Finding Church (Part 3):Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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18 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    I watched a few “church”services yesterday…the early church would not have recognized what they were doing…

  2. Duane Arnold says:


    Either not recognized what they were doing, or recognized very clearly what they were doing and recoiled in disbelief…

  3. Michael says:

    One of the things I noted was that while the early church seemed to have concern for every member (as you noted above with the deacons taking the Eucharist to homes)there was no way that could happen in these megachurches with the ratio of members to staff.
    I wonder how many deacons were in these early churches and how they decided how many were necessary.

  4. Duane Arnold says:


    A very good question to which we don’t have a definitive answer. Owing to the tradition of seven deacons in Acts (described as either deacons or doing the work of a deacon) some have speculated that this was copied… but for how large a church? In the pre-Constantinian era, individual churches appear to have been relatively small (25-200) judging by the archaeology. So, it’s really a guessing game…

  5. bob1 says:

    Fascinating! Thanks, Dr. Duane, for this.

  6. Duane Arnold says:


    It’s a pleasure. Thanks for following the series!

  7. UnCCed says:

    Thanks Duane, didn’t think it was possible to be anymore depressed right now after reading what used to happen in the church, and what I’ll probably never see.
    I’m just joking, but not really.
    If anyone else is going to comment a platitude to me or somehow make me the villain, I’ve heard it all.
    I only read about three posters here anyway.

  8. Duane Arnold says:


    I hear you. It sometimes feels like something precious has been stolen…

  9. CM says:


    Excellent series of articles. And for something humorous, I present this:

  10. Just Josh says:

    I don’t think the early church would recognize my church services. We are so far apart, I can’t right now imagine a road back.

    I can only ask of our services, are they honoring Christ? Are they urging believers to Christian love and faithfulness? If our forms and methods are wrong, I pray the grace of God will cover it or lead us in the necessary change. Revelation 3:20 has haunted my imagination for a while now,as I imagine that church singing their songs and reading their scriptures, yet all the while Jesus was locked outside knocking to get in. Anything but that.

    Right now, individual congregations are dividing over masks, american politics, and conspiracy theories. Uniting on the nature and practice of the Eucharist seems a distant dream.

  11. Corby says:

    A few questions.
    1) If I’m looking back at the first Christians, who were born and raised in Judaism, I would presume that their initial model for gathering, leadership, and the “order of service” would have leaned heavily on what they already knew, which was Synagogue, as opposed to starting from scratch in a vacuum. It’s not like they said, “Well, we aren’t Jews anymore, we’re Christians, so we need something totally different.” Do we have anything reliable that goes back that far, pre-gentile, to support or reject that notion?

    2) I’m glad you noted that the title “priest” was introduced late second century. Do we know why? I’m hypothesizing here. Were the titles of episkopos, presbyter, elder, even pastor, unfamiliar “Christian” religious terms to the broader gentile world as the church spread by the end of the second century? Did the church adopt a more secular and more familiar title of priest for reasons of contextualization? Again, guessing, I’m thinking the early church did not use that term because they already had a concept of that in the Jewish Temple and it misrepresented what the leadership was supposed to do or be, since Jesus was/is the High Priest. So I’m wondering if the adoption of the title “priest” was one of convenience. I, personally, don’t care for the title, let alone being called or calling someone “father.” Heck, I hated being called Pastor when I was one.

  12. Duane Arnold says:


    “I don’t think the early church would recognize my church services. We are so far apart, I can’t right now imagine a road back.”

    I think that a big part of Christian ministry, both now and in the years to come, will involve imagining that road back. I don’t think I’ll see it in my life time, but you might…

  13. Duane Arnold says:


    1) By around AD 80, the Church was already predominantly gentile. The idea of a synagogue with a set service is also a post-Temple construct after the time of the Bar-Kobah revolt. The reading of Scripture and commenting upon the text (such as we see in the Gospels) was likely the main thing taken from synagogues of the second Temple period.

    2) ” I’m hypothesizing here.” Yes you are. “Priest” was not “introduced” late second century. That is when we see it being used frequently in the literature, meaning that it was known and used earlier. Knowing the abhorrence that the early Church writers had for the surrounding religious culture, I find the “contextual” idea less than convincing. The term itself, in the Latin, has to do with one set apart to be concerned with holy matters. It was used not to exalt a person, but to reference what they did…

  14. CM says:


    So “priest” was a job description then. Well the Greek word “episkopos” basically describes what the person does “looking (watching?) over” or “looking (watching?) upon.” Which of course developed into the old English word bisceop or biscop. From where we get the word bishop.

  15. Duane Arnold says:


    Exactly… part of the problem is that we tend to look at these issues (even words) through our own modern “lens”…

  16. CM says:


    Was some variant of episkopos used in the various Greek or Roman military works/histories/manuals in setting up the encampments or patrols perhaps? Records of city, seaport, watchmen, etc perhaps?
    Logically a similar word would make sense in those writings.

    Of course there are modern English words that use skopos. For example:


    All the original Greek words would describe the function of each particular instrument.

  17. Duane Arnold says:


    In Lampe’s ‘Patristic Greek Lexicon’, there are over two full pages of uses of the word. In secular Greek usage it referred to any sort of oversight that was inclusive of responsibility. Variants were used for the “over-seeing” eyes of the gods. Interestingly, after adoption by Christians (it’s used five times in the NT, always in regard to an individual with oversight in the Church) the word took on the particular meaning we know today with hundreds of references in the first two centuries of the Christian era…

  18. CM says:


    Thanks for the added details. I figured there were other uses of the term in secular Greek society.

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