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Lesson 24 of 50 - Church History (part two of eight)

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Written Notes
- 250 AD
Review Points


Supplementary Material


2004 mp3 Audio

2009 mp3 Audio:
Church History 200-312 AD
Church History 312-325 AD

Real Player Video:
Church History 200-312 AD
Church History 312-325 AD

Chapter Tests:
Sect F, Ch


Essay Tests:
Sect F, Ch

Church History 200-312,
Origin, Cyprian, Persecutions
Audio .mp3 - Church History 200-312,
Origin, Cyprian, Persecutions

Church History 312-325,
Heresies, Nicea  
Audio .mp3 - Church History 312-325,
Heresies, Nicea

Church History 150-250 AD

Church History 200-312 AD
Origen, Decius, Cyprian (2017)

Church History 250-312 AD

Church History 313-353 AD

Church History (part two): Easter Conflict; Gnostics; Iraneus; Tertullian; Montanists

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 prophesied, spoke in tongues, had visions and got caught up in intense 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.

Map of Locations from Church History

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 is buried in Tyre.
  • Origen’s weakness was his allegorical approach to scripture interpretation which had a negative effect on the church until correct interpretation was reestablished during the Reformation in the 1500’s.

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.  He set the stage for the strong hold of the Roman Catholic church and laid the foundation for the practice of mass and the priesthood.

Church Fathers from 150-300




Life and Works




Disciple of Polycarp (who was a disciple of John)
Missionary, Bishop, Apologist
177 carried a letter to Rome concerning Montanism
Opposed Gnosticism
Premillennial Eschatology
Wrote: Against Heresises, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching




Trained in Pagan philosophy
Used the allegorical method of Scripture interpretation
Was the head of the Alexandrian Christian school
Trained Origen




Son of a Roman officer and trained in law
A great apologist
Wrote against heretics, Gnostics and Marcion
Explained the trinity
Joined the Montanist




Follower of the Novatian schism
Believed a real difference between Son (logos) & Father
Fell into disagreement with the incompetent Roman bishop
Formed own church and became an antipope
Banished to the island of Sardinia in 235 and died there




A student of Clement
Advanced Allegorical interpretation of scripture
Ruined most of eschatology and set stage for middle ages
Extremely ascetic
Exiled by church enemies
Died in prison after Roman torture




Was converted at the age of 46 in 246
Was made bishop of Carthage at the age of 48 in 248
Hides during Decian persecution. Others fled.
He established these doctrines:

  • There is only one true church (his),
  • there is no salvation outside the one church,
  • the bishop was the high priest,
  • the church was the new Israel,
  • the Lord’s supper (Eucharist) was the new sacrifice

Martyred in 258



Asia Minor

Converted by Origen and became his student
Known as the “wonder-worker” or “Thaumaturgus”
Bishop in Neo-Caesarea, the capital city of Pontus in Asia,

216-276         Mani

  • Mani was a Jewish Christian who received “revelations” from God and called himself an apostle of Jesus Christ
  • He carried a book and a staff, wore flamboyant colors (a blue cloak, red and green covered his legs), cast out demons and since he made a picture book to propagate his doctrine to the illiterate
  • Mani taught a dualistic religion with two independent, but opposite, eternal principles: Light and Darkness or God and Matter
  • His gospel taught that Jesus and others had come to release the souls of light from the prisons of their bodies
  • Mani’s revelation was considered by his followers as the final and universal revelation.  It was called Manicheism and zealous missionaries advanced this heresy which began to threatened Christianity. 
  • Augustine followed Manicheism between the ages of 19-29

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 comparison 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

251-356         Anthony (of Egypt, the Great)

  • Father of Monasticism and famous hermit
  • 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:                                                                                        
  • ascetic practices carried on by many within the church                                 
  • later many withdrew from society to live as hermits                                       
  • many followed and lived close to these hermits and looked to them for leadership           
  • these communities organized into communal life in a monastery setting
  • Not all were level headed like Anthony:                                                     
  • 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.                                                                    
  • Ammoun never undressed of bathed after he became a hermit.                 
  • 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:           
  • the cessation of Christian meetings                                                                
  • the destruction of the churches 
  • the deposition of church officers
  • the imprisonment of those who persist in their testimony of Christ
  • 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 (“C”) and the Rho (“R”) (the “ch” and the “r” of the name Christ).chi-rho
  • 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.’

Doctrinal Splits and Heresies in the Early Church

Name of Group
or Division


History and Doctrinal Characteristics of Group



Need for the Mosaic Law in Salvation. A Christological Heresy
Did not agree with the Apostle Paul’s position
Jesus is the man anointed by the Spirit who became the Messiah
Jesus was not God
Where looking for the imminent Millennium
Used Matthew and Hebrews



Began with pagan philosophical ideas and incorporated it into Christian doctrine
Forms of this are beginning in Paul and John’s day
Marcion (85-160) made the greatest advances with Gnostic theology
Marcion was excommunicated in 144



An ancient Pentecostal group
Named after Montanus. Occurred mainly in Phrygia (in Asia Minor) but spread through out the Roman empire
Montanus said he was the Word of God and claimed to have direct revelations from the Holy Sprit
They encouraged ecstatic prophesying.
They believed the sinning Christians could not be redeemed, forbid remarriage, firm church discipline, celebrated Easter on Nisan 14.



A major Gnostic religion
Based on the writings of Mani (210-276) who lived in Babylon
Mani was visited as a youth by a spirit that taught him truths.
These truths gave him divine knowledge which liberated his insight and understanding, or he became a “Gnostic”. Mani was the Paraclete of Truth which was promised in scripture
At its peak it reached from China to Spain



Trinitarian Heresy
God is a single person
God revealed himself in the Old Testament as the Father, in the gospels he manifested as the Son, after Jesus ascension God takes the form of the Holy Spirit.
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit never existed at the same time
Some modern groups still hold to this.  They deny the Trinity, claim that the name of God is Jesus and accuse Trinitarians of having three gods.
Council of Antioch condemns it in 268



Trinitarian Heresy
God the Father became incarnate, suffered and died and was resurrected.
God the Father became the Son
Condemned at Rome in 200



Trinitarian Heresy
Also called Adoptionism
Jesus became Christ at His baptism, was adopted by the Father after His death.  God existed in Jesus in a powerful way.
By 300 Manarchianists have become Arians



Re-admittance to the Church
Novatius refused to give communion to believers who had denied their faith, offered sacrifices to the emperor or handed over scriptures to be burned during the persecution of Decius in 250



Re-admittance to the Church
Followers of Donatus Magnus refused to accept Christians who gave up scriptures and did not recognize bishops who were ordained by a church leader who had handed over the scriptures during the Diocletian persecution (303-305).
They claimed to be the true church and separated from the accepted mainline church.
The group continued past 409 and survived the Vandals invasions even though the Roman church tried to take possession of their churches by force several times.



Christological Heresy
Christ is the first created being
Supporters: Arius, Eusebius of Nicomedia



Christological Heresy
Also called “Semi-Arianism”
Christ is of similar essence with the Father but is subordinate to Him



Trinitarian Heresy
Also called “Pneumatomachism”
The Holy Spirit is a created being



Christological Heresy
Christ had no human spirit.  The Logos was Christ’s spirit.
Jesus was God, but not fully human.
Jesus had a human body and a human soul but not a human spirit.



Christological Heresy
The Logos indwelt the human man Jesus, which made Jesus a
God-bearing man.
Jesus then has two distinct natures that were completely separate.
Jesus was God and Jesus was man, but as two separate persons
There are still Nestorian churches in Iran and Iraq.



Christological Heresy
The human nature of Christ was absorbed by the Logos
Jesus was neither fully human or fully divine, but was a mixture of humanity and divinity



Christological Heresy
Jesus was God, but not human.  Jesus only appeared to be human.
“Docetism” from Greek word “dokesis” which means “to seem”
Ignatius warns the church of Smyrna of the danger of this in 117.



Christological Heresy
Christ had one nature. Jesus was God with human attributes, yet he had one divine nature.
Declared a heresy in 451 at the fourth church council in Chalcedon.



Christological Heresy
Christ had no human will, only the divine will.
The Maronite  Church in Syria holds to this view today



Pelagian Controversy concerning how and who are saved
Man is born essentially good and capable of doing what is necessary for salvation
The Council of Ephesus in 431 declared it heretical



Pelagian Controversy concerning how and who are saved
Man is dead in sin; salvation is totally by the grace of God, which is given only to the elect.



Pelagian Controversy concerning how and who are saved
The grace of God and the will of man work together in salvation, in which man must take the initiative



Pelagian Controversy concerning how and who are saved
The grace of God comes to all, enabling a person to choose and perform what is necessary for salvation.

313     Edict of Milan

  • Constantine had granted toleration of Christianity and restitution of property taken from Christians in the lands of Gaul, Spain and Britain in 306
  • By 310 Maxentius had done both in Italy and Africa
  • In 311 Galerius and Licinius decreed tolerance to Christianity in the Balkans and began restitution in 313.
  • The Edict of Milan came in 313 when emperors Constantine and Licinius proclaimed religious tolerance through out Roman Empire to include newly acquired land taken fro Maximinus.
  • The Edict of Milan came in the form of a letter from Licinius to the Governor of Bithynia in June of 313.  It was sent on behalf of Emperor Licinius in the East and Emperor Constantine in the West.  It was to be circulated to the governors through out the east

The Text of the Edict of Milan from 313

When I, Constantine Augustus, as well as I, Licinius Augustus, fortunately met near Mediolanurn (Milan), and were considering everything that pertained to the public welfare and security, we thought, among other things which we saw would be for the good of many, those regulations pertaining to the reverence of the Divinity ought certainly to be made first, so that we might grant to the Christians and others full authority to observe that religion which each preferred; whence any Divinity whatsoever in the seat of the heavens may be propitious and kindly disposed to us and all who are placed under our rule. And thus by this wholesome counsel and most upright provision we thought to arrange that no one whatsoever should be denied the opportunity to give his heart to the observance of the Christian religion, of that religion which he should think best for himself, so that the Supreme Deity, to whose worship we freely yield our hearts) may show in all things His usual favor and benevolence. Therefore, your Worship should know that it has pleased us to remove all conditions whatsoever, which were in the rescripts formerly given to you officially, concerning the Christians and now any one of these who wishes to observe Christian religion may do so freely and openly, without molestation. We thought it fit to commend these things most fully to your care that you may know that we have given to those Christians free and unrestricted opportunity of religious worship. When you see that this has been granted to them by us, your Worship will know that we have also conceded to other religions the right of open and free observance of their worship for the sake of the peace of our times, that each one may have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases; this regulation is made we that we may not seem to detract from any dignity or any religion.
Moreover, in the case of the Christians especially we esteemed it best to order that if it happens anyone heretofore has bought from our treasury from anyone whatsoever, those places where they were previously accustomed to assemble, concerning which a certain decree had been made and a letter sent to you officially, the same shall be restored to the Christians without payment or any claim of recompense and without any kind of fraud or deception, Those, moreover, who have obtained the same by gift, are likewise to return them at once to the Christians. Besides, both those who have purchased and those who have secured them by gift, are to appeal to the vicar if they seek any recompense from our bounty, that they may be cared for through our clemency. All this property ought to be delivered at once to the community of the Christians through your intercession, and without delay. And since these Christians are known to have possessed not only those places in which they were accustomed to assemble, but also other property, namely the churches, belonging to them as a corporation and not as individuals, all these things which we have included under the above law, you will order to be restored, without any hesitation or controversy at all, to these Christians, that is to say to the corporations and their conventicles: providing, of course, that the above arrangements be followed so that those who return the same without payment, as we have said, may hope for an indemnity from our bounty. In all these circumstances you ought to tender your most efficacious intervention to the community of the Christians, that our command may be carried into effect as quickly as possible, whereby, moreover, through our clemency, public order may be secured. Let this be done so that, as we have said above, Divine favor towards us, which, under the most important circumstances we have already experienced, may, for all time, preserve and prosper our successes together with the good of the state. Moreover, in order that the statement of this decree of our good will may come to the notice of all, this rescript, published by your decree, shall be announced everywhere and brought to the knowledge of all, so that the decree of this, our benevolence, cannot be concealed.



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