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2000 years of Christianity : what happened? – Part V – 1600AD – 2000AD

Reaching the last lap of this series of 2000 years of Christian History, lets recap before we move forward. In part IV, we saw the church going through a time of conflict, Franciscan and Dominican orders being established and the pope growing in power to the extent where he superseded man. The Inquisitions were also established where people who had differing beliefs to the Roman Catholic ways were tortured, penalized, exiled or faced death. Meanwhile, the reformation was at hand with thinkers such as Wycliffe, Hus and Savonarola being assisted greatly with the invention of the printing press which made the Bible available to everyone for the first time. The eastern part of the Roman empire, would fall to the hand of the Muslim Ottomans, becoming part of the Muslim empire although Greek Orthodox beliefs continued in the region. With the sale of indulgences, the reformation would officially begin at the hand of Martin Luther and the likes of Ulrich Zwingli. Protestantism which spread quickly even with heavy opposition from the Catholic church, even leading to wars between the two groups, would also give birth to the Anglican Church in England, a separate entity from the church in Rome. While Calvin’s teachings were soaked in by Protestantism, a counter reformation was underway inside the catholic church which did not reform many of its earlier teachings. While the Jesuits traveled on missions programs with spain and portugal as they extended their land overseas, many reformers such as Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer were executed for their beliefs – but Protestantism could not be stamped out, and would become one of the largest sects in Christianity – distinctively different from Catholicism, although borrowing and having many of its roots in the teachings of Rome. For the 1st part of this study, highlighting the History of Christianity from 30AD – 300AD please go here. For the 2nd part, highlighting the History of Christianity from 300AD – 600AD please go here. For the 3rd part, highlighting the History of Christianity from 600AD – 1200AD please go here. For the 4th part, highlighting the History of Christianity from 1200AD – 1600AD please go here

As mentioned in the previous 4 Parts of this study, I acknowledge that no two people would agree on a list of the absolutely important events in Christianity. This is only an attempt to simply give you a better understanding of the history of our faith. If you believe that there is an important event missing on this list, please comment with the reason why you think it would have affected the outcome of today’s Christianity, and I will add it in after review.

2000 years of Christian History – Part V – 1600AD – 2000AD

1609: Smyth baptizes self and first Baptists – One of the two groups that fled to Holland amidst Anglican persecution were the Baptists (the other were the pilgrims). Queen Elizabeth had stabilized the Anglican Reformation by taking the stand of “The Anglican Church would be almost Catholic”. Some of the Protestants who were bothered by this moderate route wanted to purify the church from within(Puritans), while others wanted to separate(Separatists). John Smyth, a Cambridge graduate, preacher and lecturer started such a separatist church in Gainsborough, finally fleeing to Amsterdam along with his congregation under heavy opposition from the Authorities. Through contact with Mennonites (Anabaptists) he altered his thinking and many of his congregation – believing infant baptism was unscriptural and rebaptizing himself and the believers. When he sought to merge his congregation with the Mennonites, ten members opposed it, and returned to London, where they setup the first Baptist Church.

1611: King James Version of Bible published – When Queen Elizabeth died childless, James VI of Scotland became king of England becoming known as James the 1st. The Puritans who wanted to purify the Church somehow managed to get approval from the King for a new Bible translation. Even though the Geneva Bible and the Bishop’s Bible were already in circulation, under King James, 54 scholars were tasked in creating the King James Version, which has become one of the few translations to have been accepted as accurate and lasted for centuries.

1618: Thirty Years’ War begins – A series of wars waged in Central Europe between 1618–1648, it was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history, and one of the longest. Its roots stem from the war between Protestant and Catholic states in the fragmenting Holy Roman Empire, which gradually developed into a more general conflict involving most of the great powers of Europe.

1620: Mayflower Compact drafted – The Separatists who withdrew from the Anglican Church under harassment had moved to Holland, but were not comfortable with Dutch Pluralism. Turning towards the New World, they dreamed of building a pure church, untainted by the flaws of the Church of England. Led by John Robinson, 102 Separatists set sail from Plymouth harbour on a vessel called the Mayflower towards America. The Mayflower compact was signed by 41 men aboard the vessel, agreeing to build a colony for the glory of God and advancement of Christianity. There main theme was that they would govern themselves without the rule of a human king – apart from God – the ruler of all.

1646: Westminster Confession drafted – Under Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the Parliamentary army, the Puritans came into power in England with the king being beheaded subsequently. The Westminster assembly which created a confession of faith based on Calvinistic beliefs would last till 1658 being ruled by elders instead of priests and bishops – until the death of Cromwell. Charles II who came to power restored the episcopacy in England, although the Church of Scotland remained bound to the Westminster Confession.

1647: George Fox begins to preach – In an England which had many denominations that had sprung up in place of one church, differences of interpretation flourished, although none of them did away with the clergy altogether. George fox, who taught immediate access to God without the need of any clergy, and reliance solely on the Holy Spirit, created the society of friends where aristocrats and common men worshiped together and where both men and women could speak as they felt led by the Spirit. Despite persecution that followed the freedom seeking sect, it grew being known as the Quakers.

1648: Peace of Westphalia ends Thirty Years’ War –  A series of peace treaties signed in Osnabrück and Münster, these treaties ended the Thirty Years’ War in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the independence of the Dutch Republic.

1675: Spener’s Pia Desideria advances Pietism – A graduate of the University of Strasbourg who became a minister in the Lutheran church, Spener formed devotional meetings known as collegia pietatis, the basis of the movement known as Pietism. Sermons that applied Scripture to life, small group meetings, bible study, group prayer and congregational singing were some of the key aspects of Pietism.

1732: Awakening at Herrnhut launches Moravian Brethren – The spiritual descendants of John Hus, the Moravians had no place in the world – being different to Catholics, Lutherans & Calvinists. The group that dispersed for a while, finally started regathering in 1722 to the estate of Count Zinzendorf, who started building a school and shops, naming the place “Herrnhut” (Lord’s Watch). By 1725 there were 90 Moravians at Herrnhut, and 300 by the next year. As the community grew, Zinzendorf moved out from his manor house into the community and exerted leadership. Becoming united in their faith, they selected elders and a 24 hour prayer vigil was set up (this lasted for over a century). They made contact with other Moravians in Europe, and leaders were trained to visit and share about Herrnhut. In 1732, they branched out into foreign missions such as Greenland, West Indies, Lapland & Georgia. By 1742, 70 had left the community of 600 for missions in Suriname, S.Africa, Guiana, Algeria, Ceylon and Romania. By the time Zinzendorf died in 1760, 226 missionaries had been sent out. They had baptized more than 3000 & established centers in Pennsylvania and London. Most notably, the Moravians had an influence on John Wesley who incorporated some of their concerns into the Methodist movement, and William Carey who followed their example in Protestant Missions work.

1738: John and Charles Wesley’s evangelical conversions – The two Anglican brothers who attended a “Holy Club” at Oxford, began to be nicknamed “Methodists” because of their stringent methods in their search for holiness. Being moved by a message about grace from Luther’s commentary of the Romans at a Moravian meeting, John and his brother preached this new message of grace everywhere. Travelling 250,000 miles on horseback, he preached throughout England and Scotland appointing preachers, creating fellowship classes and prayer bands. The Wesleys who wanted to see a change in the Anglican Church broke away from it unwittingly, and Methodism changed British society, being attributed by many Historians as the reason for not seeing a bloody revolution such as the one the French experienced at the end of the 18th century.

1771: Francis Asbury sent to America – One of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, as a young Englishman Asbury, traveled to America and, during his 45 years there, he devoted his life to ministry, traveling on horseback and by carriage thousands of miles to those living on the frontier – spreading Methodism throughout America.

1779: Newton and Cowper publish Olney Hymns – The combined work of John Newton and William Cowper, the hymns were written and published for use in Newton’s rural parish, which was made up of relatively poor and uneducated followers. As hymn-singing gained popularity, many of the hymns were reproduced in other hymn-books and pamphlets. Today around six of the original 348 Olney Hymns regularly feature in modern church worship, the most famous of which is “Amazing Grace”.

1780: Robert Raikes begins his Sunday school – Starting in a kitchen teaching street urchins, Robert wanted to change their lives. He had previously tried to help ex-prisoners, but to no avail. Now he turned towards the young, publicizing it in his paper. John Wesley who loved the idea used it in his groups. Raikes who received the endorsement of Queen Charlotte, had created a movement that had a quarter of a Million kids attending Sunday Schools in England by 1787. It would also plant the seeds of Public Education and revolutionize religious education touching the lives of countless lives of youngsters.

1789: French Revolution begins – A period of radical social and political upheaval in France, profoundly affected French and modern history, marking the decline of powerful monarchies and churches and the rise of democracy and nationalism. Popular resentment of the privileges enjoyed by the clergy and aristocracy grew amidst a financial crisis following two expensive wars and years of bad harvests, motivating demands for change and leading to this revolution by the common people.

1793: William Carey sails for India – An English Baptist missionary, Carey traveled to the Danish colony, Serampore, India, where he translated the Bible into Bengali, Sanskrit, and several other languages and dialects, amidst enormous physical pressure.

1793: Festival of Reason (de-Christianization of France) – With the French Revolution in full sway, caused by opposition towards the Roman Catholic Church, a Republic was proclaimed and the King Executed in 1792. This led to a cult which came to epitomize the new republican way of religion. Churches across France were transformed into modern Temples of Reason, including Notre Dame in Paris. Altars were dismantled and an altar to Liberty was installed and the inscription “To Philosophy” was carved in stone over the cathedral’s doors, while girls in white Roman dress and tricolor sashes milled around a costumed Goddess of Reason who “impersonated Liberty”. This cult was then replaced with the cult of the supreme being. Both cults were officially banned afterwards by Napoleon Bonaparte.

1801: Concordat between Napoleon and Pius VII – During the French Revolution, the National Assembly had taken Church properties and made the Church a department of the State, removing it from the authority of the Pope. The Concordat was signed between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII seeking national reconciliation between revolutionaries and Catholics – solidifying the Roman Catholic Church as the majority church of France and bringing back most of its civil status, while remaining largely in favor of the state.

1806: Haystack Prayer Meeting – Viewed by many scholars as the seminal event for the development of Protestant missions in the subsequent decades, it all started with 5 Williams College students gathering in a field to discuss the spiritual welfare of the people of Asia. Some of its members established the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and in 1812 it sent forth its first missionaries to India. In 19th century, it sent missionaries to China, Hawaii, and other nations in southeast Asia, and many of its missionaries undertook translation of the Bible into native languages, and some created written languages where none had existed before.

1807: Wilberforce leads abolition of slave trade – Heeding the advice of Pastor John Newton (one-time slave trader and author of Amazing Grace) William Wilberforce remained in Politics having acquired a prestigious seat in the British Parliament. A leading voice against slavery, in the British Empire, Wilberforce lobbied for the abolishing of slavery, finally coming to effect in Britain, a month after his death in 1825.

1811: Campbells begin Restoration Movement – A pastor at the Presbyterian church, Thomas Campbell had disagreement on church doctrines, and branched out with the means of bringing restoration to the early church. With his study of the New Testament and belief in immersion rather than infant baptism, he affiliated with the Baptist Church. With tension brewing between Baptists and Campbellites, they eased out and was merged with the church of Barton Stone. The 25,000 strong movement was known as the Disciples of Christ, and at the turn of the 20th century had over a million Disciples. The Campbells tilted many from the formal religion to a personal faith setting the stage for the revivalist and fundamentalist movements.

1812: Adoniram Judson begins mission trip – One of the students who were at the haystack prayer meeting, Judson set sail for India along with his new wife. Opposed by the British rulers in India who disliked these Americans, they moved to Burma and started learning the language and translating the New Testament to Burmese. After six years of hard work, they won their 1st convert. His wife would pass away at the age of 36, though Judson continued his work for 24 more years, establishing 63 churches, mostly among the “Karen People” who had a tradition that foreigners would visit them and restore the knowledge of the true God, which they had lost. Over 100,000 of the Karen people were baptized.

1816: Richard Allen founds African Methodist Episcopal church – At the time where Black people were segregated from the whites, Richard, a black man, who had occasionally preached at St.George’s Methodist Church, were seated (because of a misunderstanding) in the white section with other black worshipers. Reverend Absalom Jones who insisted that they get up and move began dragging the worshipers away – to which they walked out. The blacks who had generously furnished the church and even paid for the laying of the floor, started their own service in a rented storeroom – eventually buying a land and building a church on it. The oppression, the blacks went through at the hand of their white brothers, even after the abolishment of slavery drove Richard Allen to found the African Methodist Episcopal church where black believers could serve Christ gladly – giving rise to a strong black spirituality in America that lives on today.

1830: Finney’s Urban Revivals begin – A lawyer, Charles G. Finney, joined the Presbyterian Church and was ordained in 1824. Traveling on horseback, he went from village to village preaching as if he was in front of a jury. In 1830, Finney led remarkably successful revival meetings in Rochester, New York – making Revivalism a feature of American urban life. Though he did not encourage them, the revivalists allowed shouting, groaning and other evidences of emotion bringing growth despite its’ critics. With local church involvement, Finney would come and preach in areas with support of promotion such as handbills, placards and newspaper advertisements.

1830: John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren – At a time where meeting outside the established Church of England was unheard of, Darby and some of his friends did just that. Becoming fascinated with Prophecy, he held a series of conferences on the subject. Seizing the teachings of 18th century Chilean monastic Manuel de Lacunza, he taught a premillennial return of Christ(Lacunza also proposed that Christ would appear first to remove His faithful from the worst of the tribulation, before returning fully to establish His reign.) The movement which was based at Plymouth became known as the “brethren”, welcoming all denominations and serving without ordained ministers. Darby’s view of prophecy came to be known as dispensationalism, the prevalent teaching today, which explains God to have related to human beings in different ways under different Biblical covenants in a series of “dispensations,” or periods in history.

1854: Immaculate Conception made dogma – The Catholic belief that the conception of Mary in her mother’s womb was free from original sin was made Church doctrine by pope Pius IX with the support of the overwhelming majority of Roman Catholic bishops in 1854.

1854: Hudson Taylor arrives in China – At a time when Britain was attempting to make China another colony of the Empire, Taylor learned the language, translated Scripture, and ran a hospital. Returning to England in 1860, he went back in 1866 with 16 other missionaries. By the time Taylor died in 1905, there were 205 mission stations, 849 missionaries and an estimated 125,000 Chinese Christians.

1854: Charles Haddon Spurgeon becomes Pastor in London – Becoming the pastor of a small Baptist church in Waterbeach when he was 18, Spurgeon was given the opportunity to preach at the prestigious New Park Street Chapel at 19. Invited to become the pastor of the Church, Spurgeon would hold the position for nearly 4 decades. Church attendance mushroomed, and the church rented bigger halls that could hold upto 12,000, while around 10,000 stood outside to hear the preacher. By 1861, the church built a facility that could hold 6000, while spurgeon published books, sermons & commentaries becoming known as the “prince of preachers”.

1855: D. L. Moody converted – A shoe salesman turned preacher, Moody’s evangelistic meetings took the British Isles by storm. Returning to America after 2 years, he was regarded an international celebrity, being invited to preach in many cities. Building on the revivalist tradition of Charles Finney, Moody preached a gospel free from denominational divisions. Music, counselling, follow-ups were all parts of an organized approach towards getting at people’s hearts. He also established a seminary for girls, a school for boys, summer bible conferences and a Bible Institute now named for him.

1865: William and Catherine Booth found Salvation Army – Establishing a mission to the poor in the East end of London in a humble tent, they eventually setup “food for the million” shops, offering cheap meals. Creating an organization that followed military lines, Booth himself was known as General because of his strict control. He used marching bands, uniforms, officers and a magazine named the War cry. The bands could be heard on the streets, as they effectively addressed the problems of the hungry and the homeless – & the gospel was preached to many who had never set a foot inside a church before. Through his lifetime, William traveled 5 million miles, preached nearly 60,000 sermons and drew about 16,000 officers into service with him – spreading not only throughout Britain, but into every corner of the world.

1870: First Vatican Council declares papal infallibility – With the pope’s power being questioned even by priests and bishops, in a world which was no longer uniformly Catholic – the papacy had even lost political influence. Pope Pius IX who had pronounced the doctrine of immaculate conception, and the Syllabus of Errors (a list of things no Catholic was allowed to believe in) now called the 1st Vatican Council, where he proclaimed that the “pope – the Vicar of Christ, has full direct power over the church and its hierarchy” and that “when he speaks from the chair in his capacity as pope, he is infallible“. Both of these ideas became doctrines of the Catholic Church.

1896: Billy Sunday begins leading revivals – Leaving baseball for the Christian ministry, Sunday gradually developed his skills and became the nation’s most famous evangelist with his colloquial sermons and frenetic delivery, attracting the largest crowds of any evangelist before the advent of electronic sound systems.

1906: Azusa Street revival launches Pentecostalism –  A black baptist preacher by the name of William J Seymour was calling believers to be “sanctified” and “be baptized in the Holy Spirit” which he said would be accompanied by speaking in tongues. Amidst negative publicity many people traveled to see what was going on. Seymour was a student of Charles Fox Parham, who had tried to spread this revival in Kansas city and Lawrence, but failed. In 1903, Parham prayed for a woman from Texas who was healed afterwards, and invited him to Texas, where it was successful. By 1905, “Pentecostal” or “Full Gospel” meetings were drawing crowds with an estimated 25,000 adherents. Seymour, who started in the home of some friends, moved to Azusa street, which became the focal point for a growing Pentecostal movement. The movement which was anti-organizational and anti-denominational, created a plethora of smaller Pentecostal Denominations. A group of southern Pentecostals led by Eudorus N. Bell, named the Church of God in Christ, with 325 ministers, summoned Pentecostals to a meeting in Arkansas, where the Assemblies of God denomination was born.

1921: First Christian radio broadcasts – With the invention of Radio, many churches and ministries started broadcasting – which grew to 60 religious radio stations by 1928. Leaders like Billy Graham and Oral Roberts blazed the trail into Television in the 1950s and 60s having quite an effect on Evangelism and Christianity as a whole through the electronic mediums.

German Christians celebrating Luther-Day in Berlin in 1933, speech by bishop Hossenfelder

German Christians celebrating Luther-Day in Berlin in 1933 – The German Christian Flag can be seen at the back with Nazi emblem in the middle

1934: Barmen Declaration – Hitler had wooed and deceived the church, gaining much support from Lutheran and Catholic clergy, who saw appeal in a distinctively German Church. In view of this, a document was adopted by Christians in Nazi Germany who opposed the “German Christian” movement(Deutsche Christen) at the time, declaring that the German Christians had corrupted church government by making it subservient to the state and had introduced Nazi ideology into the German Protestant churches that contradicted the Christian gospel. About one third of the Protestant clergy that led what was called the “confessing church” would stand against the German leader – but to no avail.

1938: Kristallnacht accelerates Holocaust – With the assassination of a German diplomat by a German-born Polish Jew living in Paris, a series of attacks were made against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria, with at least 91 Jews being killed in the attacks, and 30,000 arrested and incarcerated, while Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone) and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged. Martin Sasse, Nazi Party member and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia, the leading member of the Nazi German Christians, published a compendium of Martin Luther’s writings shortly after the Kristallnacht; where he “applauded the burning of the synagogues” and the coincidence of the day, writing in the introduction, “On 10 November 1938, on Luther’s birthday, the synagogues are burning in Germany.” The German people, he urged, ought to heed these words “of the greatest anti-Semite of his time, the warner of his people against the Jews” referring to the harshly anti-semitic words of Martin Luther, written in pamphlets such as On the Jews and Their Lies.

1945: Dietrich Bonhoeffer executed by Nazis – Bonhoeffer, who was a head of a confessing church seminary was forbidden to speak publicly or publish with the seminary closing down. Bonhoeffer, who felt Hitler was the antichrist became a part in a plot to kill the German leader which failed. Bonhoeffer was later arrested, not for his work as a double agent, but for smuggling 14 Jews into Switzerland. In prison he would write pieces such as Letters and papers from prison and a book named the cost of discipleship. He was one of the many Germans who stood against the Nazi regime and its corrupting influence on Christianity.

1947: Dead Sea Scrolls discovered – The finds from the Qumran caves are of great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the second oldest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon, along with deuterocanonical and extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism. There are only two silver scrolls which contain biblical text and are older than the Dead Sea Scrolls; which have been excavated in Jerusalem at Ketef Hinnom and are dating from around 600 BC.

1948: The creation of the state of Israel – With the end of the British Mandate for Palestine in 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the Zionist Organization and president of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared “the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel”. The borders of the new state were not specified. Neighboring Arab armies invaded the former Palestinian mandate on the next day and fought the Israeli forces. Israel has since fought several wars with neighboring Arab states, in the course of which it has captured the West Bank, Sinai Peninsula, part of South Lebanon, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.

1949: Los Angeles Crusade catapults Billy Graham – A Christian evangelist, ordained as a Southern Baptist minister, he rose to celebrity status holding large indoor and outdoor rallies, while sermons were broadcast on radio and television. According to his staff, more than 2 million people have responded to the invitation at Billy Graham Crusades to “accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior”. Over 100 Million have heard him in person, with countless millions touched by his media ministries.

1950: Assumption of Mary made dogma – In the Apostolic Constitution written by Pope Pius XII, he proclaimed that the Virgin Mary “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory“. This doctrine was put into effect using papal infallibility.

1960: Bennett resigns; charismatic renewal advances – With the rector of St Mark’s Episcopal Church Dennis Bennett, receiving the baptism of the spirit, it resulted in a split in his congregation with his resignation, and the movement quickly spread to other churches. Fundamental to the movement is the use of spiritual gifts – adopting beliefs and practices similar to Pentecostals.

1962: Changes made at the 2nd Vatican Council – Headed by pope John XXIII, this council allowed church masses to be held in the native tongues rather than mandatory Latin. It also accepted both clergy and laypeople as the people of God, who could share in ministerial functions. While Vatican I had seen pope as the successor to the apostles, this was extended to the whole body of bishops. Giving the Bible more importance, it encouraged laypeople as well as scholars to study the bible. Those in other denominations were stated to be Christians who are separated brethren, ending the idea of Christian equated exclusively with Catholic. The other believers did not have to return to Rome, to become Christian, as it was believed in the past. The church of Rome also renounced the power over the political realm for the first time at this council.

1963: King leads March on Washington – Martin Luther King, a Baptist Pastor would lead the march against segregation in America, towards a future of equality, winning the Nobel Peace Prize on the way, even though he would be gunned down for his beliefs – becoming the only clergyman in America to have a day named in his honor.

1966: Chinese Cultural Revolution – With Mao Zadeong coming to power in China, he had forced foreign missionaries out in 1950. In 1966, he launched a savage cultural revolution where Christian meetings were forbidden and Bibles burned. Government oppression only helped the growth of Christianity in China. By 1979 Churches were allowed to open, although through secret house meetings the number of followers grew exponentially at the time of the revolution than any other time in China.

Conclusion
christianity-graphic-11While Christianity now branched out from Catholicism into Protestantism, Anglicanism and divided further into splinter groups such as the Baptist & Methodist, Christianity would be divided in belief, tradition and doctrine. These differences would even lead to wars at first, such as between Protestant nations and Catholic nations. While missionary work took on a new vigor, events such as the French Revolution would cause Catholicism to loose power over the state. With the abolition of the slave trade, blacks were accepted into society – only to be segregated by their skin color, resulting in Churches separated and headed by blacks. A new interest in Prophecy and theories such as dispensationalism would come to the fore of Christian doctrine, while Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement would become popular around the world, with revivals and massive Christian gatherings surrounded around famous preachers became the norm, with help of promotion by Radio, Television and Print. While the 1st World War had changed how each perceives war, the world would be plunged into war again because of the likes of Hitler and the Protestant division named “German Christian” churches who agreed with him. While Christianity grew silently elsewhere in the world, the biggest Christian denomination in the world – Catholicism would make “Immaculate conception”, “papal infallibility”, “Assumption of Mary” church doctrine, although it accepted other denominations as Christians for the first time since its inception.

Jump to Part I – 30AD – 300AD
Jump to Part II – 300AD – 600AD
Jump to Part III – 600AD – 1200AD
Jump to Part IV – 1200AD – 1600AD

 

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2000 years of Christianity : what happened? – Part IV – 1200AD – 1600AD

Get ready for a bit of a longer journey than parts 1,2&3, as we dive into the age of Reformation! Recapping part III, previously we saw Christianity which was now the Religion of Rome, spreading all throughout Europe. With the birth of Islam, Rome was threatened as Islam conquered most of the areas under Roman rule, even capturing Jerusalem. While the Eastern and Western churches grew apart finally breaking all ties, Muslims threatened Europe – being pushed back at the battle of Tours. The pope became significantly more powerful, superseding emperors in esteem and even owning land. The 1st Crusade would return power of Jerusalem back to Rome through much bloodshed, but would fail to hold Jerusalem in their grasp as the Muslims retook the city, inciting a failed 2nd Crusade and a partially successful 3rd. Universities of Paris and Oxford were begun creating incubators for the Renaissance and the Reformation, while movements such as the Waldensians signaled the beginning of a free thinking Christianity, which was outside the Church of the Roman Empire. For the 1st part of this study, highlighting the History of Christianity from 30AD – 300AD please go here. For the 2nd part, highlighting the History of Christianity from 300AD – 600AD please go here. For the 3rd part, highlighting the History of Christianity from 600AD – 1200AD please go here

As mentioned in the 1st, 2nd & 3rd Parts of this study, I acknowledge that no two people would agree on a list of the absolutely important events in Christianity. This is only an attempt to simply give you a better understanding of the history of our faith. If you believe that there is an important event missing on this list, please comment with the reason why you think it would have affected the outcome of today’s Christianity, and I will add it in after review.

2000 years of Christian History – Part IV – 1200AD – 1600AD

1208: Francis of Assisi renounces wealth – Renouncing his father’s wealth, Francis became a beggar, asking for alms from the “haves” in order to give to the “have nots”. Francis who started preaching in deserted chapels generated a faithful following, to whom he drafted a set of rules, creating the Fransican Order. By 1218 there were more 3000 followers who had renounced wealth, creating a change in Italian society – where the rich got richer and the poor starved.

1215: Innocent III assembles Fourth Lateran Council – While previous popes had called themselves “Vicar of Peter”, pope Innocent III claimed he was the “Vicar of Christ” – claiming to be the representative of Christ on earth, he said the pope was “a mediator between God and man, below God but beyond man”. At the 4th Lateran council most of his ideas would be adopted into church doctrine. The council ruled that annually every person must make confessions to a priest and take communion. The doctrine of transubstantiation (communion bread and wine were the actual body and blood of Christ) became official. Heretics could be legally punished by excommunication and confiscation of property. The pope alone had authority to make or break bishops. The council also declared that Jews wear special identification badges, forbidding Christians to engage in any commerce with them – eventually leading to Jewish Ghettos.

1220: Dominican Order established –  a Roman Catholic religious order founded by the Spanish priest Saint Dominic, it was established to preach the Gospel and to combat heresy. The teaching activity of the order and its scholastic organization placed the Preachers in the forefront of the intellectual life of the Middle Ages.

1232: Gregory IX appoints first “inquisitors” –  Pope Gregory IX instituted the Papal Inquisition, a mechanism that severely punished people accused of heresy, which was mainly established to curb Catharism and the Waldensians. Out of these 2 sects, the Cathari posed the greater threat, as they taught a dualistic faith in which the material world was created by an evil entity, while the spiritual was created by the good. Staffed by the Franscian and Dominican orders, the original intent for the Inquisition was a court of exception to inquire into, and glean the beliefs of those differing from Catholic teaching, and to instruct them in the orthodox doctrine. In 1252, Pope Innocent IV officially sanctioned the use of torture to extract the truth from suspects, and over the centuries the tribunals would take different forms, investigating and stamping out various forms of heresy, including witchcraft and Judaism.

1272: Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae – A student at the University of Naples, Thomas would go onto become a Dominican monk. Thomas tried to reconcile philosophy and theology, emphasizing that they did not need to contradict each other. When Catholicism fought against Protestanism, at the council of trent, they used Aquinas’ work.

1302: Unam Sanctam proclaims papal supremacy – A charter created by pope Boniface VIII, it decreed that it was necessary to belong to the Roman Catholic church to receive eternal salvation(as the Roman Catholic Church was regarded the one true church), the position of the pope as supreme head of the Church, and the duty of submitting to the pope in order to belong to the Church and thus to attain salvation. The pope who was called the successor of Peter, on whom the church was built – would have authority over the sheep, and whoever did not come under that authority would not be included into the sheep of Christ.

1309: Papacy begins “Babylonian” exile in Avignon – In the period from 1309 to 1377, during which seven successive popes resided in Avignon, in France, rather than in Rome. At the election of Clement V (a frenchman) as pope, he declined to move to Rome, remaining in France, and moving his court there. This absence from Rome for 67 years was known as the “Babylonian Exile of the Papacy”, in which a total of 7 popes reigned from France, finally ending with Gregory XI who moved the court back to Rome.

1321: Dante completes Divine Comedy – The Italian poet, Dante’s creation reflected most of the beliefs of his age such as, purgatory, and the working off of sin to reach heaven. Influenced by Thomas Aquinas, his work would in turn influence many other poets after him, and create a vivid picture of what hell, purgatory and paradise looked like for a long time to come.

1370: Catherine of Siena begins her Letters – Living apart from the world for 3 years, Catherine reentered society at the time of the black death – ministering to the dying and visiting prisoners who were condemned to death. All this while she wrote many letters giving spiritual counsel from the common folk up to the pope. She encouraged pope Gregory XI to move back to Rome from Avignon at the time of the Exile of papacy. After Gregory XI moved to Rome, and died shortly afterward, she would still counsel pope Urban at the time of the Great Schism.

1378: Great Papal Schism begins – After the Baylonian Exile of the papacy ended, by pope Gregory XI moving his court back to Rome from Avignon(France), Gregory XI would pass away shortly. With riots breaking out for a new roman pope, Urban VI was appointed. Many of the cardinals, who regretted their decision later, appointed Pope Clement VII in Avignon as a rival pope – which threw the church into turmoil, as both popes had been appointed by the same leaders. The conflicts quickly escalated from a church issue to a diplomatic crisis that divided Europe, as secular leaders had to choose which claimant they would recognize as pope. This schism would last close to 40 years, coming to an end with the council of constance.

1380: Wycliffe supervises English Bible translation – The leading English scholar of his time, Wycliffe may be largely responsible for the early reputation of Oxford, where he studied and taught. As his studies led to question the Catholic teachings, he began to speak out against the church’s right to temporal power and wealth, the sale of indulgences (letters that were believed to pardon sin), church offices, worship of saints and relics, the doctrine of transubstantiation, as well as the pope’s authority. Regularly defending himself before bishops and councils, he became a hero, creating a following named the Lollards who traveled England teaching the Scriptures to the common folk. In 1377, he was banned from writing and most of his work burned – while he was stripped of his position at Oxford and forbidden to teach his views. Working with other scholars, he used a handwritten copy of the Vulgate to create the first English translation of the Bible, which was improved in a second edition after his death, and distributed illegally by the Lollards. He was excommunicated by the council of constance after his death, and in 1428, his bones were exhumed, burned and scattered in the river. The Reformation was already well underway through his teachings and his work on the English translation of the Bible.

1413: Hus burned at stake – Ordained as a priest in 1401, John Hus taught at Charles University in Prague. A noted preacher who taught against the worldliness and moral failings of clergy (including the pope), stressed on purity of life and personal piety, as well as asserting that Christ alone is the head of the church. When he became popular among the masses, the archbishop of Prague objected to his teachings, instructing him not to preach and asking the university to burn Wycliffe’s writings. When he did not comply, pope John XXIII excommunicated the whole city, forcing Hus to leave Prague. In his book “on the church“, he claimed that only God could forgive sins, no pope/bishop could establish doctrine contrary to the bible, nor could any Christian obey a clergyman’s order if it was plainly wrong. Hus, who was summoned to the council of Constance, where he was arrested as soon as he arrived – as well as his teachings along with Wycliffe’s condemned. Stating that pope or bishop who is in mortal sin, ceases to be a pope or bishop, he added the king to the list. Refusing to renounce his “errors”, he was sentenced to be burned at the stake, and his ashes scattered on a river. His courageous death would lead to the birth of the Moravian church and fuel the reformation.

1414: Council of Constance begins – held from 1414 to 1418, the council ended the Great Schism, where rival popes claimed right as true pope of the Church. The rest of the claimants were deposed and Pope Martin V elected in their stead.

1453: Constantinople falls; end of Eastern Roman Empire –  The Ottomans commanded by Sultan Mehmed II, defeated an army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI, capturing Constantinople, bringing an end to the Eastern Roman empire. Mehmed who transferred the capitol of the Ottoman Empire from Adrianople to Constantinople declared himself Kayser-i Rum, literally “Caesar of Rome”, that is, of the Roman Empire, though he was remembered as “the Conqueror” – founding a political system that survived until 1922 with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. While the church Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque which stands to date, the Greek Orthodox Church remained intact, even though Turkey which contains Constantinople (present day Istanbul) is now a dominant Muslim state with more than 95% of its population being Muslim.

1456: Gutenberg produces first printed Bible – At a time where the Bible was only available in Latin, copied by hand on parchment or papyrus sheets, the average person relied on the local priest and pictures or statues in the church for information on the Bible. With Gutenberg’s invention, God’s Word became readily available to everyone – no longer did the pope or a priest have to come in between the believer and his comprehension of the Bible. Previously, only the clergy had access to God’s Word, so that they could compare it to church teaching – but with the printing press, the road to reformation was paved further.

1478: Establishment of Spanish Inquisition – Spain’s rulers King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella who showed great devotion to Catholicism, received the title “Catholic Kings” from the pope, and in 1478 requested that the pope establish the Inquisition in Spain with themselves as Inquisitors. In 1492, all Jews and Muslims were expelled from Spain. The inquisition humiliated, tortured and brought people to the stake, confiscated property and sold the office of “familiar” – (a person who informed on others while enjoying freedom from arrest), all the while becoming a powerful entity. While Protestantism took hold of Europe under persecution, in Spain it fell under the harsh hand of the Inquisition. Protestant books were banned, and even suspicion that a person was Protestant brought in the Inquisitors, resulting in Protestantism never taking hold in Catholic dominant Spain.

1497: Savonarola excommunicated – In the self centered, wealth conscious society of Florence, even the church was influenced – monasteries knew little about the vow of poverty. A pious Dominican monk Savonarola, spoke harshly against it prophesying the downfall of the city. In 1494, when France attacked them, the people overthrew its rulers and appointed Savonarola instead. People changed their lifestyles, giving up their fine clothes and gambling, while bankers and traders returned whatever they had wrongfully taken from others. While crowds flocked to hear Savonarola preach, many became monks themselves. Savonarola’s attack against worldly clergy including then pope Alexander VI (who had fathered several illegitimate children) was ordered to stop preaching – to which he obeyed. After a year in silence, Alexander allowed him to preach again – and Savonarola restarted his attacks against corruption in the church. The pope excommunicated Savonarola, threatening the city interdiction. Finally the people turned against their leader who was handed over to be burned at the city’s great piazza.

1516: Erasmus publishes Greek New Testament – A catholic priest named Erasmus created his own translation of the Bible in Latin and included a Greek text as well into it. It is believed that he included the Greek  text to permit qualified readers to verify the quality of his Latin version. He is recorded saying “But one thing the facts cry out, and it can be clear, as they say, even to a blind man, that often through the translator’s clumsiness or inattention the Greek has been wrongly rendered; often the true and genuine reading has been corrupted by ignorant scribes, which we see happen every day, or altered by scribes who are half-taught and half-asleep.” This Greek version would also help fuel the reformation as it would point out errors in the Latin.

Covers of 3 Publications done by Martin Luther – Left: Dass Jesus Christus ein geborener Jude sei (That Jesus Christ was born a Jew) ; Middle: Von den Jüden und Iren Lügen (On the Jews and Their Lies) ; Right: Vom Schem Hamphoras und vom Geschlecht Christi (Of the Unknowable Name and the Generations of Christ)

1517: Luther posts his Ninety-Five Theses – The new basilica which was being built in Rome needed an enormous amount of wealth – and one of the fundraising techniques was the “sale of indulgences” – where one could get their loved ones out of purgatory for a fee and earn credit against ones own sin. Tetzel, a Dominican monk in charge of indulgences would travel saying “listen to the voices of your dear dead relatives and friends, beseeching you and saying ‘pity us, pity us’. We are in dire torment from which you can redeem us for a pittance”. When Tetzel came to Wittenburg, where Martin Luther, a German priest, was a professor at – he strongly opposed the sale of indulgences and tacked a list of 95 grievances to the church door. In it he said “divine forgiveness certainly could not be bought or sold, when God offers it freely”. This was just the beginning. Luther went out to lead a religious revolution, railing against church corruption and a new understanding on papal and scriptural authority. He had criticized the sale of indulgences and worship of relics, even before tetzel came along – the meeting merely brought the conflict to the surface. In 1520, the pope issued a decree condemning Luther’s views, which Luther burned. In 1523, Luther advised kindness toward the Jews in “That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew”, but only with the aim of converting them to Christianity – when his efforts failed, he wrote “On the Jews and Their Lies” & “Of the Unknowable Name and the Generations of Christ”, in which he argued that the Jews were no longer the chosen people but “the devil’s people”, and referred to them with violent, vile language. This would give way to further antisemitism and would even be used by the Nazis to perpetrate the holocaust. His views on “justification through grace” have also become a key part of Christian theology.

1518: Ulrich Zwingli comes to Zurich – While the reformation was underway in Germany, it also rose up in Switzerland under Ulrich Zwingli. Influenced by Erasmus, Zwingli immersed himself in the Greek New Testament. When Zwingli became pastor of the main catholic church at Zurich, he announced that he would preach through the gospel of Matthew instead of the prescribed lectionary. In 1522, some of his parishioners defied the church’s rule about eating meat during lent – being supported by Zwingli who preached a sermon on freedom. At a public debate in Zurich, Zwingli’s views prevailed – and over the course of 2 years priests and nuns married, catholic images were removed from the churches and the Catholic mass was replaced with a simple service in which preaching was emphasized. The reformation was underway in Zurich.

1521: Diet of Worms –  A diet, a formal deliberative assembly held at Worms in Germany, called Luther and asked him to retract his published views – to which Luther is recorded as stating “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen”. The assembly forbade anyone from helping Martin Luther. Luther was later excommunicated and his writings banned. He was kidnapped and hidden in Wartburg castle, for his own protection by prince Frederick afterwards.

1525: Tyndale’s New Testament published – Credited as the first English translation of the New Testament done from the Greek, William Tyndale, an Oxford scholar, was inspired to create this work by Martin Luther’s German Translation of the New Testament. With heavy opposition from the church, he would leave England and publish the English New Testament, and later be strangled and burned at the stake.

1525: Anabaptist movement begins – A group of Christians under Zwingli, sought quick changes and a self governing church ruled by the Holy Spirit, instead of the church hierarchy. As this movement objected to infant baptism, the Zurich council wanted them to cease from disputations. The group that wanted the church returned to the state of the Scriptures, baptized one another (receiving the name Anabaptist “rebaptizer”), seeking to separate church and state, where political power would not compel the conscience of the believer. This radical group caused riots, being seen by Protestants and Catholics as wrongheaded, bringing persecution, death by fire and drowning to many Anabaptists. The movement spread nonetheless, attracting some Protestants and birthing the Mennonites and Brethren churches.

1529: Colloquy of Marburg – Phillip the landgrave of Hesse, brought the two great reformers, Zwilgli and Luther together, to the end of strengthening the Reform movement. Meeting at Marburg, the two theologians discussed 15 doctrinal issues, agreeing on 14. While Zwingli saw the Eucharist as a Spiritual reception of Christ’s body and blood, Luther saw it in more concrete terms. They parted ways giving way to a greater split in Protestantism – the Zwinglians and Lutherans.

1534: Act of Supremacy; Henry VIII heads English church – Henry, who had married his sister-in-law, Catherine, after his brother’s death, had no son to follow him on the throne. Attracted by Anne Boleyn, the king sought a divorce from the pope, citing Lev 20:21. The pope who was afraid of angering the holy roman emperor, Charles V, who was Catherine’s nephew, stalled Henry. The impatient English king appointed Thomas Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury, who immediately granted the divorce. Henry married Anne, who gave birth to Elizabeth the same year. In 1534 the English Parliament passed an act of supremacy, declaring “the king’s highness to be supreme head of the Church of England” – creating a state church which the pope had no authority over. The Church of England, once broken from the pope, remained separate giving way to Anglicanism.

1536: Calvin publishes first edition of Institutes – Breaking from Catholicism and leaving his homeland, France, Calvin settled in Switzerland as an exile. Pastoring the church at St.Pierre, he brought about reforms, seeking to excommunicate those whose lives did not approach scriptural standards. Geneva became a magnet for exiles from all of Europe, giving Protestantism a unique vigor. Calvinism, a major branch of Protestantism would spread to Scotland, Poland, Holland and America – with teachings such as “unconditional election”, “irresistible grace” and “perseverance of the saints”.

1540: Loyola gains approval for Society of Jesus – With Protestantism on the rise, the catholic church began a counter reformation by attempting to change some of the more offensive abuses to win back protestant converts. Stressing the need for devotion and self denial, the society of Jesus – or Jesuits were started by an injured Spanish soldier name Ignatius of Loyola. An almost military like unquestionable obedience to the pope as well as the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience drove the jesuits, who reached out with an extensive missions program. When catholic strongholds such as Spain and Portugal expanded their territories, the Jesuits went with them to evangelize, reaching all of Europe, Japan, Brazil, Ethiopia and central Africa – as well as many parts of Asia.

1545: Council of Trent begins – The council which met periodically from 1545 to 1563, was put together by pope Paul III, with reformation of the catholic church in mind. Indulgence were abolished, and clergy were exhorted to avoid even the smallest of faults. Doctrinally, the council reaffirmed the Catholic position, standing against Protestant doctrines. They restated that the church alone can adequately interpret scripture and refused the use of the Bible in any other language other than Latin. These reforms further separated the Catholic and Protestant views.

1549: Book of Common Prayer released – At the death of Henry VIII, the archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, moved forward with the English reformation. Images were removed from churches, private confessions to priests were discontinued, and the clergy allowed to marry. But mass was still said in Latin. So Cranmer moved to create a liturgy that was pleasing to Protestants as well as Catholics. The book of common prayer was born.

1555: Peace of Augsburg – A treaty between Charles V and an alliance of Lutheran princes, which was made at the imperial city of Augsburg, – It officially ended the religious struggle between the Lutherans and the Catholics and made the legal division of Christendom permanent within the Holy Roman Empire.

1555: Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer burned at stake – When the son of Henry VIII died, his daughter Mary became queen. Attempting to return England to Catholicism, she earned the name “Bloody Mary” for her harsh reign in which Protestants were persecuted – among them reformers such as Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer who created the book of common prayer.

1559: John Knox makes final return to Scotland – A Scottish clergyman and writer who was a leader of the Protestant Reformation, founded the Presbyterian denomination in Scotland, helping to write the new confession of faith and the ecclesiastical order for the newly created reformed church in Scotland called “the Kirk”.

1563: Foxe’s Book of Martyrs published – A work of Protestant history and martyrology by John Foxe, It includes a polemical account of the sufferings of Protestants under the Catholic Church, with particular emphasis on England and Scotland – becoming highly influential in those countries, and helping shape lasting popular notions of Catholicism there.

1572: St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre – Calvinism that spread to France in 1555, had created the French Protestant Church with more than 400,000 adherents knows as Huguenots. With fighting erupting in 1562, many Huguenots were massacred by the Catholic French at Vassy. Three wars of Religion had been already fought between the two groups. There was hopes of peace in Paris in 1572, as the two warring factions were going to be united by a wedding. Henry of Navarre, a protestant, was marrying Marguerite of Valois, the daughter of Catholic Catherine de Medici. Catherine who planned to assassinate Gaspard de Coligny, a popular French war hero and leader of the Huguenots – failed miserably. With the assassination attempt foiled, Catherine ordered a massacre of the Protestant leaders in Paris. On St. Bartholomew’s day, Coligny was murdered in his room, and mobs were formed to hunt down Huguenots leaders. Huguenots who were prosperous business people were easy to find, and in the name of religious purity – the lower class massacred the middle class citizens, with bodies piled up by the hundreds. The craze which spread to other provinces, with mobs going wild, pushed the death toll to an estimated 100,000. Five more civil wars would be waged between the French Protestants and Catholics in the years that followed.

1598: Edict of Nantes – Issued by Henry IV of France, granted the Calvinist Protestants of France (also known as Huguenots) substantial rights in a nation still considered essentially Catholic. In the Edict, Henry aimed primarily to promote civil unity. It would later be revoked by Louis XIV, the grandson of Henry IV, driving an exodus of Protestants, and increasing the hostility of Protestant nations bordering France.

Conclusion
While the church went through a time of conflict, Franciscan and Dominican orders were established, the pope grew in power to the extent where he superseded man. The Inquisitions were also established where people who had differing beliefs to the Roman Catholic ways were tortured, penalized, exiled or faced death. Meanwhile, the reformation was at hand with thinkers such as Wycliffe, Hus and Savonarola being assisted greatly with the invention of the printing press which made the Bible available to everyone for the first time. The eastern part of the Roman empire, would fall to the hand of the Muslim Ottomans, becoming part of the Muslim empire although Greek Orthodox beliefs continued in the region. With the sale of indulgences, the reformation would officially begin at the hand of Martin Luther and the likes of Ulrich Zwingli. Protestantism which spread quickly even with heavy opposition from the Catholic church, even leading to wars between the two groups, would also give birth to the Anglican Church in England, a separate entity from the church in Rome. While Calvin’s teachings were soaked in by Protestantism, a counter reformation was underway inside the catholic church which did not reform many of its earlier teachings. While the Jesuits traveled on missions programs with spain and portugal as they extended their land overseas, many reformers such as Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer were executed for their beliefs – but Protestantism could not be stamped out, and would become one of the largest sects in Christianity – distinctively different from Catholicism, although borrowing and having many of its roots in the teachings of Rome.

Jump to Part I – 30AD – 300AD
Jump to Part II – 300AD – 600AD
Jump to Part III – 600AD – 1200AD
Jump to Part V – 1200AD – 2000AD

2000 years of Christianity : what happened? – Part III – 600AD – 1200AD

Picking up from where we left off, In part II of this study, we saw Christianity which had severed ties with its Jewish origins, and was severely persecuted at times, quickly became a privileged faith with the conversion of Roman Emperors to the Christian faith. With the power and prestige garnered by the Roman Church authority, came schisms, new teachings, heresies as well as rules and regulations through church councils. As the empire divided to the East and West, there were differences in teachings and understanding, while the western capitol Rome would have preeminence, making it’s bishop the pope. The language of the Bible was soon turning from the Greek to Latin and doctrines such as the trinity, veneration of mary & other saints would also become part and parcel of Christianity, while the Sabbath would be outlawed, as well as having any connection with ideas seen as Jewish. The New Testament list of books was finally decided upon, while Christianity steadily spread all over Europe extending the power of Rome throughout most areas, being dominated by the teachings and understandings of the Roman Church. For the 1st part of this study, highlighting the History of Christianity from 30AD – 300AD please go here. For the 2nd part, highlighting the History of Christianity from 300AD – 600AD please go here

As mentioned in the 1st & 2nd Parts of this study, I acknowledge that no two people would agree on a list of the absolutely important events in Christianity. This is only an attempt to simply give you a better understanding of the history of our faith. If you believe that there is an important event missing on this list, please comment with the reason why you think it would have affected the outcome of today’s Christianity, and I will add it in after review.

2000 years of Christian History – Part III – 600AD – 1200AD

614: Siege of Jerusalem by Persia with the help of Jews – The Byzantine Empire (Eastern part of the Roman Empire with Greek as it’s language and Constantinople as the capital) had ruled over Jerusalem for many years, building monasteries and churches after the reign of Constantine. Under Roman rule, the Jews had been exiled, for revolting against the empire. At the time of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, Sharbaraz – the Sasanian Emperor (Last Iranian/Persian Empire before Islam) along with a significant Jewish force, sieged Jerusalem capturing it in the process. It is said that many Christians died in the following riots which occurred. The Sassanids would leave the control of Jerusalem back in the hand of Jews for a short period of time before Heraclius reconquered the whole territory from the Persians by 625.

622: Muhammad’s hijra: birth of Islam – Born in Mecca, Muhammad is said to have received revelations around the age of 40, preaching a monotheism and gathering a steady stream of followers. Under persecution by the Meccan authorities, Muhammed and his followers moved to Medina (commonly known as ‘Hijra’ : Emigration) where he was not only welcomed, but where an islamic state was later established. The rest of Arabia, which saw Medina as a threat, was unable to take medina in the battles that ensued, and by 630, Muhammad gathered together all the warring tribes under the banner of islam, even conquering Mecca.

637: Siege of Jerusalem by islamic empire – With Muhammad’s death in 632, the Rashidun Caliphate was established and Caliph Umar would conquer Jerusalem receiving a formal surrender by Sophronius – the then Patriarch (Head bishop of Eastern Greek Orthodox Church) of Jerusalem under Byzantine rule. The Arab muslims who solidified their rule over the region known as “Syria Palaestina” under Roman rule, and “Palaestina Prima” under the Byzantine Empire would hold control of it till the 11th century. The Al-Aqsa Mosque which stands on the temple mount today, started as a small prayer house, which was rebuilt and expanded in 705. After an earthquake in 746, the mosque was completely destroyed and rebuilt in 754, most of it being destroyed again by an earthquake in 1033, but two years later the Fatimid caliph Ali az-Zahir built another mosque which is what we see on the temple mount today.

663: Synod of Whitby – Two sects of Christianity existed in England – one was Celtic Christianity propagated by Columba in 563 being centered on independent monasteries and abbots. The second was Roman Catholic Christianity being centered around Kent and Essex established by 597. Even though the sects were similar in most traditions, the major distinctions were, when they celebrated easter and whether or not the authority of the pope was valid. Oswy the king of Northumbria, called an assembly at Whitby, where both sides were heard. Celtic leaders quoted Columba while the Catholics cited St.Peter. Even though the Romans prevailed, the two traditions complemented each other bringing about an age of Art and Scholarship in Britain – an example being the Lindisfarne Gospels which was a beautifully decorated version of Gospels written in a medieval script.

716: Boniface brings Roman Catholicism to the Germans – A saxon missionary, Boniface received a commission from the church in Rome, to go the Germanic peoples, later being consecrated as bishop of Mainz and spiritual leader of all Germany. Germans who were known for their veneration of Trees and Groves were said to have a sacred tree called the Donar Oak (also called Joves Oak/Thor’s Oak) which was reportedly felled by Boniface and his retinue. The wood from the oak was used in building a church, and the fact that the German gods could not protect their tree helped Boniface’s missionary work. Because of him Germany would become a stronghold of the Roman Catholic Church up to the time of Reformation in the 1500s.

Miniature from the 9th-century Chludov Psalter with scene of iconoclasm. – hover over image for explanation

726: Controversy over icons begins in Eastern church – The Roman Empire which had broken into the East and West, creating Western Latin Catholicism and Eastern Greek Orthodoxy, were growing apart. Religious images which were abundant in the Churches, were opposed at this time by both Religious and Imperial authorities of the Eastern Church, while the West remained firmly in support for veneration of images. Both, the Emperor Leo III, and his son after him, Constantine V, opposed images and passed edicts against them removing, burning or painting over them. Veneration of images was restored by the Empress Irene of Athens, through the Second Council of Nicea in 787. Although the iconoclast controversy returned in the early 9th century, it was resolved once again in 843 by Empress Theodora, who restored the icons. These controversies would contribute to the further deterioration of relations between the Western and the Eastern Churches.

732: Battle of Tours – Islam which had rapidly expanded, saw muslims taking control over Syria, Palestine, then Alexandria, Mesapotamia, and even Carthage as North Africa was swept across by Muslims. Then they entered Spain, while forces had also entered the Punjab area of India, and was at the door of Constantinople – capital of the Byzantine Empire and the Eastern Orthodox Church. While the Western empire of Rome had fallen to the Vandals, Ostrogoths and finally to the Franks, the Roman Church held onto it’s power, growing throughout the world in influence through missions such as ‘Augustine’s to England’ and Boniface’s to Germany’. The Franks who overran Rome were now in power, and were now being threatened by Muslims who not only overthrew Political authorities, but also offered a new religious system. Charles Martel, the King of the Franks who had converted to Roman Christianity, protected the territory, meeting the forces of the Muslim General Abd-er Rahman, at ‘Tours’ pushing them back to Spain, and ending the advance of the Muslims on Europe. While Constantinople had also successfully defended itself against seiges laid by Muslims in 678 and 718, If it weren’t for Frank Martel, the Muslims could have captured all of Europe and established Islam as the main Religious system, making Christianity seize to exist in most countries around the world.

750: Donation of Constantine written about this time – A forged Roman Imperial Decree document, it announced that Emperor Constantine I had transferred authority over Rome and supremacy over the four principal ‘sees’, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople, and also over all the churches of God in the whole earth to the Pope. This document was used in the assertion of power by some of the Popes, furthering the debate that would ultimately lead to the East–West Schism in 1054.

754: Pepin III’s donation helps found papal states – In 751, Pope Zachary had Pepin the Younger crowned king in place of the powerless Merovingian figurehead king Childeric III. Pepin who defeated the Lombards – taking control of northern Italy made a gift (called the Donation of Pepin) of the properties formerly constituting the Exarchate of Ravenna to the pope. In 781, Charlemagne codified the regions over which the pope would be temporal sovereign: a territory which expanded to include Ravenna, Pentapolis, parts of Benevento, Tuscany, Corsica, Lombardy and a number of other Italian cities.

800: Charlemagne crowned Holy Roman Emperor – Charles the Great, who took the throne after his father Pepin the younger, pushed the borders of his kingdom East, controlling Burgundy, much of Italy, Alamania, Bavaria, Thurginia, as well as Saxony and Frisia in the North. After a long time, a large part of Europe had a stable leadership. Pope Leo III, would crown Charlemagne who held the title ‘King’ as ‘Emperor’ – following in the footsteps of Constantine. Under Charlemagne, Art and Scholarship thrived bringing about the ‘Carolingian Renaissance’, which preserved many ancient writings ; as well as the spread of Christianity in his empire.

861: East-West conflict over Photius begins – A well-educated man from a noble Constantinopolitan family, Photios chose to be a scholar and statesman, being appointed Patriarch(Bishop) of Constantinople by Emperor Michael III who deposed Patriarch Ignatius. Amid power struggles between the pope and the Byzantine emperor, Ignatius was reinstated, while the pope deposed Photios. Photios resumed the position once again, when Ignatius died, by the order of the Byzantine emperor. Even though the new pope, John VIII, approved Photios’s reinstatement, this incident was a clear indication of the ever widening gap between East and West.

862: Cyril and Methodius begin mission to Slavs – Methodius, an abbot of a Greek Monastery and Cyril, a philosophy professor of Constantinople, took Eastern Orthodox Christianity to the Slavs, translating scripture and church liturgy to Slavonic. Cyrillic which acted as the foundation for the Russian Alphabet (and is still used by some today) was specifically created by Cyril for this task, based on Greek letters. It was one of the very first times where the idea of worshiping in any language other than Greek or Latin was even heard of. Germany and Rome, both opposed the idea – and Cyril and Methodius traveled to Rome to argue their case, both of whom became Roman monks after the pope authorized the Slavic Liturgy. Cyril died the next year, but Methodius continued with heavy opposition from the Germans till his death in 885. Shortly afterward, Latin replaced the Slavic liturgy, but Cyril and Methodius had created a fiercely independent Christian faith and tradition that would effect the neighboring countries and the world.

909: Monastery at Cluny founded – With political struggles on the rise, church leaders were acting as secular warlords – grabbing land and power, practicing violence, deceit and all kinds of evil. At this time William the Pious, Duke of Aquitaine, setup a monastery in Cluny, built on the rules laid out by Benedict of Nursia in 540 – poverty, chastity and obedience. Becoming the largest church building in western Christendom, until St.Peter’s Basilica, it led as many as 2000 monasteries. Having a reforming effect on the church, cluny created some of the bishops and popes in the west, notably Pope Urban II who launched the First Crusade.

988: Christianization of “Russia” – Even though Christianity had penetrated Russia, it was not generally accepted till the conversion of Vladmir, prince of Russia. Vladmir, who built a number of pagan temples, had 800 concubines, 5 wives, and was known for cruelty and treachery. When he sought out to keep his people content, he reportedly sent men to examine the major religions – of which judaism and islam were not appealing to him because of their dietary restrictions. The prince who had to choose between Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy, chose Greek Orthodoxy – the religion of the neighboring Byzantine empire, marrying Anna – the sister of the Byzantine emperor Basil. In 988 Vladmir was baptized, slowly but surely converting people from pagan religions to Christianity. The Russian church which focused on worship, had the liturgy in their own language Slavonic (Thanks to Methodius and Cyril) and beautiful churches built by Vladmir and his successors.

1054: East-West Schism – In 1043, Michael Cerularius became patriarch of the East (Constantinople) and in 1049, Leo IX became pope in the west(Rome). Leo wanted Michael and the Eastern church to submit to Rome. The pope sent representatives to Constantinople; Michael refused to meet them, so they excommunicated Michael on behalf of the pope. Michael in turn excommunicated the representatives. The East and West had differences such as Language(Greek vs Latin), forms of worship, bread used in communion, date of lent, how mass was celebrated, Eastern priests could marry and grow beards(Western priests could not), the doctrine of purgatory(the East did not accept it), the western addition of “and from the son” to the nicene creed of “the Holy Spirit proceeds from the father”(seen as heretical in the east). All these differences that had existed for so long, erupted as these two bishops of the East and West declared each other as not a true Christian – creating a schism that would be unrepairable.

1077: Emperor submits to Pope over investiture – The struggle for power between pope and emperor rose to a fever pitch when pope Gregory VII attempted to enact reforms to the investiture process, but was met by much resistance from the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. Henry insisted that he reserved the traditionally established right of previous emperors to “invest” bishops and other clergymen, despite the papal decree. Henry renounced Gregory as pope, and was excommunicated in return, being deposed by pope Gregory, at Rome. Gregory stated furthermore that, one year from that day, the excommunication would become permanent and irrevocable. When violence broke out, with many nobles threatening to elect a new king,  Henry felt he had to have his excommunication lifted. Crossing the Alps, he made the long harsh journey to meet with the pope in Augsburg. Reaching the castle of Canossa, the Pope ordered that Henry be refused entry. Waiting at the gate for three full days, henry was finally admitted – and he is said to have knelt before Pope Gregory and begged his forgiveness. Gregory absolved Henry and invited him back into the Church lifting the excommunication. The pope had officially become more powerful than the emperor.

1093: Anselm becomes archbishop of Canterbury – When William of Normandy conquered England, he brought many Norman teachers and clergy to England. Among them was Lafranc, who became Archbishop of Canterbury – and after him his student Anselm would take the position being appointed by William II, son of the conqueror. Anselm who was exiled again and again, for standing up against kings to protect church lands, funds and power – wrote “Cur Deus Homo” (Why did God become man?) at this time. Anselm’s idea of Christ’s reconciling work on the cross is the best known theological explanation of Christ’s atoning work, being called “the Satisfactory theory of Atonement”.

1095: First Crusade launched by Council of Clermont – In 1088 a Frenchman named Urban II, became pope. When emperor Alexis of Constantinople appealed to the pope for help against the Muslim Turks, even though the Catholic and Orthodox Christians were not one church, Urban sought to draw all Christendom together against a common enemy. Calling the Council of Clermont, Urban preached “Tear that land from the wicked race and subject it to yourselves” to which the people cried “Deus Vult! Deus Vult! (God wills it!) which became the battle cry of the crusades. The pope’s representatives recruited many knights from Europe who were spurred by religious goals, economic gain or the adventure of recapturing the pilgrimage sites which had fallen into Muslim hands – and almost being seen as an act of service to God. Urban assured the warriors that they would enter heaven directly or reduce their time in purgatory by warring against the Muslims. On their way to the holy land, the crusaders stopped in Constantinople. While Emperor Alexis, saw the chain-mail-clad soldiers as a threat, the crusaders saw the emperor as a traitor, for making treaties with the Turks. Provisioned by the Emperor, the army captured Antioch and Jerusalem, in the bloodbath that followed – utilizing a “take no prisoners” tactic. Muslims as well as Jews who lived in Jerusalem were butchered and Godfrey of Bouillon elected as Ruler of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The papacy enhanced its power further by proving that it could muster a great number of soldiers who would die for their faith. The Al-Aqsa mosque was converted to a palace and a church at this time.

1115: Bernard founds monastery at Clairvaux – Known as the greatest Cistercian, he founded a monastery at Clairvaux, establishing 65 Cistercian houses and denying the doctrine of immaculate conception. The Second Crusade which was a failure, was mainly preached by Bernard.

1122: Concordat of Worms ends investiture controversy – An agreement which happened between Pope Calixtus II and Holy Roman Emperor Henry V, near the city of Worms – It brought to an end the first phase of the power struggle between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperors by abolishing the claim of the emperors to influence papal elections.

1150: Universities of Paris and Oxford founded – Higher education which took place in monasteries and cathedral schools, turned to private schools with the opening of universities in Bologna and Paris. Teachers and students who received social privileges of the clergy, yet being separate from them – developed fields of study such as Arts, Medicine, Law & Theology. Henry II who prohibited English students from studying in Paris, led to the opening of the university in Oxford – making such study centers incubators for the Renaissance and the Reformation.

1173: Waldensian movement begins – Peter Waldo, a french merchant, enlisted 2 priests to translate the bible into French, and started teaching the common folk about Christ. Waldo and his followers who believed that Jesus wanted His teachings practiced by all (instead of the prevalent belief of a religious life being required only of monks and priests), started teaching the New Testament to the common-folk by going two by two to the marketplaces. Waldo, who was excommunicated by the Archbishop of Lyons for acting outside the church, taught the priesthood of all believers.  They also rejected relics, pilgrimages, holy water, clergy vestments, saints’ days, church feast days and purgatory. In 1207, pope Innocent III offered to receive the Waldensians back if they submitted to the Catholic authorities. Many returned, and the ones who didn’t were condemned as heretics and many were stamped out by the inquisition, while others spread out through Europe being embraced by Protestants at the time of Reformation.

1187: Saladin takes Jerusalem – A Muslim of Kurdish origin, Saladin was the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. The Muslim armies under Saladin captured or killed the vast majority of the Crusader forces, at the battle of Hattin, reconquering Jerusalem, signalling the end of the first Kingdom of Jerusalem. Saladin, also restored the function of Al-Aqsa mosque to its former state.

1192: Third Crusade – Led by Philip Augustus, Frederick Barbarossa and Richard Lionheart – the campaign which was largely successful, capturing Acre, Jaffa, and reversing most of Saladin’s conquests, failed to capture Jerusalem – which was the main motivation of the Crusade. Saladin who failed to defeat Richard in any military engagements, gave way for Richard to secure several more key coastal cities. Richard departed the holy city after finalizing a treaty with Saladin, which granted the Muslims control over Jerusalem, but allowed unarmed Christian pilgrims and merchants to visit the city. The successes of the Third Crusade also allowed the Crusaders to maintain a considerable kingdom based in Cyprus and on the Syrian coast.

Conclusion
Christianity which was now the Religion of Rome, was spreading all throughout Europe. With the birth of Islam, Rome was threatened as Islam conquered most of the areas under Roman rule, even capturing Jerusalem. While the Eastern and Western churches grew apart finally breaking all ties, Muslims threatened Europe – being pushed back at the battle of Tours. The pope became significantly more powerful, superseding emperors in esteem and even owning land. The 1st Crusade would return power of Jerusalem back to Rome through much bloodshed, but would fail to hold Jerusalem in their grasp as the Muslims retook the city, inciting a failed 2nd Crusade and a partially successful 3rd. Universities of Paris and Oxford were begun creating incubators for the Renaissance and the Reformation, while movements such as the Waldensians signaled the beginning of a free thinking Christianity, which was outside the Church of the Roman Empire.

Jump to Part I – 30AD – 300AD
Jump to Part II – 300AD – 600AD
Jump to Part IV – 1200AD – 1600AD
Jump to Part V – 1600AD – 2000AD

2000 years of Christianity : what happened? – Part II – 300AD – 600AD

2000 years of Christian History – Part II – 300AD – 600AD
Starting off from where we left off – in part I, we saw that in a short span of 300 years, the faith that originated in Judea, having a majority of Jewish followers had completely become separated from its roots, being led by Greek thought and roman minds. Though the church was persecuted heavily, the number of followers grew, becoming a wholly gentile church with it’s base changing from Jerusalem to Rome. Not only did this faith which was regarded as a sect of Judaism shed any connection to its origins, antisemitic views were also on the rise. The church which was now centered on Rome, though fearless in the face of persecution, had already inadvertently added their own interpretations, traditions, thoughts and ideas which were now being embraced by more and more followers, changing the faith and the course, set out for it. For the 1st part of this study, highlighting the History of Christianity from 30AD – 300AD please go here.

As mentioned in the 1st Part of this study, I acknowledge that no two people would agree on a list of the absolutely important events in Christianity. This is only an attempt to simply give you a better understanding of the history of our faith. If you believe that there is an important event missing on this list, please comment with the reason why you think it would have affected the outcome of today’s Christianity, and I will add it in after review.

311: Edict of Toleration announced – Under Diocletian’s rule, Maximian was named Emperor of the West while Diocletian ruled the East as Emperor. Constantius Chlorus (father of Constantine) was Caesar of the west and Galerius in the east. Galerius, who was strongly anti-Christian came to power in 305 in the East along-with Constantius in the West (according to the 20 year term started by Diocletian). Galerius unleashed a fierce persecution against the Christians in the East which lasted till 310, while Constantius was generally lenient towards Christians in the West. In 311, on his deathbed, Galerius – who could not wipe out the Christian faith as per his plans, issued the Edict of Toleration which allowed Christians to meet freely, declaring “it will be their duty to pray to their god for our good estate”. This edict effectively paved the way for Constantine, who would later walk in Galerius’ footsteps making Christianity the preferred religion of the Empire.

312: Conversion of Constantine – At the death of his father Constantius – a power struggle broke out, with Constantine, being proclaimed ruler by his loyal soldiers. Maximian, who had retired after his term as Emperor, now eyed for the position again, along with his son Maxentius, who forced his father out of power. Meanwhile, Galerius had appointed one of his favorite generals ‘Licinius’ for the position in the West. Constantine forged an alliance with Licinius and fought against Maxentius. At the decisive ‘Battle of Milvian Bridge’, Constantine prevailed. It is said that Constantine saw a cross of light in the sky with an inscription “In this conquer” along with having a dream where he was instructed to mark his shields with the Greek letters ‘Chi’ and ‘Rho’ (first two letters of Christos – Greek for Christ). He won the battle after marking the shields as per the instructions, becoming the first Roman Emperor to believe in Christianity.

constantine_coin

A gold multiple of “Unconquered Constantine” with Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun – the Solar deity of the Romans), struck in 313 – Ancient Roman coins in the Cabinet des médailles, Paris

313: Edict of Milan – Under the new government of Constantine and Licinius, they issued the Edict of Milan, granting religious freedom within the Empire, declaring “Our purpose is to grant both to the Christians and to all others full authority to follow whatever worship each man has desired”. Constantine who was now a Christian convert, restored property to the church, granting them money and calling church councils – changing the position of the church from a persecuted faith, to a privileged one. Although Constantine is known as the first Christian emperor, his actions proved otherwise, ousting Licinius in 324 and carrying the official Sun God “Sol Invictus” on his coinage up until 325. He was also the first person to decree Sunday as the Roman day of Rest saying “On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing or vine-planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost.”

312: Donatist Schism begins – One of the first Christian sects, Donatism was centered on the Roman province of Africa and existed upto the 5th century. Named after Donatus, they came to being after the persecution of Diocletian – and held to the belief that people (especially in priestly positions) who betrayed/renounced the faith should not be accepted back into the congregation. As a result towns were divided into Donatist and non-Donatist congregations creating the first major rift in the church. Even though the majority of the Roman church would rule against Donatism, it was a show of free speech and rising up against all sorts of corruption inside the church.

323: Eusebius completes Ecclesiastical History – The figure who is best known as the “Father of Church History” created the work known as Ecclesiastical History, using the vast access to documents he had through the Library in Caesarea, and stands as the main source of information from the 1st – 4th Century AD. For example he wrote “Matthew composed the words in the Hebrew dialect, and each translated as he was able” quoting Papias.

325: First Council of Nicea – A pastor named Arius in Alexandria, who held that God is unknowable and unique according to Greek Theology, taught that Jesus was divine but not God, that he was a created being who was like the Father, but not truly God. While this portrayal of Jesus was familiar to former pagans who were used to the divine superheroes of Greek mythology – Arius’ bishop had him condemned to the church council, even-though he was popular in Alexandria, with many supporters. Soon riots erupted in Alexandria, threatening the security of the Roman Empire of Constantine. To settle this issue, an empire-wide council was called in the city of Nicea, to which Constantine himself attended in multicolored, jewel encrusted garments among 300 bishops. After much debate Arius’ views were condemned and denounced, while a creed was formulated to describe the relationship of God and Christ. It described the son as “true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father” – of which “one substance” (homoousios in Greek “homo-same” and “ousios-substance”) was critical. The Arian party(followers of Arius) wanted to add one more letter to form “Homoiousios” which meant “similar substance”. Two bishops and Arius who held to the belief were exiled, though his theology remained for many centuries afterward.

363: Council of Laodicea outlaws the Sabbath – A regional synod of thirty clerics met with the main purpose of putting together a set of rules on the conduct of church members. Among the 60 rules(canons) put together at this council were (• “Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day” • “It is not lawful to receive portions sent from the feasts of Jews or heretics, nor to feast together with them” • It is not lawful to receive unleavened bread from the Jews, nor to be partakers of their impiety”.) Although there were pious rules put together at this council, they effectively outlawed Sabbath keeping, calling all who rested on the Sabbath “judaizers” and that “let them be anathema from Christ”. They further sort out to break any connections between Jews and Christians, making any relationship unlawful.

367: Athanasius’ letter defines New Testament canon – Even though various lists of works were read in churches as the New Testament at the time, Athanasius was the first person to identify the same 27 books of the New Testament that are in use today. This list would be later repeated by a few other synods, being officially accepted at the Council of Carthage in 397AD as being final – officially creating the New Testament we have today in our hands. Even though there are quite a number of writings that did not enter this list, no one has deviated from the list Athanasius created.

380: Edict of Thessalonica makes Christianity, state religion of the Roman Empire – Jointly issued by the Roman Emperors Theodosius I & Gratian – this decree would be focused against the Arian theology. The decree that enforced the “Nicene creed of trinity”(created in 325), would call all of its followers to be known as Catholic Christians (from the word katholikos, “universal”) making Christianity the religion of Rome.

381: First Council of Constantinople – The restructuring of the empire done in 284 under Diocletian broke the empire in two, making Rome the capital of the West, while Constantinople became the capital of the East. Just as there were 2 emperors ruling the 2 parts of the empire, 2 Bishops headed the church from these capitals.  This council which was called by Emperor Theodosius, set out to appoint a Bishop of Nicene faith, in the East, which was bent towards Arianism. It also declared that because Constantinople is the ‘New Rome’, the bishop of that city should have a pre-eminence of honour after the Bishop of Old Rome who was the pope.

385: Ambrose defies the Emperor – The son of a high ranking official, Ambrose was the govenor of Milan, while Auxentius (an Arian) was the Bishop there. At the death of the bishop riots broke loose as the church tried to choose a successor. Ambrose who came to quell the riots was later named bishop of Milan. Ambrose who took his position seriously, excommunicated Emperor Theodosius, who had overreacted to a disturbance in Thessalonica, by sending an army to massacre the citizens. The emperor is said to have returned to the cathedral in sack cloth and knelt before the bishop asking for forgiveness. The pattern of bishop being more powerful than emperor would start off with Ambrose.

387: Augustine converts to Christianity – Known as a theologian and philosopher, Augustine was a student of Rhetoric, who later became the bishop of the North African city of Hippo. A major opponent of Donatism and Pelagianism, he wrote hundreds of letters and commentaries, making Augustine’s teachings part of both Catholic and Protestant theologians. Luther and Calvin who liked his emphasis on God’s grace would constantly quote him, making his teachings part of today’s Christianity.

398: Chrysostom consecrated bishop of Constantinople – John who was nicknamed Chrysostom, Greek for “Golden Mouth”, was a skilled preacher who was appointed bishop of Constantinople. John who borrowed heavily from Origen was envied by Theophilus – bishop of Alexandria who banished him by condemning his teachings. John preached against sin (even among the clergy) and suggestive dress of women, and was one of the few who would stand courageously before emperors for the truth.

405: Jerome completes the Vulgate – Damasus who was Bishop of Rome from 365 to 385 wanted to free Western Christianity from the dominance of the East. He wanted the accepted language of the church – which was Greek turned to Latin. Jerome, who was Damasus’ secretary was trained in Latin and Greek classics – and was handed over the job of creating a Latin translation of the Greek Bible. Jerome who moved from Rome to Bethlehem, consulted many Jewish rabbis, finishing his translation after 23 years. He also included the Apocrypha into his translation, which was known as the Vulgate (Latin for Vulgus meaning “common”). This translation was held in so much high regard by the Church, that it was prohibited to translate the bible to a common tongue from the original Latin for many years afterward.

431: Council of Ephesus and the veneration of Mary – Nestorius who was arch bishop of Constantinople had taught that the virgin mary gave birth to a man, Jesus Christ, and not God. God, he said, only dwelled in Christ, as in a Temple (Christ, therefore, was only Theophoros: The “Bearer of God”.) Consequently, virgin mary should be called “Christotokos,” Mother of Christ and not “Theotokos, “Mother of God.” The Council denounced Patriarch Nestorius’ teaching as erroneous, decreeing that Jesus was one person, not two separate “people”: complete God and complete man, with a rational soul and body, confirming the Nicene creed and forbidding any additional changes to it. The Virgin Mary, they proclaimed, is “Theotokos” because she gave birth not to man, but to God as a man.

432: Patrick begins mission to Ireland – Born in Roman Britain, Patrick was enslaved in Ireland. Later escaping slavery, he fled to a monastery in France. Going back to Ireland, he would convert most of the Irish to Christianity, establishing 300 churches and baptizing over 120,000. Because Patrick evangelized without relying on the established church in Rome, Christianity in Ireland would develop outside the Roman system of hierarchy. Centered around monasteries, Irish abbots preached, studied and ministered to the poor lacking any sort of bureaucracy. Ireland would not become Catholic until 1100s, when the pope gave the English king, Henry II, sovereignty over Ireland.

445: Decree of Valentinian strengthens papal authority – Issued by Emperor Valentinian during Leo I’s pontificate, this edict recognized the primacy of the bishop of Rome(pope) based on the merits of Peter, the dignity of the city, and the legislation of the First Council of Nicaea; and provided for the forcible extradition by provincial governors of any bishop who refused to answer a summons to Rome: Effectively making the Pope more powerful than before.

451: Council of Chalcedon and the form of Christ – A head of a monastery in Constantinople, named Eutyches taught a belief that Christ’s nature is lost in the divine. While the bishop of Constantinople declared Eutyches a heretic, Alexandria upheld him. The Council of Chalcedon, summoned by the emperor, on Leo I’s request with 400 bishops, came up with a statement of faith in reply, to end any and all disputes regarding the form of Christ – “acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation… the characteristic property of each nature being preserved, and coming together to form one person”.

452: Pope Leo meets Attila the Hun –  Attila who had invaded Italy, was sacking cities heading for Rome. Emperor Valentinian III, sent an envoy of three inclusive of pope Leo to negotiate with Attila. Not much is known of the negotiations, but that Attila withdrew. Pope Leo is credited with this victory, showcasing his power in the field as well as in the church. Even though he managed to defend Rome from the huns, he was unable to save it from the vandals who sacked the city 3 years afterwards.

540: Benedict establishes his monastic order – Born to an upper-class family and gone to Rome for study, Benedict became a hermit. Moving to Monte cassino, he destroyed a pagan temple and built a monastery, where the monks would not have to go outside for necessities. Creating three vows – “poverty”, chastity” and “obedience”, his rule has guided monasteries for centuries, being in effect even today.

563: Columba establishes mission community on Iona – An Irish Christian traveled across Scotland and Northern England evangelizing, becoming an abbot of a large monastery in Iona. The abbots who came after him, retained his power, spreading out into Europe and beyond.

590: Gregory the Great elected Pope – Rome was no longer the capitol of the empire, though it still retained it’s prestige as it was connected to the apostles Peter and Paul. The bishop of Rome was the pope, the highest authority of the church. Gregory, who was born to a noble family, rose to the highest civil office which was Prefect of Rome. He later resigned to join a monastery, becoming an abbot, and in 590 was unanimously asked to become pope by the public. He insisted that the clergy see themselves as the shepherds and servants of the flock. During his papacy, veneration of the body parts, clothing and so on of saints was encouraged, to the extent that no church could be established without a relic of a saint placed in it. He also taught that ‘masses’ celebrated on behalf of the dead could relieve their pains in purgatory. Gregory also authorized an evangelization mission to Kent, under a missionary called Augustine, who would later become the 1st Archbishop of Canterbury – extending the power of Rome to the British Isles which had already received Christianity.

597: Ethelbert of Kent converted – With Augustine landing on Kent, which was ruled by an Anglo-saxon King named Ethelbert, and successfully converting him to Christianity – churches were established, and a wide scale conversion to Christianity began in the Kingdom. Ethelbert would provide the new mission with land in Canterbury, becoming the 1st English King to convert to Christianity.

Conclusion
Christianity which had severed ties with its Jewish origins, and was severely persecuted at times, quickly became a privileged faith with the conversion of Roman Emperors to the Christian faith. With the power and prestige garnered by the Roman Church authority, came schisms, new teachings, heresies as well as rules and regulations through church councils. As the empire divided to the East and West, there were differences in teachings and understanding, while the western capitol Rome would have preeminence, making it’s bishop the pope. The language of the Bible was soon turning from the Greek to Latin and doctrines such as the trinity, veneration of mary & other saints would also become part and parcel of Christianity, while the Sabbath would be outlawed, as well as having any connection with ideas seen as Jewish. The New Testament list of books was finally decided upon, while Christianity steadily spread all over Europe extending the power of Rome throughout most areas, being dominated by the teachings and understandings of the Roman Church.

Jump to Part I – 30AD – 300AD
Jump to Part III – 600AD – 1200AD
Jump to Part IV – 1200AD – 1600AD
Jump to Part V – 1600AD – 2000AD

2000 years of Christianity : what happened? – Part I – 30AD – 300AD

Introduction
How did a small group of disciples take Christianity to the whole world? How did Christianity become so wide spread, but so fragmented? Why are there so many denominations and so many different beliefs of the same book? What happened? Christians seldom ask these questions. And more rarely do people bother themselves with history. “All we need is the Bible”. “History is for scholars”. These are some of the popular notions of the day.

As the famous adage goes “Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it”. This quote has proven true, time and time again, in my personal studies, as most of the erroneous doctrines that cling to our Faith, are not new concoctions, but ancient ideas which have been handed down to us through tradition. They are passed down from parent to child, from teacher to student, from priest to layman – being taught, learnt and retaught without question.

It is my belief that each and every Christian should have, even a basic knowledge and understanding of how we have inherited the faith we believe in. We did not get these teachings straight from Yeshua(The biblical name of Jesus), His disciples, Paul or any of the 1st apostles – rather we inherited what we know through a series of events through history, which has thrown our faith off-course from Biblical truth. Knowing what has happened in between today and the 1st century church, would help us look at the Scriptures in new light, and would also help us understand why things are, the way they are.

A recent research indicated that half of the Christian population is Catholic with more than a billion followers, while 800 million were Protestant and 260 million were Orthodox. While I have enormous respect for each and every Christian denomination, I may not agree with everything that each of them teach. This “history lesson” (if I may call it so) is in no way an attempt to take a stab at any particular tradition. It is strictly a list of events that have shaped the outlook of today’s Christianity.

Structure
Boiling down hundreds of important events in history into a single post, is a task that is next to impossible, which can only be achieved at the cost of clarity. Because of this reason, the current study will be broken down into 6 parts, making it readable for many. Each of these events carry a brief description which will provide you with the gist of the incident. While this description might not provide all of the details, it has been purposely kept short. Each of the events which have been chosen for display, are incidents that have had an effect on the outcome of today’s Christian faith in one way or another.

While no two people would agree on a list of the absolutely important events in Christianity, this is an attempt to simply give you a better understanding of the history of our faith. If you believe that there is an important event missing on this list, please comment with the reason why you think it would have affected the outcome of today’s Christianity, and I will add it in after review.

2000 years of Christian History – Part I – 30AD – 300AD
I have started at the point of the Crucifixion of Yeshua (Jesus’ biblical name), even though this is not the starting point of the Church or our faith. For a timeline from Creation upto the Assyrian & Babylonian exiles please go here

(Please note that most of the following indications of timings of specific events are approximations agreed upon by most historical scholars)

30: Crucifixion/Resurrection of Yeshua

35: Stephen martyred; Paul converted

46: Paul begins missionary journey

48: Council of Jerusalem

57: Paul’s Letter to the Romans

64: Fire of Rome; Nero launches persecutions – In the dominant empire of Rome, more and more people were embracing eastern religions such as worship of Mithras, Dionysus, Isis, Cybil and the like. While some of these religions were outlawed, Judaism had a protected position, and Christianity was not seen as a separate religion by the romans or Christians for that matter. It was seen as a sect of Judaism(Acts 28:22) that believed Yeshua was messiah -nothing more. The rift between Judaism and the sect of messianic believers were widening by AD 64. With a fire that broke loose on some of the wards in the working-class section, many people died, being brought under control after 6 days. Nero is said to have blamed the Christians for setting the fire, vowing to hunt them down and kill them. Many Christians were crucified, set on fire, mauled by dogs in the arena – their bodies lining the roman roads. But this was only the start of the persecution.

65: Peter and Paul executed

70: Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus including the 2nd temple – With Judea in revolt, Emperor Nero sent a decorated general named Vespasian to recapture Jerusalem. Vespasian quickly recaptured Galilee, Transjordan and Idumea, but was called back to Rome at the death of Nero, before he could capture Jerusalem. Vespasian appointed his son Titus for the job – and according to Jewish historian Josephus, when the romans broke into Jerusalem, Titus wanted to preserve the temple, but his angry soldiers burned it to the ground, killing some of the Jews, while selling others as slaves. This was the end of the Jewish state, and the beginning of the 2nd Exile. Christians who lived in Judea had fleed to Pella and Transjordan heeding Christ’s warning (Luk 21:20-24) and were seen as traitors by the Jews, as they refused to fight for Jerusalem.

titus

The Arch of Titus located in Rome, was built by the Roman Emperor Domitian around 82AD in commemoration of Titus’ victories including the siege of Jerusalem – The relief on the right showcases the treasures taken from the Temple, including the Menorah (seven branched lamp stand).

90: The curse recited against heretics and Nazarenes in the synagogues – With the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, all Jews relied on the synagogues, led mostly by the Pharisaic sect. One of the key acts at this time in the synagogues was to recite a 18 part blessing known as the Amidah – and the leadership added another part to this recitation known as the “Birkat haMinim” – which was a curse against “heretics and nazarenes(Acts 24:5 – the believers in Yeshua) – effectively driving out the Christians from the synagogues. The recitation exists in various forms, one of them being “For the apostates let there be no hope. And let the arrogant government be speedily uprooted in our days. Let the noẓerim(hebrew for nazarene) and the minim(hebrew for heretic) be destroyed in a moment. And let them be blotted out of the Book of Life and not be inscribed together with the righteous. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant”. This drove a wedge between Jews who believed in Christ and Jews who didn’t, effectively breaking all ties with them.

95: John writes Revelations from the island of Patmos

135: The Bar Kokhba Revolt – The last of the Jewish revolts against the Romans would drive the Christians to end any and all ties with the Jews, giving rise to teachings of Antisemitism. The revolt would start because of Emperor Hadrian, who first promised to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, but then wanted to build a temple there to Jupiter instead. A prominent Jewish rabbi is said to have named Simon Bar Kokhba who led the revolt, as the Messiah. Christians who dismissed Bar Kokhba as Messiah and refused to fight with him were said to have been killed as per reports of Eusebius. Not only did this event break bonds between Christian and Jew, the Roman provinces of Syria and Judea were merged together under the Emperor Hadrian, who renamed it as “Syria Palaestina” (where we get the name Palestine today) – leading to the existing conflict in the middle east.

145: The rise of Marcionism – The teachings of “Marcion of Sinope”, which were later labelled as heresy, were many. One of his critical teachings was that the God of the Old Testament was jealous & wrathful, being different to the God of the Gospel, who was quite unknown before Christ and is only love and mercy. He further rejected Christ as the Jewish Messiah, and is credited by Tertullian for separating the New Testament from the Old. He was finally excommunicated from the Church, but his teachings and following remained for more than 300 years afterwards.

150: Justin Martyr writes “Apologia” – Addressing the then Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius who was indifferent to the Christian faith, Justin wrote a work which aimed to explain his beliefs in a logical way. Using Greek thought, he explained “Christ as Logos(the word)”. He agreed with Plato on God being holy and separate from evil humanity, and called Christ a part of God, even though separate – as a flame lit from a flame. These ideas would fuel the development of the Trinity doctrine later in the Church. Justin was later arrested, tortured and beheaded earning him the name Justin “martyr”.

155: Polycarp martyred – Roman authorities had developed the idea that the Emperor was divine, and he was being worshiped by Romans everywhere alongside other gods. The Christians worshiped quietly and in secrecy in their homes at this time, and saw this as idolatry refusing such acts. One such authority of the church in Smyrna was Polycarp. He is reported to have been put to be burnt alive, but was not hurt by the flames being finally killed by stabbing. Such reports were treasured at the time, and it made followers celebrate the lives and deaths of the martyrs. In the centuries to follow many would start celebrating these saints, which became part of Christian tradition.

172: Montanist movement begins – Founded by a certain Montanus in Phrygia, was a movement which was focused around prophecy. Eusebius speaking about Montanus records “And he became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning”. The movement was labelled a heresy.

180: Irenaeus writes Against Heresies – Gnosticism which believed in secret knowledge, was also a prevalent heresy of the day. Fusing Christian terms with concepts from Greek Philosophy and asian religion, they taught the world was evil and was governed by angelic powers and that God is distant to this world. Salvation, they said, could be attained only through special secret teachings that they who were Spiritual, knew, being superior to regular Christians. Irenaeus wrote an enormous work against this heresy, aptly named “against heresies”, disproving Gnosticism while appealing to the Authority of the Apostles who had taught in public, keeping nothing secret. He declared the Bishops as the successors of the Apostles, enhancing the respect paid to Bishops as guardians of the faith.

196: Tertullian begins writing – While Greek was perfect for philosophizing, Tertullian was one of the first writers to use Latin instead of Greek, with a practical, moral oriented style. While Greek Christians squabbled over the divinity of Christ and His relation to the Father, Tertullian – a Roman Lawyer, came up with “God is one substance, consisting of three persons” – drawing inspiration from the Roman Law Courts. Disturbed by the bishops’ claim of having power to pardon sins he later joined the Montanist movement.

215: Origen begins writing – An amazing scholar, Origen produced over 2000 works in his lifetime, trying to relate Christianity to science and philosophy. Adopting ideas from Plato, he believed in the preexistence of the soul before birth, teaching that man’s position in the world was due to his conduct in a preexistent state. He also denied the material resurrection, finally being excommunicated by bishop Demetrius of Alexandria. Though the Roman and western churches excepted this excommunication, the Eastern churches did not – gaining him the reputation as the father of Orthodoxy as well as father of heresy.

230: Earliest known public church buildings built – Built in a Roman city in Syria, the Dura-Europos house church is the earliest identified church building in existence. It is a normal domestic house converted for worship with wall-paintings as decorations, and stood close by to the Dura Europos synagogue, which have many similarities between them.

248: Cyprian elected bishop of Carthage – A renowned orator and teacher of Rhetoric, Cyprian became bishop of Carthage in 248. In an ever fragmenting church, he used the authority of the bishops to unite the church – writing a work named “On the unity of the church” he said that the church is the bride of Christ, and that there can be only one bride. An individual, he said, cannot be saved outside the church. Since Christ established the church on Peter, all bishops were successors of Peter and should be obeyed. Not only should they be obeyed, he implied that the spirit worked through them. He also promoted that the mass was a sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood.

270: Anthony takes up life of solitude – Selling all his possessions and donating the money to the poor, Anthony withdrew from the world and lived for a while in a tomb, moving to an abandoned fort where he lived for 20 years without seeing a human face. After his death, a cult following grew around him, portraying him as the ideal monk. A young companion of Anthony’s would start the practice of communities of monks living together – and his ideas of a truly religious person withdrawing from the world, abstaining from marriage, family and worldly pleasure would go unchallenged till the Reformation.

284: Changes to the Roman empire under Diocletian – One of the most brilliant Roman emperors, Diocletian, restructured the imperial power of the empire by dividing it into East and West. He decreed that each side would have an Emperor and Caesar (Vice Emperor) who would serve 20 years in power one after the other. This breaking of the empire would result in the division of the Roman Church into Roman/Western Catholicism and Greek/Eastern Orthodoxy making 2 of the dominant denominations in Christianity today.

303: “Great Persecution” begins under Diocletian – Even though persecution against Christians in the Roman empire was normal, under emperor Diocletian a great persecution began. As per his orders, Christian scriptures and places of worship across the empire were destroyed, and Christians were prohibited from assembling for worship. Many were arrested, tortured and killed, but the persecution was unsuccessful in eradicating Christianity. In less than 10 years this persecuted faith would turn into the preferred religion of Rome, having both positive and negative effects on the faith itself.

Conclusion – 30AD – 300AD
In a short span of 300 years, the faith that originated in Judea, having a majority of Jewish followers would completely become separated from its roots, being led by Greek thought and roman minds. Though the church was persecuted heavily, the number of followers grew, becoming a wholly gentile church with it’s base changing from Jerusalem to Rome. Not only did this faith which was regarded as a sect of Judaism shed any connection to its origins, antisemitic views were also on the rise. The church which was now centered on Rome, though fearless in the face of persecution, had already inadvertently added their own interpretations, traditions, thoughts and ideas which were now being embraced by more and more followers, changing the faith and the course, set out for it.

Jump to Part II – 300AD – 600AD
Jump to Part III – 600AD – 1200AD
Jump to Part IV – 1200AD – 1600AD
Jump to Part V – 1600AD – 2000AD

What are Phylacteries?

Have you ever noticed or been puzzled by the word “Phylacteries” in the New Testament? Ever wondered what Christ was talking about in Mat 23:5? His words were “But all their works they do to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments”.

Pharisee I had paid little notice to this word before, picturing in my mind that it was some sort of clothing item that the Pharisees wore. Not paying full attention to details in the Bible can, and have, had a major impact on the beliefs that are prevalent in the Christian congregations.

The “Pharisees & Scribes” who were wearing phylacteries mentioned by Yeshua (Jesus’ true name) would have looked something like this. The “Phylacteries” or “Tefillin” as it is called in Hebrew, is a small box which contains Scripture with a strap, which can be bound on the Head or the Arms.

The importance of this verse is in the fact that it sheds light on a major misunderstanding in Christianity. Which one, you ask? “It’s the common belief among Christians that the Scribes and Pharisees Kept the Old Testament Law, and that this is why Yeshua called them Hypocrites and white washed tombs – because the Old Law was done away”.

The problem with this understanding is that both biblically and historically, we have evidence that the Pharisees did not keep God’s Law. In fact, wearing “Phylacteries” was not a Commandment given by God. Then why did the Pharisees wear these things? Because it was part of their “Oral Law”, known as the “Traditions of the Elders” throughout the New Testament (Mat 15:2,3,6, Mar 7:3,8,9,13, Gal 1:14). TefillinWearing “Phylacteries” was how they had interpreted Exo 13:9,16 & Deut 6:8, 11:18 which says that “God’s Word should be a sign upon our hands and between our eyes”. Obviously, this was a figure of speech to say “that we should do or obey as well as remember God’s Word”.

The Pharisaic Sect of Yeshua’s day had taken a piece of Scripture out of context and made a separate Law out of it. The “Oral Law” which is still in use today, known as the “Talmud” is strictly adhered to by Orthodox Jews around the world. Not only do they wear it, the “Talmud” provides strict laws on how to even put it on. (If you want to learn more about the Pharisees and their traditions, I recommend that you watch this video, brought to you by former Orthodox Jew – Nehemiah Gordon)

What does this mean? Are all Jews like Pharisees? Are all Pharisees alike? The picture of “Pharisees” and some times, even “Jews“, in a Western Christian mind, is that they were wicked, legalistic and nonspiritual people. This is hardly the case. We know that there were quite a lot of Pharisees who respected Yeshua, as well as some who believed in Him (Luk 13:31, Joh 9:16, Act 15:5). We should by no means generalize people. Furthermore, it is important to remember that Yeshua, His Disciples, His followers and even Apostle Paul, were all Jews.

The Orthodox Jews of today, still adhere to a plethora of extra laws (from the Talmud), thinking that it is genuinely what God expects from them. They are misguided, as much as the Christians who think the Law is done away in Christ. We must understand that not all Jews are like the Pharisees of Christ’s age. Consider the Karaite Jews who reject the Talmud and anything other than the Old Testament, and the Messianic Jews who believe in Yeshua.

The many persecutions which have fallen on the Jews have always happened because of this huge misunderstanding. A lot of people have persecuted “Jews” standing under Christ’s banner, making it impossible for them to except Yeshua as the prophesied Messiah.

What was the main Commandment which the Pharisees broke through their traditions?
God’s Word specifically instructs that no one can add or remove anything from God’s Law/Commandments.
Deu 4:2  Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Deu 12:32  What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
The Scriptures call anyone who adds to God’s Law, a Liar (Pro 30:6). This was one of the main concerns Yeshua had regarding the Pharisees, when He said “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men”(Mar 7:8) & “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? (Mat 15:3).

Are all traditions bad? Are all traditions sin? definitely not. But the moment we put “Tradition” over “God’s Commandments”, or teach “man made Traditions” as “God’s Law”, we are breaking His Words. This is why Yeshua said (quoting Isaiah 29:13)”But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men“(Mat 15:9) regarding the Pharisees.

Adding and Diminishing & the 2 Houses of Israel
If you know about Biblical History, you would know that the people “Israel” divided into 2 Kingdoms after the death of King Solomon. These 2 Kingdoms were called “The House of Judah” & “The House of Israel/Ephraim”. “The House of Israel” was carried away by Assyria and scattered in the nations with a promise of being regathered, while “The House of Judah” was exiled for 70 years in “Babylon” being let back into the land. (Please go to this link for more info) It is interesting to see how “the Jews” (House of Judah) add to God’s Law, through their various traditions and man-made laws written in the Talmud, while “the gentiles” (House of Ephraim) diminishes from God’s Law, saying it is done away and that they are free from it.

“Phylacteries” are a good reminder of checking our lives, our doctrines and our thoughts for anything that we may be adding or diminishing from our Creator’s Words. It is a call to really put His Words in our hearts and souls, binding them on our hands by being obedient to Him, that His Words may be always foremost in our minds (Deut 11:18), so that we do not turn to the left or to the right from them (Jos 23:6) choosing God and His Word alone in the midst of man-made commandments & traditions.