What did early Christians believe about...?

(Before 300 AD)

Uninspired records of how early Christians worshipped and what doctrine they believed!

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Prophets outside the Apostolic Age

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What Do The Early Church Fathers Say Regarding Prophets In Their Day?

In examining every work of the Early Church Fathers, all 37 volumes, there is not one reference to the continuing of the true prophetic office. The early church after the death of the apostle John ceased to acknowledge the office of apostle and prophet being in existence.
However, in 26 of the 37 volumes there is quite a bit written about the work of false prophets among the church. These references are partial, and I have not included all of them due to space considerations. There are several reference sites you can surf to read these entire accounts. I have cited just a few of these references below.

Admittedly some of this language is difficult to follow but some interesting facts are easily seen. First, the early church had to combat people who said they were prophets or prophetesses and were not. How did they know they were not? Because these people did not adhere to the Scriptures or the apostolic dogmas of the church. The early church also knew these people were false prophets because they knew the foundational gifts of apostle and prophet had ceased. This is evident because they do not speak of these offices being in effect in their writings at all. The only time they write about apostles, prophets, or prophetesses in their time is when these individuals are false and heretical. They do write often and cite often the writings or statements of the Biblical prophets and apostles, especially the prophets in the Old Testament.

Some want to argue that the church had by this time become cold and legalistic and those in authority wanted to "quench the spirit." My question to those with such an opinion is this - why would they who were so close to the apostles and living witnesses to them want to do such a thing? What benefit would be derived from excommunicating those who had a genuine supernatural gifting from the Spirit of Grace?

It is evident from the writings of these great men that they possessed the highest regard for the Scriptures and apostolic tradition. Many of the writers of the letters died martyrs for Christ rather than compromise one iota of God's Truth. For someone today, who has suffered not loss for the cause of Christ, to attempt to impugn the character of these godly men is in itself a wicked act.

Every mention of a modern prophetess was met with the same judgement as the modern prophet, they were false prophetesses. Today we have multitudes of women claiming to be prophetesses of the Lord. These same women would be viewed as false prophetesses by the early church fathers.

Secondly, it is evident that some in their day did work signs and wonders and make claims to being Elijah. But the signs and wonders did not deceive these leaders of Christ's church. They looked beyond the glitter and the ecstasy and saw their teaching did not agree with that of the church and so they were disqualified.

Today the pattern remains the same. Some prophet comes to the local church and teaches false doctrine and closes out the service by doing something supernatural and tells the people "see God has confirmed His Word with signs following." The congregation then usually accepts what the false prophet has taught as being God's truth and is led further astray from true devotion to Christ.

  • The Sage Digital Library Collections: The Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 5 Edited by A. Roberts and J Donaldson To the Students of the Words, Works and Ways of God: SAGE Software Albany, OR USA Version 1.0 1996
  • All quotes below take from Sage Digital Library.


quote from early fathers

pg. 44


SYSTEM. And the Celtic Druids investigated to the very highest point the Pythagorean philosophy, after Zamolxis, by birth a Thracian, a servant of Pythagoras, became to them the originator of this discipline. Now after the death of Pythagoras, Zamolxis, repairing thither, became to them the originator of this philosophy. The Celts esteem these as prophets and seers, on account of their foretelling to them certain (events), from calculations and numbers by the Pythagorean art; on the methods of which very art also we shall not keep silence, since also from these some have presumed to introduce heresies; but the Druids resort to magical rites likewise.

pg. 338

But why need we care, since these philosophers have also made their attacks upon those writings which are condemned by us under the title of apocryphal, certain as we are that nothing ought to be received which does not agree with the true system of prophecy, which has arisen in this present age; because we do not forget that there have been false prophets, and long previous to them fallen spirits, which have instructed the entire tone and aspect of the world with cunning knowledge of this (philosophic) cast? It is, indeed, not incredible that any man who is in quest of wisdom may have gone so far, as a matter of curiosity, as to consult the very prophets; (but be this as it may), if you take t he philosophers, you would find in them more diversity than agreement, since even in their agreement their diversity is discoverable. Whatever things are true in their systems, and agreeable to prophetic wisdom, they either recommend as emanating from some other source, or else perversely apply in some other sense. This process is attended with very great detriment to the truth, when they pretend that it is either helped by falsehood, or else that falsehood derives support from it. The following circumstance must needs have set ourselves and the philosophers by the ears, especially in this present matter, that they sometimes clothe sentiments which are common to both sides, in arguments which are peculiar to themselves, but contrary in some points to our rule and standard of faith; and at other times defend opinions which are especially their, own, with arguments which both sides acknowledge to be valid, and occasionally conformable to their system of belief. The truth has, at this rate, been well-nigh excluded by the philosophers, through the poisons with which they have infected it; and thus, if we regard both the modes of coalition which we have now mentioned, and which are equally

pg. 275

faith was unsettled, when they pretended that they knew and worshipped God aiming at the increase of their wealth and honor, aspired to the highest sacerdotal power; and when overcome by others more powerful, preferred to secede with their supporters, than to endure those set over them, over whom they themselves before desired to be set.

But some, not sufficiently instructed in heavenly learning, when they were unable to reply to the accusers of the truth, who objected that it was either impossible or inconsistent that God should be shut up in the womb of a woman, and that the Majesty of heaven could not be reduced to such weakness as to become an object of contempt and derision, a reproach and mockery to men; lastly, that He should even endure tortures, and be affixed to the accursed cross; and when they could defend and refute all these things neither by talent nor learning, for they did not thoroughly perceive their force and meaning, they were perverted from the right path, and corrupted the sacred writings, so that they composed for themselves a new doctrine without any root and stability. But some, enticed by the prediction of false prophets, concerning whom both the true prophets and he himself had foretold, fell away from the knowledge of God, and left the true tradition. But all of these, ensnared by frauds of demons, which they ought to have foreseen and guarded against, by their carelessness lost the name and worship of God. For when they are called Phrygians, or Novarians, or Valentinians, or Marcionites, or Anthropians, or Arians, or by any other name they have ceased to be Christians, who have lost the name of Christ, and assumed human and external names. Therefore it is the Catholic Church alone which retains true worship.

This is the fountain of truth, this is the abode of the faith, this is the temple of God; into which if any one shall not enter, or from which if any shall go out, he is estranged from the hope of life and eternal salvation. No one ought to flatter himself with persevering strife. For the contest is respecting life and salvation, which, unless it is carefully and diligently kept in view, will be lost and extinguished. But, however, because all the separate assemblies of heretics call themselves Christians in preference to others, and think that theirs is the Catholic Church, it must be known that the true Catholic Church is that in which there is confession and repentance, which treats in a wholesome manner the sins and wounds to. . .

pg. 376

he wrote of men. They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe though one rose from the dead What have you to say for yourselves? Where is your authority? If you reject these passages of Scripture, in spite of the weighty authority in their favor, what miracles can you show? However, if you did work miracles, we should be on our guard against receiving their evidence in your case; for the Lord has forewarned us: Many false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall do many signs and wonders, that they may deceive, if it were possible, the very elect: behold, I have told you before. This shows that the established authority of Scripture must outweigh every other; for it derives new confirmation from the progress of events which happen, as Scripture proves, in fulfillment of the predictions made so long before their occurrence.

6. Are, then, your doctrines so manifestly true, that they require no support from miracles or from any testimony? Show us these self-evident truths, if you have anything of the kind to show. Your legends, as we have already seen, are long and silly, old wives fables for the amusement of women and children. The beginning is detached from the rest, the middle is unsound, and the end is a miserable failure. If you begin with the immortal, invisible, incorruptible God, what need was there of His fighting with the race of darkness? And as for the middle of your theory, what becomes of the incorruptibility and unchangeableness of God, when His members in fruits and vegetables are purified by your mastication and digestion? And for the end, is it just that the wretched soul should be punished with lasting confinement in the mass of darkness, because its God is unable to cleanse it of the defilement contracted from evil external to itself in the fulfillment of His own commission? You are at a loss for a reply. See the worthlessness of your boasted manuscripts, numerous and valuable as you say they are! Alas for the toils of the antiquaries! Alas for the property of the unhappy owners! Alas for the food of the deluded followers! Destitute as you are of Scripture authority, of the power of miracles, of moral excellence, and of sound doctrine, depart ashamed, and return penitent, confessing that true Christ, who is the Savior of all who believe in Him, whose name and whose Church are now displayed as they were of old foretold, not by some being issuing from subterranean darkness

pg. 643

cause of him whom he protects not being wounded; preventing him, as he does, from being wounded. For the demon of Socrates was a cause, not by not preventing, but by exhorting, even if (strictly speaking) he did not exhort. And neither praises nor censures, neither rewards nor punishments, are right, when the soul has not the power of inclination and disinclination, but evil is involuntary. Whence he who prevents is a cause; while he who prevents not judges justly the souls choice. So in no respect is God the author of evil. But since free choice and inclination originate sins, and a mistaken judgment sometimes prevails, from which, since it is ignorance and stupidity, we do not take pains to recede, punishments are rightly inflicted. For to take fever is involuntary; but when one takes fever through his own fault, from excess, we blame him. Inasmuch, then, as evil is involuntary, for no one prefers evil as evil; but induced by the pleasure that is in it, and imagining it good, considers it desirable; such being the case, to free ourselves from ignorance, and from evil and voluptuous choice, and above all, to withhold our assent from those delusive fantasies, depends on ourselves. The devil is called thief and robber having mixed false prophets with the prophets, as tares with the wheat. All, then, that came before the Lord, were thieves and robbers; not absolutely all men, but all the false prophets, and all who were not properly sent by Him. For the false prophets possessed the prophetic name dishonestly, being prophets, but prophets of the liar. For the Lord says, Ye are of your father the devil; and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.

But among the lies, the false prophets also told some true things. And in reality they prophesied in an ecstasy, as the servants of the apostate. And the Shepherd, the angel of repentance, says to Hermas, of the false prophet: For he speaks some truths. For the devil fills him with his own spirit, if perchance he may be able to cast down any one from what is right. All things, therefore, are dispensed from heaven for good, that by the Church may be made known the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal foreknowledge, which He purposed in Christ. Nothing withstands God: nothing opposes Him: seeing He is Lord and omnipotent. Further, the counsels and activities of those who have rebelled, being

pg. 183

the bride, if I nave received pledges, if I have been redeemed at the price of that blood, do hear the voice of the Bridegroom; and I do hear the voice of the Bridegrooms friend too, if he give glory to my Bridegroom, not to himself. Let the friend speak: He that hath the bride is the Bridegroom; but the friend of the Bridegroom standeth and heareth Him, and rejoices greatly because of the voice of the Bridegroom. Behold, thou hast sacraments; and I grant that thou hast. Thou hast the form, but thou art a branch cut off from the vine; thou hast a form, I want the root. There is no fruit of the form, except where there is a root; but where is the root but in charity? Hear the form of the cut-off branches; let Paul speak: Though I know all mysteries, saith he, and have all prophecy, and all faith (and how great a faith!), so as to remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

17. Let no man tell you fables, then. Pontius wrought a miracle; and Donatus prayed, and God answered him from heaven. In the first place, either they are deceived, or they deceive. In the last place, grant that he removes mountains: And have not charity, saith the apostle, I am nothing. Let us see whether he has charity. I would believe that he had, if he had not divided unity. For against those whom I may call marvel-workers, my God has put me on my guard, saying, In the last times there shall arise false prophets, doing signs and wonders, to lead into error, if it were possible, even the elect: Lo, I have foretold it to you. Therefore the Bridegroom has cautioned us, that we ought not to be deceived even by miracles. Sometimes, indeed, a deserter frightens a plain countryman; but whether he is of the camp, and whether he is the better of that character with which he is marked, is what he who would not be frightened or seduced attends to. Let us then, my brethren, hold unity: without unity, even he who works miracles is nothing. The people Israel was in unity, and yet wrought no miracles: Pharaohs magicians were out of unity, and yet they wrought the like works as Moses. The people Israel, as I have said, wrought no miracles. Who were saved with God õ they who did, or they who did not, work miracles? The Apostle Peter raised a dead person: Simon Magus did many things: there were there certain Christians who were not able to do either what Peter did or what Simon did; and wherein did they rejoice? In this, that their names were written in heaven.

pg. 35

Martin is tempted by the Wiles of the Devil

IT was found, again, that about the same time there was a young man in Spain, who, having by many signs obtained for himself authority among the people, was puffed up to such a pitch that he gave himself out as being Elias. And when multitudes had too readily believed this, he went on to say that he was actually Christ; and he succeeded so well even in this delusion that a certain bishop named Rufus worshipped him as being the Lord. For so doing, we have seen this bishop at a later date deprived of his office. Many of the brethren have also informed me that at the same time one arose in the East, who boasted that he was John. We may infer from this, since false prophets of such a kind have appeared, that the coming of Antichrist is at hand; for he is already practicing in these persons the mystery of iniquity. And truly I think this point should not be passed over, with what arts the devil about this very time tempted Martin. For, on a certain day, prayer having been previously offered, and the fiend himself being surrounded by a purple light, in order that he might the more easily deceive people by the brilliance of the splendor assumed, clothed also in a royal robe, and with a crown of precious stones and gold encircling his head, his shoes too being inlaid with gold, while he presented a tranquil countenance, and a generally rejoicing aspect, so that no such thought as that he was the devil might be entertained he stood by the side of Martin as he was praying in his cell. The saint being dazzled by his first appearance, both preserved a long and deep silence. This was first broken by the devil, who said: Acknowledge, Martin, who it is that you behold. I am Christ; and being just about to descend to earth, I wished first to manifest myself to thee. When Martin kept silence on hearing these words, and gave no answer whatever, the devil dared to repeat his audacious declaration: Martin, why do you hesitate to believe, when you see? I am Christ. Then Martin, the Spirit revealing the truth to him, that he might understand it was the devil, and not God, replied as follows: The Lord Jesus did not predict that he would come clothed in purple, and with a glittering crown upon his head. I will not believe that Christ has come, unless he appears with that appearance and form in which he suffered, and openly displaying the marks of his wounds upon the cross.

pg. 240



But Apelles, sprung from these, thus expresses himself, (saying) that there is a certain good Deity, as also Marcion supposed, and that he who created all things is just. Now he, (according to Apelles,) was the Demiurge of generated entities. And (this heretic also main-rains) that there is a third (Deity), the one who was in the habit of speaking to Moses, and that this (God) was of a fiery nature, and that there was another fourth God, a cause of evils. But these he denominates angels. He utters, however, slanders against law and prophets, by alleging that the things that have been written are (of) human (origin), and are false. And (Apelles) selects from the Gospels or (from the writings of) the Apostle (Paul) whatever pleases himself, But he devotes himself to the discourses of a certain Philumene as to the revelations of a prophetess. He affirms, however, that Christ descended from the power above; that is, from the good (Deity), and that he is the son of that good (Deity). And (he asserts that Jesus) was not born of a virgin, and that when he did appear he was not devoid of flesh. (He maintains,) however, that (Christ) formed his booty by taking portions of it from the substance of the universe: that is, hot and cold, and moist and dry. And (he says that Christ), on receiving in this body cosmical powers, lived for the time he did in (this) world. But (he held that Jesus) was subsequently crucified by the Jews, and expired, and that, being raised Up after three days, he appeared to his disciples. And (the Savior) showed them, (so Apelles taught,) the prints of the nails and (the wound) in his side, desirous of persuading them that he was in truth no. . .

pg. 513


But a companion was created along with him, a female nature, much differing from him, as quality from substance, as the moon from the sun, as fire from light. She, as a female ruling the present world as her like, was entrusted to be the first prophetess, announcing prophecy with all amongst those born of woman? But the other, as the son of man, being a male, prophesies better things to the world to come as a male.


Let us then understand that there are two kinds of prophecy: the one male; and let it be defined that the first, being the male, has been ranked after the other in the order of advent; but the second, being female, has been appointed to come first in the advent of the pairs. This second, therefore, being amongst those born of woman, as the female superintendent of this present world, wishes to be thought masculine. Wherefore, stealing the l seeds of the male, and sowing them with her own seeds of the flesh, she brings forth the fruits that is, words as wholly her own. And she promises that she will give the present earthly riches as a dowry, wishing to change the slow for the swift, the small for the greater.


However, she, not only presuming to say and to hear that there are many gods, but also believing herself to be one, and in hope of king that which she had not a nature to be, and throwing away what she had, and as a female being in her courses at the offering of sacrifices, is stained with blood; and then she pollutes those who touch her. But when she conceives and brings forth temporary kings, she stirs up wars, shedding much blood;
pg. 514

and those who desire to learn truth from her, by telling them all things contrary, and presenting many and various services, she keeps them always seeking and finding nothing, even until death. For from the beginning a cause of death lies upon blind men; for she, prophesying deceit, and ambiguities, and obliquities, deceives those who believe her.

pg. 378

The Manner in which Apollonius refuted the Phrygians, and the Persons whom he mentions

AS the so-called Phrygian heresy was still flourishing in Phrygia in his time, Apollonius also, an ecclesiastical writer, undertook its refutation, and wrote a special work against it, correcting in detail the false prophecies current among them and reproving the life of the founders of the heresy. But hear his own words respecting Montanus:

His actions and his teaching show who this new teacher is. This is he who taught the dissolution of marriage; who made laws for fasting; who named Pepuza and Tymion, small towns in Phrygia, Jerusalem, wishing to gather people to them from all directions; who appointed collectors of money; who contrived the receiving of gifts under the name of offerings; who provided salaries for those who preached his doctrine, that its teaching might prevail through gluttony.

He writes thus concerning Montanus; and a little farther on he writes as follows concerning his prophetesses: We show that these first prophetesses themselves, as soon as they were filled with the Spirit, abandoned their husbands. How falsely therefore they speak who call Prisca a virgin.Ñ

Afterwards he says: Does not all Scripture seem to you to forbid a prophet to receive gifts and money? When therefore I see the prophetess receiving gold and silver and costly garments, how can I avoid reproving her?

And again a little farther on he speaks thus concerning one of their confessors: So also Themiso, who was clothed with plausible covetousness, could not endure the sign of confession, but threw aside bonds for an abundance of possessions. Yet, though he should have been humble on this account, he dared to boast as a martyr, and in imitation of the apostle, he wrote a certain catholic epistle, to instruct those whose faith was better than his. . .


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