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Author Topic: The Episcopacy and the Eucharistic Nature of the Church  (Read 1563 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: June 27, 2006, 11:26:11 AM »

Hey, all...

In the midst of a discussion on my blog with an acquaintance who posts there, said acquaintance brought up the following quote from John Zizioulas' Being as Communion:

Quote
"... the creation of the parish as a presbytero-centric unity, not in the original and ecclesiologically correct form which we might describe as "presbyterium-centered," but in the sense of an individual presbyter acting as head of a eucharistic community, damaged ecclesiology serioustly in two respects. On the one hand, it destroyed the image of the Church as a community in which all orders are necessary as constitutive elements. The parish as it finally prevailed in history made redundant both the deacon and the bishop. (Later, with the private mass, it made redundant even the laity.) On the other hand, and as a result of that, it led to an understanding of the bishop as an administrator rather than a eucharistic president, and the presbyter as as "mass-specialist," a "priest" -- thus leading to the medieval ecclesiological decadence in the West, and to the well-known reactions of the Reformation, as well as to a grave confusion in the ecclesiological and canonical life of the Eastern Churches themselves.

"It is for this reason that we should regard the proper ecclesiological status of the parish as one of the most fundamental problems in ecclesiology -- both in the West and in the East. The Orthodox Church, in my understanding at least, has opted for the view that the concept of the local church is guaranteed by the bishop and not by the presbyter: the local Church as an entity with full ecclesiological status is the episcopal diocese and not the parish. By so doing the Orthodox Church has unconsciously brought about a rupture in its own eucharistic ecclesiology. For it is no longer possible to equate every eucharistic celebration with the local Church. But at the same time by so opting it has allowed for the hope to exist for the restoration of the communal nature of the local Church, according to which the local Church can be called ekklêsia (in Greek) only when it is truly catholic, i.e., when it includes (a) the laymen of all cultural, linguistic, social and other identities living in that place, and (b) all the other orders of the Church as parts of that community. Thus one can hope that one day the bishop will find his proper place which is the eucharist, and the rupture in eucharistic ecclesiology caused by the problem "parish-diocese" will be healed in the right way." pp. 250-251

This is very odd to hear this from a book I've heard so many good things about (never actually read the book myself), since ISTM that the priest is not an agent of catholic unity in and of himself, nor does he "replace" the bishop. The only reason a presbyter is there is because the bishop cannot be there, and the presbyter is merely a stand-in for the bishop; the unity provided by the bishop is the only reason the presbyter can do what he does; the only difference now is that the bishop is not physically present, though his mark of communion is still very much present through the presbyter whom the bishop himself has appointed through the laying on of hands.  Also, bishops absolutely must be attached to a permanent flock; a bishop with no direct flock is like a so-called shepherd who never comes into contact with actual sheep.

Any other thoughts as to why this shift in practice occurred instead of, say, just appointing more bishops as time went on?
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« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2006, 02:55:44 PM »

Seems Zizioulas's understanding, an opinion, isn't clear here. Conjectural. YOUR question is a good one, however, even if not directly applied to the two quoted paragraphs. Although I don't see a change in 'practise', maybe perception. Need to read the whole book.
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« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2006, 12:26:40 AM »

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« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2006, 12:29:03 PM »

This is very odd to hear this from a book I've heard so many good things about (never actually read the book myself), since ISTM that the priest is not an agent of catholic unity in and of himself, nor does he "replace" the bishop. The only reason a presbyter is there is because the bishop cannot be there, and the presbyter is merely a stand-in for the bishop; the unity provided by the bishop is the only reason the presbyter can do what he does; the only difference now is that the bishop is not physically present, though his mark of communion is still very much present through the presbyter whom the bishop himself has appointed through the laying on of hands.ÂÂ  Also, bishops absolutely must be attached to a permanent flock; a bishop with no direct flock is like a so-called shepherd who never comes into contact with actual sheep.

I think you've missed Zizioulas' point, which is that in the early Church, most Christian parishes were (a) THE parish of the area, and thus ALL Christians were united in celebrating a common eucharist, and (b) that this local community was, in fact, shepherded by an entire synod of presbyters (a presbyterium), not just one "priest" as representative of one "bishop." In this collegial and universal-but-local context, the Bishop is simply the chief of the synod of presbyters -- the president of the synod, so to speak. In fact, in some early documents we don't even find leaders with the title of "bishop."

Let me just quote the paragraph that immediately precedes those which you quote, since Zizioulas says it rather concisely:

Quote
The office of the bishop in the early Church is essentially that of the president of the eucharistic assembly. All the liturgical and canonical elements in the ordination of the bishop presuppose the primitive situation whereby there was in each eucharistic assembly -- and by extension in each city Church -- one bishop (all bishops' names in the early Church, beginning with the times of Ignatius of Antioch, bear connection with a particular city), who was surrounded by the college of the presbyters (he was in fact one of the presbyters himself) and was called "presbyter" for a long time (cf. Irenaeus). What the emergence of the parish did was to destroy this structure, a destruction which affected not only the episcopal office but also that of the presbyter. For it meant that from then on the eucharist did not require the presence of the presbyters as a college -- an essential aspect of the original significance of the presbyterium -- in order to exist as a local Church. An individual presbyter was thus enough to create and lead a eucharistic gathering -- a parish.

The general thrust of his argument (as I understand it) is that the Bishop is the Church (as St. Ignatius says) not because he is a bishop, but because he happens to preside over the ONE eucharistic assembly of an entire area. In such a context, OF COURSE we can say "Where the Bishop is, there is the Catholic Church," because if the Bishop weren't there -- with his college of presbyters -- then there wouldn't be any eucharistic assembly, no ekklesia!

Of course, this all depends on a very romantic understanding of the sources, which sources are rather limited. This section of Being as Communion is largely drawn from Zizioulas' doctoral dissertation (now translated into English as Eucharist, Bishop, Church: The Unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop during the First Three Centuries Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2001.), which dissertation was written nearly 40 years ago and is therefore many years behind the ball in certain respects. Peter Lampe, for example, has shown definitively (years ago!) that there were many eucharistic assemblies and competing churches in Rome during the first three centuries (possibly even multiple bishops/popes!). The same is true of Alexandria.

So, Zizioulas' idea is very attractive theologically and spiritually, but probably not entirely satisfactory from an historical point of view.
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« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2006, 06:09:40 PM »

I think you've missed Zizioulas' point, which is that in the early Church, most Christian parishes were (a) THE parish of the area, and thus ALL Christians were united in celebrating a common eucharist, and (b) that this local community was, in fact, shepherded by an entire synod of presbyters (a presbyterium), not just one "priest" as representative of one "bishop." In this collegial and universal-but-local context, the Bishop is simply the chief of the synod of presbyters -- the president of the synod, so to speak. In fact, in some early documents we don't even find leaders with the title of "bishop."

Let me just quote the paragraph that immediately precedes those which you quote, since Zizioulas says it rather concisely:

The general thrust of his argument (as I understand it) is that the Bishop is the Church (as St. Ignatius says) not because he is a bishop, but because he happens to preside over the ONE eucharistic assembly of an entire area. In such a context, OF COURSE we can say "Where the Bishop is, there is the Catholic Church," because if the Bishop weren't there -- with his college of presbyters -- then there wouldn't be any eucharistic assembly, no ekklesia!

Of course, this all depends on a very romantic understanding of the sources, which sources are rather limited. This section of Being as Communion is largely drawn from Zizioulas' doctoral dissertation (now translated into English as Eucharist, Bishop, Church: The Unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop during the First Three Centuries Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2001.), which dissertation was written nearly 40 years ago and is therefore many years beyond the ball in certain respects. Peter Lampe, for example, has shown definitively (years ago!) that there were many eucharistic assemblies and competing churches in Rome during the first three centuries (possibly even multiple bishops/popes!). The same is true of Alexandria.

So, Zizioulas' idea is very attractive theologically and spiritually, but probably not entirely satisfactory from an historical point of view.

I was going to get this other book of Zizioulas's. (I'm the one who posted the BEING AS COMMUNION excerpts to Pedro's Blog.) If I recall correctly - and as you show by your excerpt from BEING AS COMMUNION - Zizioulas definitely ties the Bishop to a physical flock. I'm sorry if I may have given Pedro the impression that Zizioulas did not say that. My point/question that caused me to post these excerpts to Pedro's Blog was Zizioulas's contention that a Bishop-less church (and hence eucharist?) is in a sense not a proper or "catholic" church because it lacks the presence of the necessary elements and persons to make the eucharistic assembly a truly "catholic" assembly. By identifying the "local church" with a priest-headed parish, the Ignatian model is ruptured and it is not "the catholic church" - or so it seems Zizioulas is implying/stating.

Are YOU saying that Lampe's book renders Zizioulas's book Eucharist, Bishop, Church: The Unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop During the First Three Centuries http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1885652518/sr=8-3/qid=1151532036/ref=pd_bbs_3/002-2841898-2859227?ie=UTF8 obsolete/incorrect in its contention/theses? I'm not sure what you mean by "beyond the ball." Do you mean that Zizioulas's book has been superseded by better or more thorough research and data (e.g., Lampe's book)?

And when you write:

"there were many eucharistic assemblies and competing churches in Rome during the first three centuries (possibly even multiple bishops/popes!). The same is true of Alexandria."

what does this mean for Zizioulas's complaint against the priest-headed parish being identified as the "local church"? Are you saying and/or pointing out that the idea that in Rome, Alexandria, etc., in the first centuries there was ONE church that met as ONE group under ONE bishop is a flawed and false idea (i.e., instead of one Rome church, there were (contra Zizioulas?) several/many "churches" that met in Rome)? And if so, were these many/several Roman, Alexandrian, etc., churches EACH headed by a Bishop, or did some of them emulate today's priest-headed assembly and have priests/presbyters in charge of the eucharist without a bishop present - yet still were considered "catholic" churches?

Thanks for any help with this.
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« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2006, 09:44:17 AM »

Are YOU saying that Lampe's book renders Zizioulas's book Eucharist, Bishop, Church: The Unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop During the First Three Centuries obsolete/incorrect in its contention/theses?


1) Zizioulas is a theologian, not a historian. His book is very appealing theologically (and that's why it's been so influential in ecumenical circles), but, as is always the case, some of that theology rests on historical interpretations of the available sources. It is this latter area that has some questionable elements because...

2) Zizioulas wrote this book 40 years ago. A lot has happened in those 40 years. Hundreds of new documents have been discovered. The manuscript histories of hundreds (maybe thousands) of established documents have been carefully analyzed. Some documents have proven to be pseudoepigraphical. Others now enjoy excellent critical editions (no longer must we use Migne's corrupt 19th-century copies of Patristic writings!). In general, we have more sources, better sources, and hundreds of trained eyes that have examined these sources from a variety of methodological and theoretical perspectives.

3) That's not to say Zizioulas doesn't have a methodological approach. He does! But we should be clear about what it is. When Zizioulas wrote his dissertation, the major scholarly work was coming out of Western Europe, mainly from a Catholic and Anglo-Catholic perspective that focused heavily on pre-determined theological categories and employed very few resources outside of the standard texts found in Patrologies. Just compare Altaner's and Bardenhewer's original patrologies (and even the old Quasten) to DiBerardino's Encyclopedia of the Early Church. The difference is striking. Forty years ago, the scholarship focused on bishops, emperors and a limited number of documents. This text-heavy corpus of evidence was then examined for its dogmatic content and arranged in pre-defined theological categories, many of which weren't introduced until 100s of years later.

There's nothing wrong with this, but one must admit that it is a limited approach. It's perfectly acceptable from a theological point of view, but what if that theological view is dependent on historical claims (as is Zizioulas', i.e. there was a monoepiscopal and monolithic eucharistic ecclesial reality that went back to the time of the apostles)? Theological claims are subject to theological analysis, but historical claims are subject to historical scrutiny.

Enter the new fields of Early Christian Studies and Late Antiquity, both of which are strongly interdisciplinary (theology, religious studies, classics, social history, literary theory, archeology, etc.) and which benefit from the opportunity to examine new patristic writings (especially letters), new inscriptions, new papyri, etc. Scholars in these fields don't simply assert there was a monoepiscopal reality going back to the apostles based on a particular reading of a few scant documents (that would be like reading the Declaration of Independence and maybe some personal letters written by Thomas Jefferson on the importance of Sallust, and then concluding that all Colonial Americans disliked the British and were very well educated in Greek and Latin).

So, Zizioulas is missing two things that have become par for the course. First, it's standard to see scholars employing evidence from archeology, prosopography, epigraphy, paleography, etc.; and, on the other hand, to approach these resources with theoretical acumen, including literary theory, rhetorical analysis, sociological models, etc. Basically to use the standards of good history when doing history.

Quote
I'm not sure what you mean by "beyond the ball." Do you mean that Zizioulas's book has been superseded by better or more thorough research and data (e.g., Lampe's book)?

Sorry. I meant "behind the ball." I wouldn't say Zizioulas has been superseded. I would simply say: Zizioulas is a theologian -- and an excellent one. But his historical claims suffer from a lack of attention to relevant sources and socio-cultural methodologies.

Quote
what does this mean for Zizioulas's complaint against the priest-headed parish being identified as the "local church"? Are you saying and/or pointing out that the idea that in Rome, Alexandria, etc., in the first centuries there was ONE church that met as ONE group under ONE bishop is a flawed and false idea (i.e., instead of one Rome church, there were (contra Zizioulas?) several/many "churches" that met in Rome)? And if so, were these many/several Roman, Alexandrian, etc., churches EACH headed by a Bishop, or did some of them emulate today's priest-headed assembly and have priests/presbyters in charge of the Eucharist without a bishop present - yet still were considered "catholic" churches?

Well, Lampe's book is very detailed and his thesis is built on an excruciatingly close analysis of many sources, so I can't really answer all of these questions in a post. Basically, he finds no evidence for a single episcopacy (as we now understand it) in Rome until the second century under Anicetus (and even then, the function of the single bishop is mainly social, i.e. to organize and distribute the alms for the poor from all the various Roman communities). Before that time, its appears there were several Roman churches that were pastored by their own presbyter-bishop (remember the distinction between the two wasn't always extremely clear-cut). Some of these churches were separated by geography (on different sides of the river), some by social class and wealth, some by points of theology.

Of course, Lampe isn't without his oversights, but that's another story!
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« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2006, 10:21:57 AM »



1) Zizioulas is a theologian, not a historian. His book is very appealing theologically (and that's why it's been so influential in ecumenical circles), but, as is always the case, some of that theology rests on historical interpretations of the available sources. It is this latter area that has some questionable elements because...

2) Zizioulas wrote this book 40 years ago. A lot has happened in those 40 years. Hundreds of new documents have been discovered. The manuscript histories of hundreds (maybe thousands) of established documents have been carefully analyzed. Some documents have proven to be pseudoepigraphical. Others now enjoy excellent critical editions (no longer must we use Migne's corrupt 19th-century copies of Patristic writings!). In general, we have more sources, better sources, and hundreds of trained eyes that have examined these sources from a variety of methodological and theoretical perspectives.

3) That's not to say Zizioulas doesn't have a methodological approach. He does! But we should be clear about what it is. When Zizioulas wrote his dissertation, the major scholarly work was coming out of Western Europe, mainly from a Catholic and Anglo-Catholic perspective that focused heavily on pre-determined theological categories and employed very few resources outside of the standard texts found in Patrologies. Just compare Altaner's and Bardenhewer's original patrologies (and even the old Quasten) to DiBerardino's Encyclopedia of the Early Church. The difference is striking. Forty years ago, the scholarship focused on bishops, emperors and a limited number of documents. This text-heavy corpus of evidence was then examined for its dogmatic content and arranged in pre-defined theological categories, many of which weren't introduced until 100s of years later.

There's nothing wrong with this, but one must admit that it is a limited approach. It's perfectly acceptable from a theological point of view, but what if that theological view is dependent on historical claims (as is Zizioulas', i.e. there was a monoepiscopal and monolithic eucharistic ecclesial reality that went back to the time of the apostles)? Theological claims are subject to theological analysis, but historical claims are subject to historical scrutiny.

Enter the new fields of Early Christian Studies and Late Antiquity, both of which are strongly interdisciplinary (theology, religious studies, classics, social history, literary theory, archeology, etc.) and which benefit from the opportunity to examine new patristic writings (especially letters), new inscriptions, new papyri, etc. Scholars in these fields don't simply assert there was a monoepiscopal reality going back to the apostles based on a particular reading of a few scant documents (that would be like reading the Declaration of Independence and maybe some personal letters written by Thomas Jefferson on the importance of Sallust, and then concluding that all Colonial Americans disliked the British and were very well educated in Greek and Latin).

So, Zizioulas is missing two things that have become par for the course. First, it's standard to see scholars employing evidence from archeology, prosopography, epigraphy, paleography, etc.; and, on the other hand, to approach these resources with theoretical acumen, including literary theory, rhetorical analysis, sociological models, etc. Basically to use the standards of good history when doing history.

Sorry. I meant "behind the ball." I wouldn't say Zizioulas has been superseded. I would simply say: Zizioulas is a theologian -- and an excellent one. But his historical claims suffer from a lack of attention to relevant sources and socio-cultural methodologies.

Well, Lampe's book is very detailed and his thesis is built on an excruciatingly close analysis of many sources, so I can't really answer all of these questions in a post. Basically, he finds no evidence for a single episcopacy (as we now understand it) in Rome until the second century under Anicetus (and even then, the function of the single bishop is mainly social, i.e. to organize and distribute the alms for the poor from all the various Roman communities). Before that time, its appears there were several Roman churches that were pastored by their own presbyter-bishop (remember the distinction between the two wasn't always extremely clear-cut). Some of these churches were separated by geography (on different sides of the river), some by social class and wealth, some by points of theology.

Of course, Lampe isn't without his oversights, but that's another story!

How does the above - both your response and the sources you cite - affect your understanding of the Church? As an Orthodox inquirer, part of my interest in this is validating or learning more about the Orthodox claim to being the NT Apostolic church. How does the above (both what you've written and the data in the sources you cite) support or contravert the Orthodox Church claims for itself and for doing what it does? (I'm being pulled from both ends - at one extreme is the Orthodox claims, and at the other extreme is my 25+ years as a non-denominational Charismatic/Evangelical Protestant which in theology and practice pretty much rejects the idea of laity vs. clergy, sacraments (mysteries), apostolic succession, the need for water/chrism to administer regeneration and the Holy Spirit, etc.)  Huh
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« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2006, 10:39:11 AM »

How does the above - both your response and the sources you cite - affect your understanding of the Church? As an Orthodox inquirer, part of my interest in this is validating or learning more about the Orthodox claim to being the NT Apostolic church. How does the above (both what you've written and the data in the sources you cite) support or contravert the Orthodox Church claims for itself and for doing what it does? (I'm being pulled from both ends - at one extreme is the Orthodox claims, and at the other extreme is my 25+ years as a non-denominational Charismatic/Evangelical Protestant which in theology and practice pretty much rejects the idea of laity vs. clergy, sacraments (mysteries), apostolic succession, the need for water/chrism to administer regeneration and the Holy Spirit, etc.)  Huh

Let's be clear: I'm talking about the limitations of a book, not the limitations of Orthodox claims. I'm suggesting that one particular historical claim in this one particular book (which book questions some Orthodox claims anyway!) may not be supportable from the point of view of modern scholarship. (See all those levels?)

One thing to consider: Most scholars (including Lampe) don't like to draw strong distinctions between "gnostic" groups and "catholic" groups, in so far as modern scholarship has questioned the validity of talking about "gnostic" theology at all -- much less "gnostic" theology as heresy (since it wasn't defined as such until generations after its origins). Does that mean I throw up my hands and say: "Well, then, I better become gnostic?"

As believers, we don't understand or experience Christ as a merely historical person. The reality of His Gospel and His Church is, in fact, eschatological (both in the past, the present and the future). Consider the words of the Eucharistic anaphora, which experiences salvific events in all three tenses -- and also completely outside of time. Thus, we are not interested in the scholarship that seeks to find a "historical Jesus." We are interested in the Jesus proclaimed by the Apostles, inscribed in the Scripture, experienced in the Church.

Too often we confuse important categories. The claim that Christ Crucified is Lord, the Son of God, is NOT and never can be a historical claim (because of the nature and limitations of history).

The same with the Church. To say that the Church is the Body of Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit into the fullness of Truth, is also not a historical claim. It's a confession of faith (and that's why it's in the Creed).
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« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2006, 11:10:56 AM »

Let's be clear: I'm talking about the limitations of a book, not the limitations of Orthodox claims. I'm suggesting that one particular historical claim in this one particular book (which book questions some Orthodox claims anyway!) may not be supportable from the point of view of modern scholarship. (See all those levels?)

One thing to consider: Most scholars (including Lampe) don't like to draw strong distinctions between "gnostic" groups and "catholic" groups, in so far as modern scholarship has questioned the validity of talking about "gnostic" theology at all -- much less "gnostic" theology as heresy (since it wasn't defined as such until generations after its origins). Does that mean I throw up my hands and say: "Well, then, I better become gnostic?"

As believers, we don't understand or experience Christ as a merely historical person. The reality of His Gospel and His Church is, in fact, eschatological (both in the past, the present and the future). Consider the words of the Eucharistic anaphora, which experiences salvific events in all three tenses -- and also completely outside of time. Thus, we are not interested in the scholarship that seeks to find a "historical Jesus." We are interested in the Jesus proclaimed by the Apostles, inscribed in the Scripture, experienced in the Church.

Too often we confuse important categories. The claim that Christ Crucified is Lord, the Son of God, is NOT and never can be a historical claim (because of the nature and limitations of history).

The same with the Church. To say that the Church is the Body of Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit into the fullness of Truth, is also not a historical claim. It's a confession of faith (and that's why it's in the Creed).

I don't question whether or not Christ is Lord or rose from the dead, or that the church is His Body. My question has to do with Orthodoxy's claim to being that church, and its structure/succession being what Christ and the Apostles taught.

Much of what I've read in books, testimonies, etc., appeals to the Apostolic and Early Church Fathers. From Ignatius we get the Bishop structure. From Ignatius and Justin Martyr we get the Eucharist as being Christ's Body and Blood. From Irenaeus and others we get the Apostolic Succession through Bishops that point back to and guarantee the continuation of the true church. From these writings we get support for the conciliar vs. papal model of governance/doctrine formulation. From Hippolytus, Didache, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Ambrose, St. John Chrysostom, and Theodore of Mopsuestia we get the baptismal and catechumenal rites and content. Etc.

If historical research supports the church's claims, well and good. But if historical research controverts the Orthodox Church's claims, then that is something I think needs to be addressed or dealt with (by myself at least). So far, most of the arguments/testimonies, etc. - and they are good ones - have appealed to the Fathers and their interpretations and understanding of Scripture, showing that the Orthodox understanding is truer to the ancient Christians and more consistent/holistic with respect to the Scriptures than Protestantism is or has been. So my question, as I've tried to phrase it, has to do with whether the sources and data you've cited confirm and support the Orthodox claims, or at least don't disprove them or make them highly questionable.

Sorry if I sound redundant. Thanks for any help.
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« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2006, 12:14:14 PM »

I don't question whether or not Christ is Lord or rose from the dead, or that the church is His Body.

Neither do I. But I don't believe such things because they are historically demonstrable. (Who can prove that Christ is Lord?) I believe them because such is proclaimed in the apostolic account as it has been preserved by the Church. No one on this Earth has access to information about this apostolic account other than that which has been preserved by the Church. To believe the apostolic account is to believe in the authority of its editors and in their editorial policy, which is, as St. Irenaeus says, the "canon of truth."

We have to be a bit more clear about what constitutes Christian historiography (since this has bearing on your quest as it has been defined). For example, the Christian Scriptures are not simply historical "records." They are interpretations of historical events. The essential message of Christianity is not that a Jew named Jesus walked around Palestine during certain years, or that this Jew happened to be killed by the Roman State (both historical facts). Rather, what makes Christian historiography Christian (and different from the discipline of history, historical facts, data, et al.) is its consistent interpretation of those historical facts. Expressed another way: Divine revelation is not revealed in historical events, but in the divinely-inspired interpretation of those events. Revelation comes in the account, not the event.

Part of the account -- an integral part -- is the confession that the Church is visible and one, and that this one Church, as the Body of Christ, has particular characteristics and practices inspired by the Spirit.

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My question has to do with Orthodoxy's claim to being that church, and its structure/succession being what Christ and the Apostles taught...So my question, as I've tried to phrase it, has to do with whether the sources and data you've cited confirm and support the Orthodox claims, or at least don't disprove them or make them highly questionable.

I think it largely supports Orthodox claims, and certainly doesn't disprove them. The modern Orthodox Church has its origins in the NT Church and preserves all of that which is essential. It is inspired by the same Holy Spirit. It continues to preach the apostolic account, celebrate the Eucharist, suffer for the Faith and experience many charismata and miracles by the grace of the Holy Spirit. However, it is not identical to the NT Church in all external forms. Do you think that St. Ireneaus, for example, wore Byzantine vestments? Such questions, however, are irrelevant. We don't need to find out all the details of the "historical" NT Church (as if that were possible with the sources we have!) any more than we need to discover the "historical Jesus." Or, rather, such a quest has nothing to do with Apostolic Christianity.

I'm trying to point out how your quest, as it is defined, is methodologically faulty (although obviously understandable and common!). The foundational principle of the Christian Faith is not based in history but in revelation/persons, not in facts but in propositions, not even in individuals but in communal testimony, not theoretical but experiential, not focused on the past but on the eschaton (experienced as an in-breaking reality in the Eucharistic celebration). That's why the Church Herself is an article of Faith. (And why that one-ness, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity cannot be determined/proven by historical inquiry, but by interpretation, participation and relationship. Just as Christ's holiness, divinity and Lordship cannot be determined in any other way.)
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But for I am a man not textueel I wol noght telle of textes neuer a deel. (Chaucer, The Manciple's Tale, 1.131)
chrisb
Working it out in fear and trembling...
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« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2006, 03:02:12 PM »

Awesome discussions guys and gals!

More neat stuff.
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For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother. - Mark 3:35
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