Monday, June 16, 2014

Is the 'apostolic church' missional? part 6

As discussed earlier, Jesus Christ is the first apostle, the ultimate apostle, and source of all apostleship (Heb. 3:1).  The twelve apostles were foundational to the church, unique in their office, and represented the new covenant of Jesus Christ to the world.  Paul, Barnabas, James, Apollos, and others beyond the original twelve were apostles as well, demonstrated not only by their apostolic teaching but by their apostolic witness “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Paul’s words to Timothy communicated the pattern of continuity and connection with the apostles to future generations when he said: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Tim. 2:2) These words were put into practice in the first centuries as seen in Tertullian’s description in De Praescriptione Haereticorum when he offers examples of church fathers that stood in historic connection and doctrinal continuity with the original twelve apostles. Interestingly, Tertullian not only mentioned the first-century apostles, but spoke in addition of “apostolic men” (apostolicis uiris), namely, those “who continued steadfast with the apostles.”[1]

While the church or household of God is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20), the apostolic nature and mission of the church continued throughout history.  As the Nicene Creed states, we believe in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”  This confession applied to the fourth century church as well as the first. To borrow Tertullian’s phrase, there have been “apostolic men” (apostolicis uiris) who have “continued steadfast with the apostles.”  As stated earlier, this is not merely in origin and doctrine, but in mission, character, and life in the Spirit. Such “apostolic men” functioned on the order of the twelve apostles of Jesus, even though they did not necessarily fill an office unique to or like that of the original twelve.

Such apostles or apostolic men, gifted by God, were often sent or commissioned with authority to extend the church to some region or segment of society which previously was without a viable witness to the gospel.  They were described as apostles because of their pioneering and ground-breaking work to establish churches where no or few Christian communities existed.

While the list of the “Apostles of the Seventy” is rooted in church tradition, it illustrates the idea that there were apostles beyond the original twelve. For example, Hippolytus of Rome (170-236), a disciple of Irenaeus who was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the Evangelist and Apostle John, produced an early list of seventy apostles.[2]  In The Ochtoechos, John of Damascus confirmed that there were “seventy-two lesser apostles.”[3]  Such lists were based on the fact that Jesus “appointed and sent seventy disciples ahead of him,” as described in Luke 10:1.[4] Many, if not most of them would have been among the “five hundred brothers” to whom Jesus appeared following his resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:6).  Based on such texts and various traditions of church fathers, the Eastern Church names the “Apostles of the Seventy” as:

James the Brother of the Lord, Mark and Luke the Evangelists, Cleopas, Symeon, Barnabas, Justus, Thaddeus, Ananias, Stephen the Protomartyr and Archdeacon, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Onesimus, Epaphras, Archippus, Silas, Silvanus, Crescens, Crispus, Epenetus, Andronicus, Stachys, Amplias, Urban, Narcissus, Apelles, Aristobulus, Herodion, Agabus, Rufus, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobus, Hermas, Linus, Gaius, Philologus, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Olympas, Tertius, Erastus, Quartus, Euodias, Onesiphorus, Clement, Sosthenes, Apollos, Tychicus, Epaphroditus, Carpus, Quadratus, Mark called John, Zenas, Aristarchus, Pudens, Trophimus, Mark nephew of Barnabas, Artemas, Aquila, Fortunatus, and Achaicus.[5]

                The point of this list here is not to say that these were the seventy disciples that Jesus sent (ἀπέστειλεν, aposteilen) ahead of him (Luke 10:1) but that church fathers have described other apostles beyond the original twelve.  Such lists were based on the NT, traditions passed down from church fathers, and accounts of early historians.  The fact that such lists include two of the Evangelists—Mark, the companion of Peter, and Luke, the companion of Paul—makes it, at least in principle, difficult to refute.  They were authors of canonical scriptures, the written form of the apostles’ teaching.

Beyond the seventy, the Eastern, Roman, and Protestant branches of the church have identified historically additional missionaries as apostles, giving further evidence of the church’s apostolic nature.  Many of these apostles are:

•Aristobulus, Apostle to the Britons, ca. AD 63 (named among the Apostles of the Seventy)[6]

•Abercius of Hieropolis, d. 167, evangelized Syria and Mesopotamia and considered in the Eastern Church as “Equal to the Apostles”[7]

•Saturninus, Apostle to the Gauls; ca. 257; Fabian sent him to Toulouse[8]

•Nino, Apostle to the Georgians (ca. 296 – ca. 338 or 340); a woman known as St. Nune in Armenia[9]

•Gregory the Illuminator, Apostle to the Armenians, 256–331; credited with converting Armenia from paganism to Christianity[10]

•Frumentius of Axum, Apostle to the Ethiopians, d. 383 [11]

•Patrick, Apostle to Celts of Ireland, 373–463[12]

• Ninian, Apostle to the Southern Picts of Scotland, 360-432[13]

• Remigius, Apostle to the Franks, c. 437 – 533; baptized King Clovis, leading to the conversion of the Frankish people to Nicene Christianity[14]

•Columba, Apostle to the Scots, 521–597[15]

•Augustine of Canterbury, Apostle to the English; Archbishop of Canterbury, 601-605.[16]

•Felix of Burgundy, Apostle to the East Angles; introduced Christianity in eastern England, d. ca. 648[17]

•Kilian, Apostle of Franconia (Bavaria) c. 640 – 689[18]

• Boniface of Devon, Apostle of Germany, 680–755.[19]

•Aidan of Lindsfarne, Apostle to the Northumbrians (North England), 590-651[20]

•Hubertus, Apostle to the Ardennes, 656–727; preached in the dense forests of the Ardennes (Belgium and Luxembourg but stretching into Germany and France)

• Gall of Bangor, Apostle to Switzerland, 550-645[21]

•Willibrord of Northumbria, Apostle to the Frisians (Netherlands), 658–739[22]

•Modestus, Apostle to Carantania, c. 720; evangelized Alpine Slavic people (Austria and north-eastern Slovenia)[23]

•Ansgar, Apostle to the North (Scandinavia), 801–864[24]

•Cyril, 826-869, and Methodius, 815-885, Apostles to the Slavs, considered by the Eastern Church as “Equals-to-the-Apostles”; were missionaries to Bulgaria, Moravia, and Bohemia.[25]

• Anastasius Astric, Apostle to Hungary, 954–1044[26]

•Otto von Bamberg, Apostle to the Pomeranians, 1060–1139; traveled to Stettin on the Baltic Sea.[27]

•Sava, Founder of the Serbian Church (1175 – 1235); considered by the Eastern Church as “Equal to the Apostles.”[28]

•Stephen of Perm, Apostle to the Komi Permyaks (Russia), 1340–1396; rather than imposing Latin or ecclesial Slavonic on the indigenous pagans as contemporary missionaries did, he learned the Perm language and traditions and worked out a distinct writing system.[29]

• Bartolomé de las Casas, Apostle to the West Indies, 1474–1566[30]

• Francis Xavier, Apostle to the Indies (eastern Indonesia) and Japan, 1506–1552; co-founder of the Jesuits[31]

• John Eliot, Apostle to the North America Indians, 1604–1690[32]

•Hans Egede, Apostle to Greenland, 1686-1758[33]

•François Picquet, Apostle to the Iroquois, 1708–1781[34]

• John Williams, Apostle to the South Seas, 1796-1839; worked among the Pacific Islands near Tahiti

•Innocent of Moscow, Apostle of Alaska, 1797–1879[35]

•Cephas Washburn, Apostle to the Cherokees, 1793-1860[36]

•Hudson Taylor, Apostle to China, 1832-1905[37]

•Nicholas Kasatkin, Apostle to Japan (1836 – 1912)[38]

The title of apostle given to these pioneering leaders through the church’s history describes them as gifted by God, sent or commissioned with authority to extend the church to an area without a viable witness to the gospel.  This list is not to establish that they were necessarily all apostles but that the church historically has identified certain people as such. It can be argued that while their work was built on the foundation of Jesus and the original twelve apostles, many had ministries that were at least equal to if not greater in scope or influence for the gospel than the original twelve apostles of Jesus.

Is the “apostolic church” missional?  The traditions of the Eastern, Roman, and Protestant churches argue that it is.  Continued.

[1] Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haereticorum: XXXII, “ex apostolis uel apostolicis uiris, qui tamen cum apostolis perseuerauerit”; “of the apostles or of apostolic men,—a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles.”
[2] Hippolytus’s list of the Seventy Apostles was regarded dubious, and thus put in the Appendix of his works in the collection of Early Church Fathers.
[3] He changed: “The all-praised ten and twain, leading the seventy-two, their rivals in zeal, were manifested as perfect.”
[4] Some manuscripts say seventy-two.
[5] Hieromonk Leonty Durkit (Transl.). The Lives of the Seventy Apostles. Elkhorn, WV: Orthodox Brotherhood of the Virgin Mary, 1997. There were discrepancies and errors in some lists of the Seventy.  See: Demetrius of Rostov , The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints, Volume 5: January.
[6] Philip Carrington, The Early Christian Church: Volume 1, The First Christian Church. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
[7] F. G. Holweck, A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1924).
[8] Richard Travers Smith, The Church in Roman Gaul (London : Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1882). 111.
[9] Marjory and Oliver Wardrop, The Life of Saint Nino (Piscataway, NJ : Gorgias Press, 2006).
[10] R.G. Hovannisian, The Armenian People From Ancient to Modern Times, Volume I: The Dynastic Periods: From Antiquity to the Fourteenth Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).
[11] Rabenstein, Katherine. “Frumentius of Ethiopia. For All the Saints (Washington, D.C. : Saint Patrick’s Church, 1997).
[12] Philip Freeman, St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography (Simon & Schuster, 2005)
[13] Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Book III, Chapter IV, 271, 273.
[14] A. Hauck, Remigius of Reims, in Philip Schaff, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge
[15]  F. A. (Frances Alice) Forbes, Life of Saint Columba Apostle of Scotland (London : R. & T. Washbourne, 1919).
[16] Michael Green, St. Augustine of Canterbury (London: Janus Publ., 1997).
[17] Bede,The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Book II (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1999), chs. 15, 18.
[18] Friedrich Lauchert, “St. Kilian,” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910).
[19] John Cyril Sladden, Boniface of Devon: Apostle of Germany (Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1980).
[20] Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Book III (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1999), ch. 5.
[21] Henry Wace, Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D. (London, J. Murray, 1911).
[22] Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1999).
[23] Michael J. Walsh, A New Dictionary of Saints (London, 2007).
[24] Rimbert and Charles H. Robinson, Anskar, the Apostle of the North, 801-865 (London: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1921).
[25] Cyril J Potoček, Saints Cyril and Methodius, Apostles of the Slavs (New York, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1941).
[26] John McClintock, James Strong, Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Volume 1, 2 New York, Arno Press, 1969; 17-218.
[27] Charles Henry Robinson, ed., The Life of Otto, Apostle of Pomerania, 1060-1139 (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1920).
[28] Velimirović, Nikolaj. The Life of St. Sava (Crestwood, N.Y. : St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1989).
[29] Joshua Fishman, Charles Ferguson, and J. Das Gupta, eds., Language Problems of Developing Nations (New York: Wiley and Sons, 1968): 27–35.
[30] Arthur Helps, The Life of Las Casas, “the Apostle of the Indies” (London: Bell and Daldy, 1868).
[31] Louis F. Hartman, “Saint Francis Xavier, Apostle of the Indies and Japan,” Lives of Saints (New York: John J. Crawley, 1963.)
[32] Martin Moore, The Life and Character of Rev. John Eliot, Apostle of the N.A. Indians (Boston: T. Bedlington, 1822).
[33] Eve Garnett, To Greenland’s Icy Mountains: The Story of Hans Egede, Explorer, Coloniser, Missionary (London: Heinemann, 1968).
[34] Robert Lahaise, “Picquet François,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. IV, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1979.
[35] Charles R. Hale, Innocent of Moscow, the Apostle of Kamchatka and Alaska (Davenport, IA.: Borcherdt, 1888).
[36] Joyce B. Phillips and Paul Gary Phillips, The Brainerd Journal: A Mission to the Cherokees, 1817-1823 (University of Nebraska Press, 1998).
[37] Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983): 173.
[38] Doreen Bartholomew. “Enlightener of Japan, Blessed Nicholas Kasatkin" Orthodox America XII (No. 5-6, Jan-Feb, 1992).

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