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New Eyes and Easy Access to History

Lately when I read scripture, it seems with new eyes. Why have I missed or perhaps simply passed over so much over these 50 years as a student.

This morning's reading in Matthew took me on an interesting historical journey. One now accessible to anyone willing to take the time, given the internet.

What set off the journey was the long overlooked use of the word "Jeremy" as in Jeremiah found in Matthew 27:9 KJV. Long debated, though for me the first time it was even on my radar. The writer of Matthew cites a text with its origin not in Jeremiah, but rather found in Zechariah 11:12.

Again, all this info is at one's fingertips, thumb tip if like me, you are using a cell phone rather than a laptop or iPad!

I found several explanations, "a simple matter of mistaking Ιριου for Ζριου. If a copyist transcribed an iota in place of a zeta, the error is explained." (see footnote #1 below).

Another explanation, "the fact that the Hebrew Bible is divided into three sections called the Law, Writings, and Prophets. Jesus refers to these divisions in Luke 24:44. The collection of the Prophets began with the book of Jeremiah. The scrolls were sometimes referred to by the name of the first book, which in the case of the Prophets would be Jeremiah. So, when Matthew says that 'Jeremiah says,' he means that the prophecy was found in the Jeremiah Scroll."(footnote #2, ibid).

This all led further into the history behind the Canon of scripture and a particular historian, one responsible for much of our theological foundations, a man named Eusebius.

In the early fourth century, Eusebius was bishop of Caesarea Maritima, in Palestine, and a friend of Emperor Constantine. He was the first Christian historian of note. He tended to cite or paraphrase earlier sources, some of which are no longer in existence.

Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History remains the principal source for the history of the early Church.

If you are so inclined to read further you will be offered a sense of what had to transpire before and after Nicaea in order to provide us with the New Testament as we know it. Lots of drama!

One can then easily understand the years of debate as the bishopry attempted the canonization, the legal basis for a common creed. Questions still arise today, the benefit, no the necessity of listening to the Spirit while reading the text, if one desires to hear the Word! You might want to read thst again.

At the beginning of the fourth century, Christianity was persecuted by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Among other things, the Holy Scriptures of the Christians were sought out and destroyed by the authority of the Emperor in his Imperial Edict in A.D. 303.

In A.D. 330, Constantine who followed

Diocletian inaugurated his new capital at Constantinople, formerly called Byzantium. Shortly thereafter, the Emperor wrote to the church father Eusebius and asked him to have fifty copies of the Scriptures produced and sent to Constantinople. Each of these copies would have included the entire Old Testament and New Testament in Greek.

Back to my inquiry of the Gospel of Matthew and things learned.

Eusebius cites Papias to say that Matthew wrote “the oracles” (gospel) in the Hebrew language and that Mark had written down accurately, although not in order, his gospel as told to him by Peter.

Eusebius tells us that Clement of Alexandria, whose Hypotyposes no longer exists, said that last of all, John wrote a more spiritual gospel.

The following quotes come from Eusebius', Ecclesiastical History 3:

"Nevertheless, of all the disciples of the Lord, only Matthew and John have left us written memorials, and they, tradition says, were led to write only under the pressure of necessity. And when MARK and LUKE had already published their Gospels, they say that JOHN, who had employed all his time in proclaiming the Gospel orally, finally proceeded to write for the following reason."

As if acknowledging that only Luke’s Gospel was an accurate record he states:

"But as for Luke, in the beginning of his Gospel, he states himself the reasons which led him to write it. He states that since many others had more rashly undertaken to compose a narrative of the events of which he had acquired perfect knowledge, he himself, feeling the necessity of freeing us from their uncertain opinions, delivered in his own Gospel an accurate account of those events in regard to which he had learned the full truth, being aided by his intimacy and his stay with Paul and by his acquaintance with the rest of the apostles."

"For it is evident that the three evangelists recorded only the deeds done by the Saviour for one year after the imprisonment of John the Baptist, and indicated this in the beginning of their account."

"This confirms a literal reading of the three synoptic gospels, but overlooks the chronology of John’s Gospel, which requires a duration of at least four years."

Eusebius attempts to resolve this by stating that John told of the events before John the Baptist was imprisoned, saying:

"One who understands this can no longer think that the Gospels are at variance with one another, inasmuch as the Gospel according to John contains the first acts of Christ, while the others give an account of the latter part of his life. And the genealogy of our Saviour according to the flesh John quite naturally omitted, because it had been already given by Matthew and Luke, and began with the doctrine of his divinity, which had, as it were, been reserved for him, as their superior, by the divine Spirit."

Eusebius was convinced that the apostle John was the author of John’s Gospel and of the Johannine epistles, but not of the Revelation of John. (3)

His access to the Library of Caesarea and his education under Pamphilus allowed him to blaze the trail in church history and produce monumental works of ancient scholarship. His writings provided a model for how the church would pass on its legacy to future believers.

For most modern scholars, Eusebius remains an invaluable source of information about the early church and other ancient writers—they just need to avoid the potholes of bias and occasional lack of judgment along the path he left behind. (4)

Eusebius was at times held in suspect given his friendship with Constantine and his reluctance to sign onto the the banishing of Arius, an Alexandrian presbyter.

The early church denounced Arianism as a heresy because it affirmed that Christ had a finite nature, rather than equal divinity with God the Father.

All this squabbling added challenge to Constantine as he attempted to unite the various Christian sects, divisions that had occured dating back as early as 60 A.D. based upon the warnings of Jude, the brother of Jesus as well as the Apostle Peter.

See, II Peter 2.

More serious difficulty arose later for Eusebius out of his attitude toward those "fallen into apostasy", himself reluctant to support their being "forever disbarred." Given the Church was unable to resolve their disagreements, both Eusebius and his adversaries were exciled to Sicily, where he died almost immediately. No one knows if by natural death or otherwise.

How does all this this relate to 2024? The current faith deconstruction movement draws strength from such unresolved historical conflicts, and the schisms over generations, along with the number of variants of the faith that exist even today. Not that I disagree with much of what I hear as I continue to provide safe spaces for spiritually focused conversations among younger generation believers, and even the Dones near my age.

"A recent compilation lists 33,089 Christian denominations world-wide, including the massive Roman Catholic Church (with a billion adherents), 25 principal forms of Eastern Orthodoxy, numerous varieties of Protestantism, and tiny store-front churches with fewer than 100 members." (5).

All this should provide a wake up call to the Body of Christ, whom I sincerely love but hold concern given the diminishing impact of the American Church. Gen Z's and the emerging Alpha Generation seem less compelled to a faith based upon fear or attracted to what seems a fading evangelical movement, now grossly fragmented by politics.

Their search for meaningful spiritual engagement seems less and less found within the religious facilities built by the former Silent and Boomer generations. Yet in my conversations, I hear a hunger for transparency and spiritual empowerment as was found in the First Century.

2 ibid.

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Always enjoy your devotion have a good weekend

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