Didache, Epistle to Diognetus and Martyrdom of Polycarp

Didache, Epistle to Diognetus and Martyrdom of Polycarp give readers valuable insights to the life of the Early Church. For example, Didache portrays a strong emphasis, commitment and dependence on the teachings of Jesus, especially on Jesus’ sermon on the mount (cf. Did. chs. 1, 2, 8, 16 ; Matt 5-7), and on the teachings of the Apostle Paul (cf. Did. chs. 5, 6, 15; Gal 5:19-21, 1 Cor 8, 1 Tim 3:1-13), but there are also many allusions to the teachings of other New Testament writers and to the Hebrew Scriptures (cf. Did. ch. 2; Ex 20).  

Didache reveals an emphasis by the Early Church on the broken body and shed blood of Jesus by giving instructions on the eucharist ( i.e. chs. 9,10,14). This appears to be central to the Lord’s Day gathering (ch. 14), and a vital part in experiencing the ongoing presence of Jesus among the faith community.  

Furthermore, Didache provides instructions regarding traveling teachers and Christians (chs. 11,12) which gives readers a glimpse into the robust itinerant missionary activity of the Early Church but also of the challenges of false teachers. Overall, Didache presents as an Early Church catechism, and so it demonstrates the Early Church’s commitment to providing instructions about Jesus and about the life of “the Way” (John 14:6; Acts 9:2, 22:4).

Epistle to Diognetus and Martyrdom of Polycarp help readers understand the contextual background and some of the issues that confronted the Early Church. Epistle to Diognetus addresses the Greco-Roman culture’s emphasis on the gods and idols. The writer explains that the Christians are distinctly different because they refuse to acknowledge and worship the Greco-Roman gods, and while they live within the Greco-Roman world, their citizenship is in heaven. Due to these differences, the writer explains that “persecution is carried on against them by the Greeks” (5:17). Likewise, Martyrdom of Polycarp depicts Polycarp being compared to an “atheist” (3:2) because he refused to endorse and worship the gods as well as bow down to Caesar as lord (8:2). The Christian distinctive of neglecting to worship the gods and refusing to say “Caesar is Lord, and offering incense” (8:2)  ultimately led to Polycarp’s martyrdom (15:1-18:2). Therefore, both of these writings tell of the harsh persecution that confronted the Early Church.

Early Church Councils: Part 3 Council of Chalcedon

The Council of Chalcedon met in 451 C.E. and over 500 bishops were in attendance. The focus of the council was to develop a definitive understanding and definition of the incarnation. The majority of bishops did not want to announce a new creed but rather uphold the Nicene Creed. However, Emperor Marcian thought that there was a need for a new creed due to recent contrasting views about Jesus. Responding to the views of Eutyches was the primary focus of the council.[1] Eutyches advocated a newly revamped Apollinarianism (or monophysitism).[2] Eutyches argued that Christ had one nature after the union, meaning that the human nature had merged with the divine nature “as a drop of honey mingled with the ocean.”[3] The Council of Chalcedon condemned the views of Eutyches and confirmed and strengthened the statements about Christ as read in the Nicene Creed. The council declared Christ’s two natures— that he is perfectly God and perfectly man at the same time.[4] Christ is the God-Man “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and substance.”[5] From the Council of Chalcedon, the Chalcedon Creed was formed and this creed continues to be the Christological standard for most Christian traditions.

[1] T.G. Weinandy, “Chalcedon, Council of” in New Dictionary of Theology: Historical and Systematic (NDT) eds. Martin Davie et al. (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2016), EPUB edition. [2] H.D. McDonald, “Monophysitism” in NDT, EPUB edition. [3] McDonald, “Monophysitism,” in NDT, EPUB edition. [4] D.Demarest, “Creeds,” in NDT, EPUB edition. [5]“The Chalcedon Formula” http://anglicansonline.org/basics/chalcedon.html

Early Church Councils: Part 2 Council of Constantinople

In 381 C.E., the newly appointed emperor, named Theodosius, called to order the First Council of Constantinople. This council was smaller in size, compared to its predecessor at Nicea, with only 150 eastern bishops in attendance.[1] The council primarily met in order to readdress lingering Arian views, to debate the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the doctrine of the Trinity and to confront the views of Apollinarius.

First, the council reaffirmed the results of the Council of Nicea regarding the deity of the Son, thus emphatically closing the door on Arianism and semi-Arianism.

Second, the council determined that what was said about the deity of the Son should be applied to the Holy Spirit. The creedal statement regarding the Holy Spirit states that the Holy Spirit is “the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father” and is to be “worshipped and glorified.” Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus were dissatisfied with such statements regarding the Holy Spirit because they thought that the statements were not strong enough in identifying the deity of the Holy Spirit. They preferred an explicit statement that the Holy Spirit was ὁμοούσιος (homoousios) “of the same substance” with God-the Father and God-the Son.[2] Nevertheless, the council agreed on the deity of the Holy Spirit.

Third, the council addressed the Trinity controversy which at one point involved the views of Sabellius who argued that “God as a single monad is manifest in three distinct and successive operations of self-revealing.”[3] Thus, God-the Father revealed Himself in the temporary modes of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.[4] The council decided on the Trinity by proclaiming that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are of one essence (Gr. ούσια, ousia) in three persons (Gr. ὑπόστασες, hypostases defined with Latin personae).[5]

Fourth, the council rejected and condemned the views of Apollinarius who denied that Jesus had a human mind or spirit. He believed that if Jesus was totally divine, his human nature must have been replaced with the divine logos. Thus, Apollinarius repudiated Jesus’ fully human existence. However, the council agreed that the scriptures teach that Jesus was the God-Man—fully God and fully man.[6]

The Council of Constantinople produced the revised Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed that is presently used throughout Christendom and is simply referred to as the “Nicene Creed.”

[1] T.A. Noble, “Constantinople, Council of” in New Dictionary of Theology: Historical and Systematic (NDT) eds. Martin Davie et al. (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic,2016), EPUB edition. [2] Noble, “Constantinople, Council of” in NDT, EPUB edition. [3] H.D. McDonald, “Monarchianism,” in NDT, EPUB edition. [4] McDonald, “Monarchianism,” in NDT, EPUB edition. [5] González, The Story of Christianity, Rev. and Updated, 2nd ed. (New York: HarperOne, 2010), EPUB edition, pt. 2, ch. 20, “Gregory of Nazianzus.” [6] H.D. McDonald, “Apollinarianism,” in NDT, EPUB edition.

Early Church Councils: Part 1 Council of Nicea

Throughout the development of the Early Church, false and heretical teachings began to form within the church. In response, church councils were organized and held in order to address and debate theological topics or church functioning topics, and from these councils, creeds were formed, which became another standard for orthodox doctrine. The Early Church councils of Nicea (C.E. 325), Constantinople (C.E. 381), and Chalcedon (C.E. 451) played major roles in combating heresies.

The Council of Nicea

One of the theological controversies of the 4th century was focused on the Son. A teacher in Alexandria, named Arius, argued that the Son was not God but was created by God as the first of His creations. From this perspective, the Son was not coeternal with the Father, and so Arius’ motto was “once the Son was not”[1] indicating that the Son was a creature or lesser being than God. Arius explained that in order to keep the monotheistic view of God intact, the divinity of the Son had to be rejected. He believed in the pre-existence of the Son before the incarnation but emphatically argued that at some point before the incarnation, the Son was created. According to Arius, the created Son through the incarnation paved the way for salvation by being obedient, even unto death, to his creator.[2]

The bishop of Alexandria, named Alexander, clashed with the views of Arius by  arguing that the Son was divine and coeternal with God-the Father. Therefore, the Son was not created before the incarnation, but rather God-the Son became incarnate in Jesus. Alexander believed that Jesus was the God-Man and argued that the earliest Christians worshipped Jesus as God and not as a created being. Alexander argued that God-the Son achieved the salvation of humans by entering into human history through the incarnation.[3]

194329-004-b1674e7cAs a bishop, Alexander condemned Arius’ teachings and removed Arius from church leadership in Alexandria. Arius and others protested the decision which caused unrest in the Eastern church. With the threat of a split of the Eastern church, Imperial Constantine got involved and ordered the arrangement of the Council of Nicea (C.E. 325).[4] Approximately three hundred bishops attended the Council of Nicea where the primary debate centered on two Greek words: ὁμοούσιος (homoousios) and ὁμοιούσιος (homoiousios). Those who followed Alexander described the Son in relation with the Father by using the term ὁμοούσιος (homoousios), meaning of the same substance with the Father. Those who followed Arius described the Son in relation with the Father by using the term ὁμοιούσιος (homoiousios), meaning of similar substance with the Father.

The Council of Nicea determined that the Son was ὁμοούσιος (homoousios) “of the same substance” with the Father. Thus, the council was in favor of Alexander’s views of the Son being consubstantial, coeternal and coequal with the Father. The council declared the divinity of the Son and condemned Arius’ views. From the Council of Nicea, the Nicene Creed was formed and was the foundational creed for the church and for other church councils.[5]

[1] M. Ovey, “Nicea, Council of” in New Dictionary of Theology: Historical and Systematic (NDT) eds. Martin Davie et al. (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic,2016), EPUB edition. [2] Justo L.González, The Story of Christianity, Rev. and Updated, 2nd ed. (New York: HarperOne, 2010), EPUB edition, pt.2, ch. 1, “The Outbreak of the Controversy.” [3] González, The Story, EPUB edition, pt.2, ch. 1, “The Outbreak of the Controversy.” [4] González, The Story, EPUB edition, pt.2, ch. 1, “The Outbreak of the Controversy.” [5] Robert C. Walton, Chronological and Background Charts of Church History, Revised and Expanded ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), Chart 28.

Blaise Pascal and Apologetics

Blaise Pascal presented a challenge against a rational defense of the faith based on 1 Corinthians 1-2. He argued that the gospel should be and will be deemed foolish to unbelievers and any attempts to make it reasonable are misguided. In view of Pascal’s challenge, a examination of Paul teaching to the Corinthians is needed.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church explaining that when he visited them, he did not use secular rhetorical techniques or think in secular ways or impart secular wisdom (1 Cor 1-2), but rather he imparted words “taught by the spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual” (1 Cor 2:13 ESV). He explains that Christians have the mind of Christ, and so they can understand spiritual and theological themes; whereas, the secular person is left to their own natural cognitive devices, and so can not understand the things of God. Paul refutes the “godless intellectualism”[1] that was being promoted in Corinth. The people of Corinth were overly fixated on human wisdom and the wisdom of the world, and they became culturally arrogant and addicted to power, wealth, style and sophistication. Thus, when Paul preached to them the message of Christ crucified, some considered it folly because the truth of the cross can not be grasped by the best of human thinking or rhetorical strength, but it is received as a gift  by faith and trust.[2] Paul did not compromise the gospel message by changing it to the whims and tastes of the secular Corinthians because that would be to follow the expectations of fallen and sinful humanity.[3]

In view of Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians, Christians should not attempt a rational defence of the faith by primarily following the tenets of secular thought processing. Christians should not rely on their own human epistemological ecumen. Christians run the risk of presenting a “different gospel” than that which they “received” (Gal 1:6-9) if they set out to give an apologetic in their own strength and according to the wisdom of the world. Martin Luther said many provocative statements during his lifetime, but one that particularly stands out is his comment when referring to the magisterial use of reason as “Aristotle’s whore.”[4] He railed against the magisterial use of reason because it presides over the gospel like a magistrate judging on whether its claims are true or false. Luther endorsed the ministerial use of reason which submits to and serves the gospel and is guided by the Holy Spirit.[5]

This is the crux of Paul’s argument—the wisdom of God must be pursued by the Spirit of God. Thus, he endorses a Christ-centered and Holy Spirit led apologetic. Christians must defend the faith with a Christlike heart posture that “labors to communicate the truth in love and with wisdom”… “so that others may hear it, believe it, and live it.”[6] As the Holy Spirit moves Christians in their Christ-centered apologetic, unbelievers will be drawn to the knowledge of God and their sinful resistance and faulty arguments will be removed.[7]  

[1] Craig L. Blomberg, 1 Corinthians. NIVAC (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), 56. [2] John Polhill, “The Wisdom of God and Factionalism: 1 Corinthians 1-4,” RevExp 80 (1983): 330 cited in Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, 57. [3] Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, 1 Corinthians (Wilmington, NC: Glazier, 1979), 14 cited in Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, 56. [4] William Lane Craig, “The Classical Method” in Five Views on Apologetics. ed. Steven B. Cowan (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House, 2000), 36. [5] ibid., 36-37. [6] Douglas R. Groothuis, Christian Apologetics : A Comprehensive Case for Biblical (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 29. [7] Craig, “The Classical,” 54.


In today’s culture, evangelicalism is often misunderstood and often gets a bad wrap, but evangelicalism is as important today as ever because of its emphasis on the evangel—the good news or the gospel.  At the heart of evangelicalism is fixed on the life and ministry of Jesus and on the inbreaking of the already-not yet in full Kingdom of God. This is the drama of redemption performed by God throughout history culminated in the redeeming death and resurrection of God-the son, Jesus Christ. Thus, evangelicalism emphasizes the theo-drama as the authoritative metanarrative in all matters of faith, life and conduct. Evangelicalism posits the necessity of a personal experience of regeneration through personal faith in Jesus Christ and through the act of the Holy Spirit. This regeneration and entry into the storied community of the people of God necessitates that believers participate in the redemption story by communicating the joy of the evangel to the unregenerate.

Many in the media believe that evangelicals are of a certain political persuasion and of a certain religious fundamentalism persuasion. This is mostly a recent american phenomenon because the origins of evangelicalism had nothing to do with politics or religious dogma. Rather, it had to do with the power of the evangel to regenerate souls and to convert people into the Kingdom of God. The only politics involved was their new life in the Kingdom of God under the gracious and peaceful reign of King Jesus. This was the experience and message of Wesley, Whitefield and Edwards, and their examples should be used by Christians to address the misunderstandings and defamatory attacks directed at evangelicalism. These preachers spoke to the problem of sin and called people to repentance and to the promise of forgiveness and of freedom from their sins through Christ’s redeeming sacrifice. This is the evangel that today’s evangelicalism must continue to proclaim.

Commentary on Ruth 3

Within the framework of the book of Ruth, chapter three acts as a pivotal moment in the story because although Naomi and Ruth, with all the best intentions, develop a plan for marriage and security for Ruth, the outcome of the story depends on Boaz’s response to Ruth’s proposal. The following outline details the suspenseful moments of chapter three.

Outline of Chapter 3

I. Naomi and Ruth create a plan for security through marriage of Ruth to Boaz (3:1-5)

II. Ruth approaches Boaz at the Threshing floor with a marriage proposal (3:6-9)

III. Boaz responds (3:10-15)

  1. He blesses and commends Ruth (10)
  2. He positively responds to Ruth’s proposal (11)
  3. He mentions another kinsman-redeemer more closely related (12)
  4. He protects Ruth overnight and gifts barely in the morning (14-15)

IV. Ruth returns home to Naomi, and they debrief (16-18)


In order to understand chapter three, the concept of a kinsman-redeemer should first be explored. The Hebrew word used in 3:9,12 is גֹאֵל (gōēl) (2:20  מִגֹּאֲלֵנוּ miggōălēnû) and is derived from the Hebrew verb גָאַל (gāal) which may be defined as “1) act as a kinsman, do the part of next of kin a) in taking a kinsman’s widow b) in redeeming from bondage c) in redeeming a field d) claim as kinsman e) the avenger of blood.”[1] Thus, a kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who had the responsibility, right or benefit to step up or intercede on behalf of a relative who was destitute, at risk, facing crisis or in need of vindication.[2]  The concept of the kinsman-redeemer is established and described in the pentateuch of the Hebrew scriptures in the form of covenant obligations to redeem land (Lev 25:25), to redeem the enslaved (Lev 25:47-55), to provide an heir (Gen 38:8-10; Deut 25:5-10), to avenge a death (Num 35:16-21) and to be a trustee (Num 5:5-8). The Kinsman-redeemer reflects God’s concern for the poor, widow and oppressed (Ps 68:5-6; 72:2-4; Prov 23:10-11).

Commentary on Ruth 3

1-5  Naomi shows parental responsibility and duty towards Ruth, her daughter in law, by seeking a secure and permanent home for Ruth. Moreover, she wants to see Ruth experience all the blessing of marriage.  Naomi understood that she would one day die, and she could not fathom the idea of Ruth (a Moabite) being a widow in a foreign land.[3] This was her concern in 1:8-9 where she said to Ruth and Orpah, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband” (NIV).  With the prospect of a kinsman, Naomi develops a plan becoming the answer to her own prayer for Ruth.  This is a theological theme throughout the book of Ruth in that God and humans work together.  God providentially orchestrates circumstances and humans are to recognize and seize the opportunities.[4]

6-9   Ruth follows the Naomi’s plan and goes to the threshing floor where Boaz is lying at his assigned traditional area for winnowing.  It may have been a custom for individuals to sleep by their barely piles after festivities in order to guard them until the next morning when it would be carted and taken away.[5] After arriving at the threshing floor, events unfold according to Naomi’s plan; however, Ruth breaks from the script that Naomi had laid out for her to say.  Naomi’s main concern was to find a husband for Ruth, but when Ruth invokes the kinsman-redeemer custom to Boaz, she reveals her continued loyalty and commitment to Naomi since the results of the custom would benefit Naomi significantly by eventually receiving an heir and through the redeeming of her land.[6]

10-15   Boaz’s response is filled with blessing and commendation towards Ruth, and he grants her request due to her honorable reputation. Boaz considers Ruth as a peer and certainly views her as a good match for marriage. However, while Boaz acknowledges that he was a kinsman-redeemer, he mentions another kinsman-redeemer more closely related.  With this notification, Boaz shows that he is a man of integrity.  By being cautious regarding the custom, Boaz is further protecting Ruth and her legal claims in Israel.  He wants to make sure that whatever benefits Ruth receives in the future will be seen as legal rather than as a scandal. Boaz instructs Ruth on the following steps in the process, and then he continues to reveal his protective and kind nature by keeping Ruth close throughout the night away from the drunken festival attenders and by gifting her with barely in the morning.[7]

16-18   Ruth returns home to Naomi and gives an account of the night.  Ruth explains all the things that Boaz did for her and shows Naomi the generous gift given by Boaz which may have been a hopeful sign for the future⎯ “Naomi’s emptiness (1:21) may yet be filled.”[8]  Naomi instructs Ruth to wait which is a stark reversal of her prior instructions to act. As farmers wait for their crops, so Ruth is awaits the fruit of her efforts.  This is similar to waiting on the Lord for him to bless his people.  The matter is in the hands of the Lord, and in the next chapter he will work through Boaz.[9]


Ruth chapter 3 is teaching that in the ordinary circumstances and events in life, people can witness and experience God’s action and provision. Individuals should have faith in God and when opportunities arise that are divinely orchestrated, they should move to action because God works through their actions. Ultimately, God is sovereign and after individuals have done all they can do, they should wait on the Lord and trust in his faithfulness and loyalty.

[1] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver and Charles Briggs, “גָאַל”  BDB 145. [2] Stephen J. Bramer, “Kinsman-Redeemer,” in EDBT 456-456. [3] Hubbard, Ruth, I. The Proposal Itself “a. Naomi’s Clever Plan” [4] Hubbard, Ruth, I. The Proposal Itself “a. Naomi’s Clever Plan” [5]John H.Walton, Victor H. Matthews and Mark W. Chavalas. The IVP Bible Background Commentary : Old Testament (Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 2000), 279. [6]Hubbard, Ruth,  I. The Proposal Itself “b. Report of Ruth’s Compliance” [7] Hubbard, Ruth, I. The Proposal Itself “b. Report of Ruth’s Compliance” [8]Gerald West, “Ruth” in Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, eds. James D. G. Dunn, and J. W. Rogerson (Grand Rapids, MI : Eerdmans,  2004), 211. [9] Hubbard, Ruth, 2. Interlude: Ruth Reports to Naomi “b. Naomi’s Response”