St. Irenaeus, one of the Church Fathers and a great defender of the Christian faith against Gnostics in his Against Heresies. His Spiritual lineage dates back to John the Beloved Apostle.
St. Irenaeus, one of the Church Fathers and a great defender of the Christian faith against Gnostics in his Against Heresies. His Spiritual lineage dates back to John the Beloved Apostle.
Aloysius Kayiwa-Staff Apologist
I once asked a Baptist lady if she can trace the history of her sect back to the first century but her answer was as expected. “Our Church follows the KJV Bible and we align our beliefs to what the Bible says….”  She dodged my question immediately! This is some how the same answer given by Cultists like Soriano and his followers, Iglesia Ni Manalo, and some Evangelicals who claim that their sects and cults date back to Early Christians but when you ask them to prove any Early Christian who proscribed to their sects, they fail to provide evidence! This is because they simply do not know. How many of these actually study Early Christianity and the Ancient Church?  Very few. In fact, I boldly say that the average Protestant “Born Again” Christian or a follower of these self-proclaimed false prophets like Soriano has no clue about Church history after the death of the last apostle in about AD 100. Their most common understanding of Church history goes something like this…
“First you had the story of Jesus in the gospels.  Then the apostles went out and preached the Word to the Gentiles in the Book of Acts.  Then the apostles got old, and Christians started to get persecuted. Then the Jewish Temple was destroyed in AD 70. Then the last apostle, John, died in about AD 100.  After that came the “dark ages” that lasted 1,500 years.  First Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire, then by the Catholic Church, and then finally, the “dark ages” ended with the Protestant Reformation in about the 16th century.  The End.”
Only a small handful of learnt Protestant scholars, meaning those who read a lot of history books, know about Church History. Ask a Baptist, ADD or Iglesia Ni Manalo member, you will find out. Before and beyond that, they know nothing. Baptists try to connect their origin to Apostles but a big gap between the 16thcentury back to 1st Century debunks their claim. They can’t trace their roots back to Apostles.
Do a little test if you don’t believe me.  Go to an Evangelical church and do a little survey as people are walking out to after their prayers. Ask the people attending if they can name a single significant event in Church history between AD 500 and 1500.  Go ahead. Give it a try and see what you come up with. Then ask them if they can tell you when the Bible was compiled into a single book. See if they can narrow it down to within a century. They will tell you that the Bible existed a long time ago with no evidence for their claim! Ask them who brought Christianity to the Philippines? Ask them who brought Christianity to England? Ask them who brought Christianity to South America? Ask them who brought Christianity to Africa? Etc…
The truth is, and I dare you to try it and see for yourself, most Protestants and Cultists will just look at you with a blank stare. They won’t know the answer to any of these questions. Finally, ask them what the Early Christians believed, and what the teaching and practice was of the Ancient Church. Then they’ll go into trivial issues of all kinds of things that look surprisingly similar to their churches they just walked out of. So the question must be raised; if these people have no clue about Christian history between AD 100 to 1500, then what makes you believe they know what they’re talking about when it comes to Christian history prior to AD 400?  The truth is, the AVERAGE Protestant/Evangelical/Cultist doesn’t know. They can’t honestly tell you what the Early Christians believed, because they don’t know. They can’t honestly tell you what the Ancient Church practiced, because they don’t know. I do hope this article will go a little way toward correcting that problem.
The truth is that early Christians were Catholics. There is no need for guess work. It’s all laid out for us in black and white, provided of course that somebody is willing to read it. Many scholars have, and of course, these writings have been translated into English so that anyone interested may browse through them. Below I will cite the writings of ancient Christians on some key topics that will give us a true glimpse of what the Early Christians actually believed and prove that they were Catholics.
Here i will just use the example of the Apostle Paul to prove that Apostles were Catholics. From the Bible, we can plainly see that Paul submitted himself to Papal Authority. First, St. Paul did get his commission directly from Jesus Christ, on the way to Damascus. St. Paul didn’t just stand up on his own one day and decide to become a preacher. St. Paul even says in Romans 10:15 that no one can preach unless he is SENT. In recognition of this, after Paul had spent 3 years in Arabia following his conversion, he went and submitted himself to the chair of Peter, inGalatians 1:18. But being sent by Christ to preach to the Gentiles and being submissive to Peter were not the only Catholic things that Paul did. Paul was very keen on oral tradition, something that Catholics today say is just as important as sacred scripture. In 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Paul says to “hold fast to the traditions we taught you, either written or by WORD OF MOUTH. Most Protestants today disagree with Paul, saying that all tradition is somehow evil while Catholics totally agree with Paul.
Paul was also very outspoken on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-21, St. Paul says that the cup of blessing is a participation in the blood of Christ (not “symbolic”), and the breaking of the bread is a participation in the body of Christ (not “symbolic”). He then goes on to compare the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ with the Jewish sacrifice on the altar, as well as with the pagan sacrifices on the altar. Now either Paul doesn’t know how to write properly and is using false comparisons with other altar sacrifices, OR the Eucharist is indeed a true sacrifice on an altar. Why else would Paul compare the Eucharist to other altar sacrifices?  As if to emphasize his belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, Paul continues talking about it in the very next chapter, 1 Corinthians 11:23-30, where he says that whoever eats and drinks the Eucharist in an unworthy manner is guilty of profaning THE BODY AND THE BLOOD OF JESUS (if it’s just a symbol, then this would be impossible.)
St.Paul believed in Sacrament of Confession. Yes he did, in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21. Paul says that the ministry of reconciliation (forgiveness of our sins) was given to him by Christ. On behalf of Christ, Paul urges us all to be reconciled with God.  Many protestants believe that they can confess their sins directly to God, and not go through a minister, but this philosophy is only to be found in the Old Testament, not the New Testament. For instance, we have St. John the Baptist hearing the people’s sins prior to baptism in Mark 1:5, and in John 20:21-23, Jesus gives his priests the power to forgive sins. In James 5:16, he says to confess your sins to one another. And in Acts 19:18, many people came forward confessing their sins and evil practices. Confessing one’s sins to a minister of reconciliation is very New Testament. Confessing your sins to God directly is the Old Testament way, and is no longer in force.
Paul also believed in personal mortification, like Catholics do during Lent. InColossians 1:24, Paul says that he rejoices in his personal sufferings, and completes WHAT IS LACKING IN THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST, for the sake of the Church. By suffering, we come to know Christ as He came to know us – in bodily suffering. Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 9:27 that he mortifies his flesh, so that after preaching to us, he himself will not be disqualified. This not only reinforces the self-mortification aspect of Paul’s teaching, it also refutes the heretical “once saved, always saved’ teaching of protestants.
And speaking of the false “once saved, always saved” theory, Paul directly refutes it in Hebrews 10: 26-29, when he says that if you deliberately sin after being sanctified by grace, then you can expect nothing less than an ordeal of fire, because you have profaned the blood of the covenant (the Holy Eucharist) by which you were sanctified, and outraged the Holy Spirit. That certainly doesn’t sound like once saved, always saved, and in fact, backs up St. Peter in 2 Peter 2:20-22.
St. Paul also believes in praying for the dead. He prayed for the dead Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 1:16-18, asking not only blessings for his household, but for Onesiphorus to receive mercy at the final judgment.
St. Paul also didn’t preach that the bible alone is his philosophy. Rather, in 1 Timothy 3:15, St. Paul says that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of truth, rather than sacred scripture, which many protestants hold up to be the pillar and bulwark of truth. Catholics agree completely with St. Paul here.
And St. Paul was not only celibate, he recommended celibacy. Many protestants mistakenly believe that celibacy leads to child abuse, which is crazy, because Jesus, St. John the Baptist, and St. Paul were all celibate. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:8-22, that marriage is ok, but IT IS BETTER TO REMAIN UNMARRIED, because then you are trying to please the Lord, not your wife.
There are other Catholic beliefs Paul embraced like good works being a necessary component of our Salvation-as fruits of our faith for example inColossians 1:10  – “We should live a life pleasing to God, bearing fruit in every good work.” Paul does condemn the useless works of the law like circumcision, in Romans 3:28. Luther mistranslated this “works of the law” into “good works,” which does not agree with other scriptures like James 2:24, where God says that we are justified by works, and not by faith alone.  It’s sad how so many people today still believe Luther and not James.
“See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles. Do ye also reverence the deacons, as those that carry out through their office the appointment of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude[of the people] also be; by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude[of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” — Ignatius of Antioch,Epistle to the Smyrneans, 8:2 (written A.D. 110)
“All the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the Catholic Church which is in Smyrna. For every word that went out of his mouth either has been or shall yet be accomplished.” — Martyrdom of Polycarp,16:2 (written A.D. 155)
“Nor does it consist in this, that he should again falsely imagine, as being above this [fancied being], a Pleroma at one time supposed to contain thirty, and at another time an innumerable tribe of Aeons, as these teachers who are destitute of truly divine wisdom maintain; while the Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said.” —Irenaeus,Against Heresies,1:10,3 (written in A.D. 180)
“For the blessed apostle Paul himself,following the rule of his predecessor John, writes only by name to seven Churches in the following order–to the Corinthians a first…there is a second to the Corinthians and to the Thessalonians, yet one Church is recognised as being spread over the entire world…Howbeit to Philemon one, to Titus one, and to Timothy two were put in writing…to be in honour however with the Catholic Church for the ordering of ecclesiastical discipline…one to the Laodicenes, another to the Alexandrians, both forged in Paul’s name to suit the heresy of Marcion, and several others, which cannot be received into the Catholic Church; for it is not fitting that gall be mixed with honey. The Epistle of Jude no doubt, and the couple bearing the name of John, are accepted by the Catholic Church…But of Arsinous,called also Valentinus,or of Militiades we receive nothing at all.” — The fragment of Muratori (written in A.D. 177)
In his Catechetical lectures (348-386 AD), St. Cyril of Jerusalem who was a successor of St.James the Apostle in the See of Jerusalem taught;
“22. . . . Now then let me finish what still remains to be said for the Article, “In one Holy Catholic Church,” on which, though one might say many things, we will speak but briefly.”
“23. It is called Catholic then because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men’s knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly ; and because it brings into subjection to godliness the whole race of mankind, governors and governed, learned and unlearned; and because it universally treats and heals the whole class of sins, which are committed by soul or body, and possesses in itself every form of virtue which is named, both in deeds and words, and in every kind of spiritual gifts.”
“24. And it is rightly named Church [Ecclesia/Assembly] because it calls forth and assembles together all men; according as the Lord says in Leviticus, And make an assembly for all the congregation at the door of the tabernacle of witness. And it is to be noted, that the word assemble, is used for the first time in the Scriptures here, at the time when the Lord puts Aaron into the High-priesthood…..”
“And in one Holy Catholic Church;” that thou mayest avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which thou wast regenerated. And if ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord’s House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God”
“28. In this Holy Catholic Church receiving instruction and behaving ourselves virtuously, we shall attain the kingdom of heaven, and inherit Eternal Life; for which also we endure all toils, that we may be made partakers thereof from the Lord. For ours is no trifling aim, but our endeavour is for eternal life.”
“Our teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, who also was born for this purpose, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judaea, in the times of Tiberius Caesar; and that we reasonably worship Him, having learnt that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third, we will prove.” — Justin Martyr, First Apology,13 (written in A.D. 155)
“For God did not stand in need of these [beings], in order to the accomplishing of what He had Himself determined with Himself beforehand should be done, as if He did not possess His own hands. For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, ‘Let Us make man after Our image and likeness;’ He taking from Himself the substance of the creatures [formed], and the pattern of things made, and the type of all the adornments in the world.” — Irenaeus, Against Heresies,4,20:1 (written in A.D. 180)
“The statements made regarding Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are to be understood as transcending all time, all ages, and all eternity. For it is the Trinity alone which exceeds the comprehension not only of temporal but even of eternal intelligence; while other things which are not included in it are to be measured by times and ages.” — Origen, First Principles,4:28 (written in A.D. 230)
“For the kingdom of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is one, even as their substance is one and their dominion one. Whence also, with one and the same adoration, we worship the one Deity in three Persons, subsisting without beginning, uncreated, without end, and to which there is no successor. For neither will the Father ever cease to be the Father, nor again the Son to be the Son and King, nor the Holy Ghost to be what in substance and personality He is.” — Methodius, Oration on the Palms,4 (written in A.D. 305)
“For He came to save all through means of Himself–all, I say, who through Him are born again to God–infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men.” — Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2,22:4 (written in A.D. 180)
“And they shall baptise the little children first. And if they can answer for themselves, let them answer. But if they cannot, let their parents answer or someone from their family.” — Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition,21 (written in A.D. 215)
“For this reason, moreover, the Church received from the apostles the tradition of baptising infants too.” — Origen, Homily on Romans, V:9 (written in A.D. 244)
“Baptism is given for the remission of sins; and according to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given even to infants. And indeed if there were nothing in infants which required a remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous.” — Origen, Homily on Leviticus,8:3 (written in A.D. 244)
“This Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten of God, is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one.” — Origen, Homily 1 (written in A.D. 244)
“Thou alone and thy Mother are in all things fair, there is no flaw in thee and no stain in thy Mother.” — Ephraem, Nisibene Hymns,27:8 (written in A.D. 370)
“It helps us to understand the terms ‘first-born’ and ‘only-begotten’ when the Evangelist tells that Mary remained a virgin ‘until she brought forth her first-born son’ [Matt. 1:25]; for neither did Mary, who is to be honored and praised above all others, marry anyone else, nor did she ever become the Mother of anyone else, but even after childbirth she remained always and forever an immaculate virgin” —-Didymus the Blind,The Trinity 3:4 (A.D. 386).
“Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin.” — Ambrose,Sermon 22:30 (written in A.D. 388)
“For as Eve was seduced by the word of an angel to flee from God, having rebelled against His Word, so Mary by the word of an angel received the glad tidings that she would bear God by obeying his Word. The former was seduced to disobey God, but the latter was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve. As the human race was subjected to death through [the act of] a virgin, so it was saved by a virgin.” —Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V:19,1 (written in A.D. 180)
“O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides.” — Athanasius, Homily of the Papyrus of Turin, 71:216 (written in AD 373) ***NOTE THAT ST.ATHANASIUS IS THE ONE WHO COMPOSED THE CANON OF THE BIBLE.
“Recalling these and other circumstances and imploring the Virgin Mary to bring assistance, since she, too, was a virgin and had been in danger, she entrusted herself to the remedy of fasting and sleeping on the ground.” —Gregory of Nazianzen, Oration 24:11 (written in A.D. 379)
“Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead.” — Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 6. (written in 110 A.D.)
“This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.” — Justin Martyr, First Apology,66, (written in A.D. 148)
“Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Mast High God the Father, and of Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is sanctified and enlightened by the will of God, who farmed all things that are according to the faith and love of Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour; the Church which presides in the place of the region of the Romans, and which is worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of credit, worthy of being deemed holy, and which presides over love…” — Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans, Prologue (written in A.D. 110)
“Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorised meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organised at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. 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 apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.” — Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:3:2 (written in A.D. 180)
“And he says to him again after the resurrection, ‘Feed my sheep.’ It is on him that he builds the Church, and to him that he entrusts the sheep to feed. And although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single Chair, thus establishing by his own authority the source and hallmark of the (Church’s) oneness. No doubt the others were all that Peter was, but a primacy is given to Peter, and it is (thus) made clear that there is but one flock which is to be fed by all the apostles in common accord. If a man does not hold fast to this oneness of Peter, does he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church? This unity firmly should we hold and maintain, especially we bishops, presiding in the Church, in order that we may approve the episcopate itself to be the one and undivided.” — Cyprian, On Church Unity, 4-5 (written in A.D. 251)
These are some of the writings of Early Christians, who were the disciples or students of the 12 apostles. They were the Christian leaders who took charge of the Church following the death of the 12 apostles. They were not only taught by the 12 apostles, they were also first-hand witnesses to the creation of the Church worldwide.  Most of them were martyred by being crucified and beheaded. They gave their lives professing the Trinitarian God, of whom the Second Person of this Trinity gives his literal body and blood to us in Holy Communion.  They gave their lives because they baptised their infant children in this faith. They gave their lives professing that the Virgin Marry was Immaculate (without sin) and they prayed to her, asking for her intercession to God.  They gave their lives professing to be “Catholic,” which means “whole and complete,” and professing their allegiance to the Bishop of Rome (Pope).  These were the Early Christians, in their own words, in their own writings, written by their own hands.
They were the ones empowered by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13 and 1 John 4:6),  and who personally handed on the oral teaching of Jesus Christ, before the New Testament canon was created by the Catholic Church in the late 4th century, at the councils of Rome, Hippo, and Carthage.  One of the great early ones, St. Clement, is actually mentioned in the bible in Philippians 4:3.  None of these early Church Fathers just stood up and started preaching on his own. They followed the Biblical model in Acts of “being sent” (Romans 10:15).  Who sent them?  Jesus sent the 12 apostles (“as the Father sent me, so I send you”). The 12 apostles then laid hands on others and sent them (Acts 6:6).  This apostolic tradition has been followed for 2000 years by the Catholic Church, who continuously lays hands on new disciples in every generation since Jesus walked the earth, and then sends them to the four corners of the earth to preach the good news of Jesus Christ, to forgive sins in His Name, and to bring Jesus to all.
These people were not Protestants neither did they subscribe to the Protestants denominations, sects and cults. Protestants often have some fanciful ideas as to who they were and what they believed, but they can never produce a single document, written by an Early Church Father that backs such fanciful ideas.
Protestants and cultists can turn a blind eye with their rubrid arguments that “those things are not in the Bible”. But they read the writings of Martin Luther,Charles Russel, Eli Soriano, Felix Manalo and others, even though those aren’t in the Bible either!  They can deny it all they like, but history testifies, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that the Early Christians were CATHOLIC, and the Ancient Church was CATHOLIC. The evidence is plain and clear to see, and there is no alternative. I challenge anyone to try to produce an alternative version of history using the writings of the people who lived during that time. I tell you, it cannot be done and they will fail badly.
For Catholics, do not let yourself get trapped in Protestant philosophies and cult psychologies of “it is not in the Bible, so it is not true”. It does not follow that if something is not in the Bible, then it is false as there are many things that are essential to the Christian faith which are not spelled out by the Bible. If that were truly the case, then none of Martin Luther’s writings can be seen as true, because they aren’t in the Bible either!  Take the time to read Church History, in order to point out what Early Christians actually believed and practiced. There were no Baptists, Lutherans, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Elisorians,Manalos in the Early Church. These are traditions of men which started in the 15th Century based on what people thought Jesus’ Church was all about, rather than on what it actually was.