9. The Post-Apostolic Age

   
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9. THE POST-APOSTOLIC AGE

I. PALESTINE

1. In A.D. 62 James, head of the Jerusalem church, was stoned. Soon afterward the church moved to a gentile city—Pella.

2. In July 64 Nero blamed Christians for the burning of Rome, and bloody persecutions began.

3. The church was plagued by internal problems as well as by external troubles. Gentile Christianity was more vulnerable to heresy.

4. Peter’s preaching and Paul’s letters were the traditional backbone of the early Christian church.

5. After the passing of the apostles and the members of Jesus’ family, sects and heresies began to appear.

6. “False prophets” sprang up everywhere. There were two wings of Jewish Christians:

a. The fundamentalists were the Ebionites.
b. The liberals were the Nazarenes.

7. The Ebionites rejected the gospel of Matthew.

II. SYRIA

1. After A.D. 70, Antioch became the headquarters of the Christian church. Here, also, the Gnostics had their stronghold.

2. And it was at Antioch that Jesus’ followers were first called “Christians.”

3. Antioch produced Ignatius, the first known martyr, after the apostles.

4. The gospel of Mark was widely circulated—and accepted—at Antioch. Later, both Matthew and Luke were accepted.

5. Peter was the traditional authority of the church at Antioch. Even the apocalyptic “Gospel of Peter,” was widely read in the Syrian churches.

6. Bishop Sarapion of Antioch at first accepted the “Gospel of Peter,” but later on fully rejected it.

7. But the Syrian churches were beset by a combination of idolatrous polytheism and Jewish ceremonialism.

8. Next comes Docetism—denying the material existence of Jesus. He was “not born of woman”—could not suffer pain or death.

9. Then comes Gnosticism, a combination of Jewish, pagan, and Christian terminology. Gnostic teachers from Antioch spread over Asia Minor, Egypt, and Rome.

10. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, wrote letters to all the churches and to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. He sought to augment the authority of the bishops—to fight heretics.

11. He circulated a manual on church government known as the “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles.”

III. ASIA MINOR

1. Ephesus was the center from which the gospel spread throughout Asia Minor.

2. Everything could be found at Ephesus—superstition, frauds, quackery, tension, conflict, and heresy. Disciples of Peter or Paul.

3. Paul’s letters were first brought together at Ephesus.

4. Among the Jerusalem leaders coming to Hierapolis was Philip—one of the seven (Acts 6:5) and his four daughters—prophetesses.

5. Marcion—a Docetist—spread his “error” from Asia Minor to Rome. Finally expelled from the Rome church.

6. Marcion accepted only Paul’s letters and the gospel of Luke. He drove the churches to adopt a creed.

7. Then came the Montanist schism—the. “Phrygian frenzy.”

8. Feb. 22, A.D. 156, marks the date of the martyrdom of Polycarp—the companion of those who “had seen the Lord.”

IV. GREECE

1. There was always some sort of trouble with the church at Corinth. 1 Cor. 1:10. Even the church at Rome sent them a rebuking letter. I Clement. (Apocrypha)

2. The Athens church might waver, but the church at Rome was always steady.

3. In general, the Grecian churches made progress and, in spite of their ups and downs, prospered.

V. EGYPT

1. The “Epistle to the Hebrews” and the so-called “Epistle of Barnabas” were addressed to Egyptian Christians.

2. Gnosticism spread throughout Egypt. God became the “Philosophical Absolute.”

3. They also circulated a “Gospel According to the Egyptians”—being the gospel of a sect, the Encratites.

VI. ROME AND WEST

1. Rome spread the gospel to the west, using the gospel of Mark—presenting Jesus in “action”—rather than as a preacher.

2. Rome was getting interested in church discipline—how to do penance, how to deal with apostates, etc.

3. A minor prophet, Hermas, brother of Bishop Pius, exerted considerable influence. His work “The Shepherd of Hermas” came close to getting into the New Testament canon.

4. Justin became a lay professor of philosophy—and an able defender of the “faith” before his martyrdom.

5. Justin did much writing against Marcion and other heretics—including reincarnation.

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