The Church in Alexandria
1. Background of the City
-located in Egypt & home to one of the Largest Hellenistic jewish sect of the first and second centruty
-Apollos was Born and raised there
Acts 18:24–28 ESV
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
-Gnosticism is said to have found its firmest Grip in Alexandria (Home to Valentinus who Irenaeus wrote so vehemently against)
-City was the home of the great Library and was a center of philosophical thought and contemplation.
-And it is in this city we find the home of Philosophical Christianity….. And one of the Leading centers of Christian Thought
2. Clement of Alexandria (???-215ish AD)
Famous Quote: “All truth is God’s truth wherever it may be found”
-Became a Christian as an adult and then traveled the world in search of learning more about God.
-Ended up settling in Alexandria to study under Pantaneus
-Pantaneus was a former stoic Philosopher who converted to Christianity and built a theological school in alexandria
-He was a staunch defender of the faith against Gnosticism
-After his death Clement assumed leadership of the school (he was never an ordained minister)
-Not much else is known about his life, but his writing had a substantial impact on the church and later on His pupil Origen.
-3 Main Writings:
1. Exhortation to the Heathen
–Here Clement argued against superstitious and idolatrous beliefs and worship.
-He does though paint a positive view of Greek philosophical thought, especially where it line sup with Christian faith. Here though he presented the thought that any good in greek philosophy was borrowed from Judaism or given to them by God to point them to Christ.
2. The Instructor
-This Book was Clement’s attempt to pass down an instructional handbook on the faith based around the centrality of the Logos (Christ)
-Here he posited that the Christian life is a life based on true reason in concert with Christ.
–Probably his most famous, and problematic work
-This text is a winding non-systematized look at the Christian faith.
-Here Clement postulates a Christian philosophy, blending the reality of both the word of God and Greek thought in his attempt to explain the christian faith and doctrine.
-Philosophy & the Church
-For Clement he saw the Church as the bearer of those who are “True Gnostics.”
-The church held the true knowledge of the faith and reason apart from the teachings of Scripture and Christ truth was limited
-However his love of Platonic thought drove him to in short believe that Plato and his formulate philosophy was to the Greeks as Moses was to the Jewish, a precursor pointing to a true and lasting promise (Christ)
Platonic Positives he loved:
-Rejected the gods’ of Greece and Rome for a divine spiritual reality that all things derive their being and substance. (He rejected the unknown spiritual reality for the reality of God’s work in creation)
-It sought a world to come, and connected this life to a spiritual reality worth pursuing
-He Found in Plantonic though an opportunity to reach the city of Alexandria with the truth of God and He believed it helped to steer Christianity away from heresies like Gnosticism with its focus on reason and truth.
3. Origen of Alexandria (185-254) The Champion of the Eastern Church
-Origen was a student of Clement and the son of a Christian Martyr in 202AD (Story has it he too would have pursued his father to death, but his mother hid all his clothes)
-Studied under Clement in Alexandria, and was appointed the head of the school at the age of 17. At which time he began his writing career which blossomed into one of the most prolific of any man in the ancient era (Though most of his works are lost). His mission was to provide Christians with a sound and rational basis for their faith based on the scriptures, so that there would be no need for them to seek these answers in gnostic sects.
-He was not very well liked by the Bishop in Alexandria (Demetrius). Demetrius would refuse him ordination at every turn. (speculated for his growing fame and that he could in the end challenge his position as Bishop)
-He would eventually be ordained during one of his travels by the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine in 231. This lead Demetrius to Excommunicate Origen.
-Origen then moved his school and teaching to Caesarea, where he also opened and mission to young pagan academics interested in the Christian faith.
-Died a Martyr during the Decian persecutions of 254.
His Works break down into 4 groups:
1. Biblical: He wrote and taught extensively on the scriptures writing commentaries and multiple translations
2. First Principles: Is his collected systematic theology. Said to be the greatest of all his works and would set the foundation for the defense of biblical Christology and Trinitarianism.
3. Against Celsus: His Second Greatest work for in it He showed masterfully the truth of scripture agains Greek Philosophies. (This text is seen as giving Christianity its first real stance as a logical and rational faith in the greek world)
-Much like his teacher Origen he embraced aspects of Greek thought. though for him it was equivalent to the Hebrews plundering Egypt as they transversed to the promise land. For this he saw the use of Pagan thought to lead people to the truth of Scripture was a biblical sound rational.
-For Him the truth of Scripture was the most divine of all philosophy replacing what had gone before.
4. Practical Writings were also written to instruct son spiritual disciplines like prayer
1. He is well known for the introduction (or Propagation) of a 3 fold interpretation of scripture
a. The Literal meaning (least important)
b. The Moral Meaning
c. The Spiritual meaning (Most Important)
2. A Belief in a modified universalism and synergism in salvation
3. The Eternal generation of the Logos and Spirit
The Church in Carthage
1. Background of the City
-The city of Martyrs
-Faith first recorded in 180 when 12 Christians were Martyred in the city.
-This city would see many more saints killed
2. Tertullian (150-225)
Famous Quote: “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem”
-Is the First Latin theologian (A Champion in the Western Church)
-Convert as an adult in 190 AD. He was a lawyer by trade and used his legal mind in defense of the faith.
-Was a fervent writer and critic or both paganism and aspects of the church found in Alexandria
-3 Major groups of Works
1. Relationship between Christianity & Rome
a. Rejection of Roman Society and a call to cast of worldiness
b. A Rejection of all of Greek thought as being antithetical to the truth if scripture (Here is where his famous quote arrives)
2. Defense of the Faith against Heresy
a. Against Marcion (rejects his false teachings on Scripture and Gnostic theology)
b. Against Praxeas
i. First iteration of a defense against modern day Modalism
ii. In this treatise he writes what will in future generations be the basis for Trinitarian and Christological thought (Unfortunately it would remain mostly unknown until after the debates had long since passed)
1. 3 Persona with 1 Substantia (Orthodox Trinitarian thought)
2. Substantia with 1 Persona (Orthodox Christology)
3. Writings on the Moral life of Christians (Most written after he joined Montanism)
-Unfortunately he would not be well remembered or listened to by future generation due to his leaving of the Orthodox church to join a separate religious sect the Montanists
3. Montanism (The reason Tertullian is not held in high regard in the eastern History)
-Founded by Montanus along with Priscilla and Maximilla around 170 AD
-Based in Prygia (modern day Turkey)became a major form of Christianity in the region before spreading throughout the empire.
-Asked the question what was the role of the Holy Spirit after the Apostles
-Believed themselves to be the personal fulfillment of Christ words in:
John 14:16 ESV
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,
John 16:12–13 ESV
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
-Self-described as “The New Prophecy”
-Highly Charismatic group with a bent towards the manifestation of the Spirit and the end of the world
Maxamilla Prophecy: “After me there will be no more prophecy, but the end”
-The gifts they sought were visions, dreams, tongues, & Prophetic utterance of comfort and rebuke
-Most of their prophetic words were a combination of end time thoughts and calls for strict moral observance
1. Called to pursue Martyrdom
2. Called for continual and frequent Fasting and prayer
3. Banned marriage after the death of a spouse
4. the veiling of Virgins
5. rejected forgiveness for certain serious sins.
-Irenaeus wrote to Bishops around the empire defending the group as Brothers, even though they were mistaken on the spirits gifting. (Some seem to think his goal was to be unified in the face of the Gnostic threat)
-Churches throughout the empire rejected Irenaeus advice and convened local councils (first in Asia Minor then Rome) and excommunicated the groups and their members.
-Why they were rejected
1. It was a suspicious transformation away from the faith that had been known for the last 100 years
2. Acceptance of this group within the church would require the churches to validate the claims of Montanus and his other prophets as valid fulfillment of Christs words
3. There Prophecies rarely came true Maximilla died in 179
4. Their trances and spiritual visions lined up more with what the believers had experienced as non-believing pagans than as seen in the scriptures.
5. Their open hostility towards anyone who questions their visions and experiences
6. Mixed doctrines (Some were Modalists most were not, but this gave enough ammunition to finally cast them out)
-Closest modern group would be Pentecostalism (sort of)
4. Cyprian (200-258AD)
“You cannot have God as Father without the Church as Mother” & “Outside the church there is no salvation”
-Was Bishop of Carthage during both major empire wide persecutions of his era under Decius and Valerin 249-260
-Prior to the faith he was a famous lawyer and rhetorician in the city and was exceedingly wealthy. came to faith in 246 and gave away all his wealth.
-He was influenced greatly by the writings of Tertullian
-Most famous for His writings and defense of the unity and ecclesiology of the church. (Still the structure of the eastern church)
-Saw Bishops as the continuation of the Apostles authority (not infallibility)
-He saw each Bishop as supreme over his own churches and presbyters (adopted a roman model of government)
-All Bishops held equal authority with One another. (Rome seen as first among equals, though the Bishop in Rome saw himself very differently)
-He saw that apart from the church their was no faith
-Major Ecclesiological issues
-How to deal with the “Lapsed” following persecution
-3 questions: Can they come back, If So how & When, and by whose authority do we decide
-Rejected the idea that only the “confessors” (Those who endured persecution) could forgive sins and allow people back into the church
-Promoted the belief that it was the role of each Bishop to oversee the remittance of the lapsed after sufficient penance and evidence was given
-Many Confessors and their followers rejected Cyprians views some wished for stricter guidelines while others wished for looser ones. (these would eventually create additional Christian sects the Novatians in Rome and the Dontanists in Africa
This issue would also lead to a schism between the Bishop in Rome Stephen and Cyprian, because Stephen felt that as the direct successor of Peter his word should be final. They both would excommunicate each other, and eventually be Martyred during the second great persecution.
His Legacy is the Ecclesiology of the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches.
-It brought unity to the whole at the expense of the priesthood of all believers.
-It also began a drift away from apostolic Christianity to a more socio-politcal formation