Primary sources for the liturgy in the early church?


I am looking for help obtaining proof for a series of claims that Catholics make about how the early church conducted their services.

Context: I am a catechumen of the Catholic Church and also a student at a very Protestant college in America. For a final paper, I wrote an essay on how Catholics and Magisterial Protestants mirror the early Church in how they conduct their services.

The Problem: I just discovered that my professor is a Zwinglian charismatic who believes that the Catholic Church corrupted the liturgy in the 2nd or 3rd century. This means (in the professor’s eyes) that any secondary source that tries to show how the early church is similar to Catholicism must be biased or wrong. As such, I have been told that if I do not provide more primary sources for the historical arguments I make, the paper will not get a good grade.

I need primary sources for the following claims:

  1. Liturgy in the early church did not develop spontaneously
  2. Liturgy in the early church was divided into the Liturgy of the Catechumens and the Liturgy of the Eucharist
  3. The Liturgy of the Catechumens had been drawn from synagogues.
  4. Christians initially worshipped in synagogues, and drew parts of the Christian services from there
  5. Liturgy of the Eucharist was generally uniform in how it was conducted
  6. Liturgy of the Eucharist followed the pattern of the last supper
  7. Liturgy of the Eucharist typically came after the Liturgy of the Catechumens
  8. An altar and vessels were used in the Liturgy of the Eucharist
  9. The agape love-feast was generally uniform in how it was conducted
  10. The agape love-feast died out because of abuse
  11. There were set aside times for prophesying and speaking in tongues
  12. Times for prophesying and speaking in tongues died out because of abuse

I would appreciate any help in recovering evidence for this. I only have a few days to fix the paper.


What sources did you use in the paper, as written? Does your prof realize that the ‘primary sources’ will be in Latin, or perhaps, Greek?

This is for an undergraduate course, right? Are you expected to do original research? (Or, does he just want to see more quotes from the primary sources that the authors you cite are using?)


Have you looked at St Justin Martyr’s Apologies? In one of them he describes the liturgy. His description sounds remarkably like the Mass. He wrote about the year 150 AD.

Sorry I cannot give a reference but I am away from resources. Will try to get back with you later

Another thought: what evidence does he have that this is a corruption? Does he have evidence that the early liturgy was different?


Justin Martyr First Apology Baptism #61 Liturgy #65-67

Divine Liturgy of St. James taken from “The Ante-Nicene Fathers” Volume 7.

There are many other resources on the newadvent website. I recommend browsing the writings of the Church Fathers.

You may find it difficult to find exactly what you are looking for especially since it must be before 2nd or 3rd centuries. That really limits it to a relatively few writings outside of the Bible, and they were primarily addressing gnostic heresies.


Have you looked at the Didache?


The Catholic Church corrupted the Liturgy in the 2nd century?? So by “early” your professor means the first century? Sounds like he is prejudice, unreasonable, and not interested in truth nor scholarship. You’ll find 2nd century primary sources - St Justin Martyr being a great example referenced above… but if you’re looking at first century to convince him you’re basically limited to your interpretation of the New Testament, the Didache, and maybe the Shepherd of Hermas.


Even St Justin Martyr is 2nd century. This professor sounds like one of those radical fundamentalist who discounts everything immediately after the New Testament…who essentially believes the disciples of the apostles themselves corrupted the “true gospel” and set up the Catholic Church. The professor’s position is likely based SOLELY on his personal interpretation of the New Testament…


Keith F. Pecklers
The Illustrated History


Agreed. When I hear of profs like this, I’m glad I studied science in university. Although I had my share of terrible profs in science as well.

If I were in the OP’s shoes, I’d write what the prof wants to hear to get a good grade… then once I’d passed the course, I’d complain to the dean.

Edit: then again I just noticed that he is a student at a Protestant college. Probably won’t help to complain.


Oh boy.
I think Zwinglians don’t believe in the Real Presence.

Sure, if you wanna rattle his shoes quote Justin Martyr about how we give the pure sacrifice as prophecied and how we do things.

St Ignatius of Antioch also has some stuff on Church unity, etc.


You’re not going to find primary sources regarding the majority of things you asked, as what you’re looking for are things which are highly specific, highly specialized.

The best you’ll find from the 2nd or 3rd century would be St. Justin Martyr or the Didache - and these cover general topics, not very specific questions.

I’m sorry, you’re just not going to find a 2nd century primary source explicitly talking about most of the things you listed.


And Revelation; see Scott Hahn as a possible source; he shows references to the Mass in Revelation.


True, but it sounds like this Professor may dismiss Catholic interpretations of Scripture.


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