c. 4 b.c. - 31 a.d.
The Incarnation, Birth, Life, Ministry, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Pentecost.
The Miracle of the Living Word is one without beginning and without end, that was revealed when God spoke and has never ceased, from the original “let there be” to the last sentence written in the book of Revelation and beyond. For thousands of years—from the Patriarchs and Prophets of the Old Testament to the Apostles of the New—God has never ceased to deliver His words to mankind, not only inspiring them but preserving and keeping them so that they could be passed down to us today as what we call the written Word.
Two centuries before the coming of Christ in the land of Egypt, the Pharaoh King Ptolemy was approached by his chief librarian with a problem. By the commission of the Pharaoh, books were presently being brought from all over the world and translated into Greek for inclusion into the famed Library of Alexandria, with the end that if possible, it could contain a copy of every book that had ever been written in the world1. However there was one unequaled set of works that, despite the great desire of the librarian to possess, could not be read or understood by any of the translators of the Library of Alexandria: this was the Law and the Prophets of the Jews, what we know today as the Old Testament. These works—which we know to have been inspired by God, penned by His prophets, and preserved by His people—had only ever been made available in Hebrew, and if a translation was to be undertaken, it could only be done by the Jews themselves. With this in mind and with a great desire to attain these holy books, the Pharaoh set out to seek the help of the Temple in Jerusalem.
He set free more than 120,000 Jews that were slaves in Egypt—paying their freedom price from his own coffers—and sent great gifts and offerings to the Temple of Jerusalem, asking that the High Priest could send translators to Egypt to produce this translation. After great rejoicing in Jerusalem, 70 rabbis were sent to Egypt and they meticulously translated the Old Testament in its entirety into the Greek. This translation came to be known as the Septuagint, meaning “The Seventy”, and finally supplied the many Hellenistic and the Greek-speaking Jews with access to the Holy Scriptures. The Jewish presence in the Greek-speaking world grew considerably because of the presence of these Scriptures and the Gentile world received a primer—a preview of what was to come when Jesus arrived. The Jewish community in Egypt alone became so large that during the time of Jesus’ infancy it is said they possessed a temple in Egypt that nearly rivaled the one in Jerusalem2.
And so, hundreds of years later, when the Day of Pentecost came, Jews and proselytes and pious men could travel from all over the world and marvel at the wonderful works of God, spoken in their own diverse native tongues—the Living Word of God they may have heard read every Sabbath in their respective synagogues.
“And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? ...we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”Acts 2:7-8,11
On that pivotal day, the immediate, supernatural expression and proclamation of the Good News took place through the agency of the consecrated, empowered, and redeemed human vessels that were baptized with the Holy Spirit and imbued with power on the day of Pentecost. That hour of appointment imparted the new nature to the hearts of multitudes, piercing the conscience of men and women, and leading St. Peter to declare boldly that this was the beginning of an outpouring that had been prophesied by the prophet Joel—a launching that had been prepared through the Gospel message of Christ’s earthly mission, death, resurrection, Lordship, and His outpouring of the gift of the Holy Spirit that endowed mankind with “this, which ye now see and hear.” At the beckoning of this miraculous message, the people asked unto Peter and the rest of the Apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” and Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”3,4
“Understanding this first, that no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation. For prophecy came not by the will of man at any time: but the holy men of God spoke, inspired by the Holy Ghost.”2 Peter 1:20-21 DRA
It is important to perceive that in the dawn of this New Testament era of empowerment, the initial expression of the Lordship of Christ was spoken, taught, preached, and declared as the almighty Holy Spirit poured it out in the form of words that flowed like streams of living waters through the supernaturally initiated Body of believers, the Church. Our Savior, the Lord Jesus, the Christ declared, “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,”5 directing His disciples to attentively expect the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, saying, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth,”6 “he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you,”7 and “he will shew you things to come”8 “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”9
We are heirs of an empowerment that was delivered to the original apostolic generation—an empowerment that begins with the inspiration and direction of Almighty God, is expressed through supernatural words of boldness and courage, and is immediately demonstrated and confirmed by the power of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul refers to such performance saying, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.”10 and, “God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.”11 In this way, words of impartation that stir the conscience of man to receive the Lordship of Christ are accompanied with the miraculous power that the Lord has entrusted the Church with. Such famed words—spoken before they were ever written—include St. Peter’s and St. John’s declaration to the man at the gate called Beautiful: “such as I have give I unto you.”12 These words delivered a miraculous healing into his physical body, raising him up out of the affliction he had lived in since his birth.
The inheritance and continuity of these spiritual gifts was foretold by St. Peter as he quoted from the prophet Joel, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”13 This supernatural aid from the Holy Spirit is certain to accompany the teaching, preaching, and testimony of the Lordship of Christ through the lives of His followers, words as a means of connection and deposit.
St. Paul directs his son in the faith, Timothy, to “stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands” 14 and previously refers to a gift that Timothy received via prophecy15. We can clearly see the supernatural transference and impartation of spiritual gifts taking place in the Church. As the Mysteries work together with speech, teaching, prophecy, and apostolic impartation in this early community of believers, we see the grace of God manifested and experienced in the lives of the chosen as a result of continuing in the apostles’ doctrine, breaking bread, prayers, and fellowship.
Prior to the writings of the New Testament, the teaching of the Apostolic Church was shared through stories of the Gospel, remembering and rehearsing the words of the Lord, and expounding from the Old Testament Scriptures all the things pertaining to the Lord. St. Paul referred to ministering by doctrine, revelation, knowledge, and prophecy.16 These are four means of spreading the Gospel that were employed readily all over the world at this time.
This supernatural mystery of speech continued, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, to operate powerfully through the Lord’s authorized agents: the Apostles and the disciples carrying the power of the spoken, Living Word to the lives of humanity, accompanied with signs, wonders, miracles, and deliverance from evil spirits, and adding to the number of disciples across geographical borders.
The Holy, New Testament Scriptures, as preserved and collected, were the outcome and the record of what was declared, preached, known, and practiced among the primitive or ancient church communities.
In Jerusalem, in Antioch, in Egypt, in Africa, in India, and in the far regions of the Earth, the original apostolic generation built churches and personally trained disciples, they passed onto their own disciples the very truths that had been preached to them directly by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and they imparted to them the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth who had breathed life and power into those same words in their own lives, so that they too could carry the Word and the Power of the Gospel of Christ.
This hands-on training, coupled with the written records of the Gospels, the Epistles, and other writings of the Apostles, gave birth to the very first generation of the early Church. Among these early believers were Doctors and leaders of the Church who would go on themselves to train believers, work in miracles, to write, and to quote extensively from the Scriptures handed down directly to them by their teachers.
These genuine written records—the Gospels, The Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles—were no doubt highly valued and sought after by every major church, and individual believers of means, so that they could obtain a copy of the inspired Word of God in a written form. Many of these works were written to specific churches, and lacking any formal, predetermined method of distribution, would be delivered by a courier or authorized delegate directly into the hands of the intended Christian party. This is a miracle indeed, for within a short period of time, the circulation of accurate, indisputable copies of this Holy Writ would be found in the churches of Antioch, Thessalonika, Corinth, Asia Minor, Rome, and all of Christendom—supplying the Church with the complete collection of New Testament writing, to share in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, India, Persia, Syria, and all over the inhabited world.
The torch was passed from the mighty men who were appointed by Jesus Himself in His earthly ministry to great men and women of God whom they had trained, whom God had called out by the Holy Ghost, and set apart to be apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, and leaders in His Body17. These inheritors did not just carry the written words of the Apostles—the same New Testament Scriptures that have been reliably handed down to us today—but they carried the powerful spoken Word that had been taught directly to them by those same disciples and the supernatural impartations of their ministries. These early believers included men like St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp of Smyrna, who were direct disciples of the Apostle St. John himself. St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp wrote extensively during their lifetimes concerning the Faith that John had passed down to them, quoting from many of the Gospels and other New Testament writings, including the Gospel of St. John, their teacher. They were far from the only ones from their period who wrote, and whose writings have survived to be passed down to us today. In fact, as we examine the activities of the heroes of the First, Second, and Third Centuries among the leaders of Christendom, we find numerous extant writings that refute heresies, non-orthodox principles, and unbiblical and unscriptural interpretations, quoting extensively from the epistles and the Gospels. These were men who possessed not only the written Word, but the direct teaching and training of the followers and eye witnesses of Jesus. These were not uninformed men, but men intimately familiar with the character, power, and ministry of Jesus and His Apostles, who did not simply receive the Gospel, but were raised up in it and in turn, handed it down in an undiminished form to their respective heirs.
It is thanks to this unbroken line that we have an unshakable assurance to the purity and veracity of the written Word that has been passed down to us today—a Word that has been preserved untainted, carried and protected by the community of believers that were trained directly by the Apostles, the very Apostles who first put that Word on record. This is not a conjecture, but is recorded and proved by numerous written testimonies and surviving records from the earliest years of the Church, and is accepted universally by reputable scholars both Christian and otherwise.18
This Miracle of the Living Word is one that God has not only inspired, put on record, and preserved to be handed down to us today, but one that He continues to breathe upon with His Spirit, so that it lives anew in the hearts and in the hands of believers as they carry the same ministry, the same impartation, and the same miracles that the prophets saw, the Apostles carried, and that the Lord Himself performed in His earthly ministry. This Miracle is a Supernatural, Prophetic, and Apostolic Inheritance that was inspired by God, spoken by empowered men, put on record by His Apostles and disciples, passed down by His Body, the Church, and continues to be backed up and proved by His miraculous working, so that today we have a sure foundation, built upon the Rock of the recorded, spoken, and empowered Words of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, His prophets, His Apostles, His people, and the entire family of God.
“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth.”St. Peter
“And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”St. Paul
c. 4 b.c. - 31 a.d.
The Incarnation, Birth, Life, Ministry, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Pentecost.
c. 46 a.d.
St. Paul, set forth by the Holy Spirit, begins his missionary journeys.
The majority of the Books of the New Testament, beginning with the Epistles of Paul, followed by the Gospels, the Universal (or “General”) Epistles, and finally The Apocalypse of John, are penned by the Apostles and their scribes in nations spread across the globe. The Gospel of Matthew is originally composed in Aramaic as early as 50 a.d., and is later translated to Greek. Most of the other books are available in Greek and Aramaic, even in this early period.
c. 64 a.d.
St. Paul and St. Peter are martyred at Rome.
The imperial Roman army ruthlessly destroys the Holy City, Jerusalem, crucifying hundreds upon hundreds around the walls outside the city during and after the siege.
The final books of the New Testament—the Gospel of John, and the Epistles of John—are completed by the Apostle St. John, at Ephesus in Asia Minor.
St. Clement, Bishop in Rome, sends an epistle to the Corinthians which quotes extensively from numerous New Testament books, including Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Hebrews, the Acts of the Apostles, James, and First Peter, urging them to “take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle”—meaning the epistle sent to them, the Corinthians—and to remember the words of Jesus.19
St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, and St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna—both direct disciples of the Apostle John—write epistles that quote the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John. St. Ignatius is the first writer on record to use the holy term “it is written” when quoting from a New Testament book.20,21
St. Ignatius is martyred.
c. 120 a.d.
The Didache, an authentic early work on proper baptism, communion, worship, and liturgy (order of service) is written and sent out as a manual to church leaders. It relies extensively on the books of the New Testament, especially the Gospel of Matthew.
The Muratorian Canon is originally recorded in Greek, the portion that has survived until today records the names and histories of the books of almost the entirety of the New Testament, affirming the apostolic authorship of all of the Gospels, all of Paul’s epistles, Jude, the epistles of John, and Revelation.
St. Polycarp is martyred.
c. 190 a.d.
The translation of the New Testament Scriptures into the Sahidic dialect of the Coptic Egyptian Language. By this time, the Church has already been in Egypt for 140 years.
c. 200 a.d.
Respected Biblical scholars are reliably quoting from and basing their works upon the same 27 books of the New Testament that have been passed down to us today.22
303 - 313 a.d.
The Diocletian Persecution, also known as “The Great Persecution.” This period marks the final and most severe persecution of Christians under the Roman Empire. Christians are universally stripped of their rights as citizens unless they renounce their beliefs, and many are imprisoned and martyred. This is the final stretch of the persecutions that had lasted almost 300 years from the birth of Christianity, and is ended with the Edict of Milan in 313, which legalizes Christianity and gives Christians equal rights within the empire.
St. Pamphilus of Caesarea, a Phoenician born at Berytus, in modern-day Lebanon, and a collector of sacred literature is martyred. Pamphilus had dedicated his life to the gathering and protecting of holy Christian writings, and had gathered Biblical manuscripts from all over the world. His collection would be passed onto Eusebius and become one of the most important Christian libraries of the ancient world.23
Eusebius, “The Father of Church History”, completes the first eight books of his Ecclesiastical History, covering extensively the first 300 years of the Church, from the life of Christ until his time.
c. 319 a.d.
The young St. Athanasius, later Patriarch of Alexandria and Africa, and famed Doctor of the Church, completes his work Against the Heathen—On the Incarnation, quoting extensively from the New Testament Scriptures with a special emphasis on the Gospel of John and the Epistles of Paul. St. Athanasius wrote in Coptic, as well as Greek.
The First Ecumenical Council is held in Nicaea in the Near East, following the legalization of Christianity. Bishops travel from every known nation and every Christian see of the world, representing the entirety of Pre-Denominational Christendom, to confirm and reaffirm the indisputable truths of the shared Apostolic Faith. It is here that the Nicene Creed is initially composed by all of Christianity, in agreement, to stand as a statement of the Orthodoxy of the Unchanging Faith of all true believers.
Eusebius, now head of the Theological Library of Caesarea Maritima in the Middle East, is commissioned to produce 50 Bibles in the Greek language, for use by the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Churches in the new city for public reading. “I have thought it expedient to instruct your Prudence to order fifty copies of the sacred Scriptures, the provision and use of which you know to be most needful for the instruction of the Church, to be written on prepared parchment in a legible manner, and in a convenient, portable form, by professional transcribers thoroughly practiced in their art.” - Emperor Constantine
c. 340 a.d.
St. Frumentius, called the Apostle of Ethiopia, is ordained Bishop of Ethiopia by St. Athanasius. St. Frumentius and his brother Edesius—Syro-Phoenicians born at Tyre in modern-day Lebanon—were captured while on a journey and brought to Ethiopia against their will, but miraculously ended up in the household of the king serving as educators for his young heir, and instructed him in the way of the Gospel. Upon being freed by the King, Frumentius did not return to his homeland, but because of the love he had gained for the Ethiopian people, instead traveled to Alexandria seeking missionaries and returned to Ethiopia, bringing the Gospel with him. St. Frumentius would go on to baptize the King of Ethiopia, convert the nation to Christianity, expand the local Ge’ez script with the addition of vowels, and produce the first Ethiopian Translation of the Bible.
c. 350 a.d.
Wulfila, Bishop of the Goths, creates the Gothic alphabet and translates the Scriptures into Gothic in what is now Bulgaria. Gothic had no written form or written literature prior.
c. 360 a.d.
St. Ephrem the Syrian produces a large body of Aramaic hymns, poetry, Biblical exegesis, and sermons written in verse. Not only are these works beloved by the Aramaic-speaking Christians of the East, but they go on to have an immeasurable influence on the poetry and writing of the region for many centuries, continuing even into modern times.
St. Athanasius, now Patriarch of Alexandria and Africa, writes a pascal letter concerning the books of the Holy Scripture, “...as they who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word, delivered to the fathers,” describing the books that have—from the beginning of the Church—been passed down and recognized as legitimate works of the Apostles. The 27 New Testament books he describes are identical to the Scripture that has been handed down to us today.24
c. 380 a.d.
The great orator St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, states, “the doctrine of St. John (saith he) did not in such sort (as the Philosophers did) vanish away: but the Syrians, Egyptians, Indians, Persians. Ethiopians, and infinite other nations being barbarous people, translated it into their (mother) tongue, and have learned to be (true) Philosophers (he meaneth Christians).25”
St. Jerome sets out to produce a definitive Latin translation of the Holy Scriptures—drawing from original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic manuscripts as well as a great number of older Latin translations and fragments—for the purpose of reading in the Latin speaking communities common in the empire at that time.
c. 390 a.d.
St. Maroun travels the mountains in the area of Syria performing miracles and preaching the Gospel. He lives as a hermit monk, but as his renown spreads across the Middle East, people begin to travel from all around in order to hear his preaching and to receive miracles. His many followers go on to be called the “Maronites” after his death in 410, and spread across the East and into Lebanon, where they still make up the strongest Christian presence in the Middle East today.
The Third Council of Carthage is held in North Africa and presided over by the Phoenician Punic Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine. The council, like many of the councils held in the region of North Africa in the late 300s, unanimously issues a formal statement confirming the authentic, apostolic Canon of Scripture, as a rejection of the many spurious and pseudepigraphical works of the era, written by heretics and non-Christians and fraudulently attributed, posthumously to the Apostles.
St. John Chrysostom sends a letter to St. Maroun, his friend, that reads: “To Maroun, presbyter and monk: We are bound together with you by love and by disposition, and we see you here as if you are present. For such is the vision of love: not cut off by a road, not faded by time. And we also wanted to send letters to you more frequently your Reverence, but because this is not easily possible on account of the difficulty of the road and the lack of travelers, whenever it is possible we greet your Dignity and we make known to you that we keep you in our memory continuously, carrying you around in our soul, wherever we are. Inform us then also yourself about your health more frequently, so that though separated in body, when constantly learning the state of your strength, we may lift our spirits, and though residing in isolation, we may receive much consolation. For hearing about your health conveys no small joy to us. And above all, be so kind as to pray for us.”26
St. Mesrop Mashtots creates the Armenian Alphabet for the purpose of translating the Scriptures into Armenian, a language that had no proper written form to translate the Scriptures to prior. He would go on to create both the Georgian, and the Caucasian Albanian alphabets so that the Scriptures could be translated into those languages as well.
The first Armenian translation of the Bible is completed from the original Aramaic.
Theodoret of Cyrus, the Antiochian Bishop states, “Every Country that is under the Sun, is full of these words (the Apostles and Prophets) and the Hebrew tongue (the Scriptures in the Hebrew tongue) is turned not only into the Language of the Greeks, but also of the Romans, and Egyptians, and Persians, and Indians, and Armenians, and Scythians, and Sauromatians, and briefly into all the Languages that any Nation useth.”27
The fall of the Roman Empire.
c. 638 a.d.
The Theological Library of Caesarea Maritima is destroyed by the invading Muslims after Caesarea is captured during the beginning of the Muslim Conquest of the Middle East.
St. John Maroun is appointed as the first Maronite Patriarch of the See of Antioch, the oldest See in Christendom. St. John Maroun was known for miracles just as St. Maroun was before him, and during the upheaval of the Muslim Conquest of the Middle East he traveled throughout the lands of Syria and Lebanon preaching, healing the sick, and even involving himself in combat to protect the ancient lands and populations of Christians in the region. He is remembered as a great religious and civil leader and founded the first Maronite Patriarchate in the mountains of Lebanon.
The Bible is translated into Arabic, a Semitic language descended from the Aramaic. The Arabic alphabet was not completed in its classical form until the 7th Century.
c. 720 a.d.
The Venerable St. Bede in England translates a great portion of the Scripture into the native Saxon.
Sts. Cyril and Methodius begin translating the Bible into the language of the native Slavs. They create the Cyrillic alphabet and produce the very first written literature in the Slavic language. The Cyrillic alphabet (named for St. Cyril) and its variants are still used today for dozens of languages, including Russian, a descendant of the Old Slavonic.
c. 900 a.d.
Waldo, Bishop of Friesing translates the Scriptures into Dutch, this translation was extant at the time that the translation of the King James Bible was undertaken in the 1600s.
The Wessex Gospels, translations of all four Gospels into Anglo-Saxon “Old English”, are completed. The “English” of this period is mutually unintelligible to Middle, and Modern English speakers of later periods.
c. 1160 a.d.
First recorded translation of the Scriptures into French.
With the gradual transition from Middle to Modern English there arose a desire for a new and readily accessible English translation, and over a long span, many English translations of the Scriptures were produced. With the invention of the printing press in 1440, these early English Bibles became some of the most broadly distributed Bibles of their time, alongside other printed Bibles, like the Latin Gutenberg Bible (Printed c. 1450) and the Complutensian Polyglot (Completed in 1514), which collected the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Aramaic texts of the Bible into a single set. Notable printed English translations of the Bible from this period include The 1526 Tyndale New Testament, the 1539 Great Bible, the 1557 Geneva Bible, the 1568 Bishops Bible, the 1582 Douay-Rheims English Bible, and the 1611 King James Bible.
Into the Present
With the rise of printed books and the development of modern technologies, the Holy Scripture—long since promulgated and made available in countless languages stretching across the face of the Earth—has continued to envelop the globe, reaching past all linguistic, cultural, political, and geographical bounderies to educate, uplift, and unite the people of God everywhere—a supernatural, Living Record, preserved and handed down to us by the Holy Spirit through Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church.
The above is an excerpt from the treatise On The Holy Mysteries by +Apostle Doctor Christian Harfouche, soon to be made available in limited form to our global leaders.
© 2020 Apostolic Global Church. ISBN: 978-1-888966-50-3. All Rights Reserved.
View more from this series:
The Holy Mysteries