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3. Arrangement, and constituent parts

Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER IX. Of Churches and Sacred Places

3. Arrangement, and constituent parts

No established order of arrangement and division prevailed in the first three centuries. The churches of this period were rude and simple structures, varying in form and size according to circumstances; but about the fourth century, great uniformity began to be observed in this respect. The body of the church was divided into three divisions, corresponding with the three orders among Christians; the clergy, including all officers of the community, the faithful, or believers, and the catechumens. This arrangement also bore a resemblance to the division of the Jewish temple into the holy of holies, the sanctuary, and the court. Perhaps there was an intentional reference to both of these divisions; for it must be remembered that there was, at this time, an increasing disposition, in the christian church, to imitate the rites of Jewish worship. The three divisions were,

  1. The bema or sanctuary, a sacred enclosure around the altar appropriated to the clergy.
  2. The naos or nave, occupied by the faithful, the lay members of the church.
  3. The narthex, or ante-temple, the place of the penitents and catechumens.
    Sometimes four or five divisions are enumerated; which arise from sub-dividing the narthex into outer and inner, and reckoning the exedrael, or outer buildings, as a portion of the church.

We adhere to the threefold, or more simple division, and proceed to speak of each part in the order already described.


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