Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What Became of the Churches Paul Wrote To

'Church of Mary' in Ephesus, site of the
Third Ecumenical Council in 431
Paul the apostle wrote his part of the New Testament in the form of letters to Christian groups in several cities or areas. Have you ever wondered what became of the churches on those places? Well, some people must (including me) because I received this question on Quora the other day...

Q: Were the churches Paul wrote letters to foundational to post-Biblical Christianity, for example, after Constantine?

A: Rome.

Rome is the most obvious foundational address Paul wrote to. The church father Irenaeus writing around AD 180 described the influence Rome had on post-biblical Christianity:
“For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority,that is, the faithful everywhere,inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.”
Against Heresies, Book 3, chapters 3-4 Irenaeus
Paul’s other destinations had varying degrees of influence after the apostles were gone. Here is some information I’ve put together on them:
The non-biblical (but quite orthodox) letter called 1 Clement was written to Corinth by a Roman church leader (probably before the last New Testament books were finished). This letter shows that the old issues of factionalism and quarreling which Paul had addressed continued among Corinthian Christians; referring to their letters from Paul, Clement rebukes some younger believers who have thrown off the leadership of the elders.
Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible, art. Corinth.
Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth around AD 170 wrote a letter preserved in the Church History of Eusebius to the bishop of Rome, Soter, defending the way churches in Achaea traditionally celebrated the feast later called easter, which then was a matter of debate in the church since Rome figured it differently.
Corinth was the capital of the province of Achaea and the bishop there oversaw the smaller churches in the province making him what Orthodox Christians call a metropolitan bishop. Corinth's bishops were present at many of the early church councils and so helped to formulate statements of what Christians do (and do not) believe that are still used to this day.
There are actually two areas in modern day Turkey that were called "Galatia" in Paul's time, a north and a south, and no one is certain which one Paul wrote to. If Galatians was sent to north Galatia they would be in the area of Ankara and Pessinus while south Galatia would include Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe where Acts tells us he and Barnabas established churches.
If we go with the southern Galatia theory and look at what roles the cities mentioned in Acts played later on, we can say that Iconium played no important part in later church history, although the apocryphal but popular "Acts of Paul and Thecla" may have been written there "out of love for Paul." Acts of Paul and Thecla - Wikipedia
The church in Antioch was the capital of the province of Pisidia. Partially due to this the bishop there oversaw the smaller churches in the province. The names of many bishops of Pisidian Antioch are recorded and they attended several of the important church Councils.
Lystra did not play a major role in subsequent Christian history, though the foundation of a Byzantine church has been discovered at the site.
Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible, art. Lystra
Not much is recorded of Derbe's part in post-apostolic Christianity. The church continued there however and its bishops attended three important Councils: Constantinople (AD 381), Ephesus (AD 431), and Chalcedon (AD 451) Derbe (Diocese) - Wikipedia.
Ephesus is the traditional residence, in later life, of John the Apostle (Eusebius HE 3.1), who was thought to have lived into the reign of Trajan (98-117; Irenaeus Adv. haer. 3.3.4). According to tradition, he wrote his Gospel at Ephesus (HE 5.8.4), and was eventually buried there (3.39.5-6; 5.24.3). The Basilica of St. John was erected on the traditional site of his tomb during the reign of Justinian (527-565). Timothy is remembered as the first bishop of Ephesus (HE 3.4.5), a tradition probably based on 1 Tim. 1:3. Ephesus is also the site for Justin’s dialogue with Trypho the Jew (Dial. 2-8; Eusebius HE 4.18.6).
Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible, art. "Ephesus"
The city was destroyed by the Goths in 263, and although rebuilt, the city's importance as a commercial centre declined as the harbour was slowly silted up by the Küçükmenderes River. It was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD...
The Church of Mary near the harbour of Ephesus was the setting for the Third Ecumenical Council in 431, which resulted in the condemnation of Nestorius. A Second Council of Ephesus was held in 449, but its controversial acts were never approved by the Catholics. It came to be called the Robber Council of Ephesus or Robber Synod of Latrocinium by its opponents.
Wikipedia, art. Ephesus
In the second century, Ignatius, bishop of Antioch of Syria, passed through Philippi on his way to Rome to face martyrdom. The Philippian church later sent a letter to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, requesting his assistance in collecting Ignatius's letters. Polycarp responded favorably to their request in his only letter that has survived (see Pol. Phil. 13.2), though Irenaeus claims that he wrote several others (Irenaeus Haer. 5.33.4). Polycarp's letter (c. the mid-second century A.D.) is helpful in understanding the continuing witness of the church in Philippi in the second century, its concern for those in prison because of their faith and its hospitality. Like Paul, Polycarp also addressed the presbyters (bishops) and deacons (Pol. Phil. 5.2-3; 6.1; cf. Paul's Phil 1:1). In the post-Nicene era, the city became an important Christian center and had a metropolitan bishop.
Dictionary of New Testament Background, art. "Philippi"
After a major earthquake in the Lycus Valley that destroyed Colossae and Laodicea (c. A.D. 60-64; Tacitus Ann. 14.27), Colossae was never fully rebuilt, and by the eighth century it was abandoned. The site has not yet been excavated.
Dictionary of New Testament Background, art. "Colossae"
For centuries the city remained one of the chief strongholds of Christianity, and it won for itself the title of "the Orthodox City," not only by the tenacity and vigor of its resistance to the successive attacks of various barbarous races, but also by being largely responsible for their conversion to Christianity... It was also the scene in 390 AD of the famous massacre ordered by Theodosius the Great, for which St. Ambrose excluded that emperor for some months from the cathedral at Milan.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (2002 edition), art. "Thessalonica"
It still stands today. Thessaloniki - Wikipedia

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