Tag Archives: protestant

Why Christians need to plead forgiveness from our Jewish brethren

From even before the time of the early (so called) Church Father, John Chrysostom who coined the term “Christ-Killer” in 386 AD, referring to the Jews – the time of Passover and Good Friday have been occasion to both verbal and physical attack against the Jewish people by so called Christians. These thoughts and ideas seem to bubble up in some form or manner in Christian congregations even today. It is important therefore to do an internal observation into Christianity, to rectify ourselves rather than point fingers at others.

Imagine a world where Christ preceded Moses, and the Christian preceded the Jew. Now Imagine Jews saying that Moses brought Christ’s teachings to an end, and that we must all follow Moses instead. In this imaginary reality, Christians who did not agree with the Jews were marginalized, falsely accused for various ills, humiliated, abused, tortured, persecuted, their books burned, property confiscated, burdened with extra taxes, forced to wear badges of shame, places of worship burnt, belief outlawed, enslaved, converted forcefully, arrested, imprisoned, expelled, attacked by mobs, burnt at the stake, hung, massacred and even exterminated by Jews, in the name of Moses. Would you as a Christian, want to be associated, much less believe in such a person – in whose name, such grievous acts were done?

Known as the Blood Libel - The accusation of ritual murder by the Jews began in medieval England when a Christian boy disappeared. The local population, already predisposed to blaming Jews for all the ills of the world, was quick to blame the Jews of kidnapping the boy to extract his blood to make Passover bread. An insane accusation as Jewish Law strictly prohibits the consumption of blood

Image of a medieval etching, depicting Jews committing a purported ritual murder, known as the Blood Libel – US Holocaust Memorial Museum

The sad reality is that Christians have done all of the above and much worse to our Jewish brothers and sisters for close to 2000 years, and all in the name of Christ. Most Christians would refuse to believe such, but the annals of history record the persecution Jews have undergone in the hands of Christianity. From before the time of the crusades, the Jews have been looked at as “Christ-Killers” with contempt and disgust. They have been subject to all sorts of physical and psychological trauma because of their beliefs and simply because they are “Jews”. They have been accused of everything from ritual murder of Christian children to the poisoning of water. Antisemitism has been part and parcel of mainline Christianity from the early 1st century Church of Rome to Catholicism right down to Protestantism. When you read Paul’s words of concern and caution to the congregation in Rome, saying “boast not” and “be not highminded” in Romans Chapter 11, you see these roots of antisemitism which snowballed into a tragedy such as the Holocaust.

In my opinion, an even more grievous act has been done to our Jewish brethren by Christians. And that is the stealing of the Jewish Messiah-Yeshua(the real Hebrew name of Jesus) and disfiguring Him and His teachings, so that no Jew would even want to know about Him. Christians are quick to forget that Yeshua, His disciples, Paul, James and thousands of believers in the 1st Century were all Jews. Christians are quick to forget that Paul spoke many a time in his letters about the coming together of Jew and Gentile as one people in Christ. Christianity has made Christ to be the inventor of a new Religion. An abolisher of God’s Law given through Moses. Christians have made themselves the chosen people, while the Jews have been discarded in their minds and sidelined by their actions.

On top of all this, some Christians have the audacity to say that “Jews reject Jesus”. If I was a Jew, and my people were marginalized, falsely accused for various ills, humiliated, abused, tortured, persecuted, our books burned, property confiscated, burdened with extra taxes, forced to wear badges of shame, places of worship burnt, belief outlawed, enslaved, converted forcefully, arrested, imprisoned, expelled, attacked by mobs, burnt at the stake, hung, massacred and even exterminated – in some form by those who profess to be Christians – I would not want any part in such a “Messiah” either. It is time for Christians to wake up and own up, that we have hurt our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died – deeply, and to the extent to which they cannot bare. No matter whether we were not there at the time of such persecution, no matter whether it was not our denomination which did such grievous acts, no matter whether the propagators of such massacres were not real Christians – these acts have been done under the banner of Christianity, by people who profess to be Christians. And it is no wonder that a Jew would teach their child to have nothing to do with Jesus. Christianity has pushed our Jewish brothers and sisters to this place.

Now am I saying this is the only reason the Jews reject Yeshua as Messiah? No. There are several reasons such as the debate on fulfillment of prophecy. But the persecution they have endured at the hand of Christianity is one of the biggest reasons for their current standing of who Yeshua is. It is a scar that is permanently ingrained in their minds. They have endured not only physical persecution but theological, where Christianity believes that it has replaced the Jews as the chosen people. Antisemitic sentiment is rampant in Christian minds, where most regard themselves superior to Jews, when in fact we should embrace them as our brothers and sisters who are the chosen people to whom we are grafted in.

So what can we do, as Christians? We should own up to this faults first. We should not only apologize, but plead for forgiveness from them. And not only them, but from God – for carrying out such heinous acts in the name of Christ, against His chosen people. The people He handed His Word to. The people He made His Covenants with. Not only has Christianity walked away from its roots, it has chopped off its own roots and become a separate tree. Christians need to get in touch with its roots once again. We need to recognize that there was no new religion in the 1st century, but a difference of understanding of Yeshua as Messiah.

So here is my open apology and prayer to my dear Jewish brothers and sisters around the world. “May you have the heart to forgive us for what we have done to you throughout the past centuries. May God – the Creator of Heaven and Earth, to whom both of us pray to – give you the ability and strength to put this scarred past behind you and look at us as your brothers and sisters. We love you. and we pray for your safety and goodwill. May you be blessed abundantly by our Father in Heaven! Amen”

To my Christian brothers and sisters around the world, my prayer is that you study the word more thoroughly, and find in your heart to root out any antisemitic notions in your minds, so that we can truly become one people with our Jewish brethren. Be humble enough to admit the wrongs of our Christian forefathers which we have inherited, and plead for forgiveness for the hurt that which we have caused. May we be able to have a healthy interfaith dialogue with each other through love and patience. And may we have the strength to rise up to the aid of our Jewish brethren whenever they need us.

As Ruth, a Moabite woman by birth, but the Great Grand Mother of King David – the Jewish heir to the throne, said “thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:” – even though our beliefs differ about Messiah, we do believe in the same Creator God. May we also have the ability to accept each other as one people – sons and daughters of God our Father. May you be a blessing to everyone around you.

Who changed the Sabbath to Sunday?

From the time of the reformation Protestantism has become one of the major sects of Christianity. Even though fragmented in itself, Protestants count for 35% of Christianity, while Catholicism dominates with 50%. While some of the doctrinal issues were considered by the Protestants(the ones who protested), at the time of the reformation, most of the traditions of the Catholic Church still exists in almost all Protestant denominations. One, if not the main of these, would be the observance of Sunday instead of the Seventh Day Sabbath as a day of rest and worship.

In 1934, a certain Mr. J.L. Day who was perplexed by this same question, sent a letter addressed to Pope Pius XI querying about the observance of Sunday over the Seventh Day Sabbath. Question

Thomaston, Georgia – May 22, 1934
Pope Pius XI – Rome, Italy

Dear Sir:
Is the accusation true, that Protestants accuse you of: They say you changed the Seventh Day Sabbath to the, so-called, Christian Sunday: identical with the First-Day of the Week. If so when did you make the change, and by what authority.

Yours very Truly,
J.L. Day

This is the reply he received. (Highlight added by me)

Answer

 

Extension Magazine – Published by The Catholic Extension Society of the United States of America 180 North Wabash Avenue, Chicago

Dear Sir:

Regarding the change from the observance of the Jewish Sabbath to the Christian Sunday, I wish to draw your attention to the facts:

(1) That Protestants, who accept the Bible as the only rule of faith and religion, should by all means go back to the observance of the Sabbath. The fact that they do not, but on the contrary observe the Sunday, stultifies them in the eyes of every thinking man.

(2) We Catholics do not accept the Bible as the only authority of the Church, as a rule to guide us. We say, this Church instituted by Christ, to teach and guide man through life, has the right to change the Ceremonial laws of the Old Testament and hence, we accept the change of the Sabbath to the Sunday. We frankly say, “Yes, the Church made this change, made this law, as she made many other laws, for instance, the Friday Abstinence, the unmarried priesthood, the laws concerning mixed marriages, the regulation of the Catholic marriages, and a thousand other laws.”

(3) We also say that of all Protestants, the Seventh-day Adventists are the only group that reason correctly and are consistent with their teachings. It is always somewhat laughable to see the Protestant Churches, in pulpit and legislature, demand the observance of Sunday, of which there is nothing in the Bible.

With best wishes,
Peter R. Tramer, Editor

Protestants! Maybe its time to go back to the authority of the Scriptures and finally let go of the traditions of Catholicism completely!

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