A Simple Timeline Proves the Early Church was Catholic---revised

By request I am starting a new thread based on this subject. The original thread is five years old. Keep in mind I was a little more zealous back then than I am now. :wink: So I edited it a little so I don’t come off like triumphalist jerk. :smiley:

One of the areas of Church history that has always fascinated me is the study of New Testament era chronology. Many non-Catholic scholars act as if the Bible was written like a modern novel. Starting with Matthew on. However, the writing of the New Testament was not that cut and dry. As one puts together a timeline of Church history, including works written that are not in the New Testament, one must reach a conclusion that the early Church was indeed Catholic. By the time the Gospel of John was written for example, the Church was already 50 years old (which forces a Catholic view of John 6). But more importantly, the Christians that lived at the time all have very Catholic views.

I have concocted a timeline here deliberately within a 100 year period between the Resurrection of Christ to Justin Martyr (roughly 130 AD.) Think of it from World War 2 on. There are people still alive to remember the events.
I do not claim this timeline to be exact, but its pretty close:

c. 30-33 - The death and resurrection of Jesus
c. 35 - The conversion of Paul
40s or 50s - James
c. 45-49 - Paul’s first missionary journey
Sometime between 48 and 58 - Paul writes Galatians
c. 50-53 - Paul’s second missionary journey
50s - Paul writes Titus
50s or 60s -** Mark** written (based on oral tradition set down by Peter).
50s or 60s - Matthew written
51 - Paul writes 1 and 2 Thessalonians
c. 53-57 - Paul’s third missionary journey
Spring of 55 - Paul writes 1 Corinthians
56 - Paul writes 2 Corinthians
c. 57 - Paul writes Romans
c. 60 - Paul writes Colossians, probably while in prison in Rome
c. 60 - Paul writes Philemon, probably while in prison in Rome
c. 60 - Paul writes Ephesians, probably while in prison in Rome
c. 61 - Paul writes Philippians, while in prison in Rome
Early 60s - Luke written
c. 60-70 - The Didache is written.
c. 62 - Paul is free
c. 62-64 - Luke writes Acts
c. 62-64 - Paul writes 1 Timothy
July 18-19, 64 - The Great Fire of Rome. Emperor Nero blamed the Christians, and a great persecution ensued.
Mid 60s - 1 Peter written
c. 64-68 - Paul writes 2 Timothy from prison
c. 67-68 - 2 Peter
c. 68 - Hebrews is written
June 9, 68 - The death of Nero. Sometime between the Great Fire of Rome and the death of Nero, both Peter and Paul were martyred.
c. 69 - Jude
70 - The Seige of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple
c. 70-80- The Epistle of Barnabus is written.
c. 85 - John written
Late First Century -** 1, 2, and 3 John**
95- The Epistle of Clement is written…
c. 95-96 - John writes Revelation
c. 60-120- The writings of Papias (only fragments remain).
c. 105- The Epistles of Ignatius are written as he heads for Rome for execution.
c. 105-125- The Epistle of Polycarp is written.
c. 125-130- The Letter to Diognetus is written.
c. 125-130- The Epistle of Aristides is written.
c. 130- The Martyrdom of Polycarp is written.
c. 130-150- The Shepherd of Hermas is written.
c.100-165- The writings of Justin Martyr, much of it written in the 130s.

So tell us, why is it **within a 100 year **period, does the Church look so Catholic?

So, lets see.
The Ressurection is now 70 years old, and here is what Ignatuis says about the Eucharist:

Quote:

Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes
Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2-7:1.

Quote:

. . . and are now ready to obey your bishop and clergy with undivided minds and to share in the one common breaking of bread – the medicine of immortality, and the sovereign remedy by which we escape death and live in Jesus Christ for evermore
Letter to the Ephesians 20.

And, look at what the Didache says about Baptism:

Quote:

After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. If you have no living water, then baptize in other water, and if you are not able in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Before baptism, let the one baptizing and the one to be baptized fast, as also any others who are able. Command the one who is to be baptized to fast beforehand for one or two days
Didache 7:1.

And, oh, look what Clement of Rome has to say about Saved by Faith and Works, and Not Faith Alone:

Quote:

“Seeing, therefore, that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things which pertain to holiness, avoiding all evil-speaking, all abominable and impure embraces, together with all drunkenness, seeking after change, all abominable lusts, detestable adultery, and execrable pride. ‘For God,’ saith [the Scripture], ‘resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.’ Let us cleave, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words.”
Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians, 30.

Quote:

“For what reason was our father Abraham blessed? Was it not because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith?”
Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians, 31.

Quote:

“All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians, 32.

Oh, and compare what Ignatuis says about the Eucharist:

Quote:

…the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ…
Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2-7:1.

to what John wrote in his Gospel just twenty years before:

Quote:

John 6 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Also, Protestants, compare this verse Luke wrote in Acts:

Quote:

Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

to this statement by Barnabus probably only a decade or so later:

Quote:

“Blessed are they who, placing their trust in the cross, have gone down into the water…we indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up, bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear [of God] and trust in Jesus in our spirit.” (The Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 11

How did these early first generation christians describe themselves?

Quote:

Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as, wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church
Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2.

Quote:

When finally he concluded his prayer, after remembering all who had at any time come his way – small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world – the time for departure came. So they placed him on an ***, and brought him into the city on a great Sabbath
The Martyrdom of Polycarp 8.

Lets stick to the first 100 years.
Seventy years after the Resurrection we have Ignatius telling those he wrote to stay close to the Bishop, and denouncing those who rejected that the Eucharist was Body and Blood of Christ.
Sixty years after the Resurrection we have Clement writing Corinth exhorting them to reinstate a priest they had expelled (which they did). Clement was Bishop of Rome at the time.
Thirty years after the Resurrection (some scholars say twenty) we have the Didache telling us how to Baptize (including sprinkling if running water isn’t available), and telling of a need to reconcile before receiving the Eucharist so that the “sacrifice” (not memorial meal) may be pure.
In structure, sacrament, etc., the Church then was, as the Church now, Catholic.

Compare this verse Luke wrote in Acts:

Quote:

Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

to this statement by Barnabus probably only a decade or so later:

Quote:

“Blessed are they who, placing their trust in the cross, have gone down into the water…we indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up, bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear [of God] and trust in Jesus in our spirit.” (The Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 11

Acts 2:42 - from the Church’s inception, apostolic tradition included celebrating the Eucharist (the “breaking of the bread”) to fulfill Jesus’ command “do this in remembrance of me.”

Acts 20:28 - Paul charges the Church elders to “feed” the Church of the Lord, that is, with the flesh and blood of Christ.

And around 60 years after Luke penned Acts:

Quote:

“For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66.

Good work!

But you might want to edit one word and make it into “donkey.”

Back in the early '90s I was a Pentecostal, and I obtained a DVD-ROM containing the 37 volumes of the Early Church Fathers. I was delighted; my thought was this: Now I’m going to find out what the early Church was really like. As I got into the first volume (and not very far into it), my thought had changed to this: Wow, the Apostle John isn’t even cold in his grave, and already the Church has fallen into Catholic heresies!

That was the first step of a 20-ish-year journey that ended at the Easter Vigil Mass 10 years ago :smiley:

Justa; I am interested if you have the earliest evidence of someone calling themselves “A Catholic” and not just a part of the Catholic Church?

Great story! Thanks for sharing! :slight_smile:

Nice work. I’m going to read it over in detail as soon as I can.

Hi Ron, the earliest written evidence of the word as it would be translated to us today is found here:

Wherever the bishop appears let the congregation be present;
just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.
Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans VIII

In order to understand how they thought and acted back then, we have to discard much of our modern thinking and wordplay, and walk in their shoes. Advice I would give to anyone studying any historical time period. It simply would not have been important to them to stress the word “catholic” in an era that simply being called ‘christian’ would have gotten you thrown to the lions.

On the Eucharist:

The Didache (within the lifetime of the Apostle Paul):

Quote:

Assemble on the Lord’s Day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist: but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23—24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, “Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations” [Mal. 1:11, 14].
Clement (within the lifetime of the Apostle John):

Quote:

Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters who have already finished their course, and who have obtained a fruitful and perfect release (Letter to the Corinthians 44:4-5 [A.D. 80]).
Ignatius of Antioch (At the turn of the second century, within the 100 year timeline):

Quote:

Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is but one body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his blood, and one single altar of sacrifice —even as there is also but one bishop, with his clergy and my own fellow servitors, the deacons. This will ensure that all your doings are in full accord with the will of God (Letter to the Philadelphians 4 [A.D. 110]).

Justin Martyr (toward the end of the 100 year period):

Quote:

God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [minor prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: “I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord, and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, my name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering, for my name is great among the Gentiles” [Mal. 1:10-11]. He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us [Christians] who in every place offer sacrifices to him, that is, the bread of the Eucharist and also the cup of the Eucharist (Dialogue with Trypho 41.

Again, the foundation for this thread is:

  1. The first 100 years after the Resurrection.
  2. The events and writings in chronilogical order (as much as we can)
  3. Accepted historical facts only. Not “alternative” or “revisionist” history.
    BTW, I am using the same historical philosophy used in Josh McDowell’s “Evidence That Demands a Verdict”, a Protestant work.

Another question my friend; when “The Eucharist” is translated as such, was it saying “thanksgiving” or saying a word completely separate from the Greek word for “giving thanks”?

For example; when Jesus “Lifted up the cup and gave thanks” our Bible’s don’t say “Received Eucharist.” Why not?

Off the top of my head (agreed a dangerous place to start:D), I would say because our Bible is in the English language. Languages are hard to translate even today, look at how often the media mis-translates the Pope. Add to that, an ancient language such as Greek. Our English language is simply inadequate in many instances to properly translate ancient languages.
ADD to that, this was an era when oral communication ruled over written. So when the Early Church said ‘Giving The Thanksgiving’, it came out in the written Greek language as ‘Eucharisto’.
I don’t know if that answers your question, I’m no scholar, just an amateur with some extra time today. :smiley:

Can you name me one such scholar? I’m not sure what you are calling “non-Catholic scholars” are actually scholars at all in the normal, professional sense of the word.

Starting with Matthew on.

I don’t know of any scholars, of any tradition, who think Matthew was the first NT book written. A minority of scholars do think Matthew was the first Gospel written, but I think everyone agrees that Paul’s letters are earlier.

However, the writing of the New Testament was not that cut and dry. As one puts together a timeline of Church history, including works written that are not in the New Testament, one must reach a conclusion that the early Church was indeed Catholic.

It is certainly not clear that the early Church believed all the dogmas the modern Catholic Church teaches. Indeed, Catholics don’t claim that these dogmas were explicitly proclaimed.

Furthermore, the early writings you have in mind are pretty cryptic.

If I understand you rightly, your point is that the early non-canonical writings follow pretty directly on the canonical ones (indeed, if we follow the consensus of modern scholarship, some of the canonical ones were later than some of the non-canonical ones), and hence there’s no time for the Church to “fall away” or something of that sort. Certainly that argument has force, and certainly my own reading of vol. 1 of the “Ante-Nicene Fathers” series when I was about 19 radically transformed my understanding of the Christian faith (together with more selective reading of later authors, particularly Origen and Augustine). But plenty of Protestants argue that these early authors are as much in agreement with them as with “Rome,” and some of the more radical ones argue that yes, false ideas did start to creep in very early. They point out that the NT itself warns about this, although in my opinion it’s highly unlikely that the NT authors had “early Catholic” ideas in mind when they issued these warnings (much more likely early forms of what we call Gnosticism).

By the time the Gospel of John was written for example, the Church was already 50 years old (which forces a Catholic view of John 6).

I don’t follow this, although I certainly believe that John 6 supports the Real Presence.

Also bear in mind that the issues will be very different depending on which Protestant group you’re addressing.

Edwin

So when you quote these passages in English, how then do you know they’re saying what you want them to say?

The Didache likely repeats what the Bible says in Luke and Corinthians about giving thanks. I’m not a Greek Scholar either, but the entire Didache looks like it comes right from the Gospels (even though it may have come before one or two).

As for Catholic, the argument is odd given the history of language, because again people were considered a part of the universal Church, which I don’t think you disagree with.

Here is a history of its development. newadvent.org/cathen/03449a.htm

You must understand that at the very beginning of the Church’s foundation there were men spreading heresies, Paul mentions them frequently and I believe Acts and Peter they are also mentioned. These diviant " christian groups " caused much confusion in the early church. But since these groups continued to call themselves christian, it became necessary for the Bishops and priests of the true faith to find a name which distinguished between true christians and heretical christians. It was this that gradually lead to the adopltion of the word ’ Catholic ’ to refer to the fact that Catholic Churches held strictly to the universal beliefs handed on by Jesus Christ and the Apostles.

Pax
Linus2nd

I hope you dont mind but I wanted to expand on one of your references that is highlighted above in red.

"Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrneans, 8:2 (c. A.D. 110)".

Many Protestants are in agreement with this, and those who aren’t are clearly wrong:p

But basically I agree with you on this one. I know that I rattled some of my online students at Asbury Theological Seminary some years ago when I made it clear that I agreed with the “medicine of immortality” quote :smiley:

And, look at what the Didache says about Baptism:

What about this do you expect Protestants to disagree with? The allowance of pouring as a backup for immersion? Only some Protestants insist on immersion, you know.

And, oh, look what Clement of Rome has to say about Saved by Faith and Works, and Not Faith Alone

Clement can be cited both ways, as your third quotation indicates. The first “justified” can be interpreted as “made known to others as righteous,” and the final quote you cite (“not through works wrought in holiness of heart”) seems on the face of it to support a classically Protestant position, as does the immediate followup in which Clement asks whether what he has said should make people careless about doing good works, and answers (as pretty much any Protestant would answer), “of course not.” (Of course, Catholics can explain the “not by good works” as referring to initial justification, just as Protestants can explain the “justified by works” as contrasting living faith with empty words–so I don’t think either side can easily claim Clement.)

Just to be clear, Protestants historically say that we are justified by faith alone, but that justifying faith is never alone. It always gives birth to good works. Clement’s exhortations to good works are entirely in keeping with most versions of Protestant theology.

I think your last two arguments, setting non-canonical and canonical passages side by side, are really good and help me understand what your argument as a whole is getting at.

My criticisms are meant to be constructive. Trying to prove too much is always a problem in apologetics, and a blanket claim “look how Catholic the early Christians are” is less effective than specific points about specific issues, particularly the sacraments. (But do bear in mind that not all Protestants reject sacrametnal grace.)

Edwin

Okay Professor. :wink:

Thanks Edwin. :thumbsup:

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