Course: Church History (1)
Course Title: Church History and the Standard of the New Testament
Section One: The Early Church
Lesson Five: Heresies and wrong teaching.
Text: ‘Take heed therefore unto yourselves,
and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost
hath made you overseers, to feed the
Introduction: Being led by false teaching or by the Holy Spirit.
Introductory Story: Being led into error.
Characteristics of false teaching:
Main Points: Gnosticism, Montanists, Arianism
Question: How do you associate the harshness of the Old Testament with the Sermon on the Mount?
Believed the God of the Old Testament – evil.
God of the New Testament – good.
Marcion was Docetic – denying the human nature of Christ.
Compare 1 John 4:1-3.
Marcion rejected many scriptures.
Made his own canon of scripture to fit his Gnostic beliefs .
Accepted Luke’s Gospel (with the Old Testament quotes removed that linked Jesus to the Old Testament)
and 10 of Paul’s epistles (also with Old Testament quotes removed).
Marcion forced the Church to form a canon of scripture (see lesson 5)
Tertullian's 'Against Marcion' (Adversus Marcionem), Book IV
Ephipanius' Panarion sect. 42 'Against the Marcionites’
Irenaeus 'Against Heresies'
came from Ardaban,
Converted priest of Cybele
Montanism reaction against corruption in the Church
Call for reform
Montanus claimed to have the ministry of a prophet and reformer of Christianity.
Montanism was characterised by visions and prophecies.
Two women prophetesses, Maximilla and Priscilla.
c.170 church synods pronounced Montanism as heresy.
Montanism – New Jerusalem in
Announced the imminent coming of the New Jerusalem
Prophesied that the New Jerusalem would come down from heaven to a
small village, Pepuza, in the west of
Followers led by Montanus to prepare for its coming.
Enforced a strict asceticism including celibacy
Followers left worldly possessions.
‘Christ came to
me in the likeness of a woman, clad in a bright robe, and He planted wisdom in
me and revealed that this place (Pepuza) is holy, and
When the New Jerusalem did not come the Montanists remained there claiming it was the residence of the Paraclete (the Holy Spirit).
Montanus criticised for
• Dissolving marriages
• Enforcing fasting on followers
• Financial misdealings and taking a salary
Priscilla and Maximilla criticised for
• Leaving husbands
• Making financial gain
• Pretended stature of importance
Held prophecy to be on level of scripture.
Accepted marriage but not second marriages.
Paid salaries to clergy and accepted women in ministry.
Examination of Montanist prophecy
Maximilla prophesied as the passive instrument of the Holy Spirit.
‘I am chased like a wolf from the flock. I am no wolf; I am utterance, spirit, and power.’ (Quoted by Eusebius)
The gift of prophesy is for exhortation, encouragement and comfort.
The Holy Spirit does not bypass the individual personality of the person prophesying.
Tertullian became a Montanist c.205.
A less radical
form of Montanism spread quickly across
Montanism sought to bring spiritual gifts back to the church
Montanism was a reaction against:
…worldliness in the church
Montanism extremism was
3. Alexandrian School
Becoming the second most important city of
Cosmopolitan city – Greeks and Jews trading.
scriptures were translated into Greek (Septuagint) in
• Philo linked the Hebrew scriptures with Greek philosophy.
• Schools of philosophical thought.
• Rise of Neo-Platonism
Development of the allegorical method of interpretation of scripture.
Origen c.185 – 254
Full name - Origenes Adamantius
Pupil of Clement of Alexandria (c.215)
Father (Leonides) martyred
during the persecution of Septimius Severus in
Origen wanted to be martyred when his father was killed but his mother hid his clothes
203-215 Head of Catechetical School in
Castrated himself – to avoid scandal when teaching women.
215-216 Persecution of Caracalla
230 Ordained presbyter in
231 Bishop of
250 Imprisoned during Decian persecution. Tortured sentenced to death.
251 Released after Decian killed.
Produced 6000 works.
Works included: Textual criticism; exegesis; theological; and letters.
Origen’s Hexapla – six versions of the Bible.
Origen put them together in six columns.
The six versions were:
Origen’s heretical teaching.
Origen’s teaching was declared to be heresy in 553AD.
(Second Council of Constantinople)
There is doubt over what Origen actually taught.
His condemned teaching include:
1. Universal Redemption. Even demons eventually reconciled to God.
2. Hierarchical structure of the Trinity.
3. Preexistence of the soul.
Temporality of matter.
Eternal souls perfected by escaping temporary, imperfect material world.
Arianism held that the Son of God was a created being, unequal to the Father, capable of sin.
The spread of Arianism caused the Emperor Constantine to call the Council of Nicaea (AD 325).
The Nicene Creed declared Jesus is ‘of the same substance with the Father’.
Who was Arius?
Born 256 in
Very popular - nearly chosen to be Bishop instead of Alexander.
Arianism form of Gnosticism.
Gnosticism - one, Supreme, unapproachable Being, and that all other beings, including the Son of God, are creations:
Bishop Alexander addressed his clergy in 319 re: the Trinity.
Arius publicly attacked what Alexander taught and accused him of Sabellianism and 'confounding the persons'.
Sabellius claimed that God was one person Who manifested Himself in three ways as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
321 a provincial synod at
At this synod the Arians stated that the Son of God was:
1. a created being
2. Unequal to the Father
3. Capable of sin
The synod excommunicated Arius, two bishops, five priests, and six deacons.
Arius gained the support of
Eusebius Bishop of
support at the synod of
The spread of Arianism caused the Emperor Constantine to call the Council of Nicaea.
Took place from May - August 325
318 bishops attended + many others, 2000 people altogether.
Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God (…of one substance with the Father)
Most important expression 'Homoousion' - of one substance.
'We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only begotten - that is, of the substance with the Father; by Whom all things were made, both in heaven and in earth, Who for us men and for our salvation came down, and was incarnate, and was made man; suffered and rose the third day; ascended into the heavens; and will come again to judge the quick and the dead.
And in the Holy Ghost.'
Consider the error of Jehovah's Witnesses.
John 'You have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If you loved me, you would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.'
This scripture must be understood in the light of scripture, Philippians 2:5-11.
Jesus came to earth to do the will of the Father.
He became obedient to the Father but He was equal with the Father.
John 'I and my Father are one.'
Athanasius c. 296 – 373
Young presbyter in
Recommended as successor by Bishop Alexander
328 AD Bishop of
46 Years as Bishop
Tirelessly defended the doctrine of the trinity against Arianism
Called 'Athanasius contra mundum' (against the world)
Exiled four times from his church by Arian Emperors and Julian the Apostate.
20 years spent in exile.
Last years spent writing against Arianism.
Date of the creed – probably composed after Athanasius death (d. 373).
Not known in the Eastern Church until 12th century.
Not authorised by any council of the Church but is one of the three major creeds upheld by Western Christendom.
Apostle's creed (c. 2nd century)
Nicean creed (325)
Athanasian creed (c. 500)
Augustine (350 – 430)
‘He ran back to Alypius and opened "the Apostle" at Rom. xii. 13, 14, "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof."
"No further would I read, nor was it necessary." The peace of God was in his heart, and the shadows of doubt melted away. He marked the passage and told Alypius, the friends exchanged confidences, and Alypius applied to himself the words, a little further on, "Him that is weak in the faith receive" (Rom. xv. 1).
They went in, and filled the heart of Monica with joy at the news (Conf. VIII. viii.).’
Brought up in cloister:
Character depicted as narrow, partisan, impatient, and ignorant of human affairs
The humanity and deity of Christ - two separate and distinct natures
Heresy developed in regard to the word 'Theotokos'
Mary called 'God bearer' or 'Mother of God'.
Nestorius claimed God has no mother rejected this teaching.
Nestorius divided the two natures of Christ so that the Logos indwelt the man Jesus.
Nestorianism declared heretical at the Council of Ephesus 431.
Summary: Church history warns us to beware of false teachers
1) Beware of those who claim higher knowledge but let the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth.
2) Beware of extreme eschatological teaching but do not quench the Holy Spirit.
3) Beware of those who deny the deity of Jesus, the Holy Spirit upholds that Jesus Christ is Lord.