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Author Topic: incense in Ante-Nicean Christianity  (Read 1613 times) Average Rating: 0
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antiderivative
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« on: June 27, 2011, 07:43:16 PM »

I remember reading a few quotes from early church fathers that seemed against the use of incense. Then I came across this article:
http://www.churchsociety.org/churchman/documents/Cman_117_3_Brattston.pdf
which uses those quotes to argue that early Christianity prohibited incense:
Quote
In describing Christianity to a pagan audience in the middle of the second century, Justin Martyr wrote that ‘because Christians are reasonable and intelligent people, they know that God has no need of incense and therefore worship him with prayer and thanksgiving instead’.1

Anyone have something to say on this? It seems quite strange since the use of incense is clearly found in both Old and New Testaments. I don't even know if it's a necessary element of Orthodox worship, but I couldn't imagine liturgy without it. It certainly agrees with the Biblical imagery used to describe heaven in Isaiah and Revelation.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2011, 07:46:12 PM by antiderivative » Logged

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sainthieu
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« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2011, 07:49:06 PM »

The use of incense goes back to the Old Testament. It's an inheritance from our Judaic past.
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William
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« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2011, 05:18:16 PM »

So, were those Church Fathers wrong? Or was the use of incense Christianized at some point to ease the transition for pagan or Jewish converts?

Also, that article quotes Arnobius of Sicca as saying that Christians "do not build altars, do not offer the blood of creatures slain in sacrifices, incense, nor sacrificial meal." How are we supposed to interpret a quote like that if today in Orthodoxy we have all of the above except animal sacrifice?
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« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2011, 05:20:54 PM »

Also, that article quotes Arnobius of Sicca as saying that Christians "do not build altars, do not offer the blood of creatures slain in sacrifices, incense, nor sacrificial meal." How are we supposed to interpret a quote like that if today in Orthodoxy we have all of the above except animal sacrifice?

In speaking of "altars", the writer probably means Roman altars which were specially designed for blood sacrifice.

The Christian use of incense is not an offering of a precious thing to God, but rather the incense symbolizes the rising of our prayers to God. This is how incense is depicted in Revelation and in the prayers used in censing.
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William
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« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2011, 12:15:59 AM »

The Christian use of incense is not an offering of a precious thing to God, but rather the incense symbolizes the rising of our prayers to God. This is how incense is depicted in Revelation and in the prayers used in censing.
We offer Thee incense, O Christ our God, for an odor of spiritual fragrance. Receive it upon Thy heavenly altar, and send down upon us in return the grace of Thine all-holy Spirit.
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« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2012, 06:33:33 AM »

--Bump--
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« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2012, 06:47:15 AM »

As with iconography, because the offering of incense had pagan overtones, many in the early Church did not approve of its use. Not because it was bad per se, but out of a desire to distance Christians from their pagan neighbours. While the offering of incense is part of our Judaic heritage, the way in which incense is used in our services is actually a borrowing from the court rituals of the Emperor, which came to influence Christian liturgical practice in the fourth century after the Christianization of the Empire.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2012, 06:48:08 AM by Orthodox11 » Logged
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