So it’s been (rightly) pointed out a few times in the last year or so that we shouldn’t be so quick to want to “get back to the early church” because they were immature and had their share of problems just like we do — after all, nobody’s perfect. The thing is, I can’t recall anyone actually saying we need to “get back” and do everything like the early church did, at least not in the past ten years. So is this response levied too broadly against at who wants to consider one or two practices of the early church, or are people actually saying we need to behave like they did and I’ve been missing it? Isn’t there a lot of positive lessons to be learned from the early church’s practice?
Yesterday I posted an overview of the Didache to introduce what it is and where it came from, but essentially it’s an early Christian document from around the same time that the New Testament itself was still being written. “Didache” means “teaching”, and the document provides a compilation of (probably) oral tradition about what the apostles taught concerning community life. Today I’m blogging on Chapter 6 of Tony Jones‘ newest book, The Teaching of Twelve: Believing & Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community. The Didache is not a long document, but it is instructive for the fact that it deals with practical community matters during a time of liminality when the church was just coming to birth. We ought to imagine that it will offer us insight for a time when the church is undergoing a rebirth.
Philotheos Bryennios was born in March of 1833 at Constantinople. He was educated at the Theological School in Chalce of the Great Church of Christ and the universities of Leipsic, Berlin, and Munich, and in 1861 became professor of ecclesiastical history, exegesis, and other studies at Chalce. He was appointed master and director at Chalce in 1863, though he soon resigned these two positions. In 1867 he was called to Constantinople to be the head of the “Great School of the Nation” in the Phanar, or Greek quarter of Constantinople. He remained there until 1875 when he was sent by the Most Holy Synod of metropolitans and patriarchs to the Old Catholic conference at Bonn, where he receved a patriarchal letter announcing his appointment as metropolitan of Serrae in Macedonia. In 1877 he was transferred to the metropolitan see of Nicodemia, and in 1880 went to Bucharest on behalf of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchal and other independent churches to participate in a commission dealing with Greek monastaries that had been plundered in Moldavia and Wallachia. In 1882, at the instance of the Holy Synod of Metropolitans in Constantinople and the patriarch Joachim Il., he wrote a reply (published by the Holy Synod) to the encyclical letter of Pope Leo XIII concerning the Slavic apostles Cyrillus and Methodius. The man was no theological slouch, and despite this list of accomplishments, none of these are the thing for which he is most remembered following his death in 1914 or 1918.