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Lead Us Not into Temptation, Part 1: Using Active-Will Language to Speak of Divine Allowance

A guest post by Fr. Andrew Dalton, LC ( 

This is the second of three guest posts in response to both Dr. Mark Ward’s post on the Logos Blog that responded to Pope Francis’s comments on the “lead us not into temptation” petition in the Our Father.  Fr. Devin Roza, LC provided some helpful context in a post yesterday.  Over the weekend, we will post Part 2.

Pope Francis’ recent comments regarding “lead us not into temptation” have catalyzed a flurry of commentary just in time for Christmas. Dr. Mark Ward’s brilliant article has become one of the most precious presents under my tree. His respectful critique has made me grapple with God’s Word in new ways, and I now stand in deeper awe of it.

In his response to Dr. Ward, Fr. Devin Roza goes beyond the call of duty to contextualize the words of the Holy Father. His treatment is so thorough that it is hard to imagine room for residual doubt—the pope was not bringing a sledgehammer down upon sacred traditions, nor was he tearing Scripture to shreds. He was shining Christ’s light upon the “peripheries of existence.”

As Fr. Roza shows, to interpret papal parlance, context is key. The same principle holds when reading the inspired words of Matthew.

I am slightly concerned that the latest explanations of the sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer have isolated it from its context. To my mind, most recent commentary gives too little attention to the unity of the Our Father, especially its two “halves” (consisting of three “thou-petitions” and four “we-petitions”), which are best conceived as units. Jesus did not teach us to pray seven disconnected petitions.

[Read more…]

Sheen, Sheed, and Shea—all in 1!

We couldn’t wait to tell you about the Ignatius Press Theology and Discipleship Collection, with special introductory pricing! This collection includes the following:

  • Verbum’s first title from Fulton Sheen, The Priest Is Not His Own.This beloved classic brings to light the real meaning of the priesthood: priests carry on the sacrificial mission of Christ.
  • Frank Sheed’s Theology and Sanity. Sheed explores the Faith through such down-to-earth topics as “God,” “Creation,” and “Oneself.” Sheed was clearly ahead of his time, and this classic speaks directly to the current imperative of the New Evangelization. (Along with another book by Sheed!)
  • Mark Shea’s extremely popular account of his journey from Evangelicalism to Catholicism, which places his narrative in the center of contemporary Biblical scholarship. Learned and engaging, By What Authority? is not to be missed.

Also included in this impressive collection, Cardinal Christophe Schönborn’s God Sent His Son: A Contemporary Christology is a scholarly yet accessible examination of the Church’s understanding of Christ through “the pillars of faith”—Scripture, Tradition, and Experience—and the challenges they face now.

Take advantage of this truly extraordinary collection—on pre-publication now!



Deacon Kevin on the Permanent Diaconate

Our guest speaker is Deacon Kevin Bagley, Verbum Director.

Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for gain; they must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Tim 3: 8,9).

The Diaconate was established in the days of the early church. When we read in the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 6, that there was concern that the widows of the Hellenists were being neglected in the daily distribution of food, the Twelve called together the community of disciples and appointed seven men to assist them in the various corporal and spiritual needs of the community, and to assist in preaching the word of God (Acts 8:40). Because of this important ministry, the deacon was expected to be a man of religious and moral integrity (I Tim 3: 8-11).One of the first deacons, Stephen, also became the first known martyr for Christ.

In the Catholic church, there are two kinds of deacon, those who receive the order as they progress on to priesthood (transitional deacons), and those who receive the order and remain deacons (permanent deacons). While the transitional deacon has not changed much from the time of its inception, the order we call the permanent diaconate flourished in the first four centuries. Then, for rather complex reasons, the order went into decline in the Roman Church. In the Eastern church, the order flourished and is still an integral part of their clergy to this day, playing an active and dominant role in church functions.

The Second Vatican Council restored the diaconate as a permanent ministry in the Church. In Article 29 of Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the diaconate was restored as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy. Deacons rank at the lower level of the hierarchy, upon whom hands are imposed by the bishop—not into the priesthod, but into a ministry of service to the bishop. The permanent deacon is ordained into the distinct ministry of service. This ministry of service occurs in three distinct areas of the Church’s life: in the proclamation of the word, in the celebration of the sacraments, and in the community’s social ministry and charitable works.

One who aspires to the permanent diaconate publicly proclaims his will to offer himself in service to God and the Church in the exercise of a sacred order. By the administration of Holy Orders, the deacon becomes a cleric and is incardinated into a diocese for service to the Bishop. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Holy See to restore the permanent diaconate in the United States in April, 1968, and the first permanent deacons in the United States were ordained in May and June of 1971.

If you’d like to learn more on the history and purpose of the permanent diaconate, check out the Paulist Press Diaconate Collection, on pre-pub now!




Ludwig von Pastor: Papal Historian

Ludwig_von_PastorJust a few days ago we celebrated the birthday of historian Ludwig von Pastor, the famous German Catholic historian and diplomat to Austria. Professor Pastor was an extremely important historian in his time, and the hard work and dedication he poured into his studies continue to serve both historians and Catholics today.

His magnum opus, History of the Popes, is an outstanding, detailed work spanning the pontificates of 56 popes from the fourteenth to late eighteenth centuries.

Pastor began his work on the history of the popes in response to another popular historian’s work, Leopold von Ranke’s History of the Popes. Pastor opposed much of Ranke’s historical methodology and, as a Catholic, he was able to gain access to the Vatican archives, which had previously been unavailable to scholars like Ranke. Through meticulous research and diligent study, Pastor compiled the most complete and exhaustive papal study of the Middle Ages ever written.

the-history-of-the-popes-from-the-close-of-the-middle-agesPlace your bid on the History of the Popes today, and select your price for this amazing 20,000+ page resource. You can help put this amazing resource into production, adding enormous value to your library at a fraction of what this collection would cost in print.

Bid now.

Bid now to get 82% off the Best Latin Dictionary for Historical/Theological Study

The Latin language holds a central place in the Christian tradition. It was the official language of Christendom for over a millennium, and continues today to be the primary language in which the Church operates on an official level.

The authority on classical and early-modern Latin

The Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary is an essential resource for studying classical, medieval, Renaissance, and early-modern Latin texts. With over 2,000 pages of detailed lexical data, it’s hands-down the best single-volume Latin dictionary to have in Verbum.

Quickly and easily move from individual words in the Latin Perseus texts to their entries in Lewis and Short. Consult definitions, explore contextual usage, and grasp the nuances of Latin with confidence.

Understand scriptural context

Knowing Latin gives you the ability to understand the primary texts of the Roman era, which in turn help you better understand the context in which the New Testament and early Christianity emerged.

Take Pliny the Younger, for example. This high-ranking Roman official wrote letters that help us understand the inner workings of Roman imperial society—including the early imperial persecution of Christians. In a letter to Emperor Trajan (Letters, vol. 2, p. 405), Pliny asks how he should carry out the trials of suspected Christians. He describes his current method of interrogating them, and how their worship practices seem to be “nothing more than depraved and excessive superstition.” The earliest surviving Roman document to refer to early Christians, Pliny’s letter is of great historical importance for understanding the unfavorable conditions in which Christianity first spread.

A language of Christian tradition

lewis-and-shorts-latin-dictionaryBetter understanding Latin gives us key insights into the foundations of early Christian theology. The early apologetic works of Tertuallian and Minucius Felix, which laid the foundation for Latin Christianity, give us a glimpse of how early Latin Christians combated paganism. Augustine composed his Confessions in Latin; Thomas Aquinas‘ magisterial Summa Theological, also written in Latin, represents Christianity’s highest theological expression in the medieval era. You can’t fully engage these important theological works without some acquaintance with Latin. What better dictionary to have in your Verbum library than Lewis and Short?

Bid now on Lewis and Short’s Latin Dictionary to help put this important resource into production. You’ll get it for 82% off, but you need to bid quickly—it won’t be on Community Pricing for much longer!

Bid now and get 82% off!

The Fathers of the Church Series: the most important patristic collection you’ll ever own

The Fathers of the Church Series is now available in Verbum, one of the most exciting additions we’ve ever procured. With nearly 50,000 pages of patristic primary-source material spanning the first through fifth centuries, this collection is unparalleled in the world of patristics.

With the tools and functionality that Verbum provides, this collection within Verbum is hands-down the most powerful patristic study tool available anywhere. 

A few people have had questions regarding what’s included in this collection compared to our early Church Fathers Collection. Here are the facts:

  • Though there is a little overlap between this collection and the Early Church Fathers collection, a vast majority of these texts are brand new to Verbum. 
  • Even with the resources that do overlap (such as some of Augustine’s works), the Fathers of the Church Series provides a totally new translation produced by top-tier scholars. In many cases the text in the Fathers of the Church Series are easier to read and digest.
  • There are maybe 20 or so works in this collection that are available in the public domain. The rest can only be purchased from publishers, and in this collection there are some titles that are exclusive to this collection, which means you can’t find them anywhere else
  • This series is divided into five main collections which you can choose to purchase individually (see below). 

Brilliant scholarship at an incredible price

What makes this collection so valuable isn’t just the sheer immensity of text (at less $.04 per page, the absolute best value anywhere): it’s the brilliant scholarship and translation that this series is renowned for in the English-speaking world. The English translations of both Greek and Latin texts are clear and easy to read, and the scholarship behind them is unsurpassed both in scope and in scale.

For anyone working in or studying patristics or early church history, this comprehensive exposition of the development of Christianity from its early years to post-Nicene maturity is invaluable.

And for those looking to study a particular patristic era, the Fathers of The Church series is broken into five different collections available for purchase on Pre-Pub:

  1. Fathers of the Ante-Nicene Era (23 vols.)
  2. Greek Fathers of the Nicene Era (35 vols.)
  3. Latin Fathers of the Nicene Era (25 vols.)
  4. St. Augustine (30 vols.)
  5. Fathers of the Post-Nicene Era (14 vols.)

fathers-of-the-church-seriesBut you save the most, by far, when you get the full 127-volume set. In addition to 20% off for purchasing the full set, you’ll get an additional 30% off while it’s on Pre-Pub. In fact, all discounts totaled, you’ll get over 65% off the total print price of this landmark series when you pre-order it right now.

Take advantage of this Pre-Pub opportunity while it lasts. Pre-order the Church Fathers Series today and gain a solid foundation for your study of the early church. 

Cited By: Anselm vs. Gregory of Nyssa

The Cited By tool is arguably the most powerful tool in Verbum—it shows you how and where all of your texts are interconnected, making research on a scholarly or lay-level something much easier (and even a lot more fun). My goal today is to demonstrate the power of the Cited By tool, and hopefully discover some insightful and enlightening truths along the way.

Today’s journey begins with a book I own outside of Verbum: Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, a book written in an attempt to trace the history of the development of secularism. It’s a fascinating read, but what struck me today was a passage he wrote concerning St. Anselm:

…There is one enigma which Christians… have to recognize, and that is the puzzle of evil; why in spite of knowing that we are born for the highest, we sometimes not only inexplicably choose against it, but even feel that we cannot do otherwise. The symmetrical mystery is that God can act to overcome this incapacity—the doctrine of grace. Anselm expressed this double mystery in terms of crime and punishment. The incapacity is explained as our just desert for our original falling away… Not only is our punishment now permissible, but some has to be exacted as a reparation for our fault, according to the juridical logic of this conception…. But in order to do this he has to have the reparation paid by his son, and then count it as satisfaction for our sins, in an act of gratuitous mercy. Needless to say, this wasn’t the only way that [this] double mystery could be articulated. Eastern fathers, like Gregory of Nyssa, put things differently. But Augustine and Anselm shaped the theology of Latin Christendom in this regard, and the Reformation, far from correcting this imbalance, aggravated it.[1]

Taylor thinks that Anslem’s (pre-dated by Augustine’s) conception of how we are saved led to the Protestant Reformers taking up an even stricter (and more imbalanced) soteriological viewpoint. But my question is: were Anselm’s and Gregory’s idea about salvation really imbalanced to begin with? Also, how did the Eastern Fathers understand this “double mystery” of punishment and grace as opposed to the Latin Fathers?

The logical place to begin is in Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo, or “Why God Became Man.” This is a book written as a dialogue between student (Boso) and teacher (Anselm) in an attempt to answer the questions about the method God chose to save mankind. So, let’s open it up along with the Cited By tool. [Click the images to zoom]

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Clicking on Anslem’s Cur Deus Homo we immediately see 37 references to this work in the Cited By tool. This is great news because it means that I have many different options when considering a place to start researching. If I open up the Cited By tool in a larger window by clicking “more” at the bottom of the pane, I can scroll through to see all of the references made to Cur Deus Homo in my entire library.

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Scrolling down a bit, I see a chapter on the nature of Christ’s suffering I’d like to read in Breviloquium, Bonaventure’s comprehensive work on Christian doctrine. Opening this up to chapter 9, I find a couple of key sentences giving me clues regarding Anselm’s understanding of redemption. Bonaventure’s first reference of Cur Deus Homo is found in section three where he states:

“…the work of restoration must respect the honor of God. Christ, therefore, brought it about by offering to the Father a fully satisfactory obedience. Satisfaction means the repayment of the honor due to God.”

Bonaventure goes on to state that Christ’s divine nature and innocence heals the rift made by mankind’s evil nature. He understands the restoration of man as a kind of “harmonious exchange” by which “evils should be healed through their opposites.” So there’s good evidence here that Taylor is right in thinking Anselm, along with other Latin Fathers, understand man’s redemption—at least in part—as a kind of “penal restitution.”

Going back to the Cited By list, I see a document called: “Soteriology: A Dogmatic Treatise on the Redemption” by Msgr. Joseph Pohle, Ph.D., D.D. This looks promising, as the question at hand is precisely about how the Church Fathers understand salvation.

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Clicking on the reference I read that Anselm is cited here relating that God could have chosen not to save mankind (that is, he wasn’t required to redeem the human race) but chose to do so out of infinite mercy. Reading a bit further, I see that Pohle outlines Anselm and Augustine’s soteriological perspective a bit more precisely:

“Sin involves a sort of infinite guilt and cannot be adequately atoned for except by an infinite satisfaction. (Cfr. St. Thomas, S. Theol., 3a, qu. 2, ad 2.) The Fathers held that not even the human nature of Christ… considered apart from the Hypostatic Union, could make adequate satisfaction for our sins… For, in the words of St. Augustine, “we could not be redeemed, even by the one Mediator between God and men, then man Christ Jesus, if He were not also God.” (St. Augustine, Enchir., c. 108)

I feel at this point I’ve collected enough information about Anselm and Augustine to affirm that they indeed saw redemption as a kind of “trade off,” albeit in a kind of infinite magnitude. But is this really so different from the Gregory of Nyssa’s position, as Taylor states? Let’s take a look at what Saint Gregory of Nyssa had to say and see if there really is an “imbalance” in the soteriological approaches of the early Church Fathers.

I’ll start by typing in “Gregory of Nyssa” in the search bar. If I click enter, I am instantly taken to the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers volume on Gregory of Nyssa.

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Since this volume is so large, it might be best to begin with a search in just this text. Let’s try a term that pertains to the kind of judicial language that Anselm and Augustine have been using. I’ll type in “ransom”:

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The first result that comes up looks promising, and clicking it I find Gregory speaking of a master who wishes to release one slave in return for another. He writes,

“For as they who have bartered away their freedom for money are the slaves of those who have purchased them [Gregory is talking about mankind here]… it was requisite that no arbitrary method of recovery, but the one consonant with justice should be devised by [God]… to make over to the master of the slave whatever ransom he may agree to accept for the person in his possession.”

Gregory’s views here are pretty remarkable. He essentially posits that God gives his son as a kind of ransom to Satan—the master of sinners—in exchange for the freedom of mankind. Of course, Satan cannot “take” Christ in any meaningful way, and so he is beaten at his own game. Mankind is freed, but Satan remains in bondage. Gregory concludes,

“[God’s] choosing to save man is a testimony of his goodness; His making the redemption of the captive a matter of exchange exhibits His justice, while the invention whereby He enabled the Enemy to apprehend that of which he was before incapable, a manifestation of supreme wisdom.”

We learn a few things here. First, that Gregory has a very different view of the satisfactory justice required in the transaction of man’s redemption than a majority of the Church Fathers. But two, we learn that Gregory does indeed think of mankind’s redemption in “legal” or “penal” terms, but he understands it differently than do other Church fathers. From what we’ve seen so far, we may conclude that Taylor poses a false dichotomy between the primary soteriological differences between Eastern and Western Fathers.

If we glance over at the Cited By tool while reading this section by Gregory of Nyssa, we find a reference to A Catholic Dictionary citing this very passage in Gregory’s work. Clicking it, we can read the larger historical context surrounding Gregory’s thinking and the debate circling the questions of how mankind is redeemed through Church history.

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So what have we learned?

First, that Anselm does indeed think very differently than Gregory on the issue of redemption, but not in the way that we first expected. We’ve certainly gathered that more research into this topic will be necessary to better flesh out the differences and similarities between Gregory of Nyssa and other Church Fathers. But we’ve also learned that with just a few simple clicks the Cited By tool is an extremely powerful tool allowing us to dig into topics and books that we may not have even been aware of in the first place. With a library full of Church documents, primary and secondary sources that are all linked together, research is made much easier and engaging.

[1] Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, p. 78.

St. Louis de Montfort and Modern Mariology

Today’s guest post is by Brandon Rappuhn, a Logos marketing copywriter.

In many ways, St. Louis de Montfort was the St. Dominic of the seventeenth century. He was a zealous traveling preacher, lived in poverty to meet the needs of those in poverty, and had a voracious approach to prayer and devotion. His work in spreading devotion through the rosary met with momentous success, and he founded three religious orders that imitated his practices of poverty, prayer, and charity: the Daughters of Wisdom, the Missionaries of the Company of Mary, and the Brothers of St. Gabriel. The feast of the rosary was introduced on the year of his death, and shortly thereafter, the Angelus was revitalized by Pope Benedict XIII. His three famous books, The True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, The Secret of the Rosary, and The Secret of Mary, have all been gathered in the recent St. Louis de Montfort Collection.

E0EDDF0E-5A8E-46F6-BFDB-ABE436E19CE1St. Louis de Montfort came along during a period of advancement in the discussion of Mariology. Saints Bellarmine and Lawrence, along with Pope Alexander VII, advanced Thomas Aquinas’ twelfth-century investigations of Mariology, while Jesuits and Baroque artists produced more literature and artwork focused on the Virgin Mary than had ever previously existed.

Despite this advancement in Mariology, the Enlightenment era of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries marked a notable decline in Marian writings. The elevation of rationalism and empiricism challenged everything from Marian intercession to the Virgin Birth. The rosary was seldom prayed, the writings on Mary scaled back, and feast days for Mary were all but removed from the calendar. The persecution of the Catholic Church in France and Spain during this period also contributed to a decline in Marian studies (though St. Alphonsus Ligouri developed a few noteworthy texts on Mary, most notably The Glories of Mary.)

The rediscovery of St. Louis de Montfort’s famous works in the middle of the nineteenth century contributed to a spark in the revival of devotion to Mary and prayer through the rosary. Pope Alexander VII’s discussions of the Immaculate Conception were renewed by Pope Pius IX and the First Vatican Council, and the nineteenth century closed with the reign of the famous “Rosary Pope,” Leo XIII, who wrote a record number of encyclicals on the Virgin Mary.

Whether for your own personal devotions or for your investigation of Roman Catholic Mariology, we’ve compiled St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort’s famous writings on Community Pricing for you. Bid whatever price you think it’s worth—with the rest of the Verbum community, you can determine the price you’ll pay for the collection when it ships, often saving you hundreds of dollars in the long run. New to Community Pricing? Check out the video on the landing page and see how it works!

Tax Day

Today is tax day.

By now, we’ve probably all heard a homily or two highlighting the words of Jesus, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Mk. 12:17)

Warning: you’re about to hear it again. With an added history lesson:

            Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not? But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him. (Matt. 22:17–21)

Jesus words here truly are amazing. Not only did he reverse the snare the Pharisees tried to lay for him; he revealed the hypocrisy in the Pharisees’ hearts, while at the same time delivering poignant social and theological commentary. And all this in just a few lines.


The Pharisees were, of course, trying to catch Jesus in a trap: If he answered that the Jews shouldn’t pay unto Caesar, then the Roman officials who were present would testify against him (Luke 20:20) and charge him with political dissension. If Jesus answered that the Jews should pay unto Caesar, then many of the Jews would be furious at him because of their hatred for Roman rule. If Jesus proved to be an advocate of Roman taxation, his status as a Messiah—the one who Jews expected to deliver them from the hands of their oppressor—would be immediately discredited.

Roman taxation was perhaps the single most “hot-button” political issue of the day. A quick history lesson from An Exposition of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark: 

            In the time of Augustus (63 B.C. – 19 A.D.) . . . a certain Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37; Josephus) raised the standard of revolt [against the Romans]. He asserted, that it was unworthy of the people of God, the true sons of the faithful Abraham, who owed tribute to God alone, to be subject, or pay taxes to infidels and idolatrous Gentiles. Both himself and his followers all perished, at the hands of the Romans. However, the spirit he evoked had, to some extent, survived him, and no question was more fiercely agitated among the Jews, than whether or not, it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar.

The Pharisees, then, were trying to trap Jesus using a pseudo-theological argument, claiming that supporting Caesar would be akin to idol-worship. But Jesus knew that idolatry was the last thing that the Pharisees were concerned about.

Jesus teaches that the tribute owed to Caesar is fundamentally different from the tribute owed to God: though Caesar is due a wage (like a worker might be paid in exchange for services), God requires that we offer him everything—our very lives—in an offering of worship out of love for him. This message not only undercuts the trick of the Pharisees; it also acts as a powerful and subversive critique of the Roman Emperor.

Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor who ruled in the time of the uprising of Judas of Galilee, referred to himself with many grandiose titles, but none so audacious as “son of god” (divi filius).augustus-caesar-coin_Fotor_20130415[1] The Roman emperor thus asserted himself not just as a political leader, but as a kind of god—a leader who ruled with divine authority. No doubt this was part of Judas of Galilee’s aversion to paying taxes to the emperor; to pay tribute to a man claiming divinity flies in the face of the Jewish tradition.

Yet in the same breath that Jesus tells the people to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, he also tells them to render unto God what is God’s, making a clear distinction between God and the Roman Emperor. By proclaiming that Caesar is, in fact, distinct from God, Jesus here deconstructs the way that Caesar is understood in the Roman paradigm, while simultaneously redefining the Jewish understanding of The Kingdom. A temporal ruler may be deserving of his wage (as servant of the people) but is never deserving the kind of tribute owed to God, that of our very being.

Tax season is a good time to reflect on the distinction between the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God, the temporal and the spiritual, wage and worship.

Worship in the Early Church

Right now, you can get the special introductory pricing of 50% off Worship in the Early Church: An Anthology of Historical Sources (4 vols.). The Pre-Pub price goes up this Friday, so act quickly to lock in an amazing price on this important anthology.

There is a tendency to compare the Church today with what we consider the “original church.” We think that whatever the earliest Christians were doing “back then” is much closer to what Christians ought to be doing now, perhaps because of their proximity to the early apostles (and even Jesus himself). There is truth to this; the early Church Fathers were indeed the ones who learned from the apostolic tradition firsthand. Also, the kinds of traditions—even the forms of worship—must have been much closer to what the 12 apostles experienced in their own time. But even if this is true, does that mean that the Church today must—or even should—look like the Church in the past?


The truth is that this debate stretches back for millennia; it was even happening between the very first apostles themselves. We read, for example, how St. Peter and St. Paul had a bit of a falling out regarding the practice of Jewish law (specifically food law and circumcision) in the first Christian church (Gal. 5:2–7). The argument then wasn’t who was closest to the apostles, but rather who best adhered to the correct form of worship: Should the New Israel still participate in the covenantal sign of circumcision? Should Christians adhere to Jewish food customs? These questions loomed large over the earliest Christians (who were themselves Jewish), and consensus was only reached through the process of ecclesial development over time.

As we step back and look at the development of the Church through the millennia, we can see clearly that it has grown in many different ways. We see, for example, the outburst of doctrinal development in the first four centuries of the Church, from the Council of Jerusalem to the First Council of Nicaea. Issues like the divinity of Christ, the Holy Trinity, the role of the Bishop of Rome, etc., only came into focus after hundreds of years. Though we maintain the truth of these doctrines since the inception of the Church, the development of doctrine and practice grew in response to various heresies and dissentions that arose at different points in Church history.

But Church growth doesn’t mean that the Church becomes something other than the Church over time. Just as a human child who grows into an adult is still very much human, so the Church over time is very much still the Church, even though it may look different. Christ promises to Peter that the Church will be built “upon this rock… and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). This verse reminds us that the Church is being built; it is a dynamic institution that grows on an unshakeable foundation.

Yet we still may wonder, what did worship in the early church look like? Was Christian worship different than the kind of worship that we participate in now? If so, how? Fortunately, the tradition of the Church has been preserved for us in documents that are literally thousands of years old, available for us to study today. Worship in the Early Church is an anthology that amasses primary sources stretching from the pre-Christian era to the sixth century—from Jewish prayers to the Rule of the Master, from the Didache to documents written by Pope Gregory I. It is a fantastic resource available to anyone who is interested in better understanding the development of the Church over time.

Learning about the history of the Church provides important context to help us understand our place in the body of Christ today. Verbum, along with great collections like Worship in the Early Churchcan help make this process of historical study much more effective and efficient.

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