Martyr, that is. I’ve begun a long and awesome trek through the 10 volume Ante-Nicene Fathers (Ed. A. Roberts & J. Donaldson [Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004]). I wanted to invest in a good theology/history set and “covenant” with myself to read it straight through, so the patristics won over Barth for now. The next few months, I’ll be coming back to these fathers from time to time here on the blog.
Right now, I’m reading Justin Martyr (2nd century AD), specifically, two of his apologies and his “Dialogue with Trypho, A Jew.” I am enjoying it in every way (though “Dialogue” is quite lengthy). One reason I chose to read the fathers is because it is quite edifying for me to see the historical side of Christ’s bride, that the saints in the early church gathered around Christ’s word and sacrament much like we do today. Here’s one example from Justin’s First Apology (LXVI and LXVII), where he mentions the Eucharist and weekly Sunday worship.
“And this food is called among us Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.”
“On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president (I’d love to see the Greek word here!) verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings…and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given…”
Justin goes on to note how the alms are then collected for the poor, orphans, ill, widows, etc. Then he explains why they meet on Sunday – because it is the first day, reminding them of the first day of creation and the first day of the new creation, Christ’s resurrection.
This is fascinating because this is one of Justin’s apologies (defenses) written to the government of his day, basically saying that Christians are not a crazy, immoral, flesh-eating cult but reasonable, moral, and worshiping followers of Jesus. One other thing I found Justin repeating is that those who persecute Christians and don’t repent will certainly face the coming judgment of God (Justin speaks of hell for the wicked quite boldly!). Anyway, I could go on, but needless to say, the church has a history. People like you and me were reading the Scriptures and worshiping the Triune God 1800 years ago. The gates of hell shall never prevail against the church!