Early Christianity

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Early Christianity, or the Early Church, covers the period from its origins (c. 30–36) until the First Council of Nicaea (325). This period is typically divided into the Apostolic Age (c. 30-100) and the Ante-Nicene Period (c. 100-325).

The first Christians were Jewish Christians, either by birth or conversion ("proselytes" in Biblical terminology).[note 1] Important practices were baptism, which made one a member of the Christian community, and the communal meals, from which the Eucharist developed, the participation in Christs death and resurrection. Eventually, the inclusion of Gentile God-fearers lead to a departure from Jewish customs, and the establishment of Christianity as an independent religion.

A variety of Christianities developed throughout the 2nd and 3rd century, alongside a developing proto-orthodoxy, which eventually defined orthodoxy and heresy. Proto-orthodoxy developed in tandem with the growing number of Christians, which necessitated the devlopment of eccelsiastical structure.

Early Christians generally used and revered the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh) as religious text, mostly in the Greek (Septuagint) or Aramaic (Targum) translations,[1] but also developed their own Canon of the New Testament, which includes the canonical gospels, Acts, letters of the Apostles, and Revelation, all written before 120.[2]

Origins[edit]

Jesus[edit]

New testament[edit]

According to the Gospels, Jesus was a Jewish teacher and healer who was crucified at c.30-33 AD. In the Synoptics, Jesus teaches extensively, often in parables,[3] about the Kingdom of God (or, in Matthew, the Kingdom of Heaven). The Kingdom is described as both imminent (Mark 1:15) and already present in the ministry of Jesus (Luke 17:21). Jesus promises inclusion in the Kingdom for those who accept his message (Mark 10:13–27). Jesus talks of the "Son of Man," an apocalyptic figure who would come to gather the chosen.[4]

Jesus calls people to repent their sins and to devote themselves completely to God.[4]When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus replies: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind ... And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37–39). Other ethical teachings of Jesus include loving your enemies, refraining from hatred and lust, turning the other cheek, and forgiving people who have sinned against you (Matthew 5–7).[5]

Scholarly views[edit]

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.[6][7][8] Scholars involved in the third quest for the historical Jesus have constructed a variety of portraits and profiles for Jesus,[9][10][11] most prominently that of Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet, charismatic healer, Cynic philosopher, Jewish Messiah and prophet of social change,[9][10] but there is little scholarly agreement on a single portrait, or the methods needed to construct it.[12][13][14] There are, however, overlapping attributes among the various portraits, and scholars who differ on some attributes may agree on others.[9][10][15]

The most prominent view of Jesus is as an apocalyptic pr eschatological teacher,[16] most notably Albert Schweitzer and Bart Ehrman.[note 2] In contrast to the apocalyptic or eschatological view, certain North American scholars, such as Burton Mack, advocate for a non-eschatological Jesus, one who is more of a Cynic sage than an apocalyptic preacher.[20]

Contemporary scholarship, representing the "third quest," places Jesus firmly in the Jewish tradition. Jesus was a Jewish preacher who taught that he was the path to salvation, everlasting life, and the Kingdom of God.[21] A primary criterion used to discern historical details in the "third quest" is that of plausibility, relative to Jesus' Jewish context and to his influence on Christianity. Contemporary scholars of the "third quest" include E. P. Sanders, Geza Vermes, Gerd Theissen, Christoph Burchard, and John Dominic Crossan.

Apostolic Age (1st century)[edit]

The first part of the period, during the lifetimes of the Twelve Apostles, is called the Apostolic Age.

Jewish Christianinty[edit]

The earliest followers of Jesus composed an apocalyptic, Second Temple Jewish sect, which historians refer to as Jewish Christianity. The first Christians, as described in the first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible, were all Jews, either by birth or conversion ("proselytes" in Biblical terminology),[note 1] and historians refer to them as Jewish Christians.

The New Testament's Acts of the Apostles and Epistle to the Galatians record that the first Christian community centered on Jerusalem and that its leaders included Peter, James, the "brother of Jesus", and John the Apostle.[22]

Emerging Church[edit]

Spread of Christianity in 100 C.E.

Christian missionary activity spread Christianity to cities throughout the Hellenistic world and even beyond the Roman Empire. [23][24][25][26] Over forty existed by the year 100,[24] 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,[27] but almost immediately also in Greek.[28] Christian groups and congregations first organized themselves loosely. In Paul's time, although certain decisions by Elders and Apostles were binding, as in the Council of Jerusalem,[29] there were no precisely delineated functions yet for bishops, elders, and deacons.[30] 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). Ronald Y. K. Fung claimed that 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.[31]

Paul and the inclusion of Gentiles[edit]

Paul's influence on Christian thinking is said to be more significant than that of any other New Testament author.[32] 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, adopting the title "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 convenant.[33][34][35][web 1] According to Acts, he met the leaders of the Jerusalem Church, agreeing to allow Gentile converts exemption from most Jewish commandments at the Council of Jerusalem, which opened the way for a much larger Christian Church, extending far beyond the Jewish community.

Paul was in contact with the early Christian community in Jerusalem, led by James the Just.[36] Yet, he may have been converted to another early strand of Christianity, with a High Christology.[37] Fragments of their beliefs in an exalted and deified Jesus, what Mack called the "Christ cult," can be found in the writings of Paul.[36][note 3]

The relationship of Paul the Apostle and Judaism is still disputed although Paul's influence on Christian thinking is said to be more significant than any other New Testament author.[32]

Low and High Christology[edit]

Two fundamentally different Christologies developed in the early Church, namely a "low" or adoptionist Christology, and a "high" or "incarnation Christology."[39] The chronology of the development of these early Christologies is a matter of debate within contemporary scholarship.[40][41][42][web 2]

Adoptionists, such as the Ebionites, considered him as at first an ordinary man, born to Joseph and Mary, who later became the Son of God at his baptism, his transfiguration, or his resurrection.[41][36]

According to Hurtado, a proponent of an "Early High Christology," most Christians identified Jesus as divine from a very early period, although holding a variety of competing views as to what exactly this implied.[43] Early Christian views tended to see Jesus as a unique agent of God;[44] by the Council of Nicaea in 325 he was identified as God in the fullest sense, being 'of the same substance, essence or being'.

Some of the texts that would later be canonized as the New Testament several times imply or indirectly refer to the divine character to Jesus, though there is scholarly debate as to whether or not they call him God.[45] Within 15–20 years of the death of Jesus, Paul, who authored the largest early expositions of Christian theology, refers to Jesus as the resurrected "Son of God", the savior who would return from heaven and save his faithful, dead and living, from the imminent destruction of the world. The Synoptic Gospels describe him as the "Son of God", though the phrase "Son of Man" (always placed in the mouth of Jesus himself) is more frequently used in the Gospel of Mark; born of the Virgin Mary by the agency of the Holy Spirit, and who will return to judge the nations. The Gospel of John identifies Jesus as the human incarnation of the divine Word or "Logos" (see Jesus the Logos) and True Vine. It is believed that the Book of Revelation depicts Jesus as "the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (22:13), and applies similar terms to "the Lord God": "'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty'" (1:8).

The term "Logos" was used in Greek philosophy (see Heraclitus) and in Hellenistic Jewish religious writing (see Philo Judaeus of Alexandria) to mean the ultimate ordering principle of the universe. Those who rejected the identification of Jesus with the Logos, rejecting also the Gospel of John, were called Alogi (see also Monarchianism).[46][47]

Rituals[edit]

Baptism[edit]

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, which became integral to nearly every manifestation of the religion of the Jews. John the Baptist had baptized many people, before baptisms took place in the name of Jesus Christ. Many of the interpretations that would later become orthodox Christian beliefs concerning baptism can be traced to apostles such as Paul, who likened baptism to being buried with Christ in his death (Romans 6:3–4; Colossians 2:12). On the basis of this description, it was supposed by some modern theologians that the early Christians practised baptism by submersion (Matthew 3:13–17). This interpretation is debated between those Christian denominations who advocate immersion baptism exclusively and those who practice baptism by affusion or aspersion as well as by immersion. Yet the Didache, one of the earliest Christian writings on liturgical practices, mentions that baptism may occur by pouring water on the head three times using the trinitarian formula (i.e., in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). The Orthodox Church continues this practice, submerging the baptized and then pouring water on the head in that formula.

Communal meals and Eucharist[edit]
Communal meals[edit]

The Agape feast or Lovefeast is a communal meal shared among Christians.[48]

The Lovefeast originated in the early Church and was a time of fellowship for believers.[49][50] The Eucharist was often a part of the Lovefeast although at some point (probably between the latter part of the 1st century A.D. and 250 A.D.), the two became separate.[51][52][53] Thus, in modern times the Lovefeast refers to a Christian ritual meal distinct from the Lord's Supper.[54] The Lovefeast seeks to strengthen the bonds and the spirit of harmony, goodwill, and congeniality, as well as to forgive past disputes and instead love one another.[55]

The practice of the lovefeast is mentioned in Jude 1:12 of the Christian Bible and was a "common meal of the early church."[56] References to communal meals are discerned in 1 Corinthians 11:17–34, in Saint Ignatius of Antioch's Letter to the Smyrnaeans, where the term "agape" is used, and in a letter from Pliny the Younger to Trajan,[57] in which he reported that the Christians, after having met "on a stated day" in the early morning to "address a form of prayer to Christ, as to a divinity", later in the day would "reassemble, to eat in common a harmless meal".[54]

Eucharist[edit]

The Eucharist (/ˈjuːkərɪst/; 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".[58][59][60] 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.[61]

The elements of the Eucharist, sacramental bread (leavened or unleavened) and sacramental wine (or by some grape juice), are consecrated on an altar (or a communion table) and consumed thereafter. Communicants, those who consume the elements, may speak of "receiving the Eucharist", as well as "celebrating the Eucharist".[62] Christians generally recognize a special presence of Christ in this rite, though they differ about exactly how, where, and when Christ is present.[62]

Early Christian scriptures[edit]

Septuagint and New testamentical writings[edit]

The Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Septuagint) was the dominant translation.[63])[note 4] Later Jerome would express 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,[2] but not defined as "canon" until the 4th century.

Apostolic Fathers[edit]
St. Clement I was an Apostolic Father.

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, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistles of Clement, as well as the Didache. Taken as a whole, the collection is notable for its literary simplicity, religious zeal and lack of Hellenistic philosophy or rhetoric. Fathers such as Ignatius of Antioch (died 98 to 117) advocated the authority of the apostolic episcopacy (bishops).[64]

Persecutions[edit]

Early Christians suffered under sporadic anti-Christian policies in the Roman Empire and percecution[note 5] 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.[67]

Early Christian writers used their knowledge of Hellenic language and literature to oppose Hellenocentrism. Though early Christian apologetics certainly tackled the issue of Greek religion, the criticisms of early Christian early writers also extended to what The Oxford Handbook to the Second Sophistic describes as the "cultural privilege that was deemed to accrue from the mastery of the Greek language".[68] Tatian, a pupil of Justin Martyr, believed that Hellenic civilization was evil.[69][70] He wrote about the privileged place of Attic Greek amongst the Greek dialects and mocked Greeks, comparing their minds to "the [leaky] jar of the Danaids". In a more muted polemic text called the Legatio, Athenagoras contrasts what he believes is the goodness of illiterate Christians with those who “reduce syllogisms, and clear up ambiguities, and explain etymologies".[68]

Split of early Christianity and Judaism[edit]

Early Christianity gradually grew apart from Judaism during the first two centuries and established itself as a predominantly gentile religion in the Roman Empire.

Ante-Nicene Period (c. 100-325)[edit]

Church Fathers[edit]

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. Orthodoxy of doctrine, holiness of life, approval by the Church and antiquity are traditionally considered conditions for classification as a Father of the Church, but modern writers sometimes include Tertullian, Origen and a few others.[71]

Attitude towards women[edit]

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 Synagogue (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.[72] The Epistle to the Ephesians, which is also Deutero-Pauline, calls upon women to submit to the authority of their husbands.[73]

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".[74]

Eschatology[edit]

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.[75] 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.[76][77][78] Irenaeus devoted Book V of his Against Heresies to a defense of the physical resurrection and eternal judgement.[79]

Other early premillennialists included Pseudo-Barnabas,[80] Papias,[81] Methodius, Lactantius,[82] Commodianus[83] Theophilus, Tertullian,[84] Melito,[85] Hippolytus of Rome and Victorinus of Pettau.[86][87] By the 3rd century there was growing opposition to premillennialism. Origen was the first to challenge the doctrine openly.[88] Dionysius of Alexandria stood against premillennialism when the chiliastic work, The Refutation of the Allegorizers by Nepos, a bishop in Egypt, became popular in Alexandria, as noted in Eusebius’s, Ecclesiastical History.[89] Eusebius said of the premillennialian, Papias, that he was "a man of small mental capacity" because he had taken the Apocalypse literally.[90]

Practices[edit]

Sabbath[edit]

According to Bauckham, the post-apostolic church contained diverse practices as regards the Sabbath.[91] 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[edit]

Infant baptism was widely practised at least by the 3rd century,[92] 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.[93] 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.[93] In the 2nd century, Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, may have referred to it.[32][94][95] Additionally, Justin Martyr wrote about baptism in First Apology (written in the mid-2nd century), describing it as a choice and contrasting it with the lack of choice one has in one's physical birth.[96] However, Justin Martyr also seems to imply elsewhere that believers were "disciples from childhood", indicating, perhaps, their baptism.

The so-called Apostolic Tradition says to "Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them." If it was written by Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition could be dated about 215, but recent scholars believe it to be material from separate sources ranging from the middle second to the fourth century,[97][98] being gathered and compiled on about 375–400. The 3rd century evidence is clearer, with both Origen (calling infant baptism "according to the usage of the Church")[99] and Cyprian advocating the practice. Tertullian acknowledges the practice (and that sponsors would speak on behalf of the children), but, holding an unusual view of marriage, argues against it, on the grounds that baptism should be postponed until after marriage.[100]

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. The early Christian writings mentioned above, which date from the 2nd and 3rd century indicate that Christians as early as the 2nd century did maintain such a practice.[101]

Diversity and proto-orthodoxy[edit]

Growth of Christianity[edit]

Rodney Stark estimates that the number of Christians grew by approximately 40% a decade during the first and second centuries.[102] 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.[103]

Variant Christianities[edit]

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:

Developing Church structure[edit]

Response to variant Christianities[edit]

A Church hierarchy seems to have developed by the late 1st century and early 2nd century[30] (see Pastoral Epistles, c. 90–140[30]). These structures were certainly formalized well before the end of the Early Christian period, which concluded with the legalization of Christianity by Constantine's Edict of Milan in 313 and the holding of the First Council of Nicea in 325, when the title of Metropolitan bishop first appears.

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."[104]

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 bishops, elders and deacons that Ignatius of Antioch urged churches to adopt, writing that "You cannot have a church without these." 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.[105]

Oroto-orthodoxy[edit]

By the end of the third century proto-orthodoxy became dominant. It viewed 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. An important discussion in the past century among scholars of early Christianity is to what extent it is still appropriate to speak of "orthodoxy" and "heresy". Higher criticism drastically altered the previous perception that heresy was a very rare exception to the orthodoxy. Some orthodox scholars argue against the increasing focus on heterodoxy. A movement away from presuming the correctness or dominance of the orthodoxy is seen as understandable, in light of modern approaches. However, these orthodox scholars feel that instead of an even and neutral approach to historical analysis that the heterodox sects are given an assumption of superiority over the orthodox movement.[106]

Post-Apostolic Church[edit]

In the post-Apostolic church, bishops emerged as overseers of urban Christian populations, and a hierarchy of clergy gradually took on the form of episkopoi (overseers), presbyteroi (elders),[107] and diakonoi (ministerial servants). This hierarchy emerged slowly and at different times for different locations. Clement, a 1st-century bishop of Rome, refers to the leaders of the Corinthian church in his epistle to Corinthians as bishops and presbyters interchangeably. The New Testament writers also use the terms "overseer" and "elder" interchangeably and as synonyms.[108] The Didache (dated by most scholars to the early 2nd century),[109] speaks of "appointing for yourself bishops and deacons".

Disputes regarding the proper titles and roles of church leaders would later become one of the major causes of schism within the Christian Church.[citation needed] Such disputes include the roles of bishops and presbyters. Churches such as the Catholic and Orthodox use the word "priest" of all the baptized, but apply it in a more specific sense ("ministerial priesthood")[110] to bishops and presbyters[111] and sometimes, somewhat loosely, treat "presbyter" and "priest" as synonyms,[112] applying both terms to clergy subordinate to bishops. In congregational churches, the title "priest" is rejected, keeping only "presbyter" or "elder". Some congregational churches do not include a role of bishop in their organizational polity.

Bishops[edit]

Post-apostolic bishops of importance include Polycarp of Smyrna, Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome. These men reportedly knew and studied under the apostles personally and are therefore called Apostolic Fathers. Each Christian community also had presbyters, as was the case with Jewish communities, who were also ordained and assisted the bishop; as Christianity spread, especially in rural areas, the presbyters exercised more responsibilities and took distinctive shape as priests. Lastly, deacons also performed certain duties, such as tending to the poor and sick. In the 2nd century, an episcopal structure becomes more visible, and in that 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.

Important Church centers[edit]

Jerusalem was the first church and an important church center up to 135.[113] 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.[114]

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.[115]

Development of the Christian Canon[edit]

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,[2] 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.

By the mid-2nd century, tensions arose with the split of early Christianity and Judaism, which some theorize led eventually to the determination of a Jewish canon by the emerging rabbinic movement,[116] though, even as of today, there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Jewish canon was set. For example, some scholars argue that the Jewish canon was fixed earlier, by the Hasmonean dynasty (140–137 BC).[117] 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.[116]

Triumph over paganism[edit]

  Spread of Christianity to AD 325
  Spread of Christianity to AD 600
A scene showing Christ Pantocrator from a Roman mosaic in the church of Santa Pudenziana in Rome, c. 410 AD

Various theories attempt to explain how Christianity managed to spread so successfully prior to the Edict of Milan (313). Despite sometimes intense persecutions, the Christian religion continued its spread throughout the Mediterranean Basin.[118] By 201 or earlier, under King Abgar the Great, Osroene became the first Christian state.[119][120][dubious ] In 301, the Kingdom of Armenia became the second state to declare Christianity as its official religion, following the conversion of the Royal House of the Arsacids in Armenia. The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world's oldest national church.

In The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark argues that Christianity triumphed over paganism chiefly because it improved the lives of its adherents in various ways.[121] 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.[122] 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.[123]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Stuart 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Bart D. Ehrman (1997). The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Oxford University Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-19-508481-8. 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.
  3. ^ Theissen & Merz 1998, pp. 316–46.
  4. ^ a b Sanders, Ed P.; Pelikan, Jaroslav J. "Jesus Christ". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  5. ^ Stassen, Glen H.; Gushee, David P. (2003). Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. InterVarsity Press. pp. 102–03, 138–40, 197–98, 295–98. ISBN 978-0-8308-2668-1.
  6. ^ The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth. by Ben Witherington III, InterVersity Press, 1997 (second expanded edition), ISBN 0830815449 pp. 9–13
  7. ^ The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria by Gerd Theissen and Dagmar Winter, Westminster John Knox Press 2002) ISBN 0664225373 pp. 1–6
  8. ^ Jesus 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
  9. ^ a b c 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 124-125
  10. ^ a b c Mitchell, Margaret M.; Young, Frances M. (2006). The Cambridge History of Christianity. 1. Cambridge University Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-521-81239-9.
  11. ^ Prophet and Teacher: An Introduction to the Historical Jesus by William R. Herzog (Jul 4, 2005) ISBN 0664225284 page 8
  12. ^ Cite error: The named reference GerdD5 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  13. ^ Cite error: The named reference Charlesworth2 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  14. ^ Cite error: The named reference Porter74 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  15. ^ Familiar Stranger: An Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth by Michael James McClymond, Eerdmans 2004) ISBN 0802826806 pp. 16–22
  16. ^ Ehrman, Bart D. Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0195124743.
  17. ^ Matt 3:2
  18. ^ Matt 4:17; Mark 1:15
  19. ^ Matt 24:34
  20. ^ Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz. The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Fortress Press. 1998. translated from German (1996 edition). Chapter 1. The quest of the historical Jesus. pp. 1–15.
  21. ^ Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz. The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Fortress Press. 1998. translated from German (1996 edition)
  22. ^ Galatians 2:9, Acts 1:13; See Historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles for details
  23. ^ Vidmar, The Catholic Church Through the Ages (2005), pp. 19–20
  24. ^ a b 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."
  25. ^ Cite error: The named reference Bokenkotter18 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  26. ^ Franzen 29
  27. ^ Ehrman 2012, pp. 87–90.
  28. ^ Jaeger, Werner (1961). Early Christianity and Greek Paideia. Harvard University Press. pp. 6, 108–09. ISBN 9780674220522. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  29. ^ Apostolic Presbyterianism – by William Cunningham and Reg Barrow
  30. ^ a b c Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.
  31. ^ Ronald Y.K. Fung as cited in John Piper; Wayne Grudem (8 August 2006). Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Crossway. p. 254. ISBN 978-1-4335-1918-5. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  32. ^ a b c Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church ed. F.L. Lucas (Oxford) entry on Paul
  33. ^ Stendahl 1963.
  34. ^ Dunn 1982, p. n.49.
  35. ^ Finlan 2001, p. 2.
  36. ^ a b c Mack 1997.
  37. ^ Mack 1997, p. 109.
  38. ^ Mack 1988, p. 98.
  39. ^ Ehrman 2014, p. 125.
  40. ^ Loke 2017.
  41. ^ a b Ehrman 2014.
  42. ^ Talbert 2011, p. 3-6.
  43. ^ Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, (Eerdmans, 2005), p. 650.
  44. ^ Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, (Eerdmans, 2005), p. 204.
  45. ^ Brown, Raymond E. (1965). "Does the New Testament call Jesus God?" (PDF). Theological Studies. 26: 545–73.
  46. ^ "Alogi or Alogoi", Early Church.org.uk.
  47. ^ "Alogi", Francis P. Havey, The Catholic Encyclopedia Volume I, 1907.
  48. ^ Coveney, John (27 September 2006). Food, Morals and Meaning: The Pleasure and Anxiety of Eating. Routledge. p. 74. ISBN 9781134184484.
  49. ^ Coveney, John (27 September 2006). Food, Morals and Meaning: The Pleasure and Anxiety of Eating. Routledge. p. 74. ISBN 9781134184484. For the early Christians, the agape signified the importance of fellowship. It was a ritual to celebrate the joy of eating, pleasure and company.
  50. ^ Burns, Jim (10 July 2012). Uncommon Youth Parties. Gospel Light Publications. p. 37. ISBN 9780830762132. 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.
  51. ^ Walls, Jerry L.; Collins, Kenneth J. (17 October 2010). Roman but Not Catholic: What Remains at Stake 500 Years after the Reformation. Baker Academic. p. 169. ISBN 9781493411740. 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."
  52. ^ Davies, Horton (29 January 1999). Bread of Life and Cup of Joy: Newer Ecumenical Perspectives on the Eucharist. Wipf & Stock Publishers. p. 18. ISBN 9781579102098. Agape (love feast), which ultimately became separate from the Eucharist...
  53. ^ Daughrity, Dyron (11 August 2016). Roots: Uncovering Why We Do What We Do in Church. ACU Press. p. 77. ISBN 9780891126010. Around AD 250 the lovefeast and Eucharist seem to separate, leaving the Eucharist to develop outside the context of a shared meal.
  54. ^ a b "agape", Dictionary of the Christian Church (article), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3
  55. ^ Cite error: The named reference Crowther1815 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  56. ^ Stutzman, Paul Fike (1 January 2011). Recovering the Love Feast: Broadening Our Eucharistic Celebrations. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 42. ISBN 9781498273176.
  57. ^ Pliny, To Trajan, Book 10, Letter 97., archived from the original on 30 May 2012
  58. ^ Luke 22:20
  59. ^ Cite error: The named reference EB was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  60. ^ Ignazio Silone, Bread and Wine (1937).
  61. ^ A Catechism for the use of people called Methodists. Peterborough, England: Methodist Publishing House. 2000. p. 26. ISBN 978-1858521824.
  62. ^ a b "Christianity: Eucharist". BBC. 23 June 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  63. ^ Swete's Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, p. 112
  64. ^ Ephesians 5–6, Magnesians 2, 6–7, 13, Trallians 2–3, Smyrnaeans 8–9
  65. ^ Ehrman 2006, p. 318.
  66. ^ Cook 2011, pp. 138ff.
  67. ^ a b Croix 1963, pp. 105–152.
  68. ^ a b Johnson, Aaron P. (2017-12-28). "Early Christianity and the Classical Tradition". The Oxford Handbook to the Second Sophistic. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199837472.013.43. Retrieved 2018-07-24.
  69. ^ Kinzig, Wolfram (2005). "Tatian". The Oxford Classical Dictionary. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-860641-3. Retrieved 2018-07-24.
  70. ^ Browning, W. R. F. (2009). "Tatian". A Dictionary of the Bible. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-954398-4. Retrieved 2018-07-24.
  71. ^ Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article "Fathers of the Church"
  72. ^ "1 Timothy 2 NIV". BibleGateway. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  73. ^ "Ephesians 5 NIV". Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  74. ^ Elizabeth Ann Clark (1983). Women in the Early Church. Liturgical Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-8146-5332-6.
  75. ^ Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 2:614.
  76. ^ 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.
  77. ^ "Dialogue with Trypho (Chapters 31-47)". Newadvent.org. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  78. ^ 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.
  79. ^ Against Heresies 5.32.
  80. ^ ”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.
  81. ^ "Introductory Note to the Fragments of Papias". Ccel.org. 2005-07-13. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  82. ^ Insruct. adv. Gentium Deos, 43, 44.
  83. ^ According to the Encyclopedia of the Early ChurchCommodian (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.
  84. ^ Against Marcion, book 3 chp 25
  85. ^ 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.
  86. ^ Note this is Victorinus of Pettau not Marcus Piav(v)onius Victorinus the Gaelic Emperor
  87. ^ In his Commentary on Revelation and from the fragment De Fabrica Mundi (Part of a commentary on Genesis). Jerome identifies him as a premillennialist.
  88. ^ “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."
  89. ^ "NPNF2-01. Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine". Ccel.org. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  90. ^ Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica. 3.39.13
  91. ^ R. J. Bauckham (1982). D. A. Carson, ed. "Sabbath and Sunday in the Post-Apostolic church". From Sabbath to Lord's Day. Zondervan: 252–98
  92. ^ Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Infant Baptism
  93. ^ a b Richard Wagner, Christianity for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons 2011 ISBN 978-1-11806901-1)
  94. ^ "He (Jesus) came to save all through means of Himself—all, I say, who through Him are born again to God and children, infants, and boys, and youths, and old men" (Adversus Haereses, ii, 22, 4)
  95. ^ Paul King Jewett, Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace, (Eerdmans 1978), p. 127.
  96. ^ "Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; he who leads to the laver the person that is to be washed calling him by this name alone.""The First Apology, Chapter 61". New Advent. Retrieved 14 December 2013.
  97. ^ Bradshaw, Paul F. (2002). The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship. Oxford University Press. pp. 78–80. ISBN 978-0-19-521732-2.
  98. ^ Bradshaw, Paul; Johnson, Maxwell E.; Philips, L. Edwards (2002). The Apostolic Tradition: A Commentary. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0-8006-6046-8.
  99. ^ Homilies on Leviticus 8.3.11; Commentary on Romans 5.9; and Homily on Luke 14.5
  100. ^ "The delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary ... that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? ... For no less cause must the unwedded also be deferred—in whom the ground of temptation is prepared, alike in such as never were wedded by means of their maturity, and in the widowed by means of their freedom—until they either marry, or else be more fully strengthened for continence" (On Baptism 18).
  101. ^ "The Didache, representing practice perhaps as early as the beginning of the second century, probably in Syria, also assumes immersion to be normal, but it allows that if sufficient water for immersion is not at hand, water may be poured three times over the head. The latter must have been a frequent arrangement, for it corresponds with most early artistic depictions of baptism, in Roman catacombs and on sarcophagi of the third century and later. The earliest identifiable Christian meeting house known to us, at Dura Europos on the Euphrates, contained a baptismal basin too shallow for immersion. Obviously local practice varied, and practicality will often have trumped whatever desire leaders may have felt to make action mime metaphor" (Margaret Mary Mitchell, Frances Margaret Young, K. Scott Bowie, Cambridge History of Christianity, Vol. 1, Origins to Constantine (Cambridge University Press 2006 ISBN 978-0-521-81239-9), pp. 160–61).
  102. ^ Stark, Rodney (9 May 1997). The Rise of Christianity. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-067701-5. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  103. ^ Haight, Roger D. (16 September 2004). Christian Community in History Volume 1: Historical Ecclesiology. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 83–84. ISBN 978-0-8264-1630-8. Retrieved 26 October 2012. 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.
  104. ^ Williams, Robert Lee (2005). Bishop Lists: Formation of Apostolic Succession of Bishops in Ecclesiastical Crises. Gorgias Press LLC. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-59333-194-8. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  105. ^ Haight, Roger D. (16 September 2004). Christian Community in History Volume 1: Historical Ecclesiology. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 83–84. ISBN 978-0-8264-1630-8. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  106. ^ Esler (2004). pp. 893–94.
  107. ^ presbyter. CollinsDictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  108. ^ Philip Carrington, The Early Christian Church (2 vol. 1957) online edition vol 1; online edition vol 2
  109. ^ Metzger, Bruce. The canon of the New Testament. 1997
  110. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1120
  111. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1554
  112. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1562–1568
  113. ^ See, for example, Council of Jerusalem and Early centers of Christianity#Jerusalem.
  114. ^ "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).
  115. ^ 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).
  116. ^ a b White (2004). pp. 446–47.
  117. ^ Philip R. Davies, in The Canon Debate, p. 50: "With many other scholars, I conclude that the fixing of a canonical list was almost certainly the achievement of the Hasmonean dynasty."
  118. ^ Michael Whitby, et al. eds. Christian Persecution, Martyrdom and Orthodoxy (2006) online edition
  119. ^ Cheetham, Samuel (1905). A History of the Christian Church During the First Six Centuries. Macmillan and Co. p. 58.
  120. ^ Lockyer, Herbert (1988). All the Apostles of the Bible. Zondervan. p. 260. ISBN 0310280117.
  121. ^ Rodney Stark. The Rise of Christianity. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1996.
  122. ^ Dag Øistein Endsjø. Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Christianity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2009.
  123. ^ Durant 2011.

Bibliography[edit]

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