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History of doctrine of the Treasury of Merits?


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#1 Xenia Moos

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 12:52 AM

Hello,

 

I am participating in an inter-faith discussion on the topic of Christian history.  We have reached the 3rd century and the discussion leader (a Protestant) has written that it was during this time that the idea of the Treasury of Merit first came into use and this is the foundation of the practice of venerating the Saints.  I am thinking he is using historical material written by Catholics who are projecting this doctrine anachronistically back onto the early Church?  Or did the early Church believe in a Treasury of Merits?  I know the Treasury is not an Orthodox doctrine.

 

Thanks for any insight.

 

-Xenia



#2 Kosta

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 03:41 AM

This protestant had no idea what he's talking about. The veneration of the Saints began with the martyrs. The early Christians would commemorate the anniversary of there deaths. This would include a remembrance of them by recounting there heroic stand for the faith which developed into the hagiographies

#3 Xenia Moos

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 05:40 AM

Kosta, thank you for your reply.  Did the idea of a "treasury of merit" trace its history back that far? 



#4 Kosta

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 10:03 AM

What he is probably thinking of were the confessors (those imprisoned and usually facing martyrdom) . In the 3rd century many went and visited these christians in jail and there was a custom that they  were allowed to hear a confession and offer absolution. Tertullian wrote:

 

'Some not being able to find this peace (ecclesiastical foregiveness) in the church, have been accustomed to seek it from the imprisoned martyrs.' (shaff 3.693)

 

 

 

This confession was utilised by the lapsed as many churches during that time did not allow repentance after apostasy.  Cyprian writes that those Christians lapsed due to persecution, if they have certificates from the confessors/ martyrs that they should come to the church and say their confession even to a deacon if the priest is not available:

 

...that they who have received certificates from the martyrs, and may be assisted by their privilege with God, if they should be seized with any misfortune and peril of sickness, should, without waiting for my presence, before any presbyter who might be present, or if a presbyter should not be found and death begins to be imminent, before even a deacon, be able to make confession of their sin, that, with the imposition of hands upon them for repentance, they should come to the Lord with the peace which the martyrs have desired, by their letters to us, to be granted to them (5.293)

 

 

If your familiar with or heard of the controversy over whether to admit back into communion lapsed christians that raged in the Carthage church in the 3rd century you would understand what this was all about.  The certificates were letters by the imprisoned 'soon to be martyrs' imploring bishops that they grant the lapsed peace, that their own suffering is good enough and there is no spite towards his fellow christian who wasn't as strong willed as him in facing the tortures.  I suggest reading Cyprians short epistle with instruction on this matter:

ANF05. Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novatian, Appendix - Christian Classics Ethereal Library

 

This above is most likely what this protestant is refering to. What Im refering to is the veneration of the saints which predates the 3rd century and is explicitly taught from 2nd century sources especially in the Martyrdom of Polycarp written in 155 AD.


Edited by Kosta, 30 January 2014 - 10:15 AM.


#5 Phoebe K.

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 01:15 PM

hi,

 

To add to what has already been said, the consent of a treasury of merit only makes seance in the theology which developed from the eroneus and at times heretical (and i do mean that) thinking of Algustine of Hipo.  The idea of being able to give the overubance of one persons gift to another to cancel out a debt only works is the consept of a legal transation, wether based on the roman law courts or the fudle system (both of these hevaly influenced Latin theology).  The concept is meaningless in the image we have from the fathers as the Church as a hospital and sin as a sickness.

 

The first even inclenation of the idea that some form of legal redress was neccessery came with Algustine of Hipo in the 5th century, being brought out to the fall potencal by Anslem of cantabry in the 11th century.  If you were to be able to ask any of the 3rd centery saints about the conept they would not know what you were talking about, as it is an idea alian to the church of that time as it is to the true church now.

 

Just a word about Algustine of hipo (the only saint Algustine the church knows from this era is Algustine of Cantabury who is a compleatly different person) his theology was hevaly infuenced by his time as a Manicean ( a gnostic hericy) and his reading of the Philophers of Greece.  He also relied on fulti translations as he could not read Greek.  Not that this excuses him as he was in diolog with other theologians of the time who tried to correct him, but he ignored them.

 

Phoebe



#6 Kosta

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 10:31 PM

Well the term 'treasury' and all that is probably more 12-13th centuries. The practise of indulgences as we know it seems to have been formulated by thomas aquinas from what I see. Some of the criticisms of the tale of Theodora and Basil the New is what sounds like indulgences involving a 'treasury' of merits and that writing dates to approximately the 12th century.  



#7 Xenia Moos

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 10:34 PM

Kosta,  thank you very much for your informative replies.  Very helpful!



#8 Xenia Moos

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 03:19 AM

Phoebe, thank you for your very helpful post.  






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