Justin Martyr and a Developing Catholic Eucharist

Justin Martyr (c.114-165 C.E.) is an important Early Church Writer. The editor of the writings of the "Ante-Nicene Fathers", A.Cleveland Coxe, has noted, "the conversion of such a man marks a new era in the gospel history." Justin Martyr, before accepting his active role in developing catholic Christianity, was an outstanding disciple of Socrates and Plato. He continued to wear his philosophers gown, and as a Christian in the city of Rome, he taught "the only safe philosophy" (A.N.F. p.160). He, not unlike other Christian martyrs and Socrates before them gave his life for what he believed. In his view of the Christian use of the bread and wine, Justin Martyr records and passes to subsequent generations of "Church Fathers" a subtle yet important step in the evolution of the catholic rite.

There exists a consensus among scholars who study the history of early Christianity: New Testament Christianity underwent development in the hands of the dominant teachers of the following centuries. The homogenized teachings of these dominant and transitional authorities has been called "patristic orthodoxy" Scholarly opinion becomes more complex when the question of compatibility is raised, that is, compatibility between the evolving "patristic orthodoxy" and the teaching of the New Testament. The development of "patristic orthodoxy" is what Adolf Von Harnack called the "chronic Hellenization of Christianity" which he compared with the less patient "acute Hellenization" which was carried out among teachers who would later be categorized as "Gnostics". The early "orthodox" ancients set themselves against the more radical Hellenizing teachers; even though both would introduce pagan or Hellenistic elements into a form of Christianity.

Where can the student of this early history look to find a standard of authentic doctrine with which the more subtle Hellenization may be gauged? How far back and to what source should one push to find the real teaching of the Lord about the bread and the wine and salvation, free from false adjustments? If the prophetic scriptures of the New Testament are to be considered a complete doctrinal resource, essentially incomparable to other "Christian writings," then an answer is within reach. Jesus Christ sets forth the distinction between the word of God and the word of man, when addressing the Jewish traditionalists who held the extra-canonical writings to be of great doctrinal authority: And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men (Mark 7:6-8)." Note the further distinction in authority between what Moses (the apostle of God) taught and the writings of later Jewish teachers. Jesus was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said,....but you say,....thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down (Mark 7:9-13)." Alfred Edersheim notes that from a traditionalist's point of view it was thought that many of these extra-biblical traditions "had been orally delivered to, but not written down by Moses." If traditions were of another sort, Edersheim would say, "To this class belonged all that was supposed to be implied in, or that could be deduced from, the Law of Moses. The [Law of Moses] contained, indeed, in substance or germ, everything; but it had not been brought out, till circumstances successfully evolved what from the first had been provided in principle (Edersheim, p.70)." In the Mark 7 passage quoted above the dynamic designation "the word of God" is given to that which came through Moses. This designation is now applied to the gospel teachings of Jesus. Jesus promised to bring all things to the apostles’ remembrance and stated that "his sheep" would be made up, not only of his immediate disciples, but also "those who will believe in me through their word." These apostles understood their role in the forming of new prophetic scriptures to be similar to that of Moses in forming the Pentateuch of the Old Testament. Peter wrote: "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased"-- and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:16-19). I am merely touching on the subject of the prophetic scriptures as the communication of the "word of God" here. A full discussion on the authority of the word of God might go on at length but let me merely give two quotes that exemplify our understanding. “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13).” “As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed (Galatians 1:9)!” The correct New Testament understanding of authority rightly exalts the teaching of Jesus Christ. For the purpose of our present topic we recognize that if the “word of God/ word of man distinction” is maintained then great force is given to what at any rate is an observable development from New Testament teaching to what becomes known to some as “patristic orthodoxy”. With the points made above in mind the early writings even of men like Justin Martyr should be examined for subtle shifts that become authoritative stepping stones in some minds for further development.

There are, in the main, three adjustments in Justin Martyr’s approach to the bread and wine that we should note: 1) He uses “Eucharist” as a technical term for the developing “orthodox” rite. 2) He assumes greater similarity with, and even adopts, the Hellenistic “mysteries” as a valid ritual category for his developing orthodoxy. 3) His “eucharist” has transitioned from the biblical use of the bread and wine with memorial words in the context of a fellowship meal to a mere symbolic or liturgical meal as a cultic rite.

Justin Martyr may be the earliest writer to apply the term "eucharist" to the bread and the wine. There is one writing by Ignatius in which the term is used but it shows evidence of being spurious (Lightfoot, Harmer, and Holmes p. 132, 133, 189). The designation “Eucharist” for a rite in which consecrated foods are distributed by a priest can be used as a rhetorical device to close what is actually a significant gap between a Hellenistic sacrificial system and the fellowship meal setting of the memorial rite of the bread and wine. Authentic Christianity is adverse to any ongoing sense of cultic sacrifice. Under the word translated “sacrifice” the theological dictionary of the New Testament recognizes that “...in His sayings concerning the temple in Mt. 12:6;26;61, cf27:40; Jn. 2:19; 4:21ff. Jesus makes it clear that sacrifices are of secondary value and are doomed to perish....This original purpose of sacrifice is finally fulfilled in the personal act of Christ, in the voluntary and unique offering up of his life. Sacrifice is thus brought to an end in Him. Cultic sacrifice is not merely transcended but ended by the unique self-offering of Christ. Heb. 10:18; cf. 9:8...(Kittel Vol. III, p. 184-185)." Undaunted by the New Testament aversion to an ongoing material sacrificial system, the writers of the developing "orthodoxy" create a rhetorical link to the New Testament's figurative phrase “sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Heb. 13:15) by adopting a new technical term for their ritual -Eucharist. The original context of Hebrews finds eucharistia used with it's lexical meaning "thanksgiving." It is only in later extra-biblical writings that "eucharist" is given the technical meaning that accomadates the Hellenistic and idolatrous ideas and actions of an ongoing ritual sacrifice. Hellenistic sacrificial thinking is so fused with the developing "orthodoxy’s hybrid ritual" that the developing "orthodoxy" would soon have to appeal to the Old Testament terminology and sacrificial system to explain their “eucharist”. The candor with which the conservative Lutheran, then Eastern Orthodox scholar Jarslov Pelikan traces this phenomenon makes the following quote worthwhile.

The growth of the cultic, hierarchical, and ethical structures of Christianity led to the Christianization of many features of Judaism....In the New Testament itself the concept of “priest” referred either to the Levites of the Old Testament, now made obsolete, or to Christ or to the entire church—not to the ordained ministry of the church. But Clement, who was also the first to use the term “layman,” already spoke of “priests” and of “the high priest” and significantly related these terms to the Levitical priesthood; a similar parallel occurred in the Didichae and in Hippolytus. For Tertullian, the bishop was already “the high priest,” and for his disciple Cyprian, it was completely natural to speak of a Christian “priesthood”. And so by the time of Chrysostom’s treatise On the Priesthood it seems to have become accepted practice to refer to Aaron and Eli as examples and warnings for the priesthood of the Christian church, Chrysostom also spoke of “the Lord being sacrificed and laid upon the altar and the priest standing and praying over the victim,” summarizing the sacrificial language about the Eucharist which had also become accepted practice. Therefore the apostles, too, were represented as priests. But this re-Judaization does not indicate any recovery of close association between Judaism and Christian theology, on the contrary,...[it was] a practice which was both an index to and a cause of the isolation of Gentile Christian thought from Judaism contemporary with itself as well as from the Jewish Christianity out of which it had originally come (Pelikan Vol.1,p.25).

We know the Old Testament had a material sacrificial system and this is why the Old Testament became a source for any biblical rationale to the developing eucharistic teaching. The actual and immediate source of strange ritual and ideas is everywhere present in the idolatrous Hellenistic religions. It is with this assertion that two remaining adjustments of Justin Martyr are chiefly related.

The term “mystery” in Hellenistic religion stands for the “magical action” or “for the formula which effects the magic” (Kittel Vol.4, p.810).

More generally the term refers to “...the sacramental rites which constitute the true event of the mystery, the cultic actualization of the deity, which shows itself to be present in the sacred drama, in the exposition by the hierophants of the sacred symbols and the pronouncement of the accompanying formulae, and which enters into sanctifying sacramental fellowship with the devotees. Because this encounter takes place in the mystery liturgy, the sacred actions and objects must be protected from all profanation (Kittel Vol.4, p. 807).”

Justin is not only familiar with the category of “mysteries” as used in his former Hellenistic religion-- “...we who, out of every race of men, used to worship Bacchus the son of Semele, and Apollo the son of Latona, and Proserpine and Venus (who were maddened with love of Adonis, and whose mysteries also you celebrate)...(A.N.F. Vol.1, p. 171)” –he may also have an affinity for “mysteries” as a valuable category in his new religion. By defending his developing “orthodoxy” with the declaration “that promiscuous intercourse is not one of our Mysteries (A.N.F., Vol.1 p. 172)” Justin seems to retain the category in general. The similarity becomes more obvious when Justin, after describing his eucharist in it’s developing form, he continues his description: “Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated (A.N.F. Vol.1, p. 185).

If this approaching parallel with the term “mystery” seems insignificant in Justin Martyr, we should only recognize that the following generation of “orthodox” writers will adopt the term “mystery” along with it’s Latin equivalent “sacramentum” and a host of mystery-religion-terms as the normal designation for the rite of the bread and the wine. “The original cultic concept of mystery found rejuvenation in the early church when [mystery] became a fixed term for the sacraments (Kittle Vol. 4, p.826).” We also notice that Justin Martyr’s use of “mysteries” as a category of cultic actions would not be out of step with developing a culturally elite “orthodoxy” in the city of Rome during this period. John C. Gager points out that “...it was in the second century that the emperors Hadrian and Marcus Aurelis became initiates of the Eleusinian mysteries...(Gager p.102).

A third point of adjustment in Justin Martyr’s eucharist is the separation of the memorial words of Jesus from the context of a fellowship meal and the reformation of the rite into a service with mere symbolic or liturgical eating of consecrated food alone. Justin says, “When our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought,...there is a distribution to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine and water for a participation in the eucharistic elements...(A.N.F. Vol.1, p.186)”
Justin Martyrs description does not prove there was no meal before or after but his is the first description that lacks reference to the meal context. The change in form makes the developing “orthodox” rite fit more closely with the descriptions of the liturgical eating of the Mithraic, and other ancient mystery cults. In the gospel accounts the institution of Christ’s memorial is in the context of a memorial meal -the Passover. In modern banquets we have experienced when one person rises at the meal to offer a toast which gathers the attention of all the participants of the meal. The memorial words with the bread and the cup at a meal are closer in form to this than to the liturgical eating and drinking of mystery cults. Notice in Matthew’s gospel that the context of the memorial is a meal at which conversation would not be inappropriate. “Now when evening had come He sat down with the twelve. Now as they were eating He said,...And each of them began to say to Him,...Then He answered and said, “He who dipped with me...Then Judas said...And as they were eating Jesus took bread,...(Matthew 26:19-26). The institution of the Lord’s memorial is recorded similarly in the gospel of Mark and the gospel of Luke with the explanatory words “this do, for my memorial (Luke 22:19 Marshall).” In the Corinthian church the very problem that Paul was addressing (1Cor. 11:20-34) was that some of those who were wealthier were partaking of their own food which they had in abundance, before it had been set out to share in common with the whole body of believers, they were (at the place of meeting) separating themselves; having a meal to themselves separate from the common meal in which the memorial with the bread and wine would take place. What was intended to be the “love feast”, was being made an “elite feast” by leaving the meager remains of food and drink for the general “fellowship” part of the meal. Paul’s complaint: what kind of fellowship meal could it be when by their actions the wealthy were despising the gathered people of God and thereby not being considerate of the body of Christ?

In sum, three areas of adjustment to the memorial of Christ’s body and blood found in Justin Martyr’s eucharist are: 1) Use of the technical term eucharist for the evolving “orthodox” ritual. 2) The association with, and apparent adoption of, “mysteries” as an “orthodox” category. 3) The transition in form from a memorial as part of a meal, to the “eucharist” participation as part of a liturgical ritual.


  1. The coming of the kingdom of God did away with the need for sacraments. Therefore, none of our focus should be on ritual. Rather, it should all be on righteousness.

  2. Hello Mike,
    The arguments that I have seen surrounding this topic can be complicated. Many of them are very misguided. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  3. Sir, I'm concerned that your references to mystery cults, especially Mithras, come from books and websites that inevitably cite 17th-19th century forgeries, false paraphrases or unsourced documents. During the 17th-19th centuries, many social darwinists, religious cult leaders and pseudohistorians forged such documents to make false links appear between Christianity and pagan religions (often to further Aryan race theories), so one has to be very careful when wading through the 19th century historical feces.

  4. Also, to further an understanding between us, I'd like to know where on the church history timeline you posit the Great Apostasy. That is, are you an "after the apostle John died" sort, or an "Irenaeus" sort, or a "Constantine" sort, or what have you.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. From the Didache:

    And concerning the Eucharist, hold Eucharist thus: First concerning the Cup, "We give thanks to you, our Father, for the Holy Vine of David your child, which you did make known to us through Jesus your Child; to you be glory unto the ages."
    And concerning the broken Bread: "We give you thanks, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you did make known to us through Jesus your Child. To you be glory unto the ages.
    As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains, but was brought together and became one, so let your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your Kingdom, for yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ unto the ages."
    But let none eat or drink of your Eucharist except those who have been baptised in the Lord's Name. For concerning this also did the Lord say, "Give not that which is holy to the dogs."

    Early Christians worshipped in the Synagogues, and held Eucharist on Sunday. The Eucharist was, originally, partaken of from some of the potluck bread and wine gathered for the Agape meal. After Christians were banned from the synagogues, they began having their eucharistic liturgy on Sunday as well. Eastern Christendom still preserves the Eucharist as preceding an Agape meal to this day.

  7. Hi Nicholas, Thanks for stopping by. You have said quite a bit. If you have an objection to a particular quote let me know maybe I will agree with you, maybe I won't. You quoted at length from the Didache, a document brought to light in (your dreaded?) 17th to 19th cent. time period by Adolf von Harnack. It like all the older Christian writings found outside to the prophetic scriptures are comparatively suspect as to date and original composition. I do not think apostasy is as simple as a point on a timeline. And loyalty requires an on going willingness to repristinate past tradition to the word of our teacher...Jesus.

  8. A few points: The didache was brought to light by an Eastern Orthodox metropolitan, not Harnack.

    I share Dr. Bart Ehrman's sentiment that there has been much speculation about mystery religions and a sparsity of primary source material. This is why I am skeptical of claims about "mysteries" in the ancient Mystery cults. You may find this site useful: http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/mithras/

    I would argue that the early Christian concept of mystery did not mean "arcane ritual", but rather referred to a sacred act in which heaven and earth are brought together, and God works through matter. This is a very Judeo-Christian concept: God works through matter, which he declares good, and demonstrates that he is not merely concerned with some far-off spiritual realm as the pagan Greek gods were. The incarnation is a "mystery" because it is perhaps the ultimate heaven-earth meeting moment. The cross, the grave, the third-day resurrection, the ascension into heaven: All Mysteries of God.

    This is what the early Christians believed baptism and the Eucharist to be, for example. Heaven and earth, God and creation, meeting to perform a wondrous act. Unlike the Roman church of the late middle ages, the early church did not fix these Mysteries to seven, or any number; for the entire creation can be used in Mystery, can be Holy.

    St. James wrote: "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the Elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." The oil is not mere symbol; it is an act in which God reveals that he will meet mankind, by his Holy Spirit, as he met Israel between the two cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant. But do not misunderstand me; God's grace is not limited to this act, nor to temples built with hands. Rather, we are called to it and to believe, because it has been revealed to us...

    in a mystery.

    St. Paul speaks of the Mystery of salvation: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me."

    Woe, oh woe, if you believe that Word of God mentioned is a book or a message of words, or anything but the very Logos of God himself.

  9. Are you willing to distinguish between what might be called "the early Christians" and what is written in prophetic scripture?

  10. In the sense that one can distinguish between Homer and his Odyssey, sure.

    By "prophetic scripture" you mean the 27 books of the New Testament and the Masoretic Hebrew scriptures, right?

  11. Are you willing to distinguish between the Roman Catholic Church and Nicene-orthodoxy?

  12. Yeah, that is a good delineation of prophetic scripture. This distinction is one Jesus would have us be sure to make.
    And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." He was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. "For Moses said, 'HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER'; and, 'HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH'; but you say, 'If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),' you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that."
    (Mar 7:6-13)

  13. Once it is clear that we should make a distinction here then we can move forward to consider what is accurate doctrine and what is not.
    We can also examine the use of words such as mystery and distinguish how we, or others, use the term from the way the term is used in prophetic scripture.

  14. NASB fan, I see? I am, as well.

    I think the distinction to make is between the Traditions of God and the traditions of men. St. Paul writes "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle."

    One then has to make a distinction between something that finds its root to be organically part of the Tradition of God, and something that is an external innovation being attached to the Tradition of God. Your accusation seems to be that the Real Presence and, to some extent, liturgical prayer and actions themselves, are foreign innovations.

    Your argument seems to posit a just-so story; you're constructing a narrative of apostasy that will explain how the disciples of the apostles all fell into mystery-cult heresy within about three generations after Apostle John's death. You're doing this because you look at part of the scriptures and your personal experience with Christ, then at medieval Roman Catholic sacramentology, and you realize that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong in between the two.

    My assertion is that what went wrong didn't happen when, where, or how you think it did.

  15. Hey Nicholas,
    The teaching of Jesus has not evolved or grown from seed to a differently shaped plant. On the other hand, what men count as orthodoxy has evolved there is no question about that. That evolution can be traced through careful comparison with the original teaching. It is interesting to see what is widely accepted transform. But we should also be aware that infidelity to Jesus Christ does not require the passing of even a decade. Infidelity to Christ and His teaching is present among the churches addressed in prophetic scripture.

  16. Fidelity requires a willingness to adjust my thinking to His. Loyal acknowledgment of Jesus requires us to repristinate our tradition to His teaching. I guess that is my assertion.

  17. You are right about the teachings of Jesus not evolving from a seed into an altogether different organism. An apologist I know compares the distinction to "the difference between puberty and gender-reassignment surgery". The Apostles and their disciples had all they needed for salvation in the 1st Century; we cannot use some fallacy of "the progression of mankind" to place us moderns in a superior position to our holy fathers in Christ and the Holy Scriptures, neither through doctrinal innovation nor through modernist textual criticism. This is a major reason why I reject Roman Catholicism: Their doctrine of development allows for complete reversals of the doctrines of the apostolic faith.

  18. Justin Martyr was writing to the Emperor in order to dispel accusations of Christian cannibalism and make clear the true nature of the Eucharistic practice in his Church; this is part of the reason why he takes such a "ritual-act oriented" tone in his explanation.

    But the sacramentology you reject cannot be extrapolated logically from what St. Justin Martyr wrote. In fact, such errors did not emerge until much later in the history of Western Christianity.

  19. It should be noted that the word "liturgy" as found in the NT is often translated as "service" or "ministry", words that the interpretive tradition of enlightenment-era free churchmen gave certain un-biblical connotations to.

  20. Nicholas, I do not submit to Roman Catholicism's authority claims...it sounds like you do not submit to them either. But, I am wondering if you think you have a firm place to stand while rejecting those claims?

  21. Well, two things to start off with:

    I believe that the scriptures do not constitute the only surviving Tradition of God given to man.

    I believe that it is impossible to read the Bible, or any text, without applying an interpretive grid. It is far more honest to say "I interpret this passage to mean this, and I disagree with your interpretation" than to say "You are interpreting; I'm just reading the scriptures as they are"-- which is what so many claim today.

    Therefore the question of where to stand becomes "how do I know which interpretive grid is the right one?"

  22. One may examine church history, writings, archaeology, and biblical textual criticism to evaluate interpretive grids. This method can teach you a lot of intellectual things *about* God and the early church, but the temptation to inject one's own presuppositions and to fall into re-constructionist Phariseeism is great; I have certainly succumbed to it many times. If one is not careful, one will become like the hard-line Messianic Jew communities, who wait with bated breath to hear the latest discovery from the Israel Antiquities Authority so they can somehow modify their worship to conform to "the early church."

    Ultimately, one must be humble, and willing to have one's perceptions altered if it means knowing the Truth. And one must cleave onto what one Knows of Christ during this process if such inquiry it is to bear any fruit. Ultimately that's who we're looking for, of course! Not words about God, no matter how accurate they may be, but the Word of God Himself.


    Having introduced countless novel doctrines (ultramontanism, created grace, purgatory, merit theology, Anselm of Canterbury's atonement theology, limited sacraments, etc) I do not trust the Roman Catholic interpretive grid, although I acknowledge that not everything it produces is in error.

    The Protestant reformers did not do away with the majority of these innovations, retaining Anselm of Canterbury's atonement theology, limited sacraments (high-church protestantism), a modalistic trinity, etc. They also introduced somewhat gnostic views like total depravity and, later on, rapture theology, etc. They then fractured into thousands of theologically-opposed camps, all claiming to "just read the bible." It's pretty clear that this method of interpretation backfires significantly; however, I can certainly point to countless instances where they got it right.

    So, what, did the Apostles fail? Did the gates of Hades prevail?

  23. And what about the Bible, which one do I use? Some have books that others don't have. There are three or four major usages of different Biblical canons today. Any attempt to explain which group has it right primarily utilizes extra-biblical writings and evidence for their arguments. Martin Luther placed James and Hebrews in the back of the Scriptures, and also moved the Roman Catholic Deuterocanon to the back. Even then, Protestants did not view the Deuterocanon as uninspired until much later, after the Deuterocanon was dropped from bible printings to save money.

    So if all these unbiblical events and choices are altering the scriptures, how do I know which canon is correct without appealing to extra-biblical traditions themselves?

  24. Did the Apostles fail, and the gates of Hades succeed? No, God forbid eternally! Can we trust any of the Scriptures, despite canonical chicanery? Of course we can.


  25. You can and ought to trust God. Your scriptural dilemma is not as big a deal as you are making it sound. All authority has been given to Jesus. Are you saying God has not gotten His gospel to you?

  26. By the way I hope you don't assume I am a Protestant. That is not really a label I am loyal to.

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. I do trust God, and I agree that the "scripture dilemma" isn't a big deal.

    The question is, *why* it isn't a big deal?

    I am not calling you a protestant or anything else. I would define "protestant" as someone who believes that their personal interpretation of scripture is what matters; in practice, they interpret according to the Catholic and protestant traditions which were handed down to them, often times without even realizing it.

  29. It's not a big deal because we can trust the Fathers and Mothers of the Church who preserved the apostolic Faith and preserved and interpreted the scriptures, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Athanasius, Cyril, Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, etc, up until the present day.

    They didn't lose the Faith. It appears they did, if you read Roman Catholicism's novel teachings back into their writings; but if you examine them without projecting RC doctrines, sacramentology, ecclesiology-- you'll begin to see a different picture. You'll be able to believe that God did not drop a book out of the sky that we're supposed to divine like witchdoctors until He comes again; he gave us a Body, and that Book is meant to be used within the context of that Body only.

    God didn't stop using men to speak his truth after Apostle John died, nor did he allow the Traditions of God, of which the Scriptures are a part, to die.

  30. Is this the approach Jesus teaches us?

  31. I'm not talking about an approach, I'm talking about a Life in Christ, grafted onto his Body, the Holy Vine of Israel.

  32. It doesn't have to be Catholic Merit Theology OR Sola Scriptura. It's neither.

  33. Jesus said "lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the age." He also said "upon this rock I will build my Church, and the Gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." But you already know he said those things.

  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

  35. I think you have misunderstood me, because I have failed to make something clear.

    My faith does not rest on men or texts-- perhaps these things began to teach, to demonstrate, but it was and is ultimately the personal experience of Christ that led me to accept Him.

    I have spoken too much and been quite impolite. Please, tell me where you stand.

  36. Yes, Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches. but we must remain in Him...we are to be attached to Him, not to Him through "Gregory the Great".

    I don't mind reading Gregory the Great's understanding of a passage from prophetic scripture, but I do not necessarily privilege his thoughts above other commentators.

  37. Anyone and anything can communicate the presence of God to us.

    However, when it comes to theology and biblical interpretation, we need the Tradition of God, as preserved by such men; both the Scriptures and the Holy Tradition that did not pass away.

    You seem to favor only the Scriptures.

  38. The Scriptures do not self-interpret, after all. Thousands of denominations have demonstrated that.

  39. Nicholas, if you have time see what you think of what I am saying here:http://personaldiscipleship.blogspot.com/2007/10/who-has-universal-catholic-authority-i.html

  40. "In Holy Scripture 'The Church' is not the title of an organization that attempts to stand over the congregations with a universal-authority-claim."

    Once again, your claim here depends on the definition of"universal authority". A claim to be the "people of God" can be made by a group that professes no leadership whatsoever, so it has nothing to do with "attempts to stand over the congregations."

    "Today a 'branch' type claim to Catholic authority is held by many Protestants. They would like to inherit the Catholic authority by a vague and romantic notion of belonging to '...one bible, two testaments, three creeds, four councils, and five centuries...' or some similar notion, without submitting to the Roman Catholic organization. It is as if this minority of Protestants and Eastern Orthodox are calling out to Catholicism saying, 'Hey, we are part of the majority too.' This more modest branch claim is dependent on a consensus or majority idea of 'The Church' which many thoughtful Christians have eventually found unsatisfactory."

    Can you point me to such a claim as an example? I don't understand what you say they are claiming.

  41. So you believe, if I am not mistaken:

    *In an invisible universal Church made up of individual believers with no distinct visible body

    *That authority should be vested in local churches, with authority coming from the Scriptures alone, as interpreted by the church members' personal selection of theologians, church fathers, commentaries, and their own insights.

    With all due respect, this sounds quite Protestant, even if you have somehow transcended that label. I'll now respond to some points that interested me in your post:

    "Christ did not grant hierarchical authority over congregations to any organization."

    What do you mean by "organization"? If you mean a Pope or Magisterium, I agree with you, he certainly did not. I also agree that where the local church and its episcopos is, "there is the catholic (universal) Church."

  42. For some reason my post keeps getting deleted.

    “Ignatius, who is also Theophorus, unto Polycarp
    *who is bishop of the church of the Smyrnaeans or
    rather who hath for his bishop God the Father and
    Jesus Christ*, abundant greeting.”

    See? Ignatius finds no conflict between organization and direct relationship with Christ here.

    Ignatius goes on to say:

    Give ye heed to the bishop, that God also may
    give heed to you. I am devoted to those who are
    subject to the bishop, the presbyters, the deacons.
    May it be granted me to have my portion with them in
    the presence of God. Toil together one with another,
    struggle together, run together, suffer together, lie
    down together, rise up together, as God's stewards and
    assessors and ministers.

    A Bishop was the local leader of a group of local churches. There need be no larger group to constitute the Universal Church; even though later on, the Apostolic Sees gained Patriarchs (Bishops who governed important cities, with a rank of honor) they were always viewed as equal; one vote at a council; not only that, but laypeople have historically “governed” their Bishops by locking them out of churches when they turned to heresy, protesting, and speaking at the councils.

    “the churches of Galatia. In the region of Galatia there were several distinct gatherings, or congregations, of Christians.”

    Can you demonstrate that they were distinct in faith, doctrine and praxis?

  43. You said:

    What kind of “authority” is it? The Council of Nicaea was called together by the Roman Emperor Constantine. The Emperor was taking a huge step in having the common Christians lorded over by someone other than Jesus. The “clergy” who attended were not faultless. They were forming a policy to exalt the leaders to a distinct class over the people and building a hierarchical system above many of the local congregations. Lording over the people through an organization or society is most undeniable when it is accompanied by a claim of “universal authority” as the people of God. This organization of church leaders under the authority of the Roman Emperor also produced the doctrinal statement known as the Nicene Creed.

    There was no decree at Nicaea that "...exalt[ed] the leaders to a distinct class over the people and building a hierarchical system above many of the local congregations."
    You seem to have many misconceptions about Nicaea I, probably because you have gotten bad information from third-hand protestant and catholic sources. I suggest this introductory series on the Council of Nicaea:


  44. Nicholas, If there was a difference between loyalty to Jesus in submission to prophetic scripture and your notion of patristic orthodoxy would you want to know what that differenc is?

  45. I started out with the conclusion that there was an immense difference between the two. Only after begrudgingly opening my mind to the writings of the Fathers and Mothers, to the witness of the Churches of God throughout the ages, did I reverse my position; it took many long hours of study and reflection to come to that conclusion.

    So yes, I was and am interested. I simply find many arguments that attempt to highlight a difference to be Ad-Hoc, outdated, revisionist or simply outright deceptive.

  46. I consider the prophetic scriptures themselves to be the jewel in the crown" of "patristic orthodoxy". For me, they are not in conflict.

  47. Have you considered that the New Testament has, itself, natural, allowable, Greek Philosophical influence? Would you want to know if St. John's Logos theology was really an "evil pagan nicene-orthodox innovation", derived in part from Philo the Jew's work on the same subject?

    Do you reject the Gospel of John because of this, or do you permit the baptising of Hellenic terminology if it's done within the realm of the Scriptures?

    Is something wrong because it uses Hellenic words and concepts? Or is something wrong because of whether or not it is true?

  48. Exactly, John's Gospel can baptize anything God wants it to in order to communicate the Gospel...no problem. So Hellenic words are fine and even Hellenic concepts if they are actually present. So my question still stands.

  49. I answered your question with "yes" in my first reply.

  50. So you'll tolerate baptized Hellenic concepts if they're explicitly used by name in the Scriptures, but not an iota further? I guess that's where we disagree. I think that Greek terminology can be quite useful in defending the True Faith against innovations. It is because of the Holy Spirit's working through Greek terminology (against other Greek terminology) that we still believe Jesus is both True God and True Man, for example.

  51. Sorry, I may have missed your very important "Yes".

    John's Gospel can baptize anything God wants it to in order to communicate the Gospel...no problem. So Hellenic words are fine and even Hellenic concepts IF they are actually present.

    Jesus is the True Faith and we must guard against innovations the same we remain in Him...By abiding in His word.

    My experience has been that God can oversee your life while you are led out onto a pier and He can also oversee your life while you walk back (with new understanding?)to solid ground.

  52. Jeff,

    I agree!

    I am going to take a hiatus from internet discussions. It appears we're doing a lot of talking past each other. But that's alright.

    Perhaps we can resume this discussion in a couple weeks-- I do encourage you to watch that Council of Nicaea series, if only to gain some more exposure to the primary sources on the topic which are extensively quoted.

    I hope you have a blessed Easter/Pascha/Christian Passover. I've appreciated your humble responses to our discussion.

  53. Christ is risen! Hello again, Jeff. I hope you had a wonderful Resurrection Day.

    "Jesus is the True Faith and we must guard against innovations the same we remain in Him...By abiding in His word."

    What word are you talking about?

  54. Hey Nicholas,
    Don't you mean, "what 'word' is Jesus talking about?" -John chapter 15

  55. And his Word is found outside the canonical scriptures mentioned in St. Athanasius's paschal letter of 367 AD.

  56. What do you think Jesus meant in the context? What do you think John would expect readers of the Gospel of John to think?

  57. You seem to have no boundary on what might be developed by "christians" and then called the more mature orthodoxy...thus you embrace an evolving organism controlled by men that you then willingly count as gospel truth.

  58. Not really. I think you aren't too familiar with non-Catholic models of Holy Tradition, and so you assume that they all follow the "seed" model, which leads to the overthrow of apostolic doctrine. I assume that you are only familiar with Catholic and Protestant models because you showed a complete ignorance of non-Catholic and non-Protestant ecclesiology when you said:

    ""Today a 'branch' type claim to Catholic authority is held by many Protestants. They would like to inherit the Catholic authority by a vague and romantic notion of belonging to '...one bible, two testaments, three creeds, four councils, and five centuries...' or some similar notion, without submitting to the Roman Catholic organization. It is as if this minority of Protestants and Eastern Orthodox are calling out to Catholicism saying, 'Hey, we are part of the majority too."

    But I digress. The fact is, if you don't believe that the Church can utilize new words and new explanations for Apostolic doctrines, then the Gospel of John must be done away with. The only reason you don't count the Gospel of John as a Hellenizing heretical work of "mature orthodoxy" is because the man-made tradition you received says it's the infallible word of God.

  59. "What do you think John would expect readers of the Gospel of John to think?"

    I think in John Chapter 15, when Jesus says "the word I have spoken" He is referring to the teaching He handed down to the Apostles, a tradition that was preserved both within the Gospels, accounts and letters written by the Apostles, and in the Holy Tradition of the Church He founded through those Apostles. He is also referring to Himself, because He is the ultimate end and path of that same True Teaching and True Faith. He is the only One truly worthy of being called the Word of God.

  60. And of course, those who received the Gospel of John from John and his disciples would have accepted it within its Holy and proper context.

  61. Don't you think you should allow the primary referent to be that which John records as Jesus' own words?

  62. Yes, I do trust the Apostle St. John, who used Hellenistic terminology to write about Christ and the Gospel and the reality of the incarnation, in whose footsteps the Greek Fathers would follow. I also trust those unnamed Christian souls who added bits and pieces to the Gospel of John in the name of Patristic orthodoxy.

    I also trust 2 Peter, Hebrews and Revelation, regardless of whether or not Peter, Paul and John wrote them. I do this because they were eventually deemed, after much debate, apostolic writings, by those Spirit-Bearing Patristic-orthodox who put the Bible together for us.

  63. What about Jesus' own words? Has God gotten the very words of Jesus to you in the Gospel of John?
    I mean later tradition does not claim to be the very words of Jesus, does it?

    If your second paragraph is how you understand the Word of God's authority, then your first loyalty is to whoever you deem to be "Spirit-Bearing Patristic-orthodox" rather than God himself.

  64. Nicholas, is your loyalty to Jesus immediate?

  65. 1. Look at it from my perspective, Jeff. You think I'm placing "patristic orthodoxy" or "the Church" between myself and Christ. I'm not. I could view you as putting your personal interpretation of the Scriptures between yourself and Christ, but you would certainly disagree with me.

    2. You understand the Scriptures through the lens of your own personal self-generated hermeneutic, essentially making yourself your own Pope. I choose to interpret the Scriptures through the hermeneutic of the Fathers and Mothers of the Church. We both acknowledge that the Word of God has authority, we both acknowledge that what the Gospels say about Christ is true. The only difference is whose interpretation of those Scriptures we trust. BUT...

    I believed in Jesus Christ before I believed that the Scriptures were as trustworthy as I do now, and before I knew anything about the Church Fathers. I hope that answers your question/test.

    3. I don't see you responding to the actual points I make in my posts, like why the Gospel of John isn't an example of Hellenization. I would appreciate it if you would.

  66. What about Jesus' own words? Has God gotten the very words of Jesus to you in the Gospel of John?
    I mean later tradition does not claim to be the very words of Jesus, does it?

  67. God has gotten the words of Jesus, plus the words of Jesus as extrapolated upon by the Apostle John and others in accordance with the name of Christ,

    to us, by His Holy Spirit, through men

    In the Gospel of John.

  68. Later tradition does not claim to be the very words of Jesus. But people living after the final book of the New Testament was written can be and have been inspired by the Holy Spirit in their writings as well. The Gospels are above all the other Scriptures and writings in authority because they are the Apostolic witness to Christ's teachings and sayings.

    As for "later tradition" I am not speaking about later tradition. I am speaking about preceding/contemporary tradition.

    Anyway, Jeff, my point here is not that tradition somehow overwrites the New Testament. Montanus tried that with his babbling oracles back in the early centuries of Christianity and was declared a heretic for it. My point is that the Spirit-bearing living tradition handed down to the Apostles by Christ allows us to correctly interpret the Scriptures. It's not a matter of Tradition vs. the Scriptures, it's a matter of Tradition's interpretation of the Scriptures vs. Jeff Miller's interpretation of the Scriptures 2000 years later.

  69. Don't you mean Nicholas' interpretation of Tradition's interpretation of Scripture?

    It's actually a matter of who we are loyally acknowledging. I think my loyalty needs to be immediately to Jesus. That is, without mediation.
    It is not that my interpretation of Jesus' words is perfect...loyalty (faith) is about whose words are worth our effort at interpreting and submitting to...then,loyalty requires a willingness to repristinate my interpretation for the purpose of ongoing submission.

  70. This comment has been removed by the author.

  71. I also believe that my loyalty needs to be immediately to Jesus without mediation.

    Jeff, you must see a difference between one who informs his or her interpretation based on that of those who have begotten him or her in Christ throughout the ages,
    versus cobbling together an interpretive grid out of one's own personal interpretations and one's own personal selection of theologians.

    It sounds as though you are advocating personal "repristination" of doctrine according with one's growing understanding of the faith, fixing mistakes in one's understanding and adding missing pieces. I have no issue with this; I simply distrust the extra-biblical sources you use to "repristinate" your understanding of the doctrines of the Christian faith.

  72. You did not make fluid loyalty statements in your OP; you did not make humble statements that were only focused on Jeff and Jesus.

    You made black-and-white historical claims and used extra-biblical 19th century Protestant and atheist sources to back up your claim; this shows that you clearly comprehend the need for evidence to back up historical claims. (FYI, if you use parenthetical citations in a document, it's helpful to the reader if you put the full citations in a reference list at the end of the document).

  73. 1)My claim is that the tradition around the bread and the cup developed and became more complex overtime. Yes/No?

    2)My claim is that it makes sense to acknowledge differences between how the bread and cup are dealt with in prophetic scripture and how they are dealt with in other writings. Yes/No?

    3)My claim was that three differences may be observed between how the bread and cup are dealt with in prophetic scripture and how they are dealt with in what we are calling the writing of Justin Martyr. Yes/No?

  74. Yes, I understand what your claims are, Jeff. Claims 1 and 3 will not convince a generation that has begun to throw the Schaff commentary, Edward Gibbon and their 19th century revisionist ilk straight into the garbage bin.

    A generation that will either live by Evidence and Logic, by Faith, or by a combination of the two. But a generation that will not live by GARBAGE evidence.

  75. Nicholas, wait a minute, you think that there is no development in patristic orthodoxy on the bread and the cup...really? So everything that is said in the later patristics is said in the earlier patristics and everything said in the earlier patristics is said in prophetic scripture?

  76. Claims 1, 2, and 3 are not at all dependent upon Schaff, Gibbon, or the 19th century...and beyond that maybe I should keep in mind that loyalty to Jesus is not about determining what will or won't convince a generation. On that I think we agree.

  77. To your first reply: The Eucharistic liturgy did become more elaborate, but the Eucharistic theology remains the same. Just because Ignatius calls the Eucharist the "bread of immortality" does not mean that he invented the idea, for example.

    Come on, Jeff. You and I both know where this is going. Your original post is a patchwork of conjecture attempting to paint a picture of the "church described in the *Prophetic Scriptures*" that is in direct opposition to hierarchy, liturgy, and the importance of matter. In short, you want to project your enlightenment-era ideals and biases onto the authors of the Scriptures. You know that the early church drew upon Jewish liturgy when it performed Eucharistic liturgies, so you had to demonize that.

    I have some good news for you, Jeff. In the Book of Revelation, St. John the Apostle is performing a liturgy. St. Paul believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Titus appointed sacramental Bishops. Jesus Christ gave the Apostles the power to bind and loose sins.

    It's all true. All that stuff you called ugly materialistic pagan patristic hellenistic nonsense-- it's true. Now, won't you come and join me, and worship our Lord Jesus Christ in Spirit and in Truth?

  78. Please answer the following question regarding your position:

    Why is Hellenization allowed in the Gospel of John, but condemned as pagan mystery cult hybridization in all non-Scripture documents?

    It seems that you either have to admit Hellenization of the type you condemn is part of the Scriptures,

    or argue that God magically preserved the Hellenized Gospel of John from all error, "Just cause it's 'Prophetic Scripture". And where did you get that tradition? From your man-made Protestant heritage.

    "You examine the Scriptures carefully because you suppose that in them you have eternal life. Yet they testify about me."

  79. So, Yes to #1. What about #'s 2 and 3?

  80. 1. Yes, in the same sense that we use electric lights indoors instead of candles, but not in the sense you suggest.

    2. Yes, because the heretic Marcion wrote against using the "cup" part of the "bread and the cup." Marcion, however, was not patristic-orthodox.

    3. There are no theological differences between the Eucharist in the New Testament and the Eucharist in the Patristic writings. You have completely failed to demonstrate theological innovation or theological genesis in Justin Martyr, Ignatius or the Didache- that is, you have not demonstrated that they innovated their ideas and were the sources of them. You have built an understanding of the NT Eucharist that is based off of Protestant ad-hoc and begged questions, and have not demonstrated any theological difference between the NT Eucharist and later Eucharistic theology. As for "ritualistic" differences, they are of the "electricity/candle" nature, external precautions to prevent issues like those mentioned by St. Paul, and the result of the banning of Christians from Jewish places of worship and the Fall of Jerusalem.

  81. If you do not address my Gospel of John question, Jeff, I see no point in continuing our conversation. I have addressed your points, and you have failed to address dozens of mine. If this continues, then there is no real conversation going on.

  82. I'll be happy to address your John question. My original post is not on the Gospel of John. My original post is chiefly about three subtle but observable differences in how the bread and the cup are dealt with in prophetic scripture and how they are dealt with in Justin Martyr.

    I can also demonstrate "theological" development on the bread and the cup between prophetic scripture and other writings.

    The first step is getting you to acknowledge that differences in nomenclature are unquestionably present.

  83. I have read your demonstration, my friend, and you do not make any sort of case.

    There are definitely different images used to describe the Eucharist in later writings. Ignatius calls it "the medicine of immortality". Didache calls it "the Vine made known." But you cannot demonstrate that these images are opposed to those in the Scriptures unless one first argues what the Scriptures portray.

    I have seen what you argue the Scriptures portray, and all I see is one more protestant collection of Ad-Hocs.

    For one, you have NOT demonstrated that the Eucharist did not immediately precede the rest of the fellowship meal in Justin Martyr's account, and yet you claim that he changed a Eucharist "in the context of a fellowship meal to a mere symbolic or liturgical meal as a cultic rite." Justin's account of the Eucharistic rite stops with "those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion." You cannot prove that his church didn't have a fellowship meal. You cannot prove that the Eucharist is not a memorial sacrifice. You cannot prove that the New Testament contains no liturgy.

    And yet the opposite may be argued for those who have ears to hear!

  84. The reason I have been so insistent on the Gospel of John's Hellenization status is because the Gospel of John proves that there is an acceptable way to use Greek concepts, to rephrase teaching and to use new... well I suppose you'd call it "nomenclature".

    You have acknowledged that the Gospel of John uses Hellenistic concepts and language not found in the other Gospels. Now it's time to demonstrate why it's a problem to do so outside the NT.

  85. The answer that I already gave to your John Question was:
    "John's Gospel can baptize anything God wants it to in order to communicate the Gospel...no problem. So Hellenic words are fine [it is written in Greek] and even Hellenic concepts IF they are actually present."

    The Gospel of John has the actual words of Jesus, which I must remain in. The Gospel of John does not divert loyalty to Jesus. To the best of my ability to understand, The Gospel of John is prophetic scripture.

  86. In the Mark 7 passage that I quoted earlier Jesus expected his hearers to make a distinction between the "word of God" and "the tradition which you have handed down". His hearers could have responded, "But we got the Word of God from the same people that we got the tradition from."
    But I don't think it would have done them any good. There is a distinction. It must be recognized. Not recognizing it affects the acceptability of our worship.

  87. Nicholas, I said "I can demonstrate theological development" not "I did so in the post on Justin Martyr." You already agree that there is theological development concerning the Bread and the Cup which the vast majority of Christians count as Holy Tradition. Right?
    Let's continue this discussion at the on the next available blog post if you like.

  88. This comment has been removed by the author.

  89. This comment has been removed by the author.