasphemers and traitors, enemies of public life, desecrators of temples, and criminals against the religion of Rome. Look, you do not deal with us in accordance with the formalities of criminal cases even though you consider the Christian guilty of every crime and an enemy of the gods, emperors, laws, morals; yes, of the whole of nature. …We are publicly accused of being atheists and criminals who are guilty of high treason.
Tertullian, To the Heathen (Nations) 1.17; Apology 24, 27, 35, 50, 2,10; Justin, Second Apology
- …Those who openly confessed were arrested, and then a vast multitude was convicted on the basis of their disclosures, not so much on the charge of arson as for their hatred of the human race. Their execution was made into a game: they were covered with the skins of wild animals and torn to pieces by dogs. They were hung on crosses. They were burned, wrapped in flammable material and set on fire as darkness fell, to illuminate the night. [Emperor] Nero had opened his gardens for this spectacle and put on circus games. He himself mingled with the crowd dressed as a charioteer or stood up high on a chariot. Although these people were guilty and deserved the severest penalty, all this gave rise to compassion for them, for it was felt that they were being victimized, not for the public good, but to satiate the cruelty of one man.
(In the year 64) Tacitus, Annals XV.44.
- The King [Herod Agrippa II] took the office of high priest [in Jerusalem] and gave it to the son of Ananos. The younger Ananos was an extremely violent and bold character. He belonged to the group of the Sadducees, who are more cruel in trials than the rest of the Jews. …Being this kind of man, he convened the high council of judges and brought before them James, the brother of Jesus (called the “Messiah”), and several others. He accused them of transgressing the laws and had them stoned.
(In the year 62 or 63) Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XX.9.1.
- In the same year [A.D. 95] Domitian had executed, among many others, the Consul Flavius Clemens even though he was a cousin of his, and his wife, Flavia Domitilla, who was also related to Domitian. The accusation against both was that of atheism.
Dio Cassius, Roman History 67, ch. 14 (after A.D. 200).
- Such is our report about the blessed Polycarp who, counting those from Philadelphia, was the twelfth to suffer martyrdom at Smyrna:
The whole mob, horrified at the heroism of the God- loving and God-fearing Christian sect, shouted, “Away with the atheists! Get moving! Look for Polycarp!”
The proconsul replied, “Try to persuade the people.”
Polycarp answered him, “You I consider worthy that I should give an explanation, for we have been taught to pay respect to governments and authorities appointed by God as long as it does us no harm. But as to that crowd, I do not consider them worthy of my defense.…We can never worship anyone else. We worship him because he is the son of God. “
The proconsul was astounded. Three times he sent his herald to announce in the midst of the arena, “Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian!” No sooner was this announced by the herald, than the whole multitude, both pagans and Jews, the entire population of Smyrna, yelled with uncontrolled anger at the top of their voices, “He is the teacher of Asia! The father of the Christians! The destroyer of our gods! He has persuaded many not to sacrifice and not to worship.”
This they shouted, and they demanded of Philip, the high priest of public worship, that he let loose a lion upon Polycarp. He explained that he was not allowed to do this since the wild-beast combats had been closed. Then there arose a unanimous shout that Polycarp should be burned alive.
Now everything happened much faster than it can be told. The mob rushed to collect logs and brushwood from the workshops and the public baths …When he had spoken the Amen and finished his prayer, the executioners lit the fire.
The Martyrdom of the Holy Polycarp, recorded February22, A.D. 156.
In the presence of all the people, the governor had given the order that all of us with our households should be investigated. Prompted by Satan, fearful of the tortures which they saw God’s people suffer, and under pressure from the soldiers who talked them directly into it, pagan slaves in our service brought forth lies against us. These lies were the usual accusations of cannibalism, unnatural sexual unions, and similar ghastly things which we should never speak or think about or even believe that they have ever happened among human beings. When this became known among the pagans, they all flew into a truly bestial rage against us.
…Most of those who had denied their faith were received back into the bosom of the church. The fire of their lives was rekindled and burned brightly. They learned to confess and stood before the tribunal again, full of life and vigor, once more to be plagued by the governor. In the meantime the command of the Emperor had arrived: those who denied their faith should be set free; the others should be executed.
The great festival had just begun. Large numbers of people had flocked together from many faraway places. Before the eyes of the crowd the governor had all the blessed ones conducted to the tribunal in a ceremonial procession. Again he started to examine them. All those who clearly possessed Roman citizenship were beheaded. The rest were sent to the wild beasts. Christ was glorified magnificently by those who had formerly denied him. The pagans could not grasp it. They gave witness. Attalus sat in the iron chair. His body burned. The fumes rose up. On being asked, “What is God’s name?” he answered, “God does not have a name as a man has.”
Letter from Vienne and Lyons (Southern France) to Phrygia: Eusebius V.1 ff. In the year 177.
- There was a certain woman who lived with a dissolute husband. She herself had formerly lived licentiously. After having learned the teachings of Christ she changed and then tried to persuade her husband to live a purer life too…She forced herself to stay with him, for her friends had persuaded her to continue the marriage in the hope that her husband might change his ways at some future time. However when he traveled to Egypt and news reached her that his conduct was worse than ever, she separated herself from him in order not to participate in his vices and impieties by remaining married to him and sharing his table and bed. She gave him a bill of divorce according to Roman custom. Her noble husband should have been delighted that she, after her former reckless behavior with servants and employees and her indulgence in drink and every vice, had now given up all this and even wanted to dissuade him from these things. Instead he brought a charge against her. Since she had separated herself from him against his will, he charged her with being a Christian.
Justin, Second Apology 1,2, inA.D. 150.
- We too were the same as you. We were blind and callous, sharing your ideas in supposing that the Christians worshipped monsters, devoured children, and joined in lascivious feasts. At that time we undertook the legal defense and protection of individual cases of sacrilege or incest or even parricide, but we regarded them [the Christians] as not entitled even to a hearing.
- In every country there is a throng of females, hermaphrodites, and perverts ready for wicked acts, and you [the Roman State] accept rent, taxes, and tribute from them instead of eradicating them from your Empire. What is done in public by you and recognized by the State, you hold against us as if we practiced it in darkness after overturning the light.
Justin, First Apology 27.
- Because we do not make any distinctions in rank and outward appearance, or wealth and education, or age and sex, they devise an accusation against us that we practice cannibalism and sexual perversions.
Tatian, Address to the Greeks 31.7–35.
- [a Pagan testimony about Christian rituals]: They form a rabble of profane conspiracy. Their alliance consists in meetings at night with solemn rituals and inhuman revelries. They replace holy rites with inexpiable crimes. They despise temples as if they were tombs. They disparage the gods and ridicule our sacred rites. They look down on our priests although they are pitiable themselves. They despise titles of honor and the purple robe of high government office though hardly able themselves to cover their nakedness.
Just like a rank growth of weeds, the abominable haunts where this impious confederacy meet are multiplying all over the world, due to the daily increase of immorality. Root and branch, it should at all costs be exterminated and accursed. They recognize each other by secret signs and symbols. They love one another before being acquainted, so to speak. Everywhere they practice a kind of religious cult of lust, calling one another “brother” and “sister” indiscriminately. Thus, under the cover of these hallowed names, ordinary fornication becomes incest.
They consecrate and worship the head of a donkey, the meanest of all animals. They even reverence the genitals of their president and priest, adoring in this the creative power of their father. This suspicion may be false, but at any rate it fits the character of their secret nocturnal rites. To venerate an executed criminal and the gallows, the wooden cross on which he was executed, is to erect altars which befit lost and depraved wretches. The blood of the infant – oh, how abominable – they lap up greedily, they distribute its limbs with passionate eagerness.
Their feastings are notorious. Even Cornelius Fronto, the teacher of Emperor Marcus Aurelius testifies to this…After a surfeit of feasting, when the blood is heated and drinking has inflamed impure passions, a dog which has been tied to the lamp stand upsets and extinguishes the tale-telling light. Darkness covers their shamelessness, and lustful embraces are indiscriminately exchanged. All single acts correspond to the will of all…Otherwise why do they have no altars, no temples, no images? Why do they not speak in public? Why do they never meet in the open? Is it not simply because what they worship and conceal is criminal and shameful?
Minucius Felix, Octavius 8.4; 9.1–6; 10.2.
- They say I am incestuous…I murder babies…I am a malefactor against the gods, against the emperors…Yet they do not give me a hearing.
Tertullian, Apology 4.
- It is for our singular innocence, our great honesty, our justice, purity, and love of truth, yes, it is for the living God that we are burned to death. Thus you inflict a punishment on us which usually you do not inflict on actual temple robbers or enemies of the State or on the great number guilty of high treason.
Tertullian, To Scapula 4.
- It becomes evident that the entire crime with which they charge us does not consist in any wicked acts, but in the bearing of a name. The issue is not the name of a crime, but the crime of bearing a name. Again and again it is the name that must be punished by the sword, the gallows, the cross, or the wild beasts.
Tullian, To the Heathen I.3.
- I am concerned to demonstrate from those things which are considered honorable among you that our morals are pure, but yours are mad in many respects. How is it that you are not ashamed to slander the good name of our women – you who have such a large number of vile and useless poetesses, wanton women, and worthless men? Who can endure it any longer that even fratricide [the act of a person killing his or her brother] is honored among you? Be ashamed, you who are known to be disciples of women yourselves, that you scoff at the women who join us as well as at the church who stands by them!
- If only somebody would climb up on to a high platform and cry out at the top of his voice, “Be ashamed, oh, be ashamed, you who accuse innocent people of the very crimes you yourselves openly commit, you who attach to those who do not have the slightest part in them the things of which you and your gods are guilty! Change your lives, and come to your senses!”
Justin, Second Apology 12.
Really, if these words had not been said 2000 years ago we could have easily attributed them to those who relentlessly persecuted Michael Jackson in our age. In fact we ourselves have asked the same question “Why are they doing it to him?” on innumerable occasions!
Eberhard Arnold explains why the Roman nobility and crowd told wild stories about the first Christians. They could not find any real fault with these pure and innocent people but suspected that under the cover of the night, when Christians gathered together, they committed abominable crimes. The harassers of Christians accused them of the worst things their own dirty imagination suggested or even of the crimes they themselves were guilty of. Ridiculous as it might look at first sight but it is not really very much different from the situation a pure soul like Michael found himself in:
The Christians’ sharp condemnation of the dishonesty, impurity, violence, and mammonism [the greedy pursuit of riches] in public life far outweighed what they accepted of the existing law and order, and it brought them all the more hatred.
The Christians abhorred and attacked this mixture of the religious and the patriotic. They detested any State religion that forced back God’s rule; they loathed all religiosity influenced by the politics of the moment… It was therefore inevitable that in return the state would accuse these people of high treason, of being the enemies of civilization. …Belief in God’s kingdom stood in sharp opposition to the deification of the emperor and the cult of the empire.
The early Christians knew only one form of disobedience to government authority: passive resistance which endures everything, even death. There was no other way to demonstrate their certainty that the powers of the State can and will be abolished by a new order – by God alone. They took their stand firmly on the side of this new order of God.
The early Christians were revolutionaries of the Spirit, heralds of the last judgment and the coming transformation; they had to be ready for martyrdom at any moment. It is probably impossible to visualize how seriously the early Christians took the heroic service of the Spirit.
However much they protested or proved their loyalty, though, the Christians were misfits in society. The Jews were already an affront to society with their separatism and imageless worship of God, which made them a “second race.” The Christian faith in God went a decisive step further. It was divested even of the seeming national character of the “Jewish God” and his temple and sacrifices. For the pagans, this explained the repulsively novel life the Christians led: it was godless. Christians were looked upon as a downright monstrous “third race” and accused of intolerable atheism. This explains why at that time the Roman state fought against the Christians as “criminals,” “desperate and forsaken people,” “public enemies,” “dregs of the nations,” and “monstrous phenomena.”
…. Non-Christians were called “civilians” or pagani, from which the word “pagan” stems. (Eberhard Arnold, 1926)
4. What the first Christians believed in
Reading the original texts makes you realize that Jesus opened the door for his followers to believe in God – the Creator and Almightly.
Jesus showed them a way how to ’imitate God’ and they lived by the principles he relayed to them focusing on their deeds. And it was primarily their way of life, and not their faith in God who was not seen to a human eye, which the people around them – tired of their own filth and indulgence – found so inspiring and irresistible:
- Now through Jesus they have come to believe in the almighty God.
Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 83.4.
- We who worship the creator of this world are not atheists. What sensible person will not admit this? Moreover, we want to make it known that we recognize Jesus Christ, who is our teacher in these things, who was born for this purpose and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, Procurator of Judea at the time of the Emperor Tiberius, as the true son of God. To him therefore we give the second place, and with good reason we honor the prophetic Spirit in the third place.
Justin, First Apology 13.
- We constantly plead with God through Jesus Christ to be liberated from them in order that through him we may turn to God and be without reproach. For we do call him Savior and Redeemer! From what happens today it is clear to all that his father gave him so great a power that even the demons surrender to his name and to the saving power of his suffering.
Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 30.3.
- Among us you can find uneducated people, artisans, and dear old mothers who would not be able to put into words the usefulness of their teaching, but by their deeds they demonstrate the usefulness of their principles. They do not repeat words learned by heart, but they show good deeds: when hit they do not hit back, when robbed they do not go to court, they give to those who ask, and they love their fellowmen as themselves.
Athenagoras, A Plea Regarding Christians 11.
- From ancient times wicked demons in human form defiled women, corrupted boys, and showed men such terrifying sights that whoever did not have the insight to discern what was happening became confused. Obsessed by fear, they failed to recognize them as evil demons. They called them “gods” and gave to each the name which each demon had given to himself.
Justin, First Apology 5.
- So, then, we are called atheists. We confess that we are atheists as far as such false gods are concerned but not with respect to the true God, the father of justice, self-control, and of all other good qualities, the God who is free from all taint of evil. No. We worship and adore him and the Son who came from him and taught us these things, the host of other good angels who follow him and are very much like him, and the prophetic Spirit. To these we give honor in reason and in truth.
Justin, First Apology 6.
- There will never be another God, nor has there ever been another God from eternity, except the one, who created and ordered this universe. Furthermore, we believe that our God is none other than yours. According to our faith he is one and the same God as he who with a strong hand and an outstretched arm led your fathers out of Egypt. We have placed our trust in no other God (for there is no other) but only in him whom you also have trusted, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The law proclaimed on Horeb is of course obsolete and belongs to you alone, whereas ours is for all men everywhere and at all times. Now whenever a law is laid down in opposition to another law, it supersedes the former one. In the same way, a later compact annuls the former one. Christ has been given to us as the eternal and final law. We can rely on the covenant, after which there will be no further law, no precept, no command.
Justin, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 11.1, 2.
- Do you think we conceal the object of our worship because we have no temples and altars? What image of God can I invent since in reality man himself is God’s image? What temple shall I build him when the whole world, the work of his hands, cannot contain him? And I, a man who lives comparatively spaciously, should I shut up the greatness of such majesty in a single small cell?
- Should we not rather make a sanctuary for him in our souls? Should we not consecrate a holy place to him in our inmost hearts? Shall I sacrifice little and big animals to him? After all, he created them for my use, and so I could only return to him his own gift.
Minucius Felix, Octavius 32.1, 2, 4, 7–9.
Justin, Second Apology 6.
- Chosen king of the world to come, he took up battle against the one who received the rulership for the present time, as it was ordained beforehand. What grieved him most sorely was this, that he was attacked in ignorance by the very people for whom he waged the fight as for his own children. And yet he loved those who hated him, mourned over those who did not believe in him, blessed those who abused him, and prayed for his enemies. He not only acted like a father himself, but he also taught his disciples to do the same in their attitude [toward others], to act toward them as toward their own brothers.
Clementine Homelies III.19.
- You can see that the crucified Christ possesses the hidden power of God: every demon, in fact all and every power and authority on earth, trembles before him. The Word revealed that the nations shall believe in him. You can see it with your own eyes, for we who are men of all nationalities have become God-fearing and righteous through our faith in Christ, and we wait for his future coming.
Justin, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 49.8; 52.4.
- “If everyone were to act the same as you [Christians], the national government would soon be left utterly deserted and without any help, and affairs on earth would soon pass into the hands of the most savage and wretched barbarians.” Celsus next exhorts us to help the Emperor and be his fellow soldiers. To this we reply, “You cannot demand military service of Christians any more than you can of priests.” We do not go forth as soldiers with the Emperor even if he demands this, but we do fight for him by forming our own army, an army of faith through our prayers to God.
- We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder, and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for plowshares, our spears for farm tools. Now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness to men, faith, and the expectation of the future given to us by the Father himself through the crucified one…We do not give up our confession though we be executed by the sword, though we be crucified, thrown to wild beasts, put in chains, and exposed to fire and every other kind of torture. Everyone knows this. On the contrary, the more we are persecuted and martyred, the more do others in ever-increasing numbers become believers and God-fearing people through the name of Jesus.
Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 110.3, 4.
- I do not wish to be a ruler. I do not strive for wealth. I refuse offices connected with military command. Fornication I detest. No insatiable hunger for gold drives me to go to sea. I do not fight for a victor’s laurels. I am free from the mad thirst for fame. I despise death. I stand above every illness. No grief consumes my soul.
Tatian, Address to the Greeks 11.2.
- We must then offer no resistance. He never wanted us to imitate the wicked. Rather, he challenged us to lead everyone away from shamefulness and pleasure in evil by patience and kindness. We can in fact show that many who were once among you have been transformed in this way. They gave up their violent and domineering ways. Either they were conquered by the sight of their neighbors’ patient life, or they were convinced by noticing the extraordinary kindness and patience of some defrauded traveling companions, or they were overcome by encountering and testing this attitude in people with whom they had business dealings. Anyone who is not found living in accordance with his teachings should not be regarded as a Christian even if he confesses to Christ’s teaching with his lips. For he said that only those shall be saved who do not just talk, but who also do the corresponding works.
Justin, First Apology 16.
When early Christians talked of false phophets they were speaking of those who confess Jesus but pay to him lip service only as they do not live according to his teachings. Even if these people confess to Christ’s teaching they are not to be regarded as Christians at all – they only talk but do not do the corresponding works. They style themselves as Christians while in fact they are godless, slanderous and engage in wickedness.
Another word the first Christians used for some people among their ranks was children. This was how they called those Christians who did not marry and chose to live their life in chastity and innocence. It was not at all rare for people to live as children until a very old age, though this path was not followed by the majority of Christians who respected them very much but wondered why God created them at all if not to continue life?
- Even to this day, spiritual gifts of prophecy are to be found among us. You [the Jews] should realize from this that these gifts that once were alive among your people have now been transferred to us. And just as there were false prophets among you alongside your holy prophets, so there are many false teachers in our midst now. Our Lord himself in his day warned us against such men.
Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 82.1–3.
- They teach blasphemies, some in one way and some in another, against the creator of the universe and the crowned Messiah, whose coming was prophesied by him, blasphemies against the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. With none of them have we fellowship, for we know that in their impiousness and godlessness, in their sinfulness and slanderousness, they confess Jesus in name only without really worshipping him. They style themselves Christians as those pagans do who write God’s name on the work of their hands and then indulge in wicked and godless rites…
As I said before, we know not only from these events [the appearance of false teachers] that Jesus knew the future in advance, but we know it also from many other happenings he predicted to those who believed and confessed that he is the Christ. He even prophesied all that we would suffer when we are put to death by our own relatives. Consequently, it is obvious that nothing in his words and actions can be rejected.
We pray that you may believe in him and that you may be saved when he comes again and appears in shining glory.
Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 35.5–8.
- We, on the other hand, have been taught – and we believe it firmly – that God accepts in mercy only those who live in accordance with the good that dwells in God, namely, self-control, justice, love of our fellowmen, and whatever else is characteristic of God, of him to whom no name can be allotted by which to call him.
Justin, First Apology 10.
- When we are together we remind one another of these things, and help all who suffer want as best we can, and keep together in harmony. We praise the creator of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit for everything we receive.
Justin, First Apology 67.
- We who ourselves used to have pleasure in impure things now cling to chastity alone. We who dabbled in the arts of magic now consecrate ourselves to the good and unbegotten God. We who formerly treasured money and possessions more than anything else now hand over everything we have to a treasury for all and share it with everyone who needs it. We who formerly hated and murdered one another and did not even share our hearth with those of a different tribe because of their customs, now, after Christ’s appearance, live together and share the same table. Now we pray for our enemies and try to win those who hate us unjustly so that they too may live in accordance with Christ’s wonderful teachings, that they too may enter into the expectation, that they too may receive the same good things that we will receive from God, the ruler of the universe.
Justin, First Apology 14.
- Many men and women who were Christ’s disciples from their youth remain chaste even though they live to the age of sixty or seventy. I believe I am able to prove that there are such people in every class of men – not to mention the countless throng of those who, after leading a licentious life, have repented and accepted these teachings. Christ did not call the righteous and abstemious to a change of heart but the godless, the dissolute, and the unjust.
Justin, First Apology 15.
Those who lived in innocence, following God’s command, were called “children” in the earliest times as Papias tells in the first book of his Sayings of the Lord Explained.
Clement of Alexandria in The Tutor; Maximus Confessor, Comments on Dionysius the Areopagite’s Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 2.
Either we marry for the sole purpose of bringing up children, or else we renounce marriage altogether and remain continent.
Justin, First Apology 29.
- Must it not be entirely wrong to accept as good one part of what God has created for men’s use, but to reject another part as useless and superfluous?
Letter to Diognetus 4.
Women who wear gold ornaments are evidently afraid that without their ornaments or stripped of their jewelry they might be taken for slaves. True nobility, however, is found in the beauty and substance of the soul. It does not recognize the slave by the price he fetches at a sale but by his unfree spirit. For us, what corresponds to freedom is not a mere semblance, but a being free because God, who even accepted us to be his children, is our educator. Therefore we must attain the highest degree of freedom in the way we bear ourselves at rest or in motion, in the way we walk and dress: in a word, in every part of life.
Clement of Alexandria, The Tutor III.11.59.
That we for the most part must be considered poor is no disgrace to us but an honor. A life of luxury weakens the spirit.Frugality makes it strong. And yet, how can anyone be considered poor who does not feel any want, who does not covet what belongs to others, who is rich in God’s eyes? Much more should he be considered poor who always craves for more while he already has much.
Just as a man traveling on the road is the better off the lighter his bundle, so too, he who makes himself light by poverty, who does not need to pant under the burden of wealth, is happiest on his journey through life. If we regarded wealth as useful we would ask God for it. He surely could give us a share of it, for everything belongs to him, but we would rather despise wealth than have it in our hands.
Minucius Felix, Octavius 36.3–7.
- Happiness does not consist in ruling over one’s neighbors or in longing to have more than one’s weaker fellowmen. Nor does it consist in being rich and in oppressing those lowlier than oneself. No one can imitate God by doing such things. They are alien to his sublimity. On the contrary, anyone who takes his neighbor’s burden upon himself, who tries to help the weaker one in points where he has an advantage, who gives what he has received from God to those who need it, takes God’s place, as it were, in the eyes of those who receive. He is an imitator of God. In this way, though living on earth, you will know with awe that there is a God who reigns in heaven, and you will begin to proclaim the mysteries of God. Then you will learn to love and admire those who are punished by death because they refuse to deny God. In this way you will despise the deception and error of the world.
Letter to Diognetus 10.
- It is the Christians, O emperor, who have sought and found the truth. We have realized it from their writings; they are closer to the truth and to a right understanding than all the other peoples, for they acknowledge God. They believe in him, the creator and builder of the universe, in whom all things are and from whom everything comes. They worship no other God. They have his commandments imprinted on their hearts. They observe them because they live in the hope and expectation of the coming age of the world. They do not commit adultery. They do not live in fornication. They speak no untruth. They do not keep for themselves the goods entrusted to them. They do not covet what belongs to others. They honor father and mother. They show love to their neighbors. They pronounce judgments which are just. They do not worship idols in human form. They do not do to another what they would not wish to have done to themselves. They do not eat the food sacrificed to idols, for they are pure. They speak gently to those who oppress them, and in this way they make them their friends. It has become their passion to do good to their enemies. Their women, O emperor, are pure like virgins. Their daughters are chaste, kind, and gentle. Their men refrain from all unlawful intimate relationships. They keep free from all impurity, for they live in the expectation of the recompense to come in the other world. Any male or female slaves or dependents whom individuals among them may have, they persuade to become Christians because of the love they feel towards them. If they do become Christians, they are brothers to them without discrimination.
- They worship no alien gods. They live in the awareness of their smallness. Kindliness is their nature. There is no falsehood among them. They love one another. They do not neglect widows. Orphans they rescue from those who are cruel to them. Every one of them who has anything gives ungrudgingly to the one who has nothing. If they see a traveling stranger they bring him under their roof. They rejoice over him as over a real brother, for they do not call one another brothers after the flesh, but they know they are brothers in the Spirit and in God. If one of them sees that one of their poor must leave this world, he provides for his burial as well as he can. And if they hear that one of them is imprisoned or oppressed by their opponents for the sake of their Christ’s name, all of them take care of all his needs. If possible they set him free. If anyone among them is poor or comes into want while they themselves have nothing to spare, they fast two or three days for him. In this way they can supply any poor man with the food he needs.
- They are ready to give up their lives for Christ, for they observe the words of their Christ with much care. ..This, O emperor, is the rule of life of the Christians, and this their manner of life. As men and women who know God, they ask of him the things that are proper for God to give and right for them to receive. Thus they run the course of their lives. They acknowledge the good deeds of God towards them. And see, because of them, good flows on in the world!
- Truly it is they who have sought and have found the truth, and from what we have understood here we must conclude that they alone are close to the knowledge of truth. Yet they do not cry out in the ears of the masses the good deeds they do. Rather, they take care that no one should notice them. They hide their giving like someone who conceals a treasure he has found. They strive for righteousness because they live in the expectation of seeing Christ in his radiance and receiving from him the fulfillment of the promises he made to them.
Take their writings and read in them, and you will see that I have not invented anything here and that I have not spoken as their partisan. Rather, through reading their writings I came to these firm convictions, also regarding the future things to which they bear witness. It is for this reason that I felt urged to declare the truth to those who are ready for the truth and ready to seek the world of the future.
Aristides, Apology 15,16; ca. A.D. 137.
- Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of humankind by country, speech, or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not speak a special language; they do not follow a peculiar manner of life. Their teaching was not invented by the ingenuity or speculation of men, nor do they advocate mere book learning, as other groups do. They live in Greek cities and they live in non-Greek cities according to the lot of each one. They conform to the customs of their country in dress, food, and the general mode of life, and yet they show a remarkable, an admittedly extraordinary structure of their own life together. They live in their own countries, but only as guests and aliens. They take part in everything as citizens and endure everything as aliens. Every foreign country is their homeland, and every homeland is a foreign country to them. They marry like everyone else. They beget children, but they do not expose them after they are born. …They love all people and are persecuted by all. Nobody knows them, and yet they are condemned. ...They are as poor as beggars, and yet they make many rich. They lack everything, and yet they have everything in abundance. They are dishonored, and yet have their glory in this very dishonor. They are insulted, and just in this they are vindicated. They are abused, and yet they bless. They are assaulted, and yet it is they who show respect. Doing good, they are sentenced like evildoers. When punished with death, they rejoice in the certainty of being awakened to life. Jews attack them as people of another race, and Greeks persecute them, yet those who hate them cannot give any reason to justify their hostility.
In a word: what the soul is in the body, the Christians are in the world. As the soul is present in all the members of the body, so Christians are present in all the cities of the world. As the soul lives in the body, yet does not have its origin in the body, so the Christians live in the world yet are not of the world. Invisible, the soul is enclosed by the visible body: in the same way the Christians are known to be in the world, but their religion remains invisible.
… When the body is poorly provided with food and drink, the soul gains strength. In the same way the number of Christians increases day by day when they are punished with death. Such is the important task God has entrusted to the Christians and they must not shirk it.
Letter to Diognetus 5, 6 (end of second century).
- “...you slander even our modest meals as wasteful after you have discredited them as criminal. Investigations are made only into the Christian banquets. Legally they are not allowed because they are regarded as unlawful meetings. According to the law such banquets are to be condemned as soon as anyone files a complaint on the basis of the paragraphs of the law enacted against secret societies. But have we ever met to hurt anyone? In our meetings we are the same as when we are scattered; jointly we are the same as individually. This we are without damaging or hurting anyone. When upright, good, believing and pure people join together, that should not be called a secret society, but a senate. On the contrary, those gatherings should be called secret societies which conspire to hate good and honest men, which call out for blood of innocent people. To justify their hate they use as a pretext their mad and groundless belief that the Christians are the principal cause of every public disaster and every misfortune of the people. If the Tiber rises over the city walls, or the other way around, if the Nile does not flood the fields, if the weather is not favorable, if there is an earthquake, or if there is a plague, then the cry is immediately raised, “The Christians to the lions!”
Tertullian, Apology 39, 40, A.D. 198.
What some regard now as fairy tales about the first Christians was actually true to life – they did work miracles! Eberhard Arnold says that they were driven by and saw the mystery of the Spirit at work. Many of them remained chaste because all their energy was consumed by work, and the power of Spirit of these people was so huge that it was not uncommon to see the apostles working miracles on people. However as the power of Spirit in later generations diminished so the power of healing and prophecy ebbed away too:
Eberhard Arnold: It is probably impossible to visualize how seriously the early Christians took the heroic service of the Spirit. …There is only one determining will behind the mystery of the Spirit at work: God himself, creator, lawgiver, and coming ruler. The Spirit, since he reveals God, invariably engenders strict moral responsibility. The inner voice, heard in every conscience awakened by the Spirit, is consistent with the goal of God’s way. Therefore, this voice knows when to be quiet in reverence to hear God speak and when “rightly and worthily” to praise him.
Whenever God reveals himself, bringing boundless forgiveness and renewal, it first means sharp chastisement and purification. There was a woman whose hypocritical and impure life was unmasked by the spirit working in Paul; she was thrown to the ground, paralyzed. The hands of a young man withered when he shared in the meal because he tried to hide a murderous act from the all-seeing Spirit. The apostles were equipped with both the power to reveal the true state of a person and the authority to forgive; both gifts were inseparable; both revealed the truth. To be filled with the Spirit meant purity, truth, and love in daily life, and sure guidance in all they did. Only then could the Spirit say what was in people’s hearts…
God did call out other, new apostles, even after he had sent out the twelve and Paul. Tertullian and Origen confirmed this and gave the name of “apostles” to the seventy disciples in the Gospels. The apostles’ task was to reveal God’s truth directly through the Spirit.
… Because it was a mandate given by God, apostolic power was revealed in miraculous deeds like those of Christ: the lame walked, the blind saw, the deaf heard, the sick became well, the dead rose, evil spirits were driven out. All this proved that Jesus was there personally in the apostles, through the immediacy of his spirit working in them. Actual healing from sin and feebleness took place, demonstrating that the apostolic news was God’s medicine, God’s restoration to health and a new life in him. The apostles did not heal with herbs or drugs, or magic, but only through faith in God.
Everywhere, the “Lord’s Sayings” and stories about events of Jesus’ life (Papias owned an outstanding collection) were passed on from one to another. Called “memoirs of the Apostles” by Justin, they were the original form of the Gospels as we know them.
The intensity of the early Christian struggle and mission needed this example of the apostles. Fasting and lifelong celibacy were often the result of self-control in hearts that were moved to live up to the greatness of that task. The four prophetic daughters of Philip, who were virgins, and later the Montanist prophetesses, likewise virgins, exemplify the life of many apostles and prophets at that time.
But this self-discipline of the Christians for the purpose of the Kingdom is not to be confused with the asceticism of later times, which was valued for its own sake. They did not look for redemption through ascetic, religious exercises, but concentrated all their powers on prophesying the coming Kingdom, tempering all their energies for the arduous battle of the spirits to which they were called. All their energies were focused on the one goal, the task at hand. The prophets wanted one thing: that God be heard, that he himself speak and act.
The initial spiritual flood of Christian prophecy slowly ebbed away until by the end of the second century its force was spent. Melito of Sardis was one of the last to call himself a prophet. Jewish prophecy had also declined only a few years earlier, after the destruction of Jerusalem.
What is totally amazing is that despite their innocent ways the first Christians instilled grave suspicion in the minds of those who didn’t believe that such purity was possible at all. The dirty minds of the accusers prompted them that if the Christians did hold secret meetings (and they were simply not allowed to meet in the open) they should have of course been engaged in something like “eating human flesh” or “drinking the innocent blood of little children” for example.
Doesn’t it remind us of our Michael who didn’t commit a single misdeed but was also continuously suspected of abominable crimes because he had the misfortune to take some ill children into his care (like Gavin Arvizo, for example)? No, some people are simply unable to believe in another people’s goodness… And what is surprising is that both then and now they didn’t take the trouble to provide any evidence for what they were saying. Indeed there is nothing new under this Sun!
The ancient 2000-year old texts look like written by Michael Jackson’s harassers about the man who was unable to hurt a fly, but was suspected of spilling blood and taking ritual blood baths to get rid of his enemies! See Maureen Orth’s articles for proof of it. What surprises me most is that the general public believed all that craziness…
It is also interesting that the ancient texts point to “corrupters of boys” as the accusers of the first Christians. These must have included the Roman and Greek nobility who practised love for boys on a wide scale – we know it from those professors who call it one of the “foundation principles of Greek democracy” and recommend their teachings for “family reading” (in their preface to a book written by a convicted child-abuser O’Carroll).
“And now I want to turn to the person who asserts or believes that we are initiated by the murder and the blood of a little child. Can you think it possible that such a tender, tiny body should be gashed with mortal wounds, that anyone alive would slaughter a little baby hardly come into being, to spill, drain, and drink its innocent blood? Nobody can believe such a thing unless he is capable of doing it himself. But I do see people among you at times expose newly born children to wild beasts and birds and at other times put them to death by strangling or by other horrible means. Some women destroy the unborn child in their womb by taking drugs, thus committing infanticide before they are delivered.
For us it is not permissible even to see or to hear of murder. Yes, we shrink so much from human blood that we do not even use the blood of animals in the food we eat. Moreover, the rabble of demons has concocted the grandiose fable of incestuous banquets against us to throw the mud of ugly shame upon the good name of our chastity. They tried, through the horror of these outrageous opinions about us, to turn people away from seeking the knowledge of the truth.
The banquets that we organize are as chaste as they are sober. We do not like sumptuous eating, nor do we prolong our meals with drinking bouts. We know how to temper our gaiety with seriousness.
Minucius Felix, Octavius 30.1, 2, 6; 31.1, 5.
- “We are so far from practicing promiscuous intercourse that we are not even allowed a lustful glance. What could justify any doubt as to the purity of the life led by those who are not allowed to use their eyes for any other purpose than that for which God created them, namely to look in the light, for whom even a lustful glance is called adultery! For them the coming judgment applies even to thoughts!
We are not accountable to human laws, which a wicked person may evade. Right from the beginning I tried to convince you of the divine origin of our teaching. We have quite a different law. We have a task which has led us to see that the full measure of justice is to be found in rightly loving ourselves and our neighbors. With this in mind we look upon some, according to age, as sons and daughters; some we treat as brothers and sisters; and those who are older we honor as fathers and mothers. It is of the utmost importance to us that their bodies remain undefiled and uncorrupted: …“Thus one must give the kiss and exchange greetings with great care, for if it should be defiled by any wrong thought it would rob us of eternal life.”
…you can find many fellow-believers, both men and women, who grow old without ever marrying, in the hope of a closer inner communion with God. If, then, to persevere in the state of virginity brings both sexes nearer to God, and if a mere thought or lustful desire drives us away from him, how much more shall we despise the deeds the very thought of which we forbid ourselves? Our life does not consist in making up beautiful phrases but in performing beautiful deeds and in working toward them.
But why should I speak about things which are mysteries? In spite of such sublime principles we hear the most serious accusations against us, proving the saying, “The harlot reproves the chaste.” The very people who organize a regular white-slave traffic; who avoiding the law offer young people every type of vile debauchery; who do not even abstain from males but perform shocking acts, males with males; who defile in every way just the most graceful and beautiful bodies; who drag the glorious handiwork of God’s creation in the dust – for beauty is not on the earth of itself but because it is sent by the hand and grace of God – these very people dare to lay at our door all the infamous things they are conscious of in themselves and even attribute them to their “ideal” gods, evidently because they consider them noble deeds, worthy of their gods!
Adulterers and corrupters of boys want to defame us who live in virginity or in strictly monogamous marriages! They, who actually live like fish of prey, gulp down everyone who comes their way, the stronger hunting down the weaker. Oh, what an outrage against human flesh when the laws, enacted by you and your ancestors with just consideration,are violated, when people are put under such pressure that the very governors appointed by you cannot cope with the lawsuits, when over and above this the people who have to suffer these things are not even allowed to hit back when struck and are expected to use only kind words when reviled! To be just alone is not enough because to be just means to repay like for like, but we have been commanded to go far beyond this, to be kind and patient.
How could anyone in his right mind accuse us of murder when we hold to such principles, for you have to kill someone if you want to eat human flesh! Just as they lie in the first charge, so do they also in the second. If anyone were to ask them whether they have actually seen what they assert, not one of them would be brazen enough to say “yes.” And yet we have slaves too, some more, some fewer. Nothing can remain hidden from them, but not one of them has ever invented such fables about us. We cannot bear to see a man or woman put to death, even justly! How then can anyone accuse us of murder and cannibalism?…How can we possibly kill anyone when we cannot even look on lest we are polluted with the guilt of murder and sacrilege! How can we possibly kill anyone, we who call those women murderers who take drugs to induce an abortion, we who say they will have to give an account before God one day! We are convinced that with God nothing goes unexamined, and that the body, after serving the irrational urges and lusts of the soul, will have its share in punishment. We have, therefore, every reason to detest even the slightest sin.
Athenagoras, A Plea Regarding Christians 32–35.
- Consider, then, whether those who have received such teaching can possibly practice promiscuous and unlawful intercourse, or, most godless of all, eat human flesh! We are forbidden so much as to look at gladiator fights lest we become privy to and participants in murder! As for speaking about cannibalism: there the children of Thyestes and Tereus are devoured. As for speaking about adultery: with them it is the theme of their tragedies, not just as a misdeed of men, but even more so of gods, celebrated as a heroic act in elegant language during their contests!
Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus Book III.15.
- Our persecutors are actually not primarily interested in our property when they prosecute us, nor in our good name as citizens when they publicly heap insults on us, nor in any of the less important values when they plunge us into ruin. All these things we hold in contempt, no matter how important and worthwhile they may seem to the masses. We have been taught not to hit back at people who harass us, not to go to court against those who expel us and rob us. Rather are we enjoined to offer the other side of the face for more blows when they ignominiously smite us on the one side. When they take away our coat, we are to give them our overcoat as well.
No, it is clearly our body and our life that our persecutors plot against when there are no more goods they can take away from us. This is the only explanation for the many accusations they spread about us.
Athenagoras, A Plea Regarding Christians I.2.
- How they are thrown to the wild beasts to make them deny the Lord! How unconquerable they are! Do you not see that the more of them that are executed, the more do the others grow in number? That is clearly not the work of men. That is the power of God. That is proof of his presence.
Letter to Diognetus 7.
5. What happened to Christians at the end of the 2nd century
“For this book, the reign of the great Emperor Marcus Aurelius (who died A.D. 180) is considered the closing period of the early Christian time. It came directly after the primitive church and the first apostles, so this collection of sources covers one century. The basic change of direction which led to the institutional church showed itself in numerous acute symptoms, the most important of which we must describe here to mark the boundary of our period.
From now on large masses of people were involved. The same demands could no longer be made on them as on the first Spirit-filled band. The question now arose how to preserve and promote Christianity in this world, since the renewal expected from God was so long in coming.
At this turn of events, the curse hanging over the history of the organized church erupted: the curse of mutual, loveless misrepresentation. It changed Christ’s purpose to unite people in love into fanatical injustice, hate, and division. The emerging institutional church was unable to bear the spirit of decisive truth, which brought about a sect. The sect, on the other hand, was unable to bear the spirit of diffusive love which leads to the formation of a large church institution. This marked the beginning of heresy-hunting, so characteristically “Christian,” yet so completely un-Christlike.
The New Testament was given its primary form between the years A.D. 140 and A.D. 200. From then on it was seen as the authoritative gift of the Spirit and even revered above the Old Testament. Indeed it was a wonderful fruit of Christianity’s creative epoch. At the same time the apostolic creed became established, for now the rule of faith which was gradually expanded was set down in writing.
… The bishops declared themselves the legitimate successors to the apostolate and prophetic Spirit; and the Spirit was restricted to their office. Without this myth, their office could never have gained supremacy. The free- working Spirit and the church of God as the body of the invisible one were replaced by a different reality: the visible church of the bishops.
Irenaeus defined this episcopal church according to its claims: the teaching of the apostles, the system of the church, the succession of bishops, and the perfect tradition of the holy Scriptures. Already in his time no addition or curtailment of the Scriptures was tolerated. He regarded every bishop as appointed by the apostles through the successive laying on of hands.
Theodore of Mopsuestia described the gradual dying out of apostles and prophets and the growing power of the bishops to govern the church: after the death of the first apostles, the weakness of the second- generation apostles was obvious through the weakening of their power to work miracles. As a result, they voluntarily renounced their leadership, transferring part of their authority to church overseers, who became provincial bishops.
However external it seemed at first, the growing power of the bishops gained a firm foothold. At the close of our period an unbelievable proliferation of church ceremonies and an utterly different and new kind of piety took over.
Infant baptism, too, can be traced to the time immediately following. It supplanted the baptism of immersion, which had been so significant until then. It was a totally different concept of the “sacrament” of baptism and its mystery. Now baptism per se became a value, signifying acceptance into God’s church and all her instruments of grace.
The expectation of the future kingdom of God was now extinct. …
Together with Oriental mystery cults, it was Greek philosophy – especially Plato’s – that exercised increasing influence in this direction. Again in the years between A.D. 180 and A.D. 250, the Christianity of the churches became a great power in the field of learning and literature, extensively absorbing contemporary culture and philosophy. To the same degree that it found favor with the educated, it departed from the central message of the kingdom of God.
As late as the third century, men like Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Tertullian tried in vain to reestablish the purity of the original Christian truth. Other believers, disdainfully called “ignorant,” “uneducated,” and “simple-minded” continued to protest the invasion of learning, but in vain. Eventually even these simple people lost heart. They no longer had strength for the religious exertion which in early times had sprung from the expectation of God’s future kingdom.
The church contented herself with developing a tolerable middle-class morality for the masses. Since the third century, the holy sacrament of penance provided comforting forgiveness again and again. The institutional church achieved great success – her growing identification with the whole of contemporary society meant that by and large one had Christianity without being Christian, and that one did not have Christianity although one was called Christian. Finally, by the end of the time-span covered in this book, the church had “ceased to be the virgin of Christ.”
Consequently, one spoke of a holy calling, holy sacraments, and holy Scriptures, for no one had the courage to call Christians “saints” anymore.
From now on, Christians exerted increasing power and influence in politics and public affairs; they were no longer criminals in the eyes of the State like the first Christians.
As part of “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” used in baptismal instruction, the Sermon on the Mount stressed the unbridgeable gulf that divides the ways of death and life. But now the Sermon on the Mount faded more and more into the background.
… True, the theory of total love and surrender of all goods continued to be upheld, but it could not prevent Christian’s attitude to property from becoming indistinguishable from that of non-Christians. Wealth and luxury spread.
Economic differences and class distinctions were now questioned so little that soon the episcopal church herself owned slaves and became richer and richer. Only nominally did the church property belong to the poor. Tertullian and Origen were still influenced by the early years. They represented that the professions of judge (which is to punish) and soldier (which is to kill) were out of the question, but events gradually led (in A.D. 314) to the punishment of deserters by excommunication. No questions were asked about their consciences.
By recasting Christianity, the institutional church became a recognized world power with a dominant role in world history”.
* * *
Eberhard Arnold said in 1926:
“In this book the original testimonies of the transition period between earliest Christianity and the organized church speak to our times. In the fire of first love, in the many signs of God at work, the rich, primitive force of the early Christian spirit speaks to us once again. All the moments of power and truth characteristic of New Testament Christianity can be sensed here, including the beginnings of developments that later led to the organized churches. Further, a clearly defined way of life and faith arises from the manifestation of God in early Christian times. In spite of rigidity in later centuries and the changes which affected Christianity then, this way continues to be a living force today. It comes from the wellspring of living truth and can never become a mere imitation of outward traditions.
There is only one criterion for this way: the direct, spontaneous testimony which the Spirit himself brings from God and from Christ. It is the witness of faith, speaking to us from apostolic and prophetic experience through the pages of this book. The original witness of the church must lead us all, though still in very different camps, into the unity and purity of the clear light. The period of original revelation must be the point of departure for any dialogue between the many churches, sects and movements of our own day. The awakening and uniting of all who truly desire to follow Christ will be given at the source, and nowhere else”.
6. EXTRA-BIBLICAL SAYINGS OF JESUS AND THE APOSTLES
“Though extra-biblical, their credibility is attested to by the number of sources in which they are found, and by our notes to them, which demonstrate the authority they commanded in early Christian congregations. Even the reader who cautiously adheres to the biblical canon will not deny that the same truth is evident in these texts, too.” – Eberhard Arnold
For this closing part I have selected only a few sayings by Jesus but those which evoke the most thought:
- I am the door of life. He who enters through me enters into life.
Clementine Homilies III. 52 quoting the Jewish-Christian Gospel of the Ebionites.
- Unless you make what is right left, and what is left right, what is above into what is below, and what is behind into what is in front, you will not learn to know the Kingdom.
Acts of Peter 38; Acts of Philip 34.
- If you lean on my breast but do not do the will of my Father in heaven, I will push you from my breast.
Jewish gospel; Second Letter of Clement 4.5.
- How can you say, I have fulfilled the law and prophets, since it is written in the law: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself ? Look, many of your brothers, sons of Abraham, are covered with filth and dying of hunger while your house is filled with many goods and not a thing goes out of it to them.
Origen, Comm. XV.14 on Matthew (Latin) quoting the Gospel of the Hebrews.
- Woe to those who have and like hypocrites take more, or who can help themselves and yet receive. For everyone who receives something shall render an account to God the Lord on the day of judgment why he received…He who simply gives to everybody gives well and is blameless. He who accepts when destitute…accepts well and shall be exalted by God in eternal life.
Didascalia XVII (see also Connolly, pp. 154–157); cf. Apostolic Constitutions IV.3.
- I took my stand in the midst of the world and appeared to them in the flesh, and I found them all glutted, and not one among them did I find thirsting, and my soul labors for the sons of men because they are blind in their hearts.
Oxyr. Papyr. I, 1897. (See also Gospel according to Thomas 28.)
- The seeker shall not rest until he has found, and he who has found shall marvel. He who has marveled shall rule like a king, and he who rules shall find rest.
Clem. Alex., Misc. V.14.96; cf. II.9.45; Oxyr. Papyr. 654, 1904; from the Gospel of the Hebrews.
- Whoever seeks me shall find me in children, for there will I be made manifest.
Hippolytus, Philosophumena V.7.20 quoting Jewish Christian Gospel of the Nassenes.
- Seek and find, and realize that the truth does not lie openly on the surface.
- My Mother, the Holy Spirit, seized me.
Sources: Origen, Jerome.
The last saying was marked in red because Jesus amazes us by calling the Holy Spirit She, His mother! This reminded me of the fortitude with which Michael Jackson challenged the concepts of present-day church and also called the Spirit of God she.
It’s strange that God doesn’t mind expressing Himself/Herself in all the religions of the world, while people still cling to the notion that their way is the only right way. Whatever you try to say about God, someone will take offense, even if you say everyone’s love of God is right for them.
For me the form God takes is not the most important thing. What’s most important is the essence. My songs and dances are outlines for Him to come in and fill. I hold out the form. She puts in the sweetness.
I’ve looked up at the night sky and beheld the stars so intimately close, it was as if my grandmother had made them for me. “How rich, how sumptuous,” I thought. In that moment I saw God in His creation. I could as easily have seen Her in the beauty of a rainbow, the grace of a deer bounding through a meadow, the truth of a father’s kiss. But for me the sweetest contact with God has no form. I close my eyes, look within, and enter a deep soft silence. The infinity of God’s creation embraces me. We are one.
PLANET EARTH from Dancing the dream poems, by Michael Jackson: