25 Early Christian Characteristics/Norms

  1. Early Christians loved, studied, kept, and copied Scripture. This love for Scripture usually was stained in their blood, as most died defending the faith.
  2. Early Christians were called “atheist” because they worship unseen god.
  3. The spread of the Gospel was mostly carried out by normal everyday people as they travelled throughout the land. Yes, the apostles did great work, but most of the missionary work was carried out by countless and nameless Christians who for different reasons-persecution, business, or missionary calling-traveled from place to place taking the news of the Gospel with them.
  4. Interpretation of Scripture was done allegorically.
  5. Early Christians did not consider themselves followers of a new religion. All their lives they had been Jews, and they still were. This was true of Peter and the twelve, of the seven, and of Paul. Their faith was not a denial of Judaism, but rather the conviction that the messianic age had finally arrived. Early Christians did not reject Judaism, but were convinced that their faith was the fulfillment of the age-long expectation of a Messiah.
  6. Communion did not focus on the death of Jesus, it focused on the resurrection of Jesus and His victory by which a new age had dawned.
  7. Two days were set aside for weekly fasting. (Wednesday and Friday)
  8. Early Christians were not only persecuted by the Romans, but mostly by Jews. Jews looked at Christianity as a simply another heretical sect. Read Acts 18. This helped the Gospel message to spread as Christians had to scatter throughout the land.
  9. When Christians were blamed for the fire that Nero started, Tacticus, a pagan historian of the time, did not believe that Christians set the fire and disapproves of Nero’s “refined cruelty.” Tacticus even says, Christians “were not being destroyed for the common good, but rather to satisfy the cruelty of one person.”
  10. Early Christians were considered “haters of humankind” because they did not take part in social activities that were entwined with pagan worship. In Roman eyes, you are supposed to love the culture and society.
  11. The distinction between Jews and Christians was not clear in the minds of Roman authorities, thus both Jew and Christian were persecuted for following any “Jewish practices.”
  12. Early Christians viewed martyrdom as being chosen by God and as a gift from God.
  13. Early Christians were not specifically killed for being a “Christian,” but for not praying to other gods, burning incense before the image of the emperor, and cursing Christ. Christians, by the mere fact of being such, were not committing any crime against society or against the state. Therefore, the resources of the state should not be wasted in seeking them out. But, once accused and brought before the authorities, Christians had to be forced to worship the gods of the empire, or face punishment.
  14. Early Christians in the second century were not constantly persecuted. Sometimes they were persecuted in some areas of the Empire, and not in others.
  15. Because of 13, above, to have a good relationship with your neighbor was very important. If any believed the evil rumors (as there were many) about Christians, they would be accused, and persecution would break out. For this reason it was very important to show that those rumors were untrue, and to give pagans a better and more favorable understanding of Christianity. This was the task of the apologists.
  16. Some rumors created by insufficient knowledge of pagans:

Christians had a meal together called the “love feast.” Also, Christians called each other “brother” and “sister” and there were many who spoke of their spouses as their “sister” or “brother.” Pagans then took these two facts and came up with the idea that Christian worship was an orgiastic celebration in which Christians ate and drank to excess, put the lights out, and vented their lusts in the indiscriminate and even incestuous unions.

Communion is referred to as the body and blood of Christ (also He came as a baby). Thus, pagans came up with the idea that Christians concealed a newborn in a loaf of bread, and then ordered a new “Christian” to cut the loaf. When this was done, they all joined in eating the warm flesh of the infant. The new “Christian” was then forced to remain silent about what took place.

  1. Pagans thought Christianity was a religion of barbarians who derived their teaching, not from Greeks or Romans, but from Jews, a primitive people whose best teachers never rose to the level of Greek philosophers.
  2. Some questions that early apologist had to answers:

Why can you not see your god?

If pagan gods are false, why fear them?

Why not worship them, even if one does not believe in them?

If Jesus was truly the Son of God, why did He allow himself to be crucified?

Why did Jesus not destroy all His enemies?

What could the purpose of such a visit to earth by God?

What would happen to Christians whose bodies were destroyed by fire, eaten by beasts, or by fish?

What will God do with those parts of matter that belonged to more than one body?

  1. All Christians agreed that the worship of the gods, and everything related to that worship, must be rejected. This included civil ceremonies, military service, and the study of classical literature, which were all entwined with immorality, pagan and emperor worship.
  2. Some Christians believe that nothing good could come from pagan philosophy and stayed away from anything that had to do with the pagan culture. Others, like Justin Martyr, claimed that there were several points of contact between Christianity and pagan philosophy. Such as:

Supreme being which every other being derives its existence

Eternal life beyond physical death

  1. Early Christians talked about in the address To Diognetus:

Christians are not different form the rest in their nationality, language or customs… They live in their own countries, but as sojourners. They fulfill all their duties as citizens, but they suffer as foreigners. They find their homeland wherever they are, but their homeland is not in any once place… they are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They live on earth, but are citizens of heave. They obey all laws, but they live higher than that required by law. They love all, but all persecute them

  1. Even though Christians refused to worship the emperor, and even while persecuted by the authorities, they continued praying for the emperor and admiring the greatness of the Roman Empire.
  2. Early Christians were pro-life. Non-Christians, if a woman has a female baby, it was not considered a daughter, unless the father declared the baby his daughter. If the father did not declare the baby his daughter, the baby was set outside in the elements to die.
  3. Early Christianity was able to grow more and more, thanks in part to evangelism by the common folk, and different plagues that came during the first couple centuries. While people with money, doctors and pagan temple workers, were able to flee the plague stricken areas, a high percentage of people were left behind. For the Christian, they had no fear of death and were more than willing to help treat those who were sick. The results of this aid by early Christian saw a high conversion rate of pagan worshippers to Christianity.
  4. In pagan worship and culture, it was completely normal to share your spouse and children with other people. Adulterous, homosexual, and pedophilia acts were totally acceptable during this time especially in pagan temple worship. Christians were known for sharing everything they had, except their spouses (heterosexual) and children.

 

Some Reading:

Getting to Know the Church Fathers by Bryan Litfin 

http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Know-Church-Fathers-Introduction-ebook/dp/B00B85428M/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1420057300&sr=1-2&keywords=bryan+liftin

The Story of Christianity: Volume 1 by Justo L. Gonzalez

http://www.amazon.com/Story-Christianity-Justo-L-Gonzalez-ebook/dp/B00JOGB2DU/ref=sr_1_sc_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1420057367&sr=1-2-spell&keywords=early+christianity+gonzals

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