Category Archives: Early Church

No Church in Acts 2:47?

Growing up with the KJV, I learned Acts 2:47 as

And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Later in life, I moved to the NIV, which reads,

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Where did the church go? One explanation is that the evil NIV hated the church and thus remove mention of it from this text. However, that explanation would be wrong.

The answer to which translation is correct comes down to the matter of how the manuscripts of the NT were preserved and eventually came down to us.

Actually the NT manuscripts (MSS) contain some variations. The “best” reading is ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό (to thier group/number) instead of τῇ ἐκκλησία (to the church). That is, some MSS of the NT have the first reading while the majority of MSS have a variation of the latter.

The first reading (ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό) is supported by 01 02 03 04 81 1175.

However regarding the addition of “church,” the following readings are attested in the MSS:

  1. τη εκκλησια 08 014sup1 025 044 049 056 1 33 69 88 226 323 330 440 547 614 618 927 1241 1245 1270 1505 1611 1646 1828 1837 1854 2147 2344 2412 2492

  2. τη εκκλησια επι το αυτο 35 945 1739 1891

  3. εν τη εκκλησια 104 1243

  4. + εν τη εκκλησια 05

  5. της εκκλησιας επι το αυτο 2495

Metzger, in his Textual Commentary, offer the following explanation for the rise of the jumbled secondary readings:

The phrase ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό, which is common enough in classical Greek and in the Septuagint, acquired a quasi–technical meaning in the early church. This meaning, which is required in 1.15; 2.1, 47; 1Cor 11.20; 14.23, signifies the union of the Christian body, and perhaps could be rendered “in church fellowship.”91 Not perceiving this special usage of the word in ver. 47, scribes attempted to rearrange the text, either by moving the phrase to the following sentence (3.1) or by glossing it with an equivalent phrase, ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ.

This being the case, therefore, the first time Luke uses the word “church” (εκκλησια) is Acts 5:11 (followed by Acts 7:38; 8:1, 3; 9:31; 11:22, 26; 12:1, 5; 13:1; 14:23, 27; 15:3-4, 22, 41; 16:5; 18:22; 19:32, 39-40; 20:17, 28).

While I’m certain the Lord adds people to the church, I’m also certain Luke did not use the word church here–now those later scribes . . . well, that’s a different matter and another topic.


Leave a comment

Filed under Bible Translation, Early Church, New Testament, Textual Criticism, Uncategorized

Summary of “The Text of Acts in the Writings of Origen”

My thanks to Adam Harwood for posting a summary of my research on Origen on his site at

Leave a comment

Filed under Early Church, New Testament, Textual Criticism

Origen’s Reponse to Celsus on How Christians Serve the Government

Toward the end of Origen’s life (ca. AD 254), his patron Ambrose encouraged him to respond to a little book by an enemy of Christianity, Celsus. Celsus’ book was mockingly titled The True Doctrine and had been circulating for nearly seventy years before Origen’s response. Because Origen chose to respond to the book in a point-by-point fashion by quoting Celsus and then offering a response, we have the bulk of Celsus’ book, now lost. Though, this is a older translation, it still proves quite interesting (and perhaps bewildering) to modern Christians. What follows comes from Contra Celsum 8.73-75 which happens to be the very end of Origen’s total response.

73 In the next place, Celsus urges us

“to help the king with all our might, and to labour with him in the maintenance of justice, to fight for him; and if he requires it, to fight under him, or lead an army along with him.”

To this our answer is, that we do, when occasion requires, give help to kings, and that, so to say, a divine help,

“putting on the whole armour of God.”

And this we do in obedience to the injunction of the apostle,

“I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority;”

and the more any one excels in piety, the more effective help does he render to kings, even more than is given by soldiers, who go forth to fight and slay as many of the enemy as they can. And to those enemies of our faith who require us to bear arms for the commonwealth, and to slay men, we can reply:

“Do not those who are priests at certain shrines, and those who attend on certain gods, as you account them, keep their hands free from blood, that they may with hands unstained and free from human blood offer the appointed sacrifices to your gods; and even when war is upon you, you never enlist the priests in the army. If that, then, is a laudable custom, how much more so, that while others are engaged in battle, these too should engage as the priests and ministers of God, keeping their hands pure, and wrestling in prayers to God on behalf of those who are fighting in a righteous cause, and for the king who reigns righteously, that whatever is opposed to those who act righteously may be destroyed!”

And as we by our prayers vanquish all demons who stir up war, and lead to the violation of oaths, and disturb the peace, we in this way are much more helpful to the kings than those who go into the field to fight for them. And we do take our part in public affairs, when along with righteous prayers we join self-denying exercises and meditations, which teach us to despise pleasures, and not to be led away by them. And none fight better for the king than we do. We do not indeed fight under him, although he require it; but we fight on his behalf, forming a special army— an army of piety— by offering our prayers to God.

74 And if Celsus would have us to lead armies in defence of our country, let him know that we do this too, and that not for the purpose of being seen by men, or of vainglory. For “in secret,” and in our own hearts, there are prayers which ascend as from priests in behalf of our fellow citizens. And Christians are benefactors of their country more than others. For they train up citizens, and inculcate piety to the Supreme Being; and they promote those whose lives in the smallest cities have been good and worthy, to a divine and heavenly city, to whom it may be said,

“You have been faithful in the smallest city, come into a great one,”


“God stands in the assembly of the gods, and judges the gods in the midst;”

and He reckons you among them, if you no more

“die as a man, or fall as one of the princes.”

75 Celsus also urges us to

“take office in the government of the country, if that is required for the maintenance of the laws and the support of religion.”

But we recognise in each state the existence of another national organization, founded by the Word of God, and we exhort those who are mighty in word and of blameless life to rule over Churches. Those who are ambitious of ruling we reject; but we constrain those who, through excess of modesty, are not easily induced to take a public charge in the Church of God. And those who rule over us well are under the constraining influence of the great King, whom we believe to be the Son of God, God the Word. And if those who govern in the Church, and are called rulers of the divine nation— that is, the Church— rule well, they rule in accordance with the divine commands, and never suffer themselves to be led astray by worldly policy.

And it is not for the purpose of escaping public duties that Christians decline public offices, but that they may reserve themselves for a diviner and more necessary service in the Church of God— for the salvation of men. And this service is at once necessary and right. They take charge of all— of those that are within, that they may day by day lead better lives, and of those that are without, that they may come to abound in holy words and in deeds of piety; and that, while thus worshipping God truly, and training up as many as they can in the same way, they may be filled with the word of God and the law of God, and thus be united with the Supreme God through His Son the Word, Wisdom, Truth, and Righteousness, who unites to God all who are resolved to conform their lives in all things to the law of God.

Oh, that the church might again recover her true calling!

Leave a comment

Filed under Early Church

Walter Bauer’s Orthodoxy and Heresy

Walter Bauer’s original Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im ältesten Christentum (Beiträge zur historischen Theologie 10; Tübigen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1934), was published in English as Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (ed. Robert Kraft and Gerhard Krodel; trans. Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971) from the second German edition published and updated by Georg Strecker in 1963.

This book has had a tremendous influence on the study of the New Testament and Early Christian History. I’m currently working my way back through this important work and wondering about how valid Bauer’s conclusions really are.

Bauer’s thesis can be summarized with two complimentary theses.

First, Christianity from the beginning was multi-valenced. In the Book of Acts Luke is simply idealistic in his sketch of the early church as originating from Jerusalem in a pure stream which later became corrupted through certain key “heretics,” such as a Simon Magus, or a later Marcion or Valentinius, etc. Georg Strecker in the forward to the second German edition, put it this way:

In earliest Christianity, orthodoxy and heresy do not stand in relation to one another as primary to secondary, but in many regions heresy is the original manifestation of Christianity.

Bauer further argues that since the Orthodox essentially won historically, the other forms of Christianity have not been able to have their day in court. Thus, a task of the historian of Christianity is to make sure this happens. However, the problem here is complicated by the fact that nearly everything we know about the supposed heretics and their groups comes from those who were against them, such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, and other “Orthodox” writers. Consequently, very little has survived from the heretical point of views that would give the other side of the story. (Nonetheless, it should be mentioned that Bauer’s thesis was developed before the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts which gave us access to some Gnostic texts).

The other side of Bauer’s thesis is that the Orthodox won because the church of Rome, sought, almost imperialistically, to become the center for the official teaching of the church. In Bauer’s reconstruction, Rome early sought to influence the church in Corinth (see 1 Clement), then Antioch (see the Ignatian letters), and in time the whole Western Church. What Bauer ignores for the most part is that the Eastern Church remained united—though dsitinct—with the Western Church until 1054. Additionally, the Eastern Church differed in a number of major ways from the West yet was still among the “Orthodox.”

So why is Bauer’s thesis important? Because if Bauer is right, then the way most Protestant groups read church history is simply wrong. If Bauer is correct, then there is no such thing as pure Christianity, Orthodoxy is the name given to the winner by themselves, and any attempt to “restore” the church must seriously engage the question: which church? And, I think the more important question, why do church at all?

As I get deeper into Bauer I will share more of what I discover.

Leave a comment

Filed under Early Church

At This Time? (Acts 1.6-7)

“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” (Acts 1:6–7 NRSV)

It remains commonplace that the apostles are still anticipating an earthly kingdom with an earthly king. However to read the text in this way misses some very important interpretive clues.

For example, Luke had just informed the reader that these men—those asking this question—had just spent forty days with Jesus who was “speaking to them about the kingdom of God.” Furthermore, Jesus does not correct their supposed misunderstanding, but only reminds them that such matters belong to God’s timing.

There are good reasons to understand the apostle’s as asking just the right question.

Luke is very clear in his “former treatise,” that is the Gospel of Luke that Jesus would “turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God and that this God remains the God of Israel (Luke 1:16. 68). When Jesus began his ministry, he appeared publicly to Israel (1:80). Luke leaves little doubt of God’s continued care for his people Israel.

When the family of Jesus encounters the prophet Simeon, who is “looking forward to the consolation of Israel (2:25), he predicts that Jesus will be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (2:32). Furthermore, the prophet continues, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel (2:34).

Even after the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus himself promises his Apostles that “you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (22:30). After the resurrection, the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, sighed, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (24:21).

Against this backdrop, the question “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” does not seems so far-fetched.

So did God restore the kingdom of Israel? How does Acts read on this?

Leave a comment

Filed under Early Church, New Testament

Indices for Finding Quotations in Other Works

At the end of standard critical texts of the Greek New Testament, the editor have conveniently add several indices that allow a person to find a OT citation in the NT or find where an OT citation in the NT originates.

These indices are very helpful and they can save one a lot of time. For example if I wanted to find where Josephus quotes the OT, where would I go?

Answer: H. B. McLean, Citations and Allusions to the Jewish Scripture in Early Christian and Jewish Writings through 180 CE (Lewiston, NT Mellen Press, 1992).

Or what if I wanted to find the Scriptures cited or use by a Church Father?

Biblia patristica: index des citations et allusions bibliques dans la littérature patristique.

Don’t let the French title keep you away, it is quite useful with just a little orientation; and the best news! It’s available in a very useful online interface: For serious work, though, be sure to consult the paper edition and if you do find an error in the online database, be sure to report it.

Are there other indices like these that you know of?

Leave a comment

Filed under Citations and Allusions, Early Church, Index; Indices, Judaism, New Testament, Old Testament