|« Prev||The Transformation of the Baptismal Confession…||Next »|
A. The Transformation of the Baptismal Confession into the Apostolic Rule of Faith.
It has been explained (vol. I. p. 157) that the idea of the complete identity of what the Churches possessed as Christian communities with the doctrine or regulations of the twelve Apostles can already be shown in the earliest Gentile-Christian literature. In the widest sense the expression, κανὼν τῆς παραδόσεως (canon of tradition), originally included all that was traced back to Christ himself through the medium of the Apostles and was of value for the faith and life of the Church, together with everything that was or seemed her inalienable possession, as, for instance, the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament. In the narrower sense that canon consisted of the history and words of Jesus. In so far as they formed the content of faith they were the faith itself, that is, the Christian truth; in so far as this faith was to determine the essence of everything Christian, it might be termed κανὼν τῆς πίστεως, κανὼν τῆς ἀληθείας (canon of the faith, canon of the truth).2323See Zahn, Glaubensregel und Taufbekenntniss in der alten Kirche in the Zeitschrift f. Kirchl. Wissensch. u. Kirchl. Leben, 1881, Part 6, p. 302 ff., especially p. 314 ff. In the Epistle of Jude, v. 3, mention is made of the ἅπαξ παραδοθεῖσα τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστις and in v. 20 of “building yourselves up in your most holy faith.” See Polycarp, ep. III. 2 (also VII. 2; II. 1). In either case the expressions κανὼν τῆς πίστεως, κανὼν τῆς ἀληθείας, or the like, might stand for πίστις, for the faith itself is primarily the canon; but it is the canon only in so far as it is comprehensible and plainly defined. Here lies the transition to a new interpretation of the conception of a standard in its relation to the faith. Voigt has published an excellent investigation of the concept ὁ κανὼν τῆς ἀληθείας cum synonymis. (Eine verschollene Urkunde des antimont. Kampfes, 1891, pp. 184-205). But the very fact that the extent of what was regarded as tradition of the Apostles was quite undetermined ensured the possibility of the highest degree of freedom; it was also still allowable to give expression to 21Christian inspiration and to the intuition of enthusiasm without any regard to tradition.
We now know that before the violent conflict with Gnosticism short formulated summaries of the faith had already grown out of the missionary practice of the Church (catechising). The shortest formula was that which defined the Christian faith as belief in the Father, Son, and Spirit.2424In Hermas, Mand. I., we find a still shorter formula which only contains the confession of the monarchy of God, who created the world, that is the formula πιστέυω εἰς ἕνα θεὸν παντακράτορα, which did not originate with the baptismal ceremony. But though at first the monarchy may have been the only dogma in the strict sense, the mission of Jesus Christ beyond doubt occupied a place alongside of it from the beginning; and the new religion was inconceivable without this. It appears to have been universally current in Christendom about the year 150. In the solemn transactions of the Church, therefore especially in baptism, in the great prayer of the Lord’s Supper, as well as in the exorcism of demons,2525See on this point Justin, index to Otto’s edition. It is not surprising that formulæ similar to those used at baptism were employed in the exorcism of demons. However, we cannot immediately infer from the latter what was the wording of the baptismal confession. Though, for example, it is an established fact that in Justin’s time demons were exorcised with the words: “In the name of Jesus Christ who was crucified under Pontius Pilate,” it does not necessarily follow from this that these words were also found in the baptismal confession. The sign of the cross was made over those possessed by demons; hence nothing was more natural than that these words should be spoken. Hence they are not necessarily borrowed from a baptismal confession. fixed formulæ were used. They embraced also such articles as contained the most important facts in the history of Jesus.2626These facts were known to every Christian. They are probably also alluded to in Luke I. 4. We know definitely that not later than about the middle of the second century (about 140 A.D.) the Roman Church possessed a fixed creed, which every candidate for baptism had to profess;2727The most important result of Caspari’s extensive and exact studies is the establishment of this fact and the fixing of the wording of the Romish Confession. (Ungedruckte, unbeachtete und wenig beachtete Quellen z. Gesch. des Taufsymbols u d. Glaubensregels. 3 Vols. 1866-1875. Alte u. neue Quellen zur Gesch. des Taufsymbols u. d. Glaubensregel, 1879). After this Hahn, Bibliothek d. Symbole u. Glaubensregeln der alten Kirche. 2 Aufl. 1877; see also my article “Apostol. Symbol” in Herzog’s R.E., 2nd. ed., as well as Book I. of the present work, Chap. III. § 2. and something similar must also have existed 22in Smyrna and other Churches of Asia Minor about the year 150, in some cases, even rather earlier. We may suppose that formulæ of similar plan and extent were also found in other provincial Churches about this time.2828This supposition is based on observation of the fact that particular statements of the Roman Symbol, in exactly the same form or nearly so, are found in many early Christian writings. See Patr. App. Opp. I. 2, ed. 2, pp. 115-42. Still it is neither probable that all the then existing communities possessed such creeds, nor that those who used them had formulated them in such a rigid way as the Roman Church had done. The proclamation of the history of Christ predicted in the Old Testament, the κήρυγμα τῆς ἀληθέιας, also accompanied the short baptismal formula without being expressed in set terms.2929The investigations which lead to this result are of a very complicated nature and cannot therefore be given here. We must content ourselves with remarking that all Western baptismal formulæ (creeds) may be traced back to the Roman, and that there was no universal Eastern creed on parallel lines with the latter. There is no mistaking the importance which, in these circumstances, is to be attributed to the Roman symbol and Church as regards the development of Catholicism.
Words of Jesus and, in general, directions for the Christian life were not, as a rule, admitted into the short formulated creed. In the recently discovered “Teaching of the Apostles” (Διδαχὴ τῶν ἀποστόλων) we have no doubt a notable attempt to fix the rules of Christian life as traced back to Jesus through the medium of the Apostles, and to elevate them into the foundation of the confederation of Christian Churches; but this undertaking, which could not but have led the development of Christianity into other paths, did not succeed. That the formulated creeds did not express the principles of conduct, but the facts on which Christians based their faith, was an unavoidable necessity. Besides, the universal agreement of all earnest and thoughtful minds on the question of Christian morals was practically assured.3030This caused the pronounced tendency of the Church to the formation of dogma, a movement for which Paul had already paved the way. The development of Christianity, as attested, for example, by the Διδαχή, received an additional factor in the dogmatic tradition, which soon gained the upper hand. The great reaction is then found in monasticism. Here again the rules of morality become the prevailing feature, and therefore the old Christian gnomic literature attains in this movement a second period of vigour. In it again dogmatics only form the background for the strict regulation of life. In the instruction given as a preparation for baptism the Christian moral commandments were of course always inculcated, and the obligation to observe these was expressed in the renunciation of Satan and all his works. In consequence of this, there were also fixed formulæ in these cases. Objection was not taken to the principles 23of morality — at least this was not a primary consideration — for there were many Greeks to whom they did not seem foolishness, but to the adoration of Christ as he was represented in tradition and to the Church’s worship of a God, who, as creator of the world and as a speaking and visible being, appeared to the Greeks, with their ideas of a purely spiritual deity, to be interwoven with the world, and who, as the God worshipped by the Jews also, seemed clearly distinct from the Supreme Being. This gave rise to the mockery of the heathen, the theological art of the Gnostics, and the radical reconstruction of tradition as attempted by Marcion. With the freedom that still prevailed Christianity was in danger of being resolved into a motley mass of philosophic speculations or of being completely detached from its original conditions. “It was admitted on all sides that Christianity had its starting-point in certain facts and sayings; but if any and every interpretation of those facts and sayings was possible, if any system of philosophy might be taught into which the words that expressed them might be woven, it is clear that there could be but little cohesion between the members of the Christian communities. The problem arose and pressed for an answer: What should be the basis of Christian union? But the problem was for a time insoluble. For there was no standard and no court of appeal.” From the very beginning, when the differences in the various Churches began to threaten their unity, appeal was probably made to the Apostles’ doctrine, the words of the Lord, tradition, “sound doctrine”, definite facts, such as the reality of the human nature (flesh) of Christ, and the reality of his death and resurrection.3131See the Pastoral Epistles, those of John and of Ignatius; also the epistle of Jude, 1 Clem. VII., Polycarp, ad Philipp. VII., II. 1, VI. 3, Justin. In instruction, in exhortations, and above all in opposing erroneous doctrines and moral aberrations, 24 this precept was inculcated from the beginning: ἀπολίπωμεν τὰς κενὰς καὶ ματαίας φροντίδας, καὶ ἔλθωμεν ἐπὶ τὸν ἐυκλεῆ καὶ σεμνὸν τῆς παραδόσεως ἡμῶν κανόνα (“Let us leave off vain and foolish thoughts and betake ourselves to the glorious and august canon of our tradition”). But the very question was: What is sound doctrine? What is the content of tradition? Was the flesh of Christ a reality? etc. There is no doubt that Justin, in opposition to those whom he viewed as pseudo-Christians, insisted on the absolute necessity of acknowledging certain definite traditional facts and made this recognition the standard of orthodoxy. To all appearance it was he who began the great literary struggle for the expulsion of heterodoxy (see his σύνταγμα κατὰ πασῶν τῶν γεγενημένων ἁιρέσεων); but, judging from those writings of his that have been preserved to us, it seems very unlikely that he was already successful in finding a fixed standard for determining orthodox Christianity.3232In the apologetic writings of Justin the courts of appeal invariably continue to be the Old Testament, the words of the Lord, and the communications of prophets; hence he has hardly insisted on any other in his anti-heretical work. On the other hand we cannot appeal to the observed fact that Tertullian also, in his apologetic writings, did not reveal his standpoint as a churchman and opponent of heresy; for, with one exception, he did not discuss heretics in these tractates at all. On the contrary Justin discussed their position even in his apologetic writings; but nowhere, for instance, wrote anything similar to Theophilus’ remarks in “ad Autol.,” II. 14. Justin was acquainted with and frequently alluded to fixed formulæ and perhaps a baptismal symbol related to the Roman, if not essentially identical with it. (See Bornemann. Das Taufsymbol Justins in the Ztschr. f. K. G. Vol. III. p. 1 ff.), but we cannot prove that he utilised these formulæ in the sense of Irenæus and Tertullian. We find him using the expression ὀρθογνώμονες in Dial. 80. The resurrection of the flesh and the thousand years’ kingdom (at Jerusalem) are there reckoned among the beliefs held by the ὀρθεγνώμονες κατὰ πάντα Χριστιανοί. But it is very characteristic of the standpoint taken up by Justin that he places between the heretics inspired by demons and the orthodox a class of Christians to whom he gives the general testimony that they are τῆς καθαρᾶς καὶ ἐυσεβοῦς γνώμης, though they are not fully orthodox in so far as they reject one important doctrine. Such an estimate would have been impossible to Irenæus and Tertullian. They have advanced to the principle that he who violates the law of faith in one point is guilty of breaking it all.
The permanence of the communities, however, depended on the discovery of such a standard. They were no longer held together by the conscientia religionis, the unitas disciplinæ, and the fœdus spei. The Gnostics were not solely to blame for that. 25They rather show us merely the excess of a continuous trans-formation which no community could escape. The gnosis which subjected religion to a critical examination awoke in proportion as religious life from generation to generation lost its warmth and spontaneity. There was a time when the majority of Christians knew themselves to be such, (1) because they had the “Spirit” and found in that an indestructible guarantee of their Christian position, (2) because they observed all the commandments of Jesus (εντολαὶ Ἰησοῦ). But when these guarantees died away, and when at the same time the most diverse doctrines that were threatening to break up the Church were preached in the name of Christianity, the fixing of tradition necessarily became the supreme task. Here, as in every other case, the tradition was not fixed till after it had been to some extent departed from. It was just the Gnostics themselves who took the lead in a fixing process, a plain proof that the setting up of dogmatic formulæ has always been the support of new formations. But the example set by the Gnostics was the very thing that rendered the problem difficult. Where was a beginning to be made? “There is a kind of unconscious logic in the minds of masses of men when great questions are abroad, which some one thinker throws into suitable form.”3333Hatch, “Organisation of the Church”, p. 96. There could be no doubt that the needful thing was to fix what was “apostolic”, for the one certain thing was that Christianity was based on a divine revelation which had been transmitted through the medium of the Apostles to the Churches of the whole earth. It certainly was not a single individual who hit on the expedient of affirming the fixed forms employed by the Churches in their solemn transactions to be apostolic in the strict sense. It must have come about by a natural process. But the confession of the Father, Son, and Spirit and the kerygma of Jesus Christ had the most prominent place among these forms. The special emphasising of these articles, in opposition to the Gnostic and Marcionite undertakings, may also be viewed as the result of the “common sense” of all those who clung to the belief that the Father of Jesus Christ was the creator of the world, and 26that the Son of God really appeared in the flesh. But that was not everywhere sufficient, for, even admitting that about the period between 150 and 180 A.D. all the Churches had a fixed creed which they regarded as apostolic in the strict sense — and this cannot be proved, — the most dangerous of all Gnostic schools, viz., those of Valentinus, could recognise this creed, since they already possessed the art of explaining a given text in whatever way they chose. What was needed was an apostolic creed definitely interpreted; for it was only by the aid of a definite interpretation that the creed could be used to repel the Gnostic speculations and the Marcionite conception of Christianity.
In this state of matters the Church of Rome, the proceedings of which are known to us through Irenæus and Tertullian, took, with regard to the fixed Roman baptismal confession ascribed to the Apostles, the following step: The Antignostic interpretation required by the necessities of the times was proclaimed as its self-evident content; the confession, thus explained, was designated as the “Catholic faith” (“fides catholica”), that is the rule of truth for the faith; and its acceptance was made the test of adherence to the Roman Church as well as to the general confederation of Christendom. Irenæus was not the author of this proceeding. How far Rome acted with the cooperation or under the influence of the Church of Asia Minor is a matter that is still obscure,3434We can only conjecture that some teachers in Asia Minor contemporary with Irenæus, or even of older date, and especially Melito, proceeded in like manner, adhering to Polycarp’s exclusive attitude. Dionysius of Corinth (Eusebius, H. E. IV. 23. 2, 4) may perhaps be also mentioned. and will probably never be determined with certainty. What the Roman community accomplished practically was theoretically established by Irenæus3535Irenæus set forth his theory in a great work, adv. hæres., especially in the third book. Unfortunately his treatise, λόγος εἰς ἐπίδειξιν τοῦ ἀποστολικοῦ κηρύγματος”, probably the oldest treatise on the rule of faith, has not been preserved Euseb., H. E. V. 26.) and Tertullian. The former proclaimed the baptismal confession, definitely interpreted and expressed in an Antignostic form, to be the apostolic rule of truth (regula veritatis), and tried 27to prove it so. He based his demonstration on the theory that this series of doctrines embodied the faith of the churches founded by the Apostles, and that these communities had always preserved the apostolic teaching unchanged (see under C).
Viewed historically, this thesis, which preserved Christianity from complete dissolution, is based on two unproved assumptions and on a confusion of ideas. It is not demonstrated that any creed emanated from the Apostles, nor that the Churches they founded always preserved their teaching in its original form; the creed itself, moreover, is confused with its interpretation. Finally, the existence of a fides catholica, in the strict sense of the word, cannot be justly inferred from the essential agreement found in the doctrine of a series of communities.3636Irenæus indeed asserts in several passages that all Churches — those in Germany, Iberia, among the Celts, in the East, in Egypt, in Lybia and Italy; see I. 10. 2; III. 3. 1; III. 4. 1 sq. — possess the same apostolic kerygma; but “qui nimis probat nihil probat.” The extravagance of the expressions shows that a dogmatic theory is here at work. Nevertheless this is based on the correct view that the Gnostic speculations are foreign to Christianity and of later date. But, on the other hand, the course taken by Irenæus was the only one capable of saving what yet remained of primitive Christianity, and that is its historical justification. A fides apostolica had to be set up and declared identical with the already existing fides catholica. It had to be made the standard for judging all particular doctrinal opinions, that it might be determined whether they were admissible or not.
The persuasive power with which Irenæus set up the principle of the apostolic “rule of truth,” or of “tradition” or simply of “faith,” was undoubtedly, as far as he himself was concerned, based on the facts that he had already a rigidly formulated creed before him and that he had no doubt as to its interpretation.3737We must further point out here that Irenæus not only knew the tradition of the Churches of Asia Minor and Rome, but that he had sat at the feet of Polycarp and associated in his youth with many of the “elders” in Asia. Of these he knew for certain that they in part did not approve of the Gnostic doctrines and in part would not have done so. The confidence with which he represented his antignostic interpretation of the creed as that of the Church of the Apostles was no doubt owing to this sure historical recollection. See his epistle to Florinus in Euseb., H. E. V. 20 and his numerous references to the “elders” in his great work. (A collection of these may be found in Patr. App. Opp. I. 3, p. 105 sq.) The rule 28of truth (also ἡ ὑπὸ τῆς ἐκκλησίας κηρυσσομένη ἀλήθεια “the truth proclaimed by the Church;” and τὸ τῆς ἀληθέιας σωμάτιον, “the body of the truth”) is the old baptismal confession well known to the communities for which he immediately writes. (See I. 9. 4; οὕτω δέ καὶ ὁ τὸν κανόνα τῆς ἀληθείας ἀκλινῆ ἐν ἑαυτῷ κατέχων ὃν διὰ τοῦ βαπτρίσματος εἴληφε, “in like manner he also who retains immovably in his heart the rule of truth which he received through baptism”); because it is this, it is apostolic, firm and immovable.3838Caspari’s investigations leave no room for doubt as to the relation of the rule of faith to the baptismal confession. The baptismal confession was not a deposit resulting from fluctuating anti-heretical rules of faith; but the latter were the explanations of the baptismal confession. The full authority of the confession itself was transferred to every elucidation that appeared necessary, in so far as the needful explanation was regarded as given with authority. Each momentary formula employed to defend the Church against heresy has therefore the full value of the creed. This explains the fact that, beginning with Irenæus’ time, we meet with differently formulated rules of faith, partly in the same writer, and yet each is declared to be the rule of faith. Zahn is virtually right when he says, in his essay quoted above, that the rule of faith is the baptismal confession. But, so far as I can judge, he has not discerned the dilemma in which the Old Catholic Fathers were placed, and which they were not able to conceal. This dilemma arose from the fact that the Church needed an apostolic creed, expressed in fixed formulæ and at the same time definitely interpreted in an anti-heretical sense; whereas she only possessed, and this not in all churches, a baptismal confession, contained in fixed formulæ but not interpreted, along with an ecclesiastical tradition which was not formulated, although it no doubt excluded the most offensive Gnostic doctrines. It was not yet possible for the Old Catholic Fathers to frame and formulate that doctrinal confession, and they did not attempt it. The only course therefore was to assert that an elastic collection of doctrines which were ever being formulated anew, was a fixed standard in so far as it was based on a fixed creed. But this dilemma — we do not know how it was viewed by opponents — proved an advantage in the end, for it enabled churchmen to make continual additions to the rule of faith, whilst at the same time continuing to assert its identity with the baptismal confession. We must make the reservation, however, that not only the baptismal confession, but other fixed propositions as well, formed the basis on which particular rules of faith were formulated.
By the fixing of the rule of truth, the formulation of which in the case of Irenæus (I. l0. 1, 2) naturally follows the arrangement of the (Roman) baptismal confession, the most important Gnostic theses were at once set aside and their antitheses established as apostolic. In his apostolic rule of truth Irenæus himself already gave prominence to the following doctrines:3939Besides Irenæus I. 10. 1, 2, cf. 9. 1-5; 22. 1: II. 1. 1; 9. 1; 28. 1; 32. 3, 4: III. I-4; 11. 1; 12. 9; 15. 1; 16. 5 sq.; 18. 3; 24. 1: IV. 1. 2; 9. 2; 20. 6; 33. 7 sq.: V. Præf. 12. 5; 20. 1. 29the unity of God; the identity of the supreme God with the Creator; the identity of the supreme God with the God of the Old Testament; the unity of Jesus Christ as the Son of the God who created the world; the essential divinity of Christ; the incarnation of the Son of God; the prediction of the entire history of Jesus through the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament; the reality of that history; the bodily reception (ἔνσαρκος ἀνάληψις) of Christ into heaven; the visible return of Christ; the resurrection of all flesh (ἀνάστασις πάσης σαρκὸς, πάσης ἀνθρωπότητος), the universal judgment. These dogmas, the antitheses of the Gnostic regulæ,4040See Iren. I. 31. 3: II. Præf. 19. 8. were consequently, as apostolic and therefore also as Catholic, removed beyond all discussion.
Tertullian followed Irenæus in every particular. He also interpreted the (Romish) baptismal confession, represented it, thus explained, as the regula fidei,4141This expression is not found in Irenæus, but is very common in Tertullian. and transferred to the latter the attributes of the confession, viz., its apostolic origin (or origin from Christ), as well as its fixedness and completeness.4242See de præscr. 13: “Hæc regula a Christo instituta nullas habet apud nos quæstiones.” Like Irenæus, though still more stringently, he also endeavoured to prove that the formula had descended from Christ, that is, from the Apostles, and was incorrupt. He based his demonstration on the alleged incontestable facts that it contained the faith of those Churches founded by the Apostles, that in these communities a corruption of doctrine was inconceivable, because in them, as could be proved, the Apostles had always had successors, and that the other Churches were in communion with them (see under C). In a more definite way than Irenæus, Tertullian conceives the rule of faith as a rule for the faith,4343See l. c. 14: “Ceterum manente forma regulæ in suo ordine quantumlibet quæras at tractes.” See de virg. vol. 1. as the law given 30to faith,4444See 1. c. 14: “Fides in regula posita est, habet legem et salutem de observatione legis,” and de vir. vol. 1. also as a “regula doctrinæ” or “doctrina regulæ” (here the creed itself is quite plainly the regula), and even simply as “doctrina” or “institutio”.4545See de præscr. 21: “Si hæc ita sunt, constat perinde omnem doctrinam, quæ cum illis ecclesiis apostolicis matricibus et originalibus fidei conspiret, veritati deputandum . . . Superest ergo ut demonstremus an hæc nostra doctrina, cujus regulam supra edidimus, de apostolorum traditione censeatur . . . Communicamus cum ecclesiis catholicis, quod nulla doctrina diversa.” De præscr. 32: “Ecclesiæ, quæ licet nullum ex apostolis auctorem suum proferant, ut multo posteriores, tamen in eadem fide conspirantes non minus apostolicæ deputantur pro consanguinitate doctrinæ.” That Tertullian regards the baptismal confession as identical with the regula fidei, just as Irenæus does, is shown by the fact that in de spectac. 4 (“Cum aquam ingressi Christianam fidem in legis suæ verba profitemur, renuntiasse nos diabolo et pompæ et angelis eius ore nostro contestamur.”) the baptismal confession is the lex. He also calls it “sacramentum” (military oath) in ad mart. 3; de idolol. 6; de corona 11; Scorp. 4. But he likewise gives the same designation to the interpreted baptismal confession (de præscr. 20, 32; adv. Marc. IV. 5); for we must regard the passages cited as referring to this. Adv. Marc. I. 21: “regula sacramenti”; likewise V. 20, a passage specially instructive as to the fact that there can be only one regula. The baptismal confession itself had a fixed and short form (see de spectac. 4; de corona, 3: “amplius aliquid respondentes quam dominus in evangelio determinavit”; de bapt. 2: “homo in aqua demissus et inter pauca verba tinctus”; de bapt. 6, 11; de orat. 2 etc.). We can still prove that, apart from a subsequent alteration, it was the Roman confession that was used in Carthage in the days of Tertullian. In de præscr. 26 Tertullian admits that the Apostles may have spoken some things “inter domesticos”, but declares that they could not be communications “quæ aliam regulam fidei superducerent.” As to the content of the regula, it was set forth by Tertullian in three passages.4646De præscr. 13; de virg. vol.1; adv. Prax. 2. The latter passage is thus worded: “Unicum quidem deum credimus, sub hac tamen dispensatione quam ὀικονομίαν dicimus, ut unici dei sit et filius sermo ipsius, qui ex ipso processerit, per quem omnia facta sunt et sine quo factum est nihil, hunc missum a patre in virginem et ex ea natum, hominem et deum, filium hominis et filium dei et cognominatum Iesum Christum, hunc passum, hunc mortuum et sepultum secundum scripturas et resuscitatum a patre et in cœlo resumptum sedere ad dextram patris, venturum judicare vivos et mortuos; qui exinde miserit secundum promissionem suam a patre spiritum s. paracletum sanctificatorem fidei eorum qui credunt in patrem et filium et spiritum s. Hanc regulam ab initio evangelii decucurrisse.” It is essentially the same as in Irenæus. But Tertullian already gives prominence within the regula to the creation of the universe out of nothing,4747De præscr. 13. the creative instrumentality of the 31Logos,4848L. c. his origin before all creatures,4949L. c. a definite theory of the Incarnation,5050L. c.: “id verbum filium eius appellatum, in nomine dei varie visum a patriarchis, in prophetis semper auditum, postremo delatum ex spiritu patris dei et virtute in virginem Mariam, carnem factum,” etc. the preaching by Christ of a nova lex and a nova promissio regni cœlorum,5151L. c. and finally also the Trinitarian economy of God.5252Adv. Prax. 2: “Unicum quidem deum credimus, sub hac tamen dispensatione quam ὀικονομίαν dicimus, ut unici dei sit et filius sermo ipsius,” etc. Materially, therefore, the advance beyond Irenæus is already very significant. Tertullian’s regula is in point of fact a doctrina. In attempting to bind the communities to this he represents them as schools.5353But Tertullian also knows of a “regula disciplinæ” (according to the New Testament) on which he puts great value, and thereby shows that he has by no means forgotten that Christianity is a matter of conduct. We cannot enter more particularly into this rule here. The apostolic “lex et doctrina” is to be regarded as inviolable by every Christian. Assent to it decides the Christian character of the individual. Thus the Christian disposition and life come to be a matter which is separate from this and subject to particular conditions. In this way the essence of religion was split up — the most fatal turning-point in the history of Christianity.
But we are not of course to suppose that at the beginning of the third century the actual bond of union between all the Churches was a fixed confession developed into a doctrine, that is, definitely interpreted. This much was gained, as is clear from the treatise de præscriptione and from other evidence, that in the communities with which Tertullian was acquainted, mutual recognition and brotherly intercourse were made to depend on assent to formulæ which virtually coincided with the Roman baptismal confession. Whoever assented to such a formula was regarded as a Christian brother, and was entitled to the salutation of peace, the name of brother, and hospitality.5454Note here the use of “contesserare” in Tertullian. See de prascr.2o: “Itaque tot ac tantæ ecclesiæ una est ab apostolis prima, ex qua omnes. Sic omnes prima et omnes apostolicæ, dum una omnes. Probant unitatem communicatio pacis et appellatio fraternitatis et contesseratio hospitalitatis, quæ iura non alia ratio regit quam eiusdem sacramenti una traditio.” De præscr. 36: “Videamus, quid ecclesia Romanensis cum Africanis ecclesiis contesserarit.” 32In so far as Christians confined themselves to a doctrinal formula which they, however, strictly applied, the adoption of this practice betokened an advance. The scattered communities now possessed a “lex” to bind them together, quite as certainly as the philosophic schools possessed a bond of union of a real and practical character5555We need not here discuss whether and in what way the model of the philosophic schools was taken as a standard. But we may refer to the fact that from the middle of the second century the Apologists, that is the Christian philosophers, had exercised a very great influence on the Old Catholic Fathers. But we cannot say that 2. John 7-11 and Didache XI. 1 f. attest the practice to be a very old one. These passages only show that it had preparatory stages; the main element, namely, the formulated summary of the faith, is there sought for in vain. in the shape of certain briefly formulated doctrines. In virtue of the common apostolic lex of Christians the Catholic Church became a reality, and was at the same time clearly marked off from the heretic sects. But more than this was gained, in so far as the Antignostic interpretation of the formula, and consequently a “doctrine”, was indeed in some measure involved in the lex. The extent to which this was the case depended, of course, on the individual community or its leaders. All Gnostics could not be excluded by the wording of the confession; and, on the other hand, every formulated faith leads to a formulated doctrine, as soon as it is set up as a critical canon. What we observe in Irenæus and Tertullian must have everywhere taken place in a greater or less degree; that is to say, the authority of the confessional formula must have been extended to statements not found in the formula itself.
We can still prove from the works of Clement of Alexandria that a confession claiming to be an apostolic law of faith,5656Herein lay the defect, even if the content of the law of faith had coincided completely with the earliest tradition. A man like Tertullian knew how to protect himself in his own way from this defect, but his attitude is not typical. ostensibly comprehending the whole essence of Christianity, was not set up in the different provincial Churches at one and the 33same time.5757Hegesippus, who wrote about the time of Eleutherus, and was in Rome about the middle of the second century (probably somewhat earlier than Irenæus), already set up the apostolic rule of faith as a standard. This is clear from the description of his work in Euseb., H. E. IV. 8. 2 (ἐν πέντε συγγράμμασιν τὴν ἀπλανῆ παράδοσιν τ9;ῦ ἀποστολικοῦ κηρύγματος ὑπομνηματισάμενος) as well as from the fragments of this work (l.c. IV. 22. 2, 3: ὁ ὀρθὸς λόγος and § 5 ἐμέρισαν τὴν ἕνωσιν τῆς ἐκκλησίας φθοριμαίοις λόγοις κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ; see also § 4). Hegesippus already regarded the unity of the Church as dependent on the correct doctrine. Polycrates (Euseb., H. E. V. 24. 6) used the expression ὁ κανὼν τῆς πίστεως in a very wide sense. But we may beyond doubt attribute to him the same conception with regard to the significance of the rule of faith as was held by his opponent Victor The Antimontanist (in Euseb. H. E. V. 16. 22.) will only allow that the martyrs who went to death for the κατὰ ἀλήθειαν πίστις were those belonging to the Church. The regula fidei is not here meant, as in this case it was not a subject of dispute. On the other hand, the anonymous writer in Eusebius, H. E. V. 28. 6, 13 understood by τὸ ἐκκλησιαστικὸν φρόνημα or ὁ κανὼν τῆς ἀρχαίας πίστεως the interpreted baptismal confession, just as Irenæus and Tertullian did. Hippolytus entirely agrees with these (see Philosoph. Præf., p. 4. V. 50 sq. and X. 32-34). Whether we are to ascribe the theory of Irenæus to Theophilus is uncertain. His idea of the Church is that of Irenæus (ad Autol. II. 14): δέδωκεν ὁ Θεὸς τῷ κόσμῳ κυμαινομένῳ καὶ χειμαζομένῳ ὑπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων τὰς συναγωγάς, λεγομένας δὲ ἐκκλησίας ἁγίας, ἐν αἷς καθάπερ λιμέσιν εὐόρμοις ἐν νήσοις ἁι διδασκαλίαι τῆς αληθείας ἐισίν . . . Καὶ ὥσπερ αὖ νῆσοι εἰσιν ἕτεραι πετρώδεις καὶ ἄνυδροι καὶ ἔκαρποι καὶ θηριώδεις καὶ ἀοίκητοι ἐπὶ βλάβῃ τῶν πλεόντων . . . οὕτως εἰσὶν αἱ διδασκαλίαι τῆς πλάνης, λέγω δὲ τῶν αἱρέσεων αἳ ἐξαπολλύουσιν τοὺς προσίοντας αὐταῖς. From this it is clearly manifest that at this period the Alexandrian Church neither possessed a baptismal confession similar to that of Rome, nor understood by “regula fidei” and synonymous expressions a collection of beliefs fixed in some fashion and derived from the apostles.5858This has been contested by Caspari (Ztschr. f. Kirchl. Wissensch. 1886, Part. 7, p. 352 ff.: “Did the Alexandrian Church in Clement’s time possess a baptismal confession or not”?); but his arguments have not convinced me. Caspari correctly shows that in Clement the expression “ecclesiastical canon” denotes the summary of the Catholic faith and of the Catholic rule of conduct; but he goes on to trace the baptismal confession, and that in a fixed form, in the expression ἡ περὶ τῶν μεγίστων ὁμολογία, Strom. VII. 15. 90 (see remarks on this passage below), and is supported in this view by Voigt, l. c. p. 196 ff. I also regard this as a baptismal confession; but it is questionable if it was definitely formulated, and the passage is not conclusive on the point. But, supposing it to be definitely formulated, who can prove that it went further than the formula in Hermas, Mand. I. with the addition of a mere mention of the Son and Holy Spirit. That a free kerygma of Christ and some other matter were added to Hermas, Mand. I. may still be proved by a reference to Orig., Comm. in Joh. XXXII. 9 (see the passage in vol. I. p. 155.). Clement of Alexandria in his Stromateis appeals to the holy (divine) 34Scriptures, to the teaching of the Lord,5959Ἡ κυριακὴ διδασκαλία, e.g., VI. 15. 124; VI. 18. 165; VII. 10. 57; VII. 15. 90; VII. 18. 165, etc. and to the standard tradition which he designates by a great variety of names, though he never gives its content, because he regards the whole of Christianity in its present condition as needing to be reconstructed by gnosis, and therefore as coming under the head of tradition.6060We do not find in Clement the slightest traces of a baptismal confession related to the Roman, unless we reckon the Θεὸς παντοκράτωρ or εἷς Θ. π. as such. But this designation of God is found everywhere and is not characteristic of the baptismal confession. In the lost treatise on the Passover Clement expounded the “παραδόσεις τῶν ἀρχάιων πρεσβυτέρων” which had been transmitted to him. In one respect therefore, as compared with Irenæus and Tertullian, he to some extent represents an earlier stand-point; he stands midway between them and Justin. From this author he is chiefly distinguished by the fact that he employs sacred Christian writings as well as the Old Testament, makes the true Gnostic quite as dependent on the former as on the latter and has lost that naïve view of tradition, that is, the complete content of Christianity, which Irenæus and Tertullian still had. As is to be expected, Clement too assigns the ultimate authorship of the tradition to the Apostles; but it is characteristic that he neither does this of such set purpose as Irenæus and Tertullian, nor thinks it necessary to prove that the Church had presented the apostolic tradition intact. But as he did not extract from the tradition a fixed complex of fundamental propositions, so also he failed to recognise the importance of its publicity and catholicity, and rather placed an esoteric alongside of an exoteric tradition. Although, like Irenæus and Tertullian, his attitude is throughout determined by opposition to the Gnostics and Marcion, he supposes it possible to refute them by giving to the Holy Scriptures a scientific exposition which must not oppose the κανὼν τῆς ἐκκλησίας, that is, the Christian common sense, but receives from it only certain guiding rules. But this attitude of Clement would be simply inconceivable if the Alexandrian Church of his time had already employed the fixed standard applied in those of Rome, Carthage 35and Lyons.6161Considering the importance of the matter it is necessary to quote as copiously as possible from original sources. In Strom. IV. 15. 98, we find the expression ὁ κανὼν τῆς πίστεως; but the context shows that it is used here in a quite general sense. With regard to the statement of Paul: “whatever you do, do it to the glory of God,” Clement remarks ὅσα ὑπὸ τὸν κανόνα τῆς πίστεως ποιεῖν ἐπιτέτραπται. In Strom. I. 19. 96; VI. 15. 125; VI. 18. 165; VII. 7. 41; VII. 15. 90; VII. 16. 105 we find ὁ κανὼν τῆς ἐκκλησίας (ἐκκλησιαστικός). In the first passage that canon is the rule for the right observance of the Lord’s Supper. In the other passages it describes no doubt the correct doctrine, that is, the rule by which the orthodox Gnostic has to be guided in contrast with the heretics who are guided by their own desires (it is therefore parallel to the διδασκαλία τοῦ κυρίου); but Clement feels absolutely no need to mention wherein this ecclesiastical canon consists. In Strom IV. 1.3; VI. 15. 124; VI. 15. 131; VII. 16. 94; we find the expression ὁ κανὼν τῆς ἀληθέιας. In the first passage it is said: ἡ γοῦν κατὰ τὸν τῆς ἀληθείας κανόνα γνωστικῆς παραδόσεως φυσιολογία, μᾶλλον δὲ ἐποπτεία, ἐκ τοῦ περὶ κοσμογονίας ἤρτηται λόγου. ἐνθένδε ἀναβαίνουσα ἐπὶ τὸ θεολογικὸν εἶδος. Here no one can understand by the rule of truth what Tertullian understood by it. Very instructive is the second passage in which Clement is dealing with the right and wrong exposition of Scripture. He says first: παρακαταθήκη ἀποδιδομένη Θεῷ ἡ κατὰ τὴν τοῦ κυρίου διδασκαλίαν διὰ τῶν ἀποστόλων ἀυτοῦ τῆς θεοσεβοῦς παραδόσεως σύνεσίς τε καὶ συνάσκησις; then he demands that the Scriptures be interpreted κατὰ τὸν τῆς ἀληθείας κανόνα, or τ. ἐκκλησ. καν.; and continues (125): κανὼν δὲ ἐκκλησιαστικὸς ἡ συνῳδία καὶ ἡ συμφωνία νόμου τε καὶ προφητῶν τῇ κατὰ τὴν τοῦ κυρίου παρουσίαν παραδιδομένῃ διαθήκῃ. Here then the agreement of the Old Testament with the Testament of Christ is described as the ecclesiastical canon. Apart from the question as to whether Clement is here already referring to a New Testament canon of Scripture, his rule agrees with Tertullian’s testimony about the Roman Church: “legem et prophetas cum evangelicis et apostolicis litteris miscet.” But at any rate the passage shows the broad sense in which Clement used the term “ecclesiastical canon.” The following expressions are also found in Clement: ἡ ἀληθὴς τῆς μακαρίας διδασκαλίασ παράδοσις (I. 1. 11), ἁι ἅγιαι παραδόσεις (VII. 18. 110), ἡ εὐκλεὴς καὶ σεμνὸς τῆς παραδόσεως κανών (all gnosis is to be guided by this, see also ἡ κατὰ τὴν θείαν παράδοσιν φιλοσοφία, I, 1. 15. I: 11. 52., also the expression ἡ θεία παράδοσις (VII. 16. 103), ἡ ἐκκλησιαστικὴ παράδοσις (VII. 16. 95), ἁι τοῦ Χριστοῦ παραδνσεις (VII. 16. 99), ἡ τοῦ κυρίου παράδοσις (VII. 17. 106: VII. 16. 104), ἡ θεοσεβὴς παράδοσις (VI. 15. 124). Its content is not more precisely defined, and, as a rule, nothing more can be gathered from the context than what Clement once calls τὸ κοινὸν τῆς πίστεως (VII. 16. 97). Where Clement wishes to determine the content more accurately he makes use of supplementary terms. He speaks, e.g., in III. 10. 66 of the κατὰ ἀληθείαν εὐαγγελικὸς κανών, and means by that the tradition contained in the Gospels recognised by the Church in contradistinction to that found in other gospels (IV. 4. 15: κατὰ τὸν κανόνα τοῦ εὐαγγελίου = κατὰ τ. εὐαγγ.). In none of these formulæ is any notice taken of the Apostles. That Clement (like Justin) traced back the public tradition to the Apostles is a matter of course and manifest from I. 1. 11, where he gives an account of his early teachers (οἱ μὲν τὴν ἀληθῆ τῆς μακαρίας σώζοντες διδασκαλίας παράδοσιν εὐθὺς ἀπὸ Πέτρου τε καὶ Ἰακώβου, Ἰωάννου τε καὶ Παύλου τῶν ἁγίων ἀποστόλων, παῖς παρὰ πατρὸς ἐκδεχόμενος ἧκον δὴ σὺν θεῷ καὶ εἰς ἡμᾶς τὰ προγονικὰ ἐκεῖνα καὶ ἀποστολικὰ καταθησόμενοι σπέρματα). Clement does not yet appeal to a hierarchical tradition through the bishops, but adheres to the natural one through the teachers, though he indeed admits an esoteric tradition alongside of it. On one occasion he also says that the true Gnostic keeps the ἀποστολικὴ καὶ ἐκκλησιαστικὴ ὀρθοτομία τῶν δογμάτων (VII. 16. 104). He has no doubt that: μία ἡ πάντων γέγονε τῶν ἀποστόλων ὥσπερ διδασκαλία οὕτως δὲ καὶ ἡ παράδοσις (VII. 17. 108). But all that might just as well have been written in the first half of the second century. On the tracing back of the Gnosis, the esoteric tradition, to the Apostles see Hypotyp. in Euseb., H. E. II. 1. 4, Strom. VI. 15. 131: αὐτίκα διδάξαντος τοῦ σωτῆρος τοὺς ἀποστόλους ἡ τῆς ἐγγράφου ἄγραφος ἤδη καὶ εἰς ἡμᾶς διαδίδοται παράδοσις. VI. 7. 61: ἡ γνωσις δὲ αὐτὴ ἡ κατὰ διαδοχὰς (this is the only place where I find this expression) εἰς ὀλίγους ἐκ τῶν ἀποστόλων ἀγράφως παραδοθεῖσα κατελήλυθεν, ibid ἡ γνωστικὴ παράδοσις; VII. 10. 55: ἡ γνῶσις ἐκ παραδόσεως διαδιδομένη τοῖς ἀξίους σφᾶς ἀυτοὺς τῆς διδασκαλίας παρεχομένοις οἷον παρακαταθήκη ἐγχειρίζεται. In VII. 17. 106 Clement has briefly recorded the theories of the Gnostic heretics with regard to the apostolic origin of their teaching, and expressed his doubts. That the tradition of the “Old Church”, for so Clement designates the orthodox Church as distinguished from the “human congregation” of the heretics of his day, is throughout derived from the Apostles, he regards as so certain and self-evident that, as a rule, he never specially mentions it, or gives prominence to any particular article as apostolic. But the conclusion that he had no knowledge of any apostolic or fixed confession might seem to be disproved by one passage. It is said in Strom. VII. 15. 90: Μή τι οὖν, εἰ καὶ παραβαίη τις συνθήκας καὶ τὴν ὁμολογίαν παρέλθοι τὴν πρὸς ἡμᾶς, διὰ τὸν ψευσάμενον τὴν ὁμολογίαν ἀφεξόμεθα τῆς ἀληθείας καὶ ἡμεῖς, ἀλλ᾽ ὡς ἀψευδεῖν χρὴ τὸν ἐπιεικῆ καὶ μηδὲν ὧν ὑπέσχηται ἀκυροῦν κἂν ἄλλοι τινὲς παραβαίνωσι συνθήκας, οὕτως καὶ ἡμᾶς κατὰ μηδένα τρόπον τὸν ἐκκλησιαστικὸν παραβαίνειν προσήκει κανόνα καὶ μάλιστα τὴν περὶ τῶν μεγίστων ὁμολογίαν ἡμεῖς μὲν φυλάττομεν, οἱ δὲ παραβαίνουσι. But in the other passages in Clement where ὀμολογίαν appears it nowhere signifies a fixed formula of confession, but always the confession in general which receives its content according to the situation (see Strom. IV. 4. 15; IV. 9. 71; III. 1. 4: ἐγκράτεια σώματος ὐπεροψία κατὰ τὴν πρὸς θεὸν ὁμολογίαν. In the passage quoted it means the confession of the main points of the true doctrine. It is possible or probable that Clement was here alluding to a confession at baptism, but that is also not quite certain. At any rate this one passage cannot prove that Clement identified the ecclesiastical canon with a formulated confession similar to or identical with the Roman, or else such identification must have appeared more frequently in his works. Such a standard did not exist; but Clement made no distinction in the yet unsystematised tradition, even between faith and discipline, because as a theologian he was not able to identify himself with any single article of it without 36hesitation, and because he ascribed to the true Gnostic the ability to fix and guarantee the truth of Christian doctrine.
Origen, although he also attempted to refute the heretics chiefly by a scientific exegesis of the Holy Scriptures, exhibits 37an attitude which is already more akin to that of Irenæus and Tertullian than to that of Clement. In the preface to his great work, “De principiis,” he prefixed the Church doctrine as a detailed apostolic rule of faith, and in other instances also he appealed to the apostolic teaching.6262De princip. 1. I. præf. § 4-10., IV. 2. 2. Yet we must consider the passage already twice quoted, namely, Com. in John. XXXII. 9, in order to determine the practice of the Alexandrian Church at that time. Was this baptismal confession not perhaps compiled from Herm., Mand. I., and Christological and theological teachings, so that the later confessions of the East with their dogmatic details are already to be found here? It may be assumed that in the time of Caracalla and Heliogabalus the Alexandrian Christians had also begun to adopt the principles acted upon in Rome and other communities.6363That may be also shown with regard to the New Testament canon. Very important is the declaration of Eusebius (H. E. VI. 14) that Origen, on his own testimony, paid a brief visit to Rome in the time of Zephyrinus, “because he wished to become acquainted with the ancient Church of the Romans.” We learn from Jerome (de vir. inl. 61) that Origen there became acquainted with Hippolytus, who even called attention to his presence in the church in a sermon. That Origen kept up a connection with Rome still later and followed the conflicts there with keen interest may be gathered from his works. (See Döllinger, “Hippolytus und Calixtus” p. 254 ff.) On the other hand, Clement was quite unacquainted with that city. Bigg therefore l.c. rightly remarks: “The West is as unknown to Clement as it was to his favourite Homer.” That there was a formulated πίστις καὶ ὁμολογία in Alexandria about 250 A.D. is shown by the epistle of Dionysius (Euseb., H. E. VII. 8) He says of Novatian, ἀνατρέπει τὴν πρὸ λούτρου πίστιν καὶ ὁμολογίαν. Dionysius would hardly have reproduced this Roman reproach in that way, if the Alexandrian Church had not possessed a similar πίστις. The Syrian Churches, or at least a part of them, followed still later.6464The original of the Apostolic Constitutions has as yet no knowledge of the Apostolic rule of faith in the Western sense. There can be no doubt that, from the last decades of the third century onward, one and the same confession, identical not in its wording, but in its main features, prevailed in the great confederation of Churches extending from Spain to the Euphrates and from Egypt to beyond the Alps.6565The close of the first homily of Aphraates shows how simple, antique, and original this confession still was in outlying districts at the beginning of the fourth century. On the other hand, there were oriental communities where it was already heavily weighted with theology. It was the basis of the confederation, and therefore also a passport, mark of recognition, etc., for the orthodox Christians. 38The interpretation of this confession was fixed in certain ground features, that is, in an Antignostic sense. But a definite theological interpretation was also more and more enforced. By the end of the third century there can no longer have been any considerable number of outlying communities where the doctrines of the pre-existence of Christ and the identity of this pre-existent One with the divine Logos were not recognised as the orthodox belief.6666Cf. the epistles of Cyprian, especially ep. 69. 70. When Cyprian speaks (69. 7) of one and the same law which is held by the whole Catholic Church, and of one symbol with which she administers baptism (this is the first time we meet with this expression), his words mean far more than the assertion of Irenæus that the confession expounded by him is the guiding rule in all Churches; for in Cyprian’s time the intercourse of most Catholic communities with each other was so regulated that the state of things in each was to some extent really known. Cf. also Novatian, “de trinitate seu de regula fidei,” as well as the circular letter of the Synod of Antioch referring to the Metropolitan Paul (Euseb., H. E. VII. 30. 6 . . . ἀποστὰς τοῦ κανόνος ἐπὶ κίβδηλα καὶ νόθα διδάγματα μετελήλυθεν, and the homilies of Aphraates. The closer examination of the last phase in the development of the confession of faith during this epoch, when the apostolic confessions received an interpretation in accordance with the theology of Origen, will be more conveniently left over till the close of our description (see chap. 7 fin). They may have first become an apostolic confession of faith “ through the Nicene Creed. But even this creed was not adopted all at once.
|« Prev||The Transformation of the Baptismal Confession…||Next »|