Section 7. Living The Faith... The Biblical Christian/
The Church... Then and Now


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The Church... Then and Now
Part VI - Protecting a Man Made Organization Called the ‘Church’.

Carol Brooks
Edited by Vicki Narlee

Re-inventing The Church System. Man Apparently Got Carried Away by A Sense of His Own Importance....With a Little Help From A Roman Emperor.






Reinventing The Church System
Man Apparently Got Carried Away by A Sense of His Own Importance
With a Little Help From A Roman Emperor

Protecting The Man Made Institution Called "The Church"
The Latin Vulgate and The Tyndale Translation
Birth of The Church of England
The See-Saw Battle of Power
James VI, The Archbishop of Canterbury, and The KJV

The Reformation

Modern Versions

Man Got Carried Away by A Sense of His Own Importance
What is truly amazing is how soon the changes came about. At about the same time John was penning his Revelation on the island of Patmos, forces in the church were already reverting back to the Old Testament priesthood. As the first century gave way to the second, and the second meandered it's way into the third, the church became an increasingly inflexible institution governed by an elite hierarchy

It seems reasonably clear that the initial push for one leader was made in the effort to combat many heresies that took no time to rear their ugly heads. However, the leaders, already moving away from dependency on the Holy Spirit, sought to establish their authority by claiming that they were the successors to the the apostles therefore what they taught was correct. In time, it was taken for granted that they were the only ones who could correctly interpret the Bible, and hear what the Spirit was saying.

What we cannot ask is how they got away with it, because we tend to have a herd mentality (The Lord didn't call us sheep for no reason), and will follow those who seem to have authority, rarely asking whether that authority was God-given, or self assumed. Apparently you can fool most of the people all of the time.

Clement of Rome (pope Clement) was a leading member of the church in Rome in the late 1st century and, possibly the third or fourth pope. His letter to the church at Corinth (1 Clement) is one of the oldest surviving Christian documents outside the New Testament, dating to around the turn of the first century. In this letter Clement asserted the authority of the presbyters as rulers of the church, on the grounds that the Apostles had appointed such. Chapter 40 is entitled Let Us Preserve In The Church The Order Appointed By God. In it Clement says [All Emphasis Added]

    For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen.

He goes on to say, in chapter 41, A Continuation of The Same Subject

    Let every one of you, brethren, give thanks to God in his own order, living in all good conscience, with becoming gravity, and not going beyond the rule of the ministry prescribed to him. Not in every place, brethren, are the daily sacrifices offered, or the peace-offerings, or the sin-offerings and the trespass-offerings, but in Jerusalem only. And even there they are not offered in any place, but only at the altar before the temple, that which is offered being first carefully examined by the high priest and the ministers already mentioned. Those, therefore, who do anything beyond that which is agreeable to His will, are punished with death. [32]

Clement of Rome was applying the Old Testament Levitical Priesthood to the Christian churches, long after the Jerusalem temple had been destroyed.

Ignatius of Antioch was born in Syria, around the year 50; died at Rome between 98 and 117. In one of the seven letters, considered to be authentic, he wrote [All Emphasis Added]

    Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as where Christ is, there does all the heavenly host stand by, waiting upon Him as the Chief Captain of the Lord's might, and the Governor of every intelligent nature. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize, or to offer, or to present sacrifice, or to celebrate a love-feast. But that which seems good to him, is also well-pleasing to God, that everything ye do may be secure and valid. [33]

    your honourable presbytery, which is worthy of God, is attuned to the bishop, even as its strings to a lyre (chapter 4:1) .... Let us therefore be careful not to resist the bishop, that by our submission we may give ourselves to God (chapter 5:3) .... And in proportion as a man seeth that his bishop is silent, let him fear him the more. For every one whom the Master of the household sendeth to be steward over His own house, we ought so to receive as Him that sent him. Plainly therefore we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord Himself (chapter 6:1). [34]

    As therefore the Lord does nothing without the Father, for says He, "I can of mine own self do nothing," so do ye, neither presbyter, nor deacon, nor layman, do anything without the bishop. Nor let anything appear commendable to you which is destitute of his approval. For every such thing is sinful, and opposed [to the will of] God. [35]

Tertullian(c. 160 – c. 225 AD), who eventually joined the Montanists, was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He wrote [All Emphasis Added]

    For concluding our brief subject, it remains to put you in mind also of the due observance of giving and receiving baptism. Of giving it, the chief priest (who is the bishop) has the right: in the next place, the presbyters and deacons, yet not without the bishop's authority, on account of the honour of the Church, which being preserved, peace is preserved. Beside these, even laymen have the right; for what is equally received can be equally given. Unless bishops, or priests, or deacons, be on the spot, other disciples are called i.e. to the work. The word of the Lord ought not to be hidden by any: in like manner, too, baptism, which is equally God's property,  can be administered by all. But how much more is the rule of reverence and modesty incumbent on laymen — seeing that these powers belong to their superiors — lest they assume to themselves the specific function of the bishop! Emulation of the episcopal office is the mother of schisms. [36]

With a Little Help From A Roman Emperor
Constantine and The Powers Accorded The Clergy
To begin with, the emperor Constantine, gave the "bishops" of the church power that was never part of the New Testament blueprint. In fact, he converted the church of Jesus Christ into a powerful entity which, as we all know, can be a very heady position to be in. According to the historian Alexander Vasiliev, considered the foremost authority on Byzantine history and culture...

    Under Constantine "very important privileges were give the episcopal courts". Not only were the churches exempt from taxation, but anyone could entrust his property to the church, which "thereby acquired the right of inheritance".

However, more significantly,

    "Christian communities were recognized as legal juridical entities". "Any man had the right to carry a civil suit to the episcopal court even after proceedings in that suit had already been started in the civil court". Towards the end of Constantine's reign "the authority of the episcopal courts was even further enlarged. Among other things... the decision of a bishop had to be accepted as final and sanctioned by civil judges. [37]

As pointed out by Allan Turner [All Emphasis Added]

    After his "conversion" in A.D. 312, the Roman emperor, Constantine, appointed bishops as civil magistrates throughout the Roman empire. He also organized the various churches into dioceses along the pattern of Roman regional districts. Furthermore, he consistently used the terms "clerical" and "cleric" to designate a privileged class.

he goes on to say

     By the time of the Gregorian reform (A.D. 1057-1123), the structure of the entire Western (or Roman Catholic) Church was shaped by Roman Law. Therefore, in the period prior to the Protestant Reformation: 1) the bishop of Rome came to be regarded as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, which claimed to be the church of Christ on earth; 2) the language of worship ceased to be the language of the people; 3) the clergy dressed differently and were prepared for ministry in a seminary; 4) the clergy became celibate, and thus distant from the normal experiences of the laity; 5) the cup, or fruit of the vine, was removed from the laity in the "Eucharist," the term by which the Lord’s Supper came to be identified by the Romanists. In due course, the clergy-laity distinction became institutionalized in religious orders, priestly ordination, and the seminary system. [38]

It is uncertain as to whether the emperor Constantine who, bringing in some pagan ideas and concepts, propagated the idea that the kuriakos, or church, was a sacred building, or whether this was a by-product of the increasingly exalted position given the clergy.  What we do know is that

    In the early church the disciples banded together in homes and other places as communities "called out" from the world; but Constantinianism erased this distinction and defined "church" as all citizens in a given territory. This had the practical effect of watering down true discipleship and creating a worthless nominal Christianity. [39]

     "By 250 A.D. church order was set in concrete with one bishop ruling over various territories. The momentum of this church bureaucracy was accelerated when Constantine and his successors sanctioned the church and contributed moneys and resources to this increasingly powerful institution. [ibid.]

The end result of all of these shenanigans, is that the church had become almost the exact opposite of what God intended... an organization defined by the building and the hierarchy.

Protecting The Man Made Institution Called "The Church"

As shown in the previous section Church Leaders... Then and Now, the Roman Catholic Church had, for many centuries, proclaimed the "church" to be a institution, run by an elite group who were entirely divorced from the common believer. Events and edicts of the third and fourth centuries went a long way towards making Christianity a religion, the beliefs and practices of which were defined by self professed leaders, not the Bible. The job of this priesthood as mediators between God and man, was to conduct religious ceremonies, administer the sacraments, and read and interpret the Scriptures to the man in the pew.

Sadly, the pattern established by the early Catholic church was continued and embellished over the next few centuries with the clergy taking to themselves more and more power, even establishing themselves in literal palaces (St. Peter's Basilica was constructed between 1506 and 1626).

Having built up this vast and powerful organization, they also had to protect it, and one of the ways they chose to do this was by appearing to give this man-made structure Biblical sanction. And what better way to do this than by ensuring that Greek word ekklesia was translated, not as the far more accurate "assembly" or "congregation", but into the English "church", which conjures up images of an organization run by the "clergy". This made the NT appear to support the ecclesiastical structure of the traditional church (an ordained clergy, government by a bishop etc.).

Tragically, the Church of England followed in the footsteps of the church they had just broken away from, and they did everything in their power to ensure that their traditional structure was unscathed.... a structure that was almost completely Catholic in form. This went hand in hand with the political maneuvering of the various successors of Henry the 8th of England, and the battles for dominance and control that took place between the Catholics and Protestants, before and during the reformation.

A comprehensive treatment of the subject would probably occupy a couple of volumes, but the following should suffice to show the serious and lasting repercussions this protracted struggle had.

The Latin Vulgate and The Tyndale Translation
The Latin Vulgate, which became the standard version of the Bible used by Catholics for over a thousand years, was a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible, commissioned by Pope Damasus I, and translated by a scholar named Jerome. However, apart from the priests and scholars, the vast majority of people could neither read, nor understand, Latin, which had become the language of the church. They certainly did not have access to a Bible. Therefore the fact that Jerome, retained the word ekklesia in the New Testament probably meant nothing to most people. However, two events conspired to put a readable Bible into the hands of the common man.

    1) Around 1439, Gutenberg became the first European to use movable type printing, which led to the proliferation of printing presses in Europe.

    2) In the 16th century William Tyndale, who wanted "a boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures" than the clergy, became the first person to directly translate all of the New Testament (and half the old) from the original Hebrew and Greek texts, into English. The new printing methods allowed his work to be widely distributed.

This Bible that was now available in the vernacular, or everyday language spoken by the people, held views which were considered heretical, and could therefore, become a very large threat to the Roman Catholic church. For example Tyndale "wrote eloquently in favor of the view that salvation is a gift of God, freely bestowed, and not a response to any good act on the part of the receiver. His views are expressed in numerous pamphlets, and in the introductions to and commentaries on various books of the Bible that accompanied his translations". [41] The church also probably feared the laity would learn that many church practices (including some very profitable ones), did not exist in the Bible at all.

What is however, of importance to this article is the fact that Tyndale, correctly used the word congregation instead of church to translate ekklesia,  thus emphasizing that the church was not an organization run by the "clergy", but was made up and defined by believers. Additionally, Tyndale translated the Greek word presbuteros into "elder", instead of "priest", which stripped away the Scriptural basis for a priesthood that was distinct from ordinary believers. [42]

Is it any wonder then that Tyndale was burned at the stake?

Birth of The Church of England
King Henry VIII of England was apparently, at one time a very staunch Catholic, even defending the Roman church against Martin Luther's accusations of heresy, in a book called The Defence of the Seven Sacraments. Although it is believed that the book was probably written with considerable help from the Lord Chancellor - Thomas More, Henry was awarded the title "Defender of the Faith" by Pope Leo X. However, that didn't last long.

The Church of England was born because Henry VIII wanted his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, annulled. She had borne him only a daughter, and Henry wished to remarry to ensure he had a male heir. Finally, in the face of the Pope's continuing refusal to annul his marriage to Catherine, Henry prevailed upon Thomas Cranmer who, as Archbishop of Canterbury, was the highest church official in England, to declare the marriage to Catherine null and void. This Cramer did on 23 May 1533, upon which the King legally married Anne Boleyn and, a short time later, thumbing his nose at Rome, declared himself supreme head of the Church of England. As said by the BBC

    In 1534 after several attempts to persuade the Pope to grant an annulment, Henry passed the Act of Succession and then the Act of Supremacy. These recognised that the King was "the only supreme head of the Church of England called Anglicana Ecclesia". Henry adopted the title given to him by the Pope in 1521, that of Defender of the Faith. [43]

The See-Saw Battle of Power Between The Roman Catholics and The Protestants
The balance of power shifted from one church to the other as the successors to Henry VIII ascended the throne of England This was especially true in the case of the two queens who followed Edward VI, and James I for whom the King James Bible is named.

    Edward VI, son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, was King of England and Ireland for about six years, from 28 January 1547 until his death in July 1553. He was only nine years old when he became king, and about fifteen when he died. He was succeeded by his elder half sister, Mary I.

    Mary I, the only surviving child born of the ill-fated marriage of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon I, was a staunch Catholic, so much so that she was called Bloody Mary, because of her brutal persecution of Protestants. Mary I was Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death in  November 1558.

    Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was queen regent of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death in March 1603.

Although raised Protestant, the very well educated Elizabeth was remarkably tolerant towards Catholicism, her primary concern being the peace and stability of the realm. Toward that end she established 39 articles of faith, under the direction of Matthew Parker - the then Archbishop of Canterbury. The articles formed the basic summary of beliefs of the Church of England - "not intended to provide a dogmatic definition of faith", but "phrased very loosely to allow for a variety of interpretations".  [44]

However Elizabeth's tolerance quickly waned when 1) Roman Catholic plots were uncovered that sought to assassinate, then replace her with a Catholic queen, and 2) pope Pius V who, like most Catholics believed Elizabeth was illegitimate and thus had no right to the throne of England, issued a Papal Bull that excommunicated her.

The web site of The Church of England, says [All Emphasis Added]

    The religious settlement that eventually emerged in the reign of Elizabeth I gave the Church of England the distinctive identity that it has retained to this day. It resulted in a Church that consciously retained a large amount of continuity with the Church of the Patristic and Medieval periods in terms of its use of the catholic creeds, its pattern of ministry, its buildings and aspects of its liturgy, but which also embodied Protestant insights in its theology and in the overall shape of its liturgical practice. The way that this is often expressed is by saying that the Church of England is both 'catholic and reformed. [45]

 In other words, although the Church of England became a separate entity, it retained the structure of the Catholic Church.

James VI, The Archbishop of Canterbury, and The KJV
When Queen Elizabeth I died she left no heir and the British throne went to James VI of Scotland. James was the son of Mary Queen of Scots (great grand-daughter of Henry VII) who was Catholic, but was constantly opposed by Protestant noblemen. When James ascended to the British throne, he became James 1 of England and, almost immediately, had to decide whether to permit Roman Catholicism to resurge in the kingdom, or continue with the reforms that had started under his predecessor.

Prior to King James ascending to the throne, the Scriptures used in England were the Latin Vulgate and the Douay–Rheims Bible, a translation of the Latin Vulgate into English made by members of a Catholic seminary in Douai, France. As mentioned earlier, Jerome, in his late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible, retained the word ekklesia in the New Testament, rendering it as the Latin ecclesia . However, the Douay–Rheims translators changed the Vulgate's ecclesia into the English "church". One has to suspect, but obviously cannot prove, that this was done in order to uphold Catholic tradition in the face of the Protestant Reformation, sparked by the 1517 posting of Luther's Ninety-Five Theses.

However, in what was very likely to be an attempt to change this state of affairs, king James authorized a new translation of approved books of the Bible at the Hampton Court Conference of 1604.

David Daniell, Professor Emeritus of English at University College London says that although no official record has survived, a list published in Bishop Gilbert Burnet's History Of The Reformation of 1715, clarified the division of work among the "six companies" that undertook the translation... "two each in Oxford, Cambridge and Westminister". [46]

However, Bishop Gilbert Burnet a Scottish theologian, historian, and Bishop of Salisbury, also printed another document... a list of the fifteen rules to be observed in the translation of the Bible, which was given to each of the companies by Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury. The third rule is of special interest here. It said...

    "The old Ecclesiastical Words to be kept, viz. the Word Church not to to be translated Congregation" [47].

As said by Bible Gateway...

    James gave the translators instructions intended to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its belief in an ordained clergy. The translation was done by 47 scholars, all of whom were members of the Church of England. In common with most other translations of the period, the New Testament was translated from Greek, the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew and Aramaic text, while the Apocrypha were translated from the Greek and Latin. [Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Authorized-King-James-Version-AKJV-Bible/]

Note also that, although he died before the translation was complete, Richard Bancroft was the "chief overseer" of the production of the King James Bible. In other words, the KJV was heavily influenced by the hierarchy of the Church of England that had retained Catholic creeds, the Catholic pattern of ministry, aspects of Catholic liturgy, and even the style of buildings.

Although the King James version was translated from the original Hebrew and Greek, it was ordered that it conform to the traditions of the Church of England. The word "church" rather than the Biblically correct "assembly" or "congregation" would reflect the traditional structure of the Church of England including it's beliefs about ordained clergy.

In short, the preservation of the structure and traditions of the church took precedence over Biblical truth.

The Reformation
According to Theopedia, the three great principles of the reformation were Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone), Sola Fide (by faith alone), closely followed by the priesthood of all believers. They emphasized that all believers are a "holy priesthood", and as believers, we all have direct access to God through Christ, therefore there is no necessity for an earthly mediator. [48]

Unfortunately, this priesthood of all believers had few practical implications in the structure of the church. The responsibility for leading the church was never put into the hands of the lay person and the great divide continued. The seminary system, usually attended by only those who intended to pursue a career in "the ministry", further emphasized the division. Many Protestant denominations have ordained clergy.... ordination being the ceremony of consecration to the ministry.

In other words, the pastor replaced the priest.... and it was business as usual.

Modern Versions
Sadly, most modern versions are doing their part to perpetuate man-made traditions and organizations. I looked up three NT verses, that use the Greek ekklesia, on an online parallel Bible site (biblos.com) and found that most versions use the word "church" rather than "assembly" or "congregation". The exceptions I found are

     John Nelson Darby's 19th century Darby Bible (DBY) translated from the Hebrew and Greek.

     Robert Young's 19th century translation known as Young's Literal Translation (YLT), based on the Textus Receptus and Majority Text. Young was also the compiler of Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible and Concise Critical Comments on the New Testament.

     The World English Bible (WEB). This version includes the apocryphal books.

Apart from the previously mentioned three verses in Acts 19, the NASB translates ekklesia into "congregation" only twice. Both times when the word "church" would have made little sense, since the verses speak of a 'pre-church' time.

    "This is the one who was in the congregation (ekklesia) in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you. [Acts 7:38 NASB]

    saying, "I will proclaim your name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation (ekklesia) I will sing your praise." [Hebrews 2:12 NASB] (Hebrews 2:12 is a direct quote of Psalm 22:22).

However, the KJV translators took their orders seriously and, even in these verses, translated ekklesia into "church".


001orange  CONTINUE ON TO PART VII: Two Ways of "Doing Church" - The Advantages of The Home Church. The New Testament Blue Print - the extended family. House churches do not squander god given resources, are in no danger of becoming theatrical extravaganzas, and do a better job of training disciples. Members can obey the "one another" instructions in the bible, are accountable to one another, and do not have to sit through often boring sermons. House churches avoid pastor burnout, can observe the Lord's Supper as it was meant to be - a full meal not a wafer or morsel of bread. Most importantly, they avoid the high cost of the "priesthood" inasmuch as heresy has been given free reign in the traditional church  HERE


End Notes
[32] Early Christian Writings.. Letter of Clement to the Corinthians. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/1clement-roberts.html

[33] Ignatius of Antioch. Letter to the Smyrnaeans. Chapter VIII.-Let Nothing Be Done Without the Bishop. Early Christian Writings http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/ignatius-smyrnaeans-longer.html

[34] Ignatius of Antioch. Letter to the Ephesians. Lightfoot & Harmer, 1891 translation.

[35] Ignatius of Antioch. Letter to the Magnesians. Chapter VII.-Do Nothing Without the Bishop and Presbyters.

[36] Chapter XVII.—Of the Power of Conferring Baptism. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.vi.iii.xvii.html

[37] Alexander Aleksandrovich Vasiliev. History of the Byzantine Empire: 324-1453. University of Wisconsin Press; 2, Second English Edition edition (April 15, 1958) Pg. 53

[38] Allan Turner The Clergy and The Laity. http://allanturner.com/magazine/archives/rm1105/ClergyLaity01.html

[39] Jon Zens. Four Tragic Shifts in the Visible Church, 180 - 400 A.D. [http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/openhse/shifts.html

[40] ibid.

[41] Biographical sketch written by James E. Kiefer. http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/260.html

[42] Carter Lindberg. The European Reformations. Wiley-Blackwell; 2 edition (July 14, 2009). Pg 299

[43] http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/cofe/cofe_1.shtml

[44] The 39 Articles of Religion. http://www.victorianweb.org/religion/39articles.html

[45] An Ancient Church, catholic and reformed. http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/history.aspx

[46] David Daniell. The Bible in English: Its History and Influence Pg. 439. Yale University Press (September 1, 2003) Pg. 436

[47] ibid. Pg. 439

[48] http://www.theopedia.com/Protestant_Reformation


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