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Posts Tagged ‘Origen’

Spread of Christianity
outline: waves of diaspora create hubs to facilitate spread of new religion, merchants and missionaries, St. Paul-religion mixed with gentile ideas and worship

Christianity spread through the Roman empire. Via Appia made it easier. St. Paul as a Roman citizen( he was from Tarsus in South- Central Anatolia) was free to move freely through the extent of the Empire. The Roman Empire was then comparatively at peace, The wide sovereignty of Rome gave the apostles of Christ access to different nations, many of whom had become civilized under Roman influence.
Since emperor Theodosius I (379-395 AD) the official state religion of the Roman Empire was Christianity. Subsequently, former Roman territories became Christian states which exported their religion to other parts of the world, through colonization and missionaries.
We may need to look back even before the Jews were expelled from Jerusalem in 70 AD. Under the Assyrian and Babylonian empires saw diaspora of Jews and were many hubs of Hebrew faith with local synagogues. Each group carried traditions of their fathers. Early Jewish Christians carried the new religion to these congregation of Jews. These early Christians were merchants and others who had practical reasons for traveling to northern Africa, Asia Minor, Arabia, Greece, and other places. But in the missionary zeal and sustained effort to spread the gospel of good news none would match Paul. St. Paul was converted from his Hebrew belief and had set himself to be an Apostle for Christ. His success partly owed to the groundwork laid by others before him.

Antioch was a major centre of Hellenistic Greece then part of Syria province. It was here the sect were called Christians for the first time. Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons in the second century believed that Paul and Peter had been the founders the Church of Rome. Despite of persecutions under many Caesars the Christians thrived and during the reign of Constantine the Great Christianity became the state religion. Influence of Greece was already in the cities such as Alexandria, Antioch, Rome, Caesarea, Paphos and Anatolia. These in turn would serve as hubs of proselytism and pagan ideas in course of time will mingle with the new religion*. The earliest bishops of Rome were all Greek-speaking, the most notable of them being Pope Clement I. (* sun worship: prayers are offered while looking toward sunrise in the East” because the Orient represents the birth of light that “dispels the darkness of the night” and because of the orientation of “the ancient temples. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 7, 7, 43, GCS 3, 32. or Origen (c. AD 185-254) whose view was that the East symbolizes the soul looking to the source of light. Origen,67 De oratione 32, GCS 2, 400, 23.)
One of the Church fathers of Catholicism Augustine of Hyppo ( 354-430AD) was converted from Manichaeism that had its origins in the heavily Gnostic area of the Persian Empire.
Manichaean ways of thinking had an influence on the development of some of Augustine’s Christian ideas, such as the nature of good and evil, the idea of Hell, the separation of groups into Elect, Hearers, and Sinners, the hostility to the flesh and sexual activity, and so on. Spread of religion whether along the Silk Road or via Appia followed more or less a similar pattern. Unconsciously the venerable Church father while systemizing Christian philosophy would add his own intellectual coloring to Christian belief-system.
While Church of Rome was established in the West of the empire the converts from the pagan world would bring their own practices and add to the many rites and symbols of the pagan world. This we see even in our times. In Mexico or in India Christianity would be colored by the beliefs of people. These would be a point of controversy during the Reformation period.
benny

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1.

According to Cassian(c.400 AD)St. John an Apostle of Jesus was seen sporting with a tame partridge by an archer, who thought the holyman should not waste his time in frivolities. St. John replied that if the archer didn’t at times relax his bow, it would lose its spring.

2.

Marcion,the son of a bishop made his fortune at sea. While in Rome he became a Christian about 140 AD. He gave a gift of 1600 pounds to the Church which was returned to him when he turned to gnosticism. The canon of Marcion recognized only the gospels of St.Paul and St. Luke. This prompted the Church to lay down her canon of the New Testament( 180 AD) and it was confirmed in Antioch,Ephesus and Rome.

Marcion’s teachings caused a sharp division in the Church which later caused him much distress and he sought a reconciliation.

When Polycarp(c.AD 69-156)the Bishop of Smyrna came to Rome Marcion sought him out and asked,’Do you recognize me?’

‘Yes,’ replied Polycarp,I recognize the firstborn of Satan.’

3.

Athanasius,Bishop of Alexandria(AD.256)

was caught in the Arian controversy where his life was often only one step away from disaster since there were great many enemies who wanted to destroy him. None came more implacable as Bishop George, formerly a pork contractor from Cappadocia. He supported the Arian doctrine. He was merciless,hard and mercenary in hunting down who didn’t subscribe to it. He was appointed a Bishop at a gathering of 30 bishops at Antioch.

He terrorized churches that smacked of Orthodoxy and Athanasius became the symbol of everything that he hated.

The contest between them became mixed up with the same Bishop who was martyred during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate. This confusion of two events have given us an iconic image of George contending for the Empress Alexandra against the magician Athanasius. The same George is the patron saint of England!

ii

Athanasius was an ascetic and steadfast in his belief and he was targeted by both Meletians and Arians. Once charge was brought before Emperor Constantine that the Bishop had killed a Miletian bishop named Arsenius. In fact he was hidden away by his faction in a monastery. They produced a dismembered hand in a box stating that Athansius had cut it off for purposes of magic.

Luckily for Athanasius, he could spirit away Arsenius from his place of hiding. His enemies didn’t know this.

Athanasius produced a muffled body in front of the emperor. He first showed his face asking,’Is this Arsenius, whom I murdered?’

Then he revealed one hand and then the other to say:’ Let no man ask for a third; for two hands,and two only was everyman from the Creator of all things.’

In the manner in which he could wriggle out of all the traps set for him naturally his enemies believed that he was a magician.

Origen(c.AD185-254) considered as the father of textual criticism came from a devout Christian family. From young age it fell on his shoulders to support the big family which he did by taking on pupils,copying manuscripts in his elegant handwriting. He was the pupil of Clement who headed the first Christian university set up in Alexandria.

At 17, he became the he head of the Catechetical School, a perilous post at that time. As there was no stipend attached to his post he sold off his library for an annuity of money equivalent of six pence a day, and for the rest of his life lived on this small amount. He wore but one garment ,went barefoot,slept on the ground and ate and slept sparingly. His holiness and deep erudition brought flocks of pupils to his lectures.

Having female pupils he,in order to avoid any scandal that may arise made himself an eunuch literally following an injunction of Jesus. The father of textual criticism and allegorical method in explaining the Scriptures took it literally!(Ack:Lights and shades of Christendom-Bishop Pakenham-Walsh,The Christian Literature Society-1935)

benny

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