Transcript - Ecclesiastical History of the Church - Part 12

Author: Eusebius
Title: Ecclesiastical History of the Church - Part 12
Plot: Two scenarios where authorities are forbidden to accept offerings
Notes: There are also two scenarios of divine torment in this study

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Full Transcript
Hey, welcome back!

Today I will be summarizing part 12 of the Ecclesiastical History of the Church.

I thought I'd start with a funny story. I used to help a special needs guy quite a bit. And one night when I was driving him home he said, "Hey, Tom! Can NASA land a rocket on the moon when it's a half moon?" 

And I said, "Yeah, but it's a lot harder."

We are in Book 5 and

Chapter 17 continues the theme where we left of with respect to the heresies in chapter 16. A historian named Miltiades wrote a book against the heresy of Marcion. You may recall, at the end of the last podcast, we learned that Marcion was possessed by Satan and afterwards he hung himself as a result of that experience. Eusebius indicated that he prophesied in ecstasy. Which you will note is today the name of a popular drug, today. And so it's enlightening that back then they said, if anyone does this, it's a... it's a really bad sign. I'll quote him, he said:

"The false prophet is carried away by a vehement ecstasy, accompanied by want of all shame and fear... terminating in involuntary madness... violently agitated and carried away in spirit."

And then he commented that no prophet of God ever acted in this way.

He also said: "the apostle (meaning the writer he's quoting) shows that the gift of prophesy should be in all the church until the coming of the Lord."

And so I would interject that some churches would say that prophecy and miracles stopped with the first coming, but they seem to forget that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and there will be a second coming. Why would he not have prophets who at least prophecy the second coming of the Lord?

Chapter 18 makes some fascinating comments that cause one to question whether the churches of today are doing things right. Are they emulating an early heresy? This is on page 175, it says and I quote:

"Who is this new teacher?" (he's referring to Montanus, by the way) "Who is this new teacher?" who "taught the dissolution of marriage, imposed laws of fasting, and established exactors of money under the name of offerings devised to procure presents that his church might grow strong by gormandizing and gluttony."

After the woman were filled with the spirit of prophecy in his religion they left their husbands and apparently a woman named Prisca called herself a virgin. And he took issue with that given she was once married and obviously not a virgin.

Next he says that a man named Themison didn't want to be martyred like the others and so he threw aside bonds and imprisonment for abundance and wealth. And then he dared to draw up a catholic epistle to instruct others to utter impieties against God and his apostles. Which is kinda weird. I suppose I can understand the decision to forego martyrdom for money, but to then compound the offense by promoting the impieties against God strikes me as foolish.

And then going deeper into the charges against this cult he commented that Alexander called himself a martyr and feasted with a false prophetess. 

And then in sarcasm he comments "who forgives who of sins? Does she forgive him his robberies or does he forgive her her avarice?" He says these have committed great crimes in regard to possession of things. And we shall show that they have derived pecuniary gain, not only from the wealthy, but from the poor, and widows and orphans. Then he goes on to say that Alexander was tried for robbery by the proconsul of Asia at Ephasus. But he was liberated presumably being found not guilty of being a Christian (those are my words). And after the trial the church refused to receive him because he was a thief. And they further commented that the prophetess denied living with him, but that Alexander said she did. Suggesting that she's a liar and they were both living in sin.

He continued saying that they would furnish a thousand proofs that it is wrong for a prophet to accept gifts. And he adds these charges to the list. He says, "Tell me, does a prophet dye his or her hair? Does a prophet stain her eyelids? Delight in ornament? Play with tablets and dice? (which I presume means gambling) Does he take usury?

And so the modern day reader would likely say, "Hey, this doesn't sound all that wrong. Churches pass the offering plate around. Everyone wears makeup and jewelry and dyes their hair these days. That's a culturally accepted thing."

And so this causes us to question the standard. Were these men right to judge these behaviors based on the fact that they had never seen them done by a prophet before? Or did perhaps God start allowing new things? 

So allow me to update the language to make the problem more obvious:

It sounds like the issue was that this female prophetess denied living with a thief out of wedloc, wearing makeup and jewelry, gambling, lending money at interest, accepting and even arranging to receive gifts from the people presumably by charging them to get prophecies, suggesting this is the behavior of a psychic rather than a prophet. Eusebius viewed this couple in the same way we view televangelists. They extort the people for money selling their gifts, lending money at interest, accumulating wealth, wearing costly jewelry, flaunting their affluence and all under the pretense of humbly serving God.

But I'll remind you of what I quoted at the beginning: "Who is this new teacher?" (he's referring to Montanus, by the way) "Who is this new teacher?" who "taught the dissolution of marriage, imposed laws of fasting, and established exactors of money under the name of offerings devised to procure presents that his church might grow strong by gormandizing and gluttony." of Chapter 18.

So we have an instance of a prophetess prophesying for money, a teacher teaching for money, and by the end of this podcast you'll hear about pastor/bishop figure running a church for money. And so the theme is that this concept of asking for offerings and collecting money isn't actually okay. Making me question where are tithes should go. But I suspect the answer to that question is: to the widows and orphans. However, I'm hoping Eusebius will eventually state it outright by the end of his writings.

The last paragraph of chapter 18 mentions other heresies perpetrated by this cult.  I don't view that as relevant to our time so I'll skip it.

The purpose of Chapter 19 is to strengthen the case made in chapter 18 against the heresy (the one that I just described). It introduces agreement from other bishops in a sort of petition form, with names and statements affixed by these men agreeing that the cult of Montanus and his prophetesses was evil and not to be tolerated.

Chapter 20 re-uses the word schism that I defined in the prior podcast, which means church split. And so in that context we learn that Justin Iranaeus the historian who studied and disputed most of the heresies wrote an epistle to Blastus On Schisms, another to Florinus on Sovereignty in which he declared that God is not the author of evil. And so these are letters he sent to the leaders of these cults and heresies debating the messages they were proclaiming. You can imagine how popular that made him.

And then afterwards we learn about something he did that was rather clever. He assumed that his writings would live on and that someone would eventually translate them either into another language or into a modern translation. And so he left the translator this note:

"I adjure thee, whoever thou art, that transcribest this book, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by his glorious appearance, when he shall come to judge the quick and dead, to compare what thou last copied, and to correct it by this original manuscript, from which thou hast carefully transcribed. And that thou also copy this adjuration, and insert it to the copy."

So he was concerned about sloppiness and drift, which is the achilles heal of gossip. Where the more a message is translated and re-stated and paraphrased, the less it resembles the original or conveys the intended meaning. And so I'll confess that I have been paraphrasing his words, but I believe I've done so honestly and for the sake of summarizing and modernizing the message. And so if you want Justin's words exactly as he wrote them, you should consider buying a book with his translated writings bearing the inscription I just read to you. 

In his epistle to Florinus he boldly told him that his doctrines to say the least are not of a sound understanding. They are inconsistent with the church, and calculated to thrust those that follow them into the greatest impiety. And then he went on to say: I was with Polycarp, who was with the apostles. Meaning he  studied under the man who studied under the apostles... and I know what you're saying and I disagree with you vehemently. I'll let you hear a summary of his conclusion in this regard. He said, had Polycarp heard your doctrine, "he would have fled from the place in which he sat or stood hearing doctrines like these."

If you've listened to my earlier podcasts then you understand that the explanation for such a reaction is that the apostles feared that when they ran into a man communicating devilish doctrines, they expected God to strike them down with lightning or to cause the earth to swallow him whole and so they didn't want to be anywhere near them.

Chapter 21 indicates that during the reign of Commodus, peace prevailed throughout the churches and people were receiving Christ. However, Eusebius indicated that this provoked the devil who plotted various devises against the church including in this case: the marytrdom of Apollonius. 

And so the chapter continues to describe that situation. Wherein Apollonius was brought to court on charges of being a Christian, which was sufficient to evoke the death penalty. And an important detail, is that when someone was accused of something, they would be acquitted provided they repented. So in this case an acquittal would require Apollinius to renounce his Christian faith, which he wouldn't do. And so if they go into court accused of something and the trial ends and they refuse to repent in order to be acquitted, then they would be forced to pay the penalty, which in this case was death. All of that detail is important because that means that after the charges were explained, the fate of Apollonius was sealed. And yet, Apollonius did such a good job defending himself and speaking that it wasn't the desire of most people to see the death sentence carried out, but it was the law. And so immediately after the death sentence was pronounced, God supernaturally broke both of the arms of his accuser. 

Eusebius didn't mention it, but this is in keeping with Psalm 37:17 which says:

For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.

Apollinarius delivered an eloquent defense of the faith, but since the penalty for being a Christian was death the sentence was carried out and he was beheaded in the presence of all. I'll read a quick excerpt:

They had a law of longstanding, that those who had once been led to trial and would by no means change their purpose, should not be dismissed.

Chapter 22 logs the succession of the bishops which you can find in the full transcripts for this podcast.

Chapter 23 explains that there was some debate over the keeping of the passover. The churches of Asia believed they should keep the 14th day of the moon, which was the day the Jews were originally commanded to kill the lamb. However, the apostolic tradition held that the fast should be broken on the day of the resurrection of our Savior (three days later). So an epistle edict was unanimously drawn up stating that the mystery of our Lord's resurrection should be celebrated on no other day than the Lord's day, meaning the day of resurrection. And that communication was sent back to Asia.

But in chapter 24 we find out that Asia objected on the grounds that so many people including the apostles themselves had observed the 14th day, which was the day the lamb was killed and so they felt obligated to stick with tradition despite the unanimous declaration from the other churches that they change the day. 

Victor the Bishop of Rome became so angry that he declared an excommunication for all the churches in Asia. You have to admire him for taking such a bold position. But he was exhorted by the other churches because not all the bishops shared that sentiment. 

It would seem that Justin Iranaues responded that there were other disputes pertaining to the Passover that were not cause for excommunication. And he identified several including: 
  1. How long to fast and
  2. Whether to celebrate the holiday at all anymore
Justin noted that the persbyters who governed the church of Rome, which is where Victor presided, didn't observe the festival at all - and yet they were tolerated. In fact, they sent the Eucharist to the churches who did observe it. Sarcastically implying, "so it's okay to skip the holiday altogether, but not to fast on the wrong day?"

And then he closed by describing that Polycarp and Anicetus debated over whether to observe the passover and agreed to disagree. Both trying to convince the other and finally deciding that this wasn't a doctrine worth ending their friendship or splitting the church over.

Chapter 25 says that all the bishops of Palestine came into agreement on the celebration of this holiday, which was to celebrate on the day of the Lord's resurrection. And so epistles were sent throughout the churches to bring them all into agreement with each other to settle on one opinion respecting the passover. 

Now it is my belief based on my careful reading that this essentially means all the churches outside of Asia settled on the resurrection day. And the churches in Asia remained committed to the fourteenth day which was the day of the slaughter of the lamb. I could be mistaken, but that's what I believe I understand from the writing.

With regard to chapter 26 and 27 I've capture the pertinent points in the Full transcripts for this podcast including the historians and the works they wrote as well as the succession of emperors.

In Chapter 28 we learn that a Bishop named Paul of Samosata worked from inside the church to establish the heresy of Artemon. Which stated that Jesus was just a man and not God. And the heresy argued that this was always known in the church until Victor, the thirteenth bishop of Rome introduced the idea that Jesus was God and so according to them, the truth was mutliated. Eusebius goes to work to disarm this heresy:

He points out that the Scriptures refute the idea that Jesus was just a man. As do old letters still in existence from Justus, Miltiades, and Tatian and Clement. Meaning that the earlier bishops also agreed that Jesus was Lord. So there was sufficient written evidence to debunk this accusation and only those too lazy to confirm the truth would be led astray by the lie. Ironically, Victor had excommunicated the leader of this heresy. Thus revealing the motive behind creating it and accusing Victor of the God-denying apostasy Theodotus created. 

And then we come to the last chapter in today's study that challenges the idea of donations in churches. In chapter 18 you will recall that a prophet who accepts or solicits money for prophesies is just a psychic. Eusebius also appeared to frown on the idea of teachers doing this. And finally we have an example of a bishop doing it, but the scenario cited is rather specific. And as such I'll quote most of this in the original text. Here we go:

"I shall remind many of the brethren of a fact, that happened in our days, which, had it happened in Sodom, I think it would have led them to reflection. There was a certain Natalius, who lives not in remote times, but in our own. The man was seduced by  , and another Theodotus, a moneychanger. Both of these were disciples of Theodotus the currier, the first that had been excommunicated by Victor. Natalius was persuaded to be created to a bishop of this heresy, with a salary of 150 denarii a month. He was frequently brought to reflection by the Lord in his dreams. For the merciful God and our Lord Jesus Christ, would not that he who had been a witness of his own sufferings, should perish, though he was out of the church. And so yes, this man saw Christ crucified and still pursued this course. He paid little attention to these visions. He was finally lashed by holy Angels the whole night and was thus most severely punished; so that he rose early in the morning, putting on sackcloth and covered with ashes, in great haste, and bathed in tears he fell down before the bishop. He moved the compassionate church of Christ with tears. But he was scarcely admiited to communion.

Then he goes on to describe the heresy and it makes me wonder if the issue is with accepting and soliciting donations, or if the problem is that the heresy was teaching bad doctrine. We know for sure the bad doctrine was a problem. And so I'll describe that to you now:

They (speaking of the heretics) abandon the holy Scriptures for the study of geometry. They know not him that comes from above. They fearlessly lay their hands upon the holy Scriptures, saying that they have corrected them. Should anyone collect and compare their copies with one another, he would find them greatly at variance among themselves. You will find them widely different. What alternative is there but to pronounce them demoniacs. Under the pretext of grace they sunk down to the lowest deapths of perdition.

For those who may not know: the Bible mentions stiff penalties for adding, changing or removing anything from the Scriptures for obivious reasons. Hence the accusation that these people were demoniacs.

And that brings us to the end of Book 5.

I am impressed you've made it this far in the study. I'm told most Christians don't even read their Bibles. And so the fact that you have made it to part 12 of this study says a lot about you.

Have a brilliant week! and Y'all come back now! Ya hear?

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