The early followers of Jesus Christ indelibly influenced the subsequent shape of Christian faith and praxis. Contemporary Christian conceptions of God, anthropology, history, eschatology, philosophy, the sacraments, and Christology remain indebted to the beliefs and practices of the first centuries of the Church. An important but often neglected facet of the early Church’s legacy involves its conceptions of authority: the way in which followers of Jesus oriented, understood, and employed truth claims—both written and oral—as legitimating sources for their beliefs. As the Church developed and spread throughout the world, conflicting truth claims had to be addressed. In the earliest years, an appeal to the consensus of the Apostles was possible.[i] Following the deaths of those pillars, however, claims concerning the faith had to be substantiated in different ways.
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