TIME LINE OF CHURCH HISTORY
Scholars estimate that there are over 2600 groups today who lay claim to being the Church, or at least the direct descendants of the Church described in the New Testament. Repeat:2600!
But the first thousand years of her history the Church was essentially one. Five historic Patriarchal centers-Jerusalem; Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople—formed a cohesive whole and were in full communion with each other. There were occasional heretical or schismatic groups going their own way, to be sure; but the Church was unified until the 11th century. Then, in events culminating in A.D. 1054, the Roman Patriarch pulled away from the other four, pursuing his long developing claim of universal headship of the Church.
Today, nearly a thousand years later, the other four Patriarchates remain intact, in full communion, maintaining that Orthodox apostolic faith of the inspired New Testament record. The Orthodox Church and her history is described herein, from Pentecost to the present day.
The Apostolic Period: 33-120
- 33 Pentecost (A.D: 29 is thought to be more accurate).
- 35 b. Ignatius. His letters to churches and to Polycarp are widely quoted in the early church
- 49 Council at Jerusalem (Acts 15) establishes precedent for addressing Church disputes in Council. James presides as bishop.
- 51 The Jewish persecution of Christians in Rome becomes so disruptive that the Jews are expelled from the city
- 60 b. Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor. “He was a man of long ago and the disciple of one ‘John’ and a companion of Polycarp,” according to Irenaeus
- 64 Emperor Nero blames the fire that destroys much of Rome on the Christians. He persecutes the church ruthlessly, and uses Christians as candles to light his garden. It is likely that both Peter and Paul were executed during this persecution.
- 68 the end of Nero’s reign
- 69 Bishop Ignatius consecrated in Antioch in heart of New Testament era—St. Peter had been the first bishop there. Other early bishops include James, Polycarp, and Clement.
- 69 b. Polycarp, in Smyrna. He was a strong defender of the faith in Asia Minor combating the Marcionites and the Valentinians. Irenaeus reported that Polycarp had communication with John the Apostle and ‘others who had seen the Lord’.
- 81 Domitian becomes Emperor. As Emperor, he persecuted both Jews and Christians
- 95 Book of Revelation written, probably the last of the New Testament books.
- 96 the end of Domitian’s reign
- 96 d. Clement of Rome. He wrote influential epistles to Corinth
- 98 Trajan becomes Emperor. Trajan eventually instituted a policy toward Christians that staid in effect until the time of Aurelius. His policy was not to seek Christians out, but if they were brought before the authorities they were to be punished, usually executed, for being Christians
- By the end of the 1st century it is possible to document congregations in almost every city that Paul visited on his three missionary journeys. There are also a few churches in Egypt and along the coast of Northern Africa
- 107 Ignatius led to Rome and martyred
- 115 b. Ireneaus, the first great catholic theologian and author of Against Heresies, a treatise against the Gnostics
- 130 d. Papias
- 130 Conversion of Justin Martyr. Justin loved philosophy, and had studied many philosophies and pagan religions in his search for truth. He was an apologist, and taught that the seeds of truth (logos) could be found in all religions, but that only Christianity taught the whole truth
- 144 Marcion excommunicated for rejecting the Old Testament, rejecting most of the New Testament, and teaching that Christ only appeared to be human (Docetism). His challenge helps the church realize the necessity of formally recognizing the canon
- 150 b. Clemet of Alexandria. He was an apologist who used Plato to support Christianity, and tried to reach Gnostics by showing that only the Christian had real “gnosis.” He helped establish the allegorical method of interpreting scripture. His works makes up a large proportion of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II
- 150 St. Justin Martyr describes the liturgical worship of the Church, centered in the Eucharist. Liturgical worship is rooted in both the Old and New Testament.
- 155 Polycarp was martyred in Smyrna by being burned to death. Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” The only known writings to survive are parts of letters he wrote to the Philippians
- 156 Possibly the beginning of the Montanist movement. They were an ascetic movement with apocalyptic visions. They claimed the Spirit spoke directly through their prophets and prophetesses
- 160 b. Tertullian. He objected to Justin’s use of philosophy to defend Christianity, saying “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?.” Late in life he became a Montanist and wrote Against Praxeas, which helped the church understand the Trinity.
- 161 Marcus Aurelius becomes emperor. He abandoned Trajan’s passvive approach and actively sought Christians to persecute them throughout the empire
- 165 Justin is martyred
- 180 The end of Aurelius’s reign
- 185 b. Origen.. Pupil of Clement of Alexandria, he further develops the allegorical method. This and his desire to relate to the Neoplatonists in Alexandria led him away from orthodoxy in some matters. But he is still important to the church. On First Principles is the first systematic theology
- 202 Septimus Severus tries to unite the empire under one religion, the worship of the Unconquered Sun. Both Jews and Christians refuse and are vehemently persecuted
- 202 Irenaeus is martyred (?)
- 202 Clement of Alexandria flees to Syria until his death in 215
- 216 b. Mani, founder of Manichaeism. He fused Persian, Christian, and Buddhist elements into a major new heresy
The Third Century: 220-305
- 225 d. Tertullian
- 245 Conversion of Cyprian
- 247 Cyprian becomes Bishop of Carthage
- 249-251 The region of Decius. He ordered everyone in the empire to burn incense to him. Those who complied were issued a certificate. Those who did not have a certificate were persecuted. Many Christians bought forged certificates, causing a great controversy in the church
- Cyprian went into hiding during the persecution and ruled the church by letters
- 251 b. Anthony. One of the earliest monks. He sold all his possessions and moved to the desert. Athanasius later wrote his biography
- 254 d. Origen
- The Novatian schism develops concerning the treatment of the lapsed. (The Novatians, or Cathari, last until about 600. Read the Catholic view of the schism.) Cyprian refuses to accept the validity of baptism by schismatic priests. The church in Rome is critical of Cyprian’s view, and sends him scathing letters. Carthaginian Councils
- 258 Cyprian is martyred before the issue is settled
- 263 b. Eusebius of Caesarea. He was the first church historian. Many works of the early church survive only as fragments in Eusebius’s writing
- 284 The beginning of the Diocletian persecution
- 286 b. Pachomius, Egyptian pioneer of cenobitic (communal rather than solitary) monasticism
- 297/300 b. Athanasius, the defender of Orthodoxy during the Arian controversy of the fourth century.