Sunday, October 21, 2007

Exploring Church History

For a while I have been on a journey to understand the relationship of church history to today's church. If indeed history can help us from repeating past mistakes, then I want to learn from the past.

So far, I've only been able to wade through about the first 200 years or so. This period interests me the most since it is pre-Nicean (meaning before the Council of Nicea 325 A.D.).

Most of this comes from NT Wright in his book The New Testament and the People of God, that I just finished reading in my spare time. I did consult Forumromanum for some date clarification. These are just notes, so forgive the mess. I'll comment where I feel the need or want. =) As you will notice, this is not a complete nor even a good time line. There are plenty of great and integral time lines on the web (Church History Time line, Year by Year Blog [to 7o A.D.] are two good places to get your feet wet, if you are interested in decent time lines).

Age of Apostles (30-100 A.D.)
The death and Resurrection of Jesus. The lives of the Apostles to the death of John the Revelator.


  • Tiberius (14-37 A.D.) Roman Emperor
    • Pontius Pilate 3rd Judean prefect 26-32 A.D. (These dates have not been confirmed. Wasn't Jesus crucified in 33 A.D.?)
    • All through the time of Christ and shortly thereafter was an expectation that God would save Israel from Roman oppression possible through revolt or political actions.
  • Caligula (37-41A.D.) Roman Emperor
    • Philo at Rome
  • Claudius (41-54 A.D.) Roman Emperor
    • Banishes Jews from Rome 52 A.D.
  • Nero (54-68 A.D.) Roman Emperor
    • Paul's first captivity in Rome 61 to 63 A.D.
    • Epistles Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, and Philippians (I call them CEPP to help me remember the "prison epistles) 61 to 63 A.D. These books were probably written under house arrest (Acts 28:30-31) of Paul in Rome and not during his imprisonment (around 64-67 A.D.) by Nero. Formally, I had attributed those works to being written in the carcere mamertino (Maritime Prison). But hey, it was my first trip to Rome. I was ignorant (still am) about a lot of stuff. When I get a chance I hope to put together "Paul's Rome," or what Paul could have seen in Rome.
    • Great fire of Rome 62 A.D.
    • Nero persecution 64 A.D.
  • Vespasian (69-79 A.D.) Roman Emperor
    • General Titus destroys Temple in Jerusalem 70 A.D. (possible fulfillment of prophecy of Jesus)
    • Construction of Coliseum began 70's A.D. Someone mentioned to me that the Coliseum was able to be built because of the Jerusalem Temple loot that Titus brought back. The inference is that there were hidden riches in the Temple from the reign of Solomon; thus, a pagan sports arena was financed by the former Christian God's Temple. In short, paganism had triumphed over monotheism and the proof was in the "bigger" monument built. While it is possible that Herod's Temple could have contained some valuable things, it is not likely that it contained any of Solomon's treasures. Those were forever lost (or hidden) with the Babylonian invasion. If the Coliseum was financed by the Titus Jerusalem loot it was probably inconsequential. The construction of the Coliseum had already begun before the fall of Jerusalem. I imagine that the Coliseum was built by the taxes of the Empire more than the values hidden in Herod's Temple.
    • Masada 74 A.D.
  • Titus (79-81 A.D.) Roman Emperor
    • Coliseum completed
  • Domitian (81-96 A.D.)
    • Questioned supposed blood relatives of Jesus about the Messiah and his kingdom
    • Felt threatened until the Emperor was told that Jesus' kingdom was heavenly not earthly. By consequence, he stopped persecution.
"We know far less about the history of the church from AD 30-135... [than some have proposed]. There are just not enough sources." --Wright p341. Wright does declare that there are some events we do know with a pretty good bit of accuracy. This gives us at least a picture of the Christian world at this time. He proposes

  • 70 Fall of Jerusalem
  • 90 Domitian investigation of Jesus' relatives
  • 110-14 Pliny's persecution in Bithynia
    • Some brought to him accused of being a Christian.
    • Asked Trajan what to do with the areas "infected through contact with this wretched cult."
    • = widespread in Asia beyond the evangelized area of Paul
  • 110-17 Ignatius' (of Antioch) letters and martyrdom
    • killed under the reign of Trajan
    • letters written while traveling to Rome to face martyrdom
    • bishop of important Roman Syrian town
    • preached unity of each local church around their bishop (could mean there had been a schism of the mixing of Christianity and Judaism or the preaching of docetism, which states that Christ did not actually die, it just appeared that way)
    • Christianity born of Judaism but not Judaism
  • 155-6 Martyrdom of Polycarp
    • Born into a Christian family
    • possibly baptised as an infant
    • "86 years of allegiance to Christ"
    • said to have personally know John the Apostle
    • = small Christian community in Smyrna that recognized Jesus as king and denied pagan gods within 40 years of the crucifixion
    • = a Gentile mission of church- an allegiance to a Jewish-style Messiah before the fall of Jerusalem

Some quotes from Wright that I particularly like:

"Why Christianity spread rapidily is because Christians believed that what they had found to be true was true for the whole world." p360

"If we know anything about early Christian praxis it is the engagement of mission...World mission is thus the 1st an dmost obvious feature of early Christian praxis." p360-1

"Baptism and Eucharist were well established in the mid 2nd century." p361

Since Paul had already made theological conclusions about baptism (Rom 6) and the Eucharist (1 Cor 10), there was no need for the gospel writers to investigate these practices in their writings. p362

"[Paul] told the story of Jesus as a Jewish story, indeed as the Jewish story, much as Josephus told the story of the fall of Jerusalem as the climax of Israel's long and tragic history. But he told it in such a way as to say to his non-Jewish Greco-Roman audience: here in the life of this one man is the Jewish message of salvation that you pagans need."p381

3 comments:

Kc said...

This really is a helpful work and you know I like the sites you linked. I will propoably refer to this quite a bit in the future. Thanks! ;-)

pecheur said...

Uh Oh. It sounds like I am in for it.

I will propoably refer to this quite a bit in the future. Thanks! ;-)

drlobojo said...

The ante-Nicene writtings are "all" available at this site and its sister site:

http://www.ccel.org/fathers.html
and
http://www.ccel.org/

As you look at the history of the early "church" keep in mind (as you probably already know)what you are being shown is from the Western Roman Orthodox perspective. The Syrian, Coptic, Persian/Indian, Nestorian churches etc. were growing from the same initial seeds and are mostly ignored except as they represented heresies.

As bench mark perspectives:

1. The India Church of St. Thomas was a Jewish Christian Church like the one under James in Jerusalem before its fall, until it was encountered by the Portuguese and forcably changed and then fled to the cover of the Syrianic Church.

2. The Nestorian Church Priest accompanied the European invasion by Attila the Hun.

Real history is real pleasure.