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The Tabernacle, Temple, Synagogue & Church – What is the House of God?

What is the difference between the tabernacle, the temple, the synagogue and the church? Does God reside in buildings? Can any place of assembly be called “The House of God”? There is little clarity on this subject. Many believe that there was no requirement for a temple of God, and that it was an Old Testament precept removed with Messiah’s sacrifice on the cross. We shall delve into the subject and see what the Bible truly teaches about “The House of God”.

A. What is the Church & Synagogue?
B. What is the Tabernacle & Temple?
C. What is the difference between the Temple and a Church/Synagogue?
D. Can any place of assembly be equated to the Temple of God?
E. Does God reside in a building?
F. Did Christ Replace the Temple of God?

G. The temple of our Bodies

A. What is the Church & Synagogue?
Moses' Seat fromIn an earlier study, we have discussed the biblical definition of the word “Church”. Our findings were very clear – both, “Church” and “Synagogue” meant bodies of people. Not a building or a place – biblically speaking. It is a little known fact that the 1st Century believers attended Synagogue as per James’ Epistle (The word assembly in Jas 2:2 should be translated as synagogue). Even though modern Christians feel a Synagogue is for Jews while Church is for Christians, there was no such separation in thought among the 1st century believers. Both represented bodies of people and not any type of religious building.   

B. What is the Tabernacle & Temple?
The Tabernacle

After the deliverance from Egypt by the hand of God, the children of Israel were commanded to build a sanctuary(H4720 – Mikdawsh – Holy/Set-apart place). Specific instructions were given for the creation of this Tabernacle(H4908 – Mishkawn – Tent/Dwelling Place) and everything inside, to Moses on the Mount of Sinai(Exo 25:8,9,40, 26:30, Heb 8:5). The work was done accordingly (Exo 39:42,43) and the Tent was setup and finished according to further instructions(Exo 40:1-33). The Glory of Yehovah filled the Tabernacle with a physical thick cloud(Exo 40:34), so much so, that even Moses could not enter it. The physical Cloud and Fire were present in the Tabernacle for all the Children of Israel to see, wherever they went henceforth(Exo 40:35-38).

framework-and-tabernacle-layers-lesson-23The Levites were specifically chosen for the keeping of the Tabernacle(Num 1:50,51,53, Chap 3) and the Tabernacle itself was a covering (a sort of capsule) for God to walk with the Children of Israel(2Sam 7:6). This dwelling place moved to a variety of locations till finally under David, the Kingdom was unified. The main content of the Tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant, which carried the tablets of the covenant written with the hand of God. After God settled the Children of Israel in the land promised to Abraham, there was no more reason for a tent which was pitched and removed – so King David planned to build a House for God which would house His Ark and His Glory(2Sam 7). But God wanted it built by Solomon, the Son of David(2Sam 7:12,13). It is clear that the Tabernacle, even though it was not a permanent structure, was also known as the House of God(Exo 23:19, 34:26, Deut 23:18, Jdg 18:31, 20:18, 21:2).

The Temple in Jerusalem
solomon-templeAfter Solomon came to power, he started the work for God’s House according to God’s command(1Kin 5:3-5) and finished it by moving the Ark from the Tabernacle to the Temple(1Kin 8:3-9). And similar to the establishment of the Tabernacle, where Moses could not enter because of the Glory of God, the cloud filled the holy place so that the priest could not stand to minister(1Kin 8:10,11). Furthermore, God appeared to Solomon and told him that He has consecrated the Temple to Himself by putting His name there, and His eyes and heart would be there perpetually. But He also warned Solomon, that if he or his children turn away from God, that the Temple will be destroyed(1Kin 9:2-9).

Babylonian Chronicles Because of the sins of Solomon, God decided to separate the unified nation of Israel(1Kin 11:9-13). Ten tribes were handed over to Jeroboam, known as the House of Israel, while the rest were left in the hands of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon(1Kin 11:29-36), known as House of Judah, from thereon. These were the two houses of Israel, mentioned in Jeremiah and Hebrews where the New Covenant is mentioned. Both these kingdoms would fall, according to the warnings of the Prophets due to their disobedience, firstly the Kingdom of Israel to Assyria; and then the Kingdom of Judah to Babylonia, where the Temple built by Solomon was also razed to the ground(2Chr 36:19, Ezr 5:12) in 587BC.

The 2nd Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple would be rebuilt under the patronage of King Cyrus of the Persian Empire, by Ezra and Nehemiah(Ezr 5:13, 6:14). The Ark of the Covenant is not mentioned being carried away by the Babylonians or to have been in the 2nd Temple, but is believed to have been hidden by the Prophet Jeremiah before the sack of Jerusalem according to the Apocryphal book “Second Maccabees”.

titusThe Temple we read in the Gospel accounts was the 2nd Temple built by Ezra & Nehemiah, and added onto by Herod the Great, while the same would be destroyed again according to the words of Yeshua, in 70AD by the Romans under Titus. It is believed that all the Disciples of Yeshua other than John, and even Paul would have been killed off by Rome, before the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70AD.

The 3rd Temple in Jerusalem
Even though there is a fair amount of debate among Christian Denominations whether a 3rd Temple would ever be built, prophetic verses such as 2Thes 2:3,4, Dan 9:27 would have us believe, a main sign of the end of days which is the “Antichrist” better known as the “Son of Perdition/Destruction” would set himself up in the Temple of God, and shall stop the sacrifices. Considering sacrifices can only be offered in the temple of Jerusalem(Deut Chap 12, Psa 78:68, Psa 132:13,14, 1Kin 8:29) the place in which He chose to put His name (2Chr 6:6, 1Kin 11:36), we can deduce that the Temple of God where sacrifices will be offered in these prophetic verses is none other than a temple in Jerusalem. But since the 2nd Temple was destroyed in 70AD, for such prophecies to come to fruition, there must be a 3rd Temple built in the future.

C. What is the difference between the Temple and a Church/Synagogue?
The Temple was built according to the command of God(1Kin 5:5) where God chose to place His Name – the city of Jerusalem/Zion(2Chr 6:6, 12:13). There was only one Temple where sacrifices could be brought to God. The Levites were given the right of service and the Sons of Aaron were the priests. No one else could serve in the temple of God in Jerusalem. Jer 33:17-26 shows forth that the word of God and the Covenants He has made with the Levites and David can never be broken.

In the 1st Century AD, synagogues were in every city around the Hellenistic empire which was under Roman rule(Act 15:21), as we see Yeshua, His disciples and even Paul attending many such assemblies. But there was ONLY ONE Temple. And Yeshua, His disciples and even Paul frequented the Temple in Jerusalem often. Paul even offered sacrifices of Purification for himself and others in Acts 21. This was the Temple where Yeshua was tempted(Mat 4:5). The place where Yeshua overthrew the moneychangers/sellers saying “My House shall be called the house of prayer(Mat 21:13/Isa 56:7), but you have made it a den of thieves(Mat 21:13/Jer 7:11). Where He healed(Mat 21:14). Where He taught daily(Mat 26:55, Luk 21:37,38). This was the same Temple where the 1st Century believers gathered daily(Acts 2:46). Where they taught(Acts 5:20,21). Where Paul offered sacrifices of purification(Acts 21:26,27, 24:18). And which was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.

The Temple in Jerusalem cannot be equated to a building or assembly, as it was ordained, planned & created according to God’s Word and Will. God let the House that was built for Himself be destroyed twice in history, because of the transgressions of the people. But as per the Prophet Micah:

Mic 4:1-3 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

As many of us know, the above verse talks of the Reign of Messiah, in which the House of God and Jerusalem are both mentioned to be active and very much in existence.

While the Church/Synagogue are assemblies of people, the Temple in Jerusalem was a vessel for God to have an existence on the earth. It was His palace on earth from where He ruled as King over His people.

D. Can any place of assembly be equated to the Temple of God?
You may have heard some of today’s church buildings being called the House of God. While our bodies are called the “House of God” in several places in the New Testament, nowhere has a building ever been called the Temple/House of God, or equated to the Temple that stood in Jerusalem.

E. Does God reside in a building?
Even though the Temple in Jerusalem was known to be a place of high importance in the scriptures, there are many who believe that the Temple was purposeless after the Resurrection of Messiah. The fact that the early church spent most of their time in the temple(Acts 2:46) and that Apostle Paul offered sacrifices of purification at the temple(Acts 21:26,27, 24:18) should be enough to show that the importance of the Temple never dwindled in their eyes.

Many question the necessity of the temple because of verses such as:

Act 7:48-50 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?

Act 17:24  God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

The fact is that the thoughts conveyed above by Stephen and Paul are nothing new, but originate from the Old Testament Scriptures. The Temple was not a place made for God to live in, as even the Heavens cannot contain Him. These thoughts are not new ideas revealed after Christ, but what was always apparent to everyone before Christ.

1Ki 8:27  But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?

2Ch 2:6  But who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him? who am I then, that I should build him an house, save only to burn sacrifice before him?

2Ch 6:18  But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!

Isa 66:1  Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

Also read Paul and his use of Greek Philosophy on Acts 17:24

The Temple was never built to contain God, but as a place/vessel/body that was specially chosen to host His Holy presence on Earth. It is very unlikely that the significance of the Temple ever changed after Messiah’s resurrection, because of this reason.

F. Did Christ Replace the Temple of God?
Another reason many do not see a reason for a physical Temple in Jerusalem, is because of the thought that Christ replaced it. It is true that He equaled Himself to the Temple(John 2:19-21). Rightly so, as God’s full glory resided in Christ just as in the Temple.

Verses such as these have led people to believe that Christ has done away the Temple of God:

Joh 4:21  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.

Mar 15:37,38  And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

While John 4:21 could be most likely speaking of the destruction about to fall of Jerusalem as He spoke of many a time in His ministry(Luk 19:44, 21:6), the idea of the Veil being torn has become one, if not the main reason that many believe in the futility of a Temple. In the Gospels, Christ’s death leads to the veil of the Temple being torn in two. Many interpret this as a sign that the separation between God and Man was removed through this act, and that we can now freely go into the holiest of holies. While I do not disagree that Christ’s Death & Resurrection corrected our standing with God, I see a few key details which need to be pointed out before we make any assumptions.

map32It is important to point out that there were 2 veils in the Temple. One which separated the Courts from the Holy place and one which separated the Holy place from the Holiest of Holies. In Hebrews 9:3, when the author speaks of the veil between the Holy place from the Holiest of Holies – He calls it “the second veil”. So it is very likely that what was torn was the outer veil. Furthermore, if the Temple acted as a Garment/Covering that encapsulated God, the tearing of the Veil at the death of Messiah could signify an act of mourning done by God towards His only begotten Son. We see similar practices in the Scriptures in Gen 37:34, 2Sam 13:31, Jos 7:6.

G. The temple of our Bodies
Some believe that our bodies have wholly replaced the Temple in Jerusalem. There are many verses in the New Testament writings that compare our bodies to the Temple of God, such as:

1Co 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
1Co 6:19  What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
2Co 6:16  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Eph 2:21  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
1Pe 2:5  Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

tmSo what are we to make of this? Have our bodies replaced any remnant of a physical Temple in Jerusalem? While our bodies are a dwelling place for God, as Paul himself writes in 2Corinthians 6:16, he is quoting “I will dwell in them, and walk in them” from the Old Testament Scriptures (Exo 29:45, Lev 26:12, Eze 43:7). So it is not a new thought to think of ones body as a dwelling place for God.

The physical Temple in Jerusalem on the other hand, is a central part of both God’s Word and prophecy.

Isa 2:2,3 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Isa 56:6,7 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

See Ezekiel chapter 40 to 48

Conclusion
As we saw God instituted the tabernacle, and later the temple in Jerusalem, while the synagogue and the church both stood for bodies of people and not physical structures. While God is not contained in a man-made house, it was His choice to create such a place for His glory to reside and for the people to come to Him with the designated Sacrifices. While not all assemblies or buildings can be called “The House of God” in a Biblical sense, The Temple of God is for from an abolished precept. Yeshua(Jesus’ true name), His disciples or Paul never directly said anything about the Temple being anything other than the House of God. In fact the interaction between the Temple and the 1st century believers was a close one, as we even see with Paul. The tearing of the veil at Christ’s death or the fact that our bodies are called a dwelling place of God, does not mean that the Temple in Jerusalem was any less important in the Bible we hold in our hands today.

 

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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