Did the Early Christians Practice Confession?

Not only was the Sacrament of Confession believed and practiced by the Apostles and is explicitly mentioned in the Bible, the early Church Fathers believed and taught confession as well. The early Church Fathers are the clergy, leaders, teachers, apologists and evangelists of the first couple of centuries of Christianity. Many of these Fathers were taught by the Apostles, and played a very important role in compiling the books of the Bible into the 73 Book Bible we have today.

The Fathers also played a key role in formulating from scripture and tradition the doctrines of the Church. So the fact that the Early Church fathers believed, practiced and defended the Sacrament of Confession is very significant. Below are just two of the many excerpts from various Early Church documents on Confession during the early years of the Church.

Ignatius of Antioch

“For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of penance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ” (Letter to the Philadelphians 3 [A.D. 110]).

John Chrysostom

“Priests have received a power which God has given neither to angels nor to archangels. It was said to them: ‘Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed.’….The Father has given all judgment to the Son. And now I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men [Matt. 10:40; John 20:21–23]. They are raised to this dignity as if they were already gathered up to heaven” (The Priesthood 3:5 [A.D. 387]).