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3. The Church.477477Compare the statements of Kattenbusch, l. c., p. 330 ff. The East never arrived at a definite theory of the nature and features of the Church.

Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechisms portrays the Church to his disciples as a spiritual communion. But in explaining the predicate ‘catholic’478478On this attribute see Vol. II., p, 75. n. 1. From the middle of the fourth century the clause “καὶ [εἰς] μίαν ἀγίαν καθολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν” must have stood in the Symbols of by far the most of the provincial Churches in the East. The εἰς is to be referred also to the Church. he completely identifies this spiritual communion with the empirical Church. It is called Ἐκκλησία, because it summons all men together, and unites them with one another. This it does at God’s command; for after God had rejected the first community as the ‘synagogue of the wicked’, 234because they had crucified the Saviour, he built out of the heathen a second Church, on which his favour rests; that is the Church. of the living God, pillar and foundation of the truth. To it alone belong the predicates one, holy, and catholic; the communities of the Marcionites, Manichæans, and other heretics. are societies of godlessness. The Church, which was formerly barren, is the mother of us all; she is the Bride of Christ. In this second Church God has appointed Apostles, Prophets, and teachers, and miraculous gifts of every kind; he has adorned it with all virtues, proved it to be unconquerable in persecution, and made it an object of veneration even to kings, since its boundaries are wider than those of any secular kingdom. It is called Catholic because it extends over the whole globe, teaches all necessary dogmas to men universally and unceasingly, comprehends and leads to the true worship of God all men without respect of class, is able to cure all sins in soul and body, and possesses in its midst all virtues and all conceivable gifts of grace.479479Cyril, Cat. XVIII., ch. 22-27

These utterances of Cyril concerning the Church contain the quintessence of all that has ever been said of it by the Greeks.480480For Western doctrines of the Church see the next book. But they are not so different in theory from those of the East as some suppose. They have adorned it with all conceivable attributes, applying to it all the O. T. passages descriptive of the people of Israel.481481The Greeks spoke not infrequently of the “state” or “city” of God; Origen had already used the term, and it is common in Eusebius. On the other hand, the fine combination “Christ and the Church (as bride)” or “the Church as the body of Christ”, which had been at a very early date reduced to the level of a homiletical or rhetorical view, was either thrust into the background, or superseded by the phrase “Christ and the individual soul.” At a later date, the proposition, that Christ is the head of the Church, was often asserted against the Latins; but it was not very effective; for, seeing that the Greeks granted that the Church was a visible body in the common sense of the term, their thesis that this visible Church had none but an invisible head was beset with difficulties. Besides, Origen had been attacked as early as about A.D. 300, because he had explained Adam and Eve as referring to Christ and the Church (Socrates H. E. III. 7), though this allegory was supported by a very ancient tradition. Tychonius repeated it. They glorified it as the communion of faith and virtue, and as a rule clung to this description of it in their catechetical and 235homiletical teaching.482482There are very numerous instances of this, and most of all in the influential Chrysostom. Epiphanius’ contention in the Expos. fid. cathol., ch. 3 is worthy of notice: Ὁ Θεὸς, ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων, ἡμῖν Θεὸς ὑπάρχει τοῖς ἐκ τῆς ἁγίας ἐκκλησίας γεννηθεῖσιν. This Jewish Christian regarded the Church as Israel, and its God as the God of Israel; see what follows. Indeed, their position was here so far archaic, that they either did not mention the organisation of the Church at all, or—what was even more significant—they named in this connection the Apostles, Prophets, teachers and the rest, in brief, the possessors and gifts of the Spirit (see above in Cyril). We find the same teaching even in John of Damascus, who in his great work on dogma has given no place at all to the Church,483483Langen, Joh. Damascenus, p. 299 f. and in the later so-called Symbols of the Greek Church.484484Gass, l. c., p. 205 f. The difficult question, which Origen first discussed, and which Augustine considered so thoroughly in his fight with Donatism—the question about the Church as corpus verum (the true body) and corpus permixtum (the mixed body)—was hardly touched on in the East.485485It is treated in the later Symbols; see Gass, p. 206 f. When we read Greek statements as to the Church—statements, besides, which are altogether few in number—we not infrequently believe that we are living in the second century, nay, before the Gnostic controversy. We must not perceive in this attitude of the Greek Fathers any sign of exceptional maturity. It was prescribed to them, on the one hand, by natural theology, on the other, by the narrowness of their view of the task of the Church. Redemption through Christ applied in intention to the whole human race, which meanwhile was always simply conceived as the sum of all individuals. In its result, it was limited by the liberty of man to resist salvation through sin. The Church was really, therefore, nothing but the sum of all individual believers in heaven and upon earth. The view that the Church was the mother of believers, a divine creation, the body of Christ, was not properly carried out in dogma. Even the thought that Christ had so assumed human nature that all it experienced in him benefited mankind, was only applied—not to the Church—236but to mankind as it existed, and the Eucharist itself did not help the Church to a special place in dogmatics.486486Cyril of Alexandria frequently connects the Church with the incarnation and the Eucharist; but even he has not gone beyond the homiletic and edifying point of view. In spite of the belief in one holy Catholic Church’ (πιστεύειν εἰς μίαν ἁγίαν καθολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν) the Church was no dogmatic conception in the strict sense of the term. It did not form a link in the chain of the doctrines of redemption. And that is not surprising. Seeing the form given to the blessing of salvation, a religious conception of the Church could not be obtained. All was contained in the factors, God, mankind, Christ, the mysteries, and the individual.

But occasion was given to draw up definitions of the Church by (1) the O. T. and the spurious Jewish Church, (2) heresy and the actual organisation of the Church, (3) the administration of the mysteries, (4) and the fight against the Roman claims to the primacy. As regards the first point, all that was necessary had been said in the second and third centuries; there was nothing to add; it was repeated with greater or less animosity to Judaism, whose history appeared sometimes as the mysterious type of the Church, sometimes as its antitype. As to the second and third, there was no doubt that the Church was the true teacher of the truth487487Religious truth, however, really embraced all philosophy, see Anastasius Sin., Viæ dux (Migne, Patrol., Vol. 89, p. 76 sq.): Ὁρθοδοξία ἐστὶν ἀψευδὴς περὶ Θεοῦ καὶ κτίσεως ὑπόληψις ἢ ἔννοια περὶ πάντων ἀληθής, ἢ δόξα τῶν ὄντων καθάπερ εἰσίν. and the legitimate administrator of the mysteries.488488Damalas has given a very pregnant summary of the old Patristic conception Ἡ ὀρθόδοξος πίστις (1877) p. 3: ἡ δὲ πίστις αὕτη εἰς τὴν μίαν ἁγίαν καθολικὴν καὶ ἀποστολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν ἐστὶ πεποίθησις, ὅτι αὕτη ἐστὶν ὁ φορεὺς τῆς θείας χάριτος τῆς ἐνδεικνυμένης εἰς δύο τινά, πρῶτον ὅτι αὕτη ἐστὶν ὁ ἀλάθαστος διδάσκαλος τῆς χριστιανικῆς ἀληθείας καὶ δεύτερον ὁ γνήσιος τῶν μυστηρίων οἰκονόμος. It transmitted the μάθησις (learning) and it possessed the mysteries. Therefore—and of this there was no doubt—it was essential to her to have the organisation, which was crowned by Bishops and Councils, and priests who should present the sacrifices and judge in God’s stead. Bishops and Councils we have spoken of above, the priests and their duties will be discussed in Chap. X.489489See Kattenbusch, l. c., pp. 346 ff., 357 ff., 393 ff. It is remarkable, however, that the latter 237is brought more to the front than the former. The Pseudo-areopagite was not the first to make his view of the Church depend essentially on the mysteries, and to regard the hierarchy primarily as performers of the sacred rites; he only completed what Ignatius, Clement, the first draft of the Apostolic Constitutions, Chrysostom de sacerdotio,490490See Vol. III. 4-6, VI. 4; also the Homily on the day of his ordination as priest, Montfaucon I., p. 436 sq. and many others had developed before or contemporaneously with him. The Church had been entrusted to the Bishops, because they constituted the living representation of God on earth, the vicars of Christ, participators in the activity of the Holy Spirit, and therefore the source of all sacraments. They were much less thought of as successors of the Apostles; the Church was the legacy not of the Apostles, but of Christ, and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.491491Of course the Church was conscious of being, and called itself “apostolic.” But it is perhaps not a mere accident that this predicate is not so stereotyped in the Symbols and other official manifestoes as the rest—unity, holiness and catholicity. The otherwise substantially identical expositions by the Greek Fathers of the word “catholic” have been collected by Söder, Der Begriff der Katholicität der Kirche und des Glaubens (1881), pp. 95 ff., 110 ff., 113 f., 115 f. “Catholic” was equivalent to orthodox even before Eusebius, as is shown by the interpolations of the word into the Martyrium Polycarpi. That this word was interpolated I have tried to prove in “The Expositor,” 1885, Dec., p. 410 sq. It may be in place here to remark generally that the copyists are least to be trusted in the case of such predicates as were current at a later date—e.g., as regards words like “bearer of God” “Homoousios”, “Catholic” etc. The Monophysites especially made great efforts to introduce their catch-words into older writers. Even to-day the Armenians are not to be trusted.

In the polemic against the Roman claims to supremacy, the view was strongly emphasised that Christ is the foundation and sole head of the Church, and this principle was opposed even to an exaggerated estimate of the Apostles in general and Peter in particular.

“He who secedes from the Church, withdraws himself at the same time from the influences of the Holy Spirit, and it is not easy to find a wise man among the heretics”;492492Heretics and Schismatics were more and more identified; see the so-called 6th Canon of Constantinople, A.D. 381 (it really dates from A.D. 382): αἱρετικοὺς λέγομεν τούς τε πάλαι τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἀποκηρυχθέντας καὶ τοὺς μετὰ ταῦτα ὑφ᾽ ἡμῶν ἀναθεματισθέντας. πρὸς δὲ τούτοις καὶ τοὺς τὴν πίστιν μὲν τὴν ὑγιῆ προσποιουμένους ὁμολογεῖν, ἀποσχίσαντας δὲ καὶ ἀντισυνάγοντας τοῖς κανονικοῖς ἡμῶν ἐπισκόποις. but on what 238points the unity of the Church was based has not been made clear. It first appears as if faith and virtue were sufficient, but participation in the mysteries of the Church, and submission to its organisation and tradition were added: indeed these in practice took the first place. Yet the organisation of the Church was not really carried higher than the Bishops, in spite of all the empty words used about the Patriarchs: the Church was orthodox and perfect, because it offered a security in its episcopal and priestly constitution that it was the ancient institution founded by Christ. In this conviction—we can hardly call it a doctrine—the Church became more and more narrow; it made itself a holy piece of antiquity.493493The question whether the holiness of Christians was founded on being members in the Church—initiation into it—or depended on personal virtue was not decided in the East, but it was never even definitely put. The cause of this vagueness existed ultimately in the obscurity which prevailed among the Greeks in reference to the relation of natural theology and dogma in general; see on this the following chapters.

But after the close of the fifth century it ceased to be the one Church. Tradition, which had been created to maintain the unity of the Church, served in the end to split it up, because national and local traditions, views, and customs had been received into it to an increasing extent. The great cleavage into Catholic and Novatian Catholic was not yet determined, or supported by national considerations. The division into Græco-Roman Catholicism and Germanic Arianism did owe its duration to opposite national tendencies. On the other hand, the disruption of the Eastern Church into the Byzantine (Roman) and the Oriental (Nestorian-Syrian, Jacobitish-Syrian, Coptic, and Armenian) rested entirely on national antitheses, and, preserved mainly by the monks who, in spite of all their renunciation of the world, have always adopted a National Church attitude, has continued up to the present day. Now, after the schism had further taken place between the Byzantine (Neo-Roman) and the Roman branches, the Church was divided into three (four) great territories distinguished by their nationality: the Germano-Roman 239West (Rome), the countries on the Ægean sea (Constantinople), and the East split into Nestorianism and Monophysitism. Each had its own peculiar traditions and authorities. The Orientals, though rent asunder and quarrelling with each other, felt that they formed a unity compared with the two other sections, i.e., the “Romans,” and could, in reply to the “bragging of the Romans,” point to a hundred marks which revealed the superiority of their Churches. They regarded their land as the cradle of the human race, their Church as the primitive home of religion; and if Jerusalem was no longer in their possession, yet they still had the ancient site of Paradise.494494See, e.g., Elias of Nisibis, Proof of the truth of the faith (Ed. by Horst, 1886, p. 112 ff.). The Neo-Romans boasted of their Patriarchate, their unchanged faith, and their nation, which took no part in the crucifixion of Christ, in which the Romans and Barbarians had made common cause. The Romans, finally, had the chiefs of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, and the Pope, Peter’s successor, with the secular power committed to him by Christ and Constantine. The common foundation of these Churches was not solid enough to resist the elements that were dissolving it. Nationality was stronger than religion.

Literature.—Jacobi, Die kirchliche Lehre von der Tradition u. heil. Schrift., Part I., 1847. Holtzmann, Kanon u. Tradition, 1859 (does not discuss to any extent the Church in antiquity). Söder, Der Begriff der Katholicität der Kirche, 1881. Seeberg, Studien zur Geschichte des Begriffs der Kirche, 1885. Kattenbusch, l. c. There is much material in Schwane, also in the writings which passed between Old Catholics and Roman Catholics after A.D. 1869.


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