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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
that period of church history which extends from the day of Pentecost to the death of the last surviving apostle (John).
With the rise of Rationalism in Germany the authenticity of several books of the New Testament, and consequently the history of the apostolical age, became a matter of doubt, and the subject of critical investigation. The first who undertook to reconstruct the history of the apostolical age was Semler, who, in a number of treatises, insisted on a distinction being made between that which is of permanent value in the primitive history of Christianity and that which is temporary and transitory, and pointed to the great influence which the opposition between Jewish Christianity and the Pauline school had upon the formation of the church. Under the treatment of Semler the early Christian Church was eviscerated of all life, and nothing left but a dry abstraction. The same may be said of the works of Professor Planck, of Gottingen (especially his Geschichte der christlichen Gesellschaftsverfassung), though they are in some respects valuable. From the degradation of the apostolic age by these and many other writers of similar views, it was rescued by the theologians of the new evangelical school, especially Neander (Geschichte der Pflanzung und Leitung der christlichen Kirche durch die Apostel, Hamburg, 1832, 4th edition, which reviews all the works that had been published since the appearance of the first edition), who shows throughout as deep piety as critical acumen. In the mean time, however, an entirely new view of the apostolic age was developed by Professor F. C. Baur and his disciples, the so-called Tiibingen School (q.v.), the first and most important manifesto of which was the Life of Jesus by Strauss, while the entire theory was most completely exhibited in Baur's Paulus der Apostel Jesu Christi (1845, 8vo), and in Schwegler, Nachapostolisches Zeitalter (Tiubingen, 1846, 2 vols.). This school rejected the authenticity of most of the books of the New Testament, and regarded them only as sources of information for the
"Post-apostolic Age." The essential points of this new theory are:
(1) that, in the minds of Christ and the first apostles, the new religion was only a development or perfection of Judaism, and the same with what was later called Ebionism;
(2), that Paul, in opposition to the other apostles, founded Gentile Christianity, quite a distinct system;
(3), that Ebionism and Paulinism were reconciled in the 2d century by a number of men of both parties who then wrote Luke's Acts of the Apostles and several of the apostolical epistles; and on the basis of this reconciliation the Christian Church was built. (For an account of it, see Schaff, Apostolic Age, 36; London Eclectic Review, June, 1853.) (See TUBINGEN SCHOOL).
The subject called forth a very animated discussion and a numerous literature, and the theologians of Tubingen gradually became more moderate in their destructive criticism. The work of Ritschl on the Origin of the Old Catholic Church (Entstehung der altkatholischen Kirche, Bonn, 1850) deserves especial credit in this respect. Among the works on the orthodox side which were called forth by this discussion were those of Baumgarten (De Apostelgeschichte, Brunswick, 1852, 2vols.), Trautman (Die apostolische Kirche, 1848), and G. V. Lechler, Das apostolische und nachapostolische Zeitalter (Stuttgart, 1857, 2d ed.).
As the critics of the Tibingen school greatly differed in their views respecting the authenticity of the several books of the New Testament, the question arose what parts of the history of the apostolic age can be established with certainty by the books of the New Testament considered separately? The Tubingen school did not reject the authenticity of the Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians. Its opponents therefore showed that we find in these epistles the basis
(1) of the historical appearance and the divine-human nature of Christ, which is more fully developed in the Gospels;
(2) of a congregation which the Lord himself collected from Judaism, and the guidance of which was afterward transferred to the apostles, who were fitted out for their office through the Holy Spirit and the appearances of the risen Lord; (3) of the additional vocation of Paul to the apostolic office, and, more specially, to the office of apostle of the Gentiles;
(4) of the equal rights of the Gentiles in the Christian Church.
The Acts of the Apostles were regarded by the Tubingen school as an untrustworthy novel, invented for the purpose of reconciling the schools of Peter and Paul, and irreconcilable in many of its statements with the epistles of Paul. Those who combated this view showed that the essential points of the book are in the best harmony with the epistles. An important work proving the authenticity of the Acts is Wieseler's Chronologie des apostolischen Zeitalters (Gottingen, 1848). The Johannean (and, in general, apostolic) origin of the Revelation was even denied by men like Lucke and Neander, on the ground that the Revelation and the fourth Gospel could not have proceeded from the same author. Professor Baur and the Tubingen school rejected, on the same ground, the authenticity of the fourth Gospel, while they defended the Johannean origin of the Revelation. The Book of Revelation agrees with John's Gospel in recognizing the higher, divine nature of Christ.
The first three Gospels shed but little light on the different tendencies of the apostolical age, though it is generally agreed that the first is of a decidedly Jewish-Christian character, while the third clearly shows the Paulinism of its author. The other books of the New Testament are partly looked upon as leaning on the Pauline tendency (the Epistle to the Hebrews), partly on the Jewish Christians (Epistle of James), and partly on both (Epistles of Peter and Judas). From them, as well as from the earliest apostolical fathers (Barnabas, Clement of Rome, etc.), additional details on the difference of views in the apostolic age were derived.
The apostolic age begins with the time when the apostles themselves began to take an active part in the building of the Christian church; that is, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. It coincides, therefore, with the beginning of the Acts. It closes with the cessation of the authority and the immediate influence of the apostles. For the churches in different countries, the apostolic age therefore lasts as long as their immediate guidance through one of the apostles was possible.
The name of apostles is given, 1, to the original twelve, to whom, after the fall of Judas, another was added, to keep up the correspondence with the number of the tribes of Israel; 2, to Paul, and some of his companions. All these had a divine authorization to found congregations. and to establish doctrine and institutions. They possessed this authority because they were sent by the Lord himself, not because they were exclusively filled by the Lord with the Spirit, which, on the contrary, was to remain with the church forever.
Gentile and Jewish Christianity must be regarded as two forms of one spirit, which are in inner harmony with each other, and supply each other, and together represent a unity which was consummated in the minds of at least the chief apostles. The union was fully cemented at the apostolical council at Jerusalem, at which the apostles for the Jewish Christians and those for the Gentiles mutually recognized each other. The accounts of this council do not conflict, but supply each other.
The question has been frequently discussed to what extent the arrangements made by the apostles can be ascribed to the Savior himself. With regard to this point, it is safe to ascribe to him the principle, but not the details of execution. The Spirit whom the Savior left with his disciples organized the church in the name and the power of Jesus. The primitive church offices and the development of the church constitution are pre- eminently a product of the apostolic age. This subject is ably treated by Ritschl in his work on the Origin of the Old Catholic Church (Entstehung der altkatholischenl Kirche), with particular reference to the works of Rothe (A nfange der christlichen Kirche), Baur (Ueber den Ursprung des Episcopats), Bunsen (Ignatius von Antiochien), and Schwegler (Nac hapostolisches Zeit. alter).
The form of worship was undoubtedly very plain, leaving much to the free choice of individual persons and churches; yet its principal features, with regard to the celebration of the Sabbath, the church festivals, and the sacraments, were fixed, and the entire life of the Christian was surrounded with pious customs, partly of new origin and partly derived from Judaism.
In the doctrine of the apostolic age we already find several tendencies, which, however, do not appear as so many different systems, but as different evolutions of one system. Modern criticism distinguishes three phases of doctrine in this period, viz., the Jewish Christian, springing directly from the teaching of Christ and from the circle of his disciples; secondly, the Pauline, as given in his own Epistles, and, in a developed form, in the Epistle to the Hebrews; and thirdly, that of the Johanncan Gospel and Epistles. This subject is thoroughly discussed by Matthaei (Religionsglaube der Apostel Jesu), Usteri (Paulinischer Lehrbegriffz), Hilgenfeld (Johanneischer Lehrbegrisf), and others.
The chief opposing systems, in conflict with which the apostolic age developed both its doctrine and its life, were Ebionitism and Gnosticism, the one teaching a Pharisaic confidence in man's own works, and the other a spiritualistic contempt of all works.
The apostolical age is commonly divided into three periods, one extending from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit until the beginning of the public appearance of Paul (about the year A.D. 41), the second until the death of Paul (about 67), and the third, the Johannean age (until the end of the first century). It must, however, be understood that a tendency begun in a former period continued and was further developed in the subsequent one (Herzog, Real-Encykclop. 1, 444).
This very important period has received special attention in the more recent church history. The best books are: Neander, Planting and Training of the Christian Church by the Apostles (trans. by Ryland, Lond. 1851, 2 vols. 12mo); Schaff, History of the Apostolic Church (New York, 1853, 8vo); Stanley, Sermons on the Apostolic Age (Oxford, 1847, 8vo); Davidson, The Ecclesiastical Polity of the New Testament unfolded (2d edit. Lond. 1854); Stoughton, Ages of Christendom (Lond. 1857); Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul (2 vols. 2d edit. Lond. 1858); Baumgarten, Acts of the Apostles (transl. by Meyer, Edinb. 1854, 3 vols. 8vo); Hagenbach, Die Kirche der drei erst. .Jahrhunderte (Leipz. 1853, 8vo); Killen, The Ancient Church (New York, 1859, 8vo); Thiersch, Die Kirche des apostolischen Zeitalters (Frankfurt, 1852, 8vo; an English translation by Th. Carlyle, Lond. 1852, 8vo); Lange, Das apostolische Zeitalter (Braunschweig, 1854, 2 vols.); Lechler, Das apostolische und nachapostoli sche Zeitalter (Stuttgart, 2d edit. 1857, 8vo); Dollinger (Romans Cath.), Christenthum und Kirche in der Zeit der Grundlegung (Ratisbon, 1860). (See ACTS (OF THE APOSTLES);) (See APOSTOLICAL CHURCH). On the constitution of the Apostolical Church, treatises
[besides the accounts contained in systematic ecclesiastical histories] have been written by Boehrner (in his Dissertt. Hal. 1729), Buddaeus (Jen. 1722), Greiling (Halberst. 1813), Knapp (Hal. 1762), Licke (Gott. 1813), Papst (Erlang. 1786); on the life and morals of the early Christians, by Borsing (L. B. 1825), Durr (Gottin. 1781), Froreisen (Argent. 1741), Fronto (in his Dissertt. Hamb. 1720), Papst (Erlang. 1790), Seelen (in his Miscell. p. 155 sq.), Stickel (Neap. 1826), Zorn (Kil. 1711); on the early church officers, by Brestovin (Lips. 1741), Danov (Jen. 1774), Forbiger (Lips. 1776), Gabler (Jen. 1805), Lechla (Lips. 1759), Loehn (in his Bibl. Stud.), Middelboe (Hafn. 1779), Mosheim (Helmst. 1732), Persigk (Lips. 1738), Stoer (Norimb. 1749), Thomasius (Altd. 1712), J. G. Walch (Jena, 1752), Weuner (Regiom. 1698); on the concord of the primitive Christians, by Carstens (in his Bibl. Lub.), Koeppe (Hal. 1828), Lorenz (Argent. 1751), Mosheim (in his Dissertt.), Schreiber (Regiom. 1710); on their dissensions, by Goldhorn (in Ilgen's Zeitschr. 1840), Gruner (Cob. 1749), Ittig (Lips. 1690, 1703), Kniewel (Gld. 1842), Rheinwald (Bon. 1834), Schenkel (Basle, 1838); on their doctrinal and literary views, by Harenberg (Brunser. 1746), Lobstein (Giess. 1775); on their connection with Judaism, by C. A. Crusius (Lips. 1770),Van Heyst (L. B. 1828), Kraft (Erl. 1772), J. C. Schmid (Erl. 1782); on their Scriptures, by Ess (Leipz. 1816), Hamerich (Hafn. 1702), Mosheim (Helmst. 1725), Surer (Salzb. 1784), C. W. F. Walch (Lpz. 1779), Woken (Lpz. 1732); on their charity, by Gude (Zittaw, 1727), Kotz (Regensb. 1839); on their persecutions, by M. Crusius (Hamb. 1721), Kortholt (Rost. 1689), Lazari (Romans 1749), Schmidt (Freft. 1797); on their meetings, by Hansen (Hafn. 1794), Leuthier (Neap. 1746); on their civil relations, by Gothofredus (in Zornii Bibl. Ant.), Holste (Helmst. 1676); on ancient representations concerning them, by Buchner (Viteb. 1687), Francke (Viteb. 1791), Hallbauer (Jen. 1738), Kortholt (Kil. 1674), Seidenstiicker (Helmst. 1790); on their hymns, by J. G. Walch (Jen. 1737); on the apostles' administration, by Hartmann (Berol. 1699), Semler (Hal. 1767), Zola (Ticin. 1780), Weller (Zwick. 1758). Organization and Government of the Apostolical Church (Presbyterian Board, Phil.); Bibliotheca Sacra, 8:378. (See CHURCH, CONSTITUTION OF).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Apostolic Age'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/a/apostolic-age.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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