Bishops in Ignatius of Antioch
April 7, 2009

I wrote this paper a long time ago. English translations of Ignatius can be found here.

Otherwise titled:

The Wagon Wheel:
A non-hierarchical model for the episcopate in Ignatius of Antioch

Speaking of ecclesiological development from the first to the fourth century is difficult without mentioning Ignatius of Antioch, for in his letters the concept of a monarchical episcopate first emerges. In earlier texts of the New Testament and even in 1 Clement, the exact nature of bishops had been unclear, and some have even speculated that the ἐπίσκοπος and πρεσβύτερος roughly referred to the same thing.1 Even if ἐπίσκοπος (episkopos “bishop”) and πρεσβύτερος (presbyteros “elder”) were not synonymous, the elementary references to these offices in the NT appear very different from the supreme bishop as understood centuries later. Because Ignatius counsels his audiences to keep close, in faith and love, to their ἐπίσκoποι, of which there is only one in each congregation, he is seen by some scholars raising ecclesiology to a higher level.

ignatiusIn the present age when authority, especially ecclesiastical authority, has lost its potency in many circles, scholarship is quick to classify these references to ecclesiastic offices and centralized authority as evidences of an authoritarian hierarchy.2 Nevertheless, this hierarchical model fails to account for the doctrines of love, faith, and unity present in the writings of Ignatius. For such a detailed hierarchy to be present, Ignatius’ audience would expect him to at least include a delineation of command, but presbyters are never once commanded to be subject to bishops. If anything the presbyters’ authority is equal to that of the bishop. Furthermore, it is not the bishops which Ignatius calls his fellow servants, but the deacons. Ignatius’ concept of a monarchical bishop is a manifestation of the schismatic nature of his opponents and not of a delineated hierarchy, in which the bishop is supreme. (more…)

The Great Apostasy: Changing Views in Mormonism (part 1)
December 22, 2008

One of the most fundamental Mormon doctrines is that which was first communicated to Joseph Smith through theophany: that none of his contemporary churches were true, because, according to God himself (to quote both Isaiah 29:13 and 2 Tim. 3:5):

They were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed [Joseph] said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof. (Joseph Smith-History 19)

Couple this with the sixth Article of Faith:

We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church, namely apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists and so forth.

From these statements we have deduced the Great Apostasy: that somewhere between the time that Jesus founded his church (another doctrine in Mormonsim) and the time that Joseph Smith went into the woods to pray, the Christian church as a whole apostatized from the true Gospel of Christ. Essential doctrines were lost and the authority of stewardship over God’s economy was taken off the earth in such a way that it could in no way be regained except through direct agency of God himself (i.e. a human “reformation” as through Martin Luther and others was not enough). The result was a Christianity that primitive Christians would have difficulty recognizing. This deduction has been confirmed by various heavenly messengers who have restored key doctrines and authorities taken from the earth when the above mentioned apostasy occurred. (more…)

The Divine Council from Justin Martyr to Augustine
October 25, 2008

Otherwise entitled: Early Christians and Deification in Psalms 82:1

The Yellow Dart has posted recently on the Divine Council in the Hebrew Bible and Judaism here and here. The most descriptive passage of the divine council is Psalms 82:1 (NRSV). It is worth noting that the LXX translates the Hebrew ‏בַּעֲדַת־אֵל as ἐν συναγωγῇ θεῶν (“congregation of gods” rather than “divine council”). Conservative Christians sometimes interpret this divine council as representing something more in line with the strict monotheism to which they subscribe. This theological interpretation is evident in the NIV, which implies that the verse refers to gods so-called (not real gods) by putting the word in quotation marks. The NASB goes even further to translate the word “gods” as “rulers.”

My contention would not be that they are wrong, but that they disagree with many of the earliest Christians, who not only saw the deities as real (not false gods, idols, or demons, earthly rulers, etc.), but also as the pinnacle of human potential. In other words, the gods in the divine council are ultimately devout Christians having attained godhood and being judged of God, (more…)