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THE ORGANIZATION OF THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY, AS BEARING UPON THE CHRISTIAN MISSION753753Cp. on this Von Dobschütz's Die urchristlichen Gemeinden (1902) [translated in this library under the title of Christian Life in the Primitive Church].
Christian preaching aimed at winning souls and bringing individuals to God, “that the number of the elect might be made up,” but from the very outset it worked through a community and proposed to itself the aim of uniting all who believed in Christ. Primarily, this union was one which consisted of the disciples of Jesus. But, as we have already seen, these disciples were conscious of being the true Israel and the ecclesia of God. Such they held themselves to be. Hence they appropriated to themselves the form and well-knit frame of Judaism, spiritualizing it and strengthening it, so that by one stroke (we may say) they secured a firm and exclusive organization.
But while this organization, embracing all Christians on earth, rested in the first instance solely upon religious ideas, as a purely ideal conception it would hardly have remained effective for any length of time, had it not been allied to local organization. Christianity, at the initiative of the original apostles and the brethren of Jesus, began by borrowing this as well from Judaism, i.e., from the synagogue. Throughout the Diaspora the Christian communities developed at first out of the synagogues with their proselytes or adherents. Designed to be essentially a brotherhood, and springing out of the synagogue, the Christian society developed a local organization which was of double strength, superior to anything achieved by the societies 432of Judaism.754754We cannot discuss the influence which the Greek and Roman guilds may have exercised upon Christianity. In any case, it can only have affected certain forms, not the essential fact itself or its fixity. One extremely advantageous fact about these local organizations in their significance for Christianity may be added. It was this: every community was at once a unit, complete in itself; but it was also a reproduction of the collective church of God, and it had to recognize and manifest itself as such.755755We do not know how this remarkable conviction arose, but it lies perfectly plain upon the surface of the apostolic and post-apostolic ages. It did not originate in Judaism, since—to my knowledge—the individual Jewish synagogue did not look upon itself in this light. Nor did the conception spring up at a single stroke. Even in Paul two contradictory conceptions still lie unexplained together: while, on the one hand, he regards each community, so to speak, as a “church of God,” sovereign, independent, and responsible for itself, on the other hand his churches are at the same time his own creations, which consequently remain under his control and training, and are in fact even threatened by him with the rod. He is their father and their schoolmaster. Here the apostolic authority, and, what is more, the general and special authority, of the apostle as the founder of a church invade and delimit the authority of the individual community, since the latter has to respect and follow the rules laid down and enforced by the apostle throughout all his churches. This he had the right to expect. But, as we see from the epistles to the Corinthians, especially from the second, conflicts were inevitable. Then again in 3 John we have an important source of information, for here the head of a local church is openly rebelling and asserting his independence, against the control of an apostle who attempts to rule the church by means of delegates. When Ignatius reached Asia not long afterwards, the idea of the sovereignty of the individual church had triumphed.
Such a religious and social organization, destitute of any political or national basis and yet embracing the entire private life, was a novel and unheard of thing upon the soil of Greek and Roman life, where religious and social organizations only existed as a rule in quite a rudimentary form, and where they lacked any religious control of life as a whole. All that people could think of in this connection was one or two schools of philosophy, whose common life was also a religious life. But here was a society which united fellow-believers, who were resident in any city, in the closest of ties, presupposing a relationship which was assumed as a matter of course to last through life itself, furnishing its members not only with holy unction administered once and for all or from time to time, but with a daily bond which provided them with spiritual benefits 433and imposed duties on them, assembling them at first daily and then weekly, shutting them off from other people, uniting them in a guild of worship, a friendly society, and an order with a definite line of life in view, besides teaching them to consider themselves as the community of God.
Neophytes, of course, had to get accustomed or to be trained at first to a society of this kind. It ran counter to all the requirements exacted by any other cultus or holy rite from its devotees, however much the existing guild-life may have paved the way for it along several lines. That its object should be the common edification of the members, that the community was therefore ‘to resemble a single body with many members, that every member was to be subordinate to the whole body, that one member was to suffer and rejoice with another, that Jesus Christ did not call individuals apart but built them up into a society in which the individual got his place—all these were lessons which had to be learnt. Paul's epistles prove how vigorously and unweariedly he taught them, and it is perhaps the weightiest feature both in Christianity and in the work of Paul that, so far from being overpowered, the impulse towards association was most powerfully intensified by the individualism which here attained its zenith. (For to what higher form can individualism rise than that reached by means of the dominant counsel, “Save thy soul”?) Brotherly love constituted the lever; it was also the entrance into that most wealthy inheritance, the inheritance of the firmly organized church of Judaism. In addition to this there was also the wonderfully practical idea, to which allusion has already been made, of setting the collective church (as an ideal fellowship) and the individual community in such a relationship that whatever was true of the one could be predicated also of the other, the church of Corinth or of Ephesus, e.g., being the church of God. Quite apart from the content of these social formations, no statesman or politician can hesitate to admire and applaud the solution which was thus devised for one of the most serious problems of any large organization, viz., how to maintain intact the complete autonomy of the local communities and at the same time to knit them into a general nexus, possessed of strength and unity, which 434should embrace all the empire and gradually develop also into a collective organization.
What a sense of stability a creation of this kind must have given the individual! What powers of attraction it must have exercised, as soon as its objects came to be understood! It was this, and not any evangelist, which proved to be the most effective missionary. In fact, we may take it for granted that the mere existence and persistent activity of the individual Christian communities did more than anything else to bring about the extension of the Christian religion.756756We possess no detailed account of the origin of any Christian community, for the narrative of Acts is extremely summary, and the epistles of Paul presuppose the existence of the various churches. Acts, indeed, is not interested in the local churches. It is only converted brethren that come within its ken; its pages reflect but the onward rush of the Christian mission, till that mission is merged in the legal proceedings against Paul. The apocryphal Acts are of hardly any use. But from 1 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians, and Acts we can infer one or two traits. Thus, while Paul invariably attaches himself to Jews, where such were to be found, and preaches in the synagogues, the actual result is that the small communities which thus arose are drawn mainly from “God-fearing” pagans, and upon the whole from pagans in general, not from Jews. Those who were first converted naturally stand in an important relation to the organization of the churches (Clem. Rom. xlii.: οἱ ἀπόστολοι κατὰ χώρας καὶ πόλεις κηρύσσοντες . . . . καθίστανον τὰς ἀπαρχὰς αὐτῶν, δοκιμάσαντες τῷ πνεύμαρι, εἰς ἐπισκόπους καὶ διακόνους τῶν μελλόντων πιστεύειν = Preaching throughout the country districts and cities, the apostles . . . . appointed those who were their firstfruits, after proving them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons for those who were to believe); as we learn from 1 Thess. v. 12 f. and Phil. i. 1, a sort of local superintendence at once arose in some of the communities. But what holds true of the Macedonian churches is by no means true of all the churches, at least during the initial period, for it is obvious that in Galatia and at Corinth no organization whatever existed for a decade, or even longer. The brethren submitted to a control of “the Spirit.” In Acts xiv. 23 (χειροτονήσαντες αὐτοῖς κατ᾽ ἐκκλησίαν πρεσβυτέρους) the allusion may be accurate as regards one or two communities (cp. also Clem. Rom. xliv. ), but it is an extremely questionable statement if it is held to imply that the apostles regularly appointed officials in every locality, and that these were in all cases “presbyters.” Acts only mentions church-officers at Jerusalem (xv. 4) and Ephesus (xx. 28, presbyters who are invested with episcopal powers).
Hence also the injunction, repeated over and again, “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together,”—“as some do,” adds the epistle to the Hebrews (x. 25). At first and indeed always there were naturally some people who imagined that one could secure the holy contents and blessings of 435Christianity as one did those of Isis or the Magna Mater, and then withdraw. Or, in cases where people were not so short-sighted, levity, laziness, or weariness were often enough to detach a person from the society. A vainglorious sense of superiority and of being able to dispense with the spiritual aid of the society was also the means of inducing many to withdraw from fellowship and from the common worship. Many, too, were actuated by fear of the authorities; they shunned attendance at public worship, to avoid being recognized as Christians.757757Cp. Tertullian, de Fuga, iii.: “Timide conveniunt in ecclesiam: dicitis enim, quoniam incondite convenimus et simul convenimus et complures concurrimus in ecclesiam, quaerimur a nationibus et timemus, ne turbentur nationes” (“They gather to church with trembling. For, you say, since we assemble in disorder, simultaneously, and in great numbers, the heathen make inquiries, and we are afraid of stirring them up against us”).
“Seek. what is of common profit to all,” says Clement of Rome (c. xlviii.). “Keep not apart by yourselves in secret,” says Barnabas (iv. 10), “as if you were already justified, but meet together and confer upon the common weal.” Similar passages are often to be met with.758758Herm. Simil., IX. xx.: οὗτοι οἱ ἐν πολλοῖς καὶ ποικίλαις πραγματείαις ἐμπεφυρμένοι οὐ κολλῶνται τοῖς δούλοις τοῦ θεοῦ, ἀλλ᾽ ἀποπλανῶνται (“These, being involved in many different kinds of occupations, do not cleave to the servants of God, but go astray”); IX. 26: γενόμενοι ἐρημώδεις, μὴ κολλώμενοι τοῖς δούλοις τοῦ θεοῦ, ἀλλὰ μονάζοντες ἀπολλύουσι τὰς ἑαυτῶν ψυχὰς (“Having become barren, they cleave not to the servants of God, but keep apart and so lose their own souls”). The worship on Sunday is of course obligatory, but even at other times the brethren are expected to meet as often as possible. “Thou shalt seek out every day the company of the saints, to be refreshed by their words” (Did., iv. 2). “We are constantly in touch with one another,” says Justin, after describing the Sunday worship (Apol., I. lxvii.), in order to show that this is not the only place of fellowship. Ignatius,759759Cp. Ephes. xiii.: σπουδάζετε πυκνότερον συνέρχεσθαι εἰς εὐχαριστίαν, θεοῦ (“Endeavour to meet more frequently for the praise of God”); Polyc. iv.: πυκνότερον συναγωγαὶ γινέσθωσαν (“Let meetings be held more frequently”); cp. also Magn. iv. too, advocates over and over again more frequent meetings of the church; in fact, his letters are written primarily for the purpose of binding the individual member as closely as possible to the community and thus 436securing him against error, temptation, and apostasy. The means to this end is an increased significance attaching to the church. In the church alone all blessings are to be had, in its ordinances and organizations. It is only the church firmly equipped with bishop, presbyters, and deacons, with common worship and with sacraments, which is the creation of God.760760The common worship, with its centre in the celebration of the Supper, is the cardinal point. No other cultus could point to such a ceremony, with its sublimity and unction, its brotherly feeling and many-sidedness. Here every experience, every spiritual need, found nourishment. The collocation of prayer, praise, preaching, and the reading of the Word was modelled upon the worship of the synagogue, and must already have made a deep impression upon pagans; but with the addition of the feast of the Lord's supper, an observance was introduced which, for all its simplicity, was capable of being regarded, as it actually was regarded, from the most diverse standpoints. It was a mysterious, divine gift of knowledge and of life; it was a thanksgiving, a sacrifice, a representation of the death of Christ, a love-feast of the brotherhood, a support for the hungry and distressed. No single observance could well be more than that, and it preserved this character for long, even after it had passed wholly into the region of the mysterious. The members of the church took home portions of the consecrated bread, and consumed them during the week. I have already (pp. 150 f.) discussed the question how far the communities in their worship were also unions for charitable support, and how influential must have been their efforts in this direction.—A whole series of testimonies, from Pliny to Arnobius (iv. 36), proves that the preaching to which people listened every Sunday bore primarily on the inculcation of morality: “In conventiculis summus oratur deus, pax cunctis et venia postulatur magistratibus exercitibus regibus familiaribus inimicis, adhuc vitam degentibus et resolutis corporum vinctione, in quibus aliud auditur nihil nisi quod humanos faciat, nisi quod mites, verecundos, pudicos, castos, familiaris communicatores rei et cum omnibus vobis solidae germanitatis necessitudine copulatos” (“At our meetings prayers are offered to Almighty God, peace and pardon are asked for all in authority, for soldiers, kings, friends, enemies, those still in life, and those freed from the bondage of the flesh; at these gatherings nothing is said except what makes people humane, gentle, modest, virtuous, chaste, generous in dealing with their substance, and closely knit to all of you within the bonds of brotherhood”). Consequently, beyond its pale nothing divine is to be found, there is nothing save error and sin; all clandestine meetings for worship are also to be eschewed, and no teacher who starts up from outside is to get a hearing unless he is certificated by the church. The absolute subordination of Christians to the local community has never been more peremptorily demanded, the position of the local community itself has never been more eloquently laid down, than in these primitive documents. Their eager admonitions reveal the seriousness of the peril 437which threatened the individual Christian who should even in the slightest degree emancipate himself from the community; thereby he would fall a prey to the “errorists,” or slip over into paganism. At this point even the heroes of the church were threatened by a peril, which is singled out also for notice. As men who had a special connection with Christ, and who were quite aware of this connection, they could not well be subject to orders from the churches; but it was recognized even at this early period that if they became “inflated” with pride and held aloof from the fellowship of the church, they might easily come to grief. Thus, when the haughty martyrs of Carthage and Rome, both during and after the Decian persecution, started cross-currents in the churches and began to uplift themselves against the officials, the great bishops finally resolved to reduce them under the laws common to the whole church.
While the individual Christian had a position of his own within the organization of the church, he thereby lost, however, a part of his autonomy along with his fellows. The so-called Montanist controversy was in the last resort not merely a struggle to secure a stricter mode of life as against a laxer, but also the struggle of a more independent religious attitude and activity as against one which was prescribed and uniform. The outstanding personalities, the individuality of certain people, had to suffer in order that the majority might not become unmanageable or apostates. Such has always been the case in human history. It is inevitable. Only after the Montanist conflict did the church, as individual and collective, attain the climax of its development; henceforth it became an object of desire, coveted by everyone who was on the look-out for power, inasmuch as it had extraordinary forces at its disposal. It now bound the individual closely to itself; it held him, bridled him, and dominated his religious life in all directions. Yet it was not long before the monastic movement originated, a movement which, while it recognized the church in theory (doubt upon this point being no longer possible), set it aside in actual practice.
The progress of the development of the juridical organization 438from the firmly organized local church761761Christians described themselves at the outset as παροικοῦντες (“sojourners”; cp. p. 252); the church was technically “the church sojourning in the city” (ἡ ἐκκλησία ἡ παροικοῦσα τὴν πόλιν), but it rapidly became well defined, nor did it by any means stand out as a structure destined to crumble away. to the provincial church,762762How far this ascent, when viewed from other premises which are equally real, corresponded to a descent, may be seen from the first Excursus to this chapter. from that again to the larger league of churches, a league which realized itself in synods covering many provinces, and finally from that league to the collective church, which of course was never quite realized as an organization, though it was always present in idea—this development also contributed to the strengthening of the Christian self-consciousness and missionary activity.763763Tert., de Præscript. xx.: “Sic omnes [sc. ecclesiae] primae et omnes apostolicae, dum una omnes, probant unitatem communicatio pacis et appellatio fraternitatis et contesseratio hospitalis, quae iura non alio natio regit quam eiusdem sacramenti una traditio” (“Thus all are primitive and all apostolic, since they are all alike certified by their union in the communion of peace, the title of brotherhood, and the interchange of hospitable friendship—rights whose only rule is the one tradition of the same mystery in all”). It was indeed a matter of great moment to be able to proclaim that this church not only embraced humanity in its religious conceptions, but also presented itself to the eye as an immense single league stretching from one side of the empire to another, and, in fact, stretching beyond even these imperial boundaries. This church arose through the co-operation of the Christian ideal with the empire, and thus every great force which operated in this sphere had also its part to play in the building up of the church, viz., the universal Christian idea of a bond of humanity (which, at root, of course, meant no more than a bond between the scattered elect throughout mankind), the Jewish church, and the Roman empire. The last named, as has been rightly pointed out, became bankrupt over the church;764764It revived, however, in the Western church. and the same might be said of the Jewish church, whose powers of attraction ceased for a large circle of people so soon as the Christian church had developed, the latter taking, them over into its own life.765765Ever since the fall of the temple, however, the Jewish church had consciously and voluntarily withdrawn into itself more and more, and abjured the Greek spirit. Whether the Christian communities were as free creations as they were in the first century, whether they set 439up external ordinances as definite and a union as comprehensive as was the case in the third century— in either case these communities exerted a magnetic force on thousands, and thus proved of extraordinary service to the Christian mission.
Within the church-organization the most weighty and significant creation was that of the monarchical episcopate.766766I leave out of account here all the preliminary steps. It was with the monarchical episcopate that this office first became a power in Christendom, and it does not fall within the scope of the present sketch to investigate the initial stages—a task of some difficulty, owing to the fragmentary nature of the sources and the varieties of the original organization throughout the different churches. It was the bishops, properly speaking, who held together the individual members of the churches; their rise marked the close of the period during which charismata and offices were in a state of mutual flux, the individual relying only upon God, himself, and spiritually endowed brethren. After the close of the second century bishops were the teachers, high priests, and judges of the church. Ignatius already had compared their position in the individual church to that of God in the church collective. But this analogy soon gave way to the formal quality which they acquired, first in Rome and the West, after the gnostic controversy. In virtue of this quality, they were regarded as representatives of the apostolic office. According to Cyprian, they were “judices vice Christi” (judges in Christ's room); and Origen, in spite of his unfortunate experience with bishops, had already written that “if kings are so called from reigning, then all who rule the churches of God deserve to be called kings” (“si reges a regendo dicuntur, omnes utique, qui ecclesias dei regunt, reges merito appellabuntur,” Hom. xii. 2 in Num., vol. x. p. 133, Lomm.). On their conduct the churches depended almost entirely for weal or woe. As the office grew to maturity, it seemed like an original creation; but this was simply because it drew to itself from all quarters both the powers and the forms of life.
The extent to which the episcopate, along with the other clerical offices which it controlled, formed the backbone of the church,767767Naturally, it came more and more to mean a position which was well-pleasing to God and specially dear to him; this is implied already in the term “priest,” which became current after the close of the second century. Along with the higher class of heroic figures (ascetics, virgins, confessors), the church also possessed a second upper class of clerics, as was well known to pagans in the third century. Thus the pagan in Macarius Magnes (III. 18) writes, apropos of Matt. xvii. 20, xxi. 21 (“Have faith as a grain of mustard-seed”): “He who has not so much faith as this is certainly unworthy of being reckoned among the brotherhood of the faithful; so that the majority of Christians, it follows, are not to be counted among the faithful, and in fact even among the bishops and presbyters there is not one who deserves this name.” is shown by the fierce war waged against it by the 440state during the third century (Maximinus Thrax, Decius, Valerian, Diocletian, Daza, Licinius), as well as from many isolated facts. In the reign of Marcus Aurelius, Dionysius of Corinth tells the church of Athens (Eus., H.E., iv. 23) that while it had well-nigh fallen from the faith after the death of its martyred bishop Publius, its new bishop Quadratus had reorganized it and filled it with fresh zeal for the faith. In de Fuga, xi. Tertullian says that when the shepherds are poor creatures the flock is a prey to wild beasts, “as is never more the ease than when the clergy desert the church in a persecution” (“quod nunquam magis fit quam cum in persecutione destituitur a clero”). Cyprian (Ep. lv. 11) tells how in the persecution bishop Trophimus had lapsed along with a large section of the church, and had offered sacrifice; but on his return and penitence, the rest followed him, “qui omnes regressuri ad ecclesiam non essent, nisi cum Trofimo comitante venissent” (“none of whom would have returned to the church, had they not had the companionship of Trophimus”). When Cyprian lingered in retreat during the persecution of Decius, the whole community threatened to lapse. Hence one can easily see the significance of the bishop for the church; with him it fell, with him it stood,768768This is the language also of the heathen judge to bishop Achatius: “a shield and succourer of the region of Antioch” (“scutum quoddam ac refugium Antiochiae regionis”; Ruinart, Acta Mart., Ratisb., 1859, p. 201): “Veniet tecum [i.e., if you return to the old gods] omnis populus, ex tuo pendet arbitirio” (“All the people will accompany you, for they hang on your decision”), The bishop answers of course: “Illi omnes non meo nutu, sed dei praecepto reguntur; audiant me itaque, si iusta persuadeam, sin vero perversa et nocitura, contemnant” (“They are ruled, not by my beck and call, but all of them by God's counsel; wherefore let them hearken to me, if I persuade them to what is right; but despise me, if I counsel what is perverse and mischievous.”—Hermas (Sim., IX. xxxi.) says of the shepherds: “Sin aliqua e pecoribus dissipata invenerit dominus, vae erit pastoribus. quod si ipsi pastores dissipati reperti fuerint, quid respondebunt pro pecoribus his? numquid dicunt, a pecore se vexatos? non credetur illis. incredibilis enim res est, pastorem pati posse a pecore” (“But if the master finds any of the sheep scattered, woe to the shepherds. For if the shepherds themselves be found scattered, how will they answer for these sheep? Will they say that they were themselves worried by the flock? Then they will not be believed, for it is absurd that a shepherd should be injured by his sheep”). and in these days a vacancy or interregnum meant a serious crisis for any church. Without being properly a missionary, 441the bishop exercised a missionary function.769769For a distinguished missionary or teacher who had founded a church becoming its bishop, cp. Origen, Hom. xi. 4 in Num. [as printed above, p. 351]. In particular, he preserved individuals from relapsing into paganism, while any bishop who really filled his post was the means of winning over many fresh adherents. We have instances of this, e.g., in the cruse of Cyprian or of Gregory Thaumaturgus. The episcopal dignity was at once heightened and counterbalanced by the institution of the synods which arose in Greece and Asia (modelled possibly upon the federal diets),770770Cp. (trans. below, under “Asia Minor,” § 9, in Book IV. Chap. III.) Tertull., de Jejunio, xiii.: “Aguntur per Graecias (for the plural, cp. Eus., Vita Const., iii. 19) illa certis in locis concilia ex universis ecclesiis, per quae et altiora quaeque in commune tractantur et ipsa repraesentatio totius nominis Christiani magna veneratione celebratur.” and eventually were adopted by a large number of provinces after the opening of the third century. On the one hand, this association of the bishops entirely took away the rights of the laity, who found before very long, that it was no use now to leave their native church in order to settle down in another. Yet a synod, on the other hand, imposed restraints upon the arbitrary action of a bishop, by setting itself up as an ecclesiastical “forum publicum” to which he was responsible. The correspondence of Cyprian presents several examples of individual bishops being thus arraigned by synods for arbitrary or evil conduct. Before very long too (possibly from the very outset) the synod, this “representatio totius nominis Christiani,” appeared to be a specially trustworthy organ of the holy Spirit. The synods which expanded in the course of the third century from provincial synods to larger councils, and which would seem to have anticipated Diocletian's redistribution of the empire in the East, naturally gave an extraordinary impetus to the prestige and authority of the church, and thereby heightened its powers 442of attraction. Yet the entire synodal system really flourished in the East alone (and to some extent in Africa). In the West it no more blossomed than did the system of metropolitans, a fact which was of vital moment to the position of Rome and of the Roman bishop.771771I do not enter here into the development of the constitution in detail, although by its close relation to the divisions of the empire it has many vital points of contact with the history of the Christian mission (see Lübeck, Reichseinteilung and kirchliche Hierarchie des Orients bis zum Ausgang des 4. Jahrhunderts, 1901). I simply note that the ever-increasing dependence of the Eastern Church upon the redistributed empire (a redistribution which conformed to national boundaries) imperilled by degrees the unity of the Church and the universalism of Christianity. The church began by showing harmony and vigour in this sphere of action, but centrifugal influences soon commenced to play upon her, influences which are perceptible as early as the Paschal controversy of 190 A.D. between Rome and Asia, which are vital by the time of the controversy over the baptism of heretics, and which finally appear as disintegrating forces in the fourth and fifth centuries. In the West the Roman bishop knew how to restrain them admirably, evincing both tenacity and clearness of purpose.
One other problem has finally to be considered at this point, a problem which is of great importance for the statistics of the church. It is this: how strong was the tendency to create independent forms within the Christian communities, i.e., to form complete episcopal communities? Does the number of communities which were episcopally organized actually denote the number of the communities in general, or were there, either as a rule or in a large number of provinces, any considerable number of communities which possessed no bishops of their own, but had only presbyters or deacons, and depended upon an outside bishop? The following Excursus772772Read before the Royal Prussian Academy of Science, on 28th Nov. 1901 (pp. 1186 f.). is devoted to the answering of this important question. Its aim is to show that the creation of complete episcopal communities was the general rule in most provinces (excluding Egypt) down to the middle of the third century, however small might be the number of Christians in any locality, and however insignificant might be the locality itself.
As important, if not even more important, was the tendency, which was in operation from the very first, to have all the Christians in a given locality united in a single community. As 443the Pauline epistles prove, house-churches were tolerated at the outset, (we do not know how long),773773We cannot determine how long they lasted, but after the New Testament we hear next to nothing of them—which, by the way, is an argument against all attempts, to relegate the Pauline epistles to the second century. For the house churches, see the relevant sections in Weizsäcke's History of the Apostolic Age. Hebrews is most probably addressed to a special community in Rome. Schiele has recently tried to prove, for reasons that deserve notice, that the community in question was developed from the Συναγωγὴ τῶν Ἑβραίων, for which there is inscriptional evidence at Rome (American Journal of Theology, 1905, pp. 290 f.), and I have tried to connect the epistle with Prisca and Aquila (Zeits. für die neutest. Wiss., 1900, pp. 16 f.). The one theory does not exclude the other. but obviously their position was (originally or very soon afterwards) that of members belonging to the local community as a whole. This original relationship is, of course, as obscure to us as is the evaporation of such churches. Conflicts there must have been at first, and even attempts to set up a number of independent Christian θίασοι in a city; the “schisms” at Corinth, combated by Paul, would seem to point in this direction. Nor is it quite certain whether, even after the formation of the monarchical episcopate, there were not cases here and there of two or more episcopal communities existing in a single city. But even if this obtained in certain cases, their number must have been very small; nor do these avail to alter the general stamp of the Christian organization throughout its various branches, i.e., the general constitution according to which every locality where Christians were to be found had its own independent community, and only one community.774774The relation of the Christian διδασκαλεῖα to the local church (cp. above, p. 356) is wrapt in obscurity. We know of Justin's school, of Tatian's, Rhodon's, Theodotus's, Praxeas's, Epigonus's, and Cleomenes's in Rome, of the transition of the Thedotian school into a church (the most interesting case of the kind known to us), of catechetical schools in Alexandria, of Hippolytus scorning the Christians in Rome who adhered to Callistus, i.e., the majority of the church (or a school), of various gnostic schools, of Lucian's school at Antioch side by side with the church, etc. But this does not amount to a clear view of the situation, for we learn very little apart from the fact that such schools existed. Anyone might essay to prove that by the second half of the second century there was a general danger of the church being dissipated into nothing but schools. Anyone else might undertake to prove that even ordinary Christianity here and there deliberately assumed the character of a philosophic school in order to secure freedom and safeguard its interests against the state and a hostile society (as was the case, we cannot doubt, with some circles; cp. above, p. 364). Both attempts would bring in useful material, but neither would succeed in proving its thesis. So much is certain, however, that, during the second century and perhaps here and there throughout the third, as well, the “schools” spelt a certain danger for the unity of the episcopal organization of the churches, and that the episcopal church had succeeded, by the opening of the third century, in rejecting the main dangers of the situation. The materials are scanty, but the question deserves investigation by itself. This organization, with its simplicity and naturalness, proved itself extraordinarily strong. No doubt, the community was soon obliged to direct the full force of its 444anti-pagan exclusiveness against such brethren of its own number as refused submission to the church upon any pretext whatsoever. The sad passion for heresy-hunting, which prevailed among Christians as early as the second century, was not only a result of their fanatical devotion to true doctrine, but quite as much an outcome of their rigid organization and of the exalted predicates of honour, which they applied to themselves as “the church of God.” Here the reverse of the medal is to be seen. The community's valuation of itself, its claim to represent the ἐκκλησία τοῦ θεοῦ (“the church of God” or “the catholic church” in Corinth, Ephesus, etc.) prevented it ultimately from recognizing or tolerating any Christianity whatever outside its own boundaries.775775Celsus had already laid sharp stress on heresy-hunting and the passion with which Christians fought one another: βλασφημοῦσιν εἰς ἀλλήλουs οὗτοι πάνδεινα ῥητὰ καὶ ἄρρητα, καὶ οὐκ ἂν εἴξαιεν οὐδὲ καθ᾽ δτιοῦν εἰς ὁμόνοιαν πάντη ἀλλήλους ἀποστυγοῦντες (V. lxiii.: “These people utter all sorts of blasphemy, mentionable and unmentionable, against one another, nor will they give way in the smallest point for the sake of concord, hating each other with a perfect hatred”).445
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