What Christians have Always Believed

Early in the fifth century AD, the North African Church in particular was very busy trying to suppress the ideas of the Donatists—a school of Christian belief that chiefly claimed that the validity of any Church sacrament was dependent upon the moral worthiness of the priest or clergy official performing it. Were this so, naturally it would require the Holy Roman Church to be accountable for purging its clergy of perverts, cheats, movers, shakers, and self-promoters of all sorts. It would put in doubt the worth of the entire operation in the minds of those dependent upon these sacraments. To the rescue of the Church, came our now venerated Augustine of Hippo, then, just a middleweight African Bishop and scholar, who countered, quoting Optatus of Mileum, his predecessor; “The Church is an institution, ‘whose sanctity is derived from the sacraments, and not estimated from the pride of persons. …The sacraments are holy in themselves and not through men.’”

Meanwhile, somewhere in the Celtic regions of the British Isles by best estimate, a very intellectual young pelagius-2 priest and Celtic monk by the name of Pelagius was motivated to leave his friendly, wet, shamrock-covered isles and take his St. Patrick style ideas into the heart of Christianity and do battle with a Church he felt was going astray. Pelagius however, fell mostly on the side of the Donatists on the above point.

Pelagius’ first trip to central Christendom took him to Rome in 380. There he found a pompous, opulent, wasteful, prideful, and overtly corrupt Church that appalled him. Everything about the Church in Rome was in opposition to his ascetic Celtic upbringing. He was galled by the extravagance of the hierarchy—particularly the Pope. Pelagius was insulted to hear what he called a “moral laxity” in the doctrine of Divine Grace hehad heard a Roman bishop cite from Augustine’s Confessions. The idea of helplessly begging for whatever Grace God might give with no hope of influencing God’s Grace one way or another, imperiled the entire moral law, as Pelagius put it.

In his visit to Rome and the course of his many debates in various forums there, he found his closest collaborator, a lawyer named Celestius. Pelagius became primarily the speechwriter and Celestius became the battling orator, promoting what became known as “Pelagianism.”

Pelagius retired to Ireland at length, taking with him his disciple Celestius. Here they continued to flail away at the Bishop of Hippo and his then yet-to-be-canonized doctrinal inventions. At the very moment when Augustine was just starting to find regional Church acceptance of his doctrinal masterpiece, Original Sin, Pelagius declared this newly invented doctrine to be abominable and spoiled a lot of Augustine’s fun and fame. It was from then on, open warfare between these two saintly men—as both acknowledged the other to be.

According to Pelagius, Adam’s sin didn’t fatally corrupt humanity, but instead he taught that“Over the years our sin gradually corrupts us, building an addiction and then holding us bound with what seems like the force of nature itself.” (Letter to Demetrias, VIII) Humans by nature have a clean slate at birth, and it is only through voluntary sin that humans are made wicked. In theory, a human could live a sinless life and merit heaven. In practice however, man, being by nature imperfect an unequal to God, sin always stained mankind one way or another given enough time and temptation. Pelagius was not therefore, making a claim as his detractors maintained, that man would be just fine without God’s Grace anyway.  He was saying however that the argument made by Augustine that if killed, unbaptized infants burned in hell, was a load of crap. Pelagius was saying that dead babies never had a chance to sin willfully or otherwise and were given a “pass” by God.

About 412, Pelagius took a trip to Palestine where the Bishop John of Jerusalem, a good friend, welcomed him. Pelagianism had spread like wildfire around Carthage, and the appearance of its author in Augustine’s back yard so-to-speak prompted a flurry of opposition from the Augustinian camp. Augustine had already disseminated four official letters condemning Pelagianism. Augustine’s associate Jerome, AKA “Saint” Jerome, a Latin Church scholar, happened to live in Jerusalem. Jerome had also authored several strong letters attempting to censure and eradicate Pelagianism. Visiting with Jerome at the time was another virulently anti-Pelagianist, Orosius, a pupil of Augustine. Together Jerome and Orosius publicly charged Pelagius with heresy and demanded action from Bishop John of Jerusalem. John called a council in July 415.

Church records suggest that Orosius’ lack of Greek made him look unprepared and not very convincing as the main prosecutor of the case against Pelagius. Bishop John’s Eastern heritage also made him far more willing to entertain the idea that humanity was basically good rather than utterly evil at birth. The council delivered no verdict on the issue and the Synod of Jerusalem remanded the argument to the Latin or Western Church, since Jerome, Orosius, Pelagius and Celestius were all disciples of the Latin Church.

A few months later, December of 415, two deposed bishops came to Palestine ostensibly to give evidence against Pelagius before the Synod of Diospolis, headed by the Bishop of Caesarea. The council was met but neither instigating bishop showed up for various odd reasons. Orosius had also intended to carry on his prosecution at this venue but left Palestine with no explanation after a consultation with Bishop John of Jerusalem. Pelagius did appear, armed with letters of recommendation from many scholars and Church authorities including Augustine himself, who in spite of their disagreements upon doctrine, gave a hearty endorsement of Pelagius’ moral and scholarly credentials. The Synod of Diospolis declared: “Now since we have received satisfaction in respect of the charges brought against the monk Pelagius in his presence and since he gives his assent to sound doctrines but condemns and anathematizes those contrary to the faith of the Church, we adjudge him to belong to the communion of the Catholic Church.”

As if to settle up with Jerome and Augustine once and for all, in 416 Pelagius wrote his most famous tome, On Free Will. Or: De Libero Arbitrio . This work did a major hatchet-job on Augustine’s theories.

As if to shut Pelagius up once and for all, Orosius, faithful lackey of Augustine, came crying back to Africa where Augustine took matters into his own hands and convened two local synods on their own authority. This council wrote an official letter of condemnation of Pelagius and his teachings, and sent it to Pope Innocent I of Rome. Now, even though sanctioned by four other bishops, Augustine of Hippo had no serious title or right or following in the greater Christian body. Even with his four back-bush bishop buddies Augustine had no Apostolic See and no universally binding right to define what was or wasn’t “orthodox” without it. Augustine’s church hadn’t been founded by one of the original Apostles and that made him an inherently inferior bishop. Luckily, he and Jerome both were great pals with Pope Innocent I of Rome.

Pope Innocent needed little convincing from Augustine and his African council of bishops. He immediately ordered a response from Pelagius. Pelagius put together his arguments in a letter and sent it back to Pope Innocent I. By the time it arrived however, Pope Innocent I was dead as a doornail. The letter was read by Pope Zosimus of Rome instead. In 417 Zosimus declared that he had been duly impressed by the defense Pelagius had made of his ideas and their basis in scripture and tradition, and declared him innocent of heresy.

Augustine was shocked. In 418 he called the Council of Carthage. This council named nine beliefs it claimed in particular were universal and orthodox in all the Church and always had been:

  1. Death came from sin, not man’s physical nature. [I could write pages on the stupidity of that notion.]
  2. Infants must be baptized to be cleansed from original sin.
  3. Justifying grace covers past sins and helps avoid future sins.
  4. The grace of Christ imparts strength and will to act out God’s commandments.
  5. No good works can come without God’s grace.
  6. We confess we are sinners because it is true, not from humility.
  7. The saints ask for forgiveness for their own sins.
  8. The saints also confess to be sinners because they are.
  9. Children dying without baptism are excluded from both the Kingdom of heaven and eternal life.

Augustine pointed out simply that Pelagius had denied each one of these basic, universal Christian beliefs, and therefore he was in effect a heretic regardless of what the Pope had just found. Pelagians were thereafter banished from Italy, and by extension, the Western Church entirely, but it wasn’t quite that simple or immediate however. The most reliable versions of the story claim that since Pope Zosimus had already declared Pelagius innocent of heresy, and of course, as a Pope he wasn’t inclined to admit he’d goofed the first time, that Zosimus. Augustine likewise, a loyal Western Church product, wasn’t going to push the issue too hard with Il Papa, so Augustine went to friendly civil authorities and had Pelagius, Celestius and all their followers declared public nuisances and disturbers of the peace, and the actual order banishing Pelagianism from Italy came from the Emperor and governors, not the Pope.

Now, I have just two points for you to consider with this little bit of history. And this is Christian history, recorded by the winners, not some secret conspiracy nonsense pulled from hidden archives. It is not even contended by Christians:

First, going on some five-hundred years into Christianity, two major players with major authority and thoroughbred Christian scholarly and clerical pedigrees came to two radically opposed conclusions from exactly the same sources. Both claimed they had come to these beliefs via preserved scripture and Church tradition. Both claimed the most canonized records supported their own interpretations and completely condemned their opponent’s opinions and interpretations.

Secondly, It took multiple councils and scores of bishops to get any sort of condemnation of the doctrines and writings of Pelagius, and likewise, having had the case before him twice the Pope in Rome Himself could not bring himself to issue an open condemnation of Pelagius. Conversely, there was no instant affirmation of anything Augustine was arguing throughout all the same councils, and again, even hearing the case twice the Pope in Rome Himself did not overtly endorse Augustine’s notions instantly as patently and universally perfect Christian tradition. It took some time and intrigue to make the endorsement finally. Therefore, five-hundred years and countless Popes and priests and bishops and scholars into Christian history, it was not quite certain to even the Pope, whether or not man was basically good or inherently, utterly evil. It was not quite sure whether or not the innocent unborn really were innocent, or whether they were doomed to eternal fire and pain unless rescued by the Church. And then, it was not even certain if you could rescue anyone at all, or if this person or that person was going to be “Elected” by God no matter what you or they did, and if this one or that one was just going to be ripped into the fires of hell because God had already decreed it when they were created. These brutally, extreme opposite concepts came evolving through hundreds of years and thousands of Christian thinkers and Christianity en-mass still couldn’t be sure which one was “orthodox” and which one was “heresy.”

How did Pelagius escape condemnation so many times in so many councils? Well, that was easy. Five-hundred years into Christianity all that had really been worked out is the Nicene creed and a couple of other vague statements of faith. All he had to do was confess his belief in these by then couple-of-hundred-years-old creeds and the whole rest of the controversy was anybody’s guess. The Nicene Creed is gibberish and could mean anything. It’s nothing to confess it and then go on to bigger problems.

And it’s an ongoing chain of viciously enforced guesswork by whatever Church or civil political and intellectual forces were at play. Two-hundred years before Pelagious saved his butt by clinging to the Nicene and Apostle’s Creed, there was the poor shmucks who were excommunicated trying to hammer out the Nicene Creed. You had one faction ready to kill and sentence to hell the other over inserting this one word or that other word that means almost the same thing. The winners of that argument became professors of “what the Church has always believed.” The losers became heretics. But that much had been settled by Pelagius’ time. So he just copped his faith in a nebulous Creed bickered out hundreds of years before his time and was then free to experiment with bigger ideas.

According to Roman Catholic records, which seem to go out of their way to prove the Pope was going to condemn him anyway–Pelagius and Celestius fled the hearings, leaving them unfinished. Augustine and his disciples had a connection to Valerian, who held an influential position in Ravenna, and this civil connection developed into the secular power taking part in the dispute directly through the Emperor Honorius, by rescript of 30 April, 418, from Ravenna, banishing all Pelagians from the cities of Italy. Somewhere in there when the emperor got involved, Pope Zosimus had a change of heart under the combined civil pressure and growing clerical support for Augustine. It became a popularity contest, and to support Pelagius was to insult the honor of Augustine. Augustine and his friends were favored by the emperor. Ergo, supporting Pelagius was also insulting the emperor. Zosimus finally issued a Papal condemnation of Pelagianism and in spite of this pressure, and several waves of pressure from both the Pope and civil authorities, by 428 18 bishops in Italy alone still refused to sign the Papal decree condemning Pelagianism. The penalty for this was being deposed from office and yet they refused.

Pelagianism in fact spread and grew until it was finally beaten and hounded to death through the Greek Church, Gaul, and into the British Isles, and had morphed into Semipelagianism, which attempted to take the best features of both Pelagius and Augustine’s ideas and reconcile them. It took until 529 to forcefully convince all of Christianity that man was born evil and God saved whoever he wanted and your human input of any sort was pointless.23439_Pelagius

Pelagius and his followers represent the last remnant of the other side of a doctrinal and philosophical war fought and won by Augustine of Hippo and his followers. The only evidence of Pelagius’ writings remains as quoted excerpts appearing in papers Augustine and his fellows used to defame them. That is the Christian pattern. The Greek Church doesn’t even name Pelagius or illustrate his “heresies.” He just vanishes in Eastern tradition out of the historical record along with all of his supporters. That is why a thousand years later John Calvin or Martin Luther during the Reformation and Protestand Movement, could probably honestly believe the Church had always believed Augustine’s entire body of guesswork.

But wrong or right, the fact is, it’s not even logically possible to claim that Augustine’s beliefs have always been orthodox and universal. It took a hundred years and more after the Bishop of Hippo first pulled Original Sin and Predestination out of his saintly backside just to decide Augustine’s ideas had always been believed by the Church. In the meantime, obviously not everyone in the Church was believing it for over a hundred years.

If Augustine’s ideas were all that universal and traditional, these debates could have never run for whole lifetimes and beyond, through trial after trial. Pelagius’ wholly opposing arguments could never have gone before higher and higher clerical authorities as Augustine personally tried to batter them down into infamy, while Popes and bishops and scholars scrutinized them without reaching any clear and unanimous insight into which of these two radically different positions were really the “orthodox” Christian faith.

Taking both arguments into account, and taking the sheer time, talent and effort put into proving the truth of either or both sides of the Pelagius v Augustine debate presented to and through many noted Christian judges and juries, all that the story of Pelagius actually proves is that both Augustine and Pelagius were pulling it all out of their backsides and making it up as they went along. What the Council of Carthage really proves, is that until 418 Christianity didn’t really have an official opinion on anything either Pelagius or Augustine had to offer.

Christian history shows indeed, that variations and combinations of both Augustine and Pelagius were melded and blended to become Semipelagianism, Arminianism, Calvinism, Methodism, Unitarianism, Wesleyanism, and a number of Eastern variants. And while the West claims to be the product of the pure and undefiled Christian tradition via Augustine, little concessions have been made over the generations to mitigate some of the most stupid and evil of Augustine’s assertions. For example, the last of Augustine’s quoted nine canons used against Pelagius at Carthage is no longer widely taught in Roman Catholicism. A Mormon, but not a polite one mind you, would say, because it’s the most evil and asinine. It’s self-apparently wrong and ungodly. Joseph Smith wasn’t the first to say as much and he wasn’t the last.

From a Mormon standpoint mind you, both Pelagius and Augustine were full of bologna. Mormons can’t even fathom that Christians could have, do, or ever did believe the sort of idiocy Augustine came up with. When Christians attack Mormonism, all a Mormon really need do is say, at least Mormons don’t have to believe that little dead babies are burning in flaming sulphur for all eternity through accident of birth.

The current Catechism of the Catholic Church states that children who die without baptism are “entrusted to the mercy of God.” The problem with that statement is that the very heart of this Augustinian nightmare we now call Christianity, of necessity sends even the aborted fetus to hell. No amount of “Provisional Grace” and postulating about “Mercy” or “Limboizing” and praying them out of hell with the help of a friendly saint or the Virgin Mary or begging for the intercession of Jesus Christ gets around the matter of all flesh being born utterly evil and thus deserving and doomed to hell unless you are Elected to be baptized into the Church and receive the necessary sacraments. If you die before that happens, however young, in or out of the womb, on this continent, on Mars or under a totalitarian state that refuses to let you know anything about Jesus, the Bible or the Church, all that means in Augustine’s theory is that you were not Elect and God chose not to Elect you. The manner of, or reasons for your non-election is irrelevant. God did it to you. How He did it to you or why He did it to you is above your pay grade. You are powerless to change it. You are powerless to change God’s mind on it.  Hell and Heaven are predestined.

Here it is straight from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Some codices containing a ninth canon (Denzinger, loc. cit., note 3): Children dying without baptism do not go to a “middle place” (medius locus), since the non reception of baptism excludes both from the “kingdom of heaven” and from “eternal life”.

So, the Roman Catholic Church in this case, can choose to just omit printing it out and teaching it to little kids in confirmation class, but after the Trinity, the doctrine of Original Sin is the very core of the faith. It is the very core of virtually all modern, mainstream Christianity, and the more even an “enlightened” Protestant, American Christian variant claims to be “Traditional” the more that sect generally emphasizes it. If you have Original Sin, you have Augustine, and if you have Augustine, you have babies burning in hell.

It’s that simple.

Which gets me to my unnanounced third point in this historical episode. Let’s assume the Roman Catholic Church, representing “What Christians have always Believed” for the moment, condemned Pelagius for not believing that unbaptized children went to hell. We know this actually happened, and we know Augustine was behind it. This made Pelagius a heretic, because he did not confess loyalty to a major canon that the Church has “always” believed. Well, the “Church” doesn’t believe that any more. The “Church” therefore has stopped believing something it has “always” believed. A “universal” belief is now no longer “universal.” And the “Church” now believes another new thing it has always believed.

Many of us have been raised on the King James Bible. I hate to come back to bashing that venerable old record around, but there is no better evidence that the “Church” adjusts from era-to-era what it has “always” believed than the preface from the “Authorized Version.”

The Epistle Dedicatory

TRANSLATED OUT OF THE ORIGINAL TONGUES:
AND WITH THE FORMER TRANSLATIONS DILIGENTLY COMPARED AND REVISED,
BY HIS MAJESTY’S SPECIAL COMMAND

There are no manuscripts in the original tongues of the entire New Testament. The lie here is multiple: No original manuscripts exist nor do even copies of manuscripts pretending to be from the original New Testament authors in the “original tongues.” We have some Greek versions written long after the death of the original authors. The King James Bible also originally contained the Apocrypha and that got dropped entirely. Even today zealous Christian sects preach this particular version to be written directly from the mouth of Jesus into King’s English. But, Jesus personally had nothing to do with writing or preserving any of it. This is also not the “Authorized” version any more. The sanctioning clergy that commissioned and purified this “perfect” English Bible has adopted a new one.

But if the “Church” tells you this King James Bible is the real thing, the actual Bible Jesus wrote Himself and then handed down exactly like it is, and you’re still all too willing to believe this impossible fantasy in spite of all the absolute proof it never could have happened that way even from Christian records themselves, well, you’re just helplessly ignorant. You’re just going to let it slide on by without making waves when the “Church” tells you God is like a shamrock or that all the uncivilized, dirty little dark babies in the Heathen Nations have not been Elected and that’s why it’s fine that they burn in brimstone forever.

So, case closed. The “Church” changes what it believes. Sometimes the “Church” changes what it as “always” believed so much it has to change its name from Catholic, to Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, or to Protestant from Roman Catholic, or Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, from Protestant and so forth. Or for that matter, from ELCA to LCA to ALC to EIEIO. The “Church” promotes what it believes at the moment and validates it by claiming it has “always” believed it. If you claim you find this to be also true in Mormonism, you must first also openly confess it in “Christianity” because Mormonism has only been at it for a couple of hundred years and still hasn’t made the radical sorts of basic doctrinal changes that your so-called “orthodox” Christianity has made hundreds if not thousands of times or the two-millenia it’s been inventing itself.

As a refresher, I’m attaching a handy chronology of Christianity’s general development to re-orient you before I move into the Reformation and Protestant Movements.

vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvcApologetics Toolkit

DEVELOPMENT OF THE BIBLICAL CANON

adapted from materials of Professor Paul Hahn of the University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas


Development of the Old Testament Canon

1000-50 BC:
The Old Testament (hereafter “OT”) books are written.
C. 200 BC:
Rabbis translate the OT from Hebrew to Greek, a translation called the “Septuagint” (abbreviation: “LXX”). The LXX ultimately includes 46 books.
AD 30-100:
Christians use the LXX as their scriptures. This upsets the Jews.
C. AD 100:
So Jewish rabbis meet at the Council of Jamniah and decide to include in their canon only 39 books, since only these can be found in Hebrew.
C. AD 400:
Jerome translates the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin (called the “Vulgate”). He knows that the Jews have only 39 books, and he wants to limit the OT to these; the 7 he would leave out (Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach [or “Ecclesiasticus”], and Baruch–he calls “apocrypha,” that is, “hidden books.” But Pope Damasus wants all 46 traditionally-used books included in the OT, so the Vulgate has 46.
AD 1536:
Luther translates the Bible from Hebrew and Greek to German. He assumes that, since Jews wrote the Old Testament, theirs is the correct canon; he puts the extra 7 books in an appendix that he calls the “Apocrypha.”
AD 1546:
The Catholic Council of Trent reaffirms the canonicity of all 46 books.


Development of the New Testament Canon

C. AD 51-125:The New Testament books are written, but during this same period other early Christian writings are produced–for example, the Didache (c. AD 70), 1 Clement (c. 96), the Epistle of Barnabas (c. 100), and the 7 letters of Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110).C. AD 140:Marcion, a businessman in Rome, teaches that there were two Gods: Yahweh, the cruel God of the OT, and Abba, the kind father of the NT. So Marcion eliminates the Old Testament as scriptures and, since he is anti-Semitic, keeps from the NT only 10 letters of Paul and 2/3 of Luke’s gospel (he deletes references to Jesus’ Jewishness). Marcion’s “New Testament”–the first to be compiled–forces the mainstream Church to decide on a core canon: the four gospels and letters of Paul.C. AD 200:But the periphery of the canon is not yet determined. According to one list, compiled at Rome c. AD 200 (the Muratorian Canon), the NT consists of the 4 gospels; Acts; 13 letters of Paul (Hebrews is not included); 3 of the 7 General Epistles (1-2 John and Jude); and also the Apocalypse of Peter.AD 367:The earliest extant list of the books of the NT, in exactly the number and order in which we presently have them, is written by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in his Easter letter of 367. [Note: this is well after the Constantine’s Edict of Toleration in 313 A.D.]AD 904:Pope Damasus, in a letter to a French bishop, lists the New Testament books in their present number and order.AD 1442:At the Council of Florence, the entire Church recognizes the 27 books, though does not declare them unalterable.AD 1536:In his translation of the Bible from Greek into German, Luther removes 4 NT books (Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelations) from their normal order and places them at the end, stating that they are less than canonical.AD 1546:At the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church reaffirms once and for all the full list of 27 books as traditionally accepted.


Digitized and formatted in HTML by the Augustine Club at Columbia University, 1995

http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/timeline.htm

The following timeline of Christianity summarizes some of the most important events in Christianity since its founding about 2,000 years ago. (Events in light grey are non-religious events included for historical context.)

c. 4 BC
Birth of Jesus

c. 26 AD
John the Baptist begins ministry

c. 27 AD
Jesus begins ministry

c. 30 AD
Crucifixion of Jesus

c. 35
Conversion of Paul

c. 44
Martyrdom of James

c. 46-48
Paul’s first missionary journey

c. 49
Council of Jerusalem

c. 50-52
Paul’s second missionary journey

c. 51-52
First and Second Thessalonians written

c. 53-57
Paul’s third missionary journey

c. 57
Letter to the Romans written

c. 59-62
Paul imprisoned in Rome

c. 60
Andrew martyred by crucifixion in Achaia (Greece).

c. 66-67
Second Timothy written

c. 68
Martyrdom of Paul

70
Fall of Jerusalem

c. 90-95
John exiled on island of Patmos

c. 95
Book of Revelation written

c. 96
Clement of Rome’s Letter to the Corinthians written

c. 120
Didache written

202
Christians persecuted under Septimus Severus

211
Christians tolerated under Emperor Antoninus Caracalla

222
Christians favored Emperor Alexander Severus

230
Origen’s On First Principles

235
Christians persecuted under Emperor Maximin the Thracian

238
Christians tolerated under Emperor Gordian III

244
Christians favored under Emperor Philip the Arabian

251
Cyprian’s Unity of the Catholic Church

254
Death of Origen

303
Diocletian orders burning of Christian books and churches

312
Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity

313
Edict of Milan establishes official toleration of Christianity

325
Council of Nicea

336
Death of Constantine

354
Birth of Augustine

367
Athanasius lists all 27 books of NT

379
Basil the Great dies

380
Christianity made official religion of Roman Empire

381
Council of Constantinople

386
Augustine converts to Christianity

389
Gregory of Nazianzus dies

395
Gregory of Nyssa dies

c. 400
Jerome’s Vulgate (translation of the Greek Bible into Latin)

407
John Chrysostom dies

411
Council of Carthage condemns Donatists

417
Pope Innocent I condemns Pelagianism

420
Death of Jerome

430
Death of Augustine

431
Council of Ephesus

451
Council of Chalcedon

787
Second Council of Nicea

950
Olga of Russia converts to Christianity

1054
Great Schism between East and West

1093
Anselm becomes Archbishop of Canterbury

1095
Council of Clermont: Pope Urban II proclaims First Crusade

1098
Crusaders take Antioch from Turks

1099
Crusaders recapture Jerusalem from Turks

1122
Concordat of Worms

1141
Peter Abelard condemned

1144
Fall of Edessa (crusader state)

1187
Fall of Jerusalem to Turks

1215
Fourth Lateran Council

1309
“Babylonian Captivity” (until 1377)

1337
Hundred Years’ War (until 1453)

1378
Great Western Schism (until 1423)

1409
Council of Pisa

1413-14
Lollard rebellion

1415
Council of Constance. Martyrdom of Jan Hus.

1420
Crusade against Hussites

1431
Joan of Arc martyred

1431-49
Council of Basel

1438-45
Council of Ferrara-Florence

1453
Fall of Constantinople to Turks

1478
Spanish Inquisition founded by Ferdinand and Isabella

1483
Birth of Martin Luther

1492
Expulsion of Jews from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella

1505
Luther becomes a monk

1517
Luther posts 95 Theses

1521
Luther excommunicated

1530
Augsburg Confession

1534
Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy

1536
Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion

1541
Colloquy of Regensburg

1555
Peace of Augsburg

1559
Elizabeth I’s Act of Uniformity

1590
Michelangelo completes the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome

1609
Baptist Church founded by John Smyth

1611
King James (Authorized) Version of the Bible produced

1729
Beginnings of Methodism, led by John Wesley

1738
John Wesley feels his “heart strangely warmed” during a reading of Luther’s preface to Romans on Aldersgate Street in London

1775
American Wars of Independence begin

1783
America wins independence from Britain

1793
Louis XVI executed

1797
Second Awakening begins

1798
Pope Pius VI is prisoner of France

1799
Schleiermacher writes Speeches

1801
Cane Ridge Revival

1804
Napoleon becomes emperor

1807
Hegel writes Phenomenology of the Spirit

1808
French occupy Rome

1810
Mexico wins independence

1812-14
British-American War

1814
Reorganization of the Jesuits

1816
American Bible Society established

1822
Schleiermacher writes Christian Faith

1826
American Society for the Promotion of Temperance founded

1830
Joseph Smith produces Book of Mormon

1834
Spanish Inquisition officially abolished

1838
Abolition of slavery in the British Caribbean

1841
David Livingstone to Africa

1845
Methodists and Baptists split over the issue of slavery

1846
Pope Pius IX (until 1878)

1854
Dogma of Immaculate Conception of Mary

1859
Darwin publishes Origin of the Species

1861-65
American Civil War

1861
Presbyterians divide over the issue of slavery

1869
First Vatican Council

1870
Dogma of Papal Infallibility

1872
Moody begins preaching

1875
Mary Baker Eddy writes Science and Health

1882
Neitzsche declares “God is dead”

1895
Five Fundamentals

1900
Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams

1906
Azusa Street revival

1908
Henry Ford introduces the Model T

1910
World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh

1914
Assemblies of God founded

1914-18
World War I

1917
Russian Revolution

1919
Prohibition passed into law

1925
Scopes “Monkey” trial

1932
Barth’s Church Dogmatics

1939
Hitler invades Poland and sparks WWI

1945
Nag Hammadi Library discovered in Egypt;
US drops atomic bombs on Japan

1947
India wins independence from U.K.

1948
World Council of Churches founded

1950
Papal encyclical Humani generis

1956
First issue of Christianity Today

1960
Birth control pill approved by FDA

1961
First human in space
Papal encyclical Mater et Magistra

1962-65
Second Vatican Council

1963
MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech

1968
Papal encyclical Humanae vitae

1969
First man on the moon

1971
Intel introduces the microprocessor

1973
Roe vs. Wade

1987-88
Televangelist scandals

1989
First woman ordained in an apostolic-succession church (the Protestant Episcopal church). Fall of the Berlin Wall.

1997
Birth of the internet

Sources

  1. Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries (Zondervan, 1996).
  2. Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity (Prince Press, 1999).
  3. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. I: to A.D. 1500 (4th ed., Prince Press, 2000).
  4. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service, 2004.

http://ministries.tliquest.net/theology/apocryphas/nt/

http://www.maplenet.net/~trowbridge/NT_Hist.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Christianity

http://www.internationalbibles.com/catalog/services/versions.htm

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About lrwhitney

American Saint but not Utah product.
This entry was posted in 8 What Christians have Always Believed and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What Christians have Always Believed

  1. FireTag says:

    I always enjoy coming back here and reading what you have to write when I gat a chance to absorb it. Your theological tutoring is appreciated.

  2. Jema says:

    Are you an ex-mormon? You write as if you are and much of you wrote is inaccurate. The actual pictures were about the most accurate thing about the Mormons. In order to get both sides, one would need to go to lds.org to see the other side. This article was VERY partial.

    • lrwhitney says:

      I appreciate your input to this project, and apologise for it becoming basically an online novel. I found after starting it that certain ideas were as big as 4-7,000 words long. I would appreciate you telling friends about this effort of mine, and encourage their comment as well. Having said this, I am perplexed as to why you would choose to myopically focus on what you term an inaccurate portrayal of Mormons in a chapter that basically takes their opponents to pieces. Furthermore, you will not find any detailed references to the evolution of early Christianity on LDS.org whatsoever. You seem to make my case that the Latter-day Saint is so unfamiliar with Church history before Joseph Smith you aren’t even able to raise specific objections to it out of total lack of understanding. In addition, you characterize my LDS allusions as “innacurate,” but you do not go so far to say as they are not “true” or basically valid. What I suspect you mean is you think any discussion of LDS history ought to be conducted with a reverent and totally accepting attitude. But you have given me very little upon which to respond without making bold assumptions. Please be more detailed if possible, and please read this blog from beginning to end because I believe I will deal with most of your questions in one post or another.

  3. Paul Preus says:

    There will always be politicking in the church. Every organization in which man is involved will do disgraceful and often dishonest actions. Pelagius was a heretic, period. And a church council did not need to declare this. Pelagius rejected the clear words of Scripture. Psalm 51:5 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Pretty clear. Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…: Again, pretty clear. I can give more passages from Scripture if you’d like. The fact is Scripture says what it says. We don’t have the liberty to pick and choose what we want to believe from it. The Church was write in condemning the teaching of Pelagius for his teaching contradicted the clear words of Scripture. Whether there was politicking involved would never be denied, but neither can the fact that Pelagius contradicted the clear words of Scripture. Original sin is Scriptural. If one doesn’t like it, then he doesn’t like the clear teaching of Scripture. Whether the unbaptized go to hell or not is another issue. Sinners without a savior go to hell. We know from Scripture that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world and that he works faith when and where he pleases in those who hear the Gospel…including the unborn. Baptism is the Gospel as is the preached word…we can not pit them against each other. It is possible that God creates faith in the unborn through his preached word…I don’t know, but I do know that the Christian God is a gracious God who while we were sinners did not spare his own Son but sent him to die on the cross for the sins of the whole world including the original sin of the unborn and infants.

  4. JR says:

    Emperor Constantine wanted ALL to believe the same when it came to the writings of what is now called Scripture. If anyone disagreed then that person was killed and if lucky could escape with their life. Therefore the minority who disagreed was labeled a heretic – a heretic was not a heretic until Constantine made it so. Everyone had to believe the same for Constantine because he wanted his empire to run smoothly. Hitler did the same – any officer who did not fully support him died. Just because the majority of the men at the Council of Nicea agreed with one another did not make them totally right. Before the first council some of these same men held different beliefs until the first council because they did not want to die. All one has to do is read their writings before the Nicean council and then read what they wrote after. Before the Nicean council there were many sects of Christianity and no one labeled them heretical – not until Constantine made it so. AND it took hundreds of years just to agree on what would be a universal belief!! That is not of God because if these men had the inspiration of God they would not have taken hundreds of years to agree on one (or more) issues. These guys actually debated one another and refused to listen to one another. Eventually there were break aways which resulted in the first being the Orthodox church. And of course we know the rest of the story – many, many men breaking off from Catholicism and starting their own churches which continues to this day. And some religions today call the Catholic church a cult when in fact they are a product of it. Christians do not know their own history nor do they know the history of the Bible. Scholars and linguists today say the Bible was not translated correctly. There are many words in Greek and Hebrew (in any language for that matter) that can have multiple meanings, so the translator used the word they thought best that went along with what they believed – so one word can change the whole meaning of a verse. That is fact.

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