There Were Only Two Main Groups That Claim Christ

Entrance to the ruins of Ancient Smyrna


It seems clear that many in the 21st century do not realize that according to many claimed as early supporters of the Roman/Alexandrian churches, there were two groups, two types, of allegedly faithful Christians (clear Gnostics and related groups notwithstanding).

Essentially, there were the Christians that had ties to the apostles John and Philip in Asia Minor, and others associated with the Greco-Roman confederation that was mainly made up of the allegoristic churches that emerged in the second century in Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Rome.

This was the position of several in the second and third centuries, including many considered to be saints by the Catholics of Rome as well as the Eastern Orthodox such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Polycarp, Clement, Origen, and Serapion.

Various later historians also seemed to understand some of the truth on this matter. Do you?

Here is a summary for those mainly interested in just a few basic facts:

Marcus (c. 135), the first non-Jewish Bishop of Jerusalem, told people that because of the edicts of the Roman Emperor Hadrian that they would not be allowed into Jerusalem unless they abandoned original Christian practices like the Sabbath. Those unwilling to change separated from those who did. Hence, there were two groups in Judea by the second century.

Justin (c. 135) taught that there were Christians in Asia Minor who had Jewish practices like the Holy Days and the Ten Commandments, but that he did not care to associate with them. Justin also seemed to accept the false “Gospel of Peter”, which the true Christians never did. Hence there were two groups in Asia Minor in the second century–one under the direction of faithful leaders such as Bishop Polycarp and others who more were independent like Justin. Apparently, the true Christians in Asia Minor (who were apparently the majority at that time) did not care to associate with those like Justin either, so Justin went to Rome.

Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna (c. 156) taught that Passover was to be observed on the 14th of Nisan, while Bishop Anicetus of Rome accepted Sunday (which came to be known in English as Easter). Hence, there were two different, but significant, groups in the second century: one mainly affiliated with Rome and one mainly affiliated with Asia Minor.

Bishop Polycrates (c. 192) told Roman Bishop Victor that he and those in Asia Minor (including Smyrna) were not concerned about frightful words from Rome that differed from the Bible related to Passover. Hence, those in Asia Minor made it clear in the latter portion of the second century that they were separate from Rome. Hence, there was the faithful mainly in Asia Minor and a confederation that was emerging between Rome, Alexandria, and the changed church in Jerusalem.

According to Tertullian (“the father of Latin theology”, c. 200), there were two groups of who claimed Christ that claimed ties to the original apostles: those associated with Rome and those associated with Asia Minor (see also Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome).

According to Clement of Alexandria (late second century) and Origen of Alexandria (early third century), there were two groups who claimed Christianity: the mystic/allegorical group (that they were part of) and the non-mystic/non-allegorical group. Rome supported the Alexandrians (and still somewhat supports them), while those in Asia Minor and Antioch did not accept them.

According to Justin, one group adopted a mystical Eucharist, that according to Tertullian was similar to practices associated with Mithraism. Something like this was condemned by Irenaeus in the later portion of the second century and was not the practice of the Asia Minor group.

According to Catholic accepted sources, Asia Minor leaders such as Bishop Thraseas of Eumenia (probably around A.D. 157), Bishop Apollonius of Ephesus (third century), and Bishop Apollinaris of Hierapolis (third century) denounced the Montanists, yet leaders in Rome and Egypt accepted the Montanists until some time in the third century.

According to Bishop Serapion of Antioch, there true Christians did not accept the falsely named “Gospel of Peter”, but there were groups in Egypt who did–he did not consider those that did part of the real Christian church.

According to the African Bishop Nepos, there were people in Alexandria/Egypt who accepted allegory over scripture (see also What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation?), regarding the coming millennium, but he opposed their position.

Emperor Constantine decreed that those in Jerusalem who still would not eat biblically unclean animals should be killed. Hence, he acknowledged that there were still two groups in Judea in the 4th century–the faithful and his group.

Emperor Theodosius decreed that those who held to the original position of the apostles on Passover (like the original Church of God in Smyrna did) would be killed. Hence, there still were two professing groups with differing approaches and practices near the end of the fourth century.

Although all scholars recognize that early Christians would not kill others or participate in carnal warfare, later Roman bishops endorsed killing and other forms of persecution against those not part of their group.

Those who claimed ties to the original Nazarene Christians of the Bible and Jerusalem were long persecuted by Greco-Romans (see Persecutions by Church and State), but their “heresies”, according to even some affiliated with Rome, were mainly to stick to original Christian practices while not accepting the decisions of Imperial and other Greco-Roman councils to change doctrine.

(Note: I used included the term “bishop” above to show that there were those in leadership positions in both groups–even though there were no bishops of Rome nor Alexandria until over 100 years after Jesus died: for proof see the articles What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? and Apostolic Succession.)

Is it not clear that there were two groups?

Tertullian in the late 2nd century defined them:

…the Smyrnaeans count from Polycarp and John, and the Romans from Clement and Peter…

(Chapman J. Transcribed by Lucy Tobin. Tertullian. 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).

One group (the original Church of God in Smyrna) kept to the original apostolic practices such as observance of the ten commandments, the Passover on the 14th, not condoning military participation, and relying on the correct canon of the Bible.

And another group, which emerged and became dominant on the world scene, minimized the literal observance of the ten commandments, preferred allegory and mysticism, required a Sunday Passover, later killed those that would not accept its human council changes, but who it took centuries to accept the proper New Testament canon.

Notice what the Church of Rome teaches about the original Church of God in Smyrna:

Smyrna…Christianity was preached to the inhabitants at an early date. As early as the year 93, there existed a Christian community directed by a bishop for whom St. John in the Apocalypse (i, II; ii, 8-11) has only words of praise…There were other Christians in the vicinity of the city and dependent on it to whom St. Polycarp wrote letters (Eusebius, “Hist. Eccl.”, V, xxiv).

(Vailhe’ S. Transcribed by Lucia Tobin. Smyrna. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna…always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 4, Verse 3 and Chapter 3, Verse 4).

Like many of the Greco-Roman churches, the Living Church of God claims the original church in Smyrna as faithful.  Unlike the Greco-Roman churches, the  Living Church of God still keeps to the same doctrines and practices of that original and faithful group.

What group does your church belong to?

Some articles of related interest may include:

Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries? Did you know that many in the second and third centuries felt that there were two major, and separate, professing Christian groups in the second century, but that those in the majority churches tend to now blend the groups together and claim “saints” from both? “Saints” that condemn some of their current beliefs. Who are the two groups?
The Smyrna Church Era was predominant circa 135 A.D. to circa 450 A.D. The Church led by Polycarp, Melito, Polycrates, etc.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?
The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 Do they matter? Most say they must, but act like they do not. This article contains some history about the Church of God (sometimes referred to as the continuation of Primitive Christianity) over the past 2000 years.
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church.
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Should Christians be Nazarenes today? What were the practices of the Nazarenes.
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Apostolic Succession What really happened? Did structure and beliefs change? Are many of the widely-held current understandings of this even possible? Did you know that Catholic scholars really do not believe that several of the claimed “apostolic sees” of the Orthodox have apostolic succession–despite the fact that the current pontiff himself seems to wish to ignore this view?  Is there actually a true church that has ties to any of the apostles that is not part of the Catholic or Orthodox churches?  Read this article if you truly are interested in the truth on this matter!
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Living Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions. Português: Qual é fiel: A igreja católica romana ou a igreja viva do deus? Tambien Español: Cuál es fiel: ¿La iglesia católica romana o La Iglesia del Dios Viviente? Auch: Deutsch: Welches zuverlässig ist: Die Römisch-katholische Kirche oder die lebende Kirche von Gott?
Some Similarities and Differences Between the Orthodox Church and the Living Church of God Both groups claim to be the original church, but both groups have differing ways to claim it. Both groups have some amazing similarities and some major differences. Do you know what they are?

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