The Evangelical Universalist Forum

How reliable are the early church fathers(ECF)?

This article claims & argues at length with numerous quotes that:

“Since it has been presumed by many that it is fact to say the early church writers after the death of the last of the 12 apostles, John, were not oneness, I have compiled proof that they were more Modalistic.”

This author also presents a position re anti-Trinitarianism in early church writings:

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears (Acts 20:29-31).

How reliable are the so-called alleged “early church fathers” writings? How seriously should we take these writers? Irenaeus, for example, thought Jesus died as an old man of about 50:

(1) Early Church Fathers erroneously conflate different NT figures with the same name.
John the son of Zebedee, John the Elder, and John the Seer of the Book of Revelation get conflated into “one John.” This gives rise to the false view that John the son of Zebedee lived tto a very old age and took Jesus’ mother to Ephesus, where her house is supposedly on view to tourists. Papias may be right in his tradition that both James and John were martyred. Philip the apostle gets conflated with Philip the Evangelist of the Book of Acts. Mary Magdalene gets conflated with Martha’s sister Mary and then with the prostitute of Luke 7:36-50 (because both she and Martha’s sister Mary anoint Jesus with costly perfume), thus creating the false slander that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.
(2) There is a modern scholarly consensus that none of our 4 Gospels was authored by one of the Twelve, contrary to the patristic consensus.
(3) Eusebius’s list created to vindicate the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession breaks down for the early period. For example, there are 2 lists for the first bishop of Rome, one listing Peter as the first, the other listing an obsure figure Linus as the first. Modern scholars rightly conclude that Linus has been replaced by Peter to link apostolic succession to Jesus’ comment that Peter is the rock on which He will build His church.

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Eusebius reads the ecclesiastical structure of the 4th century into the first century context and that may not be warranted for Rome. Remember, in the first 2 centuries there are no architecturally identifiable church buildings, but rather a series of house churches. So Linus may have been a leader of one of Rome’s house churches, who was later anachronistically elevated to the rank of bishop. LInus is just 1 among many (no one special) who joins Paul in sending greetings to Timothy “Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus , Claudia and all the brothers and sisters (2 Timothy 4:21).,”.

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I think this same question applies to the writings that are said to have come from Moses. He basically said the same thing- " For I know your rebellion and your stiff neck. If today, while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord, then how much more after my death? For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I commanded you."
To think that this corruption did not include inserting their own beliefs into the books of scripture is, IMHO, not being wise to the ways of man. Moses didn’t even trust it. I believe he put the original " Book of the Law" in the ark of the covenant to serve as a witness against those who tried to change it.

Well, I would say that the one and only writing of Clement of Rome (who was born around A.D. 30) and was Paul’s fellow labourer (Philippians 4:3) is just as reliable as any of the other writings who happened to “make it” into Athanasius’ list of writings that comprise our “New Testament.” Athanasius’ list was formed in the 4th century.The only reason that Christians in general do not accept Clement’s letter to the Corinthians is that it was not included in Athanasius’ list.

However, for some unknown reason Protestants (and even the Orthodox Church) do not fully accept Athanasius’ “Old Testament” list. Athanasius included Baruch in his list. The Roman Catholic Bible does include it.