Was the main purpose of elders/priests to perform sacraments?
Was it to promote the sword?
Or was it to lead and support true Christianity?
Even though leaders in various professing Christian faiths often wear unusual garments and vestments, is that what early Christian leaders did?
What are the qualifications and duties supposed to be for Christian leaders?
This article will briefly attempt to answer those questions.
The Bible gives and early writings provide helpful information about the qualifications and duties of Christian leaders.
The Apostle Paul was inspired to write (1 Timothy 3:1-7):
5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you — 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. (Titus 1:5-9)
Notice specifically that bishops (another word for a senior elder or pastor) were supposed to be married and serve well.
Paul also wrote:
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
Notice that the order has pastors right below evangelists. The term pastors comes from a Greek term meaning shepherds. Pastors would be bishops or presbyters/elders with responsibilties over the Christian flock (cf. Luke 12:32). All church leaders are to teach 'the truth in love.'
Polycarp of Smyrna, who was a disciple of the Apostle John, and lived until the mid-second century wrote:
And let the presbyters be compassionate and merciful to all, bringing back those that wander, visiting all the sick, and not neglecting the widow, the orphan, or the poor, but always "providing for that which is becoming in the sight of God and man ; " abstaining from all wrath, respect of persons, and unjust judgment; keeping far off from all covetousness, not quickly crediting [an evil report] against any one, not severe in judgment, as knowing that we are all under a debt of sin. If then we entreat the Lord to forgive us, we ought also ourselves to forgive; for we are before the eyes of our Lord and God, and "we must all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, and must every one give an account of himself." Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence, even as He Himself has commanded us, and as the apostles who preached the Gospel unto us, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Lord [have alike taught us]. Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good, keeping ourselves from causes of offence, from false brethren, and from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord, and draw away vain men into error (Polycarp, Chapter VI. Letter to the Philippians. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1 as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).
It may be of interest to note that the term sacraments is not part of Paul's or Polycarp's description (nor is it in the New Testament) of the duties of an elder.
This does not mean that elders and pastors did not baptize or perform marriages (which took a relatively small part of their time) for example, but does indicate that sacramental duties were not the focus of church leaders in the first and second centuries.
Let us notice some of the duties that deacons were to be involved in:
2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. (Acts 6:2-10)
The term deacon comes from the Greek related to serving tables. Notice the following:
Acts 6:2 And serve tables, [diakonein trapezais ] - not 'money-tables,' or 'counters' for distributing alms (for the word "serve," 'minister to,' or 'supply,' is scarcely applicable to that), but 'provision-tables.' So the sense seems to be, 'that we should occupy ourselves in overseeing the distribution of provisions.' ...
Whom we (the apostles) may appoint over this business, [chreias] - or 'duty.' Thus we see that while the election was vested in the Christian people, the appointment lay with the apostles, as spiritual rulers.
(Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
Deacons were to serve the physical needs, but also had involvement in spiritual matters as well. The deacon Stephen was martryed for his work, with Saul (who later became the Apostle Paul) approving his stoning (Acts 7:58-60).
As far as additional qualifications, for deacons, notice the following:
8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:8-13)
Deacons, elders, bishops/pastors, etc. had hands laid upon them for anointing (Acts 6:5-6, 8:17, 13:2-3, 19:6,17; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; Hebrews 6:2).
As far as evangelists go, the Bible does not go in a lot of detail about them, but mentions them in Ephesians 4 and they, like other church leaders, are said to teach the truth and proclaim the truth in love. The deacon Philip from Acts 6:5 is called an evangelist in Acts 20:8, which indicates that he was preaching the gospel as opposed to handling tables.
Notice also what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
An evangelist preaches the word and does the work of an evangelist. Notice also the following:
Some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.—In these two phrases (corresponding to the simple word “teachers” in 1Corinthians 12:28) we find described the two-fold office of the regular ministry of the Church—first, to preach the gospel to the heathen or the unconverted, and next, to fulfil our Lord’s pastoral charge (John 21:15-17) of feeding and shepherding those who are already His sheep. It is clear that the same person may be invested with the two offices, as Timothy, when in pastoral charge at Ephesus, is bidden “to do the work of an evangelist” (2Timothy 4:5); and that in some degree the two offices must always be united, for the evangelist, like the apostle, is generally called upon to organise and “confirm the churches” (Acts 14:22-23; Acts 15:41), and the pastor must always find men unconverted, to whom he must be an evangelist. But the two elements of duty will co-exist in different proportions in different persons. Some were then, and are now, especially called to be “evangelists”—that is, as is shown by the career of Philip, to whom the name is first given (Acts 21:8), to be, under the apostolic guidance, missionaries to the unconverted; others to be “pastors and teachers,” feeding now with “pure milk of the word,” now with “solid meat” (see 1Corinthians 3:2, and Hebrews 5:12), those already gathered into the fold, and exercising over them the pastoral authority solemnly committed by our Lord to His ministers. (Elliot's Commentary for English Readers on Ephesians 4:11).
τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς: and some as evangelists. In 1 Corinthians 12:28 the evangelist is not mentioned. Here he is distinguished from the Apostle and the prophet and named as the third in the order of Christ’s gifts to the Church. The εὐαγγελιστής is mentioned only twice again in the NT, viz., in Acts 21:8, where Philip, one of the seven deacons is so designated; and 2 Timothy 4:5, where Timothy is charged to “do the work of an evangelist”. Like the prophets the evangelists were generally itinerant preachers or missionaries, though sometimes they had a stated place of abode or ministry. The term seems, therefore, to belong to the Pauline vocabulary. These evangelists were inferior to the Apostles, assisting them or delegated by them, but without their authority. They had the gift (χάρισμα) of the Spirit, as in the case of Timothy (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6); (Expositor's Greek Testament on Ephesians 4:11)
The duties involved preaching and serving.
The Bible does state that elders can anoint the sick:
14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15)
That was what was done, but was not quite a 'sacrament' as the idea of sacraments, as now understood, came from pre-Christian Roman and Greek practices:
Rome and its laws gave the early church two things: universality and the specifically Roman concept of sacraments...The concept of sacraments, as it has come into the West through Latin-speaking Christianity is a legal...as well as mystical, as it was in Greek thought (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 35,36).
From a "Christian" perspective, it appears that a heretic named Marcus may have come up with a version of the Catholic eucharistic and baptismal sacraments/ceremonies. Notice that Irenaeus condemned mystical consecrations and non-immersion baptismal practices:
1. But there is another among these heretics, Marcus by name, who boasts himself as having improved upon his master. He is a perfect adept in magical impostures, and by this means drawing away a great number of men, and not a few women, he has induced them to join themselves to him, as to one who is possessed of the greatest knowledge and perfection, and who has received the highest power from the invisible and ineffable regions above. Thus it appears as if he really were the precursor of Antichrist. For, joining the buffooneries of Anaxilaus to the craftiness of the magi, as they are called, he is regarded by his senseless and cracked-brain followers as working miracles by these means.
2. Pretending to consecrate cups mixed with wine, and protracting to great length the word of invocation, he contrives to give them a purple and reddish colour, so that Charis, who is one of those that are superior to all things, should be thought to drop her own blood into that cup through means of his invocation, and that thus those who are present should be led to rejoice to taste of that cup, in order that, by so doing, the Charis, who is set forth by this magician, may also flow into them...
3...Others, again, lead them to a place where water is, and baptize them, with the utterance of these words, "Into the name of the unknown Father of the universe -- into truth, the mother of all things -- into Him who descended on Jesus -- into union, and redemption, and communion with the powers." Others still repeat certain Hebrew words, in order the more thoroughly to bewilder those who are being initiated, as follows: "Basema, Chamosse, Baoenaora, Mistadia, Ruada, Kousta, Babaphor, Kalachthei." The interpretation of these terms runs thus: "I invoke that which is above every power of the Father, which is called light, and good Spirit, and life, because Thou hast reigned in the body." Others, again, set forth the redemption thus: The name which is hidden from every deity, and dominion, and truth which Jesus of Nazareth was clothed with in the lives of the light of Christ -- of Christ, who lives by the Holy Ghost, for the angelic redemption. The name of restitution stands thus: Messia, Uphareg, Namempsoeman, Chaldoeaur, Mosomedoea, Acphranoe, Psaua, Jesus Nazaria...
4...But there are some of them who assert that it is superfluous to bring persons to the water, but mixing oil and water together, they place this mixture on the heads of those who are to be initiated, with the use of some such expressions as we have already mentioned (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book I, 13:1-2; 21:3-4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. KnightBook).
I no longer recall the precise terms that the Roman priests use (as they usually use Latin), but the appearance of these Roman Catholic sacraments seems to bear a strong resemblance to the type of ceremonies that Irenaeus condemned.
I will also state that the Roman Church admits that immersion used to be the norm, without the use of baptismal fonts, like it now uses:
In the Apostolic Age, as in Jewish times (John 3:23), baptism was administered without special fonts (Peterson JB. Transcribed by the Cloistered Dominican Nuns. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).
I should probably add that while I do not know if any oil is used with Roman Catholic baptisms, that oil is placed in the baptismal fonts when they are blessed (normally by a bishop or priest).
The late fourth century Latin Bishop Ambrose did writings that apparently got sacraments more accepted:
St. Ambrose...His dogmatic writings deal mostly with the divinity of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Ghost, also with the Christian sacraments...A special work on Baptism (De sacramento regenerationis), often quoted by St. Augustine, has perished. We possess yet, however, his excellent treatise (De Mysteriis) on Baptism, Confirmation, and the Blessed Eucharist (P.L. XVI, 417-462)...(Loughlin, James. "St. Ambrose." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 21 Jul. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01383c.htm)
Regarding priests and sacraments, the Eastern Orthodox teach:
The sacraments are seven in number, and include baptism, chrismation, Holy Easter, repentance, ordination, and holy unction...We see then, first of all, that the priest, as performer of the sacrament, is simply the instrument of the invisible and actual celebrant, the Lord himself...The Orthodox church accepts the above-mentioned seven sacraments, which were known from antiquity in the Orthodox East. They were always believed in, as testified by liturgical practice. The teaching concerning them, however, was not written down, as it was considered to be secret" (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, pp. 22,23).
It should be noted that the term sacraments is not found in any literally translated version of the Bible. Orthodox claims notwithstanding, there is no evidence that the church in the East ever embraced Easter Sunday or chrismation before the third century or that repentance and baptism were considered to be separate"sacraments." Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear that the word of God is complete (II Timothy 3:16-17)--hence there is no essential element to the church that should ever have been considered to be "secret." These practices were secret as they bear relationships to non-Christian practices of various pagans--they are not biblical. It appears that during the second century that the Greco-Roman faiths adopted a 'communion' liturgy that pagans and apostates used and many use that to this day (see Marcus, the Marcosians, & Mithraism: Developers of the Eucharist?).
It should be noted that the Roman Catholic Church considers that marriage is a sacrament, even though that is not one of the seven of the Eastern Orthodox. The Roman Catholic Church teaches this about sacraments:
Taking the word "sacrament" in its broadest sense, as the sign of something sacred and hidden (the Greek word is "mystery"), we can say that the whole world is a vast sacramental system, in that material things are unto men the signs of things spiritual and sacred, even of the Divinity...According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, accepted today by many Episcopalians, the sacraments of the Christian dispensation are not mere signs; they do not merely signify Divine grace, but in virtue of their Divine institution, they cause that grace in the souls of men. "Signum sacro sanctum efficax gratiae" -- a sacrosanct sign producing grace, is a good, succinct definition of a sacrament of the New Law...
The Council of Trent solemnly defined that there are seven sacraments of the New Law, truly and properly so called, viz., Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Orders, and Matrimony. The same enumeration had been made in the Decree for the Armenians by the Council of Florence (1439), in the Profession of Faith of Michael (Kennedy D.J. Transcribed by Marie Jutras. Sacraments. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
The sacramental concept of confirmation is also not anywhere in the Bible nor in any known writings prior to the third century.
The sacramental concept of the Eucharist has raised concerns as some have noted that it has many similarities to Mithraism:
The view most widely held today among upholders of the historico-religious theory is that the Eucharist and the Mass originated in the practices of the Persian Mithraism (Dieterich, H. T. Holtzmann, Pfleiderer, Robertson, etc.). "In the Mandaean mass" writes Cumont ("Mysterien des Mithra", Leipzig, 1903, p.118), "the celebrant consecrated bread and water, which he mixed with perfumed Haoma-juice, and ate this food while performing the functions of divine service". Tertullian in anger ascribed this mimicking of Christian rites to the "devil" and observed in astonishment (De prescript haeret, C. xl): "celebrat (Mithras) et panis oblationem." (Pohle J. Transcribed by Joseph P. Thomas. Sacrifice of the Mass. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Hence, at least certain sacramental elements are known to have non-Christian similarities (for more on this, please see the articles on Justin Martyr and Do You Practice Mithraism?).
And many were added in the fourth century:
Notice the following admission by a Catholic priest while discussing Revelation Chapter VII:
The Roman persecutions officially decreed are now over...
Verses 11 and 12...
In this period the Church labors to consolidate her gains, to solidify her institutions and to develop her literature, liturgy, music and art. It is the age of the Great Fathers and Doctors, both East and West, both Latin and Greek (Kramer H.B. L. The Book of Destiny. Nihil Obstat: J.S. Considine, O.P., Censor Deputatus. Imprimatur: +Joseph M. Mueller, Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, January 26, 1956. Reprint TAN Books, Rockford (IL), p. 164).
As those Roman decrees against the Church of Rome did not end until the 4th century according to the same priest (p. 181), the priest is admitting that this is when the modern Roman liturgy was developed.
Furthermore, history records that there were those that objected to the Christians being involved in sacraments. The Catholic Encyclopedia states:
The Paulicians, as part of their heresy held that...all external religious forms, sacraments, rites, especially material pictures and relics, should be abolished. (Fortescue A. Iconoclasm. Transcribed by Michael C. Tinkler.The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
But who were the heretics?
Was it heretical to object to sacraments and ceremonies that were not in the Bible? The Paulicians (roughly 6th-10th century) were against sacraments and relics (like idols, please see the article What Did the Early Church Teach About Idols and Icons?) as was the original church. So would they be the heretics or are the real heretics those who changed practices to endorse unbiblical sacramental practices?
(More about the Paulicians can be found in the articles on the Pergamos Church and the Churches of Revelation 2 & 3.)
Regarding priests, The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches:
Priest This word (etymologically "elder", from presbyteros, presbyter) has taken the meaning of "sacerdos", from which no substantive has been formed in various modern languages (English, French, German). The priest is the minister of Divine worship, and especially of the highest act of worship, sacrifice. In this sense, every religion has its priests, exercising more or less exalted sacerdotal functions as intermediaries between man and the Divinity (Boudinhon A. Transcribed by Robert B. Olson. Priest. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XII. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
But the Bible, as Saint Paul here wrote, states:
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).
The only mediator in the Christian religion is supposed to be Jesus the Christ. Thus, the opinion of certain Catholic scholars seems to be in conflict with scripture, since the Bible says the one Mediator is Jesus, not some priest or human leader.
Because of the "intermediary" position that Rome now has placed its priests in, Rome has them hear confessions and essential claim to forgive sins. Yet, this is a seventh century change according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1447) and was not an original apostolic or early Christian practice (for details and quotes, please see the article History of Auricular Confession and the 'Sacrament of Confession'). The elder role was not sacramental.
Therefore, while Paul and Polycarp (in the first and second centuries, respectively) taught a service oriented eldership, Catholic scholars later seemed to change it to a sacramentally oriented profession.
Early Christian leaders basically dressed like the general public did.
Early leaders/elders/priest did not have liturgical vestments as the Catholic/Orthodox priests and others now wear, as they did not exist before the fourth century.
Notice that The Catholic Encyclopedia admits this:
Stephen 1...it is generally believed that he was consecrated 12 May, 254, and that he died 2 August, 257...In his days the vestments worn by the clergy at Mass and other church services did not differ in shape or material from those ordinarily worn by the laity (Mann H. Transcribed by Kenneth M. Caldwell. Pope St. Stephen I. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
The liturgical vestments have by no means remained the same from the founding of the Church until the present day. There is as great a difference between the vestments worn at the Holy Sacrifice in the pre-Constantinian period, and even in the following centuries, and those now customary at the services of the Church, as between the rite of the early Church and that of modern times...Four main periods may be distinguished in the development of the Christian priestly dress. The first embraces the era before Constantine. In that period the priestly dress did not yet differ from the secular costume in form and ornament. The dress of daily life was worn at the offices of the Church. In times of peace and under normal conditions better garments were probably used...The second period embraces the time from about the fourth to the ninth century. It is the most important epoch in the history of liturgical vestments, the epoch in which not merely a priestly dress in a special sense was created, but one which at the same time determined the chief vestments of the present liturgical dress (Joseph Braun. Transcribed by Michael T. Barrett. Vestments. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
It is impossible to indicate exactly when the pallium was first introduced. According to the "Liber Pontificalis", it was first used in the first half of the fourth century. ("Pallium." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 20 Oct. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11427a.htm>)
In other words, up until at least the fourth century, even Catholic leaders did not dress differently than members.
Jesus did not wear distinctive clothing else Judas would not have had to point Him out:
Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him." Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed Him (Matthew 26:48-49).
Paul did not wear distinctive clothing or he would not have been misidentified:
Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, "May I speak to you?" He replied, "Can you speak Greek? Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?" (Acts 21:37-38).
There is no record in the New Testament of any instruction for the clergy/ministry to dress differently than the lay members. The true leaders from Jesus to Paul to Polycarp to beyond simply did not dress in special vestments. Nor is there any indication from the Bible or tradition that the Apostle Peter did either. Thus there was no biblical reason to consider special vestments, etc. as necessary (or even desirable).
The ministry of the various COGs wear clothing appropriate for their respective cultures. There is no clear distinction in dress for the ministry compared to the laity.
Actually, because of persecution, it would have been dangerous for elders/presbyters/bishops to adopt the type of dress they now wear in the days of early Christianity. It should be noted that early leaders/elders/priest did not have liturgical vestments as the Catholic/Orthodox priests and others now wear, as they did not exist that early. This is a minor, but noticeable, physical example of how the COG is more faithful to the original practices of the Christian church than many churches are.
So where did priests, bishops, and other religious leaders get the idea of special clothing? Apparently by following the example of Emperor Constantine.
Notice the following from priest Edward McNamara, who is a professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university:
September 23, 2014
The proper vestment for a deacon at Mass is an alb (with an amice if required), cincture, stole worn in the diaconal manner, and dalmatic. The stole and dalmatic should be of the corresponding liturgical color.
This vestment is a knee-length, sleeved garment. It was originally developed in Dalmatia, modern-day Croatia, and was imported into Rome during the second century.
At first the dalmatic, which was originally longer, reaching the heels, and more ample than today, was not well received, being seen as somewhat effeminate. Later, however, it became popular among Roman senators and imperial officials as a substitute for the toga and was even used as the proper garb for the consecration of the emperor.
From this it became a habit proper to the pope and to bishops. Finally it was introduced as a vestment for the deacons of Rome by Pope Sylvester I in the fourth century and gradually became their proper vestment. For a time, especially during the ninth to 14th centuries, bishops and even priests would sometimes wear the dalmatic under the chasuble. http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/when-to-wear-a-dalmatic
So, what does this report tell us?
Consistent with other historical reports, this shows admits that the vestments of Catholic deacons was not an original Christian practice.
Specifically, Catholic priest and scholar priest Edward McNamara is admitting:
Sylvester I was bishop of Rome from 314 to 335 A.D., which was during the reign of the sun-god worshiping Emperor Constantine. The Bishops of Rome did not take the title Pontifex Maximus, which Constantine held, until several decades after his death. But because of how the pagan priests dressed, it was during the reigns of Sylvester and Constantine that the Church of Rome adopted the vestments that they now wear.
Although Edward McNamara is referring to the dalmatic as part of the proper vestment for deacons during Catholic mass, this most certainly does not come from the Bible nor the practices of the early followers of Christ.
Furthermore, the New Testament has a warning about appearing effeminate. The following is from a Catholic translation of the Bible:
9 Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, 10 Nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God. 11 And such some of you were; but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Douay-Rheims)
Furthermore, the Bible (using another Catholic translation) warns:
15 Do not love the world or the things of the world.If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.16 For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever. (1 John 2:15-17, NABRE)
Yet, Bishop Sylvester was enticed and chose pretentious garments, not from the Father, from the world. Every time one sees a Roman Catholic, Anglican/Episcopal, or Eastern Orthodox clergyman dressed in their typical ecclesiastical vestments, realize that they are outwardly displaying compromise that earlier leaders made with Emperor Constantine and his pagan religion in the fourth century.
Notice what was written by a former Roman Catholic priest named Peter de Rosa:
Rome...successors will be not the servants but the masters of the world. They will dress in purple like Nero and call themselves Pontifex Maximus...
By the time Stephen III became pope, the church was thoroughly converted to the Roman Empire. From the Donation, it is plain that the Bishop of Rome looked like Constantine, lived like him, dressed liked him, inhabited his palaces, ruled over his lands, had exactly the same imperial outlook. The pope, too, wanted to lord it over church and state. (De Rosa, Peter. Vicars of Christ. Poolberg Press, Dublin, 2000, pp. 34,45).
Pontifex Maximus was a title, literally meaning bridge-builder (but figuratively meaning the link between God and man) that Roman Emperors, including Constantine, used for themselves. Emperor Constantine had been a follower of Mithras, and apparently influenced many of the Greco-Roman clergy to dress like the clergy of Mithraism. This is an obvious change to the practices of the original Christian leaders (see also Do You Practice Mithraism?).
It is not just from Mithraism that this type of dress came from, apparently it originated earlier as some of the Satanists have claimed:
Ceremonial Robes are in Satanism traditionally Black, however in Luciferianism, derived from the traditions of ancient Mesopotamia (Babylonian, Assyrian, Akkadian) and Egypt ... (https://www.luciferianapotheca.com/collections/robes accessed 04/21/16)
As a symbol, the black hooded cloak or robe denotes the Witch as a "child of the night," belonging to the realm of the moon and its goddess. (Grimassi R. Spirit of the Witch: Religion & Spirituality in Contemporary Witchcraft. Llewellyn Worldwide, 2003, p. 116)
Irrespective of where they originated, the use of black robes for clergy was not an original apostolic practice.
Much of the Greco-Roman clergy wears distinctive black robes, but notice that Jesus even denounced religious leaders of His day for doing so:
38 In his teaching he said, 'Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted respectfully in the market squares, 39 to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; 40 these are the men who devour the property of widows and for show offer long prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.' (Mark 12:38, NJB)
6 'Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes and love to be greeted respectfully in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets, 47 who devour the property of widows, and for show offer long prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.' (Luke 20:46-47)
So, twice in Catholic translations of the Bible, dressing in distinctive robes is condemned. Also, it appears that the practice of priests trying to get money from widows related to 'purgatory' would also seem to be being specifically condemned by Jesus.
Furthermore, it should be noted other parts of their dress came from, not the Bible, but mystics.
For example, one item is the scapular. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines it as follows:
The scapular (from Latin, scapula, shoulder) forms a part, and now the most important part, of the habit of the monastic orders. Other orders and numerous religious congregations (both male and female) have also adopted the scapular from the monastic orders. It is usually worn over the habit or soutane.
Description It consists essentially of a piece of cloth about the width of the breast from one shoulder to the other (i.e. about fourteen to eighteen inches), and of such a length that it reaches not quite to the feet in front and behind. There are also shorterforms of the scapular ("Scapular." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 11 Feb. 2009 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13508b.htm>)
But how did this idea become part of the dress of many? By some understanding of a mystic (who did not get the idea from the Bible):
Many Catholic devotions are based solely on private revelations: the Rosary, the Sacred Heart, and the Scapular are cases in point (Dupont, Yves. Catholic Prophecy: The Coming Chastisement. TAN Books, Rockford (IL), 1973, p.9).
Thus, it should be clear that the dress of the Roman/Orthodox clergy did not originate from the Bible, but were later additions from source outside the Bible.
Despite the truth about this, notice a declaration from a Catholic saint named Alphonsus Maria de Liguori who wrote in the 18th century:
The priest's vestments, namely, the amice, alb, cincture, maniple, stole, and chasuble should be in a good condition and have been blessed by the bishop or by an authorized priest. It is certainly a mortal sin to celebrate Mass without a chasuble, or with a chasuble not blessed; the same thing holds good in regard to the alb. Theologians agree more or less in saying the same thing in regard to the other vestments. (Liguori AM. Eugene editor. The complete works of Alfonso Maria de' Liguori: the ascetical works, Volume XIII, The Holy Mass; translated from the Italian. Approbation: Elles Fred Schaeur, Baltimore, January 3, 1889. Benziger Brothers, Printers to the Holy Apostolic See, London, 1889, pp. 416-417).
His position is a violation of sacred scripture, early tradition, and the history of even his church.
None of the commonly used external vestments by the clergies of those religions came from the Bible nor the original apostles.
The vestments worn by the Greco-Roman faiths help demonstrate that those religions are NOT the continuation of the original Christian religion. To learn which faith is, please check out the free online booklets Where is the True Christian Church Today? and Continuing History of the Church of God.
Head Coverings for Overseers/Bishops/Patriarchs?
The Rheims New Testament in 1 Corinthians 11 teaches:
3. And I will have you know, that the head of every man, is Christ: and the head of the woman, is the man: and the head of Christ, is God. 4. Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered: dishonorest his head.
The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:
The Ninth Ordo states that the camelaucum was made of white stuff and shaped like a helmet...The camelaucum was worn by the pope principally during solemn processions. The mitre developed from the camelaucum in this way: in the course of the tenth century the pope began to wear this head-covering not merely during processions to the church, but also during the subsequent church service...
The Roman cardinals certainly had already the right to wear the mitre towards the end of the eleventh century. Probably they possessed the privilege as early as in the first half of the century...
In the Orthodox Greek Rite (the other Greek Rites need not here be considered) a liturgical head-covering was not worn until the sixteenth century. Before this only the Patriarch of Alexandria, who wore one as early as the tenth century, made use of a head-covering, and his was only a simple cap (Braun J. Transcribed by William Stuart French, Jr. Mitre. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
However, it has been claimed the “Bishop of Rome” started to wear one sometimes during Contantine’s era, but not before. Here is what the Catholic Lopes reported:
SILVESTER I, ST. (314-335)…he appears to have been the first one to wear the tiara from which the bishop’s mitre is derived. (Lopes A. Translation by Charles Nopar. The Popes. Pontifical Administration, Rome, 1997 and 2005 editions, p. 11)
It appears to be admitted that head coverings for male church leaders was not an early practice of any of the churches that professed Christ. Even those who visit St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City can notice (like I did there in 2009, 2010, and 2013) that the statues of the early leaders shown, such as representations of the Apostles Peter and John, did not have head coverings (a halo on at least one, notwithstanding). But the bishops shown after the time of Constantine normally did have the type of head coverings that Roman bishops wear today.
Thus, even the physical appearance of the Catholic clergy should demonstrate to everyone that they have followed, not the Bible, but pagan traditions such as Mithraism (see also Do You Practice Mithraism?).
Notice something about the word mitre:
mitre (n.) bishop's tall hat, late 14c., from Old French mitre, from Latin mitra "headband, turban," from Greek mitra "headband, turban," earlier a belt or cloth worn under armor about the waist, from PIE root *mei- "to tie" (cf. Sanskrit Mitrah, Old Persian Mithra-, god names; Russian mir "world, peace," Greek mitos "a warp thread"). In Latin, "a kind of headdress common among Asiatics, the wearing of which by men was regarded in Rome as a mark of effeminacy" [OED]. But the word was used in Vulgate to translate Hebrew micnepheth "headdress of a priest." (mitre. Online Etymology Dictionary. © 2001-2013 Douglas Harper. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=mitre viewed 12/21/13)
Thus, even the term mitre itself may have ties to Mithra. Notice something from The Catholic Encyclopedia (bolding mine):
Mithra was born of a mother-rock by a river under a tree. He came into the world with the Phrygian cap on his head (hence his designation as Pileatus, the Capped One), and a knife in his hand. (Arendzen J.P. Transcribed by John Looby. Mithraism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York)
Notice something from Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions:
TIARA...in ROMAN CATHOLICISM, triple crown worn by the pope or carried in front of him...The tiara probably developed from the Phrygian cap, or frigium, a conical cap worn in the Graeco-Roman world. In the 10th century the tiara was pictured on papal coins. (Doniger W, editor. Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Merriam-Webster, 1999, p. 1096)
The current hats that Roman bishops currently tend to wear resemble a cross between the Phrygian cap (a type of conical cap) and the 'fish hats' associated with Dagon. They do not come from the Bible.
Notice the following:
As the Pope bears the key of Janus, so he wears the mitre of Dagon. The excavations of Nineveh have put this beyond all possibility of doubt. The Papal mitre is entirely different from the mitre of Aaron and the Jewish high priests. That mitre was a turban. The two-horned mitre, which the Pope wears, when he sits on the high altar at Rome and receives the adoration of the Cardinals, is the very mitre worn by Dagon, the fish-god of the Philistines and Babylonians. (Hislop A. Two Babylons. 1858. Loizeaux Brothers, Second American edition 1959, p. 215)
Dagon...the fish god...The head of the fish formed a mitre above that of the man...The figure wore a fringed tunic...His worship seems to have extended over Syria, as well as Mesopotamia, and Chaldæa. (Layard AH. Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon: With Travels in Armenia, Kurdistan and the Desert: Being the Result of a Second Expedition Undertaken for the Trustees of the British Museum, Part 1. John Murray, 1853 Original from Harvard University, Digitized Jan 8, 2008, pp. 343-344)
The Bible teaches that the children of Israel were to destroy the followers of Dagon (Samson did per Judges 16:23-30) and not adopt any of the religious practices that those who worshiped him or other false deities had (Deuteronomy 12:2-3).
Genuine Church of God leaders follow the teachings of the Bible, including 1 Corinthians 11:3-4. They do not pray or conduct church services wearing hats, mitres, or other religious head coverings. However, just like the Bible allowed the priests in the Old Testament to have beards (e.g. Leviticus 21:1-5; Psalm 133:22), church leaders can have beards or other facial coverings (though in modern times few do).
Notice also the following about scullcaps:
The small, round skullcap of the ecclesiastic. The official name is pileolus; other designations are: berettino, calotte, subbiretum (because worn under the biretta), submitrale (because worn under the mitre), soli-deo. The pope's zucchetto is white, that of the cardinals red, even when the cardinal is a member of an order.
It cannot be said positively when the zucchetto became customary, but it was probably not before the thirteenth century. ("Zucchetto." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 8 Sept. 2014 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15765b.htm>)
The Capot-Ribot traces its ancestry back to Egypt, where the pillbox skullcap with the short cape in the back was called a claft. ... It is the well-known cap seen on the heads of all ancient Egyptian rulers, and graces the head of the Sphinx. It is commonly seen among Eastern Orthodox prelates of high rank as well- yet another instance of Christians borrowing vestments from the “pagans”. In this form it is called the kamelavkion. (Hernandez A. My Kingdom for a Crown: An Around-the-World History of the Skullcap and its Modern Socio-Political Significance. p. 13. http://www.dieter-philippi.de/files/literatur/1968_antonio_hernandez_-_history_of_the_skullcap.pdf viewed 09/08/14)
Nearly every Catholic/Orthodox bishop I have seen praying has done so wearing some type of head covering--they are dishonoring their head (who is supposed to be Christ) by praying that way. Hence, they seem to be disqualifying themselves as true Christian leaders by their head coverings.
Therefore, just seeing the appearance of any Catholic/Orthodox bishop should be enough to show people that the genuine Church of God is more faithful than the Roman or Orthodox churches to the Bible and early traditions of the Church.
Should the shaved appearance of some practicing Catholics cause concern? Is this a Christian practice or did it come from somewhere else.
Wikipedia's Tonsure article states:
Tonsure is the traditional practice of Christian churches of cutting or shaving the hair from the scalp (while leaving some parts uncut) of clerics, monastics, and, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, all baptized members. Tonsure, usually qualified by the name of the religion concerned, is now sometimes used more generally for such cutting or shaving for monks, devotees, or mystics of other religions as a symbol of their renunciation of worldly fashion and esteem, e.g., by Buddhist novices and monks, and some Hindu streams...
The origin of the tonsure remains unclear, but it certainly was not widely known in antiquity. There were three forms of tonsure known in the 7th and 8th centuries...(viewed 04/10/2013)
It is true that for centuries, various monks have shaved the center of their heads to make themselves bald. But I would like to help make its origins clearer.
First, it seems to have existed for a long time as something like it has been prohibited by sacred scripture for thousands of years:
1 "Speak to the priests...5 'They shall not make any bald place on their heads, nor shall they shave the edges of their beards nor make any cuttings in their flesh. (Leviticus 21:1,5)
15 "But the priests, the Levites...20 "They shall neither shave their heads, nor let their hair grow long, but they shall keep their hair well trimmed. (Ezekiel 44:15,20)
Despite what the Bible teaches, various ones who claim some version of 'Christianity' (those who prefer tradition over the Bible) persist in this type of practice today. Bald shavings were practices of some pagan priests who were involved in sun-god worship in ancient times. This may be why God prohibited it. Those who do it are rebelling against biblical and apostolic authority.
Irrespective of claims to the contrary, the type of shavings commonly seen were not an original practice of the apostles or those in the early church. Furthermore, even the late 4th/early 5th century Roman Catholic saint and doctor Jerome condemned some versions of it:
Tonsure A sacred rite instituted by the Church by which a baptized and confirmed Christian is received into the clerical order by the shearing of his hair and the investment with the surplice...St. Jerome (in Ezech., xliv) disapproves of clerics shaving their heads. Indeed, among the Greeks and Romans such a custom was a badge of slavery. On this very account, the shaving of the head was adopted by the monks. Towards the end of the fifth, or beginning of the sixth, century, the custom passed over to the secular clergy. As a sacred rite, the tonsure was originally joined to the first ordination received, as in the Greek Church it still is to the order of lector. In the Latin Church it began as a separate ceremony about the end of the seventh century, when parents offered their young sons to the service of God...In Britain, the Saxon opponents of the Celtic tonsure called it the tonsure of Simon Magus. (Fanning, William. "Tonsure." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 10 Apr. 2013 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14779a.htm>)
The tonsure originated prior to the time of the apostles. Notice the following references:
The tonsure of the priests and monks is an exact imitation of that of the priests of Isis; (Higgins G. Anacalypsis an Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil of the Saitic Isis: Or an Inquiry Into the Origin of Languages, Nations and Religions, Volume 2. Longman, 1836. Digitized March, 29, 2010, p. 78).
Isis...Her worship advanced over nearly the entire Roman world...The tonsure (shaving of hair from the head) of her priests prefigured that of Christian monks. (Dunstan WE. Ancient Rome. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011, p. 465)
the infant Brahmin...in India...In the second or third year, after his birth, the ceremony of tonsure must be performed; this was an old practice of the priests of Mithra, who, in their tonsures, imitated the solar disk. (Maurice T. Indian antiquities: or, Dissertations, relative to the ancient geographic divisions, the pure system of primeval theology ... of Hindostan: compared, throughout, with the religion, laws, government, and literature of Persia, Egypt, and Greece, the whole intended as introductory to the ..., Volume 7. T. Maurice, 1806. Digitized August 24, 2007, pp. 339-340)
Mithraism had its monks and nuns, as Tertullian admits, with the tonsure in honour of the disc of the Sun. To be shorn of hair is, doubtless, a sign of asceticism ; but it is the form of the tonsure (Khwaja K. The Sources of Christianity. The Basheer Muslim Library, 1924. Original from Oxford University Digitized 21 Dec 2007, p. 100)
Those monks and others who practice the tonsure are following a pagan religious practice that the Bible opposes. This should not be for those that claim to follow the Jesus of the Bible--and He did not have a tonsure either. While the Bible does tell of a shaving of the head related to a Nazarite vow (Leviticus 6:18), which the Apostle Paul did once do (Acts 18:18), this was not a permanent situation for display like the practices of ancient pagan priests as various Catholic monks. And the hair shaving came AFTER a period of separation and hair growth (Leviticus 6:18)--which is another difference from the tonsure.
The tonsure is in conflict with Leviticus 21:5 and Ezekiel 44:20, and while some may suggest that those prohibitions were done away, Jesus and His apostles did not teach that Christians should attempt to look like pagan priests. And those that do so, give those, such as Muslims, reasons to question and dismiss the whole idea of Christianty.
What most of the world (including Wikipedia) believes represents original Christianity is a compromise with paganism and does not represent the practices of Jesus or His original apostles. The tonsure should be a sign to everyone that sees it that those who practice it are not being faithful to the Bible or the practices of the early apostles.
Mystic Priests Were Associated With Simon Magus and Mithraism
When did priests practicing mysteries first claim to be Christian? The writings from the second century heretics Justin and Irenaeus provide perhaps the earliest answers.
Notice that Justin wrote that the descendants of Simon Magus are called Christians:
"To Simon the holy God." And almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as the first god; and a woman, Helena, who went about with him at that time, and had formerly been a prostitute, they say is the first idea generated by him. And a man, Meander, also a Samaritan, of the town Capparetaea, a disciple of Simon, and inspired by devils, we know to have deceived many while he was in Antioch by his magical art...All who take their opinions from these men, are, as we before said, called Christians (Justin. First Apology, Chapter XXVI. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
And notice what Irenaeus wrote about priests associated with Simon Magus:
Now this Simon of Samaria, from whom all sorts of heresies derive their origin...Thus, then, the mystic priests belonging to this sect both lead profligate lives and practise magical arts, each one to the extent of his ability. They use exorcisms and incantations. Love-potions, too, and charms, as well as those beings who are called "Paredri" (familiars) and "Oniropompi" (dream-senders), and whatever other curious arts can be had recourse to, are eagerly pressed into their service. They also have an image of Simon fashioned after the likeness of Jupiter, and another of Helena in the shape of Minerva; and these they worship.
Thus, even early heretics admit that the idea of "Christian" priests who are practicing mysteries, make incantations, and have images associated with worship actually derives from followers of Simon Magus! This is a concept NOT found within the true Church of God ever, and not even in the Roman Church until at least the third century.
As one baptized as a Roman Catholic, the following about priests of Mithra (predominant within the Roman Empire from before the first until the third/fourth centuries) strongly resembled (though not in all details) what I recall about Catholic priests who conducted daily mass:
The priest was the intermediary between God and man. His functions evidently included the administration of the sacraments and the celebration of the services. The inscriptions tell us that in addition he presided at the formal dedications, or at least represented the faithful one on such an occasion along with the Fathers; but this was the least portion only of the duties he had to perform; the religious service which fell to his lot appears to have been very exacting. He doubtless was compelled to see that a perpetual fire burned upon the altars. Three times a day, at dawn, at noon, and at dusk, he addressed a prayer to the Sun, turning in the morning toward the East, at noon toward the South, at evening toward the West. The daily liturgy frequently embraced special sacrifices. The celebrant, garbed in sacerdotal robes resembling those of the Magi, sacrificed to the higher and lower gods divers victims, the blood of which was collected in a trench; or offered them libations, holding in his hands the bundle of sacred twigs which we know from the Avesta. Long psalmodies and chants accompanied with music were interspersed among the ritual acts. A solemn moment in the service,--one very probably marked by the sounding of a bell,--was that in which the image of the tauroctonous Mithra, hitherto kept veiled, was uncovered before the eyes of the initiates (Cumont, Franz. Translated from the second revised French edition by Thomas J. McCormack. THE MYSTERIES OF MITHRA. Chicago, Open Court  p. 166).
It appears that some of the practices of the Mithra priesthood ended up in the Roman mass.
For what its worth, at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, I have seen what is claimed to be an image of Simon Peter that some others have claimed is actually an image fashioned after the likeness of Juno or possibly Jupiter. The toes of this metal image have been kissed so many times, that many of them have blended together. This particular icon is probably the second most popular feature of the basilica (the grave site would be the first). Each of the five times I have been in this basilica there has always been a line to kiss or touch (the image was raised to discourage kissing the toes a few years ago) this image of Simon. It is also highly photographed. (You can click here to see that image of "St. Peter".)
True Christian weekly worship services were not liturgical, nor sacramental in nature.
Nor did the worship leaders have any special dress or vestments.
One modern historian described the early practices this way:
Much early Christian worship was taken over from Jewish synagogue worship.
1. Unlike pagan practices of worship, Christians had no sacred statues, temples, or rituals of sacrifices.
2. Like Jews of the second and third centuries, Christians in their worship service stressed the reading and exposition of Scripture, prayer, confession, exhortation, the singing of psalms and hymns (Ehrman B. From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity, Part 2. The Teaching Company, Chantilly (VA), 2004, p. 35).
I would add here that the songs were almost exclusively Psalms (more information can be found in the article Praises to Jesus Christ or Biblical Hymns: Which Should Christians Primarily Sing?).
The Bible shows that multiple messages were given in synagogues (Acts 13:15) and that Gentiles would sing (Romans 15:9). Singing was to be done in the assembly:
12 Saying: 'I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.' (Hebrews 2:12)
26 Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm (1 Corinthians 14:26).
The noted historian K.S. Latourette observed:
From a very early date, perhaps from the beginning, Christians employed in their services the psalms found in the Jewish Scriptures, the Christian Old Testament. Since the first Christians were predominantly Greek-speaking, these psalms were in a Greek translation. We hear of at least one form of service in which, after the reading from the Old Testament, the "hymns of David" were sung...Until the end of the fourth century, in the services of the Catholic Church only the Old Testament Psalms and the hymns or canticles from the New Testament were sung...Gradually there were prepared versical paraphrases (Latourette K.S. A History of Christianity, Volume 1: Beginnings to 1500. Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1975, pp. 206,207).
Because of fears of gnostic influence, Christians did not add outside poetic phrases or non-biblical lyrics until well after the second century (Ibid).It should be noted that sermons provided information. They were really ritualistic.
The letter that sometimes is improperly called Second Clement, is considered to be "the oldest complete Christian sermon that has survived" (Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p. 102) outside of the Bible (see Ancient "Christian" Sermon). It was not an emotional appeal to some how bring down the Holy Spirit. It was not sacramental nor as short as the type of messages that the Roman Catholic priests tend to give.
It was a message highly-based upon scripture. Messages like that often are not what many want today.
Yet consider that the Bible teaches:
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
Many do not want scriptural and fact-based sermons. They have itching ears. Many want entertainment, emotional feelings, and/or rituals that scriptural messages do not alway provide. But true Christians are to exorted to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
In Melito's sermon known as his Homily on the Passover, Melito stated that one spoke earlier in the service that day. Then he did. The idea of having two separate messages, while not ordered in scripture, is consistent with what happened with Jesus (Luke 4:14-31) and the Apostle Paul (Acts 13:13-15). This has remained a tradition, if you will, in the Church of God, in groups such as the Continuing Church of God.
Traditions that are consistent with scripture, but that do not contradict scripture are fine.
However, it should be noted that versions of the 'liturgy' that various Greco-Roman churches have adopted are not consistent with scripture, but are more consistent with pagan practices and hence not acceptable (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:19-22; John 4:23-24; cf. Deuteronomy 12). More on 'liturgy' can be found in the article .
It should be noted that although the early Church was against military service, in the fourteenth century the Roman Church later decreed:
Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered for the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest. However, one sword ought to be subordinated to the other and temporal authority, subjected to spiritual power...Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff (THE BULL UNAM SANCTAM , 1302. English translation taken from a doctoral dissertation written in the Dept. of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America, and published by CUA Press in 1927. In Medieval Sourcebook, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/b8-unam.html 01/16/06).
Thus, Roman leaders endorsed killing and the use of the military under the authority of church leadership.
Even Christianity Today has recognized that early Christians were against military service,
The ancient church understood that war has been around as long as human beings and sin have coexisted. It is a consistent tenet throughout the Christian tradition that war is the result of sin. The responses to war, however, have followed two basic trains of thought: pacifism, and the idea that certain wars can be just. Pacifism is characteristic of the early centuries of Christianity in someone like the North African apologist Tertullian (160-220 A.D.), who regularly warned Christians to distance themselves from pagan culture. He wrote: "How will he serve in the army even during peacetime without the sword that Jesus Christ has taken away? Even if soldiers came to John and got advice on how they ought to act, even if the centurion became a believer, the Lord by taking away Peter's sword, disarmed every soldier thereafter. We are not allowed to wear any uniform that symbolizes a sinful act" (On Idolatry 19.3). The third-century Roman Presbyter Hippolytus wrote The Apostolic Tradition, Canon 16, (ca. 215 A.D.) which opposed serving in the military as a matter of church discipline: "A soldier in the lower ranks shall kill no one. If ordered to do so, he shall not obey, and he shall not take an oath. If he does not want to comply with this directive, let him be dismissed [from the church]." (Elowsky, Joel. Ancient Christian Commentary on Current Events: What Is War Good For? Christianity Today, posted October 28, 2003).
Now, I should add that is doubtful that most of those quoted in the article were true Christians themselves. Yet, it is clear that they understood that John (the Baptist) and the Apostles were against war.
Furthermore, the historian Kenneth Scott Latourette noted that even late into the third century,
...perhaps most of the early Christians had conscientious scruples against military service (Latourette K.S. A History of Christianity, Volume 1, Beginnings to 1500. Harper, San Francisco, 1975, p. 89).
Actually, all true Christians were always opposed to military service, and their leaders did not will and support the use of the sword by kings. However, this changed for compromisers after Emperor Constantine, who had been part of Mithraism convinced many leaders who professed Christ to follow his understanding of doctrine.
According to Catholic scholars:
Mithraism was first and foremost a military cult (Aiken CF. Mithraism. The Catholic University bulletin, Volume 19, 1913. Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized Dec 19, 2008, p. 255).
But of course, original Christians were pacifists. For more details, please see Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare?
Celibacy was not practiced by the early Church leadership. Peter and most of the apostles were married (1 Corinthians 9:5). Nor was this an immediate postapostolic development.
Even The Catholic Encyclopedia admits:
Celibacy became an ideal for the clergy in the East gradually, as it did in the West. In the fourth century we still find St. Gregory Nazianzen's father, who was Bishop of Nanzianzos, living with his wife, without scandal. But very soon after that the present Eastern rule obtained. It is less strict than in the West. No one can marry after he has been ordained priest (Paphnutius at the first Council of Nicaea maintains this; the first Canon of the Synod of Neocaesarea in 314 or 325, and Can. Apost., xxvi. The Synod of Elvira about 300 had decreed absolute celibacy for all clerks in the West, Can. xxxiii, ib., pp. 238-239); priests already married may keep their wives (the same law applied to deacons and subdeacons: Can. vi of the Synod in Trullo, 692), but bishops must be celibate. As nearly all secular priests were married this meant that, as a general rule, bishops were chosen from the monasteries, and so these became, as they still are, the road through advancement may be attained (Fortesque A. Transcribed by Marie Jutras. Eastern Monasticism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Most early church leaders were married, and encouraged to be so.
More on celibacy can be found in the article Was Celibacy Required for Early Bishops or Presbyters?
Hence, the Bible and early writings show that the original Church taught that its leaders were to lead the flock, dress normally, be married, and support true Christianity. And that (other than marrying while on earth) is what Jesus, Himself, did.
Daily, or even weekly, liturgical rituals were not part of the practices of Christians in the New Testament. Nor did they hear regular confessions as the Church of Rome advocates.
Basically, many aspects of the modern papacy arose out of Mithraism (as well as some doctrines of Simon Magus and others). Emperor Constantine was a follower of Mithras and was Pontifex Maximus. After he modified and encouraged the Greco-Roman church, the papacy was formed, and that church became militaristic. While there had been bishops of Rome for nearly two centuries prior to Constantine, it was not until the fourth century that the Roman bishops took upon themselves the title of Pontifex Maximus nor had they seemingly supported war prior to Constantine (see also
Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare or Encourage Violence?). It was also not until after Constantine that they begin to wear certain head coverings like mitres (which seems to at least partially derive from the term Mithra or Mitra, see Were the Early Duties of Elders/Pastors Mainly Sacramental? What was there Dress?).
Sadly, Rome and those that followed Rome's lead have changed to have leaders that dress strangely, are sometimes celibate, perform unusual sacramental rituals, and who support the use of the military to kill at the will and sufferance of the priest. And these seem to be practices that non-Christians held. And may have come from Mithraism (please see Do You Practice Mithraism?).
Which do you think is consistent with apostolic Christianity? Which should you support?
Two free online booklets that may assist are Where is the True Christian Church Today? and Continuing History of the Church of God.
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Thiel B. Ph.D. Were the Early Duties of the Clergy Sacramental and What was Their Dress? www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2013/2014/2016/2017 0324