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Yuri Koszarycz


    The evangelist Luke, in his opening sentence to his gospel, lets us know that there had been some believers who had endeavoured to put into writing some of the events that had occurred in the life of Jesus. So as to clearly distance himself from these disorganized Jesus-tales, he, "having studied all these matters from the beginning", wrote an orderly account "that the full truths of all these matters" become known (Lk 1:3).

    By the third century quite a few spurious Jesus-biographies were circulating among the Christian community. Even around 150 A.D. Christians began to demand a clearer orientation from Church authorities regarding the authenticity of some of these writings. It is certain that around that time the Church authoritatively had accepted the four gospels written by the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

    Even in these early days the Christians were divided by conflicting theologies. Around 140 AD Marcion had collected a number of "sacred writings" which spurred the leadership within the Church to produce their own `canon' of acceptable sacred literature. The word canon comes from the Greek, meaning "rule" or "yardstick" and this canon produced by the Church contains the books that we presently find in our New Testament. Other apochyphal words which circulated among various sects were excluded from any official recognition.

    At this time other issues relating to doctrine and discipline also were concerning the growing Christian communities. The Trinitarian Church found itself on the one hand in opposition with monotheistic Judaism, and on the other hand, in opposition against the gnostics who had falsified the Trinity into a Tri-godly reality. Furthermore the early Church was faced with fundamental dogmatic issues: Was baptism administered by heretics and apostate priests or bishops valid? Should those that had been baptized and had denied Christ during persecutions be re-baptized on readmission into the Church? A further pre- occupation that concerned the Roman Church was the growing number of laity, priests and bishops - particularly along the north African coastline who did not recognize or give allegiance to the pre-eminence of Rome. Even in Rome itself, especially in the middle of the third century during the time of the opposing bishops Hippolytus and Novatian, the Church was experiencing internal opposition and conflict.

    More and more of the inhabitants of the Roman Empire were turning to Christianity. In 311 AD Galerius granted Christians permission to hold their religious assemblies provided that Christians "after this manifestation of grace, should pray to their God for the welfare of the emperors, of the state, and of themselves, that the state might prosper in every respect and that they might live quietly in their homes" (Schaff, 1980: 71). Christianity was at the threshold of institutional acceptance; it was divorced from its Semitic cultural and linguistic roots, had undergone a period of trial-by-fire, and now was ready for an accomodation with political forces that would make it a "comprehensive, unifying and reconciling social whole which included both the sociological circle of religion itself, as well as all politico-social organisations" of the time (Marty, 1980: 98).

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Copyright ©1999, Yuri Koszarycz. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents,including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.The contents of ORB are copyright © 1995-1999 Laura V. Blanchard and Carolyn Schriber except as otherwise indicated herein.