CH 510 * The History of Christianity 1

CH 510 – The History
of Christianity 1
UNIT ONE – Early Christianity
Slides based in part on The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzalez
Components of Historical
• Records (written & oral)
• Matters of fact, items of tradition, eye-witness accounts, hearsay,
• histories, court records, conciliar documents, decrees &
proclamation, sermons, treatises, apologias, polemics,
Components of Inquiry
• Cultural developments
• Art, architecture, technologies, language, religious movements,
philosophy, commerce/trade, travel, political realities,
migrations/conquests, legal codes
Components of Inquiry
• The Interpretation of History
• Contemporaneous
• Subsequent interpretations
• Reconstructions: hypotheses or “corrections” of our
understanding of history based on new findings and
The Complications of Historical
• Incomplete accounts
• Prejudiced records or accounts
• Inequities (what might seem important to the historian may
not be as important as he thinks!)
• Emotional disfavor of certain authors
• Distrust of historical inquiry
The Historian’s Task
Determining the significance of what is written and why it
was written
In part, this involves the inevitable “reading between the
lines” and other subjective judgments on the part of the
The Historian’s Task
Discerning the motivation of the writer
Same problem as above though not as pronounced.
The Historian’s Task
Defining the basic concepts and sifting out the principles
that account for them
• Applying history to the present realm of
life and work
The Historian’s Task
RESULT: In the final analysis, the best historians are those who
are able to tell the most convincing story of the past and draw
the most applicable lessons from that story for the present and
Judaism in Palestine
(and elsewhere)
• Geography – Crossroads of the great trade routes that joined
Egypt with Mesopotamia
• Alexander the Great (4th century BC) – empire dismembered
after his death
• Back and forth rule between Egypt & Syria
• Hellenism – provided cultural unity; mixed blessing
• Jewish reaction to Hellenism, eventually led to rebellion and
to self-rule under the Maccabees (2nd century BC)
• Hasmonean accommodation of Hellenism
• Pompey’s conquest of Palestine (63 BC), deposing the last of
the Maccabees, Aristobulus II.
• Roman policies in general were very tolerant, allowing the
descendants of the Maccabees to serve as High Priests and
• Herod the Great, appointed King of Judaea (40 BC)
• Continuous rebellion throughout the land due to Herod’s
Hellenizing policies, which continued under his son, Archelaus
• Roman governorship set up in Judaea after the deposition of
Archelaus; Some of Herod’s descendants continued to reign as
ethnarchs and tetrarchs (e.g. Herod Antipas)
• Great rebellion (AD 66), leading to the destruction of the
Temple in AD 70.
Religious Partisanship
Pharisees – enjoyed support of the populace at large
Saducees – Temple was their power base
Essenes – ascetical group
Zealots – various groups that sought to overthrow foreign
powers through force
• Ethical Monotheism
• Eschatological hope (messianic)
The Pharisees
• Best equipped to survive after destruction of Temple
• Roots went back to the time of the exile when it was not
possible to worship in Jerusalem
• Religious life centered on the written Torah
• The same was true for the Jews of the Diaspora, who lived in
distant lands
• Center of religious life: the Synagogue
• While the Sadducees received a mortal blow with the
destruction of the Temple, the Pharisees continued to bloom
into modern Judaism.
The Diaspora
• “Diaspora” means “Dispersion” and refers to the increasing
number of Jews who lived outside of Palestine
• Since OT times, numerous Jews lived in Mesopotamia (Persia)
and Egypt
• After the Roman conquest, many followed the trade routes
and settled throughout the empire
• Jews of the Diaspora forced to come to terms with Hellenism
• Philo of Alexandria (1st century BC – 1st century AD)
• The LXX – Greek translation of the OT
• Crucial importance to the spread of Christianity
The Greco-Roman
The Roman Empire
• Brought unprecedented political unity to the Mediterranean
• Tolerant of local laws and customs, yet greatly encouraged as
much uniformity as possible
• The Romans were admirers of (and thought of themselves as
successors to) Alexander the Great
• Roman legal system and Hellenistic culture (synthesis)
• Unprecedented freedom/safety of travel (road system and
safe sea passage)
• Paul’s missionary journeys enjoyed all of the benefits of
Roman society: common language, legal system, culture and
safe travel
Rome’s Religious Policy
• In order to achieve greater unity, imperial policy sought
religious uniformity by following two routes:
• Religious syncretism
• Emperor worship
• Rome had a vested interest in having her subjects from
different lands believe that, although their gods had different
names, they were the same as the gods of the Romans.
• Roman Pantheon – Temple of “All Gods”
• Combined with Emperor Worship, religious syncretism
amounted to the “state religion” (or state-control of religion)
• Jews and Christians regarded as unbending fanatics who
insisted on the worship of their one God
Religious Context
• Cults of Antiquity: traditional gods of the Greeks and the
Romans (& conquered peoples’ “equivalents”)
• “Mystery” Cults: both old and new
• Old: Horus, Isis, etc. (Egyptian)
• New: Mithraism (Indo-Iranian origin)
• “Mystery” refers to the fact that these cults were “initiatory”
cults rather than geo-ethnic ones
• The Judeo-Christian God (Monotheism)
• Collegia licita – legal societies (Jews)
• Collegia illicita – illegal societies (Mithraism, Christianity);
generally speaking “new” religions were frowned upon
Emperor Worship
• The “glue” that kept religious unity in society
• The intermingling of religions meant that one could possibly
be an adherent of many; creates confusion for historians
• Emperor worship (worship of the state in the person of the
ruling imperator) was the measure of unity and test of loyalty
• To refuse to burn incense before the emperor’s image was a
sign of treason and/or disloyalty.
• Christian refusal to burn incense before the emperor’s image
was a witness to their faith; hence, a cause of their
• Two philosophical traditions lent themselves well to the
articulation of Christian teaching in a Hellenistic culture
• Platonism
• Stoicism
• Plato was the student of Socrates, who was seen as a martyr
for teaching truth
• Plato had criticized the ancient gods, and taught about a
supreme being, perfect and immutable; also believed in the
immortality of the soul and a higher plane of truth
• At first used to articulate the faith to outsiders, Platonism
(especially as reinterpreted by Plotinus and repackaged as
Neo-Platonism) began influencing the very manner in which
Christian understood their faith.
• Early Stoics (3rd century BC) were materialists and
determinists; also critical of the religions of the time
• Trained themselves to assent to the inexorable laws that ruled
all events
• High moral standards; appeal to wisdom to guide course of
• Believed that the purpose of philosophy was to understand
the law of nature and to obey it
• Goal: apatheia (life without the passions)
• Universality of the law; citizens of the world
• Austerity, appeal to the law, and universality had its appeal on
the emerging Christian consciousness.
The Church in
The tendency to “idealize” the
earliest Christian communities
• Evidence of conflict and tension even within the New
Testament itself. For example:
“The Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their
widows were neglected in the daily distribution” (Acts 6:1)
• Conflict between two groups of Jews
• Appointment of the seven “to serve tables”
• Earliest persecutions seem to have been aimed mostly at the
“Hellenistic” Christians (i.e. converted Jews of the Diaspora)
• Saul seems to ignore the apostles in his efforts to persecute the
early Christian movement.
What were the earliest Christian
communities like?
• Primarily Jewish communities (i.e. followers of Christ who
were Jews)
• Did not consider themselves followers of a new religion
• Centered in Jerusalem, though forced to spread out
• Apart from the NT, only fragmentary evidence
• The NT is an important historical source (e.g. Book of Acts)
• Epistles like the Book of James provide intriguing glimpses of the
Jewish-Christian communities; but an incomplete picture
• The earliest strata of the NT are the Pauline Epistles, which deal
mainly with the so-called “Gentile Churches”; though the
interaction between “Jews and Gentiles” in Paul’s letters is
instructive of the attitudes that the former had for the latter.
Book of Acts
• A primary historical text
• However, affected by bias and theological
agenda; objectivity and historicity in question
Some assumptions that can be
Characteristics of the early Jewish-Christian communities:
• The conviction that their faith was not a denial of Judaism, but
its messianic fulfillment
• The earliest Jewish-Christians continued to observe the
Sabbath and Temple rituals
• Communal life seems to have centered around a “synagogue”
approach to instruction and the sharing of common meals
• The custom of gathering on the first day of the week to
celebrate the resurrection is probably very early
• Authority invested in the original twelve apostles; though
James, the “brother of Jesus,” took an important early role
(later considered the first “bishop” of Jerusalem)
The new Faith’s propensity to
spread via “bridge groups”
• Hellenistic Jewish-Christians (Acts 6:5-6 – Appointment of
seven “to serve tables” presumably from the Hellenist party)
• The Samaritans (Acts 8 – Philip’s mission)
• God-Fearers (Acts 10 – Household of Cornelius)
• The Pauline communities:
• Caused a degree of concern and consternation within the
Jerusalem church
• Paul’s ongoing conflict with the Jewish-Christians (Acts 15;
Galatians 2)
• Paul nonetheless continues to support the Jerusalem church
financially (1 Corinthians 16)
The waning of the Jerusalem
• The martyrdom of James, brother of John, under Herod
Agrippa (grandson of Herod the Great); imprisonment of Peter
(Acts 12)
• Martyrdom of James, brother of Jesus (AD 62), attested to by
• Christian community in Jerusalem moved to Pella, beyond the
Jordan, shortly before the destruction of the city by Titus’
legions in AD 70
• Jewish nationalism reached a boiling point
• Christians were followers of one who was of the “line of David”
and had been crucified by the Romans for claiming to be “King of
the Jews”; too risky to stay in Jerusalem
• Simeon (successor to James) was later killed by the Romans,
probably because of his claim to Davidic lineage
Josephus (AD 37100)
flee to Pella
Destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70)
Jewish-Christians in exile (postPella migration)
• The ancient Jerusalem church found itself isolated from the
rest of the Christian world; leadership had passed to Gentile
Christians (i.e. the Pauline communities of the Mediterranean)
• Theologically unable to adapt to a changing political and
religious world
• In desolate regions beyond the Jordan, Jewish Christianity
came into contact with esoteric (unorthodox) Judaism
• Probably influenced by these views and ideas
• Gentile Christianity did not regard these isolated remnant
Jewish-Christian sects very highly; considered their views and
customs as heretical
• Faded out of history in the fifth century.
“Ebionites” and
Ebionite views…
• Considered Jesus to be the Jewish Messiah
• Revered “James the Just” (brother of Jesus); rejected Saul of
• Affirmed one “Jewish” gospel
• Aramaic version of Matthew or “Ur-Matthew”?
• Q-Document?
• Gospel of the Nazarenes?
• Placed special value on voluntary poverty; may have been
vegetarians (and possibly argued that Jesus and John the
Baptist were vegetarians as well)
• Accused by detractors of denying the deity of Jesus and of
being heretical Judaizers
Mission to the
Early Jewish-Christian
reluctance to “cross-over”
• Philip’s mission to the Samaritans and Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts
• Peter and John sent from Jerusalem; Simon Magus Episode
• Acts 9 tells of Saul’s early ministry and the spread of the
Christian faith beyond Judea, but limited (at first) to speaking
only to Jews
• Acts 10 tells the story of Peter’s encounter with the household
of Cornelius (a god-fearer), and the coming of the Spirit upon
the uncircumcised
• Acts 11 tells of Peter’s report to the Church at Jerusalem, and
begins the story of the Church at Antioch’s missionary
endeavors (Paul & Barnabas)
• Acts 15 – the “Jerusalem Council”
Paul’s work
• The Book of Acts describes “three” journeys of Paul, first with
Barnabas, then with others
• Cyprus, Asia Minor, Greece, Rome (possibly to Spain)
• Paul was not necessarily the first evangelist to the regions
where his influence became paramount (e.g. Rome)
• Barnabas, Mark, Apollos, and even Cephas (i.e. Peter)
• Paul’s influence on Christianity was not primarily in the
number of communities that he founded, or converts that he
made, but rather in the literary legacy he left behind (epistles).
• Paul’s methodology: preach first at the synagogues
• Attracted many Hellenistic Jews and God-fearers this way
• God-fearers were Paul’s primary converts among the Gentiles
The Apostles: Facts & Legends
• New Testament intriguingly silent on the work and fate of
most of the apostles
• James, brother of John (martyred, Acts 12)
• Book of Acts ends with Paul preaching in Rome
• Two earliest and best-attested traditions:
• Peter suffered martyrdom in Rome under Nero (mid-60s); one
tradition has him crucified upside-down
• Paul suffered martyrdom in Rome during the same period; by
beheading (which befits a Roman citizen)
• Paul may have had a fourth missionary journey that took him as
far as Spain
The Apostle John
Many legends and confusing references to the Apostle John
Active in Asia Minor after the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul
Organized the “Pauline” churches; operated out of Ephesus
Purported to have been the teacher of Papias and Polycarp;
However, Papias affirms that there were two persons by the
name of John: the apostle and the “elder” who lived in
• Tradition has John living well into Domitian’s reign (end of 1st
• One tradition has him martyred by being placed in a pot of
boiling oil; another has him exiled to Patmos, where he wrote
the Book of Revelation; some combine the two traditions
• Unanimous opinion that John lived into extreme old age
Other legends
• Most legends of a church’s “founding” by an apostle arose
from the desire for a church to have apostolic pedigree
(especially from the 2nd century)
• Need arose to counter the influence of Rome and Antioch
Alexandrian Church founded by Mark
Byzantine Church founded by Philip
Spain missionized by Paul, Peter and James
Thomas visited and missionized India
Joseph of Arimathea visited and missionized Britain
First Conflicts with
the State
Christianity’s conflicted
• The “Lord” whom Christians served had been condemned as
an insurrectionist, usurper, and self-proclaimed “king” by the
• Conflict with the leaders of the very nation to whom Jesus had
come to proclaim the “kingdom of God”
• Stephen, first martyr, stoned before a council of the Jews (Acts
• James, brother of John, beheaded by Herod Agrippa
• Conflict with Zealots during Jewish uprising (60s)
• Fled to Pella (ca. 66)
A New Jewish Sect?
• Early Christians (Jewish) were insistent that their good news
was not intended to undermine Judaism, but rather to
proclaim that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah
• Outsiders (Jews & Gentiles) were invited to participate in the
promises made to Abraham and his descendants
• Judaism had long held that the advent of the Messiah would be
good news for all nations
• Point of conflict: what would this look like? (Circumcision or no?)
• Initially, Jews who rejected Christianity saw it as simply
another sect within Judaism; a heresy
• Jewish nationalists feared that this new sect might bring the
wrath of God upon the nation and/or incite suppression of the
nation by Rome
Acts 18:14-15
“This man [Paul] is persuading men to worship God contrary to
the law.”
“If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, I should
have reason to hear you, O Jews; but since it is a matter of
questions about words and names and your own law, see to it
yourselves; I refuse to judge these things.” (Gallio)
• As long as things were relatively orderly, the Romans
preferred to stay out of Jewish controversies.
Expulsion of the Jews under
• Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome around AD 51
• Mentioned in Acts 18:2, but does not explain the reason
• Mentioned by the Roman historian, Suetonius, who states that
the reason for the expulsion was “because of Chrestus”
• Perhaps a reference to “Christus” (i.e. Christ)
• If so, the Jews were in dispute over the claims of Christians
Tacitus & Seutonius
Seutonius’ “The Twelve
Julius Caesar
Octavian (Augustus)
Gaius (Caligula)
Distinction between Judaism and
Christianity became clearer…
• As more and more converts were gained from the Gentile
• As Jewish nationalism increased, Christians sought to put as
much distance as they could between themselves and that
RESULT: Roman authorities began to take cognizance of
Christianity as a religion quite different from Judaism, and thus
not given the same tolerance as Judaism
• Basis for later persecutions
• Became emperor in AD 54 (deposed AD 68)
• At first ruled well, or reasonably enough
• Became increasingly infatuated with his own grandeur and
desire for pleasure; increasingly unpopular
• Great fire of Rome – AD 64
• Blamed the Christians – first imperial persecution of the
Year of the Four Emperors
• Nero commits suicide in AD 68
• First Roman Civil War since Mark Antony’s death in 30 BC
• June 68 – December 69 saw the quick succession of four
emperors: Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian
• Vespasian (reign AD 69-79) – Founder of the Flavian Dynasty
Titus and Domitian
• Titus (reign AD 79-81) – Son of Vespasian; Fall of Jerusalem
(AD 70); Co-Emperor with his father; dies of plague
• Domitian (reign AD 81-96) – Son of Vespasian, brother of Titus
Persecution under Domitian
• Domitian’s love for Roman tradition perhaps led to his hatred
for and eventual persecution of Christians
• Jews did not fare well under Domitian either; he required
them to remit to the imperial coffers the annual offering they
would have sent to Jerusalem
• Laws against Jewish practices affected both Jews and
Christians alike
• Persecution seems to have been most severe in Rome and
Asia Minor
• Flavius Clemens and his wife Flavia Domitilla (relatives of the
emperor) were accused of “Jewish practices” and “atheism”
and were executed
Persecution under Domitian
• Not a lot known about this persecution, except that it
happened and apparently was very thorough and cruel
• During this time, the Book of Revelation was presumably
written on the Isle of Patmos by a seer named “John”
• Because of this persecution, Domitian (like Nero) was
increasingly seen as a tyrant
• Domitian’s enemies conspired against him and he was
murdered in his own palace.
• Roman senate decreed that his name be expunged from every
inscription so that there would be no memory of him
Persecution and
Persecution in the
1 -2
• Persecution from the time of Nero (mid-60s AD)
• Details of persecution are scarce, until second century
• Christian literature – “acts of the martyrs” – begin to appear
• Some legendary; some confirmed by court records
• Important correspondence – e.g. Pliny the Younger & Trajan
• Other Christian writings – e.g. Letters of Ignatius of Antioch
(ca. AD 115)
Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus
(AD 61-112) a.k.a. “Pliny the Younger”
• Governor of Bythinia-Pontus (AD 110-112)
Pliny’s letter to the Emperor
Trajan (AD 111)
• Complains there are so many Christians that the pagan
temples are practically deserted
• Was provided a list of Christians, and so begins an
• Those accused of being Christians and lapsed Christians were
required to pray and offer incense to the image of the
• Executed those who persisted in their Christian faith on
account of their obstinacy
• Even so, Pliny seems troubled by the severity of the
punishment and inquires as to the nature of their “crimes”
Pliny’s report to Trajan
• Tortures two females called “deacons” who merely confirmed
what he already knew
• Christian practices (according to Pliny):
• Christians gather on a “certain day before the dawn” to “sing a
hymn to Christ as to a god”
• Swear “an oath” not to commit theft, adultery, etc.
• Gathered for a “common meal” until secret meetings were
• Were Christians guilty of more than this?
• Suspended prosecutions until he could receive instructions on
how to proceed from Trajan
Significant Phrases in Pliny
• “…none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can
be forced to do –” (in reference to cursing Christ)
• “accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn”
• “sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god”
• “to bind themselves by oath…etc.”
• “to assemble again to partake of food – but ordinary and
innocent food.”
• “two female slaves who were called deaconesses.”
Emperor Trajan’s reply to Pliny
• Brief reply to say there is no general rule to deal with
Christians; each case must be weighed on its own merit
• The state should not waste time and resources on hunting
down Christians
• If, however, they are accused and refuse to recant they should
be punished
• Those who recant and offer incense should be released
• Anonymous accusations should be disregarded
Tertullian’s assessment (3
“What a necessarily confused sentence! It refuses to seek them
out, as if they were innocent, and order that they be punished
as if they were guilty. It pardons, and yet is cruel. It ignores,
and yet punishes…”
Trajan’s policy prevails
• The state should not waste resources and time hunting those
who have not yet committed a crime
• Essentially their crime is not their Christian faith, per se, but
rather their contempt of the Roman courts in refusing to give
proper homage (i.e. worship) to the Imperial majesty
• Trajan’s policy becomes the standard Roman policy
throughout the second and third centuries
Persecuting Emperors
Nero – Blamed Christians for the Great Fire (AD 64)
Domitian – Rome and Asia Minor (late 90s)
Marcus Aurelius – Persecution of Lyon (AD 177)
Septimius Severus – Rome, Corinth, Alexandria, Carthage (AD
Maximinus the Thracian – Aimed at heads of the church;
Hippolytus and Pope Pontian martyred (AD 235)
Decius – Aimed at Christian laity across Europe (AD 250-251)
Valerian – Aimed at heads of church (AD 257-260)
Diocletian & Galerius – Most severe and widespread
persecution (AD 303-313)
Ignatius of Antioch (“Bearer of
• Born ca. AD 30-35
• Bishop of Antioch, the second most ancient “see”
• “Bearer of God” – “He who was borne of God” (legend that he
was the child whom Jesus held)
• Condemned to death ca. AD 107, and sent to Rome for the
great festivities planned there
• Traveled through Asia Minor on way to martyrdom; visited by
many Christians on the way
• Wrote seven letters (in imitation of Paul), mostly to churches
in Asia Minor
• Eventually dies heroically in Rome
Letters of Ignatius
To the Magnesians
To the Ephesians (Bishop Onesimus)
To the Smyrneans
To the Trallians (Bishop Polybius)
To the Philadelphians
To Bishop Polycarp (of Smyrna)
To the Romans
Importance of Ignatius’ letters
Confirmation of a Pauline understanding of faith
Early witness to many New Testament texts
Proto-creedal statements
Insistence on the three orders – Bishop, Presbyters, Deacons
Eucharistic theology
Early “catholic” Christianity
Early witness to the importance and apostolic foundation of
the Church of Rome
Polycarp of Smyrna (AD 155)
• Martyrdom of Polycarp (anonymous)
• Group of Christians brought to trial and condemned, tortured
and killed
• Germanicus, an elderly Christian, refuses to recant, citing the
injustices he witnessed; this incites mob to demand the arrest
of Polycarp
• At first Polycarp hides, but when discovered submits to his
• Polycarp refuses to curse Christ and eventually goes bravely to
his death
• The “martyrdom of the spontaneous” was seen as invalid
• Martyrdom was a divine calling to which God provided divine
Martyrdom of Polycarp (ca. 155)
"Eighty and six years I have served him. How then can I
blaspheme my King and Saviour? Bring forth what thou wilt."
Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180)
Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180)
• “Enlightened” emperor (philosopher in his own right)
• Nevertheless known as a persecutor of Christians “for
obstinacy” against the state
• Superstitious, thus blamed Christians for many of the ills of
the day
• Famous accounts of martyrdoms during his reign, including
the condemnation and martyrdom of “Justin Martyr”
• Persecution of Lyon (177); 48 Christians martyred
The Apologists
Base accusations against
Orgiastic celebrations
Incestuous relationships
Gluttons and Drunkards
Child sacrifice
Mockery – Christians worshiped an “ass” (donkey)
Other accusations
Christian doctrines were irrational and self-contradictory
Christians were uneducated; pedestrian
Foolish people who merely feigned wisdom
Not cultured
Christianity appeals to the “wrong sorts” of people
Christianity derived from the religion of barbarians (Jews)
Christianity destroys the fiber of good society
Christians continue to “fear the gods” by refusing to take part
in most social activities (contradiction to their claim that all
other gods are false)
• Jesus was a criminal condemned by Roman authority
Justin “Martyr”
• Most famous of early apologists
• Schooled in philosophy and law, until he found the “true
philosophy” (Christianity)
• Author of two “Apologies”; Dialogue with Trypho
Justin Martyr – First Apology
• A work addressed to the Emperor, Antoninus Pius (reign, 138161) to explain Christian faith and praxis (written ca. 150 AD).
• Answers many of the charges waged against Christians by
their detractors.
• Christianity is an illegal sect at this point in history, subject to
persecution by the state.
• Justin hopes to convince the emperor that Christians live by
the highest moral standards and serve the one true God.
Justin Martyr – First Apology
• Much of the Apology is devoted to contrasting the true faith
(Christian) with demonic imitations that are often confused
with it.
• Justin also contends for the “antiquity” of the Christian faith
by asserting that both Moses and the best representatives of
Greek philosophy pointed the way to Christ.
• Much of the Apology is given over to showing how prophecy
confirms the coming of Christ, his death and resurrection.
Christian Worship as Described in
Justin’s First Apology
• The earliest firsthand account of the rites of Christian
initiation (as he knew them in his day and context)
• Provides the earliest detailed account of how the Eucharist
was celebrated immediately after Baptism (as part of the rites
of Initiation)
• Provides the earliest detailed account of worship on the Lord’s
Other apologists
To Diognetus (anonymous) – early 2nd century
Aristides’ Apologia – ca. 138
Tatian (disciple of Justin) – An Address to the Greeks
Athenagoras – Plea for the Christians; On the Resurrection of
the Dead (late 2nd century)
• Theophilus of Antioch – Three Books to Autolycus
• In the 3rd Century:
• Origen, Tertullian, Minucius Felix
Arguments of the Apologists
• The Charge of Atheism
• Many of the best Greek poets and philosophers were “atheists”
• Objections to the resurrection of the dead
• Appeal to the omnipotence of God
• Accusations of immorality
• Manifestly false accusation
• Much of what Christians are accused of doing the pagans actually
do in their worship of the gods
• Accusations of subversion
• True, Christians do not worship the emperor, but they
nonetheless are good and loyal subjects who pray for the
emperor and obey his rule
Relationship between faith &
• Worship of the “gods” and everything related to that worship
is rejected
• Including civil ceremonies, military service
• Rejection of much of the classical literature (where gods
played an important role)
Christians of “two minds”
• While the religious aspects of paganism were rejected
outright, Christians were nonetheless of “two minds” with
regards to classical pagan culture (particularly philosophy)
• Plato, Aristotle, Stoicism
• Radical Opposition to classical culture versus Affirmation of
classical culture
• Tertullian
• Justin Martyr
“What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem? What does the
Academy have to do with the Church?” (Prescription against
Heretics 1:7)
• Many of those who took this approach argued that the Greeks
confiscated the learning of “barbarians”
Justin’s doctrine of the Logos
• Greek term for “word” and “reason”
• The human mind can understand reality because it shares in
the “Logos” or universal reason that undergirds all reality
• The Fourth Gospel affirms that Jesus is the “Logos” in the
Flesh – “the true light that enlightens everyone”
• Justin was the proponent of “Christian philosophy”
The Deposit of the
• Derived from the Greek word gnosis (knowledge)
• Not a well-defined group or position, but rather an
ambiguous, amorphous movement (both inside and outside
the church)
• Dualism between matter (evil) and spirit (good)
• Human beings are imprisoned spirits
• Material world created by a fallen “eon” (e.g. Wisdom)
• The world was an “abortion” of the spirit
• Liberation (i.e. salvation) possible if an enlightened messenger
comes to waken us up from our “dream”
• The messenger brings secret knowledge (gnosis) that is
necessary for salvation
Common features of Christian
• Christ is the enlightened, spiritual messenger
• Christ imparts secret knowledge to remind us of our heavenly
origin so that we may return to our heavenly mansions
• Body and matter are evil; some Gnostics rejected the
incarnation (Docetism)
• Distinction between earthly Jesus and heavenly Christ
• Not all people have spirits; some completely carnal (fleshly)
• Two divergent views concerning the body:
• Must be subjected to the spirit – Ascetics
• Can be indulged, since the spirit is good and cannot be destroyed
– Libertines
The Marcionite
Marcion (mid-2nd century AD)
• Father was a bishop; raised a Christian
• Went to Rome in AD 144, gathered a following
• Founded his own church when opposition grew to his
• The God of the OT (Jehovah) not the same as the Father of
• Jehovah made the world (evil)
• Hebrew Scriptures were inspired by Jehovah, an arbitrary god of
• The Supreme God is a god of love and the Father of Jesus
• Jesus was not “born” but appeared as a grown man
• No judgment
• Accepted only ten of Paul’s letters and revision of the Gospel
of Luke; rejected all other NT books as Judaistic
Irenaeus on Marcion
Marcion therefore himself, by dividing God into two, maintaining
one to be good and the other judicial, does in fact, on both
sides, put an end to deity. For he that is the judicial one, if he be
not good, is not God, because he from whom goodness is
absent is not God; and again, he who is good, if he be not
judicial, suffers the same loss as the former, by being deprived
of his character of deity. And how can they call the Father of all
wise, if they do not assign him a judicial faculty? For if he is
wise, he is also one who tests [others]; but the judicial power
belongs to him who tests, and justice follows the judicial faculty,
that it may reach a just conclusion; justice calls forth judgment,
and judgment, when it is executed with justice, will pass on to
wisdom. (Against Heresies, III.42.2)
Christian Response to Heresy
• Apostolic Canon – Which books are recognized as “Scripture”?
• Apostolic Creed – What do Christians believe?
• Apostolic Succession – Who has authority to determine
matters of faith and practice?
Canon (“reed” or “rule”)
• Christians in the second century recognized as Scripture:
• The Septuagint (LXX)
• One of more of the Gospels, some of the epistles (particularly
those of Paul)
• No approved list of “New Testament” writings
• Marcion was the first to attempt a systematic list of the “New
• In response to Marcion’s challenge, a consensus on which
books Christians recognized as Scripture gradually emerged
• By end of 2nd century, the general consensus was: the four
Gospels, Acts, and the Pauline epistles
Muratorian Canon (AD 200)
• Four Gospels and Acts
• 13 Epistles of Paul
• James
• 1, 2 John
• Jude
• Revelation of John
• Revelation of Peter (?)
• Shepherd of Hermas (only for devotional
Attested to by Origen
(early 3rd century)
Four Gospels and Acts
13 Epistles of Paul
1 Peter
1 John
Disputed: Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2-3 John, Shepherd,
Barnabas, Didache, Gospel of the Hebrews
Attested to by Eusebius
(early 4th century)
Books Received by All
• 4 Gospels / Acts
• 13 Pauline Epistles
• 1 Peter
• 1 John
• Revelation (which he
personally excluded)
Books Disputed, but
• James
• 2 Peter
• 2-3 John
• Jude
Attested to by Eusebius
Books to be Excluded:
• Shepherd of Hermas
• Epistle of Barnabas
• Didache
• Gospel of the Hebrews
• Revelation of Peter
• Acts of Peter
Council of Carthage (AD 396)
• Four Gospels and Acts
• 13 Pauline Epistles
• Hebrews
• James
• 1-2 Peter
• 1-3 John
• Jude
• Revelation
Apostolic Creed
• What is now known as the “Apostles’ Creed” probably
emerged in its basic form by AD 150 (in Rome)
• A Baptismal Symbol (statement of faith)
• Interrogatory form when used in Baptism
• Do you believe in God the Father almighty? Etc.
• Represented the “true” faith in opposition to Marcionism and
Early form of the Creed
• Do you believe in God the Father almighty?
• Do you believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was born
of the Holy Ghost of Mary the Virgin, who was crucified under
Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose again at the third day, living
from among the dead, and ascended unto heaven and sat at
the right of the Father, and will come again to judge the quick
and the dead?
• Do you believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy church, and the
resurrection of the flesh?
Apostolic Succession
• Answered the question of who had the authority to decide
matters of faith and practice
• Gnostics claimed secret knowledge
• Marcion claimed superior interpretive skills
• The Church claimed an unbroken succession of faith from the
apostles who passed on the guardianship of the gospels and the
true teachings of Jesus to the Church through its leadership
• Successors to the apostles were the bishops, who all agreed
that the Gnostic claim to “secret knowledge” was false
• The ancient churches (e.g. Rome, Antioch, Ephesus) were able
to produce lists of bishops linking them to the apostolic past
• Eventually, only “episcopal ordination” would be considered
Clement of Rome (1st century)
Our Apostles likewise knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there
would be strife over the bishop’s office. For this reason, therefore,
having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the officials
mentioned earlier and afterwards they gave the offices a permanent
character; that is, if they should die, other approved men should
succeed to their ministry. Those, therefore, who were appointed by
them or, later on, by other reputable men with the consent of the
whole church, and who have ministered to the flock of Christ
blamelessly, humbly, peaceably, and unselfishly, and for a long time
have been well spoken of by all -- these men we consider to be
unjustly removed from their ministry. For it will be no small sin for us,
if we depose from the bishop’s office those who have offered the gifts
blamelessly and in holiness. Blessed are those presbyters who have
gone on ahead, who took their departure at a mature and fruitful age,
for they need no longer fear that someone might remove them from
their established place. For we see that you have removed certain
people, their good conduct notwithstanding, from the ministry which
had been held in honor by them blamelessly. (To the Corinthians, 44)
The Catholic Church
• Universal, “according to the whole”
• Term first used by Ignatius (ca. 110-115)
“Avoid divisions as the beginning of evils. All of you follow the
bishop as Jesus Christ followed the Father, and follow the
presbytery as the Apostles; and respect the deacons as the
commandment of God. Let no man perform anything pertaining
to the church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid
Eucharist over which the bishop presides, or one to whom he
commits it. Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people
be, just as, wheresoever Christ Jesus is, there is the Catholic
Church. It is not permitted either to baptize or hold a love-feast
apart from the bishop. But whatever he may approve, that is
well-pleasing to God, that everything which you do may be
sound and valid.” (Ignatius, To the Smyrnaeans, VIII)
Early Teachers (The
Irenaeus (ca. AD 130-202)
Born in Asia Minor; disciple of Polycarp
Migrated to Lyon (modern-day France); became a presbyter
Elected bishop after a journey to Rome (during persecution)
Author: Demonstrations of Apostolic Faith, and the Refutation
of the So-called Gnosis (aka Against Heresies)
• Important themes: Incarnation, Divinization, Ransom theory
of Atonement, Mary as “Second Eve”, Apostolic Succession,
authority of the Church of Rome
• Important witness to at least 21 of the 27 books of the New
Testament (does not cite 3 John, Jude or Philemon; uncertain
whether he cites Hebrews, James or 2 Peter)
Clement of Alexandria (ca. AD
Titus Flavius Clemens; probably born in Athens
Parents were pagans; converted (unknown circumstances)
Disciple of Pantaenus, a notable catechist of Alexandria
Eventually succeed Pantaenus as head of catechetical school
Left Alexandria in 202 during the persecution under Septimius
• Important themes: to show the reasonableness of Christian
faith by making use of Plato and other philosophers;
philosophy given to the Greeks, the Law to the Jews, both are
reconciled in Christ; promoted an allegorical approach to
Tertullian of Carthage (ca. AD
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus
Born in Carthage, converted in Rome (about 40 years old)
Educated in law and/or rhetoric
Eventually left catholic Christianity for Montanism (he wrote
Against Praxeas during this time)
• Treatise Prescription Against the Heretics
• Important themes: Not only are heretics wrong, they have no
right to be heard in the church; Athens has nothing to do with
Jerusalem; Scripture belongs to the Church; all things to be
judged in light of the accepted body of Christian doctrine;
coined the term “Trinity”
Origen (AD 184-253)
• Origen Adamantius; native of Alexandria; son of Christian
parents (father martyred during persecution)
• Entrusted by the bishop to train catechumens
• Clement’s greatest disciple and successor of his school of
Christian philosophy
• Eventually left Alexandria and settled in Caesarea
• Martyred during the Decian persecution; died in Tyre
• Author: The Hexpla, Against Celsus, On First Principles, and
commentaries on nearly every book of the Bible
• Attempted to relate the Christian faith to philosophy,
particularly Neo-Platonism (Plotinus)
• Very speculative – leading to the eventual condemnation of
his writings
Christian Life in the Early
Social Organization
• The charges of their critics (e.g. Celsus) were not entirely
• Vast majority of Christians in the first three centuries belonged
to the lower echelons of society
• There were some who were of high rank, but the lower ranks
outnumbered them by far
Worship in the early
Early First Century (Christian)
Agape (L.S.)
--Christians meeting in homes (1 Corinthians 16:19)
--Apostolic teaching and leadership, “breaking of bread,” “the
prayers” (Acts 2:20)
-- “Charismatic” worship
-- “Jewish Christians” still observe Jewish traditions
--The Agape Meal
Late First Century (post AD 70)
Agape // Eucharist
--Apostolically-appointed leadership emerges
--Agape and Eucharist begin to separate
--Development of a synaxis (service of word)
-- “Charismatic” worship restrained
--Didache (late 1st or early 2nd Century, probably Syrian)
Suggestive themes in the
• Blessing prayers over the elements of bread and wine,
reminiscent of Jewish meal prayers
• Eucharist and Agape meal still seem to be together
• Requirement of baptism in order to take part in the Agape
• Early reference to the observance of the “Lord’s Day”
• Early reference to bishops and deacons
• Suspicion of itinerant prophets
Late second century
• Distinct threefold ministry: bishops, presbyters, deacons
• Agape ceases to be observed
• Christian worship is Synaxis and Eucharist (Service of the
Word, Service of the Sacrament)
• Dura Europa “Church” – 3rd century
• Baptism – delayed, after period of catechumenate
The Development of the
Christian Calendar
• At first, each Sunday was considered a “mini-Easter”
• Wednesdays & Fridays were days of fasting (Didache)
• In time Christians began to celebrate one Sunday in the year
as the Day of Resurrection (Easter)
• Problem was – couldn’t agree on the date (Jewish Passover?
• Earliest feast associated with Jesus’ birth took place on
January 6 (Epiphany), later displaced in the West by December
25 (Christmas)
• New Testament: “bishop” “elder” “deacon”
• By second century, “bishop” is used to designate a single
leader or “president” of the Christian community, while
“presbyter” designates a body of leaders who exercise
authority with the bishop
• Clearly, by the end of the second century, an all-male
leadership has become the rule
• “Deaconesses” mentioned in certain documents (Pliny)
• Did not take place in “church services”
• As Celsus charged, evangelism took place in kitchens, shops,
and markets
• A few famous teachers (Origen, Justin) would hold debates in
their schools, winning a few converts from the intelligentsia
• Most effective witness: martyrdom
• Christianity spread mainly in the cities, penetrating the rural
areas slowly and with much difficulty

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