From House Churches To Holy Cathedrals

The early Christians believed that Jesus is the very presence of God. They believed that the body of Christ, the church, constitutes a temple.

When the Lord Jesus was on earth, He made some radically negative statements about the Jewish Temple.' The one that angered many Jews most was His announcement that if the Temple was destroyed, He would build a new one in three days! (See John 2:19-21.) Though Jesus was referring to the Temple that existed in the architectural sense, He was really speaking of His body. Jesus said that after this temple was destroyed, He would raise it up in three days. He was referring to the real temple—the church—which He raised up in Himself on the third day (Ephesians 2:6).

Since Christ has risen, we Christians have become the temple of God. At His resurrection, Christ became a "life-giving spirit" (1 Corinthians 15:45, NIV). Therefore, He could take up residence

"According to Canon Law, a church is a sacred building dedicated to Divine worship for the use of all the faithful and the public exercise of religion." Peter F. Anson, Churches.-Their Plan and Furnishing (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1948), 3. Fox, Pagans and Christians, 71, 207, 27, 347, 355. Fox states that "in modern Christianity, there are more than 1.6 million adults vowed to virginity" (p. 355). They are called nuns and priests.

Stephen also spoke negatively about the Temple. Interestingly, both Jesus and Stephen were charged with the same exact crime-speaking against the Temple (see Mark 14:58; Acts 6:13-14).

in the believers, thus making them His Temple, His house. It is for this reason that the New Testament always reserves the word church (ekklesia) for the people of God. It never uses this word to refer to a building of any sort.

Jesus' act of clearing the Temple not only showed His anger at the money changers' disrespect for the Temple, which was a picture of God's true house, but it also signified that the "Temple worship" of Judaism would be replaced with Himself.' With Jesus' coming, God the Father would no longer be worshipped in a mountain or a temple. He would instead be worshipped in spirit and in reality."

When Christianity was born, it was the only religion on the planet that had no sacred objects, no sacred persons, and no sacred spaces.18 Although surrounded by Jewish synagogues and pagan temples, the early Christians were the only religious people on earth who did not erect sacred buildings for their worship.19 The Christian faith was born in homes, out in courtyards, and along roadsides.20

For the first three centuries, the Christians did not have any special buildings!1 As one scholar put it, "The Christianity that conquered the Roman Empire was essentially a home-centered movement."" Some have argued that this was because the Christians were

John 2:12-22; Mark 2:22. See Oscar Cullman, Early Christian Warship (London: SCM Press, 1969), 72-73, 117. John 4:23. The Bible teaches that the church, the community of the believers, is the real Temple (2 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:21). (t is the living habitation of God on Earth. Worship, therefore, is not spatially located nor extracted from the totality of life. Biblically speaking, the Christians' "holy place" is as omnipresent as their ascended Lord. Worship is not something that happens in a certain place at a certain time. It is a lifestyle. Worship happens in spirit and reality inside of God's people, for that is where God lives today. SeeJ. G. Davies, The Secular Use of Church Buildings (New York: The Seabury Press, 1968), 3-4.

James D. G. Dunn, "The Responsible Congregation, 1 Corinthians 14:26-40," in Charisma and Agape (Rome: Abbey of St. Paul before the Wall, 1983), 235-236.

]i The third-century Christian apologist Minucius Felix wrote, "We have no temples and no altars." The Octavius of Minucius Felix, ch. 32. See also Robert Banks, Paul's Idea of Community(Pea body, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 8-14, 26-46. See Acts 2:46, 8:3, 20:20; Romans 16:3, 5;1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15: Philemon 1:1-2; 2 John 1:10.1t should be noted that on occasion, the Christians used already existing buildings for special and temporary purposes. Solomon's porch and the school of Tyrannus are examples (Acts 5:12, 19:9). Their normal church meetings, however, were always set in a private home. Snyder, Ante Pacem, 166. John A. T. Robinson writes, "in the first three centuries the church had no buildings." See The New Reformation (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1965), 89. a Robert Banks and Julia Banks, The Church Comes Home (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998), 49-50. The house at Dura-Europos was destroyed in AD 256. According to Frank Senn, "Christians of the first several centuries lacked the publicity of the pagan cults. They had no shrines, temples, statues, or sacrifices. They staged no public festivals, dances, musical performances. or pilgrimages. Their central ritual involved a meal that had a domestic origin and setting inherited from Judaism. Indeed, Christians of the first three centuries usually met in private residences that had been converted into suitable gathering spaces for the Christian community This indicates that the ritual bareness of early Christian worship should not be taken as a sign of primitiveness, but rather as a way of emphasizing the spiritual character of Christian worship." Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangel/cal (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), 53.

not permitted to erect church buildings. But that is not true." Meeting in homes was a conscious choice of the early Christians.

As Christian congregations grew in size, they began to remodel their homes to accommodate their growing numbers." One of the most outstanding finds of archaeology is the house of Dura-Europos in modern Syria. This is the earliest identifiable Christian meeting place. It was simply a private home remodeled as a Christian gathering place around AD 232.25

The house at Dura-Europos was essentially a house with a wall torn out between two bedrooms to create a large living room.' With this modification, the house could accommodate about seventy people." Remodeled houses like Dura-Europos cannot rightfully be called "church buildings." They were simply homes that had been refurbished to accommodate larger assemblies." Further, these homes were never called temples, the term that both pagans and Jews used for their sacred spaces. Christians did not begin calling their buildings temples until the fifteenth century.'

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