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Chapter I.—The Course pursued by the Apostles after the Ascension of Christ.
1. First, then, in the place of Judas, the betrayer,
Matthias,233233 See Acts i. 23–26. who, as has been shown234234 Bk.
I. chap. 12, §2. was also one of the Seventy, was chosen
to the apostolate. And there were appointed to the diaconate,235235 The
view that the Seven were deacons appears first in Irenæus (adv.
Hær. I. 26. 3; III. 12. 10; IV. 15. I), then in Cyprian
(Ep. 64. 3), and was the commonly accepted opinion of the Roman
Church in the third century (for, while they had forty-six presbyters,
they had only seven deacons; see below, Bk. VI. chap. 43), and has been
ever since almost universally accepted. In favor of the identification
are urged this early and unanimous tradition, the similarity of the
duties assigned to the Seven and to later deacons, and the use of the
words διακονία and διακονεῖν
in connection with the “Seven” in
It must be remarked, however, that ancient tradition is not unanimously
in favor of the identification, for Chrysostom (Homily XIV. on
Acts) denies it; still further, the functions of the Seven and of
later deacons were not identical, for the former were put in charge of
the financial affairs of the Jerusalem church, while the latter acted
simply as bishops’ assistants. In fact, it was the bishop of the
second century, not the deacon, that had charge of the church finances.
And finally, no weight can be laid upon the use of the terms
and διακονία in connection with the Seven, for these words are used
always in a general, never in an official sense in other parts of the
Acts and of the New Testament, and, what is still more decisive, the
same word (διακονία) is used in the same passage in connection with the
apostles; the Seven are “to serve tables” (διακονεῖν
τραπέζαις,) the apostles are to give themselves to “the service
of the word” (διακονία
τοῦ λόγου.) There is just as much reason, therefore, on linguistic grounds,
for calling the apostles “deacons” as for giving that name
to the Seven. On the other hand, against the opinion that the Seven
were deacons, are to be urged the facts that they are never called
“deacons” by Luke or by any other New Testament writer;
that we are nowhere told, in the New Testament or out of it, that there
were deacons in the Jerusalem church, although Luke had many
opportunities to call the Seven “deacons” if he had
considered them such; and finally, that according to Epiphanius
(Hær. XXX. 18), the Ebionitic churches of Palestine in his
time had only presbyters and Archisynagogi (chiefs of the
synagogue). These Ebionites were the Jewish Christian reactionaries
who refused to advance with the Church catholic in its normal
development; it is therefore at least significant that there were no
deacons among them in the fourth century.
In view of these considerations I feel compelled to doubt the traditional identification, although it is accepted without dissent by almost all scholars (cf. e.g. Lightfoot’s article on The Christian Ministry in his Commentary on Philippians). There remain but two possibilities: either the Seven constituted a merely temporary committee (as held by Chrysostom, and in modern times, among others, by Vitringa, in his celebrated work on the Synagogue, and by Stanley in his Essays on the Apostolic Age); or they were the originals of permanent officers in the Church, other than deacons. The former alternative is possible, but the emphasis which Luke lays upon the appointment is against it, as also the fact that the very duties which these men were chosen to perform were such as would increase rather than diminish with the growth of the Church, and such as would therefore demand the creation of a new and similar committee if the old were not continued.
In favor of the second alternative there is, it seems to me, much to be said. The limits of this note forbid a full discussion of the subject. But it may be urged: First, that we find in the Acts frequent mention of a body of men in the Jerusalem church known as “elders.” Of the appointment of these elders we have no account, and yet it is clear that they cannot have been in existence when the apostles proposed the appointment of the Seven. Secondly, although the Seven were such prominent and influential men, they are not once mentioned as a body in the subsequent chapters of the Acts, while, whenever we should expect to find them referred to with the apostles, it is always the “elders” that are mentioned. Finally, when the elders appear for the first time (Acts xi. 30), we find them entrusted with the same duties which the Seven were originally appointed to perform: they receive the alms sent by the church of Antioch. It is certainly, to say the least, a very natural conclusion that these “elders” occupy the office of whose institution we read in Acts vi.
Against this identification of the Seven with the elders of the Jerusalem church it might be urged: First, that Luke does not call them elders. But it is quite possible that they were not called by that name at first, and yet later acquired it; and in that case, in referring to them in later times, people would naturally call the first appointed “the Seven,” to distinguish them from their successors, “the elders,”—the well-known and frequently mentioned officers whose number may well have been increased as the church grew. It is thus easier to account for Luke’s omission of the name “elder,” than it would be to account for his omission of the name “deacon,” if they were deacons. In the second place, it might be objected that the duties which the Seven were appointed to perform were not commensurate with those which fell to the lot of the elders as known to us. This objection, however, loses its weight when we realize that the same kind of a development went on in connection with the bishop, as has been most clearly pointed out by Hatch in his Organization of the Early Christian Churches, and by Harnack in his translation of that work and in his edition of the Teaching of the Apostles. Moreover, in the case of the Seven, who were evidently the chiefest men in the Jerusalem church after the apostles, and at the same time were “full of the Spirit,” it was very natural that, as the apostles gradually scattered, the successors of these Seven should have committed to them other duties besides the purely financial ones.
The theory presented in this note is not a novel one. It was suggested first by Böhmer (in his Diss. Juris eccles.), who was followed by Ritschl (in his Entstehung der alt-kath. Kirche), and has been accepted in a somewhat modified form by Lange (in his Apostolisches Zeitalter), and by Lechler (in his Apost. und Nachapost. Zeitalter). Before learning that the theory had been proposed by others, I had myself adapted it and had embodied it in a more elaborate form in a paper read before a ministerial association in the spring of 1888. My confidence in its validity has of course been increased by the knowledge that it has been maintained by the eminent scholars referred to above. for the service of the congregation, by prayer and the laying on of the hands of the apostles, approved men, seven in number, of whom Stephen was one.236236 See Acts vi. 1–6. He first, after the Lord, was stoned to death at the time of his ordination by the slayers of the Lord, as if he had been promoted for this very purpose.237237 See Acts vii And thus he was the first to receive the crown, corresponding to his name,238238 στέφανος, “a crown.” which belongs to the martyrs of Christ, who are worthy of the meed of victory.
2. Then James, whom the ancients surnamed the Just239239 James is not called the “Just” in the New Testament, but Hegesippus (quoted by Eusebius, chap. 23) says that he was called thus by all from the time of Christ, on account of his great piety, and it is by this name that he is known throughout history. on account of the excellence of his virtue, is recorded to have been the first to be made bishop of the church of Jerusalem. This James was called the brother of the Lord240240 See above, Bk. I. chap. 12, note 13. because he was known as a son of Joseph,241241 Eusebius testimony is in favor of the half-brother theory; for had he considered James the son of Mary, he could not have spoken in this way. and Joseph was supposed to be the father of Christ, because the Virgin, being betrothed to him, “was found with child by the Holy Ghost before they came together,”242242 Matt. i. 18. as the account of the holy Gospels shows.
3. But Clement in the sixth book
of his Hypotyposes243243 On
Clement’s Hypotyposes, see Bk. VI. chap. 13, note 3. On
Clement’s life and writings, see Bk. V. chap. 11. writes thus:
“For they say that Peter and James and John after the ascension
of our Saviour, as if also preferred by our Lord, strove not after
honor, but chose James the Just bishop of Jerusalem.”244244 ἀλλ᾽
the majority of the mss. and editions read.
Laemmer, followed by Heinichen, substitutes γενέσθαι
for ἕλεσθαιon the
authority of two important codices. The other reading, however, is as
well, if not better, supported.
How soon after the ascension of Christ, James the Just assumed a leading position in the church of Jerusalem, we do not know. He undoubtedly became prominent very soon, as Paul in 37 (or 40) a.d. sees him in addition to Peter on visiting Jerusalem. But we do not know of his having a position of leadership until the Jerusalem Council in 51 (Acts xv. and Gal. ii.), where he is one of the three pillars, standing at least upon an equality in influence with Peter and John. But this very expression “three pillars of the Church” excludes the supposition that he was bishop of the Church in the modern sense of the term—he was only one of the rulers of the Church. Indeed, we have abundant evidence from other sources that the monarchical episcopacy was nowhere known at that early age. It was the custom of all writers of the second century and later to throw back into the apostolic age their own church organization, and hence we hear of bishops appointed by the apostles in various churches where we know that the episcopacy was a second century growth.
4. But the same writer, in the seventh book of the same work, relates also the following things concerning him: “The Lord after his resurrection imparted knowledge to James the Just and to John and Peter, and they imparted it to the rest of the apostles, and the rest of the apostles to the seventy, of whom Barnabas was one.245245 See above, Bk. I. chap. 12, note 3. But there were two Jameses:246246 Clement evidently identifies James, the brother of the Lord, with James, the son of Alphæus (compare the words just above: “These delivered it to the rest of the apostles,” in which the word “apostles,” on account of the “Seventy” just following, seems to be used in a narrow sense, and therefore this James to be one of the Twelve), and he is thus cited as a witness to the cousin hypothesis (see above, Bk. I. chap. 12, note 13). Papias, too, in a fragment given by Routh (Rel. Sac. I. p. 16) identifies the two. But Hegesippus (quoted by Eusebius in chap. 23) expressly states that there were many of this name, and that he was therefore called James the Just to distinguish him from others. Eusebius quotes this passage of Clement with apparently no suspicion that it contradicts his own opinion in regard to the relationship of James to Christ. The contradiction, indeed, appears only upon careful examination. one called the Just, who was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple and was beaten to death with a club by a fuller,247247 Josephus (Ant. XX. 9. 1) says he was stoned to death. The account of Clement agrees with that of Hegesippus quoted by Eusebius in chap. 23, below, which see. and another who was beheaded.”248248 James, the son of Zebedee, who was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I., 44 a.d. See Acts xii. 2, and Bk. II. chap. 9 below. Paul also makes mention of the same James the Just, where he writes, “Other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.”249249 Gal. i. 19.
5. At that time also the promise of our Saviour to the king of the Osrhœnians was fulfilled. For Thomas, under a divine impulse, sent Thaddeus to Edessa as a preacher and evangelist of the religion of Christ, as we have shown a little above from the document found there.250250 See above, Bk. I. chap. 13.
7. When he came to that place he healed Abgarus by the word of Christ; and after bringing all the people there into the right attitude of mind by means of his works, and leading them to adore the power of Christ, he made them disciples of the Saviour’s teaching. And from that time down to the present the whole city of the Edessenes has been devoted to the name of Christ,251251 The date of the introduction of Christianity into Edessa is not known (see above, Bk. I. chap. 13, notes 1 and 3) but it was the seat of a bishop in the third century, and in Eusebius’ time was filled with magnificent churches and monasteries. offering no common proof of the beneficence of our Saviour toward them also.
8. These things have been drawn from ancient accounts; but let us now turn again to the divine Scripture. When the first and greatest persecution was instigated by the Jews against the church of Jerusalem in connection with the martyrdom of Stephen, and when all the disciples, except the Twelve, were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria,252252 See Acts viii. 1 some, as the divine Scripture says, went as far as Phœnicia and Cyprus and Antioch, but could not yet venture to impart the word of faith to the nations, and therefore preached it to the Jews alone.253253 See Acts xi. 19
10. Philip also, one of those who with Stephen had been entrusted with the diaconate, being among those who were scattered abroad, went down to Samaria,255255 See Acts viii. 5 and being filled with the divine power, he first preached the word to the inhabitants of that country. And divine grace worked so mightily with him that even Simon Magus with many others was attracted by his words.256256 See Acts viii. 9 sqq. Upon Simon, see chap. 13, note 3.
11. Simon was at that time so celebrated, and had acquired, by his jugglery, such influence over those who were deceived by him, that he was thought to be the great power of God.257257 τὴν μεγ€λην δύναμιν τοῦ θεοῦ. Compare Acts viii. 10, which has ἡ δύναμις τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ καλουμένη. According to Irenæus (I. 23. 1) he was called “the loftiest of all powers, i.e. the one who is father over all things” (sublissimam virtutem, hoc est, eum qui sit nuper omnia Pater); according to Justin Martyr, Apol. I. 26 (see below, chap. 13), τὸν πρῶτον θεόν; according to the Clementine Homilies (II. 22) he wished to be called “a certain supreme power of God” (ἀνωτ€τη τις δύναμις.) According to the Clementine Recognitions (II. 7) he was called the “Standing one” (hinc ergo Stans appellatur). But at this time, being amazed at the wonderful deeds wrought by Philip through the divine power, he feigned and counterfeited faith in Christ, even going so far as to receive baptism.258258 Eusebius here utters the universal belief of the early Church, which from the subsequent career of Simon, who was considered the founder of all heresies, and the great arch-heretic himself, read back into his very conversion the hypocrisy for which he was afterward distinguished in Church history. The account of the Acts does not say that his belief was hypocritical, and leaves it to be implied (if it be implied at all) only from his subsequent conduct in endeavoring to purchase the gift of God with money.
12. And what is surprising, the same thing is done even to this day by those who follow his most impure heresy.259259 Eusebius may refer here to the Simonians, an heretical sect (mentioned by Justin, Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, and others), which recognized him as its founder and leader (though they originated probably at a later date), and even looked upon him as a God. They were exceedingly licentious and immoral. Their teachings gradually assumed a decidedly Gnostic character, and Simon came to be looked upon as the father of all Gnostics (compare Irenæus, I. 27. 4), and hence of heretics in general, and as himself the arch-heretic. Eusebius, therefore, perhaps refers in this place simply to the Gnostics, or to the heretics in general. For they, after the manner of their forefather, slipping into the Church, like a pestilential and leprous disease greatly afflict those into whom they are able to infuse the deadly and terrible poison concealed in themselves.260260 Another instance of the external and artificial conception of heresy which Eusebius held in common with his age. The most of these have been expelled as soon as they have been caught in their wickedness, as Simon himself, when detected by Peter, received the merited punishment.261261 Acts viii. tells of no punishment which befell Simon further than the rebuke of Peter which Hippolytus (Phil. vi. 15) calls a curse, and which as such may have been regarded by Eusebius as a deserved punishment, its effect clinging to him, and finally bringing him to destruction (see below, chap. 14, note 8).
13. But as the preaching of the Saviour’s Gospel was daily advancing, a certain providence led from the land of the Ethiopians an officer of the queen of that country,262262 Acts viii. 26 sqq. This queen was Candace, according to the Biblical account; but Candace was the name, not of an individual, but of a dynasty of queens who ruled in Meroë, an island formed by two branches of the Nile, south of Egypt. See Pliny, H. N. VI. 35 (Delphin edition); Dion Cassius, LIV. 5; and Strabo, XVII. 1. 54 (Müller’s edit., Paris, 1877). for Ethiopia even to the present day is ruled, according to ancestral custom, by a woman. He, first among the Gentiles, received of the mysteries of the divine word from Philip in consequence of a revelation, and having become the first-fruits of believers throughout the world, he is said to have been the first on returning to his country to proclaim the knowledge of the God of the universe and the life-giving sojourn of our Saviour among men;263263 Irenæus (Adv. Hær. III. 12. 8) says that this Eunuch returned to Ethiopia and preached there. But by no one else, so far as I know, is the origin of Christianity in Ethiopia traced back to him. The first certain knowledge we have of the introduction of Christianity into Ethiopia is in the fourth century, under Frumentius and Ædesius, of whom Rufinus, I. 9, gives the original account; and yet it is probable that Christianity existed there long before this time. Compare Neander’s Kirchengeschichte, I. p. 46. See also H. R. Reynolds’ article upon the “Ethiopian Church” in Smith and Wace’s Dictionary of Christian Biography, II. 232 sqq. so that through him in truth the prophecy obtained its fulfillment, which declares that “Ethiopia stretcheth out her hand unto God.”264264 Psa. xviii. 31.
14. In addition to these, Paul, that “chosen vessel,”265265 Acts ix. 15. “not of men neither through men, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ himself and of God the Father who raised him from the dead,”266266 Gal. i. 1. was appointed an apostle, being made worthy of the call by a vision and by a voice which was uttered in a revelation from heaven.267267 See Acts ix. 3 sqq.; xxii. 6 sqq.; xxvi. 12 sqq.; Gal. i. 16; 1 Cor. xv. 8–10
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