Monday, April 4, 2011

Week Thirteen: These letters are attributed to powerful leaders in the Jewish church. What is apostolic authority and why was it important?

            James, 1 & 2 Peter, and Jude are all traditionally attributed to significant leaders in the early church. James is attributed to James, the brother of Jesus (Van Voorst 483), Jude is attributed to Judge, the brother of James of Jerusalem (Van Voorst 500), and 1 & 2 Peter are traditionally attributed to Simon Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples (Van Voorst 493, 504). While these attributions are traditional and not held by the majority of scholars today (Van Voorst 483-504), the importance of these names and people being associated with these books would have been critical in the early church because of the emphasis on apostolic authority. Apostolic authority was the practice in the early church of giving authority and leadership to those who were disciples of Jesus or had been taught directly by disciples of Jesus. Essentially, authority and leadership was passed down directly from Jesus himself, and the early church viewed this as the single most important criteria for leadership (Brenneman 4/4/11). Thus, James, Jude, and Peter, having connections to Jesus, had this apostolic authority and were recognized as leaders in the early church. Even though these letters are likely pseudonymous, connecting these people and their authority with these letters gave a sense of legitimacy to the instructions they contained. The names of James, Jude, and Peter served as a connecting point between the message of the letter and Christ himself.
           While apostolic authority is not a term used in our culture today, we still relate in similar ways. Perhaps instead of talking about apostolic authority we could talk about the practices of social networking or “name-dropping,” mechanisms in our culture that enable us to establish ourselves as legitimate and authoritative based on the connections we have. Ultimately, the concept of apostolic authority is based on relationships and connections. The early church sought out leaders who were directly connected to Christ. Today, our various connections lead directly to opportunities as well. While this is not exactly the same as apostolic authority, the concept seems similar. Who we know changes who we are and where we will go— the same was true for those in the early church.

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