Church History Events


49        Council of Jerusalem

·         1st Church Council

·         Issue was circumcision and Jewish Law

·         Set a pattern for the ecumenical councils: tradition and authoritative

·         Leaders recognized that the Spirit came to Jews and Gentiles in the same way

Faith in Jesus

Not observance of the Law

·         The Christian movement became a trans-cultural movement


54-68   Nero   

·         Mother, Agippina, poisoned two husbands including Emperior Claudius in 54

·         Agrippina had the Praetorian Guard proclaim 16 year old Nero emperor

·         In 56 (age 19) he began late night rioting in the streets

·         In 59 he killed his mother

·         In 62 he killed his wife to marry someone else.

·         He began to write poetry, race chariots, play the lyre

·         He began to give public performances at the age of 22 (in 59)

·         He desired to rebuild Rome


64        Rome Burns

·         The public blamed Nero.

·         It began the night of July 18 in the wooden shops in the SE end of the Great Circus

·         The fire raged for 7 nights and 6 days

·         Then it burst out again and burnt 2 more parts of the city for 3 more days.

·         (London’s fire of 1666 lasted 4 days; Chicago’s fire of 1871 lasted 36 hours.)

·         10 of the 14 regions of the city were destroyed.  Only 2/7 of the city was left.

·         Historians blame Nero and his ambitions to rebuild Rome as Neropolis

·         To escape responsibility Nero blamed an already suspicious group, Christians

·         Tacitus: “a vast multitude” were put to death in the most shameful manner:

They were crucified

They were sewed up in skins of wild beast and exposed to dogs in arena

They were covered with pitch or oil, nailed to post to be lit for street lights

·         Within a year, in 65, Peter was arrested and crucified upside down along w/ his wife

·         In the spring of 68 Paul was led out on the Ostian Way and beheaded.

·         On June 9, 68 Nero committed suicide by stabbing himself in the throat.


INSERT: “Anti Christian Logic”


90-117 Asian and Roman Persecution

·         Apostle was sent to Patmos during this persecution

·         Emperor Domitian persecuted Jews for refusing to pay a poll tax for pagan temple

·         Since Christians were considered part of Jewish faith they also were persecuted.

·         During this time the governor of Bithynia (Asia Minor) wrote Emperor Trajan asking for advice concerning treatment of Christians.  He says:  “This superstition (Christianity) had spread in the villages and rural areas as well as in the larger cities to such an extent that the temples had been almost deserted and the sellers of sacrificial animals impoverished.”  Trajen responses to him by saying that if a person denies being a Christian to let them go.  If they confess to being a Christian after being asked three times they were to be killed, unless they recanted and worshipped the Roman gods.

INSERT:  “Roman Persecutions of Christians”

INSERT:  “Emperors”


30-100             Clement of Rome

  • Knew and worked with Paul.  Mentioned in Philippians 4:3
  • According to Origen he was a disciple of the apostles.
  • Irenaeus writes:  “He had the preaching of the apostles still echioing in his ears and their doctrine in front of his eyes.”
  • Learned to use Septuagint from Paul and Luke
  • He wrote a letter from rome to the Corinthians called “First Clement.  It had been referred to by other writers but was not discovered until the 1600’s
  • Clement writes after Domitian persecution about 98
  • Clement writes the Corinthians because the church had overthrown the church’s leadership.
  • Clement appeals to the Word of God as final authority and refers to 1 Cor. 1:10
  • Clement gives testimony to: Trinity, divinity of Christ, salvation only b Christ, necessity of repentance, necessity of faith, justification by grace, sanctification by Holy Spirit, unity of the church, fruit of the Spirit.
  • Clement is the pastor of Rome and know no higher office
  • He writes his book in the name of the church not in the name of his office
  • Clement writes to a church of apostolic foundation with a tone of authority and thus reveals how easily and innocent the papacy began.
  • 100 years after his death this same position in the same church will take authority and will excommunicate whole churches for much smaller differences.


117      Ignatius

  • Pastor of church in Antioch
  • Contemporary pastor with Clement in Rome, Simeon in Jerusalem, Polycarp in Smrna
  • Antioch was a doorway to Gentile world and so became a seat of heretical tendencies which forced Antioch to develop sound doctrine and organize quickly
  • Ignatius was tried in Antioch before Emperor Trajen and sent to Rome in chains for martyrdom in the Coliseum by being thrown to the lions. 
  • On his way to Rome he wrote seven letters that we still have:  Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrneans, and one to Polycarp, the Pastor in Smyrna.
  • These are some quotes from those letters:

“I would rather die for Christ than rule the whole earth.”

“It is glorious to go down in the world, in order to go up into God.”

“Leave me to the beasts, that I may by them be made partaker of God.  Rather fawn upon the beasts, that they may be to me a grave, and leave nothing of my body, that, when I sleep, I may not be burdensome to anyone.  Then will I truly be a disciple of Christ, when the world can no longer even see my body.”

  • His remains were brought back to Antioch.
  • Ignatius’ attitude toward martyrdom exceeds the genuine apostolic resignation which is equal willing to depart or remain.  He degenerates into morbid fanaticism.

INSERT:  “The Apostolic Fathers”

INSERT:  “Popes”


70-155             Polycarp

  • Knew the apostles and was one of John’s disciples
  • John placed his as the bishop of Smyrna.
  • He had trained Irenaeus and was friends with Ignatius and Papias.
  • He was captured as an 86 year old man and burnt at the stake in Smyrna.
  • His last days, capture, and death are recorded in the letter “The martyrdom of Polycarp”


150      Gnosticism

  • Its roots go back to the days of Paul and John.  Both seem to deal with the false concepts in Colossians and 1 John.
  • Christian tradition connects the founding of it to Simon Magus, who Peter rebukes in Acts
  • Gnosticism sprang from the natural desire of humans to explain the origin of evil.
  • Since  evil can be associated with matter and flesh, the Gnostics tried to develop a philosophical system to disassociate God, a spirit, from evil, matter and flesh.
  • The second question it sought to answer was the origin of man.  They did this by combining Greek philosophy and Christian theology.  The Corinthians did this and were rebuked in First Corinthians 1 and 2.
  • If the Gnostics had succeeded Christianity would have been reduced to a philosophical system. 
  • Dualism was one of their main statements of faith.  The Gnostics insisted on a clear distinction between material and spiritual and with evil and good.  So God could not have created the world.
  • The gap between the world and God was bridged by a series of emanations that formed a hierarchy. 
  • One of these, known as Jehovah of the OT, had rebelled and created the world.  The Gnostics did not like this OT emanation.
  • To explain Jesus Christ they embraced a doctrine known as Docetism.  Docetism teaches that since matter is evil Jesus did not have a human body.  Either he was a phantom or the spirit of Christ came on the man Jesus between his baptism but left before his death.
  • Salvation might begin with faith, but is only for the soul.
  • The special knowledge (gnosis) that Christ exposed while here was of far greater benefit.
  • Irenaeus refutes gnosticism in “Against Heresies”
  • In 140 Marcion went to Rome and embraced gnosticism and developed it.  Marcion was the first to develop the NT canon.


126-203           Irenaeus

·         Native of Asia Minor

·         As a youth he had seen and heard Polycarp in Smyrna. 

·         He mentions Papias frequently and must have known him

·         Became bishop of Lyons, Gaul (Spain) when the bishop died in persecution

·         Lyons was a missionary church of Asia Minor

·         Lived in Lyons during the persecution of 177

·         Took a letter to the Roman bishop Eleutherus from the confessors

·         Roman Bishop Victor was complelling the Asian churches to celebrate Easter on a different date.

·         Irenaeus tried to protect Asian churches from Roman Bishops pretensions and aggression

·         Roman Bishop Victor cut them off from communion.

·         Irenaus says earlier Roman bishops didn’t demand agreement on this issue.

·         Irenaus appeals to other bishops for support.

·         Irenaus was martyred under Emperor Septimius Severus


190-194           Easter Conflict

  • 150-155, Smyrna Bishop Polycarp visits Rome Bishop Anicetus.  The issue comes up, is not resolved, Polycarp departs in peace saying this is how he celebrated Easter with John
  • 170, the same controversy develops in Laodicea but is dealt with in peace
  • 190-194, Rome Bishop Victor requires the Asian churches to abandon their Easter practices.  The new Ephesian Bishop Polycrates appeals with a letter which is still in existence today.  Victor wouldn’t listen, calls them heretics, excommunicates them and would not send them communion elements.  Irenaeus interecedw by quoting Colossians 2:16:  “The apostles have ordered that we should, ‘Judge no one in meat or in drink, or in respect to a feast day or a new moon or a Sabath day.’ ”
  • The time of the Jewish Passover and the Easter fast created a violent controversy
  • The issue becomes complicated and is not yet cleared up
  • The issue was purely ritualistic and involved no doctrine
  • Too much stress was laid on external uniformity
  • Asia Minor’s views:                                                                                                                            Followed Jewish chronology

Followed John and Philip’s example                                                                             They celebrated the Christian for of the Passover on Nisan 14 and at the end of the day they broke their Easter fast with communion and the Love Feast

  • Roman Church view:                                                                                                                          Appealed to early custom of celebrating Jesus death on a Friday                                              Celebrated Easter always on a Sunday after the March full moon                                              Nearly all the churches did it this way                                                                                    The Roman practice created an entire holy week of fasting to recall Lord’s suffering
  • The Problem to the Roman Church:  Part of the universal church was celebrating and feasting the Lord’s resurrection while another part of the world church was still fasting his death.
  • The Nicean Council of 325 established as a law for the whole church by saying:                             “Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon succeeding the bernal equinox (March 21).  If the full moon occurs on a Sunday, Easter-day is the Sunday after.  Easter can be anywhere from March 22 to April 25.
  • The last trace of the “heretics” from Asia was seen in the 500’s AD


100-165           Justin Martyr

  • A Christian apologist trained in philosophy (Stoicism and Platonism) and became a Christian.
  • He became the most notable writer of this century
  • He was born in Palestine and searched energetically for truth as a young man in philosophical schools.  While meditating alone by the sea side one day he was approached by an old man who exposed the weaknesses of his thinking and pointed him to the Jewish prophets who bore witness to Christ.
  • Justin took this new faith back into the philosophical schools.
  • His writings vigorous and earnest.  They are written under the threat of persecution and are an urgent appeal to reason.
  • He wrote “First Apology” to the Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) to clear away prejudice and misunderstanding about Christianity.
  • In his “Dialogue with Trypho” he recounts an actual encounter in Ephesus with a Jew who accused Christians of breaking the Jewish law and worshipping a man.  The debate was conducted with respect and courtesy on both sides, despite strong disagreement.
  • He opened a school in Rome.
  • Justin was martyred in Rome about 165


INSERT: “The Arguments of the Apologists”


140-160           Marcion

  • From Pontus on the Black Sea, Marcion arrived in Rome in 140.
  • He made a fortune as a shipowner
  • His father was a bishop and excommunicated him.
  • Marcion believed that the God of the Old Testament was different from the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Marcion taught that the God of the OT was unknowable and sheer justice.  The God of the NT was revealed and was loving and gracious.
  • The church of Rome excommunicated him in 144.
  • Justin Martyr said Marcion was aided by the devil to blaspheme and den that God was the creator.
  • Tertullian wrote “Against Marcion” about 207 and called him a formidable foe of true Christian doctrine.
  • Marcion stated that Jesus was notborn of a woman but suddenly appeared in the synagogue at Capernaum in 29 AD.
  • He taught that since creation was not the work of the true God the body must be denied.
  • Marcion recognized Polycarp in Rome in 155 and Polycarp replied, “I recognize you as the firstborn of Satan.” 
  • The followers of Marcion were called Marcionites.  Constantine absolutely forbade their meeting for worship.  Most were absorbed into newer heretical teaching of Mani and Manicheism.  There were reports of them in the 400’s.  The council at Trullo 692 made provision for the reconciliation of Marcionites.  There was lingering remains as late as the 900’s.


155-220           Tertullian

  • An apologist and theologian from Carthage, North Africa
  • Born in the home of a roman centurion.
  • Became a proficient lawyer.
  • He taught public speaking and practiced law in Rome.
  • The greatest of the church writers until Augustine.
  • He was the first to write major works in Latin.  He then was the first to use many of the technical words common in Christian theological debates even today.
  • His logical Latin mind developed a sound Western theology and led to the defeat of much of the false doctrine that could not stand against his logic and reasoning.
  • Two other great North African Latin writers would follow from him: Cyprian and Augustine
  • Tertullian wrote in a witty and vigorous style.  He pursued all who contradicted him with sarcastic irony. 
  • He wrote the famous line, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
  • His strict moral views led him to join the Montanists around 202.
  • “Apology” was his masterpiece where he argued that Christianity should be tolerated
  • “Against Marcion” defended the use of the Old Testament by the Christian church
  • “Against Praxeas” develops the doctrine of the Trinity.  Tertullian had two things against Praxeas: one, his opposition to the Montanist ‘new prophecy,’ two, Praxeas’s view of God the Father.


155      Montanism

  • The church had become formal and was lead by human leadership .
  • A man called Montanus attempted to confront the problem of a Spiritless, formal church
  • He opposed the rise to prominence of the bishop in the local church.
  • Montanus began to stress the second coming of Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
  • In his zeal he taught extreme concepts such as: inspiration was immediate and continuous, that he himself was the paraclete that the Holy Spirit spoke through as he had Paul and Peter
  • His eschatology was also extravagant:  He believed that the Kingdom would come down and be set up at Pepuza, Phrygia.
  • He and his followers followed strict asceticism: no second marriages, many fasts, and only dry food.  They prophecied, spoke in tongues, had visions and got caught up in intese religious excitement.
  • Two prophetesses accompanied Montanus: Prisca and Maximilla
  • Their oracles said, “Do not hope to die in bed. . .but as martyrs.”   Today tombstones in Pyrygia attest to the boldness of the Montanist Christians.
  • Maximilla predicted: “After me there will be no prophecy, but he End.”
  • He had considerable influence in North Africa, which include the conversion of Tertullian to Montanism.  Tertullian allowed their strict asceticism to influence his writings at times.  He refused forgiveness for serious sins after baptism, banned remarriage and forbid flight from persecution.
  • The Constntinople Council in 381 condemned Montanism and said they should be looked at like pagans
  • The Montanist were not heretics.  They were fanatics. 
  • Their prophecies never came true.
  • They caused a disruption as the church was trying to establish the New Testament canon.
  • The Montanist are a warning to the church that they must maintain a connection with the Spirit of God and the emotions of man while not forsaking the doctrine and the organization of the Church.


185-254           Origen

  • Born in Alexandria, Egypt. 
  • Father, Leonides, was a Greek.  Mother was a Jew.
  • His father taught him the scriptures.  His mother taught him to speak and sing in Hebrew
  • Origen became a student of Clement of Alexandria.
  • When Origen was 16 his father was put in prison for being a Christian.  Origen wrote him a letter asking his father to allow no thought of his family to distract his commitment to martyrdom.
  • Leonides was put to death and his property confiscated.
  • The Christian school in Alexandria suffered greatly from the persecution of Emperor Severus at this time.  The teachers and leaders had fled or died.
  • By the age of 18 Origen had become the head of the Alexandrian Christian school
  • Origen had collected a very valuable library of books.
  • Alexandria’s bishop Demetrius appointed Origen to the official position in the school
  • Origen sold his library for a daily annuity that he lived on for many years.
  • People flocked to his lectures
  • He led a simple life in order to fulfill the precepts of the gospel:                                                      Went barefoot                       Wore his one and only robe                Slept on the ground                Limited his food            Limited his sleep                                 Applied Mt. 19:12
  • This continued for 12 happy years until he was about 30.
  • In 205 Origen writes “Against Celsus” to refute pagan criticism of Christianity.
  • Heretics and Gentiles attended his lectures.
  • One of his students, Heracles, helped take over some of the teaching responsibilities.  Heracles would become the next bishop of Alexandria.
  • In 215 unusual violence broke out in Alexandria, Eguypt and Origen fled to Caesarea
  • His childhood friend, Alexander, was now bishop in Jerusalem and begged him to expound the scriptures.
  • PROBLEM:  Origen was not ordained.  The Alexandrian Bishop Demetrius told Origen to return to Alexandria.
  • In 219 Origen returns to Alexandria and began to write expositions of scripture
  • Ambrose provide him with 7 shorthand scribes to take down his comments and the scribes to make copies.  (Ambrose had been a Marcionite until Origen properly taught him.)
  • Origen’s writing was original and bold.
  • His “Commentary on the Gospel of John” made an impact on interpretation.
  • His “On First Principles”  made an impact on Christian speculation.
  • Demetrius, bishop of Alexandria, was startled by Origen’s boldness and wished to control it and his influence.
  • In 226, Demetrius organized a synod of bishops that would not allow Origen to stay or teach in Alexandria.
  • Demetrius got Rome to reject Origen
  • Origen went back to Caesarea and taught and wrote for the next 20 years.
  • In Caesarea he starts a new school and produced a continual succession of distinguished students.
  • In 235-237 Origen’s work was interrupted by Emperor Maximin’s persecution. 
  • Ambrose died in this persecution
  • In 248 Origen was in contact with Emperor Philip and his wife Severa.
  • Decius overthrew Emperor Philip.  In 250 the persecution of Decius broke out and Emperor Decius came after Origen since he had associated himself with Philip.
  • Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, died in this persecution.
  • Origen himself suffered the torture of chains, the iron collar and the rack, but never died.
  • Emperor Decius dies in two years.
  • Origen is set free but his health is broke and he dies at the age of 71 and us buried in Tyre.

200-258           Cyprian

  • Cyprian was rich, cultured and headed for hight government office.
  • He became a Christian in 246.
  • He said, “A second birth created me a new man by means of the Spirit breated from heaven.” 
  • Cyprian dedicated himself to celibacy, poverty and Bible study.
  • In 248 he was made bishop of Carthage, North Africa.
  • He fled during the persecution of Emperor Decian in 250.
  • Many people stayed behind and confessed Christ.  This earned them greater spiritual prestige and the title of “confessor.”
  • Cyprian had a difficult time running the church and the “confessors” by letter while in hiding since many church leaders scorned fleeing.  Cyprian had lost face.
  • When he returned he found many who had neither confessed nor fled, but had lapsed under persecution and denied Christ.
  • Cyprian returned from hiding in 251. 
  • The “confessors” urged for leniency for those who “lapsed” and denied the faith.
  • Cyprian and the bishops fixed stricter terms for readmitting them to the church.
  • The “lapsed” simply left the church and started their own.  To oppose their action, Cyprian wrote his most important work, “The Unity of the Church.”  In this work Cyprian develops the thought that the Spirit’s gifts of life and salvation were restricted to the catholic (main) church.  He argued against Stephen, the bishop of Rome, that these “lapsed” people needed to be rebaptised to reenter the mainline church after having gone to unofficial churches.
  • He was banished by Emperor Valerian.  Cyprian tried to hide but was captured and put to death.
  • Cyprian believed:                                                                                                                                all bishops were in theory equal                                                                                        all ministers were priest (as in OT priesthood)                                                                  the Lord’s supper was the sacrifice of the cross                                                                     the church depended for its unity on their harmony and equality
  • Cyprian was a clear-headed administrator but a simple minded theologian.
  • His influence on the later Western church was immense and largely harmful.


INSERT:  “The Third-Century Church Fathers”


251      Novatianists

  • A small puritanical group which split off from the church in Rome
  • Novatian, their founder, was defeated in the election for Roman bishop in 251.
  • The issue was how do deal with those who renounced Christ in Decius persecution
  • Novatian refused to receive back anyone who had “lapsed”
  • Novatian was a gifted theologian, an early Latin writer. 
  • Most important writing was on the Trinity.
  • Novatian was martyred by Emperor Valerian in 258
  • Novantianists were theologically orthodox and spread quickly in the 250’s.
  • They set up a rival bishop in Carthage. 
  • They built up a network of small congregations and called themselves “the pure ones” in comparision to the other impure churches who were lax towards sinners.
  • Those joining the Novatianist from main church had to be baptized again.
  • A Novatianist bishop was present at the Council of Nicaea in 325
  • The main church treated them as heretics until 326 when Constantine granted them tolerance
  • The Novatianist clergy were allowed to retain their rank if they returned to the ‘catholic church’ around 325
  • Through time they were absorbed back into the main line (catholic) church

INSERT: “Ante-Nicene Heresies”


269      Anthony (of Egypt, the Great)

  • Father of Monasticism
  • From Kome, Upper Egypt
  • Son of a prosperous Coptic family
  • In 269, age 20, gave away his possessions and withdrew from society to lead an ascetic life
  • His life of holiness gave him such a reputation that others went to live in caves near him.
  • Each man lived as a hermit alone in his cave
  • In 285 he retired into complete isolation where he suffered his famous temptations
  • In 305 he emerged to give his disciples a rule.
  • He re-emerged during the Arian conflict to support Athanasius.
  • Anthony died at the age of 105.


269-1000         Monasticism

  • Four main stages:                                                                                                                                1- ascetic practices carried on by many within the church                                                         2- later many withdrew from society to live as hermits                                                            3- many followed and lived close to these hermits and looked to them for leadership     4- these communities organized into communal life in a monastery setting
  • Not all were level headed like Anthony:                                                                                            1- Simeon Stylites (390-459) lived buried u to his neck for several months, then                                  decided to achieve holiness by sitting on the top of a 60 foot pillar near                                    Antioch for 35 years.                                                                                                 2-  Ammoun never undressed of bathed after he became a hermit.                                             3-  One wandered naked for fifty years near mount Sinai
  • Basil of Caesarea (330-379) popularized the communal type of monastic organization.                   At age 27 he gave up worldly advancement.  The monks under his rule would work, pray, read the Bible, do good deeds.  He discouraged extreme asceticism. 


303-311           The Great Persecution

  • Diocletian (284-313) became emperor as a strong military leader and at the end of a century of political chaos.
  • In 285 he ended the ended the diarchy of the principate created by Caesar Augustus in 27 BC which had the senate and the emperor sharing power.  He thought only a strong monarchy could save the empire.  There was no room for democracy
  • Out of this arose the greatest of the Christian persecutions.
  • It began with the first edicts of persecution in March of 303.  It ordered:                                        1- the cessation of Christian meetings                                                                                  2- the destruction of the churches         

3- the deposition of church officers

                        4- the imprisonment of those who persist in their testimony of Christ

                        5- the destruction of the scriptures by fire

  • A later edict ordered the accused Christians to sacrifice to the pagan gods or die.  
  • Eusebius writes that prisons became crowded with Christians that there was no room for criminals
  • Christians were punished with loss of property, exile, imprisonment, or execution by sword or wild beasts.  Some were sent to labor camps and worked to death in the mines.
  • This persecution that included the burning of scriptures forced the church to decide which books were really scripture and canonical.  Who wanted to risk death for a book that was not even inspired?


312      Constantine

  • While in Britain in 306 Constantine was declared emperor of the western Roman Empire
  • In Rome his position was usurped by Maxentius
  • In 312 Constantine challenged him.
  • Constantine told the account of the events before the battle in 312 to Eusebius, the church historian.  Alarmed by reports of Maxentius’ mastery of magical arts led Constantine to pray to the ‘Supreme God’ for help.  Constantine then saw a cross in the noonday day “above the sun’ and with it the words, ‘Conquer by this.’ 
  • That same night Constantine had a dream of Christ who told him to use the sign of the Chi and the Rho (the “ch” and the “r” of the name Christ).
  • Constantine then defeated Maxentius at the battle of the Milvian Bridge.
  • Constantine’s commitment to Christianity was sincere but his understanding of the Christian faith was far from orthodox. 
  • Constantine did not even distinguish between the Father of Jesus Christ and the divine sun.
  • Constantine maintained the pagan high priest’s title of Pontifex Maximus.
  • Constantine coins continued to feature some of the pagan gods
  • Constantine delayed Christian baptism until the end of his life. (Although this was a custom of the day to help one avoid committing a mortal sin.)
  • In 313 with the Edict of Milan he declared along with Licinius (the eastern emperor) that Christianity was no longer illegal.
  • In 321 Constantine made the first day of the week a holiday and called it ‘the venerable day of the Sun’ or ‘Sunday.’



313      Donatists

  • Six months into his reign the Donatists asked Constantine to intervene in Church affairs over a decision concerning who should be bishop.  When the Donatists refused his councils verdict Constantine threatened to go to Africa and settle things himself:  “I am going to make plain to them what kind of worship is to be offered to God. . .What higher duty have I as emperor than to destroy error and repress rash indiscretions, and so cause all to offer to Almighty God true religion, honest concord and due worship?”  Constantine ordered the Donatist churches to be confiscated  and their leaders banished.  Constantines efforts were to no avail and he revoked his order.  The Donatists survived for 300 more years


312      Arius

  • The bishop of Alexandria put him in charge of one of the big churches in the city, Baucalis
  • As a pastor he found success and gained a large following with his teaching and ascetic life
  • Arius published  “Thalia” where he established the unity and simplicity of the eternal God and the superiority of the Son over other created beings.  The Son being created by God before time began.
  • The new bishop of Alexandria, Alexander, had began to teach what Arius thought was blasphemy.  Alexander taught “as God is eternal, so is the Son – when the Father, the Son, - the Son is present in God without birth, ever-begotten, an unbegotten-begotten.”
  • Eusebius of Bicomedia and Eusebius of Caesarea defended Arius
  • Bishop Alexander excommunicated him.
  • Emperor Constantine arrived in the East in 324 and attempted himself to settle this “trifling and foolish verbal difference, the meaning of which would be grasped only by the few.”


325      Council of Nicea

  • Emperor Constantine ordered this church council
  • It was the second church council
  • Nicea is modern Iznik, Turkey, a little town near the Bosporus Straits which flows between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
  • July 4, 325 about 300 bishops and deacons from the Eastern half of the empire
  • Constantine arrived in his imperial clothing overlaid with jewels but without his customary train of soldiers.
  • Constantine spoke only briefly saying that “Division in the church is worse than war.”
  • At stake was the most profound church question yet, “Who is Jesus Christ?”
  • It was a new day for the church.  Many of the bishops and deacons had scars from previous persecution from the emperors.  A pastor from Egypt was missing an eye.  One was crippled in both hands as a result of red-hot irons.
  • Most of the bishops were impressed with Constantine and were willing to compromise.
  • A young deacon from Alexandria, Athanasius, was not willing to compromise.  Athanasius insisted that Arius’s doctrine left Christianity without a divine Savior.
  • Also present was the church historian, friend of the emperor, and half-hearted supporter of Arius, Eusebius.  Eusebius put forward his own creed for council approval.
  • The council wanted something more specific and added, “True God of true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father. . .”
  • The expression “one substance” was the “homo ousion.”
  • After long debate only two bishops did not agree with “in one Lord Jesus Christ, . . .true God of true God.”
  • Constantine was pleased thinking the issue was settled.
  • For the next 100 years the two views of Christ, the Nicene (Athanasius’) view and the Arian (Arius’) view battled for supremacy.
  • Church people were banished, exiled and killed as power shifted as the emperor’s and church leadership switched.
  • The Council of Nicea laid the cornerstone for the orthodox understanding of Jesus Christ
  • The next council at Chalcedon would develop it further.








INSERT: “Church Councils”


            1- Council of Jerusalem                      49        Circumcision and Jewish Law

            2- Council of Nicea                             325      Condemn Arianism

            3- Council of Constantinople              381      Settle Apollinarianism

            4- Council of Ephesus                         431      Nestorian Controversy; Nestorius deposed

            5- Council of Chalcedon                     451      Eutychian Controversy

            6- Council of Constantinople II          553      Monophysites Controversy

            7- Council of Constantinople III        680      Doctrine of the two wills of Christ

            8- Council of Nicea II                         787      Sanctioned Image Worship

            9- Council of Constantinople IV        869      Final Schism between East and West

            10-Council of Rome I                         1123    Decide Bishops are appointed by Popes

            11-Council of Rome II                       1139    Effort to heal the East and West Schism

            12-Council of Rome III                      1179    To Enforce Ecclesiastical discipline

            13-Council of Rome IV                      1215    Bidding of Innocent III

            14-Council of Lyons I                                    1245    Settle quarrel with Pope and Emperor

            15-Council of Lyons II                       1274    Attempt to unite East and West

            16-Council of Vienne Council            1311    Suppress Templars

            17-Council of Constance              1414-1418 Heal Papal Schism; Burn Hus

            18-Council of Basal                      1431-1449 Reform Church

            19-Council of Rome V                       1512    Another Reform Effort

            20-Council of Trent                      1545-1563 Counter Reformation

            21-Council of Vatican I                1869-1870 Declare Pope Infallible

            22-Council of Vatican II              1962-1965 Effort to bring Christendom into one Church

INSERT: “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers”


353      Emperor Constantius

  • Constantine’s three sons:                                                                                                                    Constantine II             Constans                     Constantius
  • They killed hundreds of their father’s offspring (except Gallus and Julian who were sick and a youth when their father died in 337
  • Constans slew Constantine II and then was killed by a barbarian in battle
  • Constantius became sole emperor in 353
  • Constantius began a violent suppression of heathen religion:                                                            1- pillaged and destroyed temples                                                                                                2- gave booty to the church                                                                                                 3-prohibited all sacrifices and worship of images in Rome, Alexander, and Athens
  • Obviously, many people became “Christian” (lip service)
  • Constantius was an Arian and punished those who held to Nicene orthodoxy
  • Athanasius said at this time, “Satan, because there is no truth in him, breaks in with axe and sword. But the Saviour is gentle, and forces no one, to whom he comes, but knocks and speaks to the soul. . .If we open to him, he enters; but if we will not, he departs.   For the truth is not preached by sword and dungeon, by might of an army, but by persuasion and exhortation.  How can there be persuasion where fear of the emperor is uppermost?  How exhortation, where the contradicter has to expect banishment and death?”


Emperor Julian the Apostate

INSERT: “Julian the Apostate”



  • Mission to the Goths

Basil the Great

Martin of Tours

  • Mission to North France

367      New Testament Canon

  • Athanasius Recognizes the New Testament Canon in an Easter letter
  • The books he lists are the same as the one we recognize

Roman Bishop Damasus


INSERT: Ancient Church Christological Heresies”

381      Council of Constantinople

  • Third Council
  • Settle Apollinarianism

385      Ambrose

  • Bishop of Milan
  • Defies Empress
  • The church now confronts the state when necessary to protect Christian teaching and oppose evil actions of the state


387      Augustine

  • Augustine is converted in 387
  • His writings become foundational for the Middle ages
  • “Confessions”            
  • “City of God

398      John Chrysostom

  • Bishop of Constantinople
  • Known as “golden tongue” preacher

·         Leads through many controversies


405      Latin Vulgate

  • Jeromes Latin Bible becomes the standard for the next 1,000 years

Vandals in Gaul and Spain

Rome Sacked by Alaric and the Visigoths

Pelagian Controversy

INSERT: “The Pelagian Controversy”

INSERT: “Major Ancient Chruch Doctrinal Controversies”

INSERT:Ancient Church Trinitarian Heresies”

431      Council of Ephesus

  • Fourth Council
  • Nestorian Controversy
  • Nestorius Deposed

432      Patrick to Ireland

  • Taken to Ireland as a slave in his youth
  • After escaping and going through monastery training he returns as a missionary
  • Multitudes are led to Christian faith. 
  • Many churches are starte

451      Council of Chalcedon

  • Fifth Council
  • Eutychian Controversy
  • They confirm the orthodox teaching that Jesus was truly God and truly man and existed in one Person

Leo the Great

  • Roman Bishop
  • Asserted the primacy of the Roman bishop, against the claims of the political capital, Constantinople.

INSERT: “Development of Episcopacy in the First Five Centuries”

INSERT: “Factors Contributing to the Supremacy of the Bishop of Rome

Attila the Hun

  • Invades Italy

Vandals Capture Rome


  • King of the Franks is converted

529      Benedict of Nursia

  • Begins Monastery

553      Council of Constantinople II

  • Sixth Council
  • Monophysites Controversy

Lombards Invade Italy

Gregory the Great

  • Roman Bishop

563      Columba

  • Mission to Iona in Scotland
  • He establishes a legendary monastic missionary center at Iona


  • Flees Mecca


  • Conquer Middle East

664      Synod of Whitby

  • Determines that the English church will come under the authority of Rome

680      Council of Constantinople III

  • Doctrine of the two wills of Christ

731      Bede

  • Celtic
  • Completes his careful and important work “Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation”

 732     Battle of Tours

  • Charles Martel stops Muslim invaders threatening Europe

Lindisfarne Gospels