A recent letter by Dr James Hardy (‘Christianity is best expressed in mercy and love rather than spending money on church buildings,’ August 17), makes reference to St Patrick and the cost of keeping ecclesiastical buildings like Down Cathedral in Downpatrick.
After the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD there were no attempts by the early Christians to erect edifices in honour of their new religion.
It was a living faith, largely under persecution, and people gathered where it was convenient and safe, often in homes or a suitable public building, no more ornate than a contemporary synagogue, or ‘place of meeting.’
God declares in the Bible that He does not dwell in temples made by man and the New Testament reiterates that as believers our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and that collectively the body of believers make up a spiritual temple. The word ‘church’ (‘kehilah’ in Hebrew) literally means ‘congregation,’ not any kind of building.
It is the people, not a place, as it is usually understood modernly.
The veneration and use of elaborate ‘church’ buildings and edifices originated with the merging of Christianity with Roman statehood which led to buildings being modelled on Roman magistrates buildings and other civic architecture.
The Protestant tradition of worship follows on directly from the Roman one, thus the prevalent clergy-led service attended by passive laity, in contradiction to the all-body ministry established by Yeshua (later re-named Jesus) and the apostles in the New Testament.
St Patrick was neither Catholic or Protestant, and the Celtic Christians in Ireland and Britain refused to accept the Roman changes from the Sabbath to Sunday at the Council of Laodicea in 363/364 and of replacing the Passover of the LORD by ‘Easter’ at Nicea in 325 due not only to anti-Jewish sentiment, but which changed the focus from the remembrance of Yeshua’s atoning death as He instructed, to the veneration of the resurrection and also to His birth, with new non-Jewish ‘holy days’ which the Bible did not instruct at all.
The work was accomplished at the Synod of Whitby in 664 when the king of Northumbria accepted the new Roman practices over the older and more Biblical Celtic observances which derived from the churches founded by St John in Asia Minor and the Jewish church in Jerusalem.
St Columbanus from Bangor wrote to the Pope denouncing him as a heretic due to the invention of the new ‘Easter.’
Both he and St Patrick would hardly condone the current Roman system, slightly re-formed, but not completely transformed, from Roman Christianity. The first reformers considered themselves as reformed Catholics, which is technically the position of the Protestant denominational system today.
How else can they Biblically explain the origin of ‘Christ-Mass,’ ‘Holy Week,’ ‘Ash Wednesday,’ ‘Lent’ and a whole host of other Roman observances that are still kept today?
Even Yeshua would not recognise His Own Church with its quasi-Roman tradition, nowhere found in Scripture.
Colin Nevin, Bangor