The problem so hard we had to invent new numbers

The problem so hard we had to invent new numbers


A general solution to the cubic equation was long considered impossible, until we gave up the requirement that math reflect reality. This video is sponsored by Brilliant. The first 200 people to sign up via get 20% off a yearly subscription.

Thanks to Dr Amir Alexander, Dr Alexander Kontorovich, Dr Chris Ferrie, and Dr Adam Becker for the helpful advice and feedback on the earlier versions of the script.

Some great videos about the cubic:

500 years of not teaching the cubic formula. —

Imaginary Numbers are Real —

Dunham, W. (1990). Journey through genius: The great theorems of mathematics. New York. —

Toscano, F. (2020). The Secret Formula. Princeton University Press. —

Bochner, S. (1963). The significance of some basic mathematical conceptions for physics. Isis, 54(2), 179-205. —

Muroi, K. (2019). Cubic equations of Babylonian mathematics. arXiv preprint arXiv:1905.08034. —

Branson, W. Solving the cubic with Cardano, —

Rothman, T. (2013). Cardano v Tartaglia: The Great Feud Goes Supernatural. arXiv preprint arXiv:1308.2181. —

Vali Siadat, M., & Tholen, A. (2021). Omar Khayyam: Geometric Algebra and Cubic Equations. Math Horizons, 28(1), 12-15. —

Merino, O. (2006). A short history of complex numbers. University of Rhode Island. —

Cardano, G (1545), Ars magna or The Rules of Algebra, Dover (published 1993), ISBN 0-486-67811-3

Bombelli, R (1579) L’Algebra

Special thanks to Patreon supporters: Luis Felipe, Anton Ragin, Paul Peijzel, S S, Benedikt Heinen, Diffbot, Micah Mangione, Juan Benet, Ruslan Khroma, Richard Sundvall, Lee Redden, Sam Lutfi, MJP, Gnare, Nick DiCandilo, Dave Kircher, Edward Larsen, Burt Humburg, Blake Byers, Dumky, Mike Tung, Evgeny Skvortsov, Meekay, Ismail Öncü Usta, Crated Comments, Anna, Mac Malkawi, Michael Schneider, Oleksii Leonov, Jim Osmun, Tyson McDowell, Ludovic Robillard, Jim buckmaster, fanime96, Ruslan Khroma, Robert Blum, Vincent, Marinus Kuivenhoven, Alfred Wallace, Arjun Chakroborty, Joar Wandborg, Clayton Greenwell, Pindex, Michael Krugman, Cy ‘kkm’ K’Nelson,Ron Neal

Written by Derek Muller, Alex Kontorovich, Stephen Welch and Petr Lebedev
Animation by Fabio Albertelli, Jakub Misiek, Iván Tello and Jesús Rascón
Mathematical animations done with Manim — thanks Grant Sanderson and the Manim community!
SFX by Shaun Clifford
Filmed by Derek Muller and Emily Zhang
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God the Father

God the Father, Cima da Conegliano, Circa 1510-17.
God the Father, Cima da Conegliano, Circa 1510-17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God the Father is a title given to God in modern monotheist religions, such as Christianity, Judaism and Bahá’í, in part because he is viewed as having an active interest in human affairs, in the way that a father would take an interest in his children who are dependent on him.[1][2][3]

In Judaism, God is described as father as he is said to be the creator, life-giver, law-giver, and protector.[4] However, in Judaism the use of the Father title is generally a metaphor and is one of many titles by which Jews speak of and to God.[5]

Since the second century, Christian creeds included affirmation of belief in “God the Father (Almighty)”, primarily as his capacity as “Father and creator of the universe”.[6] Yet, in Christianity the concept of God as the father of Jesus is distinct from the concept of God as the Creator and father of all people, as indicated in the Apostle’s Creed where the expression of belief in the “Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth” is immediately, but separately followed by in “Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord”, thus expressing both senses of fatherhood.[7]

The Islamic view of God sees God as the unique creator of the universe and as the life-giver, but does not accept the term “father” in reference to God, as well as in regard to his relationship to the prophet Isa, i.e. Jesus in Islam.[8]



An image of God the Father by Julius Schnorr, 1860.

In modern monotheist religious traditions with a large following, such as Christianity, Judaism and Bahá’í, God is addressed as the father, in part because of his active interest in human affairs, in the way that a father would take an interest in his children who are dependent on him and as a father, he will respond to humanity, his children, acting in their best interests.[1][2][3] Many monotheists believe they can communicate with God and come closer to him through prayer – a key element of achieving communion with God.[9][10][11]

In general, the title Father (capitalized) signifies God’s role as the life-giver, the authority, and powerful protector, often viewed as immense, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent with infinite power and charity that goes beyond human understanding.[12] For instance, after completing his monumental work Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas concluded that he had not yet begun to understand God the Father.[13] Although the term “Father” implies masculine characteristics, God is usually defined as having the form of a spirit without any human biological gender, e.g. the Catechism of the Catholic Church #239 specifically states that “God is neither man nor woman: he is God“.[14][15] Although God is never directly addressed as “Mother”, at times motherly attributes may be interpreted in Old Testament references such as Isa 42:14, Isa 49:14-15 or Isa 66:12-13.[16]

Although similarities exist among religions, the common language and the shared concepts about God the Father among the Abrahamic religions is quite limited, and each religion has very specific belief structures and religious nomenclature with respect to the subject.[17] While a religious teacher in one faith may be able to explain the concepts to his own audience with ease, significant barriers remain in communicating those concepts across religious boundaries.[17]

In the New Testament, the Christian concept of God the Father may be seen as a continuation of the Jewish concept, but with specific additions and changes, which over time made the Christian concept become even more distinct by the start of the Middle Ages.[18][19][20] The conformity to the Old Testament concepts is shown in Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4:8 where in response to temptation Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13 and states: “It is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”[18] However, 1 Corinthians 8:6 shows the distinct Christian teaching about the agency of Christ by first stating: “there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him” and immediately continuing with “and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him.”[19] This passage clearly acknowledges the Jewish teachings on the uniqueness of God, yet also states the role of Jesus as an agent in creation.[19] Over time, the Christian doctrine began to fully diverge from Judaism through the teachings of the Church Fathers in the second century and by the fourth century belief in the Trinity was formalized.[19][20]

The Islamic concept of God differs from the Christian and Jewish views, the term “father” in not applied to God by Muslims, and the Christian notion of the Trinity is rejected in Islam.[21][22]


Main article: God in Judaism

The Biblical Tetragrammaton, the Hebrew Name for God the Father.

In Judaism, God is called “Father” with a unique sense of familiarity. In addition to the sense in which God is “Father” to all men because he created the world (and in that sense “fathered” the world), the same God is also uniquely the patriarchal law-giver to the chosen people. He maintains a special, covenantal father-child relationship with the people, giving them the Shabbat, stewardship of his oracles, and a unique heritage in the things of God, calling Israel “my son” because he delivered the descendants of Jacob out of slavery in Egypt[Hosea 11:1] according to his oath to their father, Abraham. In the Hebrew Scriptures, in Isaiah 63:16 (ASV) it reads: “Thou, O Jehovah, art our Father; our Redeemer from everlasting is thy name.” To God, according to Judaism, is attributed the fatherly role of protector. He is called the Father of the poor, of the orphan and the widow, their guarantor of justice. He is also called the Father of the king, as the teacher and helper over the judge of Israel.[23]

However, in Judaism “Father” is generally a metaphor; it is not a proper name for God but rather one of many titles by which Jews speak of and to God. In Christianity fatherhood is taken in a more literal and substantive sense, and is explicit about the need for the Son as a means of accessing the Father, making for a more metaphysical rather than metaphorical interpretation.[5]


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Main article: God in Christianity

Since the second century, creeds in the Western Church have included affirmation of belief in “God the Father (Almighty)”, the primary reference being to “God in his capacity as Father and creator of the universe”.[6] This did not exclude either the fact the “eternal father of the universe was also the Father of Jesus the Christ” or that he had even “vouchsafed to adopt [the believer] as his son by grace”.[6]

Creeds in the Eastern Church (known to have come from a later date) began with an affirmation of faith in “one God” and almost always expanded this by adding “the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible” or words to that effect.[6]

By the end of the first century, Clement of Rome had repeatedly referred to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and linked the Father to creation, 1 Clement 19.2 stating: “let us look steadfastly to the Father and Creator of the universe”.[24] Around AD 213 in Adversus Praxeas (chapter 3) Tertullian provided a formal representation of the concept of the Trinity, i.e. that God exists as one “substance” but three “Persons”: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.[25][26] Tertullian also discussed how the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.[25]

The Nicene Creed, which dates to 325, states that the Son (Jesus Christ) is “eternally begotten of the Father”, indicating that their divine Father-Son relationship is seen as not tied to an event within time or human history.

There is a deep sense in which Christians believe that they are made participants in the eternal relationship of Father and Son, through Jesus Christ. Christians call themselves adopted children of God:[27][28]

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

The same notion is expressed in Romans 8:8-11 where the Son of God extends the parental relationship to the believers.[28] Yet, in Christianity the concept of God as the father of Jesus is distinct from the concept of God as the Creator and father of all people, as indicated in the Apostle’s Creed.[7] The profession in the Creed begins with expressing belief in the “Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth” and then immediately, but separately, in “Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord”, thus expressing both senses of fatherhood within the Creed.[7]


God the Father by Girolamo dai Libri c. 1555. The triangular halo represents the Trinity.

To Trinitarian Christians (which include Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and most but not all Protestant denominations), God the Father is not at all a separate god from God the Son (of whom Jesus is the incarnation) and the Holy Spirit, the other Hypostases of the Christian Godhead.[29][30][31] However, in Trinitarian theology, God the Father is the “arche” or “principium” (beginning), the “source” or “origin” of both the Son and the Holy Spirit, and is considered the eternal source of the Godhead.[32] The Father is the one who eternally begets the Son, and the Father eternally breaths the Holy Spirit.[24][32]

As a member of the Trinity, God the Father is one with, co-equal to, co-eternal, and con-substantial with the Son and the Holy Spirit, each Person being the one eternal God and in no way separated, who is the creator: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent.[24] Because of this, the Trinity is beyond reason and can only be known by revelation.[30][33]

The Trinitarians concept of God the Father is not pantheistic in that he not viewed as identical to the universe or a vague notionthat persists in it, but exists fully outside of creation, as its Creator.[34][29] He is viewed as a loving and caring God, a Heavenly Father who is active both in the world and in people’s lives.[34][29] He created all things visible and invisible in love and wisdom,<and man for his own sake.[34][35]

The emergence of Trinitarian theology of God the Father in early Christianity was based on two key ideas: first the shared identity of of the Yahweh of the Old Testament and the God of Jesus in the New Testament, and then the self-distinction and yet the unity between Jesus and his Father.[36][37] An example of the unity of Son and Father is Matthew 11:27: “No one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son”, asserting the mutual knowledge of Father and Son.[38]

The concept of fatherhood of God does appear in the Old Testament, but is not a a major theme.[39][36] While the view of God as the Father is used in the Old Testament, it only became a focus in the New Testament, as Jesus frequently referred to it.[39][36] This is manifested in the Lord’s prayer which combines the earthly needs of daily bread with the reciprocal concept of forgiveness.[39] And Jesus’ emphasis on his special relationship with the Father highlights the importance of the distinct yet unified natures of Jesus and the Father, building to the unity of Father and Son in the Trinity.[39]

The paternal view of God as the Father extends beyond Jesus to his disciples, and the entire Church, as reflected in the petitions Jesus submitted to the Father for his followers at the end of the Farewell Discourse, the night before his crucifixion.[40] Instances of this in the Farewell Discourse are John 14:20 as Jesus addresses the disciples: “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” and in John 17:22 as he prays tothe Father: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”[41]


Main article: Nontrinitarianism

A number of nontriniatarian traditions reject the doctrine of the Trinity, but differ from one another in their views, variously depicting Jesus as a divine being second only to God the Father, Yahweh of the Old Testament in human form, God (but not eternally God), prophet, or simply a holy man.[42] Some broad definitions of Protestantism include these groups within Protestantism, but most definitions do not.[43]

Mormon depiction of God the Father and the Son Jesus.

In Mormon theology, the most prominent conception of God is as a divine council of three distinct beings: Elohim (the Father), Jehovah (the Son, or Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. The Father and Son are considered to have perfected, material bodies, while the Holy Spirit has a body of spirit.[44] Mormons believe that God the Father presides over both the Son and Holy Spirit, but together they represent one God.

Mormons officially consider the Godhead a Divine Council, the Father being over the Son and Spirit in time and power. This conception differs from the traditional Christian Trinity of co-equal and co-eternal members; in Mormonism, the three persons are considered worthy to be members of godhood by being united in will and purpose.[45] Mormons often refer to this Council as the “Godhead” to distinguish it from the traditional Trinity.[46] As such, the term Godhead has a different meaning than the term as used in traditional Christianity.[47]

In Jehovah’s Witness theology, only God the Father is the one true and almighty God, even over his Son Jesus Christ. While the Witnesses acknowledge Christ’s pre-existence, perfection, and unique “Sonship” with God the Father, and believe that Christ had an essential role in creation and redemption, and is the Messiah, they believe that only the Father is without beginning. They say that the Son had a beginning, and was “brought forth” at a certain point, as the Father’s First and Only-begotten, and as the Father’s only direct creation, before all ages. They believe that all other things were created through the Son, in the service of God the Father.[48]

Jehovah’s Witnesses emphasize God the Father, in their services, studies, and worship, more than Christ the Son. In their theology, they teach that the Father is greater than the Son.[49][50] The Witnesses, though they do give relative “worship” or “obeisance” (Greek: proskyneo) to Jesus as God’s Son and Messiah, and pray through Him as Mediator, do not give him the same degree of worship or service as they give to God the Father.[51][52]

Oneness Pentecostalism teaches that God is a singular spirit who is one person, not three divine persons, individuals or minds. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are merely titles reflecting the different personal manifestations of the One True God in the universe. When Oneness believers speak of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, they see these as three personal manifestations of one being, one personal God.[53][54]

Other groups include Sabbatarian traditions, such as the Living Church of God and the Philadelphia Church of God, Armstrongism, the Unitarian Christian Association, Binitarianism, etc.


Main articles: God in Islam and Shirk (Islam)

God, as referenced in the Qur’an, is the only God and the same God worshiped by members of the other Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Judaism. (29:46).[55] However, though Islam accepts the concept of God as creator and life-giver, and as the unique one, Islam rejects the term “father” in reference to God, particularly in regard to his relationship to the prophet Isa, i.e. Jesus in Islam.[8]

The Qur’an states:[56]

“Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.” (Sura 112:1-4, Yusuf Ali)

In Islamic theology, God (Arabic: Allāh) is the all-powerful and all-knowing creator, sustainer, ordainer, and judge of the universe.[57][58] Islam puts a heavy emphasis on the conceptualization of God as strictly singular (tawhid).[59] God is unique (wahid) and inherently One (ahad), all-merciful and omnipotent.[60] The Qur’an asserts the existence of a single and absolute truth that transcends the world; a unique and indivisible being who is independent of the entire creation.[56]

Other religions

Although some forms of Hinduism support monotheism, there is no concept of a god as a father in Hinduism. A genderless Brahman is considered the Creator and Life-giver, and the Shakta Goddess is viewed as the divine mother and life-bearer.[61][62]

God the Father in Western art

Depiction of God the Father (detail), Pieter de Grebber, 1654.

For about a thousand years, no attempt was made to portray God the Father in human form, because early Christians believed that the words of Exodus 33:20 “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see Me and live” and of the Gospel of John 1:18: “No man hath seen God at any time” were meant to apply not only to the Father, but to all attempts at the depiction of the Father.[63] Typically only a small part of the body of Father would be represented, usually the hand, or sometimes the face, but rarely the whole person, and in many images, the figure of the Son supplants the Father, so a smaller portion of the person of the Father is depicted.[64]

In the early medieval period God was often represented by Christ as the Logos, which continued to be very common even after the separate figure of God the Father appeared. Western art eventually required some way to illustrate the presence of the Father, so through successive representations a set of artistic styles for the depiction of the Father in human form gradually emerged around the tenth century AD.[65]

By the twelfth century depictions of a figure of God, essentially based on the Ancient of Days in the Book of Daniel had started to appear in French manuscripts and in stained glass church windows in England. In the 14th century the illustrated Naples Bible had a depiction of God the Father in the Burning bush. By the 15th century, the Rohan Book of Hours included depictions of God the Father in human form. The depiction remains rare and often controversial in Eastern Orthodox art, and by the time of the Renaissance artistic representations of God the Father were freely used in the Western Church.[66]

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: God the Father


  1. ^ a b Calling God “Father” by John W. Miller (Nov 1999) ISBN 0809138972 pages x-xii
  2. ^ a b Diana L. Eck (2003) Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras ISBN 0807073024 p. 98
  3. ^ a b Church Dogmatics, Vol. 2.1, Section 31: The Doctrine of God by Karl Barth (Sep 23, 2010) ISBN 0567012859 pages 15-17
  4. ^ Gerald J. Blidstein, 2006 Honor thy father and mother: filial responsibility in Jewish law and ethics ISBN 0-88125-862-8 page 1
  5. ^ a b God the Father in Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity: Transformed Background or Common Ground?, Alon Goshen-Gottstein. The Elijah Interfaith Institute, first published in Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 38:4, Spring 2001
  6. ^ a b c d Kelly, J.N.D. Early Christian Creeds Longmans:1960, p.136; p.139; p.195 respectively
  7. ^ a b c Symbols of Jesus: a Christology of symbolic engagement by Robert C. Neville 2002 ISBN 0-521-00353-9 page 26
  8. ^ a b The Concept of Monotheism in Islam and Christianity by Hans Köchler 1982 ISBN 3-7003-0339-4 page 38
  9. ^ Floyd H. Barackman, 2002 Practical Christian Theology ISBN 0-8254-2380-5 page 117
  10. ^ Calling God “Father” by John W. Miller (Nov 1999) ISBN 0809138972 page 51
  11. ^ Church Dogmatics, Vol. 2.1, Section 31: The Doctrine of God by Karl Barth (Sep 23, 2010) ISBN 0567012859 pages 73-74
  12. ^ Lawrence Kimbrough, 2006 Contemplating God the Father B&H Publishing ISBN 0-8054-4083-6 page 3
  13. ^ Thomas W. Petrisko, 2001 The Kingdom of Our Father St. Andrew’s Press ISBN 1-891903-18-7 page 8
  14. ^ David Bordwell, 2002, Catechism of the Catholic Church,Continuum International Publishing ISBN 978-0-86012-324-8 page 84
  15. ^ Catechism at the Vatican website
  16. ^ Calling God “Father”: Essays on the Bible, Fatherhood and Culture by John W. Miller (Nov 1999) ISBN 0809138972 pages 50-51
  17. ^ a b The Names of God in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: A Basis for Interfaith Dialogue: by Máire Byrne (Sep 8, 2011) ISBN 144115356X pages 2-3
  18. ^ a b Early Jewish and Christian Monotheism by Wendy North and Loren T. Stuckenbruck (May 27, 2004) ISBN 0567082938 pages 111-112
  19. ^ a b c d One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism by Larry W. Hurtado (Oct 25, 2003) ISBN pages 96-100
  20. ^ a b A History of the Christian Tradition, Vol. I by Thomas D. McGonigle and James F. Quigley (Sep 1988) ISBN 0809129647 pages 72-75 and 90
  21. ^ The Concept of Monotheism in Islam and Christianity by Hans Köchler 1982 ISBN 3-7003-0339-4 page 38
  22. ^ Christian Theology: An Introduction by Alister E. McGrath (Oct 12, 2010) ISBN 1444335146 pages 237-238
  23. ^ Marianne Meye Thompson The promise of the Father: Jesus and God in the New Testament ch.2 God as Father in the Old Testament and Second Temple Judaism p35 2000 “Christian theologians have often accentuated the distinctiveness of the portrait of God as Father in the New Testament on the basis of an alleged discontinuity”
  24. ^ a b c The Doctrine of God: A Global Introduction by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen 2004 ISBN 0801027527 pages 70-74
  25. ^ a b The Trinity by Roger E. Olson, Christopher Alan Hall 2002 ISBN 0802848273 pages 29-31
  26. ^ Tertullian, First Theologian of the West by Eric Osborn (4 Dec 2003) ISBN 0521524954 pages 116-117
  27. ^ Paul’s Way of Knowing by Ian W. Scott (Dec 1, 2008) ISBN 0801036097 pages 159-160
  28. ^ a b Pillars of Paul’s Gospel: Galatians and Romans by John F. O?Grady (May 1992) ISBN 080913327X page 162
  29. ^ a b c International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Mar 1982) ISBN 0802837824 pages 515-516
  30. ^ a b The Oxford Handbook of the Trinity by Gilles Emery O. P. and Matthew Levering (27 Oct 2011) ISBN 0199557810 page 263
  31. ^ Critical Terms for Religious Studies. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998. Credo Reference. 27 July 2009
  32. ^ a b The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology by Alan Richardson and John Bowden (Jan 1, 1983) ISBN 0664227481 page 36
  33. ^ Catholic catechism at the Vatican web site, items: 242 245 237
  34. ^ a b c God Our Father by John Koessler (Sep 13, 1999) ISBN 0802440681 page 68
  35. ^ Catholic Catechism items: 356 and 295 at the Vatican web site
  36. ^ a b c The Trinity: Global Perspectives by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (Jan 17, 2007) ISBN 0664228909 pages 10-13
  37. ^ Global Dictionary of Theology by William A. Dyrness, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Juan F. Martinez and Simon Chan (Oct 10, 2008) ISBN 0830824545 pages 169-171
  38. ^ The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia by Geoffrey W. Bromiley 1988 ISBN 0-8028-3785-9 page 571-572
  39. ^ a b c d The Doctrine of God: A Global Introduction by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen 2004 ISBN 0801027527 pages 37-41
  40. ^ Symbols of Jesus by Robert C. Neville (Feb 4, 2002) ISBN 0521003539 pages 26-27
  41. ^ Jesus and His Own: A Commentary on John 13-17 by Daniel B. Stevick (Apr 29, 2011) Eeardmans ISBN 0802848656 page 46
  42. ^ Trinitarian Soundings in Systematic Theology by Paul Louis Metzger 2006 ISBN 0567084108 pages 36 and 43
  43. ^ Encyclopedia of Protestantism by J. Gordon Melton 2008 ISBN 0816077460 page 543
  44. ^ “Godhead”, True to the Faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), 2004. See also: “God the Father”, True to the Faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), 2004.
  45. ^ Robinson, Stephen E. (1992), “God the Father: Overview”, in Ludlow, Daniel H., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Mcmillan, pp. 548–550, ISBN 0-02-904040-X
  46. ^ Dahl, Paul E. (1992), “Godhead”, in Ludlow, Daniel H., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Mcmillan, pp. 552–553, ISBN 0-02-904040-X
  47. ^ The term with its distinctive Mormon usage first appeared in Lectures on Faith (published 1834), Lecture 5 (“We shall in this lecture speak of the Godhead; we mean the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”). The term Godhead also appears several times in Lecture 2 in its sense as used in the Authorized King James Version as meaning divinity.
  48. ^ Insight on the Scriptures. 2. 1988. p. 1019.
  49. ^ Revelation Its Grand Climax, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1988, pg 36, “In the songbook produced by Jehovah’s people in 1905, there were twice as many songs praising Jesus as there were songs praising Jehovah God. In their 1928 songbook, the number of songs extolling Jesus was about the same as the number extolling Jehovah. But in the latest songbook of 1984, Jehovah is honored by four times as many songs as is Jesus. This is in harmony with Jesus’ own words: ‘The Father is greater than I am.’ Love for Jehovah must be preeminent, accompanied by deep love for Jesus and appreciation of his precious sacrifice and office as God’s High Priest and King.”
  50. ^ The Watchtower, April 15, 1983, pg 29, “Why is God’s name, Jehovah, missing from most modern translations of the Bible? Superstition that developed among tradition-bound Jews caused them to avoid pronouncing God’s personal name, Jehovah. This has contributed to worldwide ignorance regarding the divine name. Added to this has been Christendom’s tendency to focus attention on the person of Jesus Christ, thus relegating Jehovah to second place in their triune godhead.”
  51. ^ “Should you believe in the Trinity?”. The Watchtower. 1989. Retrieved 13 April 2012. “Chapter: Is God Always Superior to Jesus?”
  52. ^ Watchtower 1984 9/1 p. 25-30.
  53. ^ James Roberts – Oneness vs. Trinitarian Theology – Westland United Pentecostal Church. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
  54. ^ See also David Bernard, A Handbook of Basic Doctrines, Word Aflame Press, 1988. ISBN 0-932581-37-4 needs page num
  55. ^ F.E. Peters, Islam, p.4, Princeton University Press, 2003
  56. ^ a b Vincent J. Cornell, Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol 5, pp.3561-3562
  57. ^ Gerhard Böwering, God and his Attributes, Encyclopedia of the Quran
  58. ^ John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford University Press, 1998, p.22
  59. ^ John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford University Press, 1998, p.88
  60. ^ “Allah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica
  61. ^ Gods, Goddesses, and Mythology Set by C. Scott Littleton 2005 ISBN 0-7614-7559-1 page 908
  62. ^ Fundamentals of the Faith by Peter Kreeft 1988 ISBN 0-89870-202-X page 93
  63. ^ James Cornwell, 2009 Saints, Signs, and Symbols: The Symbolic Language of Christian Art ISBN 0-8192-2345-X page 2
  64. ^ Adolphe Napoléon Didron, 2003 Christian iconography: or The history of Christian art in the middle ages ISBN 0-7661-4075-X pages 169
  65. ^ James Cornwell, 2009 Saints, Signs, and Symbols: The Symbolic Language of Christian Art ISBN 0-8192-2345-X page 2
  66. ^ George Ferguson, 1996 Signs & symbols in Christian art ISBN 0-19-501432-4 page 92

Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit is a term found in English translations of the Bible, but understood differently among the Abrahamic religions.[1][2]

While the general concept of a “Spirit” that permeates the cosmos is a general feature of most religions (e.g. Brahman in Hinduism and Tao in Taoism and Great Spirit among Indigenous peoples of the Americas), the term Holy Spirit specifically refers to the beliefs held in the Abrahamic religions.[3][4]

For the majority of Christians, the belief in the Holy Trinity implies the existence of three distinct Holy Persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit being One Eternal Triune God. This doctrine and designation, however, are not shared by all Christian denominations, or the other Abrahamic religions.[5][6]


For the majority of Christians, the Holy Spirit (prior English language usage: the Holy Ghost from Old English gast, “spirit”) is the third person of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and is Almighty God.[7][8][9] The Holy Spirit is seen by mainstream Christians as one Person of the Triune God, who revealed His Holy Name YHWH to his people Israel, sent His Eternally Begotten Son Jesus to save them from God’s wrath, and sent the Holy Spirit to sanctify and give life to his Church.[10][11][12] The Triune God manifests as three Persons (Greek hypostases),[13] in One Divine Being (Greek: Ousia),[14] called the Godhead,[15] the Divine Essence of God.[16]


The term “holy spirit” only occurs three times in the Hebrew Bible. (Found once in Psalm 51:11 and twice in Isaiah 63:10,11) Although, the term “spirit” in the Hebrew Scriptures, in reference to “God’s spirit”, does occur more times. In Judaism, God is One, the idea of God as a duality or trinity among gentiles may be Shituf (or “not purely monotheistic”). The term Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is found frequently in Talmudic and Midrashic literature. In some cases it signifies prophetic inspiration, while in others it is used as a hypostatization or a metonym for God.[17] The Rabbinic “Holy Spirit,” has a certain degree of personification, but it remains, “a quality belonging to God, one of his attributes” and not, as in mainstream Christianity, representative of “any metaphysical divisions in the Godhead.”[18]

In Judaism, the references to The Spirit of God, Ruach HaKodesh, The Holy Spirit of YHWH, abound, however it has rejected any idea of The Eternal God as being either Dual or Triune. The term ruach ha-kodesh (Hebrew: רוח הקודש, “holy spirit” also transliterated ruah ha-qodesh) occurs once in Psalm 51:11 and also twice in the Book of Isaiah [19] Those are the only three times that the precise phrase “ruach hakodesh” is used in the Hebrew Scriptures, although the noun ruach (רוח, literally “breath” or “wind”) in various combinations, some referring to God’s “spirit”, is used often. The noun ruach, much like the English word breath, can mean either wind or some invisible moving force.[20]

However, Shekinah is derived from the Hebrew verb שכן. In Biblical Hebrew the word means literally to settle, inhabit, or dwell, which suggests the concept of a Holy Spirit, and is used frequently in the Hebrew Bible. (See Exodus 40:35, “Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, for the cloud rested [shakhan] upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.” See also e.g. Genesis 9:27, 14:13, Psalms 37:3, Jeremiah 33:16), as well as the weekly Shabbat blessing recited in the Temple in Jerusalem (“May He who causes His name to dwell [shochan] in this House, cause to dwell among you love and brotherliness, peace and friendship”).


In Islam, the Holy Spirit (Arabic: الروح القدس al-Ruh al-Qudus, “the-Spirit the-Holy”) is mentioned several times in the Qur’an, where it acts as an agent of divine action or communication. In Hadith it is commonly identified with the angel Gabriel (Arabic Jibreel). The Spirit (الروح al-Ruh, without the adjective “holy”) is also used as the creative spirit from God by which God enlivened Adam, and inspired the angels and the prophets. The belief in Trinity, as it is defined in the Qur’an, is explicitly forbidden by the Qur’an and called a grave sin. The same applies to any idea of the duality of God (Allah).[21][22] Though grammatical gender has no bearing on actual gender in non-personal nouns, the term holy spirit translates in and is used in the masculine form in all the Qur’an. In Arabic language the word “Holy Spirit” does not translate as سكينة Sakinah used in a feminine term. The term sakinah means state of relaxation.

Bahá’í Faith

The Bahá’í Faith has the concept of the Most Great Spirit, seen as the bounty of God.[23] It is usually used to describe the descent of the Spirit of God upon the messengers/prophets of God, which are known as Manifestations of God, and include among others Jesus, Muhammad and Bahá’u’lláh.[24] In Bahá’í believe the Holy Spirit is the conduit through which the wisdom of God becomes directly associated with his messenger, and it has been described variously in different religions such as the burning bush to Moses, the sacred fire to Zoroaster, the dove to Jesus, the angel Gabriel to Muhammad, and the maid of heaven to Bahá’u’lláh.[25] The Bahá’í view rejects the idea that the Holy Spirit is a partner to God in the Godhead, but rather is the pure essence of God’s attributes.[26]


  1. ^ John R. Levison The Spirit in First-Century Judaism 2002 p65 “Relevant Milieux : Israelite Literature : The expression, holy spirit, occurs in the Hebrew Bible only in Isa 63:10-11 and Ps 51:13. In Isaiah 63, the spirit acts within the corporate experience of Israel..”
  2. ^ Emir Fethi Caner, Ergun Mehmet Caner More than a prophet: an insider’s response to Muslim beliefs about Jesus and Christianity” 9780825424014 2003 p43 “In Surah al-Nahl (16:102), the text is even more explicit: Say, the Holy Spirit has brought the revelation from thy Lord in Truth, in order to strengthen those who believe and as a Guide and glad tidings to Muslims.”
  3. ^ Hinduism and Buddhism, Vol III. (of 3) by Charles Eliot 2007 ISBN 1-4068-6297-5 page 182
  4. ^ Holy Spirit and Salvation: The Sources of Christian Theology by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen 2010 ISBN 0-664-23136-5 page 420
  5. ^ Systematic Theology by Lewis Sperry Chafer 1993 ISBN 0-8254-2340-6 page 25
  6. ^ The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete New Testament by Warren W. Wiersbe 2007 ISBN 978-0-7814-4539-9 page 471
  7. ^ Millard J. Erickson (1992). Introducing Christian Doctrine.. Baker Book House. p. 103.
  8. ^ T C Hammond; Revised and edited by David F Wright (1968). In Understanding be Men:A Handbook of Christian Doctrine. (sixth ed.). Inter-Varsity Press. pp. 54–56 and 128–131.
  9. ^ “Catholic Encyclopedia:Holy Spirit”.
  10. ^ “Catechism of the Catholic Church: GOD REVEALS HIS NAME”.
  11. ^ St. Thomas Aquinas (1920). The Summa Theologica: First Part – The Procession of the Divine Persons (second and revised edition (Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province) ed.).
  12. ^ Pope Pius XII (1943). Mystici Corporis Christi.
  13. ^ See discussion in  “Person“. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
  14. ^ Grudem, Wayne A. 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Page 226.
  15. ^ from Old English: Godhood
  16. ^ “Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Dogma of the Holy trinity”.
  17. ^ Alan Unterman and Rivka Horowitz,Ruah ha-Kodesh, Encyclopedia Judaica (CD-ROM Edition, Jerusalem: Judaica Multimedia/Keter, 1997).
  18. ^ Joseph Abelson,The Immanence of God in Rabbinical Literature (London:Macmillan and Co., 1912).
  19. ^ Isaiah 63:10,11
  20. ^ Article Jacobs J. Jewish Encyclopedia: Holy Spirit 1911
  21. ^ Griffith, Sidney H. Holy Spirit, Encyclopaedia of the Quran.
  22. ^ Patrick Hughes, Thomas Patrick Hughes, A Dictionary of Islam, p. 605.
  23. ^ `Abdu’l-Bahá (1981) [1904-06]. “The Holy Spirit”. Some Answered Questions. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá’í Publishing Trust. pp. 108–109. ISBN 0-87743-190-6.
  24. ^ Taherzadeh, Adib (1976). The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, Volume 1: Baghdad 1853-63. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. p. 10. ISBN 0-85398-270-8.
  25. ^ Abdo, Lil (1994). “Female Representations of the Holy Spirit in Bahá’í and Christian writings and their implications for gender roles”. Bahá’í Studies Review 4 (1).
  26. ^ `Abdu’l-Bahá (1981) [1904-06]. “The Trinity”. Some Answered Questions. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá’í Publishing Trust. pp. 113–115. ISBN 0-87743-190-6.



 The Pope Benedict XVI has declared 2008 the “year of St. Paul” in honour of The Apostle to the Gentiles to mark the 2000th birth anniversary of the Apostle. On 28th June the Pope visited the Basilica of St. Paul’s outside the walls and inaugurated a special Pauline year. St. Paul deserves it. For, riding like a colossus on the firmament of the early church, he left an indelible mark on it as its missionary par excellence having fulfilled its task of taking the Gospel “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1,8; 9,15f; Gal 1,15f).

Plans are afoot to attract large number of pilgrims to the Apostle’s birthplace Tarsus in Turkey. The 12th century St. Paul’s church at Tarsus, which has been converted into a state-owned museum, is opened up as a pilgrimage centre. The seven-member bishops’ conference, representing Armenian, Syriac and Chaldean Catholic communities, has drawn elaborate plans to celebrate the year, together with the Orthodox community. At present there are 120,000 Christians in Turkey. St. Paul is supposed to have made three return journeys to Anatolia (in modern-day Turkey) between AD 47 and 57. Those were the years when his apostolate among the Gentiles was at its peak. He was at his creative best in proclaiming the Gospel boldly and writing letters to his various communities. As was his wont, he proclaimed the Gospel to the Jews first (Acts 9,20; Rom 2,9f), but when the latter refused to believe, he had no option but to ‘demote’ them; he began proclaiming  the Gospel both to Jews and gentiles on an equal footing (Acts 19,8-10). As in the case of Jesus, some Jews accepted the message of salvation, but others continued to their stubbornness. So, Paul, after arriving in Rome, finally turned his back on these ‘stiff-necked’ people and turned towards the gentiles who would … “listen” (Acts 28,28ff).


Paul: a Prolific Letter–Writer

A letter is a personal message expression in writing. This form of linguistic expression has been in vogue since time immemorial. In the Hellenistic world, it was a vital form of expression. Under Alexander the Great, and after him, letter writing attained a social importance never achieved before.

The earliest letters were written on clay tablets and potsherds; early Greek and Latin letters on waxed wooden tablets. The Egyptians wrote their letters on papyri.

Letters reveal much about the writer. This is particularly true in Paul’s case. The letters tell what Paul was thinking, what he was doing, where he was traveling, how he felt about Jesus and the work of spreading the Gospel, what he thought about both his friend and his enemies, and most important, his theological thought and expression. The letters also provide trustworthy historical sources about early Christianity and about the Apostle who did more than any other apostle to spread the message of Jesus in the Gentile world.

The structure of the letter was amazingly stereotyped and employed traditional phrases: an address, date, greeting, body and conclusion.


I. Importance of Paul


1. The Apostles and the disciples laid the foundations of Church. Upon this the faith in the risen Jesus was nurtured and transmitted. Apostle James led the Church in Jerusalem; Philip went to Samaria; Peter was in Caesaria, Antioch and Rome; Thomas went to India. But the most charismatic of them all was the Apostle Paul, who never met Jesus.


2. St. Paul was not only the first Christian theologian but in many ways the most original. His thinking was forged on the anvil of his own mind and was not formed in a Pauline school setting. In his writings he quotes no text save Scripture. Thus we can say St. Paul was an autodidact, that is, a self taught thinker who, while indebted to traditions, never appealed to an authoritative teacher and he was the first one who authoritatively interpreted the Word of God and made it understandable to the future generation.


3. Paul was not a systematic theologian. All of Paul’s words are words on target. They are addressed to and shaped for particular communities and their needs. That is, he is an apostle forced by circumstances to become a pastoral theologian struggling for the authenticity of his Gospel vis-à-vis alternatives.

            Paul begins with an enquiry: how far Christ is meaningful for mankind. His theology is centred in the person of Christ, however not a study on the qualities of Christ’s personality. Rarely Paul deals with the words and deeds of Jesus, or the events in Jesus’ life. His full concentration was to see the significance and the depth of Jesus’ death and resurrection. When the Gospels deal with the life of Jesus, Paul explains what has been accomplished and achieved for mankind through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul had lofty view of Christ. He came o grow progressively attached to Christ, thereby he can declare in all honesty, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2,20). Our appreciation, as we read, will grow for Paul’s intellectual genius, his intellectual insights, and his historical dedication to Jesus Christ.


4. Paul stands next to Christ. In the history of the origin and development of the Christian Church next to the resurrection of Christ stands the conversion of Paul, better to say the realization of Paul’s vocation, as the most significant event. The consequences of that are significant and far -reaching in the growth of the Church.


5. Of all NT writers, it is perhaps Paul alone who very relevantly and in clear terms brings home to us what it means to be a Christian or disciple of Christ. Paul’s encounter and personal experience was with the glorified Jesus after His resurrection from the dead, and not with Jesus in the earthly life. Our Christian experience also is concerned with the same risen Lord. Paul’s writing are essential not just for the Christian theologian, but for all believers who would understand and live the Christian faith. He became the lens for focussing on the essence of Christianity.


6. No one has influenced the course of human history as Jesus Christ, and no one has been so responsible for the extension of Jesus’ influence as the Apostle Paul. Paul took what Jesus has done and made it known to the whole world. He made Christianity a world religion – from a Jewish sect to a world religion by the end of the first century.  This became a challenge for Christianity to conquer the world in Christ’s name. Thus the rapid growth of Christianity in the first century is the lengthened shadow of the apostle Paul. Paul is the one who played a decisive role in the Christian community’s efforts to acquire its proper identity. To him the Church of all times owe its consciousness of universality. His letters are the primary written sources that reveal to us the face of early Christianity.


7. Paul was the pioneer of ecumenism in the apostolic church. It was Paul, who succeeded in expressing the Christian Gospel in terms congenial to Greeks and he launched the Church’s teaching safely on non-Semitic waters.


8. Paul was the first and greatest missionary perhaps the best known of the early Christian preachers. He was an intensively active missionary. He undertook three mission journeys between 48-58. He left us a substantial corpus of writings. All his epistles are Canonical Books and so are parts of Christian doctrine.


9. For the sake of the Gospel Paul had to undergo much trials and difficulties in life (2Cor 11, 16-9. However, we find a successful man in him and a man with extreme confidence in his own Charisma. He was absolutely certain that everything around him, may crack but not his own charisma. As Paul writes “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ” (Rom 8,35). Therefore in the letters we do not find a single sentence which can be called withdrawal from the mission, in spite of all sufferings and trials.


10. Finally, it is Paul who made it clear that “love is the fulfilling of the law”. In Rom 13,8 he said “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law”. All the commandments are summed up in the law “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”

In Gal 5, 14 “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbour as yourself”. The welfare of the neighbour must be the prime and basic consideration of a Christian.




In short, Paul’s importance consists at three levels:

  1. At the level of events. It was Paul who brought the Church out of its Jewish cocoon. It is he who gave the church its consciousness of universality, namely he made it a world – wide religion.
  2. At the level of doctrine. It was Paul who first provided a way of formulating the significance of Jesus, which made it possible to universalise his mission. Paul saw with luminous clarity that in         Christ God had acted for all. Thus it became a challenge to conquer the world in His name.
  3. At the level of the missionary perspective. It was Paul who succeeded in launching the Gospel safely on non-Semitic waters. He was one of the earliest proponents of adaptation and indigenisation. With him Christianity moved from a Jewish milieu to the Gentile, Greco-Roman world, as a result it became universal and the gospel took a leap. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles interpreted, with a great sense of concreteness, the content of the Gospel for the divergent and changing reality of his communities.


II.  Paul the Apostle


The designation Apostle : Paul prefers to use the designationapostle to his name and remains as that which qualifies. St Luke has set apart the name ‘apostle’ only to the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. However in the Acts of the Apostles Luke specially gives the designation apostle to Paul. Who is an apostle? Specifically speaking the one who is chosen by Christ, lived with Christ, the one who followed Christ, the one who knew Christ and has experienced the Christ event is an apostle. When Judas died, in his stead Matthias was chosen (Acts 1,21-25) and he had all the qualifications. But after the death of Jacob, no one else was chosen. It may be because; there was no one at that time that lived with Christ. Moreover Jacob would have accomplished the mission of his apostleship by that time. Thus the status of an apostle was given only to those who lived with Christ. At the same time Luke sees Paul with this status.

St Paul uses the designation to the twelve and to himself. By the use of the apostles before me in Gal 1,17, indirectly Paul admits that he considers himself as an apostle. This is not only a position but also a mission. Later Paul confers this status to Thimotheos and Silvanus (1Thess 1,1; 2Thess 1,1). Epaphrodtitus of Philippian Church is said as ‘your apostle and my collaborator (phil 2, 25).

As far as Paul is concerned the experience at Damascus is enough, the one who experiences the risen Lord is an apostle. Paul does not limit himself the title Apostle only to the 12. All those who do the work of Good News for Christ are Apostles.

However, only the apostles in the Scripture have the right to lay the foundation for an ecclesial community. Either in the name the Word or in the name of Jesus no one has the right to lay the foundation for an ecclesial community different from the apostolic churches. Even today an ecclesial community can be formed only in continuity with the early church based upon the apostolic authority. The possibility for missionary activities comes from this vision. God instituted in the church first apostles (1Cor 2,28) means that they are the first ones to proclaim the Good News. Next to Christ comes the apostolic authority in the church.

Apostleship is not a decorative position in the church, is a position to serve in the church. The basis of apostleship is the authoritativeness and faithfulness in proclaiming Christ. As we read Gal 1, 1 it becomes clear that Paul bases his self – consciousness on apostleship, it becomes highly strong also in that. Paul gives certain dimensions to the apostleship. The nature of apostleship consists in working for Christ and for the Gospel. That is the core of apostleship.

Secondly Paul’s apostleship does not consist merely in proclaiming the Good News. More than that what is important is he throughout his life bore witness to Christ that is he suffered a lot in His name. He bears Christ’s life in his body (2Cor 4, 10). Paul the apostle bears in his body the suffering and death of Christ. He who bears in his body the suffering and death of Christ is an apostle. Paul made use of his apostleship to identify himself to the suffering and death of Christ (Phil 3, 10; Gal 6,17). The authoritativeness of apostleship consists in the faithfulness of the service.




1.Paul’s name:

Saul is Paul’s Semitic name and also as a Pharisaic Rabbi. The Greek form Zaulos is a transliteration of the Hebrew name of the first king of ancient Israel Saul as in 1 Sam 9, 2.17. This name means “asked of God or Yahweh”.

Paul is his Greco-Roman name, and later as Christ’s Apostle. It is a well-known Roman family name.

Prior to Acts 13,9 his name is always Saul, where Peter’s mission among the Jews is mainly dealt with; and from then on, when Paul’s missionary activities among the Gentiles are concentrated the name used is Paul.The author of the Acts used the Hebrew name in the Jewish part of his narrative, and the Latin name in the part given to the gentile mission.


2.Paul’s Birth Place

Paul was a Diaspora Jew, namely he was born in one of the Jewish colonies to be found, by his time, in all the chief towns of the Mediterranean world. According to Acts 21,39 and 22,3 his native place was Tarsus, in Cilichia, in the southern part of modern Turkey, in the great peninsula of Asia Minor. Tarsus was Paul’s Civic country, where he received the envied title of a Roman citizen (Acts 22, 25-27). In the first century our era in 66 B.C. Tarusus became a Roman province and Palestine also in this time became a part of the Roman Empire. In 67 it was designated the capital of the Province of Cilichia. Under Augustus Caesar it had its full rights as free city. Such rights allowed its citizens to boast of their Roman citizenship as did Paul in Acts 22,28.

Paul was a Hellenistic Jew who wrote in Greek, used the LXX and was influenced by Hellenism, which started from classical Greece and prevailed from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. and through the succeeding centuries.

But Jerusalem was the fatherland of his soul and of his intelligence. In Acts 22,3 we read that he was brought up in Jerusalem at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the leading religious teachers of the day, as is clear from Acts ch.5.

In Phil 3,5 Paul speaks, who he is and where he bears witness to his own strict Jewish upbringing: Circumcised on the eighth day (cf. Gen 17, 11-12), of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamine and a Pharisee.

Paul was proud of his Jewishness (cfr. 2Cor 11,22-25; Rom 11,1). The Benjaminite tribe provided the first king of Israel, Saul (1Sam 9,1-4) after whom the Apostle was named. Paul also boasted his Pharisaic background (Phil 3,6; Acts 23,6; Acts 26,5). Difference between Pharisees and Sadducees (cfr Acts 23, -9)

In Gal 1,14 we read that Paul was extremely zealous for the tradition of his fathers. Every religion aims at the salvation of man. As a Jewish Rabbi he learned and was fully convinced of three things: Monotheism, Law is the means to reach God and Circumcision is the sign of Jewishness. As he was going around teaching the Jewish Law, tradition both written and oral, he happens to hear about the risen Lord Jesus Christ and his followers. It was really a threat to his faith and also to his teachings. As a result he decided to wipe the followers of Christ from the face of the earth by persecuting them, first in Jerusalem and then in the other places. When persecution died out in Jerusalem, he decided to move to the Diaspora.



Paul’s Conversion and After


Did Paul Convert to Christianity?

Every year, on January 25 we celebrate the feast of Conversion of St. Paul. But, we must not hesitate to ask ‘Did Paul really convert to Christianity’?

The ordinary meaning of conversion is turning from a life of dissipation to a life of grace\virtue. It is not possible to apply this definition to Paul for the simple reason that, unlike St. Augustine, Paul never lived a life of dissipation. He was always committed to God (Phil 3,6). It is due to this commitment that, full of zeal for God’s law, he persecuted the Way i.e. Christians. The latter believed in and worshipped someone who ’hanged on a tree’ and such a person was accursed (Dt 21,23). How dare these so-called Christians defy God’s Law!

It is at this time that, “as to one untimely born”, God revealed his Son to Paul. Speaking about it, Paul obliquely compares himself to Jeremiah by saying that God set him apart before he was born and called him through His grace (Gal 1,15; Jer 1,5; also 49,1).

What was the purpose of this revelation? God took the initiative in revealing his Son to Paul so that the latter ‘might preach him among the gentiles’. Thus, the encounter at Damascus was an earth-shaking event for Paul. It is there that he realized the truth that the Messiah had come; he is none other than the crucified Jesus. In an instant his misgivings about the crucified Messiah vanished. Him whom he hitherto considered as accursed he began to consider as the Messiah ‘whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1Cor 1,30) From now on he will proclaim him not with eloquent wisdom but as crucified, a stumbling to Jews (who cannot accept a crucified Messiah) and a folly to gentiles (who cannot accept Resurrection).

We can put all this succinctly thus: at Damascus, Paul’s theology did not change; his Christology did. There was no question of Paul’s “returning” to the Lord since he did not stray from him at all! From now onwards, however, not the Law but faith in Jesus Christ will be for him the source of justification. From a proud Pharisee Paul now became a humble Christian, Disciple, Apostle. All this was due to God’s grace about which he waxes eloquent. “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain” (1Cor 15,10).

          It was not a conversion from a bad life to a good one; an immoral life to a moral life. If we see his conversion from that way, we misunderstand Paul and belittle grace.

There are two sources that speak of Paul’s conversion. Paul’s own letters Gal 1,11-24; 1Cor 15,8-10; Phil 3, 7-8.12) and the Acts of the Apostles (9,1=10; 22,1-22;26,1-32).

Acts of the Apostle, which is first real volume of Church History, deals with Paul’s conversion thrice, which shows how significant this event is in the origin and development of the Church in the early period.

In chapter 9 we have Luke’s own narration about Paul’s conversion.

Chps 22 & 26 there the event is described in the context of Paul’s speeches:

In ch. 22 we see Paul’s speech before a hostile Jewish crowd at the temple in Jerusalem.

In ch. 26 we have Paul’s speech before the Roman governor Festus and the royal couple Agrippa and Bernice.

Damascus, capital of Syria, is about 180-200 KM away from Jerusalem. It is there the finger of God awaited him, as he was rushing to Damascus to seek out the secret disciples of Jesus in the Synagogue of Damascus, and to bring them hand-cuffed before the Sanhedrin.

The most striking thing about Paul’s conversion is its suddenness and unpreparedness. Both Acts and Paul agree in this. The hunter has been hunted down. It was a sudden and direct encounter that changed Paul the Pharisee into Paul the Apostle. Thereby the most powerful adversary of the early Church is brought into the Christian camp.

To Paul it was purely God’s grace: “Christ Jesus made me his own” Phil 3,12). He was not converted to a system of Christian thought or to a completely organized tradition. Paul was converted to Christ rather than to Christianity. It was not a conversion from a bad life to a good one; an immoral life to a moral one. By the grace of that singular encounter with the Lord, Paul came to regard all that as verse than worthless. He saw it as loss (Phil 3,7). It was a complete turning away from what was genuinely good to its everlasting enemy, the better.

Whatever happened to Paul on the Road to Damascus altered his life radically, reversed the scale of values, and made his vision of all things utterly new. Not the event itself, but the resulting conversion as such is where the meaning and the challenge of the account for the reader are to be sought.

As a Jew Paul was a staunch believer in monotheism. As a Pharisee he was a believer in the resurrection of the dead. As we read in Deut 21,23, quoted by Paul in Gal 3,13, “he who is hanged is cursed by God”. Such a one was acclaimed as God. Paul could not tolerate that. Though, as a Pharisee, he believed in the resurrection of the dead, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth had to signify a good deal more than the specific instance of what a Pharisee believed and hoped to be the lot of all the just.

The risen Lord entrusted him with a mission. The reluctant Ananias was told to go to meet Paul, for “he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel (Acts 9,15; 13,47; 18,6; 22,21; 26,17.23).

After the Damascus event, preaching the Gospel was almost a necessity for him (1Cor 9,16).His circumcision on the eighth day, his belonging to the people of Israel, his being a Hebrew born of Hebrews, his Pharisaism, his zeal for the law, and his blamelessness under it (Phil 3,5-6) were inestimable assets of which he was rightly proud. They were real “gain”, genuine and solid accomplishments, of which he could justifiably boast. But – and this is crucial for understanding the conversion – by the grace of that singular encounter with the Lord, Paul came to regard all that as worse than worthless. He saw it as loss.

The incident on the way to Damascus, judged by what Paul himself says about it, was a conversion, a complete turning away from what was genuinely good to its everlasting enemy, the better, and alter the meaning of Paul’s hard earned righteousness, through the observance of the law. It was that righteousness which had to be given up, that “blamelessness under the law” which had to be counted as loss and discarded as refuse. Faith in the righteousness through the law could not exist simultaneously with ‘the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil 3,9).

            What Paul began to proclaim was precisely the righteousness ‘which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; and no longer a righteousness of my own, based on law (Phil 3,9). In other words, what was radically altered was precisely Paul’s view of salvation. What Paul grasped, or rather what took hold of him?


Significance of the Damascus Event

a.  The experience at Damascus did not alter Paul’s basic commitment to the ‘One God’. The   Father  who revealed His Son to Paul was the same God that Paul the Pharisee had always worshipped and served. So his theology did not change.

b.   If Paul’s theology did not change, his Christology did. The Damascus vision instructed Paul in the soteriological value of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiahin God’s salvific plan. As a Jew Paul shared the messianic expectation of his people (Dan 9,25). The vision taught him that God’s anointed had already come, that he was Jesus our Lord, crucified and risen. The cross, which had been the stumbling block to the Jews, became in his eyes ‘the power and wisdom of God’ (1Cor 1,24). Henceforth, Paul would understand that crucified ‘Lord of Glory’ (1Cor 2,8) as his exalted Messiah.

c.  Paul got a new vision of salvation history. The messianic age had already begun. So the eschaton, “end time”, so anxiously awaited before, had already been started, but not yet in glory. The death and resurrection of Jesus is seen as the inauguration of the new age, and at the same time he still looked forward to Christ’s coming in glory, to his parousia. This enabled him to fashion his ‘Gospel’ to preach the fundamental good news of salvation in a form that was distinctively his own.

     d.    The cross became the proof of God’s love and the supreme sacrifice for the sins of the people. Salvation was to be had, not by self-righteousness, or obedience to the Law, but by grace and by grace alone.

e.   Finally, his vision was linked directly to his commission to apostleship. He had seen the Lord and had been commissioned by him.

Regarding the Damascus experience we can also note the following:

  1. Certainly grace found in the fertile nature of Paul a propitious, favourable soil.
  2. Strong convictions in the service of passion are easier to turn to the good than scepticism fortified by indifference. God enters more easily into the hearts and mind which have not sinned against the light.
  3. In the morning Paul is the devouring wolf that ravages the sheepfold of Christ. In the evening he became the conqueror who brings to the foot of the cross conquered and captive the enemies of the Gospel.

After the event Paul was led to Ananias in Damascus. From there he went to Arabia (Gal 1,17). From there may be that he came to Damascus, from where he had to escape on account of Jewish opposition (Acts 9,23; 2Cor 11,33) in a basket lowered over the city walls.

After three years he went to Jerusalem to meet Peter (Acts 9,26; Gal 1,18). After 15 days he came to Antioch, where he started his missionary work. The Christians there were predominantly, mostly Gentile Christians. For Paul ‘Faith in Christ and the Baptism in Christ were the two conditions. They are free to follow the rites, rituals and traditions of the Jewish community. Thereby Paul opened the door of Faith to the Gentile world, and they are liberated from the Law of Moses.

            But the Jewish Christians’ attitude was different. They were ready to open the door to the Gentiles, not fully but half, for they were ready to accept only those who are ready to accept the Jewish rites and traditions. For they believed, that their teachings and arguments are based upon the teachings of Jesus, “He came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfil it”. Jesus did not proclaim the Good New to the Gentiles, but exclusively to the Jews. So also they believed, circumcision and the other Jewish rites were part of the covenant established with Abraham. If we abolish them, in a way we deny the promises of God. Abraham’s people are set apart with their own Jewish identity, namely with the external mark of circumcision. Those who are not having the blood of Christ in their body, there is only one solution to become the disciple of Jesus: undergo the circumcision and follow other traditions. Therefore there came a clash between these two ideologies and the scene is Antioch, where Paul and Barnabas were active. There came Jewish Christians from Jerusalem and said, as per the Law of Moses those who are not circumcised will not be saved (Acts 15,1). It means, the so-called Gentile Christians are not Christians and are not worthy to invite the other Gentiles into the Christian Church. So they closed the door of the Gospel. Against this Paul and Barnabas fought with tooth and nail. The result was the Jerusalem Council in AD 49-50.

Since the issue was such serious one which includes a common principle and also the one which affects the very future of the Church, Paul and Barnabas decided to go to the supreme authorities of the Church. In the Council under the leadership of the so called pillar apostles – Jacob, Peter and John – Paul’s Gospel was fully accepted and the Gospel to the Gentiles was entrusted to Paul, as the Gospel to the Jews to Peter (Acts 15; Gal 2,7-9). Coming back from Jerusalem Paul undertook two more great missionary journeys. Wherever he visited, he established Christian communities. Later on when he was away from them, he kept constant contact with them through his letters. These letters forwarded by Paul to different communities at various times are the Epistles we have at our disposal in the Scripture.


Pauline writings

Excluding the Revelation to John, the whole NT can be divided into two blocks: the Gospels and the Apostolic Letters. In between them there is the Acts of the Apostles which binds the two sections together. He Ascension makes it look back to the Gospels and the Pentecost (Acts 2) points to the starting of the way of the Gospel. The way of the Gospel is described in the rest of the Acts. The Letters were written from the centres where the different Apostles worked. The Pauline writings aimed at deepening the message of the Gospel in the hearts of the Christians in the various centres where the Apostle of the Gentiles laboured.

A letter is a personal message expression in writing. This form of linguistic expression has been in vogue since time immemorial. In the Hellenistic world, it was a vital form of expression. Under Alexander the Great, and after him, letter writing attained a social importance never achieved before.

The earliest letters were written on clay tablets and potsherds; early Greek and Latin letters on waxed wooden tablets. The Egyptians wrote their letters on papyri.

Letters reveal much about the writer. This is particularly true in Paul’s case. The letters tell what Paul was thinking, what he was doing, where he was traveling, how he felt about Jesus and the work of spreading the Gospel, what he thought about both his friend and his enemies, and most important, his theological thought and expression. The letters also provide trustworthy historical sources about early Christianity and about the Apostle who did more than any other apostle to spread the message of Jesus in the Gentile world.

The structure of the letter was amazingly stereotyped and employed traditional phrases: an address, date, greeting, body and conclusion.


Pauline writings: Letters or Epistles?

Twenty-one out of twenty-seven ‘books’ of the NT are called epistolai and possess epistolary form. Of these, thirteen are assigned to Paul; they are in the most literal sense letters. Paul wrote these letters in answer to the various situations in which his different communities found themselves. Hence when we read Paul’s letters, we are not reading things which are meant to be academic exercises and theological treatises, but letters written by a friend to his friends/communities. There were some threatening situations in Corinth, Galatia, Philippi and to a certain extent, in Thessalonica and he wrote a letter to meet each situation. He was not in the least thinking of us; he wrote solely for the people who were struggling with the theory and practice of Christian life.


Writing or dictation ?

 Paul did not normally pen his own letters but dictated them to a secretary, and then added his own authenticating signature. We actually know the name of one of the persons who wrote for him. In Rom 16,22 Tertius, the secretary slips in his own greeting before the letter ends. In 1Cor 16, 21, Paul says “This is my own signature, my autograph, so that you can be sure this letter comes from me”. This explains why Paul’s letters are hard to understand. We must not think of him sitting quietly at a desk and carefully polishing every sentence. He must have been pacing up and down a room, pouring out his thoughts as his secretary wrote. Paul had his mind on the people to whom he was writing and he was pouring out his heart to them in words that fell over each other in his eagerness to help.


Shortcomings ! 

Paul’s letters are spontaneous, sincere, warm and interesting but at the same time, they suffer from being brief, tentative and incomplete. Letters cannot be revised or rewritten. All that the writer can do is write another letter! Thus, we have a second letter to the Corinthians.

Besides, one sees Paul’s thoughts on faith more pronounced in Galatians as well as his reflections on Justification more clearly in his later letter to the Romans.

            All along Paul’s message informs and transforms his people. The letters were for Paul an extension of his apostleship. He conveyed his apostolic authority through them and built a bond of genuine collaboration and closeness with his people.

The writings of Paul are real letters. They are more than just private letters in respect of author, recipients and subject matter. Because of their universal character we call them Epistles.

The prime way to know the life and theology of Paul is nothing other than his letters. They are not mere articles containing multi-faced teachings; rather they are literally high theological books.

Paul is the inaugurator of the NT. Paul’s writings is the first ones recorded in the NT. Only in AD 85 Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles. That made Paul’s letters more relevant.


The Order of the Letters:

1.Canonical Order

Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon. Here, if we observe, the letters to the communities come first followed by those to the individuals.

2.Chronological Order

Since there is a lot of difference of opinion in this regard, we can make only a probable arrangement: 1&2 Thess, Gal, 1&2 Cor, Rom, Philemon, Philip, Col, Eph, 1Tim, Titus, and 2 Tim.

3.The Systematic Order

The early Letters: 1&2 Thess (50-51 AD)

The Great or Major Letters: Rom, 1&2 Cor, Gal.(55-58 AD)

The Captivity or Prison Letters: Philemon, Philip, Col, Eph (60-63 AD)

The Pastoral Letters: 1&2 Tim, Titus.


The Authenticity of the Letters:

Paul’s letters can be divided into authentic letters (proto-Pauline) and those of doubtful authenticity (deutero-Pauline).

Proto-Pauline: Rom, 1&2 Cor, Gal, Philip, 1Thess, Philemon

Deutero-Pauline: 1&2 Tim, Titus, Eph, Col, 2 Thess.


Virtually half the NT writings are credited to Paul. It indicates the importance of the ex-persecutor convert in the life of the early Church.

The hallmark of Paul’s ministry is evangelisation and building up of Christian communities across the northern and eastern parts of the Mediterranean. In Greece and southern Turkey he was the founding father of several communities. In places like Damascus, Antioch in Syria, Ephesus and Rome he lived and worked with his fellow Christian pastors building up the young churches in Christ. He undertook correspondence with the communities he founded such as Corinth, Philippi and Thessalonica.

These communities lived in an affluent and permissive world akin to that of our time, a world alien to Christian values and the Christian life-style. Paul appreciated that they needed to be constantly built up in the Spirit if they were to withstand the pressures of such a society and to convert it to Christ. Paul carried our his role as a pastor by visits, correspondence and sending delegates like Titus and Timothy, and also by establishing elders\presbyters to lead the communities in the way of Christ.

The sheer force of Paul’s faith and love for these young communities shines through the letters and has ensured a place of importance in the NT Canon. The letters work out the teaching of Jesus and the life in Christ in the Christian community.

Paul saw Jew and Gentile in Christian fellowship as a miracle of God’s power (Spirit) while the barrier of hatred between these two groups disappeared in Christ. As a previous hater himself (of Christians) Paul knew the difference between hate and the love of God in the Christian community.



Letter to Romans

It is very significant that the Apostle to the gentiles found his fulfilment in Rome, the capital to the Roman Empire. He had not evangelized this city (Acts 12,17), but was eager to go there in order to share his faith with the Romans, or rather to be “mutually encouraged”. Long before he could go to Rome, however, he wrote to them a Letter, Romans, which has become a Christian masterpiece. Why did he write this letter to a community which he did not found?

There is a two-fold reason. One, the letter is prophylactic. Paul is pro-active here, he wants by all means to prevent doctrinal infection in Rome, something that has unfortunately happened in his own church of Galatia. Before the troublemakers of Galatia (‘Judaisers’) reach Rome and vitiate the atmosphere there too, Paul wants to give a wide publicity to his central synthesis of Justification by Faith. The second reason is: testamentary. Paul wants to bequeath to the Romans his treasure; the pure, unadulterated Gospel! Romans was a masterstroke, to demolish his opponents on the one hand and, on the other, to make his Gospel known far and wide. He knows that ones his Gospel reaches Rome, it will spread like wildfire to all the corners of the world. And so it did. The Gospel preached by Paul continued its relentless march “to the ends of the earth”, encompassing all the continents, turning the world upside down (Acts 17,6) right upto Vatican II which, according to Karl Rahner, was “the first self-actualisation of the Church as the World Church”.

Does St. Paul have a message which is relevant to our time? He has. His message once “hard to understand” (2Peter 3,16), would be three-fold: make the Risen Lord the centre of your life; love the poor; and fight against vulgarity and violence.

First of all, Paul would give us the same message that he gave the Galatians and Romans: we are justified by faith. Paul was obsessed by the Risen Lord for whose sake he considered everything as garbage (Phil 3,8). On the very day of Paul’s so-called conversion, the lord told Ananias in a vision that his “chosen instrument” would have to suffer(Acts 9,15). And suffer he did (2Cor 11,23ff) – gladly for the Lord whom he once persecuted. There is only one desire in Paul’s heart now: to be with the Lord (Phil 1,23) and in season and out of season he will remind us that Christ has freed us from the yoke of the Law (Gal 5,11). Christ has indeed freed us, not only from the Mosaic Law but from all other laws; from men of god, superstars, novenas and everything that enslaves us. The Lord alone deserves to be the centre of our life.

Secondly, in the year of Globalization when 70 percent of the poor are becoming poorer and the 30 percent rich, richer Paul would say, “love the poor.”

Finally Paul would have a message for us to fight against all forms of vulgarity and violence.



Letter to the Romans enjoys primacy over all others in the Pauline Corpus. This is the longest, about 7100 words, and theologically most significant and the best structured one among the letters of Paul. The length as well as the profundity of its subject matter marks it out as the most unusual letter.

If we understand this Epistle, then we have a passage opened to us to the understanding of the whole Scripture.

Epistle to the Romans is one of the classic documents of the Christian faith, the theological Epistle par excellence in the NT. It is a compendium of Christian doctrine. It is not a Catechism, but only a fundamental thesis, written towards the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, while his reflections are mature. Hence, this may be called in a limited sense the Gospel of Paul, or ‘the Magna Carta’ of Christian Faith.

Of all the Pauline Epistles, the Epistle to the Romans is the least like a real letter. More than a letter we see there a developed treatise – like the exposition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a result the Letter to the Romans has become for the Church the ‘Testament of Paul’, because the nature of the Gospel is more clearly and exactly worked out in this letter. That is what constitutes the theological significance of this letter.

It is an epistle written to instruct its readers, regarding the essentials of Christian doctrine and life. It is a presentation of his missionary reflections on the historic possibility of salvation now offered in the Gospel to all men. Pharisaic Judaism held the view that the righteousness was adherence to the divine Law. For Paul it is adherence to the Divine Lord through faith. When the Judaism speaks of the salvation only of the Jews, Paul speaks of the universal salvation.

In 2Peter 3,16 we read: “There are certain things in the letters of Paul hard to understand”. When he wrote these lines the author of 2Peter was not exaggerating. We can say, in some respects the Epistle to the Romans contains probably the hardest of all Paul’s thoughts about his Gospel. However, it is letter written in amicable placidity and there we see self-introduction of both the Apostle and his Gospel.


The Christian Community in Rome

The origin of Christian community in Rome is shrouded in mystery. The Epistle to the Romans is our earliest witness to the existence of a Church in Rome.

It is worthy to note that neither Peter nor Paul (Rom 1,11-13; 15,20) was the first to evangelize them, though traditionally it is attributed to Peter. One thing is clear that both of them had visited Rome, had played an important role or part in the early history of the roman Church and had finally sealed their apostolic ministries by martyrdom in Rome. They were also, in a special sense, its apostles because their mortal remains there.

The Roman community was comprised of both Jewish and Gentile Christians. The city had a sizable number of Jews during the first century B.C. The letter’s appeal for mutual acceptance (15,7ff), its repeated reference to Jews and Gentiles having the same responsibility before God (1,16; 2,9f; 3,29; 10,12) and the discussion on Israel in chps 9-11 would be incomprehensible if there were no Jewish Christians in Rome.

There were Gentiles too, is clear from the Letter (Rom 11, 13-32; 15, 7-12). In 9,3ff; 10,1ff; 11,23.28.31 one can hear Paul speaking to non Jews concerning his own people. It is beyond doubt therefore that there were Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians in the community to which the Apostle directs his Epistle.


Date, Provenance (place of origin) and Circumstance of the Letter

Most probably the Epistle was written towards the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, around 58 AD, just before he was about to return to Jerusalem with the collection, which he had taken from Macedonia and Achaia, for the poor of Jerusalem mother Church (Rom 15, 25-26).

As we read in Rom 15, 19-20.23 the return to Jerusalem was for Paul the end of missionary work in the Eastern Mediterranean area. In v19 he says that he has fully preached the gospel of Christ from Jerusalem and as far as Illyricum. As is clear from 15, 22-23 he desired for some time to evangelize the West. Thus he turned his gaze toward Spain, and hoped to visit Rome en route. After the journey to Jerusalem his hopes were to be realized at last. Accordingly he was emboldened and encouraged to write this letter, probably from Cenchrae, the port in Corinth, to introduce himself to the already existing Christian community of Rome in view of his impending visit. Therefore we can say, the recommendation of Phoebe, deaconess of the Church at Cenchrae, Corinth’s eastern port (Rom 16,1-2) and the fact that this place suits the personal situation of Paul best, point to Corinth as the likeliest place of its origin.

The purpose of his visit becomes rather clear. The Roman church had already been founded by someone else (Rom 15,20-21). Traditionally the church in Rome is connected with Peter. Nevertheless, Paul hopes, a brief sojourn there would have some salutary effect among the Christians of the Capital, even as it had among the Gentiles elsewhere.

For a long time the gaze of the Apostle had been fixed in Rome. He had a strong, vehement desire to visit the little growing church there. This desire harrowed (worried, vexed) him. He kept saying to himself: I must see Rome 1,11-15; 15,23; Acts 19,21. At the same time Paul says in Rom 15,20 (cfr 2Cor 10,15-16) that his ambition to preach the Gospel was such, to preach not where Christ has already been named; lest he builds on another man’s foundation. However, he deems it necessary and appropriate to introduce himself by setting before them a comprehensive and reasoned statement of the fundamentals of the gospel as he had come to understand it. This would clear up some of the misunderstandings and suspicions against him and encourage the Romans to sustain his mission.

We can also say, perhaps Paul had a supernatural presentiment that the centre of the world was predestined to be also the centre of the church.

Regarding the authenticity of the Epistle to the Romans we can say one thing. It is generally admitted today that the letter is of Pauline origin. So it is almost a closed question. As a result Romans occupies a prominent place in every list of the NT books.

The role of Tertius (16,22) could have been that of a short-hand writer, or even that of an independent secretary.

Regarding the integrity of the letter also there is not much serious dispute today. There are a number of commentators who defend the integrity of Romans, including ch.16, whose authorship is not in question.


Structure of the Epistle to the Romans

I.   1,1-17 Introduction  

vv.1-7 Superscription (Opening Formula) (Self-introduction of both the Apostle and                                                                                                                  his Gospel.

vv.8-15 Thanksgiving. Here there is an eulogy (praise) of the faith of the Romans, an expression of the lively interest which Paul takes on them.

vv.16-17 Adumbration (outline) of theme. Paul announces the theme of the letter

      v.16 Gospel is the power of God for salvation

      v.17 In this Gospel Paul experienced the Righteousness of God.

II.  1,18 – 15,13 The Body of the Letter. This is divided into two sections.

1,18-11,36 Doctrinal – Dogmatic section

12,1-15,13 Paraenetic section – Moral Instruction

III. 15,14 – 16,27 Conclusion to the Epistle, where Paul gives news about his apostolate. Then speaks of his planned journey to Rome on the way to Spain, then salutations and the letter end with doxology.


Division of the Doctrinal section 1,18 – 11,36

A.  1,18 – 4,25 is explanation of 1,17 where the theme is righteousness or justification. Man is justified not by Law, but by faith. First the theme of the righteousness of God or God’s justice is explained negatively saying both Gentiles and Jews are under God’s wrath.

1,18-32 Gentiles are under God’s wrath for they did not seek God, rather committed idolatry.

2,1 – 3,20 Jews are also under God’s wrath. This Paul explains by basing upon the 4 privileges they enjoyed

            2,1-11   They are the elected ones, but the mere election will not save them from God’s wrath

            2,12-24 Second privilege Law. Possession of Law will not save a Jew from God’s wrath.

2,25-29 Third privilege is circumcision. This external mark of Jewishness will not save them                 from God’s wrath.

            3,1- 8    The last privilege I s the promise of salvation given to the Jews.

            3, 9-20  Both Jews and Gentiles are equally unworthy to stand before God

            3,21-31 Positive explanation of the theme stated in 1,17. God’s saving justice is revealed independently of the law and by means of faith. The ground of the justification is the death and resurrection of Christ and the means of justification is faith, which is required from the part of the believer.

            4,1-25  Scriptural proof for the thesis stated. Abraham was justified not by Law but by faith.


B. 5,1 – 8,39 Explanation of 1,16 Person who is justified by faith will be saved. Christ has inaugurated the rule of the Spirit in the place of the rule of the law

            5,1-11 Presentation of the theme: the justified lives in the hope of salvation.

First this theme is explained negatively by presenting the enemies that prevent mankind from salvation.

            5,12-21 First enemy is death (thantos) : Christ and Ada

            6,1-23 Second enemy is sin (hamartia) : Dead to sin and alive to God

            7,1-25 Third enemy is law (nomos) : Life of freedom from the law

            8, 1-39 Positive explanation of 1,16: Christian is empowered by the Holy Spirit and becomes  worthy of calling God Abba, Father. Hence it demands and speaks of a life characterized by the indwelling of God’s Spirit.


C. Chaps. 9-11 Explanation of: ‘first for Jews and then for the Gentiles in 1,16. Whereby Paul asserts that his thesis is not opposed to the OT revelation. The theme is the unbelief of Israel and the faithfulness of God.

            9,1-33 Infidelity of the chosen people

            10,1-21 Israel’s unbelief inexcusable

            11,1-36 Her infidelity, partial and temporary

12, 1- 15,13 Moral Instruction

            12,1-2 Introduction

            12,3-13,7 Reciprocal duties of Christians as members of the mystical body

            13,8-14,23 The precept of charity, an epitome of our social duties.

            15,1-13 Application of the precept of charity.

15,14-16,27 General conclusion



Romans 1, 1-17 Introduction

Rom 1,1-7 The Opening Formula: At the outset, as the first element of the formula, Paul would address himself to the Romans in terms of their shared call in faith, under the same Lord.

While introducing himself to the Christians in Rome, naturally Paul refers to his mission. The reference to the mission leads him to a highly significant definition of the Gospel, which it is his mission to proclaim.

The definition of the Gospel extends to the end of v.4, which is presupposed in vv.9.15.16, when the gospel is referred to.

v.1 Paul calls or styles himself ‘a servant or slave of Christ Jesus’. There are two words in Greek for slave – pais – doulos . Paul uses the strong term doulos (cfr also Gal 1,10; Phil 1,1; tit 1,1).

Thereby Paul affirms that he belongs to Christ without reservation.

For a Greek in the classical tradition it was almost impossible to use the term slave without some feeling of extreme aversion. But in ancient Israel to call a man ‘God’s slave’ was to accord him a title of honour. Thus we see the title applied in the OT variously to Abraham (Gen 26,24), to Moses (Joshua 1,2) to David (Psalm 89,3.20) and to the prophets from Amos onwards (Amos 3,7; Jer 7,25; Isa 20,3; Dan 9,6). Paul may this be quietly affirming that he stands in the true succession of the prophets. For prophets are servants of God.

Paul is the slave of Christ Jesus. Thus he puts Christ in the highest possible place and regards himself as Christ’s bondservant.

For Paul every Christian is a slave of Christ (1Cor 7,22f).

Thus the term doulos expresses the total belongingness, total allegiance and belongingness without reservation to Christ Jesus.

Christ = anointed. Christos (Greek) is the equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah . Paul speaks out that the One, whose slave he was, was the fulfillment of God’s promises  and Israel’s age-old hope.

Paul is called to be an Apostle – In 1 Cor 15,9 Paul calls himself the least of the apostles and unworthy to be an apostle, for he had persecuted God’s Church.

In Gal 1,17 Paul asserts that there were apostles before him, thereby he admits that he was not a first-hand source of historical tradition concerning the life and teaching of Jesus. But he also asserted the equal authority of his apostleship with others, basing his claims, on the facts, that he too had seen the risen Lord (1Cor 9,1; 15,8). He had received his commission directly from Christ Himself (Acts 1,1; Acts 26,15-18).

He does not see his apostleship in any way inferior to that of the twelve (2Cor 11,5; 12,11). He had manifested the signs, that mark an apostle (2Cor 12,12). He had a special responsibility as the “apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom 11,13).

Thus Paul sets himself alongside the twelve ‘pillar apostles’, an apostolate which had been conferred on him. This apostleship is a commission he had received from Christ – not of his personal worth and wisdom, but by the sheer grace of the special calling and revelation of God.

One thing more we have to note here. The word ‘apostle (of Christ Jesus) points away from the apostle’s person to him whose apostle he is.

He is called to be an apostle. The idea of divine calling implies that he is neither self-appointed nor chosen by men. The idea of call includes the notion of response. The called are those who have heard and obeyed the divine call. For Paul call and response go together. Thus Paul thinks of an effectual call, a call capable of producing the intended result.

Many of the OT worthies were called by God:

Abraham (Gen 12,1); Moses (Ex 3,4f); Jeremiah (1,4f); Amos (7,15); Isaiah (6,8-9).

In short we can say, Paul seeks his task in life (like the other apostles’) not as self-chosen, not as mapped out (planed) for him by man, but as God’s own call. Thus Paul had been ‘sent’, as well as ‘called’. He is an apostle not on the basis of presumptuous human egotism, but on the basis of God’s call.

Paul is set apart (aphorismenos) for the gospel of Christ. The same word aphorizo (set apart) is used of his ‘being set apart from birth’ (Gal 1,15; Jer 1,5; Is 49,1). Paul is separated to a greater purpose. We often understand separation negatively, as separation from something; but here it is positive. Paul is set apart to or set apart for the Gospel (Acts 13,2).

The word “Gospel” is definitely a Pauline word (60 times in Paul out of its 76 NT occurrences). The word ‘Gospel’ basically means ‘good news’, which in a Christian context is what God has done in Christ for man’s salvation. It is this for which Paul is set apart. Does it mean simply ‘set apart to preach the gospel’? It certainly includes this, but is surely more. It means to be a gospel man, to live the gospel. Proclaiming is important, but then so is living. Paul’s call was to a way of life, as well as to a task of preaching.

When the gospel is spoken of as God’s Gospel, it is referred to its ultimate source. It is  rooted in God’s eternal purpose.

In vv. 2-4 Paul defines the content of this Gospel:

  1. The Gospel which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures, namely this Gospel is the fulfillment of the prophecy. OT Had foretold the Messiah (Greek Christos= Christ= anointed one= Saviour). Since the prophecy has become a reality in the person of Christ, it implies that the OT is reliable. Again it points forward to something else, namely the NT promises will also become a reality one day.
  2. The Gospel concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh. Davidic descent is of importance for an understanding of Jesus’ Messiahship. The descent is traced through Joseph. He was not the natural father but the legal father of Joseph. Joseph’s naming him (Mt 1,21.25) ‘Jesus’ is significant. Joseph accepts Jesus as his con. This conferred on him the legal rights of legitimate son ship. Christ’s descent is said as descent ‘according to the flesh’ = as far as his human nature is concerned.
  3. He is the designated Son of God in power. After the resurrection Jesus is Son of God in power. Resurrection is not the ground of his glorification. But from the time of the resurrection Jesus is invested with the power. The resurrection showed Jesus to be the Son of God. God and Christ have the same nature, which is the divine nature.

After defining the content of the Gospel in v.5 Paul speaks of the purpose for which he has been given the grace of apostleship. Grace (=unreserved favour of God) is linked with apostleship. He speaks of the grace of apostleship.

Grace as a gift is given not for the recipients’ personal and private enjoyment. It is given to further God’s plan. The purpose was to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among the nations, which is to bring about the Gentile world to an obedience which springs from faith. This is in contradistinction to an obedience based on the external observance of the law.

Gift is the reconciliation effected through the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, namely He redeemed us and this is the gospel and if I believe that my life will also be an other-centered one, rather than self-centered. Obedience is submission to this Gospel, in other words as defined above, to the personal of Christ. Faith is the response one must give to the proclamation.

Rom 16,19 “You obedience is known to all” is parallel to Rom 1,5

Rom 10,16 They have not all obeyed the Gospel

2Cor 9,13 “You will glorify God by obedience”

The way to obey is to believe

 v.6 In this mission of Paul “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name” the whole world is included, also the Romans.

v.7 This Gospel is addressed to all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints.

Grace = Charis (The Gentile way of greeting the people)the unreserved favour of God, namely the reconciliation of man with God and among themselves through Christ’s sacrificial death.

Peace= eirene (Hebrew Shalom, the Jewish way of greeting the people) which is the effect of the reconciliation.

Thus through the first seven verses, which are one complicated sentence in Greek, we have the following points:

  1. At the outset, as the first element of the formula Paul would address himself to the Romans in terms of their shared call in faith, under the same Lord.
  2. While introducing himself to the Christians in Rome, naturally Paul refers to his mission. The reference to the mission leads him to a highly significant definition of the Gospel, which is his mission to proclaim. The definition of the Gospel extends to the end of v.4, which is presupposed in vv. 9 (I serve God with my Spirit in the Gospel); (15 I am eager to preach the Gospel to you); and in v.16 (I am not ashamed of the Gospel).


1, 8-15 Thanksgiving Part

Paul expresses his eager desire to visit them, so that they may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. He intends to visit them that he may reap some harvest. We read in 1Cor 3,6f A preacher cannot produce but reap. It is god who produces.

In v.13 Paul claims that he under obligation. God has laid upon him a duty. The sense of duty Paul had, The Gospel of which he was proud of, made him the best missionary the world has ever seen. He wishes to preach the Gospel to the Romans in order to deepen their understanding and strengthen their faith. It is a revealing glimpse of his priorities to preach the Gospel. It is the one thing that matters, for he is separated to that.

1, 16-17 We come to the great thesis of Romans: Salvation (soteria) and justification (dikaiosune) by faith. The content of these two verses tell us much of what this Epistle is. Paul has already set forth quite systematically the Gospel he preached and intends to preach to the Romans.

In v.1 he said, it is God’s Gospel.

In vv.3&9 he said, it is the Gospel of His Son.

Now: Paul is not ashamed of this Gospel which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.

This Gospel had brought him neither ease nor comfort.

2Cor 11,16-29 speaks of the sufferings of the Apostle

Acts 16,19-24 he had been imprisoned in Philippi; chased out of Thessalonica (Acts 17,1-10). He preached in Corinth, there his message was foolishness to the Greek and stumbling block to the Jews (1Cor 1,23) and he had to leave Corinth after a stay of 18 months (Acts 18,11).

It is clear that Paul had his share of trouble as he proclaimed the Gospel. Remember, out of this background Paul declared that he was proud of the Gospel. The absorbing thing is that the Gospel had proved adequate for the salvation. Thus Paul was far from being ashamed of it. Gospel is the power of God for salvation. It is not advice to people. When it is preached effectively, the power of God is at work. It enters into one’s life, as if the very fire of God had come upon him (Heb 4,12; Ps 119,105). The power of God is not aimless, but directed to salvation. It issues in salvation.


What is Soteria (salvation)?

In General

            Soteria is the term of which justification, redemption and the like are particular aspects.

We know the term ‘soteriology’=doctrine of salvation’ or more concretely ‘the way of salvation. It is derived from the Greek soteria (salvation) which in turn is built on soter (saviour).

Very commonly, there is belief in a saviour God that means a God whose special concern is with the welfare of he human race. On the other side, the notion that the people need to be saved implies that a defective condition is prevalent.

The major religions have differing views as to the root of this defective condition. Thus the Indian systems ascribe our ultimate troubles to avidya = ignorance.

By contrast, the Christianity sees the reason for this defective condition in the Christian doctrine of the original sin, in which the human race is implicated through the primordial acts of Adam and Eve.


The Fundamental Notion:

The fundamental idea of salvation (swoteria) in Greek (profane or biblical) is that of any kind of deliverance from physical danger or death (1Sam 11,13).

In biblical Greek the word came to denote the ‘great deliverance’ of Israel by Yahweh: from Egyptian bondage (Ex 14,13; 15,12); the Babylonian Captivity and Exile (Is 45,17; 52,15).

Later the word came to be used to describe the final deliverance of Israel when the Saviour or the Deliverer comes (Ps 12,7). This deliverance came more and more to be interpreted in terms of an ultimate deliverance from the powers of Satan, sin and death. This is the connotation of the word in the NT”: it is God’s deliverance of a man from sin, death and judgement.


Phases of Salvation:

            In Paul salvation has many facets. There is a sense in which it has already been achieved or realized (Eph 2,5). Again Paul can use a past tense in connection with salvation. In Rom 8,24 we read “we were saved”, which, however, is qualified by ‘in hope’). Why the past tense is used? Since God’s decisive act by which the believers’ final salvation has been achieved or secured, has already been accomplished.

            There is a sense in which it is a present, on-going process (1Cor 1,18; 2Cor 2,15) to describe the believer’s present waiting and hoping and struggling which have salvation for their goal.

            But salvation is often seen as future, in the sense what begins with Christ’s coming in glory, His second coming (Rom 5,9; 11,13; 1Cor 3,115; 5,5; Phil 1,28; 2,12; 2Thes 2,13).

Salvation is present and future in the sense that Gospel is God’s effective power active in the world of men to bring about deliverance from His wrath in the final judgement and reinstatement in hat glory of God which has been lost through sin. That it speaks of a future salvation which reflects its splendour back into the present of those who are to share it. The future salvation is a present reality; salvation is already begun: 2Cor 6,2 Now is the day of salvation, now is the acceptable time.

St. John proclaims of Jesus as the light which appeared to redeem the mankind that was groping in the darkness. Paul presents Jesus who achieved the redemption of mankind through His expiatory death on the cross. For Paul the total redemption is a future reality. But it has already been inaugurated in the Christ event. A community that lives in and through the holy Spirit can anticipate the joy and fruit of redemption.


The Scope of Salvation is universal. It is open to everyone who believes. God puts in this matter no difference between one nation and another. Paul assigns a certain priority to the Jew, but immediately balances it with the reference to the Greek. Historically the gospel came to the Jews first. But Paul seems to mean more than this. The priority was in God’s plan. But there is not one Gospel for the Jews and another for the Gentiles. All who are saved are saved by the one Gospel and are one in Christ. Just as it is true that it is first for the Jew, then for the Gentile, so it is true that “there is neither Jew nor Greek … for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3,28).

So the word ‘salvation to everyone’ marks the universality. Immediately a restriction  is indicated by ‘one who has faith’. So the powerful salvation is not the possession of any unbeliever.

The response which the message calls for is faith – faith in the gospel, that is, faith in Christ who is its content and in God who has acted in Him and whose power the message is. For all who respond with faith the Gospel is effective to salvation.

Shall we say that here faith is like another kind of law? Faith is not a qualification which one already possesses in him before the Gospel meets him. Faith only comes into being as response to the Gospel – as though God and man are co-operating to bring about salvation. It is not our faith that gives the Gospel its power; quite the contrary, it is the power of the Gospel that makes it possible for one to believe, for the power of God ia at work in the Gospel.

The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to the Jew as well as to the Greek. This will become increasingly clear as we follow Paul step by step through the epistle.


Dikaiosune (Justification or Righteousness)

            Verse 17 is introduced in explanation and confirmation of v.16b. The Gospel is God’s saving power for everyone who believes, because in it God’s righteousness is being revealed.

So the Gospel is God’s saving power, for in it there is God’s dikaiosune. This is one of the key concepts in Pauline theology to express the reality of salvation.

The term dikaiosune thou Theou is crucial in Paul’s theology, central in Romans and the subject of intense discussion. This key verse is absolutely fundamental for the understanding of Romans. Unfortunately its interpretation is disputed. Traditionally the question of justification has been a divisive issue sine the time of the Protestant Reformation.



The term Dikaiosune in General :

            The restoration of the proper relationship between the creature and the creator is what Paul commonly refers to as “justification or righteousness”. Unfortunately neither of these terms renders satisfactorily what Paul means by dikaiosune, for it is not so much a juridical (legal) term, but is a salvific term. As we read in Rom 5,16: “And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification”.; Read 5,9 : “Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God”.

Such reconciliation – justification can only be the free gift of god. God is good and man not. How then can man stand before the high and holy God? This is the basic problem for all religion. What characterizes Christianity is that its answer centers on the Cross. Justification does not take place because people in some way work out a means of dealing with sin. People do not and cannot. But God can and does. Paul sees justification as brought about by Christ’s sacrificial death, for it is in this way that our sin is done away. We are thus made free, made righteous. It is not that sin is treated as though it did not matter. No one who takes the cross seriously can think that.

            When we speak of Justification by way of the Cross, we are saying that sin has been dealt with, and God never condones (overlooks) it. As Abraham asked in Genesis 18,25 “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” We see in the Cross God has done so. Thus dikaiosune in Paul is a dynamic concept denoting the salvific activity of God in Christ effecting man’s salvation in virtue of the promises He himself has made.


The Terminology:

            The term dikaiosune tou Theou is a chief theological term found 8 times in Romans 1,17; 3, and in 10,3 twice. The phrase occurs twice in the other Pauline letters: 2Cor 5,21; Phil 3,9. Only thrice it occurs in the rest of the NT: Mt 6,33; James 1,20; 2Peter 1,1.

The noun dikaiosune (righteousness) occurs 33 times in Romans. It is especially a characteristic of Romans. In general we can say dikaiosune is an ethical virtue. A righteous man is the one characterized by the accepted standards of morality, justice, uprightness.

The word dikaiosune comes from the Hebrew SDQ. Among the Hebrews righteousness was first and foremost a legal standing, which is essentially forensic (connected with the law). Here by righteousness is meant of behaviour which is in keeping with the two-way relationship between God and man, based on the covenant.

The righteousness of God appears in his God-like dealings with the people, that is in redemption and salvation (Is 45,21; 51,5f; 56,1; 62,1)

Israel’s enemies find God’s righteousness to be the root of their downfall (Is 41,10f; 54,17; Ps 129,4f).

Within the righteousness of Yahweh there is a place for punishment and for deliverance. Thus in the destruction of Jerusalem the city confesses, “The Lord is in the right (saddiq), I have rebelled against the Lord” (Lam 1,18). From God’s side it consists in His God-like dealings with His people. From man’s side is demanded of the observance of the Covenant law, in order to be faithful to the relationship. So among the Hebrews the righteous were those who are made free when tries at the bar of god’s justice.


Saving Justice of God:

Is God’s righteousness vindictive? (ie. disposed to seek vengeance) ie. Justice by which God punishes the sinners?

Or distributive Justice, a justice by which He both punishes the sinner and rewards the just?

Or does it mean a saving justice? In Hebrew the sedeqah (justice) is closely associated with hesed (mercy) and ‘emet (fidelity) and ‘isy (salvation). Thus in deutero-Isaiah justice and salvation appear quite frequently together. God is termed as a just and saving God (Is 45,21) and in Is 46,13 we read “I bring near my justice, It is not far off; and my salvation will not tarry” (cfr. Also Is 51,5; 56,1).

In the Psalms God’s justice is often paralleled with or associated with his salvation, truth or fidelity and His mercy (Ps 36, 5-6.10; Ps 40,10; 71,2; 103,17). In short in the OT the justice of God is neither vindictive nor distributive, but salvific and it is based upon God’s covenantal commitment to Israel. God is just in that he is abidingly faithful to His freely made promises of salvation and deliverance. Hence such terms as justice, salvation, fidelity and truth are easily interchanged in the OT (Ps 98,2-3; Deut 32,4).

Thus justice of God in OT primarily means God’s merciful fidelity to His promises of eschatological salvation.

Paul : Paul makes the frequent use of the whole word-group of dikaios. He took the term from the OT and establishes the closest connection with the OT, when he speaks of God’s righteousness and God’s justification of sinners. This righteousness is essentially His covenantal dealings with His people. In the NT the covenant people are the New Israel, comprising both Jews and Gentiles.

It is characteristic of the NT view that justification has been established by Christ’s saving work. We find the same in Paul, viz the manifestation of God’s saving justice. Sinners are exposed to the divine wrath. The divine righteousness, which constitutes Gospel, is revealed in Christ and nowhere else. Thus the righteousness of God is pre-eminently to be seen in the atoning work of Christ. To overlook this is to miss a central thrust of Roman letter.

Righteousness is both God’s act of salvation and God’s gift of salvation. It is in this sense that Paul says that Righteousness of God is revealed (Rom 1,17). This revelation of God’s righteousness took place finally and definitely in his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus, by His life, death and resurrection not only revealed God’s righteousness but has become our righteousness (1Cor 1,30). It is to make us righteous that Christ has become our righteousness.

How does God make us righteous? Paul takes all the pains to tell us that it is through our faith in Jesus Christ and not through our works that we are made righteous. This theme is introduced most vividly in Rom 1,16-17 and developed elaborately in Rom 1,18-4,25.

Subjective or Objective Genitive: The interpretation of the Genitive phrase dikaiosune tou Theou as either a subjective or objective genitive is hotly debated, viz. whether ‘of God’ is here a subjective Genitive or an objective genitive.

Subjective Genitive means the righteousness which belongs to God – righteousness as an attribute of God or a quality of God.

Objective Genitive (or genitive of origin) denotes the resulting condition of the object of the action , ie. A righteousness from God and bestowed by Him upon us.

It can be put differently, whether righteousness is a quality of God or a quality of man resulting from God’s action, ie. Righteousness not so much of God but as from God, ie a state or condition of righteousness bestowed by God upon man.

The implications of the dikaiosune tou Theou as either a subjective genitive or an objective genitive are enormous, since this expression is integrally related to salvation.

Interpreters who argue that the genitive phrase dikaiosune tou Theou is objective generally see salvation in relation to human possibility. In this frame of reference, righteousness is a gift from God that comes to the person of faith. Here faith becomes the condition for the reception by the individual of righteousness. On the other hand, those who take it as subjective genitive think of salvation in relation to God’s power. Thereby dikaiosune becomes a way of referring to God’s saving activity. This saving activity is the means by which God subordinates creation to the Lordship of God and by which humanity becomes responsible to God. Faith in this instance is created by the saving activity of God, ie. Faith is the product of  dikaiosune tou Theou. If we take it as subjective genitive, then justice is a quality of God, it is a gift given by God.

If we take in the sense of objective genitive, justice is a quality of man. Then ‘Righteousness of God’ means a righteousness of which God is the author and man is the recipient, righteousness not so much of God but as from God, a state or condition of righteousness bestowed by God upon man.

The important thing is the plain fact that Paul uses the expression in certain significant passages to bring about the truth that in the death of Christ God brings about righteousness for those who believe. In Phil 3,9-10 God’s justice is described by its five characteristics: 1. It is not the exclusive property of man; 2. It does not come from the law; 3. It is produced by the in Jesus Christ; 4. It originates from God; 5. It continues to depend on faith.

Taken from PRAT vol.II: In the eyes of official Protestantism justifying faith has no moral value. It is a sort of passive instrument, a purely receptive power of justification, which exercises no causality, and is only an essential condition. The justification of the ungodly man takes place wholly in God; it changes nothing and effects nothing within man; It is not a genuine judgement, by virtue of which the wicked man, who remains wicked, is declared just. God, seeing his faith, but not on account of his faith, imputes to him the justice of Christ, without, however, giving it to him. Thus the ungodly man, though justified, is always in himself ungodly, but before god who has decreed to him the attribute of justice, he is just. This statement is hard to understand. How can the false be true? Or how can God declare true what he knows to be false?


Rom 1,18 – 4,25 : We come to the First Sub-section in the Doctrinal Part.

            This is the elucidation of the statement in 1,17 “In the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith”. This subsection we again divided negatively (1,18-3,20),  positively (3,21-31) and with Biblical proof (4,1-25).


1,18-3,20 speaks of the revelation of God’s wrath, which is an opposite term for God’s justice or righteousness. Here Paul demonstrates that all-mankind is guilty under God’s judgement. Therefore, all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles – are in need of salvation in  Jesus Christ. Because of their sins both Jews and Gentiles are under God’s wrath. Hence Paul first stresses the universality of sin. So also the entry into righteousness both for Jews and Gentiles are on the same basis, namely by faith. This theme of equality for Jew and Gentile extends to God’s way of judgement, because He is an impartial judge (2,11; Gal 2,6; Eph 6,9; Deut 10,17).

Paul is not ashamed to preach this universal salvation, because it is universally needed. This long section 1,18-3,20 is an indictment (formal accusation) of the human race for its tragic failure and folly.

Can we attribute to God the irrational passion of anger> a personal reaction on God’s part as cause and effect?

It is, of course, true that God is love. But it is not true this rules out any realistic view of God’s wrath. We must bear in mind that the opposite of love is not wrath, but hate. Wrath is perhaps not an ideal term, for with us it so easily comes to denote an emotion characterized by loss of self-control and a violent concern for selfish interests. But these are not necessary constituents of wrath, and both are absent from the ‘righteous indignation’ (anger aroused by something wrong).

A man who knows about the far-reaching injustice and cruelty of rape, child labour, discrimination of women etc. and is not angry at such wickedness is not a good man. In any case wrath is the word the Bible uses. It is a term that expresses the settled and active opposition of God’s holy nature to everything that is evil.

It is part of the revelation in the Gospel that God’s attitude to sin is one of righteous indignation (wrath). Paul is saying that it is the cross that shows the measure of God’s wrath. Forgiveness is no cheap gesture. It is as costly as the cross. It is meaningless without the wrath. The full reality of the wrath of God is only truly known when it is seen in its revelation in Gethsemane and in Golgotha. By giving undue emphasis to this truth, that God is a forgiving and compassionate God, we will be overlooking a Gospel fact, where the cross is at its heart. In the cross we see God’s great saving act. Christ died for us, a death to put away the sin. If there is nothing from which sinners need to be saved and accordingly then there is ‘no good news’, ‘no gospel’. Paul will expound this Gospel. For Paul, all people are sinful and are in the greatest of danger, because they are subject to his wrath. Colossians speaks of the wrath of God that comes because of the present sins (Col 3,6). In Eph 5,6 all men are victims of God’s wrath, are by nature children of wrath (2,3). In 1Thess The judgement is so certain that it can be spoken of as being already present: “God’s wrath has come upon them at last’ (1Thess 2,16). By actual sins one is storing up wrath for oneself for the day when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed” (Rom 2,5). Before Paul comes to the remedy, he makes his diagnosis of the disease.


Rom 1, 18-32 The wrath of God against the Gentiles:

This passage is to be seen in view of the Gospel to be announced in the central section 3,21-31. The Gentiles are under the wrath of God (v.18). They had come to know God, but still refused to give him due honour and thanks (vv.19-21). This led to a hardening of their hearts which, in turn, guided them to idolatry (vv.22-23). God punished them for it by abandoning them to immoral activities (24-27) and antisocial vices (28-31). Not only that they do it for themselves, but also they encourage it in others (32).

Rom 1,18 The idea is condensed

vv. 19-32 The idea is developed in an inverse order

            vv. 19-20 Knowledge of God   – suppress the truth(starts with ‘for’).

            vv. 21-23 (starts with ‘for’) Conduct opposed to the knowledge : Asebeia  & Adikia (ungodliness and wickedness).

            vv. 24-32 The vengeance of an angered God :

                                                vv. 24-28 sensual – bodily vices

                                                vv. 29-31 antisocial vices

The wrath of God is revealed apokaluptetai – note the use of the present tense. It is revealed not in the private tribunal of the conscience, not in the threatening warnings of the holy Scripture, but in the world.

The object of God’s wrath is directed to ungodliness and wickedness. The consequences of their asebeia and adikia are idolatry and shameful conduct.

We read in Wisdom 14,12 ‘Idolatry leads to moral depravity’.

Unfortunately the Gentiles did not receive the full revelation in the Law of the OT. But they had enough illumination to know what was right. But they followed the wrong. They had the natural revelation. The invisible God has become visible by His works themselves. Natural revelation for Paul is not the knowledge of God by the use of rational faculties, but a God-given revelation to the mind of man. Since the creation of the world, the universe reflected its creator. Their very ignorance is culpable. Objects against which the wrath is directed is asebeia and adikia. If these two nouns are used strictly, they combine the thoughts of sin against God and sin against man.

Asebeia = is strictly ‘lack of reverence for God’

Adikia = lawlessness or wickedness

So it can be said of asebeia as to the violation of the first three commandments, adikia of the last 7 commandments.

Such a person suppresses the truth – a most penetrating and illuminating characterization of the essential nature of sin. Sin is always an assault upon the truth, which is the fundamental truth of God as creator, Redeemer and judge. His whole creation declares Him. This manifestation in His creation is a deliberate self- disclosure on God’s part. Man’s attempt to suppress, is always bound to prove unsuccessful. Men failed to be led by them to recognition of Him.

The summit of their folly was realized in their acceptance of idolatry (v.23). To make a God of one’s own is to exchange something of real worth (the glory of God) to something of no value (image) (cfr. Ps 106,20). Paul’s thought is influenced here by Wisdom 14,12.

Idolatry and immoral life are the results of irrational and deficient knowledge of God.

 When they rejected God, it affected their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. The summit of their folly was realized in their acceptance of idolatry. They made a god of their own to exchange the glory of God. They turned from the creator to the creature. Man controls his destiny in independence of God.

Idolatry, showing itself in ever uglier and uglier forms, is the most striking characteristic of the life of all the developed nations of the modern world. People prefer to have a religion of their own making than the divine revelation. There we see the triumph of gods over God. The consequence is the gradual clouding of the mind and then the perversion of the heart and the obliteration of the moral sense.

Thus Paul pities them without despising them, and accuses them without condemning them beyond the hope of pardon. So they are without excuse (1,20). Not content with vice in themselves, they actively encourage it in others (1,32).

Summing up 1,18-32 we can say that the wrath of God is revealed against the Gentiles because they refused to recognize effectively in their lives the invisible God through the visible. Instead they went after idols. As punishment God gave them up to unnatural conduct anti-social vices. So before Christ, the Gentiles are abandoned in sin without Christ.


Rom 2,1 – 3,20 The Jews Under God’s Wrath: So far Paul spoke against the Gentiles. Now he directs his denunciation against the Jews. In appearance it is an easy task, but in reality a very delicate one.

Easy: it is enough to appeal to facts and to the testimony of the Scripture.

Delicate: For he had to safeguard the privileges, which raised the monotheistic Jews above the idolatrous Greeks.

Paul now shows that these prerogatives either do not belong to them exclusively, or, in the sense in which they are really theirs, aggravate their guilt, instead of lessening it.

Paul speaks of the 4 privileges, which the Jews had.

2,1-11 They are the elected one. The election will not save them from God’s wrath.

2,12-24 They had the law. The possession of Law does not save them from God’s wrath.

2,25-29 External mark of circumcision – the sign of Jewishness.

3, 1-8 They had the promise of salvation

3, 9-20 A summary of what he has been saying from 2,1 to 3,8

3, 21-31 Positive explanation of the thesis stated in 1,17 : God’s saving justice is revealed independently of the Law and by means of faith. Exposition of Justification by faith.


2,1-11 First Privilege: Jews are the elected or chosen ones.

In 1,20 Paul said that the Gentiles are without excuse. Now in 2,1 Paul says concerning the Jews, “You also have no excuse”. When you judge the heathen as godless and wicked, you who judge them are also doing the same things. By passing judgement on another person you are condemning yourself.

See the pastoral skill of Paul. He does not accuse them directly. But in a way he compels them or skilfully induces them to pronounce their own condemnation.

Passing a judgement on another person and doing the same things = condemning oneself. Hence, the Jews like the Pagans are sinners. So they too are the object of God’s wrath, which will be manifested on the day of the final judgement.. In God’s judgement what counts is not regard for persons (2,11) but the deeds of each one (2,6-8).

Judgement is God’s, where what matters is deeds.

Judgement is on the basis of works, though salvation is all of grace. Jew must look to the day when his works will be subjected to divine scrutiny.

‘The day of wrath’ (2,5) is an unusual expression. It is found only here in the NT. It refers to the day of judgement – a day on which God’s settled opposition to evil will reach its consummation – a day on which God makes His righteous judgement.

With a quotation from Ps 62,12 “For thou doest repay a man according to his work”, Paul sums up in v.6 what judgement means.

God will render to every man according to his deeds. Recompense is an individual matter. This fact is affirmed again and again in the NT no less strongly than in the OT (Job 34,11; Prov 24,12; Jer 17,10; in the NT Mt 7,21; 16,27; 25,31-46; Jn 5,28-29; 2Cor 5,10; 11,15: Gal 6,7-9; 2Tim 4,14; 1Peter 1,17).

Works are the outward expression of what the person is deep down. It is the invariable teaching of the Bible that the judgement will be on the basis of works, though salvation is all of grace.

The Jew held the view that the salvation was bound up with the Law. But it really means that a person’s works are of the greatest significance; for God will render to each according to those works. The Jew cannot rest in any fancied security of privilege but must look to the day when his works will be subjected to the divine scrutiny. Paul invites the Jews to consider how their works will stand up on the day of judgement.

Now comes a question: Is Paul inconsistent? Elsewhere he maintains that God will justify ‘on the ground of faith or through faith’ (Rom 3,30) and no one will be justified on the ground of his works (3,20.28).

We should remember that in Rom 2,1-11 Paul is expressing the thought that the final judgement will be according to men’s works. The good work is not regarded as constituting a claim upon God, but is meant their conduct as the expression of their faith. The merit will be eternal life (2,7). God’s judgement is impartial (v.11) and there is the universality of the punishment.

Jewish expectation was that it was the Gentiles who would be judged by God, while they themselves would escape. Paul sees here the Jew as the first recipient of judgement and then the Gentiles. These accords with the teaching of the OT (cfr. Jer 25,29; Amos 3,2).





ROM 2,12-24 Second Privilege – Law

            The knowledge and possession of the law does not in itself constitute any defense against the judgement of God. Doing what the law commands is the decisive thing. Paul is not saying that people are saved by law-keeping; but they are saved by keeping the law.

Principle: All who have sinned will be judged through the law.

The Jew cannot claim that he will automatically be saved, because God has given him the law. He simply possesses it but does not observe.

Nor can the Gentile automatically be saved because he never had the law and so did not break it. He sinned against the light he had, namely the natural law. What the law requires is written in their hearts. Roman 2,14-15 makes it clear. Thus the gentiles are not without guidance:

  1. His upright actions show that deep down in his heart there is that which points to the right (v.14).
  2. His conscience bears witness to him of his past acts (v.15a)
  3. And there are his conflicting thoughts (v.15b). Often they accuse him, sometimes they excuse him, but all the time they form a witness to right or wrong.

This three-fold witness shows quite clearly that the Gentile has all he needs to guide him along the right way and to leave him without excuse when he does the wrong.

            So both Jew and Gentile are caught up in final condemnation and will be judged according to the light they have. Paul is not saying that the law itself judges. The law is the means God uses; it is his instrument to direct those to whom he has given it. It is not a charm guaranteeing salvation. On the contrary, it means condemnation for those who have it and do not obey it.

It was the pride of the Jew that in the law, he had the very embodiment of fundamental knowledge and truth.

In 2, 21-24 in a series of biting questions the apostle makes it plain that at point after point the Jew has failed to live up to the teaching of the law. You are a Jew. You rely upon the law. You boast of your relation to God. Since you are instructed in the law, you also know the will of God. All these you have. As a result they are supposed to be a guide to the blind; a guide to those who are in darkness; a corrector of the foolish; a teacher of children.

You who teach others, will you not teach yourself?

While you preach against stealing, do you steal?

You say, one must not commit adultery and do you commit adultery?

You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?

Jew did not realize that in his conduct he was denying the teaching of the law on which he prided himself. As a result what happened is that he caused the great name of God he worshipped to be blasphemed by the heathen. Paul proves his accusation with a quotation from Is 52,5 quoted in 2,24. Actually Israel should have been the source of blessing to the Gentiles, bring them to praise God. Instead Israel caused them to have a wrong attitude to God.

Rom 2, 25-29 The Third Privilege: Circumcision: It is a unique privilege of the Jew and his alone. It is a mark of his Jewishness and a sign of God’s covenant (Gen 17,9-14). The circumcision would be of value to the, if they did what the law required of them. Then the circumcision would be an asset at the judgement. A Jew, who has undergone circumcision, but does not obey the stipulation of the covenant, him Paul will not consider differently from a gentile. For Paul circumcision is not merely a symbol of Jewish identity, but includes another dimension known and observed by the gentiles.

In the light of the cross, circumcision and uncircumcision do not count for anything (Gal 5,6; 3,28; 1Cor 12,13; Col 3,11). In the line of the prophets who spoke of the circumcision of the heart (Jer 31,31-33; Ez 36,26), Paul stresses in Romans 2,25 that it is of value only if one obeys the law.

Therefore Paul defines the non-literal aspect of circumcision in very clear terms. This taken up in vv. 28-29 in the course of formulating a definition of the Jew. This is first stated negatively in v.28, and then positively in v.29.

v.28 Negatively, one is not a Jew if one externalizes one’s religion in terms of national descent. Similarly, circumcision is not the external or physical mark of flesh.

v.29 Positively, the true Jew is defined in a three-fold manner.

  1. He is one who does not esteem himself by visible means.
  2. True circumcision is a circumcision of the heart, and thereupon a spiritual one, humble response to God’s gracious love and election.
  3. He is one who does not seek approval of men but of God.


Rom 3,1-8 Fourth Privilege: The Promise of salvation given to the Jews

Naturally a Jew who reads the letter may think, If all people are sinful, what advantage is there in being a Jew? Or in circumcision?

Much in every way. Paul speaks of the very real advantages God has given to his ancient people: namely, it was to them that God first gave His word of promise, ie. Jews are being entrusted with God’s revelation to mankind. But Israelites became unfaithful. However, God as the covenant partner is still faithful. Can the faithlessness of some nullify the faithfulness of God? God in His faithfulness can use Israel’s unbelief to promote His purposes (cfr. 11,11-15).

In 3,5-8 Paul envisages an objector, who reasons: My wickedness serves to show the justice of God. Where would God’s righteousness be without the sin? My sin only magnifies his glory.

Then Paul considers another possible objector whose line is that people should sin more so that good (ie. Forgiveness to men and glory to God) may result.

The Apostle rejects both and says, condemnation of the unjust man is just from God’s part, for he is an impartial God (2,11).

Rom 3,9-20 Paul rounds off this important opening section of the letter with a series of quotations from OT, especially Psalm, to support his point that all are sinners.

Unless there is something to be saved from there is no point in preaching salvation. Paul’s argument has been that all people, Jew and Gentile alike, are sinners. His arguments about the universal sinfulness is no private opinion, but one well-grounded in the Holy-Writ.

vv.19-20 The whole world is accountable before God. The consequence is that no one will be accepted before God on account of his observance of the law. No Law gives automatic acceptance by God. What law does is to bring recognition of sin (3,20; Gal 3,19). Paul forcefully says that no one will be justified in God’s sight by works of the law.

A consideration of what the law requires and of what the student of the law performs leads us to see sin for what it is, and ourselves for what we are, sinners (cfr. 5,20; 7,7-11; Gal 2,16; 3,21). It is the straight-edge of the law that shows us how crooked we are.

Therefore, the Jews are not at an advantage in comparison with others. The Jew, without Christ, is in no way better off than the others. Neither the possession of the law, nor the marks of circumcision provide him any superiority before God. Both Jews and Gentiles are under the power of sin (Rom 3,9). All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (3,23).


Rom 3,21-31: Justification by Faith

Rom 3,21‑31

Positive explanations of the thesis stated in 1,17: God’s saving justice is revealed independently of the law and by means by faith.

Having demonstrated the universal sinfulness, Paul comes back to the content of the Gospel. 3, 21 ‑ 26 is the centre and heart of the whole of Romans: the locus classicus for Paul’s great thesis: justification by faith. Paul returns more than once to the same theme: 5, Iff, 8, Iff; 10, 1 ff,.\\,_____,~

In w. 21‑26 Paul brings out the grandeur (magnificence, splendour) of Christ’s saving work. The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus for all who believe.

1) He speaks of he righteousness of God (w. 21‑22

2) He speaks the sins of man (v.23)

3) He speaks of the salvation effected through Christ (25‑26)

In order to speak of this effected salvation Paul makes use of 3 imageries from three different contexts.

Salvation as justification (imagery from the law court)

Salvation as redemption (imagery from the slave market)

Salvation as expiation (imagery from Old Testament remission of sins)


Both law and the prophets proclaim that the righteousness is God’s gift. The law was the heart of the Jewish religious system and the prophets were its outstanding religious teachers. The great truth that righteousness is God’s gift and comes from God is blazoned forth (proclaimed to make widely known) in both law and prophets. This righteousness one makes one’s own trough faith in Christ to all who repentwith faith. None has any claim to this gift on the ground of merit: for all have sinned. Because of the universal sinfulness there is no possibilities of achieving salvation by our own efforts. This is the point of departure for the whole redemptive work of Lord in Christ. All are justified freely and by his grace. Justification is by the unreserved lov~ of God. This justification is effected through the redemption in Jesus Christ (v. 24) Paul is stating in straightforward fashion what God has accomplished for mankind in the death of Christ. Paul reveals here God’s way of making humans righteous: the emphasis is on gift, rather than on its reception.


3,24  The redemption through Christ

              It is a very important term used throughout the New Testament to speak of our salvation.

I Cor. 1, 3 0 … whom God made our Wisdom, our righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.

I Tim 2,6 … who gave himself as a ransom( lutron) for all.

Since apolutrosis is a vital term we must be clear as to its meaning in the Old and New Testaments. Literally means deliverance by the payn‑rent of a ransom (lutron ‑price) A thing or person is redeemed by the payment of a stipulated price. The idea of redeeming or buying back by paying a ransom was familiar in the Old and New Testament world.


In Old Testament

The firstborn in every family belonged to God and had to be bought back by the parents (Num 18, 15‑16). If a Jew fell into slavery because of debt or povefty, he could be redeemed by his nearest kinsman on the payment of a ransom price (Lev. 25, 47‑53). Similarly, among the Greeks and Romans there was an arrangement for the redeeming of slaves on payment of a ransom‑price. It is against this background that Paul’s reference in I Cor 6,20 to Christians, as having been ‘bought with a price’ must be understood. Reference Mark. 10, 45: …to give his life as a ransom for many. In I Cor 7, 23 Paul applies the metaphor further to make another point. In first century society, once a slave was ransomed, he was considered as belonging to the person who had paid his ransom ‑ price. Therefore, Paul says, the Christian must not become anyone else’s slave ‑ he belongs to‑God, because he has been bought with a price. The same thought is present in Rom 6, 15‑23. Christians were once slaves to sin, but they have been redeemed by God, and are now his slaves. The exact priedi which was paid for redeeming us, is “Christ’s blood”. Here is the very heart of the doctrine of our salvation; thereby Paul puts it in ternis of the Old Testament sacrificial language.

Ex. 12: Sacrifice of the paschal lamb by shedding blood. Sprinkling it on the 2 doorposts M; to show that they are set apart or consecrated to God.

Ex. 24: Blood of the covenant sacrifice ‑ unifying effect. Lev. 16: Sacrifice of expiation ‑ to sanctify.

In blood is life. Gen. 9,4‑5 Lev. 17,11; Deut 12, 23.

All these Old Testament sacrifices point to Christ and have their meanings id Christ. So he redeemed us (raktham chinthathe papapariharam illa Heb. 9, 22; Lev. 17,11). Christ reconciled us with God. He redeemed the mankind from their sins by shedding his blood. Thus Paul uses the metaphor of Ransom + redemption to illustrate two main points.

1. The great power of sin and evil.

2. and the fact that a price had to be paid to effect man’s redemption.

In Gal 3, 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law having became a curse for us; for as it is written ‘cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree’ (Deut 21, 23). The death Jesus died was the death the law pronounced as a curse on all who break it. He died on behalf of us; or as in Rom 3, 25 Christ was put forth as an expiation by His blood.

Sinner ‑ Justify

1) what did he do? Redeemed by paying the ransom.

2), How: through the sacrificial death (whom God put forward as an expiation by His blood).

Hilasterion: Two mainways of taking kings James Version: Propitiate: Sacrifices are offered to propitiate or appease God. R.S.V. translates it as Expiation. Both senses tend to express the sacrificial nature of Christ’s death. The catholic tradition accepts expiation. There are grave difficulties in accepting the translation propitiation. We cannot think of the idea of God being placated.

            Secondly, Paul does not explicitly connect the cross with the turning away of God’s wrath.

Thirdly, it is widely held that in the Jewish tradition as against the pagan one, the emphasis was on dealing with sins (expiation) rather than on changing the altitude of God (propitiate) both in the sacrificial system and in the use of hilasterion in particular.

Finally, it is curious to speak of God as having to satisfy his own justice, as if it were not within his sovereignty. It is more likely therefore, that by hilasterion Paul means ‘expiation’. It fits Jewish usage better.

For Paul, Christ’s death is a means of dealing with sin, in the sense of Rom, 6,6 where these who die with him die to sin and are no longer uRder its power. Cross is then God’s means of dealing with sin in enabling believers to die to it.

Greek term is Hilasterion :  In the ritual language of the Old Testament the term hilasterion indicates the central point of the temple, the lid (cover) of the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat, which is upon the Ark, which had a crucial role on the Day of Atonement.

Kapporeth designates the golden cover, mercy seat (Lev, 16,2). On the day of the annual feast of expiation, the Yom &ppurim (Lev 16, 12‑16; Ex 25, 17‑22) the high priest sprinkles the blood of the victim both on the kapporeth (mercy seat of God) and on the people effecting the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus Himself, at the last supper, had before the event assumed and lived out his death, transforming it from within into an event of gift and of love. On this basis Paul could describe Christ as hilasterion.

The sacrifices of the animals and of inanimate things are always only partial attempts to substitute for the human being, who must give himself ‑ not in the cruel form of human sacrifice, but in the totality of his being. It is precisely this that man could not and cannot do.

Thus for Paul the voluntary self‑giving of Jesus is the final realization of the intentions of the Feast of atonement. So we are justified by his grace as a gift. God takes the necessary initiative and justifies; that is, accepts and restores to right relationship, those who are sinners. He does this unconditionally, by means of Jesus sacrificial death.

v. 26. this initiative proves that God is faithful or righteous and he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.

27‑31 since the initiative comes from God and justification is accomplished by Christ, man has nothing to boast.

v. 28. man is justified by faith apart form works of law. ‑ God is God of both Jews and Gentiles.

v. 30 since God is one, he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.

v. 31 while insisting on faith, do we overthrow the law by this faith? On the contrary, we uphold the law.


4,1‑25 ‑ Scriptural Proof’ for the doctrine of Justification by Faith

In Chapter 3 towards the end in v. 28 Paul asserted that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. So in v. 31 Paul asks do we then overthrow the law by this faith. No, rather we uphold the law for Jesus is the fulfilment of the law. Salvation history begins with the call of Abraham. Towards him God acted in grace, and Abraham, the father of the faithful had been justified by faith. The Jews held the view that Abraham was the supreme example of justification by works.

Quoting Gen 26, 4‑5 (“1 will multiply your descendants … because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws”) Jews believed that the blessings on Abraham and his seed was a reward for Abraham’s keeping his laws: ie., his law righteousness.

To counter this Paul quotes Gen 15, 6ff. Abraham believed the Lord and he reckoned it to him as righteousness. So Abraham’s faith, not his works, constituted the grounds for his justification. Quoting Ps. 32, 1‑2 in 4,7‑8, he further reinforces this argument. In this salvific economy law was given to make man know who he is. Law has never made one just and it in itself is incapable of it. Thus when the Judean Christians were trying to impose the law as the essential element in the Christian justification Paul could not bear it.

Hence, the justification of Abraham is anterior to the law of Moses, and even to the circumcision Consequently it is independent of them.

Another aspect is:

The faith of Abraham was 4 times put to the proof

1. When he left his native country (Gen 12, 1‑4)

2. When he believed, against all hope, in the birth of Isaac, (15, 1‑6).

3. When he restored to Isaac the right of primogeniture (Gen 21, 9‑14; Ismael from Hagar)

4. When he set about his morality and his son Gen 22.

It was after the second trial, it is said of Abraham “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned him to justification. Rabbies reckoned on an interval of 24 years between Gen 15,6 and 17, 11 24, Abraham’s circumcision. So Abraham was justified first and then circumcised.

Abraham believed in God, who is capable to give birth to a child through his body which is physically incapable. This faith of Abraham was a type of Christian faith, a hopeful faith in the God who raised up Christ from the dead. Abraham is the father of all the faithful. Not only of the Jews but also of the Gentiles, for everything happened before his circumcision.

If Abraham had been accepted on the grounds of his works, Paul’s point that God had always acted in race would not stand. Abraham is critically important. The salvation history begins with the call of Abraham. In Gen 15, 6 we read the promise of God to Abraham Gen 15,6. you shall be the father of a multitude. Abraham believed the Lord and the reckoned it to him as righteousness.


Rom 5,1 – 8,39 Explanation of Rom 1,16: Gospel is the power of salvation to everyone who believes.

5,1-11 starts with “therefore” and it serve as the introduction to this sub-section. Her Paul speaks of the justification effected through the sacrificial death of Christ.

  1. v.1We are reconciled with God and at peace with Him.
  2. v.2 We have not only a sense of  His present favour, but assurance of future glory. The one who justified us will also save us.
  3. vv. 3-5 The promised Holy Spirit bears witness to the fact that we are the objects of the love of God.

Formerly afflictions were considered as the expression of God’s displeasure. Since our relation to God is changed, and because of the hope of salvation laid up for us in heaven, man sees a positive value in our sufferings, in other words as a manifestation of God’s love. So Paul says, suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope.

  1. vv. 6-11 There is the certainty of the final salvation of all believers. This is argued from the freeness and greatness of the divine love.

God will not leave His work unfinished, whom He justifies, them also he glorifies. The one who reconciled us with God, will also save us, the hope. Therefore, salvation in a general sense, includes justification; but when distinguished from it, it means the consummation of that work of which justification is the commencement.

In v.11 Paul points out, salvation is not merely of future, but is begun on earth, because through Christ we have now received our reconciliation.

Rom 5, 12-21: In our pilgrimage as a justified man towards the final salvation there are three enemies that stand in our way:

First enemy is Thanatos = Spiritual death: Christ liberated us from this first enemy. This Paul works out through his Adam-Christ typology. Paul speaks of the entry of sin into the world through one man. Paul presents Christ here as the second Adam; while in 1Cor 15,35-49 as the ‘Last Adam’.

Paul presents Adam undoubtedly as an historical individual, but it also makes clear that Adam (homo) is also the head and inclusive representative of the human race. In the corporate personality, the whole group, including the past, present, future members might function as single individual through any one of those members conceived as representative of it.

By one man sin entered into the world. It implies that sin existed before Adam. Sin is the personified evil power hostile to God has entered into mankind. The consequence of Adam’s one act was that spiritual death came to all men. The result spread to all his posterity.

Adam is the type – the first man and thus the head of the race. In v14 Christ is called the one to come – the one initiated the new race – the redeemed race. We read in 1Cor 15,45: The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit. We find a solidarity of the entire human race in Adam; super solidarity of all humanity in Christ. There is only one similarity between the role of Adam and of Christ – in the fact that there is a transmission of the effects in both cases. Adam inaugurated solidarity in sin and death. Christ became the inaugurator of a more powerful solidarity in justice and life.

Here ends the similarity. The rest are dissimilarities. v.20 Law came in to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. v.21 Sin reigned in death; Grace, which is the free gift of God that effected our justification reigns to eternal life.


6,1-23: Christ liberated us from the second enemy, namely hamartia (sin):

The conclusion in 5,20 is: where sin increased, grace increased all the more. So one may argue, shall we continue to sin so that grace must increase. The sinners might reason, let us sin lustily and thus give grace its maximum opportunity. Paul’s response in v.2 is: “By no means! The believers are baptized into Christ’s death and thereby identified with Christ.

This is the locus classicus for Paul’s doctrine of Baptism. Baptism incorporates the baptized into Christ. They are baptized into one body (1Cor 12,13), viz. the body of Christ. There comes the idea of the corporate personality – the new redeemed, risen and glorified humanity, of which Christ is head and inclusive representative.

Believers are baptized into His death, a death which said ‘no’ to sin. Therefore every believer renounces sin, in accepting Christ. Since believers are in Christ, sin shall not have dominion over them, because they are not under the law, but under grace (v.14). Believers are identified with Christ. How can they live as though Christ never died, as though sin and law are still the dominating factors for present life?

For the loyal Jew God gave the Law. Observance of it was how the covenant people live by grace. For the loyal believer, grace is through our identification with the person of Christ. Therefore in v.14 Paul says: Sin shall have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. And in verse 22 we read “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God. So you have sanctification and eternal life”.

Freedom from the law does not mean freedom from God, but freedom for God. So no one can say, “sin does not matter”.


7,1-25 The third enemy is vonmos (Law) : In 6,14 Paul said: Christians are no more under the Law, but under grace. So in chapter t, “Therefore they should not become the slaves of the law, but the slaves of God.” Paul illustrates and confirms this by showing the consequences of this change in our relation to God.

Authority of the law is not perpetual. A married woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if he dies, she is free from that law. Through the death of Christ He has freed us from the law that bound us so far. Paul does not say that the law is dead, but we are freed from it by the death of Christ.

Believers are no longer under the old written code and covenant which said, “do this and live”, but are introduced into a new and gracious state, in which they are accepted, not for what we do, for what has been done for us.

7,1-6 While under the law, we brought forth fruit unto sin (v.5). we were easily succumbed to the passions of the flesh. Now we are not under the old written code but in the newness of the Spirit.

7,7-12 Paul explains more fully the use and the effect of the law. Law produces conviction of sin. This agrees to his declaration in 3,20: through the law comes the knowledge of the sin.

v.7 Law in itself is not evil, yet it is the source and the only source of the knowledge of sin. If there is no knowledge of the law, there can be no consciousness of sin. We read in 7b :”I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “you shall not covet”. Here Paul is not saying that he did not know the meaning of the tenth commandment: Do not covet what belongs to some one else. He knows. What Paul says is that behind the desire for specific objects there is a desire that is blameworthy in itself. It is this desire which is blameworthy, independently of its object. Desire means precisely the exaltation of the ego, which is to be the essence of the sin. It means putting the sinner in the supreme place. Thus the point of the Apostle’s argument is, that his knowledge of sin is due to the law, because without the law he would not have known that mere desire is evil. These evil desires revealed the hidden source of sin in his nature. Sin was there, but dormant. When the law came home to him, he could not but see himself as a sinner, sinner before God. The result was death. So we read in v.10 “The law was actually designed and adapted to secure life, but became in fact the cause of death. Sin did the harm, but did it through the law. Sin made use of what is good to bring about something evil. The law is good. It awakens in me the knowledge of my own state and character. It was the corruption of my nature, that was revealed to the Apostle by the operation of the law.

Paul uses sin and the law on the same plain to such an extent that the power of sin has abused the law, which is good in itself, and cast humankind thereby into slavery (7,7-12). Believers are to be slaves no longer to sin, but to God (Rom 6,16.22; 7,6).

7,12 Law is holy, just and good.

7,14 Law is spiritual, but I am carnal.

7,19 I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.

Why Paul insists on the deliverance from the law? Is it because the law is evil? Though the law is holy, just and good, it could not produce holiness. It can produce only the knowledge and the sense of sin.

The law presents duty clearly; the heart and the conscience of the believer assent to its excellence; but what can the law do in destroying the power of our inward corruption? The authoritative declaration that a thing must not be done does not destroy the inclination to do it. Hence when we do good, evil is present with us (v.21). We delight in the law after the inward man, but this does not destroy the power of sin in our members (vv.22-23). The inward conflict the law can never end. It only makes us sensible of our corrupt nature (v.24).

How we get a victory over this? Through Jesus Christ our Lord (v.25), viz. following His way, which says always a ‘no’ to us and put the others always in the first place. Thus we read in Gal 5,13ff. “You were called to freedom; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love is servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in the word “you shall love your neighbour as yourself”.

Romans 8,1‑39: Explanation of Salvation : In Christ Jesus we are no more under the oldness of the letter but in the newness of the Spirit. Christian Life is a life in the Spirit

The best gift offered by Jesus to humanity is the Holy Spirit. The new covenant community was established by the sprinkling of the blood on the cross and it was ratified on the day of Pentecost, when the disappointed disciples were filled with the holy Spirit, where the Spirit gave them utterance, and said of them: they began to speak in other tongues (Acts 2, 1‑4). Old covenant was written on stone tablets (Ex 20). In the new Covenant, I will put my Law within them and I will write it upon their hearts, and I will be their god and they shall be my people (Jer 31,31‑33).

In Ezekiel 36,26 we read : “A new heart I will give you, and a new Spirit I will put within you, and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh, and I will put my Spirit within you (v.27).

We the new Israelites are the members of the new Covenant (2Cor 3,6), one not written with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. John 3,34; 4, 10 Holy Spirit is the gift of God the Father and the risen Jesus John 14,24 the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

We can divide 8, 1‑39 into three parts:

8, 1 ‑11 Christian life is empowered by the Spirit

8, 12‑3Q,Since it is the Spirit of Christ working in the Christians, we also can call God “ABBA,


8, 31‑30 A hymn to the love of God made manifest in Christ.

8, 1 ‑11 Starts with “therefore” that is the following part stands for the legitimate conclusion of all that Pau ‘ I had previously established.


The proposition: There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. They live in the newness of the Spirit. If anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature (2 Cor 15,17; Jn 15,14; Phil 3,20; Col 2,6; 1 Jn 2,5; 3,6). Nothing can separate him from the love of God. They are not exposed to condemnation. They walk not after, the flesh, but after the Spirit. They are not sarkikoi(governed by theflesh) but pneumtikoi (governed by the Spirit).


In the following verses Paul gives the reason for his proposition:

The immediate reason is that the Law of the Spirit of life has freed us from the written Law.

The second reason: For God has done what the Law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. The Law being in itself good was made weak by our flesh. Thus the law failed to make us just. In view of the insufficiency of the law to make man just, God sent forth His son as a sacrifice, for sin (v.3) and thus secured the justification of all believers (v.4). God through Jesus fulfilled the Law.

Third: Being thus delivered from the Law, the believers walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; and this possession of the Spirit is incipient salvation. The life‑giving power of the Holy Spirit begins its ruling as a law within the heart. The presence of the Spirit is the distinguishing mark of the Christian, That is why Paul calls them Pneumatikoi = governed by the Spirit.

Christ came as a sin‑offering, as expiation. He took upon Himself our nature, in order to expiate the guilt of that nature. The expiation must be made in the nature that had sinned. He did expiation for our sins by His blood and not the destruction of its powers in us. The presence of the spirit enables the believers to live a life they could never attain left to themselves. The work of salvation is already begun in those who possess the Spirit. To such persons there is no condemnation. Hence in v. I Paul’s argument is that the same Spirit which was in Christ, and raised Him from the dead dwells in us, even in (I Cor 6,9) and will assuredly raise us up.

In Gal 5, 16 ‑ Paul beautifully and elaborately explains the fruits of the Spirit and that of the flesh. The believers are freed from the written law. In its place the life‑giving power of the Holy‑Spirit begins its ruling as a law within the heart. The reason for the law’s failure is that it is weak through the flesh. Jesus appeared in the likeness of the sinful flesh, but not itself sinful. Christ as the substitute of sinners, took upon himself the curse for them, but did the expiation in the nature that had sinned.

Why God planned to send His son and to condemn sin in the flesh? God wanted to satisfy the demands of the law and did the expiation once for all. This enables the believer to walk after the Spirit. Those who walk by the Spirit ‑ that is lead a sacrificial life for the other ‑ doing good for others are not condemned. For such persons the work of salvation is already begun in them. Hence in 8, 11 Paul argues, the same Spirit that was in Christ, and raised Him from the dead dwells in us and will assuredly raise us up.

8, 12‑20 Paul brings out the implications of our life in Christ

1.           Those who are in Christ have the obligation to live according to the Spirit and to mortify the deeds of the body, that is we should not live according to the flesh.

2.           The presence of the Spirit raises us into the state of Sons of God. Since we have received not the Spirit of slavery, but the Spirit of Son ship, we are called to the liberty of the children of God and therefore should not remain anymore in the bondage of the flesh to decay.

3.           This enables us to call God “Abba, Father” (v.15) and to look forward in hope to the full realization of what Christ has achieved.

4.           Eventually we become partakers of the sufferings of Christ, to prepare ourselves to participate in His glory.

5.           If we are imbibed by the Spirit, we will have a new attitude toward suffering, for “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him who are called according to His purpose. Though we do not know how to pray, the Spirit intercedes for us before God (v.26).


8, 31‑39 A Hymn of Praise

Nothing can separate us from the love in Christ Jesus. God who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, He will certainly save us. Paul’s eye‑opening questions in vv. 3234 explain this fact clearly: Who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who dies? Yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercede for us and will let us to participate in His glory. Who will bring ant charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with Him,


Romans Chaps. 9‑11 The Place of Israel in God’s Plan

Since Ch. 8 brings to a close the discussion of the plan of salvation and of its immediate consequences, what is the relevance of chapters 9 to 11?

A closer and more attentive study reveals the fact that they are an integral part of the working out of the theme stated in 1, 16‑17, where he said: The Gospel is the power of God or salvation to everyone, first for the Jews and then for the Gentiles. He has not yet explained what the last part of this statement means.      Secondly, for his doctrine of justification and salvation Paul has consistently appealed to the OT as sacred Scripture and for proof. In the Scripture the Jews appear as God’s chosen people. How can Paul establish a system ‑ of salvation for the Gentiles on the basis of the Scripture that gives a special place to the Jews? Paul’s whole argument demands an examination of the Jewish question. Ch. 8,,ends with an assurance: Christ Jesus, who died and was raised from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God will indeed intercede for us. Believers are assured that this brings them to glory and that nothing can separate them from the love of God (Rom 8, 34‑39). Here arises a serous question. Did not the same God give the same assurance to the Jews as His elect? However the Jews for the most part were outside the Churchand bad rejected the Messiah. If God cannot bring His ancient people into salvation, how do Christians know that He can save them? Will the Christian salvation be superseded one day? If Paul’s position was a valid one, he had to show that believers of today are the heirs of a valid ‘promise. Hence the first 11 Chapters in Romans are a unity.


The discussion in chapters 9‑11 makes possible a fuller and profounder understanding of the Gospel. The consideration of the call4ina2L!~~~~the jSjSecqti~o2n~of the Jews commences with chapter 9 and extends to the end of chapter 11.

The summary of chapters 9‑11: Paul in the first place shows that God may consistently reject the Jews, and extend the blessings of the Messiah’s reign to the Gentiles (9, 1‑24)

In the second place, that He has already declared that such was His purpose (9, 25‑29)

In the third place, agreeably to these prophetic declarations, the apostle announces that the Jews were cast of and the Gentiles were called. The reason is that the former having refused submission to the righteousness of faith and the latter having been obedient (9, 30‑33)

In Ch. 10 Paul shows the necessity of this rejection of the ancient people of God and proves the appropriateness of extending the invitation of the gospel to the gentiles.. This is accordance with the predictions of the prophets.

In Ch. 11 Paul teach that this rejection of the Jews wasneither total nor final: It was not total, in as much as many of the Jews of that generation believed into the Messiah. It was not final, for Paul hopefully believes that in due time the great body of the Jews would acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and be re-in-grafted into their own olive tree.

9, 1‑5 Before starting with the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles, Paul assures his brethren of his love for them and his respect for their national privileges, namely to them belong the son ship, the glory to be the people of God, the covenants, the law, the worship, the promises, t them belong the patriarchs and of the Jewish race in Christ, But who are Israelite? For Paul they are not simply members of a national or racial group, but members of the people of God.

9, 6‑24 Paul moves from his expression of sorrow to the development of his argument, namely the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the gentiles. God had determined to cast off his ancient covenant people, as such, and to extend the call of the Gospel indiscriminately to all. This is the point which Paul is about to establish. Paul does this by showing:

In the first place, God is perfectly free thus to act (vv. 6‑24) in the second place, that He had declared in the prophets that such was His intention (25‑33). Paul argues, God was free to act, namely to reject the Jews and to call the Gentiles and this he shows:

1. By pointing out the promises which God had made: the promises were not made to the natural descendants of Abraham as such but to his spiritual seed (v.8). Take the case of Ishmael and Isaac, both was the natural children of Abraham, yet one was taken and the other was rejected. The case of Esau and Jacob, children of the same parents and born at one birth makes it clear. Yet, Jacob have I love and Esau have I hated is the language of God respecting them 9v. 13). Here comes the question: is there injustice on God’s part in choosing one and rejecting another?

2. Here comes Paul’s second argument. God is perfectly sovereign in the distribution of his favours. The choice is made not on the basis of works or merits. The choice of Jacob, for example was made and announced before the birth of the children. The elder will serve the younger.

Against this doctrine of the divine sovereignty, there are two obvious objections. The Apostle explicitly states them to choose one and reject another at His mere will. To this Paul gives two answers:

a) God claims the exclusive privilege of sovereign mercy, saying I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” (v. 15 = Ex 33, 19)

b) God exercises this right, as is evident from the case of Pharaoh, with regard to whom he says: “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth”{ (v. 18).

The second objection is: If God acts at His mere will, this destroys the responsibility of men (v. 19). To this also Paul gives a twofold answer.

a) The very urging of an objection against the creator is an irreverent arguing with our master (vv. 2‑2 1). 0 house of Israel cannot I do with you as this potter?

b) There is nothing in the exercise of His sovereignty inconsistent with either justice or mercy. God only punishes the wicked for their sins, while he extends undeserved mercy to the objects of His grace (vv. 22­24).

Those chosen ones are the vessels of His mercy. He has mercy upon which He will have mercy. Therefore, H e calls men from among the Jews and Gentiles indiscriminately. God had called His vessels of mercy out from both groups. Taking a series of quotations from the Scripture Paul establishes his point 9vv. 25‑33)

Why the great body of the Jew were rejected and the gentiles attained the favour of God? The answer is in vv 31‑32. Because the Jews would not summit to be saved on the terms which God proposed. They tired to have a right standing before God in their own way. They failed to profit from their possession of the law. The law was given actually to lead people to the law of faith, hat is to Christ. It could thus be called a law of righteousness. Jews sought justification through he law. They sought a right goal, but did it in the wrong way. Paul ends with the hope. He who builds on the sure foundation of Christ, is delivered from the situation in which the contemporary Jews found themselves.

In Chapter 10 Paul continues the same theme. It also sets forth the truth in reference to the rejection of the Jews as the peculiar people of God and the extension to all nations of the offers of salvation.

10, 1‑4 sets forth the ground of the rejection of the Jews, They put tremendous effort into securing righteousness before god, but in their own way. Though the Jews have a zeal for God, it is not enlightened; they lack a correct knowledge and appreciation of God. They were ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God. The saving work of Christ has brought to a close any attempt to attain righteousness by way of law. Faith is absolutely necessary, and speaks.

10, 5‑13 Paul insists that this view of justification by faith is scriptural,. Paul here resembles a group of passages Rom Scoture to show that God has always cce ed2gople through grace. All that has been required of their part is faith. Faith is the only way to God.

10, 14‑17 The plan of salvation being adapted to all, and God being the God of all, the Gospel should be preached to all. God’s way is not that all should call upon him and the Gospel should be preached to all. If Gentiles have come to know of God, then it certainly can not be supposed that Israel has not known. The Gentiles did not consciously look for God as the Jews did. But in the end they found Him, because He revealed Himself to people of faith. God’s call for Israel went unheeded, for they were disobedient and obstinate. God is often found by those who apparently are the farthest from Him, while he remains undiscovered by those who think themselves ways in His presence.

10, 18‑21 the above said truth was predicted clearly in the OT

Chapter I I Israel as God’s chosen people and to say that they are rejected is unbelievable. Here we find an inconsistency with the Word of God. Paul removes this difficulty.

First by showing that the rejection of the Jews was neither total nor final

Secondly, by proving that the promises in question had reference not to the Jewish nation a such, but to the elect or the spiritual Israel.

The chapter closes with a sublime declaration of the unimaginable wisdom of God, manifested in all His dealings with men.

11, 1 ‑ 10 The rejection of the Jews is not total , as is sufficiently manifested from the example of the apostle himself, to say nothing of others (v. 1). God had reserved a remnant faithful to himself in the time of Elijah (vv. 2‑4). In the days of Elijah, God rejected the great body of he people, but reserved to himself a remnant, chosen in sovereign grace. God’s answer to Elijah: quoting I Kgs 19,18 Paul emphasizes the divine action, it was Got and no one else who saw to it that the 7000 remained. It was God’s action that made the 7000 stand out. God’s statement that he is preserving for Himself 7000 men in Israel amounts to a declaration of His faithfulness to His purpose of salvation for His people, a declaration that that purpose will continue unchanged and unthwarted to its final goal. That this remnant is saved, is a matter entirely of grace (vv. 56). The real truth of the case is, that Israel as a nation , is excluded from the kingdom of Christ, but the chosen ones are admitted to its blessings (v. 7). The rejection of the greater part of the Jews, their own scriptures had predicted (vv. 8‑10).

11, 11‑24 The rejection of the greater part of Israel is not for ever. As the rejection of the Jews was not total, so neither is it final. They have not so fallen as to be hopelessly protested.

Paul believes that God did not design to cast away His people entirely. But their rejection God planned to facilitate the progress of the gospel among the gentiles and then ultimately to make the conversion of the gentiles the means of converting the Jews (v. 11). Thus we can say, the event, the conversion of the gentiles becoming the means of converting the Jews is in itself desirable and probable:

1.          Because if the rejection of the Jews has been a source of blessing, much more their restoration be the means of good (vv. 12‑15)

2.          Because it (the conversion of the gentiles the means of converting the Jews) was included and contemplated in the original election of the Jewish nation. If the root is holy, so are the branches (v. 16).

The breaking of and rejection of some of the original branches, and the introduction of others of different origin, is not inconsistent with God’s plan. Gentiles, though do not deserve, were grafted to the root which is holy. This should lead them to exercise humility and fear, and not boasting and exultation (vv 17‑22). The rejection of the Jews was s hock treatment of their unbelief. It was not the expression of God’s ultimate purpose respecting them. Hence Paul believes, it is more probable that God should restore the Jews, than that he should have called the gentiles (vv. 23‑24). Therefore we can say God uses Israel’s stumble to bring salvation to the gentiles and in the end the Jews will be brought in. So the salvation of the gentiles was intended to arouse in Israel a passionate desire for the Messiah. In vv. 1724 we can also see, Paul proceeds to a warning togentile Christians not to presume on their position. This he expresses through a metaphor, where he reverses the normal grafting principle. He speaks of grafting a wild olive onto a stock of a good olive and later even of grafting back some of the good olive branches that has been cut out. The olive tree is a symbol of Israel in OT (Jer 11, 16; Hos 14,6)

The gentile believers has not been cut out but grafted in. Olive becomes a ‘sharer’, a partner with the branches that remain in the tree. Hence the gentile converts have nothing to boast. It is the root, which is holy, that bears him.

The fate of the Jews is drawn into a warning for the gentiles. The Jews were cut out of the tree because of their unbelief. The fate of the natural branches could easily become that of the grafted ‑ in branches.

Finally in v.24 Paul’s hope: the gentiles were cut from a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree. They were grafted into that holy stem to which he does not naturally being. If they believe this, then they can think God is able and willing to do what is less wonderful ‑ to restore to their own native stock the unbelieving Jews when they repent and believe.


11, 25‑32  The conversion of Israel

Paul looks forward to the time when all Israel will be saved. He hopes a national restoration. Israel’s hardening will last until the fullness of the gentiles come in the ground of Paul’s certainty in the faithfulness of God.




Paul’s advice with regard to marriage deals with two marriage situations. In the first case, the believing and unbelieving partners are willing to live together in peace and without discord concerning their religious differences. In this case, Paul demands Jesus’ prohibition of divorce be obeyed, and there is no inconsistency in his demand (W. 12‑14).

In the second case, the unbelieving partner is unwilling to live in peace with the Christian partner (vv. 15­16), and Paul allows the believing partner to separate from, and equivalently, to divorce the unbelieving partner,

Paul gives the true interpretation of Jesus’ prohibition of divorce and remarriage, interpreting it to be absolute only in true marriages between baptized persons. Paul, it is claimed, understood Jesus to have prohibited divorce and remarriage absolutely in relation to baptized Christians, but only relatively in relation to non‑Christians or Christians married to non‑Christians.

Thus the Pauline privilege flows from the dissolubility of a marriage in which at least one of the partners was not baptized. One thing is implicit in Paul’s instruction that the Christian’ partner should never take the initiative to end the marriage. However uncommitted both to the marriage vows and to the very institution of marriage, the unbelieving partner may be, the Christian partner upholds its sanctity and its life long permanence.


I Corinthians chapters 12 ‑ 14

In Chapter 12 Paul speaks of the gifts of the Spirit. Though there are varieties in the gifts, the same Spirit is working in all. In v. 7 the gifts have been distributed and that they have been given for the service of the community and that through these gifts God is at work in believers. Gifts are given to individual members not for their personal enhancement, but for the common good. The body metaphor shows the unity of the body and of the diversity of its members as well as of the interrelationship between one and the many.

While dealing with the gifts, a list of 9 gifts are cited:


1.utterance of wisdom; 2. utterance of knowledge; 3. faith; 4, gifts of healing; 5, the working of miracles; 6. prophecy; 7. the ability to distinguish between Spirits; 8. various kinds of tongues; 9. the interpretation of tongues.

In Chapter 13, after exploiting the body metaphor Paul returns to the gift of tongues as

a point of departure (12,30) for his treaty on love, the gift par‑excellence.

The content of ch. 13 underscores the essential quality of the Christian life. Love is the sine qua non of the Christian life.

Chapter 13 has 3 parts:

w. I ‑ 3 affirm that without love charismatic gifts have no value.

w. 4 ‑ 7 offer a panorama on love, featuring both its positive and negative qualities, that is what love does and what love does not do.

vv. 8 ‑ 13 contrasts love with spiritual gifts, affirming that love never ends

If we observe vv. 1‑3 he begins with the lesser gift of speaking in tongues, then continues with the greater gift of prophecy. Finally he speaks of the ultimate gift, the gift of self‑sacrifice for the benefit of others. IF he did not have love even the gift of self sacrifice would not accrue to his personal advantage.

Paul begins with two positive affirmations about love (v. 4a). Then follows a series of 8 clauses that state what love does not do (vv. 4b ‑ 6) and concludes with 4 affirmations of the universal embrace of love (v.7).

In Chapter 13 for Paul the primary locus of love is the common life of the Church. It is love that makes the life of the Church possible.


Chapter 14

In 12, 31 we see the exposition on spiritual gifts culminates in a final exhortation : “But ‑earnestly desire the higher gifts”. Then comes the digression on love.

Now in ch. 14 Paul returns to the topic of the spiritual gifts. The greatest of God’s gifts is love, the gift par excellence, as Paul demonstrates in Ch. 13.

In Ch. 14 Paul returns to the quest for the greater gifts, explaining to the Corinthians that among the various charisms it is gift of prophecy that hey should particularly seek to have.

Ch. 12 discussed the Charisms in general. In ch. 14 Paul turns his attention specially to two gifts of speech. These are the gift of prophecy and the gift of tongues.

Between his two treatments of spiritual gifts is sandwiched the rhetorical digression of ch. 13.

12, 31 “But earnestly desire the higher goods” ‑ this corresponds to the opening exhortation of ch. 14,1 “Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophecy.

Chapter 14 makes it clear that speaking in tongue was the spiritual phenomenon that was especially esteemed among the Corinthians, Some considered glossolalia to be the spiritual reality par excellence, almost to the point of being the sole gift that was recognized by the Corinthians. Speaking in tongues was the real issue with regard to spiritual gifts in Corinth. Because of the Corinthians’ undue emphasis on this single gift, Paul was constrained to underscore the diversity of gifts within the community.

Paul initially put the gift of speaking in tongue in its place by citing the gift of glossolalia toward the end or at the very end of the list of gifts (12, 10.28.30), and relativized the value of this gift by putting the interpretation of tongues , a gift correlative to speaking in tongues, next on his list (vv. 10 & 30).

Ch. 14 shows the relatively greater importance of the gift of prophecy in building up the Church.

Paul recognizes the gift of tongue as a gift of the Spirit. He ‑urges at the very end of his discourse that those who have this gift not to be restrained from speaking in the assembly, His one caveat (=warning) is that there should be propriety and order (14, 39‑40).

In an evaluation of the relative value of the gift of prophecy vis‑d‑vis the gift of speaking in tongue, building up the Church is the primary criterion.


Prophecy and speaking in tongues

The gift of prophecy is identified as a gift distinct from the gift of speaking in tongues by means of three contrasts:

I The gift of tongues is God‑directed speech; the gift of prophecy is human directed speech.

2. The one who speaks in tongues utters mysteries, the one who prophesies utters ‑ I. words of encouragement and upbuilding.

3. The one who speaks in tongues builds up the ego; the one who prophesies builds :up the Church. He who speaks in tongues edifies himself, but he who prophesies, edifies the Church (v.4)

Paul urges his addressees to strive for prophecy, which is gift of the Spirit, that is integral to the life of the Church (12,28). It is the only gift that is cited in all four of his list of charisms (12, 10.28.29; Rom 12,6). It is the only gift of the Spirit that is cited in I Thess 5, 19‑20.

For Paul prophecy is a matter of speaking on behalf of God, functioning in a sense as God’s spoken person. In 14,3 Paul emphatically identifies exhortation as the characteristic function of prophecy. Exhortation and encouragement are the way in which community is built up. Prophesying builds up the community in so far as the members of the community are ‘edified’, that is exhorted and encouraged. The criterion for judging the value of spiritual realities is the edification of the Church (vv. 4‑5): He who speaks in tongues edifies himself; but he who prophesies, edifies the Church.

Paul, sets forth specific directives for those who would speak in tongues and for those who would prophesy. His overarching principle is that everything that is done be done for the sake of building up of the community (v.26). A theological understanding underlies this principle (v.33). Cacophony is to be excluded because God is not a God of disorder and confusion. Upbuilding the community is necessary becauge God is God of peace. The God:of the covenant wills the well‑being of his people.

3 rules set forth for the exercise of speaking in tongues are:

First, that there be a limited number of such utterances, no more than two or three. Second, that those who speak in tongues speak in turn.Third, that the utterances be interpreted.

This last condition is a sine qua non (the essential one). If there is no one interpret what is being said in tongues it should not be said aloud. Speaking in tongues is the praise of God. If the other members of the assembly cannot understand what is being said and if they cannot join with an “Amen” (14, 2.16) the prayer should be directed to God and God alone.The exercise of gifts of prophecy is no more beneficial to the community than is the exercise of the gifts of tongues.

Three rules for the exercise of the gift of prophecy are set forth: First, no more than two or three prophets should speak in the assembly, but Paul presumes that the prophets will speak. Second, those who prophesy should speak in turn. Even the prophets be silent when others are speaking. All within the community must be able to profit from prophetic utterance, whether that be didactic or paraenetic. Third, others must judge what the prophets say.

At the end in vv. 3 9 ‑40 Paul urges them To pursue eagerly the gift of prophecy, but not, he warns them, to the neglect of the gift of tongues. The gift of tongues may be of more importance for building up the community. The gift of speaking in tongues has, nonetheless, its role to play in the life of the community. Paul does not consider it insignificant. It is gift of God and an important one (14, 2.5.14), but the criterion for evaluating the use of this gift is its utility for the Church What is imperative is that when the community comes together for worship, the Eucharistic assembly should reflect the nature of the of the Church as the body of Christ, the order in the assembly should reflect the order that exists within the body of Christ. Everything is to be done with propriety and in order. It is the Charism of speech that could prove most detrimental to the order of the community. Accordingly Paul sets out specific guidelines for those who would exercise the gifts of speech in the assembly, especially tongues and prophecy.


1 Corinthians Chapter 15

The additional transitional formula found in verses 12, 20, 35, 50, 58 neatly divide Chapter 15, whose primary focus is death, into six units: I ‑11; 12 ‑ 19; 20 ‑ 34; 35 ‑ 49; 50 ‑ 57; 58.

Paul seeks to respond to those who deny that there is a resurrection of the dead. In his response to those who doubted, Paul first proclaims that the Gospel he preached is the common Gospel of all believers. He simply handed on what he himself had received. The Gospel he has preached is the gospel that others have preached. Some of those who “,\qe i d the resurrection of the dead may also have denied the resurrection of Jesus.

Paul cites six witnesses in all to show the appearances of the risen Christ ‑ that can be taken as an indication that the reality of the resurrection of Christ might have been doubted and \ or contested in some Corinthian quarters. Having established his apostolic authority on the basis of his experience of the risen Lord, Paul can then spell out the implications of the traditional kerygma and confront those who deny the bodily resurrection.


Arguing that there is resurrection of the dead, Paul makes his point in two movements of thou . ght: He first deals with the reality of the resurrection of the dead (vv. 12 ‑ 34); then he takes up the issue of how it is possible for the dead to be raised (vv. 35 ‑ 57). Rhetorically these two units function as proofs of Paul’s demonstration.


The exposition of the first proof is set forth in the familiar chiastic pattern:

A           vv, 12 ‑ 19

B           vv. 20 ‑ 28

C           vv. 29 ‑ 34

              Elements A – A presume that the resurrection of Jesus is related to the resurrection of those who believe in him. If there is no resurrection from the dead, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised there is little meaning to what Paul and Corinthians have been doing.

Element B (vv. 20 ‑ 28) seeks to explain the link between the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of those who believe in Him. Christ is the first fruit of those who have died (15,20). As a Jew of the Pharisaic persuasion Paul held that the resurrection of the dead is god’s ultimate salvific act. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is the inaugural event in the resurrection of the dead. If Christ has been raised it is possible for all believers to be raised.

In the second proof (vv. 35 ‑ 37) Paul addressed the issue of how it is possible for the dead to be raised. Paul affirms that God provides appropriate bodies for all He creates (vv. 35 ‑ 44a). The first Adam has only a natural body, whereas the second Adam has an inspirited body (vv. 44b ‑ 49). With what kind of body will those come who are raised from the dead? Paul responds that they will come with a transformed body, a body that is imperishable and immortal (vv. 50 ‑ 57). God makes all that possible through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore Paul’s request in v. 58: Remain faithful in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the lord your labour is not in vain.


Corinthians Chapters 8 to 10

We come to another question put to Paul by the Corinthians and Paul’s answer to this thorny issue. He takes three long chapters to deal with this problem.


8, 1 ‑ t 3 The problem: eating food sacrificed to idols

I . Paul’s right as an apostle 9, 1‑18

2. Paul does not take his salvation for granted 9, 19‑27

3. The Israelites in the desert fell into idolatry and fornication 10, 14‑22

4. The table of the lord versus the table of demons 10, 14‑22; 10, 23‑11, 1 Practical solutions to the idol food problem.


8, 1‑13 Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up

Paul’s implicit condemnation of knowledge that ‘puffs up, leaving its possessor like an inflated balloon, is central to his argument for eating the food sacrificed to idols. His argument calls upon the Corinthians to subordinate knowledge to love. Loveless knowledge is not true knowledge, because, as he says in 8, 11, it brings about the spiritual ruin of those for whom Christ died. Thus Paul’s central argument is that love is more important than knowledge. In other words, more accurately knowledge subordinated to love is true knowledge.

Paul both agrees and disagrees with his critics, when he says “all of us possess knowledge”. He agrees with his critics that thee is only one God and eating meant sacrificed to idols, as a consequence means nothing. After agreeing Paul quickly qualifies by pointing out that not all are so intellectually secure: “However, not all posses this knowledge” (v.7).

Paul agrees with those who know that there is only one God. They have a perfect right to exercise the freedom this knowledge gives them. But the case is different with the fellow Christians recently converted from paganism. They have scruples about eating idol food, for they quite simply do not have this knowledge of one God.

Therefore Paul distinguishes between a right conscience and an erroneous conscience. Paul takes for granted that each must follow his or her conscience, right or wrong. In order to avoid confusion Paul asks of those with right conscience to do one thing. He asks not that they should give up their rights, but that they should give up the use of their right t follow their right consciencC If they use their right they may be a source of temptation to their weaker brethren to go against their erroneous conscience and thereby sin (vv. 8‑12). Paul’s conclusion, “Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall” (v. 13) supports his basic principle that “knowledge putts up, but love builds up” (8,1). We must always pause to see our fellow Christian as “the brother for whom Christ died” (v. 11). To cause any brother to stumble even once, is such an appalling danger for Paul that he will not once touch meant to avoid such a disaster (8, 13). This is true Christian love and that, Paul would affirm with equal fervour, is true Christian freedom.

Corinthians should be concerned to sin neither against their brethren nor Christ. Therefore, by tell them, how he himself will behave in such occasions: “Therefore, if food is a cause of my brothers falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall” (8,13), in 9, 1‑27 Paul develops his own way of responding to the call of God. Paul rhetorically asks four questions in 9, 1:

Am I not free?

Am I not an Apostle? The next two questions are concerned of his apostleship: Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my workmanship in the Lord?

In 9,3 to 18 he answers the second questions and therewith third and fourth too. In 9, 19 to 27 he answers the first question.

9,2 The Corinthians are the seal of his apostleship.

9, 3‑18 Paul asserts that he is indeed free. But for the sake of the Gospel he has given up many of the right s his freedom conferred on him. By putting several questions, Paul is compelling the readers to answer them.

v.8. Even the law allows certain rights to be enjoyed. Here also he brings forward certain questions, to which he expects answer from the readers.

v. 12b. Paul’s principle was to endure anything, rather than put an obstacle in the way of the Gospel of Christ. Therefore Paul has made no use of any of these rights (v. 15). He was ready to give up all the rights when that would advance the work of the Gospel. Proclamation of the Gospel is his prime duty, for God had set him Apart from this and it is his right as an apostle. So that he can say, “woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”(v. 16). Thereby Paul is urging the Corinthians to sacrifice their rights for the sake of their brethren, as he himself was ready to give up the use of his rights. In v. 18 he affirms that he preached the Gospel free of charge. He did not always preach the Gospel free of charge is clear from Phil 4, 1020. In Corinth he was able to support himself by his own labours (Acts 18, 3).

9,19‑27 Now he answers the first question by asserting that he is indeed free but for the sake of the Gospel he has given up many of the rights his freedom allows him. He is once again making the point about freedom and rights that he made in 8, 7‑13 by reminding the Corinthians that even though he is as free as they are, he has nevertheless given up the use of his rights in order to attain something far more important. He has in fact made himself “a slave to all so as to win over as may as possible” (9, 19). He suffered everything for the sake of the Gospel, that he may share in its blessings (v.23). His request to the Corinthians is that they should stop worrying about their rights, rewards and freedom and should think of their responsibility, by becoming all things to all men in order to save some (v. 22). For this one needs perseverance and self‑discipline of an athlete which Paul himself practiced in responding God’s call (9, 25­27).

10, 1‑13 To elucidate his position Paul introduces an obvious biblical evidence. How the absence of self-control and persistence affected the life of Israelites, God’s chosen people, in the wilderness. In spite of all the privileges the Israelites enjoyed, god was not pleased with most of them, because of their evils:

v.7 idolatry ‑ ex 32, 4‑6

v. 8 immorality ‑ Num 25, 1‑18

v.9 putting the Lord to the test ‑ Num 21, 5‑6

v. 10 grumbling ‑ Num 16, 41‑43

As a result they were overthrown in the wilderness (10, 1‑5), Now these things happened as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction (vv. 6& 11). By this illustration the Apostle stresses the similarity of the OT event with the Corinthian situation. In v. 13 Paul rerninds them that this may lead them also into idolatry.

Displaying his own way of responding to God’s call and the failure of the Israelites to understand their responsibility to their call, Paul comes to the issue of idolatry.

Paul is not ready to compromise the truth stated in 8,6, namely the oneness of God and is not ready to put any qualifications into his rejection of idolatry, so he said, “Shun the worship of idols” (10,14).

10., 14‑22. In view of the Lords supper the Corinthians should avoid idolatry. He interprets the lord’s supper in two stages:

First he states what the Corinthians believe about the Eucharist, viz, fellowship with the body and blood of Christ (v. 16), the vertical sense; Second, from this vertical relation he fon‑nulates his interpretation in v. 17 where the fellowship with the body and blood of Christ is the foundation for his affirmation about the one body. Fellowship with the lord includes fellowship with the community.

To substantiate his point Paul introduces evidence from the OT: “consider the practice of Israel: Are not those who eat the sacrifices partners at the alter (10, 18)?

I” “Likewise, in the pagan sacrifice those who offer to demons establish a fellowship with demons 910,20). Fellowship with the Lord and fellowship with demons are absolute opposites, the one excluding the other 910,21). To the Corinthians who try to compromise, the apostle pos es tow sharp questions: Shall we provoke the Lord to jealously? Are we stronger than He? (10,22).


10. 23‑11.1 Positive guidelines to the Problem of the food sacrificed to idols                                              First Paul places the basic principle as in 6,12: All things are lawful, but not all thins are helpful; all things are lawful, but not all things build up. Legally the faithful in Corinth are allowed to participate in the food offered to idols, but if it is not useful to build up the community then a participation is not at all helpful. Hence, Paul advises them: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbour” (10,24).

Paul’s first solution to the problem is: Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without any problem of conscience. The reason is “the earth is the lord’s and everything in it is good” (8,6).

Second solution: if somebody calls attention to the origin of food, then the believer shall not eat it; not because eating itself is idolatrous, but because the conscience of the other is confused.

Then in 10, 3 1 ‑11, 1 Paul gives four positive guidelines:

1. Do all for the glory of God

2. Try to please all men in everything

3. Seek that many may be saved

4. Be imitators of Paul as he is of Christ




The command of Jesus Christ “‘Do this in remembrance of me” at ‘the Lord’s Supper remains valid for evermore. Immediately after this imperative tone Jesus invites the disciples present, to participate in His ‘body and blood’, which essentially implies a tacit request to take part of His symbolic self‑offering and also in Himself. Realizing this truth Paul makes it clear that “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”(1 Cor 11,26).

The beginning of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the Church was the response of the believers to the direct command of Jesus Christ. In each celebration the Church, the body of Christ, finds her own existence rooted more and more in Christ Jesus; alongside of it renews day to day the challenge put before her. Thereby the believers become increasingly duty bound to be the sign and the instrument of God’s justice in the world. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ “Do this in remembrance of me” turn out, to be the command to share bread and wine with our brethren, in other words to share what we are and what we have. Paul reminds us this reality involved and implied in the Lord’s Supper. Hence in this article we aim at to find out the Pauline perspective on ‘the Lord’s Supper” as reflected in his letters.


1. Pauline Tradition

Among the Eucharistic texts of the New Testament those which are preserved in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians are unique. Their remarkableness consists in that that they have been explicitly inserted within the frame of life of a local church, ‘the church of God which is at Corinth’ (lCor 1,2), and they not merely impart us the tradition of the institution of the Lord’s Supper but contain as well the earliest theological interpretation of what Paul and, the apostolic community understood of it.

Paul uses the Eucharistic tradition in the effort to provide a solution .for the problems existing in a nascent Christian community and interprets it to make it relevant for his people. In his dissatisfaction with the way in which the Lords Supper is being celebrated in Corinth, Paul attempts to correct their misbehaviour by recounting the tradition. He intended not merely to repeat what he had preached to them at an earlier date but to argue the cause for which the Lord’s Supper was instituted and what it implied for the Christian community. Here we observe that Paul, the theologian, is not conditioned by the tradition but rather, that he interprets the tradition, incorporates it into his theology and, by remaining loyal to the tradition, makes it relevant for the tradition.


2. Pauline Texts

Paul’s first reference to the Eucharist occurs in the context in which he responds to the Corinthian inquiry concerning the f(W offered to the idols (1 Cor 8,1‑11). In his argument against idolatry the Apostle has recourse to the traditional fact known to the Corinthians, adding his interpretation (I Cor 10,16‑17~ which he does in two stages: first, he states what the Corinthians believe about the Eucharist, namely koinonia (fellowship) with the body and blood of Christ (10, 16), the vertical sense; second, from this vertical relation he formulates his interpretation in v. 17, where the relationship with the body and blood of Christ is. the foundation for his affirmation about the one body. Koinoniawith the person of Christ remains the basis of a koirOMa with the brethren. Thus the vertical move of the Christians towards a fellowship with the Son is brought to include the horizontal plane, the community.

The second reference is in a section devoted to instructions on the proper conduct of the community’s worship (I Cor 11, 17‑34). Paul’s disappointment with the Corinthian’s way of celebrating the Lord’s Supper made his intervention necessary. The expressions of self-indulgence, factionalism and lack of concern for the congregation as a whole were in tension with Paul’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper.

As, we have already said, in I Cor 10, 16‑17 Paul shows how the common participation in the body and blood of Christ maintains and intensifies one’s fellowship with Christ and also effects fellowship with one another. In the celebration of he Lord’s Supper the Corinthians’ do not recognize and manifest that they are one community, one body, the body of Christ and that in such a community there is no room for selfishness. They turned the memorial of selflessness into an experience of selfishness, and had made a rite of unity., a riotous disunity, a time for mutual edification, a time for division. In fact, an experience meant to build up the Church was having the opposite effect, namely their gatherings were doing more harm than good.


3. The Lord’s Supper and the Christian community

The Lord’s Supper is the central celebration of the Christian community and the central place of encounter with its Lord. As the source and summit of the Church’s activity, it is inexhaustible in its depth of meaning. By celebrating it, the life‑giving source, the community complies with the will of the Lord. Through its ‑ proper celebration the faithful come to express in their lives and to manifest to others the mystery’ of Christ and the true nature of the Church. For it re‑presents the once‑for‑all sacrifice of Christ offered sacramentally at the Lord’s Supper and manifested through His death on the cross, the event that grounds the community’s existence.

Paul deals with what happens when the Corinthians come together as a church. He is handling not simply a custom but a tradition that becomes a true ‘test’ of the life of Corinthian Christian community.’ For the Lord’s Supper presupposes that the community is not only gathered together but also united. 2 What stands behind Paul’s dire statement “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you cat”(1 1,20)? What had Paul hoped ‘would persuade the Corinthians to come together for the better? How does the handed over Eucharistic tradition function as a response to the Corinthian abuse?


3. 1.     1 Cor 11, 17‑22    What the Corinthians do

The life of a Christian community is inextricably linked to the worship in communal gatherings. Paul has been informed of the abuse, which has infiltrated into the Corinthian Christian community’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper. After hearing the reports of how the Corinthians acted when they came together, so incensed was he that he wrote bluntly, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat” (v.20).

Lord’s Supper presupposes the unity of the gathered assembly, but in the Corinthian gatherings there are divisions (v. 18), which Paul cannot even think of Moreover, their egocentricity is well pictured in the way they celebrate the Lord’s Supper (v.22). In their celebrations the agape preceded the Eucharist and this deviation from the tradition as it was handed down was the reflection of pure individualism which threatened the unity of the community in general and the worthy celebration of the Lord’s Supper in particular. Paul who endeavours to bring the disordered and disunited community back to faithfulness, finds in such individual behaviour a contempt for the Church ‑of God.

The celebration of the Lord’s Supper actually takes place in conjunction with a communal meal. It denotes that the ‘Lord’s Supper’ is comprised of both a ‘fellowship meal’ (later called agape) and a ‘cultic meal’ (Eucharist).  In the Corinthian celebration the two meals were differentiated one from the other, but not yet separated. Rather, the agape preceded the Eucharist. From the Pauline perspective the fellowship character of the Eucharist is very important and the Lord’s Supper has a broader connotation, where the Eucharist is contained. Thus one can speak of a Pauline Eucharistic understanding, only when agape and Eucharist are united.

It is of vital importance to know and recognize that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper has a communitarian character, for it is the liturgical action of the believing community. In interplay with this concept of solidarity, the Lord’s Supper is the best means to display a living individuality, which, as distinct from individualism, is the capacity for personal responsibility and for moulding one’s own life. Such individuality does not stand in mutually exclusive opposition to, but in fruitful tension with, the duty ‑of solidarity, and as such affects the individual and motivates his conduct. Precisely because the Lord’s Supper was a community act, the individual participant tended to loose sight of his personal responsibility towards the action. Gradually personal interests and animosities intruded into its celebration. Each one went ahead with his own meal; consequently one is hungry and another is drunk. For Paul humiliating the poor and despising the Church of God is one reality. The failure to comprehend the true nature of the Church and their responsibility to make visible what the Church is, am reflected in the way they celebrate. An undivided fellowship with Christ is possible, only when there the unity of the Christians exists. To disrupt fellowship with the brethren is a manifestation of the rupture of one’s fellowship with Christ for, according to Paul, no individual fellowship with Christ is possible that exists by itself and disregards one’s fellowmen.

The Lord’s Supper when properly celebrated represents the founding event of the community, namely the sacrificial death of Christ and reconstitutes the participants as a community.” A community deeply rooted in Christ and really united among its members at its celebration of the Lord’s Supper does justice to its Christological and ecclesiological dimensions. Such a community’s ‘coming together’ will always be for the ‘better’. Paul sees ‑the community of the brethren as God’s doing, holy and invulnerable as the temple in the cultic tradition: “… For God’s temple is holy and that temple you are” (I. Cor 3,17). When a community celebrates the Lord’s Supper disregarding this basic fact, it violates its own founding event, in other words it destroys the very purpose of the Lord’s Supper. No wonder Paul was unwilling to praise them. Their deviation from the tradition handed over to them altered an act originally communal into an individual one, resulting in the denial of both aspects of the Lord’s Supper, namely the Christological, the death of Christ ‑‑ the founding event of the community, and the ecclesiological, the community itself Hence, Paul recalls the tradition transmitted to them.


3.2.    1 Cor 11, 23‑26  What Our Lord Did

In his attempt to correct the Corinthians’ behaviour, Paul has recourse to the ‘tradition’, which goes back to the Lord, one that becomes a true test of the life of the Christian community. While speaking of this ‘tradition’ of the Lord’s Supper, Paul does not say as in Gal 1, 12 that knowledge came to him by revelation.  Moreover, we have to keep in mind that the tradition of the Lord’s Supper belongs not to revelation but to the Church’s ongoing tradition from the time of its inception. What is important now is not the mode of transmission, but the, source,, which, Paul explicitly says, is ‘from the Lord’, and its authenticity cannot be gainsaid. Paul relies on this authority in his rebuke against the disorderly celebration of the Lord’s Supper in Corinth. He proclaims his unassuming loyalty to the tradition, in which he considers himself a mere link in the chain. When the apostle reminds the Corinthians of this tradition, he expects of them the same role and fidelity.

The institutional words over the bread points to the self‑offering of Jesus for the sake of others, in obedience to the will of His Father. Heinz Schurmann paraphrases this aspect saying, “this is my body, which is for you and for your salvation, intended for you and as such now offered to you”.  Such an offering of a gift implies the reception of it by the disciples. The acceptance of the gift and its benefits includes the acceptance of the significance of the gift. As a gift always implies a task, the self‑offering of Jesus demands from the participants at the Lord’s Supper the same attitude of willingness to give themselves freely for others. For an active participant the agape is the occasion to manifest preparedness to give oneself freely for others.

The interpretative words over the cup in v. 25 indicate Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, ratifying the new covenant between God and mankind in His blood, poured out. As often as the disciples drink the cup of the new covenant established by Christ’s blood, they remember the Lord, who in perfect obedience to God sacrificed Himself on the cross shedding His blood and thereby they also enjoy the benefits of the new salvific economy, the new fellowship resulted from it.

Paul sums up both these dimension of the Lord’s Supper under the historical event ‘the death of the Lord’ (v. 26). Thus when the ecclesial community celebrates the Lord’s Supper in the manner prescribed by Christ, they proclaim the death of Jesus for the sake of others and the establishing of the new salvific order, the new covenant, with the expectation that the Lord will come.


3.2.1. Anamnesis

According to the will of Jesus the Last Supper should not be merely a unique and significant event of His earthly life, it should remain as a permanent institution. Thus Jesus adds to His institutional words over bread and wine a command to repeat the rite: touto pokite (Do this), which is an established expression for the repetition of a rite.  Without having this direct command from Jesus, the Lord’s Supper would not have been celebrated in the early church. The Jewish passah tradition also know of a command to repeat the rite.’2 This command within the frame of Jesus’ Passover meal with His disciples has the same sense as in the old Passover. It denotes not merely an intellectual or emotional aspect, but of a real ‘doing’. From this background such a command from Jesus is easily understandable. However, the command ‘to do’ cannot be interpreted without referring to its immediate complement: eis ten enwn anwnnesin (in remembrance of me). What is the purpose of Jesus in demanding the disciples to repeat the rite?

The word ananwesis occurs in Paul only twice. Both are found in the words of institution (24b‑25). There are thus no other texts in Paul for comparison. What do we understand by this term?

A look into the OT Jewish tradition is enlightening. In the OT we meet with the Hebrew verb Ar and its derivatives, with a wide range of meanings used in different senses, beginning with its basic meaning Cremember’ in the sense of ‘recall’, and the cultic re‑presentation of the past.  The noun form zjkaron (memorial), to the notion of remembering, adds the element of a sign that evokes remembrance.  In the LXX the noun is translated by the Greek noun nwmosunon, which in the active sense means a memorial that calls something else to remembrance.  In Hebrew the special relationship of ‘remembrance’ of a particular person is expressed by the preposition jr.

Though we do not have an exact Hebrew term for the Greek eis ten enwn anawwsifn, the expression parallel to it is rzikaron.  In the OT Fzikaron is applied in two ways, to remind either God or men. There are occasions in which God remembers His people collectively, “‘ or a particular individual,  and occasions of remembrance on the part of men as a religious and cultic act.  Of these the last mentioned is important for our Context We read in Ex 12,14: “This day shall be for you a memorial (FAkaron; LXY noemommon) day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever”. The text explicitly states that the day of Passover shall be a day of 1’zikaron to the historical Israel, that is the Passover ‘memorial’ is the community’s remembrance of past events rather than the community’s reminding Yahweh of them. It proscribes the observance of that day through the repetition of the rite by the entire community of Israel in all their generations forever. The people are told that they must remember the day of their deliverance by keeping its proscribed observances (Ex 13,3) and practices related to the day are ‘memorial’ meant to keep Yahweh’s law in their minds (Ex 13,9).

The feast of the Jewish Passover was primarily one of remembrance and praise to God for His redemption of the people of Israel from Egyptian captivity preparatory to the covenant making at Sinai ‑ the series of events, which created Israel or brought the nation into existence as Yahweh’s special possession.  But Passover was also an occasion for looking forward to the future redemption, which God would through the Messiah. Through their celebration of the pascha the basic liberation and the salvific events of Exodus could become a present reality for Yahweh’s people and they could celebrate it with its present relevance. We read in Deuteronomy that each generation of Israelites had to regard itself not simply as members of a people, which Yahweh has called into existence in the past but as personally delivered by Him and made partners in His covenant.  Thus, the Passover was a ‘remembrance’ to be kept forever in Israel. It was the rite by which they recalled the divine intervention that had set them free and made them Yahweh’s own, the sacred meal by which they renewed and tightened the bonds that kept them together as the redeemed people.  Both its significance and its efficacy derived from the initial sealing of the covenant in an historical act.

Jesus is reconstituting the ‘memorial’ for the ‘new Israel’ that will gather around the table in His name ‘to remember’ its own deliverance through His self‑offering in obedience to the will of God for the salvation of mankind. At the institution the disciples are asked to repeat the rite ‘in remembrance of Jesus Himself. Jesus speaks of a remembrance through the act, which is at the same time a real remembrance, for in this re‑presenting of His act, He Himself will be present in person. Thus we can say that anamnems means a making present’ of the historical unique truth and reality. It corresponds to the prophetic act of Jesus. As the prophetic act it not only foretells, announces but also in the word and in the sign makes the future begin, so also the anamnesis makes the past ‘living’ not only in remembrance but also in reality.  If Jesus’ Last Supper was truly the anticipation of His sacrifice on the cross, then anamnesis is truly the “making present’ of this sacrifice and His sacrificial acts.

In short; the Lord’s Supper ‑is not only an ‘actual presence’ but a ‘real presence’, that is, at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Christ’s death on the cross, His sacrifice is present. Not only is this event present, but also the living person of Christ in His self-offering, sacrificial act. At the celebration we have thus the actual‑ and personal presence ‑ the actual presence of His salvific works and the real presence of His person.  Through Jesus’ command to repeat the rite these two aspects are clearly brought to light. Only by repeating the rite can one make present the event and the person of Christ as is anticipated in Ex 20,24: “‘An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you”. Jesus likewise establishes a rite through which the sacrifice of the living Christ is made ever present.

3.2.2. Katangeflete

The explanatory words of Paul in v.26 manifest his great concern in repeating the words from the tradition, namely his intention to remind the Corinthian community of the ‘manward’ implications of the Lord’s command. For this purpose Paul combines the words and gestures of Jesus over the broad and cup under a unifying historical event and says: ton thanaton tou Kuriou katangelkte.

             The verb katangellein occurs in the NT 18 times of which 11 are found in Acts and 7 in Paul.28 The verb always has a sacrificial significance.  Used in Paul it has both person as well as thing as its object. Its occurrences in Acts characterize the giving of promises to Israel and the announcing of the Gospel with its consequences.  There the verb in each occurrence appears as a technical term for the language’of mission and has the character of a solemn proclamation of a completed happening.

             Though kakmgelkin signifies proclamation with words paul’s use of it in v. 26 with the verb esthiele and pinete recalls the command of Jesus ‘lo do “in v. 24.25. But katangelkte is to be understood as indicative, not as imperative, signifying that which the Lord has commanded to do, you are indeed fulfilling, for at every proper celebration of the Lord’s Supper you proclaim His death. Paul does not command the Corinthians that with the Lord’s Supper they henceforth speak of the death of the Lord, as if it represented a new‑ obligation added, to their Christi‑an life, but he asserts that’ by the very celebration of the Lord’s Supper they‑proclaim the death of the Lord, whether they consciously avert to it or not.  They, have no duty of proclaiming, rather by the very fact that they gather in the name of the Lord and celebrates the Lord’s Supper, they are proclaiming His death. It is there the community repeats the gestures and words of Jesus and receives the body and the cup of the Lord. In the words of Xavier Leon‑Dufour, “by the very fact that the community exists and celebrates the Lord’s Supper it proclaims the life‑giving power of the death of Jesus”.

What the community solemnly proclaims at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is the death of the Lord. With this assertion the Apostle’s understanding of the traditional expression is fully clear: touto poiefte eis ten enwn anawwsin (“Do this in remembrance of me”) and, under what particular historical aspect Paul sees the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The very celebration in itself is for Paul the Gospel of the death of Jesus Christ. In other words the cultic, remembrance of the Lord is the proclamation of His death, and its celebration has thus a missionary character, for it is a living sermon, a perpetual proclamation.

The ritual proclamation of the death of the Lord is at the same time the symbolic reiteration of the sacrifice of the cross, which our Lord anticipated in the celebration of His last supper. It was the death God caused Him to die for us, whereby the salvific love of God and the loving self surrender of Jesus are manifested. In obedience to God’s will Jesus accomplished the work of redemption. The Lord’s Supper is precisely a proclamation of the great deeds of God, the salvific actions realized in Christ. That is why Paul urges the Corinthians to allow their thought and actions to be determined by the cross, of Christ.


3.2.3. Marana tha

The proclamation of the death of the Lord via the Lord’s Supper continues ‘until the Lord comes’ (11,26). From the outset the Lord’s Supper looked forward in hope to the coming of the Lord. It thus is the celebration of the expectant, hoping community. In the believer there is an insatiable yearning for the dawn of the eschatological consummation. Paul himself lives in expectation of the imminent coming again of Christ.  The intensity of hope is shown by the prayer‑cry Marana tha (“Our Lord Come”) at the end of the letter (16,22). Thus there are retrospective and prospective elements in every celebration of the Lord’s Supper: a backward look to the death of the Lord; and the great expectation of the imminent coming again of the Lord. As at the old paschal me4 this new one is to carry a triple relationship: from the past action which it evokes, the death and glorification of Christ, to the present covenant situation of God’s people, born from the cross but actualized in the memorial; and to the future consummation of this new covenant relationship.

We can thus say that an improper celebration, manifesting individualism and leading the community to division and even to factions, violates the founding event of the community ‑ the very death of Jesus ‑ and will make one liable to incur divine judgement. Such behaviour makes the death of Jesus in vain. Through the proper celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the establishing of the new salvific order and the new fellowship aspects of

Christ’s death is proclaimed, in order that His death may not be in vain. Hence, by referring to the institution of the Lord’s Supper Paul places before the Christians the gravity of their behaviour in the Lord’s Supper. That is why he employs the traditional material as the weighty argument to correct the Corinthians’ behaviour.


3.3.   1 Cor 11, 27‑34 What the Christians Should Do

Based upon the explanation he has made, Paul now gives grave admonitions and pastoral instructions in order to persuade them to make their ‘coming together for the better’. What the proper celebration of the Lord’s Supper signifies for Paul is that it is a memorial of Christ’s sacrificial death and a means of proclaiming it ‘until He comes’. Paul’s understanding serves as the basis for the connection between the tradition of the institution and the problem in the Corinthian practice. Hence, he admonishes them ‘to examine themselves and to judge correctly the body’ so that they may know whether their celebration of the Lord’s Supper actually proclaims the death of the Lord, or simply proclaims the values of the individual. Commemorating the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner the participants become guilty of the person of Christ (v.27). Those who participate in the Lord’s Supper without having a proper sense of the Church, are violating their own identity as ‘the body of Christ (v.29). Paul warns the Corinthians that the one who does not recognize and pay heed to the community in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper eats and drinks judgement upon oneself.  The failure to recognize one’s own identity makes one liable to incur judgement.

The only way to escape from the divine judgement, Paul proposes is to judge correctly one’s own identity and the identity of the communal fellowship. To recognize and to behave accordingly, while revealing one’s individuality, will bring about the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner.


4.  Paul’s Unique Contribution

Having seen how Paul himself understood the Lord’s Supper, in what follows we see those Eucharistic elements, which are uniquely Pauline and examine how he displays them in his theology. This will enable us to grasp in‑depth Paul’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper.


4.1. Ecclesiological Dimension of the Lord’s Supper

Paul’s understanding of the Church as Soma tou Christou (‘the body of Christ’) is inextricably associated with the Lord’s Supper. The term Soma Chiistou is applied both to the Eucharistic body and to the ecclesial body. Paul emphasizes the importance of the Eucharistic body for the realization and intensification of the unity of the ecclesial body, which are effected through the participation in the former (I Cor 10, 16‑17), and from the Pauline perspective the one cannot be understood without the other. That is to say Pauline ecclesiology has its foundation and beginning in his Christology.

The concept of the Church as ‘the body of Christ’ may be considered a creative and substantial contribution of Paul to the NT theology. It is a theological concept proper to Paul, for in this form it is not found anywhere else in the NT.  What ‘the body of Christ’ signifies for Pauline ecclesiology has to be understood through an analysis of function.

We note in Paul two traits of thought on, the theme of ecclesiology: the first one with the term ecclesia is related to salvific history with an eschatological thrust where the apostle obviously stands in a Jewish Christian tradition; the second one, with the formula Soma Christou is an original creation of Paul himself.

In Paul we observe that the concept he ecclesia tou Teou is introduced simply and used without giving any details of what is meant by it. With the concept Soma Christou Paul describes what ecclesia is, its reality and essence. 43 It is the most mature result of the NT thinking about the Church. It expresses adequately both the believers’ participation in Christ and the mutual interdependence of all the various members of the one body of Christ, highlighting Christian life as a life in the body for other members within ‘the body of Christ’ (12,14). Thus by introducing the conception Soma Christouinto Christian theology Paul stresses the believers’ life in Christ, the unity of the Church and the aspect of equal concern and mutual interdependence of its members.

It is in the Lord’s Supper that the participants receive and rediscover their own identity as the body of Christ. The Eucharistic bread is the body of Christ who brings all those who participate in Himself together into the unity of His body. In Christ the participants realize their own identity as communal and can themselves be designated, as Paul says, Soma Christou. If so, as Josef Hainz observes, there cannot exist an enormous difference between Soma Christou and ho Christos (12,12). They both signify that the one body of the community is nothing other than the body of Christ Himself’4′ and, when applied to the individuals, they are individually members (12,27b).

The functional identity of the ecclesial body with the body of Christ must be proved in the life of the community. This becomes evident when Paul solemnly adjures the Romans to offer themselves as a living sacrifice in the unity of Christ’s sacrifice (Rom 12,1). The sacrificial life of the Christian community cannot be dissolved from the whole life of fraternal fellowship in which each member of Christ’s body considers himself at the service of the others. Thus Paul can write: “And He died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves” (2 Cor 5,15). In the Lord’s Supper Christ’ self‑denial for the benefit of others is made present among us. How, then, can the richer Christians ignore the hunger of the poorer ones in an egocentric way? In view of Christ’s cross, where Christ “emptied Himself’ for others, and in view of this death made present in the Lord Supper, Paul exhorts, “Let each of you look not only to his or her own interests but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2,4). When the ecclesial body lives a sacrificial life being at the service of others, then Jesus can pronounce on the Soma Christou ‘this is my body in perpetual state of sacrifice given up for you’. Only such a body can celebrate the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner and through it proclaim the death of the Lord.


4.2. Kerygmatic Dimension of the Lord’s Supper

The proclamation of the death of the Lord constitutes for Paul the nucleus of the Lord’s Supper celebration. The very celebration of the Lord’s Supper is proclamation of the death of the Lord, until He comes. With this affirmation Paul bestows on the Eucharistic mystery a profound and unbiased kerygmatic meaning and makes clear what he means by “Do this in remembrance of me” and under which singular historical point of view among others he sees the event of the Lord’s Supper.

       The life and death of an ecclesial community depends on how much its members are willing to proclaim the Gospel to the world. The Gospel to be proclaimed is that of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper, which is the proclamation of the Lord’s death, is the most intense and influenceable way that the participants can enact the kerygma of Christ. In Rom 1, 1‑5 Paul focuses upon God’s eschatological deed which set him apart, as the servant of Jesus Christ for the proclamation of the Gospel as his principal mission. The participants do not proclaim the death of the Lord unless they are prepared to go through those prophetically charged actions of Jesus’ giving Himself. For Paul the close relationship between us and Christ’s death on the cross means that we represent Christ’s death and cross in our own life, carrying in our body the death of Jesus (2 Cor 4, 10). Such a cross‑existence includes self‑denial and active love for others (2 Cor 4,15; 1 Cor 4,11‑13)’ 46 Only by actively loving and caring for others does our participation in the Lord’s Supper ‘proclaim’ Christ’ death as something that happened for others.47While speaking of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the best means to proclaim the death of the Lord, Paul’s main concern was, whether the Corinthian celebration proclaimed the death of the Lord. If not the source of salvation becomes the source of condemnation.


4.3. Judicial Dimension of the Lord’ s Supper

The whole of Paul’s mission was to help the Christians to be “guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor 1,8) and he prays that the faithful may remain blameless on the day of the parousia (I Thess 3, 13; 5, 23; Phil 1, 10). As the Corinthians “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” they are endowed with the necessary charismata (spiritual gifts). The Lord’s Supper is the most perfect charisma, which implies a task as well; namely to proclaim the death of the Lord, a death in which is rooted the individual’s Christian existence and which constituted the members of the community as the body of Christ. Otherwise the community’s coming together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper will be for judgement (krima 11,34) now and at the event of the Lord’s glorious coming (11,26; 4,5; 1 Thess 1, 10), the day of future judgement, which would bring to a climax before the world the revelation of Jesus Christ as the eschatological judge (I Cor 4, 4‑5; 2 Cor 5,10).

The Lord’s Supper, the best way for the perfect self‑presentation of the Soma Christou and the supreme means of proclaiming the Gospel, can bring both salvation and destruction upon the chosen people of God in Christ. To proclaim the death of the Lord and to live what that death implies in relationship to believers behaviour towards the members of the Soma Christou is the criterion for divine judgement. The way to avoid judgement is to judge correctly the identity of the Soma Christou and to live and behave accordingly. Thus the celebration of the Soma Christou will in the full sense be “the Lord’s Supper, the believers’ ‘coming together’ will always be ‘for ‑the better”; their celebration will be in a worthy manner becoming the spring of eternal salvation, and they will remain blameless. Only then on ‘the day of the Lord’ can Paul be proud of his apostolic activity (Phil 2,16; 1 Thess 2, 19).



The problems regarding the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the Corinthian Church are critical and informative for the Church of all ages. The Lord’s Supper is the dynamic moment when the body of Christ is not only most visibly communitarian, most actively the Church of God, but also the moment when the body receives a new divine life impulse necessary for its continuance. Since the Lord’s Supper is the action that most property translated into external and visible form the body of Christ’s own internal reality, it is the most important revelation about the Church itself in all ages.

The believers’ new mode of existence must be that of “carrying in the body the death of Jesus” (2 Cor 4, 10). All Christians need to understand that they can proclaim the Lord’s death only by allowing themselves to die to themselves in participating in the body and blood of Christ. For the Christians must have a lived realization of the attitude manifested in the death of Christ. His death was for all, “that those who live might live no longer for themselves” (2 Cor 5,15). It is a question of the total commitment to others that is realized in the unity of the body of Christ. Only in the measure that the members of the body five in loving fellowship with Christ and among themselves will the death of Christ be proclaimed in and apart from the Lord’s Supper celebration. If the Lord’s Supper is the obvious expression of an uninterrupted Christian gift of self for others in continuation of the sacrifice at the table of the Lord, it will become a living reality, pulsating with a spirit of Christ like concern for others. Without a life of concern for others as demonstrated by Jesus, the celebration becomes an empty word and meaningless action. It would have been far healthier if the original form of the Lord’s Supper as preserved in the Pauline tradition had been continued so that the fellowship with Christ and with each other which it involves would have been shown and seen as the form and shape of Christian life.

The Lord’s Supper table is the matrix of mission, the place from which the believers are sent forth to live the Lord’s Supper. The proclamation of the Lord’s death, which Paul reminds us, has often been limited to professing Christians. The Lord’s Supper, the centre and epitome of Christianity, is an important dimension of the missionary task of the Church. The public celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a clear proclamation of the vicarious and expiatory death of Christ and an invitation to participate, by living Christ’s self‑giving in the vigil of those who wait for His coming. The celebration continues to convey meaning and challenge. If the believers identify their lives with proclaiming the sacrificial death of the Lord, the Lord’s Supper will activate them to live a Christ like life.

The proclamation of the Gospel establishes the existence of a community and shapes its nature. The Lord’s Supper is an essential part of the Gospel, and as such is intended to be at the very head of the life of the Church. It could become a powerful missionary medium if Christians would allow it to be the vehicle of proclamation that Paul intended when he wrote to the Corinthian Church. Besides that the cross, as a self‑sacrificing act of obedience to God, becomes the paradigm for the life and ethics of the believing community, for sacrificial love is the greatest force on earth.



Oriental Theology

Oriental Theology

Dr Thomas Pallippurathukunnel

Fr Thomas Pallippurathukunnel        

   Originally the denotation “Oriental” was a geographical description of Churches outside Roman Patriarchate. Now it is used as a technical term to describe all the Churches, which are not Latin in origin. They spread all over the world.

            Approaching from the perspective of faith or communion the Oriental Churches are divided into four communions:

  1. The Assyrian Church of the East< which is in communion with no other church.

2. The Oriental Orthodox Churches, which are in communion with, but completely independent of one another.

  1. The Orthodox Churches (The Eastern Orthodox Churches), which is a communion of Churches, all of which recognize the Patriarch of Constantinople as a point of unity with certain rights and privileges.
  2. The Eastern (Oriental) Catholic Churches, which recognize the Bishop of Rome as the head of the Church.

Besides there are a few Orthodox Churches of irregular status. They are of orthodox origin, but their present status is at least uncanonical, if not fully schismatic.

            Some of these churches (non-catholic) are called autocephalous, because they do not subject to any outside jurisdiction. There are also a few Autonomous Churches, which though self-sufficient, are still under the limited authority of a Patriarch or Hierarch outside itself.

            The Eastern Catholic Churches hold in communion with Latin Church all the elements of Christian faith. They recognize the Bishop of Rome as the head of the Church and accept the Roman primacy of jurisdiction and infallibility the Pope. But the other Oriental Churches, which are not in communion with Rome, do not believe in a visible single head of the Church. They recognize the primacy of honor of the Bishop of Rome, but do not his primacy of jurisdiction and infallibility.

            There are certain elements of Christian faith, which these churches hold in communion with Catholic Church. They are the following:

-Holy Trinity

-Fall of Adam and original sin.

-Sanctifying grace was given to Adam. Adam lost it and Christ restored it.

-Incarnation, passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ

-The divinity of Christ. Christ has two natures against Monophysistism Christ has one person- against Nostorianism

-Perpetual virginity of Bl.Virgin Mary

Real presence of Christ in Bl. Sacrament

The Church is the universal and common ark of salvation

-Seven Sacraments

-Absolute need of Divine Grace

-Resurrection of body, eternal life, heaven, hell.

-The Eucharistic sacrifice

Veneration of Mary and Saints

Membership of the Church is necessary for salvation.

Obligation of Moral law  and  Infallibility of the Church

The Characteristics of Oriental Theology

  1. Liturgical: For the Orientals Sacred Liturgy is not only a source of piety, but also a teacher of dogma. They believe that the apostolic tradition has been handed down in a mystery and is preserved in Church’s worship. “Lex orandi lex credendi” man’s faith is expressed in their prayers. The dogma is contained in the prayers and hymns used at liturgical services; Not only the words but the various gestures and actions have a special meaning and they express symbolically the truths of faith.
  2. Faithfulness to the Fathers of the Church. Fidelity to the sacred tradition does not signify fidelity to the past, but it consists rather in the living with the full Christian experience. For Orientals the age of Fathers did not come to an end in the 7th of the 8th centuries. Many later Fathers are considered as Fathers of the Church, e.g. St. Maximus, Gregory Palamas etc.
  3. Dynamic: The Oriental theology admits organic evolution of the dogma. While speaking of the evolution of the dogma, they make a distinction between substance or nucleus of dogma and the forma or appearance of dogma. They say that evolution of dogma is only in the forma. It is described as progress, evolution and explanation. There were discussions about theological subjects, e.g. the procession of the Holy Spirit, nature and person of Christ, icons.
  4. Free from legalism: The Orientals believe in the divinely instituted hierarchy and its authority in the Church, but they are against the abuses of authority and law – law becomes the principle of unity in the church. For them unity is to be found in the common life of Christ’s Mystical Body, confessing the same faith, sharing the same sacraments.
  5. Speculative. Orientals also apply philosophical reasons to the sacred theology.
  6. Not Scholastic. They deny the scholastic method, that is, much concerned with precise definitions and deductions etc.
  7. Mystical and contemplative. In the eastern thought and traditions there is no sharp distinction between mysticism and theology, between experience of divine mysteries and the dogma
  8. Biblical. Their theology is biblically founded.
  9. Social. This is an external characteristic. There is a lay participation in the theological evolution. There are many distinguished lay theologians, e.g. Solovgen (1853-1900) Khomyakov (1804-1860) theology was not the monopoly of the professionals.

The Sources of Oriental Theology

            There are two sources, Bible and Tradition. According to the Orthodox Church the Bible also included in Tradition. Therefore the source of the faith is Holy tradition. Tradition means: the books of Bible, the Creed, the Decrees of ecumenical councils, writings of the Fathers, the Canons, the Service books, the Holy Icons etc.

1. The Bible

 According to the Eastern thought the Church is a scriptural Church. The Bible is the supreme expression of God’s revelation to men. The Christians therefore, must always be “people of the Book” and the Bible is the “Book of the People”. This book should be lived and understood within the Church. Only the Church has the authority to interpret the Bible. The Bible is used widely at Oriental Liturgical services and is venerated in a special way.

With regard to the text of the Bible

  1. The Assyrian Church of the East  uses Pesita version – a Syriac translation, date is not clear, the oldest manuscript is of 446.
  2. The Oriental Orthodox Churches also use the Pesita version.]
  3. The Orthodox Churches use LXX Septuagint.

With regard to the canon of Book

  1. The Assyrian Church of the East though admits all the books of Vulgate canonical, some of their theologians cancelled certain books from the canon, e.g. Theodore of Mopsuetia cancelled Proverb, Ecclessiasticus and Job.
  2. The Oriental Orthodox Churches, though they admit all books canonical there are some defections on account of excess, e.g. The Coptic Church included III Maccabees in OT and two epistles of Clement and 8th book of Apostolic Constitution in NT.
  3. The Orthodox Churches agree to the Catholic church about the canons of the books.
  4. The Niceao- Constantinopolitan creed formulated in the council of Niceae I in 325. All the Oriental accept it, but without the addition of Filioque.
  5. Symbolum Athanasianum or Quicumque. It was considered as rule of faith both in East and West. The authorship is disputed. Some attribute to St. Ambrose
  6. Symbol of Apostles. Some accept it as a symbol of faith; some others consider it as a private profession of faith.

2.  The Creed and Symbols of Faith

 3.. Ecumenical Councils

            The Orientals accept only those councils which were convoked before their separation.

            The Assyrian church of the East – Nicea I (325) Constantinople. 1 381.

The Oriental Orthodox Churches – plus Ephesus (481).

The Orthodox Churches- plus Chalcedon (451), Costantinople. II (553), Constantinople  III. ( 680-81), Nicea II  (787)..

All these Churches ascribe supreme and infallible authority to the ecumenical councils.

The Canonical collection of the Orthodox Church is called Nomocanon in 14 titles. It contains:

-The apostolic canons  -a collection of 85 disciplinary rules served in the first half of 4thc.

–         The canons of seven ecumenical   councils .

–         The canons of local councils

–         The canons of Holy Fathers.

The most important collection of canons of the Orthodox Church was of council of Trullo (692).

Eastern Catholic Theology

Cf. Robert F. Taft S. J., Eastern Catholic Theology, Slow rebirth After A Long Difficult Gestation,  in Eastern Church Journel,Vol.8, No.2, Summer2001, pp51-80.

It is not possible to define in any definitive form what eastern catholic theology is or might be except to say what it is not.

1. It is not Eastern/Oriental Orthodox theology. This does not mean that it stands in opposition to Orthodox theology. On the contrary both claim to derive from the patristic and liturgical sources of a common tradition. Besides Eastern Catholics have been strongly influenced by modern orthodox writers.

2. It is not western catholic theology, though it has obviously undergone strong  western catholic influence.

Is Eastern Catholic theology any theology done by theologians who happen to be Eastern Catholics? No. There are eastern catholic writers who just parrot Latin manual theology of the pre-World War II – this is not eastern catholic theology. Eastern catholic theology means a style of catholic theological thinking in which ‘Eastern’ is not an ecclesial or ethnic attribute of those doing this theology, but an epithet specifying the nature and quality of theology itself.

It is difficult to define Eastern catholic theology. It has similarities with eastern catholic theology and with orthodox theology from both of which far older, fuller and richer theological traditions it obviously derives so much. Yet eastern catholic theology does exist despite problems in defining its distinctiveness.

It is the theology of catholic practitioners with a knowledge and love for the traditions of the Christians of East, a catholic theology that seeks to breathe with both lungs, nourishing a sometimes anemic catholic thought with oxygen from both sides of the East- West Christian division.


I Vatican – least ‘Eastern’ of all ecumenical councils.

                = Its lack of understanding or respect for the distinctiveness of catholic East, its traditions, dignity of hierarchs

                = Their patriarchs were assimilated to the titular Latin patriarchs and ranked with them.

–         Eastern Catholic Patriarchs and bishops protested. Patriarch .Joseph Audo insisted  that the particular discipline of the Christian East be respected.

–         Patriarch. Gregory II Youssef Sayyous (Melkite) defended the patriarchal system of government traditional in the Christian East..

–         There were Eastern Catholic Churches which wanted to recover their heritage and others that are so Latinized they do not understand the nature of the problems.

Pope Leo XIII and the Eucharistic Congress of Jerusalem.

            Leo XIII is called the Pope of the Christian East. His pontificate marked the beginning of the emancipation of the Eastern Catholic .Churches. Report of Card. Vanutelli, Apostolic.Delegate at Constantinople, on 11 April 1883, outlined Latin failures in dealing adequately with the East, and insisted on the teaching in Catholic. Seminaries of special courses in Oriental Theology, Liturgy and History.

            Cardinal.Langenieux, archbishop.of Rheims,Pope Leo’s delegate for the Eucharistic. Congress of Jerusalem reported on 2 July 1893 about the problems caused by the Latin assault on the East, and of the need for a radically new policy. Pope Leo took swift and decisive step On 20 June 1894 he published the encyclical “Pareclara Gratulationis”. The Catholic Oriental Patriarchs were invited to express their opinion freely.

            On 30 Nov. 1984 the pope published “Orientalium Dignitas” on St. Nicholas Day. It is the Magna Carta of Eastern Catholicism.

Further intellectual and institutional developments.

–         Foundation of Review “Oriens Christianus”.

–         Celebration of the 15th C. of the death of St. John Chrysostom in 1907 and a commemorative volume.was published.

–         Foundation of S. Congregation for Oriental Churches on 1 May 1917 and  of Pontifical Oriental Institute on 15 Oct. 1917.

Characteristics of Catholic Oriental Theology

 1. Eastern Catholic theology is not just Byzantine Catholic theology. There has been a remarkable renewal in the non-Byzantine Catholic Eastern Traditions. By and large today, the only Orthodox Theology worth the name is Byzantine Orthodox Theology. The other churches have been reduced by persecution and by Islamic, Russian and Soviet domination. They have their age-old traditional theology rooted in their liturgy, their synods, their Fathers, their monasticism and their spirituality. In the case of Syrians and Armenians this theology is rich, but they struggle for physical survival.

 2. It is a theology in reaction.

      Karl Bath says: ‘the theologian must have the Bible in one hand and the daily         newspaper in the other’. It means that any true existential theology exists at the intersection of God’s eternal revelation and the evolving day to day realities of human history. So like any other theology Eastern Catholic theology is a theology in reaction to the world-situation in which it finds itself. Traditionally, that situation has been one of enemies right and left on one side the praestantia ritus Latini of Benedict XIV’s constitution Etsi Pastoralis of 26 May 1742, on the other side the Orthodox rejection and systematic calumniation of Uniatism. Crusades and Uniatism have rendered impossible for the Orthodox any objective history of their relation to the West.

 3. It is not made but in the making. It is a theology in via, in the process of recuperating and repossessing. It is largely without pretence. It keeps one eye over its shoulder and the other over the Orthodox.

 4. It is self-conscious. Like Orthodox Theology, it is self-conscious in ways the west, complacent in its size and strength, never needs to be. But it is not xenophobic (fear of foreigners & strangers) or paranoid (mental dilution), unlike much in modern orthodox theology. On the contrary it is open to the modern West and embraces its objectivity and fairness.

 5.  It is open and unashamedly eclectic (choosing best out of things). It may be an abomination to the most orthodox writers – subjection to Western influence – the popular Russian catholic spiritual writer Catherine de Hueck Doherty is a representative of this spirit. This is often dangerous and also had some positive effects.

 6. It rejects the pseudo-antithesis between Eastern and Western thought and the false polarization consequent to it. The Imitation of Christ of St. Thomas a Kempis, a typically western spirituality inimical to the spirit of the Christian East, has fifteen editions in Russia. How is it, asks Louis Bouyer. The Eastern spiritual classic “The unseen warfare of Nikodemus the Hagiorite (1748-1809), also author of Philkalia and Pedalion was published in 1796 in Venice.

 7.  It is a theology rooted in the Fathers of the Church and especially in the lived experience of the Church’s liturgy and spirituality that flows from it. This distinguishes it sharply from typically western theology.

 8. It forms an integrated whole. It is an integrated world in which liturgy, spirituality, art and architecture comprise an integrated harmonious whole in a way unthinkable in the West, with its clash of competing methodologies and philosophies.

      There is a  difference between a Gothic cathedral and a small fully decorated                   Byzantine church. Eastern catholic theology is an enclosed world.

As a result of this integral nature, Eastern catholic theology has not just a different liturgy and liturgical iconography and monasticism. It also has a different pneumatology, a different liturgical and spiritual theology, a different theological anthropology, a different Mariology and a different feminism.

Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches

On 21 November 1964 Vatican II approved the decree and it became a law on 22 January 1965. Like other decrees this also underwent several transformations before its final approval. In the middle of 1959 the commission under cardinal Tardini sent an invitation to all bishops asking them to submit proposals and resolutions for the council. In the light of this pope John XXIII nominated an Oriental commission in I960 to work out the following points: 1.Changes in the rite, 2.Communicatio in sacris 3. Reconciliation with the Orthodox Orientals, and 4. The most important disciplinary questions. The work was divided into seven sections and was accomplished in 1960-61 in 56 plenary sessions. The result was the schema -De Ecclesiae unitate (52 articles) and 14 short schemata.

The council started on 11 October 1962. Now the task was entrusted to the newly formed Council Commission. It prepared a schema and sent it to all council Fathers in May 1963. In the light of the suggestions a third schema was prepared on 27 April 1964. Pope Paul VI sanctioned it for the submission to the fathers. At the final voting 2110 Fathers approved the decree and 39 voted against it.

The title of the Decree

Originally the title was “Decree on the Eastern Churches”. The word catholic was added because this decree is not directly intended to the Eastern Churches that are not in communion with Rome. The Catholic Church cannot oblige the non-Catholics to follow the rules and prescriptions of the Catholic Church. According to Patriarch Maximos such a decree is necessary because first the, Eastern Catholic Churches are confronted today with special problems which are not urgent for the Latin Church to the same degree. Secondly the decree can under the authority of the council, repeal certain inopportune and incompatible enactments. He says that the decree arouses hope that a post conciliar commission will carry on the work on its lines.


The first sentence is a disturbing one. There is a contrast between Eastern and Catholic. Here “catholic” is more or less as synonymous with Latin. Patriarch Maximos asks: How the Latins would react if a decree on the Latin church were to say that the catholic church holds in high esteem the institutions of the Latin Church.

Individual Churches or Rites  (art.2-4)

The word ‘rite’ in a narrow sense means liturgical rite, but in a wider sense it means constitution, law, discipline, spirituality, theology, liturgy etc. In the decree it is mostly used in the wider sense.

Art. 2 portrays the historic and theologically founded structure of the Church – a structure made up of individual Churches. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ and there is only one baptism, one faith and one government. All baptized are united in the Holy Spirit. The faithful are formed into particular Churches under the bishop. These individual churches are related. Each church developed its own liturgy, discipline and spirituality adopting the customs and traditions of the place. So the»e is a diversity in the Church. Each individual church is bound to safeguard its traditions and spiritual heritage and should grow through adaptation.

Art. 3 emphasizes the fundamental equality of the individual churches in dignity, rights and obligations.

1. The Pope as the visible head of the Church is the head of the universal Church.

2. All these Churches are equally entrusted to pastoral guidance and have the right to preach gospel and to engage in missionary activity.

Art. 4 In order to safeguard the equality of the individual churches and to preserve their growth various provisions have been made.

1. Special parishes, even special hierarchies should be organized for each rite. This was objected on the ground that if the combination of several jurisdictions in the same territory may cause many difficulties.

2. In order to solve the problem there should be a large measure of broad-mindedness and willingness to make adaptations and cooperation in all spheres of ecclesiastical administration at interdiocesan and supra-diocesan levels.

3. Every form of rivalry and attempts to win over members of other individual churches should be avoided.

4. Baptized converts received into the Catholic Church are to be bound to their rite not only within, but also outside the area of their rite.

5. Knowledge of the rite: Priests and seminarians should study about the liturgical rites and inter-ritual questions.  They should instruct the laity.

6. Change of rite is not permitted. Only Rome has the power to give permission to change rite. Now permission to administer the sacraments is given


The Preservation of the Spiritual Heritage of the Eastern Churches (Art.5,6)

1. The eastern Churches are very particular to preserve the spiritual heritage and tradition of the early Church, Their liturgy is ‘centered on Christ. Both Bible and Tradition are precious.  The teachings of the fathers of the Church had great influence on their liturgy. Their spirituality is centered on the Sacraments. Their calendar is Christ-centered. So the Council warns the Eastern Churches not to lose their heritage. The Council praises the heritage of these Churches.

2. The administration of the Church: It is different from that of the Western Church. The head of the Eastern Church is Patriarch who has special powers. So there is diversity in the government. They enjoy the right to rule themselves according to its proper and individual procedure and customs,

3.. The Orientals should preserve their rites and their established way of life. For this they have to study the customs and traditions of the Eastern Churches.

4.. The growth of the rite should be organic. In this growth the identity of each church should be preserved. The mere imitation of other rites is not recommended,

5. The Eastern Churches which were subjected to alterations and which went astray from the observance of their traditions have to restore them.

6. Those who are engaged in missionary work among the Orientals or in Oriental region should study the history, liturgy, discipline and the special characteristics of the Oriental churches.

7. Latin Congregations working in Eastern countries or among Eastern faithful should establish special provinces and houses for the Orientals. In those houses oriental liturgy should be practiced.

Eastern Patriarchs  ( Art.7-11)

According to Patriarch Maximos IV this chapter on the Patriarchs is weakest of the entire Decree because of the rejection of the suggestion to treat the question in the light of the first councils. Actually this question is the central problem of the Eastern churches and indeed generally of the whole structure of the Church. Therefore according to many it should not have been treated as a special problem of the Eastern churches, but as a problem pertaining to the structure of the universal Church.

In the original schema this article had an introduction which was prone rather to weaken than to revalorize the position of the patriarchs both in relation to the Pope and the bishops. Here the rights of the patriarchs were considered as papal concessions. This introduction was replaced by the simple statement that patriarchal structure is an institution of the universal Church which goes back to the earliest epochs of the Church and was already found and recognised (not instituted) as such by the first general Councils.

So the Council says:

1. Patriarchates existed m the early Church and was recognized by the first ecumenical Councils.

2. The patriarch is a bishop who has jurisdiction over all bishops (including metropolitans), clergy and people (of God) of his own territory or rite, in accordance with the norms of the law and without prejudice to the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.

The last paragraph “whenever an ordinary of any rite is appointed outside the territorial bounds of its patriarchate, he remains attached to the hierarchy of the patriarchate of that rite, in accordance with the norm of law” was not in the original text. It was inserted in order to pave the way for a corresponding regulation for the new situation created by large emigration.

3. A bishop of any rite appointed outside the territory of the patriarch, remains attached to the hierarchy of the patriarchate of that rite, in accordance with the norm of the law. It follows that the patriarchs are not entitled to nominate bishops for the faithful of their rite established in America or Canada without the approval of the Holy See,

Art. 8 says:

All patriarchs are equal in dignity. Some o£ them are of later origin.  With regard to precedence the decision of the ecumenical councils is to be considered.

The order of the ancient Patriarchates:

Rome                Rome

Antioch           Constantinople

Alexandria        Antioch



Precedence of the present Catholic Patriarchates:


Alexandria (Coptic)






Ukranian (Major Archbishop)

Syro-Malabar (Major Archbishop)

Syro-Malankara (Major  Archbishop)

Romanian Catholic Church (Major Archbishop)


 The authority of the Patriarchs  (Art.9)

1. Patriarch is the father and the head of the rite.

2. The rights and privileges of the Patriarch should be reestablished in accord with the ancient traditions of each Church and the decrees of the ecumenical councils.

3. These rights and privileges are those existed in the united church before the division.

  1. The patriarchs and patriarchal synod is the high authority in the patriarchal church. It has the power to establish new dioceses and nominate bishops in their territory.
  2. This kind of administration in a particular church is not against the universal jurisdiction of the Pope, who has the right to intervene in the administration of a particular church whenever it is necessary


The  Major Archbishops  (Art.10)

Besides the patriarchal churches there are a number of other individual catholic churches which have no patriarch as their head, but a major archbishop who has the same rights, but not the same privileges. They can be raised to the status of patriarchal church. The preparatory commission had already expressly proposed this for Syro-Malabar, Ukranian and Etheopean churches. Because of certain difficulties only a general recommendation was made. The establishment of Patriarchate is reserved to an ecumenical synod or Pope.

Though the council recommended the institution of patriarchates in certain churches some regarded the patriarchal structure as outdated and antiquated and hence called for its complete abolition. To others it even appeared incompatible with the rediscovered collegiality of bishops.

Questions: Is it wise to create Patriarchate for the small churches?  What would have happened if the patriarchs had not been created?

A rejection of Patriarchal structure of the church on principle would not only mean abandonment of the Uniate churches but also a definitive and irrevocable identification of the Catholic Church with the Latin Church, thus crushing for ever all hopes of a reunion of with the Orthodox Churches. As regards the collegiality, it may be observed that it was in fact in the patriarchally constituted churches that it had been maintained and it is in them that it is still practiced in an exemplary manner


Rules concerning the Sacraments (Art.12-18)

The points considered here are almost exclusively interritual questions for which synods of the various individual churches were not competent at all.

Art. l2: A general statement about the discipline of the sacraments in the Oriental churches, which is very ancient and the council recognizes them and the traditional way of their celebration. The council also wishes that these churches restore them in accordance with the traditions of each church.

There exists .difference with regard to the administration of the sacraments. For eg. In the Latin Church the bishop is the ordinary minister of the sacrament of confirmation, but in the Oriental churches the priest administers it. The Latins use unleavened bread and the Orientals use leavened bread

Art 13.On Confirmation

Confirmation should be administered in accordance with the Oriental traditions. It can be administered only through the chrism blessed by the patriarch or bishop. In Malabar church synod of Diamper changed the practice, in Oriental churches except the Maronites confirmation has been administered by the ordinary priest.

:Art.14. The priest can in future administer it even apart from baptism which had so far not been the customs in some of eastern churches.

It is no longer confined to the rite. In future Eastern priest can administer it validly not only to all Easterners but also to the Latins, which had so far at least not been permissible under Latin ecclesiastical law. Latin priests can also do the same.  In this, the discipline of the each church should be considered.

Art.15 The Eucharist

The decree expressly stresses the competence of the various individual churches with regard to the liturgy. It deals with the obligation of the faithful to participate in the Holy  Mass on Sundays and feast days.

In the Eastern churches Holy Mass was celebrated solemnly and with active participation from the part of the faithful. It was preceded by divine office. There was only one Mass in a church. The liturgical day begins with the Vaspers of the preceding day. Therefore the evening mass is included in the Sunday obligation.  In the Eastern churches Sunday obligation is not under mortal sin.  For the Latins it is the moral sin (Lateran IV 1215).


Art. 16: The faculty for hearing confession to a priest of any rite by his-proper bishop is applicable to the entire territory of the grantor.  The extension of jurisdiction for confession to the priests is dealt here. The eastern priest can in future grant absolution in the region for which he has received the faculty for hearing confessions from his bishop and not only to the faithful of his rite. The hierarchs of other rites have been left with certain possibilities of imposing restrictions.  Here it concerns about the interiritual extension in the territory and this is of considerable pastoral significance because of the widespread mixture of the rites. A bishop can revoke the faculty from a priest with reasons.                                         ;

Diaconate and subdiconate:

Art. I7 – In many of the Eastern churches the diaconate has remained in existence till today as an independent rank in holy orders. The decree calls for its restoration even in places where it had as such ceased to be in practice. Deacons are normally married before their ordination.

Subdiaconate though a minor order is identified with the higher orders in its obligations (Divine office, distinguishing marriage obstacle) it has been left to the discretion of the individual churches to return to the ancient practice.

Mixed Marriages

Art. 18 – The extension of the Latin canonical form to the Eastern churches made invalid all the marriages contracted between Catholics and the non-Catholics. The norm was this: “All marriages not contracted before the competent catholic pastor had been declared invalid (Crebrae allatae c.85 1949).

The motu proprio of Pope Paul VI of 31 March 1970: A marriage between two baptised of whom one is a catholic, the other a non-catholic, may not licitly be contracted without the previous dispensation of the local ordinary, since such marriage is by its very nature an obstacle to full spiritual communion of the married parties.

Since 1949 such marriages resulted in excommunication. Among the Orientals there were many mixed marriages especially where Catholics are minority. Therefore the obligation with regard to the canonical form of marriage was lifted in the sense that it was no longer to be considered as a condition for the validity of a mixed marriage, but only for its lawfulness.

The council says: When Eastern Catholics marry baptized Eastern non-Catholics, the canonical form for the celebration of such marriages obliges only for the lawfulness, for their validity the presence of a sacred minister suffices, as long as the other requirements of the law are observed,

It should be registered as soon as possible. The priests of non-Catholics are requested to cooperate to register in the books of the catholic party (1967 Feb. 22).

The catholic party has the duty to preserve his/her faith, children be baptized, brought up in the same faith.

Marriage between two catholic .orientals – catholic canonical form is necessary.

Marriage between catholic .oriental and Latin – catholic canonical form is necessary

Divine Worship (Art.19-23)

            Art.19. It will be the exclusive right of an ecumenical synod or Apostolic See to establish, transfer or suppress feast days common to all the Eastern churches. The only novelty in it is that in future the patriarch can with his synod, institute or abolish feasts for his church – only in individual cases,

Art. 20 – There is no unanimous agreement among the Easterners on the date of Easter. It is therefore recommended to celebrate Easter on the same day.

Art. 21: The Easterners who live outside their dioceses – ritual diaspora – have been permitted to follow the given local customs with regard to the sacred seasons (feasts , days of fasting etc.). Faithful of different rites in a same family or in a hostel fellow one rite.

Art. 22 – Divine office

Regarding the obligation of divine office it pertains to the community, not to the individual. It should be recited according to the discipline and traditions of each church. The faithful are exhorted to participate in it.

Art. 23 – Use of liturgical language.

Regarding the use of language in sacred liturgy the patriarch with his synod has the power to regulate the use of the language with the approval of the texts by the Holy See. Here the permission is given only for translation which should be faithful to the original text.

Art 24. Relations with the Brethren of the separated churches.

Catholics should show that unity of churches can be achieved without  losing their individual characteristics.

To promote the unity  the council suggests the following:

– Prayer

-Exemplary life

-Religious fidelity to ancient eastern traditions

– Mutual knowledge


– Brotherly regard for objects (icon etc) and attitudes (feeling)

Art.25 – about individual conversion

1. Only a simple profession of catholic faith is demanded.

2. Clerics united are permitted to exercise the orders they possess.

Catholic faith: authority of pope, infallibility, assumption and Immaculate Conception of Bl.Virgin Mary.

They are not bound to follow all the private devotions in the Catholic Church.

Art. 26 common worship

Any common worship (communicatio in sacris) which would damage the unity of the church or involve formal acceptance of falsehood or danger of deviation in the faith, of scandal or of indifferentism, is forbidden by divine law.  Considering the pastoral experience and circumstances the council lays the following with regard the common worship.

Separated Eastern Christians in good faith may be granted the sacrament of penance, Eucharist and anointing of the sick if they ask of their own accord and have right disposition.  The Catholics may also ask them from the non-Catholics who possess valid sacraments.  This should be in the case of necessity and when it is impossible to have access to catholic priest. Common worship is not possible when there is no Eucharistic unity.

Participation in the extra-sacramental worship

Art.28. participation in marriage, burials and similar functions is permitted.

Art. 29 – Common worship should be under the watchful care of the bishop, because it has not only its positive side but also its undeniable dangers. Bishops are asked to show due consideration for each other on this point, so that different practices in the same region or even in the same place might not cause confusion among the faithful.


She council expresses its joy in the fruitful and zealous collaboration between the Eastern and Western catholic churches. All Christians are asked to pray for unity to God the Father, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit and Blessed Virgin Mary


Trinity according to the Orthodox Church

The Orthodox Church considers the doctrine of trinity as something that has a living, practical importance for every christian. Man is made in the image of God, and to christians God means the Trinity: thus it is only in the light of the dogma of the Trinity that man can understand who he is and what God intends him to be. The basic elements in the doctrine of Trinity are the following:

1. God is absolutely transcendent. The absolute trascendence of God is safeguarded by the use of the way of negation of apophatic theology, which speaks of God in negative terms. God cannot be properly apprehended by man’s mind, human language when applied to Him, is always inexact. It is therefore less misleading to use negative language about God rather than positive to say what He is not.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (+394) says: “the true knowledge and vision of God consist in this – in seeing that He is invisible, because what we seek lies beyond all knowledge, being wholly separated by the darkness of incomprehensibility. St. john of Damscus (675- 749) says: “God is infinite and incomprehensible and all that is comprehensible about Him is His infinity and incomprehensibility…God does not belong to the class of existing things, not that He has no existence, but that He is above all existing things, nay even above existence itself”.

The emphasis on God’s transcendence would seem at first sight to exclude any direct experience of God. But in fact many who made use of negative theology like Gregory of Nyssa, Dionisius, Maximus, also believed in the possibility of a true mystical union with God. They combined the way of negation with the way of union, with the tradition of the mystics or hesychasts. Hesychast comes from the Greek word Hesychia which means quiet. Hesychast is the one who in silence devotes himself to inner recollection and private prayer.

For the Orthodox the positive or Cataphatic theology or the way of affirmation must always be balanced and corrected by the employment of negative language

2.God, although absolutely transcendent, is not cut off from the world, which He has made.God is above and outside His creation, yet He also exists within it. “Thou art everywhere and fillest all things”(a prayer). The Orthodox makes a distinction between God’s essence and energies. His Essence remains unapproachable but His Energies come down to us. We experience them in the form of deifying grace and divine light. Our God is a God who hides himself yet He is also a God who acts -God of history- intervening directly in concrete situations.

3.God is personal, that is to say Trinitarian.  When man participates in the divine energies he is brought face to face with a person. God is a trinity of three persons, each of whom dwells in the other two, by virtue of a perpetual movement of love.

4. God is an Incarnate God. God has come down in His own person. The second person of Trinity became man. This shows the closer union between God and His creation.

Question of Filioque.

The Holy Trinity is a mystery of unity in diversity, and of diversity in unity. Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are one in essence (homoousios) yet each is distinguished from the other two by personal characteristics. St. Gregory of Nazianz says, “The Divine is indivisible in its divisions” for the persons are united yet no confused, distinct yet not divided (John of Damascus), both the distinction and union alike are paradoxical (Gregory of Nazianz).

If each of the persons is distinct, what holds the Holy Trinity together? There is one God because there is one Father. Father is the source of Godhead, the principle of unity among the three, born of none and proceeding from none. Son is born of the Father from all eternity; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father from all eternity. This is the doctrine of the Orthodox Church.

According to Western (Latin) theology the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. For them the principle of unity in the Trinity is the Divine Essence, which all the three share. The synod Toledo (589) for the first time officially inserted “filioque” in the Nicean Creed. Then it spread throughout the whole Latin Church, Frankfert (794) Rome (1014). The west retained their formula “a patre filioque” and later this insertion of filioque caused the division between the East and the West.

The Orthodox Church makes a distinction between the eternal procession of Spirit from the father and a temporal mission from the Son- sending of the Holy Spirit to the world. The one concerns the relation existing from all eternity within the Godhead; the other concerns the relation God to creation. As the son has two births, an eternal birth from the Father and a birth at particular point of time, so the Holy Spirit has an eternal procession from the Father and a temporal mission from the Son. The Orthodox Church claims that their teaching is based on Jn. 15,26. “I will send the Spirit to you from the Father”. The 13th and 14th centuries the. theologians speak of an eternal manifestation of the Holy Spirit by the Son, e.g. Gregory Palamas.

The orthodox theologians say that filioque leads either to ditheism or to semisabellianism- Father, Son and Hoy Spirit are three modes or ways of action. Ditheism is a belief in two gods. If Father and Son are two principles then there are two Gods. Lyons and Florence declared that Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principle (tamquam ex uno principio). Therefore, according to the Orthodox Church filioque is dangerous and heretical. It confuses the persons and destroys the proper balance between unity and diversity in the Godhead. Besides the Holy Spirit has become subordinated to the Son.



Creation of Man

Creation of the man is act of all the three persons of the Trinity. Gen. 1,26 says: “Let us make man according to our image and likeness”. Here image and likeness is Trinitarian.

Image and likeness do not mean exactly the same thing. John of Damascus says: Image indicates rationality and freedom. Likeness indicates assimilation to God through virtues. The image signifies man’s free will, his reason, his sense of moral responsibility in everything, in short, the distinguishing mark of man from the animal and makes him a person. It also means that we are God’s offspring, His kin. It means that between God and us there is a point of contact, an essential similarity. For because we are in God’s image we can know God and have communion with him. And if a man makes use of this faculty for communion with God, then he will become like God, he will acquire the divine likeness and he will be assimilated to God through virtues.. (John Damascus)

Grace and free will

Because man is the image of God, he is the son, he possesses a free will. To describe the relation between the grace of God and free will of man, Orthodoxy uses the term cooperation or synergy  (synergeia). St.Paul says: “we are fellow workers (synergoi) with God (1.Cor.3, 9). To achieve full fellowship with God, man as well as God must make his contribution to the common work. Of course God’s work has immeasurably greater importance. So God’s grace and human free will are equally important. The supreme example of synergy is the Mother of God.

The West accused the Orthodox Church of giving more importance to man’s free will. But the Orthodox Church claims that their church’s teaching is very straightforward. They quote, Rev.3, 20: “Behold, I stand at the door,and knock; If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in”. God knocks but waits for men to open the door. He does not break the door. The grace of the God invites all but compels none. St.John Chrysostom says: “God never draws anyone to himself by force or violence. He wishes all men to be saved, but forces no one”. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (+386) says: “It is for God to grant his grace, your task is to accept that grace and to guard it”. God’s gifts are free gifts, man cannot claim for it, but he must work for it, since faith without good works is dead (James. 2,17).

Fall and Original Sin

Adam was given free will- the power to choose between good and evil. It rested with him either to accept the vocation set before him or to refuse it. Adam refused it. His fall consisted essentially in his disobedience of the will of God; he set his own will against the divine will and so by his own act he separated himself from God. As a result a new form of existence appeared on earth- that of disease and death. By turning away from God who is immortality and life, man put himself in a state that was contrary to nature, and his unnatural condition led to an inevitable disintegration of his being and eventually to physical death. The consequences of Adam’s disobedience extended to all his descendants. We are members one of another (St. Paul) and if one member suffers, the whole body suffers. In virtue of this mysterious unity of human race, not only Adam, but also all mankind became subject to mortality. Cut off from God, Adam and his descendants passed under the domination of sin and of the devil. Man’s will is weakened and enfeebled. The Greeks call it desire; the Latins call it concupiscence.

The Orthodoxy holds a less exalted idea of man’s state before the fall, and also less severe than the west in its view of the consequences of the fall. Adam’s fall is not from a great height of knowledge and perfection but from a state of undeveloped simplicity. Hence he is not to be judged too harshly for his error. His mind became darkened, his will power was impaired, so he could not hope to attain to the likeness of God. But he was not deprived entirely of God’s grace. The image of God is distorted, but never destroyed.

Most orthodox theologians reject the idea of original guilt, man automatically inherit Adam’s corruption and mortality but not his guilt. They are only guilty in so far as by their own free choice they imitate Adam. The orthodoxy never held that unbaptized babies are consigned to hell. Greek Fathers were not much interested in the doctrine of original sin


Incarnation is an act of God’s philanthropia of his loving kindness towards mankind. Many Eastern writers argue that if man had never fallen, God in His love for humanity would still have become man. Incarnation must be seen as part of the eternal purpose of God and not simply as an answer to the fall. Because of the fall of man, incarnation is not only an act of love but an act of salvation (cf. Maximus the Confessor +662; Issac the Syrian 7thc). Christ united man and God in his person, opened man the path to union with God. Christ showed the true likeness of God.

Christ is true God and true man, one person in two natures without separation and without confusion, a single person endowed with two wills and two energies.

A striking feature of the orthodox approach to the Incarnate Christ is the overwhelming sense of his divine glory behind the veil of Christ’s flesh, Christians behold the Triune God. The two moments in Christ’s life when his divine glory was made manifest are Transfiguration on Mount Tabor and the Resurrection. Both are great feasts. The Orthodox do not overlook humanity of Christ. Veneration of the cross, reverence to the Holy Land etc. show this.

God knows different possible worlds:

  1. A world without sin
  2. A world without sin and with Christ as its head.

3. A world with sin but without Christ.

           4 A world with sin but also with Christ as its redeemer in whom God’s merciful love and goodness is best revealed and in whom the world is redeemed and in whom the whole world is sanctified and perfected. Among these possible worlds God by an absolute decree elected the present  world


Holy Sprit.

The works of Christ and the Holy Sprit are complementary and reciprocal. Christ’s work of redemption cannot be considered apart from the Holy Sprit’s work of sanctification. St. Athanacius says: “The Word took flesh, that we might receive the Sprit”. So the aim of incarnation is the sending of Holy Sprit at Pentecost.


Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. So it can be defined in terms of deification. The final goal of every christian is to become God, to attain theosis /deification/divinization. For the Orthodox Church man’s salvation and redemption means his deification.

Behind the doctrine of deification there is the idea of image and likeness. Man is made in the image of Trinity and is called to dwell in the Trinitarian God. Christ prayed that we might share in the life of God the Trinity. Cf. Jo. 17, 2. God dwelling in us and we in Him.

The idea of deification must always be understood in the light of the distinction between God’s energies and His essence. Union with God means union with the divine energies.

The mystical union between God and man is a true union, yet in this union creator and creature do not become fused into a single being. Man retains his full personal integrity, when deified, remains distinct from God. The saints do not lose their free will but voluntarily and in love conform their will to the will of God, nor cease to be human. “We remain creatures while becoming God by grace as Christ remained God when becoming man by the Incarnation. Man does not become God by nature, but by grace (St. Basil).

Man’s body is also deified. “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” I Cor. 6,19. The full deification of the body must wait, however, until the last day, for in this present life the glory of the saints is as a rule an inward splendour, a splenndour of the soul alone, then it will be outwardly manifest like Christ’s body on Mount Tabor.

The Orthodox Church has an immense reverence for the relics of the saints because they are convinced that the body is sanctified and transfigured toget6her with the soul. They believe God’s grace is present in them and God uses them as a channel of divine power and an instrument of healing.

The Orthodox Church holds that the whole of material creation will eventually be transfigured (Cosmic redemption). Teilhard de Chardin also speaks of comic redemption. Jesus died on the cross to raise up the world, to move it upward and forward, closer to God and closer to its final point of maturation. Christ descends sacramentally not only into the host (bread) but into the whole universe itself which gradually being transformed by the Incarnation. The world evolves towards the Parousia and the final fullness of all things in Christ will be accomplished at the Parousia.


1. Deification is for all, the full deification is only at the last day, but the process of divinization must be started here and now in this present life.

2. Deification doesn’t mean that one ceases to be conscious of sin. It always presupposes a continued act of repentance.

3. Deification demands observance of the commandments.

4. Deification is a social process. Love of God and of neighbor as himself is important. So there is nothing selfish about deification. St. Antony of Egypt says: “From our neighbor is life and from our neighbor is death. If we win our neighbor we win God, but if we cause our neighbor to stumble we sin against God”.

5. Love of God and love of neighbor must be practical.

6. Deification presupposes life in the Church, life in the sacraments, common life within the fellowship of the Church.


The Church of God: The community aspect of the church is very much stressed in the Oriental Churches. “One falls alone, but no one is saved alone”. The Orthodox Church insists on and agrees with the Catholic Church, the hierarchical structure of the church, the apostolic succession, the episcopacy, priesthood, intercession of the saints, prayer for the dead. But it disagrees about the supremacy and the universal jurisdiction of the pope and papal infallibility. The Orthodox Church treats the church in relation to God. So the idea of the church is spiritual. Three phrases are used to describe the relation of the church with God:

  1. The church is the image of the holy trinity. The church reproduces on the earth the mystery of unity in diversity. She is an icon of God the Trinity. In the trinity the three are one God, yet each is fully personal, in the church a multitude of persons are united in one, yet each preserves his personal diversity unimpaired.

The conception of the church as an icon of trinity has many further applications. Just as each person of the trinity is autonomous, so the church is made up of several autocephalous and autonomous churches, and just as in the Trinity the three persons are equal, so in the church no one bishop can claim to wield an absolute power over all the rest.

 The council is also an expression of the Trinitarian nature of the church. Many bishops assembled in the council freely reach a common mind under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

  1. The church is the Body of Christ. We, who are many, are one body in Christ (Rom.12: 5). Between Christ and the church there is the closest possible bond. St.Ignatius says: “where Christ is, there is the catholic church”. The church is the extension of Incarnation. The Church is the Christ with us.
  2. The church is a continued Pentecost. The role of the Holy Spirit is important in the Church. St.Ireneus says:”Where the church is there is the Holy Spirit and where is the Spirit is there is the church”.

The unity and infallibility of the Church.

The unity of the church follows of necessarily from the unity of God. The church is one as God is one. There is only one Christ and so there can be only one Body of Christ.

There is visible unity in the Church. For the Catholic Church, the unifying principle in the church is the Pope, who has universal jurisdiction. For the Orthodox Church the act of communion is in the sacraments. Each local church is constituted by the congregation of the faithful (St.Ignatius), gathered around their bishop and celebrating the Eucharist. The church universal is constituted by the communion of the heads of the local churches, the bishops, with one another. Unity is not maintained from without by the authority of a supreme pontiff, but created from within by the celebration of the Eucharist. The church is not monarchical in structure, centered around a single hierarch. It is a collegial formed by the communion of many hierarchs with one another, and of each hierarch with members of his folk. The act of communion forms the criterion for membership of the church. One ceases to be a member of the church if he severs the communion with his fellow bishops.

The Orthodox Church believes that their church is the true church by the grace of God, because they have received a precious and unique gift from God. The orthodox theologians reject the branch theory, i.e. the church is divided into several branches, mainly three – the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church.

The Orthodox Church also teaches that outside the church there is no salvation. This follows from the close relation between God and His Church. St.Cyprian says: “A man cannot have God as his Father, if he does not have the church as his mother”. Outside the church  there is no salvation because salvation is the church. This does not mean that everyone who is visibly within the church is necessarily saved and not visibly within the church is necessarily damned. St.Augustine says: “How many sheep there are without, how many wolves within”. There may be members whose membership is known to God alone. If anyone is saved, he must be saved in some sense be a member of the church, in what sense, we cannot always say.

The church is infallible.

This also follows from the relation between God and the church. The church is Christ’s Body and a continued Pentecost, so it is infallible. It is the pillar and the ground of truth (1Tim.3: 15). Christ promised His continued assistance and Holy Spirit.

The great Orthodox theologian, Staniloe said to Cardinal Thomas Spidlik: “I cannot understand the infallibility of the pope”. Card. Spidlik replied: “You and I are also infallible. When I say during the Mass ‘this is my body…this is my blood’ or when ‘I absolve you of your sins’ these are infallible words and this is pope’s infallibility, nothing else. Staniloe said, “If infallibility is understood in this way, then it is easier to comprehend. The priests are infallible in the sacraments and the pope is also infallible when he speaks in the name of the great sacrament, of the whole church.

Bishops and Councils.

The Orthodox Church is a hierarchical church. It believes in the apostolic succession of the bishops. The dignity of the bishop is necessarily in the church, that without him neither the church nor the name christian could exist or even be spoken of at all. He is the living image of God upon the earth and a fountain of all sacraments through which we obtain salvation (Dositheus). “If any one is not with the bishop, he is not in the church”(St.Cyprian). At the election and the consecration a bishop is endowed with the threefold power of ruling, teaching and celebrating the sacraments.

The authority of the bishop is fundamentally the authority of the church. The bishop is not someone set up over the church, but holder of an office in the church. The bishop and the people are joined in an organic unity and neither can be properly thought of apart from the other. Without bishop, there cannot be orthodox people, and without orthodox people, there can be no true bishop. “ The church is the people united to the bishop, the flock clinging to its shepherd. The bishop in the church and the church in the bishop.” (St.Cyprian).

The relation between the bishop and his flock is a mutual one. The bishop is the divinely appointed teacher and the guardian of the faith. It is the bishop’s particular office to proclaim the truth. The Orthodox Church considers the first seven councils as ecumenical. It is not so clear precisely what it is that makes a council ecumenical. For them a council cannot be considered as ecumenical unless its decrees are accepted by the whole church


                             Christology according to the Eastern Church


In the Eastern thought, the role of Christ is described in different ways.

1. Christ as the saviour of the world

Jesus asks his disciples a question about their belief concerning his personal identity “who do you say that I am”. Peter answered declaring that Jesus was “the Messiah”, the Son of the living God”(Mt. 16,16). The whole life and activities of Jesus depend on his identity.

In the East there were debates on the identity of Christ. St. Athanatious and St.Cyril were two eminent champions of orthodoxy in these debates. Athanasius was the champion in the council of Nicea I during the Arian controversy. Nicea firmly proclaimed the divinity of Christ. The Nicean victory was not only doctrinal, but also spiritual. The message of Athanasius was that only God Himself could properly be seen and adored as saviour. Thus the divine identity of Jesus, equal to the Father, was not a matter of abstract or purely theological truth, but it indicated the misery of the fallen, mortal humanity- which could neither save itself nor be saved by another creature. It also indicated the true nature of God, who being love, performed Himself the salvation of the world rather than act indirectly through created intermediaries or through an all – powerful but mechanic fiat. It indicates that man cannot be saved by himself or by any other creatures, but only by God.

2. Christ as Immanuel

The central inspiration of Sts.. Athanasius and Cyril was this: only God can save us. St. Cyril says: it is not an elder, nor an angel but the Lord Himself who saved us, not by an alien death, or by the mediation of an ordinary man, but by His very own blood”.

The reconciliation of God as the agent of salvation is shown also in the repeated use of the title Emmanuel – God with us for Christ (letter of Cyril to Nestorius). Both Athanasius and Cyril could not conceive of the divine love manifested in the Incarnation to be really perfect unless it was an act of self giving of God – God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (Jn. 3, 16). This implied the personal presence of God in the human reality of Jesus of Nazareth.

Cyril’s argument against Nestorius was centered on two most human moments in the gospel story of Jesus:

His birth from Mary and   His death on the cross

 Cyril recognized that these moments belong to the divine economy in the flesh – that is, the eternal God by nature could neither be born in history nor die. But he considered that the salvation of the world would not have occurred unless it was perfectly the Son of God who was  born of the virgin and also personally suffered on the cross according to the flesh.

The whole spiritual experiences reflected in Cyril’s Christology implies two central intuitions:

1. God, in search for fallen humanity (lost sheep), does not stop half way, but goes where fallen humanity is – in death itself.

2 It is not an ideal, perfect humanity that the Son of God assumes, but that humanity which bears all the consequences of sin, particularly mortality and corruptibility. Except for sin itself he assumed all the limitations of falleness including suffering and death.

The Christology of Cyril was challenged from two sides:

1. School of Theodore of Mopsuetia (Antiochean). How could the eternal Son be born? How could the passionless God suffer and die?

2. Appollinarian school – Appollinarius, bishop of Laodicea, saw Jesus as God with a human body but without a human soul. Why there need in Jesus for another spiritual center besides the divine Logos? But then was He truly a man? This means that Jesus had a sinless humanity, which could not be affected by corruptibility and mortality – consequently his humanity is perfect, incorruptible not like ours, and therefore his death was not like our death.

There was ambiguous terminology in Cyril – one nature incarnate of God the word, but his rejection of Nestorianism was motivated by the conviction that human destiny lies in communion with God. According to the Antiochean school the human nature of Christ kept not only its identity but also its autonomy. Christ’s birth and death were human only; Mary was mother of Jesus not of God. Jesus the son of man died not the Son of God. It was this duality, which Cyril rejected.

Against Appollinarism, Cyril says that Christ accepted complete humanity – in a fallen state from which it needed to be saved – that the divine Logos had to assume suffering and death. In order to lead the humanity to incorruptibility through resurrection. He first came down where fallen humanity truly was – in the depth of the pit (Ps. 88,6) and then cried before dying “my God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Mt. 27,46).

It was the moment of the death of God – the assumption by God Himself in an ultimate act of love, of humanity in its state of separation from its natural communion with God. Christ’s humanity was, therefore, neither diminished nor limited. It was humanity in its very concrete falleness.

The council of Chalcedon affirmed the doctrine of two natures of Christ in their distinctiveness and the doctrine of hypostatic union. The Orthodox Church at the fourth council (553) reaffirmed it.

According to Cyrillian Christology, the humanity of Christ was deified through the cross and resurrection. Christ was the new Adam in whom humanity and divinity were reunited again.

The Christological definitions of Ephesus and Chalcedon, Constantinople II and Constantinople III entered the common tradition of the Eastern and Western Christendom. But the West remained somewhat reluctant in the face of doctrine of deification. For them, redemption –salvation tended to be understood as reconciliation with God rather than a restoration of communion with God. eg.: the Anselmian theory of redemption as satisfaction.

3. Christ as perfect God and perfect Man

St. Athanasius defended the divinity of Christ. St Cyril defended the unity of His being. But their messages remained controversial after their deaths.

In Nicea, ‘Homoousios’ was used to affirm the common divine essence or substance of the Father and the Son. Sabellians or modelists used the same term. For them, Father and the Son are of one essence meant that God was not three persons, but a unique essence with only three aspects or modes of manifestation. Therefore it needed further elaboration. The Cappadocean fathers elaborated it with their doctrine of three hypostasis or really distinct persons.

In Alexandria, after Cyril, Eutychus interpreted the unity of divinity and humanity of Christ to mean the humanity was so totally deified that it ceased to be our humanity. Christ was certainly consubstantial with the father but not with us. His humanity was absorbed by God.

The Chalcedonian definition of Christ tried to satisfy the different existing terminological traditions of Alexandria, Antioch and Rome. It kept the Cyrillian terminology stressing the unity of Christ (repeating the same word  and excluding the duality) and also insisted on the integrity of each nature, each keeping its respective properties within the union by favoring the Antiochean and Latin side. So it can be called a committee document or a catholic, charitable and ecumenical document. Chalcedon solved certain problems but created new ones.  A large Eastern Christian community opposed Chalcedon.

4. Church: the Body of Christ

Christ, the eternal Logos and the new Adam restored the unity of the whole humanity with himself. This restoration could not be automatic or magical; it required free human response to the spirit and the cooperation (synergia) of each human person and a “gathering” of free believers within the assembly of the church. So the restoration requires: –

i. A free human response to the Spirit.

ii. Cooperation of each person

iii. Gathering of free believers in the assembly of the church

The whole Christ (St.Augustine) was manifested where two or three were gathered in His name (Mt. 18,20) where the Pauline image of body could be concretely present. And that body is the church realized most fully in the Eucharist. Participation in the Eucharist in Christological terms was a participation in the resurrected and glorified humanity assumed in the hypostasis of the Son of God and in virtue of the “communication of idioms” between the two natures – penetrated with divine life or energies or grace (John of Damascus).

When we partake in the Body of Christ- being in Christ – we are not identified with the Logos, because person is always unique. It involves a sharing through the power of the spirit, in its glorified humanity- a humanity that remains fully human even after its glorification. The Iconoclasts claimed that Christ, deified in his resurrection, had become indescribable and therefore denounced the possibility of making images of Him.

            Iconoclasts, especially, Emperor Constantine V affirmed the Eucharist to be the only legitimate and biblically established image of God. But the orthodox say that Eucharist was a true and real identification of the faithful with the risen lord – not simply a vision of his image (Theodore of Studites). For them, the Eucharist was never the object of a vision: only the icons were to be seen. It is this general conception that justified the development of Iconostasis. It is the system of icons covering the screen, which separates the sanctuary from the nave of a Byzantine church. The Eucharistic mystery performed behind it is not an object of visual contemplation but a meal eventually distributed to the faithful who otherwise communicate with God by contemplating and venerating icons.

Christ and Bl. Virgin Mary

In Ephesus (431) Mary was designated as bearer of God (Theotokos ) or Mother of God (meter Theou). It affirmed the personal identity of Christ as the preexisting and eternal Son of God assuming the human nature. This decision added a decisive new emphasis to the christian spirituality- a renewed veneration of fMary – She made possible the union of divinity and humanity.

Theotokos was the first doctrinal decision of the church concerning Mary. In NT she was extolled –all generations will call me blessed (Lk. 1, 48.)

Ireneus and Justin called her as the New Eve. Many others glorified her as the earth unsown, burning bush, bridge leading to heaven, ladder which Jacob saw etc.

The Marian piety expresses a spiritual discovery of the human side of the Incarnation mystery. The role of that simple women who conceived the new life, was a reminder of the humanity of Jesus Himself and it gave in a new form the message that free fellowship and communion with God were true expression of authentic human nature.

This shows that the veneration of Mary was never separated from its christological context. This was the only doctrinal definition about Mary. Her exaltation. after Ephesus, did not mean that her belonging to fallen humanity was forgotten. Commenting Mt. 12,46-49-“who is mother, who are my brothers,” John Chrysostom frankly recognized Mary’s human failings and imperfections. The mother of Jesus was seen within the mystery of salvation, as the representative of humanity in need of salvation. But within the mankind, she was the closest to the Saviour and the worthiest receptacle of the new life.

St. Augustine says of Mary’s Immaculate Conception as the object of special grace of God that made her in advance worthy of divine motherhood.

In the West original sin was understood as inherited guilt. And it made it inevitable that Mary be approached in terms of an ‘Immaculate Conception’, as the object of a special grace of God that made her in advance worthy of divine motherhood. The East did not follow that trend, because the consequences of the sin of Adam were seen as inherited mortality rater than as guilt, so that there was no need to see Mary in isolation from the common lot of the fallen humanity


            Sacramental Theology according to the Eastern Churches


            Being in Christ, participating in divine life, is essentially manifested in the sacraments. So sacraments are the acts in which God shares divine life with humanity.

1.Sacraments according to the Assyrian Church of the East.

            According to Abdisho (963-968) the sacraments are the means of divine life in us and as in the natural life there is birth, growth etc. so in the divine life in us. He gives a list of the sacraments:

1. The priesthood which is the ministry of all other sacraments.

2. .Holy Baptism.

3..The  oil of Unction.

4. Oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ.


6..The Holy Leaven.

7..The sign of Life-giving cross.

He also speaks of marriage as a sacred rite.

            About Baptism he says: “In order for a man to be, and to exist in the world, he must be born of a carnal mother through a carnal father….In like manner, in order to belong to the world of immortality it is necessary to be born of the spiritual womb of baptism. (cf.Abdisho of Soba or Nisibis, The Book of the Jewel, tr.G.P. Badger, The Nestorians and their rituals 1-11, London, 1852, pp.404-405.

Baptism as a sharing of Christ’s life and death, is given at the night of resurrection or Easter.

            By anointing with the sacred oil one participates Christ’s ministry and becomes temple of God. St.Ephrem says:

“In it a symbol of your bodies, by chrism they are sealed as holy and becomes temples  of God,where He shall  be served by your  sacrifices”.

Cf.St..Ephrem, Hymn of Epiphany, tr. Edward Johnson.

Rite of absolution fundamentally is a reconciliation with God and the Church. Marriage is not merely a marital relationship between husband and wife, but a realization of the link, spousal and everlasting, between Christ and the Church. It is not that Christ and the Church are the symbol of the Christian marriage, but on the contrary, marriage between Christians is an image of that of Christ and the Church (P.Yousif). According to St.Eprem Virginity is receiving Christ. She reserves herself to Christ as her spouse and carries Him in  her being also her child. Mary is the image. Holy Leaven and Sign of the cross. The former is used for the Eucharist and the latter keeps christains and realized the sacraments. Abdisho says: “The holy leaven is used as the spiritual food of the body of Christ. The sign of the Cross is that by which christains are ever kept, and by it the other sacraments are sealed and perfected.

The sacred orders. The consecration in the sacred orders is a spiritual habilitation to exercise a service. There is a variety of consecrations because of the variety of services.

And they are performed in the Church and for the Church.

The following are the different services and consecrations

Lectors-servants of the word

Subdeacons-servants of the house of God.

Deacons-sevants of the sacraments in the Church of God.

Priests-dispensers of the mysteries of sacraments

Bishops-pastor, father, guide

Patriarch-head of the shepherds.

From this it is clear that priestly ministry is constituted for three services which are correlated: altar, gospel, the people. The ministry in the church is for the benefit  of the members of the church. An ecclesiastical service has no meaning outside the communion of the church.

The basis of the ministry is the respective consecration or ordination. Jurisdiction is a consequence of  sacramental ordination and in some cases it may be revoked. No honorary or titular bishop exist.

Patriarch Timoty II (1318-1360) gave as seven sacraments:

i.Holy orders

ii.The consecration of a Church and Altar.

iii.Baptism and Holy oil (confirmation)

iv.The blessing of monks.

v.The office for the dead.

vi.The holy sacrament of the Body and Blood. Of Christ


Then he adds a supplenment: Indulgence or penance and the forgiving of sins. Mr.Badger says that they now generally allow 1.Orders 2.Baptism 3.The oil of unction, 4.the Oblation of the body and blood of Christ, 5.Absolution, 6.the Holy Leaven and 7.the sign of the cross. Putting these two lists together they have all seven sacraments.

The modern Nestorian does not confess his sins, because the clergy can not keep the seal. Eucharistic liturgy is celebrated only on Sundays and feast days and in the evening before Christmas Epiphany and Easter.

            The Nestorians emphasize the continuity of the Eucharist by the unity of bread used. Each time it is baked, it is leavened not only with some dough from the last baking but with a small portion of the holy leaven which has been handed on form age to age in each church. The baseless legend is that our Lord at the last supper gave an extra consecrated loaf to St.John who later mixed it with water that had fallen from Christ’s body at his baptism, and blood and water that flowed from his side at the crucifixion, The resulting dough was divided among the apostles and has been handed on by a process of leavening ever since. This leaven is renewed in every church by the addition of dough, salt and olive oil by a priest and deacon on every Holy Thursday. No liturgy may be celebrated without it and it is sometimes numbered among the sacraments. An embroidery of the legend is that the West anathematized  Nestorius because when fled from Constantionple he took all the holy leaven with him and left the rest of the world without it.

The Holy Apostles anaphora of the Nestorians misses the words of institution. It is said the omission in the manuscripts was made out of  respect for the holy words.

Nestorians receive Holy communion (only rarely) in both kinds separately, the celebrant ministering the Host, the deacon the chalice. As the Bl. Sacrament is not reserved  there is no provision for communion of the sick outside the liturgy.

            Confirmation was first confused with the baptismal rite followed immediately, and was then dropped altogether. Penance has gone out of use, except in the reconciliation of an apostate. Anointing of the sick does not exist. They have penitential seasons .In addition to seven weeks of lent there are other long and severe


Sacraments according to the Orthodox Church

Sacraments are sacred rites through which the grace of God is imparted in a hidden way. Here the mysterious character is emphasized. No ecumenical Council has determined the number of the sacraments. St. John the Demascus (675-749) recognized two sacraments only, Baptism with confirmation and the Eucharist.

Theodore of Studies (9-thc.) gives the list of six sacraments,

  1. The Holy Illumination
  2. The synaxis (Eucharist)
  3. The holy Chrism
  4. Ordination.
  5. Monastic tonsure.
  6. Service of Burial.

 The number seven appears for the first time in the profession of faith by emperor Michael Paleologus in 1267. It was prepared by the Latin theologians.

 After the Second Council of Lyons (1274) at which Orthodox  renewed its acquiantence with the West , the western usage of seven sacraments was normally adopted.

The Monk  Job  (13th c.) includes the tonsure of the monk, but combines penance and anointing of the sick.

Symeon of Thessalonica (5th c) also admits tonsure of the monk and classifies it together with penance. He considers anointing as a separate sacrament.

Josphat of Ephesus (5th c.) says: I believe that the sacraments of the church are not seven , but more , He gives a list of ten including the consecration of the church, the funeral service and monastic tonsure.

Obviously the Byzentine Church never committed itself formally to any specific list. Many authors accept the list of seven, while others give a longer list , still others emphasize only two, Baptism and Eucharist. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359) proclaims that  “in these two our whole salvation is rooted, since the entire economy of true God –Man is recapitulated in them.

Baptism and Confirmation – are normally administerd  together.. Immediately the Eucharist is given.

Symeon of Thesselonica says  ‘If one does not receive the chrism he is not  perfectly baptised’.

Nicholas Cabsilas says ‘Baptism is nothing else but to be born according to Christ and to receive our very being and nature ‘. The salutary day of baptism becomes a name day to christians, because then they are formed and shaped and our shapeless and undefined life receives shape and definition’. Births, new birth , refashioning and seal, as well as baptism cloth and anointing gift enlightening and washing –all signify this one thing that the rite is the beginning of existence for those who are and live in accordance with God.

  1. Baptism is a gift of God. It is not depending on the human choice, consent or even consciousness. “Just as in the case of physical birth, we do not even contribute willingness to all the blessings Derived from baptism”. So they do not have any doubt about the legitimacy of  infant baptism.
  2. Through bapism one becomes  theocentric. One recovers the original destiny which is eschatological and mysterious because it partakes the very mystery of God .
  3. Baptism is a beginning and a promise of a new life. It implies a free self- determination and growth. It does not suppress human freedom, but restores it to its original and natural form. In the case of infant baptism this restoraton is potential, but the sacrament always implies a call to freedom.
  4. Baptism is a liberation from the bonds of satan. It is signified by the exorcism before baptism.

There are numerous rites in Baptism.

1 Exorcism. The priest breathes thrice on the candidate and signs him with the sign of the cross. The devil is exorcized , partly through direct evocations;“satan, the Lord exorcizes thee get out hence ” and  partly through prayers that God  would drive out the evil spirit.

2 Renunciation. The candidate turns to the west, thrice exclaims: “I renounce thee ” and spits in token of his  aversion to the devil. Turning to the east , he  confesses Christ and ejaculates three times  “I surrender myself to Christ”.

3. The recitation of the Nicean Creed. In the case of an infant one of the godparents makes it.

4. The consecration of the baptismal water. The water is consecrated by the prayers of the priest who touches it  with the flat of his hand, and breathes upon it.

5. The anointing of the candidate with sacred oil.

  1. The baptism by three Immersions/sprinkling

                            Ways of prayer and contemplation in the East


.          Russian bishop Theophan of Recluse (1815-1864) says: “The principal thing is to stand before God with the intellect in the heart, and go on standing before him unceasingly day and night, until the end of life”. This reflects the understanding of prayer in Greek and Syrian writers of the first eleven centuries . It indicates three things:

  1. To pray is to stand before God. It is a meeting to face to face and one enters into a personal relationship with God. Here one needs not ask anything or speak in words, but silence is enough.
  2. To stand with the intellect in the heart. It means that the two faculties are to be united. Heart is the center where the created humanity is directly open to uncreated love.
  3. The attitude or relationship of standing before God is to be continued, i.e. unceasingly day and night until the end of life. St. Paul says: “pray constantly” (1 Thess 5,17). Prayer is not merely one activity among others, but the activity of our entire existence, a dimension present in everything else that we undertake.

Prayer is a direct encounter between living persons- God and man. So it cannot be restricted within precise rules, it should be free, spontaneous and unpredictable.  The Eastern writers do not offer any abstract theories or definitions about prayer and contemplation.

The two basic stages on the spiritual journey are the active life (praxis, praktike) and the contemplative life (theoria). Martha is treated as the symbol of active and Mary of the contemplative life (cf. Clement of Alexandria, Origen). In the Western thought the active life normally denotes members of religious orders engaged in teaching, preaching or social work, whereas the contemplative life refers to religious who live in enclosure. But in the East the terms apply to inner development, not to external situation: the active life means ascetic effort to acquire virtue and to master the passions, whereas the contemplative life signifies the vision of God. Thus according to this most hermits and enclosed religious are still struggling at the active stage, whereas a doctor or social worker may yet at the same time be pursuing the contemplative life, if he is practicing inner prayer and has attained silence of heart.

The contemplative life may be subdivided into contemplative life of mature and that of God. Thus there are three stages on the spiritual journey:

  1. The active life –parktike
  2. Contemplation of nature or natural contemplation (physike)
  3. Contemplation of God or vision of God (theoria, theologia –theology or gnosis –spiritual knowledge).

Origen speaks of these as ethics, physics and enoptics or mystical theology and he associates each stage with a particular book of Bible:

Ethics with Proverbs

Physics with Ecclesastes

Mystical theology with Song of Songs.

Evagrius of Pontus (346-399) gives an explanation of these three stages. The active life praktike begins with repentance which is understood not merely as sorrow for sin but as a change of mind (metanoia), a radical conversion, the re-centering of our entire  life upon God. With the help of God we should strive to overcome the deep-rooted passions. For Evagrius passion (pathos) signifies a disordered impulse, such as jealousy, lust, uncontrolled anger etc. that violently dominates the soul. So passions are seen as unnatural, intrinsically evil, a “disease” and thus it is not true part of our human personhood. But Theodret of Cyrus (393-466) regarded passion including sexual instinct, as impulses originally placed in humanity by God, essential to our survival and capable of being turned to good purposes. It is not passion as such, but its misuse that is sinful. Gregory of Palamas (1296-1359) adapted a similar view. He insisted that our aim is redirection of the passions and not their suppression or mortification, He even speaks of “divine and blessed passions”.

Evagrius gives the list of eight evil thoughts: gluttony, lust, avarice, dejection, anger, despondency (listlessness), vainglory, and pride. The christian is called to struggle not only against the passions but also against these thoughts (logismoi). Keeping watch over his heart and growing in self-awareness, one acquires nepsis (sobriety or watchfulness) and diakrisis (discernment or discrimination – the power to distinguish between good and evil thoughts). These qualities should be accompanied by penthos (inward “grief”), and katanyxis (compunction) together with the gift of tears. But tears are not only penitential. What begins as “bitter” tears of sorrow are gradually changed into “sweet” tears of gratitude and love. John Climacus (7th c.) speaks of this as “joy – creating sorrow”.

            For Evagrius  the final aim of the active life is to achieve apatheia (dispassion, freedom from passion). It is a state of reintegration and spiritual freedom. In the West it is rendered as puritas cordis – purity of  heart  (John Cassian)

The second stage is Physike, natural contemplation. It is to see God in all things and all things in God. It is to treat each thing as a sacrament, to view the whole of nature as God’s book: St. Antony’s words: ‘My book, philosopher, is the nature of created things, and it is ready at hand whenever I wish to read the words of God”. (Evagrius).

Evagrius divides physike into 1.first natural contemplation which is directed toward things non-material, toward the angelic realm of spiritual reality. An important aspect of physike is meditation on the inner meaning of Holy Scripture. 2. Second natural contemplation, its object is the physical world perceived by the bodily senses.

The third stage is “theoria” – contemplation of God. Here man no longer approaches the creator through the works of creation, but meets God directly, face to face, in an unmediated union of love. Since the deity is a mystery beyond words and understanding, it follows that in such contemplation the human mind has to rise above concepts, words and images- above the level of discursive thinking – so as to apprehend God intuitively through simple gazing or touching. The mind is to become “naked” passing beyond multiplicity to unity. Its goal is “pure prayer” prayer that is not only morally pure and  free from sinful thoughts but also intellectually pure and free from all thoughts.

 “Whenever you are praying, do not shape within yourself any image of the            Deity, and do not let your mind be stamped with the impress of any form: but approach the immaterial in an immaterial manner …Prayer means the shedding of thoughts … Blessed is the intellect that has acquired complete freedom from sensations during  prayer.  (Evagrius).

At the higher levels of contemplation, then awareness of the subject –object differentiation recedes, and in its place there is only a sense of all-embracing unity. “A monk’s prayer is not perfect if in the course of it he is aware of himself or of the fact that he is praying (words of St. Antony of Egypt in Conferences 9,31 by Cassian). “You are the music while the music lasts”(T.S. Eliot).

In this way the apophatic attitude is to be applied not only to theology but also to prayer. In the realm of prayer it means that the mind is to be stripped of all images and concepts, so as that our abstract concepts about God are replaced by the sense of God’s immediate presence. Accordingly St. Gregory of Nyssa gave a symbolical interpretation of the first commandment. He says that not only images of stone but also conceptual images that must be shattered. “Every concept grasped by the mind becomes an obstacle in their quest to those who search. Our aim is to attain, beyond all words and concepts, a certain sense of presence. The Bridegroom is present, but he is not seen”. This kind of presence of God is designated in Greek sources by the term hesychia, meaning tranquility and inner stillness (hence hesychasm and hesychast). Hesychia means   silence, not negatively in the sense of absence of speech, a pause between words, but positively in the sense of an  attitude of listening. It signifies plenitude, not emptiness; presence, not a void.

The Eastern writers do not exclude the imaginative meditation and many writers also recommended a detailed imaginative meditation upon the life of Christ and more especially, on the passion. E.g. Mark the Monk, Nicolas Cabasilas(14th c.) Peter of Damascus (11-12 c.). So imageless prayer and imaginative meditation are not mutually exclusive but complementary.

With regard to the faculty of the human person that apprehends God in contemplative prayer the Eastern writers are divided. Evagrius defined prayer “as the highest intellection of the intellect”. So the faculty for him is nous or intellect which is not the discursive reason but the direct understanding of spiritual truth through  intuition or inner sight. Other Greek Fathers regarded prayer as a function not so much of the nous as of the kardia or heart. Thus there two are schools: “intellectualists and affective”.

The Veneration of Mary in the Oriental Church

In the Oriental Church Mary is venerated in a very special way. The people  love her icons. In Russia before the revolution the liturgical calendar listed about 1000 Marian icons that were venerated under  diverse  titles, such as: “Our Consolation and Providence (Jan. 21), The Weeping (Feb. 1), Softening of hard hearts (Feb.2), Spiritual banner (Mar.3), Tenderness (Mar. 19), Fertile Mountain (Mar.24), Portress (June 23), Econom (July 5) New Heaven (Sept. 9) Giver of God (Oct .11) etc.

      Marian devotion was cultivated especially in monasteries among monks and woman religious, because they see in the most Pure the full realization of what is sought in monastic life. When we study Mariology of the Orient we have to consider three aspects which the monastic literature of the Orient has strongly emphasized : The ideal of the divinisation of the Christian , “ontological” sanctity, and liturgical piety .

1.The divinization of the Christian

    The Orientals concentrate their attention on the exemplarism by meditating on the signified in facts and things, for example they concentrate their attention not only on the fact that man was created, but rather on what follows in the biblical text: “in His image; in the divine image He created him (Gen. 1: 26- 27 ). The Occidentals look for the cause of events. They begin with the fundamental affirmation that man was created by God and from this they draw consequences . (Spiritual exercise of St. Ignatius Loyola).

     Origen and others (Oriental Tradition) distinguish the two terms: image and likeness. The image is nothing less than an initial divinization: the scope is to become as like to God as possible. This ascent from image to likeness will be completed in the glory of the resurrected bodies (Jn. 3:2) and in conformity with the prayer of Christ (Jn. 17:21), in unity.

Mariology in the Orient is based on this patristic teaching: Image and Likeness.  Demetrio de Rostov, Ukranian Bishop, venerated as a saint, (1651-1709), in his treaties Sull’imagine di Dio e sulla somiglianza con l’ uomo says: “image and likeness do not exist in the body but in the soul and this admits degrees just as perfection does”. In the Slavic language a monk considered as a saint was called very similar to God; and the mother of God was venerated as the most similar. Three degrees, therefore, may be established: the christian is like God (podoben), the monk is more like (prepodebnyj) and Mary is most like to God (prepodebnejsaja). According to this, teaching of Orientals on Mary is not an independent dogma but it remains inherent in the same entire christian teaching as an anthropological leitmotiv (V.Lossky). Therefore Mary is venerated based on the doctrine of divinization. Mary is glorified because God divinizes her. The divinization of man corresponds to the interior logic of the humanization of God. It is a mysterious exchange in which “ each made his own the properties of the other”. The Russian icons teach this doctrine. The red color is the symbol of divine and blue, the human. As a consequence Christ is clothed in red and with a blue mantle. The inner dress of Mary is blue but covered with a red mantle. God became man in order that man might become divine. The mantle almost covers Mary in as much as she is entirely divinized, full of Grace.

2. Mary an Example of Ontological Sanctity

One of the important characteristics of Oriental spirituality is ontological sanctity. It is the consequence of the first aspect, of divinization. Man is adjudged spiritual not only according to his moral actions, since these are only exterior manifestations of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Christian life is a transformation of the soul and of the body, their introduction into the sphere of the spirit, in other words this spiritualization of the soul and of the body (Teofane il Recluso, Russian author, (+1894).

In Mary- full of Grace- the ontological presence and the effects of the Spirit manifest themselves in a very particular manner. This Spirit is the sanctifier. “Mary, the All- Holy has summed up the sanctity of the Church, all the sanctity possible for a creature” ( V. Lossky ).

Between the spiritual man and the Holy Spirit there must be a most intimate union so that they form a “mixture”. St. Basil calls the Spirit our “form”. According to Teofane il Recluse the Spirit is the “ soul of our soul”. The Orientals do not speak of “sanctifying grace” but of the Holy Spirit in person. How then can the two persons, even though on such a different level the one a divine person, the other human , become “only one thing”? (Jn.17: 21). This is the reply: the three Divine Persons are united in one “nature”. Nature is the principle of operation. Men “made to participate in the divine nature” (2Pet.1:4 ) , unite with the Holy Spirit in one common operation : Synergeia

The best example of synergeia with the Holy Spirit is the divine maternity. Evdokimov says:To be born of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin signifies for the Fathers the mystery of the second birth of every one of the faithful ex fide et Spiritu Sancto. The faith of the each of the faithful is rooted in the act of the Virgin, which has universal value, in her fiat. The annunciation, defined as the “feast of the root’’(St. John Crysostom) inaugurates a new age: the economy of salvation traces back to its Mariological roots and Mariology appears as an organic part of Christology. To the fiat of the Creator corresponds the fiat of the creature.

Ontologically the divine-human synergy is certain with the certitude of faith. Holy Spirit is the enlightener. Mary. Full of the Spirit. must therefore, have an entirely special enlightenment. In the West, Mary is presented as an example of external works whereas in the orient she is the sublime example of contemplation.

Contemplation is essentially the search of the mystery hidden either in the scriptures or in the created world, to discover Christ in the text of the Law and of the prophets and in the visible flesh of His humanity. This aspect is applied to Mary (Origen). The theme of contemplation recurs frequently in the texts for the Marian feasts celebrated in the monasteries with great splendor. Eg. Feast of the presentation of Mary in the temple. According to a legend, Mary dedicated herself in the temple to the weaving of the tabernacle veil. This texture recalls the “veil of the humanity of Christ” which reveals and conceals the Logos, symbol used already by Origen. The temple dwelling of God, refers to mystical steps to arrive at the “place of God” in the highest contemplation. There is a difference between Latin and Oriental spirituality. The adorations of holy hour propose to console the suffering Christ. The iconographical motive is different in the Orient: here we see Christ directing to his mother the words of consolation: “do not weep for me, Mother”. He helps her to overcome the temptation to see pain with purely human eyes and to ascend to the height of contemplation and enlightenment; to see the divine significance of the Cross.

In contemplation, on one aspect man contemplates God. But there is another aspect: man is created also to make God resplendent, so that God may be contemplated in him, in the likeness of the Son Who is both Contemplator and Revealer. In this sense Mary, the one most similar to God is most resplendent and the ideal of beauty. The Syrian poet James Sarug (+521) says: Love moves me to speak of her, who is beautiful / the sublimity of the discourse about her is greater than I, what shall I do? Only love when it speaks, does not fail, because lovable is her excellence/ and to me who listens she grants riches.

According to the Fathers man contemplates God according to the degree of his own purity. From ancient times Mary is called “the most pure”. In fact the Holy Spirit gives man perfect purity. This is realized in Mary Lossky says She represents the peak of sanctity She is without sin under the universal dominion of sin … sin could never have existed in Her”.

The activity of the Holy Spirit is vivifying, who gives life. It follows that participation in eternal life corresponds to the degree of participation in the Holy Spirit. The Mariological conclusion in this sense is twofold: 1. The Mother of God receives eternal life in fullness, the final perfection of creation, therefore assumed into heaven, 2. She receives fertility that she too might be a giver of life, mother of all the christians, of the Church. Mary receives the Holy Spirit together with the apostles gathered together in the cenacle the day of Pentecost at the foundation of the Church. From that moment her maternity becomes perfect, developed in the ecclesiastical dimension, as spiritual maternity, which in the Assumption becomes heavenly alongside the celestial paternity of the Father of all goodness.

3. Mary in the Oriental Liturgical cult.

In Orient liturgy is a solemn common prayer. Teofane ill Recluso says: ‘The church celebrates the rites, and when we assist, we unite ourselves with the church and participate in her grace. Whoever stays away from the exterior ceremonies stays away from the prayer of the church, deprives himself of the great promise of the Saviour,: where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst (Mt. 18,20)

The Oriental liturgy reviews mysteriously the work of salvation. The center of the mystery of salvation is the encounter of the Son of the eternal God with humanity. On the feast of Christmas the Byzantine liturgy affirms: He comes forth from the Father and the Immaculate Virgin offers Him humanity as a new paradise for a new Adam. “What shall we offer You, O Christ, since You are born on earth as a man? Every creature, which is Your work, in fact testifies its gratitude: the angels their song, the heavens the stars, the magi their gifts, the shepherds their admiration, the earth the grotto, the deserted place the crib, but we men, we offer You a Virgin Mother. This shows that the Marian aspect is contained in the feasts, which commemorate the life of Jesus, especially the feast of Christmas. But from the 4th century certain specifically Marian feasts began to appear. The Nestorians celebrated three days in her honor The Syrian monophysites venerate Mother of God on the fifteenth, the Copts on the twenty-first day of each month. In the Ethiopian church the Aganoma Miriam (the harp of Mary )is a panegyric of the Mother of God for every day of the week in the form of scriptural paraphrases. There are beatitudes: “blessed is he who at dawn turns toward you and knocks at the door of your palace. Blessed is he who is touched by your power of your love and always sings the praises of your glory. Blessed is he who always has on his tongue the mention of your name and never ceases to celebrate your majesty.

In the Byzantine liturgy there is a famous hymn, Akathistos which is sung standing because out of reverence (no title, no author of 4th 5th Century) It consists of 24 strophes, one for each letter of the Greek alphabet. The uneven strophes are to praise Virgin Mother and even strophes are like pauses for contemplation of the mystery of Incarnation.

Hail, O Tabernacle of the word of God,

Hail, greater than the Holy of Holies,

Hail, beloved ark of the spirit,

Hail, inexhaustible treasure of Life,

Hail, precious diadem of the holy sovereigns,

Hail, Thou noble bost of devout priests,

Hail, Thou art for the Church a powerful tower,

Hail, Thou art for the Empire a fortress wall”. In the central apse of the Byzantine church there is the icon of Theotokos (Mother of God) either as praying or as an indestructible wall. She is the earthly church which guides all men to unite them in the body of Christ.

Oriental Lumen

Apostolic letter of Pope John Paul II on 2 May 1995 on the occasion of the centenary of Orientalium Dignitas of Leo XII. The pope says that the venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches is an integral part of the heritage of Christ’s Churches. The Eastern Christians should aware of their tradition. The Latin’s should have a passionate longing for them. All should know that catholicity of the Church is not expressed in a single tradition.

Jerusalem was the center from which Gospel was preached to all nations. Saints Cyril and Methodius are the apostles of the unity of the East and West.

Pope says that now there is a cry for unity of the churches. We cannot come before Christ as divided. The divisions must give way to rapproachement and harmony: the wounds on the path of Christian unity must be healed.

Knowing the Christian East , experience of faith.

The East and the West used different methods and approaches in understanding and confessing divine things. It is possible that one tradition has come nearer to a full appreciation of some aspects of mystery of revelation than the other or has expressed them better. So they are complementary than conflicting.

The Christian East has a unique and privileged role as the original setting where the church was born. The Christian tradition of the East implies a way of accepting, understanding and living faith in Jesus. In this sense it is extremely close to the Christian tradition of the West, which is born of and nourished by the same faith. Yet it is legitimately and admirably distinguished from the latter, since Eastern Churches have their own way of perceiving and understanding and thus an original way of living their relationship with the Saviour.

From the beginning the Christian East assumed the characteristics and features of each particular community. So there is a variety of traditions and features of the spiritual and theological traditions. These features describe the Eastern outlook of the Christian. His/her goal is the participation in the divine nature through communion with the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Eastern Eucharistic Theology


The Eucharist is the means by which one affirmed his membership in the Church and experienced it For, the experience of the liturgy is precisely the experience of Christianity and then it becomes the very possibility and source for the knowledge of God and participation in divine life itself. This is the meaning of Easter concept of theosis or divinization and liturgy was perceived as its most perfect expression and realization. This is also why theology Himself y and liturgy remain so closely linked in the East, for one is not considered possible without the other.

            The process of divinization fulfils itself in the Eucharist which is a real participation in the glorified body of Christ. The Fathers of the Church see the Eucharistic elements in very realistic terms. Communion is the source of both immortality and unity and it is essential for christian life.

            St. Basil exhorts to partake of the body and blood of Christ. He communicated four times a week Lord’s Day, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and on other days if there was Mass.

            In the course of time there came change in the Eucharistic theology and practice. The preachers stressed the elements of fear and awe with regard to the Eucharist. The faithful then responded by abandoning communion.  The community was split into a communicating elite and the majority of others. Thus the reception of communion became an act of personal devotion.  The traditional notion of Eucharist as a meal, as fellowship, was replaced by a different understanding without active participation.

            New approaches to the Eucharist were taken due to the social changes and theological debates. The Orthodox gave a new emphasis on the preexisting divinity of Christ against Arianism. They also leveled the doxological formula (to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit), and stressed the two natures formula against Subordinationism and Adoptionism. The Alexandrian and Anthiochean schools had different approaches. The Alexandrian school stressed the analogical or spiritual sense of the scripture. The Antiochean School stressed the literal and historical sense. For the Antiocheans, Eucharist is an imitation (mimesis) or memorial (anamnesis) of the saving acts of Christ’s life and the anticipation of the heavenly liturgy. ( Cf. Theodore of Mopusuetia, Catechetical Homily, 15,20.)

            On this point (Eucharist piety) there is a contrast between East and West. The Latin practice of the veneration of the Host is an expression, on the level of spirituality, of the doctrine of transubstantiation. In the East Eucharistic mystery was not considered in isolation from the Christological facts. The transfiguration of the body of Christ, the change which occurred in it after the resurrection, and which,, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is also at work in the entire body of the baptized faithful that is the total Christ.

            To designate Eucharist the theologians used these terms:

  1. metabole =change
  2. metastoicheiosis = transelementation
  3. metarrythmesis = change of order
  4. metamorphosis= transfiguration

These reflect salvation in Christ of the entire people of God.

            The Eucharistic prayers or canons of the East and the West have several common features and show the ecclesial and Christological dimension.

  1. They are prayers of the community formulated in the first person plural. It shows that communion with Christ is not a matter of individual piety, but of joining together within his single body.
  2. They are addressed to the Father, by an assembly of the baptized persons, who, in virtue of their baptism are already “in Christ”. The catechumens, excommunicated penitents are excluded. Prayers are answered because Christ offers to the Father through and in the assembly and the community as “royal priesthood” and adopted children in Christ participate. Christ is the one who offers and is offered, who receives and is received (Liturgy .of Basil and Chrysostom) but they are inseparable from Him. (cf.Gal.3.27;4.6).
  3. In the Eastern Eucharistic canons, the invocation of the Spirit  (epiclesis) is not an invocation on the bread and wine only, but also on the assembly and the elements. Because bread and wine are not the elements to be transformed independently of the gathered community.

In Christological terms the Eucharistic action implies that (i) the Son of God brings the assumed human nature to His Father in a sacrifice offered once for all.

(ii) Those who have received the same glorified nature by adoption (thesei) or by grace (chariti) are jointing that one High Priest through the power of the Spirit who anointed him as Christ. The same Spirit anoints all the faithful within the communion of the Body of Christ.

Different views on the sacrifice of Eucharist

  1. West- Atonement. The sacrifice on the cross, because He was God, was sufficient before God to atone for the sins of all. In this view, God and creation remain naturally external to one another and the work of Christ is seen as a satisfaction of an abstract notion of divine justice.
  2. East- Restoration.  as an act of divine forgiveness. Redemption was conceived not as an exchange but as a reconciliation and an act of divine forgiveness (Nicholas of Methone). God did not receive something form us … we did not go to him (to make an offering ) but he condescended toward us and assumed our nature, no as a condition of reconciliation, but in order to meet us openly in the flesh.

Golgotha is not simply the price, but only the ultimate point of God’s identification with the fallen humanity, which is followed by the resurrection and is part of entire economy or plan of salvation. The Byzantine Synodikon of Orthodoxy (a solemn annual doctrinal declaration ) affirms that Christ reconciled us to Himself by means of the whole mystery of the economy and by Himself and in Himself reconciled us to His  Father and to the most Holy and life giving Spirit. Christ’s  sacrifice is unique because it is not an isolated action but the culminating point of an economy that includes the OT preparation, the incarnation, the death, resurrection and presence of the Holy Christ in the Church.

            The new life brought by Christ is offered freely, but it must be freely received through personal conversion and appropriated through personal ascetical effort. Eastern monasticism insisted on this personal dimension of christian experience. In this sense we have to understand the doctrine of deification.

 Eastern Liturgical Theology


In 988 when the ambassadors of Prince Vladimir of Kiev attended the liturgy at Hagia Sophia, said that they did not know whether they were “still on earth or in heaven”. This is an apt illustration of the influence of liturgy in the Eastern Churches.  For the experience of the liturgy was precisely the experience of the Christianity and thus it became the very possibility and source for the knowledge of God and for participation in divine life itself. This is the meaning of Eastern concept of theosis, or divinization, and liturgy was perceived as its most perfect expression and realization. This is also why liturgy and theology remain so closely linked in the East, for one is not considered possible without the other. Baptism and Eucharist are the source and summit of the Christian life. Baptism is the  means by which one is made a member of the Church. The Eucharist is the means by which one affirms  this membership and experiences it.


In the East the unitive aspect of the sacrament is stressed. The rites of initiation comprising Baptism, Chrismation (confirmation) and Eucharist are seen as one continuous action. Initiation marks the entrance of the Body of Christ and its culmination is the sharing of Eucharistic banquet which is open to all the baptized including the infants. In the East these actions remain inseparable.

During the first centuries East and West followed divergent practices in the rite itself. The Early Western practice consisted of water baptism, anointing with oil, and the laying on of hands. In the East, the order was reversed and anointing often preceded baptism: (cf. Acts of Judas Thomas – 3c, Didaschalia – 3c The Syriac acts of John – early 4c.) There is reference to the prebaptismal anointing in the  Acts of the Apostles, 10,44-48; 9, 17-18.

So there was divergence in practice, but it did not create any difficulty, for as long as the unity of the rite was maintained it mattered little how the various elements were distributed through the actual rites.

In the East before 4th c. baptism was seen primarily as a reenactment of Christ’s baptism in Jordan. The font is called the womb out of which a new  person emerges, the son of God. (cf. Didaschalia Apostolorum p.352). “Through the bishop the Lord gives the Holy spirit. Through the Holy Spirit we know God and are sealed and  becomes sons of light. Through baptism and by imposition of hand of the bishop the Lord says; Thou art my son, this day I have begotten you”.Baptism bringers forth of the new man and establisher of the new man in the Trinity {Acts of Thomas}.Theodore of Mopsuetia speaks of baptismal font the womb which introduces the Christian in the new life.

After the victory of the church (313) there was a massive influx of new members into the church and there were several theological disputes. These exercised significant influence both on the rites and especially on the theology behind them. The church had to adapt to these new conditions, to provide her new members with proper teaching and to develop adequate rites and explanations.

The process of the historicization of the Liturgy was felt most strongly in Jerusalem. Churches were built in Holy places. And they became centres of the pilgrimage. The liturgies especially of the Holy Week became largely a reenactment of the Gospel events with colorful procession. This type of stational liturgy had a powerful effect on witnesses and the liturgies of Rome and Constantinople soon patterned after it. The calendar, particularly the cycle of fixed feasts, owes much of its development to this phenomenon of historicization. This also marks a shift from a primarily eschatological emphasis in feasts to a more historical one.

The historicizing trend strongly influenced the understanding of baptism. The baptismal rite with its procession to the font, triple immersion and emersion, began to be interpreted as the reenactment of the death and resurrection of Christ basing on  Rom, 6. St.Cyril of Jerusalem applied this theology to the liturgical ceremony in Jerusalem:

          Movement to the font – Procession bearing the body of Christ to the tomb.

           Triple immersion – three days sojourn in then grave.

           The emerging from the pool –sign of resurrection.

Thus our baptism is an imitation (mimesis) of Christ’s suffering in figure. This historicizing trend is also seen in Ambrose, Chrysostom and  Theodore of Mopsuetia.

This was also part of the response by the Church to the massive influx of new members, to whom the mystery of Christ had to be explained in an attractive and  dramatic fashion. It was also to stress the historical basis of Christianity. This approach was pastoral rather than systematic accordjing to the need of the people

               . These factors led in the 4th century to the development of a new type of literature – catechetical literature. This was made necessary by the large number of converts who had to go through a period of preparation. The final stage of this period   (catechumanate ) took place during Lent. This consisted of fasting, exorcisms, reading of scripture and instruction. At the Easter vigil baptism took place. Then neophytes participated the Eucharist at the Constantine – Bascilica. During the Octave of Easter they had to assemble everyday to hear the explanations of the mysteries.

Several conclusions  can be drawn from this:

  1. the message of Christianity was revealed in a liturgical context – a characteristic of  Eastern Churches also today.
  2. scripture was read and explained in a liturgical context.
  3. the experience of liturgy, of baptism, of Eucharist, preceded any explanation of them. The liturgical rites existed before their explanations. They are secondary, and can be changed to accommodate the pastoral and polemical needs of each age.

The great catechists applied the method of scriptural exegesis to the liturgy especially to the visible actions of the rite. From the time of Origen the two types/senses of Scripture were referred  to : 1.literal or historical

                                            2.spiritual, mystical or allegorical

Later spiritual sense was subdivided into three aspects :

                                            1. allegorical – dogmatic aspect

                                            2. tropological – moral and spiritual aspect.

                                            3. anagogical – eschatological aspect.

From 4th century this became the traditional method in the East. In Cyril’s description of the stripping of candidate before baptism we can see how this method is applied to the baptismal rite – putting off of the old man with his deeds – it provides the tropological or moral level. Nakedness of Christ on the cross – allegorical or dogmatic sense.

This method was useful and attractive but also has dangers particularly when the individual elements of a rite begin to be seen in isolation from the rites as a whole, which does happen later.

After 4th C. we find little literature on Baptism because of child baptism. Hence the need for baptismal catechism declined and the catechumanate disappeared. The result, in both East and West, was that baptism began to be taken for granted and thus began to use its prominent position in the theology of the church. In this period there began the difference in approach to the rites of initiation between East and West.

Under St. Augustine’s influence the West began to understand baptism chiefly as the remission of sins. Thus the theology of baptism became primarily negative. The child was considered guilty and need palliative baptism. When confirmation was reserved to the bishop, the rite of initiation was split into distant elements. This, in turn, led to the withholding of the Eucharist from children until after t hey completed the process of initiation.

The East saw the consequences of original sin not as guilt but as mortality. Guilt is only acquired through the personal exercise of a free will through personal sin. So for the East baptism is not a remission from the guilt, but liberation from mortality and incorporation into the life of the Church. This is eminently positive theology. St John. Chrysostom  ( Baptismal catechesis 3,5-6.) says: “The baptized is free person, citizen of the church; saint, just, son, heir, brother of Christ, and coheir of Christ, member, temple, and instrument of the Holy Spirit”. The baptized person is called to theosis – deification – participation in the divine life itself.

The Apostolic Constitution (380) makes no mention of original sin, but places strong emphasis on good christian education and formation. Baptism is a free gift, a promise of a new life, and does not depend on human choice. So the baptismal formula in the East is in deprecatory form  – the servant of God…. This indicates that baptism comes from divine initiative to which the christian is in turn called to respond.

The East sees baptism as a Trinitarian act. It is the gift of the Son, by the Father, made effective by the Holy Spirit. .eg. Trinitarian formula. The prayers for consecration of water and chrism are strongly epicletic – asking Father to send down the Holy Spirit. The baptized like Christ in the Jordan, are anointed by and with the Holy Spirit. Joined to Christ and filled with the Spirit, the christian begins the process of human divinization.

Ancient Church History

Ancient Church History

Fr Thomas Pallippurathukunnel

i. Definition of history

Aristotle: it is an account of the unchanging past.

Thomas Carlyle It is nothing but the biography of great man.

Voltaire:a picture of crimes and misfortunes,

Beccario:(18th c.) That nation is happiest which is without history.

These definitions either represent a complex picture or a distorted picture.  But a simple definition is that that history is the study of a past. It is the story of mankind depicting what had, happened, why they had happened and the principles, which governed these happenings.  It is the study of events in men’s struggle for progress. 

ii. The characteristics of history

1. History is humanistic. It is fundamentally concerned with human actions.

2. What is important in history is event. Historian has nothing to do with assumption (something, which did not happen).

3. History is concerned with change.  Historians are concerned with change, when, how and why changes take place. 

4. History is time and Place oriented.  Events are noted with reference to date and place.

5. History is scientific.  History is based not only, upon enquiry into evidences of events but also upon a rational analysis of data.

6. History is an independent branch of study.  It; is self-explanatory, for it exists of its own, reflecting upon the human experiences in the past and prompting a better understanding of the present.

iii. The scope and. purpose of history

                 The scope and purpose of history have been looked upon differently from historian to historian and from age to age.  The most satisfactory definition of the purpose of the history is that of Arnold Tonnbee’s.   It is, a search for “light on the nature and destiny of man.  History is any, integrated narrative, description or’ analysis of past events or facts written in a spirit of critical inquiry for, the whole truth).

  1. During the Age of the classical civilization of Greece and Rome, a scientific purpose was imparted to history. It was looked upon as a branch of study m based upon enquiry and analysis.
  2. The medieval Church restricted the purpose of history to the explanation of how the divine will expressed itself in the human actions
  3. In the modern times it was treated as a study of all changes that had taken place in the universe.

Individual historians have given importance to one particular aspect or other of history.

1. Herodotus and Thucydides gave importance to truth and their connection between causes and consequences.

2. Freeman laid emphasis upon the political aspect of history.

3. Karl Marx laid emphasis upon economic factors.

4. Traumas Carlyle: upon the role, of great men.

            All these are interlinked.  So in a limited sense it is a political history, military history and the like. In a broad sense, it is history of the universe, comprising the diverse facets and trends.

iv. History is a Science and an Art

History is a science.  Like science it began to recognize the importance of truth and systematized knowledge.  It is an art for it attempts a realistic interpretation of events and imparts knowledge of intellectual utility.

Certain attributes of history are scientific in character.

i. Like science it deals with nature, for man, the subject of all historical studies, is the greatest work of nature.

ii. History employs scientific method of investigation and aims at the attainment of truth.

iii. History is a social science discussing social relations.  It deals with the conditions of mankind living in social state; it seeks to discover general laws, which governs these conditions and which bring about such developments like progress or decay of civilization or fall of states.

History is not experimental, but science is experimental. History deals with the events that had happened and cannot be repeated.  It is not subject to experimentation.  Science deals with visible objects like leaf, rock light etc.  In science the importance is the observation of laws of regularities. Scientists can forecast and eclipse, but the historian cannot predict famine and war.

Method of science is inductive of history is deductive. In science general propositions are derived from practical cases eg. When heat is applied iron expands. In historical process many developments are analyzed and particular conclusions are arrived at.  Eg. Inefficiency of administration an empire had declined. 

History is an art. Like art it is concerned with hum values. The task of historian is reconstruction of the past.  He comes across distorted versions, incomplete balance, and sympathy of an artist so that he can do justice to his theme of study.

History is of intellectual utility. For an understanding of the problems of present day, politicians administrators and diplomats seek explanation from pages of history. Though history cannot predict the future the conclusions it furnishes are used for ‘Practical guidance.

History is an art as well as a science. It is an art in regard to the subject of treatment, method of composition and. intellectual utility.  It is a scientific method of enquiry and, seeks to find out the truths.

V. The uses of history

The uses of history are almost endless. It may be read for hundred reasons, eg. for amusement, etc. To understand its more important values, we must approach it on an elevated level, and measure it not in relation to individuals but to societies and nation. It is actually a bridge connecting the past with present and pointing the road to the future.  It more than a guide for men in their daily life; it is a creator of future. The conception which men have of their record in generations past shape their dreams and ambition for the generation to come.  eg. The new. Italy, of which Mussolini dreamed, was partly a reincarnation of Rome of Caesars.

History is a maker of nations.  To give a people a full sense of their future we need first the historians who give them a full sense of their past, eg. Cooper’s historica1 romance “The Spy” helped immeasurably in making America a nation.

History is ‘a continuing inspirits.  It tends to make each individual a sharer in the great deeds, ideas and movements of his ancestors or forerunners.

To sum up it reflects the thought over centuries which had forgotten. It helps to understand the human behaviour and serves as guide for the study of human conduct. It enables to understand the present in order to prepare himself to face the problems of future.

           George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.   The beauty of the cities ‘and the magnificence of the monuments are better appreciated when the stones behind them are known. 

Lord Acton: “the prize of all a history is the understanding of modern times, for history explains the present in the light of the past by indicating the ideals and forces which are at work around us.”

                    John Seeley: “when we learn history, we do not learn the past, but the future.”

VI. The limitations of history

  1. The history of mankind is not complete
  2. All history is not really authentic (based accounts)
  3. Those who are interested in the study of history are limited.  So no wide popularity as some other sciences
  4. People are not habituated to drawing lessons from history.  Hegel says: the one thing one learns from history is that nobody ever learns anything from history.
  5. History does not repeat  No two events are alike

VII. Intellectual and educative value of History

1. 1t teaches us by examples of times and men,   the wisdom that had been acquired through the ages

2. It furnishes examples of great men who faced challenges and attained –success ultimately, eg Europeans to discover the remote lands. 

3. It serves as introduction to other branches of study.  Eg. To biography, politics, etc. 

VIII. Kinds of history

            The history can be divided:

1. Chronologically, prehistoric, historic.  And historic can be ancient, medieval and modern.  

2. Based on the events political, cultural, etc.

IX. History and allied subjects

            Geography, politics, economics, sociology, biography, etc.



                                                        CHURCH HISTORY



About 2000 years ago Jesus Christ was put to death on a cross in a small and obscure Roman province of Judea.  Today in the twentieth century faith in the risen Christ has grown to   become the faith of nearly a thousand million people

How does this belief in Jesus Christ become a worldwide faith? How has it outlived the mighty Roman Empire? And also the other European emperors? How did the Christian churches, denominations, movements, doctrines and beliefs we know today come into being? How has the faith in Jesus been passed on from generation to generation and from country to country? These are the questions which are answered in the Church History.

            Church History treats of the growth in time and space of the church founded by Jesus Christ. Vincent of Lerins compared the growth of the Church with that of the human body and of the seed which is sown. Here the growth involves no injury to its peculiar qualities nor alteration of its being.  As the grain of wheat germinates, sprouts and produces  corn, yet remains wheat,  so the church manifests herself  in changing forms during the course  of history,  but remains  always true to herself  The noticeable features of this growth are the following:

1  The ability of the christian faith periodically to reform and renew itself  Christianity has an inexhaustible capacity to revive after periods of stagnation or decay

2.  A tremendous impulse to evangelize – to share with others the good news of forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, eg.  Monastic enterprises, sermons, missionary societies, social services etc.

3.  An ability of faith to respond to different pressures and to various threats to its existence – Christianity has been able to adjust to changing historical and cultural situation without altering the essentials of its message, eg. Fierce persecution has led to the purifying of the faithful.  Heresy and aberrations have led to the clarifications of beliefs


 Church History is a theological discipline because its subject matter is derived from and rooted in faith  And in this respect it differs from  a history of Christianity. Its  theological point of departure refers to::

1. The Church’s divine origin through Jesus Christ

2. The hierarchical and sacramental order founded by Christ

3. The promised assistance of the Holy Spirit

4. The eschatological consummation at the end of the world. 

These are the essential elements in which the essential identity of the church consists, i.e., her continuity in spite of changing outward forms.

The historical character of the Church rests ultimately on the Incarnation of the Word and its entry into the human history.  It rests above all on the fact that Christ willed His Church to be a society of human beings- people of God- under the leadership of men- Apostles (papacy and episcopate)  Thus the Church depends on human actions and weakness.  But the Holy Spirit preserves her from error and maintains holiness within her.  It is testified by the miracles.  And it is in the cooperation of these divine and human factors in time and space that Church History has its origin.

The beginning and end of Church History rest on a theological basis.  It begins with the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and ends with the second coming of Christ.  Therefore, Church History is the manifestations of the Church within this period.  These manifestations can be:

1. external- spread of the Church  and her relations with various states, non-christians etc

2. internal – developments and establishing of dogmas in the struggles against heresy,  the proclamation of faith by preaching of the Word,  fulfilling of her sacramental nature by the celebration of liturgy and administration of sacraments etc.

The relevance of Church History.  Church History is the understanding of the Church and therefore an integral part of Ecclesiology.  One who studies the growth of the Church in the light of faith enters into her divine and human nature and understands her as she is not as she might be.  He learns to know the laws by which she lives and gains a clear view of her from within.  He feels with the Church.  Then he will stand fast in every crisis.  For this a strictly scientific investigation and impartial presentation of facts are required.  From this the church historian can and must draw conclusions  which will be important for the understanding of the present day and modern problems.  For eg. the history of the councils throws light upon the present councils. Church History also makes clear the original meaning of ecclesiastical institutions and opens the eyes to the need for reform in the Church.  J. A. Mohler says: “We can not understand the Church at the present day if we have not first understood the whole of the Christian  past”.

Ecclesiastical historian must have a love of history.  He must bring to his task a christian feeling and christian faith and spirit.  He must have the faith to explain it.  Thus he becomes the interpreter of the working of the Holy Spirit upon earth.  In his search for truth he has to judge impartially men and events

            The division of Church History cannot be based on the divine plan of salvation, because its details are not known to us, though we have the outlines of Revelation.  It cannot be based on the relationship between the Church and her milieu, for the Church is not identified with any civilization.  Therefore, any division into periods must take into consideration this truth – the inward and outward growth of the Church, brought about by the Holy Spirit in cooperation with human free will,  is achieved by her constantly coming to terms with civilization.  In her spreading, in her penetration of mankind and civilization, people and societies, the Church makes use of the historical circumstances and adapts herself  to them.  Therefore, Church History is something midway between universal history and history of salvation

A universally accepted division was not yet found.  The usual three fold division is this: 1. Ancient – Pentecost -692 (Trullo); 2. The Middle Ages 692 – 1517 (Lateran V); 3. Modern/Contemporary 1517 – present day.

The method of Church History

The Church History makes use of historical method.  Sometimes the tension between faith and historical fact may confront the ecclesiastical historian with difficult decisions.  Here he should be honest (scientific honesty) because church history is both theology and historical science.  The application of the historical method is to be carried in different stages.

First church history is bound by its sources.  Therefore one has to search out the sources, test for genuiness, and establish the dates and facts which form the framework of all history.

Secondly church history must be presented not as a series of unconnected events but as a process.  Events must be seen in their causes and consequences. Here the facts are grouped together based on the judgment of values, eg.  Golden Age, Reform.

In the third stage Church History as a whole can be understood only as the history of salvation.  Its ultimate meaning can be understood only by the eye of faith.  It is the abiding presence of Logos in the world and the fulfillment, in the people of God, of Christ’s community in which ministry and grace work together.  It is the Growth of the body of Christ.

Church History is also called the theology of Cross, because the growth of the church is sometimes hindered by internal or external causes, i. e., she suffers sickness, failures of men, persecution, etc.  The church is in constant renewal, simper reformanda.  She has only a provisional character and awaits perfection at Paruosia

The Evolution of Church History: The writings of Church History

The historian Altaner says: “the sense of history, which was comparatively active when the gospels and Acts of the Apostles described the work of Christ and His Apostles, remained almost without expression in the period when the church was developing out Christ’s revelation and was acquiring its historical character in the midst of struggles and persecutions”.

            In the early Apostolic period we have the genuine and ancient Acts of Martyrs: eg. Martyrium Polycarpi, The Acts of Justine the martyr, The Acts of Scillitani etc

            Then we have the Apology of Hegesippus and Ireneus.  Later we have the World Chronicle of Sexus Julius Africanus (+240), Hippolitus of Rome (+235).  In 303 Eusebius of Caesarea published the World Chronicle which set the pattern of the type of Christian historiography for more than a thousand years.

            Eusebius of’ Caesarea (260 339) is the Eather of Church History.  In 324 he published his Ecclesiastical History (Gk) in ten volumes.  It is a precious document of the ancient church.  In this he describes in chronological order:

I – III Books: the activities of Christ,   the Apostles and of the post apostolic Period.

IV – VII contain lists of bishops of the apostolic churches of Rome Antioch and Jerusalem, an account of the heresies, of great ecclesiastical writers, and of persecutions by Jews and the pagans.

VIII – IX are devoted to the “Persecutions of our days”.

X – is devoted to the victory of Christianity under Constantine.  It has also a supplementary account of the martyrs of Palestine and the laudatory life of Constantine by the same author.

            Eusebius’ work is the important historical source for the first three centuries.  He was followed by three or four historians who all treat more or less of a common period.

1. Socrates (+439). He was a lawyer of Constantinople and he grouped the ecclesiastical events of the years from 305 to 439.  He is more impartial, less involved in theological conflicts.

2. Sozomen (+425)  also a lawyer.  He was superior in literary skill.  He presented the events in the period from 324 to 425.

3. Theodore of Cyrus was a versatile writer. He described events perceptively and vividly of the years 323 -428. He included many synodal decisions and letters and other documents. He is sometimes inexact in his chronology.

4. Evagrius Scholasticus (+600). He published ecclesiastical History. In it he re1ated the Christological disputes of the period 432 544.

In the Western Church Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius was translated in 400 by Rufinus of Aquilea, who added two move books. Historia Tripqrtia was the translation of the three successors of Busebius. In 392 Jerome published the first catalogue of christian writers, comprising 135 names. In the fourth century Epiphanius made also a list of bishops.

De Civitate Dei of St. Augustine is a kind of philosophy of history. His conception of history as a struggle between the kingdom of God and that of the world strongly influenced the political ideology of the Middle Ages.

            In the middle ages we do not find any history worthwhile. Yet a few names could be mentioned.

Anastasius +879

Vincent of Beauvais + 1264 – Speculum Historiae, a part of his great medieval encyclopedia ‘Speculum Triplex’.

St. Antonine +1459 Summa Historialis

            In the second part of 15th century onwards there arose a critical sense and return to the sources of things. The invention of printing press gave historical studies a new impulse.

During the Protestant Revolution Church History became an important battlefield of apologetics. There were abuses on both sides.

The Lutherans at Magdeburg published Ecclesiastica Historia (1559 1574) in 13 volumes, one for each of the first thirteen centuries. This work is commonly known as Magdeburg Centuries. Though it abounds in documents, it is strongly anti-Catholic and antipapal. In reaction to this, Cardinal Caesar Baronius (1588 1607) wrote “Annales Ecelesiastici” in 12 volumes up to 12th century Innocent III annals = narration of events year by year.

In 17th century we see a critical sense in the study of sources. The Benedictines of St. Maur edited the Patristic work. The Jesuits on their part began to publish Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandists in 1643. During this period Valuable works were published in Italy and France. For example, “Memories pour server a 1 Histoire Ecclesiastique” (16 vols. 1693­1712, Paris), “Histoire des Empereurs”, (6 vols,1690­1738, Paria).

In 19th century valuable historical works were produced in Germany:

Protestants: Neander, Baur, Herzog, Adolf von Harnack (+1930) Heussi – Kompendium der Kirchengeschichte. Schaff Philip – History of the Christian Churches, 7 vols, N.Y. 1889 -1892.

Catholics: F.L. Von Stolberg – 15 vols. upto 433

                                       Von Kera added 30 vols. upto 12th c.

                                       Brischer added 8 vols. 50 years

                                       Mohler, Hefle of Tubingen

                                       Von Pastor History of the popes 40 vols, 1906 – 53.

Jesus Christ and the world at His birth

By the birth of Jesus Christ human history received an entirely new orientation. The whole history is divided into before Christ (B.C.) and after Christ (A.D.). When we consider the events after the birth of Christ we are tempted to ask certain questions:

1. Why did Christ select this particular moment to come incarnate into this world?

2. What was the world like at the time of His birth?

3. What was the relationship between His life and message and the religious experiences of His contemporaries?

When St. Paul wrote: “the Saviour came in the fullness of time” (Gal 4, 4.) he answered to some of these questions. By this he means that all history prior to the Incarnation was merely God’s plan of preparation for the birth of His Son. It also means that there were certain positive and negative elements which were propitious for the foundation and spread of Christianity.

There were three worlds or cultures at the time of Christ’s birth:

1. The Roman world which represented the political factor.

2. The Greek world represented the intellectual factor.

3. The Jewish world represented the religious factor.

1. The Roman world.

            The Roman Empire extended from Syria to Atlantics, from English Channel and Danube to the sands of Sahara. It had a political supremacy and was well organized under Augustus Octavian. Octavian ended the civil war with his victory at Actium in 31 B.C. He inaugurated the “Pax Romana” from 31 BC to 180 AD. During this period Roman Empire enjoyed its longest period of domestic peace and high level of prosperity. But there were drawbacks: misery slavery brutality etc. no charity, no sense of social obligation.

2. The Greek world

Greece dominated in the intellectual sphere. As a result of the conquest of Alexander the great, Greek culture influenced other cultures of Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Asia Minor. Greek became the language of the educated and Greek ideas and ideals found general acceptance. So the lower class resisted Hellenism. Rome also recognized the cultural superiority of Greece and began to reshape their society long Greek lines. They looted Greek arts and adorned their houses. Greek slaves were appointed as tutors of the Romans. Cicero went to Rhodes and Athens for education. Virgil and Horace imitated Homer.

3. The Jewish world.

            We have to make distinction between the Jews in Palestine and Jews in Diaspora. Both had a longing for the promised Messiah but it was more rooted in the political distress of the people than in religious motives. For more than a half century they had lived under the Roman domination (from 67 BC onwards). This was considered as a divine punishment. Herod the Great was the ruler and he was hated by the Jews because of his pledge to protect the Roman interests. He was also a foreigner (Idermaean). He took Jerusalem by Roman assistance in 37 BC. He could not win the hearts of the people. After the death of Herod the Great (40 4 BC) the empire was divided between his three sons Archalaus, Herod Antipas and Philip Then the Jews appealed to Rome to free them from Herodian dynasty. Thus Augustus sent procurators to govern Judea (eg. Pontius Pilot 26 36 AD). But this arrangement failed to bring civil peace. The Jews hated the Romans because the latter levied taxes and their soldiers settled in Jerusalem. In 60 AD there was a great rebellion of Jews but it failed. In.70 AD Jerusalem fell to Titus. Between 67 BC and 39 AD around 200,000 Jews were perished by violence.

The religious situation of the Jews

              It was characterized by the peculiarity of their religious convictions they hold fast to faith and religion even at the cost of heavy sacrifices and isolation from other people. The belief in one God, Jewish, was the central point. They believed in the immediate intervention of God through prophets. They also believed that they were the chosen people of God, God had made a covenant with them and the salvation for others was from them. They had a hope of a Saviour and redeemer who would establish in Israel the kingdom of God. The expectation of Messiah was the chief source of strength in the times of peril. They saw in the messiah a liberator from the Romans. Yet there were some who believed in the religious mission of the Messiah.

Importance of law

              For a Jew the law was of decisive importance and the task of daily life. Observance of the law was the daily task and its transgression was punished and its fidelity was rewarded. The law was given through Scriptures and they are interpreted by the Scribes.

The Eastern Mystery Religions

            They began to penetrate westwards. They claim to be able to give the individual a liberating answer to his questions about his fate in the next world. They claimed that by ordering his way of life in this world, he could find eternal salvation.

The common characteristics of mystery religions:

1. Belief in a blessed immortality

2. A symbolic initiation ceremony

3. A sacrifice

4. A dramatic scene

5. A sacred meal.

1. Mystery cult of Mithras

It originated in Iran, developed in Cappadocia and then spread to West. It was essentially a masculine cult and most of its devotees were Roman soldiers. Its main figure was the Persian god Mithras, who stole a bull belonging to the moon and slew it on the orders of Apollo. The representation of this event is the central motif of the image which set up in all Mithraic temples. The blood of a bull was sprinkled over the believers, who were thus initiated and became entitled to expect salvation. The candidate for initiation prepared himself by undergoing various tests of courage and ritual washings; after his reception he proceeded through seven grades to that of a full disciple of Mithras. As Mithras was taken up by the sun-god Helios in the chariot of the sun, so did the disciple hope to be raised up in glory in the next world. The members of the cult were also united in a sacred meal, which prefigured, to those who partook of it, a happy life together in the hereafter.

2. The cult of Isis and Osiris in Egypt

In Egypt goddess Isis was honoured every year by a solemn procession. She was believed to have brought morality and civilization to mankind. She was regarded as the inventor of agriculture and writing, as foundress of law and civil order, a protectress of the persecuted and liberator from every kind of distress. Osiris is figured as her husband. He was the ancient Egyptian god of vegetarian who died and rose again, as the annual sowing and growth of the crops-symbolically signify. His death was mourned by his worshippers, his resurrection celebrated with joy. In his dying, man saw his own death expressed, but like Osiris he would rise again to a new life after death.

3. The cult of great mother in Asia Minor

She is the fertility goddess Cybele. She was connected with a male divinity, the Nature hero Attis, her lover. According to the myth Attis was unfaithful to her, wherefore he was cast into a frenzy, from which he died. He was awakened to new life and reunited with the Great Mother. This myth became the basis of this cult. Their priests are called Galli. These, by ecstatic dancing and flagellation, brought on their own “mystical” frenzy, in which there were driven even to self castration. In the rite of initiation, the candidate (mysta) symbolically relived the fate of his god in death and resurrection; he was sprinkled with the blood of a bull and then entered the “bridal chamber”, which he left as one reborn. At a sacred meal he made his profession as a ‘mysta’ of Attis, and a priest proclaimed to the initiated the joyful tidings: “be comforted, ye mystae! Salvation came to the god. So also shall we be partakers of salvation after tribulation”. Here, too, the promise of salvation was the deciding motive for joining the cult.

The positive features in the Hellenistic religion which helped the preaching of the now faith in Jesus:

1. The feeling of emptiness on account of the failure of ancient religions

2. A deep desire of redemption – eternal salvation was promised by the Saviour.

3. The strong tendency to monotheism – this was apparent in the Hellenistic religion.

The positive elements in Jewish religion:

1. Monotheism

2. The expectation of Messiah

3. The Jews in Diaspora prepared the Septuagint.

4. They preached monotheism and the Ten Commandments and the foundation of Christian morals.

5. The synagogues, where christian missionaries found         God fearing people, were ready to receive their message.

Jesus Christ and the Church

The history of the church has its roots in Jesus Christ. Therefore His life and work, by which the Church was founded, are a necessary preliminary to the history of the church.

The sources of Christ’s life: the writings of N.T the first three gospels, Acts of the Apostles and some letters of St. Paul They are not intended to be a historical biography of Christ. The gospels are the outcome of the apostolic preaching. The evangelists presented Jesus as vivid in their hearts. The N.T tat writings bear witness to the life and work of Christ and prove that earthly Christ was the same Christ who is the Saviour of the world. So they are a kind of outline of the life of Jesus.

The historical data from the gospels

– Birth of Christ tour or five years before the beginning of christian era.

– thirty years of secret life

-three years of active life, baptism


-supreme law of Jesus’ religion: unconditional love of God and neighbour.

-other doctrines: purity of mind and intention against outward observance of law; inward union with the Father; silent conversation with the Father; joy over the repentance of the sinners; blessedness of the poor; ‘consolation to the lowly, depressed , blind, lame, etc.; and finally the call to all to follow him and his discipleship requires self denial.

-those followed are called to form a new community and His message bound them together. They are brothers in a religious family. They prayed together. This community is the Church. Ecclesia= those who are called

Church = the lord’s house

From the disciples he dejected twelve. They were the object of his special attention end had special position.  They were to continue his mission. The content of his mission wan the proclamation of the kingdom of God. He gave them Power to fulfill it. He chose Peter for a special task. He was rock foundation on which his church should stand. Thus the foundation was prepared.  It would now grow in space and time.

The primitive Church at Jerusalem

The important source of the primitive church is the acts of Apostles (7 chapters). It is not a complete picture of events because the author chose for his subjects only what served his purpose. Only about fifteen years of the origin and growth of the community arc described there.

Actually it was resurrection of Christ that brought together the scattered disciples and united them in a community sharing the same belief and profession of faith.

The events narrated in the Acts are the following:

I. Ascension

2. Election of Mathias

3. Pentecost

4. Opposition from the Jews 5: 29

5. Election of deacons

6. Martyrdom of Stephen

7. Journey of the apostles

8. Conversion of  Paul

9. Persecution by Herod

10. James the Younger bishop of Jerusalem

11.Gospel to the gentiles- conversion of the chamberlain of queen of Ethiopea by Philip and that of Cornelius by Peter.

12. The name Christians Act 11, 26.

13. Jerusalem council (49) whether circumcision is necessary for salvation was discussed and decided:

“We shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” 15, 11.

The Church: Organization, Belief and Piety

            The Disciples of Christ had formed themselves into a special community which had the name Congregation, Assembly, Ecclesia (Acts 5, 11, 8.1.). This community was convinced that Christ was the true Messiah and led their own individual religious life and this conviction brought them together and they  organized a religious community. This community had from the beginning a hierarchical order in which not all were of equal rank.

The hierarchical order:

1. College of Apostles. The Apostles are distinguished in a unique way to carry out the special task entrusted to them by Christ. Their number was twelve which was considered sacred and Mathias was elected in the place of Judas. The characteristics of the election of Mathias are the following: prayer and God’s decision was sought by means of lot. This shows that the call to the office of an Apostle is by the supreme authority of God.

The tasks of the Apostle are the following

– To bear witness to the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

– To lead the community in the liturgy solemnities of cult

– To administer baptism

– To preside at the religious meal

– To lay hands on those who were consecrated for special tasks.

– To be mediators between Christ and the Church through the exercise of priestly functions.

Peter was the head of the Apostles: Peter occupied a leading place among the twelve. It was given by Christ. We see Peter exercising this in the primitive Church:

– conducts the election to the college of Apostles

– Spokesman of the disciples at Pentecost Acts 2.15.

– preaches after healing of the lame. 3.1.

– Spokesman before the scribes and elders. 4.8

– Spokesman before the Sanhedrin. 5, 20

– appears with judicial authority in the episode of Ananias and Sapphire 5.3.

– His decision to admit Cornelius to baptism. It has a great significance – gospel is also to Gentiles.

– In Jerusalem council Peter’s attitude was the deciding factor in the dispute as to whether the gentile christians were subject to Mosaic law or not.

2. The Elders. They are not so clearly defined in the Acts (11 39). It was not a new name for there were elders in the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. In the primitive church the elders are always found in the company of Apostles as leaders of ‘ the congregation. They also took part in the decisions of Jerusalem council (15 2ff). So they were assistants to the apostles in the administration.

3. The Deacons: Their appointment was not by election, but was done by prayer and imposition of hands. No name was given to this group in the Acts of the Apostles, but their work is described by the verb “to serve” (6 2). They were appointed to assist the apostles in their work, to take over the services of the tables among the poor of the community.

The existence of apostles elders and deacons shows that there was already in the primitive church a division among the members into different groups consecrated by a religious ceremony for special tasks apart from the main body of the faithful. This division between laity and clergy was not felt a separating gulf because the Jews also had priesthood whom they respected.

Faith of the early Christians

The resurrection of Christ was the pivot upon which the apostolic message hinged. So all those who wished to follow the gospel had to accept it. The fact of resurrection both as a historical event and as part of the faith was confirmed by the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (2.1ff). The Pentecost gave its final clarity and direction to apostolic message. Then on the apostles began to preach that the Risen Lord was Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus, the Saviour. The early christians believed that Jesus was the Saviour called by God for the salvation of men (5.31).They also believed that only grace of the Lord (15 1­11) could save them not the circumcision.

Forgiveness of sins. It was the first step to salvation through Jesus Christ. Prayer and inner conversion were necessary for removal of sins.

The reception of the Holy Spirit. It was a proof and confirmation that salvation had already begun for its members. After the Pentecost the descent of the Holy Spirit repeated continually. Eg. In Samaria 8 1ff. Cornelius 10 44; 4 31. It was the Holy Spirit who gives the inner and supernatural strength.  It was also the cause of missionary zeal – Stephen, Philip.

Thy Rites of early christians

I. Baptism was the basis of the membership in the community. It was followed by the reception of the Holy Spirit, by laying on of hands.

2. Breaking of the Bread: This refers to the liturgical celebration of the last supper of the Lord. It took place in the houses of the faithful (I Cor.10 16). The faithful met on the first day of the week to break the bread (Acts 20, 7). Here we note a liturgical development among the first christians. They gathered on Sundays because it was the day of Lord’s resurrection and they hoped that He would come on the same day of the week.

3. Fast day: They fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays. The passion of the Lord began on Wednesday and the Lord died on the cross on Friday.

4. The anointing of the sick:  ref. James 5, 14ff.

5. Works of Charity: The early christians manifested their love and enthusiasm in the works of charity. They were of one heart and one soul and they shared everything in common (Acts 4, 32). This christian enthusiasm was nourished by the expectation of the parousia. They were indifferent to the goods of this world and it made them free and unselfish.

St. Peter, his missionary activity and death in Rome

According to Mk. 1, 16-18 Simon and Andrew were the first men called by Christ. According to John 1.44 they lived in Bethsaida. Peter was married (M.1, 30-31, 1Cor 9,5). It was Andrew who brought Simon to Jesus (Jn.1, 40). Peter was the head of the Apostolic College. After the ascension of the Lord he took the leadership of the community in his hand. He was the spokesman, performed miracles and opened the door of the church to the gentiles.

               Peter was imprisoned by Agrippa II and was to be executed. But he was set free by an angel and went to another city (Acts 12). The Acts concludes the account of Peter’s activity in Jerusalem with these mysterious words: “He went to another place”Actsl2, 17. His route to Rome, the time of his arrival there and the length of his stay are not known from the Acts. 1n 49 he was in Jerusalem then he went to Antioch Acts 15, 17.

The basis of the Roman tradition concerning St. Peter

1. The letter of Clemet: It is the first letter of pope Clemet, the third successor (88-97) of Peter. While speaking of the martyrdom of female christians under Nero, Clement writes: “Peter, who because of unjust envy suffered tribulations not once or twice but many times, and thus became a witness and passed on to the place of glory which was his due” (I Cor. 5,l 4; 6,1 2). So according to this, St. Peter might have got martyrdom under Nero in the mid­sixties. Clement did not give details of the martyrdom because he presupposed that his readers had known about it.

2. The letter of Ignatius of Antioch: St. Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch (98 – 110) became martyr under Trojan. In his letter to the Ramans he wrote: “I do not command you as Peter and Paul do”. This means that Peter stayed in Rome for a lengthy period and he had a special relationship with the Roman congregation.

3. A combined text of Ascensio Isaiae (4, 2 – 3) and a fragment of the Apocalypse of Peter. Ascensio Isaiae (100) written in prophetic style says: “one of the twelve will be delivered into his hands; the community founded by the twelve will be persecuted by Nero”. The Apocalypse of Peter (125 – 150 discovered in 1886) says: ” see Peter, to thee have I revealed and explained all things.  Go then into the city of fornication and drink the chalice that I have foretold to thee”.

4. The Gospel according to St. john: Jn. 21, 18-19 says about martyrdom of Peter but there is no mention of the place.

5. The first Epistle of St. Peter: I Pet.5, 13 Peter indicates lose as his abode (Babilon = Rome).

The Tomb of St. Peter

There is a difference of opinion concerning the location of the tomb of St. Peter.

1. Vatican Hill

i) Tacitus’ account of Nero’s persecution, Annales 15, 44, 5.

ii) The first epistle of Clement.

iii) The account of Gaius.  Gaius was an educated and active member of the Roman congregation. He says: “I can show you the tropaia (a victory monument) of the Apostles for if you will go to the Vatican hill or as the r ead to Ostiav that you will find the triumphal tombs of those who founded this congregation”.    Gaius lived during the time of pope Zephyrinus (199 – 217). So about 200 the conviction at Rome was that St. Peter’s tomb was on the Vatican Hill.

               As opposed to this, an entry in the roman liturgical calendar of 354, supplemented by the so called Martyrolegium Hieronymianum (after 431), states that in 258, on 29 June, the memory of peter was celebrated at the Vatican, that of Paul on the road to Ostia, and of both in catcombas

2. On the via Appia under the Basilica of St. Sebastian:

An epitaph composed by pope Damasus (366 – 304) says that the two apostles had once “dwelt” there, which probably means that their bodies had once been buried there. There was about the year 260 a shrine of the two apostles on the Via Appia under the basilica later known as St. Sebastian’s, which in the fourth century was still called ecclesia apostelerum. Excavations in 1917 proved the existence of suck a shrine about the year 260, in which both apostles were honoured refrigeria (memorial service). Though no grave was found out, other signs force us to the convulsion that the visitors were convened that it was the burial place of the apostles.

Different hypotheses

1. Same hold that the actual burial – place of both apostles was on via Appia, their bodies having been translated to Constantine’s basilicas only after these were built.

2. Others held that the burial place was Vatican Hill and the relics had been brought to St. Sebastian’s for safety during Valerian’s (253-260) persecution and had remained there until their translation to the now basilicas.

3. Yet others deny the possibility of translation to the Appian Way, because the Roman law strictly forbids opening of graves. Perhaps a substute shrine may have been built here when the persecution of Valerian made the visitors to the real tombs impossible.

4. Still a fourth opinion was that there may have been on Via Appia a centre of veneration of the apostles belonging to some schismatic group, perhaps the Novatians, who living in Rome itself, could not deist from such veneration.

Therefore in the third century there was no certain knowledge about the burial place of St. Peter.

Excavations of 1940-49 under Petrine Basilica.

There discovered a vast necropolis (cemetery) reached by street of tombs ascending to the west from which one arrived at numerous mausolea (magnificent tomb). Many of them are richly adorned. One among then is purely christian, with ancient mosaics, and a representation of Christ-Holiest a very valuable piece of early christian iconography. The mausolea was built in 130-200. This is below and in front of the “confessio of St. Peter.

Tradition puts his martyrdom in 67 and gives June 29 as the exact date. This date had a symbolic character. It was the day on which the Romans celebrated the founding of their city by Romus and Romulus. The early Christians transferred it to the feast of St. Peter and Paul, the founders of the new christian Rome.

ST Paul

Only through a series of striking events could the Jewish christians arrive at a knowledge that they had an obligation to carry the gospel of good news of Jesus to the gentile world. The shocking events were:

1. Baptism of Bthiopean chamberlain by Philip. 8, 26­39.

2. Baptism of Cornelius 10, 1-11,18.

         Then on christian communities were formed outside Jerusalem, in Antioch and Damascus. It was at Antioch that the followers of Christ received the name christians (11 – 26). It was to arrest the christians at Damascus that Paul came to Damascus.

Paul was born of a Jewish family at Tarsus in Cilicia. His ancestors came from Galilee. His father possessed a Roman citizenship. He knew the Greek ‘koine’, the common language of the Mediterranean region. He had his training as a teacher of law in the school of the Pharisee Gamaliel (22,3). He Persecuted the christians and took part in the martyrdom of Stephen (36), which he confirmed in his letters (Gal.1, 13ff; I Cor. 15, 9).

            Paul might have converted in 38 AD cf. Acts 9, 3 18; 22, 3-16; 26, 12-30. Paul calls this apparition of the Lord as a supernatural call to grace. From that moment on wards he became an ardent follower of Christ and dedicated himself fully to the service of the Lord.

Mission of St. Paul

St. Paul began to proclaim the message of Christ in the synagogues of Damascus and then in Jerusalem (9, 20; 22, 26­29). At both places he not with strong opposition. So he withdrew to Tarsus. Then after some years’ of silence he preached in Antioch. He was convinced that he was called to preach good news to the gentiles. And he selected the Roman expire as his mission field. He made three missionary journeys.

1. The first missionary Journey (45-48)

His companions were Barnabas and Mark. They first went to Cyprus and worked in the city of Salamis. Then they went to Asia Minor, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe.  Everywhere they had opposition and sometimes physical violence. But some accepted the gospel and thus christian congregations were formed there and suitable leaders were appointed for them.

             Paul did not impose circumcision and Jewish ritual prescriptions upon the gentile christians. But the Jewish christians demanded circumcision as an essential condition for salvation (15, 1-5). This dispute sometimes hindered Paul’s missionary work.  It was settled in council of Jerusalem (49). There the Pauline thesis “the Mosaic Law has no binding force for the gentile christians” was accepted. Paul also collected money from the new congregations for those poor of Jerusalem community. It testified the mutual bond between the gentile and Jewish christians. The first missionary journey ended in 48. They returned to Antioch.

2. The second missionary journey 50-53

            Paul’s companions were Silas and Timothy. The visited places where Paul preached gospel and founded congregations during his first missionary journey. Then he went to the coast in northern Troas. After that in a dream he was called to Macedonia. Here Luke joined the group. They sailed to Philippi. There they had opposition from the Jews. They went to Thessalonica and stayed there one month. They also preached in the synagogues. After visiting Athens they went to Corinth where a few Jews and many pagans accepted gospel. Paul stayed there eighteen months. The Jewish couple Aquilla and Priscilla had greatly promoted his work  thus Corinth became one of the main centers of Paul.  Then Paul went to Ephesus and after a short stay there he returned to Palestine by sea.

3. The third missionary Journey 53-58

Ephesus became the center of Paul’s missionary activity.  He worked there two years. He had success as well as difficulties. A new congregation separated from the synagogue was formed. From Ephesus Paul wrote letters to the faithful in Corinth and Galatia. In 57 he left for Macedonia and Greece. After a short stay in Troas he visited Corinth from where he wrote to the Romans. In this letter he mentioned his intention to visit Rome (Rom.15, 24-29). After visiting the various congregations founded by his and after a sorrowful farewell to the elders of Ephesus he returned to Jerusalem about the time of Pentecost in 58.

In Jerusalem Paul was arrested and as he had appealed to the emperor he was taken to Rome. In Rome he resumed his missionary work in the possible way. Some believed him (Acts28 23). Luke concludes the activity of Paul in Rome with this statement:  “this salvation of God has been sent to the gentiles, they will listen” (Acts 28, 28).

Acts is silent about the subsequent activities of Paul. In Rome his trial ended with an acquittal. Then he went to Spain and visited the Hellenistic East. During this period he gave directions for organizations of his congregations and warned them against false doctrines. During the reign of Nero, Paul was again imprisoned and was beheaded probably in 67 AD. The place of his martyrdom is known “Tre fontane” (Three fountains) as his beheaded head touched three places water spring spouted from there.

The characteristics of the Pauline congregation

1. Paul occupied a unique place, he was the highest authority, the chief judge and law -giver.

2. The congregation had a hierarchical order. Paul assigned duties such as care for the poor and conducting of religious worship to certain persons by imposition of hands and prayer on them. They were called presbyters or e1ders (Acts 14, 23). The elders of Ephesus were referred to overseers (Episcopoi). Paul also speaks of deacons having special duties in the congregation as a distinct office from that of episcopoi and presbyters. These office bearers (episcopoi, prebyters, and deacons) were local leaders and remained with the community.

3. Charismatically gifted persons: They had gift of tongue and prophecy. They appeared in the assembly for the worship. Sometimes it became dangerous because of the overestimate of gifts.

4. Unity with other communities: Pauline congregations were not independent. They were closely linked with their founder and the Jerusalem community.

5. Charitable works: Pauline congregations had the consciousness of being one church. They assisted the poor of Jerusalem.

The religious life of Pauline Congregation

i. Its centered on the belief in the risen Lord.

ii. The admission to the community was by baptism.

iii. On the first day of the week they regularly met together for worship.  Songs of praise, hymns and psalms.

iv. Eucharistic celebration (Lord’s Supper) was the central point and climax of the service. Details were not mentioned. The breaking of the broad was the participation in the body and blood of Christ. It nourished and constantly reaffirmed the inner unity of Pauline congregations.

v. Proclamation of gospel. In the assemblies gospel was preached. Pauline congregations had also difficulties. The difference between pagan and christian morality was evident. The latter demanded greater effort. There were signs of disunity. Against all these Paul warned the faithful and asked them to keep unity, peace and brotherly love.

The development of the hierarchy

The apostles appointed a group of elders to watch over the community. They were referred to in the NT as presbyters (elders) or episcopoi (overseers). Authors generally agree that these two words are synonymous. Whether there were bishops or priests opinions are divided. The prevailing opinion is that they were priests.


            This word was first used in the church in 58 AD cf. Act 20, 28: “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians to feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own blood”.

St. Paul speaks of the qualities of episcopoi:

I Thim. 3, 2-7: “a bishop must above reproach, husband of one wife, temporate, sensible, dignified, and hospitable an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent, but gentle not quarrelsome and no lover of money”.

Tit. 1, 7-9: “a bishop as God’s steward must be blameless must not be arrogant or quick-tempered, or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain but hospitable, a lover of goodness, master of himself, upright, holy and self-controlled.

In the second century episcopoi’s position became clearer.  They were the heads of the community of faithful. They became the centre of the community. Hippolitus (235) says: “the faithful should elect the bishop”.

Didaschalia apostolorum (3 c.) catholic teaching of the twelve apostles and holy disciples of our Lord Saviour (full title) published by a bishop in Syria speaks of the qualities of the bishop: “bishops were allowed to marry. Elders were elected by the bishops to help the latter. Baptism was reserved to the bishop. But elders and deacons administered baptism with the permission of the bishop”.

Later in the light of the decisions of Nicea I and Chalcedon certain changes were introduced with regard to the election of the bishops. The right of the electing a bishop was reserved to the bishops of the neighbouring dioceses. Then the opinion of the faithful was sought out.  Polycarp was elected bishop after having enquired about him by sending the deacons.

The synod of Ancira (314) decreed that when a bishop was not acceptable to the community he had to retire to the priesthood. The synod of Arles (314) decreed that there should be seven bishops to consecrate a new bishop. It also decreed that there should be at least three if not seven, but the absentees should inform about their consent with the signature of the archbishop.

Once a bishop was appointed to a see, he should not go from there. There were strict rules regarding the transfer of the bishops.

Bishops were simple pastors and were not distinguished by any of the external trappings (mitre, cozier, etc.). During the persecution bishop stood out as the leader, teacher of the community, director of the divine worship and administrator of the sacraments.


            The head of the Jewish community was called presbyter. In the Qumran community too we found presbyters. The presbyters were in charge of the synagogue.

In the church in the beginning there was no distinction between episcopoi and presbyteroi. But St. Ignatius says: “The Eucharistic celebration should be under the leadership of the episcopoi. This shows that episcopoi were the successors of the apostles.

In the third century we find a distinction between episcopoi and presbyteroi. In the absence of the bishop, presbyter could give blessing in the agape. Eusebius speaks of 46 presbyters, seven deacons and seven sub-deacons in Rome besides the bishop.

Other orders

Deaconate originated with the election of those seven men mentioned in the Acts 6, 1-6. Though originally intended for the care of the poor many other activities fell to their lot as time went on. Deacon became the bishop’s right hand man, assisting in the celebration if the Eucharist in the administration of baptism and in the temporal administration of the diocese. Didaschalia speaks of them: “the bishop’s ears, mouth, heart and soul”.

Subdioconate: Subdioconate came into existence to assist the deacons. It originated in the apostolic time. The number of deacons was seven. When the community became large, deacons took assistants (subdeacons).

In the Western church in the third century other lesser orders came into existence:

Lector (reader) educate members of the community who would read the scriptures at the divine services. 

Acolytes assisted the sub-deacons.

Exorcists to take care of those who were supposed to be possessed.

Porter to keep the door. 

Besides these there was deaconess also to help in the baptism of women.

Formation and maintenance of the Clergy

We do not find a formation as we have today. Yet the apostles trained their co-workers in the ministry of the word and administration of the sacraments. At first more stress was laid on the virtue of the candidate. The will of the people was sought out when one is appointed. It was people who determined their bishop. This election would be ratified by other bishops.

            Promotion to the priesthood was done considering the satisfactory account of oneself in the lower orders, fifty age for bishop, thirty for the priests.  Self castrated eunuchs, neophytes, slaves were excluded from clerical state.

Celibacy was not obligatory in the first three centuries. A married person (once) could become deacon, priest and bishop.  But they were not allowed to marry after the ordination. Second marriage was tolerated for the laity but considered unworthy of the clergy. There were people who had attraction to virginity and this liking for celibacy grew gradually more common. In 305 synod of Elvira (Spain) made celibacy obligatory for bishop, priests and deacons.

Maintenance of the clergy: The words of the Lord “the labourers have the right to their maintenance” was the principle. Since there was a strong community spirit, there was no problem. There were generous contribution, offerings at Mass, monthly collections, etc. (Tertullian)

Developments of parish, diocese, archdiocese, Patriarchate

The word parish comes from the Greek word Paroikia = community of pilgrims, those near the house of God. When the number increased christian centers also increased. In the beginning private houses were used for Eucharistic celebration. In the second century onwards these communities were known as parish. Each parish was given the name of a martyr. In 300 there were twenty parishes in Rome. Communities were again formed outside the cities and the church in the city became its centre. Bishop appointed Priests to the parishes. Thus there were many parishes under a bishop.

The parish system spread rapidly throughout the East. In the West we see a gradual development. In Rome bishop was the leader of the Eucharistic service. He was consecrating bread and wine even if there were other churches in the city. Consecrated bread was sent to other churches. Priests had obtained permission from the bishop to consecrate bread and wine. In the fifth century laity began to own parishes and they used to pay the priests and gained the income of the parish.

Diocese or provinces: Different parishes are formed into a diocese.  The word comes from the Greek Diokein = to govern. Diocese is a place which is governed. The sixth canon of Nicea I speak about the division. Diocese is known by the name of the place where bishop resides. The bishop of the capital had some authority over the others and from fourth century onwards was referred to as metropolitan (metropolis = capital).

Patriarchate:  Different metropolitan churches were grouped into a new system called Patriarchate. Patriarch means head of a family or race. In the OT Abraham and Jacob were called patriarchs. The early christian centers Rome, Alexandria and Antioch were known as patriarchates. The sixth canon of Nicea I refer to this. When Constantinople became the capital of the Roman Empire it demanded the second place among the patriarchates. Later Jerusalem (451) also was given the patriarchal title. Thus there were five ancient patriarchates and were known as Pentarchy of the church. Rome had the first place.

1. Rome:  As the see of St. Peter Rome had preeminence among the patriarchates. The councils also approved it. The one who is in communion with the Roman see was considered to be in communion with the rest. Roman primacy is clear from the attitude of the authority which the popes displayed in their dealings with the other churches. Pope Clement (86-97) in 96 interferes in a split in the church at Corinth. Pope Victor (189-199) showed himself superior of the whole church on the occasion of the dispute about the date of Easter. Pope Stephen (254-257) in 256 forbade the bishops of Africa to rebaptize heretics. Dionisius (257-68) in 260 corrected the bishop of Alexandria for errors concerning the Trinity. These are indirect evidences. There are direct evidences:

Ignatius of Antioch (110), says: Roman church as presiding in love, presides in the chief place of the Roman territory.

Ireneus (185), while speaking against the innovations of the Gnostics, ascribeds to roman church potentior principalities on account of its being founded by St. Peter and Paul. St. Cyprian says: Petri cathedra atque ecclesia princioalis unde unitas sacerdotalis exorta est.

2. Constantinople: In the fourth century Constantinople was a suffrogan to Heraclea. In 324 when Constantine mad it the new capital it became known as new Rome. Constantinople 1 381 assigned to it the second place. The 28th canon of Chalcedon 451 approved it. The 21 st canon of IV Constantinople (869­870) officially confirmed it. Again it was confirmed in the council of Florence in 1439. Pope Leo 1 (440-461) was against it. Chalcedon decreed that Constantinople had the right to take decisions on the Byzentine church. From 6th century onwards. Constantinople’s patriarch was called ecumenical patriarch. Pope Gregory the great (590-604) opposed it but the title was used by the patriarch with the consent of the emperor. Constantinople had authority over the whole Asia Minor.

3. Antioch: Canon 6 of Nicea I speaks in a vague way about the privileges of Antioch  Canon 6 of Constantinople I determined the rights of Antioch.

4. Alexandria:  Most ancient patriarchate. Nicea I, c.6 speaks of the ancient custom according to which the Alexandrian patriarch had power over Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis. Canon 2 of Constantinople I determined the rights and jurisdiction of Alexandria.

5. Jerusalem: had great importance. It was first a suffrogan to Caesarea. Nicea had given certain privileges to it and Chalcedon 451 conferred on it the patriarchal title at the request of their bishops. Three provinces of Palestine were given to it.

Different factors in the formation of patriarchate.

1. Apostolic origin

Rome -St. Peter

Constantinople -St. Andrew

Antioch -St. Peter

Alexandria St. Mark

Jerusalem St. James

2. Ecclesiastical importance

            Rome- see of Peter

            Constantinople- Basilica of the Great Wisdom

            Antioch -centre of Theological School

            Alexandria ft

            Jerusalem centre and pilgrimage

3. Political importance

Rome- capital of Roman Empire

Constantinople -new capital

Antioch -capital of Orient

Alexandria- capital of Illyricum

Jerusalem- residence of roman governor

Intellectual Opposition Heresy and Schism

As the christians were known to the world, there arose an intellectual opposition in the second half of the second century. Though the opposition was a danger to the individual christians, it contributed to the development of christian doctrines in so far as it has forced the Church to reexamine her intellectual resources and to define with greater clarity and distinction.

i. Opposition of the Pagans.

The two famous pagan opponents of christianity were Lucian and Celsius. Lucian used to ridicule the christians and spread calumnies against them. Celsius in his book “The True God” written in 178 attacked the Church most viciously. The work was burned in 488 by the order of emperor Theodosius. Origen quoted the text in refuting Celsius. The following are the arguments of Celsius: (i) The official Roman religion is essential (ii) the Christians are the enemies of the empire (iii) ridiculing the christians he hindered the pagans from becoming christians (iv) he put forward refutations of the christian doctrine especially against Incarnation and redemption. Celsius presented Christ and the Apostles and the christians as vagrants who pride themselves on their own importance.  He considered christian doctrines as mere ill-digested borrowings from traditional wisdom and insidiously points out that their attitude presents a danger to the City.

2. The Challenge of Religious Philosophy.

The third century is noted for its philosophical revival.  The pagan philosophers tried to make their philosophy more attractive and to show that it is superior to christianity.

Intellectual movements

(i) Neoplatonism

It appeared in Alexandria in the first half of the third century. It was founded by Ammonius Saccas (174- 242), an apostate. But the chief exponent of this movement was Plotinus (+270), a disciple of Saccas. He lectured in Rome and preached a kind of Trinity.

a) One: It is not intelligible, formless, no attributes contained all beings.

b) Nous: It is the emanation of One and the exemplar of all things. It received the Being contained in the One in the form of

c) World-Soul: It is the emanation of Nous, and created the universe.

Man is a union of body and soul and this union is accidental. Body is the instrument of the soul. The sou1 existed in the World­Soul before its union to the body. Plotinus is not clear about whether the soul is distinct from World-soul and souls or not. In the body there is a danger of domination of matter. Therefore one has to fight to preserve its union with the world soul. If it keeps itself free of matter it will be able to rise to the contemplation of Intelligence (Nous) and ultimately to the ecstasy of a facial vision of One. This vision is only in the next life where soul will enjoy immortality on being freed from matter by death.

(ii) Eclectism

It was an attempt to fuse Greek philosophical ideas with the elements of various oriental religions: Persians, Babylonian and Indian. The empress Julia Donna, wife of Spetimus Severus (193-211) asked a certain Philostratus to present the ideal fusion of all religions personified in some great figure. Thus Philostratus wrote the biography of a certain Appollonius of Tyna, lived in the first century. He presented the latter as a perfect philosopher who traveled from Spain to India and asserted that all religions were same. During the persecution of Domitian (81-96) he was tried, but disappeared from the tribunal and appeared to two of his disciples who thought that he had risen from the dead. He was presumed to be disappeared from the temple while the virgins sang: “Leave earth and come to heaven”. This was an effort to provide the pagans with a counter attraction to Christ.

(iii) Gnosticism

It is a collection of systems – a fusion of hellenistic ideas with Jewish religious ideas and certain elements of christian revelation. It started in the first decades of the second century. The basic question of Gnosticism was how can man find the true knowledge, which will explain the riddle of the world and the evil there in as well as the riddle of the human existence. Gnosticism claimed to bring to religious minded people a valid interpretation of the world and of themselves. They had a liturgy and its forms were borrowed from Eastern Mystery cults and christianity. They made use of its symbolic content skillfully. They organized their adherents to a close-knit community and propagated their doctrines by sacred hymns and fascinating novels. Gnostic cells were formed inside the Church to conquer the Church from within. 

Gnosticism taught a dualism. This dualistic conception of being is expressed as the opposition between god and Matter, between Light and Darkness. There are intermediate beings called Eons which are pure spirits and pure lights. Eons together with god of Light formed the kingdom of light. One of the Eons, Demiurge, tried to raise himself above his status and was expelled from the kingdom of light. He then created universe and man. He rebelled against God. Demiurge is the God of OT. The souls of men belong to the world of light, but are imprisoned in matter. So man has to fight to free the soul. Gnosis is the secret knowledge that will enable them to do that.

Result of gnostic teaching

(i)  Denial of original sin

(ii) Destruction of the doctrines of incarnation & Redemption.

(iii) Christ is only an Eon.

(iv) They divide the people into three classes:

a) Spirituals -who have the secret knowledge (gnosis).

b) Uneducated christians -who were forced to live a asceticism.

c) Pagans who had no hope of salvation.

Different groups of Gnosticism

1. Syrian group: The centre was Antioch. Their leaders were Menander and Satornil. Menander proclaimed himself the redeemer.

2. Basilidian School: Its centre was Alexandria and its leader was Basilides who claimed to have secret doctrines which the redeemer had entrusted to Mathias after the ascension.

3.Valentinians: Its centers were Egypt, Alexandria and Rome. Its leader was Valentinus. This sect was most dangerous to christianity.

Works of Gnosticism

By the victory of christianity, the Gnostic literature were destroyed but some of them are preserved being quoted in the antignostic writings of Ireneus, Tertullian, Hippoliyus, clement of Alexandria, Origen and Epiphanius.

i) Pistis Sophia

iii) Books of Jeu-alleged revelations of Christ his disciples.

Discovery of Gnostic remains

The excavation of 1945-46 discovered an extensive library of a gnostic community near upper Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi, in the vicinity of the former Pachomean monastery of Chenoboskian . It contained in 13 papyrus manuscripts more than 40 unknown works in the Coptic language mostly direct translations from Greek. The translation was done either at the end of the fourth century or in the beginning of the fifth century. The Greek originals were written in the second century. Their titles seem to be christian apocrypha, but the contents are quite new, eg. Apocryphal gospels of Thomas Philip gospel of Egyptians, of Truth, Acts of the Apostles, Peter, Mathias, etc.

iv) Marcianism

            Marcian was a son of the bishop of Synope, south coast of Black Sea. He came to Rome in 140 and joined the christians who supported him with money. In 144 he left Rome since his peculiar ideas were not accepted there. He wanted to purify the Church from Judaism. Therefore he founded a new church with bishops, priests and laity and liturgy. This church lasted till fifth century. He made a distinction and opposition between God of OT and God of NT. Christ is God of love and mercy. Consequently he denied all OT books and those books which looked favourably on OT. He accepted only gospel of Luke minus his infancy narrative. He also accepted moat of the Pauline epistles. In the East he won many followers. His church was well organized with strict morals and fu11 pledged members. They abstained from matrimony meat and wine. But Marcianism was regarded as a most dangerous enemy of the Church. St. Polycarp of Smyrna called Marcian “primogenitus Satanae“.

(v) Montanism

This sect appeared in Phrygia, Asia Minor about 172. Montanus a Phrygian and two of his female disciples, Maximilla and Priscilla claimed to have received the charisma of prophecy. The monatanists gave more importance to visions and revelations. According to him the time of the paraclete had begin with the coming of Montanus the new Jerusalem was going to be inaugurated and last for a thousand years. For it all must live in continence. They showed excessive respect for virginity. They deny the possibility of forgiveness of sine after baptism especially sins of fornication, murder and idolatry. Therefore they had postponed baptism. No statues, no paintings were allowed. Pope Zephyrinus (199-217) excommunicated them. This movement spread very quickly. In Rome Tertullian joined into it and left the Church in 207. It ended by the fifth century. Maximilla said: “after me there will be no prophecy but the end”.

(vi) Manichaeism

Trinitarian Heresies

In the first century there was no dispute about the doctrine of Trinity. But when it was explained some went astray in the second century.

1. Dynamic Monarchianism or Adoptionism

Monarchianism appeared as a continuation of Jewish monotheism treating the Father Son and the Holy Spirit merely as powers of one god in the Judaic sense of the word. So it is the unique divine person who was manifested in Jesus Christ. Mons=alone arkho=rule.

According to Adoptionism Christ is a mere man, but God’s power operative in him in a special way at baptism. Therefore it denied the divinity of Christ. The first exponent of this doctrine was an educated leather merchant Theodotus of Byzantium who came to Rome about the year 190. According to him Christ was a mere man but had been filled with the power of god at baptism. Thus Christ was divine only in a wide sense. He tried to prove from Scripture t that Jesus until his baptism led a life of simple but very upright man on whom the Spirit of Christ then descended. Pope Victor (189-99) excommunicated him.

            Theodotus the Younger, a disciple of Theodotus of Byzantium taught that Melchizedech Was superior to Christ and the actual mediator between god and man.

            Paul of Samosata, the bishop of Antioch was its exponent in the East. According to him god is one in nature and in person. Christ is a mere man in whom the impersonal word (wisdom of god) dwelt as in a temple. Christ might therefore be looked upon as an adopted son of god. Hence it has got the name Adoptionism. In 269 Paul was condemned. His followers were also called Paulicians.

2. Modalist Monarchianism or Sabellianism

It denied the real distinction between the three divine persons. One god revealed in different ways or modi as Father Son and the Holy Spirit. Father suffered on the cross. For them Christ was really Father Himself appearing in a different way. From the identification of the father with the suffering Christ they are called Patripassionists or Modalists.

The first representative of this doctrine was Noetus from Smyrna in Asia Minor. According to him there is only one god who became man and suffered on the cross. He was condemned in 190.

Sabellius, another representative of this doctrine gave it a systematic character. He attributed to one godhead three modes of operation. Father expressed himself as Son and Spirit. As Father God was creator and law giver, as Son he was operative in Redemption as Spirit he conferred grace and sanctification. In Rome he had opposition from Hippolitus who criticised the pope Callistus of his laxity towards Sebellianism and declared himself antipope.

The Date of Easter

The Asiatic church celebrated Easter on 14 Nisan following the Johannean tradition But the Churches outside Asia especially Rome celebrated Easter on Sunday following the 14 Nisan. Pope Anacletus (155-166) asked the asiatics to conform to Roman usage. Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna journeyed to Rome and persuaded the pope to drop his demand. But he did not agree. Pope Victor (189-199) renewed the request of Anicetus and he ordered to hold synods to settle the question. All churches except Asia led by bishop Polycratus of Ephesus sided Rome. Pope then excommunicated Asian church. It was a severe measure. Eventually the Asians also accepted the Roman custom. In 325 – council Nicea I – it was decided that Naster was to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon after the Spring Equinox (March 21). The difference in the date showed a difference in the concept of Easter. Those who celebrated it on Sunday were commemorating the Resurrection, the others regarded Easter as a commemoration of redemption (Death and Resurrection).

The Schism of Novatus and Novatian

After the persecution the apostates and the compromised created a serious problem. There was a dispute with regard to the readmission of the apostates. In Africa bishop Cyprian had to face the laxity of certain clergy Novatus was its leader. Cyprian wrote a strong exhortation De Unitate on the authority responsibility and solidarity of the bishops. In Rome the church faced a rigoristic movement under the learned priest Novatian (once strong supporter of Cyprian) who declared himself antipope to Cornelius (251-253). He rejected the readmission of the lapsed. A Roman synod excommunicated Novatian. Novatian formed a new church which demanded rebaptism from those who obeyed the pope. The Novatians built up a network of small congregations calling themselves cathari (pure ones) to distinguish themselves from other churches. Novatian made great propaganda by sending his followers to different parts of the world and he consecrated bishops. In Africa Cyprian opposed him. Novatus the leader of lax party joined Novatian. They had only one thing in common, i.e., the opposition to lawful authority. This schism lasted for two centuries more Novatian died in the persecution of Valerian about 258.

Rebaptism of Heretics

Here is the question is about the Christians who had been baptized in some heretical or schismatical sects. According to Tertullian a heretic could not validly baptize. Three garthagian synods (220 255 256) and two Asia Ninor synods (230) followed his opinion. Cyprian also shared this opinion.

Pope Stephen (254 257) considered Cyprian’s view an innovation and asserted that according to tradition heretics who are converted have only to be reconciled by laying on of hands but do not have to receive baptism. So baptism by heretic was valid. Dionisius of Alexandria shared Rome’s view. The Africans bishops supported Cyprian. Steaphen threatened them with excommunication. But disputes were forgotten in the presence of the persecution of Valerian under whom Stephen was martyred. Cyprian was martyred in 258.


Manichaeism claimed to be the most universal of all religions and promised true redemption to all nations. Its founder is Mani or Manes a Persian. Until recent discoveries our information about it was from its opponents (Cyril of Jerusalem, Augustine, etc.). Writings on Manichaeism were discovered in 1900 and 1930. In 1900 some texts of Manichaeism were discovered from the caves of Turfan in the Chinese province of Turkestan. They were written in Parthian or Persian and contain fragments from Mani’s book of Giants liturgical documents certain confession formularies a type of catechism and dogmatic texts. In 1930 there discovered a Manichaean library in Medinet Madi in Upper Egypt which contain letters and sermons of Mani (Homilies) fragments of a text book of Manichaeism (Kephalia) and an important large volume of Psalms. These texts are translated from Syriac into Coptic about 400.

Details of Manichaeism from the new findings

The founder Mani was born on 14 April 216 in Selucia Ctesiphon from a family related to the princely family of Arsacids. During his life in Babylonia he came in touch with all shades of religion practised there (Mandasans, Mazdaism, etc.).

In 240 Mani received the revelation that he was destined to be the missionary and herald of a new religion. He believed that his mission was the continuation of that of Zoroaster, Budha and Jesus and he was the supreme revealer in whom the total truth was made manifest.

Mani came to India and preached in the province of Beluchistan. Then he returned to Persia and won the favour of the king Shapur (241 273) who allowed him to spread his doctrines throughout the kingdom of Sassanid. During the reign of the king Bahram I he met opposition from the magi and was put to death in 277. His followers described the manner of his death as crucifixion but the term was meant only his martyr’s death for his beiief (Handbook of CH. HIS, p.262). Following this event his followers fled to west India, China and persisted till 14th century.

Writings of Manichaeism

1. The Great Gospel from Alpha to Tau. It is an album of pictures.

2. Treasure of life.

3. The book of mysteries (24 Chapters).

4. His letters.


Mani preached a radical dualism concerning God. There are two highest Beings or Principles of equal rank: one of Light and the other of Darkness. Both are unbegotten, eternal, had equal power, irreconcilable. The reign of Light or Good lies in the north and of the Darkness or Evil in the south. The realm of light is ruled by a king called Father of Greatness, of evil by the Prince of Darkness who commands numerous demons. There arose a conflict between the two. The Father of greatness created the first man with his five sons who went out to battle with the reign of Darkness but was conquered by evil. The first man then begged the Father of Greatness for help. The Father emitted from himself after a series of intermediately emanations, the living spirit who freed the first man from evil and redeemed him.

Man is a mixture of light and darkness. As soon as he is aware of it his redemption begins. The Father of Light helps him for it. For, he sent heralds of true religion to earth, who taught correct knowledge. They are Buddha in India, Zoroaster in Persia, Jesus in Judea and Mani is the last one. The first three did not establish their message in writing consequently their religion especially christianity quickly fell into pieces or were falsified. Mani preached the highest and perfect gnosis. The rejection of it is the refusal of salvation. His religion is universal and it comprises all earlier religions but is beyond them.

Manichaean Ethics

Manichaeans abstained from everything which links men to matter. The perfect manichaean renounces this world. He binds himself by the triple seal of the mouth hands and womb. Man would find salvation through the doctrine of these three seals.

1. Seal of mouth- signaculum oris- one refrains from impure words and pleasure.

2. Seal of hands- signaculum manuum- One rejects the menial works.

3. Seal of womb- signaculum. Sinus- One rejects marriage and practices absolute sexual continence.

On account of the strict ethics there was a division among them:

1. Electi- those who bind themselves by the triple seal

2. Hearers- Audientes- Catechumens- They serve the elect and give them food and clothing. They hope to be born sometime in the body of an elect and attain salvation.

Hearers were obliged to Mani’s Ten Commandments:

1. To avoid idolatry

2. To avoid lying

3. To avoid greed

4. To avoid murder

5. To avoid adultery

6. To avoid theft

7. To avoid bad teachings

8. To avoid witchcraft

9. To avoid religious doubt

10. To avoid laziness.

They would ultimately join the elect in heaven after a series of purifying incarnations in the next life. Unbelievers would wander about till the end of time and would then be cast into hell.

The structure of the Manichaean church

Their hierarchy is consisted of:

1. Supreme head- He is the head of the apostles or king of the religion. His residence is in Babylon. Mani is the first head.

2. Twelve apostles

3. 72 bishops (teachers of truth)

4. 360 priests

5. Deacons (electi). They are men and women.

6. Hearers- lowest grade.

They had rites resembling baptism and Eucharist. Their only feast was that of Mani’s execution and entry into heaven. They had given a high rank to Jesus but did not recognize God of OT as God of light. Manichaeans could not be members of other religions. St. Augustine was a Manichaean once. A crusade was proclaimed against Manichaeism by pope Innocent III in 1208. By the 14th century the last heirs of Manichaeism had been finally suppressed by the inquisitions.

2. Persecution

During the first decades history of the Church there was no hostility towards the christians from the part of the Roman empire. The emperors intervened in the conflicts between the Jews and the christians and protected the latter whom they viewed as politically harmless. But there was hostility from the part of the Jews and the pagans.

The Jews hated the christians, because the Jewish christians were considered apostates. Secondly, the Jews accused the christians of sexual immorality in their nocturnal meetings, of revolting practices in their religious worship.

            The pagans hated the christians on account of the aversion of the christians from everything connected with pagan worship. Secondly, the christians considered their God as the only true God and redeemer of the world. Thirdly, the christians out themselves off absolutely from their pagan surroundings and they were considered enemies of the classical culture.

            Besides, the christians had to face the opposition of the intellectuals.  The Jewish historian Flavius Joseph did not give a prominent position to Christ. In the middle of 2 C. some even wrote against christianity, Celsus wrote the Mary was a prostitute, and the repudiation of Christ was a myth. The epicurean philosopher Lucian ridiculed christianity causes of Persecution

1. We should not look upon every roman emperor or governor, under whose rule the christians were put to deathm as a man who persecuted them in blind rage solely because of faith.

2. the initiative for reprisals against the christians did not come primarily from th e state authorities.  It was contrary to the principles of roman religious policy to proceed with the power of the state against the adherents of a religious movement solely because of their belief.

It is true that the emperor cult slowly became an essential component of the state religion. But the conscious rejection of emperor worship on the part of the christians was seldom the motive for proceedings against them by the state in the 1C. The pagan state power took notice of the special character of the christianity only because of the disturbances that occurred between the christians and Jews or pagans. Then it stepped to control it. Only then the authorities become convinced that the religious peace was being disturbed by the christians who constituted a treat to the religious policy of the empire. Therefore, the primary cause of persecution was rather the claim to absoluteness made by the christians religion itself. The second cause was the hostile attitude of the pagan population

The source for the history of the persecutions is the account of the christians. A detailed history of persecution from the pagan point of view does not exist. The number of the persecutions was said to have been ten which prefigured in the ten plagues of Egypt.

            In 59 A D. Paul was brought before the Roman procurator Porcius Festus. This was the first occasion when a Roman state power was concerned with a Christian. He was brought before the Roman authority because of his claim to be Roman citizen. Proceedings ended with an acquittal. Here Paul’s religion was not regarded as offending against the existing laws or public orders.

The antichristian attitude may be dated to the beginning of Claudius’ reign (41-54). Actually it was not directly against the christians, but against the Jews. The emperor’s order affected the christians who were converted from Judaism. Eg.1. Order forbidding the Jews in Alexandria to invite thither fellow countrymen from Syria or Egypt. 2. Expulsion of Jews from Rome because of conflict among themselves.

I. Nero (54-68)

            The earliest example of the persecution of the christians by the Roman authority was the persecution after the burning of the City under Nero in 64, Tacitus in his ‘Annales’ reports that there was persistent rumour circulating among the people that Nero himself was responsible for the conflagration on 16 July 64, which destroyed several districts of the City completely and others in part. To get rid of this suspicion, the emperor diverted it onto the Christians, “who on account of their misdeeds were hated”. Some men, who had been arrested and charged, were bribed to denounce the Christians as the actual culprits. Therefore the christians were arrested in large numbers and executed. Some christians were sewn into the skins of animals and thrown to wild dogs, others were clothed in inflammable materials and used as living torches after dark in Nero’s gardens which he threw open to the public for spectacle. Tacitus though against the christians and believed that they deserved punishments on account of their crimes, reported that they were unjustly accused of arson. His report shows that at Rome in the seventh decade of first century there had been a considerable number of the christians. (ingene multitudo). It is clear that the motive of the precaution by Nero was not his belief that the  christians constituted a threat to the state. In carrying out his plan he made use of the hostile attitude of the population towards the christianity, but he was not aiming at the christian faith as such. Later christian apologists generally regarded him as the first Roman emperor who persecuted christians from religious motives. Lactantius says that Nero’s objective was the complete extirpation of christianity.

The christian writer who mentioned the events under Nero was Clement of Rome. Without naming Nero directly he says that not only did Peter and Paul suffer a violent death, but also a great number of the elect among them women, had died after cruel tortures.

            Lactantius is the only writer who says that the persecution under Nero included the whole Roman empire. This is improbable, for other sources are silent on this matter. Some assumed that a general edict of persecution was issued by Nero. No source speaks of a persecution in the East. Besides in the beginning of sixties christianity was not an important religion that the state should take legal measures against them. No later Roman authorities did base their attitude. Nero’s action had no legal foundation, but sprang from the arbitrary will of the ruler who thereby hoped to cleanse himself from the suspicion of arson. Nevertheless Nero’s persecution influenced the public to have a feeling against the christians. From that time on, to be a christian was to be an outlaw in the eyes of the people. In the future the state could find support from the public opinion to face the question whether the state should take action against the christians or tolerate them. Slowly this view if christianity acquire force of a principle of law by which the legal position q f the christians in the empire was largely determined.

2 Domitian (81-96)

            Melito Sardes in his apologia for the emperor Marcus Aurelius mentions Domitian as an opponent of christianity In his letter to the Corinthians Pope Clement refers to the persecutions that had prevented him from writing them sooner. Epictetus a non christian says that the christians went foolishly and thoughtlessly to their death. Dio Cassius reports that the consul Flavius Clemens and his wife Domittilla had been accused and condemned on account of godlessness and with them many others who favoured Jewish practices. The accusation of godlessness makes intelligible  the motive behind Domitian’s action. It was the emperor’s claim to absoluteness for his own person expressed in the emperor cult.

The extent of persecution and the number of its victims: The words of Dio Cassius “many others” refer to good number of Christians. As to the extent of persecution we do not have any source. It is said that Domitian persecuted the christians towards the end of his reign, because the christians refused to pay temple tax and pay homage to him.

3 Trojan (98-117)

The correspondence between the emperor and his governor of Bithynia, Pliny the younger, helps us to understand the attitude of the Roman authority towards christianity at the beginning of the second century. The governor asks the emperor officially what principle he should follow in certain border line cases when dealing with the christians. This shows clearly that in the Asiatic province, numerous christians were denounced to the authorities as christians, tried and examined, and if they remained true to faith executed. The emperor answered the governor in the form of a rescript it is called the rescript of Trajan.

            Pliny informs the emperor about the situation of the Christian religion in his province. He was concerned with the christians because many of them did not obey the imperial decree banning the hectairies, associations unrecognized by the state. These Christinas were denounced to the governor sometimes even anonymously. He examined them and then ordered then with threats of death penalty to give up their religion. Only when they obstinately persisted in it did he have them put to death with the exception of those who were Roman citizens who were transported to Rome.

The letter of Pliny shows that he was unaware of any law or decree of the state as a norm in the proceedings against the christians. So he asks: Does the mere name of christian suffice as grounds for persecution or must other crimes be proved? Trajan’s answer confirms that there was no general law regulating proceedings against the christians. He did not establish a universally valid norm but gave certain directions:


1. Christians were not to be sought out.

2. Anonymous accusations were to be ignored

3. Denounce christian should be examined

4. If denied christianity, he was not punished

5. If on examination one confessed christianity and persisted in it, he was to be punished.

No christian lost life in Bithynia, but two bishops Simon of Jerusalem (crucified at the age of 120) and Ignatius of Antioch (thrown to the wild beasts in 110) were put to death.

4. Hadrian (117-138)

In answer to a letter of the proconsul of Asia Proconsularis asking the directions in the dealings with the christians, Hadrian gave certain directions. He reaffirmed the norms of Tvajan. He condemned anonymous denunciations of christians. Only when someone vouched with his name for the accusations was a christian to be brought to trial, and only when it could be proved that the accused “had offended against the laws” was the governor to pronounce sentence according to the gravity of the offence. So christians could be punished only if they could be proved to have committed crimes against the existing laws of the state. Hadrian does not indeed exclude the possibility of prosecution for merely being a christian, but he appears to have demanded proof that the accused had offended against Roman law So the rescript of Hadrian was only a guidance. But Nomen Christianum itself was worthy of punishment. No martyrdom was mentioned under Hadrian.

5. Antonius Pius (138-161)

            Under Antonius Pius there was a change in the relation between christianity and the Greco-Roman world.  Formerly christianity was linked with Judaism and christians were persecuted in connection with the conflict between Judaism and the empire. Then christianity was considered a Jewish heresy. Gradually christians began to appear to pagans as a different group, as curious be a who disturbed peace by their magical powers etc.

Martyrdoms: three christians at Rome (ref. Justin the martyr Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna was condemned to death at the stake and burnt in the theatre.

A survey of the Persecution from Nero to Antoniua Pius

1. There was no general law that governed the attitude of the state towards the christians.

2. Out of the hostile attitude of pagans, there developed an opinion: “beingchriatgian is incompatible with the Roman way life”.

3. This formed a maxim: adherence to christianty is a crime, and can be punished.

4. Persecutions during this period were local and sporadical.

5. The number of victims was relatively small.

6. Marcus Aurelius (161-180)

            Some writers ascribed to Aurelius an edict favourable to the christians. But this is not true. He despised the christians in his heart. In 176-177 he issued an edict which could be indirectly employed against the christians (introduction of an unknown cult). Melito Sardes, Athanagoras, etc. say: the christians were hunted, robbed and persecuted. Their report was confirmed by a series of individual martyrdoms in the empire. In Rome the philosopher Justin and a group of the christians were put to death between 163 and 167 after a trial. Eusebius speaks of the martyrdom of three bishops in the East between 160 and 170. Bishop Dionisius of Corinth speaks of the martyrdom of the bishop of Athens Publios (161-170) in his letter to the church of Athens. Bishop Sergius of Laodicea was executed about the year 164, also bishop Thraseus of Eumenia, and a group of christians from Pergamum.

In the summer of 177 when the representatives of all Gaul were assembled in Lyons for the festival of the imperial cult the popular rage suddenly vented itself on the christians who were accused of atheism and immorality. The mob drove a group of christians into the market place. There were examined and sent to prison. During the trial ten christians abjured their faith, the rest were condemned to death. Before execution they were cruelly tortured. Bishop Potheimos of Lyons died in gaol after brutal ill-treatment, the others were thrown to wild beasts. The bodies of the executed were not handed over to the families for burial, but were burnt and the ashes scattered in the Rhone. The number of victims was about fifty. Sometimes the christians were sentenced to forced labour in the mines instead of death.


1. Public opinion against the Christians, eg. Lyons.

2. General discontent of the population. The endless compaigns of emperor laid many burdens on the people the constant threat of hostile invasion irritated the people at frontier. People were aggravated by natural disasters such as overflowing of the Tiber and the outbreak of plague. Its result was organized massacre (pogroms). The absence of the christians at the ceremonies of propitiation to avert the pestilence caused popular anger.

3. The opposition of the church to the pagan culture and the Roman state became a parent in the background of the disputes with the Gnostics.

4. The montanist movement. Their exalted desire for martyrdom and fanatical refusal of everything pagan.

Commodus, son of Aurelius, (180-192) was tolerant towards christians. Christians held influenced offices at his court. It was due to the influence of his wife Marcia though not baptized had friendly relations with the christians of Rome.

A survey of the persecution under Aurelius shows that the attitude developed under Trajan still continued. Christians were condemned only when they were denounced to the authorities. And the profession of christian faith sufficed for their condemnation.

7. Septimus Severus (193-211)

He was the founder of the Syrian dynasty. Tertullian says: the emperor publicly demonstrated his good will towards individual christians. Christians held influenced positions at court. The first ten years of his reign were peaceful the bishops could even freely meet in synods to discuss the question on Easter date about the year 196.

In 202 he changed his attitude to christianity. He issued an imperial edict forbidding conversion to Judaism to christianity under pain of heavy penalties The activities of the church was supervised by police. This edict hindered the missionary work.

The reason to publish this edict: Severus realized that christians would become a universal organized religion and would be a threat to the state. So he wanted to hinder further growth of the church. The refusal of some christians to do military service strengthened him in his conviction that the christians were dangerous to the maintenance of the order of the state.

In Alexandria and Carthage where there were large christian communities the persecution affected catechumens and newly baptized persons, for they particularly transgressed the new edict.  The teachers of christian school of Alexandria were compelled to leave the town in 202. Six pupils of Origen who were working there were executed (two of them catechumens). In 203 a group of catechumens were arrested and were heriocly suffered martyrdom. eg. Perpetua, her slave Felicitas, etc.

Christians as individuals were persecuted. Three christians of Carthage were condemned to death at the stake another died in prison. Augustine refers to the martyrdom of Gudentius in 203. Tertullian wrote a work: “To the martyrs” addressed to the christians in prison (197). He refers to the flight of the christians including clergy to escape arrest some obtained safety by bribing the police.

Christians were brought from other places to Alexandria and were executed. Among them were Leonidas, father of Origen, the virgin Potamiaina, her mother Marcella, soldier Basilides, etc. Some find the coming approach of antichrist in the persecution of Severus. In Cappadocia the governor persecuted the christians because of the conversion of his wife to the new faith.

From 211 to 249 was a period of religious toleration. It was inaugurated by Garacalla (211-217). In 212 he granted Roman citizenship to all free men in the empire. His successors Heliogabelus (218-222) and Severus Alexander (222-235) followed the same method Maximus (235-238) changed the policy since his reign was short, nothing happened. Philippus Arabo (244-248) was sympathetic towards the christians.

            A survey of persecution in the first half of the third century shows that there were phases of really a peaceful coexistence and sometimes of positive toleration. Only twice (Septimus Severus and Maximus) a systematic policy against christianity was observed.

8. Decius (249-251)

One of the cruel Persecutions of christianity. In Dec 249 itself he ordered to arrest christians. In 250 Jan. bishop Fabian of Rome was put to death. In 250 he issued a general edict summoning all on the empire to take part in a general sacrifice to the gods- a supplicatio. This was to invoke the protection of gods for the well-being of the empire. Commissions were set up to see the sacrifice was performed and to issue everyone a certificate or libellus. Before a certain date the libellus was to be exhibited to the authorities. Anyone refusing to sacrifice was thrown into prison and was tortured. This was a serious attack on the church.

What was the motive of such a decree? The opportunity to determine the exact number of the christians or the expectation of a mass return to the old state religion? The latter may be the motive. In Egypt and North Africa those who obeyed the edict far exceeded those who refuse it. Ref. Bishop Dionisius of Alexandria, Cyprian of Carthage. Origen who refers to the laxity says: the heroic days and former spirits have gone. In Alexandria some christians performed sacrifice some denied that they had even been christians still others fled. Many offered sacrifice on the point of arrest others endured a few days in prison refusing to sacrifice until they were due to appear in court some submitted only after torture. In North Africa some secured the certificate through bribery or other means. They were called libellatici. There were others called thurificati who offered incense. Those who offered a full sacrifice before the image of gods were called sacrificati. The number of lapsi was large. St. Gyprian speaks of two bishops in North Africa and many others who fell away. One of these bishops even persuaded the majority of his flock to offer sacrifice. He also speaks of two Spanish bishops who were libellatici.

In contrast to these there were christians in every province who were ready to die for their belief. Cyprian gives an account of it. He speaks of the christians in prison including many women and children who were ready to die for the faith. There were exemplary women among his clergy. Cyprian does not mention the name of all martyrs but only two, Lucianus and Gelarinus.

In Egypt bishop Dionisius speaks of fourteen martyrs, ten of them died at the stake and four by the sword. He mentions that many christians died of hunger and cold.

Bishop Alexander of Palestine, bishop Babylas of Antioch were put to death.  Origen died a martyr’s death after a cruel torture. In Asia Proconsularis five christians were put to death. Gregory of Nyssa speaks of the persecution in Pontus.

            The Decian persecution ceased rapidly. It was because of the departure of emperor for the Danubian provinces to fight against the Goths and his death on the battle field prevented its rapid resumption.

The Roman government gained no tangible and lasting success by this calculated and systematic attack on the church. Many of those who left faith, were received into the church, many libellatici were atoned for their fault by a new confession of faith.

Trebonius Gallus (251-253) arrested Cornelius, the head of the christian community in Rome and was exiled to Civita Vecchia where he died in 253.

9. Valerian (253-260)

In the first years of his reign he was well disposed towards the christians. His household was one of God’s communities. In the fourth year he changed his attitude and introduced a short but extremely harsh and violent persecution.

Dionisius of Alexandria blames Macrianus, emperor’s minister who may have suggested the idea of remedying the precarious financial state of the empire by confiscating the property of the wealthy christians. Valerian was probably also impelled by the threatening situation of the empire in general.

In 257 he issued a public edict ordering all bishops, priests and deacons to offer sacrifice to the gods. Any of them celebrating divine worship or holding assemblies in the cemeteries were to be punished with death. Bishops Cyprian and Dionisius were arrested and many christians in African provinces were condemned to forced labour in mines.

In 258 he issued another edict: It took further decisive step. Clerics who refused the sacrifice were to be immediately put to death. The leading laity was also included in this. Senators and members of the order of knights were to lose their rank and possessions. If they refused to offer sacrifice, they were executed and their wives were banished. The aim of this policy was to eliminate the clergy and the prominent members of the christian communities. Thus deprived of leaders christians were condemned to insignificance.

            Result: The victims were numerous especially among the clergy. Bishop Cyprian was beheaded. Pope Sixtus was put to death together with his deacons.  Bishop Dionisius of Alexandria was condemned to exile. Deacon Lawrence also was put to death also many others. Socrates says: Novatian also died during the reign of Valerian for his christian convictions. In Egypt and North Africa the number of victims was high.

            The persecution ceased with the tragic end of the emperor who was taken prisoner by the Persians in 259 and soon died.

A survey of the persecution of Valerian shows that the christians stood firm in faith. They met this trial with far more calm determination than they had displayed in the time of Decius.

Gallienus (260-268) issued an edict in favour of the christians. With this there began a period of glory and freedom (Eusebius). Places of worship were restored. Preaching and building new churches were allowed. It lasted fourty years.

10. Diocletian (284-305)

            During the period of peace (260-300) the christians enjoyed freedom of belief, worship and preaching (Eusebius). But it was not a guarantee for a permanent tolerance (freedom) because no law defended the christians. Even during this period a christian could be denounced and suffer persecution. Even Eurelian (270­75) prepared an edict of persecution and its application was prevented by his sudden death.

In the first years of his reign Diovletian was tolerant towards the christians. He had christians as high officials. His wife and daughter had inclination towards christianity. For 18 years Diocletian was busy with the reforms and the defence of the empire. He did not want to molest the christians because he had unity and security of the empire at his heart.

In 297 Diocletian divided the empire into two, keeping the last where he lived for himself. He put his colleague Maximian in charge of the West with its headquarters in Milan. He further divided the empire into four prefectures, thirteen dioceses and 101 provinces. Each emperor had an assistant with the title of Caesar. The emperors would rule for twenty years and then they would be succeeded by their respective caesars. Diocletian received Galerius, Maximian took Constantius. Each had separate court and was responsible for each one section. But there remained only one empire and all decrees had to be signed by four rulers.

                                                            Illyricum                                  -Diocletian-emp.

East Nicomedia C.      Asia Minor Orient                   -Galerius-Caes.

Roman Empire 297                             Italia                                        -Maximian-emp.

West Milan C.             Gallia                                       -Constantius-Caes.

            After having finished the reform in the empire, Diocletian turned towards the christians and violently persecuted them. The causes: Lactantius in one place says that Galerius persuaded Diocletian, in another place he names Hierocles as originator and adviser of Diocletian. But most probably Diocletian persecuted the christians with his full freedom and personal responsibility. He was convinced that christianity was against his work of reconstruction of the empire.  Perhaps Galerius and Hiercles might have confirmed him in the line. The hostility of the people and the educated to christianity also recommended this.

In 300 Diocletian published a decree ordering all soldiers to offer sacrifice to the gods or to leave the army. Then in 303 February he published an edict (I Edict) in the name of four rulers:

1. To destroy all christian places of worship

2. To surrender and burn all the sacred books

3. To forbid all the assemblies for divine worship

4. To degrade the christians.

As a result of this christians were enslaved and they lost their privileges and ranks. In the meantime a fire broke out in the imperial palace in Nicomedia. Galerius blamed the christians. It followed a persecution. A church was demolished, a certain christian (Euethios) who tore the edict was soon executed. Then distinguished christians were forced to offer sacrifice to gods. Even his wife and daughter had to do it. Many clerics were also persecuted. Bishop Anthimus was executed. There were also people who left the faith.

In 303 itself Diocletian published the second edict ordering to rob the christian communities. Eusebius speaks of the situation. The prisons were filled with bishops, priests, deacons etc.

In the same year (303) another edict was published which contained the detailed proceedings against the clergy. Any one who offered sacrifice could be free and those who refused it would suffer torture and death.

The fourth edict was published in 304 which inaugurated one of the cruelest persecutions. It imposed sacrifice to gods an all without exception. Its refusal would bring cruel persecution. Six or seven million christians suffered. The list of martyrs is endless: St. Sebastian, Pancratius, Agnes, pope Marcelline, etc.

In 305 Diocletian and Maximian, the two emperors abdicated according to the norm of Diocletian, i.e., 20 years of reign. In the West Constantius Chlorus became the emperor and his Caesar was Severus. In the East Galerius became emperor and his caesar was Maximinus Daia. In 306 Constantins died and his son Constantine became the emperor. In 307 Maximian, the former emperor of the West declared himself and his son Maxentius, co rulers of the I Italian prefecture having deposed Severus. In 310 Maxentius deposed his father.  But in 312 Constantine degeated Maxentius.   It is known as the Milvian Bridge Battle on 28 October 312.

On 30 April 311 Galerius published the edict of toleration in the name of four rulers ordering the cessation of persecution. It is stated that the earlier measures were for the good of the state and to restore the old Roman laws and manner of life. By this Christians were permitted to exist and to hold their religious assemblies provided that they do nothing disturbing the public order. They were asked to pray to their God for the welfare of the empire, the emperor and themselves. This tolerance opened to the christians the gate to a brighter future.

Galerius was succeeded by Licinius who followed the method of toleration, but his caesar Maximinus Daia renewed persecution. He made use of the following methods:

1. False propaganda against the christians

2. Petitions of pagans to emperor and his rescripts were published in towns

3. Arrested many christian and imposed death punishment.

But towards the end of 312 Maximinus Daia also changed his hostile attitude, but the christians did not believe him.

Emperor Constantine and the liberation of the Church

Constantine was born in 285. He was the son of Constantius and Helena.  A few years after his birth, his father left Helena and married Theodora, step daughter of Maximian. His family had positive relations with the christian circles. It is clear from the christian names in their family.

In 306 Constantine became emperor following the death of his father. On 28 October 312 he defeated Maxentius in the battle of Milvian Bridge. This event marked the turning point in Constantine’s attitude towards christianity. It is said that some time before the battle Constantine saw in bright day light a cross in the sky with the Greek words, “In this sign thou shalt conquer“. And the following night Christ appeared to him with the cross and told him to have it copied and to carry it as protection in war. This is the version of Eusebius. But Lactsntius says that Constantine had a dream exhorting to put God’s heavenly sign on the shields of the soldiers and give the battle.

In 313 Constantine and Licinius discussed the new political situation when they met at Milan to celebrate the marriage between Licinius and Constantia, his sister. On that occasion Constantine published the edict of Milan (313) which a new era for the christians began. The clergy were exempted from military service. Bishops were given civil jurisdiction. Permission was given to build churches.  However Licinius did not shoe much favour towards the christians. By 320 he exerted pressures on the christians, put restrictions on freedom of worship and preaching. He closed the places of worship, arrested bishops and priests and condemned them to death.

Constantine accomplished his new religious policy in three stages:

1. 312-320. During this period he hardly touched paganism, but exalted the church with increasing energy.

2. 320-330. In this stage he brought the church into public life and attacked polytheism. In 321, July 2, he declared Sunday as national holiday. In 324 he defeated Licinius, but spared his life at the request of Constantia and assigned Thessalonica as his place of detention. Later Licinius was executed for treasonable plot. Sunday was dedicated to god sun.  Constantine raised that day to the rank of a festival. Christians were appointed to the higher administrative posts of the empire. Constantine presented to Militiades, bishop of Rome, the palace of the family of the Laterani, the property of his wife. He arranged for the building of the Lateran basilica. In 325 he convoked the first ecumenical council at Nicea. On that occasion he celebrated the 20th anniversary of his reign. On 18 September 324 he began to rebuild the old Byzantium. On 17 May 330 he inaugurated the capital in Constantinople and celebrated the 25th year of his rule.

3. 330 338. The final stage. He broke all relations with the old religion. On 15 July 335 he celebrated the 30th year of his rule. He died in 338. He received baptism at his death bed from an Arian bishop.

The forces that drove Constantine to do these things:

1. His revolutionary character. Julian speaks of Constantine: “a wicked innovator and tamperer with the time hallowed laws and the sacred ethical traditions of our fathers”. He aimed at unification and promoted uniformity in the church.

2. His christian conviction. This conviction was not mild and gentle as in the spirit of the gospels. He conceived of God as being as quick to wrath as he himself was.

3. His fear of God

4. A true consciousness of his mission. The emperor and kings of the ancient world believed that they had a divine mission and they are elected and protected by the gods. Constantine chose his god for himself and his choice was sealed by a vision.  He was convinced that he was called to become a prophet.

5. Iron will to rule. In the service of faith it was an irresistible force. In 314 in his address to the synod of Arles he called himeelf famulus Dei.

Constantine was extoled as new Moses and the apostle of of God. Paintings and statues showed him the protector of the christian religion. He felt himself to be bishop of all mankind, a God -appointed pope (cf. Eusebius). He felt himself that he stood on the same rank as the apostle of the Lord. At his express wish he was buried in the new capital as the thirteenth apostle with cenotaphs of the Disciples of Christ (Sepulchral monument to persons buried elsewhere) six and six, to right and left of his grave (Eusebius). Constantine died in 338.

From the liberation of the Church to the synod of Trullo (692)

After the liberation of the church in 313, the emperors considered themselves heraids of the new religion. Emperor Gratian (374-383 West) renounced the title and trappinas of Pontifex Maximus and removed the alter to the goddess Victory from the senate. Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395 East) imposed Nicean creed as the official belief of his subjects in 380. He issued a series of decrees in favour of the christians and declared pagan sacrifice high treason. His successors Arcadius (395-408), Theodosius II (408-450) continued the work of complete eradication of paganism. St. Pulcheria, sister of Theodosius Il had infiuenced the latter for it. By the middle of 5th c. the number of pagans had been very much reduced. Marcian 450 -457, Leo 1 457-474, Zeno 474-518, Justine 518-527 Justinian 1 527- 565.

The eastern part of the Roman empire reached the height of its splendour under Justinian. He with his wife Theodora wanted to restore the old empire in its fulness. But he did not succeed completely. He is known for his codification of Roman canon law. It was a masterpiece that surpassed all previous efforts in comprehensiveness, clority and order. Most of the European countries even today had the influence of Justinian Code. Justinian commonded all pagans to be baptized under pain of confiscation of all their goods and the privation of civil rights. The result of it was 70000 conversions in Asia Minor.

Justinian code   529, Justin II 565- 578, Tiberius 11 578 -582, Maurice 582 -602, Phocas 602 -610, Heraclius 610 -641

Decline of Byientine Empire

After Justinian the empire began to decline. The Lombards took most parts of Italy. The Avars also threatened the empire from north, the Persions attacked from the East in 570 and came up to Chalcedon. Chosroes 11 (589-628) took Asin Minor, Syria, Palestine and most of Egyrt and sent an ultimatum to Emperor Heraclius in 610 demanding the surrender of Conotantinople. In 610, after having commeded himself to God he declared a crusade against the Persians. After nine years fighting he achieved the purpose, but both parties were weakened and by the 7th c. most of their disputed territories were taken by the Mohemedans.  The Perdisn Empire disappeared and Constantinople was diminished.


Arius under whose name this heresy has come tuto the Church history, was a priest in the church of Alexandria. He had his theological formation.probably at the school of Antioch and was a pupil of the Antiochene priest Lucian. He was ordained in 310 and was pastor in Baucalis in Alexandria.

From 318 through 319 Arius expounded in his sermons and teaching an idea of the Logos and his relation to the Father, for which he found a considerable following within his congregation, in a part of the clergy, and especially among the consecrated virgins; whereas others decisively rejected it. His bishop Alexander decided to examine it in a theological discussion in which both sides could express and justify their ideas. Arius stated that “the Son of God was created out of nothing (nonbeing), that there was a time when he did not exist, that, according to his will, he was capable of evil as well as of virtue, and that he is a creature and created”. His opponents insisted on the consubstantiality and eternity of the Son with the Father. Alexander finally accepted the second view and ordered Arius never to propound his opinion again.

Since Arius resolutely refused to comply, Alexander excommunicated him and his clerical adherents. Arius did not intend to recognize the excommunication and leave the church; instead, he wanted to bring his ideas to victory within the Church. He knew that outside Egypt also there was no unanimous opinion in this theological question, and a considerable part of the episcopate sympathized with his theses. He found protection of Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia and Eusebius of Caesarea (for a short time). Bishop Alexander summoned, probably in 319, a synod of all Egypt­apparently 100 bishops. He made known the result of their deliberations in an encyclical to all the bishopd of the Catholic Church: Arius and his supporters in the Egyptian and Libyan clergy were excluded from the church, because of their “errors which dishonoured Christ”.

Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia consoled Arius “You think correctly, but pray that all may think in the same way”. Arius had meanwhile left Egypt and finally-after a brief stay with Eusebius of Caesarea -arrived in Nicomedia which now became a center of Arian propaganda. In 320 Eusebius convoked a synod at Bithynia and sent a circular to all bishops which called for the restoration of ecclesiastical communion with those who had been condemned, since they were orthodox; piessure should be put on Alexander to receive them back. Arius drew up a profession of faith according to which only the Father is eteraal, he alone is without beginning, but the Son is God’s perfect creature, he does not possess his being together with the Father, since the Father existed before the Son. He wrote a book entitled Thalia or Banquet, a mixture of prose and verse, in which he recruited for his ideas in popular form.

Bishop Alexander sent circulars and letters to all bishops about the heresy of Arius. Pope Silvester was also informed of the events in Alexandria and of the excommunication glexandrians clerics. (Ephiphanius was acquainted with a collection of some seventy letters of Alexander relating to is matter). It was also known to emperor Constantine, probably through the bishops of the East, and it seems that he was not informed about the entire seriousness or about the theological significance of the quarrel.

Bishop Hosius of Cordoba, the episcopal adviser of Constantine, came to Alexandria to reconcile Arius with his bishop and to stop all public discussion of the controverted point. But it was not at all practicable. He went back to Nicomedia to report to the emperor on the failure of his mission. Soon both understood that there was only one possible way of restoring peace to the church: to summon the entire episcopate of the church to a great synod. The early sources all attribute to Constantine the initiative for this solution. The synod took place at his command.

The invitations to the bishops specified Nicaea in Bithynia as the place of meeting and May 325 as the date for beginning the deliberations. The number of the participants in the council is not clearly established. Busebius says there were more than 250; Athanasius, also an eyewitness, on one occasion gives the round figure of 300, but elsewhere he gives 318. Later historians uphold this laft number, especially since it had a biblical mystical prototype: Abraham’s troop of retainers amounted to 318 (Gen.14,14). Only five bishops and two priests, Vitus and Vincent, representative of the pope, represented the West. There were theological experts -periti -like deacon Athanasius of Alexandria. The solemn opening took place on 20 May. 325.

The emperor addressed the assembly emphasizing peace and harmony within the Church. Then the doctrine of Arius was discussed and the Fathers condemned it. The council approved a creed (nicean Creed) which declared the Son to be consubstantialto the Father, true God and true man. After the adoption of the Creed, the Fathers took up the other points of the.  In the matter of the date of Easter they agreed on the practice of the greater part of the church, which celebrated the solemnity of the resurrection on the Sunday after 14 Nisan.

The council had a solemn and impressive closing. The emperor gave a splendid banquet for the council Fathers in his palace at Nicomedia. He gave them also presents and admonished them to maintain peace among themselves and recommended himself to their, prayers. Soon afterwards, he sent a comprehensive report on the Council “to the churches” not represented at Nicaea.

Nicaea I was the first council in history which possessed an ecumenical character since to it were invited bishops from all the geographical areas of christianity. The emperor convoked it and the bishop of Rome consented to him by sending his own representatives.

After the council two bishops, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Thegnis of Nicaea informed the emperor that they withdrew their assent to the creed of 325. The emperor sent these bishops into exile in Gaul and gave their former sees to prelates loyal to Nlcaea. But from the beginning of 328 a reversal in the emperor’s attitude began to appear concerning individual representatives of the pro-arian faction. In that year the exiled bishops Eusebius and Theognis were permitted to return from banishment and again occupy their former sees. Eusebius even gained emperor’s ear and favour and finally occupied the position of theological adviser of the emperor. It was due to the influence of Constantine’s stepsister, Constantia.

Soon after his return from exile, Eusebius energetically and methodically assumed the leadership of the Arian faction.  Instead of attacking the Creed, he wanted to eliminate the leading personalities of the opposition. Bishop Eustathius of Antioch was accused of immoral character and disturbor of religious.peace. At the synod of Antioch in 331 the friends of Arius deposed Eustathius whom the emperor exiled to Thrade. Eight bishops more were exiled. Then Arian party turned against Athanasius who had been elected to the see of Alexandria in 328.

Division in the Church

In the universal church there are two kinds of divisions: first one is according to the liturgicval rites.  Second one is according to the doctrinal differences.   The churches founded by the apostles professed the same faith, but developed adapting customs and traditions of the place.  Hernce diversity could be seen in explaining the faith and in their worship.  Thus different particular churches were formed with their own liturgical traditions.  The main liturgical rites are the following: Roma, Antiochean, Alexandrian, Byzentine, Chaldean, Armenian. 

These liturgical rites were developed centered on the early christian centers: Roman, Antioch, Alexandrian, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Persia, Armenia.  Out of these seven centers the first five were in the Roman Empire.

In 297 Emperor Diocletian (284-305) divided the empire into East and West for administrative purpose.  During the time of Constantine the empire came under one emperor, but again it was divided after the death of emperor Theodotius 1 (+395).  Thereafter the churches in the Eastern Empire were known as Eastern or Oriental churches –Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and Constantinople. The churches outside the Rome empire-Persia, Armenia and India-also belonged to this group.  The Roman Church was the only Christian centre in the western empire and it was known as western church.  It is called Latin Church its liturgy being Latin. 

Division according to the doctrinal differences

In her very beginning there had been in the church of God certain rifts (1cor 11: 18; Gal 1:6). Such quarrels were condemned by St. Paul. They however, did not divide the church. In subsequent centuries More widespread disagreements appeared in the church and large communities became separated: from the full communion with the church. Such separations took place in 431, 451, 1054, 1517 and 1533.

1. Nestorian church

Nestorianism was born in the patriarchate Constantinople but grew in the soil of Persia.  Nestorius, an Antiochean monk, became patriarch of Constantinople in 428.  He taught that it was incorrect to refer to Bl. Vergin as mother of God (Theotokos), for she was mother only of the human element in Christ, not of his divine personality.  Hence he was accused of holding two persons in Christ. Reports about his teaching spread throughtout the empire. In his Easter circular and in a special pastoral letter, Cyril of Alexandria reacted to it. Both appealed to Rome. In 430 Pope Celestine in a Roman synod condemned Nestorian teaching. He wrote four letters: 1. to Nestorius to retract his teachings within ten days, 2. to the church of Constantinople, 3. to Bishop John of Antioch, 4. to Cyril of Alexandria appointing him papal legate to receive retraction of Nestorius.

Cyril drew up twelve propositions (anathamas) which Nestorius had to retract within ten days under pain of deposition. The phrase of Cyril in this like “one is the nature of the incarnate Word is heretic (monophysitism). Nestorius reacted by sending Cyril a set of twelve counter-anathamas.

Council of Ephesus 431. Emperor Theodosius II, in agreement with Pope Celestine (422- 432) convoked a general council at Ephesus on 22 June 431. 159 bishops attended the council. Nestorius was condemned and deposed. Shortly after the first session of the council the papal legates arrived and confirmed the decree against Nestorius. John of Antioch with 42 bishops came even later, distrustful of Cyril and Alexandrian theology, organized a pseudo-council and excommunicated Cyril as heretic and appealed to the emperor. Cyril on his part excommunicated John and his followers.

The emperor approved the decisions of both parties. Both Nestorius and Cyril were deposed. But later Cyril won the favour of emperor through the influence of his (emperor’s) sister Pulcheria and generous gifts. Nestorius was deposed and exiled to the Egyptian deserts where he died in 450. After two years of negotiations in 433 Cyril and John were reconciled.

The recent study on Nestorius shows that Nestorius was not a Nestorian and was unjustly condemned in the council of Ephesus. When we study Nestorianism we have to make distinction between the personal teaching of Nestorius, Nestorianism as historical teaching, and theoretical nestorianism.

1. The personal teaching of Nestorius.

Nestrius was accused of the following:

1. He proposed the   title Christotokos to Mary instead of theotokos. When Nestorius became patriarch of Constantinople therl.was a controversy about the title Theotokos. Some preferred to call Mary Anthropotokos. Then Nestorius proposed as a compromise the title Christotokos -mother of Christ. His criticism of Theotokos was well-intentional.  He was trying to conteract the abuse of the title by the Arians -who denied the divinity of Christ -for Arius (+335) taught that the Word is not eternal, but first and noblest of creatures -and Appollinarista (Acco. to Appollinaria of Laodicea 310-390, Christ was one person and had only on nature. The word was made fleah means that Christ took a body, not the word was made man. The Word which is consubstantial with God, is united to an incomplete humanity. In the composite being of Christ the Word plays either the role of soul in the body or that of the spirit in the body). But Nestorius disregarded the fact that the title Theotokos had a history of 200 years of orthodoxy. It was an expression of faith in the true divine sonship of Christ and was based on the Communicatio idiomatum = communication of properties. It is the attribution of properties of both natures of Christ, together or separately, to the same person in Christ. It is the first important consequence of the hypostatic union. The subject of attribution in Christ is the second person of the Holy Trinity, to whom both divine and human natures are belonging. As the natures so their properties too may be rightly attributed to the very same person.

2. Nestorius seems to speak of union in Christ as union of wills = moral union. He wanted to affirm the gratuity of order of salvation and that the union was according to the good pleasure of God. The term used was conjunction. He also wanted to say that the Incarnation was not out of necessity of nature (appollinaristic conception of Incarnation.

3. Nestorius was accused of holding doctrine of two persons in Christ. The terms used in the christology of Nestorius were the following:

1. Physis= nature in general

2. Ousia=nature in general

3. Hypostasis=person, nature

4. Prosophon=person.

The controversiat term is hypostasis which means person and an individual Perfect nature = the particular nature preserving the property. Nestorius used the term hypostasis in the meaning of individual perfect nature. So when he says that Christ has two hypostasis, he means that Christ has two natures preserving the nature of Godhead and that of manhood. If Christ had only one hypostasis, he is neither God nor perfect man. He has complete hypostasis like the Father and complete hypostasis like Abraham.

2. Nestorianisma as a historical reality Is the position of the bishops who rejected the union agreed upon by John of Antioch and Cyril of Alexandria in 433.  Here Nestorianism accepted two natures and two hypostases. It rejected Ephesus and communicatio idiomatum and the title Theotokos.

3. Theoretical Nestorianis is contrasted with Monophysitism which is equally theoreticl. It means that in Christ there are two persons and two natures.

Through nestorianism was born in Constantinople, it grew in Persia. The Persian Church had its origin in the first century itself. It was through the Jews that gospel reached there. There were Persians at Pentecost among those who had listened to St. Peter. They returned to Persia and spread the good news.

St. Thomas also preached gospel in some of the places of the Persian Roman Empire. Grigen speaks about the apostolate of St. Thomas in Persia. Now it is believed that St. Thomas preached in Mesopotamia (Persia proper), and his disciple Addai in Edessa and his disciple Mari in Seleucia Ctesiphon (cities on the either side of river Tigris). In all these places the medium of communication was Syriac because it was the commercial language of the Middle East.

2. Monophysite Church

Monophysitism is simply the extreme opposition of Nesorianism. Nestorianism is called after a man, but monophysitism is a definition of a heretical idea.  As soon as Nestorius began to divide Christ into two persons, his opponents began to insist on the unity of our Lord to such a degree that they confused his humanity with his divinity as one thing. They declared Christ one person with one nature. In Christ the humanity was absorbed in the divinity as a drop of wine would be in an ocean of water.

The first home of Monophysitism was Egypt. The phrase of Cyril “one nature incarnate of the Word of God” became their watchword. When Cyril reconciled with John of Antioch, some of his followers accused him of compromising with Nestorianism. They are the first monophysites. Cyril died in 444 and Dioscorus, his archdeacon succeded him.

The trouble began with Eutychus, superior of a monastery with 300 monks.He had influence at the royal court. He began to teach that Christ is not consubstantial with other men and had not the same nature as we have. At incarnation the two natures were fused into one. As soon as Eutychus began to propagate this new doctrine, the Eastern theologians opposed him. (Theodoret of Cyrus, Flavian, etc.).

In 446 in a synod at Constantinople, Eutychus was found guilty and was deposed and excommunicated. Eutychus then, wrote letters justifying his ideas, to the Pope, Dioscorus, etc. The emperor Theodosius decided to convoke a synod at Ephesus to revise the judgent of the synod of Constantinople. Pope Leo 1 (440-461) sent his legates with a dogmatic letter -Tome -which contained the catholic doctrine=our Lord is one person having two natures of God and of man; each nature is real, complete + perfect.

            The proposed council met on 8 August 449 at Ephesus.  The majority of the bishops present (350) were followers of Dioscorus. Dioscorus presided over the meeting and made the synod do all he wished. iutychus was declared innocent. Bishop Flavian and others were maltreated. Flavian died a few days afterwards. The papal legates were threatened and they signed the acts. Emperor approved the council. But Pope Leo in a local synod in Rome protested against the synod and declared it invalid. This synod is known as Robber Synod.

At pope’s wish Marcian, the successor of Theodosius convoked a council on 8 Oct. 451 at Chalcedon to settle the question of Our Lord’s nature. 630 bishops attended it. The papal legates presided. Dioscorus was condemned; the dogmatic letter of Leo was approved with the acclamation “Peter has spoken by Leo”. The doctrin of two natures and one person is defined. Those who did not accept Chalcedon are called Monophysites.

Was monophysitism – the heresy – the real motive of the monophysite quarrels? Many historians see in them a political motive, working under guise of a theological dispute. The christians of Egypt and Syria refused to accept thedecrees of Chalcedon and they sympathised with Dioscorus and saw in his deposition an attack on St. cyril and Ephesu. Egypt and Syria were the two provinces in the East. They were not really loyal to the empire. Both kept their own languages had ancient civilizations of their own. The emperor and his soldiers were foreigners to them. This feeling of patriotism and anti­imperialism made them to refuse a council which was convoked by the emperor and in which their patriarch was condemned and deposed.

Besides it was a matter of national honour to the Egyptians. Ephesus and Robber synod were a great triumph for them, where their patriarch had deposed the patriarch of Constantinople. But Chalcedon reversed the process. Pat.of Const. deposed their pat. So Egypt rose to defend its patriarch and persuaded Syria and Palastine to join them in the common cause against the emperor.

Chalcedon could not put an end to the problem raised by Eutychus. It started a long crisis in the Church. As its consequence a considerable number of Eastern churches remain separated from the universal Church. The Alexandriam church supported almost unanimously despite his condemnation. In Jerusalem the pro-chalcedonian bishop was deposed and amonophysite bishop was elected. In Antioch also a Peter the Fuller, a monophysite became the patriarch. He added to Trisagion “who was crucified for us”.

Attempts to reconcile the Monophysites

1. Acacian schism (484-519)

In 482 emperor Zeno published Henoticon, a document drawn up by patriarch Acacius of Const. to reconcile the monophysites by showing that to be antichalcidon and monophysite were not the same thing. The Henoticon contained orthodox faith and declared as symbols of faith the creed of Nicea-Const, 12 anathamas of Cyri 1decrees of Ephesus, condemnation of Nestorius and Eutychus.  But it rejected Chalcedon in order to please the monophysites.

The publication of Henoticon satisfied most of the east except the fanatic monophysites.But the Pope and the West rejected it for its repudiation of Chalcedon. Pope Felix ll (483-492) sent legates to Const. to settle the question, but Zeno treated them harshly. Pope, then, held a synod in Rome and excommunicated Acacius. Acacius removed the Pope’s name from diptychs. It is known Acacian schism and lasted thirty years. It ended in 519 when emperor Justin l and people of Const. forced patriarch John 11 (518- 520) to subscribe Chalcedon. Patriarch emperor and bishops signed the formula of Pope Hormisdas (514-523) condemning Nestorius, Eutychus, Acacius and Dioscorus.

2. Three Chapters (544 -554)

Theodore of Askidas, bishop of Caesarea made an attempt to reconcile the monophysites. He wanted to make it clear that to accept Chalcedon does not mean becoming a Nestorian. The monophysites hated Theodore of Mopsuetia, Diodore of Tarsus. Therefore Askidas persuaded emperor Justinian to publish an edict condemning three documents 1. The person and writings of Theodore of Mopsuetia. 2. Writings of Theodoret of Cyrus, 3. Letter of lbas to Bishop Maris. This is called the Three Chapters. The emperor published the edict in 544.

The West refused to accept the condemnation. Pope Vigilius was brought to Constantinople in 547 and condemned the Three Chapters by force in 548. When the western bishops protested, the pope withdrew the condemnation (judicatum). In spite of the disapproval of the pope, and excommunication, Justinian convoked a general council on 5 May 553 at Constantinople.165 bishops attended it. Pope attempted a compromise sending a document condemning 60 propositions from the works of Theodore and forbidding further condemnation. The council rejected it. The pope, then, worn out with the long strife, gave in, confirmed the acts of the council and condemned the Three Chaptersin 554. The sick pope died on his return journey at Syracuse in June 555.

The monophysite Churches

Egypt, Syria and Jerusalem continued to be monophysites. In the 6th cent. national monophysite churches were formed in Armenia, Syria etc. At present there are five monophysite churches.


After the council of Chalcedon there had been several attempts to make a balance between the Nestorians and the Monophysites. In spite of the difficulties that emperor Heraclius (610- 641) faced during the attack of Persians and the Mohemedans made efforts to reconcile the Monophysites of Syria and Egypt. He accepted Monothelitism as good means.

Chalcedon decreed that in Christ there are two natures. In 616 patriarch Sergius of Constantinople (610-638) began to preach that there is only one principle of operation and one will in Christ. This will and principle are both human and divine-theandric. Th monophysitex patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch agreed with Sergius by 633. After five years Heraclius published a decree – Ecthesis -drawn up by Sergius professing belief in one will, summoning all christians to do likewise and forbidding further discussion.

St. Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem and St. Maximos the confessor opposed the Ecthesis. Sergius wrote to Pope Honorius I (625-638) who misunderstood the issue. Honorius reply upheld Sergius opinion and commended him for trying to silence those who spoke of two principles of operation in Christ.

In 638 Herallius published a formula prepared by Sergius, where no mention of one operation is made. It was accepted by most of the Oriental bishops. But the Western bishops and pope Severinue (640) strongly objected  it. In 648 emperor Constans II (641- 655) withdrew the formula and issued a religious edict, the Typos, forbidding all criticisms of Monothelitism. Pope Martin 1 (649-655) condemned the Ecthesis, Typos and monothelitism after careful investigation by a Lateran synod. Constans had the pope arrested and brought to Constantinople. There he was tried for high treason, ill-treated and banished to Cherson (654) and in southern Russia where he died in 655.

Council of Constantinople 111 (680-681)

At the suggestion of Emperor Constantine IV a council was convoked in Constantinople to settle the problem of Monotheitism. Pope Agatho (678-661) approved it and sent legates explaining clearly the doctrine of two operations in Christ. The conucil sat from November 680 to September 681. On the basis of Agatho’s epistle and passages the council recognized the doctrine of two operations and two wills in Christ as the teaching of the church.  The council condemned Sergius, three other bishops of Constantinople and pope Swegius. 

The Maronites of Lebanon preserved Monothelitism and they were eventually reunited to the Catholic Church in 12th c and 15th century.

Pope Honorius and Infallibility

The case of Honorius was one of the main arguments against the papal infallibility in Vat I. In his two letters to Sergius pope is supposed to have admitted Monothelitism, because he speaks of one will in Christ. He admits one will in so far as the human will never contradicts the divine. He says that there is only one operator of the divine and human in Christ, but whether he works by one operation or two is none of our business. He was afraid to make a decision, lest he should be accused of Nestorianism or Monophysistism.

            In his second letter the pope emphasized the unity of two natures and asked to avoid subtleties about one or two operations. Therefore what Honorius affirmed was correct. He was not a theologian and could be blamed for his negligence and ignorance to safeguard the pure doctrine.

Council of TruIlo (692)

            The V and VI ecumenical councils enacted no disciplinary canons. Therefore the emperor Justinian II convoked a council called Trullan from the domed hall (gk.Trullos) which is also called Quinisext from its purpose of completing the other two councils (Quini sext = Latin for fifth-sixth and refers to a synod called the sacred Trullan synod, held in 692 which covered the disciplinary problems that had been passed over during the fifth and sixth councils). It was not approved as ecumenical by the popes because its canons were according to the practices of the Greek Church. Justinian ordered to arrest the pope Sergius (687­701) but failed. He, a decade later, invited Pope Constantine (708-715) to visit Constantinople. Pope came and was received with enthusiasm and devotion. He was the last pope to visit Constantinople.


Donation was a heresy which holds that the efficacy of a sacrament depends on the worthiness of the minister. The starting point was the election of Cocilian to the see of Carthage in 312. A section of the community under the leadership of a widow, Lucilla contested the validity of Cecilian’s consecration on the grounds that one of the consecrating bishops, Felix Apthungi, was guilty of traditor. They elected Majorinus as bishop, who was soon succeeded by Donatus. Donatus was an energetic and efficient man and became the organizer of this schismatic group to which history has given his name.

On 15 April 313 the Donatists appealed to Constantine. Their case was brought before Rome and three successive synods,, Rome -15 Feb. 314, Arles -1 July 314, Milan 10 Nov. 316, declared that their claims were groundless. Cecilian was reinstated and Donatus was excommunicated.

            In 317 the emperor promulgated a very severe law against the Donatint who had to hand over their churches. It followed a violent persecution. Finally their obstinency forced the authorities to tolerate them by an ediet (5 May 321). (Again on 15 August 347 the emperor published an edict ordering union of catholics and Donatists). In spite of the persecutions the Donatists spread in Africa. They claimed to be the pure wheat in the field. Donatus felt himself to be the Primate of Africa. In 336 they could convoke a synod of 270 bishops. Donatus died in exile in 355. He was succeeded by Parmenian (355 391).

In 361 Emperor Julian ordered the restoration of Donatist church as it had been before 347, at the request of the Donatists. It followed the expulsion of the catholics from their churches, ill-treatment of the clergy, desecration of catholic churches, and dishonorable treatment of Donatists who had gone to the Catholic Church.

            During the period of Parmenian there flourished Donatist theological literature. He wrote two books “New Psalms” which make the basic doctrine of their confession, and “adversue occlesiam traditorum, which in five books presented a comprehensive and also original ecclesiology of the Donatists. According to Parmenian the true church can be recognized by this, that, as the bride of Christ, it possesses a fivefold dowry:

1. The cathedra-the power of the keys entrusted to the Bishops

2. The angel -who stirs the water at baptism

3. The Holy Spirit

4. The baptismal font 

5. The baptismal creed without which the baptismal font cannot be opened.

Since these five gifts altogether can be found only in the Donatic community, the catholics are branches torn from the tree of the Church. Catholics through their recourse to the power of the state against the donatists, automatically betrayed the true church, so they have to be rebaptized after due penance.

In 373 the donatist baptism was prohibited and their worship was forbidden in cities and villages. In 377 an imperial edict was published against them. In the last decade of 4th century situations advantageous to Donatism was changed because of two factors:

i) personal- the election of Primian as successor to Parmenian was a poor choice. There formed an opposite group under Maximian.

ii) Political- their bishop had political alliance with Gildo against Rome.

St. Augustine and Donatiste- St. Augustine was born in Numidia (Africa) in 354 Nov 13. His father Patricius was a pagan and mother Monica was a christian. After his education in his country he went to Italy where he met Ambrose. In 387 he received baptism from St. Ambrose. In 391 he was ordained priest and in 396 he was consecrated bishop of Hippo. He died on 28 August 430.

St. Augustine made great efforts to restore unity in the church for which he made contacts with the Donatists. He addresseed them brothers, since to a great extent they agree with the Catholic Church in doctrine and liturgy. It was also agreed to receive the bishops and priests to the catholic church with the rank they then held.This was for those who had not Performed rebaptism. The synod of Carthage in 401 decided: It left to the individual bishop the decision on the reception of Donatist clerics, but provided a   new criterion for this: “when it seems useful for pax chriatiana”. In 402 three Donatiet bishops became heads of catholic congregations. The synod of Carthage in 403 determined to try a dialogue on the highest plane. The donatist bishops were invited. It was not realized. Bishop Primian declined saying: “it is contrary to the dignity of the son of martyrs to meet with the descendents of traditores”.


The protagonist of this heresy was a British monk, Pelagius. He was a resident at Rome between 390 and 400. There he acquired a reputation and even fame among the christian nobility and in Christian circles by his exemplary life and many came to him for spiritual direction. According to him every man is capable of attaining perfection by his own efforts. For this grace is a help, but, not necessary.

In 410 Pelagius and his companion Coelestius went to Africa. After a short stay there, Pelagius went to Palestine and Coelestius preached the new doctrines openly in Africas Pope Zosimus (417-18) received a letter from Pelagius justifying his teaching. Bishop of Jerusalem also sent another letter justifying Pelagius. Coelestus presented the pope a libellus containing his doctrine. Pope demanded a review of the African judgment against Pelagius since their doctrines caused disturbances in Rome.  Emperor Honorius banished Coelestius and Pelagius from Rome in 418 and forbade the further spread of their teachings. The pope Zosimus in his “epistola tractoria” condemned Pelagianism. Pelagius ended his days in an Egyptian monastery and Coelestius continued his teaching.

A groap of Italian bishops declined to sign the Tractoria. Bishop Julian of Aeclanum was its leader. He questioned Jerome and Augustine and attacked Augustine personally. Augustine refuted the false doctrine of Julian. Julian accused Augustine of Manichaeism.

Pelagianism collapsed between 420 and 430. a group of deposed bishops signed Tractoria  In 430 Coelestius and Julian sought readmission to the church. In 431 council of Ephesus condemned Pelagianism. Julian led a wandering life. In 439 he tried to restore his see of Aeclanum. Pope Leo 1 (440-61) again condemned him. He died in Sicily in 450.

The doctrine of Pelagianism

1. Adam was created mortal, and would have died even if he had not sinned.

2. The sin of Adam affected him alone.

3. At birth we are in the state of Adam before his sin.

4. The human race does not die by the sin of Adam, nor does it rise again as a result of Christ’s redemption.

5. Man can live without sin and observe all the commandments.’

6. Original sin is a bad example of first parents.

7. There is no original sin in children.

8. Grace is not necessary to do good.

St. Augustine refuted the doctrine of Pelagius. In 415 he wrote a book De natura et gratia against it. In the beginning both Pelagius and Coelestius escaped condemnation deceiving pope. They satisfied pope that they were orthodox by avoiding any reference to original sin. In 418 at Carthage a synod of 218 bishops condemned them. Augustine wrote another work De gratia Christi et de peccato originali. pope Sosimus by his epistle Tractoria appealed to all bishops to recognize the error of Pelagianism. Finally the council of Ephesus condemned Pelagianism in c.l and 4.


It is not a heresy, but a name given to certain erroneous attempts to modify some exaggerations into which St. Augustine fell in his polemical (controversial) writings with Pelagianism.

According to St. Augustine grace is something irresistible and invincible. If God wanted to save everybody, they would all be infallibly saved. If some are not saved this must be due to their not hazing received the necessary grace from God. God’s salvific will is not universal, but particular. He predestines some to heaven, gives them a special gift of perseverance and they are saved. The rest are infallibly lost. Nobody has a right to grace because of the original sin.

            Augustine’s view on grace was the opposite extreme to Pelagiu. On his attempt he minimised the role of the man’s own efforts.The monks of the African monastery of Adrumentum challenged him. They asked: if everything was to be attributed to grace, where as the responsibility for sin? Why strive for perfection? Augutine seemed to lead them to a kind of fatalism which would destroy the ascetical endeavour that was at the heart of monasticim. Augustine wrote two books: De gratia et libero arbitrio and de Correptione et gratia (426-427). Here he insisted on the necessity of cooperating with grace.

In southern France abbot John Cassian (+435) spoke against Augustine. For him God’s salvific will is universal. Predestination was not absolute, i.e., solely an act of predilection, but in accordance with God’s knowledge of merits and sins of each. Grace is necessary for salvation but once in the state of grace, there is no need of a special grace of preseyerance; there is only one kind of grace for all. Cassian went wrong in holding that we could merit the grace of conversion by our prayers and good works.

The synod of Orange (529)

Aransicanum II a town on the Rome.

The controversy on the doctrine of Augustine was put to an end by the synod of Orange in 529. It approved a colleition of Augustinian texts and defended thegratuitous nature of grace.  Its doctrine can be summed up thus: “man does nothing good which God does hot enable him to do” c. 20.


Priscillian a Spanish priest, began about 370-75 to spread an extreme form asceticism. His programme resembled encratism (an early christian heretical sect abstaining from meat, wine and marriage) and smacked (taste of Gnosticism. It derogated everything concerning the human body and exalted the spirit. He forbade marriage. He was condemned at the council of Saragosa in 380 and was banned by the edict of Gratian. Thereafter he went to Rome and thence to Milan, but both pope Damasus and St. Ambrose repulsed him.

Priscillain then turned for help to civil authorities. He appealed to the usurper Maximus who appeared in Gaul, but his opponents, bishop Itacius and Hydacius persuaded Maximus to have Priscillian tried. Priscillian and six of his companions were condemned to death.

            The Priscillians had gatherings of men and women. The fast on Sundays and stay away from the church during Lent for super stitious reasons. They had the custom of taking Eucharist to home. They shun church during twenty-one days precedine Epiphany and stay at home or in the mountains and go about with bare foot. They claimed to be electi Dei.

Early Monasticism

Monasticism is one of the signs of church’s vitality. It should not be identified with virginity. During the persecution martyrdom was valued as the supreme example of devotion to God and was held to be the final stage in the spiritual ascent of a christian soul called to perfection.

The late third and early fourth centuries saw the beginnings of monastic asceticism in christianity. As a result of general toleration of christianity in the Roman empire, martyrdom became less and less frequent. There was a relaxation in the spiritual life of the church. In this new situation the flight from the world appeared to be the most favourable condition for attaining perfection. Thus in the 6th century there arose curious distinction among the Irish monks between red martyrdom and white or green martyrdom (life of renunciation and mortification).

There is considerable debate as to where monasticism began. The first monks were individuals who retreated to the desert in Egypt and Syria. Sometimes these retreats were only temporary, and then became permanent.

St. Antony of Egypt 251 356

St. Antony, a Coptic peasant from Egypt is usually called the first monk or the father of monks. Antony was converted to a life of perfection at 18 or 20 on the day when he entered a church and heard a  reading of the passage where the Lord says to the rich young man “if you want to be perfect, go and sell all you possess, give to the poor and come and follow

Antony gave himself up to a solitary life. His long carrier can be divided into three stages:

1. First he established himself in the immediate neighbourhood of his village. There he profited from the advice of an old and experienced man.

2. Then he lived in a small abandoned Roman fort for nearly 20 years.

3. Finally he settled even deeper in the desert. In the desert Antony spent his life, writing, keeping vigil and praying. Twice he left the desert and went to Alexandria, one during the persecution of Diocletian to give courage to the christians, second to defend orthodoxy at the time of Arianism. Many visited him in the desert to ask for the help of his prayers, the curing of diseases, for advice etc.  Antony composed no rule he was simply supervising the activities of his disciples.  He died at the age of 105 in 356.

Anchorite Monasticism

Anchorite means hermit or person who lived in solitude. This is the oldest and most rudimentary form of monastic organization. Hermits lived in separate cells but close to each other, meeting regularly for prayer or mutual support, yet retaining their essential autonomy. Some preferred no contact at all with others.

Anchorite monasticism sometimes led to eccentricities, because each monk set his own standards. Sometimes a spirit of rivalry replaced genuine asceticism. Some had severe penances and self-inflicted bodily punishment. In the 5th century in Syria some hermits ate nothing but grass, others hobbled their legs with iron chains, still others took to living atop pillars reaching up to fifty feet in height, whence their name “pillar saints or stylites. St. Simon the Stylite (395-461) achieved the record of 36 years on his tiny platform.

Cenobetic monasticism or Pachomean cenobetism

Communal monasticism was begun about 320 by Pachomeue (290-345). It put accent on life in common and known as cenobetism( koinos bios). He was a converted soldier. He founded his first community at Tab- ennisi in Upper Egypt.

Pachomeus was against extremism. He insisted on regular meals and worship and aimed to make his communities self-supporting through such industries as the weaving of palm-mats or growing fruits and vegetables for sale. Entrants to his community had to hand over their personal wealth to a common fund, and were only admitted as full members after a period of probation. To prove their initial earnestness they were required to stand outside the monastery door for several days. Part of qualification for full membership was to memorize parts of the Bible. The illiterate were taught to read and write.

The Pachomean monastic rule contained 194 articles defining precisely the rhythm of the monks’ daily life, work, and prayer in common and discipline. Surrounded by an enclosure, the Pachomian monastery comprised a chapel and outbuildings and a series of houses grouping a score of monks (20) under the authority of provost (head of a religious community) assisted by a deputy. Three or four houses made up a tribe, the whole owing obedience to the superior, who, with his assistant, looked after the spiritual direction of the community and the smooth working of the general services. These included a bakery, kitchen, infirmary etc.  The different houses delegated every week the requisite number of monks to staff them.

Pachomeus established a second monastery at Pboou and at his death there were nine convents for men and two for women. The first women’s convent was established about 340 near Tabennisi by his sister Mary. These convents were formed a congregation under the authority of a superior general installed at Tabennisi and later at Pboou. It was Pachomeus who appointed the heads of each monastery. They gathered round him at a chapter general twice a year, at Easter and on 13 August. There was a chief bursar who helped the superior in the handling of business affecting the congregation as a whole.

The Basilian Community (330-379)

Basil, one of the Cappadocian fathers was born in 330. His father was the son of St. Macrina, and his mother was the daughter of of a martyr. Out of 10 children three sons were bishops: Basil, Gregory of Nyssa and Peter of Sebaste. One daughter, Macrina, was the model of ascetical life. He fought against Arianism. He could be called the founder of Eastern monasticism and one of the pillars of the Oriental Church (St. John Chrysostom).

            From Egypt monasticism spread quickly over the Near East. It appeared in Palestine with St. Hilarion of Gaza in 307. About 335 St.Epiphanius founded a monastery. In Asia Minor the pioneer of monasticism was Eustathius who became bishop of Sebaste in 356. In Asia Minor the most important Greek promoter was St. Basil. About 357, soon after his baptism Basil embraced monasticism. His attention was turned to monasticism by his sister Macrina who fostered the monastic life on family estates at Annesi in Pontus. Basil visited the disciples of Eustathius and then journeyed to Egypt, Syria and Mesapotamia to observe the monks there. Returning home he formed a community for which he composed his longer rules and shorter rules, consisting of ascetical and moral precepts on various aspects of monastic life. Basilian rule stressed the community element: meals, work and prayer in common within the same house. The number of the monks in a house was reduced. Obedience was considered as a cardinal virtue alongside poverty and chastity. He emphasized charitable service to others as part of the monk’s routine. For this he introduced the practice of monks labouring in hospitals. A system of regular prayer seven times daily was prescribed.  Basil became bishop of Caesarea in 365.  He died in 379.

Monasticism in the West

Monasticism first appeared in the East. It was brought to the West by St.Athanasius. While he was in exile in the West between 340 and 346 he was accompanied by two Egyptian monks. During his exile he wrote the life of St. Antony. This helped to spread the ideals of monasticism. It was translated into Latin which influenced St. Augustine. In the West monasticism had the support of great church leaders such as St. Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, etc.

The name of St. Jerome (347-419) deserves special mention. After three years training in the desert of Chalcis near Antioch (375-377) he came to Rome. His propaganda for asceticism met with great success. But due to opposition and criticism he had to leave Rome in 385 with his disciples. He settled at Bethlehem and a monastery for women was founded by St. Paula. Another one was founded at Jerusalem by St. Melania.

In the West monasticism was stimulated by St. Martin of Tours, who died in 379. Martin took up the hermit’s life after military service and lived in a solitary cell near Liguge, in France. Many others joined him and he set up a community. In 372 he became the bishop of Tours against his will. The distraction of his visitors compelled him to retreat to a monastery which was also a nursery for bishops. Sulpicius Severus wrote the biography of Martin. After the death of Martin many churches were dedicated to him. Probably he is the first non martyr to be venerated as a saint.

Episcopal Monasticism

            St. Augustine introduced a. new aspect of monasticism; the arrangement whereby a group of celibate clergy lived together and served the local church. In 388 he gathered a group of his friends to live together in an ascetic community devoting themselves mainly to study. They continued after Augustine was made bishop of Hippo in 395. It has the root of the cathedral chapters..

Many bishops like Augustine turned their episcopal residence into monastery imposing on all his clergy monastic renunciation and the vow of poverty. Eg. St. Eusebius of Vercelli, St. Martin of Tours (patron saint of Gallican monasticism), St. Ambrose, etc.

            Monastic communities took part in the warfare. Organized and armed crowds of monks took sides in theological disputes and overawed the councils by their presence eg. Ephesus (449). Monks also destroyed pagan temples and harassed and murdered pagans and the heretics.

St. Patrick (389-461) and Celtic Monasticism

Patrick, the great missionary of Ireland, was born in Roman Brittan, as a son of a deacon and magistrate, Calparnius. The details of his life are disputed and overlaid with many pious legends. His writings, The Confession and A letter to the soldiers of Coroticus give a few information about him. At the age of 16 he was sold by raiders as a slave in Ireland. After six years of service as a shepherd he escaped and eventually reached home again. During his captivity, he was deeply convinced of his faith and decided to evangelize Ireland. Once in dream he heard the voice of Irish calling: “we beseech you to come and walk among us once more”.

Patrick returned to Ireland as bishop in 432 and spent the next 30 years ministering there. He encouraged learning and began to emphasize ascetic life and monasticism. As a result, the basic unit of the church became the monastery led by the abbot rather than the bishop’s diocese. Priority was given to the Celtic mission which produced great numbers of monks who evangelized Western Europe during the 6th and 7th centuries.

St. Benedict of Nursia (+547)

            Very little is known of the life of Benedict apart from the information provided in a biography by Gregory the Great. This book made Benedict’s rule widely known and followed. Benedict was born at Nursia, in Umbria (North-central Italy) and studied at Rome before withdrawing to live as a hermit. He founded several small monasteries, but had little success until he moved to the monastery at Monte Cassino. He died at Monte Cassino about 547. When the Lombards destroyed the monastery, the monks fled to Rome and brought his rule to Pope Gregory.

The rule of Benedict is based on two activities: prayer and work. He insisted that the monk should remain in the same monastery where he had taken his vows. The abbot was the spiritual head of the monastery and exercised all the normal discipline. These monasteries were centers of spirituality and learning. The same rule with enlargement is still used today. It is said that Benedict’s rule owes a great deal to another monastic rule of similar date, known as the ‘Regula Magistri’- Rule of the Master.

Pope Gregory the Great (590-604)

Gregory may be the most influential pope in the period between Constantine and the Reformation. He comes from a Roman aristocratic family and began his carrier in public administration. Then he turned away from public life and became a monk. He was the first Pope who had been a monk.

As pope he claimed the universal jurisdiction over Christendom.  He criticized the patriarch of Constantinople for using the term “Ecumenical Patriarch“, asserting that such a title belonged to the bishop of Rome. When the patriarch refused to agree, Gregory dropped the dispute and began to call himself “servant of the servants of God”.

Gregory sought to develop ties with the pagan and Arian and christian Germanic kingdoms. He sent a team of monks to the kingdom of Kent in Brittan. The christianization of the Anglo-Saxons and. the victory of Roman church over the Celtic church were the long term result of Gregory’s missionary policy.

The pope had come to enjoy great power in Rome and Italy as result of the decline and eventual disappearance of the Western Roman Empire and through extensive landholdings in and around Rome. The origin of the papal state goes back to this period, though legally it was established in the 8th century.

Gregory also was the pioneer to look West and not East for protection. During the Lombards’ invasion the governor at Ravenna was unable to help the pope, Gregory found protector in the Lombard queen Theodelinda, who was a catholic christian. Eventually the Lombards became catholics. He also had influence among the Visigoths in Spain, who had accepted Catholicism.

The Franks were not christians. About 500, Clovis, the first ruler of the Franks decided to accept catholic baptism, following his marriage to a catholic princess. Clovis agreed to accept Christ if the christian God gave him victory over another tribe with whom he was at war. Clovis won the battle against Alemanni, and then with 3000 warriors, he was baptized. This points up the general pattern of early mediaeval conversions. The change  to Christianity was essentially a matter of royal policy. The ruler’s conversion decided the religion of his subjects. Catholic queens and princesses did much for the conversion of their husbands and their kingdoms. Clove’s conversion laid foundation for an important alliance between the papacy and the Franks.

Gregory wanted to reform the church, but the Merovingian rulers of Gaul thwarted him by appointing laymen as bishops and selling church appointments. They assumed that the church was freely at their disposal.

The conversion of the Anglo-Saxons was a great achievement of Pope Gregory. There is a story about it. Gregory while a monk in Rome, one day saw some attractive young children in the slave market. On inquiring who they were, Gregory learned that they were Angli from England, and they were pagans. He replied that these young lads were not Angles, but “angels”. In 595 he ordered to purchase Anglo-Saxon slaves to be brought to Rome for training as clerics. In 596 he sent a team of 40 monks to England who arrived there before Easter 597. The Jutish king Ethelbert, whose wife was a catholic, accepted catholicism. His own kingdom Kent and other two of Essex and East Anglia – belonged to him – became christian. In 597, pope appointed Augustine, leader of the team, as archbishop of the church of England. Ethelbert gave the archbishop his own palace in Cantebury, which became the first episcopal centre in England.

Archbishop Augustine tried to unite the Celtic church with Rome, but failed on three basic issues: i. his requirement that the Celtic church adopt Roman method of arriving at the date of Easter. ii. Adopt the Roman tradition of baptism, iii. and joins his mission to convert the Anglo-Saxons. There were reasons for the tension between them. The celtic bishops took offence when Archbishop Augustine refused to stand to greet them. They refused to accept him as their archbishop. Even before the arrival of Augustine, the celts were christians, their bishops attended the council of Arles in 314. Because of the foreign invasion the celtic christian population retreated to the South West. The long period of isolation and the hatred of the foreign invaders were the major barriers to unity between Augustine and the British church. The British church finally fused with Roman christianity during the course of the following century

Preaching and piety in the early church

            It is not very clear how the clergy carried out the pastoral duty in the early church. There were 3000 sermons and catechesis between Nicea and Chalcedon; they come from 30 authors and aore than half of them belong to John Chrysostom and Augustine.

            There was no catechism for children before the end of 6th c., although the practice of infant baptism was steadily growing. In families there was domestic catechesis by the parents on which Chrysostom and Augustine much insisted. Later it was considered an episcopal task. The official catecheis was more and more reserved to the clergy; only in the East are isolated lay catechists mentioned, and special aptitude was demanded in them. At Antioch it was mostly imparted by priests; At Carthage a deacon was entrusted with the introductory catechesis at the admission into the catechumeanate; priests probably likewise shared in the baptismal catechesis for the competences in North Africa, since they had the right to preach. In the majority of other localities in East and West the bishop was regarded as the teacher of the catechumens.

In De catechizandis rudibus, St. Augustine gives a systematic guidance to the catechists. The kernel of all catechesis had to be the history of salvation. It must be made known to the hearer in its most striking events, in the creation of Adam, the deluge, the covenant of God with Abraham, the priestly kingship of David, the deliverance from the Babylonian captivity, and the all decisive Christ event. This should show not only the inner connection of OT and NT, but impart a universal view of all history, as it was framed in God’s plan of salvation. The catechesist must represent the love of God for mankind. It should lead to the Christ event = which especially was to be made known with such warmth and forcefulness that the catechumen came to the faith by hearing, achieved hope by infound love by hoping. The hearer should be admonished to guard faith, hope and love. The Augustinian catechism was entirely oriented to the positive expositions of salvation history and renounced polemic and rhetorical ornament. There exist also explanations of the baptismal creed and the Lord’s Prayer.

            Logos catechetikos of Gregory of Nyssa- deals with methodical questions, such as the adaptation to the individual situation of the hearers, but he preferred philosophical justification of the truths of faith.

            Cyril of Jerusalem – to make salvation history the center of the instructions in the preparation of the candidates for baptism. The dogmatic exposition was carefully joined to the moral catechesis.  The simple language, informative, etc.

Johh Chrysostom preferred moral catechesis

Theodore of Mopsuetia -preferred sacramental catechesis. He emphasized on the eschatological character of baptism and Eucharist: with baptism the new life begins, and the Eucharist nourishes it.

            Ambrose of Milan -mystagogic. He placed great importance on the understanding of the symbolic content of the sacramental rites, which he tried to explain by means of the typological interpretation of the OT events, figures, and individual books, especially Song of Songs and Psalms.

Slowly the catechumanate was restricted to the lent and there needed a follow up afterwards. The Trinitarian and Christological controversies also occasioned the need of dogmatic sermons. Then there were also sermons on occasions of ordination funerals, church dedications, etc.

From the 4th c. the right to preach was more and more attached to the office of priest or bishop. Asterius (+341) may be the last ‘lay preacher’.

Basil preached on Scripture in a lively language, explained the account of creation.

Gregory Nazianzon- model of christian eloquence

Gregory of Nyssa.

Jerome – his homilies on Scripture.

Christocentric piety

Devotion of Christ was the center of all piety. Christocentric baptismal piety- Eucharistic piety- devotion to the passion of Christ- veneration of cross-popular pilgrimage to Jerusalem. the visit to the Holy Sepulcher and Mount Calvary became a part of the religious celebration of the Holy Week in Jerusalem in the 4th c. -later way of the cross. The christocentric piety was also manifested in prayer to Christ

Forms of Asceticism

Universal call to holiness was the theme of the preaching of the pastors. Both monks and lay persons are called upon to strive for the same perfection since there is only a single ideal of perfection for all christians, which must be realized everywhere. Hence aloofness from the world is for all christians the basic ascetical disposition. Fasting was especially recommended as one possibility of its realization. Almsgiving was another one which was presented as the way to interior freedom vis- a -vis wealth and property. Some people renounced totally the wealth and life of luxury and led a specific ascetical life remaining in their family. Then they joined an ascetic group or a community of nuns or monks or were admitted into the clergy. The Fathers of the church praised this kind of life and virginity.

Cult of Martyrs and saints

After the liberation of the church the cult of martyrs became very significant. The martyrs were regarded as the perfect imitators of Christ, who had given witness to the Lord by their blood and now crowned. Their dignity and nearness to the Lord made them the advocates of the faithful on earth and the protectors of the individual as well as of the community, which chose them as patrons. Out of this esteem grew the strong interest in the grave (tomb) and relies of the martyrs. Their graves were distinguished from other graves by a special cult building, erected as martyrion or memoria respectively or as a basilica over the grave, which were different from the churches within the walls. The community assembled in these cemetery churches on dies natalis martyris to celebrate the Eucharist. Along this there were efforts to rediscover the tombs of those martyrs who had fallen into oblivion in the shadow of an especially vivid martyr-figure, or concerning whose martyrdom tradition often supplied only a summary account. The invention of such tombs was often due to a vision or information provided in a dream.

A new phase of the cult of martyrs began with the translation of the remains of martyrs to the churches within the city walls. The Roman law prohibited the burial in the city. The first transfer of a martyr’s body was that of, St. Babylas to Antioch in 354. In Milan Ambrose did it without dispensation, but other bishops had to ask a dispensation. In home greatest care on the martyr’s tombs and the buildings belonging to them was given.  The place of the new burial in the city church was close to the altar because the most faithful followers of Christ, who had offered their life in a total sacrifice, should be in closest touch with the spot on which the memorial of Christ’s sacrificial death was celebrated. Hence altar and martyr’s tomb were at the time brought together, both in theory and practice, into that intimate connection which would later be the rule everywhere according to liturgical law where there was a christian altar.

But this aim could be realized only if relics of martyrs were supplied to those churches which did not have it. So it was necessary to multiply the relics by division into small and minute parts. The transfer, the placing of the relics in the altar was celebrated solemnly. Since there numerous demands, a substitute was established in the so-called “second class relics”- things which were brought into contact with the martyr’s tomb or the place where the relics were disposed. There were parallel collections of relics in private circles which often led to the doubtful abuse and church could not eliminate it completely.

The conviction of the intercessory power of the martyrs led many christians to want to be themselves buried as close as possible to a martyr’s grave. From this burial ad sanctos people expected aid for themselves at the hour of resurrection. Augustine’s statement that the place of burial of itself guaranteed no help for a dead person, but only the prayer of the living who commended him to the intercession of the martyrs, did not satisfy the people. So the church had to regulate by law burial inside the church and reserve it for a small circle of persons -bishops, priests, and a few lay persons of high rank.

The cult of martyrs as an early christian form of piety was not promoted by laity or monastic circles but by the church and its theologians.  There are numerous sermons in honour of martyrs, which extol their dignity, power of intercession, the example of their love of Christ and miracle working efficacy of their relics. The church not only allowed the interment of their body inside the church, their memorial days were listed in the liturgical calendar and admitted their names into the text of the Eucharistic prayer.

The cult of saints began in the first half of the fourth century and reached full development in its last two decades. It was an extension of the cult of martyrs to a group of dead whose life and actions enabled them to be compared to the martyrs in some degree, because it likewise represented an outstanding profession and witness for Christ. They included first of all, those who in time of persecution had suffered for the faith in prison, under torture, or in exile, but the desired confirmation by a bodily death was denied them.   With such confessors were soon associated individual ascetics and monks, whose life was willingly ranked as unbloody martyrium, and finally also those who especially proved themselves in the Arian troubles or in the missions as courageous adherents and zealous preachers of the orthodox faith. Martyrium sine cruore was granted to them. Their feasts were admitted into the calendar and liturgical celebration of the day of their death was accorded to them. Eg. Ambrose, Basil, Antony, Athanasius, the Stylites, etc. Memorial chapels and churches were built over their graves even by individuals; their relics were at times fought over. Their life and activities were spread out with colourful details and appealing popular fantasies. Some lives of saints are mere collections of miracles.

In the christian cult of saints were also included some outstanding persons of the OT, Moses, Abraham, David, etc. Here there are two difficulties; first there is recognition of Judaism, second in their lives the inner relationship to witnessing for Christ seemed to be lacking. Christian preaching theoretically countered this difficulty with the argument that they were christians before the appearance of Christ, because their life served the ultimate goal of his coming and thus the violent death of some of the prophets could be understood as anticipated martyrdom and hence a christian celebration in their memory was justified.

The cult of Mary had spread long before theology had clarified the questions regarding her sanctity and virginity. People besought the protection of the Theotokos at least at the beginning of the fourth century. Bishop Severian of Gabala says that Mary should be invoked, before the Apostles and the martyrs.  In the West her cult was theologically clarified and justified especially by Ambrose and Augustine. The oldest Marian feast was celebrated in Constantinople even before the council of Ephesus on 26 December. Churches were dedicated to her from this time onwards. Ephesus opened the way for the complete development of the cult of Mary.

Early christian pilgrimage

Another field of christian popular devotion is found in the pilgrimage system- 1 pilgrimage to holy places specially in the Holy Land and to the tombs and relies of saints. In the pre­Constantine period individual christians undertook pilgrimage, motivated by theological and exegetical interests or by the desire to pray at the holy shrines. During the time of Constantine and Helena the visit to the Holy places was encouraged. The sites of the pilgrimage were the placed related to the events from Christ’s life. The cult of christian saints began only with the discovery of Stephen’s grave in 415, and the cult of Mary was discernible in Jerusalem still later. The real pilgrimage guide was the Bible. The pilgrim reports, the liturgical observances of the Holy Week and the finding of the Cross etc produced tasting effects on the devotion of the pilgrims.

The second type of pilgrimage was the visit to the grave and relics of the saints. In the fourth century in the East there developed great pilgrim centers: shrine of Babylas in Antioch,, shrine of Simon the Stylite, grave of Thecla in Seleucia, of St. John at Ephesus. In West there were a number of places -the tombs of the martyrs, two apostles Peter and Paul etc.

The basic attitude for the pilgrimage should be a disposition to follow Christ and imitate the saints. The desire to have healing or a favour can not be excluded.

Pagan customs in christian popular piety

It was difficult to supplant deep rooted pagan practice in the newly converted. At times they were mixed with christian practices and compromised the purity of devotion. People were much attracted to the pagan magics and superstitions. The church warned against such practices. In rural districts there were cults of trees, springs, rocks etc. Again and again the synods attacked such practices often without success. The attractions of the pagan feasts could not be dispelled.  Christians participated in feasts in the pagan temples.

Refrigerium was a pagan cult of the dead. It was a meal to which came the relatives of a deceased person on the third. seventh, and ninth days after the burial, on the anniversary of the death, and on the great memorial of the dead, the Parentalia in February.  The christians retained this meal of the dead in a simple form without opposition from the church and added to it, a christian feature when they had a part of the foods brought turned over to the poor. But in the fourth century this meal at the graves often assumed again, even among the christians, the noisy and unbridled form of pagan celebrations for the deceased. Chrysostom not only blamed the loud lamentation of the relatives and wailers at a christian funeral as pagan behaviour, which contradicted the belief in the resurrection. He also disapproved the pomp which some christians displayed there. The meals were finally transferred into churches on the memorials of the martyrs and in some places, especially in Italy and North Africa, degenerated into great revels with dancing and song. At Milan St. Ambrose abolished them. Other bishops of North Italy followed him, whereas they continued at Rome, even in St. Peter’s. In Africa at the synod of 393 in Hippo forbade the custom. Augustine enforced the synodal decrees and recommended that the foods hitherto destined for the memorial meal in the church be used fir an agape at the graves of the dead in the cemetery and that gifts be given to the poor and the needy at the same time, for that was the christian way, in addition to the liturgical celebration for the dead, to recall the deceased.

Despite the directions and exhortations of the bishops the traditional feeling of paganism was carried like a subtle poison in the blood of the christians: the desires of the world, the pride in one’s own virtues, the instinctive shrinking back from a crucified God, the strong protest against the basic attitude of humilitas. Adherence to these made many christians remain semichritians for years.  Augustine often spoke of this basic danger to the christian.

The laity in the church

The divisions of the christians into laity, clergy and monks existed at the turn of the fourth century. It became more precise in the course of the century and gradually became a law. In this process a clear change in the previous importance and position of the laity within the church became perceptible. After the persecution the glory of martyrdom passed ever more to asceticism and monasticism and this unintentionally created a clear distance between itself and the mass of the believers. Further, because of the differentiation of functions and expansion of its tasks and authority in the care of souls and administration, the clergy gained such power in authority and public respect.  And monasticism promoted the idea that effort to work out its salvation directly in this world was doubtful in principle. Finally the lifestyle of some lay persons in the fourth and fifth centuries caused a rather skeptical evaluation of the lay element. The change was not same everywhere, but there was a shifting within its previous spheres of duty. In the basilica the place of the people was now clearly distinct from the place of the clergy. In procession there developed a certain order of precedence, whereby the clergy, the monks, the virgins, and widows went ahead of the people. In the pastoral spheres, lay persons still took part in the preparation of the catechumens for baptism, especially widows in the instruction of the women. In the case of necessity lay persons could baptize, but women should not administer baptism, any more than they might instruct men.

            The right of the laity in choosing of their clergy continued in principle and was still, especially exercised in the election of the bishop. The form of their collaboration was not precisely fixed. For the most part it consisted of an acclamation of the candidate proposed. The people were supposed to be consulted in the transfer and deposition of a bishop. Sometimes the emperors intervened in the election of bishops without regard for this right of the laity.

Gradually the right to teach was reserved to the clergy. Thus the lay preaching virtually ceased. Pope Leo I expressly forbade it and extended the prohibition to monks also. Parallel to this limitation of an official teaching activity of the laity there developed, however, a growing share of the laity in the theological literary work of the time. Eg. Lactantius, Arnobius, etc. Well to do and influenced lay persons played considerable role in ecclesiastical life. They promoted ecclesiastical construction and founded charitable institutions and supported the church’s care of the poor. In certain churches lay persons were called upon for the administration of church property. In North Africa seniors laici were elected by the community as a sort of ecclesiastical council

Lay apostolate was justified in the always recognized general priesthood of the laity. Augustine and Chrysostom speak of the field of duties of it- the exemplary day-to-day christian life, help for the fellow christian religious and moral danger, missionary work among the pagans or heretics of his circles of acquaintances. The lay apostolate should be exercised in close collaboration with the clergy-payer, advice, and criticism of the laity- says Chrysostom.

The fell of the Western Roman Empire 476  It was a great change.

The factors and events that contributed to it are the following:

1. Internal factors

i. depopulation. In the middle of 2nd c. its population was 80 mi1lion and by the 7th c. it was down to about 10 million. Its causes are: a. plague. In 166 there was dreadful plague and it wiped out almost half of the population. This plague returned from time to time. b) Slavery. The neighbouring tribes beyond the Rhine-Dhanube frontier, carried off thousands of people to use them as slaves. c) The deplorable low standard of morals. Divorce was so common and people no longer bothered of marriage. Children were unwanted. Abortion and abandoning of new born were widely practiced. Slaves who were majority were not allowed to marry or to have family.

ii. Financial situation. The financial situation was not better. The gold and silver were coined. Since there was a shortage of these metals, baser metals had to be mixed with it and this led to a devaluation of money. The increase of bureaucracy and the defense of empire demanded heavy taxes from ever-decreasing number of the tax payers. The rich got exemption and the poor suffered a lot on account of heavy taxes. The magistrates had to collect the taxes. If they could not collect the required amount they had to pay themselves. Therefore all shunned the honourable and responsible positions in the society. No public work had been done.

I. External forces: the migration of Nations

Beyond the Rhine-Danube frontiers in the North there were tribes of the Germanic or Teutonic race. The Romans called them barbarians because of their primitiveness. These people were strong and warlike. They fought among themselves and. against the Romans. They frequently changed their abode. The chief tribes were: the Goths, the Vandals, the Burgundians, the Germans, the Lombards, the Franks, and the Huns.  By migration we mean that these tribes left their own places completely and transferred themselves and all they had t their new territory.

The Goths.  There are two groups of Goths: the Visigoths (West) and Ostrogoths (East).  The Visigoths lived on the north side of Black sea.  In 375 the Huns attacked them.  The Visigoths wanted to settle in the empire north of the capital.  Since they were not allowed they wanted to settle by force.  Theodosius permitted them to settle in Thrace and enrolled 40,000 of them in the imperial army.  Emperor Arcadius was against them.  But they fought and founded a visigothic kingdom that covered Liberian peninsula and half of France.  On their way they plundered Rome for three days.

The post apostolic age

The development of the church’s organization

In the post-apostolic period there was progress in ecclesiastical organization and it was observable everywhere. Individual congregation is clearly defined as regards its significance and function as part of the Church’s organism. The christians of a city were now everywhere joined together in separate congregations or leval churches. Among them Rome stood first.

            All christians belonged to the local congregations. They joined with all his brethren in the Eucharistic celebration, at which the unity of christians in meet clearly apparent. Ignatius of Antioch explains of this unity by various images and comparisons: the congregation is like a choir whose singers praise the Lord with one voice, or like a company of travelers following the directions of its Lord. In the first letter of Clement the unity of the congregation is symbolized by the harmony of universe or by time arrangement of the human body, in which each member has its appropriate function.  Hermas sees it in the image of a tower built upon the cornerstone that is Christ.

There was constant warning to safeguard the unity since there were tendencies to dispute and petty jealousy which sometimes led to divisions in the community. Schism and heresy were therefore considered as the great enemies of unity in the early church.

Leaders of the Congregation

According to the letter of Clement to Corinth, the leaders of the Congregation were divided into two groups: one bore the double designation of elders (presbyters) and overseers (episcopi) the other was represented by the deacons.

In the Shepherd of Hermas there found the two names overseers or elders for the holders of leading offices in the Church, deacons and teachers being mentioned as well.

The Didache names only overseers and deacons

Polycarp names only elders and deacons.

The letters of’ Ignatius distinguishes clearly between the three offices of overseers, elders and deacons. Every congregation had only one overseer or bishop, to whom the college of elders (priests) and deacons was subordinated. This shows that in Antioch and in a number of congregations in Asia Minor there existed in the second decade of the second century a monarchical episcopate: the government of the church was assigned to one bishop, but this was not the case everywhere.   The one office, which in apostolic times bore the double designation of episcope or presbyter, was divided into two and the term overseer or bishop reserved exclusively for the holder of the highest office, in the congregation.

The Apostolic Fathers partly worked out the theology of ecclesiastical offices of the authority of which is ultimately derived from God. He sent Christ who gave the apostles the commission to proclaim gospel. The apostles in their turn appointed overseers and deacons whose places were to be taken at their death by other approved men who would continue their work among the faithful. Thus Clement of Rome regarded the authority of heads of congregations as based upon Christ’s commission to the apostles, from whom all power of government in christian communities must be derived by uninterrupted succession.

Theology of episcopate according to St. Ignatius. He speaks about the complete and unconditional bond between the bishop and congregation. The latter was one with its bishop in thought and prayer; only with his did it celebrate agape and Eucharist. All should obey his as Christ did to his father. Nothing should take place in the congregation without the bishop. Even baptism and marriage were reserved to him. The presbyters and the deacons had a share in his authority. The bishop represented Christ.

Two factors worked together in order in that the bishops and his assistants might fulfill their official duty: i. apostolic – God given origin of their authority, ii. Guidance through the divine Spirit.

The working of the Holy Spirit was not limited to the leaders only, it could be felt everywhere among the faithful. There were tensions between these of laity who were favoured by the Spirit and the leaders of Congregation.

The individual congregations did not exist in isolation and self sufficiency. They formed a new people and were united under the banner of Christ, as one body -the Church of Christ. Ignatius of Antioch was the first to call this international community of tie faithful “Catholic Church”, whose visible bishop was Christ


            The first christian community was formed in Jerusalem. Christ was the centre of this community. It was Christ and His events that united the early christians together. Though they accepted christianity, they did not completely left their old Jewish traditions and customs. So too the other christians. The early christians formed their own communities cular customs of the place. Thus there formed communities with special features of the place. Those are called particular churches. Each particular church had its own liturgy, disciplinary laws, etc. We find a development in the worship, sacraments and spiritual life of these communities.

1. Holy Eucharist

Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper (Mt.26, 26­29; Nk.14, 22-25; Lk.22, 15-20; I Cor.11, 23-26). It was on the Passover of the Jews.

The present mass has developed from two originally separate services, one Jewish, the other christian. The first part- the liturgy of the catechumens- is based on the procedure used in the synagogues. The second part – the mass of the faithful-comes from specifically christian community as ceremony of the Breaking of the Bread. The Jewish christians first attended the prayer in the synagogues and then they participated in the Breaking of the bread, which was usually conducted in the private houses. As the christians separated from the Jews, the two services came to form one. St. Paul did so in Troas (Acts. 20.7-11).

Description of St. Justine the Martyr

Justine was born around 100/110 in Nablus (Palestine) and was beheaded with six companions in 163/167 (165). He gives a detailed description of the Eucharist about the year 150. The christians gathered on Sunday (on the day named after the sun”). Then the “memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read aloud”. The reading in followed by the homily of the president and then come the prayers in common “for ourselves, for the newly baptized and for all others wherever they may be”. After this the catechumens left. The service of prayers and readings was terminated by the kiss of peace. The second part of the ceremony began with the bringing in of the sacrificial gifts though it is not clear who brought the broad and chalice with wine and water to the president. The essential element of this part is the prayer the president, which is called Eucharistia and in which he sends up praise and honour to the Father through the name of the Son and the Holy Spirit and gives thanks that the faithful had been given those gifts. The whole congregation confirmed and ratified the “Eucharistia” of the president with the Hebrew word “Amen”. The consecrated Eucharistic gifts were given by the deacons to all present, to be consumed, and portions were also taken to those who were absent. Justin emphasizes that only the baptized could receive this food, which was itself called Eucharist.

Two features stand out in an especially clear manner in this Eucharistic liturgy: i. the social character, it draws all the participants into the actual liturgical action and they ratify expressly the thanksgiving uttered by the leader and also share as a whole in the Eucharistic meal. Moreover, the Eucharistic prayer is primarily one of thanksgiving. Hence the word eucharietia became a technical term for the christian celebration of Mass. ii. The idea of sacrifice. Though there is no explicit mention of this idea in Justin’s Apology, it was by no means unknown to him and Eucharistia could certainly include for him the idea of sacrifice. Ireneus speaks more clearly on this point, emphasizing especially that the gifts of bread and wine, which by God’s word have become Christ’s flesh and blood, represent the pure sacrifice of the Now Covenant.

Hippolitus of Rome, the first anti-pope, accused pope Calistus (217-222) declared himself pope in 217 and remained so till his death in 235. (Urban 222-230). Pontianus (230-235). He met pope Pontianus in the prison and got martyrdom together with him in.235.

            Hippolitus in his Church Order, gives a double description of the celebration of Mass, explaining firstly how it is carried out in connection with the consecration of a bishop and secondly how the christian community celebrates Mass with its new1y baptized members. He gives a text of the Eucharistic prayer in full. In it only the beginning, end and the words of consecration are fixed, the rest depends on the inspiration and favour of the celebrant.

Hippolitus’s liturgy was intended as a guide and model formulary, the structure and fundamental ideas of which could be retained, but which might be varied and developed in detail. The bishop could therefore still on occasion freely create and shape the text, so that various types of Eucharistic prayers of thanksgiving were possible for the celebration of Mass in the 3rd c. Hippolitus does not mention Trishagion. But the form of Mass presented by Hippolitus can be regarded as a basic outline of the Eucharistic liturgy as it was generally celebrated in the Church in those days.

Tertullian (153-220) says that the faithful provided bread and wine for the sacrifice. The Eucharistic great prayer was addressed to the Father “Per Christum Jesum“‘. He explicitly stresses that Christ, with the words “hoc est corpus meum” makes the broad his body; but he does not clarify the position of Our Father and the place of kiss of peace in the Mass. The Eucharist was received under both kinds. The faithful could take consecrated, bread to home in order to receive it privately when they were prevented from attending divine worship. He does not name Sunday as the day preferred for celebrating the Eucharist, but he does mention Wednesday and Friday as days of the Stations, together with Mass. The Mass was also celebrated at the funeral and on the anniversary of the death. Since the second century the time for Mass had been in the early morning before sunrise. St. Cyprian celebrated Mass daily. If there were several churches in a town Eucharistic celebration was conducted only in the bishop’s church and sacred bread was taken to other churches by the deacons.

In the early church Eucharistic celebration was in the Private houses. Towards the end of the second century were constructed for the purpose. Music, incense, vestments, candles, bells etc were unknown in the first three centuries.

2. The discipline of the secret (disciplina arcane)

            This is a modern term for the early christian custom of keeping secret from the urinated (catechumens) the most important actions and texts of liturgical worship, especially baptism, the Eucharist, the Our Father, and the creed, or referring to them in the presence of unauthorized persons in veiled terms only. It began probably in the second century. Justin, Tertullian and Hippolitue speak about it. After the fifth century this practice died with that of the catechumanate.

3. Agape

Agape was one of the earliest forms of charitable activity. It was a meal in the Christian community intended to strengthen community spirit among their members of different social rank. It also provided material help to the poor and the needy within the community. They were held either in the private house of a well to do member of the congregation or in promises belonging to the church with the bishop presiding. The bishop could be represented by a priest or s deacon. The president inaugurates the meal with a payer said over the gifts that had been brought. The absent, sick and the widows were given their share of gifts. Abuse crept into it and it was forbidden. Finally the council of Trullo (692) forbade it conducting in the church.

4. Baptism

The baptism instituted by Christ was entirely different from those Jews and John the Baptist. It is a new birth (Jh.3, 5) and it demanded a metanoia. Christ entrusted his apostles the administering of baptism (Mt.28, 19). In the time of apostles baptism was conferred in a simple manner. It was enough to represent of ones own sins and to profess the christian faith. Baptism was preceded by the exhortation on the redemptive work of Christ and was followed by the imposition of hand with a prayer to receive the Holy Spirit.

Didache (2 c.) gives a detailed description of baptism. Immersion in living (flowing) water is desirable, but in exceptional cases it suffices to pour water thrice over the head of the person to be baptized. The Trinitarian formula is essential.

            In the early church a preparatory fast was prescribed to the baptized and the minister and also to the congregation, since a new member is incorporated into the community. Ignatius of Antioch qualifies baptism as a suit of armour. For him the healing power of the baptismal water is founded upon the sufferings of Christ. The epistle of Barnabas connects Cross and Baptism. According to Shepherd of Herman (140) baptism in the foundation of the christian’s life.

            In the second century there was a period preparation for baptism. Tertullian called it catechumanate. In the third century this period became long and strict. It could last two years.

            Hippolitus of Rome in his Apostolic Tradition speaks about the practice of baptism in the third century. The catechumanate was for three years. During this period they should prove themselves worthy of receiving baptism. Baptism was given by immersion of the head three times in the water. Confirmation was followed. Usually baptism was administered twice a year, at Easter and Pentecost. The baptized received while garment and they wore it   for a week. Later a lighter candle was given to the baptized to show Christ is exemplar.

Godparents can be seen from the time of Tertullian (2 c.). Symbolic acts like blessings, renunciation of Satan, exorcistic anointing, receiving of baptismal name are of later origin, probably in the third century. During the persecution the children of christian parents received baptism. Later baptism was postponed because the sinners were given severe punishments and baptism required only simple penance. There is evidence about infant baptism in the second century. Justin the martyr and Hippolitus speak about it.

5. The Penitential discipline of the early church

Christ instituted the sacrament of penance by giving the power to forgive sins to the apostles (Jo.20,22-23). The Fathers of the Church qualified the penance as the second baptism

In the apostolic period the view prevailed was that every sinner can obtain forgiveness again if he does penance. This conviction of the possibility of penance and reconciliation of the sinner with God and with the community also persisted in the sub-apostolic period. The conversion of the sinner is expressed in prayer of repentance,, fasting and almsgiving and an integral part of it consisted in confession of sinfulness before God and the community of the brethren. In the sub-apostolic period, too, penance was always something that concerned the community. The authorities attended to ecclesiastical discipline and excommunicated the obstinate sinner, that is, they excluded him from participation in religious life and broke off all association with him until he did penance. During the sinner’s time of excommunication the community tried to help him by its impetrative prayers.

Shepherd of Hermas (140) describes penance as the last chance to receive God’s mercy. It blots out post-baptismal sins. Among the penitential practices for the sinner, Hermas reckons confession of sins, payer, fasting, almsgiving and the humility with which he takes all these exercises upon himself. Hermas says that penance is not only a matter at between God and the sinner, but involves the church. The sinner is excluded from the church.

According to Ireneus of Lyons and Clement of Alexandria Penance is the second means to obtain salvation. Ireneus (140/160-200). Clement of Alexandria (150-215), Tertullian says that one can reconcile with God even at the death bed.

Sacraments of penance was administered differently in different places. In the African church a severe discipline was prevalent (St. Cyprian). Rome followed a mild form and Hippolitus accused pope Calixtus of his laxity. (St. Cyprian 200/10-258)

In the fourth century there arose the problem of lapsi. Synods in Rome and Carthage had decreed that lapsi could be reconciled after a long period of penance. Novatian was against it.

Those who committed capital sins (heresy, adultery, murder) had to undergo a long period of penance. They had to wear rough clothes and fast. They had to confess publicly before the bishop. The bishop or the priest forgives sins by imposing hands on the penitent.

In the third and fourth centuries in the Eastern Churches penitents were divided into groups, St. Basil (330-379) speaks about it:

1. Flentes (those who weep) they had to stand at the entrance of the church for four years begging the prayers of those who enter the church.

2. Audientes (those who hear) for five years, they could participate the first part of the Mass and then they had to leave.

3. Prostrati (those who kneel) for seven years. It is not clear whether this group remained in the church for the whole Mass or went out before the communion.

4. Consistentes (those who stand) for four years. They stood with the faithful for the whole time, but did not receive Holy Communion. cf. Gregory Thaumaturgus.

Thus a murderer was excluded from receiving sacraments for twenty years. And only after this period of penance he was admitted to the church and to receive Holy Communion.

            In the West there was no such division, but the penitents were given separate place in the church. The Ash Wednesday is a remnant of the penitential discipline of the Western church.  In the beginning the bishop used to give penance, but when the number increased he appointed one priest each in each diocese to give penance. He could hear confession and give penance.

In the Greek Church in the fourth and fifth centuries monks were giving absolution. The newly converted Anglo-Saxons were against the public confession and public penance. The Irish monks who did missionary work among these people had the practice of private confession and private penance. It could be repeated.

There is no much evidence to prove the practice of private penance in the first centuries. St. Augustine favoured it and he proposed private penance for private sine. Pope Gregory (590-604) followed St. Augustine.

Public penitents had to wear rough clothes and they had to leave their job. If he is a bachelor, he is not allowed to marry; if married, is not allowed to live with his wife. So the consent of the other party was required. In the Roman church the penitents were received to the church on Maundy Thursday. In the East it could be in any three days after Thursday.

In the first centuries the priests who did capital sine were asked to do public penance. In the fourth century they were sent out of their office, but not from the church, and they were not included among the penitents. They could receive Holy Communion as laymen.

The reason for the strict discipline in the early church was the moral laxity prevalent in the Roman Empire. There was the possibility that the faithful of going back to their old ways of life in the face of persecution. It was necessary to have a strict discipline to persist in true faith.

6. The religious and moral life

The early christians had a high moral standard which was praised by all. Their religious and moral life was quite different from others. St. Justin says that the christians led a life of truthfulness and chastity, they loved their enemies and went courageously to death for their beliefs. Bishop Theophilus of Antioch says: “among the christians is to be found prudence, self-control, sobriety is practiced, monogamy observed, chastity preserved, injustice abolished, sin with its root destroyed, justice is practiced, the law is kept and piety is in evidence all the day long. God is recognized and truth is considered the greatest good”. The letter to Diognetus has a hymnic chapter on the Christian’s daily life: “every foreign place is their home, and their home is a foreign place to them;… they dwell on earth, but their conversation is in heaven; they love all men and are persecuted by all; they are poor and enrich many. They are despised and are thereby glorified. They are insulted and they bless; they are mocked and show honour to those that mock them; punished with death, they rejoice as if they were awakened unto life. In brief, what the soul is to the body, the christians are to the world (ch.5.6).