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#1 David Hawthorne

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 01:23 AM

What is the earliest evidence for incense being used in Christian worship? The earliest written evidence I have found is the Apostolic Constitutions which is dated after Nicea and the earliest archaeological evidence may be a reference one Orthodox speaker made to a censer found in a ante-Nicene church c. 250 AD although he did not give any details....

#2 Paul Cowan

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 01:49 AM

Perhaps from the very beginning since we have icons of St. Stephen the protomartyr and archdeacon with a censor. We already know the Jews were using incense since the days before Moses.

Paul

#3 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 07:55 AM

Dear David,

Since the early Christians carried over and modified the ancient Jewish worshipping rites, the use of incense would have been present from the very first. It had by that time already be common in Hebrew worship for many centuries.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#4 Nicolaj

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 08:18 AM

The very first use of incense in worshipping Christ is this:

"9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh."(Matthew 2)


Christos voskrese! Nicolaj

#5 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 11:16 PM

Incense has always been a part of the worship of God. There are many references to the burning of incense in the Old Testament.

Exodus 30:1-8 1 "You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood. A cubit shall be its length and a cubit its width—it shall be square—and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it... "Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.

Incense itself is a prefiguring of the Eucharist through the Prophet Isaiah:
Isaiah 6:6-7 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said:
"Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,
And your sin purged."

The Apostle John talks about incense in his Revelation:
Revelation 5:8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 8:2-4 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand.

In that we Orthodox hold that our worship mirrors Heavenly worship as described by the good Apostle, and the obvious importance of incense to the worshipping Jews, the question is why wouldn't the early Christians have used incense?

#6 David Hawthorne

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 01:01 AM

I know and agree with the Scriptural argument in favor of incense used liturgically. I believe it is a real continuation of Jewish worship and also that it is used in heavenly worship. But perhaps I need to make my question more specific: in the first centuries of the Church, before Constantine enabled the Church to emerge and worship in the open, I can not find any reference to incense being used liturgically. As a matter of fact, several writers even seem to condemn it.
The strongest argument I have found against it is here http://www.churchsoc...3_Brattston.pdf
I am sure we have a reasonable argument against this man's conclusions but I am looking for light on how to respond to it as an Orthodox Christian as I will be meeting an old friend in the next week who is heavily influenced by David Bercot.

#7 Paul Cowan

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 02:20 AM

I read his article. I would approach this from the other side. IF what he says is true, then when and why did we start using incense? Why would the entire Church do a 180 and start using insense? Is incense necessary for our salvation? Are icons? Are vestments? Is the altar? Is anything we do really necessary for our salvation? I would lean towards the thief on the cross and say "no". Are they beneficial? perhaps. Orthodoxy is about the fullness of the faith. The early Christians were also extremely persecuted so perhaps to keep the church "safe" from the authorities, they forbade incense as it would divulge the location of the secret churches and the faithful. Perhaps.

Even in Liturgy today we say, "Let our prayers arise as incense". It is a visual as to what our prayers do. If what he says is true, then the True church is no longer the original church and the gates of hell have prevailed against Her. I choose to believe otherwise. Or rather to believe there is more to the thesis than what has been written.


Paul

#8 David Hawthorne

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 02:30 AM

I read his article. I would approach this from the other side. IF what he says is true, then when and why did we start using incense? Why would the entire Church do a 180 and start using insense? Is incense necessary for our salvation? Are icons? Are vestments? Is the altar? Is anything we do really necessary for our salvation? I would lean towards the thief on the cross and say "no". Are they beneficial? perhaps. Orthodoxy is about the fullness of the faith. The early Christians were also extremely persecuted so perhaps to keep the church "safe" from the authorities, they forbade incense as it would divulge the location of the secret churches and the faithful. Perhaps.

Even in Liturgy today we say, "Let our prayers arise as incense". It is a visual as to what our prayers do. If what he says is true, then the True church is no longer the original church and the gates of hell have prevailed against Her. I choose to believe otherwise. Or rather to believe there is more to the thesis than what has been written.


Paul


I think this is on the right track- certainly the Christians at the time don't appear to have objected to incense in worship after Constantine. So it would appear that if they did not use it before Constantine there was a practical reason that since it is perfectly in sync with OT and heavenly worship. Perhaps it was so bound up in the state worship of the emperor that the Church avoided it. Once that reason was gone, it seems they came out of the catacombs swinging censers instinctively. That's the opinion I started the thread with anyway, I am just looking for something more specific in the records to back that up to inquirers into Orthodoxy.

#9 Michael Woods

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 04:06 AM

I read his article. , then when and why did we start using incense? Why would the entire Church do a 180 and start using insense?


Did I miss something here. Is not the opposition in the article. Christians offer incense as a celebrating of the Eucharist. A intimate fellowship and rejoicing by way of Communion with the Divine. From what I understand incense means prayer. Symbolizing justice, piety, chastity, prudence and related virtues. Incense is a pure offering made - offerings of the prayers of the Saints. Incense is a form of Christian prayer. Is this correct?

#10 Michael Astley

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 09:21 AM

The strongest argument I have found against it is here http://www.churchsoc...3_Brattston.pdf


Was anybody else amused by the description of the author at the end?

#11 Paul Cowan

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 05:29 AM

First order of business in civilization...kill the lawyers.

Sorry Andreas, still luv ya man!

Paul

#12 John Bundstein

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Posted 26 January 2011 - 12:56 PM

It is an interesting article. But in following it back a bit the publication CHURCHMAN appears to be a low church Church of England publication. As they describe themselves as "
Church Society exists to uphold biblical teaching and to promote and defend the character of the Church of England as a reformed and national Church. The Society is strongly committed to the supreme and final authority of the Bible as God's Word written." Maybe just a bit of slant on their mind set in the article.




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