Second Century Gospel: Duane W. H. Arnold, PhD

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48 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    The fascinating part of this beyond the fact that there was no settled, easily accessible canon of Scripture…is that the people that wrote about how Christians conducted themselves were not fans of the sect.
    The world saw us as distinct and the distinctions were love and good works…not our view of the empire…

  2. Duane Arnold says:


    Even in the late fourth century, the emperor Julian the Apostate did not fault the conduct of Christians, although he did castigate their beliefs… nothing was said of their politics.

  3. Michael says:

    I think we need to be really clear…Christians were still working out various doctrines…the unchanging bedrock of the faith was their conduct and their message.
    The “word of God” was not a string of canonized words, but the good news about what God has done in Christ.

  4. Nathan Priddis says:

    It’s my assumption that an early Christian (circa- Acts) would not be focused on the Scriptures appart from attending Synagogue or believer’s gatherings. After the Judean War, accessing Scripture, particularly the four Gospels. may have been complicated with Judiaism falling out of favor.

  5. Duane Arnold says:


    Agreed. The development of doctrine is a given… both message and conduct, however, are there from the first assemblies of believers.

  6. Duane Arnold says:


    Not only that, but it really is not until the 130s that the Jewish community came to some agreement on a canon and, at the same time, set aside the LXX which the Christian community had embraced…

  7. Michael says:

    Fidelity to the collected text has replaced a commitment to love in community as our primary boundary marker
    We can manipulate the text to our liking…even to the point of endorsing hate….

  8. Michael says:

    The church has become centered on documents rather than incarnation…thus, it has no problem slipping the Constitution and other political documents inside it’s Scriptures…

  9. Em says:

    Michael @ 8:33
    I sure hope that is not true….
    But this nation was founded by folk who had respect for our scriptures. Sad to think today God and country comingle…
    Just reading O.T. this morning where God is instructing the Jew to keep a clean camp….
    How do we, the Redeemed, function in a secular world today?

  10. Michael says:


    This country was founded mainly by deists.
    Look up the Jefferson Bible…
    As to how we function today…the early church gave us the template.
    I would also commend the first letter of Peter to the “exiles”…it starts with knowing who we are.

  11. Jean says:

    I see in the NT a tremendous reliance on and fidelity to Scripture, in the case of the Apostles, the OT. Moreover, Apostolic letters were treated as Scripture. Based on the Didache, we can find a lot of what is included in the Gospels, particularly Matthew.

    The Word of God is a unique genre of writing, which has power (because it is God-breathed) to convey the grace of God to lost sinners, to free captives to sin, to grant life eternal, to create brothers and sisters of our Lord, to bestow God’s love, which makes lovers of us.

    Without the written Scriptures, God’s love in Christ for fallen sinners would stand unrevealed, his grace and mercy would remain in heaven, no one would have knowledge of Christ, the cross, the resurrection, His ascension, His atonement, etc. All would be damned, no one would have faith, the world would be infinitely worse off than it is today.

    Yes there are too many false teachers, and too many gullible, ignorant and foolish sheep. “But it is not as though the word of God has failed.”

  12. Michael says:


    That is one theology of Scripture…which would have not been known to the early church as they had no such canon yet.
    Without it, they still “turned the world upside down” with the message of what God did in Christ lived out as well as proclaimed.

  13. Em says:

    Too many false teachers, ignorant, gullible sheep? Sad truth
    Few people today respect academic, honest academic discipline…. sig

  14. Em says:

    sig? Ha ha, no… sigh

  15. Em says:

    The written Scripture means nothing to the self absorbed, but if you stand back and think on it, it is God’s miracle that it HAS survived..

  16. Duane Arnold says:


    With regard to the Didache, you bring up an interesting point. The is an overlap with Matthew, although it also contains sayings of Jesus not in the synoptics. So, did Matthew and the Didache have a common source? Was there an interdependence? We don’t know because we don’t have the manuscript evidence…

    Additionally, many of the sayings of Jesus in the Apostolic Fathers do not correspond readily to the synoptics. It appears that much was in flux in this period. This does not diminish the Gospels in any way, but there was a process …

  17. josh hamrick says:

    Great article!

    I don’t think the take-away is to be less “document-centered”. The early ones we speak of are the very same ones who spoke, wrote, codified, and canonized the text that we have today. It is completely abuseable, but it is also all we have.

  18. Duane Arnold says:


    My take away is that lacking a four-Gospel canon they defined the “Gospel” in terms of the proclamation of God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and living the Gospel in their conduct…

  19. josh hamrick says:

    Oh yes, but I also think it fallacy to say they weren’t as dependent on scripture. They saw Christ in the Old Testament, while speaking the New Testament themselves. We only need the written documents because they aren’t alive to tell us. Again though, that doesn’t diminish the written documents that we have. We have exactly what those first believers wanted us to have!

  20. Duane Arnold says:


    They had contact with the LXX, but access to what we now know as New Testament writings was fragmentary during most of this time…

  21. Michael says:

    I don’t think they were nearly as dependent on Scripture as we claim to be…even access to the OT canon was limited.
    This is not to diminish what we have…but I certainly see it differently than I did before.
    An” inspired” text without “inspired” interpretation is a recipe for the chaos we have today.

    I’m much more concerned as a pastor that my flock embrace the holistic message of what God has done in Christ and live out that then how well they can do in a Bible quiz.

  22. josh hamrick says:

    Fragmentary, obviously, but the Apostles were speaking the documents, and their speech was carried on through oral tradition. I think we also err when we assume the written word is the only accurate form of historical recording.

    I’m not sure how the holistic message can be discovered without the Scriptures that we have.

  23. Duane Arnold says:


    All of this has not even touched on the issue of literacy… We see so much of this in terms of our own contemporary experience, which was not the experience of the early Church.

  24. Duane Arnold says:


    Oral tradition indeed! Take a look at James Dunn, you’ll like it, I think.

  25. Michael says:


    I am not diminishing the value of what we have, but asserting that without the conduct and heart proscribed in Scripture they will lack authority and power in the world.

  26. josh hamrick says:

    “issue of literacy”

    This is really part of where I’m pointing. Written word has not always been held superior to the spoken, and I think that’s one of our issues in understanding the transmission of scripture.

    Dunn – a specific title?

  27. josh hamrick says:

    Michael, no doubt, and to be clear, I was accusing you, personally, of diminishing scripture.

  28. josh hamrick says:

    I was NOT accusing you…NOT!!

    Geez, typos.

  29. Duane Arnold says:


    The Oral Gospel Tradition (in the article, BTW 😁)

  30. Michael says:


    It’s all good. 🙂
    I still teach verse by verse through the book…but the older I get the more I realize that without living it, I may as well be quiet.
    There are giant themes that I was never taught…

  31. josh hamrick says:

    “Recently, after re-reading James Dunn’s book, ‘The Oral Gospel Tradition’”

    Duh 🙂 Missed it twice.

  32. Xenia Moos says:

    All to say, the early Church wasn’t all about Bible studies, whereas Bible study is all some groups have to offer today.

    I know too many people who sneer at church attendance and say they are content with Bible study at home. To me, that’s like getting a new blender and spending all your time reading the instructions and never making a smoothie.

  33. Em says:

    While we are told to not forsake assembling, we are also told to renew our minds – the washing of the Wod
    We do need more good teachers, guidance in comparing Scrip Scripture with Scripture
    That said, any honestly, humble prayerful reading of our Bible will go far to the renewing of our minds…
    My question these days is, can some of the O.T. directions to Israel as a nation apply to the Church today?
    I firmly believe secular government can be influenced by the Church, but we don’t control it….

  34. Xenia Moos says:

    Does “word” refer to the Scriptures or does it refer to Christ?

  35. Michael says:


    Both, and…

  36. Michael says:

    Why do we need to refer to the OT when it was fulfilled in Christ?
    If we all took on the first three chapters of 1 Peter,…or the Sermon On the Mount… we’d change the world…

  37. Duane Arnold says:


    Perhaps the problem is that we don’t want to change the world… we want to make it more comfortable for our presuppositions and prejudices. Much of the appeal to Scripture is mere window dressing… and that is a tragedy.

  38. Michael says:



  39. Michael says:


    I completely understand the fact that many have issues with church attendance.
    However, the Scriptures they claim to own demand that faith be lived out in a faithful community…

  40. Em says:

    Dr. Duane @ 11:44
    Observation is an XLNT ponder ! ! !

  41. Jean says:

    “I know too many people who sneer at church attendance and say they are content with Bible study at home. To me, that’s like getting a new blender and spending all your time reading the instructions and never making a smoothie.”

    It’s actually worse! One cannot remain (or abide) in the true Vine if he or she despises the body of Christ and the place where He has promised His presence.

  42. Jean says:

    God’s grace was never ordered by God to be self-administered.

  43. josh hamrick says:


    Fun while it lasted. Checking out 🙂

    Good article Duane!

  44. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks…

  45. Michael says:

    I think distinctions can be made between attending a building and being part of a worshipping community.

  46. Em says:

    Xenia @ 11:15 yesterday
    Agree with Michael – both – context again

  47. Bruce Mumper says:

    Duane and Michael,
    I appreciate your article and your observations related to it.
    “Little children, love one another.”

  48. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks…

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