John Fahey’s Last Days In Salem, Oregon

26 Aug

John Fahey’s Last Days In Salem, Oregon

By: Bob Gersztyn

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Union Gospel Mission

John Fahey was an enigmatic artist that I met in the summer of 1997 by chance. I read in the local newspaper that he was having a comeback after going down the tubes with mental, physical and alcohol related issues. he had lived on the streets in the gutter, under the bridge and finally in Union Gospel Mission. It was hard to believe that he was a world famous guitarist that collected royalties from all the albums that he produced since the late 1950’s. However, he was also married and divorced three times which cost some of his money. Nevertheless by the 1990’s John had purchased a car, that he sometimes lived in and began renting a room on a monthly basis at the “Oregon Capital Inn.”

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In 1997 Fahey made a comeback, which all the major music magazines praised and a few new records albums that took him in a completely different direction. He was no longer the melodic acoustic steel stringed guitar virtuoso that mesmerized audiences in the 1960’s and 1970’s by turning his single instrument into an entire symphony orchestra. Now he was a completely transformed human being, who had gone through hell and his music now reflected it. The “Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death” was complete. John was now using an electric guitar and amplifier to create a new sound using feedback and distortion, which Rolling Stone, Spin and Entertainment Weekly praised.

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I met John shortly after his industrial noise ambient music album, “City of Refuge” was first released. I was hired to photograph him and his band mates who began playing ambient music compositions with him. The two other musicians were, Tim Knight and Rob Srivner, a couple of local musicians that John met as a result of frequenting “Guitar Castle” on Court Street in downtown Salem, Oregon. At the time it was sandwiched between “Ranch Records” and “Casey’s Coney Island. Today only Ranch Records exists and it’s in its third location on High Street since that summer eighteen years ago.

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John Fahey Train #1050John Goofy #1

The group that he formed with Knight and Srivner was called “The John Fahey Trio.” Srivner was the one who came up with the name, since they were trying to decide what to call themselves as they practiced together. He told this writer that the name choice was obvious, since Fahey was famous and already had an audience. They were recording an album, using John’s DAT recorder as well as Knight’s analog recording studio and Scrivner’s digital studio. They needed some photos for the album and promotion, so they hired me. John would pay me for film and processing and then all three signed model releases allowing me to use the images for any projects that I chose.

TK and Guitar Castle

Tim Knight owned “Guitar Castle” and handled all of John’s local gigs by acting as his de facto road manager and secretary to connect with Fahey. Knight had connections to all the big rock stars because he was in the business of buying and selling classic guitars. If Neil Young wanted to play a guitar that Hank Williams used, he would have Larry Cragg his guitar tech call Knight to arrange it. “Guitar Castle” was one of the venues that John would have me meet him at. Other times it was “Casey’s Coney Island” or in his room at the infamous “Oregon Capital Inn.”

John at Casey's Cafe

After I photographed John and the band, both on the streets of Salem, and performing a gig, in Portland, at “Berbatti’s Pan,” an alternative music club, we began to connect on a regular basis. The reason why John wanted to talk with me was because of my fascination with religion, which paralleled his. I was raised a Roman Catholic and after 100 LSD trips became a born again Protestant Jesus Freak, ultimately graduating from Bible College and becoming an ordained and licensed minister of the Foursquare Gospel, who served at an inner city church in Los Angeles, California. At first he ridiculed me for defecting from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism, because, even though he was an atheist at the time, he felt that the Roman Catholic Church was the true church, if there was any, because of apostolic succession. After a while we settled into comparing notes on our conclusions about why religion even existed and at the same time connected it with his research of early Blues masters like Skip James, Bukka White and Sun House.

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John would talk for hours about his days in the South canvassing for forgotten Blues 78 rpm recordings on his own and with Bob Hite, a future singer and harmonica play for Blues Rock band, “Canned Heat.” John talked about his early days in Tacoma Park, Maryland, when he was friends with Henry Vestine, the future lead guitarist of “Canned Heat” and his early days of playing at coffee houses, when he connected with Al Wilson another singer guitarist for “Canned Heat.” John told me about how he put together what became “Canned Heat” as a side project in L.A. but refused to be part of the group. He even claimed that Jimi Hendrix would come to their jam sessions to listen.

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At the time that we were hanging out together, he was writing a book and painting. He was an artist and music was only one of his expressions. He wrote papers in college like every student does and his Master’s thesis at UCLA was on the music of Charley Patton. He wrote articles for music publications, since he was a musician as well as a writer and could delve into the depths of description concerning whatever subject he wrote about. One day he might be writing an argument about the primacy of the Roman Catholic traditions and its impact resulting in the fact that there was no Cajun gospel music, while the next he would write an expose about how the early gospel artists moonlighted on Saturday night as blues musicians.

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Many of the early gospel artists were ministers or Holiness gospel artists when they weren’t playing the blues and John would point out their inconsistencies and hypocrisy, but then he would humbly include himself and begin rambling about some childhood incident that impressed him. “Spank” he told me was going to be the name of his book that was going to be published in the next year. He said that it was going to be about the adventures that he had as a kid in Tacoma Park, Maryland with his childhood friends. It was also going to be about his experiences during his early years when he searched for blues musicians like Skip James and Bukka White.

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John liked to live at the Oregon Capital Inn because it put him in direct contact with all the local sleaze, scumbags, prostitutes, drug dealers and lowlifes that lived in Salem, Oregon, that he felt inspired his music, but he also liked the fact that it was centrally located in downtown. He could walk a couple of blocks South to White’s Restaurant or East a few blocks to Casey’s Cafe where he would order a hot dog with ice tea. Sometimes when we would meet, one of his friends would accompany him. To say that John identified with the despondent underdog would be an understatement.


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Two of his friends that I would sometimes find him with were Blind Terry and Tom, a former outlaw biker from San Francisco. One day when I came to John’s room at the Oregon Capital Inn Tom was bouncing on the bed while Blind Terry bobbed his head to the beat of Marilyn Manson’s album that John was playing. John said that he didn’t personally like the music, but thought that there were some interesting arrangements.

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John left his beautiful wife and a house to go live on the streets of Salem, which is where I found him. I didn’t know then what I do today, but I knew enough to realize that John was on the same trip that I was on, only he was a famous guitar player and I was a struggling photographer and writer trying to make sense of this adventure that we call life. We spent many hours in his room at the” Oregon Capital Inn” talking about God, life and eternity. Then there were the days that we sat in Casey’s Cafe with Blind Terry. One time John thought that he had his ice tea and added about 10 teaspoons of sugar to it and after tasting it realized that it was Terry’s Diet Pepsi.

John at Casey's

“He won’t notice the difference,” John said as he traded cups, before Terry sat down at the table.

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One day he started to show me a painting that he just finished and then told me that his last wife was a painter and he learned from her. She went to UCLA as well, but studied cinematography and I later found out that she actually had classes with Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek of the Doors. I was being bombarded by so much information that I was going in information overload, so I began to use my tape recorder and every so often I’d tape my conversation with John, or his former wife Melody and even his former band mates. One day, if I live long enough, I’ll turn these hours of tapes into a book, titled, “Conversations With and About John Fahey.” Maybe they’ll reveal a side of John that people are unaware of. After all I am a historian and historians are supposed to preserve their observations by reducing them to written form for posterity.

Fahey painting #1

In 2003, Rolling Stone included John Fahey in the top 100 guitar players of all time, at #35. In 2000, a year before John died, “Drag City” published “Spank,” which was re- titled “How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life, stories by John Fahey”. Then in 2003 a second book of his scribbling was published by “Drag City,” titled “Vampire Vultures.” I never thought to ask John to give me one of his paintings as payment for my services, rather than buying me lunch at Casey’s Coney Island, but if I did, today I would have a priceless masterpiece hanging on my wall.

TK guitar and paintings

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Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead, and Their Spiritual Legacy

5 Aug

Jerry Garcia #1016Jerry Garcia,

The Grateful Dead and Their Spiritual Legacy

By: Bob Gersztyn

Jerry Garcia passed on to the next level twenty years ago on August 9, 1995, at the age of 53. The Grateful Dead disbanded after he died, since they felt that it wouldn’t be the same without him since he was the lead guitarist, a lead singer, and the primary songwriter and composer since the Warlocks became the Grateful Dead in 1965. They had some reunions where they played under different names like “The Other Ones” and “The Dead,” but in 2015 they did play a series of concerts celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the formation of the original “The Grateful Dead” and the 20 year anniversary of their final show with Jerry Garcia.

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At the time of Garcia’s death, “The Grateful Dead” was the highest grossing rock band in the world, beating out “The Rolling Stones” and “U2.” They had a rabid following of dedicated fans who would work day jobs in the Fall and Winter so they could nomadically follow the band’s annual Summer tour. Sometimes as many deadheads would follow the shows from city to city as the venues that the “Dead” played at held. They would occupy the parking lot and set up shop selling everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to tie dyed T-shirts. If you didn’t have the bucks you could barter goods for food or vice versa.

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If you were looking for something a little out of the ordinary to put you in touch with the roots of the “Grateful Dead” during the summers of 1966 and 1967, then you could always score some good weed or LSD. You didn’t even need to buy it sometimes, as joints and pipes were openly passed around at concerts. On Memorial Day 1965, as an independent journalist, I was covering the last “Grateful Dead” concert in Oregon through a connection that I made through a fellow postal worker. I took my 21 year old son, Michael, to the event and at one point a half naked, pupil dilated, wide eyed hippie approached us and offered us what he said was “a hit of acid, LSD, free, take it!” I declined and told him that I had to work that night and my son Michael was incredulous saying “I thought that this only happened in the 1960s.”

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“It never stopped happening,” I told him. “It’s just not big news anymore.”

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So when “The Grateful Dead” ceased to exist as a touring band, a vacuum formed and “Jam Bands” filled it. The “Jam Bands” already existed and toured on the coat tails of “The Grateful Dead,” who were the original “Jam Band.” A “Jam Band” is a music group of some kind that uses improvisation like a jazz musician would. Songs are no longer 3 minutes long, but may last 10 or 15 minutes. Each performance becomes a unique experience that may never be replicated again, when everything clicks.

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Some of the bands that were sucked into the vortex to fill the void when the Dead disbanded were Blues Traveler, The Dave Matthews Band, A String Cheese Incident, Phish, Widespread Panic, and the Zen Tricksters. According to Wavy Gravy, the official hippie ambassador of the 1960s era, “the 1990s are the 1960s standing on their head.” In retrospect, that pre-9/11 decade did fulfill Romney’s description. (Hugh Romney was Wavy Gravy’s original name. He was a stand-up comic and night club manager in Greenwich Village, during the late 1950s and early 1960s, who was managed by Lenny Bruce and helped out young newcomers like Bob Dylan.)

Bob Weir

The 1990s had two Woodstock Festivals, that were meant to be commemorations of the original event, but this time for Generation X, the children of the Woodstock generation. The first Woodstock was held in 1969 with The Grateful Dead and dozens of others that were the biggest bands of that era performing. Twenty-five years later the first of two Generation X Woodstock festivals took place. One in 1994 without incident that was an overall positive event. This was while The Grateful Dead were at the peak of their career, commercially, with gate-breaking concert attendance sales.

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However, five years later in 1999, four years after Garcia’s death, a second and final Woodstock event took place and ended in violence after punk rock fans of Limp Bizkit burned down some vacated concession stands. In retrospect the incident was prophetic as an omen of what would occur in the same state two years hence. This observation is obvious in retrospect, however at the time everyone was either in denial or sensationalizing it for the wrong reason, not knowing the future and not wanting to embrace a negative portent blindly.

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I interviewed Wavy Gravy, who was an emcee at all three Woodstock festivals, the day after Woodstock 3 ended on, July 26, 1999. He was his normal upbeat self and called me after he got home in Berkeley, California upon returning from New York. I sent him one of my new post cards that featured his photo along with a quote that he gave me to use. He liked it and wanted to tell me in person, so I decided to ask him a couple of questions about Woodstock 3, since he was just there and I was still editing his interview that I was going to submit to the Wittenburg Door magazine, which they published in their Nov/Dec 1999 issue. The following is an excerpt from that interview:
DOOR: The main point of interest concerning Woodstock 3 seems to be the rampage on the final day. What happened?

Wavy Gravy Postcard

WAVY GRAVY: It wasn’t the final day. The show had been over for half a day. It was 200 people involved. There were seven arrests. They set the concession trucks on fire. The police came in with the fire department — like they should with that going on. There were seven arrests. There were 200,000 people. This is such small potatoes; they just have good photographs of skinheads prancing around blazing stuff.

DOOR: So it was the skinheads?

WAVY GRAVY: Yeah, punks, skinheads, Limp Bizkit freaks.

DOOR” Not the Neo-Nazi sort of skinheads?

WAVY GRAVY: No, not exactly. Mohawks, another audience. Limp Bizkit’s.

DOOR: So this time the band Limp Bizkit is the culprit?


DOOR: The scenario that the news media presented is that Altamont would pale in comparison.

WAVY GRAVY: It sucks and it won’t hold up.

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As I look back at that incident and what it meant to that crowd of 200,000 along with the population of the rest of the USA, it seems obvious. When you consider that this blog is an examination of the spiritual side of rock & roll, in retrospect it becomes obvious that Woodstock 3 prophesied 9/11, by using the same street theater medium to convey its message that their parents had used a generation earlier.

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In a little over three years after Woodstock 3, the USA would be going to war in the Middle East for the second time in ten years, which would result in the collapse and restructuring of Afghanistan and Iraq, along with revolutions and Jihad in other Arab nations. Ironically, rock & roll in the form of rap became an integral part of the Arab Spring and beyond, as non Western cultures embraced our musical form to communicate their own message of freedom.

Rock and Roll is the greatest weapon that the United States and Western Civilization have ever produced to peacefully spread its message and ideology. It has infected the entire globe with its insidious beat and has been embraced by Nations that are in opposition to America. Therefore the performance of rock & roll is a patriotic act as important, if not more important than the dissemination of bullets and bombs.

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Which brings us back to Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead who led the charge as some of the greatest American patriots since George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The Grateful Dead became the most enduring of all the 1960s bands, with continuous performing and recording for 30 years. They didn’t even have their biggest hit until 1987, 20 years after the “Summer of Love.” “Touch of Grey” was recorded for the Dead’s “In The Dark” album and transcended them across any generational gaps that may have occurred. In the middle of this era, the famed “Dylan and the Dead” tour took place, which paired America’s two most influential music artists representing the 1960s legacy.

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The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan were twin engines spearheading the ideology and energy of free expression into every corner of the earth, along with Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and a myriad of other musical artists all expressing their interpretations of the world that they lived in or imagined. By the early 1990s the Iron Curtain of Soviet Communism dominating Eastern Europe collapsed. The event that proceeded its demise was the Moscow Music Peace Festival in 1989, a full 20 years after the first Woodstock festival.

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When Jerry died on August 9, 1995 it was the symbolic death of the 1960s, but then everything that dies is resurrected in a new form. So the jam bands continued the charge as the music of the new generation filled in the gaps, as globalization occurred through the universal medium of music that transcended geographical, national, and political boundaries. Alexander the Great once dreamed of a universal culture under the banner of the unification of all humanity as brothers and sisters. Today, through the medium of music, we are closer to that dream than ever before.

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The Church In The Second Century Part 2

23 Jul


The Church In The Second Century Part 2

By: Bob Gersztyn




The dominant personalities of the second century Church can be broken down into two categories, that of the apologists and that of the theologians. Each of the two groups have an important function. However, it should also be noted that in certain cases individuals function in both categories simultaneously: e.g. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen. The apologist formed the same relationship to the paganism, the mystery cults, and the philosophical schools as the theologians did to the heresies which were cropping up within the Church.

According to Paul Tillich, “The apologetic movement can rightly be called the birthplace of a developed Christian theology.” 1 The term apology in relation to theology comes from the Greek word ‘apologia’ which means to make a defense for or answer to.2 The purpose of the apologist was to make a defense for Christianity as a lawyer would defend his client in court. We have historical records of fifteen apologists in both extant and fragmentary form. The apologists all lived within the second and third centuries.

  1. Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought. Edited by Carl E. Braaton (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), Pg. 24.
  2. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966), Pgs. 61 & 285.

By the second century few apologists bothered to devote “much attention to the Jews and Judaism. By the time that they wrote, the separation of the Christian community form Judaism was almost complete and Christians were being drawn primarily form paganism.”1


Since their audience was primarily pagan, they devoted themselves to pagan issues such as “the follies and inconsistencies in polytheistic worship . . .” and “They pointed out the normal weaknesses of some of the leading philosophers.”2 They did not give that much time to the mystery religions, but when they did speak of them it was negative.

There are two points in the apologists’ teachings which because of their far reaching importance must be heavily underlined, viz. (a) that for all of them of the description ‘God the Father’ connoted, not the first person of the Holy Trinity, but the one Godhead considered as author of whatever exists; and (b) that they all, Athanagorus included, dated the generation of the Logos, and so his eligibility for the title of ‘son’, not from origination within the being of the Godhead, but from his emission of putting forth for the purpose of creation, revelation and redemption.3

Some of the leading second century personalities who functioned either as apologists or theologians or both were Aristedes, Athanagorus, Justin Martyr, Tatian, Theophilus of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen.


  1. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. I: Beginnings to 1500 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1953). Pg. 83.
  2. Ibid.
  3. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Fransisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960), Pg. 100.

Aristedes was an Athenian philosopher who was converted in the beginning of the second century. He wrote an apologetic letter to the emperor Antonius Pius (A.D. 138-161). This work was lost until 1889 when it was discovered in a monastery in Mount Sinai by a professor named Harris. Aristedes’ letter is a classic example of how secular thought infiltrated Christianity in the fact that his letter begins

“… with an outline demonstration of God’s existence based on Aristotle’s argument form motion. The consideration of the order and beauty of the universe induced in him to believe in a Supreme being who was the prime mover and who remaining himself invisible dwelt in his creation. The fact that there was a cosmos demanded a divine craftsman to organize it. Sovereign and lord, He has created everything for man; reality came to be out of nothing at the Behest of him who is incorruptible, unchanging and invisible. He himself is uncreated, without beginning or end; he has no form, no limits, no sex. The heavens do not contain him (here we detect a criticism of stoic pantheism, with its identification of God with the world); on the contrary, he contains them, as He contains everything visible and invisible. Hence, Christians acknowledge God as creator and demiurge of all things . . . and apart from Him worship no other God.”1

His apology compares Christianity to pagan religion, and is one of the best sources of differences and similarities in doctrine and ritual between the two.


Athenagorus was another Athenian. He wrote an apologetic work entitled “A Plea for the Christians,” and addressed in A.D. 177 to Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. It was reminiscent of Justin Martyr’s works in its liberal character. In his apology, he defends Christianity against the widespread charges of immorality which the ancient world accused it of. In fact, he stated that ones who made these charges,

“were themselves sodomites and adulterers, but that Christians believed in treating their neighbors as themselves and, since they were convinced that in a future life they must give an account to God of their deeds here, adopted a temperate and benevolent manner of life, when struck did not strike in return, and robbed did not go to law.”1


  1. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Fransico: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960), Pg. 84.

His writing in general reveals that “The Deity is unoriginate and eternal,”2 that the word of God is his son, but not in a human sense, since “ God from the beginning being eternal intelligence, had his word (logou) in Himself, being eternally rational (aidios logikos).”3 He was a trinitarian and believed that the Spirit inspired the prophets. He believed that man had a free will and was responsible for his actions, and that there will be a final resurrection and a future life where both the body and soul participate.

Justin Martyr was born either at the end of the first century, or the beginning of the second century A.D. He was born in Neapolis, in Samaria of northern Palestine, at that time a province of Rome. His family was Greek in origin and had colonized in Palestine sometime earlier. As far as record indicate, Justin was the first trained philosopher to defect to Christianity. His conversion took place around A.D. 132. 4

  1. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A history of the Expansion of Christianity, Vol. I: The First Five Centuries (Grand rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1937), Pg. 125.
  2. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San FransicoL Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960), Pg. 85.
  3. Ibid., Pg. 100.
  4. Justin Martyr, Marcus Aurelius and His Times: Apology (Roslyn, New York: Walter J, Black, Inc., 1945), Pg. 244.

Prior to his conversion, Justin investigated the Stoics, the Aristotelians, and the Pythagoreans. However, in the end he became a Platonist. “The influence of Plato, however, and of Justin’s Greek philosophic training shows in all his writings as a Christian, and he is eager to point out the concepts they have in common, such as the creation of the world by God, and the immortality of the soul.”1

Justin felt that all of the noble principles found in Greek philosophers, dramatists, and even Homer, could also be found in the pre-dated Hebrew Scriptures. In order to arrive at this conclusion, Justin had a concept of the Logos that bridged the gap between the Hebrew and Greek cultures. The logos principle was referred to by the early Greek philosophers, and was developed as an important part of Plato’s philosophy. The Apostle John used this word to refer to the pre-incarnate form of Christ in his Gospel; and Justin further expounded upon the term in his first apology.

“We are taught that Christ is the first-born of God, and we have told you already that he is a the Word of whom every race of men partakes; and that those who lived by their reasons were Christians, even though they might be called Atheists. Such men among the Greeks were Socrates and Heraclitus, and others like them; and among the barbarians, Abraham, Ananias, Azarius, Misael, Elias . . .”2

In the above quote it can be seen that Justin made a comparison of Socrates to Abraham and that he believed that God gave all men glimpses of truth regardless of ethnicity. However, he also stated that with the birth of Christ, the incarnate word, all the previous philosophies were culminated, and that now Christianity is the “true philosophy” 3.

  1. Justin Martyr, Marcus Aurelius and His Times: Apology (Roslyn, New York: Walter J. Black, Inc., 1945), Pg. 245.
  2. Ibid., Pg. 282.
  3. Ibid.

While all others were merely foreshadows of it. Truth is truth, argued Justin, regardless of its source. Justin had the most developed theology of the effect of Christ’s incarnation of any of the other apologists, Justin was martyred in Rome during the time of emperor Marcus Aurelius by decapatation.1

Tatian was a pupil of Justin Martyr. His original home was Mesopotamia. He further developed Justin’s teachings of the logos, although in his doing so he “gave Justin’s thesis a violently anti-Hellenic and polemical edge that would have distressed Justin.” 2

Tatian believed that before creation, God was alone, although the Logos was lying dormant in him, much in the same way that the potentiality for our words lie within us until we use them. In the same way he also believed that when the world was brought into existence that is was just as much a part of the Father as our words are a part of us, yet at the same time that word took nothing away from the Father when it was spoken forth.. Tatian was an early Trinitarian as was Justin, although neither explicitly taught the doctrine; but rather it could be derived from their writings by their references God, the Logos, and the Spirit.

“According to Tatian, the Spirit of God is not present in all but He comes down upon some who live justly, unites Himself with their souls, and by His predictions announced the hidden future of other souls.” 3

He also believed, like Justin, that man had a free will and was in a fallen state requiring salvation to bring him back into union with God.

  1. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Fransico: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960), Pgs. 168, 169.
  2. Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1967), Pg. 79.
  3. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines ( San Fransico: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960) Pg. 102.


Theopolis, Bishop of Antioch, was another second century apologist. In A.D. 180 he wrote a letter defending Christianity addressed to an individual by the name of Autolycus.1 In this letter, which was of a rambling nature, he “traces his conversion to a perusal of the scriptures and to fulfillment of their prophecies.”2 Theopolis became the first apologist to use the term ‘triad’ in a relation to the Godhead. He drew a parallel between the three days preceding the creation of the sun and moon, and the Godhead, stating that they,

“’were types of the triad, that is, of god and of His Word and of His Wisdom . . .’ He envisaged God as having His Word and His Wisdom eternally in Himself, and generating Them for the purpose of creation; and he was also clear that when God put them forth, He did not empty Himself of Them, but ‘is forever conversing with His Word.”3

Theoplis, as Tatian, believed that man was not created good, evil, mortal, or immortal, but with the capacity to become either. In his fall, Adam lost the guidance of the Spirit, and was now subject to demonic attacks.

  1. Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1967),Pg.79.
  2. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, Vol. I: The First Five Centuries (Grand Rapids, Mich., Zondervan Publishing House, 1937), Pg. 120.
  3. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines ( San Fransisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960), Pgs. 102 &104.

Clement of Alexandria was the first great teacher of the Cathetical school in Alexandria, Egypt. His exact dates of birth and death are unknown. Clement led the school during the last two decades of the second century, and left it in A.D. 203 due to the persecution under the Emperor Septimus Severus.

Clement, like Justin Martyr, was very sympathetic towards Greek philosophy.

“He contended that the philosophy of the Greeks was a preparation for the Gospel, to those who were familiar with it paving the way for perfection in Christ. He held that God is the source of all good things, of philosophy as the old and New Testaments. Indeed he held that the Greek philosophers had learned much from Moses.”1

Paul Tillich stated that “Clement’s thought is a great example of a synthesis of Christian thinking and Greek philosophy.”2 Clement is best known in modern times by his writings, especially three surviving works entitled “The Exhortation to Conversion (Protrepticus), The Tutor (Paedagogus), and The Miscellanies (Stromateis) which he never completed.”3 From these works it is possible to construct a picture of Clement’s theology. This picture is extremely important since it entails the subject matter which was taught at the second century’s most influential center of Christian theology.

  1. Kenneth Scott Latorette, A History of Christianity, Vol.I: Beginnings to 1500 ( New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1953), Pg. 148.
  2. Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought, Edited by Carl E. Braaton, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), Pg. 56.
  3. Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 1067), Pg. 94.

As it was before mentioned, the purpose of organizing the Church and its doctrine was to combat corruption of the original teachings of Jesus and the apostles, or at least what the consensus of the Catholic church was. However, Clement was an objective scholar who understood that even heresies contained some amount of truth in order to survive. Therefore, although Clement opposed the Gnostic heresy, he believed in a true gnosis (knowledge), that of the Gospel which required faith in order to enact salvation.


Clement was a moderate who opposed the asceticism, which was gaining in popularity in the Christian circles at that time. He felt that each individual must determine his or her position regarding such things as dietary habits and alcoholic consumption; however, he opposed hedonism. Henry Chadwick, an English historian who wrote on the early church states that “the central principle of Clements thinking is the doctrine of creation. This is the ground of redemption.”1 Another important aspect of Clement’s theology could be found in his teachings on the relationship of Jesus to God. “Clement taught that God is one and that the word or logos always existed as the ‘face’ of God, and in Jesus was made flesh and shed His blood to save humanity.”2 Clement felt that the Logos, translated as Word or reason,

“prepared the Jews by the law, and the Greeks by their Philosophy. He has prepared all nations in some way. The Logos is never absent from people.”3

  1. Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1967) Pg. 97.
  2. Kenneth Scott Latourette, Christianity Through he Ages (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960), Pg. 49.
  3. Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought. Edited by Carl E. Braaton (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), Pg. 55.

Clement’s principal writings were done as a layman, while he supported himself as a independent teacher. There is some evidence that he was an ordained presbyter in the church prior to his death. However, this was most probably as a part of an effort to try and regulate independent teachers like Clement by the Catholic Church.

The second century marked the beginning of what later became a schism within the Catholic Church. The two factions of this division are known today as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The pioneers of the Eastern theological views were Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. The first clearly Western theologian was Quintus Septimius Tertullianus.


Tertullian was born in Carthage in A.D. 160. He was the son of a Roman Centurion, and was trained to be a lawyer by profession. When at middle age, he became a convert to Christianity. He used all his talents in the defense and development of a Christian theology. Prior to him, only Greek had been used in theological writings. Although he was proficient at Greek, he chose to be the first major theologian to use Latin in his writings. The reason for this lies in the fact that by the end of the second century and the beginning of the third, upper class Rome was being reached by Christianity. There now was a need for Latin to be used to make Christianity more personal to the aristocracy.1

  1. Kenneth J. Pratt, Lecture Notes From The Early Middle Ages (California State University at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Calif., Fall Quarter, 1979).

This adoption of Latin had two ramifications. First, as the western church adopted Latin, the Eastern church held onto Greek which eventually led to theological language differences. Second, as Latin was adopted by the Roman Catholic Church, and as the Roman Catholic Church exerted its influence on Western Culture, Latin became the primary language in place of Greek even for the lower classes.1 In his early days he relied on the Stoic philosophy for many of his reasoning’s and arguments for Christianity. However, in his later years he rejected all philosophy as being false and demonic. He especially attacked Plato.

Tertullian was an intense extremist. In his early life prior to his conversion, he gave himself wholly to pagan pleasures, so it was only natural for him to likewise give himself to Christianity. Since he saw life as a struggle between the forces of good and evil, with the Empire representing all that was evil, he condemned any participation in the system from civil service to attending games. He became an ascetic puritanist. His theological writings had a great deal of influence on the Catholic Church. Kenneth Latourette states that –

“His view of the trinity proved highly influential in Catholic thought. He believed that God is one in His substantia, or substance, but that in God are three personae (a Latin legal term), Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He held that in Jesus Christ, one of the personae, the Word (Greek Logos) was incarnate, that Jesus was both divine and human, but that the two natures did not fuse.”2


  1. In the late Fourth & early Fifth Centuries Jerome translated the Bible from its original tongues into Latin. It was called the Vulgate, since it was the vulgar or common language of that time., Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Chrstianity, Vol. I: Beginnings to 1500 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers 1953), Pgs. 132, 133.
  2. Ibid., Christianity Through the Ages (New York: Harper & Row, Publsihers, 1960), Pg. 49.

His greatest joy was in supporting some minority cause, which is what Christianity was in the Empire, at that time. However, this later led to his leaving the Catholic Church. He supported the Montanist movement, which was both extremely puritanical and ascetic. He denounced the Catholic Church as being too worldly, “and embraced Montanism as a more outright application of the teachings of Christ.”1

The last influential figure within the Church mentioned in this paper is Origenes Adamantius (Origen). He did not become influential until A.D. 203 as Clement’s successor as the head of the cathetical school in Alexandria. However, his importance to the second century is because of the fact that he organized and categorized all the theological developments that had occurred previous to his ascension. He is considered by some to be the Church’s greatest theologian.

Origen was intense in his Christianity like Tertullian. However, being an Alexandrian he reconciled Greek philosophy with Christianity. Origen’s father was executed as a Christian during the persecution under Septimius Severus; and he was only prevented from joining his father by the fact that his mother hid his clothes. It is said he wrote as many as Six-Thousand books, including tracts.2 He was considered the father of Christian allegorism, just as Philo was of Hebrew.

  1. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), 3:613.
  2. Ibid., 3:615.

Although Origen was considered one of the Church’s greatest theologians, it did not save him from eventual condemnation by the Church as a heretic. The reason for this condemnation was due to the fact that he applied his method of allegorical interpretation to every area of scripture; and the case of eschatology, it culminated in what was termed the doctrine of ‘the restitution of all things.’ In this doctrine he spiritualized the second coming of Christ to be that of individual spiritual experiences, Hell as the sinners misery here on Earth, and finally that “at the end everyone and everything will become spiritualized; the bodily existence will vanish.”1 Origen even found that Satan himself could be saved. This interpretation was partially motivated by his attempt to reconcile Greek philosophy with Christianity, and “because freedom is never cancelled out, there is the possibility that the whole process could start over again.”2
Although Origen was an Allegorist, he for the purpose of maintaining his Christian purity committed an act that even the Ascetic literalists did not perform. Based on Matthew 5:27-30, in which Jesus told his disciples to remove a body part if it caused them to stumble, Origen castrated himself. He died in the year A.D. 253. This was only three years after he was tortured by being stretched on the rack during the persecution under the emperor Decius at the age of sixty-eight. 3

  1. Paul Tillich, Ahistory of Christian Thought. Edited by Carl E. Braaten (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), Pg. 64
  2. Ibid., Pg. 64
  3. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), 3:615.



The shaping of the second century Church was affected by a multiplicity of stimuli. However, the area that had the greatest influence was that of religious competition, both internally as seen in many heresies, and externally as seen in the co-existing mystery religions and cults. The mystery religions were so called because of the secrecy that was involved in their rituals. All of those religions had rituals and what they termed ‘Holy Stories’ (Hieros Logos). As a rule they all involved sin atonement purification, and grades or steps of achievement, which usually involved asceticism. They all promised immortality, had a paid clergy and, were looking for converts. They were transported into Rome from every area of the Empire, both by soldiers and slaves. Some of the main cults and mystery religions included emperor worship, Dionysus or Bachus worship, Mithraism, Eleusanianism, Serapism, Cyble (Magna Mater) Worship, and the Orphic cult.1

  1. Kenneth J. Pratt, Lecture Notes from The Early Middle Ages, (California State University at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Calif., Fall Quarter, 1979

There were many similarities between these pagan religions and Christianity; and for this reason some accused the Christians of plagiarism in regard to their beliefs and practices. Examples can be seen in how an initiate to Cyble was placed in a pit where a bull was slain over him, thus cleansing him with the blood. Mithraism, which evolved from Persian Zoroasterism, had a sacred meal in which bread and wine were consumed as in a communion service.1

Serapism was the Greek form of the Egyptian Isis, Osiris religion. The Holy Story deals with Osiris being dismembered by his son Set, and how he was then resurrected by Isis. Many of the pagan religions had a resurrected leader as the center of its sacred story. It was also common for the central figures of these religions to be God-men born of sexual union between a divine being, as in the case of Jupiter (Zeus) and Semel begetting Dionysus (Bacchus).2


However, there were a number of drawbacks to these religions. First, many of them were sexist and open to men only. Second, others required exorbitant initiation fees, eliminating the middle and lower classes. Finally, the figures in each of them, excluding emperor worship, were mythological figures not having any historical credibility.3 In contrast to these drawbacks of the pagan religions, Christianity had a real historical founder. It also had a universal appeal in that there was no sex, age, class, or nationality discrimination. Along with these factors, Christianity appealed to the people of the Roman Empire because it offered a hope in immortality, a universal brotherhood of mankind, and the hope of the coming of the Kingdom of God, which would bring an unprecedented golden age for all mankind.4

  1. Kenneth J. Pratt, Lecture Notes from The Early Middle Ages, (California State University at Los Angeles, L.A. Calif., Fall Quarter, 1979)
  2. Thomas Bulfinch, Bulfinches Mytholigy
  3. Kennneth J. Pratt, Lecture Notes from The Early Middle Ages, (California State University at Los Angeles, L.A., Calif., Fall Quarter, 1979).
  4. Ibid.

The internal conflict which shaped the Church dealt with deviations from the direction in which the Catholic Church was moving. This internal conflict brought three results as previously mentioned: (1) Apostolic succession, (2) determination of authoritative scripture, and (3) condensing of the apostles’ teachings into its simplest form. These ramifications were the main ingredients for the ecclesiastical structure which became the Roman Catholic Church. The heresies were of two types: Those which were a syncretization of Christianity, and other philosophies or religions, as Gnosticism and Marcionism were; and reactions against the cold calculating anti spiritual, highly structured organization that the church was evolving into, as Montanism was. The first area of investigation dealt with is Gnosticism. Gnosticism existed before Christianity was born.

“The Gnostics were not a sect; if anything, they were many sects. Actually, however, gnosticism was a widespread religious movement in the late ancient world . This movement is usually called syncretism. It was a mixture of all the religious traditions of that time. It spread all over the world, and was strong enough to penetrate Greek philosophy and the Jewish religion . . . It was also strong enough to penetrate Roman law and Christian theology.”1

  1. Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought. Edited by Carl E. Braaten (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), Pg. 33.

As further investigation took place it became obvious that Gnosticism was a major factor in shaping both the political system and the Church itself; because,

“while the political movement went from West to East, the religious movement went from East to West. Hence Gnosticism was an attempt to combine all the religious traditions which had lost their genuine roots, and to unite them in a system of a half philosophical, half religious character.”1

For the Gnostics, all created matter is evil. They differentiated the God of creation in the Old testament and the God of Salvation in the New Testament. Christian Gnosticism taught that one of the heavenly powers of the good God, called an Aeon, descended through the realm of the Evil God of Creation. In his descending he passes each of the planets which are controlled by demonic powers, this is as in astrology. As he descends he takes the seals of each of these powers along with their name. He then takes on the likeness of flesh, not real flesh since all flesh is matter and thus evil, and is called Jesus. He then reveals the gnosis (knowledge) that he has obtained to his disciples. After pretending to die, he ascends back to his heavenly realm. Now his followers may follow by using the gnosis which he revealed to his disciples to pass through each successive realm controlled by demonic powers, until the liberation of the spirit is completed. This is done through a gradual learning process of secrets that Jesus orally transmitted, but were never written down.2

  1. Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought, Edited by Carl E. Braaten (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), Pg. 34.
  2. Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1967), Pgs. 22-28.

“The principal ingredients which Gnosticism derived from Christianity was the central idea of redemption. But not all second-century sects included Jesus as the redeemer.”1

Gnosticism taught that men were at three levels. Some were the elect who had a divine spark within them, and were destined to salvation. Others (ordinary church members) had the potential to achieve a lower level of spirituality, but not attain to the same degree as the chosen ones. A last group were comprised of the heathen, who were hopelessly lost without any hope of redemption. According to tradition, Simon Magus, the magician of Samaria found in Acts chapter ten, was one of the founding fathers of Christian Gnosticism.

Church of S. Costanza
The second area of investigation was probably the most successful of the early Christian heresies. Its founder, Marcion, was a native of Sinope, a city of Pontus in Asia Minor. It is believed that his father was a Christian bishop in that city. Marcion was wealthy and migrated to Rome in about A.D. 138. Upon his arrival in Rome he presented the church there with a sizable gift and joined himself to it. By the year A.D. 144 he was excommunicated from the church and had his gift returned upon his departure. However, when he left a number of members followed him, and they formed their own church. The proof of his success lies in the fact that Marcionism persisted up until the fifth century, when it is believed that it merged Manichaeism.

  1. Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1967), Pg. 37.

Marcion’s theological concepts are similar to Gnosticism in many respects and were often confused with it. Marcion clearly taught a dualism between the God of the Old Testament, which he called the Demiurge, as the Gnostics did, and that of the New Testament. He taught that the God of the New Testament was unknown to man until Jesus, at the age of thirty appeared. He rejected the birth and the childhood of Jesus as a falsification of the true story.
Marcion believed that the flesh was evil as the Gnostics did. He went so far as to forbid sexual union among members who were married. According to his concept, birth further continued the evil creation of the Demiurge. Naturally, since the flesh was evil, Christ could not have actual flesh and blood, but only appeared to be, as a phantom. This idea of appearing to be flesh is called Docetism, and was taught in many latter heresies as well.1 The main point of departure between Marcionism and Gnosticism lies in the issue of a secret knowledge (gnosis). Like the Gnostics,
“and indeed, like the Christian churches as whole, he was deeply concerned with the salvation of men. This, however, he conceived to be not, as did the Gnostics, through initiation into a mystery, but by simple faith in what he believed to be the gospel.”2

Because of his rejection of Old Testament, and the fact that he felt that the Gospel was distorted, he compiled a New Testament composed of ten of Paul’s letters and Luke’s gospel. He edited out Those portions which contradicted his teachings, and accused them of being latter additions.

  1. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Chrstianity, Vol. I: Beginnings to 1500 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1953), Pgs. 125-128
  2. Ibid., Pg. 126.

Tillich states that “Marcion was not a speculative philosopher, but a religious performer.”1 His reforms were listed in his book entitled Antithesis, in which in which he clarified the distinction between the Old and New testaments, and how he was making the final severance between Judaism and Christianity, which Paul had begun, but which was later distorted by his disciples.

The final heresy investigated in this paper is Montanism. Montanism, as Marcionism was named after its founder. Montanus was also from Asia Minor, from the area called Phrygia. Prior to his conversion Montanus “had been a priest of Cybele, and apparently was a man of enthusiastic and neurotic temperment.”2 He merged the ecstatic characteristics of his former faith with the teachings of Christianity, and the outcome was Montanism. Montanism had many positive factors in it, which made it a rather formidable opponent to orthodoxy. So formidable, in fact, that Tertullian, the great second-century theologian, defected to it. 3

  1. Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought. Edited by Carl E. Braaten (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), Pg. 34.
  2. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. I: Beginnings to 1500 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1953), Pg. 346.
  3. Ibid., Pg. 129.


Montanism accused the Orthodox Church of growing too lax and worldly. He instituted strict discipline and moral standards. Although marriage was allowed, celibacy was prized, and communal living was encouraged. There were two areas of emphasis, which were basic Christian teachings of the first-century Church that the second-century Church began to supress.1 The first was that of the working and continuation of the prophetic spirit. Montanus claimed that he spoke in tongues at his baptism and that he was the Paraclete promised by Jesus. Ecstatic prophecies were encouraged among all members. Two women by the names of Priscilla and Maximilla became the primary source next to Montanus, for receiving the oracles of God.2
A second area of emphasis had to do with the second coming of Christ. The first-century Church had taught his imminent return. However, after over a century had passed, laxity set in and the emphasis was switched to living in the present world. Montanus taught the urgency of Christ’s return. In fact, he led a group of people out to a plain in Phrygia to await the descent of the New Jerusalem as spoken of in John’s Apocalypse. A result of the immediate expectation of Christ’s return was the neglect of materialism and things dealing with the present life, increased fasting, and martyrdom being held in high honor.3

Montanism spread through Asai Minor, Africa, and Rome. It persisted well into the eighth century. However, it was excluded from the Orthodox Church from the beginning, but as Paul Tillich stated concerning the Church “victory over Montanism also resulted in loss.”4

  1. Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought. Edited by Carl E. Braaten (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), Pg. 41.
  2. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), 3:605.
  3. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. I: Beginnings to 1500 (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1953), Pgs. 128 & 129.
  4. Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought. Edited by Carl E. Braaten (NewYork: Simon & Schuster, 1967), Pg. 41.

Tillich states that this loss occurred in four areas. First, there could be no new revelation, only new insights, but even that was greatly “reduced in power and meaning.”1 Second, the prophetic spirit was excluded from the Church and replaced by hierarchy. Third, the idea of the end of history was eliminated and subrogated by each individual preparing for their end of history at death. Fourth, discipline was disregarded in the Church as it gave way to growing laxity.

  1. Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought. Edited by Carl E. Braaten (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), Pg. 41

Church Triumphant


Heresies such as Montanism, Marcionism, and Gnosticism definitely had an influence upon Christianity, as did the pagan cults and the mystery religions. However, the object of this paper has been to point out how these supposedly negative stimuli contributed positive influences as well as negative. Results such as apostolic succession, a New Testament Canon, and a rule of faith were the three principal contributions, but countless others occurred as well.

Although politics, ideas, and theological achievements were critical to the development of the second-century Church, the people who originated and promoted them, being their source, were far more important. Therefore, an understanding of individual, personal contributions ranging from the emperors Trajan to Septimius Severus, from the apologists Aristedes to Origen the Alexandrian are crucial to the total scenario. Grasping the influence of the aggregate of all the above is essential for a complete understanding of the twentieth-century Church, both institutionally and theologically. It also answers the oft asked question: “What happened to the first century Church?”

I wrote this paper 34 years ago, so I have some additional thoughts to share in my addendum to the conclusion. The question of “What happened to the Jesus Movement?” can be answered with the same answer of “What happened to the first century Church?” They both became part of the system and no longer had spiritual power, but were simply another arm of Babylon, which is the secular world. There have been spiritual events that are outbursts of the true gospel throughout history regardless of the geographic location or controlling political power. However, as soon as the persecution and suffering or social upheaval ends and the rules and regulations begin, the original power dissipates and what remains is an impotent relic of what once was, as a reminder of what can and will be again when the time comes. Some spread the fire and some keep the embers burning until they are needed again.


The Church In The Second Century Part 1

20 Jul

The Church In The Second Century

By: Bob Gersztyn

St. Florians, Hamtramack, Michigan

Over the decades my theology has evolved, just as the church itself has evolved over 2 millennia. Back in 1979 to 1981 I was in the last days of my academic period, as I was enrolled in California State University at Los Angeles, where I was pursuing a Masters Degree in Ancient History, while I was an associate pastor at an inner city church in Los Angles. The last class that I took, before I dropped out of the program, was an independent study course, for which I did my own research and then wrote a paper about. I submitted that paper in February 1981, after I wrote it while moving from Los Angeles, California to Toledo, Oregon and then to El Paso Texas and then back to Los Angeles, California within an 8-month period with 4 children ranging in age from 6 years old and under. I paid all my own expenses, so by the time that we got back to Los Angeles, we were broke and without a car.

However, what the hell, I was following God’s will and always believed that to truly serve God, you had to stand naked without any possessions in the middle of the desert. So that is where I found myself, as I continued to work on my paper, which I had a year to complete. That year would end in May 1981, but I finished it in February and was living back in Los Angeles, California at the time. The title of the paper was “The Church In The Second Century.”

The reason why I decided on my subject, was just like everything that I did, it was for my own personal satisfaction and increase of knowledge. Ministers were always talking about getting back to the first century church, so I thought to myself – when did the change take place? The logical place to start looking was the 2nd century, so that’s what I did. It was supposed to be ten double spaced pages, but I submitted over forty. I received an “A” from Dr. Malik, my instructor, but it was as if that was the parting gesture of my ministry years, because I never was employed again as a clergyman, didn’t get my Masters Degree, and went back to work at the Post Office until I retired.

It’s ironic that the paper proves that the first century Church evolved into the Roman Catholic church, less than 100 years after the death of Jesus Christ. Roman Catholicism is where I came from before I rejected it to join the Jesus movement in 1971. I found it confusing, yet realized that it was just another part of the truth about life, existence, religion, and spirituality. So without any further explanation I offer the transcribed copy of my research paper in 2 installments. This is Part One and includes the introduction and chapters 1 & 2.

California State University At Los Angeles

The Church In The Second Century

A research paper submitted to
Dr. Butrus Abd_Al_Malik
As required for
Independent study course 499

Department Of History

Robert Louis Gersztyn

Los Angeles, California
February 1981


Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (1)

Chapter I. The Secular circumstances ( The Emperor and the Empire.) . .2
Introduction (2)—Trajan (3)—Hadrian (4)—Antoninus Pius (5)—Marcus Aurelius (6)—Commodus (7)—Pertinax (8)—Julianus (9)—Septimius Severus (10).

Chapter II. Church Structure and Theology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Introduction (11)—Apostolic Succession (12)—Determining the New Testament Canon (14)—The Rule of Faith (15).

Chapter III. Church Personalities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Introduction (18)—Aristedes (19)—Athenagorus (20) —Justin Martyr (21)—Tatian (23)—Theopolis (24)—Clement of Alexandria (25)—Tertulian (27)—Origen (29).

Chapter IV. Conflicts: External and internal . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Introduction (31)—The Mystery Religions (31)—Gnosticism (33)—Marcionism (35)—Montanism (37).

Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (40)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sources Consulted . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(41).

Mitchell, Nebraska Corn Palace


The first century Church’s emphasis after Christ’s death and resurrection was to evangelize the civilized parts of the Roman Empire. It’s method was to establish churches in major cultural and trade centers. By the second century the rural areas surrounding those major centers were effectively reached. The emphasis of the second century Church changed from that of primarily evangelizing to that of organizing the subsequent loose structure which existed. One reason for the need to organize was due to the fact that according to the interpretation of Pauline theology, the church was the body of Christ, and therefore needed to be joined together in loving one another. Organization was also needed to protect the church form numerous heresies which were materializing.

The second century saw the development of a universal organization (the Catholic Church) based upon the structural framework which then existed in the Roman government’s political system. A carefully thought out theology came into being by the apologetic theologians who defended the faith against the pagans and the heretics. The purpose of this paper is to elaborate upon the details within and surrounding the second century Church In order that its historical importance may be fully understood.



In order to gain a larger picture of the historical context of the second century Church, it is necessary to look at the period in which it existed. The second century saw a total of eight Roman emperors. Politically this period was highlighted by two important factors.

First, due to the fact that no offspring were born to the first three second century emperors, they were free to choose successors, or appointment by the Praetorian Guard as was often the case in The first century emperors. “While the principle was maintained it gave Rome “ the finest succession of good and great sovereigns the world has ever had. ‘”1 The second situation which occurred was one of gradual development of an organized bureaucracy that was controlled by a hierarchy, “. . .

While the self-complacent local magistrates and town counselors of the once self-governing city-states had been degraded into becoming the unwilling instruments of the central exchequer for extracting ruinously heavy taxes from the local notables.”2

  1. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Volume III: Caesar and Christ ( New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944). 3:408.
  2. Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, (New York: Weathervane books, 1972, Pg. 278.

Although each of these factors appear to contradictory to the other, the development and result in both cases were unplanned. The first area temporarily gave strength and stability to the Empire; while the second planted the seeds of decay.

The first century had seen: strong leadership in Augustus and in Tiberias, the assassination of Caligula, the Praetorian Guard’s appointment of Claudias, the suicide of Nero, the civil war and the successive assassinations of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius ending the Julian dynasty in A.D 69. The remaining thirty years were controlled by the Flavian dynasty beginning with Vespasian and his modest rule, followed by the ascension and premature death of Titus, the insane rule of Domitian ending in his assassination, and the Senatorial appointment of Nerva, the last of the Flavians.

Not having an heir, Nerva chose as his successor Marcus Ulpias Nerva Traianus ( Trajan A.D. 98-117) to succeed him with the consent of the Senate. Trajan was a military man, born in Spain of a Roman family. During his reign he carried out extensive military expeditions and equally extensive building programs, whose cost was met not by taxation, but by plunders of war. Prior to his death in A.D 117 en route to Rome, there was preparation being made by the senate for the greatest triumph since the time of Augustus. This was a reflection of his universal popularity with both Plebeians and Patricians.

Trajan’s correspondence with a special envoy to Bithynia forms some of the most important documents which the world has today from the first century Roman archives. The envoy’s name was Pliny the younger. One of Pliny’s letters to Trajan deals with the problems of Christians. He asks the emperor’s advice and describes his previous actions. One important point in Pliny’s letter is that he states, “It is not only the towns, but villages and rural districts too which are infected with this wretched cult.”

In Trajan’s reply three directives are given to Pliny, two of which are in favor of Christians:

“These people must not be hunted out; . . . In the case of anyone who denies that he is a Christian, and makes it clear that he is not by offering prayers to our gods, he is to be pardoned as a result of his repentance however suspect his past conduct may be. But pamphlets circulated anonymously must play no part in any accusation. They create the worst sort of precedent and are quite out of keeping with the spirit of our age.”2

We have evidence of two martyrs of prominent status in Trajan’s time. First Simon, Bishop of Jerusalem, and second Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch.

Following Trajan’s death his nephew Publias Aelius Hadrianus (Hadrain A.D. 117-138) ascended the throne. There was some amount of controversy over whether or not Trajan actually chose Hadrian; however, history reveals that he was one of the most brilliant Roman emperors. He was opposed to the imperialistic ways of his uncle, Trajan, and put an end to all wars of expansion. He withdrew the legions from the far reaches of the Empire and began a new peaceful administration based on the principle of defense rather than expansion. He personally traveled to all the provinces of the Empire with a group of architects, builders and engineers to examine their condition and needs and helped them where possible. This was unprecedented since the reign of Augustus. The only record of an execution for being a Christian is of Telophorus, Bishop of Rome.

  1. Pliny the Younger, The Letters of the Younger Pliny. Translated by Betty Radice ( London: Penguine Books Ltd., 1963), Pgs. 294, 295.
  2. Ibid., Pg. 295

Hadrain’s reign was one of peace until A.D. 132 when Simon bar-Chochba led the Jews in Jerusalem to a second revolt against Rome sixty-two years after its destruction by Titus. This revolt lasted until A.D. 135 when Hadrian had it ruthlessly put down. The revolt took place over the issue of Hadrian declaring “his intention to raise a shrine to Jupiter on the site of the destroyed temple.”1

Simon bar-Chochba means “son of a star” and was the result of a name change from Simon bar-Kosiba. This name change was encouraged by Akiva the leading Jewish rabbi after Gamaliel. Simon bar-Kosiba believed himself to be the promised Jewish Messiah and Akiva encouraged this belief in order to foster support in the revolt which became the Jews last effort in antiquity to regain the Promised Land. Hadrian died shortly after this in A.D. 138 of a disease “akin to tuberculosis and dropsy—which slowly crushed his body, his spirit, and his mind.”2 Before he died he chose Titus Aurelius Antonius to succeed him.

  1. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), Pg. 548.
  2. Ibid., Pg. 421.

Titus Aurelius Antoninus (A.D 138-161) was referred to by the Senate as “Pius” as a model of the milder Roman virtues, and “Optimus Princeps” as the best of princes. Because of this, history refers to him as Antoninus Pius. History also records little of his reign, this is due to the fact that it was the best period that Rome had ever known. There were no wars, save minor skirmishes; internally there was harmony and efficiency of government. The harshness shown to the Jews by Hadrian was reduced, and Christians were tolerated. Taxation was light and the needy were provided for. Antoninus reigned twenty-three years and chose Marcus Aurelius Antoninus to succeed hin, prior to his death at seventy-four years of age. Marcus Aurelius ( A.D. 161-179) fulfilled Plato’s ideal of a philosopher-king.

“Historians of philosophy have repeatedly pointed out out the dramatic fact that the two leading Roman Stoics were Epictetus, a slave, and Marcus Aurelias, an emperor, and that emperor was in his youth a pupil to the slave.” 1

He was a pious man and even in his later adult life when he grew skeptical. He was a student of philosophy and a practitioner of the state religion and he never discontinued performing the rituals of the ancient faith. He also showed every honor and courtesy to the Senate.

Marcus’ reign saw a great deal of war both in the East with Parthians and in the West with the Germans. Along with war came much pestilence. As many as two thousand people died a day, many of which were of the aristocracy. 2 From A.D. 167 until the end of his reign in A.D. 179

  1. Marcus Aurelias, Marcus Aurelias and His Times: Meditations (Rosalyn, New York: Walter J. Black, Inc., 1945), Pg. 3.
  2. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), Pg. 429.

Marcus was practically continually involved in warfare with invading German tribes.

“Never before had the German tribes moved with such unity or so closely threatened Rome. Marcus acted with surprising decisiveness. He put away the pleasure of philosophy and determined to take the field in what he foresaw would be the most momentous of Roman wars since Hannibal.” 1

There is evidence, although it is uncertain that Marcus assented to or possibly even approved of Christian persecutions. However, it appears that he knew relatively little about Christianity doctrinally. “ The distinction of Marcus lies chiefly in his book and personality.”2 Marcus Aurelius became the first second-century emperor to name his son as heir to the throne. This act took place during the Third Marcomannic War in the area of Bohemia. At that time Marcus became seriously ill and being aware that his malady was terminal, he presented his son, Commodus, to the army as the new emperor. Then,

“Returning to his couch he covered his head with the sheet and soon afterward died. When his body had reached home the people had already begun to worship him as a god who for a while consented to live on the earth.” 3

Lucius Aurelius Commodus (A.D 179-192) assumed command upon his father Marcus’ death while they were both in the Danube. Upon his ascension to the throne, he immediately offered the enemy terms of peace. This enraged the generals and the political machinery of Rome since total victory was within his reach. Commodus However, though not a coward, was tired of war.

  1. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944) , Pg. 429.
  2. Classics Club, Marcus Aurelius and His Times. (roslyn, New York: Walter J. Black, Inc., 1945), Pg. 6.
  3. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), Pg. 432.

Surprisingly the terms of peace were not violated by the Danubian tribes for the extent of his reign. During his reign Commodus snubbed the Senate and poured out gifts upon the Plebeians. He was an outstanding sportsman and spent most of his time involved in related activities. Records indicate that he was an exceptionally cruel emperor who indiscriminately killed people for sport. He appointed a prefect to execute his governmental duties; and according to tradition, he became totally involved in sexual dissipation. 1 Like Domitian he grew paranoid of conspiracies and had anyone executed who was suspect, to the point that there very few surviving who were in power during his father’s reign.

There was no official persecution of Christians during his reign; in fact, the only records on his relations with them is one of pardoning some who were condemned to the Sardinian mines for the sake of Marcia, one of his mistresses, who some believe was a Christian herself, or at least sympathized with them. When a list of those suspected of conspiracy reached the hands of Commodus containing the name of Marcia, she acted with the support of the others accused by giving him a cup of poisoned wine.

“Commodus retired to sleep; but whilst he was laboring with the effects of poison and drunkenness, a robust youth, by profession a wrestler, entered his chamber and strangled him without resistance.”2 He was thirty-one years of age.

  1. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), Pg. 447.
  2. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I (Chicago, Ill.: William Benton, Publisher, 1952), Pg. 39.

Upon the assassination of Commodus, the Senate elected Publius Helvius Pertinax as emperor in A.D. 192. He was one of the last survivors of Marcus Aurelius’ reign and had been Prefect of Rome. Within eighty-six days of Commodus’ death, a general sedition broke out in the Praetorian Guard camp. The issue at hand was that “the officers wanted either power or inclination to supress.”1 Somewhere between two and three hundred soldiers marched at noonday on the palace; and when Pertinax came out to meet them, they killed him and put his head on a lance carrying it to their camp.

After Pertinax’s execution, the Praetorian guard offered the throne to the highest bidder, and Marcus Didius Salvius Julianus Severus (Julianus A.D. 192-193) won by offering 6,250 drachmas per man. Rome was enraged and appealed

“to the legions in Britain, Syria, and Pannonia to come and depose Julianus . . . The Pannonian commander, Lucius Septimus Severus Geta, gained the principate by boldness, expedition and bribery.”2

When Septimus Severus entered Rome, a Tribune beheaded Julianus in a bathroom where he was found in tears terrified. Lucius Septimus Severus (A.D 193-211) became the last emperor of the second century. He favored the poor and soldiers to the Senate and Patricians. He had many Senators put to death upon his ascension to the throne and ruled by the army. He established a hereditary, military monarchy and made military service compulsory. However, the inhabitants of Italy were forbidden to enter the army. This was because he was of Semitic origin, and to insure the emperor was chosen by provincial legions. Of his eighteen-year reign twelve were given to war. He died in bed at York while on a military expedition against the Scots in Britain. During his reign there was a brief period of Christian persecution. In this persecution Clement of Alexandria fled his post, and Origen, a student of his, succeeded him. Origen’s father was put to death in this persecution.

  1. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I (Chicago, Ill.: William Benton, Publisher, 2952), Pg. 39.
  2. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ ( New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), Pg. 620.



The structure of the first century Church was very loose and flexible. The services themselves were modeled after the Jewish synagogue and were comprised of singing, Scripture reading, and homily, which altogether culminated into the love feast of common meal. The leadership in the beginning was the apostles themselves. When the size of the church grew to the point that they were unable to meet all its needs, they chose assistants named ‘diakonos’: servants, helpers ( Acts 6:1-6, 1 Timothy 3:8-13).1 As the church spread especially under the efforts of the apostles Paul, and the apostles could not personally oversee the congregations anymore, alternate leadership had to be appointed. This leadership was titled ‘presbuteros’ or ‘episkopos’: elders, bishops, overseers (Acts 14:23, 1 Timothy 3:1-7).2

  1. William F. Arndt and Wilbur F. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (16th Impression, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1974), Pgs. 183 & 184.
  2. Ibid., Pgs. 706, 707, & 299.

By the beginning of the second century, the apostles had all died. The leadership of the church was comprised of bishops who had been directly appointed by the apostles themselves. Kenneth Latourette states that

“a structure was in evidence which, at first not universal, eventually became normal for ecclesiastical Christianity.

“The church in Antioch had at least one bishop, Ignatius, who acted as though he had the acknowledged right to address himself with authority to the other churches. On his way under guard to Rome for martyrdom, Ignatius wrote letters to several churches. He commanded that nothing be done without the bishop and declared that the Eucharist, or lord’s Supper, was to be administered by a bishop or by someone delegated by him. Ignatius also spoke of presbyters and deacons as officers of the Church. Eventually and perhaps at that time a city customarily only had one bishop. Ignatius spoke of the ‘Catholic Church’ ‘saying that wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic church.’ By the end of the second century the term ‘Catholic’ was increasingly applied to the church, with the sense that the Catholic church was both universal and orthodox. In the course of time the district over which the bishop presided became known as a diocese. The term was borrowed from the Civil Administration of the Roman Empire, especially as it was organized in the fourth century. To this day the majority of the Christians are in churches in which the three major ranks of clergy are bishops, priests, and deacons, and organized by diocese presided over by a bishop.”1

  1. , 2., & 3. Kenneth Scott Latourette, Christianity Thought the Ages, Volume 1 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1965, Pg. 40.

The need for this ecclesiastical structure was generated by the internal conflict which existed with the church in the second century. Some of the early church fathers listed as many as twenty different heresies which resulted from these conflicts. Later in this paper the content of those heresies will be discussed. At this time, however, investigation will be limited to the effect that these heresies had upon the Catholic church. The ramification are threefold: (1) Apostolic succession, (2) Determination of authoritative Scripture, (3) Condensing of the Apostles’ teaching in its Simplest form. It should be understood that

“These three features of the Catholic Church were by no means entirely due to the effort to ascertain what the truth is: They were already present in Embryo. However, their was assisted and their form in part determined by the struggle to ensure the Gospel should be preserved and transmitted in its pristine integrity. “1

The first area of investigation is that of apostolic succession. Ever since the Protestant Reformation the validity of this issue has been hotly contested and denounced by Protestantism. However, it should be understood that it was by this very practice that the purity of the faith was preserved. The question which needs to be asked is, at what point in time did this practice cease to be in the church’s best interest? Not, was this practice ever valid, since history does authenticate that it was. One of the early church fathers already mentioned, Ignatius of Antioch, who was martyred in A.D 108 under Trajan, actually claimed “that the bishop is God’s representative on Earth, an earthly counterpart corresponding to the heavenly Monarch, so that we ought to regard the bishop as the lord himself.”2

  1. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. I: Beginnings to 1500 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1953), Pg. 131.
  2. Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1967), Pg. 41.

The concept of the apostolic succession was one of the most formidable weapons used in opposing the Gnostic heresy whose threat presented the greatest danger within the Church. Iraneaus, Bishop of Lyons (France), the theologian who summed up the thought of second century Christianity and dominated Christian orthodoxy before Origen, insisted that the Apostles had accurately transmitted what had been taught to them by Christ. He said that there existed unbroken lines of succession from bishop to bishop which if necessary could be presented in list form for all the churches.

“He singles out that of the Church of Rome, which he holds to have been founded and organized by Peter and Paul. Peter and Paul, so he says, appointed Linus. Linus in turn so Iraenaeus declared, was followed by others in unbroken line to the twlefth in succession who was bishop when the book was being composed.”1

Although the issue of apostolic succession was important, it was only one feature of the developing Church. A second feature was that of determining the contents of the New testament Canon. The Orthodox Catholic Church had already universally accepted the Jewish scriptures said to have been finally ratified by the so-called Synod of Jamnia in A.D. 90-100.”2 However, there were many writings which were also read in services that were specifically written to the Church of Christ. By the middle of the second century, the list was quite large. The first person to organize a collection of these writings was Marcion, a heretic whose teaching were often confused with Gnosticism. He included the letters of Paul and the gospel of Luke, after he edited out all of the portions that contradicted his own teachings, which “he held to be the corrupting addition of later hands.”3

[It is ironic or very synchronistic, that right now that is exactly what I’m doing. It is July 2015, but it was back in July 1999 that I had one of my sons take my original paper that I submitted back in 1981, and transcribe it into MS Word. Since he copied it onto a floppy disc, I eventually transferred it to a CD and flash drive and decided to post it on my “Jesus Rocks The World” blog. Prior to posting it, I am reading it and comparing it to the printed-out copy of the original paper I wrote. I am occasionally finding mistakes, like misspelled, missing, or interpolated words, so I can understand how a text that is not that old could be flawed.]

  1. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. I: Beginnings to 1500 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1953), Pg. 132.
  2. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Fransisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960), Pg. 52.
  3. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. I: Beginnings to 1500 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1953), Pg. 131

It is felt by some that perhaps Marcion’s action was the motivating force which caused the church to begin determining it’s new Testament Canon. Both Justin Martyr and Iranaeus supported the fourfold Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Tertullian, a late second century, early third century theologian supported twenty of twenty-seven New Testament books.

“Yet nothing like an official catalogue appears in his works. The earliest such catalogues of which we have evidence is the Roman one contained in the so-called Muratorian fragment, late second century in date and authoritative in tone.”1

It recognized twenty-three of the New Testament books along with three apocryphal books. It also condemned the Marcionite and the Gnostic books. However, in order to find a listing of our present twenty-seven books, one has to jump two hundred years ahead to the time of Athanasius, who in the year 367 in his Easter Letter listed our present twenty-seven books as being the sole canonical books of the New Testament, “but the process was not every where complete until at least a century and a half later.”2

Thirdly was a condensation of the apostles’ teachings into what was called the rule of faith, later becoming known as the Apostles’ Creed, and finally the Nicene Creed in A.D. 325.

  1. J.N.D Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Fransisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960), Pg. 52.
  2. Ibid., Pg. 60.

“This rule (Iranaeus claimed) is what the bishops teach now and therefore comes down from the apostles. In content it is akin to the formulas used in the questions put to candidates for baptism and is simply the creedal pattern based on the New Testament. Tertullian trusted as independent of scripture because, in argument with heretics, it was a better defense than the Bible, over the interpretation of which one can argue long with the sole effect of the bewildering simple folk who want a short and direct answer.”1

The rule of faith clearly refutes the false teachings of the ideal of the leading heresies of the second century, especially Marcionism and Gnosticism. At that time it read as follows:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty and in Jesus Christ his son, who was born of Mary the Virgin, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, on the third day rose from the dead, ascended into heaven sitteth on the right hand of the Father, from which he cometh to judge the living and the dead, I believe in the Holy Spirit, and the resurrection of the flesh.”2

Essentially the rule establishes the fact that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that god the father created the world and will judge it; that Jesus was a real historical person; and that God continues to work in men’s lives through His Holy Spirit. It is interesting to note what Paul Tillich, a protestant (Luthern) theologian says concerning the early church:

“If someone says that we should unite by going back to the development which runs from Iraenus to Dionsius, The Areopagite, I would say that he had better become a catholic, because protestantism cannot do that.” 3

  1. Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1967), Pg. 41.
  2. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. I: Beginnings to 1500 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1953), Pg. 131.
  3. Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought. Edited by Carl E. Braaten (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), Pg.50.

The issue is this — the second century Church developed through the stimuli which surrounded it at that time; however, when those stimuli were no longer there, the structure remained and continued to evolve as the Roman Catholic Church. However, the fact remains that in order to stay fresh and allow the Christian spirit of each period to become significant to its own time, the Church must re-evaluate itself and apply the basic principles of Christianity to its own age; not re-evaluate basic theology, which must remain the same, but to re-evaluate traditions, governmental structure, etc. The Catholic Church became the Christian counterpart to legalistic Judaism, while the Protestant movement later became the converse of the legalistic, works theology by emphasizing God’s grace. Both concepts contain truth and are part of Christian theology.

[To Be Continued.]

Detroit, Michigan church

Christians and Marijuana Use

14 Jul

Christians and Marijuana Use

By: Bob Gersztyn

Burning Spear b&w#1
One of my favorite passages in the New Testament, concerning how Christians should behave, is 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 23. The issue being discussed is primarily communion and the Lord’s table, where communion was served as part of a communal meal. The issue was whether or not you could eat meat sold in the market after it had been used in a sacrifice to a pagan deity. The way the apostle (who said that Jesus gave him the name of Paul, and authored Corinthians and most of the New Testament) put it, was: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (KJV). I believe that the principle of this passage can be applied to many issues that a Christian, using the Bible as their guide book, may choose. That principle is “expediency.”


With the legalization of marijuana for recreational use here in Oregon, three other states, and Washington D.C., along with medical use in many others, it pulls the legal rug of “obeying the law of the land” out from under detractors of pot, and lands the issue smack dab in the middle of the expediency category. Thus the above passage from Corinthians applies. It has to apply, because the Bible doesn’t specifically talk about marijuana or any drugs for that matter, other than alcohol –which it says to use in moderation.

That is, unless you use the word pharmakeia, which appears in the English Bible under terms like “sorcery” and “witchcraft” in books like Galatians and Revelation. Pharmakeia was the term the Roman Catholic church used for condemning the mystical and holistic healing arts that non-Christian people had been using for multiple millennia. When Christianity came into being as a state-sponsored religion, it had evolved into something so far away from what the New Testament spoke about, that even Jesus wouldn’t recognize it. So, to make sure there was no competition from the existing faith paths of paganism, they threw the baby out with the bathwater and condemned those who disagreed with them, like they themselves had been condemned in the beginning.

Burning Spear #1

If the Western version of Christianity wanted to sever ties with the Eastern version, this was one of the ways that it could do it. So, only alcohol was spoken of in the books of the Bible that the Roman Catholic church chose, giving future generations power over the pagans and their pharmakeia. The question I have is, why did Martin Luther and the Protestants accept the Bible as the Roman Catholic Church created it, other than removing the apocryphal books? Sure Luther wanted to also get rid of the books of James and Revelation, but what about adding some books, like the Gospel of Thomas or the Apocryphon of John? Every historian of ancient history is aware of the fact that the oral transfer of knowledge and religious traditions is no less truthful or accurate than a written-down version; however, conservative Bible scholars dismiss latter Christian documents as proof that the earlier ones are more accurate and authentic. However, this article isn’t about the veracity of the Bible and its contents, but about marijuana usage and Christianity. So back to the difference between alcohol and marijuana.

What does alcohol do? It alters your mood to various levels, depending on how much you drink. It can pacify you, make you angry and violent, or it can stimulate your creativity, or it can completely relax you until you go to sleep or even die. What does marijuana do? It alters your mood, with heightened sensory abilities. Food tastes better, music sounds better, films are more entertaining and sex is more intense. At the same time it provides a fresh perspective on mundane or previously exhausted ideas.


When it comes to comparing alcohol to marijuana, there is no comparison. How many people in the history of marijuana have ever died from a marijuana overdose? Then just look at how many die of alcohol poisoning each year (thousands) and the argument is over. As a veteran former cab driver (, I dealt with drunks for nearly a decade. I would trade a hostile or obnoxious drunk that puked in my cab for a lethargic or gregarious pothead that had the munchies, any day of the week without hesitation and I bet so would another million cab drivers.

One of the most ludicrous reasons why the use of marijuana is condemned by some, is because it makes you lose control of yourself, and I want to have control of myself, they say. This is an absurd statement to anyone who has ever used marijuana on a regular basis and further destroys the credibility of those who use it in their argument. I will concede that if a first time user ingests an adequate amount of potent pot, they may become disoriented and hallucinate to some degree, but as long as they were warned of the effects prior to ingestion they should be able to cope with it. After that initial episode, marijuana intoxication makes one more aware of their surroundings, rather that oblivious to them.

Burning Spear #2

Everyone is different and because of this, not everyone will use marijuana, just like not everyone uses alcohol or caffeine. In some cases it makes the user so lethargic and tired that they fall asleep, while in others it creates paranoia suspicion that has a negative effect. People who experience either of these results usually don’t use cannabis except as a sedative, in the case of the former. So the next question that the marijuana user is forced to answer by opponents to its use is, why do they use marijuana? The answer to that is simple. Because it makes you feel good and brightens your perspective on life.

But why do you have to smoke or ingest something to make you feel good? The Bible states in Galatians 5:22 and 23, “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law” (KJV). Yes, that is true, but why can’t a modality be used to obtain an augmented state of these same qualities? Sure you could pray in your native language, use glossolalia, or meditate for an hour or more to obtain this state, but if you take a few hits of some really bomb weed, you can achieve it instantaneously, the proponent will argue.


I think it is the instantaneous issue that bothers opponents more than anything. How can anything be valid if it can be achieved instantaneously, without suffering? The problem with this mentality is that it ignores the fact that one must learn to take advantage of the opportunities that pot presents, just like in the rest of life. Sure, millions may smoke weed and get the same innovative ideas, but there are only hundreds that actually act on what they think. Those are the ones who achieve excellence in the categories in which they operate.

What proof do I have to support this thesis, some would ask? The fact of the matter is that pot smoking in the U. S. has been going on at an exponentially high rate for 50 years with more people incarcerated for using it under the guise of drug crimes than any other drug. At the same time, we’ve continued to lead the world economically and socially, even with all the disparity. So, what is the great concern about? I do understand that there are those who will never be convinced that it is okay to use and it is just another gift that the Creator of the universe gave us to use. Some industries would not exist at all, or at the stage that they do, without pot smokers. When it comes to naming some of the industries that fall under the category of being created by people who use pot or even mind expanding psychedelic drugs, the first that come to mind are computer science, films, music, photography, and video games. (Check out the Playboy interview with Bill Gates about LSD usage, which by the way does make you lose control, big time!

Burning Spear #3

Back in the 1930s, a religion rose up in the Caribbean that advocated the use of marijuana for spiritual enlightenment. That religion was Rastafari ( Primarily based in Jamaica, the religion was influenced by the Ethiopian persuasion of the Coptic theological school of Christianity. It was one of the Christian factions that existed at the time that the Roman Catholic church established its supremacy in the 4th century. The initiating event that spurred the formation of Rastafari was the coronation of the Emperor Haile Sellassie I of Ethiopia. Marcus Garvey had already established the doctrine necessary to help integrate the Black freedom movement with ancient Christian doctrine. Then in the 1970s, reggae music began to influence the masses after Eric Clapton recorded “I Shot the Sheriff” by Bob Marley. Bob Marley became the primary prophet of Rastafari who spearheaded the creation of reggae along with Burning Spear, Jimmy Cliff, Toots & the Maytals, and Peter Tosh, to name some. Today, reggae is a genre which is usually associated with smoking marijuana.

Since Rastafari is another perspective of Christianity, just like Mormonism, the Jehovah Witnesses, and Christian Scientists, we can expect there to be theology that supports their views. So then the question asked in the beginning of this article, based on 1 Corinthians 10:23 has to be applied. Why does a Rastafari smoke marijuana? The answer is, as a sacramental spiritual act accompanied by Bible study to bring them closer to God. They believe that it heals the tripartite person, exalts consciousness and elicits the fruit of the spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22 and 23. It was legalized in Jamaica for sacramental use by the Rastafari church on April 15, 2015.


I’m sure that some young, enterprising, spiritually tuned-in persons will eventually form what will become a major Christian denomination of pot smoking, Bible believing, church going parishioners, using Genesis 1:12 and 29 in their statement of faith. If the last Christian epoch that leading religious periodicals like “Christianity Today” labeled as the “Post Christian Era,” then we are now in the “Post Pot Prohibition Era.” All that some Bible College Graduates have to do is fire up and advertise a legal pot smoking Bible Study, for those over 21 years old, and start a new Christian denomination.

Burning Spear #4

With all the racial issues that have been in the news over the past few years, it is especially interesting that the legalization of marijuana is taking place during the administration of the first black American president. The reason why marijuana was made illegal initially was to replace alcohol prohibition with marijuana prohibition to save government jobs during the “Great Depression.” At the time, marijuana was used primarily by “Negroes and Mexicans,” so the White establishment society didn’t care, until music and racial integration brought the races together. So, blame pot legalization on rock & roll.


The Steve Miller Band

2 Jul

Steve Miller 2003 #1  Steve Miller 2003 #2

I was sitting in my archive room lined with shelves containing boxes of slides, negatives, prints, and digital images from my entire 67 year life. On July 4th I’ll be 68 years old and currently spend more time reminiscing past events than I do participating in new ones. I’ve spent a lifetime collecting images taken of me and my family as well as ones that I took of them along with everything that took place around me. So if I don’t make use of them at this stage in my life, I never will. This blog is dedicated to Jesus Music and the 2 volume book that I wrote about it, which Praeger published in 2012, but at the same time, I write about secular issues and artists that I classify as spiritually important for one reason or another.

Steve Miller 2003 #3  Steve Miller 2003 #4

Today, I want to talk about Steve Miller, the baby boomer musician that is a seminal baby boomer rock star. He was one of those guys who happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right interests and mentors to nourish him. By the time that the San Francisco sound, via Haight Ashbury through the Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms along with the Monterey Pop Festival, made headlines across the country he had his foot in the door. Miller grew up in Wisconsin where he was exposed to Chicago blues and the guitar, before his doctor father moved the family to Texas. Les Paul, the guitar genius, happened to be a family friend who gave Steve lessons.

Steve Miller 2006 #1

Steve met Boz Skaggs in Texas and they ended up forming the Steve Miller Band that played in San Francisco with Miller, Skaggs, Jim Peterman, Lonnie Turner, and Tim Davis. They gigged for the hippie crowd and ended up backing up Chuck Berry at the Filmore, after Jefferson Airplane, the headlining group failed to cut the mustard, according to Miller. The Steve Miller Band got a recording contract and began to produce albums. The first was “Children of the Future,” which was a spacey psychedelic album that could accompany an acid trip. The next album was “Sailor,” which was a harder rocking album that included the radio hit, “Living In The USA,” along with some psychedelic numbers. If you want to hear a concert from this era in 1968 click on this link: (1968)

Steve Miller 2006 #2

Steve Miller 2006 #3

By 1969 I was out of the army, after being drafted in 1966, and was attending college on the GI Bill. Since college was the breeding ground for all aspects of the counter culture, I had my opportunity to decide which faction to join. The SDS (Students For A Democratic Society) were declared illegal and outlaws, so I never considered them, but instead fell in with all the other returning veterans, that were embracing the hippie movement. Ironically the hippies were also involved in illegal activity, but it wasn’t destructive, but simply mind expanding. Easter weekend 1969 I was off from school so I drove to Chicago, which was under 300 miles and took less than 5 hour to drive to, on the I-94 expressway. When I arrived, I stayed with my army buddy, Bob Duran, who was discharged a month before me.

Steve Miller 2006 #4

On Saturday night we smoked some weed that I brought with me and hit the blues clubs in the Chicago Old Town area. In the window of one of the clubs was an advertisement for a concert at the Aragon Ballroom on Easter Sunday afternoon with the “Iron Butterfly” headlining and the “Steve Miller Band” opening. We talked about it and decided to check it out the next day. I had already seen the Iron Butterfly at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, around Halloween 1968 and was somewhat impressed by their performance.

Steve Miller 2012 #1

On Easter Sunday, we headed to the Aragon Ballroom, with Bob’s friend driving. When we got there, it was an hour before the concert started, but there were tickets available and it was first come first serve concert seating. We got in line, behind about 30 or 40 people and while we waited I pulled out 2 capsules of mescaline that I told my friend Bob that I had. He already told me that he would take a hit and his friend would be our chaperone and designated driver. So we each took one and swallowed it, using a stick of chewing gum to provide the saliva. Normally, it would take about 90 minutes for the peak of the trip to happen, but I knew that we would be seated in about 45 minutes.

Steve Miller 2012 #2

After we were seated and got situated there was an announcement that there had been a bomb threat and everyone was to immediately evacuate the building. People immediately got up and began to quickly walk to the exit. Bob, his friend, and I sat there and since 2 of us were starting to get stoned, we weren’t that concerned and besides we’d seen live artillery fire in the army and weren’t that worried about some amateurs, who were probably bluffing. So when everyone left, we stayed and moved to the first row, center stage. After about 10 minutes everyone returned and sat in all the seats around us, but nobody ever said anything to us about where we were sitting.

Steve Miller 2012 #3

By the time that the Steve Miller Band began their performance, we were peaking on the mescaline and their performance was augmented a thousand fold. There were only 3 members of the band at this time, who were Lonnie Turner on bass guitar and Tim Davis on drums. Their performance was tight and their musicianship was phenomenal. The power trio was popular at the time with bands like Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience topping the charts. After we were completely blown away by their hour long performance comprised of songs that I had never heard before, other than “Living In The USA,” the Iron Butterfly took the stage.

Steve Miller 2012 #4

The Iron Butterfly was good, but I enjoyed the Steve Miller Band more and since we attended a matinee, there was going to be an evening performance also, which immediately followed. Almost everyone got up and left after the Butterfly played their 17 minute long hit, “In A Gadda Da Vida.” Their act had a gimmick, which was an early pyrotechnic grand finale at the conclusion of their signature song. the front of the stage burst into flames as they concluded their set and we sat in our seats, still numb from the mescaline.

Steve Miller 2012 #5

Nobody asked us to leave, so we sat in our front row center stage seats, as a new crowd began to fill the chairs that were set up in front of the stage on the dance floor. We were blown away a second time by the Steve Miller Band’s incredible performance. Steve talked about their upcoming new album called “Brave New World,” and played songs from it,. The ones that I remembered at the time were “Kow Kow,” “Seasons,” “Mercury Blues,” and “Space Cowboy.” When I got back to Detroit, I went to the record store and bought all 3 of Steve Miller’s albums.

Steve Miller 2012 #6

Over the next 3 years I saw the Steve Miller Band perform another half dozen times at various venues around the Detroit area including Meadowbrook, the Eastown theater and University of Michigan. Then in 1971 I moved to Los Angeles, California from Michigan and became a born again hippie Jesus freak and broke all ties with secular music, which I now viewed as a tool of Satan. I destroyed or sold all my secular albums. Ironically, the last secular concert ticket that I purchased before destroying my collection of 300 record albums, was for Steve Miller at the Palladium on Sunset in Los Angeles.

Steve Miller 2012 #7

The night of the concert, my wife Kathy and I went to the Palladium, but were convicted, so we sold the tickets to someone for half price. When the guy we sold the tickets to heard the reason, he tried to give me back the tickets and told me that I was being too extreme in my Christian belief. I stuck to my views and after we left, we attended a Friday night home church that I knew of, run by some Jesus freaks. For the next 15 years I only purchased and listened to Christian rock music and sometimes even questioned that.

Steve Miller 2012 #8  Steve Miller 2012 #9

Over the years, I would hear new Steve Miller songs, playing over PA systems, that I immediately recognized, even though I never heard them before. By the late 1980s, I was living in Salem, Oregon and my views on music had mellowed enough to allow me to attend an occasional secular concert. In 1988 Steve Miller came to the newly constructed L. B. Day Amphitheater in Salem, so I attended with a friend that I worked with. After that I took my oldest son, Michael to see Miller at Portland State University In 1990. By the mid 1990s, ironically I was a freelance rock and roll photographer photographing everyone from the Grateful Dead to the Rolling Stones for Ticketmaster and a variety of music magazines. I covered many Steve Miller concerts and reviewed them for a variety of publications, including Blues Revue and Blueswax during its publication life.

Steve Miller Crop #1

All in all, I’ve probably seen more live Steve Miller performances than any other artist, and have turned many other people on to him. He isn’t a gospel or Jesus music artist, but he has done as much to propagate joy and love as that genre has. If you want to see some performances of the band click on the links below. The photos were taken at 3 different concerts. The first was in 2003, at the Waterfront Blues Festival, in Portland, Oregon. The second was in 2006, at L. B. Day Amphitheater, that I took my oldest daughter Rachel too, who later fronted a blues band.

Steve Miller

The third was the last time that I saw the Steve Miller Band, in 2012 when I covered the Portland, Oregon Waterfront Blues Festival for Blues Revue and Blueswax. Coincidentally, my army buddy Bob Duranl who moved from Chicago to Post Falls, Idaho, was visiting and attended the Blues Festival with me. That year Steve was wearing a white shirt and the guy that we were standing next to was passing around joints of marijuana that were as large as cigars, as soon as the concert began. I became so intoxicated by the fumes that I flashed back to that first concert back in 1969, and I began to hallucinate, as tears rolled down my cheeks and I had to dry my eyes so I could focus my camera. (1989) (1974)

Gay Marriage Upheld by the Supreme Court

26 Jun

Jesus Rocks The World Volume 1 Cover

Gay Marriage upheld by the Supreme Court: Friday, June 26, 2015


When I wrote “Jesus Rocks The World: The Definitive History of Contemporary Christian Music,” I debated about whether or not I should include a chapter on LGBT contemporary Christian music. The reason why the issue even came up was quite accidental. When I compiled all my research in the form of interviews, articles, essays, and whatnot, I began to categorize it to fit the appropriate chapters. As I whittled everything down I had a file left over that contained fragments of interviews, articles and other items relating to the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgender community. Being a heterosexual myself, who was happily married for over 40 years, with 7 children, I had no axe to grind about sexual preferences. However, as a journalist, I was compelled to consider the fact that I had 15,000 words in a file on the subject and my average chapter only contained 5,000 words. Therefore if I edited the material, I would have another chapter.


At the same time, my religious background rejected the possibility of anything being accepted by the church other than a celibate gay person. Sure you can be gay, but you can’t ever have sex, unless you get married as a heterosexual. Then I read my research on Ray Boltz, who was married with children when he just couldn’t take playing the act anymore in 2008. At the same time I was reading about Marsha [Carter] Stevens-Pino, who I also interviewed in 2008. I saw her perform with Children of the Day, from Calvary Chapel – Costa Mesa, back in 1971 and a number of times afterwards, until she became the first Christian performer to come out of the closet in 1979. Check her out at her website: The best way to get the full picture as it relates to CCM is to read my book, “Jesus Rocks The World: The Definitive History of Contemporary Christian Music.”

There are those who feel that this is a further sign of the disintegration of morality in America. At one time I chose to take sides in that argument, only because it was required of me to keep my job at the time, but once that was no longer an issue, I ceased to care. The way that I feel, sexuality is a personal and private issue. I don’t find legality in marriage to be an issue, unless the entire nation becomes homosexual and ceases to have children to pay into social security to support their parents and propagate the nation. I suppose that is the ultimate fear that exacerbates the paranoid rantings of some of the public mouths.


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