Author Topic: Early Church Writings that Support Orthodoxy?  (Read 3182 times)

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Offline benbriggs

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Early Church Writings that Support Orthodoxy?
« on: January 13, 2008, 11:17:37 AM »
Hello everyone!

I'm really beginning to work through (and subsequently into) Orthodoxy. My father-in-law (who I hold great respect for) has said that the concept of praying to Saints (and the dead) didn't come into Christianity until well after Christ died. But I've heard recently in a podcast that prayer for and to the dead asking for intercession was common in the early church.

My question is, could you provide me with some early church writings (outside the Bible) or authors that support the orthodoxy's positions on such issues that are controversial to Protestants? I'm looking for the time period immediately after Christ's Resurrection, to emphasize the consistency.

I'm really beginning to understand how Orthodoxy is and I'm happy about that. One thing that is holding me back, is that I know I will receive a lot of arguments (not fights, but attempts to disprove Orthodoxy) from my wife's family (who I love like my own blood). If I can build a case for them that they can't refute, and consider the Church as well, that would make me so happy. I'm up against a big challenge though, since they've been attending Charismatic Protestant churches they're whole lives and live they're life by their beliefs.

Your help is appreciated!


Offline prodromas

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Re: Early Church Writings that Support Orthodoxy?
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2008, 05:06:14 PM »
Prayer for the dead personally for me doesn't need any real back up its more philosophical. I mean do you really ever now if someone is in Heaven or Hell so I believe it is best to pray for them that they have reached Heaven.
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Offline Alexius

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Re: Early Church Writings that Support Orthodoxy?
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2008, 07:23:26 PM »
The custom of praying for the dead was well established in the Jewish faith before Christ came, so Christians took the practice from the Jews. As far as Early Church Fathers who prayed for the dead, I am not sure who the first was, but archaeology proves that by at least the 2nd century, Christians were offering prayers for the dead. I believe St. Ephrem the Syrian spoke of asking for the prayers (intercession) of those in Heaven...If you search on the web, I'm sure you'll find many resources. I'll search my files, as I'm sure I have many writings about this subject...
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Offline ialmisry

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Re: Early Church Writings that Support Orthodoxy?
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2008, 08:05:07 PM »
In the book of Revelation you see the souls of the martyrs under the altar (where do we put the relics?) who are involved with the goings on in this world.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp already shows this, opening with the line "this is surely the sign of a true and steadfast love, when a man is not bent on saving himself alone, but his brethren as well," consciously comparing his martyrdom to the Lord's Passion, and closing "we did gather up his bones-more precious to us than jewels, and finer than pure gold-and laid them to rest in a spot suitable for the purpose.  There we shall assemble, as occasion allows, with glad rejoicings."  This is 155.

As for the theory, remember in the story of the paralytic, that Christ sees THEIR Faith, and says to HIM, "THY sins are forgiven THEE."
« Last Edit: January 13, 2008, 08:09:00 PM by ialmisry »
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Offline ytterbiumanalyst

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Re: Early Church Writings that Support Orthodoxy?
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2008, 10:46:04 PM »
To go very early, here are some instances of prayers offered for the dead:

Quote from: 2 Corinthians 16:14
They buried him in his own tomb which he had cut out for himself in the city of David, and they laid him in the resting place which he had filled (A)with spices of various kinds blended by the perfumers' art; and they made a very great fire for him.

Quote from: 2 Corinthians 21:19
Now it came about in the course of time, at the end of two years, that his bowels came out because of his sickness and he died in great pain. And his people made no fire for him like the fire for his fathers.

Quote from: Jeremiah 34:5
'You will die in peace; and as spices were burned for your fathers, the former kings who were before you, so they will burn spices for you; and they will lament for you, "Alas, lord!"' For I have spoken the word," declares the LORD.
Unfortunately, this translation uses "burn spices" rather than "burn incense," which is synonymous with prayer, owing to the connexion between the two.
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Offline Riddikulus

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Re: Early Church Writings that Support Orthodoxy?
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2008, 10:56:48 PM »
Hi Ben,

This article on Prayer and the Departed Saints, might be helpful.
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Offline trifecta

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Re: Early Church Writings that Support Orthodoxy?
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2008, 01:27:22 AM »

Greetings!  I'm going down this road myself, so I hope I can help.
Hello everyone!

My question is, could you provide me with some early church writings (outside the Bible) or authors that support the orthodoxy's positions on such issues that are controversial to Protestants? I'm looking for the time period immediately after Christ's Resurrection, to emphasize the consistency.

The above posters have given you a good start.  I want to expand it to other Protestant issues.

The earliest post-NT writings confirm a lot of Catholic and Orthodox doctrines.

Clement of Rome's Letter to the Corinthians (80 AD) - This one argues for not replacing apostle-appointed leaders of Corinth with a group of upstarts.  Argument for apostolic succession and against the Protestant norm of starting your own church when it feels right.

St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote series of letters (110 AD, seven of them, I think) advising churches on his way to Rome to be killed in, most likely, the Colesium by animals.  The letters confirm 1) the Real Presence of Christ in the communion 2) the importance of the church 3) apostolic succession and 4) other things that I am sure I am missing.  All things opposed by Protestantism.  Interestingly, these letters were discovered in the 19th century, after the Reformation.  Wonder if they would have affected those guys?

The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp (155 AD) confirms prayers for the dead (as already mentioned).

St. Justin Martyr (or Justin the Philosopher, 100 AD) - worship and Eucharist.

St. Iraneous, Bishop of Lyons (155 AD) - Against Heresies - most of the above.  A little later but very explanatory.

Some warnings about these writers.  The issues they addressed are not the same as issues discussed today.  Their audiences are not Protestant evangelicals.  Therefore, references to our questions are usually indirect.  An on-line Protestant said in a post (on another website) that "unless all the early church fathers agree and address [my] issues, I won't believe."  Well, no writings could meet his standards (including the NT).   

On the other hand, in all my years as an evangelical, I almost never heard these names.  Why is that? They don't want you to read this because it doesn't support their theological views and some of them know this.

Ask them this,  when did the church become heretical?  There is no good answer to this question.  If it is before 300 AD, as many claim, then they have a problem because the NT was not compiled (i.e., cannonized) until around 368.  So, the church fell into heresy only to compile an infallible scripture then immediately go back into heresy?  If they're answer is later than 300 AD, then why don't they take the writings of these church fathers seriously?

 I'm up against a big challenge though, since they've been attending Charismatic Protestant churches they're whole lives and live they're life by their beliefs.

Charismatics present a particular challenge because they often believe that God speaks personally to them about spiritual and even unspiritual matters.   I am not saying this doesn't happen, but I think it is often the case of wishful thinking rather than actual inspiration.   My evidence here is history.  How many times have people thought they received divine inspiration that contracts the ideas of another "inspired" person? Thousands upon thousands. 

 The question to ask them is this,  "have you ever thought you heard the voice of God and found out later you were wrong?"  This is a sensitive question and needs to be asked carefully, but some Charismatics have admitted this to me.  This is an important question because, otherwise, all the historical evidence in the world is not going to help you with theological issues.  If the person believes that the Holy Spirit spoke to them personally, there is no room for argument. 

Finally, look up the Montanists.  They were a group of early Christians that got carried away with emotion and were declared not Christians in the early church.  Don't even present this one to your Charismatic friends for a long time.  Just read it to remember that emotional experiences do not equal a "higher" level of spirituality.

Your help is appreciated!


Hope this helps.

« Last Edit: January 14, 2008, 01:29:59 AM by trifecta »
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Offline ChristianLove

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Re: Early Church Writings that Support Orthodoxy?
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2008, 03:55:45 PM »
I love the people on this board who so kindly provide such great resources for us all. Must be hard to have been raised in the Orthodox faith and wonder why so many of us struggle with what seems like basic issues to ancient Christian faithful.

Ben, I would like to share with you a few thoughts that have helped me in my journey. I know they are not complete yet, but I am hopeful that maybe, these findings might also provide some extra glimmers of light on your journey.

On the subject of talking to the dead and praying to saints- This was a major stumbling block for me for the longest time and I'm still growing in my understanding. According to modern versions of Bible interpretation among most evangelicals, this is completely forbidden and some have assumed that all who believe in living saints are pagan heretics, rather than faithful Christians worshipping the Living God. I had been taught that Saul's talk with Samuel and the old testament Prohibition against divination-based talking with the dead had made it clear that it is against God's Word and nowhere would one ever find God presenting this practice in a positive light.

What surprised me, since after reading God's Word approximately 14 times in my walk thus far, I had never seen the following passages that are clear for early church Christians:

The Holy Words of Jesus recorded in the canon of Scriptures tells those from the Sadducee's' sect of Judaism, who do not believe in the resurrection, that God is the God of the "living", and He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the living, not the "dead". Also, it is written those who "die" in Christ, are not "dead" but bodily "sleep", and fully alive in Christ, for Christ has delivered us from the sting of death and death has no longer power over those hidden in Christ's power by His Holy Spirit. Christ as God in the flesh has already overcome death.

In the Bible of the new testament believers, King Saul practiced forbidden divination to talk to Prophet Samuel. Clearly forbidden to practice divination to sacrifice to other gods and go through those who worshipped other gods to try to connect with the dead; but a man who would not listen to God's prophets when they are alive and who was set himself against many of God's men, (i.e. David and Jonathan), and one was clearly working against God's plan for Israel to raise up David as His godly king, it was his "natural" means of not facing God but still trying to receive God's will. But no one can run away from God (psalm 139), and even in the midst of evil life, Saul had the chance to repent of his sins. God's Mercies are wonderful and great, but unfortunately, Saul looked to other gods to receive his answers.

When reading the Bible, it is important to not skip over whole sections and build a theology by taking one part and not "seeing" the other connected sections that contradict it. Evangelicals teach this also, but I have come to realize that the modern westernized theologian does not practice this when it comes to understanding "praying for the dead or to Christ with the saints in His Presence".  By not knowing the teachings of the early church, I have been guilty of this in my past messages and talks. Faithful Christians were kind enough to show me a couple passages I had been blinded to:

Matthew 17:1-9, Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, "Get up, and do not be afraid." And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead."

For the first time, I and some of my Christian brothers discovered that Jesus is speaking with "dead people". Obviously they are not "dead", but fully alive. Did Jesus ever sin? Of course not (Hebrews 4:15 Jesus, our High Priest, was without sin). So, Jesus talking with the living, is not considered sin by God's Word, and not rebuked by his Jewish disciples either. If Peter's Jewish teaching had taught him it was wrong to talk with Moses and Elijah, he would have probably rebuked Christ and had Christ rebuke him once again, but rather, he offers 3 tabernacles for Jesus and the two "living visitors". Doesn't seem like he thought it against Jewish laws to have Jesus speaking with "the dead". If Jesus could talk with "the living holy ones", it could not have been as "forbidden" as I and my evangelical brethren taught.

Another passage that helped me on my journey thus far, was shown in Matthew 27:52-53:

"And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his [Jesus’] resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."

"dead saints" arose from their graves and went into the holy city and appeared unto many. God had the living resurrected from their graves and go into the holy city, spending time and showing themselves as alive to many living people, who had not died yet.

Ben, The Holy Scriptures speak against those of us who wrongly believe the saints are "dead" and that God's Word forbids us talking with them, since for the first time in my life, in the past year, these two passages, opened my eyes to see that God's Word says otherwise. However, when I thought about it, which "denomination" believes the Bible more? Those who live as if these Bible passages are trustworthy and reliable and living influence on their lives (i.e. Orthodox and Catholics), or those who deny the reality of these passages and "privately interpret" anticatholic sentiments that have thrown out the baby with the bathwater (most of our protestant brethren)?

The Pentecostals in assemblies of God and other protestant denominations do accept the reality of dreams revealing Truths to the faithful Christian. Many martyrs who glorified Christ faithfully to the end, have recorded dreams of visitations from living saints (i.e. Polycarp, The Apostle John's personally trained and trusted disciple that led His Church after John's death.).

The continuity that your family members may one day be open to seeing is that "holy" visitations may be found by seeing that according to the Holy Scriptures, the living saints appeared during Christ's life and after His Resurrection. The historical records after the apostles' deaths, also record the faithful apostolic church, led by the Holy Spirit, to continue to receive testimonies of living saints' visitations. At times also recorded dreams written by the faithful confirm the continuous prayers of the saints in Heaven on our behalf(Revelations 5:8 "When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints").

fyi: The somewhat deistic theological perspective by my baptist brethren does have God stopping with revelations right after John's vision recorded in Revelations, and although that view has been contradicted by the faithful who gave their blood to keep the faith pure and true for our generation, even with that limitation, no one could deny that the canon of Scriptures clearly speak of talking with "the living" by Christ and "many" in the holy city.

The assemblies of God influenced interpretations of the Bible should have an "easier" theological time accepting the reality that some believers endowed with special Gifts of God's Grace by His Holy Spirit, may receive Godly dreams and visions of Heavenly beings.

Ben, I honestly do not know if this will help your family's upcoming struggles with your findings of the early church, but the scriptural and historical understanding of the Living Church has helped me a lot in my journey so far. The "early church" continued faithfully beyond the death of the last apostle John. Eusebius' church history (found at was the first account I read describing how the Church faithfully continued after the book of Acts was finished, and may be of some help to you at some point as well.

I hope I have not inadvertently offended my Orthodox brethren with any of my understanding and my many quotes. I am Christ's humble servant growing in my understanding. Please pray for me and Ben and our families as we grow in the faith of the "early church" and thank you for allowing us to find out more about our ancient Christian faith.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2008, 04:00:39 PM by ChristianLove »

Offline Thomas

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Re: Early Church Writings that Support Orthodoxy?
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2008, 12:17:44 PM »
As the Orthodox Church is the Ancient Church perhaps your better question might be where does the Orthodox Church part from the Church Fathers early Writings? If any and why?

Your brother in Christ ,