Early Christianity

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Early Christianity
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{{short description|Christianity up to 325 CE}}{{Hatnote|This article is a description of early Christianity. For an extended overview of early Christian history, see Christianity in the 1st century, Christianity in the 2nd century and Christianity in the 3rd century.}}{{Use dmy dates|date= July 2013}}File:Ichthus.svg|thumb|Ichthys, an early Christian symbol.]]{{Christianity}}Early Christianity developed in the period from Christian origins ({{circa}} 30–36) to the First Council of Nicaea (325). Church historians typically subdivide this period into the Apostolic Age ({{circa}} 30–100) and the Ante-Nicene Period ({{circa}} 100–325).BOOK
, Schaff
, Philip
, Philip Schaff
, 1858-1890
, History of the Christian Church
, 2: Ante-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 100-325
, Christian Classics Ethereal Library
, 1998
, 9781610250412
, 13 October 2019
, The ante-Nicene age [...] is the natural transition from the apostolic age to the Nicene age [...].
, The first Christians were Jewish Christians, either by birth or by conversion ("proselytes" in Biblical terminology).{{refn|group= note|name= "proselyte"}} Important practices included baptism, which made one a member of the Christian community, and the communal meals, from which the Eucharist developed - the participation in Christ's death and resurrection.BOOK
, Entering the Community: Baptism in the Early Church
, McKinion
, Steven Alan
, Life and Practice in the Early Church: A Documentary Reader
, New York
, New York University Press
, 2001
, 5
, 9780814756485
, 13 October 2019
, Baptism and the Eucharist were both deemed important to the life of the community. The former was the means of initiation. The latter was a key component in the continued development of the believer and a central element in Christian worship.
, Eventually, the inclusion of Gentile God-fearers led to a departure from Jewish customs and to the establishment of Christianity as a separate religion.A variety of Christianities developed throughout the 2nd and 3rd century (in, for example, Alexandria, Antioch, Palestine and Rome), alongside a developing proto-orthodoxy,BOOK
, Ehrman
, Bart D.
, Bart D. Ehrman
, 2003
, The Development of Proto-orthodox Theology
, Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
, reprint
, Oxford
, Oxford University Press
, 2005
, 151ff
, 9780195182491
, 13 October 2019
, which eventually defined orthodoxy and heresy. Proto-orthodoxy developed in tandem with the growing number of Christians, which necessitated the development of ecclesiastical structure.{{cn|date=October 2019}}Early Christians generally used and revered the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh) as a religious text, mostly in the Greek (Septuagint) or Aramaic (Targum) translations,{{sfn|Stuart|2014}}. They also developed their own canon of the New Testament, including the canonical gospels, Acts, letters of the Apostles, and Revelation, all written before 120.BOOK, Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings,weblink 1997, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-508481-8, 8, The New Testament contains twenty-seven books, written in Greek, by fifteen or sixteen different authors, who were addressing other Christian individuals or communities between the years 50 and 120 (see box 1.4). As we will see, it is difficult to know whether any of these books was written by Jesus' own disciples., {{TOC limit|3}}


Early Jewish Christians referred to themselves as 'The Way' (), probably coming from {{bibleref|Isaiah|40:3|NIV}}, "prepare the way of the Lord."Larry Hurtado (August 17, 2017 ), "Paul, the Pagans’ Apostle"{{refn|group=note|See also Sect of “The Way”, “The Nazarenes” & “Christians” : Names given to the Early Church.It appears in the Acts of the Apostles, {{bibleref|Acts|9:2|NKJV}}, {{bibleref|Acts|19:9|NKJV}} and {{bibleref|Acts|19:23|NKJV}}). Some English translations of the New Testament capitalize 'the Way' (e.g. the New King James Version and the English Standard Version), indicating that this was how 'the new religion seemed then to be designated' Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Acts 19,weblinkacts/19.htm accessed 8 October 2015 whereas others treat the phrase as indicative—'the way',Jubilee Bible 2000 'that way' American King James Version or 'the way of the Lord'.Douai-Rheims Bible The Syriac version reads, "the way of God" and the Vulgate Latin version, "the way of the Lord".Gill, J., Gill's Exposition of the Bible, commentary on Acts 19:23 accessed 8 October 2015}} According to {{bibleref|Acts|11:26|NIV}}, the term "Christian" () was first used in reference to Jesus's disciples in the city of Antioch, meaning "followers of Christ," by the non-Jewish inhabitants of Antioch.E. Peterson (1959), "Christianus." In: Frühkirche, Judentum und Gnosis, publisher: Herder, Freiburg, pp. 353–72 The earliest recorded use of the term "Christianity" () was by Ignatius of Antioch, in around 100 AD.{{sfn|Elwell|Comfort|2001|pp=266, 828}}


{{further|History of early Christianity|Jewish Christian}}{{See also|Historical background of the New Testament}}

Jewish-Hellenistic background

Christianity "emerged as a sect of Judaism in Roman Palestine"{{sfn|Burkett|2002|p=3}} in the syncretistic Hellenistic world of the first century CE, which was dominated by Roman law and Greek culture.{{sfn|Mack|1995}} During the early first century CE there were many competing Jewish sects in the Holy Land, and those that became Rabbinic Judaism and Proto-orthodox Christianity were but two of these. There were Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots, but also other less influential sects, including the Essenes.{{r|group=web|"Shiffman"}}{{r|group=web|"JVL"}} The first century BCE and first century CE saw a growing number of charismatic religious leaders contributing to what would become the Mishnah of Rabbinic Judaism; and the ministry of Jesus, which would lead to the emergence of the first Jewish Christian community.{{r|group=web|"Shiffman"}}{{r|group=web|"JVL"}}A central concern in 1st century Judaism was the covenant with God, and the status of the Jews as the chosen people.{{sfn|Ehrman|2012|p=272}} Many Jews believed that this covenant would be renewed with the coming of the Messiah. The Law was given by God to guide them in their worship of the Lord and in their interactions with each other, "the greatest gift God had given his people."{{sfn|Ehrman|2012|p=273}}The Jewish messiah concept has its root in the apocalyptic literature of the 2nd century BC to 1st century BC, promising a future leader or king from the Davidic line who is expected to be anointed with holy anointing oil and rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age and world to come.{{r|group=web|"Immanuel.Moshiah ben Yossef"}}{{r|group=web|"JVL.Blidstein.Messiah"}}{{r|group=web|"JVL.Telushkin.Messiah"}} The Messiah is often referred to as "King Messiah" () or malka meshiḥa in Aramaic.{{r|group=web|"JVL.Flusser.Second Temple Period"}}


New Testament

{{See also|Gospels}}In the Synoptic Gospels Jewish eschatology stands central.{{r|group=web|"EB.Sanders.Pelikan.Jesus"}} After being baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus teaches extensively for a year, or maybe just a few months,{{r|group=web|"EB.Sanders.Pelikan.Jesus"}}{{refn|group=note|Sanders and Pelikan: "Besides presenting a longer ministry than do the other Gospels, John also describes several trips to Jerusalem. Only one is mentioned in the Synoptics. Both outlines are plausible, but a ministry of more than two years leaves more questions unanswered than does one of a few months."{{r|group=web|"EB.Sanders.Pelikan.Jesus"}}}} about the Kingdom of God (or, in Matthew, the Kingdom of Heaven), in aphorisms and parables, using similes and figures of speech.{{sfn|Theissen|Merz|1998|pp=316–46}}{{r|group=web|"EB.Sanders.Pelikan.Jesus"}} In the Gospel of John, Jesus himself is the main subject.{{r|group=web|"EB.Sanders.Pelikan. The Kingdom is essentially described as eschatological, becoming reality in the near future.}}{{r|group=web|"EB.Sanders.Pelikan.Jesus"}} Jesus talks as expecting the coming of the "Son of Man" from heaven, an apocalyptic figure who would initiate "the coming judgment and the redemption of Israel."{{r|group=web|"EB.Sanders.Pelikan.Jesus"}} According to Davies, the Sermon on the Mount presents Jesus as the new Moses who brings a New Law, the Messianic Torah.{{sfn|Lawrence|2017|p=60}}His ministry was ended by his execution by crucifixion. His early followers believed that three days after his death, Jesus rose bodily from the dead and was exalted to Divine status.{{sfn|Ehrman|2014}} Paul's letters and the Gospels document a number of post-resurrection appearances,{{sfn|Ehrman|2014}} which are often explained as visionary experiences, in which the presence of Jesus was felt.{{sfn|De Conick|2006|p=6}}{{sfn|Koester|2000|p=64-65}}{{sfn|Vermes|2008b|p=141}}{{sfn|Hurtado|2005|p=73}}{{sfn|Leman|2015|p=168-169}}{{sfn|Ehrman|2014|p=98, 101}}{{sfn|Kubitza|2016}} The resurrection of Jesus "signalled for earliest believers that the days of eschatological fulfilment were at hand,"Larry Hurtado (December 4, 2018 ), ''"When Christians were Jews": Paula Fredriksen on "The First Generation" and gave the impetus to the exaltation of Jesus to the status of divine Son and Lord{{sfn|Ehrman|2014|p=109-110}} and the resumption of their missionary activity.{{sfn|Koester|2000|p=64-65}}{{sfn|Vermes|2008a|p=151–152}} His followers expected Him to return in the near future, ushering in the Kingdom of God.{{r|group=web|"EB.Sanders.Pelikan.Jesus"}}

Scholarly views

Since the 18th century, three scholarly quests for the historical Jesus have taken place, each with distinct characteristics and based on different research criteria, which were often developed during each specific phase.The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth. by Ben Witherington III, InterVersity Press, 1997 (second expanded edition), {{ISBN|0830815449}} pp. 9–13The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria by Gerd Theissen and Dagmar Winter, Westminster John Knox Press 2002) {{ISBN|0664225373}} pp. 1–6Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee by Mark Allan Powell, Westminster John Knox Press 1999) {{ISBN|0664257038}} pp. 19–23 Scholars involved in the third quest for the historical Jesus have constructed a variety of portraits and profiles for Jesus,The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament by Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum 2009 {{ISBN|978-0-8054-4365-3}} pages 124-125BOOK, The Cambridge History of Christianity, 1, Margaret M., Mitchell, Frances M., Young, 2006, 978-0-521-81239-9, Cambridge University Press, 23,weblink Prophet and Teacher: An Introduction to the Historical Jesus by William R. Herzog (Jul 4, 2005) {{ISBN|0664225284}} page 8 most prominently that of Jesus as a Jewish apocalyptic prophet or eschatological teacher.Ehrman, Bart D. (Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium). Oxford University Press, 1999. {{ISBN|978-0195124743}}.{{refn|group=note|Christian eschatology relates to 'last things', such as death, the end of the world and the judgement of humanity. Eschatological passages are found in the Old Testament Prophets, such as Isaiah and Daniel; and in the New Testament, such as the Olivet discourse and the parable of The Sheep and the Goats in the Gospel of Matthew, in the General epistles, the Pauline epistles, and the Book of Revelation. Jesus prophesied that the end of the world and the Day of Judgement were imminent in sayings such as, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," ((Matthew 3:2), (Matthew 4:17), Mark 1:15){{bibleverse||Matt|3:2|ESV}}{{bibleverse||Matt|4:17}}; {{bibleverse||Mark|1:15|ESV}} and "this generation will not pass away until all these things take place"{{bibleverse||Matt|24:34}}}}

Apostolic Age (1st century)

{{See also|Classical antiquity}}


File:Jerusalem Cenacle BW 5.JPG|thumb|The Cenacle on Mount Zion, claimed to be the location of the Last Supper and Pentecost. Bargil PixnerBargil Pixner, The Church of the Apostles found on Mount Zion, (Biblical Archaeology Review]] 16.3 May/June 1990, {{Webarchive|url= |date=9 March 2018 }} claims the original Church of the Apostles is located under the current structure.)File:Peter_as_Pope_.png|thumb|180px|Saint Peter portrayed as a Pope in the Nuremberg ChronicleNuremberg ChronicleThe first part of the period, named after the lifetimes of the Twelve Apostles as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles, is called the Apostolic Age. The Great Commission is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples to spread his teachings to all the nations of the world.

Jewish Christianity

After the death of Jesus, "Christianity [...] emerged as a sect of Judaism in Roman Palestine."{{sfn|Burkett|2002|p=3}} The first Christians were all Jews, either by birth or conversion ("proselytes" in Biblical terminology),{{refn|group=note|name="proselyte"|Catholic Encyclopedia: Proselyte: "The English term "proselyte" occurs only in the New Testament where it signifies a convert to the Jewish religion ({{bibleverse||Matthew|23:15|NAB}}; {{bibleverse||Acts|2:11|NAB}}; {{bibleverse-nb||Acts|6:5|NAB}}; etc.), though the same Greek word is commonly used in the Septuagint to designate a foreigner living in Judea. The term seems to have passed from an original local and chiefly political sense, in which it was used as early as 300 BC, to a technical and religious meaning in the Judaism of the New Testament epoch."}} who constituted a Second Temple Jewish sect with an apocalyptic eschatology.The New Testament's Acts of the Apostles and Epistle to the Galatians record the existence of a Christian community centered on Jerusalem, and that its leaders included Peter, James, the "brother of Jesus", and John the Apostle.{{bibleverse||Galatians|2:9|NIV}}, {{bibleverse||Acts|1:13|NIV}}{{refn|group=note|See also Historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles}} Legitimised by Jesus' appearance, Peter was the first leader of the Jerusalem ekklēsia.{{sfn|Pagels|2005|p=45}}{{sfn|Lüdemann|Özen|1996|p=116}} He was soon eclipsed in this leadership by James the Just, "the Brother of the Lord,"{{sfn|Pagels|2005|p=45-46}}{{sfn|Lüdemann|Özen|1996|p=116-117}} which may explain why the early texts contain scant information about Peter.{{sfn|Lüdemann|Özen|1996|p=116-117}} According to Lüdemann, in the discussions about the strictness of adherence to the Jewish Law, the more conservative faction of James the Just gained the upper hand over the more liberal position of Peter, who soon lost influence.{{sfn|Lüdemann|Özen|1996|p=116-117}} According to Dunn, this was not an "usurpation of power," but a consequence of Peter's involvement in missionary activities.{{sfn|Bockmuehl|2010|p=52}} The Jerusalem Church "held a central place among all the churches," as witnessed by Paul's writings.{{sfn|Hurtado|2005|p=160}}

Emerging Church

Growth of early Christianity

(File:Krist spred 1.jpg|thumb|left|Spread of Christianity in 100 C.E.){{see also|Great Commission|Early centers of Christianity}}Christian missionary activity spread Christianity to cities throughout the Hellenistic world and even beyond the Roman Empire.{{sfn|Vidmar|2005|p=19–20}}{{sfn|Bokenkotter|2004|p=18}}Franzen 29 Over forty existed by the year 100,Hitchcock, Geography of Religion (2004), p. 281, quote: "By the year 100, more than 40 Christian communities existed in cities around the Mediterranean, including two in North Africa, at Alexandria and Cyrene, and several in Italy." most in Asia Minor, such as the seven churches of Asia, and some in Greece and Italy.Early Christian beliefs were proclaimed in kerygma [preaching), some of which are preserved in New Testament scripture. The early Gospel message spread orally, probably originally in Aramaic,{{sfn|Ehrman|2012|pp=87–90}} but almost immediately also in Greek.BOOK, Jaeger, Werner, Early Christianity and Greek Paideia, 1961, Harvard University Press, 9780674220522, 6, 108–09,weblink 26 February 2015, Christian groups and congregations first organized themselves loosely. In Paul's time there were no precisely delineated functions yet for bishops, elders, and deacons.Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.{{refn|groupo=note|Despite its mention of bishops, there is no clear evidence in the New Testament that supports the concepts of dioceses and monepiscopacy, i.e. the rule that all the churches in a geographic area should be ruled by a single bishop. According to Ronald Y. K. Fung, scholars point to evidence that Christian communities such as Rome had many bishops, and that the concept of monepiscopacy was still emerging when Ignatius was urging his tri-partite structure on other churches.Ronald Y.K. Fung as cited in BOOK, John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism,weblink 28 October 2012, 8 August 2006, Crossway, 978-1-4335-1918-5, 254, }}


Eschatological expectations

{{expand section|date=August 2019}}

Creeds and salvation

The sources for the beliefs of the early Christians include oral traditions (which included sayings attributed to Jesus, parables and teachings),BOOK, Burkett, Delbert, An introduction to the New Testament and the origins of Christianity, 2002, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-00720-7, harv, BOOK, Dunn, James D. G., The Oral Gospel Tradition, 2013, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 978-0-8028-6782-7, harv, the Gospels, the New Testament epistles and possibly lost texts such as the Q sourceHorsley, Richard A., Whoever Hears You Hears Me: Prophets, Performance and Tradition in Q, Horsley, Richard A. and Draper, Jonathan A. (eds.), Trinity Press, 1999, {{ISBN|978-1-56338-272-7}}, "Recent Studies of Oral-Derived Literature and Q", pp. 150–74Dunn, James D. G., Jesus Remembered, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003, {{ISBN|978-0-8028-3931-2}}, "Oral Tradition", pp. 192–210Mournet, Terence C., Oral Tradition and Literary Dependency: Variability and Stability in the Synoptic Tradition and Q, Mohr Siebeck, 2005, {{ISBN|978-3-16-148454-4}}, "A Brief History of the Problem of Oral Tradition", pp. 54–99 and the writings of Papias. The texts contain the earliest Christian creedsBOOK, Cullmann, Oscar, 1949, The Earliest Christian Confessions, J. K. S. Reid, London, Lutterworth, Oscar Cullmann, expressing belief in the risen Jesus, such as {{bibleverse|1|Corinthians|15:3–41}}.Neufeld, p.47 The creed has been dated by some scholars as originating within the Jerusalem apostolic community no later than the 40s,O' Collins, p.112Hunter, p.100 and by some to less than a decade after Jesus' death,Pannenberg, p.90Cullmann, p.66 while others date it to about 56.BOOK, Perkins, Pheme, 1988, Reading the New Testament: An Introduction (originally published 1978),weblink Mahwah NJ, Paulist Press, 20, 978-0809129393, Pheme Perkins, Other early creeds include {{bibleverse|1|John|4:2}}, {{bibleverse|2|Timothy|2:8}}Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament vol 1, pp. 49, 81 {{bibleverse||Romans|1:3–4}}Pannenberg, pp.118, 283, 367 and {{bibleverse|1|Timothy|3:16}}.

Low and High Christology

Two fundamentally different Christologies developed in the early Church, namely a "low" or adoptionist Christology, and a "high" or "incarnation Christology."{{sfn|Ehrman|2014|p=125}} The chronology of the development of these early Christologies is a matter of debate within contemporary scholarship.{{sfn|Loke|2017}}{{sfn|Ehrman|2014}}{{sfn|Talbert|2011|p=3-6}}Larry Hurtado, The Origin of “Divine Christology”?The "low Christology" or "adoptionist Christology" is the belief "that God exalted Jesus to be his Son by raising him from the dead,"{{sfn|Ehrman|2014|p=120; 122}} thereby raising him to "divine status."WEB, Ehrman, Bart D., Bart D. Ehrman, Incarnation Christology, Angels, and Paul,weblink The Bart Ehrman Blog, May 2, 2018, February 14, 2013, According to the "evolutionary model"{{sfn|Netland|2001|p=175}} c.q. "evolutionary theories,"{{sfn|Loke|2017|p=3}} the Christological understanding of Christ developed over time.{{sfn|Mack|1995}}{{sfn|Ehrman|2003}}Bart Ehrman, How Jesus became God, Course Guide This evolutionary model was very influential, and the "low Christology" has long been regarded as the oldest Christology.{{sfn|Bird|2017|p=ix, xi}}{{sfn|Ehrman|2014|p=132}}{{refn|group=note|Ehrman:* "The earliest Christians held exaltation Christologies in which the human being Jesus was made the Son of God—for example, at his resurrection or at his baptism—as we examined in the previous chapter."{{sfn|Ehrman|2014|p=132}}* Here I’ll say something about the oldest Christology, as I understand it. This was what I earlier called a “low” Christology. I may end up in the book describing it as a “Christology from below” or possibly an “exaltation” Christology. Or maybe I’ll call it all three things [...] Along with lots of other scholars, I think this was indeed the earliest Christology.[Bart Ehrman (6 feb 2013), The Earliest Christology}}The other early Christology is "high Christology," which is "the view that Jesus was a pre-existent divine being who became a human, did the Father’s will on earth, and then was taken back up into heaven whence he had originally come,"{{sfn|Ehrman|2014|p=122}} and from where he appeared on earth. According to Hurtado, a proponent of an Early High Christology, the devotion to Jesus as divine originated in early Jewish Christianity, and not later or under the influence of pagan religions and Gentile converts.{{sfn|Hurtado|2005|p=650}} The Pauline letters, which are the earliest Christian writings, already show "a well-developed pattern of Christian devotion [...] already conventionalized and apparently uncontroversial."{{sfn|Hurtado|2005|p=155}}



Early Christian beliefs regarding baptism probably predate the New Testament writings. It seems certain that numerous Jewish sects and certainly Jesus's disciples practised baptism. John the Baptist had baptized many people, before baptisms took place in the name of Jesus Christ. Paul likened baptism to being buried with Christ in his death.{{refn|group=note|Romans 6:3–4; Colossians 2:12}}

Communal meals and Eucharist

Communal meals originated in the early Church.BOOK, Coveney, John, Food, Morals and Meaning: The Pleasure and Anxiety of Eating, 27 September 2006, Routledge, English, 9781134184484, 74, For the early Christians, the agape signified the importance of fellowship. It was a ritual to celebrate the joy of eating, pleasure and company., BOOK, Burns, Jim, Uncommon Youth Parties, 10 July 2012, Gospel Light Publications, English, 9780830762132, 37, During the days of the Early Church, the believers would all gather together to share what was known as an agape feast, or "love feast." Those who could afford to bring food brought it to the feast and shared it with the other believers., The Eucharist was often a part of the Lovefeast, but between the latter part of the 1st century A.D. and 250 A.D. the two became separate rituals.BOOK, Walls, Jerry L., Collins, Kenneth J., Roman but Not Catholic: What Remains at Stake 500 Years after the Reformation, 17 October 2010, Baker Academic, English, 9781493411740, 169, So strong were the overtones of the Eucharist as a meal of fellowship that in its earliest practice it often took place in concert with the Agape feast. By the latter part of the first century, however, as Andrew McGowan points out, this conjoined communal banquet was separated into "a morning sacramental ritual [and a] prosaic communal supper.", BOOK, Davies, Horton, Bread of Life and Cup of Joy: Newer Ecumenical Perspectives on the Eucharist, 29 January 1999, Wipf & Stock Publishers, English, 9781579102098, 18, Agape (love feast), which ultimately became separate from the Eucharist..., BOOK, Daughrity, Dyron, Roots: Uncovering Why We Do What We Do in Church, 11 August 2016, ACU Press, English, 9780891126010, 77, Around AD 250 the lovefeast and Eucharist seem to separate, leaving the Eucharist to develop outside the context of a shared meal., Thus, in modern times the Lovefeast refers to a Christian ritual meal distinct from the Lord's Supper.{{Citation | place = Oxford | title = Dictionary of the Christian Church | publisher = Oxford University Press | year = 2005 | isbn = 978-0-19-280290-3 | type = article | contribution = agape}}The Eucharist ({{IPAc-en|ˈ|juː|k|ər|ɪ|s|t}}; also called Holy Communion or the Lord's Supper, among other names) is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. According to the New Testament, the rite was instituted by Jesus Christ during the Last Supper; giving his disciples bread and wine during the Passover meal, Jesus commanded his followers to "do this in memory of me" while referring to the bread as "my body" and the cup of wine as "the new covenant in my blood".{{bibleref2|Luke 22:20}}Encyclopædia Britannica, s.v. EucharistIgnazio Silone, Bread and Wine (1937). Through the Eucharistic celebration Christians remember both Christ's sacrifice of himself on the cross and his commission of the apostles at the Last Supper.BOOK, A Catechism for the use of people called Methodists, 2000, Methodist Publishing House, Peterborough, England, 978-1858521824, 26,


During the first three centuries of Christianity, the Liturgical ritual was rooted in the Jewish Passover, Siddur, Seder, and synagogue services, including the singing of hymns (especially the Psalms) and reading from the scriptures.WEB,weblink LITURGY -,, Most early Christians did not own a copy of the works that later became the Christian Bible or other church works accepted by some but not canonized, such as the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, or other works today called New Testament apocrypha. Similar to Judaism, much of the original church liturgical services functioned as a means of learning these Scriptures, which initially centered around the Septuagint and the Targums.

Paul and the inclusion of Gentiles

Paul's influence on Christian thinking is said to be more significant than that of any other New Testament author.Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church ed. F.L. Lucas (Oxford) entry on Paul According to the New Testament, Saul of Tarsus first persecuted the early Jewish Christians, but then converted. He adopted the name Paul and started proselytizing among the Gentiles, calling himself "Apostle to the Gentiles."According to Krister Stendahl, the main concern of Paul's writings on Jesus' role, and salvation by faith, is not the individual conscience of human sinners, and their doubts about being chosen by God or not, but the problem of the inclusion of gentile (Greek) Torah observers into God's covenant.{{sfn|Stendahl|1963}}{{sfn|Dunn|1982|p=n.49}}{{sfn|Finlan|2001|p=2}}Stephen Westerholm (2015), The New Perspective on Paul in Review, Direction, Spring 2015 · Vol. 44 No. 1 · pp. 4–15 The inclusion of Gentiles posed a problem for the early Christian community, since the new converts did not follow all "Jewish Law" and refused to be circumcised,{{sfn|Bokenkotter|2004|p=19}} as circumcision was considered repulsive in Hellenistic culture.Jewish Encyclopedia: Circumcision: In Apocryphal and Rabbinical Literature According to Fredriksen, Paul's opposition to male circumcison for Gentiles is in line with Old Testament predictions that "in the last days the gentile nations would come to the God of Israel, as gentiles (e.g., Zechariah 8:20–23), not as proselytes to Israel."Larry Hurtado (December 4, 2018), “When Christians were Jews”: Paula Fredriksen on “The First Generation” For Paul, Gentile male circumcision was therefore an affront to God's intentions. According to Hurtado, "Paul saw himself as what Munck called a salvation–historical figure in his own right," who was "personally and singularly deputized by God to bring about the predicted ingathering (the “fullness”) of the nations (Romans 11:25)."For Paul, Jesus' death and resurrection solved this problem of the exclusion of the gentiles from God's covenant,{{sfn|Mack|1997|p=91–92}} since the faithful are redeemed by participation in Jesus' death and rising. According to Galatians 2:1–10 and Acts chapter 15, Paul discussed the issue with the leaders of the Jerusalem ekklēsia, agreeing to allow Gentile converts exemption from most Jewish commandments, which opened the way for a much larger Christian Church, extending far beyond the Jewish community.Hurtado notes that Paul valued the linkage with "Jewish Christian circles in Roman Judea," which makes it likely that his Christology was in line with, and indebted to, their views.{{sfn|Hurtado|2005|p=156–157}} Hurtado further notes that "[i]t is widely accepted that the tradition that Paul recites in [Corinthians] 15:1–71 must go back to the Jerusalem Church."{{sfn|Hurtado|2005|p=168}}The inclusion of Gentiles is reflected in Luke-Acts, which is an attempt to answer a theological problem, namely how the Messiah of the Jews came to have an overwhelmingly non-Jewish church; the answer it provides, and its central theme, is that the message of Christ was sent to the Gentiles because the Jews rejected it.{{sfn|Burkett|2002|p=263}}


{{See also|Persecution of Christians in the New Testament|Anti-Christian policies in the Roman Empire|Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire}}Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire occurred sporadically over a period of over two centuries. For most of the first three hundred years of Christian history, Christians were able to live in peace, practice their professions, and rise to positions of responsibility.{{sfn|Moss|2013|p=129}} Sporadic percecution took place as the result of local pagan populations putting pressure on the imperial authorities to take action against the Christians in their midst, who were thought to bring misfortune by their refusal to honour the gods.{{sfn|Croix|2006|pp=105–152}}Only for approximately ten out of the first three hundred years of the church's history were Christians executed due to orders from a Roman emperor.{{sfn|Moss|2013|p=129}} The first persecution of Christians organised by the Roman government took place under the emperor Nero in 64 AD after the Great Fire of Rome.{{sfn|Croix|1963|pp=105–152}}

Early Christian scriptures

(File:StClement1.jpg|thumb|upright=0.9|right|St. Clement I was an Apostolic Father.)The early Christians likely did not have their own copy of Scriptural and other church works. Much of the original church liturgical services functioned as a means of learning Christian theology later expressed in these works.The Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Septuagint) was the dominant translation,Swete's Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, p. 112 including the biblical apocrypha.{{refn|group=note|Jerome (347–420) expressed his preference for adhering strictly to the Hebrew text and canon, but his view held little currency even in his own day. It was not until the Protestant Reformation that substantial numbers of Christians began to reject those books of the Septuagint which are not found in the Jewish Masoretic Text, referring to them as biblical apocrypha. In addition, some New Testament books were also disputed, known as the Antilegomena.}} The books of the canon of the New Testament, which includes the Canonical Gospels, Acts, letters of the Apostles, and Revelation were written before 120 AD, but not defined as "canon" until the 4th century.The earliest Christian writings, other than those collected in the New Testament, are a group of letters credited to the Apostolic Fathers. These include the Epistle of Barnabas and the Epistles of Clement. The Didache and Shepherd of Hermas are usually placed among the writings of the Apostolic Fathers although their authors are unknown. Taken as a whole, the collection is notable for its literary simplicity, religious zeal and lack of Hellenistic philosophy or rhetoric. They contain early thoughts on the organisation of the Christian ekklēsia, and witness the development of an early Church structure.

Split of early Christianity and Judaism

(File:Nerva Fiscus Iudaicus coin.jpg|thumb|upright|Coin of Nerva "The blackmail of the Jewish tax lifted")

Split between Christians and Jews

There was a slowly growing chasm between Christians and Jews, rather than a sudden split. Growing tensions led to a starker separation that was virtually complete by the time Christians refused to join in the Bar Khokba Jewish revolt of 132.Davidson, p.146 Certain events are perceived as pivotal in the growing rift between Christianity and Judaism.The destruction of Jerusalem and the consequent dispersion of Jews and Jewish Christians from the city (after the Bar Kokhba revolt) ended any pre-eminence of the Jewish-Christian leadership in Jerusalem. Early Christianity grew further apart from Judaism to establish itself as a predominantly Gentile religion, and Antioch became the first Gentile Christian community with stature.Franzen, p.25The Council of Jamnia c. 85 is often stated to have condemned all who claimed the Messiah had already come, and Christianity in particular. However, the formulated prayer in question (birkat ha-minim) is considered by other scholars to be unremarkable in the history of Jewish and Christian relations. There is a paucity of evidence for Jewish persecution of "heretics" in general, or Christians in particular, in the period between 70 and 135. It is probable that the condemnation of Jamnia included many groups, of which the Christians were but one, and did not necessarily mean excommunication. That some of the later church fathers only recommended against synagogue attendance makes it improbable that an anti-Christian prayer was a common part of the synagogue liturgy. Jewish Christians continued to worship in synagogues for centuries.Wylen (1995). p. 190.Berard (2006). pp. 112–113.Wright (1992). pp. 164–165.During the late 1st century, Judaism was a legal religion with the protection of Roman law, worked out in compromise with the Roman state over two centuries (see Anti-Judaism in the Roman Empire for details). In contrast, Christianity was not legalized until the 313 Edict of Milan. Observant Jews had special rights, including the privilege of abstaining from civic pagan rites. Christians were initially identified with the Jewish religion by the Romans, but as they became more distinct, Christianity became a problem for Roman rulers. Around the year 98, the emperor Nerva decreed that Christians did not have to pay the annual tax upon the Jews, effectively recognizing them as distinct from Rabbinic Judaism. This opened the way to Christians being persecuted for disobedience to the emperor, as they refused to worship the state pantheon.Wylen (1995). pp. 190–192.Dunn (1999). pp. 33–34.Boatwright (2004). p. 426.From c. 98 onwards a distinction between Christians and Jews in Roman literature becomes apparent. For example, Pliny the Younger postulates that Christians are not Jews since they do not pay the tax, in his letters to Trajan.Wylen, pp.190–192.Dunn, pp.33–34. Gentile Christianity remained the sole strand of orthodoxy and imposed itself on the previously Jewish Christian sanctuaries, taking full control of those houses of worship by the end of the 5th century.Dauphin (1993). pp. 235, 240–242.

Rejection of Jewish Christianity

Jewish Christians constituted a separate community from the Pauline Christians but maintained a similar faith, differing only in practice. In Christian circles, "Nazarene" later came to be used as a label for those faithful to Jewish law, in particular for a certain sect. These Jewish Christians, originally the central group in Christianity, and holding to orthodoxy except in their adherence to Jewish law, were not deemed heretical until the dominance of orthodoxy in the 4th century. The Ebionites may have been a splinter group of Nazarenes, with disagreements over Christology and leadership. They were considered by Gentile Christians to have unorthodox beliefs, particularly in relation to their views of Christ and Gentile converts. After the condemnation of the Nazarenes, "Ebionite" was often used as a general pejorative for all related "heresies".Tabor (1998).Esler (2004), pp.157–159.There was a post-Nicene "double rejection" of the Jewish Christians by both Gentile Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. The true end of ancient Jewish Christianity occurred only in the 5th century.{{sfn|Dunn|1991}} Gentile Christianity remained the sole strand of orthodoxy and imposed itself on the previously Jewish Christian sanctuaries, taking full control of those houses of worship by the end of the 5th century.{{refn|group=note|Jewish Virtual Library: "A major difficulty in tracing the growth of Christianity from its beginnings as a Jewish messianic sect, and its relations to the various other normative-Jewish, sectarian-Jewish, and Christian-Jewish groups is presented by the fact that what ultimately became normative Christianity was originally but one among various contending Christian trends. Once the "gentile Christian" trend won out, and the teaching of Paul became accepted as expressing the doctrine of the Church, the Jewish Christian groups were pushed to the margin and ultimately excluded as heretical. Being rejected both by normative Judaism and the Church, they ultimately disappeared. Nevertheless, several Jewish Christian sects (such as the Nazarenes, Ebionites, Elchasaites, and others) existed for some time, and a few of them seem to have endured for several centuries. Some sects saw in Jesus mainly a prophet and not the "Christ," others seem to have believed in him as the Messiah, but did not draw the christological and other conclusions that subsequently became fundamental in the teaching of the Church (the divinity of the Christ, trinitarian conception of the Godhead, abrogation of the Law). After the disappearance of the early Jewish Christian sects and the triumph of gentile Christianity, to become a Christian meant, for a Jew, to apostatize and to leave the Jewish community.{{r|group=web|"JVL"}}}}

Ante-Nicene Period (c. 100–325)



{{See also|Premillennialism}}The predominant eschatological view in the Ante-Nicene Period was Premillennialism, the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment.Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 2:614. Justin Martyr and Irenaeus were the most outspoken proponents of premillennialism. Justin Martyr saw himself as continuing in the “Jewish” belief of a temporary messianic kingdom prior to the eternal state.Johannes Quasten, Patrology, Vol. 1 (Westminster, Maryland: Christian Classics, Inc.), 219. (Quasten was a Professor of Ancient Church History and Christian Archaeology at the Catholic University of America) Furthermore according to the Encyclopedia of the Early Church “Justin (Dial. 80) affirms the millenarian idea as that of Christians of complete orthodoxy but he does not hide that fact that many rejected it.” M. Simonetti, “Millenarism,” 560.WEB,weblink Dialogue with Trypho (Chapters 31–47),, 2014-01-24, Justin never achieved consistency in his eschatology. He seemed to believe in some sense that the Kingdom of God is currently present. This belief is an aspect of postmillennialism, amillennialism and progressive dispensationalism. In Justin's First Apology he laments the Romans' misunderstanding of the Christians' endtime expectations. The Romans had assumed that when Christians looked for a kingdom, they were looking for a human one. Justin corrects this misunderstanding by saying “For if we looked for a human kingdom, we should also deny our Christ, that we might not be slain and we should strive to escape detection, that we might obtain what we expect.” (1 Apol. 11.1–2; cf. also Apol. 52; Dial. 45.4; 113.3–5; 139.5) See Charles Hill’s arguments in Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity. Additionally however, Philip Schaff, an amillennialist, notes that “In his two apologies, Justin teaches the usual view of the general resurrection and judgment, and makes no mention of the millennium, but does not exclude it.” Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.) 383. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. Irenaeus devoted Book V of his Against Heresies to a defense of the physical resurrection and eternal judgement.Against Heresies 5.32.Other early premillennialists included Pseudo-Barnabas,”Among the Apostolic Fathers Barnabas is the first and the only one who expressly teaches a pre-millennial reign of Christ on earth. He considers the Mosaic history of the creation a type of six ages of labor for the world, each lasting a thousand years, and of a millennium of rest, since with God ‘one day is as a thousand years.’ Millennial Sabbath on earth will be followed by an eight and eternal day in a new world, of which the Lord’s Day (called by Barnabas ‘the eighth day’) is the type" (access The Epistle of Barnabas here). Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.) 382. Papias,WEB,weblink Introductory Note to the Fragments of Papias,, 2005-07-13, 2014-01-24, Methodius, Lactantius,Insruct. adv. Gentium Deos, 43, 44. CommodianusAccording to the Encyclopedia of the Early Church “Commodian (mid 3rd c.) takes up the theme of the 7000 years, the last of which is the millennium (Instr. II 35, 8 ff.).” M. Simonetti, “Millenarism,” 560. Theophilus, Tertullian,Against Marcion, book 3 chp 25 Melito,Simonetti writes in the Encyclopedia of the Early Church “We know that Melito was also a millenarian" regarding Jerome's reference to him as a chiliast. M. Simonetti, “Millenarism,” 560. Hippolytus of Rome and Victorinus of Pettau.Note this is Victorinus of Pettau not Marcus Piav(v)onius Victorinus the Gaelic EmperorIn his Commentary on Revelation and from the fragment De Fabrica Mundi (Part of a commentary on Genesis). Jerome identifies him as a premillennialist. By the 3rd century there was growing opposition to premillennialism. Origen was the first to challenge the doctrine openly.“Origen (Princ. II, 2–3)) rejects the literal interpretation of Rev 20–21, gives an allegorical interpretation of it and so takes away the scriptural foundation of Millenarism. In the East: Dionysius of Alexandria had to argue hard against Egyptian communities with millenarian convictions (in Euseb. HE VII, 24–25). M. Simonetti, “Millenarism” in Encyclopedia of the Early Church, Translated by Adrian Walford, Volume 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 560. It is doubtless that Origen respected apostolic tradition in interpretation. It was Origen himself who said "Non debemus credere nisi quemadmodum per successionem Ecclesiae Dei tradiderunt nobis" (In Matt., ser. 46, Migne, XIII, 1667). However as it is noted in The Catholic Encyclopedia "Origen has recourse too easily to allegorism to explain purely apparent antilogies or antinomies. He considers that certain narratives or ordinances of the Bible would be unworthy of God if they had to be taken according to the letter, or if they were to be taken solely according to the letter. He justifies the allegorism by the fact that otherwise certain accounts or certain precepts now abrogated would be useless and profitless for the reader: a fact which appears to him contrary to the providence of the Divine inspirer and the dignity of Holy Writ." Dionysius of Alexandria stood against premillennialism when the (wikt:chiliastic|chiliastic) work, The Refutation of the Allegorizers by Nepos, a bishop in Egypt, became popular in Alexandria, as noted in Eusebius’s, Ecclesiastical History.WEB,weblink NPNF2-01. Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine,, 2014-01-24, Eusebius said of the premillennialist Papias that he was "a man of small mental capacity" because he had taken the Apocalypse literally.Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica. 3.39.13



{{See also|Sabbath in Christianity}}According to Bauckham, the post-apostolic church contained diverse practices as regards the Sabbath.JOURNAL, Sabbath and Sunday in the Post-Apostolic church, R. J. Bauckham, From Sabbath to Lord's Day, D. A. Carson, 1982, Zondervan, 252–98, It seems clear that most of the Early Church did not consider observation of the Sabbath to be required or of eminent importance to Christians and in fact worshiped on Sunday.

Infant baptism

Infant baptism was widely practised at least by the 3rd century,Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Infant Baptism but it is disputed whether it was in the first centuries of Christianity. Some believe that the Church in the apostolic period practised infant baptism, arguing that the mention of the baptism of households in the Acts of the Apostles would have included children within the household.Richard Wagner, Christianity for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons 2011 {{ISBN|978-1-11806901-1}}) Others believe that infants were excluded from the baptism of households, citing verses of the Bible that describe the baptized households as believing, which infants are incapable of doing.{{refn|group=note|Interpretation of the baptismal practices of the early church is important to groups such as Baptists, Anabaptists, and the Churches of Christ who believe that infant baptism was a development that occurred during the late 2nd to early 3rd centuries.}}

Date of Easter

Until the late 2nd century there was a difference in dating the celebration of the Christian Passover/Easter between Western churches and those of Asia Minor. The churches in Asia Minor celebrated it on the 14th of the Jewish month of Nisan, the day before Jewish Passover, regardless of what day of the week it fell on, as the Crucifixion had occurred on the day before Passover according to the Gospel of John. The Latins called them Quartodecimans, literally meaning 14'ers. At the time, the West celebrated Easter on the Sunday following the Jewish 14th of Nisan.Victor, the bishop of Rome, attempted to declare the Nisan 14 practice heretical and excommunicate all who followed it,WEB,weblink Eusebius, Church History, 5.24, but rescinded, after Irenaeus and Polycrates of Ephesus wrote to Victor. A uniform method of computing the date of Easter was not formally addressed until 325 at the First Council of Nicaea.{{refn|group=note|Today, the date still varies between West and East, but this is because the West later adopted the Gregorian calendar over the Julian calendar.}}

Diversity and proto-orthodoxy

The development of doctrine, the position of orthodoxy, and the relationship between the various opinions is a matter of continuing academic debate. Since the Nicene Creed came to define the Church, the early debates have long been regarded as a unified orthodox position against a minority of heretics. Walter Bauer, drawing upon distinctions between Jewish Christians, Pauline Christians, and other groups such as Gnostics and Marcionites, argued that early Christianity was fragmented, with various competing interpretations. According to Bauer, orthodoxy and heresy do not stand in relation to one another as primary to secondary, but in many regions heresy was the original manifestation of Christianity.BOOK, Bauer, Walter, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, 1971, 0-8006-1363-5,

Growth of Christianity

Rodney Stark estimates that the number of Christians grew by approximately 40% a decade during the first and second centuries.BOOK, Rodney, Stark, The Rise of Christianity,weblink 28 October 2012, 9 May 1997, HarperCollins, 978-0-06-067701-5, This phenomenal growth rate forced Christian communities to evolve in order to adapt to their changes in the nature of their communities as well as their relationship with their political and socioeconomic environment. As the number of Christians grew, the Christian communities became larger, more numerous and farther apart geographically. The passage of time also moved some Christians farther from the original teachings of the apostles giving rise to teachings that were considered heterodox and sowing controversy and divisiveness within churches and between churches.BOOK, Haight, Roger D., Christian Community in History Volume 1: Historical Ecclesiology,weblink 26 October 2012, 16 September 2004, Continuum International Publishing Group, 978-0-8264-1630-8, 83–84, The churches were becoming ever more distant from their origins in space and time. They were growing and with growth came new or false teachings, the sources of controversy and division.,


The Ante-Nicene period saw the rise of a great number of Christian sects, cults and movements with strong unifying characteristics lacking in the apostolic period. They had different interpretations of Scripture, particularly the divinity of Jesus and the nature of the Trinity. Part of the unifying trend was an increasingly harsh anti-Judaism and rejection of Judaizers.These various interpretations were called heresies by the leaders of the Proto-orthodox church, but many were very popular and had large followings. Some of the major movements were:
  • Gnosticism – 2nd to 4th centuries – reliance on revealed knowledge from an unknowable God, a distinct divinity from the Demiurge who created and oversees the material world.
  • Marcionism – 2nd century – the God of Jesus was a different God from the God of the Old Testament.
  • Montanism – 2nd century – relied on prophetic revelations from the Holy Spirit.
  • Adoptionism – 2nd century – Jesus was not born the Son of God, but was adopted at his baptism, resurrection or ascension.
  • Docetism – 2nd to 3rd century – Jesus was pure spirit and his physical form an illusion.
  • Sabellianism – 3rd century – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three modes of the one God and not the three separate persons of the Trinity.
  • Arianism – 3rd to 4th century – Jesus, as the Son, was subordinate to God the Father.


Christianity differed from other Roman religions in that it set out its beliefs in a clearly defined way,Herring, An Introduction to the History of Christianity (2006), p. 28 though the process of orthodoxy (right belief) was not underway until the period of the First seven Ecumenical Councils. By the end of the third century proto-orthodoxy became dominant, viewing Christian teachings as either orthodox or heterodox. Orthodox teachings were those that claimed to have the authentic lineage of Holy Tradition. All other teachings were viewed as deviant streams of thought and were possibly heretical.

Developing Church-hierarchy

A Church hierarchy seems to have developed by the late 1st century and early 2nd century. (see Pastoral Epistles, c. 90–140) Robert Williams posits that the "origin and earliest development of episcopacy and monepiscopacy and the ecclesiastical concept of (apostolic) succession were associated with crisis situations in the early church."BOOK, Williams, Robert Lee, Bishop Lists: Formation of Apostolic Succession of Bishops in Ecclesiastical Crises,weblink 28 October 2012, 2005, Gorgias Press LLC, 978-1-59333-194-8, 6, Roger Haight posits the development of ecclesiology in the form of "Early Catholicism" as one response to the problem of church unity. Thus, the solution to division arising from heterodox teaching was the development of "tighter and more standardized structures of ministry. One of these structures is the tri-partite form of church leadership consisting of episkopoi (overseers); presbyteroi (elders),presbyter. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved 6 October 2012. as was the case with Jewish communities; and diakonoi (ministerial servants). Presbyters were ordained and assisted the bishop; as Christianity spread, especially in rural areas, the presbyters exercised more responsibilities and took distinctive shape as priests. Deacons also performed certain duties, such as tending to the poor and sick.Ignatius of Antioch urged churches to adopt this structure, writing that "You cannot have a church without these." In the 2nd century this structure was supported by teaching on apostolic succession, where a bishop becomes the spiritual successor of the previous bishop in a line tracing back to the apostles themselves. Over the course of the second century, this organizational structure became universal and continues to be used in the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches as well as in some Protestant denominations.BOOK, Haight, Roger D., Christian Community in History Volume 1: Historical Ecclesiology,weblink 26 October 2012, 16 September 2004, Continuum International Publishing Group, 978-0-8264-1630-8, 83–84,

Important Church centers

Jerusalem was the first church and an important church center up to 135.See, for example, Council of Jerusalem and Early centers of Christianity#Jerusalem. The First Council of Nicaea recognized and confirmed the tradition by which Jerusalem continued to be given "special honour", but did not assign to it even metropolitan authority within its own province, still less the extraprovincial jurisdiction exercised by Rome and the other sees mentioned above."Since there prevails a custom and ancient tradition to the effect that the bishop of Aelia is to be honoured, let him be granted everything consequent upon this honour, saving the dignity proper to the metropolitan" (Canon 7).Constantinople came into prominence only after the early Christian period, being founded officially in 330, five years after the First Council of Nicaea, though the much smaller original city of Byzantium was an early center of Christianity largely due to its proximity to Anatolia.By the end of the early Christian period, the church within the Roman Empire had hundreds of bishops, some of them (Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, "other provinces") holding some form of jurisdiction over others.Canon VI of the First Council of Nicea, which closes the period under consideration in this article, reads: "Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop ..." As can be seen, the title of "Patriarch", later applied to some of these bishops, was not used by the Council: "Nobody can maintain that the bishops of Antioch and Alexandria were called patriarchs then, or that the jurisdiction they had then was co-extensive with what they had afterward, when they were so called" (ffoulkes, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, quoted in Volume XIV of Philip Schaff's The Seven Ecumenical Councils).

Development of the Christian Canon

{{See also|List of early Christian writers|List of early Christian texts of disputed authorship}}The books of the canon of the New Testament, which includes the Canonical Gospels, Acts, letters of the Apostles, and Revelation were written before 120 AD, but not defined as "canon" until the 4th century.Debates about scripture were underway in the mid-2nd century, concurrent with a drastic increase of new scriptures, both Jewish and Christian. Debates regarding practice and belief gradually became reliant on the use of scripture other than what Melito referred to as the Old Testament, as the New Testament canon developed. Similarly, in the 3rd century a shift away from direct revelation as a source of authority occurred, most notably against the Montanists. "Scripture" still had a broad meaning and usually referred to the Septuagint among Greek speakers or the Targums among Aramaic speakers or the Vetus Latina translations in Carthage. Beyond the Torah (the Law) and some of the earliest prophetic works (the Prophets), there was not agreement on the canon, but this was not debated much at first.There is a lack of direct evidence on when Christians began accepting their own scriptures alongside the Septuagint. Well into the 2nd century Christians held onto a strong preference for oral tradition as clearly demonstrated by writers of the time, such as Papias.

Early orthodox writings–Church Fathers

Since the end of the 4th century, the title "Fathers of the Church" has been used to refer to a more or less clearly defined group of ecclesiastical writers who are appealed to as authorities on doctrinal matters. They are the early and influential theologians and writers in the early Christian Church, who had strong influence on the development of proto-orthodoxy. They produced two sorts of works: theological and "apologetic", the latter being works aimed at defending the faith by using reason to refute arguments against the veracity of Christianity.Norman, The Roman Catholic Church an Illustrated History (2007), pp. 27–28

Church Fathers

Justin Martyr's works represent the earliest surviving Christian "apologies" of notable size. The earliest Church Fathers (within two generations of the Twelve apostles of Christ) are usually called the Apostolic Fathers, for reportedly knowing and studied under the apostles personally. Important Apostolic Fathers of the 2nd century include Pope Clement I (died 99), Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 – c. 110), and Polycarp of Smyrna (c. 69 – c. 155). In addition, the Shepherd of Hermas is usually placed among the writings of the Apostolic Fathers although its author is unknown.For a review of the most recent editions of the Apostolic Fathers and an overview of the current state of scholarship, see Timothy B. Sailors, NEWS, Bryn Mawr Classical Review: Review of The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations,weblink 2013-01-25, Those who wrote in Greek are called the Greek Church Fathers. Famous Greek Fathers of 2nd century (other than the Apostolic Fathers) include: Irenaeus of Lyons and Clement of Alexandria. Church Fathers who wrote in Latin are called the Latin Church Fathers. Tertullian (c.155–c.240) was the first Latin Father.

Attitude towards women

The attitude of the Church Fathers towards women paralleled rules in Jewish law regarding a woman's role in worship, although the early church allowed women to participate in worship—something that was not allowed in the Temple (where women were restricted to the outer court). The Deutero-Pauline First Epistle to Timothy teaches that women should remain quiet during public worship and were not to instruct men or assume authority over them.WEB,weblink 1 Timothy 2 NIV, BibleGateway, 7 October 2012, The Epistle to the Ephesians, which is also Deutero-Pauline, calls upon women to submit to the authority of their husbands.WEB,weblink Ephesians 5 NIV, 7 October 2012, Elizabeth A. Clark says that the Church Fathers regarded women both as "God's good gift to men" and as "the curse of the world", both as "weak in both mind and character" and as people who "displayed dauntless courage, undertook prodigious feats of scholarship".BOOK, Elizabeth Ann Clark, Women in the Early Church,weblink 1983, Liturgical Press, 978-0-8146-5332-6, 15,

Persecutions and legalization

{{See also|Anti-Christian policies in the Roman Empire|Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire}}There was no empire-wide persecution of Christians until the reign of Decius in the third century.Martin, D. 2010. "The "Afterlife" of the New Testament and Postmodern Interpretation'' {{Webarchive|url= |date=2016-06-08 }} (lecture transcript {{Webarchive|url= |date=2016-08-12 }}). Yale University. The Edict of Serdica was issued in 311 by the Roman emperor Galerius, officially ending the Diocletianic persecution of Christianity in the East. With the passage in 313 AD of the Edict of Milan, in which the Roman Emperors Constantine the Great and Licinius legalised the Christian religion, persecution of Christians by the Roman state ceased.WEB, Persecution in the Early Church,weblink Religion Facts, 2014-03-26,

Spread of Christianity

File:Spread of Christianity to AD 600 (1).png|thumb|right| {{legend|#1F63A7|Spread of Christianity to AD 325}} {{legend|#6AB4FF|Spread of Christianity to AD 600}}]]File:Apsis mosaic, Santa Pudenziana, Rome W2.JPG|thumb|A scene showing Christ Pantocrator from a Roman mosaic in the church of Santa PudenzianaSanta Pudenziana{{See also|Early centers of Christianity|Constantine the Great and Christianity|Decline of Greco-Roman polytheism}}Christianity spread to Aramaic-speaking peoples along the Mediterranean coast and also to the inland parts of the Roman Empire,Michael Whitby, et al. eds. Christian Persecution, Martyrdom and Orthodoxy (2006) online edition and beyond that into the Parthian Empire and the later Sasanian Empire, including Mesopotamia, which was dominated at different times and to varying extents by these empires. In 301, the Kingdom of Armenia became the first state to declare Christianity as its official religion, following the conversion of the Royal House of the Arsacids in Armenia.Various theories attempt to explain how Christianity managed to spread so successfully prior to the Edict of Milan (313). In The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark argues that Christianity replaced paganism chiefly because it improved the lives of its adherents in various ways.Rodney Stark. The Rise of Christianity. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1996. Another factor, more recently pointed out, was the way in which Christianity combined its promise of a general resurrection of the dead with the traditional Greek belief that true immortality depended on the survival of the body, with Christianity adding practical explanations of how this was going to actually happen at the end of the world.Dag Øistein Endsjø. Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Christianity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2009. According to Will Durant, the Christian Church prevailed over paganism because it offered a much more attractive doctrine, and because the church leaders addressed human needs better than their rivals.{{sfn|Durant|2011}}Bart D. Ehrman attributes the rapid spread of Christianity to five factors: 1) the promise of salvation and eternal life for everyone was an attractive alternative to Roman religions; 2) stories of miracles and healings showed that the one Christian God was more powerful than the many Roman gods; 3) Christianity began as a grassroots movement providing hope of a better future in the next life for the lower classes; 4) Christianity took worshipers away from other religions since converts were expected to give up the worship of other gods, unusual in antiquity where worship of many gods was common; 5) in the Roman world, converting one person often meant converting the whole household, if the head of the household was converted, he decided the religion of his wife, children and slaves.WEB,weblink Inside the Conversion Tactics of the Early Christian Church, Ehrman, Bart D., 29 March 2018, History, A+E Networks, 5 April 2019,

See also

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