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History of the Early Church
Fourth Century Changes in Church Meetings
The Value of Historical Awareness
Introduction to the Early Church
The Apostolic Church, a House Church System
Fourth Century Changes in Church Meetings
Other Major Changes of the Post-Apostolic Church
Ideological Competitors of Early Christianity
Changes in 4th Century Theology – The Gospel
Changes in 4th Century Theology – Church and State
The Apostolic Church vs. Greek Mysticism
Changes in 4th Century Theology – Determinism, Divorce
Conclusions, Does God Care About These Changes?
Fourth Century Changes in Church Meetings
The meetings of the modern church are very different from the meetings of the apostolic church. We meet in large church buildings not homes. Our buildings are like auditoriums focused on a speaker or the musicians. There is a deliberate distinction between the place of the audience and the place of speaker. The audience faces away from one another and doesn’t engage one another as they fellowship. And at the front of the church building, there is a raised stage or altar with a pulpit or podium and special seating for the speaker. Audience participation in the teaching is severely limited or completely eliminated. Everyone is prohibited from speaking or asking questions in the company of the church. Instead, in modern church meetings the teaching is completely restricted to an uninterruptable monologue from a single speaker.
Since the early church didn’t have buildings or meetings like we do today, where did we get our meeting format and why did it change? The answer to this question is available through a study of history.
In the 300’s AD, Constantine constructed the first "churches." These buildings for church meetings were designed after buildings called basilicas, which were used as Roman government buildings and pagan temples.
was originally used to describe a Roman public building (as in Greece, mainly a tribunal), usually located in the forum of a Roman town. In Hellenistic cities, public basilicas appeared in the 2nd century BC. Basilicas were also used for religious purposes…The groundplan of Christian basilicas in the 4th century was similar to that of this Neopythagorean basilica…Such buildings usually contained interior colonnades that divided the space, giving aisles or arcaded spaces at one or both sides, with an apse at one end (or less often at each end), where the magistrates sat, often on a slightly raised dais.
Schaff’s opening words are telling: “After Christianity was acknowledged by the state and empowered to hold property it raised houses of worship in all parts of the Roman Empire. There was probably more building of this kind in the fourth century than there has been in any period, excepting perhaps the nineteenth century in the United States.”
Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 3:542 quoted by Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, Chapter 2, p. 18
Ferguson writes, “Not until the Constantinian age do we find specially constructed buildings, at first simple halls and then the Constantinian basilicas.” Before Constantine, all structures used for church gatherings were “houses or commercial buildings modified for church use”
Ferguson, Early Christians Speak, 74, quoted by Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, page 18
Everett Ferguson - Everett Ferguson (born February 18, 1933) currently serves as Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas...He received both his undergraduate bachelor degree and his first master's degree from Abilene Christian University in the mid 1950s. He immediately proceeded to Harvard University and received his Bachelor of Sacred Theology followed by a doctoral degree "with distinction" in History and Philosophy of Religion...During his education, Ferguson received such honors as the Honorary John Harvard Fellowship and Harvard Graduate School Fellowship. - wikipedia.org
The church edifices build under Constantine were patterned exactly after the model of the basilica.
Grant, Founders of the Western World, 209, quoted from Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, p.22.
Michael Grant CBE (21 November 1914 – 4 October 2004) was an English classicist and numismatist...Michael Grant was born in London, and read classics at Trinity College, Cambridge and was professor of Humanity at Edinburgh University. He was awarded the OBE in 1946, the CBE in 1958, and was vice-chancellor (president) of the Queen's University of Belfast and University of Khartoum. According to his obituary in The Times he was "one of the few classical historians to win respect from [both] academics and a lay readership". - wikipedia.org
These were the common government buildings, designed after Greek pagan temples. Hinson, Worshipping Like Pagans? 19, Norman, House of God, 24, Jungmann, Early Liturgy, 123, quoted from Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, p.22.
E. Glenn Hinson teaches in retirement at Lexington Theological Seminary, Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, and a newly opened Kentucky Baptist Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky. He is a member of the adjunct faculty of the Academy for Spiritual Formation. Dr. Hinson is a widely published author of books, articles, and reviews in the fields of New Testament, patristics, ecclesiology, spirituality, liturgy, and Baptist history. – amazon.com, About the Author, Spiritual Preparation for Christian Leadership (Perfect Paperback)
The Christian architects adapted the pagan plan, installing an altar near the large, rounded, recess, or apse, at one end of the edifice, where the king or judge sat; the bishop was now to take the place of the pagan dignitary.
Collins and Price, Story of Christianity, 64, quoted from Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, p.22.
Michael Collins, an Irish Catholic priest, was a protocol adviser to Pope John Paul II. He is currently a consultant to the Vatican Committee for the Millennium and Associate Professor of History at the American University in Rome. Matthew Price is President of Upland Publishing, a publisher of Christian books and media. He was vice-president of Starsong Communications and Director of Development at Tyndale House Publishers. – amazon.com, About the Author for The Story of Christianity (Paperback)
As one Catholic scholar wrote, with the coming of Constantine “various customs of ancient Roman culture flowed into the Christian liturgy…even the ceremonies involved in the ancient worship of the emperor as a deity found their way into the church’s worship, only in their secularized form.
Jungmann, Early Liturgy, 130, 133, quoted from Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, p.25.
The ceremonial aspects of the Mass, such as the incense, candles, and arrangement of the church building were all borrowed from the ceremonial court of the Roman emperors.
Jungmann, Early Liturgy, 132-133, 291-292; Smith, From Christ to Constantine, 173, quoted from Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, p.50.
The year 2000 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Josef A. Jungmann, S.J., arguably the most influential Western Christian Liturgical scholar of the twentieth century. – books.google.com, Back Cover for Source and Summit, Commemorating Josef A. Jungmann, S.J.
The pagan, Neoplatonist, mystic and philosopher Porphory noted the hypocrisy of these Christians in building houses of worship modeled after pagan temples.
Porphyry said that the Christians were inconsistent because they criticized pagan worship and yet erected buildings that imitated pagan temples! This quote comes from the anti-Christian writer Porphyry (Davies, Secular Use of Church Buildings, 8), White, Building God’s House, 129), quoted from Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, p.22.
Reverend John Gordon Davies was educated at King's School (Chester), Christ Church (Oxford) and Westcott House (Cambridge). He worked in the dockland parish of Rotherhithe and as Professor in Theology at the University of Birmingham. He was also Director of the Institute for the Study of Worship and Religious Architecture in the University. – amazon.com, About the Author for Daily Life in the Early Church (Paperback)
L. Michael White is an American author and Biblical scholar. He is Ronald Nelson Smith Chair in Classics and Christian Origins and is the director of the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins at the University of Texas at Austin. He has appeared on PBS specials From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians (1998) and Apocalypse! Time, History, and Revolution (1999). – wikipedia.org
born c. 234…Neoplatonist Greek philosopher...Surviving fragments of his Against the Christians, which was condemned in 448 to be burned, marked him as a fierce critic of the new religion.
So, in the fourth century the Church had discarded their 300-year old, interactive house meetings and full communion meal, which had been instituted by Jesus’ Christ and modeled on the Last Supper. And instead, they began meeting in structures designed after pagan temples and government buildings.
This change in venue necessitated and was accompanied by a change in format. The new, fourth century church meeting was modeled after pagan religious events and Roman imperial ceremonies. In this atmosphere, a full communal meal was no longer convenient or possible.
At this time, teaching with interaction was replaced with the Greco-Roman custom of oration. In which professional speakers delivered orations designed to stir their captive audiences.
For centuries before the time of Constantine, Greek and Roman culture had honored a tradition of professional orators or sophists. The term sophist is related to the Greek word “sophia” meaning wisdom. These speakers were trained in the art of rhetoric and they used wise and ornate language as they delivered their fine speeches in the basilicas.
Rhetoric is the art of using language to persuade…Along with grammar and logic or dialectic, rhetoric is one of the three ancient arts of discourse. From ancient Greece to the late 19th Century…to train public speakers and writers to move audiences to action with arguments…a central part of rhetoric, appearing among Aristotle's Topics.…classical rhetoric trained speakers to be effective persuaders in public forums and institutions like courtrooms and assemblies,… In Classical times, many of the great thinkers and political leaders performed their works before an audience, usually in the context of a competition or contest for fame, political influence, and cultural capital;…rhetor was the Greek term for orator: A rhetor was a citizen who regularly addressed juries and political assemblies and who was thus understood to have gained some knowledge about public speaking in the process, though in general facility with language was often referred to as…"skill with arguments" or "verbal artistry." Rhetoric thus evolved as an important art, one that provided the orator with the forms, means, and strategies for persuading an audience of the correctness of the orator's arguments.
Organized thought about public speaking began in Ancient Greece... The word "sophistry" developed strong negative connotations in ancient Greece that continue today, but in ancient Greece sophists were nevertheless popular and well-paid professionals, widely respected for their abilities but also widely criticized for their excesses.
Etymology: Latin sophista, from Greek sophist?s, literally, expert, wise man, from sophizesthai to become wise,
2 capitalized : any of a class of ancient Greek teachers of rhetoric, philosophy, and the art of successful living prominent about the middle of the fifth century b.c.
Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary
1 : the art of speaking or writing effectively: as a : the study of principles and rules of composition formulated by critics of ancient times b : the study of writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion
2 a : skill in the effective use of speech b : a type or mode of language or speech; also : insincere or grandiloquent language
Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary
an elaborate discourse delivered in a formal and dignified manner
Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary
Oratory (Rhetoric) -
Rhetoric, classically the theoretical basis for the art of oratory, is the art of using words effectively…The orator in his purpose…An attempt is made to change human behaviour or to strengthen convictions and attitudes…Oratorical greatness is invariably identified with strong emotional phrasing and delivery.
Augustine, the influential fourth century theologian, was trained in rhetoric and first ambitiously pursued a career in that field.
Saint Augustine –
After a brief stint teaching in Tagaste, he returned to Carthage to teach rhetoric, the premier science for the Roman gentleman, and he was evidently very good at it. While still at Carthage, he wrote a short philosophical book aimed at displaying his own merits and advancing his career; unfortunately, it is lost. At the age of 28, restless and ambitious, Augustine left Africa in 383 to make his career in Rome. He taught there briefly before landing a plum appointment as imperial professor of rhetoric at Milan. The customary residence of the emperor at the time, Milan was the de facto capital of the Western Roman Empire and the place where careers were best made. Augustine tells us that he…expected no less than a provincial governorship as the eventual—and lucrative—reward for his merits.
The speeches of these Greek orators were called “homilos” or homilies in English. Today, as a modern pastor receives their professional training for how to give a sermon, they are taught the ancient Greek and Roman art of rhetoric in seminary classes called homiletics.
As early as the third century, Christians called their sermons homilies, the same term Greek orators used for their discourses.
Hatch, Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages, 109; Brilioth, Brief History of Preaching, 18, quoted from Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, p.93.
Edwin Hatch (1835-1889) was an English theologian born on September 4, 1835 in Derby, England...He graduated from Pembroke College at Oxford University in 1857, after undergraduate studies at Cambridge University. In 1858, Hatch won the Ellerton prize. In 1859, he was ordained as an Anglican priest, and travelled to Toronto, Canada, where he was professor of classics at Trinity College until 1862. – wikipedia.org
Today one can take a seminary course called homiletics to learn how to preach. Homiletics is considered “a science, applying the rules of rhetoric, which go back to Greek and Rome.”
J. D. Douglas, New Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991), 405, quoted from Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, p.93.
J. D. Douglas was the revising editor of The New International Dictionary of the Bible and editor of The New Bible Dictionary. He was editor-at-large for Christianity Today. – http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/
Homiletics is the science that treats of the composition and delivery of a sermon or other religious discourse…The "Standard Dictionary" defines Homiletics as "that branch of rhetoric that treats of the composition and delivery of sermons or homilies".
Catholic Encyclopedia, newadvent.org
the art of preaching
Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary
1 : a religious discourse delivered in public usually by a clergyman as a part of a worship service
Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary
Homiletics (Gr. homiletikos, from homilos, to assemble together), in theology the application of the general principles of rhetoric to the specific department of public preaching. The one who practices or studies homiletics is called a homilist…Homiletics is the study of the composition and delivery of a sermon or other religious discourse. It includes all forms of preaching, viz., the sermon, homily and catechetical instruction.
It is also not uncommon for a modern pastor to sit in a seat located on the stage or altar of the church and separated from the church. This too is borrowed from Greek and Roman traditions in which the orator or imperial magistrate sat in a special chair on the raised section of the basilica called the “cathedra.”
…a Roman public building (as in Greece…) also used for religious purposes…The groundplan of Christian basilicas in the 4th century was similar to that of this Neopythagorean basilica…Such buildings usually contained…where the magistrates sat, often on a slightly raised dais.
…is any raised platform located either within or without a room or enclosure, often for dignified occupancy, as at the front of a lecture hall or sanctuary. - wikipedia.org
Cathedra (chair) –
(Latin: “chair,” or “seat”), Roman chair of heavy structure derived from the klismos—a lighter, more delicate chair developed by the ancient Greeks. The cathedra was used in the early Christian basilica as a raised bishop’s throne placed near the wall of the apse, behind the altar.
The traditional position of the cathedra was in the apse, behind the high altar, which had been the position of the magistrate in the apse of the Roman basilica which provided the model type—and sometimes the actual structures—for early Christian basilicas.
So, at about the third century, the church adopted pagan buildings to meet in and speakers trained in the manner of the ancient Greek orators. Today’s pastors are trained in the ancient Greek art practiced by professional Roman orators. And like the ancient Greek and Roman orators before them, today’s pastors are paid professionals preaching to a captive audience in a building designed as a pagan religious or government building.
However, in contrast to the professional orators and wise sophists of Greek and Roman culture, the apostles did not follow the practice of the Greek and Roman orators and sophists. Instead, they spoke plainly and taught God’s word to the people in a humble manner. And they warned the church against the types of teachers who would rely on artful speeches.
Romans 12: 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity;
1 Corinthians 2: 1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
1 Corinthians 2: 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
2 Corinthians 1: 12 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you–ward.
2 Corinthians 3: 12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
2 Corinthians 10: 10 For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.
2 Corinthians 11: 3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him…6 But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things.
2 Peter 2: 18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
Jude 1: 16 These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.
Similarly, although Jewish synagogues were distinct from pagan buildings, the New Testament warned in advance about those who would desire special seats in Church gatherings. If this pertained to “good seats” at a synagogue or house church, how much more would it apply to the special seats in pagan buildings.
Matthew 23: 6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
Mark 12: 38 And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, 39 And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:
Luke 11: 43 Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.
Luke 20: 46 Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;
James 2: 1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin,
Similarly, the professional status of these Greek and Roman speakers was very different than that of the Jewish rabbis. Jewish rabbis each had a professional occupation and provided for themselves rather than charging the people for their teaching. Paul himself was trained to be a Pharisaic rabbi. He was a tentmaker (Acts 23:6, Acts 26:5, Philippians 3:5). And Paul continued to make use of this professional skill after Christ sent him to preach the gospel and teach the church communities (Acts 18:3).
The New Testament reports that the custom established in the churches was similar that of the Pharisaic rabbis. Local religious teachers practiced a trade in order to provide for themselves rather than being paid by the church community.
In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul explains that only traveling ministers or evangelists had the right to forbear work. In verse 5 of this passage, Paul actually limits this right to the apostles, who were those sent out by Christ.
I Corinthians 9: 5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? 6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?
The protocols that Paul is referring to here in 1 Corinthians 9 originate with Jesus himself when he first “sent out” the apostles. (See Matthew 10:1-14, Mark 6:7-13, Luke 9:1-6, and Luke 10:1-12.) In all of these passages, these protocols were applied only to those sent out by Jesus Christ. (This included Paul, Barnabas, and Jesus’ brothers like James and Jude who were not among Jesus’ followers before he died). And in each passage, the instruction is that these apostles or “sent ones” could forebear work as they traveled about sharing Jesus’ teaching as they journeyed. These protocols are not applied to permanent, local ministers, who were not apostles sent out by Jesus’ Christ to travel and preach abroad.
By contrast to traveling apostles, permanent, local church leaders are instructed in the New Testament to work and provide for themselves. Paul and Barnabas did not use their apostolic right to go without working. Instead, Paul tells us that he did not use his right so that he could provide an example to the local elders whom he commanded to work.
2 Thessalonians 3: 7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. 10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. 13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. 14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
1 Thessalonians 4: 11 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;
1 Corinthians 4: 9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last…12 And labour, working with our own hands:
According to Paul, a local leader charging the church community for teaching was a hindrance of the gospel and an abuse of power.
I Corinthians 9: 12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
I Corinthians 9: 18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
The only financial compensation allowed for local leaders was that like everyone else they could, according to their need, take from the communal distribution. Paul describes this communal sharing in 1 Timothy 5:16-18. He specifically discusses how widows who had no one to provide for them could partake of it. This is similar to other passages like Acts 2:44-45, Acts 4:34-35, and Acts 6:1-5, which also discuss how the early church practiced a system of voluntary giving in order to meet one another’s physical and material needs. This system is discussed in many other passages in the New Testament. Sadly, we do not practice it today in the church. However, we typically use these same passages which discuss their communal sharing as the justification for paying salaries to our pastors and their staff or for paying tithes to our churches in order to pay for mortgages, operational costs, and utilities. Incidentally, the early church which shared with one another and had no buildings or paid pastoral staff did not tithe.
3. And for this reason did the Lord, instead of that [commandment]…of the law enjoining the giving of tithes, [He told us] to share(7) all our possessions with the poor; and not to love our neighbours only, but even our enemies; and not merely to be liberal givers and bestowers, but even that we should present a gratuitous gift to those who take away our goods…
Irenaeus, AGAINST HERESIES, BOOK IV
CHAP. XVIII. 2. And for this reason they (the Jews) had indeed the tithes of their goods consecrated to Him, but those who have received liberty set aside all their possessions for the Lord's purposes, bestowing joyfully and freely not the less valuable portions of their property, since they have the hope of better things [hereafter]; as that poor widow acted who cast all her living into the treasury of God.(1)
Irenaeus, AGAINST HERESIES, BOOK IV
CHAP. XIX. Thou shalt communicate in all things with thy neighbour; thou shalt not call(20) things thine own; for if ye are partakers in common of things which are incorruptible,(21) how much more [should you be] of those things which are corruptible!(22) …Thou shalt not hesitate to give, nor murmur when thou givest. "Give to every one that asketh thee,"(25)
Barnabas, THE EPISTLE OF BARNABAS(1)
CHAP. XIV. …we who valued above all things the acquisition of wealth and possessions, now bring what we have into a common stock, and communicate to every one in need…
Justin Martyr, THE FIRST APOLOGY OF JUSTIN
CHAP. LXVII. …And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday,(1) all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place…and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given,(3) and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.
Justin Martyr, THE FIRST APOLOGY OF JUSTIN
We can see how different the local elders and teachers in the Apostolic Age were from their fourth century counterparts. Early church leaders spoke plainly and humbly as they sat or stood next to their fellow Christians in their small house church meetings. As they taught, they were available to assessment as they spoke and answered questions as they taught. And they worked with their own hands to provide for themselves.
Fourth century church leaders, on the other hand, followed the model of the Greek sophists and Roman orators. They spoke eloquently and in well-rehearsed formulas. They crafted their speeches with fine sounding words full of cultural wisdom and artful language. They sat in special seats on the stage or altar before they delivered their speeches from podiums in a Roman basilica before a captive and silent audience. And as fully paid professionals, they effectively charged for their teaching.
Another important incorporation of the fourth century church was the addition of a large musical segment in their corporate gatherings.
A study of the New Testament shows that musical activity is scarcely mentioned. In fact, though we associate praise and worship with music today, the New Testament terminology for praise and worship does not invoke any association with musical activity.
Here is a list of the Greek words used in the New Testament to refer to worship and praise. It may come as a surprise to most churchgoers that hardly any of these 22 words invoke even the slightest reference to or for musical accompaniment or singing.
proskuneo - 4352 - used 60 times, a physical gesture or posture of homage
sebomai - 4576 - used 6 times, to revere
doxa - 1391 - used 1 time, glory or splender
latreuo - 3000 - used 4 times, to serve or service
eusebeo - 2151 - used 1 time, a show of piety or reverence
ethelothreskeia - 1479 - used 1 time, voluntary or arbitrary worship
therapeuo - 2323 - used 1 time, to serve or do service
sebazomai - 4573 - used 1 time, to fear or to honor religiously
sebasma - 4574 - used 1 time, an object of religious worship or honor
theosebes - 2318 - used 1 time, worshipping God or pious
neokoros - 3511 - used 1 time, worshipper or temple servant
proskunetes - 4353 - used 1 time, a worshipper
threskeia - 2356 - used 1 time, religious worship
ainos - 136 - used 2 times, a saying or proverb or laudatory phrase, praise
aineo - 134 - used 9 times, (the verb tense of 136) extol, sing praises to God, promise or vow
doxa - 1391 - used 4 times, glory or splender
epainos - 1868 - used 11 times, approbation or commendation
epaineo - 1867 - used 3 times, to approve
humneo - 5214 - used 1 time, to sing the praise of or sing hymns to
ainesis - 133 - used 1 time, a thank offering
eulogeo - 2127* - used 1 time, bless or celebrate or consecrate with solemn prayer
arete - 703 - used 1 time, a virtuous course of thought, feeling and action
A survey the New Testament discussion of praise and worship reveals the following facts:
1. From a definitional point of view, biblical praise and worship do not inherently involve or require music or singing.
2. There are 4 places in the New Testament where singing and playing music (harps) are involved in specific instances of praising God. (Acts 16:25, Revelation 5:8-9, 17, Revelation 14:2-3, and Revelation 15:3).
3. There are 3 places in the New Testament that instruct us that we can sing to one another using spiritual songs in a corporate setting (1 Corinthians 14:15, Ephesians 5:19, and Colossians 3:16.)
These facts are contrasted strongly with the attention and instruction given in the New Testament towards teaching-focused activities. In 1 Corinthians 14 for example, Paul instructs the church that their gatherings should emphasize activities fostering instruction and teaching of the Christian community. Likewise, though Jesus is constantly and regularly teaching his disciples whenever they are together, there is only 1 instance where the gospel record that they sang together. Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26 both record that after the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn before they went to the Mount of Olives. In addition, just the Greek word for teaching (didache, Strong’s number 30) and the related verb (didasko, Strong’s number 97) are used 130 times in the New Testament. There are also numerous direct and indirect commands in the New Testament regarding the importance and centrality of the Word of God to the life and growth of Christians, both corporately and personally. With this lack of treatment on music in the New Testament, it’s no wonder that Christians in the earliest centuries did not feature musical activities in their fellowship gatherings.
According to Frank Senn, “Christians of the first several centuries…staged no public festivals, dances, musical performances, or pilgrimages.
Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangelic (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), 53, quoted by Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, page 14
Though, he does mention teaching, prayer, and the communion meal, Justin Martyr does not include music in his description of a typical church meeting of the second century church.
And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday,(1) all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability,(2) and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given,(3) and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. - Justin Martyr, THE FIRST APOLOGY OF JUSTIN, CHAP. LXVII
In contrast to the New Testament and apostolic church gatherings, Greek and Roman plays, pagan religious ceremonies, and Roman imperial events all featured musical accompaniment including a choir.
The roots of the choir are found in the pagan Greek temples and Greek dramas. The Greeks had trained choirs to accompany their pagan worship.
(H. W. Parke, The Oracles of Apollo in Asia Minor [London: Croom Helm, 1985], 102-103). Greek plays, both tragedy and comedy, were accompanied by orchestras (Marion Bauer and Ethel Peyser, How Music Grew [New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1939], 36, 45; Elizabeth Rogers, Music Through the Ages [New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1978], 64; Quasten, Music and Worship in Pagan and Christian Antiquity, 78; Alfred Sendrey, Music in the Social and Religious Life of Antiquity [Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1974], 327, 412), quoted from Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, p.159.
The Greek musical system was the precursor of that of the early Christian church, and the line of descent is unbroken from Greece, through Rome, to the Middle Ages and modern times.
Dickinson, The Study of the History of Music, 9, quoted from Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, p.160.
The oldest unambiguously choral repertory that survives is that of ancient Greece, of which the 2c BC Delphic hymns and the 2c A.D. hymns of Mesomedes are the most complete. The original Greek chorus sang its part in Greek drama, and fragments of works by Euripides (Orestes) and Sophocles (Ajax) are known from papyri….Of the Roman drama's music…
Music of Ancient Greece -
The function of music in ancient Greek society was bound up in their mythology: ...It is no wonder, then, that music was omnipresent at the Pythian Games, the Olympic Games, religious ceremonies, leisure activities, and even the beginnings of drama as an outgrowth of the dithyrambs performed in honor of Dionysus. It may be that the actual sounds of the music heard at rituals, games, dramas, etc.
The [theatre and the arena] resemble each other also in their ceremony, having the same procession to the scene of their display from temples and altars, and that mournful profusion of incense and blood, with music of pipes and trumpets.
Tertullian (c. 197 AD, W), 3.84.
It seems that featuring musical segments in the church service was another novel change in church meetings created by the fourth century church borrowing from imperial and pagan culture.
Church History Study