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St. George

Lecture for ChD 600 Church Development Part I

Lecture for ChD 600 Church Development Part I
by Akinnugba Macfonse Osmond, OSM

Topic: A survey of the lives and major events of the period from the Apostolic era to the late second century in the development of the early Orthodox Catholic Church.

Martyrdom of Peter

Peter was martyred (crucified upside down on a cross) for the Faith in the year 64AD in Rome, the city he served as its first bishop. His successors in that office, who exercise the ministry of Bishop of Rome to this day, are given a primacy of honor and jurisdiction among all the world's bishops and are known by the familiar title of "Pope." St. Peter's feast is June 29th, and February 22nd (the feast of the primacy of St. Peter).

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Martyrdom of Paul

Paul travelled around most of what was the Roman Empire, establishing Christian communities and witnessing to the Risen Jesus, while asserting that he, too, was one of the Apostles, although "one born out of the normal course" (1 Corinthians 15:8). Paul was also martyred at Rome, three years after St. Peter, in the year 67 AD, by being beheaded (his Roman citizenship would not permit his being crucified).

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Martyrdom of Stephen

Acts tells the story of how Stephen was tried by the Sanhedrin (priests) for blasphemy against Moses and God and speaking against the Temple and the Law (Acts 6:13-14). He was stoned to death (c. A.D. 34–35) by an infuriated mob encouraged by Saul of Tarsus, the future Saint Paul. Stephen's final speech was presented as accusing the Jews of persecuting prophets who spoke out against their sins. While they were throwing stones at him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus receive my spirit," and "Lord do not hold this sin against them." Then he "fell asleep" (died)

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Martyrdom of James

James the Great (d. AD 44) the son of Zebedee and Salome and brother to St. John the Evangelist, was one of the disciples of Jesus. He is called Saint James the Great to distinguish him from the other apostles named James (St. James the Less & James the Just). Saint James is described as one of the first disciples to join Jesus. The Gospel of John relates the two brothers had been followers of John the Baptist, who first introduced them to Jesus (1:29-39). The Synoptic Gospels state they were with their father by the seashore when Jesus called them to begin traveling (Mt.4:21-22, Mk.1:19-20). According to Mark, James and John were called Boanerges, or the "Sons of Thunder" (3:17). In Acts of the Apostles, Luke records that King Herod had James executed by sword

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Nero's persecution

The first documented case of imperially-supervised persecution of the Christians in the Roman Empire begins with Nero (37-68). In 64 A.D., a great fire broke out in Rome, destroying portions of the city and economically devastating the Roman population. Nero was rumoured at the time of having intentionally started the fire himself. In his Annals, Tacitus states that "to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians [or Chrestians[15]] by the populace" By implicating the Christians for this massive act of arson, Nero successfully capitalized on the already-existing public suspicion of this religious sect and, it could be argued, exacerbated the hostilities held toward them throughout the Roman Empire. Forms of execution used by the Romans included burning in the tunica molesta, systematic murder, crucifixion, and the feeding of Christians to lions and other wild beasts. Tacitus' Annals XV.44 record: "...a vast multitude, were convicted, not so much of the crime of incendiarism as of hatred of the human race. And in their deaths they were made the subjects of sport; for they were wrapped in the hides of wild beasts and torn to pieces by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set on fire, and when day declined, were burned to serve for nocturnal lights."

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Reports of Pliny the Younger (circa 111AD)

Between 109 and 111 AD, Pliny the Younger was sent by the emperor Trajan (r. 98-117) to the province of Bithynia as governor. During his tenure of office, Pliny encountered Christians, he was worried about the number of Christians, and he wrote to the emperor about them. The governor indicated that he had ordered the execution of several Christians, "for I held no question that whatever it was they admitted, in any case obstinacy and unbending perversity deserve to be punished." However, he was unsure what to do about those who said they were no longer Christians, and asked Trajan his advice. The emperor responded that Christians should not be sought out, anonymous tips should be rejected as "unworthy of our times," and if they recanted and "worshiped our gods," they were to be freed. Those who persisted, however, should be punished.[24]

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Justin of Caesarea (circa 100AD)

Justin Martyr: (c100-165 AD) Born in Samaria, he taught in Rome as a learned apologist for the Christian faith. Refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods, he and six of his students were put to death.

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Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna (circa 69-155AD)

Polycarp: (c70-c155 AD) A disciple of the Apostle John, labored in Asia Minor. At his martyrdom he was commanded, “Swear [allegiance to Rome] and I will set you free.” Polycarp responded, “For eighty-six years I have been His servant, and He has never done me wrong: how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” He was burned alive.

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Heretical Christian Gnosticism and Cerinthus and (circa 130AD)

Gnosticism derived its name from gnosis, the Greek word for knowledge. The name Gnosticism comes from the fact that it promised salvation through a secret knowledge or gnosis possessed only by its devotees. Gnosticism expressed itself in a variety of pagan, Jewish and Christian forms. It was a philosophical and religious movement that influenced the Mediterranean world from the 1st century BC to the 3d century AD. Gnosticism reached its height of influence from about A.D. 135 to 160 and presented an urgent challenge for the church to define the true nature of Jesus Christ.
Associated in legend with Simon Magus, the Samaritan sorcerer mentioned in Acts 8:9 24, Gnosticism probably originated in the Near East as a synthesis of Oriental and Greek ideas before the advent of Christianity. It comes from very ancient tradition that Simon was the founder of this new syncretistic religion. The patristic accounts unanimously regard Simon Magus (Acts 8) as the founder of Christian Gnosticism. Simon was followed by Menander who taught at Antioch during the first century. Cerinthus was a contemporary of Polycarp of Smyrna, who lived in Ephesus towards the end of the first century. Cerinthus stated that Christ was the divine being that descended upon Jesus at His baptism. When Christ completed His mission the divine Christ left Jesus on the cross to suffer, die and rise from the dead. The Apostle John was the opponent of Cerinthus at Ephesus. The first Epistle of John in the New Testament seems to be directed against him and early Gnosticism (Gonzalez 132, 133).
Carpocrates lived and taught Gnostic ideas in Alexandria around A.D. 130. Neoplatonism dominated Alexandria in the early centuries of the Christian era. Other Gnostic teachers include Basilides and his son Isidore, and Epiphanes, all of whom taught in Alexandria. "The most famous Gnostic teacher was Valentinus who also taught in Alexandria and came to Rome about A.D. 140. He had a number of able disciples including Ptolemy and Heracleon in the west, and Theodotus in the east" (Yamauchi 416).
Excommunication of Marcion of Sinope in Rome
Marcion (ca. 85-160) was an Early Christian theologian who was excommunicated by the Christian church at Rome as a heretic. His teachings were influential during the 2nd century and a few centuries after, rivaling that of the Church of Rome. As he offered an alternative theology to the Canonical, Proto-orthodox, Trinitarian and Christological views of the Roman Church, the early Church Fathers denounced him sharply; their views dominate Christianity today. One of the greatest heretics in church history, he was condemned by all branches of what would become the orthodox Christian church, and was even supposedly called the first born of Satan by Polycarp.
Marcion is sometimes referred to as one of the gnostics, but from what assessment of his lost writings can be gleaned from his mainstream opponents, his teachings were quite different in nature. His canon included ten Pauline Epistles and one gospel called the Gospel of Marcion, plus a rejection of the whole Hebrew Bible, and did not include the rest of the books later incorporated into the canonical New Testament. He propounded a Christianity free from Jewish doctrines with Paul as the reliable source of authentic doctrine. Paul was, according to Marcion, the only apostle who had rightly understood the new message of salvation as delivered by Christ.

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Quadratus

Saint Quadratus of Athens (Greek: Άγιος Κοδράτος) is said to have been the first of the Christian apologists. He is said by Eusebius of Caesarea to have been a disciple of the Apostles. Dionysius of Corinth, in a letter summarized by Eusebius, records that Quadratus became bishop of Athens after the martyrdom of Publius, invigorating the faith of the congregation in that city and keeping them together. He is counted among the Seventy Apostles in the tradition of the Eastern Churches.

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Apologist (circa 125AD)

As Christianity gradually separated from Judaism and came to feel its own character as a new faith, competing with various ethnic, philosophic, and mysterious religions in the Roman world and facing objections and persecution, it began to be conscious of itself and its responsibility to give answers to the criticisms and attacks that were made against it. Moreover, educated men and scholars were converted to Christianity in great numbers. They found that truth compelled them quite naturally to enter in discussion with pagan philosophers. This was the beginning of the Christian apologetic literature that soon took shape in a series of apologies and dialogues in defense of the new religion.

Some scholars state that the apologists began by presenting petitions to Hadrian on his visit to Athens in 124 A.D. After the martyrdom of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, St. Justin wrote to Antoninus Pius around 156 A.D. Three more addressed Marcus Aurelius in 176 A.D, after the suppression of a revolt. This appeal failed with the bloody martyrdom in Gaul, and Tatian delivered a violent counterattack addressed not to the emperors but to Greeks in general. A few years later St. Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, created an apologetic Jewish-Christian theology which was soon modified by better theologians. Petitions to the emperors had ceased and apologists wrote for non-Christian groups or individuals in order to tell outsiders about Christian truth.
St. Justin Martyr - Died 165 A.D. Martyr, philosopher, and defender of Christianity. He was born into a pagan family at Flavia Neopolis, or Nablus, in Palestine. At the age of thirty, he became a Christian and traveled to debate pagan philosophers, eventually going to Rome. There he was denounced and tried with Charita, Chariton, Euelpistus, Hierox, Liberianus and Paeon. They were scourged and beheaded. Jus¬tin, also called “the Philosopher,” was the first layman to serve as an apologist. His works include Apologies for the Christian Religion and Dialogue with the Jew Trypho. The records of Justin’s trial are extant. His feast day is June 1st.

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The early Popes

St. Peter (32-67), Apostle: Executed by crucifixion upside-down; feast day (Feast of Saints Peter and Paul) 29 June, (Chair of Saint Peter) 22 February. Recognized as the first pope by the Roman Catholic Church. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 29 June.

St. Linus (67-76), Martyr. A disciple of the Apostle Paul, he was consecrated by him. One of the Seventy Apostles, he is mentioned in 2 Timothy 4,21. He was pope for about twelve years and may have been martyred. Feast: 23 September (In the East 4 January and 5 November).

St. Anacletus (Cletus) (76-88) , by origin a Greek from Athens and possibly a martyr. His name, correctly Anencletus, means 'blameless' (see Titus 1,7) and he may originally have been a slave. Feast: 26 April.

St. Clement I (88-97), martyr. One of the Seventy Apostles and a Church Father, he was consecrated by the Apostle Peter. He is mentioned in Philippians 4,3 and his letter to the Church of Corinth still exists. He was much venerated in the West in the early centuries and still today in the East. The church of San Clemente in Rome probably stands on the site of his house. According to tradition, he was banished to the Crimea and there martyred. Feast: 23 November (in the East 4 January, 22 April, 10 September and 25 November).

St. Evaristus (97-105) perhaps a martyr and almost certainly of Hellenic/Jewish origin. Feast: 26 October.

St. Alexander I (105-115), the fifth pope and possible a martyr and by tradition a Roman. Feast: 3 March (in the East 16 March)

St. Sixtus I (115-125) -- also called Xystus I, possibly a martyr. A Roman of Greek origin. Feast: 3 April.

St. Telesphorus (125-136), a martyr, Greek by origin. Feast: 5 January (in the East 22 February).

St. Hyginus (136-140), by origin a Greek philosopher from Athens. Also perhaps a martyr. Feast: 11 January

St. Pius I (140-155) , from Aquilea, probably born a slave and perhaps the brother of Hermas who wrote 'The Shepherd'. He defended the Church against Gnosticism. Possibly a martyr. Feast: 11 July

St. Anicetus (155-166, the tenth pope and of Syrian origin, he fixed the date of Easter, opposed the Gnostics, perhaps martyred. Feast: 17 April.

St. Soter (166-175), of Greek descent, he may have been martyred. Feast: 22 April.

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References:

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