In his book The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer has this phrase:

'The sacraments' were first two, then three, then four, until with the triumph of Romanism they were fixed at seven.

What were these first two sacraments? The third? The fourth? The last three? As the title asks, what order were they established?

I'm not exactly asking when they first arose, but rather when they were officially declared as sacraments in the early Church.

  • What does it mean "oficially labelled"? Orthodox Christianity e.g. still doesn't have dogmatically stated how many sacraments there are (catechisms agree on 7, but it's not confirmed by Ecumenical Councils). – zefciu Jul 12 '12 at 7:30
  • @zefciu: I tweaked "labelled" to "declared". I hope it's easier to see what I'm going for now. – El'endia Starman Jul 12 '12 at 12:50
  1. Marriage was the proto-sacrament. It became a sacrament after Christ came.

  2. Eucharist was the second. It first appeared on Maundy Thursday.

  3. Baptism is ambiguous. The baptism of John was not sacramental. I believe that it became a sacrament after the resurrection.

  4. Ordination can be seen between the resurrection and Thomas's acceptance of that fact. It can also be seen at the beginning of Acts (before confirmation).

  5. Confirmation can be seen at Pentacost/at the Baptism of Cornelius.

  6. "Extreme Unction" or "Anointing of the sick" is seen in James.

  7. Confession is a bit ambiguous. It clearly was a sacrament in the Ante-Nicene period, but it did not gain its current form until several centuries later. Meanwhile the basic form of the other sacraments was codified much earlier.

Response to edit:

There is little evidence to suggest that what are now called "the seven sacraments" were not always called sacraments. That said, I believe this document might be of use.

In Greek Christianity these various Christian rites were called "mysteries"* [i.e. things to be hidden from unbelievers] and the exact number of them was defined in a variety of ways. Even though Orthodox Christians today will usually agree that there are seven sacraments, but will also want to include such important rituals as funerals and monastic vows as "sacramental".

The first document it links to is a

profession of faith demanded of this Byzantine Emperor when he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1274. This seems to have been the first important Church document which listed the seven sacraments.

*The word "mystery" is a reference to Ephesians 5:32. In Latin it is rendered, "sacramentum." Generally theologians will agree that they have the same intended meaning

  • Not a bad answer, but not quite what I was going for. Please see the edit to my question. – El'endia Starman Jul 12 '12 at 3:27
  • @El'endiaStarman According to Catholic theology, they all have always been sacraments. – Ignatius Theophorus Jul 12 '12 at 12:18
  • But were they always declared as sacraments? – El'endia Starman Jul 12 '12 at 12:49
  • They have always been sacraments, the word "sacramentum" has always applied. I think the real impetus is for your author to cite his source, because I'm calling BS on him. – Ignatius Theophorus Jul 12 '12 at 13:26
  • Well, he can't exactly do that now, having written the book in 1948 and died in 1963... – El'endia Starman Jul 12 '12 at 13:39

That's pretty lame, the author didn't even say which sacraments he's talking about! Here's my idle speculation from what I've learned about what Protestants assume about the sacraments here on Christianity.SE.

The first two would probably be Baptism and the Eucharist.

The first to be added must be Holy Orders to establish apostolic succession to keep up with the demand on the first two sacraments.

The next thing probably was Confirmation since that's a most ancient and apostolic thing to do to a baptized person.

Then come what may be seen as the functions of the episcopate: last rites, reconciliation and matrimony (even though it's not something a priest does).

In any event, it's a pretty much a red herring to even consider this question as having anything to do with churchy developments over the years. The emphasis on the seven sacraments is about God's mysterious presence being felt and His covenants with us as individuals. It's not about numbers and or a gradual deepening in the Church circles (like degrees in freemasonry).

  • Earlier in the book, Tozer quotes the Nicene Creed but doesn't attribute it. He assumes a certain level of Christian doctrine knowledge... – El'endia Starman Jul 12 '12 at 5:37

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