Did the early church really go apostate?

by greendawn 10 Replies latest jw friends

  • greendawn

    Do you think the early church before Constantine, really went apostate and to what degree or in what way? Or is this a myth created by the JWs and other protestant groups that appeared relatively late in history to give some validity to their (late) appearence?

    I can't see any real or serious apostasy before Constantine.

  • IP_SEC


    They went from a gnostic mystery cult to a secularist christ worship cult.

  • Narkissos

    Apostate from what?

    The sectarian myth of second-generation apostasy presupposes the mainstream myth of first-generation orthodoxy.

    A reply in kind.

    Note the strategy: you cannot substract from an existing myth, you can only add to it, thereby modifying it to make it suit your agenda.

    The myth of apostolic orthodoxy validated the great church authority (through apostolic succession).

    The additional myth of post-apostolic apostasy denies the mainstream church authority and makes the apostolic myth validate the sectarian (who have "restored the apostolic truth").

  • Honesty

    No. Some individuals went apostate.


    It sounds funny to hear in these days that people want to return to primitive chiristianity where all was peace and love. I'm afraid the opposite proved true. There were lots of episltes, gospels, and revelations manufactured and circulated by different parties, each trying to prove their point. Each sect was trying to prevail one over the other. Dionysius of Corinth (170 A.D.) complained that his writings were being falsified but consoled himself by saying the same things were being done with the "Scriptures of the Lord". Mosheim, the Christian historian, stated:"There were a number of commentaries filled with impositions and fables on our Saviour's life and sentiments, composed soon after his ascent into heaven, by men who, without being bad, perhaps, were superstitious, simple, and piously deceitful. To these were afterwards added other writings, faslely ascribed to the most holy apostles by fraudulent individuals." Even though there were many sects, there were three principal ones that stood out, the Paulines, the Petrines, and the Johannines. Paul was the apostle of uncircumcision and the Gentiles. Paul wished to carry Christ to the Gentiles and still allow them to be Gentiles. In those days Paul was not recognized as a lawful teacher of christianity nor was he for more than a hundred years. Peter was of circumcision and the Jews. If they became Christians they must first become Jews and do with strict adherence ceremonially as the Jews did. Johannines were anti-Pauline and you can get a strong hint of this in Revelation 2:2,9 with these words being thrust at Paul and his followers: "And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars." "I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, are are not, but are the synagogue of Satan:" and Revelation 3:9, "them of the synagogue of Satan, which say the are Jews, and are not, but do lie." Notice Paul's words in 2 Cor.12:16 where Paul concedes that he caught some of his followers by being crafty and using guile, but he thought that if he had misrepresented as to his apostolic authority, since good had come out of it, no harm had been done. In Romans 3:7 Paul says in his defense, "For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie according to His glory why yet am I also judged as a sinner?" The Ebionites, one of the most powerful early sects, rejected Paul and said he was an apostate from the law. The Paulines rejected the Epistle of Hebrews and also rejected Revelation. The Cerinthians opposed John, Peter, and Paul. The Simonians opposed Peter. The Ophites rejected John and Paul. They were snake-worshipers and claimed to have derived their doctrines from James the brother of Jesus. This documentation could go on and on. In short, there was never a time in early christianity of unity, peace and all that love, you know, that good old-time religion.

  • Leolaia

    You might also want to take note of this post of mine which shows how incoherent and contradictory the Society is when citing examples of the "great apostasy" and who it regards as defenders of the faith:


    THE SHOOTIST....About the Ebionites and Paul, the gospel of Matthew is one example of a canonical work that takes exception to the anti-nomianist views of Pauline Christians....

  • greendawn

    So Narkissos and Shootist, there is a school of thought which believes that in the apostolic church there was no one faith that could be described as authentic and that the image of unity the Bible gives is false. There were many different versions of christianity.

    But how do we know that there was not one universally accepted faith that was the genuine one? Or that there were different types of Christianity based on Paul, John and Peter? And that the Gnostics were not a heretical sect that indeed did not have the true faith? The Jewish Christians believed in abiding by the Mosaic law but what other variants were there?

    Leolaia thanks for the link.

  • stillajwexelder

    depends how one defines apostasy - I would argue that Paul apostasied or at least wnt beyond Jesus's teachings - so in that caes even Paul (the early church) was guilty of apostasy

  • greendawn

    For believers the basic premise is that there is One God and one true faith, so which one is it? Paul propagated the idea that the sacrifice of Jesus killed the Mosaic law and replaced it with a superior law, so following it was a needless burden. The other apostles accepted this as valid for the gentile Christians. Other Christian Jews could never accepted it.

  • Narkissos
    But how do we know that there was not one universally accepted faith that was the genuine one? Or that there were different types of Christianity based on Paul, John and Peter? And that the Gnostics were not a heretical sect that indeed did not have the true faith? The Jewish Christians believed in abiding by the Mosaic law but what other variants were there?

    Very simple: for a start, read every single book of the NT for itself and draw the mental picture of "Christianity" which emerges from this book alone. Then compare -- Matthew or James with Romans or Galatians for instance. What is their "gospel," their "good news," their "way of salvation"? Not only they are different, in many ways they are opposite (notably, as far as the above-mentioned books are concerned, on the issue of "works of the Law" vs. "faith alone").

    But this is only the tip of the iceberg. When you look closer into the NT books which are the product of a long and complex elaboration (especially the Gospels) you will start hearing many more voices and opinions. The hardcore Judeo-Christians in passages of Matthew and Revelation, the Cynic-like itinerant radicals in passages of Matthew and Luke, the proto-Gnostic in John and Colossians, the Hellenistic (notably Alexandrine) in passages of Mark, Acts 7 or Hebrews. This is a fascinating way of reading, because each text suddenly makes a lot more of sense than when you try to reconcile them all into one "apostolic teaching".

    The illusion of an original, united "apostolic teaching," paradoxically, comes from the latest NT books: Luke-Acts, the Pastorals, Jude or 2 Peter where the first "orthodoxy" emerges against the first "heresy" -- Gnosticism which nonetheless had its roots in earlier NT writings (Pauline and Johannine especially). The problem is that most NT readers start with this later synthesis which provides a convenient "big picture" (notably a consistent time frame starting from the virgin birth, a clear outline of Jesus' ministry down to the Passion and resurrection, then the Ascension, Pentecost and the harmonious growing of the Church under the supervision of the twelve apostles). Only then they get into the earlier texts and try to fit them into this later frame. But the texts resist.

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