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History Of The Early Church

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Church History: Complete Documentary AD 33 to Present

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Citations on this Site

Unless otherwise noted, all Bible verses on this site are taken from the King James Version . Language, grammar and punctuation are updated, comparing other translations and taking care not to change any meanings.

Citations from the early church fathers are referenced, and the references can be read online at EarlyChristianWritings.com and CCEL.org. I often update the language on these, too, doing my best not to affect even possible meanings.

All unattributed images on this site are either mine or known to be in the public domain.

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Citing this Site

MLA format for referencing Christian History for Everyman:

Pavao, Paul. “Page Title.” Christian History for Everyman. Greatest Stories Ever Told. 2014. Accessed day month year. < https://www.christian-history.org/page-name.html>

About Early Church History

Welcome! Were glad you found us. This site is for anyone interested in learning more about the first three centuries of the Christian Church. The editor has spent thousands of hours over many years researching and writing about this period. While the body of information is obviously too vast to capture in a single site, here youll be able to grow in knowledge regardless of where you start. Read the editors posts and other expert articles, dive into the research, tour the gallery, watch the videos and contribute comments. Youll be transported to one of the most fascinating and important periods in historyThe Ancient Roman Empireand glean, understand the foundations of the Christian faith in a new perspective. We hope you will keep returning and be gratified by what youre discovering on each trip. Thats why were here. Enjoy your visit.

Growing Tensions Between East And West

Tensions in Christian unity started to become evident in the 4th century. Two basic problems were involved: the nature of the primacy of the bishop of Rome and the theological implications of adding a clause to the Nicene Creed, known as the filioque clause. These doctrinal issues were first openly discussed in Photius’s patriarchate. The Eastern churches viewed Rome’s understanding of the nature of episcopal power as being in direct opposition to the Church’s essentially conciliar structure and thus saw the two ecclesiologies as mutually antithetical.

Another issue developed into a major irritant to Eastern Christendom, the gradual introduction into the Nicene Creed in the West of the Filioque clause meaning “and the Son” as in “the Holy Spirit … proceeds from the Father and the Son“, where the original Creed, sanctioned by the councils and still used today by the Eastern Orthodox, simply states “the Holy Spirit, … proceeds from the Father.” The Eastern Church argued that the phrase had been added unilaterally and therefore illegitimately, since the East had never been consulted. In addition to this ecclesiological issue, the Eastern Church also considered the Filioque clause unacceptable on dogmatic grounds.

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Relevant Teachings Of The Early Church

The Early Church, for its struggles, conflicts, and triumphs, had simple teachings that still hold to this day. Most of these practices are no longer mainstream, replaced by elitism and exclusion. We need to bring back the intimate, spiritually devoted principles of early Christians. We need to capture the joy, hunger, and love for God and His creation.

The Fate Of The Apostles

Interesting facts about early Christianity

They sat and dined with Jesus in Jerusalem before his crucifixion and after the Lord’s death, they set forth around the world to spread his message about the Kingdom of God. However, most of the 12 disciples suffered greatly for their faith and met grizzly ends.

Paul was beheaded in Rome whilst James son of Zebedee suffered the same fate in Jerusalem. Peter was crucified in Rome upside down, as he did not feel worthy enough to die in the same way Jesus did.

Philip, Andrew and Simon the Zealot also died on the cross. Thomas was speared to death in India, Bartholomew was skinned alive before being beheaded and it is believed James son of Alphaeus was stoned before being clubbed to death.

Most accounts suggest Mathew was also martyred although the method by which he met his end varies and includes burning, stabbing, beheading or stoning. Jude might also have died on the cross or by the sharp end of an axe but again accounts vary. Judas famously hung himself after betraying Jesus.

John is generally regarded as the only one to die of natural causes due to old age.

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First Century: Ad 1 100

  • 10 to 3 B.C.: Jesus is born in Bethlehem.

It may seem strange that Jesus was born at least three years “Before Christ,” , but it’s easily explained. The method for counting years that we use today was not developed until A.D. 525, by a monk named Dionysius Exeguus. Using unknown calculations, Dionysius stated it had been 525 years since Jesus was born.

He was wrong, but we’ve never stopped using his calculations.

We know he was wrong. King Herod almost certainly died in 4 BC, for which there is strong evidence. Since Josephus tied Herod’s death to an eclipse, it might also have been 1 BC, but other evidence makes the 1 BC date less likely. Most scholars are settled on 4 BC for Herod’s death.

This means Jesus could not have been born later than this.

Herod ordered the death of all children under 2 years old in Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary narrowly escaped this, and they went to Egypt until Herod died . How long this was, we don’t know. Generally, I’ve heard that Jesus was born in 6 BC at the latest to allow time for these events.

Luke does offer a clue to Jesus’ age. He says that John began to baptize in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. That year was from Sept., A.D. 28 to Sept., A.D. 29. He adds that Jesus was “about” 30 years old .

Thirty years runs us back to 3 BC. The problem is that Luke was writing decades after the events he describes, and he says Jesus was “about” 30. That’s not very precise dating.

Historians are guessing here.

Arianism And The First Ecumenical Councils

An increasingly popular NontrinitarianChristological doctrine that spread throughout the Roman Empire from the 4th century onwards was Arianism, founded by the Christian presbyter Arius from Alexandria, Egypt, which taught that Jesus Christ is a creature distinct from and subordinate to God the Father.

Although the Arian doctrine was condemned as heresy and eventually eliminated by the State church of the Roman Empire, it remained popular underground for some time. In the late 4th century, Ulfilas, a Roman Arian bishop, was appointed as the first Christian missionary to the Goths, the Germanic peoples in much of Europe at the borders of and within the Roman Empire.Ulfilas spread Arian Christianity among the Goths, firmly establishing the faith among many of the Germanic tribes, thus helping to keep them culturally and religiously distinct from Chalcedonian Christians.

During this age, the first ecumenical councils were convened. They were mostly concerned with Christological and theological disputes. The First Council of Nicaea and the First Council of Constantinople resulted in condemnation of Arian teachings as heresy and produced the Nicene Creed.

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Christians In The Catacombs

Unlike their pagan counterparts, early Christian Romans did not believe in burning their dead. They wished to bury them, however, it was illegal in ancient Rome to do so within the city limits. This led to the creation of miles of underground burial grounds outside the city walls, known as catacombs, from around the second century AD.

In the past, historians believed they were secret meeting places for Christians to gather to escape persecutions. However, it is now understood they were burial tunnels where the dead were wrapped in sheets and placed in alcoves along the subterranean tunnels. Christians werent the only ones buried in the catacombs, but Jews and Roman pagans were also laid to rest there.

The catacombs provide us with an important insight into art history, as they contain a great number of frescos and sculptures known to be the earliest examples of Christian art.

When the Roman Emperor Constantine recognised Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in the early fourth century AD, persecutions against the Christians began to cease. As churches started cropping up, the dead began to be buried in their accompanying cemeteries and the use of the tunnels to lay the dead to rest in the catacombs came to an end in the fifth century AD.

Things You Didnt Know About Early Christianity: 8 Surprising Facts

Early Christian Schisms – Before Imperium – Extra History – #1

Christianity is the most widely practised religion in the world with recent figures suggesting it has 2.3 billion followers, around 31% of the global population.

The faith is focused on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, whom Christians believe to be the Son of God.

We take a look back at the early years of Christianity, when the religion was in its infancy and discover eight surprising facts that you might not know about.

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Under Communism And Nazism

Catholic Church and Nazi GermanyGerman Christians Nazi persecution of the Catholic Church in GermanyPope Pius XII and the HolocaustPositive Christianity

Under the state atheism of countries in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, Christians of many denominations experienced persecution, with many churches and monasteries being destroyed, as well as clergy being executed.

The position of Christians affected by Nazism is highly complex.Pope Pius XI declared Mit brennender Sorge that Fascist governments had hidden “pagan intentions” and expressed the irreconcilability of the Catholic position and totalitarian fascist state worship, which placed the nation above God, fundamental human rights, and dignity. His declaration that “Spiritually, are all Semites” prompted the Nazis to give him the title “Chief Rabbi of the Christian World.”

The relationship between Nazism and Protestantism, especially the German Lutheran Church, was complex. Though many Protestant church leaders in Germany supported the Nazis’ growing anti-Jewish activities, some such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer of the Confessing Church, a movement within Protestantism that strongly opposed Nazism, were strongly opposed to the Third Reich. Bonhoeffer was later found guilty in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler and executed.

Best Books On Early Christian Church History

Written by Brittany Ann

Several years ago, I came across a quote I havent been able to forget:

To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.John Henry Newman, Catholic Cardinal and Saint

Now, I know a lot about the Bible. Ive read it, studied it, memorized parts of it, taught it, and tried to live according to it for decades now.

But I know very little about early Christian church history.

What makes each denomination different from all the others? What major movements shaped Christian beliefs over the years? Are there any well-known heresies I should know to watch out for?

And most importantlyIf I knew more about early Christian church history, would that affect my beliefs? How?

I had to admit I had no idea. But I figured I owed it to myself to find out.

If learning more about early Christian church history could affect my beliefs, I wanted to know.

And I thought maybe youd want to know too.

Thats why today Im sharing 10 of the Best Books on Early Christian Church History.

What makes these the BEST early Christian church history books?

Well, personally, I was looking for books that were:

  • Relatively easy-to-read
  • Accessible for the average person
  • As fair and unbiased as possible
  • As a busy working mom with a LOT on my plate right now, I simply dont have time for huge, comprehensive history textbooks that assume I know all the background information already.

    Hopefully thats what youll find in these 10 early Christian church history books.

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    Turning Points: Decisive Moments In The History Of Christianity

    Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity presents Christianity as a worldwide phenomenon rather than just a Western experience.

    This book isolates 14 key moments in church history, detailing why they were important and how they affected todays modern Christianity. This book is said to be very readable, inspiring and providing Christians with a fuller understanding of God.

    The Christian Church Created A Need

    What was the first controversy in the early church?

    Strangely enough, Christianity did not succeed in taking over the ancient world simply by addressing deeply sensed needs of its target audience, the pagan adherents of traditional polytheistic religions. On the contrary, it actually created a need that almost no one knew they had.

    Everyone in the ancient world, except for Jews, was paganthat is, they believed in many gods. These godswhether the state gods of Rome, the local municipal gods, the family gods, the gods of forests, mountains, streams and meadowswere active in the world, involved with humans on every level. They ensured that crops would grow and livestock would reproduce they brought rain and protected against storms they warded off disease and restored the sick to health they maintained social stability and provided military victories for the troops.

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    The gods would do such things in exchange for proper worship, which at all times and everywhere involved saying the right prayers and performing the appropriate sacrifices. If the gods were not worshiped in these waysif they were ignoredthey could bring disastrous retribution: drought, epidemic, economic collapse, military defeat and so on.

    Jesus cures a sick man who is unable to reach the pool at Bethesda, which contains healing waters.

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    Church Of The East And The Sasanian Empire

    During the early 5th century, the School of Edessa had taught a Christological perspective stating that Christ’s divine and human nature were distinct persons. A particular consequence of this perspective was that could not be properly called the mother of God but could only be considered the mother of Christ. The most widely known proponent of this viewpoint was the Patriarch of Constantinople Nestorius. Since referring to Mary as the mother of God had become popular in many parts of the Church this became a divisive issue.

    In 451, the Council of Chalcedon was held to further clarify the Christological issues surrounding Nestorianism. The council ultimately stated that Christ’s divine and human nature were separate but both part of a single entity, a viewpoint rejected by many churches who called themselves miaphysites. The resulting schism created a communion of churches, including the Armenian, Syrian, and Egyptian churches. Though efforts were made at reconciliation in the next few centuries, the schism remained permanent, resulting in what is today known as Oriental Orthodoxy.

    History Of The Early Church

    The history of the early Christian church begins with it considered to be a sect of the Jews. Judaism, at the time of Jesus Christ, was a collection of several competing religious powers.

    After the ascension of Jesus, and the start of the church on Pentecost, the apostles and early believers continued operating with Judaism. The first Christians were later labeled a Jewish sect .

    Early first century believers continued, as they always did, to worship at the temple or to gather at a local synagogue. They did so, however, as they preached the gospel. The good news of God’s kingdom brought by Jesus soon found its way to those who were not Jewish . History states that the pace of truth spreading from the church increased rapidly .

    Soon a new debate entered the church. Did a Gentile need to be circumcised before they became a Christian? What is known as the Jerusalem conference was held to debate and decide the matter. It was ultimately decided, among other things, that Gentiles did not have to undergo the painful rite of circumcision in order to be saved.

    During the Jewish led Bar Kochba revolt in 135 A.D. leaders of the uprising began to persecute Jews who had converted and became a Christian. Soon after the revolt all racial Jews were forbidden, by the Romans, to live in Jerusalem. This left believers in the city governed by Gentile converts.

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    Late Middle Ages And The Early Renaissance

    The Avignon Papacy, sometimes referred to as the Babylonian Captivity, was a period from 1309 to 1378 during which seven popes resided in Avignon, in modern-day France. In 1309, Pope Clement V moved to Avignon in southern France. Confusion and political animosity waxed, as the prestige and influence of Rome waned without a resident pontiff. Troubles reached their peak in 1378 when Gregory XI died while visiting Rome. A papal conclave met in Rome and elected Urban VI, an Italian. Urban soon alienated the French cardinals, and they held a second conclave electing Robert of Geneva to succeed Gregory XI, beginning the Western Schism.

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