CHURCH HISTORY – EARLY CHURCH PERIOD

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Outline
Timeline of Events

 

OUTLINE

Literary Works from This Period

In this portion of the church history, the early church age has been defined as the first six hundred years of church history. This section covers topics such as the Didache, Constantine’s conversion, the Council at Nicea, and the teachings of Augustine. There where a great deal of teachings and writings from these time periods that are covered in the literature section.

This was the time frame immediately after Jesus departure to the heavens leaving behind the Apostles in charge of the Church and its functions. From this time forward, the Apostles met, appointed additional leaders to lead the new forming churches across the countries and spread the teaching of God’s word. This timeline covers these events and the event following until centuries after their teachings has begun.

 

TIMELINE OF EVENTS

The Early Church in the Apostolic Period [35-120 AD]  – Ignatius, Nero, Clement of Rome, and Ireneaus

35ad – Ignatius – was widely quoted in the early church, he had multiple letter to the Church and to Polycarp

51ad –  Persecution of Christians in Rome by the Jewish community,  becomes so disruptive that the Jews are expelled from the city

60ad – Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor. “He was a man of long ago and the disciple of one ‘John’ and a companion of Polycarp,” according to Irenaeus

64ad – Emperor Nero persecutes the church ruthlessly, and uses Christians as candles to light his garden. It is likely that both Peter and Paul were executed during this persecution. He also blames the fire that destroys much of Rome on the Christians

68ad – The end of Nero’s reign

69ad – Polycarp, in Smyrna – a strong defender of the faith in Asia Minor combating the Marcionites and the Valentinians. Irenaeus reported that Polycarp had communication with John the Apostle and ‘others who had seen the Lord’

81ad – Domitian becomes Emperor. He then begins to persecuted both Jews and Christians

96ad – The end of Domitian’s reign

96ad – Clement of Rome. He wrote influential epistles to Corinth

98ad –  Trajan becomes Emperor. Trajan eventually instituted a policy toward Christians that stayed in effect until the time of Aurelius. His policy was not to seek Christians out, but if they were brought before the authorities they were to be punished, usually executed, for being Christians

100ad – By the end of the first century it is possible to document congregations in almost every city that Paul visited on his three missionary journeys. There are also a few churches in Egypt and along the coast of Northern Africa

107ad –  Ignatius led to Rome and martyred

115ad – Ireneaus, the first great Catholic theologian and author of Against Heresies, a treatise against the gnostics

 

The Early Church in the Period of the Apologists – [120-220 AD] – Justin Martyr, Marcion, Clement of Alexandria, Polycarp, Tertullian, and Origen

130ad –  d. Papias

130ad –  Conversion of Justin Martyr. Justin loved philosophy, and had studied many philosophies and pagan religions in his search for truth. He was an apologist, and taught that the seeds of truth (logos) could be found in all religions, but that only Christianity taught the whole truth

144ad –  Marcion excommunicated for rejecting the Old Testament, rejecting most of the New Testament, and teaching that Christ only appeared to be human (Docetism). His challenge helps the church realize the necessity of formally recognizing the canon

150ad – Clement of Alexandria. He was an apologist who used Plato to support Christianity, and tried to reach gnostics by showing that only the Christian had real “gnosis.” He helped establish the allegorical method of interpreting scripture. His works make up a large proportion of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II

155ad –  Polycarp was martyred in Smyrna by being burned to death. Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” The only known writings to survive are parts of letters he wrote to the Philippians

156ad –  Possibly the beginning of the Montanist movement. They were an aescetic movement with apocalyptic visions. They claimed the Spirit spoke directly through their prophets and prophetesses

160ad –  b. Tertullian. He objected to Justin’s use of philosophy to defend Christianity, saying “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?.” Late in life he became a Montanist and wrote Against Praxeas, which helped the church understand the Trinity

161ad –  Marcus Aurelius becomes emperor. He abandoned Trajan’s passive approach and actively sought Christians to persecute them throughout the empire

165ad –  Martyrdom of Justin

180ad –  The end of Aurelius’s reign

185ad – Origen. Pupil of Clement of Alexandria, he further develops the allegorical method. This and his desire to relate to the Neoplatonists in Alexandria led him away from orthodoxy in some matters. But he is still important to the church. On First Principles is the first systematic theology

202ad –  Septimius Severus tries to unite the empire under one religion, the worship of the Unconquered Sun. Both Jews and Christians refuse and are vehemently persecuted

202ad –  Irenaeus is believed to have been martyred

202ad –  Clement of Alexandria flees to Syria until his death in 215

216ad –  b. Mani, founder of Manichaeism. He fused Persian, Christian, and Buddhist elements into a major new heresy

 

The Early Church in the Third Century: [220-305 AD] – Anthony, The Novatian schism, Eusebius, and Athanasius

225 d. Tertullian

245 Conversion of Cyprian

247 Cyprian becomes Bishop of Carthage

249-251 The reign of Decius. He ordered everyone in the empire to burn incense to him. Those who complied were issued a certificate. Those who did not have a certificate were persecuted. Many Christians bought forged certificates, causing a great controversy in the church

Cyprian went into hiding during the persecution and ruled the church by letters

251 b. Anthony. One of the earliest monks. He sold all his possessions and moved to the desert. Athanasius later wrote his biography

254 d. Origen

The Novatian schism develops concerning the treatment of the lapsed. (The Novatians, or Cathari, last until about 600. Read the Catholic view of the schism.) Cyprian refuses to accept the validity of baptism by schismatic priests. The church in Rome is critical of Cyprian’s view, and sends him scathing letters. Carthaginian Councils

258 Cyprian is martyred before the issue is settled

263 b. Eusebius of Caesarea. He was the first church historian. Many works of the early church survive only as fragments in Eusebius’s writing

284 The beginning of the Diocletian persecution

286 b. Pachomius, Egyptian pioneer of cenobitic (communal rather than solitary) monasticism

297/300 b. Athanasius, the defender of Orthodoxy during the Arian controversy of the fourth century.

 

The Imperial Church: 305-476 – Apollinaris, Constantine, Council of Nicea, Athanasius, and Augustine

305 The end of the Diocletian persecution

310 b. Apollinaris, the heretic who said that Jesus had a human body but not a human mind; He had the divine mind. Gregory of Nazianzus’ reply: “What has not been assumed cannot be restored”

311 b. Ulfilas

312 Constantine defeats Maxentius at the battle of Milvian Bridge and becomes Emperor of the West. Constantine had had a vision, and used the letters chi and rho (the first two letters in “Christ”) as his symbol during the battle

312 Caecilian elected bishop of Carthage. He was lax toward the Traditores, who had saved themselves by handing over scriptures during the Diocletian persecution. And he seemed unenthusiastic about the martyrs. A group in Carthage rejected Caecilian’s election on the grounds that he was ordained by a traditore. They elected a rival bishop named Majorinus

313 Edict of Milan gives Christians equal rights. It is issued by Constantine in the West and Licinius in the East, but Licinius soon withdraws his committment to it

314 By this date, there is a significant number of Christians in Britain

315 Majorinus dies, Donatus is his successor. This party becomes known as the Donatist party

316 The Donatists appeal to Constantine, but he rules against them. Then he outlaws them and banishes them in an effort to unite the church

324 Constantine defeats Licinius and becomes Emperor of both East and West. Constantine favored Christianity, which effects the face of the church even today

325 Council of Nicea condemns Arianism. Arius, in Alexandria, taught that Christ was the first created being, that there was a time when He was not. The council declared that Jesus was begotten, not made, and that He is Homoousios, of the same substance as the Father

328 Athanasius becomes bishop of Alexandria

328 Constantine revokes the sentence against Arius

329 b. Basil the Great of Cappadocia, the monk who created the basic Rule for the Eastern Orthodox monks that is still in use today. Basil taught communal monasticism that serves the poor, sick, and needy. One immediate effect of the disappearance of persecution is the rise of monasticism to replace the old martyr witness

335 b. Martin of Tours, a great monk who is famous for his compassion for the poor

337 d. Constantine

339 b. Ambrose the Churchman, who fought Arianism and the revival of paganism, and promoted the power of the Church.

340 d. Eusebius of Caesarea

340 Ulfilas converted to Arian Christianity. He takes it to the Germanic tribes, gives them an alphabet, and translates the Bible into their language. Most of the Germanic tribes became Arian Christians

345 b. John Chrysostom, “Golden Mouthed.” He was a bold and reforming preacher, who used the Historical-grammatical method of exegesis. This was unusual, because exegetes had been looking at the allegorical interpretation ever since Clement of Alexandria and Origen

346 d. Pachomius

347 b. Jerome, the great Bible scholar and translator, author of the Vulgate

353 Emperor Constantius releases his pro-Arian campaign and drives Athanasius from Alexandria

354 b. Augustine

356 d. Anthony, at a very old age

361-363 Reign of Julian the Apostate, who converted from Christianity to paganism and restored paganism in Rome

361 Julian the Apostate removes the restrictions against the Donatists

369 b. Pelagius

367 A letter of Athanasius names the 66 books of the canon

373 d. Athanasius

379 d. Basil the Great of Cappadocia

379-395 The reign of Theodosius, who establishes Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire

381 Council of Constantinople. The Nicene position becomes dominant again, and the legal religion of the Empire. Jesus Christ is truly human, contrary to Apollinarianism, which held that Jesus had a human body but a divine mind. The Great Cappadocians are the inspiration behind the defeat of Arianism at this council. They are St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and St. Gregory of Nyssa

382 A council in Rome affirms the authority of the New Testament canon. It is important to remember that the content of the canon was not a conciliar decision. The church recognized, or discovered, the canon. The church did not determine the canon

383 d. Ulfilas

386 Augustine was converted in a garden in Milan after hearing a child saying “Take up and read!” He took up Romans 13: 13-14.

387 Augustine baptized by Ambrose

c. 389 b. St. Patrick. He was a British Romanized Christian who established Christianity in Ireland

390 d. Apollinaris

390 b. Leo the Great, an outstanding pope. He was influential in Chalcedon. He also argued for papal supremacy and showed political leadership in his negotiations with Attila the Hun

391 Augustine ordained a priest in Hippo, North Africa

393 The Council of Hippo recognizes the canon. To be recognized as canonical, a book had to be Apostolic, fit in with the other scriptures, and have been of fruitful use throughout the church up to that time

395 Augustine becomes bishop of Hippo

397 d. Martin of Tours

397 The Council of Carthage agrees with the Council of Hippo

397-401 Augustine writes Confessions

398 John Chrysostom becomes bishop of Constantinople

400 d. Nestorius, the heretic who said that Mary was the bearer of Christ (christokos), but not the bearer of God (theotokos). He could not call a three month old Jesus God. So he said that Jesus Christ was two persons, whose only union was a moral one

407 d. Chrysostom

410 The Fall of Rome to Alaric and the Visigoths

411-430 Augustine’s Anti-Pelagian writings. Pelagius rejected the idea that we all fell in Adam (Federal Headship), original sin, and the sin nature. We could earn our salvation by works, so grace is not necessary.Augustine insisted that we all sinned in Adam, and spiritual death, guilt, and our diseased nature is the result. God’s grace is necessary not only to be able to choose to obey God’s commands, but to be able to choose to turn to God initially for salvation.

413-426 Augustine writes The City of God. Some people blamed the fall of Rome on the Christians, saying it happened because Rome abandoned paganism. This is Augustine’s response, along with many diversions.

418 The Council of Carthage anathematized the teachings of Pelagius.

420 d. Jerome

420 d. Pelagius

429 Arian Vandals cross into Africa. After this, Western Emperors became puppets of Germanic generals

430 d. Augustine

431 Council of Ephesus. Jesus Christ is one person, contrary to Nestorianism, which held that Christ was two persons, one divine and one human

448 Leo writes an epistle to Flavian, The Tome of Leo, to encourage him. It encapsulates the Christology of the church, drawing from Augustine and Tertullian

449 The Latrocinium (Robber’s) Council. Dioscorus, Patriarch of Alexandria, presided. This Council declared Eutychianism, which held that Christ had only one nature, to be orthodox. According to this heresy, His humanity was not like ours. This would make redemption impossible. The council deposed Flavian, the orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople

451 Council of Chalcedon. Eutychianism is condemned, Dioscorus is deposed, The Tome of Leo is confirmed. Jesus Christ is “two natures, the Divine of the same substance as the Father (against Arianism), the human of the same substance as us (against Eutychianism), which are united unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably(against Nestorianism).” The church remains divided over these issues for the next 200 years

c. 461 d. St. Patrick

461 d. Leo the Great

476 The last Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, is deposed by Odoacer, a German general

 

The Early Middle Ages: 476-1000 – Benedict, Columba, Columban, Gregory the Great, Islam, and John of Damascus

480 b. Boethius, a significant thinker who influences the Middle ages. In The Consolation of Philosophy he tries to find comfort in reason and philosophy. He doesn’t quote scripture

480 b. Benedict of Nursia, who wrote the normal Rule for Western monks to the present

521 b. Columba, Irish missionary to Scotland working from the isle of Iona

540 b. Columban, Irish missionary to the continent when it was struggling with a resurgence of paganism

525 d. Boethius

529 The Council of Orange approves the Augustinian doctrine of sin and grace, but without absolute predestination

540 b. Gregory the Great

550 d. Benedict of Nursia

560 b. Isidore of Seville, whose Book of Sentences was the key book of theology until the twelfth century

575 Gregory the Great becomes a monk

590 Gregory the Great becomes pope. He was a very effective and popular pope during a time when the government was weak. He fed the peasants and protected farms and villages from Lombard invasion. His development of the doctrine of purgatory was instrumental in establishing the medieval Roman Catholic sacramental system

596 Gregory sends Augustine of Canterbury to convert the pagans in England. He imposed the Roman liturgy on the old British Christians

597 d. Columba, missionary to Scotland

602 Through Gregory’s influence and his baptism of a Lombard King’s child, the Lombards begin converting from Arianism to Orthodoxy

  • 604 d. Gregory the Great

 

REFERENCES

https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/study/era/early-church/

http://www.churchtimeline.com/index.htm