Early Christian Beliefs
Jonathan Kithcart

B. Childress
May 25 2011

Early Christian fathers were aware of the teaching of Paul and the other apostles, which included Polycarp, Irenaeus,
Tertullian, Cyprian and Justin Martyr.  Polycarp was killed in Rome, as were Peter and Paul.  What did they think
concerning the issue of tithes?  According to David W. Bercot, editor of
Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, (1998),
Polycarp was a bishop in the church of Smyrna.  He said, "for neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the
wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul.  You have seen before your eyes - not only in the case of the blessed
Ignatius, Zosimus and Rufus; but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself and the rest of the apostles...
They are in the presence of the Lord, with whom they also suffered" (p. 502).

In his old age, Polycarp suffered an agonizing death, being burned at the stake.  Because he was a faithful disciple to
the apostle John, he was remembered as a heroic martyr (p. 526).  Afterward, the disciple Irenaeus became bishop of
the church in Lyons (modern France).  He had heard Polycarp teach.  It is generally supposed that Irenaeus was a
native of Smyrna.  The universally known church of Lyons was founded and organized by two of the more famous
apostles, Peter and Paul.  "It was Paul's custom to transpose words and also the order of his sentences.  This was due
to the speed of his discourse and the impetus of the Spirit Who was in him," according to Irenaeus, who commented
about tithes:

    The class of oblations in general has not been set aside.  For there were both oblations there (among the Jews)
    and there are oblations here (among Christians).  Sacrifices there were among the Israelite people; sacrifices
    there are too in the church.  Only the outward form has been changed.  For the offering is now made not by
    slaves, but by free men.  Those who have received liberty set aside all their possessions for the Lord's purposes,
    bestowing joyfully and freely not the less valuable portions of their property, since they have the hope of better
    things.  Instead of the Law commanding the giving of tithes, He taught us to share all our possessions with the
    poor (p. 645).

The disciple Tertullian was a fiery Christian writer in Carthage, North Africa.  He wrote numerous apologetics, works
against heretics and exhortations to other Christians.  Most of his writings were in Latin.  On the issue of tithes he was
quoted: "On the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation, but only if it is his pleasure and only if he is
able.  For there is no compulsion, all is voluntary" (p. 645).

From 148 to 258 AD Cyprian was bishop of Carthage.  A vast amount of correspondence has been preserved, both
from him and to him.  This literature provides the modern reader with considerable insight into religious life during the
middle of the third century.  Cyprian conducted his ministry underground in the Decian persecution period.  He
preached, "Let them also follow the example of the apostle Paul, who after often repeated imprisonment, after
scourging, after exposures to wild beast, continued to be meek and humble in everything.  Even after his rapture to the
third heaven and paradise, he did not proudly arrogate anything to himself."  His words concerning tithes were: "They
used to sell houses and estates so that they might lay up for themselves treasures in heaven.  They presented the
proceeds from them to the apostles, to be distributed for the use of the poor.  However, now we do not even give the
tenths from our patrimony" (p. 645).

The philosopher Justin Martyr converted to Christianity and became a tireless evangelist.  "The wealthy among us help
the needy...As for the persons who are prosperous and are willing, they give what each thinks fit" (p. 385).  This
dedicated disciple died a martyr under the reign of Marcus Aurelius.

If commands concerning tithes did not historically come from our Lord Jesus, His apostles, nor their disciples, then
where and when did this teaching come about?  After studying and reflecting a bit, guidance from the Holy Spirit and aid
from David W. Bercot, (an Anglican priest, attorney, graduate of Stephen F. Austin University School of Law, author of
Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up, and a member of the North American Patristic Society), I sadly realized that the
present commands and traditions of men are at hand
.  In this burden of the word of the Lord to Israel (Malachi 1:1), or
doom prophecy to Israel, lies the very indictment for robbery against God (Malachi 3:9).  The Levites and priests had
maintenance for themselves and their families; but the people defrauded the priests.  They would not pay their tithes in
full, or not the best.  They brought the torn, lame and sick that were not fit for use (Malachi 1:8,13).  They stood by one
another in it.  All were guilty of this sin, even the whole nation, as they were in confederacy against God.  For this they
were cursed.  (Notice the word cursed, which seems to indicate something that has occurred recently, not even the
scent of a future event, namely for the church of Jesus Christ).  God punished all Israel with famine and scarcity through
unseasonable weather, or insects that ate up the fruits of the earth.

According to the Old Testament, all sacrifices were to be offered up as the best, nothing less.  In the New Testament,
we as Christians are to offer or present ourselves as living sacrifices, which God expected to die.  After all, His very own
Son was offered without spot or blemish (I Peter 1:19).  Although born of His Spirit and partakers of His Spirit, we are
undeserving of His love, mercy and abundant grace.  We as children of the Most High and the resurrection are not
under the system of the old covenant.  It was nearly 500 years or more, while dying on the cross, that Jesus annulled
the law mentioned in the book of Malachi.  All we have and do are poor returns for so rich a blessing.  Remember, our
Lord was keeping the law and addressing those who were also trying to keep the law while he was at the same time
instituting a new economy of grace and truth; His remarks must be viewed in that context.  (You know, it's really
stretching and grasping to imagine the apostle Paul teaching the law of tithing to the Gentiles to whom he was sent,
especially after reading his letter to the church at Galatia, i.e. 3:23-25).

As mentioned earlier, one of the ten ministers I wrote to tried to justify Malachi 33 for the church today, and three others
had staff members respond to this fallacy in the church.  The ten ministers I contacted will not be named in this book,
but the response of those that responded will.  Their identity will be revealed in the days ahead.  I promise.


DID THE APOSTLE PAUL TEACH TITHING TO THE CHURCH?, by Jonathan Kithcart, Copyright 2001, WinePress