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Is there evidence of the Apostasy?


SteubieU

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The entire LDS theology rests on this premise: immediately after the apostles died, the priesthood was lost and there was no longer a godly authority on earth.

Is there any evidence that this apostasy took place? I know that the Bible speaks of apostasies in a few places, but does it ever speak of a universal falling away from faith or of a loss of authority in the Church?

I doubt it does: The Bible says that the Church is the "pillar and foundation of truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). If the Church was so unstable even that very soon it should be looked at only with skepticism when people claim authority, how could Paul write this?

It says that "On this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt. 16:18). How can this be true if God's church lost its authority?

Why were the apostles and Jesus so shortsighted that they couldn't set up an institution that would last more than a hundred years?

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This is going to be a matter of interpretation...of course. We look at the Bible and earliest records....the sudden silence in the 1st century which ends with competing theologians squabbling and trying to set up the right doctrine. I would look at it the opposite way that you do. Couldn't Jesus set up a religion that would not turn into a completely different creature the minute he was gone? I don't see how anyone can read Ignatius and not come away thinking what the heck was going on? Why was he having to plead with his flock to that extent? Why did he tell them that his community would now only have Jesus to guide them if it was that easy to replace fallen leaders?

Most of all...where was the head of the church when the theologians were writing their treatises trying to convince everyone of the "right" theology? Nobody was home...obviously. If there was anybody there with any authority he would have settled the arguments. Thus, the church fractured into competing sects and was not brought back together until those in power aligned with political leaders and used force. This is not how Christ operated.

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The entire LDS theology rests on this premise: immediately after the apostles died, the priesthood was lost and there was no longer a godly authority on earth.

I think it could have lasted a little longer, but that is a good starting point.

Is there any evidence that this apostasy took place?

Yes. Looking at the wholesale change in Christian doctrine from the 1st century through the 4th one sees this quite clearly.

There is nothing wrong with claiming continuing revelation/inspiration to account for such a change (as the Catholics do), except for the fact that such revelation should build on what has been said before, not totally contradict it.

Therefore what the Catholic Church should claim is a Universal Apostasy until the 4th and 5th centuries when they restored the Church. But they don't, and that puts them on the wrong side of the Apostasy.

I know that the Bible speaks of apostasies in a few places, but does it ever speak of a universal falling away from faith or of a loss of authority in the Church?

Yes. The clearest verse showing the Universialty of the Apostasy is Revelation 13:7 in which we see that all the saints were overcome.

Also, any verse that predicts a Restoration or Restitution shows the Universiality of the Apostasy because restoration would not be required if the Apostasy weren't universal.

In addition, the early Christians taught of the impending Universal Apostasy. For example, the Pastor of Hermas (90 - 150 AD considered Orthodox scripture back then) taught that the time was at hand that the Church (represented by a tower whose stones represented individual members of the Church) was complete and soon it would be too late to become part of it. A new tower would be built, but it would be inferior regarding salvation.

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This is going to be a matter of interpretation...of course. We look at the Bible and earliest records....the sudden silence in the 1st century which ends with competing theologians squabbling and trying to set up the right doctrine. I would look at it the opposite way that you do. Couldn't Jesus set up a religion that would not turn into a completely different creature the minute he was gone? I don't see how anyone can read Ignatius and not come away thinking what the heck was going on? Why was he having to plead with his flock to that extent? Why did he tell them that his community would now only have Jesus to guide them if it was that easy to replace fallen leaders?

Most of all...where was the head of the church when the theologians were writing their treatises trying to convince everyone of the "right" theology? Nobody was home...obviously. If there was anybody there with any authority he would have settled the arguments. Thus, the church fractured into competing sects and was not brought back together until those in power aligned with political leaders and used force. This is not how Christ operated.

Ever read the pseudo-Clementine texts?

Perhaps the "apostasy" began with Saul's missionizing among the Gentiles and

was "sealed" when Peter sided more with Saul/Paul than with the remnant of Jesus'

followers yet gathered around James at Jerusalem.

Did Jesus truly found a church? Which version of "Peter's confession" comes closest

to the actual event -- Mark, Matthew or Thomas?

Perhaps the "apostasy" began with Peter's confession -- ere Saul came upon the

scene -- ere his followers were first called "Christians" at Antioch (or was that first

among the Nephites? I always forget.)

Uncle Dale

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I don't see how anyone can read Ignatius and not come away thinking what the heck was going on? Why was he having to plead with his flock to that extent? Why did he tell them that his community would now only have Jesus to guide them if it was that easy to replace fallen leaders?.

I just took a look at Ignatius to see what you are making reference to; certainly he condemns false teachers, but he also gives more than a fair share of praises:

"Let not then any one deceive you, as indeed ye are not deceived, inasmuch as ye are wholly devoted to God. For since there is no strife raging among you which might distress you, ye are certainly living in accordance with God's will" (to the Ephesians)

" Nevertheless, I have heard of some who have passed on from this to you, having false doctrine, whom ye did not suffer to sow among you, but stopped your ears, that ye might not receive those things which were sown by them" (to the Ephesians)

"Having been informed of your godly love, so well-ordered, I rejoiced greatly, and determined to commune with you in the faith of Jesus Christ." (to the Magnesians)

In this letter he also warns about being too familiar with the bishop because of his youth, but he makes no reference to great departures from being under his authority.

" know that ye possess an unblameable and sincere mind in patience" (to the Trallians)

"Be on your guard, therefore, against [heretics]. And this will be the case with you if you are not puffed up, and continue in intimate union with Jesus Christ our God, and the bishop, and the enactments of the apostles.... Not that I know there is anything of this kind among you; but I put you on your guard, inasmuch as I love you greatly, and foresee the snares of the devil" (to the Trallians).

"Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Most High Father, and Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is beloved and enlightened by the will of Him that willeth all things which are according to the love of Jesus Christ our God, which also presides in the place of the report of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of obtaining her every desire, worthy of being deemed holy... Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria, which now has God for its shepherd, instead of me. Jesus Christ alone will oversee it, and your love [will also regard it]. But as for me, I am ashamed to be counted one of them; for indeed I am not worthy, as being the very last of them, and one born out of due time. " (to the Romans)

I assume this is what you are referring to Juliann. All that means is that until a new bishop is installed, they will have to do without their bishop. I don't see how you can call this pleading or how you can say that he thought that there was no one good to replace him since he considered himself the very last of the Church in Syria.

" Which bishop, I know, obtained the ministry which pertains to the common [weal], not of himself, neither by men, nor through vainglory, but by the love of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ; at whose meekness I am struck with admiration, and who by his silence is able to accomplish more than those who vainly talk. For he is in harmony with the commandments [of God], even as the harp is with its strings. Wherefore my soul declares his mind towards God a happy one, knowing it to be virtuous and perfect, and that his stability as well as freedom from all anger is after the example of the infinite meekness of the living God" (to the Philadelphians)

"I glorify God, even Jesus Christ, who has given you such wisdom. For I have observed that ye are perfected in an immoveable faith, as if ye were nailed to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, both in the flesh and in the spirit, and are established in love through the blood of Christ" (to the Smyrnaeans)

The one thing that I noticed is that there were lots of exhortations to be unified with the bishop and to reject heresy. But in those days, when the faith was passed from person to person quickly, it is not surprising that lots of people misunderstood the faith. These people believed things that none of us acknowledge: for example, that Christ's body was not a real, physical body. That there were people believing things that are false does not prove that there were not people beliving that which is true.

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Ever read the pseudo-Clementine texts?

Yes. I've probably read about every non-canonical text that is published. The "apostasy" was in full swing while the bible texts were being written....that is obvious, to me at least. Corinthians and Galatians have the psuedo-apostle references which no one has been able to figure out. Paul's last letter makes it clear he has lost and feels alone. "Apostasy" is a very fuzzy term that I do not find to be very helpful.

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Yes. The clearest verse showing the Universialty of the Apostasy is Revelation 13:7 in which we see that all the saints were overcome.

What else you got? Revelation 13:7 is talking about Roman rule and the temptation to apostasy. The "overcoming" is the martyrdom that the Christians had to face. It says that every nation on earth worshipped the beast because all of the known world was under Roman rule. Yet those who are part of God's family, do not worship the beast, and would rather suffer martyrdom. This text is clarified in the following verses, especially verse 10.

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Couldn't Jesus set up a religion that would not turn into a completely different creature the minute he was gone?

Most of all...where was the head of the church when the theologians were writing their treatises trying to convince everyone of the "right" theology? Nobody was home...obviously. If there was anybody there with any authority he would have settled the arguments. Thus, the church fractured into competing sects and was not brought back together until those in power aligned with political leaders and used force. This is not how Christ operated.

But it didn't turn into a "completely different creature." It only did if you think that the early Church fathers were unfaithful to what Jesus Christ taught. Of course there is no evidence of it except for LDS prophecy.

I think that this is a bad way of looking at it. Most of the "theologians" to which you are referring are the bishops, the people with authority. That not everyone accepted the authority is nothing new: it happened in the time of the apostles as well and is recorded in the Bible. I don't know why we should expect anything different in the early Church?

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There are several cases for a very large apostasy in the Bible, but they refer to a future time (not a past event like some are taught to believe).

BCSpace said, "Yes. The clearest verse showing the Universialty of the Apostasy is Revelation 13:7 in which we see that all the saints were overcome."

Unfortunately, BCSpace does not see that this is a future event. It is this beast, with the false prophet, that make war with Christ at the Second Coming (see Revelation 19:19).

In Luke (18::P, Christ asks what seems like a rhetorial question.

"Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?"

Another is 2 Thessalonians 2. Some mainly focus primarily on verse 2

"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first"

without taking the entire context into play,

"And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming; Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders."

"And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Revelation 19:19).

John Walt

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The one thing that I noticed is that there were lots of exhortations to be unified with the bishop and to reject heresy. But in those days, when the faith was passed from person to person quickly, it is not surprising that lots of people misunderstood the faith.

Yes...and that is odd if a church had been established with a passed down priesthood. If all was well within Ignatius' churches...he should not have been pleading with them over and over to be unified under authority...and to pray for his flock because they would be without a bishop. Why would that be? Why not just tell somebody to be the bishop? Most likely Ignatius was the last with the priesthood authority in that area to do so. He seemed to be similar to what we call Stake Presidents (I am not sure what your religion would designate those who have authority over a group of bishops). There is one reference to appointments but it does not resolve his frantic calls to unity and following the order of things. A person leaving a well structured situation would only be saying his goodbyes with some good encouraging sermons....not this kind of begging.

But in those days, when the faith was passed from person to person quickly, it is not surprising that lots of people misunderstood the faith.

Exactly...they did value the spoken word more than the written word, which they considered to be dead as opposed to living. That is the very reason they fell apart after the apostles died. Even Ignatius says that he cannot be an apostle. The Romans picked off leaders. It appears that Ignatius was the next level. I would assume that his hope was that if the people stayed together in complete and total unity they could hold out until someone in authority returned...or until the end...which they all seemed to be expecting. That is why there did not seem to be much concern that there were no written instructions, no instruction manual.

These people believed things that none of us acknowledge: for example, that Christ's body was not a real, physical body. That there were people believing things that are false does not prove that there were not people beliving that which is true.

I think docetism is alive and well in conventional Christianity. You can see that when someone talks about Jesus being married or deification. Jesus is never allowed to be too human...the creature/creator divide has to be maintained to separate the divine from the material. That is a remnent of docetism. LDS have a much more earthy perspective and we are not offended at the idea that Jesus was as human as anyone else while giving up his godhood status for a brief sojourn.

The problem with trying to decide what was true and false is we decide most of it based on what we believe now. We just put our own beliefs back into the 1st century. Further, if somebody is writing about a "heresy"...it has to be pretty darn pervasive. So what we have is one half of a conversation....the side that got the political power.

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It was obvious that apostasy was already creeping in to the individual congregations during Paul's ministry. He was always admonishing the people in his letters to get back on track.

It would seem logical that without continuing revelation, which the later Christians denied existed, there would be a falling away. The fact that we can all look at the same scriptures and get such a different message is why we need a prophet to give direction. Joseph Smith restored so many basic truths that clarify the Biblical scriptures.

I have said this before and I say it again, the reason I could not join any church before finding the LDS church, was that I had read the Bible and did not find any resemblance in the churches I knew to what I saw in the scripture. The whole organization that Christ set up was missing as well as what seemed to me basic, simple doctrine.

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Ever read the pseudo-Clementine texts?

Yes. I've probably read about every non-canonical text that is published. The "apostasy" was in full swing while the bible texts were being written....that is obvious, to me at least. Corinthians and Galatians have the psuedo-apostle references which no one has been able to figure out. Paul's last letter makes it clear he has lost and feels alone. "Apostasy" is a very fuzzy term that I do not find to be very helpful.

From reading those texts, and other snippits of very early reporting, I have come

away with the impression that the very earliest "Christian" religion was probably far

less Pauline than what most students of the Bible might expect -- also, that there may

have been a kind of messianic Judaism which Pauline/Petrine Christianity has almost

completely obscured (and anathematized as "Ebionism").

When I hear the term "restoration" bantered about, I am less interested in attempts to

"restore" apostolic Christianity, than I am in exploring what the Gospel message was

before Paul came along and wrote his influential letters.

Probably there is a scholarbable term for my sort of restorationist inquiry -- but I find

very few kindred souls within Latter Day Saintism, as the focus here seems to be

entirely upon the post-Pentecost "church," without reference to what went on before

that, in the various Jesus-follower groups.

I wonder, if seated at the feet of James the Just, say, in about 45 CE, whether I would

have heard the theology evident in the Pauline epistles ---- or, perhaps something else?

Uncle Dale

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Nibley's When the Lights Went Out is a great little "apostasy" primer:

Sorry, while I prefer to lurk nowadays I can't let this one go. When I was studying religion to see which one I would join, I studied ancient Christianity. Since the so called great apostasy is so critical to Mormon theology I figured that if such a thing had actually happened Mormon apologetics would point it out. I read Nibley's essays, among other works, like Talmage's "Great Apostasy." The problem is that I had already read the same sources that Nibley was citing (except for his secondary sources). When I looked at his references my thoughts went something like, "I remember that letter and don't remember reading that!?" I would look up the letter and sure enough it didn't support Nibley's citation. By the end of that first essay I had come to the conclusion (some of you will be pissed I'm saying this) that Nibley was basically making stuff up. The second two essays weren't like this, but they required quite a stretch of the imagination to interpret the sources like he was. In short his essays were utterly unconvincing. I recomend that when reading any scholarly work everyone should look up the author's sources.

For example, the apostles did not leave be hind written instructions on how the fledgling church should be guided in their absence.
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The entire LDS theology rests on this premise: immediately after the apostles died, the priesthood was lost and there was no longer a godly authority on earth.

Not exactly . . it rests squarely on the words of Christ in the First Vision. The balance of thought on this follows scholarly opinion, which in many respects is as strong or weak as Christian traditions based on an enforced unity.

Is there any evidence that this apostasy took place? I know that the Bible speaks of apostasies in a few places, but does it ever speak of a universal falling away from faith or of a loss of authority in the Church?

You're not really asking about any evidence, you're asking for perfect evidence. Not dissimilar from one who would ask for perfect evidence of God's existance.

The Bible is preservation of limited records. Perhaps we could wonder why more specific instructions were not preserved earlier . . why when apostles were still living groups were already in various states of knowledge and faith. Or perhaps such records did exist and if they did . . what happened to them . . .

Why were the apostles and Jesus so shortsighted that they couldn't set up an institution that would last more than a hundred years?

Short-sighted? Thomas still wasn't convinced until after Christ returned. The apostles were learning for some time after Christ's death. And after they were taught, they learned to deal with problems "on the job".

Where are the detailed records of the teachings of Christ during the many visits after the resurrection? They knew well how to write and yet there are not reams of records about Christ's instructions.

IMO, the world was not the world we understand today . . travel and communication and governments did simply did not support keeping His doctrine pure. Christ would have known that . . the apostles likely learned it over time. The goal then wasn't a perfect institution, it was to set before men the new covenant (for Jew and Gentile) of sacrifice through heart and spirit.

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. . . since Joseph Smith didn't leave any written instructions in the event of his death either...

Except that he did leave them in his written revelations . . not that every one had the same idea of how to follow them or was humble about the matter.

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A person leaving a well structured situation would only be saying his goodbyes with some good encouraging sermons....not this kind of begging.

Quite a bit of the NT has me wondering exactly what kind of cohesion there was at the outset. The epistles in particular seem to show a church in the throes of schism and "apostacy," and so often it is difficult to tell exactly whom one should believe.

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I have said this before and I say it again, the reason I could not join any church before finding the LDS church, was that I had read the Bible and did not find any resemblance in the churches I knew to what I saw in the scripture. The whole organization that Christ set up was missing as well as what seemed to me basic, simple doctrine.

You were looking for a church with a President, 12-year old deacons and 18 year old Elders?

James Clifford Miller

millerjamesc@cox.net

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The problem is that I had already read the same sources that Nibley was citing (except for his secondary sources).  When I looked at his references my thoughts went something like, "I remember that letter and don't remember reading that!?"  I would look up the letter and sure enough it didn't support Nibley's citation.  By the end of that first essay I had come to the conclusion (some of you will be pissed I'm saying this) that Nibley was basically making stuff up.  The second two essays weren't like this, but they required quite a stretch of the imagination to interpret the sources like he was.  In short his essays were utterly unconvincing.  I recomend that when reading any scholarly work everyone should look up the author's sources.

Please give an example of Nibley "making stuff up" as far as his references go. Nibley's books were what got me started. I couldn't believe all of these sources were there and they were never talked about in church. I didn't believe it...so I checked out every single source in his early Christianity book. The reason I question your assessment is that they were difficult to find. I found the Pseudepigrapha with no problem but for the more esoteric texts I had to go to a university and ask to read their Coptic collection. They ended up helping me find sources. His sources are dead on. If you are saying that you don't agree with his conclusions or his interpretation of those sources that is another matter and something that happens everyday in scholarship. What I quickly found is that I could not make heads or tails out of the gnostic writings...and the articles on them didn't seem to be talking about what I thought I was seeing. That is why it is critical to understand how scholars untangle a text. Some of Nibley is going to be out of date at this point. But even he said he refused to take responsibility for anything he wrote after three years.

This is one of my favorite criticisms of the early church since Joseph Smith didn't leave any written instructions in the event of his death either...

You can't be serious....

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Quite a bit of the NT has me wondering exactly what kind of cohesion there was at the outset. The epistles in particular seem to show a church in the throes of schism and "apostacy," and so often it is difficult to tell exactly whom one should believe.

Not only that...there is no "theology" in the NT or the OT. All one can do is try to reconstruct...and then you have to decide what your criteria for picking out a religion is going to be. Everybody can tag on and read their religion back into one century or another. The reason Mormonism is not given recognition is because the Apostolic Fathers were considered to be unsophisticated and thus...ignored as being a part of a primitive and unformed religion. The dominant Protestant scholarship saw the elegant philosophies and treatises as identifying true and meaningful religion. That did not begin until the 3rd century or so.

So just finding your theology in ancient writings is rather meaningless in and of itself.

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Yes. The clearest verse showing the Universialty of the Apostasy is Revelation 13:7 in which we see that all the saints were overcome. 
What else you got? Revelation 13:7 is talking about Roman rule and the temptation to apostasy.

And your proof is?

The "overcoming" is the martyrdom that the Christians had to face.

And your proof is? If all the saints were overcome, then is that not the definition of Apostasy? No saints (by your definition) equals no Church.

It says that every nation on earth worshipped the beast

Yet another definition of apostasy.

because all of the known world was under Roman rule.

The Romans are not mentioned in that chapter.

Yet those who are part of God's family, do not worship the beast, and would rather suffer martyrdom. This text is clarified in the following verses, especially verse 10.

13:10? Try again.

Perhaps you meant verse 15? They were killed. Saints all dead. Overcome. By your own logic...Apostasy.

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Why were the apostles and Jesus so shortsighted that they couldn't set up an institution that would last more than a hundred years?

We could ask the same question throughout the written history of Judeo-Christian religion. The OT is really just a record of the risings and fallings of a people...one "apostasy" after another. So to be consistent we would have to maintain that God was also shortsighted if "apostasy" is seen as anything unusual.

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