What is the earliest known Christian document?
The earliest Christian document is Paul’s first Epistle to the Thessalonians, which can plausibly be dated to about AD 51.
What was John the Baptist’s role in the history of Christianity?
His function, in the history of Christianity, was to attach elements of the Essene teaching to a consistent view of Jewish eschatology. John was an impatient man, as well as a wild-looking one: the Messiah was not merely coming – he was here! The apocalypse was rolling fast towards the people, so now was the time to repent and prepare.
What was the dominant strain of Christianity before the third century?
Before the last half of the third century it is inaccurate to speak of a dominant strain of Christianity. So far as we can judge, by the end of the first century, and virtually throughout the second, the majority of Christians believed in varieties of Christian- Gnosticism, or belonged to revivalist sects grouped round Charismatics.
Why study the history of Christianity?
This involves much compression and selection, but it has the advantage of providing new and illuminating perspectives, and of demonstrating how the varied themes of Christianity repeat and modulate themselves through the centuries.
What is the first political act in the history of Christianity?
1 – The Rise and Rescue of the Jesus Sect (50 BC-AD 250) Some time about the middle of the first century AD, and very likely in the year 49, Paul of Tarsus travelled south from Antioch to Jerusalem and there met the surviving followers of Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified about sixteen years before. This Apostolic Conference, or Council of Jerusalem, is the first political act in the history of Christianity and the starting-point from which we can seek to reconstruct the nature of Jesus’s teaching and the origins of the religion and church he brought into being. We have two near-contemporary accounts of this Council. One, dating from the next decade, was dictated by Paul himself in his letter to the Christian congregations of Galatia in Asia Minor. The second is later and comes from a number of sources or eye-witness accounts assembled in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. It is a bland, quasi-official report of a dispute in the Church and its satisfactory resolution. Let us take this second version first. It relates that ‘fierce dissension and controversy’ had arisen in Antioch because ‘certain persons’, from Jerusalem and Judea, in flat contradiction to the teaching of Paul, had been telling converts to Christianity that they could not be saved unless they underwent the Jewish ritual of circumcision. As a result, Paul, his colleague Barnabas, and others from the mission to the gentiles in Antioch, travelled to Jerusalem to consult with ‘the apostles and elders’. There they had a mixed reception. They were welcomed by ‘the church and the apostles and the elders’; but ‘some of the Pharisaic party who had become believers’ insisted that Paul was wrong and that all converts must not only be circumcized but taught to keep the Jewish law of Moses. There was ‘a long debate’, followed by speeches by Peter, who supported Paul, by Paul himself and Barnabas, and a summing up by James, the younger brother of Jesus. He put forward a compromise which was apparently adopted ‘with the agreement of the whole Church’. Under this, Paul and his colleagues were to be sent back to Antioch accompanied by a Jerusalem delegation bearing a letter. The letter set out the terms of the compromise: converts need not submit to circumcision but they must observe certain precepts in the Jewish law in matters of diet and sexual conduct. Luke’s record in Acts states that this half-way position was arrived at ‘unanimously’, and that when the decision was conveyed to the Antioch congregation, ‘all rejoiced’. The Jerusalem delegates were thus able to return to Jerusalem, having solved the problem, and Paul carried on with his mission. This, then, is the account of the first council of the Church as presented by a consensus document, what one might call an eirenic and ecumenical version, designed to present the new religion as a mystical body with a co-ordinated and unified life of its own, moving to inevitable and predestined conclusions. Acts, indeed, says specifically that the ruling of the Council was ‘the decision of the Holy Spirit’. No wonder it was accepted unanimously! No wonder that ‘all’ in Antioch ‘rejoiced at the encouragement it brought’. Paul’s version, however, presents quite a different picture. And his is not merely an eye-witness account, but an account by the chief and central participant, perhaps the only one who grasped the magnitude of the issues at stake. Paul is not interested in smoothing the ragged edges of controversy. He is presenting a case to men and women whose spiritual lives are dominated by the issues confronting the elders in that room in Jerusalem. His purpose is not eirenic or ecumenical, still less
How long was Manfred’s daughter in prison?
Manfred’s daughter Beatrice was kept in prison for eighteen years ; his three bastard sons never emerged – one was still alive in 1309, having been in papal custody forty-five years. Of Frederick’s children and grandchildren, ten died by papal violence or in papal dungeons.
What was the result of Christianity’s avoiding or absorbing extremes?
There was in consequence a loss of spirituality or , as Paul would have put it, of freedom. There was a gain in stability and collective strength. By the end of the third century Christianity was able to confront and outface the most powerful corporation in ancient history – the Roman empire.
How did the conversion of Constantine affect the Christian Church?
The conversion of Constantine had aligned the Roman empire with the Christian Church in a working partnership. But the empire, as the earlier institution, had changed the less of the two; in some ways it had barely changed at all – it had replaced one State religion by another. The Church, by contrast, had changed a great deal. It had adapted itself to its State and imperial function; it had assumed worldly ways and attitudes, and accepted a range of secular responsibilities; and in the emperor it had acquired a protector and governor whom it might influence but could not directly control. Hence the Church, by marrying the imperial Roman State, was necessarily influenced by changes which overcame that State in the fifth and sixth centuries. In effect the empire split into two. In the East, the government succeeded in maintaining a trading system and a strong gold-based currency; hence it could afford to pay regular armies, and so maintained its frontiers. The process of integration of Church and State, begun by Constantine, continued until the two became inseparable: the Byzantine empire became, in effect, a form of theocracy, with the emperor performing priestly and semi-divine functions, and the Orthodox Church constituting a department of State in charge of spiritual affairs. This conjunction endured for a thousand years, until the remains of the empire were overrun by the Ottoman Turks in the mid fifteenth century. The western sector of the empire, after the closing decades of the fourth century, lacked a coordinated economic system which could be policed, and so taxed, by a central government. Unable to collect taxes, the authorities could not maintain a currency and pay the legions. There was, in effect, a vacuum of government. After 476, no further western emperors were elected; and except for a period in the mid sixth century, when Constantinople succeeded in reestablishing its authority in Italy, Spain and North Africa, the old imperial system of government was inoperative in the West. Byzantium had a powerful navy. Until the Arab-Moslem conquests of the late seventh century, the Byzantine empire had naval superiority throughout the Mediterranean, when it chose to exert it. This meant it controlled the Adriatic, and from Ravenna on the east coast of Italy it maintained a residual connection with the West. The Pope, as Bishop of Rome, ruled what was a duchy of the empire, and paid taxes accordingly. The West as a whole became an area of tribal settlement, in which semi-barbarous kingdoms existed behind fluctuating frontiers. In these circumstances, the western Church found itself the residual legatee of Roman culture and civilization, and the only channel by which it could be transmitted to the new societies and institutions of Europe. It thus faced a greater challenge and opportunity than at the time of Constantine’s conversion. It had the chance to recreate the secular framework of society ab initio, and in its own Christian image. It was the only organized international body left with ideas, theories, a sophisticated hierarchy and advanced cultural technologies, in an empty world which possessed little but tribalism. Moreover, the Church, in the writings of St Augustine, possessed an outline – albeit a pessimistic one -of how a Christianized, earthly society should work. During these four centuries, then, the Church acted as a ‘carrier’ of civilization rather as, in its formative period, the Hellenistic religious-culture machine had ‘carried’ Christian Judaism into a Roman, Universalist context. The great merit of the Latin Church – the chief reason for its success – was that it was not anchored in any particular racial, geographical, social or political context. It bore
What happened after Herod’s death?
Immediately after Herod’s death in 4 BC, perhaps in the very year of Jesus’s birth, there had been disturbances in Galilee, and some 2,000 Jews had been crucified by Varus. Galilee was an area of mixed religious cults, where Judaism was active and becoming predominant by vigorous and aggressive proselytizing.
How did the favour of the State affect the bishops?
Of course the favour of the State enormously increased the value of clerical status, and the desirability of office, particularly higher ones. The council held at Sardica in the Balkans in 341, for instance, tried to prevent transfers of bishops from one see to another, as ‘a bad custom and a wicked source of corruption’. It noted severely: ‘We don’t find bishops wanting to transfer from a large see to a smaller one: all are aflame with the fires of greed, and are slaves of ambition.’ The historian Ammianus, a pagan but fair-minded as a rule towards Christianity, drew the connection between disputed episcopal elections and the revenues of the see. Thus after the election battle between Damasus and Ursinus for the bishopric of Rome in 366, Ammianus says that 137 bodies were found in a church – on the site of what is now St Maria Maggiore. Naturally, he adds, such things happened, since once in office, the bishops of Rome: ‘are free from money worries, enriched by offerings from married women, riding in carriages, dressing splendidly, feasting luxuriantly – their banquets are better than imperial ones. But they might be really happy if, despising the vastness of the city, in which they can hide their faults, they lived like provincial bishops, with harsh abstinence in eating and drinking, plain apparel, eyes cast to the ground – proclaiming themselves pure and reverent men to the everlasting deity and his true worshippers’. The Sardica canons also indicate that the rich and well-connected were making their way into the Church purely for material advancement. They lay down: ‘If a rich man, or lawyer, or state official be offered a bishopric, he should not be ordained unless he has previously acted as a reader, .deacon or priest, and so rises to the highest rank, the episcopate, by progressive promotion … ordination should only be conferred on those whose whole life has been under review for a long period, and whose worth has been proved.’ This canon proved totally ineffective, to judge by the number of famous clerics who broke it, or had it broken on their behalf. It was common for the State or private interest groups to push their nominees into key Church posts, irrespective of their status. St Ambrose was baptized, went through the various clerical ranks and was consecrated bishop of Milan all within eight days. Among laymen ordained direct to the presbyterate were St Augustine, St Jerome, Origen and Paulinus of Nola. Fabian was a layman when made Pope in 236; Eusebius was only a catechumen when made bishop of Caesarea in 314; other laymen-bishops were Philogonius of Antioch in 319, Nectarius of Constantinople in 381 and Synesius of Ptolemais in 410. Eusebius, it should be added, was enthroned by the military, as were Martin of Tours and Philiaster of Brescia. Gregory of Nazianzus says it was common in the fourth century for bishops to be selected ‘from the army, the navy, the plough, the forge’. Jerome complained: ‘One who was yesterday a catechumen is today a bishop; another moves overnight from the amphitheatre to the church; a man who spent the evening in the circus stands next morning at the altar, and another who was recently a patron of the stage is now the dedicator of virgins.’ Direct bribery was also common. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, found six cases of episcopal simony at the synod he held at Ephesus in 401. They came clean: ‘We have given bribes – the thing is admitted – so we would be made bishops and exempt from civil duties.’ They asked to be confirmed or, if this were impossible, to have their money back. They were evidently small men: ‘Some of us have handed over furniture belonging to our wives.’ They got their bribes back and, after Chrysostom’s fall, their bishoprics too, keeping their wives all the time. Almost from the start, the State tried to limit the exploitation of clerical privilege or, rather, use it for secular purposes. As early as 320, and again in 326, Constantine tried to prevent tax-evasion by the
Where were the majority of Christians?
Christians were in the majority only in Alexandria and certain Syrian cities. Generally, they preferred Arab-Moslem to Greek-Christian rule, though there were periods of difficulty and persecution. There was never, at any stage, a mass-demand from the Christians under Moslem rule to be ‘liberated’.