The Quartodeciman Controversy

The Quartodeciman Controversy

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In our last article, we reviewed the life and testimony of Polycarp (CLICK HERE to read that article). He was the disciple of the Apostle John and thus appointed by him (with perhaps some others) to be Bishop of Smyrna. He was a weighty witness who went to Rome in the mid-150s AD to deal with these heretics. However, there was another reason for this visit.

At this same time, the Bishop of Rome, Anicetus, decided that He did not want to honor Passover according to the Scriptural reckoning. Jesus and the earliest disciples commemorated Passover on the 14th of Nissan. Polycarp and the rest of the Eastern Churches followed that example.

“At this time, while Anicetus was at the head of the church of Rome, Irenæus relates that Polycarp, who was still alive, was at Rome, and that he had a conference with Anicetus on a question concerning the day of the paschal feast…” (Eusebius, Church History, bk 4, 14:1- 7).

“And when the blessed Polycarp was at Rome in the time of Anicetus, and they disagreed a little about certain other things, they immediately made peace with one another, not caring to quarrel over the matter. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John the disciple of our Lord, and the other apostles with whom he had associated; neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it, as he said that he ought to follow the customs of the presbyters that had preceded him. But though matters were in this shape, they communed together, and Anicetus conceded the administration of the eucharist in the church to Polycarp, manifestly as a mark of respect. And they parted from each other in peace, both those who observed, and those who did not, maintaining the peace of the whole church” (ibid, bk 5, 24:16-17).

Essentially, the issue between Polycarp and Anticetus came to a standstill. Polycarp could not convince Anticetus to celebrate Passover the proper way as he received it from the first Apostles, and Anticetus could not convince Polycarp to change. Notice one detail given in the account above: Anicetus decided to stay with the customs of man. The traditions of the bishop of Rome were of greater weight than the example of Christ. While the two parties peaceably disagreed, they still communicated with each other.

Polycarp had greater standing to maintain his view than did the bishop of Rome. He was taught by the first Apostles. Anicetus was the 10th or 11th bishop of Rome from the time of the original Apostles. Under the watch of Anicetus, heresy reached a climax (for that time). He had no standing to refute these heresies. He diverted people from the example of the original Apostles.

Of all people who would be groomed and preserved to tackle this issue – God chose Polycarp, who was taught by John, who leaned on the Lord’s breast during Passover. Only God could have known about this issue before it occurred and prepared a witness for the dispute.

Anicetus’ decision would bring about a controversy that would last for centuries to come. The issue about when to keep Passover became known as the Quartodeciman controversy. Quartodeciman is a Latin word meaning “fourteenth.”

Around 190 AD, the same issue came up again. This time the disagreement occurred between Polycrates, who was the disciple of Polycarp, and Victor, the bishop of Rome. The outcome was very different.

“A question of no small importance arose at that time. For the parishes of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should be observed as the feast of the Saviour’s passover” (ibid, bk 5, 23:1).

In part of the discussion about this issue, Polycrates wrote to the Bishop of Rome (preserved by Eusebius).

“But the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates, decided to hold to the old custom handed down to them. He himself, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down to him: ‘We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles…and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord…And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr…[others are mentioned]… Melito the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven… All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ‘We ought to obey God rather than man’ [Acts 5:29]…I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus” (ibid, bk 5, 24:1-8).

Polycrates cited that he and his relatives (spiritual relatives) also celebrated the day of removing leaven (a reference to getting out leaven before the feast of unleavened bread). Those that celebrated Passover on the 14th of Nisan had tremendous support – Polycrates said that a great multitude backed him. The Bishop of Rome, Victor, would have none of this! He tried to cut off communication with the Eastern churches.

“Thereupon Victor, who presided over the church at Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia, with the churches that agreed with them, as heterodox; and he wrote letters and declared all the brethren there wholly excommunicate” (ibid, bk 5, 24:9).

The bishop of Lyons, Irenæus, who had spent some time around Polycarp, sent a scathing letter to Victor. In it, he said that some of the prior Roman bishops did not observe Passover at the same time as Jesus. However, they did not excommunicate Christians who celebrated Passover. We have a quote from him:

“Among these were the presbyters before Soter, who presided over the church which you now rule. We mean Anicetus, and Pius, and Hyginus, and Telesphorus, and Xystus. They neither observed it themselves, nor did they permit those after them to do so….And yet though not observing it, they were none the less at peace with those who came to them from the parishes in which it was observed; although this observance was more opposed to those who did not observe it….But none were ever cast out on account of this form; but the presbyters before you who did not observe it, sent the eucharist to those of other parishes who observed it” (ibid, bk 5, 24:14-15]).

The earliest Roman Bishop who was listed as not keeping Passover in the Biblical manner was Xystus (also called Sixtus) who we briefly discussed earlier in the chapter. He was one bishop during the reign of Hadrian. If you will recall from previous articles, this was the time when Christianity began to change. The writer Epiphanius (approx. 380 AD) said that all of Christendom used to keep Passover in the same way on the fourteenth of Nissan (Against Heresies, section 70).

In the communication about this issue, none of the bishops of Rome appealed to Peter or Paul for the reason not to keep Passover. And they couldn’t use them either. They both kept Passover with Jesus and Paul even instructed the Corinthians to keep it (I Cor. 5:6-8). Therefore, the practice of Rome at that time was not even Apostolic in its claim.

You might ask yourself: what does this issue have to do with the Sabbath? During the time of Victor and Anicetus, the Roman Church kept Passover on the first Sunday after the 14th of Nissan. Later they would use the once a year Sunday observance as the justification to push weekly Sunday services.

This issue would come up again over the centuries and become a central aspect of the council of Nicea in 325 AD. At that council, Constantine ruled Christians should keep Passover after the Roman custom, which was on Sunday.

Side note: a significant number of Christians did not heed this command to keep Passover like the Roman Church. It was brought up during later times (such as the Council of Laodicea in 364 AD); a group of Christians honoring Passover on the 14th persisted for centuries after this.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

 

Genesis 4:3 – An Early Example of Sabbath Observance?

Genesis 4:3 – An Early Example of Sabbath Observance?

By John Lemley

“Genesis 4:3 – “In the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.” The focus of this article will be on the words “in the process of time.”

I was first alerted to this phrase as being a possible allusion to the seventh-day Sabbath in the September 1979 issue of Impact Series by the Institute for Creation Research. The title of the article is Creation and the Seven-Day Week by Henry M. Morris. On page ii Mr. Morris quotes Genesis 2:1-3 following it with this explanation:

“And then God blessed and sanctified the seventh day! He declared it to be a holy day, a day peculiarly the Lord’s Day. The six days had been occupied with His creation; one day should be occupied with the Creator. He frequently referred later to “my Sabbaths” (e.g. Exodus 31:13).”

Then, Mr. Morris moves to the account of Cain and Abel in Genesis chapter 4 where he finds an example of seventh-day Sabbath observance.

“That the children of Adam, even after the expulsion from Eden, continued to regard every seventh-day as a day of rest and worship is clearly implied in the story of Cain and Abel…”

(this article is an excerpt from the May-June 2017 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 9, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/May-June_2017.pdf

Polycarp: The Heretic Fighter

Polycarp: The Heretic Fighter

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

While the second century was flooded with false teachers and heretical ideas, God reserved a remnant of the faithful. He always does. There was a specific person God reserved to lead the stand against it all. His name was Polycarp.

Polycarp was appointed by the first Apostles as the Bishop of Smyrna and was a disciple of the Apostle John. In the 150s AD, he was likely the last living person who was taught by the first disciples of Christ. This made him a living legend in some ways.

Much of what we know about Polycarp comes from Irenaeus (a second-century Christian who knew Polycarp personally), an epistle he wrote called The Letter to the Philippians, and other primary sources from a similar time period.

The historian Eusebius recorded about 330 AD that: “Pothinus having died with the other martyrs in Gaul at ninety years of age, Irenæus succeeded him in the episcopate of the church at Lyons. We have learned that, in his youth, he was a hearer of Polycarp” (idem, Church History, 5.5.8).

Irenaeus said the following about Polycarp: “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, whom I also saw in my early youth…for he [Polycarp] tarried [on earth] a very long time….having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.3.4).

“…I can even describe the place where the blessed Polycarp used to sit and discourse — his going out, too, and his coming in — his general mode of life and personal appearance, together with the discourses which he delivered to the people; also how he would speak of his familiar intercourse with John, and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord; and how he would call their words to remembrance. Whatsoever things he had heard from them respecting the Lord, both with regard to His miracles and His teaching, Polycarp having thus received [information] from the eye-witnesses of the Word of life, would recount them all in harmony with the Scriptures.…” (quoted from Fragments from the Lost writings Irenaeus, sec. 2)

Irenaeus went on to say: “And I can bear witness before God, that if that blessed and apostolic presbyter had heard any such thing, he would have cried out, and stopped his ears, exclaiming as he was wont to do: O good God, for what times have You reserved me, that I should endure these things?” (ibid)

As the false doctrines were spreading rampantly throughout the Christian community, Polycarp wondered why he was kept alive to hear such things. Looking back upon the tumultuous times of the second century, we know the truth. He was being kept alive to confront these false teachings and teachers.

Between 110 and 140 AD, he wrote a letter to the Philippians. We will review this letter deeper in a future article. In it, he affirmed keeping the commandments of God and quotes many New Testament letters almost word for word. He quoted from as many as 18 letters that we consider canon for the New Testament. Here is one example:

“But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness…” (Letter to the Philippians, Chapter 2).

To give you an idea about the gravity of his testimony, consider the following: His letter to the Philippians was lauded by contemporaries who said it would bring assurance to the truth about salvation (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.3.4). The letter was so highly regarded that even as late as 400 AD it was routinely read in Christian assemblies in Asia (Jerome, On Illustrious Men, 17).

Tertullian, who lived in the late second and early third centuries, wrote much against heresy. One of the ways he combated false teachers was to appeal to the list of bishops in every city that went back to the first Apostles. This is usually termed ‘Apostolic Succession’. It was very important in the second century. The heretics could not trace any of their teachers to the time of Jesus. Here is an excerpt from Tertullian’s work Prescription Against Heretics.

“But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning… in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men, — a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John…” (idem, sec. 32)

As Tertullian recounted the records of the churches, the Church of Smyrna and Polycarp were listed FIRST to prove apostolic succession. He pointed out that there were written records in his day that confirmed Polycarp as the successor to the Apostle John. That was his chief point concerning Apostolic succession.

These details, among others we could use, clearly prove Polycarp’s weightiness as a witness for Apostolic teaching.

In about the year 154, Polycarp went to Rome to confront the Bishop Anicetus about when to keep Passover (which we will address in a future article). Remember from our three part series in March 2020 that Anicetus was the Bishop under whom many heresies increased. As Irenaeus wrote:

For Valentinus came to Rome in the time of Hyginus, flourished under Pius, and remained until Anicetus. Cerdon, too, Marcion’s predecessor, himself arrived in the time of Hyginus… Marcion, then, succeeding him, flourished under Anicetus, who held the tenth place of the episcopate” (Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 3.4.3).

Valentinus was best known for his mixture of Gnosticism and Christianity, which included trying to mix common sayings of the day with the New Testament. This formed a own mutilated text. Marcion also tried to mutilate the New Testament by taking out verses that did not suite his doctrine. He especially wanted to separate keeping God’s commandments from the message of Christ’s resurrection. Their greatest outreach occurred in Rome; apparently the Roman Bishops could not stop them (or did not try to).

If there was a human being alive who could combat the errors of these men, it was Polycarp. He either had many of the documents which would compose the New Testament or he knew them by heart (his quotes in the Letter to the Philippians are an exceptional example of this). He was a disciple of John and knew the pure Christian faith.

“…To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time– a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles — that, namely, which is handed down by the Church…And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me?” [Polycarp replied] “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan”…(Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses. 3.3.4, emphasis mine throughout).

Irenaeus agreed that Polycarp conversed with many who had seen Christ and his teachings were true. The Asiatic Churches (meaning those in the East) were still practicing what was originally passed down to the Apostles; he was their leader. The Western Churches, led by Rome, were being swayed by false teachings.

Polycarp was the only one equipped for the task of fighting these various difficulties. As the heretics sought to cut out portions of the New Testament or add to it, he refuted them. Of all the Apostles who could have discipled Polycarp, John was the only one who stayed with Christ through His suffering, death, and resurrection.

When the Bishops of Rome were going astray and being swayed by all sorts of doctrines, Polycarp came to sort out the mess. He confronted Marcion and all the heretics. He even called Marcion a son of the devil! In a time of turmoil, he turned many back to the true faith. His weight as a witness was stronger and more steadfast than the fleeting, weak doctrines he opposed.

Polycarp was indeed a second-century heretic fighter. In our next article on Sabbath history, we will look at another issue he sought to settle in his trip to Rome: the Quartodecmian controversy.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

In the Days of Noah

In the Days of Noah

by David Rives

In biblical history we learn that there came a time when wickedness filled the land. Even so, there was a righteous man who found grace in God’s sight. He was given instructions on the building of a ship which would preserve the lives of everyone on board. God revealed that He would send a flood to destroy everything that was not sealed in the ship.

Noah built the ark as commanded, and prepared for the coming flood, while the rest of the world continued as they were, too caught up in their daily lives.

The deluge that came wiped the earth clean, and after the waters had receded, the ark was opened, and life began anew.

We read that God “spared not the old world, but saved Noah…a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5).

(this article is an excerpt from the Jan-Feb 2013 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 19, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/TSS_2013_Jan-Feb_LowResProof2.pdf

The 2nd Century Rise of Heresy (Part 3 of 3)

The 2nd Century Rise of Heresy (Part 3 of 3)

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Last week, we began to review the false teachings that began in the mid-second century, including some specific teachers. In this week’s article, we will review two of the more influential teachers, Valentinian and Marcion. Their teachings have lasted down to our present time in some fashion or form.

For Valentinus came to Rome in the time of Hyginus, flourished under Pius, and remained until Anicetus. Cerdon, too, Marcion’s predecessor, himself arrived in the time of Hyginus…” (Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses. 3.4.3; emphasis mine).

To give you an idea of the time period we are discussing, consider the following: Hyginus was the Bishop of Rome from 138-142 AD, Pius from 142-154, and Anicetus 154-166. Valentinus desired to be a bishop in the Roman Church, but was denied the role. He then broke with them to start his own following.

Valentinians blended Bible verses with other common sayings from their day to present what they portrayed as a more perfect truth. They melded Christianity with pagan festivals and encouraged breaking the commandments of God.

“…They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavor to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth…these persons patch together old wives’ fables, and then endeavor, by violently drawing away from their proper connection, words, expressions, and parables whenever found, to adapt the oracles of God to their baseless fictions” (Irenaeus, Adv. Haers., 1.8.1).

Among their other false ideas: They accused God of creating a defective earth (ibid, 4.33.3). They taught that mankind was not made from the earth as described in Genesis (ibid, 5.15.4). They declared birth as an evil event, which subsequently led them to deny the bodily birth, suffering and resurrection of Christ (Clement, Stromata, 3.17.102). They did not believe that the corruptible body could become incorruptible by the power of God (Irenaeus, Against All Heresies, 2.14.4).

They were known for shifting views and creating fables immediately to justify whatever belief was convenient at the time (Tertullian, Against the Valentinians, ch. 1). For instance, they did not believe written documents contained truth, but only voice could spread truth. His group was among the largest groups of that time; he led many astray.

“The Valentinians, who are no doubt a very large body of heretics–comprising as they do so many apostates from the truth, who have a propensity for fables…” (Tertullian. Against the Valentinians, ch. 1).

“For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but vivâ voce [by voice]” (Irenaeus, 3:2:1).

“…boast that they possess more Gospels than there really are. Indeed, they have arrived at such a pitch of audacity, as to entitle their comparatively recent writing “the Gospel of Truth,” though it agrees in nothing with the Gospels of the Apostles, so that they have really no Gospel which is not full of blasphemy…” (ibid, 3:11:9).

“…he did not invent Scriptures to square with his own subject-matter, but adapted his matter to the Scriptures; and yet he took away more, and added more, by removing the proper meaning of every particular word, and adding fantastic arrangements of things which have no real existence…” (Tertullian, Prescriptions Against Heresy, ch. 38)

The last heretic we will discuss is Marcion, who followed in the footsteps as a man named Cerdon.

Cerdo or Cerdon taught that there were two gods: one of the Old Testament and one of the New Testament. He also went on to teach that Jesus was not the Son of the God of the Old Testament. Instead, he taught Jesus was the son of an entirely different God. He came to Rome during the time of Hyginus (which was the same time Valentinus arrived). He initially professed loyalty to the Roman church and spread his false teachings secretly. He eventually taught these things publicly.

Marcion succeeded him and deepened the heresy even further. In 144 AD, Marcion came to Rome. His teachings diffused throughout the Christian world. We will briefly look at the primary sources from this time period, which discuss his life and false teachings.

Cerdon was one who took his system from the followers of Simon, and came to live at Rome in the time of Hyginus… He taught that the God proclaimed by the law and the prophets was not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… Marcion of Pontus succeeded him, and developed his doctrine. In so doing, he advanced the most daring blasphemy against Him who is proclaimed as God by the law and the prophets, declaring Him to be the author of evils, to take delight in war, to be infirm of purpose, and even to be contrary to Himself” (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., 1:27:1-2; emphasis mine).

“Cerdon, too, Marcion’s predecessor, himself arrived in the time of Hyginus…Coming frequently into the Church, and making public confession, he thus remained, one time teaching in secret, and then again making public confession; but at last, having been denounced for corrupt teaching, he was excommunicated from the assembly of the brethren. Marcion, then, succeeding him, flourished under Anicetus, who held the tenth place of the episcopate” (Irenaeus, Adv Haer., 3:4:3; emphasis mine throughout).

“And there is Marcion, a man of Pontus, who is even at this day alive, and teaching his disciples to believe in some other god greater than the Creator. And he, by the aid of the devils, has caused many of every nation to speak blasphemies, and to deny that God is the maker of this universe, and to assert that some other being, greater than He, has done greater works. All who take their opinions from these men, are, as we before said, called Christians;…but we do know that they are neither persecuted nor put to death by you, at least on account of their opinions”  (Justin, First Apology, Chapter 26).

Among more of his false teachings: he taught that Christ’s statements in Matthew chapter 5 forbidding adultery, murder, and swearing were an indication that they had been overturned and no longer applied (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., 4:13:1). He prohibited marriage (Tertullian, Against Marcion, 5:7). He taught that Christ’s actual body was not crucified – but a phantom body (ibid, 4:40). He did not believe that the resurrection of the flesh was possible, but only the salvation of the soul (ibid, 5:10).

He truly despised the Old Testament and the Law of God he hated the Sabbath. Here is a quote from him about the seventh day: “Since that day is the rest of the God of the Jews, who made the world and rested the seventh day, we therefore fast on that day, that we may not do anything in compliance with the God of the Jews” (Epiphinaus, Haers., Sec. 42, from Bingham, 1139).

These heretics laid the foundation for a large anti-Sabbatarian movement in the second century. In the next few months, look for more articles on this subject.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

 

The 2nd Century Rise of Heresy (Part 2 of 3)

The 2nd Century Rise of Heresy (Part 2 of 3)

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Last week we began to discuss some of the factors that preceded the rise of heresy in the second century. In part two of this series, we will review some of the heretics of the second century and their teachings. There are at least five common beliefs shared among them:

1) Many were influenced by Gnosticism.

2) They were very anti-Semitic.

3) They devalued or disregarded the Old Testament as the background source for the New Testament.

4) They sought to replace the Old Testament with Greek philosophy, cultural influences, Stoicism or Gnostic sources.

5) They tried to replace or edit the writings that we call the New Testament.

Gnosticism is a belief system which blended Greek and Middle Eastern influences. Some of their common beliefs are as follows: matter is evil and spiritual things are good; an inferior god made the material world and a superior god made the spiritual realm; spirit and matter are opposed; and a strong emphasis on the gaining of knowledge as essential to the salvation of one’s immortal soul.

Paul had to address Gnosticism in his letter to the Corinthians. This church was focused on obtaining mysteries and operating in spiritual gifts, but they were loose in their morals. Paul explained in I Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:9-20 that sin committed in the body is still sin against God. Gnosticism had an even greater influence among Christians in the second century AD.

The heretics of the second century also had a hatred for the Jewish people. Their rhetoric is disgusting – some of believed that Christ came to destroy the God of the Jews.

Third, they wanted to devalue or disregard the Old Testament, which was the source material for God’s covenant with Israel and Judah. This part of the Bible also required submission of the human body to a holy lifestyle abhorred by Gnostics. They wanted Greek philosophy or some other belief system to replace the Old Testament. This would produce a twisted view of Christ’s life and the lives of the early disciples.

This development led them to write their own New Testament manuscripts or edit existing ones with their own spin to them. All these actions by Gnostics added confusion within the Christian community and among the general public. Those who sought the True God would be confused about Christianity.

In the late second century, several Christian writers wrote extensive works refuting these heretics – including Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Hippolytus. Unfortunately, Christianity was stained by the time they came along. Many of them were influenced to one degree or another by heretical teaching.

Among the first false teachers were Saturninus and Basilides, who began to spread heresy during the time of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD) and continued to do so into the reign of Antonius (138-161 AD). Irenaeus, who lived in this time period, wrote about their errors:

“1. Arising among these men, Saturninus (who was of that Antioch which is near Daphne) and Basilides laid hold of some favourable opportunities, and promulgated different systems of doctrine — the one in Syria, the other at Alexandria…. Man, too, was the workmanship of angels, a shining image bursting forth below from the presence of the supreme power…He has also laid it down as a truth, that the Saviour was without birth, without body, and without figure, but was, by supposition, a visible man; and he maintained that the God of the Jews was one of the angels; and, on this account, because all the powers wished to annihilate his father, Christ came to destroy the God of the Jews, but to save such as believe in him…This heretic was the first to affirm that two kinds of men were formed by the angels — the one wicked, and the other good. And since the demons assist the most wicked, the Saviour came for the destruction of evil men and of the demons, but for the salvation of the good” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1:24:2; emphasis mine throughout).

Saturninus was a dualist gnostic, so he viewed matter as evil. This caused him to deny the bodily birth of Christ; he taught that the Lord only appeared as an apparition. Moreover, he promoted the idea that angels created mankind and that their leader was the God of the Jews, who Christ was sent to destroy. He taught that Christ came to save good people and destroy the wicked.

The beliefs of Basilides are summarized below: “3. Basilides again, that he may appear to have discovered something more sublime and plausible, gives an immense development to his doctrines….4. Those angels who occupy the lowest heaven, that, namely, which is visible to us, formed all the things which are in the world, and made allotments among themselves of the earth and of those nations which are upon it. The chief of them is he who is thought to be the God of the Jews; and inasmuch as he desired to render the other nations subject to his own people, that is, the Jews, all the other princes resisted and opposed him. Wherefore all other nations were at enmity with his nation. But the father without birth and without name, perceiving that they would be destroyed, sent his own first-begotten Nous (he it is who is called Christ) to bestow deliverance on those who believe in him, from the power of those who made the world. He appeared, then, on earth as a man, to the nations of these powers, and wrought miracles…” (ibid, 1:24:3; emphasis mine throughout).

Basilides had viewpoints similar to Saturninus. He believed that the universe was created by angels and the chief one was the God of the Jews. He taught that Christ was sent to save the world from Him. He also denied Christ’s suffering in the flesh and affirmed that salvation came to the soul alone (ibid, 1:24:4). His followers engaged in idolatry, magic, and sorcery, yet claimed it was part of his worship of the true god.

The attack of these heretics was clear: they sought to portray the God of the Old Testament as a separate God than that of the New Testament. Saturninus goes as far to say that Jesus came to destroy the God of the Jews! How could anyone read the New Testament and come to such conclusions? When we read the Bible, it is clear that through Christ all things were created (John 1:1-3, Col. 1:15-17). Saturninus operated out of Syria and Basilides in Alexandria.

Next week we will finish by talking about two of the more popular heretics of the time period: Valentinus and Marcion.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

How Should We Respond to COVID-19?

How Should We Respond to COVID-19?

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Much of the world has been affected by the Corona Virus (also called COVID-19). This virus has spread to many places in a relatively short time period.

In the United States, businesses are closing in various parts of the country. Schools and other events are being suspended. Large segments of the population are going to find themselves either without work or quarantined to one degree or another. Forms of entertainment are suspended at the present and could be for the next few months. In other words, we are all going to have some or a lot of extra time on our hands.

What should we do with it?

As Christians, we should have a unique perspective to the world. We have hope (Romans 5:1-5). We have precious promises to remind us that God is with us no matter what happens. Consider Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. Consider also Matthew 28:20: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We also have a relationship with the Creator of the Universe. One of the ways that we access His provision is prayer. As Paul wrote “Pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17; see also Romans 8:26). We can pray anywhere – and it is a vital tool to help us and others focus during a time that seems uncertain. There’s so much we cannot control around us – but we can control our response. We know the God who is more than able to part Red Seas and even abate plagues.

In this article, I want to walk you through a prayer strategy to help you and others.

1) Examine yourself – 2 Corinthians 13:5. Take time to look at your own relationship with God. Is it where it needs to be? Where have you fallen short? Have you allowed the various closed activities, such as work, entertainment, or schooling, to come between you and God? Are you studying to show yourself approved? (2 Tim. 2:15). What does your prayer life look like? Have you become negligent of your brothers and sisters in Christ? Have you become lukewarm in your commandment keeping? (Rev. 3:15-22) Has God called you to do something and you have ignored it or allowed busy-ness to occupy your time? (Matt. 25:14-30)

In a world with so much finger pointing, we need to look at ourselves first and foremost.

2) Ask God for forgiveness and repent – In whatever realm we have fallen short, each of us (including myself) needs to ask God to forgive us and then repent. Repent means to change your mind in such a way that it changes your lifestyle. Whatever you asked God to forgive you for, be prepared to take action. If you haven’t been honest with people, then make the commitment to change and be honest. If you have neglected the study of God’s word, then take the time to do so. If you haven’t really prayed/sought God’s will for your life, then do it. Get serious about your calling and election. If you need to talk to a brother or sister in Christ, then give them a call. We have the time to do it.

(There are some life changes you need to make that you will have to wait until after this virus passes over to carry out. If that’s the case, pray for a strategy and courage to do so when the opportunity makes itself known.)

3) Ask God to forgive the sins of our nation – Once we have examined ourselves, we need to take a long hard look at the sins of our country. Over 60 million babies have been aborted and marriage/sexuality has been perverted. We have made idols of our entertainment; we trust too much in our prosperity. The commandments of God are transgressed with wild abandon. You may find other things, but those are the obvious ones I am praying about. We need to ask God to forgive our nation and cause the nation to repent.

During this crisis, pray that God will cause everyone to see their own sins and short comings. Ask God to reveal to everyone in our country that our prosperity could be gone in a heartbeat (as it has been reduced very quickly) and that we should look to Him as our source instead of our stuff. Since we will all be doing at a lot less, I believe it may be easier for God to get people’s attention (Be still and know). Ask God to heal our land.

4) Pray for our leaders – I can’t imagine the logistical obstacles that leaders in government are overcoming to adjust to this situation. The virus is newer, so we don’t have prior experience with its symptoms/after effects. Let’s pray for our leaders to make sound, wise decisions.

5) Pray for people affected by the virus – God is the healer; one of the reasons Christ came was to bring us healing through His stripes. Ask God to supernaturally intervene to heal those who are affected by the virus.

6) Pray for healthcare and other essential workers – Some people will have to go to work no matter what happens. Healthcare workers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, electrical workers, etc. Pray for those who are in essential fields to be protected from this virus and have confidence to continue their necessary job.

7) Pray for necessities to continue uninterrupted – Pray for the factories and industries that make necessities (such as food, etc.) to continue uninterrupted and the workers that deliver them (truck drivers) to be unimpeded.

8) Pray for those who are quarantined – Some people will voluntarily stay inside while others will be forced to do so. Some people don’t do well in closed environments. Pray for the God of hope to help them cope with the situation. He is the God of all comfort.

9) Pray for those who are unemployed – A lot of people are becoming unemployed. Ask for God to give them supernatural provision in this time and favor. Ask for God to do it in a way where they will recognize it is His hand at work.

10) Pray for people to remain calm and helpful – Humans tend to fear uncertainty; this can lead to selfishness. Pray for people to remain calm and level-headed during this time. Remind yourself and others of the verse: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Lastly, pray for us all to learn something from this whole ordeal. While none of us chose for these events to happen, our God uses events like this to teach us and guide us. Be keenly aware of what lessons you might learn in this season. If you are worried or concerned, ask God to increase your faith and give your strength in this time. Go through encouraging verses in the Bible, such as many of the Psalms, that will help you cope with the situation.

Too often we treat prayer as our last option. Let’s make it our priority and what our God work in us and in the world around us.

God Bless.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

The 2nd Century Rise of Heresy (Part 1 of 3)

The 2nd Century Rise of Heresy (Part 1 of 3)

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In the second century AD, Christianity experienced a tremendous attack of false doctrine and heresy. People tried to mix the pure faith with other religions. In this three-part series, we are going to discuss the rise of heresy in the second century. We will review the events leading up to this trend and some of the specific individuals involved.

First, we will examine the quotes of two different authors who describe these turbulent times.

Hegessipus (writing between 150-170 AD)

“And, after profound peace had been established in every church, they remained down to the reign of Trajan Caesar…Symeon son of Clopas, was informed against [accused] by the various heresies, and subjected to an accusation like the rest…He was finally condemned to be crucified. Up to that period the Church had remained like a virgin pure and uncorrupted…But, when the sacred band of apostles had in various ways closed their lives, and that generation of men to whom it had been vouchsafed to listen to the Godlike Wisdom with their own ears had passed away, then did the confederacy of godless error take its rise…And the church of the Corinthians continued in the orthodox faith up to the time when Primus was bishop in Corinth. I had some intercourse with these brethren on my voyage to Rome…in every city, the state of affairs is in accordance with the teaching of the Law and of the Prophets and of the Lord…After James the Just had suffered martyrdom [62 AD], as had the Lord on the same account, again Symeon son of Clopas, descended from the Lord’s uncle, is made bishop [of Jerusalem]… Therefore was the Church called a virgin, for she was not as yet corrupted by worthless teaching. Thebulis it was who, displeased because he was not made bishop, first began to corrupt her by stealth. He too was connected with the seven sects which existed among the people…from these have come false Christs, false prophets, false apostles – men who have split up the one Church into parts through their corrupting doctrines, uttered in disparagement of God and of His Christ…” (fragments)

Clement of Alexandria (writing around 180 AD)

“The Tradition of the Church Prior to that of the Heresies… For the teaching of our Lord at His advent, beginning with Augustus and Tiberius, was completed in the middle of the times of Tiberius. And that of the apostles, embracing the ministry of Paul, ends with Nero. It was later, in the times of Adrian [Hadrian] the king, that those who invented the heresies arose…” (Stromata Book 7, Chapter 17)

Hegessipus is considered the earliest Christian historian. He noted that Christianity held to the true faith until the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan (98-117 AD). What might have caused him to say such a thing?

During the reign of Trajan, Christians were persecuted (see Pliny the Younger’s letters 96-98 to Trajan). They were put on trial and tortured. During this time of persecution, strong leaders were martyred within Christianity. Hegessipus specifically mentioned how Simeon was turned in by the heretics.

A second important factor that Hegessipus noted was the death of the first Apostles. Of them, John passed away last in approximately 100-105 AD. Many of their followers had either passed away or were older at this time. The individuals with the freshest memories of Christ’s life were no longer around.

These two factors played a huge role in the heretics who would try to alter Christianity in the second century.

Clement of Alexandria, who lived a little later, said that during the reign of Hadrian (117-138 AD) that the heretics arose. The significant event of that occurred during his reign was the Roman-Judean war. The Jewish people lost this war. As a result, Hadrian placed a special tax on the Jewish people. He also banned all the Jewish people from Jerusalem, including the Bishop of the city (who some considered to be the bishop of all Christendom). Some troubles in Christianity started at this time, including an argument about when to keep the Passover (which we will look at in a future article).

These events converged in a time period from 98-138 AD when Christianity would be assaulted by outside belief systems. They started in secret but came out in the open when they thought the time was right.

In the next article of this multi-part series, we will look at some of these heretics and their beliefs.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Sabbath Roots—The African Connection

Sabbath Roots—The African Connection

By Richard Nickels

“Black Africans have a unique proclivity toward accepting the seventh-day Sabbath. Historically, Ethiopia, and many other parts of black Africa have been bastions of Sabbatarianism. Their isolation, for centuries, from the corrupting influence of Rome has allowed Africans to maintain much spiritual independence. Today, Christianity in general, and Sabbath-keeping in particular, is exploding in subSaharan Africa.

Charles E. Bradford, author of Sabbath Roots: The African Connection, brings to light many surprising historical facts. Those of us who have been schooled in European civilization may be shocked to realize the existence and widespread nature of unvarnished Christianity in black Africa, for centuries. About 340 million Africans profess Christianity. According to reliable estimates, Africa has the world’s largest concentration of Sabbath-keepers, some 20 million people, of which only about three million are Seventh Day Adventists. The Sabbath is natural to black Africans. God is doing a work in Africa!

Ethiopia Equals Sabbath-Keeping

Ethiopia (Abyssinia) is a nation defined throughout its existence by its fidelity to the seventh-day Sabbath. Today, the numbers of Sabbath-keepers are exploding in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Gabon, Congo, and elsewhere. Why? Because of the work of missionaries in the 1800s? No! The Sabbath is thriving in Africa because the Sabbath roots of Africa run deep, both in Scripture, and historical practice…”

(this article is an excerpt from the July-August 2000 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 9, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/tss/484/tss_484.pdf

The Blessed Day

The Blessed Day

By Jason Overman

The week has passed. My work is done. Sun has set; Sabbath is here. I’m so ready.

Another busy workweek wore me out, as usual. I’ve leaned toward this moment all day. Walking through the front door, I sigh audibly, bodily. The best day of the week arrives in the nick of time, greeting me like an old friend. I smile.

I can’t explain it, but in that instant, space shifts, time tips, and I let go. It’s Sabbath.

So here I am writing these thoughts with my family sleeping, the lights low, and my feet kicked up.

I love the Sabbath. I have for as long as I can remember. I can’t imagine living without it or why anyone would want to try. A wellmeaning Christian once told me I didn’t have to keep Sabbath because I wasn’t under the law. My defense wasn’t theologically well formed, although I think it could’ve been. All that came out then was “Can I keep it if I want?”

Now it’s a running joke in my family. Dragging myself home on Friday evening, I’ll often quip with a wink to my wife, while I’m flopping onto the couch, “Thank God I’m under the law.”

I just turned 48, and my workweek takes a bigger toll as the years pile up. Yes, I was one of the weird church kids who actually liked Sabbath p.m. naps. I enjoy them now even more, along with what “church” can really be and how Sabbath makes that possible.

If real life has taught me anything, it’s that I need Sabbath and that Sabbath is there for me.

For all of us. It’s not just about the law, important as that is; it’s about delight. Sabbath is the best day of the week simply because it’s the blessed day of the week. A delight. Why would anyone want to miss out on that?

Lord of Sabbath

The more I experience Sabbath as a blessing, the more I realize how much it’s entangled in Jesus. I learned long ago that I can’t fully know God’s Sabbath by starting at creation and moving toward Christ through the law. Jesus is the first, the last, and the center. Beginning with Him, I discover that which-ever way I go, He’s waiting for me there, illuminating the text in wonderful ways.

Mark 2:23-28 illustrates this profoundly. It tells how Jesus’ hungry disciples picked grain to eat while walking through a field on the Sabbath and were accused by the Pharisees of breaking the command. Jesus, more concerned about human need than defining work, replies, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath” (vv. 27, 28).

I love the simplicity in which Jesus corrects the misguided Pharisees who, in professing the day, had missed its blessing: Don’t take what God made for us and turn it against us. Jesus can say this because He is “Lord of the Sabbath.” That’s it in a nutshell.

As simple as Jesus’ reply is in this situation, it blows my mind how far-reaching it is. Jesus addresses the origin (“made”), the intent (“for”), and the scope (“man”/humanity) of the Sabbath

As in a later argument over marriage and di

vorce (10:2-12), you can almost hear Jesus saying, “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made’” (v. 6). Christ can take us back to creation and claim lordship over it because as the Word of God, He was there (John 1:1-3). He made it all and knows its purpose as only the Creator can. Let’s head back to the beginning now and find the Lord of the Sabbath there.

Then God blessed

“Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:1-3).

. If this were all the Bible ever said about Sabbath, I’d be asking, “How do I get in on this blessed day?”

The first thing declared “holy” in Scripture isn’t a thing at all but the day in which God ceased from His creative work, having declared it all “very good.” The “holy” points us away from things made and the labors by which they are made, to what transcends and enriches it all: God. By His example we sense the call to let go and trust Him.

Further, the blessing of the seventh day is not the first “blessing” of creation week. By the time God “rested” (shabath, root of Sabbath), He’d already blessed the living creatures created on the fifth day (1:20-23) and man (adam, or” humanity”), created “in His image” (vv. 26-28) on the sixth. The sixth day was God’s creative peak, and His blessing the seventh indicates that creation’s goal is our final rest in God.

When God blesses humanity, He addresses them personally (v. 28). On the heels of this intimate blessing of those shaped in His image and called to flourish, God ends His work and blesses the seventh day, resting with His creation. These two blessings interrelate and cor

relate. The final touch, Sabbath, was not blessed for its own sake but for the sake of the blessed — those who would labor after God, imitating Him.

The blessed man followed by the blessed day establishes the priority to which Jesus spoke in Mark 2:27, 28. The one precedes the other, the latter enriches the former, and God, who blesses both, is Lord over all.

Like marriage, another divine institution woven into the created order prior to man’s fall, Sabbath is neither named nor commanded in Genesis 2. Like that first marriage, it is simply, sublimely modeled by Divine initiative, its invitation extended to the first Adam and all who follow.

Delight in the Lord

Beyond Eden, sin distorts and robs people of God’s best gifts, as we saw in Mark 2 and 10 with Sabbath and marriage. Our God-given “dominion” has been subverted by pride so that Sabbath is either overlooked or oppressive, its blessing lost. We need a change of heart.

God’s creatures may forget or resist this blessed day, ignore it, or resent it, but to no avail. It remains. Sabbath is blessed and holy however I may choose to acknowledge it, or not. It’s just the way the world is, the way God the Word made it. Sabbath continues to witness to the truth that our Creator and Redeemer is, relentlessly, for us:

  • He offered Sabbath rest to a mixed multitude of former slaves just out of Egypt (Exodus 16)

(Exodus 16). • He commanded them to follow His Sabbath example, remembering to share this blessed day with male/female, slave/free, citizen/ foreigner — even domestic animals (Exodus 20).

  • He gave Israel a Sabbath song to celebrate His faithfulness and our flourishing (Psalm 92).
  • He promised a coming covenant, Sabbath rest, and the ingathering of all peoples (Isaiah 56).

This biblical witness anticipates Christ’s words that the Sabbath was made for us — God’s work in Christ — and the new covenant written on the hearts of all who trust Him (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10). Jesus embodied Sabbath when He went about working miracles of restoration, especially on Sabbath. This kingdom, now and not yet, this King, come and coming, are Sabbath-shaped — a blessing of rest and restoration for the world (Hebrews 4:9; Matthew 11:28-30).

It does indeed take more than Divine example and command to live Sabbath-shaped lives. Our proud, restless hearts resist God’s blessing. It takes the full operation of God in Christ through the Spirit to embody Isaiah’s vision of lives set free from their own works and pursuits in order to call Sabbath a delight and to delight in Sabbath’s Lord (58:13, 14).

Reading the stories of gospel, of creation, and of law and prophets, it’s impossible for me to evade the scriptural weight of Sabbath-asblessing-for-us.

Sabbath blessing

Now the night is far past. I’m still sitting here, pecking away, lost in my Sabbath thoughts on the best and blessed day of the week.

I’m praying for us all to find that blessed delight this Sabbath and the next and the one after that. To delightfully model Sabbath blessing just as God the Father and His Son have shown us.