Who are some of the early church fathers that may have known one of the Apostles?

One of these men was actually mentioned in the book of Revelation

In the book of Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are addressed to 7 churches in the area of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).  This will not be a detailed study on Revelation but will discuss some of those mentioned in Revelation or relating to churches addressed in the book.   In chapter 2, a man named Antipas was said to have been martyred for his faith, he lived in the city of Pergamum. ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells’ Revelation 2:13.  So we can deduce certain things about Antipas, and then I will give you some of the info from the internet about him.

Things we can know for certain about Antipas:

  • He was a faithful witness about the Gospel and Jesus
  • He was killed or martyred for his faith in Jesus
  • According to Jesus (who was giving the info to John) Satan dwelt and his throne was in the city of Pergamum (whatever that means)

Things we can assume from the passage:

  • Antipas was the bishop or pastor of the church in Pergamum (because he was mentioned by name)
  • Antipas was not only willing to die but in fact did die for not compromising on the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Antipas was a friend of John the Apostle
  • Antipas was martyred before AD 100 (that’s when John the Apostle died, and many scholars believe Revelation was written around AD 95, so he would have had to be killed before that, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian).

What is interesting is this statement about Antipas is the only statement about him that exists in all of the letters of antiquity.  Nothing else is known about him, yet he was significant enough for John to call him by name.  As will be discussed later, a second man, named Polycarp, was a contemporary of John and Antipas and much was written about him from several authors of the time (Tertullian and Irenaeus, among others), yet nothing else was written about Antipas.

**Maybe a point of application is that most people who are faithful to Jesus will not be noticed in a letter or named in a document, but God keeps track and He rewards those who diligently seek Him.**

A man who is not mentioned in Revelation but certainly was around at the time of it’s writing

Polycarp is a person that we do have some info about and so know a little about his life, yet is not mentioned in the book of Revelation (so it is sort of the reverse of Antipas).

Our sources on the life of Polycarp and his contribution to Christianity are varied.  The early church father Tertullian (AD 160 ish to 200 ish, from the area of Carthage, North Africa) mentions Polycarp in one of his many writings.  Another Apostolic Father, Irenaeus (AD 130 ish to 200 ish, in Lyons, France) also writes a little about this early Christian leader.

Some of the things that are important about Polycarp are:

  • He was the bishop (pastor) of the church in Smyrna, possibly at the time that John wrote the book of Revelation.
  • He wrote a letter (similar to those written by Paul, Peter, John, James, etc.) to the church in Phillipi.
  • He was a disciple of the Apostle John.
  • Because of the letter to the Philippians, we can know some about his early Christianity in general and Polycarp’s theology in particular.

Similar to Antipas is the way Polycarp died – he was martyred for spreading and standing firm in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Here is the statement we have from antiquity about his martyrdom, this is called ‘The Martyrdom of Polycarp’:   said  . . . the Proconsul, “reproach Christ, and I will set you free.” “86 years have I have served him,” Polycarp declared, “and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

We can learn much from both these men: one mentioned in the Bible (so he is significant) and yet nothing else is known of him (most followers of Jesus will fade away into obscurity almost unknown to anyone but God Himself); and the other is not mentioned in scripture, yet is know throughout history for his dedication and exemplary sacrifice for his Lord and Savior.

Go and live a life worthy of these men, and especially their Savior.

How does one blog about The History of the Church in an comprehensible manner?

As I consider the enormity of the information contained in 2000 years of Church History, covering all continents on the planet I have struggled with this question:  Do I make my blog posts random or have some sequence to them.

What is the pattern of most readers of blogs?

I am assuming most readers will not read the posts on a regular basis and therefore not need to have a sequence of posts.  Especially if the posts come once or twice per week, the reader probably will not be able to remember the subject from post to post.  So they truly do not need to have a particular series of posts, for the readers will not really be paying attention to the order. I also feel like if they are random I can revisit some topics and give greater clarity and focus on some aspect of that topics that may have not been addressed previously.  Having taught Church History for several years and having a personality that likes (but is not obsessed with order and sequence), I have the inner urge for the posts to go from AD 100 and then many, many years from now end with AD 2015ish.

Drawbacks to the sequential approach to examining history

Obviously there is a plethora of reasons why a sequential approach to blog posting is not recommended.  In relation to posting them from AD 100 for the earlier postings and ending with AD 2015ish being the last posting – approach is ridiculous.  The blog theoretically is endless to there is no time when I will reach AD 2015ish.  So this would mean that much of the history and theology that happened in the 20th and 21 centuries would never be addressed.  So realistically the systematic approach is unrealistic.  Most comments will be about the early church and none about the later church, which is not only tragic but stupid.

There is one other issue that comes to mind when considering what approach to take.   Since this blog is used to express my thoughts about my passion for Church History, as I read and discuss subjects with individuals in my own life, some questions or comments will inevitably come up that makes me rethink my opinion.  So as I talk with others and contemplate this new information, I will blog about it and attempt to get feedback from my readers to further my understanding of issues.

What have I decided

As I said earlier, I have to fight the urge to be systematic in my approach.  But after thinking through this issue while writing this blog, I believe the best tactic to take is to be random concerning the topics addressed on this blog.  The information held within the blog will be systematic, but each blog posting will only be related because of the nature of the blog itself, being that of  discussing Church History.  So the next blog could be about any person or idea from any era of the history of the Church.

What exactly is THE CHURCH???

So after teaching doctrine and church history for several years it has come to my attention that our past definition of what makes up the Church is in question.  For decades, if not centuries, those in Christendom have believed the Bible teaches the church has certain specific aspects: (1) the invisible or universal church (made up of all believers in God past, present, and future) and (2) periodic, corporate gathering of followers of Jesus.  But it has come to my attention that a definition of the church being: “a local gathering of followers of Jesus” is woefully inadequate.  I agree that this definition is lacking in essential elements.

My difficulty comes in considering many, many factors, such as:

  • Is a church simply a gathering of believers to worship God? (if so, then when people meet for a Christian concert or a chapel at a Christian Institution, is this considered a church?)
  • Does a local church need to have pastors and deacons? (if so, do all those believers meeting in the countries in Africa, or the Middle East, or South America who have no deacons or pastors NOT make up a church?)
  • Is it simply a gathering of believers where the Sacraments are administered? (as suggested by Calvin and Luther)
  • Do they need to collect an offering, sing hymns, listen to a sermon, or read the Bible to constitute a church?
  • Can followers who meet in house-churches with no definable leadership (pastor, elder, deacon) make up a church or do they need need a building that is registered by the city government to be a church?

What exactly makes up the church????  I do not have a precise answer, but there are a few things I do believe the Bible says about the church:

  • They gather together periodically, to worship the Triune God.
  • They edify (teach them the truths of Christianity, the Apostles’ teaching) the followers of Jesus.
  • They administer the Sacraments (the number is in question but will not be dealt here).
  • They have designated leadership (Paul describes the offices of elder and deacon so I am assuming this means these offices are to be a part of the local gathering).

I continue to struggle with this issue and am willing to change my opinions as I research it.  I am also dedicated to a more thorough, accurate definition of the Church.