Christian Thought - Nuggets

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[By Dr. Tharwat Maher, PhD, Regent University, VA]

1- The Didache
2- Ignatius of Antioch, The Letter to the Ephesians
3- Clement of Rome, 1 Clement
4- Shepherd of Hermas
5- Polycarp of Smyrna
6- Justin Martyr
7- Irenaeus of Lyons
8- Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks
9- Origen
1- The Didache                [By: Dr. Tharwat Maher, PhD]
Introduction: Context of the Didache
The Didache, or The Teaching of the (Twelve) Apostles, is considered one of the earliest and most important texts that help with understanding Christianity during the first and early second century. The content of the text reflects an early state of the church life, which might be traced back to the second half of the first century. The simplicity of prayers, the instructions on liturgy, and the continued existence of itinerant ministers confirm the possibility of this early state [1]. On the other hand, many scholars assert that the whole text has been edited into its final form during the first half of the second century. The document most probably reached its final form by a date in between AD 80 and AD 120 or maximum AD 150 [2]. Egypt, Syria, and Palestine are considered possible places where the Didache originated, but it was most likely in Syria [3].
Archbishop Philotheos Bryennios discovered the first copy of the Didache in 1873 in the Holy Sepulcher Church of Constantinople [4]. This version of the Didache was not in a separate manuscript. It was found in the Codex Hierosolymitanus, which contained some other important ancient texts such as the Epistle of Barnabas, the full Greek text of the first and second Clement, and thirteen letters of Ignatius [5]. The famous German Lutheran historian Adolf von Harnack published one of the most well-known early translations of the Didache, with a commentary on the text, in 1884. This German translation helped spread the text among the Western scholars [6].
Composition of the Didache
Scholars divide the Didache into 16 distinct chapters, and divide these chapters into three sections. These three sections are: the Two Ways teaching (chapters 1-6), instructions on liturgy and church order (chapters 7-15), and an eschatological section (chapter 16). However, to emphasize the importance of liturgy, some scholars, especially Coptic scholars, divide the second section (chapters 7-15) into two separate sections: liturgical (chapters 7-10) and church order (chapters 11-15).
The Didache in general represents a portrait of an early Jewish-Christian community. Jewish traditions and Christian beliefs were fused together to form the characteristics of this community. This “Jewish-Christian” fusion can be noticed in many aspects of this early Christian life. The Didache implicitly sheds light on this situation through its texts which deal with the different Christian ethics and practices.
Purpose of the Didache
Many scholars agree that the Didache is a composite text which has been developed into its final form by an editor, who is commonly known as the Didachist. The Didachist combined earlier sources, written and oral, to create a document for a specific purpose. It is widely accepted to assume that the final form of the Didache was intended to be used as a form of catechesis or a manual of Christian instruction. The analytical reading of the Didache asserts that in addition to the didactic purpose of the Didache, the Didachist aimed to present a text to his community that helps to standardize its Christian practices [7], in a way that accommodates the Jewish components into the Christian belief. In other words, the Didache can be considered a step towards institutionalization of the church in a way that expresses its Jewish-Christian identity. This purpose clearly appears through the different sections of the Didache as follows.
The Two Ways teaching (Did. 1-6)
The two ways in Did. 1-6 is an ethical teaching that depends on a widespread tradition. Certainly, this teaching, which explains the way of life and the way of death, is rooted in the Jewish tradition. It can be found in the texts of the Old Testament such as Jer 21: 8, Deu 30: 19, Ps 1, Ps 119: 29, 30, and in some apocryphal Jewish books such as Testament of Asher, 1 Enoch (91: 18-19, 94: 1-4), and The Book of Jubilees (7: 26). Also, the same teaching can be found in some other early Christian writings such as the Epistle of Barnabas, The Didascalia, The Apostolic Church Order, and the Life of Shenouta [8].
Likely, Did. 1-6 was used to provide catechesis prior to baptism (Did. 7: 1), which means that whoever wants to be a part of this Christian community must read this text first. The idea of catechesis prior to joining the Christian community (Did. 7: 1) can be compared to the Jewish idea which emphasizes on the necessity of reading The Community Rule[9] prior to the admission of new members into the Jewish community. Also, using the parental tone in the phrase “my child” in (Did. 3: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 4: 1) reminds the reader of the Jewish Wisdom Tradition, and it might suggest replacing the Christian teacher in place of the Jewish Rabbi.
By putting the two ways teaching as the first section of the Didache, the Didachist wanted to say that a new community exists here, and this new community has rules in order for people to be accepted in it. This is an example of what might be described as “rules for the community to standardize the required ethical concepts in this community". In addition, the Didachist was careful to add a Christian section (Did. 1: 3 - 2: 1), most probably from the Gospel of Matthew or an oral tradition, to inlay this Jewish tradition (Did. 1- 6), or to Christianize it in order to be a good reflection of the Jewish-Christian identity of his community.
The Liturgical section (Did. 7-10)
This section is divided into three themes: Baptism (chapter 7), Fasts and Prayer (chapter 8), and the Eucharist (chapters 9-10). As mentioned before, the idea of catechesis prior to baptism per se (Did. 7: 1) can be compared to a similar Jewish idea. In addition, baptism in running water (Did. 7: 1) reminds the reader of the ritual washing in Judaism (tevilah). On the other hand, the Trinitarian formula of baptism (Did. 7: 1, 3) preserves its authenticity as a Christian practice.
It is noticeable that the text of baptism does not focus on any theological understanding of the meaning of baptism per se. It does not focus on repentance, forgiveness of sins, or burial and resurrection with Christ. It only focuses on the baptismal instructions and rituals, such as the formula of baptism (Did. 7: 1), method of baptism (Did. 7: 2, 3), and the fast that precedes baptism (Did. 7: 4). This focus on baptismal instructions asserts that the Didachist wanted to set guidelines that standardize the practice of baptism per se rather than discussing any theological understanding behind it.
Concerning fasts and prayer (Did. 8), and according to the Didache, fasting one or two days before baptism is required from “the one baptizing and the one who is to be baptized” (Did. 7: 4). In general, fasting two days a week is required. The Didache replaces Wednesday and Friday instead of the Jewish Monday and Thursday fasts (Did. 8: 1). Concerning prayer, the Didache advises not to pray like the hypocrites, “instead, pray like this, just as the Lord commanded in his Gospel…” (Did. 8: 2). The Lord’s Prayer[10] should be repeated three times a day (Did. 8: 3), which identifies with the Jewish Tradition (Ps 55: 17, Dan 6: 10)[11]. In spite of these parallels with the Jewish tradition that exist in the instructions of fasts and prayer, this text (Did. 8) can be considered one of the most important in the Didache that distinguishes between Christian practices and Jewish traditions. In these instructions of fasts and prayer, it is obvious that the Didache tells us that a separate community exists, and this community has its own standards.
The Eucharist (Did. 9, 10) comes at the end of this liturgical section. The eucharistic prayer over the cup (Did. 9: 2) follows the Jewish meal prayer model (Toda/Todah)[12] by referring to “the holy vine of David”. Actually, the heart of this eucharistic text reflects a Davidic Christology[13] which illuminates the Jewish roots of Christianity. At the same time, it shows Jesus as the revealer of knowledge and the source of life (Did. 9: 2, 3). In this eucharistic text, the Didache presents a portrait of a Jewish-Christian community that celebrates God’s actions as made known through the revelatory work of Jesus[14], and there is no place in this celebration for any non-baptized person (Did. 9: 5). Moreover, it sheds light on this Jewish-Christian community as part of a wider community, which is the universal church (Did. 9: 4, 10: 5). At this point, it seems that the Didache wants to define this Jewish-Christian community, not only by placing guidelines that standardize its practices, but also by proclaiming its belonging to a wider universal church that believes in an eschatological destiny (Did. 10: 6), and this proclamation can add an additional weight to the whole text of the Didache.
Church Order section (Did. 11-15)
In this section, itinerant apostles and prophets appear alongside bishops and deacons elected by the community itself. Again, the Didache gives advices to organize and standardize the guidelines of the whole issue. It gives advices to discern the false prophet and, on the other hand, it encourages honoring the true or genuine prophet (Did. 11: 3-12, 13: 1-7). In addition, it encourages the congregations to appoint bishops and deacons for themselves, especially to serve the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day[15] (Did. 14: 1-3, 15: 1).
According to many scholars, the “church order” section (Did. 11-15) provides evidence of a “transitional period”[16] between “itinerant ministers” and “resident leadership”. Also, the text might indicate a tension between the Charismatic itinerant leaders and the local leadership.[17] Did. 15: 2 encourages the congregation to honor bishops and deacons “along with the prophets and teachers.” This advice[18] might refer to the Didachist’s desire to encourage Christians to preserve both the Charismatic itinerant leaders and the local hierarchical leadership together. It seems like the Didachist here wants to expand his standardized guidelines to include both kinds of leaders together. Actually, some scholars see the “itinerant apostles and prophets” in (Did. 11:3-12), as those Christians who are able to bear “the whole yoke of the Lord” in (Did. 6:2-3).  Some studies argue that the origin of Syrian asceticism can be traced back to this tradition of the itinerant apostles and prophets[19].
Conclusion: the eschatological section (Did. 16)
The Didache concludes with an eschatological section. This section starts by advising "watch over your life" (Did. 16: 1), which reminds the reader of the way of life in the first section of the Didache. Then, it gives a brief explanation of the final events and the eschatological signs of the end of days. The Didache uses a warning eschatological tone to urge his reader to continue living in the way of life[20]. Axiomatically, by putting this eschatological warning at the end of the document, the Didachist wants to link it to these commandments and guidelines which were mentioned through the entire text of Didache. He wants to tell the reader that by choosing the Way of Life, one can be saved in the midst of the end of days. In this sense, the Didache's Jewish-Christian community could be seen as a part of this victorious universal church that is waiting for the kingdom to come. Also, the Didache itself might be seen as a map that helps to standardize the practices of this community during its journey towards the meeting of the Lord on the clouds.
[1] Michael W. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 3rd edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), 337.
[2] Dale M. Coulter, “Introduction to Didache” YouTube. Online video, (accessed 22, 26 January 2014).
[3] Michael W. Holmes, 337, 338.
[4] Clayton N. Jefford, Reading the Apostolic Fathers: A Student’s Introduction, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2012), 24.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Jonathan A. Draper, “The Apostolic Fathers: The Didache,” The Expository Times 117, no. 5 (2006), 177.
[7] Dale M. Coulter, “Introduction to Didache”.
[8] Michael W. Holmes, 335.
[9] The Community Rule, formerly was called Manual of Discipline, is one of the Jewish books which was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
[10] Most probably, it was taken from the Gospel of Matthew or an oral tradition.
[11] The traditional Jewish people must pray three times a day; Morning Prayer (Shacharit), Afternoon Prayer (minchah), and Evening Prayer (maariv).
[12] A Hebrew word means “thanksgiving”.
[13] Jonathan A. Draper, 180.
[14] itva H. Williams, “Social Memory and the Didache,” Biblical Theology Bulletin 36, no. 1 (Spring, 2006), 38.
[15] Part 15 uses the Greek conjunction (οὖν) which is translated “Therefore”. The use of "therefore" refers to a relation between parts 14 and 15. Obviously, part 14 focuses on the church meeting on the Lord’s Day and speaks about Eucharist. Consequently, part 15 advises the church to appoint bishops and deacons basically to serve the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day.
[16] Clayton N. Jefford, 30.
[17] Michael W. Holmes, 336.
[18] According to N. Jefford, this part (Did. 15: 1- 4) was added between AD 80 and AD 100, Clayton N. Jefford, 33.
[19] Jonathan A. Draper, “Weber, Theissen and Wandering Charismatics in the Didache,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 6, no. 4 (Winter, 1998), 545-548.
[20] This warning eschatological tone of the Didache is similar to that one used by the Shepherd of Hermas.

------------------------------------------------------- By: Tharwat Maher, PhD

2- The Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Ephesians
                                                                                                      By: Dr. Tharwat Maher, PhD

The Letters of Ignatius: Contextual Background
The Letter of Ignatius to the Ephesians is one of the seven letters by Ignatius of Antioch, who was also called “Theophorus,” which means “Image-Bearer”[1] or “Bearer of God”[2]. According to Eusebius of Caesarea in Ecclesiastical History (3:22, 3:36), Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch in Syria[3]. He was martyred around the middle of Trajan’s reign (AD 98-117)[4]. Ignatius was arrested in Syria by Roman authorities and was sent to Rome in custody of ten soldiers to be executed[5].
In his route from Syria to Rome, Ignatius wrote these seven letters. The letters were sent from two cities along the route: Smyrna and Troas. Ignatius sent four letters from Smyrna and three letters from Troas. From Smyrna, he sent his letters to the Magnesians, the Trallians, the Romans, and the Ephesians. While from Troas, he sent his letters to the Philadelphians, the Smyrnaeans, and Polycarp. The Letters of Ignatius exist in three basic forms; the long, the middle, and the short recension. The long recension is an expanded interpolated version of the original letters created in the fourth century accompanied by 6 spurious letters[6]. The middle recension is a version that preserves the original form of the seven letters. Most probably, Eusebius knew this middle recension[7]. The short recension is a Syriac abridgment of the letters to the Ephesians, the Romans, and Polycarp.

The seven letters of Ignatius were greatly valued by the early church. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, wrote to the Philippians, “We are sending to you the letters of Ignatius that were sent to us by him together with any others that we have in our possession, just as you requested… you will be able to receive great benefit from them, for they deal with faith and patient endurance and every kind of spiritual growth.”[8] Polycarp’s words could give an indication that the letters of Ignatius were collected and circulated among the churches[9].
In contrast to the Didache, an early Syrian text that likely comes from the same time frame[10]; the letters of Ignatius represent a type of Syrian Christianity, which does not reflect any kind of Jewish-Christian communities. Some scholars argue that these differences indicate that there were different "Christianities". Or in other words, they argue that there were entirely isolated and totally distinct Christian communities[11]. However, the trans-local nature of the early Christian traditions, which flourished through the itinerant ministers and the circulated epistles in the early Christian communities refute this argument[12].

The Letter of Ignatius to the Ephesians: Basic Structure and Purpose

The structure of the letter of Ignatius to the Ephesians was constructed in the form of the original ancient letters. Most of the typical sections of ancient letters exist[13]. The letter can be divided into an introduction, a section of appreciation of the reader (Eph.1, 2), the reason for the letter (Eph. 3), the main message (Eph. 4-20), and concluding greetings (Eph. 21). Concerning the core of the main message, it can be divided into four sections: a call for church unity under the bishop (Eph. 2:2-6), warnings against false teachers (Eph. 7-9), commandments within an eschatological frame (Eph. 10-16), and Soteriological teachings (Eph. 17-20). Ignatius’ letter to the church of Ephesus can be considered one of the most highly developed among the seven letters of Ignatius[14]. It reflects developed thoughts about some basic themes, such as Ignatius' Christological beliefs, his thoughts about the Eucharist, corporate worship, spiritual warfare, and church unity.

Many scholars agree that the main purpose of Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians is to emphasize the unity of the church and to give warnings against false teachers[15]. There is no doubt that Ignatius intended to achieve this purpose. In addition, the analytical reading of the letter asserts that he intended to do that through a specific and coherent Christological framework. In other words, Ignatius wanted to deal with his concerns about church unity and false teachers through establishing a solid Christological framework, where church unity could be rooted and false teachings could be defeated. Christ appears in every section of the 21 sections of Ignatius’ letter to Ephesus except for one section[16], and the Christological framework can be clearly tracked through the different basic themes in Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians as follows.

Ecclesiology, Episcopacy and Unity: A Call for Church Unity under the Bishop

Church unity is a major theme in Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians. It is obvious from many sections of the letter that obedience to the bishop plays a basic role in Ignatius’ thought about this unity (Eph. 1:3, 2:2, 3:2, 4:1, etc.). To understand the bishop’s role in church unity according to Ignatius, one must understand the centrality of Christ in Ignatius’ ecclesiology. Actually, the analytical reading of the letter to the Ephesians shows that Ignatius understands the church in two dimensions; the institutional dimension and the spiritual or the mystical dimension.

Concerning the institutional dimension, Ignatius supports the idea of three-fold structure of the ecclesiastical offices: Bishop (Eph. 1:3, 2:2, 4:1, 5:1, etc.), Council of presbyters (Eph. 2:2, 4:1, etc.) and Deacons (Eph. 2:1). Concerning the spiritual (or the mystical) dimension, Ignatius sees the church as a living event, where the corporate worship or “shared worship” (Eph. 9:2) is the central point. These two dimensions complete and support each other. The Spiritual gives the institutional its essence and the institutional shows and testifies to the Spiritual. The Christological framework combines both dimensions together as will be illustrated.

The church is the building of God the Father, and the believers are its stones (Eph. 9:1). Believers abide in Christ Jesus physically and spiritually (Eph. 10:3), and this mystically happens when they meet together to worship in real unity (Eph. 4:2, 9:2, 13:1, 20, 2). At this point, Jesus Christ appears as the center of unity, especially when the church meets for the Eucharist (Eph. 20:2). Also, here the institutional dimension of the church connects to the spiritual dimension, because real unity requires obedience to the bishop and harmony among the whole ecclesiastical structure. Consequently, the church has to obey its bishop (Eph. 5:3, 20:2), love him in accordance with the standard set by Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3), and regard him as the Lord Himself (Eph. 6:1). When the church comes together in unity and obedience to the bishop to sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, the Father acknowledges that the members of this church are members of His son (Eph. 4:2), and here the spiritual dimension or the mystical union with Christ is revealed again. Church unity is a spiritual unity (Eph. 5:1). The church is united with its bishop, as the church is with Jesus, and as Jesus Christ is with the Father (Eph. 5:1). Unity, obedience, and submission to the bishop sanctify the church (Eph. 2:2). It is advantageous for the church to be in perfect unity; therefore it will always “have a share” in God through Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:2).

Briefly, it can be concluded that Ignatius deals with church order, or with the institutional structure of the church as an essential condition. Without it, the church cannot achieve the union with Christ, which is the final goal of the ecclesiastical life. In other words, Ignatius’ Christology stands at the center of his thoughts about church unity. Church unity is rooted in union with Christ. Union with Christ gives church unity its essence. “Union with Christ” needs eucharistic corporate worship. This worship needs a church that obeys its bishop. So, Ignatius’ call for church union under a bishop can be considered, essentially, a call for union with Christ.

Warnings against False Teachers: A Call for Orthodox Christology
Although “no heresy has found a home” among the Ephesians, Ignatius gave them warnings against false teachers who were trying to corrupt their beliefs (Eph. 6:2, 7:1, 8:1). There were “certain people from elsewhere” who came and tried to sow evil doctrine, but the Ephesians didn’t accept this evil (Eph. 9:1). It can be concluded that these false teachers tried to spread heresies related to the Christological beliefs. This is seen when Ignatius mentioned that there was no heresy among the Ephesians as they don't listen to anyone unless he speaks truthfully about Jesus Christ (Eph. 6:2). Many scholars agree that “Docetism” was the heresy that Ignatius attacked in his letter to the Ephesians[17]. In many sections of the letter, Ignatius obviously stressed the reality of humanity and crucifixion of Christ (Eph. 7:2, 16:2, 17:1, 18:1, 2). To counter Docetism, the Christological framework appears as the basic foundation that can defeat this false teaching.
Commandments within an Eschatological Frame: Christ as the Ultimate Desired Purpose
“These are the last times… only let us be found in Christ Jesus, which leads to true life. Let nothing appeal to you apart from Him…” (Eph.11:1, 2). Ignatius puts his commandments in an eschatological frame. He warns the Ephesians to be diligent because these are the last times. The ultimate desired purpose of the commandments is to reach the likeness of Jesus. “Let us be eager to be imitators of the Lord” (Eph. 10:3). If the Ephesians have perfect faith and love towards Jesus Christ, they will be aware of all commandments (Eph. 14:1). The one who truly possesses the word of Jesus will be perfected, so that he will act according to what he says. (Eph. 15:1).
It is obvious that Christ is the center and the goal of obeying the commandments according to Ignatius, but this is not the only Christological dimension in the commandments’ issue. As mentioned before, Ignatius gives his commandments within an eschatological frame. This eschatological dimension connects directly to the Christological framework. God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ is a proof that the eschatological events became nearer[18] and that Christians might partially taste it in this age. In this meaning, Ignatius writes, “… the ancient kingdom was abolished when God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal life, and what had prepared by God began to take effect” (Eph. 19:3). Briefly, according to Ignatius, Christology proves eschatology while eschatology motivates obeying the commandments.
Soteriology: The New Man Jesus Christ
If the Christological framework can be tracked in Ignatius' thought about church unity, his warnings against the heresies, and through his commandments, then how much more can be tracked through soteriology? Christ is the essence of salvation. He is our God (Eph. Pref., 18:2), our Lord (Eph.7:2) our savior (Eph. 1:1), and our inseparable life (Eph. 3:2). He is both flesh and spirit, born and unborn, God in man, true life, both from Mary and from God, first subject to suffering and then beyond it, and He is our only physician (Eph. 7:2). Through His blood, the blood of God, Christians took on new life (Eph. 1:1). He “was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan, both from the seed of David and the Holy Spirit. He was born and was baptized in order that by His suffering he might cleanse the water” (Eph. 18:2). He is the Christ “who physically was a descendant of David, who is Son of man and Son of God” (Eph. 20:2). He accepted the ointment upon his head to breathe incorruptibility upon the church (Eph. 17: 1).  He is the new man Jesus Christ, the divine plan of salvation (Eph. 20:1). According to Ignatius, Jesus’ Eucharistic body is the medicine of immortality; the antidote we take in order not to die but to live forever in Him, Jesus Christ (Eph. 20: 2).
[1] Michael W. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 3rd edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), 183.
[2] Clayton N. Jefford, Reading the Apostolic Fathers: A Student’s Introduction, Kindle Edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2012), Kindle Location 1269.
[3] Eusebius and Roy J. Deferrari, Ecclesiastical History (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2005), 169, 195-199. Concerning who was the bishop of Antioch prior to Ignatius, there’s no certainty. Eusebius offers two possibilities in his book, Evodius (3:22) or the apostle Peter (3:36).
[4] Michael W. Holmes, 170. There is a tendency to expand the possible time frame in the direction of Hadrian’s reign (AD 117-138), but the general consensus puts Ignatius' martyrdom around the middle of the Trajan’s reign (AD 98-117), and the Orthodox Church precisely placed his martyrdom in AD 107.
[5] The Letter of Ignatius to the Romans, 5:1, in Michael W. Holmes, 231.
[6] Michael W. Holmes, 171. These 6 spurious letters are: one from Mary of Cassabola to Ignatius, Ignatius’ reply to her, letter to the church of Tarsus, letter to the church of Antioch, letter to the church of Philippi, and letter to Hero (Ignatius’ successor as bishop of Antioch).
[7] Ibid.
[8] The Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians, 13:1-2, in Michael W. Holmes, 297.
[9] Eugene LaVerdiere, The Eucharist in the New Testament and the Early Church (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1996), 150.
[10] Many scholars assert that the Didache has been edited into its final form during the first half of the second century. The document most probably reached its final form by a date in between AD 80 and AD 120 or maximum AD 150.
[11] For more about this argument, see Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979) and Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).
[12] Dale M. Coulter, “Antioch in Syria - Part 2” YouTube. Online video, (accessed 28, 30 January 2014).
[13] Clayton N. Jefford, Kindle Location 1224.
[14] Eugene LaVerdiere, 157.
[15] John E. Lawyer, “Eucharist and Martyrdom in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch,” Angelical Theological Review 73, no. 3 (June 1, 1991), 282, and Eugene LaVerdiere, 157.
[16] Section 13 is the only section in Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians that does not directly mention Jesus Christ.
[17] Daniel L. Hoffman, “Ignatius and Early Anti-Docetic Realism in the Eucharist,” Fides Et Historia 30, no. 1 (December 1, 1998), 78, Michael W. Holmes, 167, and Clayton N. Jefford, Kindle Location 1375.
[18] Edward Fudge, “The Eschatology of Ignatius of Antioch: Christocentric and historical,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 15, no. 4 (September 1, 1972), 235.
---------------------------------------------------------- By: Tharwat Maher, PhD
3- Clement of Rome, 1 Clement

[By: Dr. Tharwat Maher, PhD, Regent University]

Although it is hard to identify an integrated theology in First Clement, it provides an answer to the factionalism of the house churches through focusing on some theological perspectives:
1- Christological perspective:
First Clement illuminates “order”, “harmony/concord”, and “peace” as central themes in the life of the church. These are the important characteristics that must exist and be rooted in the life of the church. At the same time, 1 Clement connects all of these characteristics with the Christ Himself in different ways, as follows:
a. Christ as the pattern: Spiritual pride, jealousy, envy, and anger represent the root of factionalism (1Clem. 3, 4, 13, 14). So, the real need is humility. Christ is our example of humility (1Clem 16). Although He is the “majestic scepter of God”, He didn’t come in pride, but in humility (16:2), and we have to imitate Him.
b. Christ as the way: 1 Clement presents the faith in Christ as the way to achieve this victorious life which avoids factionalism by being filled of harmony and peace. “Now faith in Christ confirms all these things” (22:1). “This is the way, dear friends, in which we found our salvation, namely Jesus Christ…” (36: 1).
c. Love in Christ and fulfillment of the commandments correspond to one another. “Let the one who has love in Christ fulfill the commandments of Christ” (49: 1).
d. The church leadership’s authority, and order, exist because of the authority of Christ Himself. “… Christ is from God, and the apostles are from Christ” (42: 1). The leaders “received their orders and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (42: 3). 
2- Pneumatological perspective: 1 Clement connects the abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit with humility, submission, and giving (2:2). It illuminates that when the church of Corinthians was in union, the Spirit poured upon everyone. “Moreover, you were all humble… submitting… more glad to give than to receive… Thus a profound and rich peace was going to all… and an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit fell upon everyone as well” (2:1, 2).
3- Eschatological perspective: 1 Clement uses the eschatological hope to encourage the Christians to keep harmony, order, and peace in their churches. Paul “showed the way to the prize for patient endurance” (5:5), and “we are in the same arena, and the same contest awaits us” (7:1). “Therefore… let us conform to the glorious and holy rule of our tradition” (7:2). “Behold, the Lord comes, and His reward is with Him” (34: 3). Moreover, 1 clement reminds Christian of the hope of resurrection to encourage them to keep order, harmony, and peace.
---------------------------------------------------- By: Tharwat Maher, PhD

4- Shepherd of Hermas  

[By: Dr. Tharwat Maher, PhD, Regent University, VA]

The overall purpose of The Shepherd

The Shepherd of Hermas is considered one of the texts that help understanding Christianity in Rome during the late first and early second century. The Shepherd is an apocalyptic book that consists of five visions, twelve commandments, and ten parables. The centrality of advice or paraenesis in the Shepherd might give a misleading impression that the text is no more than an old moral text. But an insightful reading shows that the function of the ethical concentration in the text is to treat an ecclesiastical crisis through an eschatological framework[1]. Most probably the preoccupation with material comforts and business affairs, which are sometimes linked to moral distractions, formed the core of that crisis in the Church of Rome, thus the shepherd criticized this kind of life more than 50 times[2]. The Shepherd wants to revitalize the church[3], by calling Christians to restore their piety. Osiek asserts this point of view when he writes, “The whole of the Shepherd is a call to a change of heart, within a perspective of a limited time frame.”[4] In this sense, “repentance and post-baptismal sin” and “eschatology” will be discussed below, as two major ideas in the Shepherd.
1- “Repentance and post-baptismal sin” in the Shepherd of Hermas
In order to discuss “repentance and post-baptismal sin” in Hermas, one must give an explanation of “baptism” and “post-baptismal sin” according to the Shepherd of Hermas.

a. Baptism as regeneration:

In Vision 3, Hermas describes a great tower which is built on water. The great tower is a symbol of the church. When Hermas asked why the tower is built on water, the answer was because “your life was saved and shall be saved through water” (11: 5). Such answer refers to the traditional notion of baptismal regeneration. The same idea is repeated in Parable 9, where it refers to the water as the seal (93: 4). The seal gives life to those who receive it (93: 3). “They are dead, but when they receive the seal, they… receive life. The seal, therefore, is the water; so they go down into the water dead and they come up alive.” (93: 3, 4).

b. Post-baptismal sin:

In Commandment 4 and section 3, a question about post-baptismal sin is raised. The conversation emphasizes on the teaching that asserts “there is no other repentance beyond what occurred when we descended into the water and received forgiveness of our previous sins… for the one who has received forgiveness of sins ought never to sin again, but to live in purity” (31: 1, 2). The Shepherd added to this teaching by illustrating that the Lord permits “one opportunity for repentance” for those who sinned after their baptism (31: 5).

To understand the meaning of this text, one needs to know the definition of “post-baptismal sin” per se. Did Hermas in his text speak about “one opportunity for repentance” of “one single sin” after baptism? Or did he speak about “one opportunity for repentance” of “ongoing or continuous sin” after baptism? In other words; did Hermas speak about a baptized Christian who sinned once after his baptism? (It seems like the counter counted one!) Or he spoke about a baptized Christian who lives in a “sinful life” after his baptism? The answer to this question can make a great difference! The direct words in part 31 (Commandment 4 and section 3) might give the first simple meaning which refers to one single sin. This meaning, most probably, was common and widespread at that time. But an insightful reading to the full text of Commandment 4, especially the first section (part 29), certainly gives the second meaning which refers to an “ongoing sin”.

In part 29, Hermas asked how could a husband deal with his wife, whom "he finds her in some adulterous situation” although she "believes in the Lord” (29:4) The Shepherd answered that if “she does not repent, but persists in her immorality” (notice that this means “ongoing sin” and doesn’t mean one “single sin”), her husband must divorce her (31: 5, 6). But, at the same time, “the husband ought not to marry” because of the “possibility of her repentance” (31:8). If she repents, her husband must "take her back". And if he doesn't take her back, he sins (31:7, 8). The Shepherd asserts that "the one who has sinned and repented must be taken back. But not repeatedly: for there is only one repentance for God's servants" (31: 8).

Briefly, the previous part (which is the first part of the famous Commandment 4) illuminates that post-baptismal sin is not that “single sin” after the baptism, but it is the “ongoing sinful life” after the baptism. In this sense, the word “repeatedly” might refer to repetition of falling into this “ongoing sinful life”. It can be said that the Shepherd, in the discussion of “post-baptismal sin” that is linked to “one opportunity for repentance”, discusses only the idea of “ongoing sinful life” after baptism. The Shepherd illustrates that there is one opportunity of repentance for those Christians who failed and departed the life of purity, but it can’t be repeated. Here, in these special parts of the text, we can see “one opportunity for repentance” of the "ongoing sinful life" after baptism, but in case of the whole text of the Shepherd we can see an “ongoing repentance” of falling in sin sporadically after baptism
c. Repentance as an ongoing process:
In this context, one can understand “repentance” or “metanoia” in the book of Shepherd as an ongoing process toward purity in the normal Christian life. Repentance is not limited to a certain number of times in case of falling in sin sporadically and without any intent to live a sinful life. Hermas himself repented many times throughout the text (1: 9, 3: 6, 39: 1- 7, etc.), and he was invited to deliver a message of repentance to the church (8: 2, 3). The Shepherd presents repentance as an ongoing process (21: 1- 4), and “those who have fully repented, therefor, will be young and firmly established” (21: 4). The Shepherd asserts that “repentance is great understands” per se (30: 2). “Repentance… brings life; but failure to repent means death” (72: 6).
2- “Eschatology” in the Shepherd of Hermas:

The book of Shepherd presents repentance in an eschatological framework. This eschatological frame can be summarized in some aspect:

a. Consummation of the tower:

Repentance is possible as long as the tower, or the church, is “still being built” (13: 5, 16:9). “When the tower is finished being built, then the end comes” (16: 9), and no place for repentance will exist (13: 5). The “coming judgment” is sure to come, and then there will be no more chances for doing good (17: 5). Osiek asserts this idea when he wrote: “the overall framework of the book envisages a limited time in which earthly action is possible.”[5]

b. The heavenly city

 Parable 1 presents Christians as foreigners to this world to encourage them to give up preoccupation with material comforts and business affairs. Christians, in this world, “are living in a foreign country (50: 1). They are walking in a journey to reach their “own city” or “home” (50: 9). David Rankin wrote that “the notion that Christians lived in the world as if in a foreign land was already a traditional eschatological motif”[6].

c. The great tribulation:
The Shepherd of Hermas gives a repeated warning about a coming great tribulation (6: 7, 7: 4, 23: 5, 24: 6, etc.). This great tribulation appeared to Hermas in a form of “a huge beast… and from its mouth flaming locusts were pouring out” (22: 6); such symbol as this reminds the reader of some symbols in the book of Revelation (such as the beast and the locusts). Some scholars argue that this beast refers to Nero’s persecution which occurred nearly a generation earlier to the time of Hermas. Other scholars, including Osiek, don’t agree with this notion, and argue that Hermas’ references to the great tribulation refer to an eschatological event[7].
From 1Clement to Hermas/ the eschatological motive:

Both of 1 Clement and Hermas used the eschatological motive to encourage their readers to live in purity. Clement wanted to encourage his readers to live in harmony, while Hermas wanted to prevent his readers from being deceived by the earthly affairs. Actually, Clement and Hermas used the eschatological motive in two different ways. It seems that Clement encourages by using eschatology, while Hermas warns by using eschatology. Clement focuses on using the eschatological “hope” to encourage the Christians to keep harmony and order in their churches emphasizing terms like “prize” (1Clem. 5: 5), “reward” (1Clem. 34: 3), “glorious promises” (1Clem. 34: 7), and “resurrection” (1Clem. 26, 27). Hermas uses different terms like “coming judgment” (17: 5), “the end” (16: 9) and “great tribulation” as mentioned before. Briefly, it can be said that Clement focuses on using eschatology as an encouraging theme, while Hermas focuses on using it as a warning theme that required awareness.
[1] Carolyn Osiek, “The Genre and Function of the Shepherd of Hermas, “ Semeia, no. 36 (January 1, 1986) 118, 119.
[2] Ibid, 117.
[3] Clayton N. Jefford, Reading the Apostolic Fathers: A Student’s Introduction, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2012), 150.
[4] Osiek, 119.
[5] Ibid, 115.
[6] David Rankin, From Clement to Origen the Social and Historical Context of the Church Fathers (Aldershot, England: Ashgate Pub, 2006), 38.
[7] Osiek, 116-119.

----------------------------------------------------------------------- By: Tharwat Maher, PhD
5- Polycarp of Smyrna

By: Tharwat Maher, PhD, Regent University, VA
The Martyrdom of Polycarp

Introduction: Contextual Background
The Martyrdom of Polycarp is considered the oldest written account of a Christian martyrdom outside the New Testament[1]. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, was one of the most important Christian leaders in Asia Minor in the first half of the second century. Irenaeus of Lyons, who is considered Polycarp’s disciple (Mart. Moscow MS, 2), mentioned that Polycarp knew John the disciple of the Lord[2], and was appointed bishop of Smyrna by the apostles themselves[3]. Polycarp’s life and ministry (ca. 70 – 160 AD) spanned a transitional time between the early apostolic era and the consolidation of Catholic Christianity[4].

During this era, “Imperial Cult” was very widespread in the Roman Empire. The region of Asia Minor was one of most influenced places by the imperial cult. Nearly all activities in this region were affected by this imperial religion. Many imperial cult temples and altars were built in prominent locations in the major cities of Asia Minor[5]. Cities competed with each other for building such temples[6]. Imperial cult festivals were considered major events where everyone shows his religious and political loyalty to the Roman Empire. It appears as if a level of participation in the imperial cult was required to participate in economic activities[7]. The coins used at this time reflected a degree of loyalty to Caesar by embracing his photo on each of its sides. In this context, Christians found themselves facing a socio-political situation where political loyalty, including imperial cult, became a test of their loyalty to Jesus Christ[8]. Consequently, because of Christians’ belief in Jesus Christ as the only Lord, the church found itself facing the Roman Empire where Caesar is the lord (Mart. 8:2). The Martyrdom of Polycarp is a testimony to this growing challenge that confronted the church during this era[9].

The Martyrdom of Polycarp: The Basic Structure and Purpose
The Martyrdom of Polycarp was constructed in the form of a letter. It was sent to the church of Philomelium from the church of the Smyrnaeans (Mart. Salutation). Although it was designed to be sent specifically to a certain church, some scholars, based on the letter's early popularity, argue that it was intended for circulation among all churches of the region[10]. As a letter, The Martyrdom reflects some characteristics of the basic structure of this kind of literary. The main text can be divided into these sections: an initial greeting, the reason for sending the letter (Mart.1), the main message (Mart. 2-18), a summary of the message (Mart. 19), and concluding greetings (Mart. 20). The text also contains a section of later additions that include The Date of the Martyrdom (Mart. 21), A Second Farewell (Mart. 22), A Note from Socrates, A Note from Pionius, and The Ending According to the Moscow Manuscript. Regarding the main message, it can be divided into two sections: examples of noble martyrdom and coward retreat (Mart. 2-4) and narrative of martyrdom of Polycarp (Mart. 5-18). The length of the narrative part in The Martyrdom (5-18) encouraged some scholars to see the text not only as a letter, but also as an early template for another form of literary called "martyr acts".
This form of literary was known in the ancient Christian tradition and became widespread among the ancient Christian communities, especially among those who suffered persecution[11]. Generally, the main purpose of "martyr acts" was to encourage Christians who face persecution and martyrdom, and this clearly demonstrated in the text of The Martyrdom of Polycarp.

There is no doubt that the main purpose of The Martyrdom is to present a model of martyrdom that is “in accord with the gospel” (Mart. 1:1, 19:1). The text clearly intends to honor the memory of a respected bishop and Martyr (Mart. 5:1), encourage Christians in Philomelium (Mart. 1), and differentiate between the right model of martyrdom and the wrong one (Mart. 2:1, 4:1). In addition to this primary purpose, the text presents another aspect that might be hidden among its lines and words; it is the “Christian identity”. The analytical reading of the text shows that the issue of the “Christian identity” is also a central theme in The Martyrdom. The text emphasizes a new identity of Christians, defines them as a “new race” (Mart. 3:2), and highlights some characteristics of this new race. This idea is very important in understanding the text to the extent that it would not be an exaggeration to say that the primary purpose of the text, which is to present a model of martyrdom and encourage those who face persecution, directly depends on the idea of the new identity for Christians as will be shown below.

Christian Identity: The Emergence of a “New Race”
The Martyrdom of Polycarp begins by stating: “The church of God that sojourns at Smyrna, to the church of God that sojourns in Philomelium and to all the communities of the holy and catholic church sojourning in every place” (Mart. Salutation). Such an introduction reflects how the church understood its members’ identity as strangers or "sojourners" in this world. The church does not belong to this world, rather it belongs to another world and its members consider themselves like passengers on their journey towards another world. In this context, phrases like “race of Christians” (Mart. 3:2) and “race of the righteous” (Mart. 14:1) appear in the text. Any group of people derive their name, culture, religion, and identity from their homeland, but Christians had neither a homeland in the Roman Empire nor an identity depending on that homeland. Christians follow Jesus Christ, and they derive their identity, as Christians, from Jesus Christ[12].

Christians were sojourners “in every place” (Mart. Salutation), and the church existed “throughout the world” (Mart. 8:1, 19:2). Therefore, the need of the notion of "catholic church" (Mart. Salutation, 16:2, 19:2) began to emerge, to gather different Christians who are sojourners in many countries and many cities. In other words, the phrase “race of Christians” and the notion of “catholicity” proclaim the emergence of a new nation that has a new ethnic identity[13], which is derived from Jesus Christ Himself.

Characteristics of the “New Race”
This new nation is totally different in its beliefs and practices from any other race. Jesus Christ is the Lord, the King, and the perfect example of the new nation (Mart. 1:2, 2:2, 9:3, 21:1, etc.). People of this new nation, or Christians, have their own virtues and ethics. Love, bravery, generosity, respect to the rulers, and the filling of the grace of God are clear characteristics of this new race (Mart. 1:2, 2:1, 3:2, 7:2, 7:3, 10:2, 12:1). Christians are looking forward to an eschatological destiny when Jesus brings them into His eternal kingdom (Mart. 20:2), where they will win crowns[14] that will never be lost (Mart. 17:1). The notion of this eschatological glory is linked to the notion of martyrdom in the text, and both are linked to a charismatic form of prophecy and visions (Mart. 5:2, 9:1, 12:3, 15:1, 16:1, etc.). The Christian experience, according to The Martyrdom of Polycarp, reflects a charismatic experience where heaven invades earth through supernatural phenomena that are evident even in the midst of times of martyrdom (Mart. 9:1, 15:1, 15:2, 16:1). The characteristics of this new race, affect the whole text of The Martyrdom, and represent a framework that forms the whole document as follows.

Martyrdom: Testimony to the Christian Identity
“How can I blaspheme my king who saved me?” (Mart. 9:3)… “I am a Christian” (Mart. 10:1), are such phrases spoken by Polycarp during his trial that show the real confrontation: a nation versus another nation, an identity versus another identity, the Lord Jesus versus Lord Caesar (Mart. 8:2). The Christians’ view of themselves as sojourners was not a superficial idea. It was not only rooted in their understanding of their new identity, but also reflected the Roman state’s view of them as disloyal atheists who threatened the peace of the empire (Mart. 3:2, 10:2, 12:2). In this context, one can understand martyrdom as a testimony to the Christian identity. Christians do not worship Caesar because they worship their king Jesus Christ. Jesus’ reign is superior and dominant over the earthly rulers’ reign (Mart. 21:1). Therefore, Christians, like Germanicus and Polycarp, do not fear for they trust their King, and their new nature provides them with braveness (Mart. 2:2, 3:1, 12:1). They respect rulers because it is one of their new nation's ethics (Mart. 10:2). The Martyrdom encourages Christians to imitate Christ, the King of the new nation. The text shows many parallels between the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus and that of Polycarp (Mart. 6:1, 6:2, 7:1, etc.). In spite of these parallels, the analytical reading of the text asserts that the essence of the imitation of Christ basically resides in the full obedience to God’s will. “Blessed and noble, therefore, are all the martyrdoms that have taken place in accordance with the will of God” (Mart. 2:1). Christians “do not praise those who hand themselves over” to be martyred, like Quintus, for the gospel does not teach so. (Mart. 4:1, 4:2). The wrong examples of requesting martyrdom threaten the internal stability of the Christian community, so the text presents the martyrdom of Polycarp as an exemplary model to preserve the new nation[15].

Miracles and Charismatic Experience: Heaven Supports the “New Race”
As a heavenly race, its king is the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Lord of angels, powers, and of all creation (Mart. 14:1), heaven intervenes to guide, warn, inform, encourage, and support this heavenly race. The text presents many supernatural occurrences that testify to this kind of charismatic experience. The Lord Jesus was standing and conversing with the martyrs during their trials (Mart. 2:2). Polycarp “fell into a trance three days before his arrest” and had a prophetic vision that equipped him for his martyrdom (Mart. 5:1, 12:3). He was experiencing the filling of the Holy Spirit in a supernatural way while praying and testifying to the Lord to the extent that he stayed in a certain position for two hours as he was unable to stop speaking; those atheists who heard him testified for his godly nature (Mart. 7:3, 12:1). When he entered the stadium where he was martyred, an audible voice came from heaven to encourage him: “Be strong, Polycarp, and courageous” (Mart. 9:1). In a miraculous way, fire could not burn Polycarp; it rather completely surrounded his body like an arch (Mart. 15:1, 15:2). After his martyrdom, Irenaeus who was in the city of Rome, heard a voice like a trumpet saying, “Polycarp has been martyred” (Mart. Moscow MS, 2). Such a miraculous voice asserts the notion of unity and catholicity of the church and manifests the passion of heaven towards this heavenly nation.

Eschatology: Destiny of the “New Nation”
The new nation has a different eschatological destiny. While eternal fire, which is never extinguished, is waiting for those who deny the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians will inherit the good things that neither ear has heard nor eye has seen (Mart. 2:3, 11:2). Although Christians might lose their lives on earth, they will win resurrection to eternal life and will live in incorruptibility in the Holy Spirit (Mart. 14:2). The Lord Jesus Christ will gather his new race to reside into his heavenly kingdom (Mart. Moscow MS, 3). The triumphant Christians will be crowned with the crown of immortality (Mart. 17:1), and their royal identity will be manifested forever under the eternal kingship of the King Jesus Christ.

[1] Michael W. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 3rd edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), 298.

[2] Eusebius and Roy J. Deferrari, Ecclesiastical History (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2005), 329.

[3] Irenaeus, Adv. Hearses, VI-1, in Philip Schaff, and Henry Wace, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol.1, The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d.), 1026.

[4] Dale M. Coulter, “Roman Culture and Christianity” YouTube. Online video, (accessed 3, 6 February 2014).

[5] S. R. F. Price, Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), xxii, xxiii.

[6] Thomas Scott Caulley, “The title Christianos and Roman imperial cult,” Restoration Quarterly 53, no. 4 (2011), 198, 199.

[7] Dale M. Coulter, “Roman Culture and Christianity”.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Michael W. Holmes, 287.
[10] Clayton N. Jefford, Reading the Apostolic Fathers: A Student’s Introduction, Kindle Edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2012), Kindle Location 2084, and Donald Wayne Riddle, “A literary allusion in the martyrdom of Polycarp,” Anglican Theological Review 8, no. 2 (October 1, 1925), 136.
[11] Clayton N. Jefford, Kindle Location 2084, 2085.
[12] Dale T. Irvin and Scott Sunquist, History of the World Christian Movement (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2001), 69.
[13] Dale M. Coulter, “Roman Culture and Christianity”.
[14] According to Polycarp himself, Christian will win crowns to reign with Jesus Christ in His eternal kingdom (Polycarp to Philippians 5:2).
[15] Michael W. Holmes, 300.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------- By: Tharwat Maher, PhD

6- Justin Martyr

By, Dr. Tharwat Maher, PhD, Regent University, VA
Justin Martyr was one of the most important Christian Apologists in the second century. Not only his writings explain Christian faith, but also represent one of the leading attempts to bridge the gap between Christianity and philosophy or faith and reason.[1] Some scholars consider Justin’s attempt to engage Christian faith in dialogue with philosophy to be his greatest contribution to Christian thought.[2] Actually, Justin did not put a clear distinction between theology and philosophy in his writings.[3] For instance, concerning creation, Justin connected Plato with Moses[4], and concerning eschatology, he showed some kind of coherence between the Christian views and the Stoic views[5]. In the Apologies, Justin’s methodology focuses on finding a shared language that can be used with Greeks, in addition it emphasizes on presenting the Gospel to win the readers to the Christian faith.

On the contrary, Tatian who was a pupil of Justin Martyr in Rome, presented himself in his Address to the Greeks as an opposed thinker of Greco-Roman culture in all its forms and aspects.[6] He condemned all kinds of philosophies and ancient civilizations.[7] His discourse attacked Greeks and severely criticized their major philosophers in a very strict way. Tatian in his discourse neither offered a kind of warm invitation to embrace Christianity nor repeatedly mentioned Christ like Justin did[8], but he explained his Christian doctrines and invited Greeks to examine it.[9]

Actually, this difference between Justin and his disciple is rooted not only in the diversity of methodological approaches, but also in the diversity of theological understanding concerning the logos and his relation to humanity. Justin illustrates that Christ is “the whole logos”, while the “seed of logos” implanted in every race of men and women.[10] Christ is “the logos of whom every race of men and women were partakers. And they who lived with the logos are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists”. [11] Consequently, Justin describes the Greek philosophers like Socrates and Heraclitus alongside the Old Testament’s prophets as Christians.[12] According to this understanding, Justin can accept this kind of philosophical writings which stands in harmony with the Christian revelation. For him, it is inspired by the “seeds of logos”. Moreover, he explains that the Greek philosophers like Socrates, by their true reasoning, were trying to deliver people from demons. So, the demons themselves attacked the philosophers by pushing people to kill them.[13]

On the other hand, it seems that Tatian had a different point of view. To understand that point of view, one must start from Tatian’s understanding of the first man. According to Tatian’s Address to the Greeks, there are two different components in the first man: “the soul” and the “image and likeness of God”.[14] The soul is not in itself immortal, it is darkness and there is nothing luminous in it. [15] Man can share the immortality with God through the image and likeness of God. Tatian linked the image of God to the power of the Logos. When the first man committed sin, the power of the Logos was taken from him. The “powerful spirit” was separated from him[16], and only the dark soul became his portion. The Logos is the light of God, and he is the only one who can enlighten the dark soul by the powerful spirit. But the Spirit of God is not with all, those who “are rejecting the minister of the suffering God” cannot attract to themselves the powerful spirit.[17] According to Tatian’s understanding, anyone who does not accept the minister of the suffering God cannot be considered a Christian. In other words, no one of the Greeks, ancient or contemporary, can be considered Christian unless he accepts the minister of the suffering God. Consequently, Tatian did not accept any kind of Greek literature because, according to his understanding, it is inspired by darkness.

Briefly, it can be concluded that the idea of the “seeds of logos”, according to Justin, enabled him to accept the Greek philosophers who seek the truth, while the absence of this idea in Tatian’s thought hindered him from doing so.

[1] Henry Chadwick, “Justin Martyr’s Defense of Christianity,” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library 47 (1964/65), 275.

[2] David Rankin, From Clement to Origen the Social and Historical Context of the Church Fathers (Aldershot, England: Ashgate Pub, 2006), 102.

[3] Justin and Leslie William Barnard, The First and Second Apologies (New York: Paulist Press, 1997), 12.

[4] The First Apology: 59 in Leslie William Barnard, 64.

[5] The First Apology: 20 in Leslie William Barnard, 37.

[6] David Rankin, 104.

[7] Tatian’s Address to the Greeks, II, III, accessed March 12, 2014,

[8] Gerald F. Hawthorne, “Tatian and His Discourse to the Greeks,” Harvard Theological Review 57, no. 3 (1964), 161.

[9] Tatian’s Address to the Greeks, XLII.

[10] The Second Apology: 8 in Leslie William Barnard, 79.

[11] The First Apology: 46 in Leslie William Barnard, 55.

[12] Ibid.

[13] The First Apology: 5 in Leslie William Barnard, 26.

[14] Tatian’s Address to the Greeks, XII.

[15] Ibid, Xlll.

[16] Ibid, Vll.

[17] Ibid, Xlll.
----------------------------------------------------------------------- By: Tharwat Maher, PhD

7- Irenaeus of Lyons

By: Tharwat Maher, PhD, Regent University, VA

Irenaeus of Lyons was one of the most prominent theologians in the second century. In the Ecclesiastical History (5:20), Eusebius of Caesarea asserts that Irenaeus was a hearer of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John the apostle according to the tradition.[1] Many scholars speak of Irenaeus as the church’s “first theologian”.[2] Some prefer to speak of him as the church’s “first biblical theologian”, for his exegetical methodology in The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching.[3]

In the Apostolic Preaching, Irenaeus did not present Christianity as a system of theological beliefs nor as a form of systematic theology.[4] He did not intend to provide his readers with complicated theological definitions; rather he wanted to follow the example of the great speeches in the Book of Acts,[5] to help his reader keep the "rule of faith" (Ch.3). "Rule of faith" forms the basic foundation of the believer to refuse heresies and to keep holiness of the soul, which leads also, through God's commandments, to keep holiness of the body. According to Irenaeus, the “rule of faith” is basically connected to the biblical narrative, which is, in turn, connected to the apostolic preaching of this narrative.[6] In other words, Irenaeus sees that we “must keep the rule of faith” (3), and to do that, we must keep the biblical narrative according to the apostolic preaching of this narrative. According to Irenaeus, it seems that the “rule of faith” can be preserved only through the “biblical narrative” and the “apostolic tradition” that interprets this biblical narrative. This centrality of the apostolic preaching and understanding of the biblical narrative, according to Irenaeus, might explain why he gathered and combined the traditions of his predecessors from Asia Minor, Syria, and Rome to use them to refute the Gnostics in Against Heresies.[7]

The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching reflects explicit and clear formulations of trinitarian theology. Although some scholars see Irenaeus’ trinitarian theology as “nascent trinitarianism”,[8] the first chapters of his book (3b-8) refute this opinion. Irenaeus starts his teaching by talking about “Baptism” and “Creation” through a trinitarian framework. He clarifies that God the Creator is the same God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, whom in His name we are baptized in the New Testament. God, the Father, has created all things, making to exist what did not exist. Since God is verbal “λογικός”, He created all that he had made through the “Logos” (5), His Son Jesus Christ (6). And since God is Spirit, He has adorned all things by the Spirit (5). Our baptism takes place through the Trinity, “granting us regeneration unto God the Father through His Son by the Holy Spirit” (7). It is noticeable that Irenaeus talked about “Creation” alongside “Baptism”. This can indicate that he probably wanted to parallelize both “Creation” and “New creation in baptism” in a trinitarian framework.

Through an exegesis of Genesis 1-3, Irenaeus teaches about man (11-15). God fashioned man with His own hands (11). Man was created in the image of God and was called to be lord of the earth (12). The image of God is the Son (22). God created the paradise for the man and the Word Himself was always walking with him in the paradise (12). Man was an infant and it was necessary for him to grow to reach his maturity. God created Eve for Adam, and they were innocents and childlike-minded (13, 14). God gave Adam and Eve a commandment, but they didn’t keep it (15). Transgression of man caused him to be cast out of the paradise, lose his participation with the Lord (16), and corrupted the entire human race (18). History of human race, through the Old Testament, illustrates the preparation for the coming of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ (19-29). The incarnation of the Word united man with God. Through incarnation, man restored his participation with God (31). Jesus Christ, Son of God, and son of David, is “recapitulating all things” in Himself (30). Irenaeus proves the eternal existence of Jesus Christ through the Old Testament scriptures (43-49). The Old Testament also prophesied the birth (50-66) and passion of Christ (67-82).
It’s very obvious that Irenaeus in The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching expressed salvation in terms of “union with God”, “participation between man and God”, and “participation in incorruption” (6, 31, 37, and 41). In Against Heresies (4:20:5, 6), Irenaeus connected this participation and union with God to the “vision of God”. The Holy Spirit leads the baptized Christian to the Word, and the Son presents them to the Father, and the Father gives incorruptibility. So, without the Spirit, it is not possible to know the Son, and without the Son, it is not possible to approach the Father (7). In other words, for Irenaeus, salvation of man certainly cannot be achieved outside God’s trinitarian nature. Christians must live in truth, holiness, righteousness, and patience to keep the Holy Spirit, and to have Him constantly dwelling in them. By the Holy Spirit, believers will experience the coming resurrection, when the body receives back again the soul to live into the eternal kingdom of God (42).

[1] Eusebius and Roy J. Deferrari, Ecclesiastical History (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2005), 329.

[2] M. C. Steenberg, Of God and Man: Theology as Anthropology from Irenaeus to Athanasius (London: T & T Clark, 2009), 16, 17.

[3] Ibid, 19.

[4] Irenaeus, and John Behr, ST. Irenaeus of Lyons: On the Apostolic Preaching (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997), 7.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Dale M. Coulter, “Irenaeus of Lyons” YouTube. Online video, (accessed 29, March 2014).

[7] Robert M. Grant, Irenaeus of Lyons (London: Routledge, 1997), 1.

[8] M. C. Steenberg, 16.
-----------------------------------------------------------  By: Tharwat Maher, PhD

8- Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks

By: Tharwat Maher, PhD, Regent University, VA

In the Exhortation to the Greeks, Jesus Christ, the Word, and the New Song, appears as the center of Clement’s theology. Clement’s theology of the Word sometimes appears in a Johannine form. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. By the Holy Spirit, the Word “arranged in harmonious order this great world”, and He also arranged “the little world of man” (Exh. I). God created man in His image, and the image of God is His Word (Exh. X). The Word is the “all-harmonious” instrument of God, and He created man as a “breathing instrument” to make music to God (Exh. I).

Man was created innocent and free (Exh. XI), but the serpent deceived Eve (Exh. I). Adam and Eve fell victims to pleasure and became slaves (Exh. XI). The same deceiver, who deceived the first man, did the same thing again through the Greek poets. The Greek poets were deceivers and they were influenced by demons (Exh. I). Under the cover of music, the poets led humans to ignorance, which is the cause of idolatry (Exh. X). According to Clement, it seems that man became in slavery of wicked wave, or wicked song, from which he needs to flee (Exh. XII).

The new song, Jesus Christ, or the true champion, came to restore humanity, and to revive those who were dead, through hearing the new song. The Word intended to open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf (Exh. I). He wants to bring them from ignorance to knowledge (Exh. X). The trumpet of Christ is His gospel. The commandment of the Lord gives light to the eyes. When we receive His commandment, we receive Him, the universal light, and the power to see (Exh. XI). The word of God makes us sacred and divine (Exh. IX). We must come to know the Lord and be enlightened by His rays. We need faith, even a little faith, to inherent His promises (Exh. XI). The Word Himself who anoints us with the ointment of faith, to make us able to cast away corruption and ascend to God (Exh. XII).  Hearing the new song, the Word Himself, not only revives humanity, but also restores the entire creation into melodious order (Exh. I). The Word transforms man by the power of the Holy Spirit, and regenerates him by bringing him back to the truth (Exh. XI). Clement’s advice to those who have already believed is to gather together into one love, corresponding to the union of the One Being. The union of many into one brings a divine symphony which restores the harmonious song to the Father (Exh. IX), therefore man restores his first call to be an instrument in the image of the Word, the “all harmonious” instrument of God.

Clement understands salvation in terms of participation, deification, and vision of God. “The Word of god speaks, having become man, in order that such as you may learn from man how it is even possible to become a god” (Exh. I). Salvation is the participation of His grace (Exh. I). The Word of God is the pilot who brings us by the Holy Spirit into the vision of God. He reveals the mysteries, marks the worshipper with His seal, and gives light to guide his way to the Father (Exh. XII). Clement’s understanding of salvation reflects a kind of mystical Trinitarian theology. ----------------------------------------------- By: Tharwat Maher, PhD
9- Origen

   By: Tharwat Maher, PhD, Regent University, VA

Origen was one of the prominent Christian thinkers who lived during the second and third century (184/ 185 – 253/ 254). He was a prolific writer who wrote in various aspects of Christianity. From the selections that have been read, Origen's basic ideas can be reconstructed as follows:

Trinitarian belief: Origen crafted his theology in a direct Trinitarian framework. God is one, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is the creator, who created “all things” when “nothing existed”. He is God of both the Old and New Testaments (p. 199), [Anti-Marcion belief]. Origen’s Trinitarian theology tends to reflect some kind of “subordinationism”. He wrote that God the Father “is superior to every being that exists”, while the Son is “less than the Father” and is “superior to rational creatures alone”, and the Holy Spirit is “still less” and dwells within the saints alone. Moreover, according to Origen, “The power of the Father is greater than that of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (p. 202).

Christology: “Christ Jesus, he who came to earth, was begotten of the Father before every created thing”, and all things were made through him (p. 199). The Son, the Wisdom, is eternal and he is without any beginning (p. 204). Jesus “was God who had appeared in a human body for the benefit of our race” (p. 209). He emptied himself and became flesh, but remained what he was, God. He was born of virgin Mary and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus suffered in truth and not merely in appearance. He truly died and rose from the dead (p. 199), [Anti-Docetic belief]. Sometimes, Origen’s Christology doesn't seem to reflect consistent ideas. Although he assures that “the Word was made flesh”, in Against Celsus, he wrote that the Logos “dwelt in the soul of Jesus”, because “he alone has been able perfectly to receive the highest participation in him”. Such phrases can explain why Arius relied on Origen’s thoughts later.
Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit is united with the Father and the Son. For Origen, it was not clear whether the Holy Spirit is begotten, like the Son, or unbegotten. He is one, the same Spirit of the Old and New Testaments. He inspired each one of the saints, both the prophets and the apostles.
Scripture: We have to deal with three levels of understanding of the Holy Scripture. As God created man consists of body, soul, and spirit, He also put the Scriptures contains of body (historical meaning), soul (moral meaning), and spirit (spiritual meaning). The flesh of the text is for the simple man, the soul is for the man who has made some progress in his spiritual life, and the spirit of the text is for the spiritual man, or the perfect (p. 205).
Free will: “Every rational soul is possessed of free will and choice”. The devil and his angels are trying to seduce the soul with sins, but the soul has a free will to refuse, and the good spiritual powers exist to assist man to salvation. Man is not subject to any kind of necessity; he is not compelled by necessity to act either rightly or wrongly. Nothing controls humanity (p. 200). For Origin, free will enables every rational nature to restore salvation at any point of its eternal journey, and this opens the possibility of ultimate salvation for all (p. 203).
Ecclesiology: The selections reflect some of Origen’s ecclesiastical thoughts. The Lord Jesus Christ “was sent first for the purpose of calling Israel, and secondly, after the unbelief of the people of Israel, of calling the Gentiles also” (p. 199) [perhaps this reflects some kind of introductory thoughts of the Replacement Theology]. Origen mentions beginners’ trainings before baptism. He explains how the church was careful in including new members to its community (p. 209). Also, he discusses the treatment of lapsed Christians. The church was accepting those who repent, but submit them to a long period of probation, and they could not serve at any office or administration of the church of God (p. 210). Christians should not fight by weapons; they should fight by their prayers “for those who fight in a righteous cause and for the emperor who reigns righteously” (p. 211).
---------------------------------------------- By: Tharwat Maher, PhD

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