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An Introduction To Early Church History


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#1 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 01:35 PM

If there is one area of study that the Christadelphian body has tended to neglect, it is the development of Christianity during the first five centuries – or what we call “Early Church History.”

This neglect is probably been due to the fact that our community has always been more interested in studying the Bible than anything else – and of course, that is perfectly understandable.

But it must be confessed that Christadelphian literature contains very little in the way of historical analysis – and this is a shame, because the study of Christian history is both exciting and practical, especially when we are required to defend our faith against the criticisms of churches much older than our own.

My principle aim in delivering this series of studies is to leave you with three things:

• A respectable knowledge of early church history

• A basic overview of the most significant people and events

• And finally, a healthy stack of reference notes that you can keep on the shelf in readiness for those times when you have an overwhelming urge to get off the Internet, pour yourself a huge mug of absurdly powerful coffee, lock your bedroom door, close the curtains, switch off your mobile phone and immerse yourself in the world of ancient Christianity.

As one so often does.

But even if you’re not like me, and your interest in early church history isn’t quite so passionate, I hope you’ll still benefit from today’s study sessions.

So let’s take a moment to ask ourselves what we’re doing here...
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#2 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 01:36 PM

Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#3 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 01:37 PM

What do you know about early church history? Have you read any books on the subject? Have you ever felt that you’d like to know more about it?

And why should it interest you, anyway? What will you gain from it? How is it relevant to you?

Perhaps you’ve already had a look at it, but felt that it was all too complicated.
After all, where would you begin? What sort of books should you be reading – and would you understand them if you did?

Anyone who’s ever been a university student will tell you that the best way to study for a subject is to get yourself a cheat sheet and cram like there’s no tomorrow.

With this sensible advice in mind, I’ve prepared a small forest of cheat sheets that I hope you’ll find useful. These should leave you with a basic introduction to the history of Christianity from the First Century through to the Fifth. Some of them focus on specific topics, while others provide an general overview.

For those of you who are really keen, I’ve also prepared a “Recommended Reading List” of about thirty-four sources that I’ve found particularly useful during my own study of early church history.

Some of these are primary sources – written by men who lived through the history that we’ll be considering; others are tertiary sources, written by modern academics and commentators.

One very good reason for studying early church history is that it allows you to make sense of subjects you didn’t quite understand before and clear up any misunderstandings about subjects that you thought you knew very well.

Edited by Evangelion, 10 September 2005 - 05:50 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#4 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 01:39 PM

“But I Thought...”
A List of Common Misconceptions

  • The Trinity was invented by the Catholic Church

  • The Catholic Church was born during the reign of Constantine

  • The writings of the so-called “Early Church Fathers” are worthless tripe

  • Constantine persecuted the true believers and corrupted Christianity with paganism

  • There are no extra-Biblical writings from of the 1 st Century AD which support Christadelphian doctrine and practice

  • There are no Christian writings of the post-apostolic era which support Christadelphian doctrine and practice

Here’s a list of common misconceptions about early church history. I’ve distilled them from my discussions with Christadelphians and non-Christadelphians alike.

You’ll notice that a lot of these misconceptions revolve around Constantine. This is probably because he was the first Christian emperor and introduced a lot of changes – not just to the empire, but also to the church itself. Some of these changes were highly controversial and their effects are still being felt today.

I’ll be talking more about Constantine in a moment – but before I do, we’ll have to spend a bit of time in the pre-Constantine era, getting to know the men who were responsible for carrying on the message of Christianity after the death of the apostles.

I’m going to start with Ignatius.

Edited by Evangelion, 10 September 2005 - 05:54 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#5 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 01:40 PM

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Timeline of Early Church History -

Key People; Key Events

AD...

35 - Ignatius is born

60 - Papias is born

64 - First Christian persecution (under Nero )

69 - Polycarp is born

81 - Domitian becomes emperor of Rome ; he persecutes both Jews and Christians

96 - Clement of Rome dies

98 - Emperor Trajan decrees that Christians should be punished for their beliefs

107 - Ignatius is martyred in Rome

115 - Irenaeus is born

130 - Justin Martyr is converted to Christianity

144 - Marcion is excommunicated

150 - Clement of Alexandria is born

155 - Polycarp is martyred in Smyrna


'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#6 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 01:45 PM

Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch. It is suggested that he was taught by the apostle John – and although we have no evidence to prove this, the idea is by no means unreasonable.

Ignatius is famous for a series of letters which he wrote to various Christian ecclesias. In them, he argues powerfully against the heresy of Docetism, which taught that Jesus was not a real flesh-and-blood man, but only appeared to be.

Throughout his letters, Ignatius reassures his brethren and sisters that Jesus Christ was a real man who genuinely suffered at the hands of the Romans, died for our sins and was raised again by the Father. In many places we find echoes of apostolic statements – particularly those from John and Paul.

Despite this, there is still a great deal of controversy about what Ignatius was trying to say – and this is because his letters were copied, edited and generally rewritten by later Christians, who changed them to reflect their own personal views.

Since Ignatius lived so close to the time of the apostles, it is vitally important that we are sure about the nature of his beliefs. Did he believe that Jesus is God, as many Christians will tell you today? If so, what does this suggest about the beliefs of those who taught him?

Or did he believe that Jesus was a mortal man who died on the cross and was raised to the Father’s side after his resurrection? If we believe that this is so, how can we prove it?

A study of early church history can answer these questions – but only if we are prepared to be painstakingly careful with our sources.

This controversy is typical of the problems that you will encounter as you start to pick your way through the history of the early church. You will find that many vital documents are partially-intact, heavily edited, badly copied and – in some cases – totally absent. The Christians of later years had a habit of destroying the work of Christians who lived before them if it didn’t match their beliefs – or editing them to make it look as though they did.

I have written an essay on the Ignatian epistles myself. If you’re interested in learning more about Ignatius and his epistles, click here.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#7 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 01:46 PM

Moving on from Ignatius, we come to Papias. Papias was bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia. Like Ignatius, he is generally considered to be a disciple of the apostle John. He also knew another early Christian by the name of Polycarp.

The completed works of Papias were lost during the early years of Christian persecution, but two later Christians (Eusebius and Irenaeus) managed to preserve a handful of fragments. From them we see that Papias was familiar with the First Epistle of John, for he quotes it several times.

The Christians were persecuted during the reign of Nero, who blamed them for starting the fire of Rome in AD 64. Today, historians generally agree that Nero had started this fire himself – and many Roman historians were of the same view. (Though they took care to write about it long after Nero was dead.)

Nero’s persecution was short but savage. He is famous for having Christians tied to stakes, covered in oil and set alight to illuminate his courtyards in the evening. When he wasn’t doing this, he had them covered in animal skins and thrown to wild beasts in the circus. Although the Roman public was not particularly fond of the Christians, most people were shocked by this wanton brutality.

Our next famous Christian is Polycarp – the bishop of Smyrna. He worked hard to preserve the true Christian message against the heretics of his day and was encouraged by his communication with Ignatius.

As the Christian persecution grew stronger, Polycarp was taken into hiding by his friends. They moved him around in order to avoid detection – but eventually he was found by a group of soldiers who entered his house at night and announced their intention to arrest him.

Polycarp was a pretty easy-going chap – instead of panicking, he ordered refreshments and invited the soldiers to stay for supper. While they were eating, he politely requested an hour for personal prayer. This was granted – and in due course he was led to the city, where he was ordered to swear an oath to Caesar or suffer public execution.

Polycarp’s response was short and sweet:

No.  Eighty and six years have I served Christ, and he hath never wronged me.


When threatened with wild beasts, he replied:

Let them come.  I cannot change from good to bad.


Consequently, Polycarp was burned to death at the stake.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#8 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 01:58 PM

In AD 81, the Emperor Domitian came to power after murdering his brother.
He began a policy of Christian persecution, publicly stating that…

No Christian, once brought before the tribunal, should be exempt from punishment.


It is believed that Timothy – the beloved friend of the Apostle Paul – was beaten to death during Domitian’s reign.

Clement of Rome is a difficult character to pin down, since we have no record of his birth. But we do know that he was bishop of Rome from AD 88-97 – and it is possible that this was the same Clement to whom Paul refers as a fellow labourer in Philippians 4:3.

Christian persecution began anew under the Emperor Trajan – although it did not reach the height of Domitian’s campaign. During this period, Ignatius was thrown to wild animals in the Roman circus.

In AD 115, Irenaeus was born – and here, for the very first time, we find a famous Christian whose beliefs varied greatly from those of the men who had lived before him. Irenaeus had all sorts of peculiar ideas, including a belief that Jesus was with the Father in the beginning.

But on other points he was quite solid, teaching that there would be a resurrection of the dead and a thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth. Irenaeus was strongly opposed to the idea that we go to heaven when we die, realizing that this totally defeated the purpose of the resurrection.

Another pick-and-mix Christian was Justin Martyr – a Samaritan convert with a Roman father and a high-class education in Greek philosophy. He was particularly impressed by the writings of Plato – an early Greek philosopher of the pre-Christian era – and he always interpreted the Bible through a Platonic filter.

Justin believed that Christianity was the highest form of philosophy and that Plato’s own teachings had come very close to the truth about God and His purpose with the earth.

Like Irenaeus, Justin believed in a resurrection and a thousand-year reign.
Like Irenaeus, he rejected the idea that heaven is the Christian’s place of reward – and like Irenaeus, he believed that Jesus had pre-existed as a divine being.

Although Justin’s theology was rather hopeless, he is useful for the insight that he provides into the world of the post-apostolic Christians. His writings describe the memorial meetings of his day in great detail – and it is interesting to see that they are virtually identical to our own.

Our next significant figure is Marcion: a famous heretic.

Marcion was a Gnostic, whose aggressive preaching forced the early Christians to start thinking seriously about the formation of a New Testament canon. Indeed, he had already decided which books he accepted: the Gospel of Luke, the epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, Romans, Corinthians, Thessalonians and Philippians, and the epistle to Philemon.

Without a similar list of their own, the Christians had no basis for claiming that he had rejected a large portion of the inspired writings – and very little in the way of Scriptural authority for their own arguments.

Edited by Evangelion, 27 July 2004 - 01:58 PM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#9 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:00 PM

Posted Image

Timeline of Early Church History -

Key People; Key Events

AD...

160 - Tertullian is born

161 - Marcus Aurelius becomes Emperor and introduces a policy of Christian persecution

165 - Justin is martyred

185 - Origen is born

202 - Irenaeus is martyred

225 - Tertullian dies

245 - Cyprian is converted to Christianity

249 - Decius becomes Emperor; the empire is commanded to honour him with incense, on pain of death

251 - Anthony is born; he holds the world record for extreme asceticism until the mid 500s, when Simon the Stylite takes Christian weirdness to new heights

254 - Origen dies; his textual criticism remains unsurpassed to this day


'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#10 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:01 PM

In AD 160, Tertullian was born. He was from Carthage in North Africa – but in his early years he had studied law, rhetoric and Stoic philosophy in Rome. Consequently, he wrote in Latin and expressed himself in the language of Western philosophy.

Tertullian argued that Christians should avoid philosophical speculation.
In the words of his famous rhetorical question:

What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?


But Tertullian was just as much a philosopher as the people he criticized.
His writings are filled with philosophical terms (many of them invented on the spot) which are so complicated that today’s modern scholars aren’t always sure what they were intended to mean. It is in Tertullian’s work that we first gain a glimpse of what will eventually become the Trinity.

Tertullian spent most of his time attacking heretics with fiery letters that threatened them with eternal condemnation if they did not repent from their wicked ways. Ironically, Tertullian became a heretic himself in later life, abandoning the church to join a radical sect known as the Montanists.

Justin Martyr was executed during the reign of Marcus Aurelius – and thereby gained his surname.

Twenty years later, Origen was born.

Origen studied under Clement of Alexandria. He was a brilliant student, who eventually became a gifted academic. It was Origen who first had the idea of studying the Scriptures by comparing several different translations.

With this in mind, he created the world’s first interlinear translation, which arranged the Old Testament in six different columns – consisting of one Hebrew text, one Greek transliteration of the Hebrew and four Greek versions. A later project was the creation of an interlinear Old Testament which included seven different versions. His work established the foundation for all textual criticism.

Origen’s output was simply phenomenal – it is estimated that he produced 6,000 different writings on various subjects. He was also a great student of the Bible, which he interpreted in various ways.

One of the more unfortunate outcomes of his interpretive method results from a literal reading of Matthew 19:12

For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.  He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.


Origen took this statement at face value and decided that he could indeed “receive it.” Taking a knife, he bravely performed an amateur operation… and became Christianity’s very first self-made eunuch.

The effect on his spirituality is unknown – but historians have noted that in later years his interpretations tended to be highly figurative rather than literal.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#11 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:02 PM

It is not until the birth of Anthony that we meet a character as interesting as Origen. Anthony was the first Christian ascetic – he followed the example of Elijah and John, believing that the Christian life was best lived without the distraction of everyday comforts.

Anthony was born into a rich family, but rejected a life of ease after his conversion to Christianity. He gave all his possessions to the poor, moved into the desert and settled down in a disused fort, where he spent the rest of his life studying the Bible and resisting the temptations of the devil (at least, that’s what he told people...) His example was greatly admired by the Christians of his day, many of whom would visit him to ask for spiritual guidance.

Centuries later, Anthony’s record for pious showing-off was smashed by Simon the Stylite, who decided that a disused fort was far too luxurious for his tastes.
Instead, he climbed a huge pole, chained himself to a small platform at the top of it and lived there for the next twenty-five years.

As his fame spread, it was universally agreed that Simon was without any doubt the most pious Christian alive. After all, you had to be really pious to live at the top of a pole. It’s common knowledge.

Simon is long dead and gone – but people still travel to Antioch for the purpose of visiting his pole, which has become rather famous.

Origen died in 254; he had suffered excruciating torture for refusing to renounce his faith – and although he was eventually released, his body was so badly broken that he died shortly afterwards.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#12 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:06 PM

Posted Image

Timeline of Early Church History -

Key People; Key Events

AD...

258 - Cyprian is martyred

263 - Eusebius of Caesarea is born

284 - Commencement of Diocletian persecution

297 - Athanasius is born; he will play a crucial role in the Arian controversy of the 4 th Century

305 - End of the Diocletian persecution

312 - Constantine becomes Emperor of the West

313 - Constantine issues Edict of Milan

316 - Constantine banishes the Donatists

324 - Constantine defeats Licinius, thereby becoming Emperor of the East and West

325 - Arius is condemned at the Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed becomes the standard of orthodoxy

328 - Athanasius is made bishop of Alexandria

328 - Constantine revokes his condemnation of Arius


'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#13 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:09 PM

In 263, Eusebius of Caesarea was born. He was a brilliant theologian and – more importantly – an excellent politician. This was just as well, for he lived through one of the most controversial periods of early church history.

Eusebius was keen to ensure that the story of the church was preserved, and to this end he wrote a history of Christianity from the time of the apostles to the Fourth Century. His work has survived – and today it is considered one of the best sources available for information on this period.

Christian doctrine had changed a great deal since the 1st Century AD. Even the views of 2nd Century Christians (such as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus) were being looked down on as “primitive” and “undeveloped.”

One of the primary causes for this shift in thinking was the increasing influence of Greek philosophy upon Christian scholars. The church was now stuffed to the gills with ex-philosophers, who took pride in fabricating elegant and innovative amalgams by combining Christian concepts with Hellenic speculation.

Clement of Alexandria had even gone so far as to paraphrase the words of the apostle Paul, writing:

Thus philosophy acted as a schoolmaster to the Greek, preparing them for Christ, as the laws of the Jews prepared them for Christ


His work contains more than seven hundred citations from three hundred Greek authors, claiming that these men had received certain divine truths directly from God Himself.

Other Christian writers were just as bad. While they professed to have abandoned their philosophical backgrounds upon their conversion to Christianity, the reality was often quite different.

Consider the following list of prominent churchmen:


• Justin Martyr – Stoic philosopher before his conversion

• Tertullian – Hellenic philosopher before his conversion.

• Origen – Hellenic philosopher before his conversion.

• Arnobius – Pagan teacher before his conversion

• Athenagorus – Pagan teacher before his conversion

• Anaxagorus – Hellenic philosopher before his conversion

• Dionysius – encouraged the faithful to study philosophical books, even if they were heretical


These men – and others like them – were responsible for the heady mix of Greek philosophical concepts and Biblical doctrine that would lead generations of Christians hopelessly astray from the 1st Century gospel.

Today, their ideas are defended by the church as if they had always been there.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#14 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:10 PM

Eusebius was not a Christian philosopher – but his own views reveal the full extent of doctrinal development between the 1st and 4th Centuries. Following Origen, he believed that the church was the New Israel – totally replacing the Jews, who no longer possessed any part in the plan of God.

Just as drastic was his opinion of the millennial reign.

During the early days of the church – as we saw from our examination of Irenaeus and Justin – a belief in the resurrection of the dead and a millennial reign was taken for granted.

In his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Justin had warned against those who did not believe as he did:

…if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit the Truth of the resurrection and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; who say that there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls when they die are taken to heaven: do not imagine that they are Christians.

… I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned and enlarged, as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.



Irenaeus had been equally dogmatic:

...the heretics, not admitting the salvation of their flesh, affirm that immediately upon their death they shall pass above the heavens.  Those persons, therefore, who reject a resurrection affecting the whole man, and do their best to remove it from the Christian scheme, know nothing as to the plan of resurrection.


By the 4th Century, however, this doctrine had fallen by the wayside.

Eusebius did not believe in a millennial reign; he believed that the kingdom of God was already present on the earth, in the form of the church. He saw Constantine as a man of God, entrusted with a holy mission to establish Christian supremacy throughout the known world.

In the eyes of Eusebius the millennial reign was a foolish and heretical teaching, superseded by the new, superior theology.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#15 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:12 PM

Eusebius was well aware that faithful men of old had confessed this belief – in view of which, we might ask “How then, could he come to reject it?”

The answer from Eusebius is simple: they believed in a millennial reign because although they were faithful, they were also complete simpletons.

In his Ecclesiastical History, he openly mocks the confession of Papias, writing:

…he says there would be a certain millennium after the resurrection, and that there would be a corporeal reign of Christ on this very earth; which things he appears to have imagined, as if they were authorized by the apostolic narrations, not understanding correctly those matters which they propounded mystically in their representations.

For he was very limited in his comprehension, as is evident from his discourses; yet he was the cause why most of the ecclesiastical writers, urging the antiquity of the man, were carried away by a similar opinion; as, for instance, Irenaeus, or any other that adopted such sentiments.


In his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon points out that the church no longer felt any need for a millennium, since she had already had Christian Emperor of her own:

But when the edifice of the church was almost completed, the temporary support was laid aside.  The doctrine of Christ's reign upon earth was at first treated as a profound allegory, was considered by degrees as a doubtful and useless opinion, and was at length rejected as the absurd invention of heresy and fanaticism.


'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#16 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:13 PM

The chief rival of Eusebius was a passionate young bishop named Athanasius.
Both men realized that control of the Emperor meant control of the church – and to a certain extent, the empire.

During the years that followed, they jostled for position at the side of the Emperor Constantine, each one taking advantage of his unstable temper to ensure that the other was removed from a position of influence.

Constantine had many good qualities, but subtlety was not one of them. He was an excellent politician when it came to the administration of the Empire, but in the hands of these unscrupulous bishops he was easily manipulated.

Since his own theological views were constantly in a state of flux, he found himself swinging back and forth between the theology of Athanasius and the theology of Eusebius. One minute he would exile Athanasius and recall Eusebius; the next minute he would exile Eusebius and recall Athanasius.

This ridiculous situation helps to explain why Constantine ended up supporting Eusebius despite having condemned one of his best friends at the Council of Nicaea. It was that council which first established an official doctrine of Christ for the post-apostolic church.

On one side were the Arians, who believed that Jesus had pre-existed as a divine being, but was not actually God himself; on the other side were the Athanasians, who believed that Jesus was God incarnate, existing as part of the Godhead alongside the Father.

Although the wording of the Creed looks very much like the doctrine that we know today as Trinitarianism, it stopped short of saying that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all united as one in the Godhead.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#17 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:15 PM

Posted Image

Timeline of Early Church History -

Key People; Key Events

AD...

329 - Basil the Great of Cappadocia is born

339 - Ambrose is born

340 - Eusebius of Caesarea dies

340 - Ulfilas is converted to Arianism; during a missionary journey to the Germanic tribes he gives them an alphabet, converts most of them to Arianism and translates the Bible into their language

345 - John Chrysostom is born

347 - Jerome is born

353 - Emperor Constantius begins a pro-Arian campaign and drives Athanasius from Alexandria

354 - Augustine of Hippo is born

356 - Anthony finally dies, aged 94

361 - Julian the Apostate succeeds the sons of Constantine (who fought amongst themselves for control of the empire between AD 337-361) and recalls the Donatists from exile. He is destined to be the last pagan Emperor


'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#18 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:18 PM

The repercussions of Nicaea continued to plague the church for many decades afterwards. Constantine had hoped to unite the church – instead, it was even more deeply divided than before. Christians from both sides of the debate had begun to fight in the streets and burn each others’ houses to the ground; on one occasion, the governor of a city was dragged from his home and beaten to death in broad daylight.

It was into this violent era that Basil the Great was born.

Basil was a Cappadocian, well-known for his academic brilliance and rhetorical skill. With the help of his brother – Gregory of Nyssa – and his friend – Gregory of Nazianzus – he worked hard to arrive at a new doctrinal formula that would replace the problematic Nicene Creed.

By various methods (most of which were entirely unChristian) he pushed the Gregories into bishoprics that they did not want, and for which they were totally unsuited, so that he would have votes of those bishoprics whenever he needed them. With this done, Basil now had tremendous influence over any council held in his area – influence that he was certainly not shy about using.

In 361, the Emperor Constantine died. He was replaced by his nephew – Julian the Apostate. Everyone had assumed that Julian was a Christian, like his uncle – but now he revealed that he’d just been pretending all along!

Justin was actually a pagan, who worshipped the old gods of Rome and planned to rid his Empire of the Christian church...
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#19 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:19 PM

As we have seen, it was traditional for anti-Christian emperors to institute a new persecution upon their succession to the throne – but Justin was something of a modernist, and preferred a more stylish method.

His first act was to revoke all Christian rights to land and civil immunities; his next was to demand that the church should repay the many payments it had received from the state. He also prevented Christians from becoming teachers of rhetoric and grammar.

Observing that the Christians now spent most of their time fighting amongst themselves, he then decided to recall a huge bunch of heretical bishops from exile, hoping to divide the Christians with a fresh wave of controversy.

But it all went horribly wrong...

The Christian bishops were passionate about their beliefs, but they weren’t stupid. They realized that their only hope of survival under Julian was to set their differences aside for the time being and concentrate on the few things that they still had in common. Consequently, Julian’s plan resulted in the greatest reconciliation that Christianity had ever seen – and the ranks of the bishops were renewed by a sudden influx of highly influential men.

Julian had other problems, too. Christianity had become alarmingly popular – even among the pagans! The old Roman religion was beginning to look rather dull when compared to the strange but fascinating Christian message.

Searching desperately for an answer, Julian noticed that the success of Christianity was partly due to its social policies. The Christian churches were well organized; their members were charitable and kind; they went around being nice to people, and they were amazingly polite to the pagans.

Since he couldn’t stop the church, Julian decided to reform paganism. He instituted sweeping changes, demanding that pagans should become just as nice as the Christians, and organized the pagan priests into a hierarchy which emulated the Christian model.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#20 Evangelion

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 02:21 PM

Having studied the Gospels, Julian was aware of Christ’s words concerning the Jewish temple in Matthew 24:2

See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.


Julian’s intention was to rebuild the temple, so that Christ’s prophecy would fail.
He told the Jews that they were free to commence work immediately.

But new problems arose.

At the first attempt, freak storms disrupted the project, and bolts of lightning set the building materials alight.

At the second attempt, an earthquake split the ground apart, destroying the foundations and ruining many houses nearby.

There was no third attempt...

For the rest of his reign, Julian gritted his teeth and tried to think about other things – like his conquest of the Persians, who eventually killed him during a historic battle.

Edited by Evangelion, 27 July 2004 - 02:24 PM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.




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