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Why study Church history? It is a study of Scripture and theology. Understanding the “canon,” or why we have the Scriptures we have we gain more understandings of the meanings because
Clement was a Roman bishop who wrote to the church in Corinth around 95AD. He was the bishop over the house churches in Rome. He wrote to the church in Corinth because it was in turmoil again with problems similar to what Paul had covered in his earlier letter. He referenced numerous Old Testament passages and teachings of the apostles to correct what he recognized as problems with their personal humility and early church oversight.
Episkopos, bishop, the Bishop of Rome, fellow worker, Corinth, humility, early church history, turmoil, factions, piety, restoration
The Didache is a book that contains very straightforward and simple instructions about life, closely akin to parts of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). It speaks directly to how to live day-to-day as well as how to conduct core services as a church, or group of believers. It was used as a guide to assist early believers to train ne converts to the faith.
Two roads, way of life, Aaron Milavec, Philotheos Bryennios, Sermon on the Mount, Advice in Godly living, guidelines, core services, eating, fasting, praying, baptizing, hospitality/testing, first fruits, Lord’s Prayer, Didache, morality
Christian martyrdom was typically the end result of extreme persecution, which may have been rooted in three broad categories: Jewish persecution of the church – which was an extension of their hatred of Jesus; persecution that arose from local interests – where Christian moralities may have upset the local economy; and government sponsored persecution – because leadership either misinterpreted early church practices or simply needed a convenient scapegoat to cover up some of their own illicit activities.
Martyrdom, persecution, suffering, Jewish persecution, cursed, crucified, false assumptions, theology, Nero, evil religion, Domitian, ritual taxes
Ignatius of Antioch was the Bishop of the church at Antioch circa 110 AD. Typically Christians were charged with atheism because they would not worship Caesar as god and for this they were martyred. He wrote seven letters to the churches along his way from Antioch to Rome providing strong guidance in various Christian themes. Polycarp was the Bishop of the church at Smyrna and was considered an Apostolic Father. He too provided strong leadership to the church and faced his death by burning with an uncommon bravery, praying for his executioners.
Ignatius, Polycarp, seven letters, Eusebius, Onesimus, Philemon, the medicine of immortality, Magnesian letter, Trallian Letter, Philadelphian Letter, The Archives, Smyrnaen Letter, Apostolic Father, the church at Philomelium
Many New Testament churches met in homes of the wealthy because these homes would have had enough room to accommodate the larger groups. The earliest official “church building” was a converted house in Dura-Europos, Syria, which is dated to have been converted around 250AD. Although there is not a record of how a typical service was performed early church services were most likely patterned after Jewish services which were built around four events: praise, prayer, Scripture reading, and instruction. There is clear evidence that the early church was a singing church; Paul encouraged the churches to sing to each other “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” One of the important differences between the services in the apostolic church and Jewish synagogues was that the Lord’s Supper was observed, and the evidence points to weekly observance on the Lord’s Day.
Church homes, communion, upper room, huperoon (Greek), St. Cyril of Jerusalem, peristyle, triclinium, church building, Dura-Europos, Shema, Dead Sea Community, Qumran, Ralph Martin, proseuche, Aramaic loan words, maranatha, Abba, amen, Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, agape feast, Tertullian, proestos, worship
Chapter 8 – Part 1: The Trinity – Biblical Basis
There is not an explicit reference in our Bible that states, “The LORD your God is one God who in His oneness exists as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’ It would be more accurate to say that the Bible reflects and expresses the Trinity doctrine and it does so in a variety of ways. We do see the Trinity reflected in three ways throughout the New Testament. In the devotion or worship of the first Christians: Paul wrote in numerous letters and specifically in Eph. 1:1-11: “…the Father chose us…in Christ we have redemption…and we are marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” In salvation we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And the communion we share with God is through the spiritual relationship we have with the Trinity (1 Cor. 12:4-6).
Trinity, Nicene Creed, the Shema, Three in One, ‘echad’, Creator and Sustainer, revelation, sui generis, devotion, grace (charis), ‘Trinitarian consciousness”, “The Three Personal God”, “Trinitarian Faith”
Chapter 9 – Alexandria and Early Biblical Understanding
Reading and understanding the Bible was challenging in the early Church as it is still today. When passages do not seem to make sense it opens up to interpretation. Many early leaders struggled with this and their writings shed some insight into prevalent thought. Philo, of Alexandria tried to find consistency between the Old Testament and prevailing Greek philosophies. The ‘Epistle of Barnabas’ provides an allegorical approach that attempts to go beyond any apparent meaning. Clement of Alexandria (circa 200 A.D.) combined philosophy of the day to aid in interpretation. Origen taught that there were layers of interpretation for scripture. The Apostle Paul made clear to Timothy that he, and by inference we, should recognize that all Scripture is ‘breathed‘ by God and that we should ‘rightly handle’ Scripture, which is a challenge for us to earnestly study to become equipped to rightly handle the Word of God.
Gnosticism, Marcion, Alexandria, Philo, Epistle of Barnabas, allegorical approach, interpretation, Clement of Alexandria, Platonism, philosophy’s dialectic, Origen, ‘full’ divinity of Jesus, Alexandrian Catechetical School
The ‘canon’, what we consider our Bible, is ultimately the collection of writings that the church uses as its measuring stick…the defining reference for Christian faith. Christianity has two general canons, the Catholic canon and the Protestant canon. The Catholic canon includes writings commonly called the ‘Apocrypha’. Our Old Testament is essentially the same as the Hebrew scripture. Some of the books were separated when they were translated into Greek (and this work was called the Septuagint) and that is why there are 39 books in our Old Testament and only 24 in the Hebrew Bible. The order comes from the order in the Septuagint.
Canon, Apocrypha, Septuagint, Westminster Confession of Faith, Torah, Megilloth, Jerome, codex
Many early believers were martyred by the Romans and whatever ‘books’ they had…many early manuscripts for the New Testament…were burned. Nevertheless, we still have some original manuscripts that survived. Emperor Constantine (272-337) ordered Christianity as the the state religion of Rome. He ordered that copies of the New Testament be made to enable better dissemination. The “Codex Sinaiticus” (discovered in 1844 – and believed to have been written in 350 A.D.), may be one of the original copies and includes all of the New Testament. The Biblical claim is that the Bible is both a divine work and a human work. God entrusted the Old Testament to the Jews and similarly God worked to produce His word to the Church in the New Testament text. The Apostles considered Jesus the Messiah and a prophet. All of His words carried the same weight and authority as the Old Testament. His words and the words of his closest Apostles were considered essential to the New Testament.
Diocletian, John Rylands Fragment, Emperor Constantine, Eusebius, Codex Sinaiticus, divine work, Irenaeus, Apostolic teaching as canon, scripture
Chapter 10 – Part 3: “The Accuracy and Collection of the New Testament”
Modern skeptics challenge that the New Testament is not an assembly of the true Scriptures, but reflect the spoils of victory for one group of beliefs that triumphed over others. The Nicene Creed, written during the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, expresses core orthodox beliefs that were based upon Old Testament writings. It is an affirmation of the teaching of the earliest doctrine in the Church. As the earliest church grew the apostles and the leaders recognized that the return of Jesus was not as imminent as they initially thought they started putting into writing their recollections and teachings. All of these writings became important as the church moved from the time of the apostles and faced heretical teachings.
Orthodox, Nicaea, First Council of Nicaea, Trinity, “one-ness’ of God, singularity, Arius, “Lost Scriptures”, “victors’ views”, “in the form of God”, “emptied himself”, “apostolic church”, “first generation church”, Thessalonians, false prophets, “syncretism”, Ptolemy I, Serapis, Historia Augusta
Chapter 12 – Constantine and Council of Nicaea
Constantine adopted Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire and he moved the Empire’s capital from Rome to Byzantium, which was renamed in his honor, Constantinople. Today we call it Istanbul. He was instrumental in organizing the Council of Nicaea and during that meeting, which lasted several months, the position of the group, termed the “Nicene Creed” was written as a position paper on Arianism. The events that took place before Constantine’s rise to power resulted in a dramatic shift for the church leaders. Prior to his influence the Christians were persecuted; once he gained the leadership position Christianity became recognized as the one true religion and the church leaders became leaders of the Empire.
Lord John Norwich, Byzantium, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Julius Caesar, Pompey the Great, Octavius, Caesar Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus, Masada, Domitian, “Flavian Dynasty”, Nerva, Trajan, “Golden Age”, Hadrian, Antonius Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, “Severian Emperors”, Septimus Severus, Geta, “Barrack Emperors”, Diocletian, Maximian, Constantius, Galerius, “tetrarch”, Bishops, synods, Spilt, Croatia, Licinius, “The Edict of Milan”, “Blue Law”, Council of Nicaea, “Christian God”, Arius, Athanasius, Thallia, Arianism, Tertullian
Chapter 11 – Science the Bible and the Early Church
Truth is God’s truth, whether it is found in math, science, or philosophy. Many of the early church leaders (Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus of Lyon) used their Greek logic (“science”) to defend the faith. Clement believed that God had providently provided the world with Socrates and Plato to prepare the Greeks for the gospel in the same way that God provided the Old Testament to prepare the Jews for the gospel. Tertullian reasoned that the mingling of philosophy with the gospel was what the apostle Paul expressly warned us against. Science is an aid to faith and faith aids science.
“Heliocentrism”, “ethnos”, “Gentiles”, Jamnia, Aristotle, Pythagorus, “philosophy”, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus of Lyon, Carthage, Tertullian, Cyprian, Plato, “Stoics”, Peripatetics, Epicureanism, Origen, mutuality
Church History: Chapter 14 – Saint Antony – A Desert Father
The principal source for the life of St. Antony is the biography written by Athanasius. Born around 250 AD to parents that “were of good stock and well-to-do,” when his parents died (he was only 18-20), he chose to give all of his earthly belongings to the townspeople. He became an ascetic, moved out of town and devoted his life to prayer and committing large portions of scripture to memory. He had to overcome some significant temptations from Satan. Some 20 years later when his friends convinced him to come out of seclusion it seemed to all that he was pure of soul and “completely under control.” He went to Egypt just prior to Constantine’s rise to power expecting to be martyred but instead he ministered to those who were being martyred.
Hermit, heremos, “Desert Father”, ascetic, self denial, “pray continually”, demonology, “customary tactics”, Athanasius, “The Life of St. Antony”, hyenas, “daily martyrdom”, monasteries, ascetic devotion, Constantine, Maximin, Arian controversy, “service of God”, extreme commitment.
Chapter 13 – Athanasius, Ambrose and Arianism
The variety of issues discussed in the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) ranged from how to date Easter to whether to ordain eunuchs as priests, but everything was secondary to settling the Arian controversy. Arius taught that Jesus was made by God and was not divine on the same level as God. Athanasius played a key role in opposing Arianism, condemning it as heresy and emerged as the key figure in the triumph of orthodox theology. Ambrose also continued to oppose heresies in the church. He sold off his family holdings and gave the proceeds to those in need. He opposed the Empress Justina who was a strong supporter of Arianism.
Eusebius of Nicomedia, The Bishop of Nicaea, Theognis, Hosius, homoousios, “one substance”, “consubstantial”, “begotten not made”, homoiousios, “of a similar substance”, “semi-Arians”, Roger Olson, Constantine, Constantius, radical subordinationism, Julian, Jovian, Valens, hypostases, Tertullian, “Trinitarian formula, una substantia, tres personae”, Justo Gonzalez, Frances Young, St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, Auxentius, Valentinian, Empress Justina, Theodosius
Church History: Chapter 15– Augustine and the Fall of the Roman Empire
This is a study of Augustine and the fall of the Roman Empire but it also serves as a reminder that the Kingdom of God is the only enduring kingdom. As the Empire fell the Christian church was affected tremendously. Augustine was born in 354 A.D. in Northern Africa. Most of his early years he claimed to be a Christian, but he was part of a cult. But after his conversion in 387 (by St. Ambrose, no less), he became one of the most influential Christians of that time. In that same time period the Roman Empire was crumbling and was sacked in 410 A.D. by the Goth’s who were invading from the North because Attila from the East was displacing them. Augustine wrote strongly in defense of the Christian influence on society and how the Church strengthened the Empire.
Kingdom, basileia, philosophy, Saint Augustine, Confessions, Thagaste, Souk Ahras, Algeria, Carthage, Adeodatus, rhetoric, Constantine, Cicero, “Manichees”, Monica, Rome, Milan, St. Ambrose, Simplicianus, Ponticianus, Edward Gibbon, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, earthquake, Germanic Lands, “Goths”, “Visigoths”, “Ostrogoths”, Attila, Adrianople, Edirne, Turkey, Theodosius, Arian,
Church History: Chapter 15 Part 2– St. Augustine
Augustine’s book, ‘Confessions’ could be considered an autobiography of sorts. This lesson focuses more the core principles of his theology. On good and evil, he says that only God is perfect. When God created us, He stated, it was “good” not perfect. God made good and when that good is corrupted, it becomes what we call “evil.” Pure evil is what is left when all good is stripped from something or someone. On the Church sacraments, Augustine argued that the power of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) was in the elements themselves, not the priest administering the elements. The meaning of the sacrament was that God met man there, not that the priest brought God and man together. On grace and free will, If we were to ask Augustine why some people are saved and why others are left to hell’s condemnation, Augustine would ultimately refer to the mystery and secrets of God that we do not know or understand. These were what he called God’s “hidden determinations.”
Manichaeism, Neo-Platonic Greek philosophy, perfect, good, evil, grace, free will, sacraments, measure, modus, ‘mystery of iniquity’, Ostia, Donatism, Moreschini, Norelli, Bishop, Valerius, Hippo, Annaba, Algeria, Pelagius, “original sin”, “hidden determinations”, “The Predestination of the Saints,”
Church History: Chapter 16 – St. John Chrysostom
St. John Chrysostom was one of the most loved and successful preachers in church history. His name is a combination of two words that mean, “golden mouthed.” His sermons connected with the everyday person’s life and struggles, offering direction and encouragement from God’s word. He was demanding on the holiness of his church members, but was even more strident and careful in his own lifestyle and holiness. For ten years he preached in Antioch and we still have many of these sermons today.
St. John Chrysostom, historical “doctors” of the Roman church, Archpriest Vitali Borovoi, Libanius, Basil, Cappodocian Fathers, monastic, Theodosius, Nektarius, Eutropius, Arcadius, Theophilus, Empress Aelia, Eudoxia, Jezebel, Caucasus, Armenia, Comana, “treasures of the Scriptures”, Von Campenhausen
Church History: Chapter 17 – The Papacy
Our English word “pope” comes from the Latin papa, and from the Greek word pappas. Even though these words were the common everyday expressions a child would use for his father, today the concept of “Pope” is more than a reference to a spiritual father. The Roman Catholic Church describes the Pope as the holder of many titles, but the focus of this lesson is the title, “Successor of the Chief of Apostles,” and it begins with Peter. But the views of the Protestant and Catholic churches differ on the role of and the need for a pope. The Roman church considered the church as an “organized, visible, juristic and corporate society.” As such the church set up a government by Christ. It’s growth is charted through various leaders including 1 Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus and Polycarp. Both the Roman and Protestant views of the early development of church leadership is contrasted.
Pope, father, papa, pappas, Triclinium Vaticanum, Vatican, Vicar of Jesus, Bishop of Rome, Successor of the Chief of the Apostles, Supreme Pontif of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Provence, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Peter, Petros, petra, Cephas, kepha, Protestants, Roman Catholics, Bishop, patriarchs, spiritual father, 1 Clement, Ignatius, elder, Magnesians, godly bishop, worthy presbyters, Trallians, Polybius, Irenaeus, Polycarp, Smyrna, Anicetus, Synods, St. Cyprian, Paul of Samosota, Pope Leo 1, Council of Chalcedon, Constantine, Emperor Valentinian III,
Church History: Chapter 18 – St. Benedictine and Early Monasticism
The secularization of the church had many effects, both good and bad. As the first Christian emperor, Constantine passed significant laws demonstrating a Christian influence on the state. But against this background of faith came lives of sin and disregard for the holy, which led to the rise of monasticism Among many of the monastics and the movements associated with them, we see them living in self-denial moved by a spirit of humility and love. This is particularly true of St. Benedict. Benedict was born around 480 in Nursia (modern Norcia, Italy, north of Rome). And although he was born into a family of wealthy nobility he never esteemed the world’s goods. Benedict is attributed with a creating a “Rule” to govern the monastic life in ways that make constructive Christian growth in community life.
These rules governed not only the monasteries for Benedict, but they also became the core rules for many monastic communities in Western Christendom even today.
St. Benedictine, Constantine, secularization, “Eremitical monasticism,” “Cenobitism,” or a cloistered life. St. Pachomius. Paul the Simple, Isodore of Pelusium, Macarius the Egyptian, Simeon the Stylite, Macarius the Younger, Gregory, Gregory’s Dialogue, Enfide, Monte Cassino, Rule of St. Benedict
Church History: Chapter 19 – St. Patrick
St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain, but at the age of 16 was taken to Ireland and put in slavery. He was put in charge of his master’s sheep and as he spent a lot of time away from family and friends he spent his time contemplating his sinfulness. God used this time of persecution and isolation to work in Patrick’s heart and mind and he gave his life to God. He wrote his Confessions as a guide for those who came after him and it is evidence of how much God had spoken to him. He returned to Britain and after a number of years returned to Ireland where he became the first missionary there and led many into conversion.
St. Patrick, Confessions, Coroticus, The Epistle to Coroticus, Faed Fiada, Deer’s Cry, Roman Britain, Ireland, slavery, Diocletian, “Fall of the Roman Empire,” “Middle Ages,” Clyde River, shepherd, visions, dreams, Bishop
Church History: Chapter 20 – Turning Points: Mohammad and Islam
Muhammad, was born around 570 A.D. Both of his parents died before he was six years old and he became a nomad joining a tribe of one of his relatives. Most of the information we have about him is second hand. He had numerous visions or dreams where he was “told by Gabriel” to “Recite.” These visions became commandments that were recorded in the Koran. He was rejected by many because he taught a monotheism which upset the idol worshippers of the time. Islam claims that Mohammad fulfilled a prophecy of Jesus in that he was the counselor Jesus promised.
Goths, Vandals, Lombards, Arabs, Islam, Muslims, Sunnis, Shiites, ISIS, Constantinople, “Byzantine”, “Near East”, Sasian Kingdom, Sasanian Empire, Semitic, Shem, Zoroastrianism, Zoroaster, “Angra Mainyu”, “Ahura Mazda”, Nestorius, nomadic peoples, tents, families, clans, tribes, Mecca, Arabian Peninsula, cube, Ka’ba, Koran, Quraysh tribe, Zamzam spring, Hashimite clan, monotheist, hunafa, Mount Hira, Ramadan, Gabriel, “Jibra’eel”, The “Messenger of God”, paraklete, counselor, Yathrib, Medina, Najran, Yemen, Euthyches, Chalcedonian council, Sabaeans, Allah, Abu Bakr, Umar, Utham, Hadith, five “pillars”, “Salah”’ “Zakat”, “Sawm”, “Hajj”, visions descended
Church History: Chapter 21 – Turning Points: Mohammad and Islam – Part 2
Although an initial and superficial glance can show Islam and Christianity having great similarities, there are numerous core belief differences. The core Christian truth that we are sinners saved by grace stands in direct opposition to the teaching of Islam; The Qur’an teaches that man makes choices to sin or live righteously. In fact, there are a number of Christian scholars who consider Muhammad to have been a Christian heretic, rather than an instigator of a new faith.
Church History: Chapter 22 – Gregory the Great
Gregory the Great was one of the four “Doctors” of the early Latin Church. He was born in 540 A.D. in a well to do Christian family in Rome. He spent six years in Constantinople where he spent a great deal of time teaching and defending the faith. When he returned to Rome he became the Pope and led the Church through the plague and invasions of the Lombards. He was a prolific writer and from his writings we can appreciate his views on the Bible, the Church, the Devil and pastoral care.
Gregory, “Church Fathers”, “Doctors”, Latin Church Fathers, Pope of Rome, “Prefecture of Rome”, Benedict, Saint Andrew, Constantinople, Pope Pelagius II, “leisurely freedom”, otium, negotiam, Augustine of Canterbury, Gregorian Chants, “God bless you”, Venantius, revelation, allegory, Benedictine monks, Angleish, “corner”, Satan, Pastoral care
Church History: Chapter 23 – Baptist History – Part 1 and 2
Many associate the Baptist Church to the Anabaptist and Mennonite movement, which share the belief of “believer’s baptism”. The Free Church movement in England gave birth to a number of Christian expressions, and was to establish a faith and practice that was free form domination and “control” by “secular” or government forces. The printing press had a powerful influence on the Free Church movement in that Bibles were printed for all to read. As people sought to live out a direct and personal relationship to God instead of just affiliating with the local Church, the Free Church was begun. Roger Williams, John Clarke, and Henry Dunster were instrumental in helping the Baptist movement to grow in early America.
Baptist, “Perpetuity”, Anabaptist, Mennonite, Puritan, “Separatist Movement”, “Free Church”, Reformation, Thomas Helwys, John Smythe, “General Baptist”, 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, “Pilgrim’s Progress”, the Trinity, Creation, the Fall, Justification, Sanctification, Repentance, Baptism, The Lord’s Supper, Judgment and the Afterlife, “Catabaptists, “perverted baptism”, “rebaptized”, Albert Henry Newman, Nicene Creed, infant baptism, Roger Williams, Boston Church, Plymouth Colony, Rhode Island, Providence, regenerate believers, Ezekiel Holliman, John Clarke, Newport, RI, Henry Dunster, Harvard, Issac Backus, Virginians, Eugene Bucklin, Bowen, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Constitution, Baptist General Committee,