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Alternate Lecture for ChD 600 Church Development Part I

Alternate Lecture for ChD 600 Church Development Part I

by Brother Simonpeter Nnolumfu, OSM

Early Church Developments ( c.30 A.D TO 100 A.D)

General Overview:

At the very heart of Christianity lies the life, teachings and more importantly the very mission of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ on earth for all ages..which in every way had been met with a severe opposition from within the church and, also from outside the main streams of the christian faith during the apostolic era.

Historical Perspectives:

The early church leaders or the followers of Christ, were Jews or made up of the Jewish converts and had lived and practiced their Jewish religion before the Advent of Christianity. Therefore, in the wake of any new religion coming to light,fundamentally would become a threat to their Jewish customs or cultural heritage of the ancient times. It is quite understandably that even the very Roman Empires of their time had seen these new "Sect" as a problematic make-overs, and accusing christians of violating the emperical order to obey Caesar, or face death as a penalty for defying their Roman law.

However, history had always revealed that even the Roman citizens, had lost faith in their worthless idols or man-worship; who could neither save nor redeem them from the hands of their enemies or from those tyranical leaders who had kept them in bondage. So there was an anticipation of a Messiah, who would come to rescue them from slavery as promised by all the prophets of the Old Testament and of the holy Scriptures. These hope was envisioned as imminent by the Jews,that Christ's coming would foster order and stability during their own era.

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A Historical Survey of the Lives and Events in the Apostolic Era

In reality, the confession of apostle Peter, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,changed the course of human history. Thereafter, Christ said: Upon this Rock, I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Undoubtedly,the early church era was marked by the apostolic presence.Those that were selected by Christ, for a specific Ministry.(Cf. Mk.3:14,6:30). The early apostles were recognized by the early church as men endowed with a special authority because they were sent by Christ, as He had empowered them.Jn. 20:21-23.

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The First Council of Jerusalem

Apparentely,Practice among the groups that followed Jesus included those who were strictly Jewish, which had affected the new movement very adversely. The movement was centred around Jerusalem and was led by James the Just. They worship alongside with the Gentile converts based on what appears to be the version of Noachide laws(See Acts 15 and 21), that deals with the acceptance of Gentiles to partake in their Jewish worship.

Again,disputes over the Mosaic law generated an intense controversy during the developments of the early Church. This is particularly notable in the mid-1st century, when the circumcision controversy arosed. The issue was addressed at the 1st Council of Jerusalem where the apostle Paul argued that it was an unecessary practice and were being supported by Peter, as evidenced in Acts 15. At first, christians continued to worship alongside with Jewish believers,but within twenty years of Christ's death, Sunday was being regarded as the primary day of Worship as we shall see in one of the paragraphs below.

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Efforts to Centralize the Church and Martyrdom in the Early Church

Perhaps,there seems to be some efforts made by apostle James, during the apostolic era,to centralize the church in Jerusalem. He took a primary lead when Peter was released from Prison. Acts 12:17. Also,at the first church Council in Jerusalem. Acts 15:13. Luke and Paul visited James and all the Elders as recorded in Acts. 19:18. And after the Resurrection of Christ. I Cor. 15:7. In AD 70, Jerusalem was destroyed, which ended any possible hope to Centralize the church in Jerusalem as anticipated by apostle James.

Again,the early church also was marked by the era of persecution by the Jews or Sanhendrin during these apostolic era. The Jewish leaders first warned Peter and John, not to preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 4. They were imprisoned.Acts 5:18; and then beaten. Acts 5:40. finally, the first christians were Martyred. St. Stephen was the first casuality of these merciless inhumanity to man as he was stoned to death by those enemies of Christ.Thereafter,about two thousand Christians suffered martyrdom as a results of Stephen's death, with a man named Nicanor, one of the Seven Deacons during the persecution that arose about Stephen and Paul was their ringleader. Acts. 8. In AD 50, the Jews were expelled from Rome by Claudius. see. Acts 18:2.

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The First Waves of Persecution Under Nero in AD67.

The first wave of persecution took place in AD 67, under Nero who became the Sixth Emperor of Rome. He reigned for a space of five years and had caused the most atrocious act that was ever recorded in a human history. Among other of his diabolical whims was that, he ordered that the city of Rome should be set on fire. Which was carried-out and continued for Nine days. Most citizens of Roman Empire lost their lives and piles of Christian Martyrs were like sands in a sea shore.

When Nero was blamed for his vicious manslaughter, he laid the blame on Christians to had ignited these terrible acts. In particular, he had some christian believers sewed up and others were beheaded or thrown into a vicious dogs as food and others into the flames of fire. The order against Christs' followers were becoming more intense throughtout the Roman Empire that even the non Christians;believed that such action was an unjustifiably which tends to ruin human life. It was as a result of these merciless and odious behaviour by the Emperor, that Peter and Paul were both Martyred and with so many others in Rome during these 1st century.

The next Martyr that we see as recorded by St. Luke, was St. James the Great, the son of Zebedee, the elder brother of John, and a relative of our Lord, also suffered martyrdom. Apparently,another casuality was the leader of the apostle's himself, Peter, who was condemned to death and was crucified upside down in Rome 67-68AD. Again, St. Paul of Tarsus, who was also known for his persecution of christian sect,but later called Paul, after his conversion to Christianity, on his way to Damascus shared these waves of persecution too: under Nero and was beheaded in AD67-68.

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The Post Apostolic Era Between 100AD to 325AD

Also,the third waves of these persecution during the second century took place under Emperor Trajan, in 108AD. There was a man called Pliny the second,a man known to be famous and educated, seing how christians were being slaughtered daily and he was moved to pity and wrote to Trajan that all the accusations levelled against these sect were false and unjust and that they should put an end to the killings of those who profess their faith.

Thereafter, Adrian bacame the Emperor to succeed Trajan,but he became even more brutal than his predecessors. During his reign, Bishop Alexander and two of his Deacons were martyred, including Quirinus and Hermes, with their families. Some were killed with spears and brutal maiming. It was at these point that Quadratus, bishop of Anthens made a special apology requesting Adrian to end these suicidal killings of innocent civilians.

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The New Testament: A Need for Holy Scriptures in Writing.

It was very clear from the studies by the early church historians that,the early church or followers of Christ, did not see the need to write down what they had heard or received from Christ; as they were expecting His imminent return, during their own Era.

However,they relied on oral transmission of what was preached and taught by Christ and from his follwers,but as the original apostles were beginning to die and no one could defend the very faith entrusted to them that the written records of the holy Bible were considered to be written down. Certainly,these did not happen until the post apostolic Era,as the church began to put down the earliest teachings of the apostles in writing as they had been kept in the annals known as the Q source.

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Early Developments of the Orthodox Catholic Church

In AD 150,the catholic church was created, in Greek it means, universal. Which was meant to create a system of doctrine and of the ecclesiastical Structurs and for the unity of the apostolic tradition as being entrusted to them: One Faith and One Baptism.

It was also notably that the christian church was fragmented in its profession of faith in those early days due to their different views surrounding the Life of Christ, but more in particular the Gnostic teachings and practices in the second Century, which opposes sex and marriage and making contradictory statements of Christ's teachings and denying his divinity as being the God-man. Also, St.Irenaeus,was said to had created the first known document describing the apostolic succession. It paved-way as one of the final uniformity of liturgical services to become solidified after the church had established a biblical canons, being based on the apostolic constitutions and Clementine Literature.

In the Second century, an Episcopal structure becomes more visible. Post-apostolic bishops of some worth importance were St.Polycarp of Smyrna and St. Irenaeus of Lyons. These structure was enforced by the teachings of apostolic succession, where a bishop becomes the spiritual successor of his predecessors in a line tracing back to the apostolic roots. Each christian community also had presbyters, as was the case with Jewish communities, who were also ordaining priests,and these practice of three main offices of the Bishop,Priests and Deacons,in an organizational structure flourished in those days,and had continued till this day.

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Early Heresies in the Church:

In AD 44, the church of Rome expelled Marcion of Snope for misleading the faith of those entrusted to him. Thereupon he set up his own separate ecclessiastical organization, which was later called Marcionism. However, The Orthodox catholic church had denouced all of these groups in the past and had maintained the very essence of Orhodox faith, taught and lived by the holy apostles as recorded in the apostolic Canons.

Furthermore,the issue with a false mesiah arosed with a man named Simon Bar Kokhba, who claimed to be the "Messiah" and was recognized as such by most Jews of his time. While, on the other hand, Christians believing Christ, to be their Messiah. During those days, growing tension soon led to a widening separation that was virtually escalated by the time christians refused to join in the Bar Khokba Jewish revolt of 132AD. Apparentely, some group of christians retained some elements of Jewish practices after the revolt. However,Christianity also differs greatly from the other Roman religions, in that it set out its beliefs in a more clearly defined manner.

In the Christian circles, 'Nazarene' later came to be used as a lable for those faithful to Jewish law, in particular for a sect. These Jewish christians, originally a central group in christianity, were not at first declared to be unorthodox, but were later excluded and denounced, as Judaizers.

Some Jewish christian groups, such as the Ebionites, were considered to have unorthodox beliefs, particularly in relation to their views about the personhood of Christ, and of Gentile converts. The Nazarenes, holding to Orthodoxy except in their adherence to Jewish law, were not deemed heretical until the dominance of Orthodoxy in the fourth century.

The Ebionites may have been a splinter group of Nazarenes, with disagreements over Christology and leadership. After the condemnation of the Nazarenes, "Ebionites" was often used as a general terms for all related heresies. Also, at the other extremes were Marcionists who rejected all things that were considered Jewish. However, Jewish christians eventually constituted a separate community from the pauline christians and that they remained part of the Jewish community during those troubled times.

Although, there was a post-Nicene double "rejection" of the Jewish christians by both Gentile christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. Despite this internal schism between these two groups, those who remained fully faithful to Halacha become purely Jews, while those adhering to the christian faith joined with Gentiles, and Graeco-Roman,formed to become Pauline christianity. Gentiles christianity remained the sole strand's of orthodoxy and imposed itself on the Jewish christian santuaries, taking full control of those houses of worship.

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The Fourth Waves of Persecution, Under Marcus Aurelius Antoninus in AD162.

At this stage, St Polycarp of Smyrna was apprehended. He was forced to denounce his faith in Christ to be saved,but he prefered to pay the price for his faith. Also,St. Justin who was a convert to christianity became another casuality to these brutal killing and were both martryred along with many others.

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The fifth wave of persecution, under Severus AD 192

Severus, tends to be kind towards christians at first,but his followers allured him into action as does by his predecessors. It was by his hand that Victor, a Bishop of Rome suffered martyrdom, followed by Leonidus, a father of Origen was also martyred in about 201AD together with so many others.

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The Heretical Christian Gnosticism and Cerinthus and the Excominication of Marcion of Snope in Rome

It was evidenced that besides the challenges facing the church at these time, the more unbearable trends of it comes from within the church itself. One of the earliest split as already mentioned above was the group called Ebionites. In another move to cause a split was the Docetism, which taught that Jesus was a pure Spirit-Being who only appeared to be human;and that he remained uncontaminated by this imperfect world during his earthly life.

These group featured prominently during the 1st Century, and apostle John rebuked their views very sharply in his first and second Epistles and had warned christians to avoid their company.St. Ignatius, did the same in the early second Century. A second century challenges also came from Marcion, a wealthy ship owner in Rome,who taught a delibrately anti-Jewish Christianity and made his own list of authorized new Testament epistles. In around about 172AD, another young christian convert named Montanus,unevenly proclaimed himself a prophet.Whereby his followers scorned the growing church organizations and became headlong to her teachings.

In another events, Novatianists became a threat to the church,but in some worth treated as fanatical liars. But, the most feared and dangerous group was the Gnostics, which varied in their teachings and practices. They claimed that the world was evil, created by an evil or ignorant God, who was not the God of the new Testaments. They believed that the creation of woman was evil because it allowed procreation, and anytime a person is born it fells into the same strands of evil world and the soul remained in bondage. Moreso, like these Gnostic madness comes another man from Ephesus, named Cerinthus. He taught that Jesus escaped from the cross and the Romans crucified someone else in his place, and pressumed, it was Jesus of Nazareth. Perharps, these group seemly to have survived in the Mandaeans city in Iraq and Iran.It was recorded that the most successful christian Gnostic was a priest named Valentinus.c.100 - 160AD, and had founded a Gnostic church in Rome.

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The Formation of the Apostles Creed

In 284 AD, Diocletian splits his then Empire into four geographical regions by creating two centres for each between East and West for easy governance. In 303AD he forced the priests to hand over sacred books. The priests were kicked-out by locals and all their previous ordinances were declared invalid. It was also believed that he said, "the true doctrine comes only from the apostles,their writings, churches and their bishops".

However,in 303AD,civil war broke and Decletian died. Constiantius replaces him,but only lives one year during his reign. Constantine took over in the West,but wants to rule the entire empire. In 312AD, he had a vision while crossing a River; there he saw a cross in the Sky,but he believed it was a sign to him as divinely sent by God. Thereafter he adopted the cross as an insigna and used it as his coat of arms. It was also believed that Constantine had been converted to christianity during this time,but was baptized at a very later stage during his life.

In AD313, there comes an Edict of Milan, at these point religion was legalized and became freedom for all. He gave the same right that was previosly reserved for pagan priests to christian priests as well. In 323AD,Constantine moved his capital to Byzantium, which is the modern day Istanbul to give way from pagan or Roman influences. In 321 AD, Sunday was set aside as a day of rest and no work is to be carried out on that day. Afterwards,he merged pagan sun-god and the christian God and made Sunday an official day of worship for all religion in the empire.In AD325, Constantine convened the first council at Nicea to resolve several disputes revolving in the church about the personhood of Christ,and to unite the christian religion over their differences in doctrine.

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The Early Popes and Their Successors

St. Peter, was appointed by Christ, after his confession to be the Leader of his apostles. He was seing as the first Bishop, during these apostolic Era. In c.1-64 AD,St.Peter featured prominently in the new Testament as the leader of the early christian church. From c.30 AD to 64 AD, he was regarded as the first Pope and had authored two canonical epistles. He was Martyred in Rome, under Nero. Crucified head down and was buried in Rome in about AD67.

After the death of St. Peter, Linus was said to had succeeded him. In about 67AD to 76AD, St. Linus, became the second Pope to occupy the throne of the apostolic line of succession. It was unclear if he is the same person that was mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21.

In AD76 to 88AD. St. Anacletus, or sometimes refered to as Cletus became the third in line of the apostolic succession after St. peter. Tradition had it that he was of Roman Descend and had reigned for twelve years during which he created about several parishes in Rome.

He was succeeded by St. Clement 1, after his death. From AD88 to 97AD,Clement, became the fourth Pope in line of the apostles. In the late first century,Tertullian recorded that Clement was ordained by St.Peter and was regarded as being the first apostolic fathers of the early church.

The fifth in line to succeed Clement in the See of Rome, was St. Evaristus between 97AD to 105AD during the reign of Emperor Trajan. It was recorded that he had governed the church for about eight years and had ordained several Deacons and Priests.He died in the 12th year of the reign of Trajan. His feast day is celebrated in October 26, and was succeeded by St. Alexander 1.

In AD105 to AD115, St. Alexander was the next in line and became the sixth Pope.He was said to be of Roman birth and to have ruled the church during the time of Emperor Trajan. It was also said that he introduced the use of blesseing water mixed with salt for the purification of christian homes against evil influences.He died and was succeeded by St. Sixtus 1.

St.Pope Sixtus, also called Xystus 1.He took over the See of Rome in 115AD and became the seventh person to occupy the throne of the holy apostles. His papacy lasted for about ten years and ended between AD125 and 128AD,and was succeeded by Pope Telesphorus.

Pope saint Telesphorus took-over after the death of his predecessor and reigned as Pope from AD125 or 127 to AD136.This was during the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian and Antoninus Pius. He was Greek by birth and had suffered martyrdom. He was succeeded by St. Hyginus after his death in AD136.

Pope St. Hyginus was a bishop of Rome from about 138AD to 140AD.He was born at Athens, in Greece. During his reign as a Pontiff, he was said to had identified the different roles of the Clergy, and defined the grades of ecclesiastical hierarchy. It was also said that he died as a martyr under the persecution of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and his feast day is celebrated on January 11.He was succeeded by Pope Pius 1.

Little is known about the birth date of Pope Pius 1. Yet, history had it that he was the next Pope in line after the death of Pope St. Hyginus.His main achievement during his ascendency in 140AD,was to curb the three prominent christian Gnostic influences at that time-Namely: VALENTINUS, CERDO AND MARCION, who were regarded as heretical in their teachings and had troubled the church. He ruled for thirteen years and died at about AD115.He was succeeded by Pope Anicetus, in AD155.

Pope Anicetus, was elected after the death of Pope Pius1 and became the eleventh in line of the holy apostles after the death of St.Peter.He reigned as the Bishop of Rome at about AD155 to AD166.It was also recorded that he had once met with St.Polycarp of Smyrna.They both discussed on the issue related to Easter celebration. He was said to be the first Roman Pontiff to condemn heresy by forbidding Montanism. He also actively opposed the Gnostics and Marcionism. He suffered martyrdom during the reign of the Roman Co-Emperor Lucius Verus and was succeeded by St. Soter in AD166.

In AD 166, Pope St. Soter,who succeeded Pope Anicetus became the Bishop of Rome in the latter half of the second Century. He was born in Fondi, Campania, Italy. During his reign and among other things, he declared that marriage is valid only as a sacrament when blessed by a priest. He formally inaugurated Easter as an annual festival in Rome.His pontificate ended after his death in about AD175 to 177AD.

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References:

  1. 1.Early Church Developments.
    http://en.wikipedia.org
  2. 2.Martrdoms in the Early church.
    www.earlychurch.org.uk/index.htm
  3. 3.Apostolic&Post Apostolic Era.
    www.earlychristianwritings.com
  4. 4.Heresies in the early church.
    www.webcom.com
  5. 5.Biblical Canons.
    www.reformed.documents
  6. 6.Popes and their Succussors.
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/catholic-pope

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