Early Christianity

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Early Christianity is commonly defined as the Christianity of the roughly three centuries (1st, 2nd, 3rd, early 4th) between the Crucifixion of Jesus (c. 30) and the First Council of Nicaea (325). The major primary source for the 1st century (the Apostolic Age) is the Acts of the Apostles, but its historical accuracy is disputed.

At first, the church was centered in Jerusalem, and leaders included James, Peter, and John.[1] Following the Great Commission, the missionary activity of the Apostles, including Paul of Tarsus, spread Christianity to cities throughout the Hellenistic world, such as Alexandria and Antioch, and also to Rome[2]E. Glenn Hinson, The church triumphant: a history of Christianity up to 1300, Mercer University Press, 1995.</ref> and even beyond the Roman Empire. The term "Christian" was first applied to members of the church at Antioch according to {{#if:| }}Acts 11:26. The New Testament includes letters written by Paul to churches, such as those in Thessalonica and Corinth, during the years 50-62[3], see also Seven Churches of Asia. Christians continued to revere the Hebrew Bible, using the Septuagint translation that was in general use among Greek-speakers, or the Targums in use among Aramaic-speakers, but added to it their own writings.

In 70 the Second Temple was destroyed, and in c. 135 Jews were banned from the renamed city after the Bar Kokhba revolt. Among those who left the city were most of the Christian population.[2] Following this time, early Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea records that ethnically Jewish leadership of the church in Jerusalem (literally those "of the circumcision") was replaced by Gentile leadership.[4] Similarly, Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome in 49, though Nero allowed their return but turned against Christians after the Great Fire of Rome of 64, the beginning of persecution by Roman authorities.[5] Historians debate whether or not the Roman government distinguished between Christians and Jews prior to Nerva's modification of the Fiscus Judaicus in 96. (From then on, practising Jews paid the tax, Christians did not.)[6]

Christianity spread further during the second century. Notable leaders and writers of this time include Irenaeus of Lyon,[5] Polycarp of Smyrna, Ignatius of Antioch,[5] Clement of Rome, and Justin Martyr. During the third century, Christianity further increased in numbers (Robin Lane Fox suggests that Christians composed about 2% of the Empire by 250[5]). Teachers of this period, including Origen in Alexandria and Tertullian in North Africa, expressed in their writings doctrines such as that of the Trinity. Anthony the Great and others established Christian monasticism, and Gregory the Illuminator was responsible for Armenia becoming the first officially Christian country. Following the conversion of Constantine the Great (just prior to the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312), the Roman Empire tolerated Christianity with the Edict of Milan in 313, leading later to the adoption of Christianity as the state religion in 380 by Theodosius I and the rise of Christendom in the Byzantine empire.

What started as a religious movement within first century Judaism therefore became, by the end of this period, the favored religion of the Roman Empire, as well as a significant religion outside the empire.[5] According to Will Durant, the Christian Church prevailed over Paganism because it offered a much more attractive doctrine and because the church leaders addressed human needs better than their rivals.[7]Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972</ref> The First Council of Nicaea marks the end of this era and the beginning of the period of the first seven Ecumenical Councils (325 - 787).



See Also History of early Christianity

Jewish Christians

See Also Jewish Christians

Image:Saint James the Just.jpg
James, brother of Jesus.
Jesus and most of his original followers were Jews or Jewish proselytes. According to many historians, these first followers viewed Jesus as a charismatic preacher and healer, who prophesized the imminent restoration of God's kingdom on earth.[8] Some of the first followers of Jesus composed a sect of first-century Judaism marked by their belief in Jesus' prophecy, and other teachings of his; according to Christian theology, they more specifically believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the long-awaited Messiah[9] (Acts 2:22-36), and that the Kingdom of God either had come or would soon come,

[10]</sup> in fulfilment of expectation (Acts 19:8). Practice among the groups that followed Jesus included those who were strictly Jewish, including the Church leaders in Jerusalem, and those strongly attracted to Jewish belief.[9] This movement was centered around Jerusalem and led by James the Just. The Acts of the Apostles asserts "All the believers were united and shared everything with one another.They made it their practice to sell their possessions and goods and to distribute the proceeds to anyone who was in need." They held faithfully to the Torah and Jewish law which included acceptance of Gentile converts based on what appears to be a version of the Noachide laws (Acts 15 and Acts 21). In Christian circles, "Nazarene" later came to be used as a label for those faithful to Jewish law, in particular for a certain sect. These Jewish Christians, originally a central group in Christianity, were not at first declared to be unorthodox, but were later excluded and denounced, as Judaizers. Some Jewish Christian groups, such as the Ebionites, were considered to have unorthodox beliefs, particularly in relation to their views of Christ and Gentile converts. The Nazarenes, holding to orthodoxy except in their adherence to Jewish law, were not deemed heretical until the dominance of orthodoxy in the fourth century. The Ebionites may have been a splinter group of Nazarenes, with disagreements over Christology and leadership. After the condemnation of the Nazarenes, "Ebionite" was often used as a general pejorative for all related "heresies".[11][12] At the other extreme were Marcionists who rejected all things Jewish. Jewish Christians eventually constituted a separate community from the Pauline Christians and that they remained part of the Jewish community. There was a post-Nicene "double rejection" of the Jewish Christians by both Gentile Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. It is believed that there was no direct confrontation, or persecution, between Gentile and Judaic Christianity. However, by this time the practice of Judeo-Christianity was diluted, both by internal schisms and external pressures. The traditional understanding is that the original Jewish Christianity continued until the fifth century, after which there are no more references to Jewish followers of the Jesus movement.[13] Those remaining fully faithful to Halacha became purely Jews, while those adhering to the Christian faith joined with Gentile, Graeco-Roman, Pauline Christianity. Gentile Christianity remained the sole strand of orthodoxy and imposed itself on the previously Jewish Christian sanctuaries, taking full control of those houses of worship by the end of the fifth century.[14] Yet, even today, there are Christian groups that claim to be Contemporary Jewish Christians.

Apostolic Age

thumb|right|120px|Saint Paul, Byzantine ivory relief (c. 600) See Also Apostolic Age The apostolic period between the years 30 and 130 AD produced writings attributed to the direct followers of Jesus Christ, and is traditionally associated with the apostles and apostolic times. In the traditional history of the Christian church, the Apostolic Age was the foundation upon which the entire church's history came to be based.[15]

The Desposyni (relatives of Jesus) lived in Nazareth during the first century. The relatives of Jesus were accorded a special position within the early church, as displayed by the leadership of James in Jerusalem.[16]

Earliest Christianity took the form of a Jewish eschatological faith. The book of Acts reports that the early followers continued daily Temple attendance and traditional Jewish home prayer. Other passages in the New Testament gospels reflect a similar observance of traditional Jewish piety such as fasting, reverence for the Torah and observance of Jewish holy days. The earliest form of Jesus's religion is best understood in this context.[17][18]

Disputes over the Mosaic law generated intense controversy in early Christianity. This is particularly notable in the mid-1st century, when the circumcision controversy came to the fore. The issue was addressed at the Council of Jerusalem where the apostle Paul made an argument that circumcision was not a necessary practice, vocally supported by Peter, as documented in Acts 15. This position received widespread support and was summarized in a letter circulated in Antioch. Yet, four years after the Council of Jerusalem, Paul had to write to the Galatians about the issue, which had become a serious controversy in their region. According to Alister McGrath, a proponent of Paleo-orthodoxy, Paul considered it a great threat to his doctrine of salvation through faith and addressed the issue with great detail in Galatians 3.[19][20]

Spread among Gentiles

See Also Paul of Tarsus and Judaism

The "Twelve Apostles", and Paul the Apostle who called himself the "Apostle to the Gentiles"[21], also gained converts among the gentiles (non-Jews), following the Great Commission's decree to "go and make disciples of all nations". The leaders of the church affirmed Paul's mission to the Gentiles at the Council of Jerusalem, c 49. Paul met with great success preaching to Gentiles, and Gentiles became an increasingly large part of the Christian population. In Galatians 2:11-14 (the Incident at Antioch[22]) Paul portrays Peter as impeding his efforts.[3] The author of Acts portrays Paul as a torah-observant Jew and does not mention this dispute with Peter.[23] Also, in Acts 11:1-18, it is Peter who first actively welcomes Gentiles into the Church, and in Acts 15 it is Peter who argues the gentile case at the Council of Jerusalem (for the parallel in Judaism, see Noachide law, for the parallel in modern Christianity, see Dual-covenant theology).

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Some modern scholars challenge the prevailing view, that first century Judaism was a religion of legalistic works-righteousness that Paul opposed, suggesting what they call a New Perspective on Paul; James D. G. Dunn, who coined this phrase, has proposed that Peter was the "bridge-man" (literally the "pontifex maximus") between the two other "prominent leading figures": Paul and James the Just.<ref>The Canon Debate, McDonald & Sanders editors, 2002, chapter 32, page 577, by James D. G. Dunn: "For Peter was probably in fact and effect the bridge-man (pontifex maximus!) who did more than any other to hold together the diversity of first-century Christianity. James the brother of Jesus and Paul, the two other most prominent leading figures in first-century Christianity, were too much identified with their respective "brands" of Christianity, at least in the eyes of Christians at the opposite ends of this particular spectrum. But Peter, as shown particularly by the Antioch episode in Gal 2, had both a care to hold firm to his Jewish heritage, which Paul lacked, and an openness to the demands of developing Christianity, which James lacked. John might have served as such a figure of the center holding together the extremes, but if the writings linked with his name are at all indicative of his own stance he was too much of an individualist to provide such a rallying point. Others could link the developing new religion more firmly to its founding events and to Jesus himself. But none of them, including the rest of the twelve, seem to have played any role of continuing significance for the whole sweep of Christianity—though James the brother of John might have proved an exception had he been spared." [Italics original]</ref>

Destruction of the Temple


Supersessionists see the Destruction of the Temple in 70 AD as symbolic of God's rejection of Judaism and initiation of the New Covenant, see also Figs in the Bible. Orthodox Judaism on the other hand remains optimistic that their covenant with God is eternal (for example {{#if:| }}Gen 17:13) despite numerous calamities, and that a Third Temple will be built on the Temple Mount.

Historically, after the First Jewish–Roman War of 66-73 and the destruction of the Temple, two sects of Jews and Jewish proselytes remained, the Pharisees, which developed into Rabbinic Judaism, and Christians, both of which developed into distinct religions.

While it is commonly believed that Paul established a Gentile church, it took centuries for a complete break to be established, and in any case, gentiles had long been attracted to the Jewish scriptures, see proselytes and Godfearers. Certain events are perceived as pivotal in the growing rift between Christianity and Judaism. The first break may have been the Council of Jerusalem of around 50<ref>Jewish Encyclopedia: Baptism: "According to rabbinical teachings, which dominated even during the existence of the Temple (Pes. viii. 8), Baptism, next to circumcision and sacrifice, was an absolutely necessary condition to be fulfilled by a proselyte to Judaism (Yeb. 46b, 47b; Ker. 9a; 'Ab. Zarah 57a; Shab. 135a; Yer. Kid. iii. 14, 64d). Circumcision, however, was much more important, and, like baptism, was called a "seal" (Schlatter, "Die Kirche Jerusalems," 1898, p. 70). But as circumcision was discarded by Christianity, and the sacrifices had ceased, Baptism remained the sole condition for initiation into religious life. The next ceremony, adopted shortly after the others, was the imposition of hands, which, it is known, was the usage of the Jews at the ordination of a rabbi. Anointing with oil, which at first also accompanied the act of Baptism, and was analogous to the anointment of priests among the Jews, was not a necessary condition."</ref>. Among other things, this council decreed male circumcision optional for gentile converts<ref>Columbia Encyclopedia: Circumcision: "The decision that Christians need not practice circumcision is recorded in {{#if:| }}Acts 15; there was never, however, a prohibition of circumcision, and it is practiced by Coptic Christians."</ref> whereas Rabbinic Judaism made their circumcision requirement even stricter<ref>"peri'ah", (Shab. xxx. 6)</ref>. During the First Jewish–Roman War, the Sanhedrin was reconstituted in Yavne with the permission of the Romans. Commonly called the Council of Jamnia, they added a new blessing to the Jewish liturgy, circa 85: the "birkat ha-minim"; which condemns "minim". Some interpret this word to refer specifically to Christianity; others interpret it as referring to Jewish sectarianism in general. It is probable that this condemnation included many groups, of which the Christians were but one. That some of the later Church fathers only recommended against synagogue attendance makes it improbable that an anti-Christian prayer was a common part of the synagogue liturgy. Jewish Christians continued to worship in synagogues for centuries. There is a paucity of evidence for Jewish persecution of "heretics" in general, or Christians in particular, in the period between 70 and 135.<ref>Wylen (1995). Pg 190.</ref><ref>Berard (2006). Pp 112-113.</ref><ref>Wright (1992). Pp 164-165.</ref> But, according to historian Paula Fredriksen, it is likely that Jewish authorities would have persecuted any Jews preaching the restoration of God's kingdom, or the return of the messiah, following the disastrous war of 67-70, for fear of provoking renewed Roman wrath against sedition.<ref>Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, Paula Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ</ref>

Image:Nerva Fiscus Iudaicus coin.jpg
By the end of the 1st century, Roman law recognized Christians as distinct from Jews, exempting them from a special tax on the Jews and denying them the Jewish religious freedoms that the tax allowed.

Jews who did not convert to Christianity and the growing Christian community gradually became more hostile toward each otherTemplate:Fact, see also List of events in early Christianity, Responsibility for the death of Jesus, and Tarfon. Christianity established itself as a predominantly Gentile religion that spanned the Roman Empire and beyond, eventually leading to an attempt to create a unified Christendom during the period of the Seven Ecumenical Councils.

Bar Kokhba Revolt

The Bar Kokhba Revolt (132 - 135) created a large rift between Judaism and Jewish Christians. Simon bar Kokhba was recognized as the Jewish Messiah by Rabbi Akiva. The Christians, believing Jesus to be their Messiah, rejected Bar Kokhba and refused to join the revolt. The revolution turned against the Jewish Christians and some were killed. The failure of the revolt had serious consequences. Jews and Jewish Christians were barred entry into Jerusalem, leaving the church in Jerusalem without a Jewish identity. Many historians believe this revolt was the most notable event in the split between Judaism and Christianity.<ref>Wylen (1995). Pp 190-192.</ref><ref>Hunt (2003). Pp 6-7.</ref>

Paul, Peter, James and the Gentiles

According to The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Paul's letters are rhetorically powerful and theologically profound, and, against his own wishes, his understanding of what he called "the good news" hastened the separation between the messianic sect and mainstream Judaism.<ref>Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280-290-3): Paul, St</ref> Many scholars view his epistles as the foundation of Christian theology.<ref>Paul is the "founder of Christian theology." p. 579. Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972</ref><ref>Citing Paul as Christianity's founder goes back to the 19th-century Tübingen School. Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Paul: Theology of St. Paul: "According to them Paul was the creator of theology, the founder of the Church, the preacher of asceticism, the defender of the sacraments and of the ecclesiastical system, the opponent of the religion of love and liberty which Christ came to announce to the world."</ref> Paul's emphasis on the Law's insufficiency, the superiority of faith, and the Gentile Christian's freedom from the Law were decisive in the future development of the new religion.<ref name ="Harris">Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.</ref> (See also Pauline Christianity.)

The First Epistle to the Corinthians, generally considered to have been authored by Paul, identifies Jesus as establishing a New Covenant with his flesh and blood ({{#if:1|1 }}Cor 11:23-25), the bread and wine of the Eucharist. The New Covenant also appears in {{#if:| }}Luke 22:20 though not in all copies<ref>Bruce M. Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament</ref> and is primarily discussed in the Epistle to the Hebrews which is generally considered anonymous. The previous covenant was that of Moses, called the Mosaic Covenant (see also Biblical law in Christianity and Supersessionism).

Jewish and Christian Scripture

Template:Seealso The first Christians used the same scriptures and religious writings as the Jews. The rabbis, however, rejected the Septuagint translation<ref>Jewish Encyclopedia: Bible Translations: Aquila: "Two things, however, rendered the Septuagint unwelcome in the long run to the Jews. Its divergence from the accepted text (afterward called the Masoretic) was too evident; and it therefore could not serve as a basis for theological discussion or for homiletic interpretation. This distrust was accentuated by the fact that it had been adopted as Sacred Scripture by the new faith. A revision in the sense of the canonical Jewish text was necessary. This revision was made by a proselyte, Aquila, who lived during the reign of Hadrian (117-138)"</ref>, which included the books that some Christians (Catholics) now designate as deuterocanonical books and others (Protestants) as biblical apocrypha.

Perhaps as early as the early second century, some Christians (notably Justin Martyr) began to accept early Christian texts as additional scripture. By the first century, Paul's letters and the separate Gospels were circulating among Christian communities. In the second century, the last books of the New Testament were written, Paul's letters were referred to as scripture, the four canonical Gospels were asserted by Irenaeus<ref>McDonald & Sanders, The Canon Debate, 2002, page 280: The success of Tatian's Diatessaron is "...a powerful indication that the fourfold Gospel contemporaneously sponsored by Irenaeus was not broadly, let alone universally, recognized."</ref>, and other epistles were also accepted as canon. By 325, the Church had roughly the same New Testament in use in the East and West, but the details were still disputed, see Antilegomena.


Christian groups such as Ebionites that insisted on circumcision and other aspects of Jewish law were increasingly disparaged as Judaizers, especially after the 3rd century.

Rejection of Judaism

Some early Christian groups went further than others in distancing themselves from Judaism and Judaizers. Marcion (d. 160) rejected the Old Testament altogether, saying that its God of Law had nothing to do with Jesus Christ's God of Love.<ref>"Marcion." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005</ref> Gnostic groups, though they generally did not reject the Old Testament, also commonly identified the Old Testament's God as the Demiurge (see also Dualism), the evil or lesser god of the material world (as contrasted with the superiority of the spiritual world).


Early Christian beliefs were based on the apostolic preaching (kerygma), considered to be preserved in tradition and, according as was produced, in New Testament scripture.<ref>In recent centuries some have posited for parts of the New Testament dates as late as the third century, early Christians attributed it to the Apostles themselves and their contemporaries (such as Mark and Luke).</ref>


Divinity of Christ

Divinity of Christ Most Christians identified Jesus as divine from a very early period, although holding a variety of competing views as to what exactly this implied.<ref>Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, (Eerdmans, 2005), page 650.</ref> Early Christian views tended to see Jesus as a unique agent of God;<ref>Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, (Eerdmans, 2005), page 204.</ref> by the Council of Nicaea in 325 he was identified as God in the fullest sense, literally 'of the same substance, essence or being', hence in the further wording of the Creed, "Θεόν αληθινόν εκ Θεού αληθινού" Theón alēthinón ek Theoú alēthinoú 'true God from true God'.

The first and second-century texts that would later be canonized as the New Testament several times imply or directly refer to Jesus' divinity, though there is scholarly debate as to whether or not they call him God<ref>See Raymond E. Brown's "Does the New Testament call Jesus God?" in Theological Studies, #26, 1965, p. 545-73 for a good summary of the debate.</ref> Within 20–30 years of the death of Jesus, Paul, who authored the largest early expositions of Christian theology, refers to Jesus as the resurrected "Son of God", the savior who would return from heaven and save his faithful, dead and living, from the imminent destruction of the world. The Synoptic Gospels describe him as the "Son of God", though the phrase "Son of Man" is more frequently used in the Gospel of Mark; born of the Virgin Mary by the agency of the Holy Spirit, and who will return to judge the nations. The Gospel of John identifies Jesus as the human incarnation of the divine Word or "Logos" (see Jesus the Logos) and True Vine. The Book of Revelation depicts Jesus as the "Alpha and Omega, the first and the last" who is to come soon<ref>{{#if:| }}Revelation 1:11</ref>, who died and now lives forever and who holds the keys of death and Hades.<ref>{{#if:| }}Revelation 1:18</ref> The book has many other images, in particular that of a fearsome beast whose worshippers and those who receive its mark "will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb" ({{#if:| }}Revelation 14:9-11), an effect not attributed to the Lamb itself. The book speaks of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God as reigning with him for a thousand years<ref>{{#if:| }}Revelation 20:4-6</ref> before the final defeat of Satan<ref>{{#if:| }}Revelation 20:7-10</ref> and the Judgement at the Great White Throne.<ref>{{#if:| }}Revelation 20:11-14</ref> The Epistle to the Hebrews describes Jesus as the mediator of the New Covenant.

The term "Logos" was used in Greek philosophy (see Heraclitus) and in Hellenistic Jewish religious writing (see Philo Judaeus of Alexandria) to mean the ultimate ordering principle of the universe. Those who rejected the identification of Jesus with the Logos, rejecting also the Gospel of John, were called Alogi (see also Monarchianism).<ref>"Alogi or Alogoi", Early Church.org.uk.</ref><ref> "Alogi", Francis P. Havey, The Catholic Encyclopedia Volume I, 1907.</ref>

Adoptionists, such as the Ebionites, considered him as at first an ordinary man, born to Joseph and Mary, who later became the Son of God at his baptism, his transfiguration, or his resurrection.


Trinitarianism The Trinity is a post-New Testament doctrine.<ref name="Harris"/> However, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are associated in various New Testament passages.<ref>Encyclopædia Britannica, "Trinity".</ref> The Great Commission of {{#if:| }}Matthew 28:19 possibly reflects the baptismal practice at Matthew's time. Baptism has been in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost since the end of the first century.<ref name="Cross, F. L. 2005">Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Baptism</ref> {{#if:| }}Acts 2:38 speaks of baptism "in the name of Jesus Christ", which some interpret as another method of baptism, while others do not, since "in the name of" is used elsewhere in Acts to mean not a form of words but "by the authority of", "for the sake of".<ref>{{#if:| }}Acts 2:38, , , , , ; cf. "The phrase 'baptized in the name of Jesus' is simply Luke's way to distinguish Christian baptism from other baptisms of the period, such as John's baptism (which Luke mentions in Acts 1:5, 22, 10:37, 11:16, 13:24, 18:25, 19:4), Jewish proselyte baptism, and the baptisms of pagan cults (such as Mithraism)" (Trinitarian Baptism); "baptism is differentiated elsewhere in narratives by being described as 'in the name of Jesus,' as opposed to the 'baptism of John' and so forth" (Jesus Name Baptism?).</ref> Aside from this verse, Matthew does not equate Jesus with God nor does he specify inequality either, though he indicates a special relationship between them.<ref>The Oxford Companion of the Bible, "Trinity".</ref> One of the elements virtually universal among diverse early Christians was the understanding that Jesus the Son was uniquely united with God the Father.<ref>History of Dogma II.III.2, Adolf von Harnack. 'Jesus Christ, who is the Saviour. . . sent by God "in these last days," and who stands with God himself in a union special and unique.'</ref>

According to the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the Trinity was revealed to the disciples by revelation and in religious visions called theoria<ref>"The Difference Between Orthodox Spirituality and Other Confessions", Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, OrthodoxFaith.com 2003. "Thus the disciples of Christ acquired the knowledge of the Triune God in theoria (vision of God) and by revelation. It was revealed to them that God is one essence in three hypostases."</ref> during the Theophany and the Transfiguration of Jesus called the Tabor Light or uncreated light.

The close of the early Christian era is defined as the First Council of Nicea, which gave the trinity its dogmatic form. But the term trinity (coined by Tertullian) and concepts related to the trinity existed earlier in the church. The phrase "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" became common, especially at baptism. Another trinitarian formula, "Glory to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit," was common even before the Arian controversy. However, this earlier formula does not express the co-equality of the three persons.<ref>"The Blessed Trinity", G.H.Joyce, The Catholic Encyclopedia Volume XV, 1912.</ref>

The Council used the Greek term homoousios (literally "of the same substance, essence or being") to express its view of the relation of the Son to the Father. However, it also appears in the early Christian era<ref>The first two writers listed are mentioned in Catholic Encyclopedia: Homoousion as applying the word precisely to the relation between Christ and the Father.</ref> as used by Origen, Paul of Samosata, and Alexander of Alexandria though not without controversy, see for example Synods of Antioch. Various Christian writings refer to Jesus as a man and as God, but it was this Council that gave official sanction to the common Trinity formulation using this term.

Many, including Oneness Pentecostals and some Restorationists, styling themselves as restoring early Christian practice, reject the trinitarian concepts of the early church, and generally place no importance in the post-apostolic writings of the Church Fathers on the subject. (See below in the discussion on the Church Fathers.)


Kingdom of God

The Apostles believed that Jesus would soon return to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. The general term for this set of beliefs is parousia (or Second Coming).

Among early Christians there was a widely accepted belief that Christ's return would establish not the general resurrection but a thousand-year kingdom, with the general resurrection following (a belief known as chiliasm or premillenialism).<ref>History of the Christian Church Vol. 2 p.381, Philip Schaff, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.): "The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm, or millenarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgement. It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius, while Caius, Origen, Dionysius the Great, Eusebius (as afterwards Jerome and Augustin) opposed it."</ref> Chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation is the main source of this teaching, though it may owe something to the Book of Daniel and to ideas popular in late pre-Christian Jewish apocalyptic literature, especially 2 Esdras and the non-canonical Books of Enoch<ref>Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Millenarianism</ref>

Early Christians followed the Pharisaic precedent<ref>Not all Jews believed in resurrection. The Sadducees rejected all scripture but the Torah and denied the resurrection as an innovation.</ref> of believing in a physical resurrection of the dead. They believed that the saved received various divine rewards corresponding to their holiness. While all the saved would gain eternal life in Christ, not all of the saved would live in heaven.Template:Fact

Apologists defended the resurrection of the dead against pagan philosophers, who considered the soul worthy of perfection but not the body. Origen, however, who attempted to synthesise Platonism and Christianity, appears to have supported the idea of an ethereal rather than corporeal resurrection.<ref>Catharine P. Roth, Introduction, On the Soul and the Resurrection: St Gregory of Nyssa, St Vladimir's Seminary Press (1993), page 14.</ref>


The ancient Jewish picture was of the sky as a firmament, a dome covering the earth. But the prevailing picture in early Christian times was that of the earth as a sphere with one or more other spheres, containing the stars, rotating around it. They sometimes described the souls of the dead waiting underground for the general resurrection. They described gehenna (roughly, hell) as a subterranean fire, see also Lake of Fire. In some Hellenic traditions, influential in the Alexandrian church, souls escaped the material world of the earth and returned to the spirit realm above.

Prayer for the dead

Template:Seealso The Encyclopaedia Britannica states: "The well-attested early Christian practice of prayer for the dead ... was encouraged by the episode (rejected by Protestants as apocryphal) in which Judas Maccabeus (Jewish leader of the revolt against the tyrant Antiochus IV Epiphanes) makes atonement for the idolatry of his fallen soldiers by providing prayers and a monetary sin offering on their behalf ({{#if:2|2 }}Maccabees 12:41–46); by the Apostle Paul's prayer for Onesiphorus ({{#if:2|2 }}Timothy 1:18); and by the implication in {{#if:| }}Matthew 12:32 that there may be forgiveness of sins in the world to come."<ref>Encyclopaedia Britannica: Purgatory</ref>

That early Christians prayed for the dead, believing that the dead were thereby benefitted, is attested since at least the second-century inscription of Abercius,<ref>For the text of the inscription see Daily Life of Christians in Ancient Rome, p. 170</ref> and celebration of the Eucharist for the dead is attested since at least the third century.<ref>Gerald O' Collins and Mario Farrugia, Catholicism: the Story of Catholic Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003) p. 36; George Cross, "The Differentiation of the Roman and Greek Catholic Views of the Future Life", in The Biblical World (1912) p. 106; cf. Pastor I, iii. 7, also Ambrose, De Excessu fratris Satyri 80</ref> Specific examples of belief in the communion of the living with the dead through prayer are found in many of the Church Fathers<ref>Gerald O'Collins and Edward G. Farrugia, A Concise Dictionary of Theology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000) p. 27.</ref>


The Greek word "Hades", which, like the Hebrew word "sheol", is generally used of the abode where the dead are reckoned to be, appears several times in the New Testament.<ref>Henry Clarence Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans (1979), page 381.</ref> In the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus ({{#if:| }}Luke 16:19-31), the dead rich man "in Hades" (), speaks of being "tormented in this flame" (), and is said to be separated by a "great gulf" from Abraham (), in whose bosom Lazarus is said to be placed (). The word "Hades" was used in {{#if:| }}Acts 2:27-31 (as in the Septuagint) to translate the word "sheol" of the Hebrew text of the Psalm there quoted.

Early Church Fathers who wrote in Greek, such as Hippolytus of Rome in his book on Hades, continued to use the term "Hades".<ref>Against Plato, on the Cause of the Universe.</ref> Early Christian writers in Latin also used either the Greek word "Hades" itself<ref>For instance, Tertullian in De anima, chapter 7.</ref> or employed as its equivalent the Latin word "infernus", the Roman word for the underworld,<ref>For instance, the Latin translation of Origen's De Principiis by Rufinus Book IV, chapter I</ref> as Jerome did in his translation of the New Testament.<ref>"In Latin, St Jerome translated Hades as infernus, the Roman name for the underworld and thus an exact cognate" (Christian History</ref>

Angels and Satan

Early Christians understood angels to be active in supporting the church and Satan to be actively opposed to it. Hippolytus, for example, recounts angels physically scourging the first antipope to force him to repent.<ref>Church History 5.28.7-12, Eusebius.</ref><ref> "Monarchians", John Chapman, The Catholic Encyclopedia Volume X, 1911.</ref> Christian writers commonly saw Satan (or Beelzebub, see Mark 3) as the author of heresies. In {{#if:| }}John 8:44, Satan, rather than Abraham, is named as the father of those Jews who rejected Jesus. See also Rejection of Jesus.

The word "angel" is derived from Greek ', the basic meaning of which is "messenger". Visitations from the "angel of the LORD" in the Old Testament are taken by many to be pre-Incarnation manifestations of Christ.<ref>"Who is the angel of the Lord?", gotQuestions?.org.</ref><ref> "An Angel You Ought to Know", Loren Jacobs, Jews for Jesus.</ref><ref> "The Angel of the Lord: Who Is He?", Biblical Artefacts And Studies.</ref> Accordingly, Justin Martyr spoke of Christ as "King, and Priest, and God, and Lord, and angel, and man, and captain, and stone, and a Son born, and first made subject to suffering, then returning to heaven, and again coming with glory, and He is preached as having the everlasting kingdom".<ref>Dialogue with Trypho 34, Justin Martyr.</ref> He interpreted as Christ the Angel who spoke with Abraham in {{#if:| }}Genesis 18, and argued for the divinity of Christ.<ref>For a detailed study of the significance Justin saw in the title of "Angel" given to the Messiah in the Septuagint version of Isaiah 9:6, the then most widely known version of that text, see "Christ As Angel: The Reclamation Of A Primitive Title", Günther Juncker, Trinity Journal 15:2 (Fall 1994): 221–250.</ref>

Orthodoxy and heterodoxy

Traditionally, orthodoxy and heresy have been viewed in relation to the "orthodoxy" as an authentic lineage of tradition. Other forms of Christianity were viewed as deviant streams of thought and therefore "heterodox", or heretical. This view was dominant until the publication of Walter Bauer's Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im ältesten Christentum ("Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity") in 1934. Bauer endeavored to rethink early Christianity historically, independent from the views of the church. He stated that the early church was very diverse and included many "heretical" groups that had an equal claim to apostolic tradition. Bauer interpreted the struggle between the orthodox and heterodox to be the "mainstream" Roman church struggling to attain dominance. He presented Edessa and Egypt as places where the "orthodoxy" of Rome had little influence during the second century. As he saw it, the theological thought of the Orient at the time would later be labeled "heresy". The response by modern scholars has been mixed. Some scholars clearly support Bauer's conclusions and others express concerns about his possible bias. More moderate responses have become prominent and Bauer's theory is generally accepted.Template:Fact However, modern scholars have critiqued and updated Bauer's model.<ref>Hunt (2003). Pp 10-11.</ref>


Perhaps one of the most important discussions among scholars of early Christianity in the past century is to what extent it is appropriate to speak of "orthodoxy" and "heresy". Higher criticism drastically altered the previous perception that heresy was a very rare exception to the orthodoxy. Bauer was particularly influential in the reconsideration of the historical model. During the 1970s, increasing focus on the effect of social, political and economic circumstances on the formation of early Christianity occurred as Bauer's work found a wider audience. Some scholars argue against the increasing focus on heresies. A movement away from presuming the correctness or dominance of the orthodoxy is seen as understandable, in light of modern approaches. However, they feel that instead of an even and neutral approach to historical analysis that the heterodox sects are given an assumption of superiority over the orthodox movement. The current debate is vigorous and broad. While it is difficult to summarize all current views, general statements may be made, remembering that such broad strokes will have exceptions in specific cases.<ref>Esler (2004). Pp 893-894.</ref>


Adoptionism One conception about Jesus that was found among second and third-century Christians was that which Adolf von Harnack called "Adoption Christology": Jesus was regarded as "the man whom God hath chosen, in whom the Deity or the Spirit of God dwelt, and who, after being tested, was adopted by God and invested with dominion".<ref>History of Dogma II.III.3</ref> This stream in early Greek theology regarded Christ as a man gifted with divine powers. First represented by the Ebionites, it was later developed by the Monarchians, such as Theodotus of Byzantium and Paul of Samosata.<ref>Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Adoptianism</ref> It conflicted with the tradition, as in the Gospel of John, that Jesus is the eternal Logos, hence the term Alogi.


Arianism Arianism was the principal heresy which denied the full divinity of Jesus Christ, and is so called after its leader Arius.<ref name="ODCC:Arianism">Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3): article Arianism</ref> It has been called the most challenging heresy in the history of the Church. <ref name="CC"/>

Arius, born probably in Libya between c. 260 and 280, was ordained a priest in Alexandria in 312-313. Under Bishop Alexander (313-326), probably in about 319, he came forward as a champion of subordinationist teaching about the person of Christ.<ref name="ODCC:Arius">Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3): article Arius</ref>

Arius appears to have held that the Son of God was not eternal but created by the Father as an instrument for creating the world and therefore not God by nature, different from other creatures in being the one direct creation of God.<ref name="ODCC:Arianism"/> The controversy quickly spread, with Arius seeking support from other disciples of his teacher Lucian of Antioch, notably Eusebius of Nicomedia, while a synod under Alexander excommunicated Arius.<ref name="ODCC:Arius"/> Because of the agitation aroused by the dispute, <ref name="ODCC:Arianism"/> Emperor Constantine I sent Hosius of Córdoba to Alexandria to attempt a settlement; but the mission failed.<ref name="ODCC:Arius"/> Accordingly, in 325, Constantine convened the First Council of Nicaea, which, largely through the influence of Athanasius of Alexandria, then a deacon, but destined to be Alexander's successor, defined the Catholic faith in the coeternity and coequality of the Father and the Son, using the famous term "homoousios" to express the oneness of their being, while Arius and some bishops who supported him, including Eusebius, were banished.<ref name="ODCC:Arianism"/>

This council marks the end of the Early Christian period and the beginning of the period of the First seven Ecumenical Councils.


Ebionites The Ebionites ("poor ones") were a sect of Jewish Christians who flourished in the early centuries of Christianity, especially east of the Jordan. They emphasized the binding character of the Mosaic Law and believed Jesus was the human son of Joseph and Mary. They seem to have been ascetics, and are said to have rejected Paul's epistles and to have used only one Gospel.<ref>Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Ebionites</ref>


Valentinius Early in the common era, several distinct religious sects, some of them Christian, adhered to an array of beliefs that would later be termed Gnostic. The most successful Christian Gnostic was the priest Valentinus (c. 100 - c. 160), who founded a Gnostic church in Rome and developed an elaborate cosmology. Gnostics considered the material world to be a prison created by a fallen or evil spirit, the god of the material world (called the demiurge). Gnostics identified the God of the Hebrew Bible as this demiurge. Secret knowledge (gnosis) was said to liberate one's soul to return to the true God in the realm of light. Valentinus and other Christian gnostics identified Jesus as the Savior, a spirit sent from the true God into the material world to liberate the souls trapped there.

While there appear to be Gnostic elements in some early Christian writing, Irenaeus and others condemned Gnosticism as a heresy, rejecting its dualistic cosmology and vilification of the material world and the creator of that world. Gnostics thought the God of the Old Testament was not the true God. It was considered to be the demiurge and either fallen, as taught by Valentinus (c. 100 - c. 160) or evil, as taught by the Sethians and Ophites.

The Gospel of John, according to Stephen L Harris, both includes Gnostic elements and refutes Gnostic beliefs, presenting a dualistic universe of light and dark, spirit and matter, good and evil, much like the Gnostic accounts, but instead of escaping the material world, Jesus bridges the spiritual and physical worlds.<ref>Understanding the Bible, Stephen L Harris. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.</ref> Raymond E. Brown wrote that even though gnostics interpreted John to support their doctrines, the author didn't intend that. The Johannine epistles were written (whether by the author of the Gospel or someone in his circle) to argue against gnostic doctrines.<ref>The Community of the Beloved Disciple, Raymond E. Brown, Paulist Press. (French translation: La communauté du disciple bien-aimé Les Éditions du Cerf, Paris 1983 ISBN 2-204-02000-1), pp. 117-134</ref>

The Gospel of Thomas has some Gnostic elements but lacks the full Gnostic cosmology. The scene in John in which "doubting Thomas" ascertains that the resurrected Jesus is physical refutes the Gnostic idea that Jesus returned to spirit form after death. The written gospel draws on an earlier oral tradition associated with Thomas. Some scholars argue that the Gospel of John was meant to oppose the beliefs of that community.<ref>Beyond Belief,Elaine Pagels, 2003.</ref>

Some believeTemplate:Fact that there were at least three distinct divisions within the Christian movement of the 1st century: the Jewish Christians (led by the Apostle James the Just, with Jesus's disciples, and their followers), Pauline Christians (followers of Paul of Tarsus) and Gnostic Christians.Template:Fact Others believe that Gnostic Christianity was a later development, some time around the middle or late second century, around the time of Valentinus.<ref>No Longer Jews: The Search for Gnostic Origins, Carl B. Smith, Hendrickson Publishers (September 2004). ISBN 978-1565639447</ref> Gnosticism was in turn made up of many smaller groups, some of which did not claim any connection to Jesus Christ. In Mandaeist Gnosticism, Mandaeans maintain that Jesus was a mšiha kdaba or "false messiah" who perverted the teachings entrusted to him by John the Baptist. The word k(a)daba, however, derives from two roots in Mandaic: the first root, meaning "to lie," is the one traditionally ascribed to Jesus; the second, meaning "to write," might provide a second meaning, that of "book;" hence some Mandaeans, motivated perhaps by an ecumenical spirit, maintain that Jesus was not a "lying Messiah" but a "Book Messiah", the "book" in question presumably being the Christian Gospels. This however seems to be a folk etymology without support in the Mandaean texts.<ref name="Jesus">Citation/core</ref> A modern view has argued that Marcionism is mistakenly reckoned among the Gnostics, and really represents a fourth interpretation of the significance of Jesus.<ref>"MARCION", Encyclopædia Britannica 1911 ed., Volume VI7, p. 693.</ref> Gnostics freely exchanged concepts and texts. It is considered likely that Valentinius was influenced by previous concepts such as Sophia, as much as he influenced others.



In 144, the Church in Rome expelled Marcion of Sinope. He thereupon set up his own separate ecclesiastical organization, later called Marcionism. Like the Gnostics, he promoted dualism. Unlike the Gnostics, however, he founded his beliefs not on secret knowledge (gnosis) but on the vast difference between what he saw as the "evil" deity of the Old Testament and the God of love of the New Testament, on which he expounded in his Antithesis. Consequently, Marcionists were vehemently anti-Judaism in their beliefs. They rejected the Jewish-Christian Gospel according to the Hebrews (see also Jewish-Christian Gospels) and all the other Gospels with the single exception of the Gospel of Marcion, which appears to be a shorter version of the Gospel of Luke.

From the perspectives of Tertullian and Epiphanius (when the four gospels had largely canonical status, perhaps in reaction to the challenge created by Marcion), it appeared that Marcion rejected the non-Lukan gospels, however, in Marcion's time, it may be that the only gospel he was familiar with from Pontus was the gospel that would later be called Luke. It is also possible that Marcion's gospel was actually modified by his critics to become the gospel we know today as Luke, rather than the story from his critics that he changed a canonical gospel to get his version. For example: compare {{#if:| }}Luke 5:39 to ; did Marcion delete 5:39 from his Gospel or was it added later to counteract a Marcionist interpretation of 5:36-38? See also New Wine into Old Wineskins. One must keep in mind that we only know of Marcion through his critics and they considered him a major threat to the form of Christianity that they knew. John Knox (the modern writer, not to be confused with John Knox the Protestant Reformer) in Marcion and the New Testament: An Essay in the Early History of the Canon (ISBN 0-404-16183-9) was the first to propose that Marcion's Gospel may have preceded Luke's Gospel and Acts.<ref>"Marcion and Marcionite Gnosticism", Cky J. Carrigan, Ph.D., On Truth, November 1996.</ref>

Marcion argued that Christianity should be solely based on Christian Love. He went so far as to say that Jesus’ mission was to overthrow Demiurge -- the fickle, cruel, despotic God of the Old Testament—and replace Him with the Supreme God of Love whom Jesus came to reveal. Marcion was labeled a gnostic by Irenaeus. Irenaeus' labeled Marcion this because of Marcion expressing this core gnostic belief, that the creator God of the Jews and the Old Testament was the demiurge. This position, he said, was supported by the ten Epistles of Paul that Marcion also accepted. His writing had a profound effect upon the development of Christianity and the canon.<ref>Metzger, Bruce. Canon of the NT ISBN 978-0-19-826180-3; The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 characterized Marcion as "perhaps the most dangerous foe Christianity has ever known."; Harnack's Origin of the New Testament: "Marcion, on the contrary, treats the Catholic Church as one that “follows the Testament of the Creator-God,” and directs the full force of his attack against this Testament and against the falsification of the Gospel and of the Pauline Epistles by the original Apostles and the writers of the Gospels. He would necessarily have dealt with the two Testaments of the Catholic Church if the Church had already possessed a New Testament. His polemic would necessarily have been much less simple if he had been opposed to a Church which, by possessing a New Testament side by side with the Old Testament, had ipso facto placed the latter under the shelter of the former. In fact Marcion’s position towards the Catholic Church is intelligible, in the full force of its simplicity, only under the supposition that the Church had not yet in her hand any “litera scripta Novi Testamenti.”"</ref>


Montanism About 156, Montanus launched a ministry of prophecy, criticizing Christians as increasingly worldly and bishops as increasingly autocratic. Traveling in his native Anatolia, he and two women preached a return to primitive Christian simplicity, prophecy, celibacy, and asceticism.<ref name="CC"/> Tertullian, having grown puritanical with age, embraced Montanism as a more outright application of Christ's teaching.<ref name="CC"/> Montanus's followers revered him as the Paraclete that Christ had promised, and he led his sect out into a field to meet the New Jerusalem.<ref name="CC"/> His sect spread across the Roman Empire, survived persecution, and relished martyrdom.<ref name="CC"/> The Church banned them as a heresy, and in the 6th century Justinian ordered the sect's extinction.<ref name="CC"/>

The sect's ecstasy, speaking in tongues, and other details are similar to those found in Pentecostalism.

Religious writing

Template:Seealso Early Christians wrote many religious works, some of which were later canonized as the New Testament of today.

Oral tradition and first written works

Template:Seealso Christian testimony was entirely oral for roughly twenty years after Jesus' death. Christians passed along Jesus' teachings, proclaimed his resurrection, and prophesied his imminent return. Apostles established churches and oral traditions in various places, such as Jerusalem, Antioch, Caesarea, and Ephesus. These traditions gradually developed distinct characteristics.

When those who had heard Jesus' actual words began to die, Christians started recording the sayings in writing. The hypothetical Q document, a collection of Jesus' sayings, is perhaps the first such record (c 50).

Paul's epistles


At about the same time, Paul of Tarsus also began writing (or dictating<ref>It may be that he employed an amanuensis, only occasionally writing himself, for example see Template:Bibleref, Template:Bibleref, Template:Bibleref, Template:Bibleref, Template:Bibleref, Template:Bibleref. Joseph Barber Lightfoot in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians writes: "At this point [{{#if:| }}Gal 6:11] the Apostle takes the pen from his amanuensis, and the concluding paragraph is written with his own hand. From the time when letters began to be forged in his name ({{#if:2|2 }}Thess 2:2; ) it seems to have been his practice to close with a few words in his own handwriting, as a precaution against such forgeries… In the present case he writes a whole paragraph, summing up the main lessons of the epistle in terse, eager, disjointed sentences. He writes it, too, in large, bold characters (Gr. pelikois grammasin), that his handwriting may reflect the energy and determination of his soul."</ref>) letters ("epistles") to various churches that would later be considered scripture. Some scholars think Paul articulated the first Christian theology: namely that all people inherit Adam's guilt (see Original Sin) and can only be saved from death by the atoning death of the Son of God, Jesus' crucifixion.

Gospels and Acts


The gospel of Mark was written during c. 65-70, possibly motivated by the First Jewish-Roman War. The gospel of Matthew was written c. 80-85 to convince a Jewish audience that Jesus was the expected Messiah (Christ) and a greater Moses. The gospel of Luke, together with Acts (see Luke-Acts) was c. 85-90, considered the most literate and artistic of the gospels. Finally, the gospel of John was written, portraying Jesus as the incarnation of the divine Word, who primarily taught about himself as a savior. All four gospels originally circulated anonymously, and they were attributed to Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John in the 2nd century. Various authors wrote further epistles and the Apocalypse of John.<ref>Harris (1985). Pp 263-268.</ref>

Later epistles

Template:Seealso Epistles by other hands than Paul's circulated in the early church. Many of them, including one written as late as c 150,<ref name="Harris"/> were eventually included in the New Testament canon. Many later epistles concern issues of church leadership, discipline, and disputes.


Template:Seealso Several apocalypses circulated in the early church, and one of them, the Revelation of John, was later included in the New Testament.

Defining Scripture

Development of the Christian Biblical canon

Debates about scripture were underway in the mid-second century, concurrent with a drastic increase of new scriptures, both Jewish and Christian. Debates regarding practice and belief gradually became reliant on the use of scripture. Similarly, in the third century a shift away from direct revelation as a source of authority occurred. "Scripture" still had a broad meaning and usually referred to the Septuagint. Beyond the Torah (the Law) and some of the earliest prophetic works (the Prophets), there was no universal agreement to a canon, but it was not debated much at first. By the mid-second century, tensions arose with the growing rift between Christianity and Judaism, which some theorize led eventually to the determination of a Jewish canon by the emerging rabbinic movement,<ref>White (2004). Pp 446-447.</ref> though, even as of today, there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Jewish canon was set, see Development of the Jewish Bible canon for details. Some scholars argue that the Jewish canon was fixed by the Hasmonean dynasty (140-37 BCE).<ref>Philip R. Davies in The Canon Debate, page 50: "With many other scholars, I conclude that the fixing of a canonical list was almost certainly the achievement of the Hasmonean dynasty."</ref>

Regardless, throughout the Jewish diaspora newer writings were still collected and the fluid Septuagint collection was the primary source of scripture for Christians. Many works under the names of known Apostles, such as the Gospel of Thomas, were accorded scriptural status in at least some Christian circles. Apostolic writings, such as I Clement and the Epistle of Barnabas, were considered scripture even within the orthodoxy through the fifth century. A problem for scholars is that there is a lack of direct evidence on when Christians began accepting their own scriptures alongside the Septuagint. Well into the second century Christians held onto a strong preference for oral tradition as clearly demonstrated by writers of the time, such as Papias.<ref>White (2004). Pp 446-447.</ref>

The acceptance of the Septuagint was generally uncontested (even the Peshitta appears to be influenced<ref>Swete's Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, page 112</ref>). Later Jerome would express his preference for adhering strictly to the Jewish canon, but his view held little currency even in his own day. It was not until the Protestant Reformation that substantial numbers of Christians began to reject those books of the Septuagint which are not found in the Jewish canon, referring to them as Biblical apocrypha. In addition, some New Testament books were also disputed, see Antilegomena.

Fathers of the Church

Church Fathers From an early date the title "Father" was applied to bishops as witnesses to the Christian tradition. Only later, from the end of the fourth century, was it used in a more restricted sense of a more or less clearly defined group of ecclesiasical authors of the past whose authority on doctrinal matters carried special weight. According to the commonly accepted teaching, the Fathers of the Church are those ancient writers, whether bishops or not, who were characterized by orthodoxy of doctrine, holiness of life and the approval of the Church. Sometimes Tertullian, Origen and a few others of not unimpeachable orthodoxy are now classified as Fathers of the Church.<ref>Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Fathers of the Church</ref>

Apostolic Fathers

St. Clement I was an apostolic father.


The earliest Christian writings (other than those collected in the New Testament) are a group of letters credited to the Apostolic Fathers. These include the Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistles of Clement, as well as the Didache. Taken as a whole, the collection is notable for its literary simplicity, religious zeal and lack of Hellenistic philosophy or rhetoric. Fathers such as Ignatius of Antioch (died 98 to 117) advocated the authority of the apostolic episcopacy (bishops)<ref>Ephesians 5-6, Magnesians 2, 6-7, 13, Trallians 2-3, Smyrnaeans 8-9</ref>.

Post-apostolic fathers

Template:Seealso Post-apostolic fathers defined and defended Christian doctrine. The Apologists became prominent in the second century. This includes such notable figures as Justin Martyr (d. 165), Tatian (d. c. 185), and Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-211/216). They debated with prevalent philosophers of their day, defending and arguing for Christianity. They focused mainly on monotheism and their harshest words were used for ancient mythologies.<ref>Richardson (1953). Pp 16-17.</ref> Fathers such as Irenaeus advocated the role of the apostolic succession of bishops in preserving apostolic teaching.


The church fathers themselves were conscious of being a part of an ongoing tradition, and frequently appealed to earlier writers to defend their opinions. As the centuries passed, the result was a growing body of religious literature which was customarily used for devotional purposes and theological argumentation. It is these church fathers who form our most important sources for understanding the development of early Christianity, and their importance to their immediate successors explains their ongoing importance today. At the Protestant Reformation, the Reformers frequently appealed to the church fathers in defense of their propositions, though they also showed a willingness to disagree with them. By contrast, the Restorationists later viewed the church fathers as entirely suspect, and appealed in support of their views either to supposed new revelations or else to the New Testament directly without reference to later Christianity.

Rules and creeds

The term Rule of Faith is used to describe outline statements of Christian belief that circulated in the second-century Church and were designed to make clear the essential contents of Christian faith, guide the understanding of scripture, and distinguish orthodox belief from heresy. While, unlike the creeds, which were later, they varied in wording, their identical essential content was held to have descended unchanged from the Apostles.<ref>Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Rule of Faith</ref>

Originally, candidates for baptism accepted a short formula of belief, which varied in detail from one place to another. "By the fourth century these formulas had become more uniform and were everywhere tripartite in structure, following {{#if:| }}Matthew 28:19".<ref>Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Creed. The verse cited contains the tripartite formula "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit".</ref>

The early Christian era ends with Emperor Constantine convening the Council of Nicaea, where the original version of the Nicene Creed was formulated.


From the writings of early Christians, historians have tried to piece together an understanding of various early Christian practices including worship services, customs and observances. Early Christian writers such as Justin Martyr (100 - 165) described these practices.


Rituals that would later be defined as sacraments existed in the early church.


Baptism Early Christian beliefs regarding baptism were variable.<ref name ="ODWR">Bowker, John (ed.). The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. New York: Oxford University Press. 1997</ref> In the most usual form of early Christian baptism, the candidate stood in water and water was poured over the upper body.<ref name="ODWR"/> In other words, it was immersion, not submersion.<ref>Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article submersion</ref> Tertullian describes the rite as a triple immersion, preceded by a fast or vigil, a confession of sins, and renouncing the devil, and as followed by anointing, the imposition of hands, and a symbolic meal of milk and honey, the whole of the rite being normally presided over by the bishop, with Easter and Pentecost as the proper seasons for baptism in the early Christian period, though in case of necessity baptism might be administered at any time and by any male Christian.<ref name="Cross, F. L. 2005"/> The theology of baptism attained precision in the 3rd and 4th centuries.<ref name="ODWR"/>

While it is clear that infant baptism began to be widely practiced by at least the third century,<ref name="ReferenceA">Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Infant Baptism</ref> the origins of the practice are controversial. Some believe that the apostolic church practiced infant baptism, arguing that the mention of the baptism of households in the Acts of the Apostles must have included infants.<ref>Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D.; John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion; Jordan Bajis; Bryan Chapell; Gregg Strawbridge (response to objections)</ref> In the second century, Irenaeus may have referred to it,<ref name="ReferenceA"/><ref>"He (Jesus) came to save all through means of Himself — all, I say, who through Him are born again to God and children, infants, and boys, and youths, and old men" (Adversus Haereses, ii, 22, 4)</ref><ref>Paul King Jewett, Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace, (Eerdmans 1978), page 127.</ref>

The third century evidence is clearer, with both Origen<ref>Homilies on Leviticus 8.3.11; Commentary on Romans 5.9; and Homily on Luke 14.5</ref> and Cyprian advocating the practice. Tertullian refers to the practice (and that sponsors would speak on behalf of the children), but argues against it, on the grounds that baptism should be postponed until after marriage.<ref>"The delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary ... that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? ... For no less cause must the unwedded also be deferred - in whom the ground of temptation is prepared, alike in such as never were wedded by means of their maturity, and in the widowed by means of their freedom - until they either marry, or else be more fully strengthened for continence" (On Baptism 18).</ref>

Interpretation of the baptismal practices of the early church is important to groups such as Baptists and Anabaptists, who believe that infant baptism was a later development.


Early Christians, as part of the Lord's supper, consecrated bread and wine which became the Body and Blood of Christ. Where pagans would sacrifice animals for religious reasons, Christians would perform the Eucharist, or unbloody re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ.

Holy orders

The early church featured two or three levels of clergy, overseers (bishops), elders (presbyters, perhaps interchangeable with bishops), and deacons (assistants). By the year 200, only bishops had the authority to ordain priests.

Imposition of hands

Template:Seealso After baptism, the officiating Apostle or priest would lay hands on the subject's head to introduce the Holy Spirit into the believer.


By the third century, a system of public penance served as a "second baptism": the sinner, either voluntarily or under threat of excommunication, would undergo penance for a period whose length depended on the gravity of the sin, and which involved a rigorous course of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, during which the penitent was excluded from the Eucharist.<ref>Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Penance</ref>


Image:Agape feast 03.jpg
Fresco of a meal<ref>The word "Agape" in the inscription has led some to interpret the scene as that of an Agape feast. However, the phrase within which the word appears is "Agape misce nobis" (Agape, mix for us, i.e. prepare the wine for us), making it more likely that Agape is the name of the woman holding the cup. A very similar fresco and inscription elsewhere in the same catacomb has, in exactly the same position within the fresco, the words "Misce mi Irene" (Mix for me, Irene). A reproduction of this other fresco can be seen at Catacombe dei Ss. Marcellino e Pietro, where it is accompanied by the explanation (in Italian) "One of the most frequently recurring scenes in the paintings is that of the banquet, generally interpreted as a symbolic representation of the joys of the afterlife, but in which it may be possible to discern a realistic presentation of the agapae, the funeral banquets held to commemorate the dead person." Agape, like Irene, may thus be the name of the person buried where the fresco was painted.</ref> at a tomb in the Catacomb of Saints Marcellinus and Peter, Via Labicana, Rome

The first worship services were liturgical gatherings, which followed essentially a "Christianized" synagogue liturgical framework, and met in sections of homes quartered off especially for worship. Christians considered each other to be brothers and sisters, each contributing their respective gifts to the community. Gatherings featured hymns, prescribed prayers, and readings, especially from the scriptures (Old Testament). The first thirty to sixty years would not have known the writings of the new covenant as they had not yet been written, Christ's teachings being transmitted through the liturgy, its hymns and prayers and through oral Tradition. Eventually, once they had become known, Paul's epistles and later the gospels and other texts were read during the initial liturgical services. The Lord's Supper comprised a communal meal with prayers in memory of Jesus. Services were known as agape feasts or love feasts.

Second century sources, such as the Didache, specify that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are for the baptized only. In his First Apology, a letter of defense written to Roman emperor, Antonius Pius, 161-180, Justin described a newly baptized member of the community sharing in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, which was restricted to the baptized.<ref>...after we have thus washed him who has been convinced (converted to Christianity) and has assented to our teaching, we bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized person, ...so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. ... And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion....And this food is called among us Eucharistia or [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. ... we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone. The First Apology of Justin. </ref>

Despite Ignatius' rejection of Judaizing (see above), Christianity continued many of the patterns of Judaism, adapting to Christian use synagogue liturgical worship, prayer, use of Sacred Scripture, a priesthood, a religious calendar commemorating on certain days each year certain events and/or beliefs, use of music in worship, giving material support to the religious leadership, and practices such as fasting and almsgiving and baptism.

Christians adopted as their Bible the Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures known as the Septuagint and later also canonized the books of the New Testament. There are however many phrases which appear to be quotations and other statements of fact, in the early church fathers, which cannot be found in the Bible as we know it. For example in Clement's First Letter he states that Paul "reached the limits of the West", and also appears to quote a variant form of Ezek 33.

At worship, early Christians greeted each other with a holy kiss. Church leaders restricted the practice to keep the worshipers from taking pleasure in it, such as specifying that the lips be closed.

Many practices which later became characteristic of Christian worship had not yet developed. Singing was generally without instrumentation and was normally in unison. Many Christians had lost their lives rather than offer a mere pinch of incense to the emperor as to a god, and so the use of incense was strongly frowned upon even in Christian worship. These practices and others, such as the use of elaborate vestments and grand buildings, became popular only once the Peace of the Church changed the political situation and the growing prosperity of worshippers made them possible.

Church Community

Christians proclaimed a God of love who enjoined them to share a higher love with one another. Some interpreted the Old Testament as revealing primarily a God of justice, whereas the New Testament, particularly the letters of Paul and the Gospel of John, revealed a more loving God. Parallels are found in Pharisaic and Rabbinic Judaism. Paul of Tarsus is represented in {{#if:| }}Acts 17:22-33 as equating the Unknown God of the Greeks as revealed in the Christian God. Early Christian communities welcomed everyone, including slaves and women, who were generally shunned in Greco-Roman culture, but there were other exceptions, such as in Epicureanism.


Christian groups were first organized loosely. In Paul's time, there were no precisely delineated functions for bishops, elders, and deacons.<ref name ="Harris"/> A Church hierarchy, however, seems to have developed by the early second century<ref name ="Harris"/> (see Pastoral Epistles, c 90 - 140<ref name="Harris"/>). These structures were certainly formalized well before the end of the Early Christian period, which concluded with the legalization of Christianity by Constantine's Edict of Milan in 313 and the holding of the First Council of Nicea in 325.

Some first-century Christian writings include reference to overseers ("bishops") and deacons, though these may have been informal leadership roles rather than formal positions. The Didache (dated by most scholars to the early second century),<ref>Bruce Metzger Metzger, Bruce. The canon of the New Testament. 1997</ref>) speaks of "appointing for yourself bishops and deacons" and also speaks about teachers and prophets and false prophets. Bishops were defined as spiritual authorities over geographical areas.

By the end of the early Christian period, the church of the Roman Empire had hundreds of bishops, some of them (those of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and, it seems, the chief bishops of other provinces) holding some form of jurisdiction over others.<ref>Canon VI of the First Council of Nicea, which closes the period under consideration in this article, reads: "Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop ..." As can be seen, the title of "Patriarch", later applied to some of these bishops, was not used by the Council: "Nobody can maintain that the bishops of Antioch and Alexandria were called patriarchs then, or that the jurisdiction they had then was co-extensive with what they had afterward, when they were so called" (ffoulkes, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, quoted in Volume XIV of Philip Schaff's The Seven Ecumenical Councils).</ref>

Jerusalem was an important church center up to 135, for example see the Council of Jerusalem and the section on Jerusalem below, and it became significant again in the post-Nicene era. Some believe Rome was recognized as the first city of the church, Alexandria second, and then Antioch, see also Papal supremacy; this belief grew into one of the primary causes of the Great Schism and is still disputed today by the Orthodox and Protestants. When the city of Constantinople was founded (330), this too became an important Christian centre within the empire, since the emperor resided there and made it his New Rome. Constantinople (Byzantium) is generally associated with the Byzantine Empire.


Christian monasticism started in Egypt. The first monks were hermits (eremetic monks). By the end of the early Christian era, Saint Pachomius was organizing his followers into a community and founding the tradition of monasticism in community (cenobitic monks).

Interaction with Greco-Roman and Jewish cultures

Pagan influences on Christianity The land in which Christianity began and through which it spread had been both Hellenized (after Alexander the Great) and Romanized (with the rise of the Roman Empire). Early church writings were in Greek, even those originating in Rome, as Greek was the international language, lingua franca, of the day (similar to English in the early 21st century) and was widely spoken even in Rome.

Languages often presume features of the culture of their native speakers. For instance, the concept represented by the Greek word psyche, that of the soul, was often understood as immaterial in Greek writers, who also discussed whether the soul was immortal or not. The writers of the New Testament, like the Jewish translators of the Old Testament (Septuagint), used this word to render the Hebrew nephesh. Christianity and some forms of Judaism believe in bodily resurrection. Judaism later rejected the Septuagint because of its divergence from what had become the accepted Hebrew text and also because of the use of the Septuagint by Christians.<ref>Jewish Encyclopedia: Bible Translations: Aquila: "Two things, however, rendered the Septuagint unwelcome in the long run to the Jews. Its divergence from the accepted text (afterward called the Masoretic) was too evident; and it therefore could not serve as a basis for theological discussion or for homiletic interpretation. This distrust was accentuated by the fact that it had been adopted as Sacred Scripture by the new faith. A revision in the sense of the canonical Jewish text was necessary. This revision was made by a proselyte, Aquila, who lived during the reign of Hadrian (117-138)."</ref> Parallels to this exist in Christian history, where Greek, Latin or 16th century English are felt to be "proper" expressions of the scriptures, or of liturgy.

In early Christianity, Koine Greek, the most widely spoken language in the Roman empire of the time, the language also in which Alexandrian Jews such as Philo wrote their works, was naturally the language most used in Christian writings. (Other less widely used languages were not excluded: Latin, for instance, was used by writers such as Tertullian and Marcus Minucius Felix and Syriac by Syriac Christianity.) Regarding issues like polytheism, Christianity stood with Judaism against the background pagan culture, being staunchly monotheistic. Early Christianity thus found itself, like Judaism before it, in conflict with the prevailing Greco-Roman culture, where polytheistic theology was not simply an abstraction, but influenced social customs at many levels. Banquets in honour of gods were a common occurrence, legal codes and international diplomacy depended on gods as witnesses and the ultimate court of appeal on justice. Christians were considered atheists, because they refused to honour the pagan gods.<ref> "Worship in the Early Church", Richard C. Leonard, Laudemont Ministries 1997.</ref> In some cases, public opinion was against Christianity as antisocial (refusing to eat at pagan banquets) and immoral (unaccountable to the moral ethos couched in polytheistic terms). Tacitus recorded some of his impressions in 109: "a class hated for their abominations", "a most mischievous superstition", guilty of "hatred against mankind".<ref>Annals XV, 44.</ref> Christians were also accused of cannibalism (perhaps a reference to the Eucharist) and incest (perhaps a reference to the biblical prohibition of marriage outside the faith).


Template:Seealso Christians were persecuted on an irregular basis in Rome. In his On the Life of the Caesars Suetonius (ca. 69/75 - after 130) wrote of the Emperor Claudius that, "since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome."<ref>The Life of Claudius, chapter 25</ref> The similarity between the name "Chrestus" and "Christus" (Latin for "Christ")<ref>Confusion of the two names is witnessed to as late as the end of the second century: in 197, Tertullian commented that those who attacked the Christians commonly mispronounced the name as "Chrestian" (Ad Nationes, book I, chapter III).</ref> and the tradition witnessed to in the Jewish Encyclopedia that Claudius took this action because of dissensions "regarding the advent of the Messiah"<ref>"In 49-50, in consequence of dissensions among them regarding the advent of the Messiah, (the Jews) were forbidden to hold religious services. The leaders in the controversy, and many others of the Jewish citizens, left the city."</ref> have led to the supposition that this is a reference to the presence of Christians among the Jews in Rome.<ref>Early Christian Writings: Information on Suetonius</ref> The common Greek name of Chrestus may have been that of a Jewish agitator in Rome rather than a reference to Christ.<ref>H. Dixon Slingerland, Claudian Policymaking and the Early Imperial Repression of Judaism at Rome. South Florida Studies in the History of Judaism (1997) 89-150</ref> Claudius's measure is dated to 49, and {{#if:| }}Acts 18:1-3 relates that, when Paul of Tarsus arrived in Corinth, probably in the following year, a Jewish Christian couple, Priscilla and Aquila, had arrived there shortly before () as a result of Claudius's expulsion of "all Jews" from Rome, a phrase that suggests that the Emperor's action was directed against Jews in general, and not against the Christian Jews in particular.

In the year 64, the Christians (or Chrestians<ref>In the earliest extant manuscript containing Annales 15:44, the second Medicean, the e in "Chrestianos", Chrestians, has been changed into an i; cf. Gerd Theißen, Annette Merz, Der historische Jesus: ein Lehrbuch, 2001, p. 89. While the reading Christianos, Christians, is therefore doubtful, there is no doubt about the manuscript's spelling of the word Christus which follows immediately: "Nero subdidit reos et quaesitissimis poenis adfecit quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Chrestianos/Christianos appellabat. auctor nominis eius Christus Tiberio imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat; repressaque in praesens exitiabilis superstitio rursum erumpebat, non modo per Iudaeam, originem eius mali, sed per urbem etiam quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt celebranturque (Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Chrestians/Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular).</ref>), specified by this name in the account written later by the Roman historian Tacitus (died c. 117), were blamed by Nero as a scapegoat for the Great Fire of Rome in that year. He probably chose them as a new and secretive cult, mistrusted by the people: Tacitus called Christianity a "deadly superstition"; but he also noted that Nero's persecution of the Christians was so harsh that the inhabitants of Rome resented its cruelty.<ref>Stambaugh (1986). Pg 164-165.</ref><ref>Francis (1997). Pg 80.</ref>

Christians also suffered persecutions under the reigns of Domitian and Trajan. Persecutions continued intermittently through the second century. Even during periods between organized persecutions, Christians were still sporadically subject to trial and condemnation. After the late second century relative calm held in Rome. The reign of the Severi emperors is particularly noted as not only tolerant of the various religions in Rome, but actively interested in them. Alexander Severus is said to have had a shrine in his palace with an icon of Christ.<ref>Stambaugh (1986). Pg 165.</ref> The persecutions peaked with the Diocletian Persecution of 303-312.


Martyrdom was considered equivalent to baptism, a "baptism of blood."<ref name="ReferenceB">"martyr." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005</ref> Martyrs were held to be especially inspired by the Holy Spirit, and their utterances were treasured.<ref name="ReferenceB"/> From the end of the 2nd century, the anniversary of a martyr's death as a kept as a feast at the tomb, and churches were sometimes built at these sites.<ref name="ReferenceB"/> Martyrs were venerated as intercessors, and their relics were sought after.<ref name="ReferenceB"/>

During persecutions, Christians who capitulated, some to the point of apostasy, and were termed "lapsi" (Latin: fallen).<ref>"lapsi." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005</ref> and sacrificed to Caesar. Under the Decian persecution, Christians who obtained false documents asserting that they had sacrificed to the pagan idols were termed libellatici.<ref name="ReferenceC">"libellatici." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005</ref> While this practice was condemned by church authorities, libellatici were treated better than those who had actually sacrificed ("sacrificati").<ref name="ReferenceC"/> In Africa during the persecution under Diocletian, Christians who surrendered Scriptures to the authorities were termed traditors.<ref>"traditor." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005</ref> The Novantianist and Donatist schisms arose when the schismatics insisted on being less generous in allowing lapsi back into the Church.

Christian reactions

In response to persecution, Christianity castigated the Roman Empire, depicting Rome itself as Babylon (the ancient city depicted in the Bible as morally corrupt). In the second century, Christians responded to persecution by teaching that all those who had had a chance to accept Christ but hadn't would be punished forever.<ref name="CC"/> All those who had come before Christ were said to suffer the same fate (sometimes excepting Socrates).<ref name="CC"/>

Major centres

Early Christianity spread from city to city in the Hellenized Roman Empire and beyond.

Within the Roman Empire


Image:Golgotha cross-section.svg
A diagram of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre based on a German documentary, claimed to be the site of Calvary and the Tomb of Jesus.
Ascension Rock on the Mount of Olives, claimed to bear the imprint of Jesus' right foot.
The James ossuary was on display at the Royal Ontario Museum from November 15, 2002 to January 5, 2003. The Israel Antiquities Authority assess it as a modern forgery, while the Biblical Archaeology Review has continued to defend it.
See also: Early Bishops of Jerusalem and Acts of the Apostles and Liturgy of St James and History of Palestine in the Roman Period and Jerusalem in Christianity and Apostolic Age.

Jerusalem had been King David's capital for his United Monarchy (c 1000 BC) of the Promised Land, and the site of the Israelites First Temple, erected by King Solomon.<ref name="Cross2005 Jerusalem">"Jerusalem." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005</ref> It was also the capital of the Maccabean Kingdom (164 BC - 63 BC) and site of the Second Temple. Jesus and his followers had traveled there from Galilee, c. 33 AD, at which time the city was under Roman occupation as part of Iudaea province (6 AD - 132 AD). There he was crucified, and there he had reportedly risen and then ascended to heaven with a prophecy to return.

Jerusalem was the first center of the church, according to the Book of Acts. The apostles lived and taught there for some time after Pentecost.<ref name="Cross2005 Jerusalem" /> Jesus' brother James was a leader in the church, and his other kinsman likely held leadership positions in the surrounding area.<ref name="Cross2005 Jerusalem" /> Circa 50, Barnabas and Paul went to Jerusalem to meet with the "pillars of the church"<ref>Catholic Encyclopedia: St. James the Less: "Then we lose sight of James till St. Paul, three years after his conversion (A.D. 37), went up to Jerusalem. ... On the same occasion, the "pillars" of the Church, James, Peter, and John "gave to me (Paul) and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision" ({{#if:| }}Galatians 2:9)."</ref>: James, Peter, and John. Later called the Council of Jerusalem, this meeting, among other things, confirmed the legitimacy of the mission of Barnabas and Paul to the gentiles, and the gentile converts' freedom from most Jewish law, especially circumcision, which was repulsive to the Hellenic mind<ref>Jewish Encyclopedia: Circumcision: In Apocryphal and Rabbinical Literature: "Contact with Grecian life, especially at the games of the arena [which involved nudity], made this distinction obnoxious to the Hellenists, or antinationalists; and the consequence was their attempt to appear like the Greeks by epispasm ("making themselves foreskins"; I Macc. i. 15; Josephus, "Ant." xii. 5, § 1; Assumptio Mosis, viii.; I Cor. vii. 18; , Tosef., Shab. xv. 9; Yeb. 72a, b; Yer. Peah i. 16b; Yeb. viii. 9a). All the more did the law-observing Jews defy the edict of Antiochus Epiphanes prohibiting circumcision (I Macc. i. 48, 60; ii. 46); and the Jewish women showed their loyalty to the Law, even at the risk of their lives, by themselves circumcising their sons."; </ref>. Thus, the Apostolic Decree ({{#if:| }}Acts 15:19-21) may be the first act of differentiation of the Church from its Jewish roots<ref>Jewish Encyclopedia: Baptism: "According to rabbinical teachings, which dominated even during the existence of the Temple (Pes. viii. 8), Baptism, next to circumcision and sacrifice, was an absolutely necessary condition to be fulfilled by a proselyte to Judaism (Yeb. 46b, 47b; Ker. 9a; 'Ab. Zarah 57a; Shab. 135a; Yer. Kid. iii. 14, 64d). Circumcision, however, was much more important, and, like baptism, was called a "seal" (Schlatter, "Die Kirche Jerusalems," 1898, p. 70). But as circumcision was discarded by Christianity, and the sacrifices had ceased, Baptism remained the sole condition for initiation into religious life. The next ceremony, adopted shortly after the others, was the imposition of hands, which, it is known, was the usage of the Jews at the ordination of a rabbi. Anointing with oil, which at first also accompanied the act of Baptism, and was analogous to the anointment of priests among the Jews, was not a necessary condition."</ref>, see also List of events in early Christianity. In roughly the same time period Rabbinic Judaism made their circumcision requirement even stricter.<ref>"peri'ah", (Shab. xxx. 6)</ref>

When Peter left Jerusalem after Herod Agrippa I tried to kill him, James appears as the principal authority.<ref name="Cross2005 StJames">"James, St." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005</ref> Church writers would later label him the church's bishop.<ref name="Cross2005 StJames" /> A second-century church historian, Hegesippus, wrote that the Sanhedrin martyred him in 62.<ref name="Cross2005 StJames" />

In 66, the Jews revolted against Rome.<ref name="Cross2005 Jerusalem" /> Rome besieged Jerusalem for four years, and the city fell in 70.<ref name="Cross2005 Jerusalem" /> The city was destroyed, including the Temple but not the Temple Mount, and the population was mostly killed or removed.<ref name="Cross2005 Jerusalem" /> A scattered population survived.<ref name="Cross2005 Jerusalem" /> The Sanhedrin relocated to Jamnia<ref>Jewish Encyclopedia: Academies in Palestine</ref>. Prophecies of the Temple's destruction are found in the synoptics.<ref name="Harris"/>

In the second century, Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina,<ref>It was still known as Aelia at the time of the First Council of Nicaea, which marks the end of the Early Christianity period (Canon VII of the First Council of Nicaea).</ref> erecting statues of Jupiter and himself on the site of the former Jewish Temple, the Temple Mount. Bar Cochba led an unsuccessful revolt as a Messiah, but Christians refused to acknowledge him as such. When Bar Cochba was defeated, Hadrian barred Jews from the city, except for Tisha B'Av, thus the subsequent Jerusalem bishops were gentiles (literally "uncircumcised") for the first time.<ref>Eusebius' History of the Church Book IV, chapter V, verses 3-4</ref>

The significance of Jerusalem to Christians entered a period of decline, but resumed again with the pilgrimage of Helena (the mother of Constantine the Great) to the Holy Land c. 326–28. Helena is remember as the Patron Saint of Archaeologists and (according to the church historian Socrates of Constantinople<ref>Socrates' Church History at CCEL.org: Book I, Chapter XVII: The Emperor’s Mother Helena having come to Jerusalem, searches for and finds the Cross of Christ, and builds a Church.</ref>) claimed to have found the Cross of Christ.


Template:Seealso Antioch, the third-most important city of the Roman Empire,<ref>Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Antioch</ref> then part of Syria province, today Antakya, Turkey, was where Christians were first so-called<ref>{{#if:| }}Acts 11:26</ref> and also the location of the Incident at Antioch. It was the site of an early church, traditionally said to be founded by Peter who is considered the first bishop. The Gospel of Matthew may have been written there. The church father Ignatius of Antioch was its third bishop. The School of Antioch, founded in 270, was one of two major centers of early church learning. The Curetonian Gospels and the Syriac Sinaiticus are two early (pre-Peshitta) New Testament text types associated with Syrian Christianity. It was one of the three whose bishops were recognized at the First Council of Nicaea (325) as exercising jurisdiction over the adjoining territories.<ref name>"Their jurisdiction extended over the adjoining territories ... The earliest bishops exercising such powers... were those of Rome (over the whole or part of Italy), Alexandria (over Egypt and Libya), and Antioch (over large parts of Asia Minor). These three were recognized by the Council of Nicaea (325)." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article patriarch (ecclesiastical)</ref>


Template:Seealso Established by Alexander the Great, Alexandria and its famous libraries were a center of Hellenistic learning. The Septuagint translation of the Old Testament began there and the Alexandrian text-type is recognized by scholars as one of the earliest New Testament types. It had a significant Jewish population, of which Philo of Alexandria is probably its most known author.<ref>Jewish Encyclopedia: Alexandria, Egypt— Ancient</ref> It produced superior scripture and notable church fathers, such as Clement, Origen, and Athanasius.<ref>According to the Catholic Encyclopedia article Alexandria: "An important seaport of Egypt, on the left bank of the Nile. It was founded by Alexander the Great to replace the small borough called Racondah or Rakhotis, 331 B.C. The Ptolemies, Alexander's successors on the throne of Egypt, soon made it the intellectual and commercial metropolis of the world. Cæsar who visited it 46 B.C. left it to Queen Cleopatra, but when Octavius went there in 30 B.C. he transformed the Egyptian kingdom into a Roman province. Alexandria continued prosperous under the Roman rule but declined a little under that of Constantinople. ... Christianity was brought to Alexandria by the Evangelist St. Mark. It was made illustrious by a lineage of learned doctors such as Pantænus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen; it has been governed by a series of great bishops amongst whom Athanasius and Cyril must be mentioned."</ref> By the end of the era, Alexandria, Rome, and Antioch were accorded authority over nearby metropolitans. The Council of Nicaea affirmed Alexandria's traditional authority over Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis (North Africa) (canon VI) and probably granted Alexandria the right to declare a universal date for the observance of Easter<ref>Philip Schaff's History of the Christian Church, volume 3, section 79: "The Time of the Easter Festival": "...this was the second main object of the first ecumenical council in 325. The result of the transactions on this point, the particulars of which are not known to us, does not appear in the canons (probably out of consideration for the numerous Quartodecimanians), but is doubtless preserved in the two circular letters of the council itself and the emperor Constantine. [Socrates: Hist. Eccl. i. 9; Theodoret: H. E. i. 10; Eusebius: Vita Const ii. 17.]"</ref>, see also Easter controversy.


Image:Vatican City at Large.jpg
St. Peter's Basilica, believed to be the burial site of St. Peter, seen from the River Tiber. The iconic dome dominates the skyline of Rome.
See also: First phase of papal supremacy

Irenaeus of Lyons believed in the second century that Peter and Paul had been the founders of the Church in Rome and had appointed Linus as succeeding bishop.<ref>Ireneaus Against Heresies 3.3.2: the "...Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. ...The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate."</ref> The seat of imperial power soon became a center of church authority, grew in power decade by decade, and became (during the period of the Seven Ecumenical Councils) the "head" of the church.<ref>Schaff's Seven Ecumenical Councils: The Seventh: Letter to Pope Hadrian: "Therefore, O most holy Head (Caput)", "And after this, may there be no further schism and separation in the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, of which Christ our true God is the Head."; Pope Hadrian's letter: "the holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church your spiritual mother ... the head of all Churches"; Canon IV: "For Peter the supreme head (ἡ κερυφαία ἀκρότης) of the Apostles"; Letter to the Emperor and Empress: "Christ our God (who is the head of the Church)".</ref> Paul's Epistle to the Romans (c 58) attests to a large Christian community already there<ref name ="Oxford:Rome">Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Rome (early Christian)</ref>, though he does not mention Peter. The see is traditionally said to be founded by Peter, see also Primacy of Simon Peter, who had invested it with apostolic authority. Church father Clement, bishop of Rome, asserted his see's apostolic authority. However, not even by the end of the era were Rome and Alexandria, which by tradition held authority over sees outside their own province,<ref>First Council of Nicaea, canon VI</ref> referred to as patriarchates<ref>"Patriarch (ecclesiastical). A title dating from the 6th cent., for the bishops of the five chief sees of Christendom ... Their jurisdiction extended over the adjoining territories ... The earliest bishops exercising such powers, though not so named, were those of Rome (over the whole or part of Italy, Alexandria (over Egypt and Libya), and Antioch (over large parts of Asia Minor)" [Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Patriarch (ecclesiastical)]. "Nobody can maintain that the bishops of Antioch and Alexandria were called patriarchs then, or that the jurisdiction they had then was co-extensive with what they had afterward, when they were so called" (ffoulkes, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, quoted in Volume XIV of Philip Schaff's The Seven Ecumenical Councils).</ref>

Pope Victor I (189-198) was the first Latin ecclesiastical writer, but it seems that he wrote nothing but his encyclicals, which would naturally have been issued in both Latin and Greek.<ref>Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Victor I, St</ref>

The earlier Roman bishops were all Greek-speaking, the most notable of them being Pope Clement I (c. 88-97), author of an Epistle to the Church in Corinth; Pope Telesphorus (c. 126-136), probably the only martyr among them; Pope Pius I (c. 141-154), said by the Muratorian fragment to be the brother of the author of the Shepherd of Hermas; and Pope Anicetus (c. 155-160), who received Saint Polycarp and discussed with him the dating of Easter.<ref name ="Oxford:Rome" />

Greek New Testament texts were translated into Latin early on, and are classified as the Vetus Latina and Western text-type.

During the second century, Christians and semi-Christians of diverse views congregated in Rome, and in the following century there were schisms connected with Hippolytus of Rome and Novatian.<ref name ="Oxford:Rome" />

The Roman church survived various persecutions, and many clergy were martyred. When Rome burned in 64, Nero blamed the Christians and persecuted them.<ref name ="Oxford:Rome" /> In the "Massacre of 258", under Valerian, the emperor killed a great many Christian clergy, including Pope Sixtus II and Antipope Novatian and Cyprian of Carthage.<ref>Catholic Encyclopedia: Valerian; Schaff's History Vol 2 Chap 2 §22</ref> Persecutions, of which that which broke out under Diocletian in 303 was particularly severe, finally ended in Rome, and the West in general, with the accession of Maxentius in 306.


The amphitheatre at Caesarea

Template:Seealso Caesarea, at first Caesarea Maritima, then after 133 Caesarea Palaestina, was founded by Herod the Great and was the capital of Iudaea province and later Palaestina Prima. It was there that Peter baptized the centurion Cornelius, considered the first gentile convert. Paul often visited and was imprisoned there for two years. Origen compiled his Hexapla there and it held a famous library and theological school, St. Pamphilus was a noted scholar-priest. St. Gregory the Wonder-Worker, St. Basil the Great, and St. Jerome visited and studied at the library which was later destroyed, probably by the Persians in 614 or the Saracens around 637.<ref>Catholic Encyclopedia: Caesarea Palaestinae</ref> The first major church historian, Eusebius of Caesarea, was a bishop. F. J. A. Hort and Adolf von Harnack have argued that the Nicene Creed originated in Caesarea. The Caesarean text-type is recognized by scholars as one of the earliest New Testament types.

North Africa

Carthage gave the early church the Latin fathers Tertullian<ref>"Tertullian." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005</ref> and Cyprian.<ref>"Cyprian, St." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005</ref> The deserts of Egypt were home to ascetic fathers, such as Pachomius<ref>"Pachomius, St." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005</ref> and Antony.<ref>"Antony, St, of Egypt" Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005</ref> Carthage fell to Islam in 698.

Western Anatolia

Image:Seven churches of asia.svg
Map of Western Anatolia showing the locations of the cities housing the Seven Churches of Asia and the island of Patmos.


The tradition of John the Apostle was strong in Anatolia (also called the Roman province of Asia, the near-east, part of modern Turkey). The gospel of John was likely written in Ephesus. According to the New Testament, the Apostle Paul was from Tarsus and his missionary journeys were primarily in this region. The Book of Revelation, believed to be authored by John of Patmos (a Greek island about 30 miles off the Anatolian coast), mentions Seven churches of Asia. The First Epistle of Peter () is addressed to Anatolian cities. Of the extant letters of Ignatius of Antioch considered authentic (see Ignatius of Antioch#Letters), five of seven are to Anatolian cities. Smyrna was home to Polycarp, the bishop who reportedly knew the Apostle John personally, and probably also to his student Irenaeus. Papias of Hierapolis is also believed to have been a student of John the Apostle. In the 2nd century, Anatolia was home to Quartodecimanism and Montanism and Melito of Sardis who recorded an early Christian Biblical canon. In 325, Constantine convoked the first Christian ecumenical council in Nicaea and in 330 he moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople, also called the Byzantine Empire, which lasted till 1435.<ref>Catholic Encyclopedia: Asia Minor: Spread of Christianity in Asia Minor: "Asia Minor was certainly the first part of the Roman world to accept as a whole the principles and the spirit of the Christian religion, and it was not unnatural that the warmth of its conviction should eventually fire the neighbouring Armenia and make it, early in the fourth century, the first of the ancient states formally to accept the religion of Christ (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., IX, viii, 2)."</ref>


Image:Ananias house.jpg
The supposed house of St. Ananias in Damascus.
Image:Damascus-Bab Kisan.jpg
Bab Kisan where St. Paul escaped from Damascus

Template:Seealso According to the New Testament, the Apostle Paul was converted on the Road to Damascus. In the three accounts ({{#if:| }}Acts 9:1-20, , ), he is described as being led by those he was traveling with, blinded by the light, to Damascus where his sight was restored by a disciple called Ananias then he was baptized.



St Paul's Pillar in Paphos

Paphos was the capital of the island of Cyprus during the Roman years and seat of a Roman commander. In 45 A.D, apostles Paul and Barnabas came to Cyprus and reached Paphos preaching the Word of Christ, see also {{#if:| }}Acts 13:4-13. The apostles were persecuted by the Romans but eventually succeeded to convince the Roman commander Sergius Paulus into renouncing his old religion in favour of Christianity. Cyprus became the first state entity to become officially ChristianTemplate:Fact. 5 years later, Barnabas returned to the Cypriot town of Salamis, where he became bishop and oversaw the spread of Christianity to the island.

Outside the Roman Empire

Christianity was by no means confined to the Roman Empire during the early Christian period. It became the official religion of Armenia in 301 or 314,<ref>Armenian History, Chapter III</ref> when Christianity was still illegal in the Roman Empire. The Armenian church was founded by Gregory the Illuminator. (See Armenian Apostolic Church.)

Christianity in Georgia (ancient Iberia) extends back to the 4th century, if not earlier.<ref>"Georgia, Church of." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005</ref> The Iberian king, Mirian III, converted to Christianity, probably in 334.<ref>"Georgia, Church of." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005</ref>

Edessa, which was held by Rome from 116 to 118 and 212 to 214, but was mostly a client kingdom associated either with Rome or Persia, was an important Christian city. Shortly after 201 or even earlier, its royal house became Christian<ref name="vonHarnack">cite book</ref>

The main language of the Church in this area was Aramaic, which some, though only a minority, argue was the original language of some books of the New Testament. (See also Aramaic of Jesus.)

The missionary Addai, who evangelized Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) about the middle of the second century, and became the first bishop of Edessa, was succeeded by Aggai, then by Palut, who was ordained about 200 by Serapion of Antioch. Thence came to us in the second century the famous Peshitta, or Syriac translation of the Old Testament; also Tatian's Diatessaron, which was compiled about 172 and in common use until St. Rabbula, Bishop of Edessa (412-435), forbade its use. This arrangement of the four canonical gospels as a continuous narrative, whose original language may have been Syriac, Greek, or even Latin, circulated widely in Syriac-speaking Churches.<ref>Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Diatessaron</ref>

Among the illustrious disciples of the School of Edessa, Bardesanes (154 - 222), a schoolfellow of Abgar IX, deserves special mention for his role in creating Christian religious poetry, and whose teaching was continued by his son Harmonius and his disciples.

The Didascalia Apostolorum, originally written in Greek in the first half of the third century, was likely composed by a Jewish convert in northern Syria.<ref>Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Didascalia Apostolorum</ref>

A Christian council was held at Edessa as early as 197.<ref>Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia Ecclesiastica, V, 23</ref> In 201 the city was devastated by a great flood, and the Christian church was destroyed.<ref>Chronicon Edessenum, ad. an. 201</ref>. In 232 the relics of the Apostle St. Thomas were brought from India, on which occasion his Syriac Acts were written. Under Roman domination many martyrs suffered at Edessa: Sts. Scharbîl and Barsamya, under Decius; Sts. Gûrja, Schâmôna, Habib, and others under Diocletian. In the meanwhile Christian priests from Edessa had evangelized Eastern Mesopotamia and Persia, and established the first Churches in the kingdom of the Sassanids.<ref>Encyclopedia Iranica: Christianity</ref> Atillâtiâ, Bishop of Edessa, assisted at the First Council of Nicaea (325).

By the time that Edessa was incorporated into the Persian Empire in 258, the city of Arbela, situated on the Tigris in what is now Iraq, had taken on more and more the role that Edessa had played in the early years, as a centre from which Christianity spread to the rest of the Persian Empire.<ref name=CofE>Mark Dickens: The Church of the East</ref> Bardaisan, writing about 196, speaks of Christians throughout Media, Parthia and Bactria (modern-day Afghanistan)<ref>"We are Christians by the one name of the Messiah. As regards our customs our brethren abstain from everything that is contrary to their profession.... Parthian Christians do not take two wives.... Our Bactrian sisters do not practice promiscuity with strangers. Persians do not take their daughters to wife. Medes do not desert their dying relations or bury them alive. Christians in Edessa do not kill their wives or sisters who commit fornication but keep them apart and commit them to the judgement of God. Christians in Hatra do not stone thieves" (quoted in Mark Dickens: The Church of the East).</ref> and, according to Tertullian (c.160-230), there were already a number of bishoprics within the Persian Empire by 220.<ref name=CofE/> By 315, the bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon had assumed the title "Catholicos".<ref name=CofE/> By this time, neither Edessa nor Arbela was the centre of the Church of the East anymore; ecclesiastical authority had moved east to the heart of the Persian Empire.<ref name=CofE/> The twin cities of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, well-situated on the main trade routes between East and West, became, in the words of John Stewart, "a magnificent centre for the missionary church that was entering on its great task of carrying the gospel to the far east."<ref>John Stewart, Nestorian Missionary Enterprise (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1928)</ref>

When Constantine converted to Christianity, the Persian Empire, suspecting a new "enemy within," became violently anti-Christian. Within a few years, Shapur II (309-379) inaugurated a twenty-year long persecution of the church with the murder of Mar Shimun, the Catholicos of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, five bishops and 100 priests on Good Friday, 344, after the Patriarch refused to collect a double tax from the Christians to help the Persian war effort against Rome.<ref name=CofE/> See also Christianity in Iran.

According to records written in the Ge'ez language, see also Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the region today known as Ethiopia converted to Judaism during the time of the biblical Queen of Sheba and Solomon. According to the fourth century western historian Rufinius, it was Frumentius who brought Christianity to Ethiopia (the city of Axum) and served as its first bishop, probably shortly after 325.<ref>Catholic Encyclopedia: Ethiopia</ref>



Image:Nicaea icon.jpg
Icon depicting Emperor Constantine, accompanied by the Fathers of the 325 First Council of Nicaea, holding the Nicene Creed in its 381 form.
Image:Byzantinischer Mosaizist um 1000 002.jpg
Emperor Constantine presents a representation of the city of Constantinople as tribute to an enthroned Mary and baby Jesus in this church mosaic. St Sophia, c. 1000).

In the fourth century, Emperor Constantine (306-337) converted to Christianity<ref>He was baptized only shortly before his death (Bryn Mawr Classical Review).</ref> and legalized it, showing it personal favour (see Constantine I and Christianity for details). He convened at Nicaea the first of the ecumenical councils, at which the church dogmatically defined the divinity of Christ.<ref>The divinity of the Holy Spirit was defined at the First Council of Constantinople.</ref> In 331 he commissioned Eusebius to deliver fifty Christian Bibles for the Church of Constantinople. Athanasius (Apol. Const. 4<ref>Athanasius' Apologia Ad Constantium chapter 4 at CCEL</ref>) recorded Alexandrian scribes around 340 preparing Bibles for Constantine's son and successor Constans (337-350). Little else is known, though there is plenty of speculation. For example, it is speculated that this may have provided motivation for canon lists, and that Codex Vaticanus, Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus are examples of these Bibles. Together with the Peshitta, these are the earliest extant Christian Bibles.<ref>McDonald & Sanders, The Canon Debate, pages 414-415, for all this information on Constantine and Constans.</ref> In fact, while there was a good measure of debate in the Early Church over the New Testament canon, the major writings were accepted by almost all Christians by the middle of the second century,<ref>The Cambridge History of the Bible (volume 1) eds. P. R. Ackroyd and C. F. Evans (Cambridge University Press, 1970) p. 308</ref> nearly two centuries before Constantine, on the occasion of the inauguration of his "New Rome" in 330,<ref>330 Constantinople inaugurated</ref><ref>1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. Constantinople</ref> provided this gift of copies of the Bible for the churches in the city.

Of the next six ecumenical councils, the First Council of Constantinople further defined the Trinity and the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary as the Mother of God. They anathematized various groups, and declared heretical some early Christian writings, such as when the Second Council of Constantinople condemned certain tenets of Origen.

Many recent Christian movements (e.g., Restorationism, Hebrew Roots, paleo-orthodoxy, Pentacostalism) intentionally follow practices attributed to early Christians, such as (depending on the denomination) believer's baptism, seventh-day Sabbath, Passover, and Signs and Wonders; these practices correspond to perceived difficulties with Christian traditions such as (respectively) paedobaptism, first-day Sabbath, Easter, and cessationism. Such Restorationist sects consider themselves to be restoring authentic practices of the early Christian era. Some attribute to mainstream Christendom a Great Apostasy and/or Caesaropapism.

A schematic of Christian denominational taxonomy. The different width of the lines (thickest for "Protestantism" and thinnest for "Oriental Orthodox" and "Nestorians") is without objective significance. Protestantism in general, and not just Restorationism, claims a direct connection with Early Christianity.

Since the 19th century, historians have learned much more about the early Christian community. Major texts, such as the Didache (in second-millennium copies) and the Gospel of Thomas (in two manuscripts dated as early as about 200 and 340), have been rediscovered in the last 200 years.


Restorationism Citations missing In the 19th century (particularly in England and America), movements classified as Restorationist took distinct form, claiming to restore the practices and doctrines of early Christianity.<ref>cite book</ref> Most such movements, often only indirectly related, seek to teach a purer understanding of the New Testament. Some movements claim an actual restoration of the original church founded by Jesus Christ. Restorationists claim no genesis from Christianity as formulated at the First Council of Nicaea. They generally hold that Christian usages and beliefs not mentioned in the New Testament are later introductions, at variance with the practice and belief of the Apostolic Age. Some groups, such as hyperdispensationalism, find a Great Apostasy in effect in the first or second century. Many Restorationist Christian groups are centered on Hebrew Roots, use Hebrew as a holy language, use Hebrew terminology and transliterations such as "Elohim", and keep the seventh-day Sabbath and other practices associated with the Biblical-historical evidences of the early church.

See also




  • Berard, Wayne Daniel. When Christians Were Jews (That Is, Now). Cowley Publications (2006). ISBN 1561012807.
  • Boatwright, Mary Taliaferro & Gargola, Daniel J & Talbert, Richard John Alexander. The Romans: From Village to Empire. Oxford University Press (2004). ISBN 0195118758.
  • Dauphin, C. "De l'Église de la circoncision à l'Église de la gentilité – sur une nouvelle voie hors de l'impasse". Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. Liber Annuus XLIII (1993).
  • Dunn, James D.G. Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70 to 135. Pp 33–34. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (1999). ISBN 0802844987.
  • Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. HarperCollins (2005). ISBN 0060738170.
  • Esler, Phillip F. The Early Christian World. Routledge (2004). ISBN 0415333121.
  • Harris, Stephen L. Understanding the Bible. Mayfield (1985). ISBN 087484696X.
  • Hunt, Emily Jane. Christianity in the Second Century: The Case of Tatian. Routledge (2003). ISBN 0415304059.
  • Keck, Leander E. Paul and His Letters. Fortress Press (1988). ISBN 0800623401.
  • Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan. The Christian Tradition: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600). University of Chicago Press (1975). ISBN 0226653714.
  • Pritz, Ray A., Nazarene Jewish Christianity From the End of the New Testament Period Until Its Disappearance in the Fourth Century. Magnes Press - E.J. Brill, Jerusalem - Leiden (1988).
  • Richardson, Cyril Charles. Early Christian Fathers. Westminster John Knox Press (1953). ISBN 0664227473.
  • Stark, Rodney.The Rise of Christianity. Harper Collins Pbk. Ed edition 1997. ISBN 0060677015
  • Stambaugh, John E. & Balch, David L. The New Testament in Its Social Environment. John Knox Press (1986). ISBN 0664250122.
  • Tabor, James D. "Ancient Judaism: Nazarenes and Ebionites", The Jewish Roman World of Jesus. Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (1998).
  • Taylor, Joan E. Christians and the Holy Places: The Myth of Jewish-Christian Origins. Oxford University Press (1993). ISBN 0198147856.
  • Thiede, Carsten Peter. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish Origins of Christianity. Palgrabe Macmillan (2003). ISBN 1403961433.
  • Valantasis, Richard. The Making of the Self: Ancient and Modern Asceticism. James Clarke & Co (2008) ISBN 9780227172810.[1]
  • White, L. Michael. From Jesus to Christianity. HarperCollins (2004). ISBN 0060526556.
  • Wright, N.T. The New Testament and the People of God. Fortress Press (1992). ISBN 0800626818.
  • Wylen, Stephen M. The Jews in the Time of Jesus: An Introduction. Paulist Press (1995). ISBN 0809136104.

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