What Happened to the Priesthood of all Believers?

A Time Line Study by Mark Jantzi, October 8, 2016, edited 11-11-16.

  1. Apostle John: After his time on Patmos, Died in Ephesus after 98 AD, possibly in his 90s. [Apostles Peter & Paul died as martyrs about 67-68AD?]. John was taught by Jesus Christ, (see Matthew 20 and 23:8 “you are all brethren”). John is believed to have personally known both Ignatius (of Antioch) and Polycarp (of Smyrna), and he obviously knew Diotrephes.
  2. Diotrephes is a clear and early example of the practice of pastoral/monarchical bishopric control in the local assembly. John describes his behavior in 3 John 9-11, written about 95 AD.

3 Jo 1:9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

Diotrephes loved the preeminence. When John wrote to the church, he took control of the letter and declared that he would have nothing to do with the apostle. He would not receive John or any of his followers, and if any of “his” church members wanted to follow them they would be put out of the church. He ruled as a lord over God’s heritage, a Nicolaitan.

  1. I include Clement whom Paul mentions in Philippians 4:3 9about 64 AD) as a “fellowlabourer among those whose names are in the book”. Certain Catholic historians would refer to him as Clement of Rome (to distinguish him from the Clement of Alexandria, who founded the paganistic/philosophical “bible school” that Origen succeeded), and also as the third bishop of Rome. It is very unlikely that he was actually a bishop of Rome, as firstly, I believe that at that time that the Roman church was ruled by presbyters (elders). Secondly, because of the content of the letter that he wrote to Corinth about 96 AD. It seems that a group of men at Corinth had deposed the presbyters of the church in an internal dispute over church leadership, and had apparently wanted a different type of church government (Nicolaitanism?). He calls these men to repent, to practice humility, and to follow Jesus and His apostles as examples. Thirdly, the letter appears to be from the church at Rome to the church at Corinth; Clement’s name is not mentioned except in the response letter to Rome from Corinth as if he is the assumed author. All of this appears to be presbyters to presbyters, no hint of a bishop in either church.
  2. Ignatius: Died a martyr in Rome about 107-108 AD (111?) as a man in his 70s; date of birth unknown, 32-35 AD. He was called the Bishop of Antioch, the third such, Peter supposedly being the first and Evodius the second (who died 67 AD). So he must have been taught by Peter, probably by John, and by his own letters, he knew Polycarp. The only thing known about him is what he wrote in his letters while he was on his way to Rome where he was martyred (probably by wild beasts). The story is that the emperor Trajan was in Smyrna after winning some important battles and bragging to the “gods” about it, for which Ignatius rebuked him. Trajan had him arrested but could not carry out the sentence of death in Smyrna because of his popularity with the people, so he ordered him sent to Rome. Here is what his letters taught:
    1. (+) He fought to resist Judaizers who did not accept the authority of the New Testament (writings of Paul, etc.) He advocated the gathering of the body of Christ on the first day of the week (a.k.a. “The Lord’s Day”) instead of the Jewish Sabbath. Ignatius wrote, “It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practice Judaism. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity”.
    2. (+) He resisted the Docetists, who believed that Christ’s suffering and death were apparent (he only appeared to suffer and die) but not real, since Christ had a phantom body. Ignatius said that Jesus Christ had a real and mortal body when he walked on earth.
    3. () He advocated a hierarchical structure of the church with emphasis on Episcopal authority. He called the “eucharist” the “medicine of immortality”. His hierarchy included the bishop (like a pastor over the entire city), the presbytery (elders) and the deacons (servants). He said, “It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop”. He is the first writer to refer to the church as “catholic” (universal).
    4. (+) He seemed to desire (to be seeking) to die a martyr, believing his salvation included his overcoming the fear of death. He wrote to the church at Rome and asked them not to try to get him excused from the sentence of martyrdom.
  3. Polycarp: 69 AD (?) – 155 (168?) AD. He was known as the Bishop of Smyrna (the second church addressed in John’s Revelation; the church of poverty, tribulation and the Jews who were of the synagogue of Satan). In a letter written by Irenauus, his teaching was given as one who got it directly from those who had seen the Word of Life with their own eyes, and all this in perfect harmony with the Scriptures. He used to speak of his intercourse with John and the rest of those who had seen the Lord, and how he would relate their words. He resisted the heresies of his day, as John, “every one who will not confess that that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is antichrist…”. He refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Marcionites (a Gnostic sect that believed that the God of the Old Testament was different from the God of the New Testament) and the Valentians (another weird Gnostic sect that believed that gnosis (knowledge) rather than faith was the key to salvation; they also had strange ideas about the God of creation, the fall and the aeons prior to creation).

After returning home from a visit to Rome, he died a martyr on February 23, 155 (168?) at the age of 86 (he may have actually been older, having claimed that he had served the Lord for 86 years) in Smyrna, along with 11 other Christians who had been brought from Philadelphia. He was burned at the stake. A good man, we can find no other flaw with him except his title, Bishop. Martyr’s Mirror does not report his death under this title, is it something that later Roman Catholic historians attributed to him?

  1. Iranaeus (125-202) This man was born in Smyrna, and the reason we include him here is that he was by his own word, a disciple of John. He also studied under Polycarp, who about 10 years after his martyrdom, moved to Gaul (France) to what is now Lyons. He escaped the mass slaughter of Christians in Lyons in 177, because at the time he was carrying a letter to Rome. The following year (178) he was made Bishop of Lyons. It is not believed that he died as a martyr. He was a prolific writer and fought against Gnosticism and Marcionism, heresies that were attacking the church.
    He taught much from the writings of Paul, with emphasis on the teaching of the fall of the first Adam and Christ the second Adam redeemer, the Son of God who recovered what was lost with the first Adam. His doctrine of “recapitulation” does not appear that he is laying the ground for ultimate reconciliation, but some may have taken it that way.
  1. Tertullian (155-240 AD) is a man of North African origin who lived in Carthage, now called Tunisia (not very far from Italy). He was born a member of an educated class, indulged his passions as a youth, including watching the gladiator games in Rome, where he also saw the Christians martyred. He saw the courage of these dear saints who faced the beasts and became a Christian. Then he took to defending these poor victims with his writing, being the first Christian to write in Latin.
    He wrote against some of the doctrines that were being corrupted in the church, including: (1) Infant baptism, (2) Baptismal Generation and (3) baptism of the dead (year 197).  In about 230 he rebuked the believers who were joining the heathen in their activities.

“By us who are strangers to Sabbaths, and new moons, and festivals, once acceptable to God, the Saturnalia, the feasts of January, the Brumalia, and Matronalia, are now frequented; gifts are carried to and fro, new year’s day presents are made with din, and sports and banquets are celebrated with uproar; oh how much more faithful are the heathen to their religion, who take special care to adopt no solemnity to the Christians.

As he witnessed the compromise that was coming into the mainstream church, he apparently severed all ties with the “Catholic Church” and found among the men of the Spirit a true fellowship. These were the Montanist groups, who had revived the ministry of the prophets in the church, often in conflict with the bishops and were soon to be declared heretics.

While he did develop some unusual doctrines, including prohibiting marriage after widowhood and his belief in a continuing unusual curse of the female sex because of Eve. He did have an eschatological belief much as we presently do. For example, he did not believe that the Antichrist would be a Jew sitting in a Jewish temple at Jerusalem, but rather, the Antichrist comes out of the church. He believed that Babylon was the city of Rome and her domination,  drunk with the blood of martyred saints.

While this man was not perfect in all of his beliefs, yet he was somewhat of a lone voice, trying to hold back some of the corruption that was moving in to the church. No historian has ever suggested that he was a bishop, just a campaigner and a writer.

  1. Origen (184-254) Born in Alexandria, Egypt, about the same distance south of Jerusalem as Antioch is north. While there were many others at this time who held Episcopal titles in the church all around the Mediterranean, this man did more damage to the church than any other in the second and early third century. When he was about 17 years old his father was martyred and he was left to care for his mother and six younger siblings, which he did by teaching grammar. He became a student of the only then known “bible school” of Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD). This philosophical school was first known to be headed by Pantaenus, a pagan Gnostic, followed by Clement, a Christian convert of pagan parents, who eventually was branded a heretic, whom Origen succeeded as head of the school under the authority of the bishop Demetrius. During this period (212) he learned Hebrew and began to compile his Hexapla (a six column interlinear of the Old Testament in Greek, five columns of his own varying interpretations). A wealthy convert (Amprose) then began to support him and supplied him with six shorthand secretaries: and the writings began to pour forth.

He began to travel to Greece, Palestine and Caesarea, winning many pupils and followers. Because of the reputation that he was acquiring, the (liberal Alexandrian) Bishop Demetrius censured and eventually excommunicated him. But the brethren in Caesarea ordained him as a presbyter (?). He was imprisoned and tortured under Decius (250) but he escaped martyrdom and died shortly thereafter. His writings are said to be “clothed with the precepts of pagan philosophy”, and are believed to be the source from which almost all of the Modern Bible Versions are based on (Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus). Here is a list of some of his beliefs:

  1. He believed that man was divine (a god)
  2. He believed in the preexistence of souls
  3. He taught that everyone would eventually be saved, including the Devil (ultimate reconciliation).
  4. He said the Trinity was a hierarchy, not an equality of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  5. He believed in baptismal regeneration.
  6. He believed in Purgatory (but not an eternal hell).
  7. He taught that both the Holy Spirit and Christ were created by God.
  8. He taught transmigration of the souls of men after death.
  9. The Genesis account was not literal and there was no natural man named Adam.
  10. He taught that Christ became God when He was baptized.
  11. He denied the physical resurrection of the dead believers, as he denied the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ and he further denied that there will be a bodily or literal second coming of Jesus Christ.
  12. Based on Matt. 19:12 he had himself castrated, which he apparently recommended for other males.
  13. The sun, moon and stars are all living creatures.

I believe that this not only traced the beginning of the fall of the priesthood of all saints but it also raised in its stead a clergy class of priesthood. All of this was moving in by the second and third generation from Jesus Christ; it doesn’t take very long.  We need to be constantly reminded of this. Maybe John, Peter and James should have stressed it more.