Early Christianity and ‘Family’

“We have thereby papered over, indeed forgotten, how deeply ambiguous, even negative, the early church was about family. In his book The First Urban Christians, Wayne Meeks notes that pagan Roman society had no more cherished value than its belief in the primacy of the family. Every Roman institution had  its basis in the Roman family. There was no means of social advancement (other than the military) in ancient Rome other than marriage into a more superior family, because your family determined your status in life.” -William Willimon


Preparation for Baptism

“Whether brief or protracted, however, the period of one’s preparation for baptism could not conclude until one had been taught the story of redemption: how once all men and women had labored as slaves in the household of death, prisoners of the devil, sold into bondage to Hades, languishing in ignorance of their true home; and how Christ had come to set the prisoners free and had, by his death and resurrection, invaded the kingdom of our captor and overthrown it, vanquishing the power of sin and death in us, shattering the gates of hell, and plundering the devil of his captives. For it was into this story that one’s own life was to be merged when one at last sank down into the ‘life-giving waters’: in the risen Christ, a new humanity had been created, free from the rule of death, into which one could be admitted by dying and rising again with Christ in baptism and by feeding upon his presence in the Eucharist.” -David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions, pg. 112

Baptism is

For Christians of the early centuries, “baptism was of an altogether more radical nature. It was understood as nothing less than a total transformation of the person who submitted to it; and as a ritual event, it was certainly understood as being far more than a mere dramaturgical allegory of one’s choice of religious association. To become a Christian was to renounce a very great deal of what one had known and been to that point, in order to be joined to a new reality, the demands of which were absolute; it was to depart from one world, with an irrevocable finality, and to enter another.” -David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions, pg. 111

Who Were the Apostolic Fathers?

The Apostolic Fathers were those Christians ordained to ministry who immediately succeeded the Apostles. Notable examples:

1. Clement of Rome (late first century)- In 1 Clement, called for Christians to obey ordained leadership, and said that God desires order in his Church.

2. Ignatius of Antioch (late first century)- Bishop of Antioch. Praised martyrdom. Argued against docetism. Defended authority of bishops. Martyred under Trajan. 

3. Papias of Hierapolis (late first/early 2nd century)– Bishop. A chiliast. 

4. Polycarp of Smyrna (late first/mid second century)– Bishop. Wrote against Gnosticism. Martyred in Rome.

5. Barnabas (first century)– Alexandrian. Wrote Epistle of Barnabas

See Pocket Dictionary of Church History for more info (can be purchased here).