- The Didache – We made use of this early Christian document in our class to gain insight into how the church used to view some of its rituals. You can read the whole thing here. Give it a try, I promise it’s not too long!
- Class materials – The slides and notes I used during the class. For when you want to teach your own.
Questions asked in class
- What did Jewish worship sound like in the first century? We can’t be sure, but here is one possibility.
- Where was the Didache composed? We don’t really know, we’re not even that clear on the date. This is a decent overview of some guesses regarding its composition. There is not much consensus, so I would take it with a grain of salt.
Justin Martyr describes a baptism and church service
The Didache gives certain prescriptions for how Christian worship should take place; one of our earliest descriptions comes from Justin Martyr’s “First Apology,” written in 155AD. Of specific interest to us are Chapters 61-67. Here is a small excerpt:
But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized illuminated person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss.
There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.
“First Apology” covers a broad range of topics; it is rather long. If lots of reading isn’t your thing, you can listen to it instead.
Due to time constraints, I had to cut the section on church governance entirely.
Ignatius’s letter to the Trallians (short!)
Your obedience to your bishop, as though he were Jesus Christ, show me plainly enough that yours is no worldly manner of life, but that of Jesus Christ Himself, who gave His life for us that faith in His death might save you from death. At the same time, however, essential as it is that you should never act independently of the bishop-as evidently you do not-you must also be no less submissive to your clergy, and regard them as apostles of Jesus Christ our Hope, in whom we shall one day be found, if our lives are lived in Him. The deacons too, who serve the mysteries of Jesus Christ, must be men universally approved in every way; since they are not mere dispensers of meat and drink, but servants of the church of God, and therefore under obligation to guard themselves against any slur of imputation as strictly as they would against fire itself.
Equally, it is for the rest of you to hold the deacons in as great respect as Jesus Christ; just as you should also look on the bishop as a type of the Father, and the clergy as the Apostolic circle forming His council; for without these three orders no church has any right to the name.
Letter of Clement to the Corinthians (medium length)
Our Apostles, too, were given to understand by our Lord Jesus Christ that the office of the bishop would give rise to intrigues. For this reason, equipped as they were with perfect foreknowledge, they appointed the men mentioned before, and afterwards laid down a rule once for all to this effect: when these men die, other approved men shall succeed to their sacred ministry. Consequently, we deem it an injustice to eject from the sacred ministry the persons who were appointed either by them, or later, with the consent of the whole Church, by other men in high repute and have ministered to the flock of Christ faultlessly, humbly, quietly and unselfishly, and have moreover, over a long period of time, earned the esteem of all. Indeed, it will be no small sin for us if we oust men who have irreproachably and piously offered the sacrifices proper to the episcopate. Happy the presbyters who have before now completed life’s journey and taken their departure in mature age and laden with fruit! They, surely, do not have to fear that anyone will dislodge them from the place built for them. Yes, we see that you removed some, their good conduct notwithstanding, from the sacred ministry on which their faultless discharge had shed luster.