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THE EARLY CHURCH

100 A.D. - 600 A.D.

 100 A.D.  Gnosticism: derived from a Greek word for knowledge (gnosis) and applied to a philosophical and religious movement that influenced the Mediterranean world from the 1st century BC to the 3d century AD. It expressed itself in a variety of pagan, Jewish, and Christian forms. Its name is derived from the fact that it promised salvation through a secret knowledge or understanding of reality possessed by its devotees.

             Despite the complex diversity of Gnostic groups and their teachings, the basic doctrines of gnosticism formed an identifiable pattern of belief and practice. A pervasive dualism underlay much of Gnostic thought. Good and evil, light and darkness, truth and falsehood, spirit and matter were opposed to one another in human experience as being and nonbeing. The created universe and human experience were characterized by a radical disjunction between the spiritual, which was real, and the physical, which was illusory. This disjunction resulted from a cosmic tragedy, described in a variety of ways by Gnostic mythology, as a consequence of which sparks of deity became entrapped in the physical world. These could be freed only by saving knowledge that was revealed to a spiritual elite by a transcendent messenger from the spirit world, variously identified as Seth (one of the sons of Adam), Jesus, or some other figure. Renunciation of physical desires and strict asceticism, combined with mystical rites of initiation and purification were thought to liberate the immortal souls of believers from the prison of physical existence. Reunion with divine reality was accomplished after a journey of the soul through intricate systems of hostile powers.  [Promoted Vegetarianism, Celibacy & Hedonism  at same time, fleshless Christ,  Jesus only a man, and many other conflicting doctrines]

             Associated in legend with SIMON MAGUS, a Samaritan sorcerer mentioned in Acts 8:9-24, gnosticism probably originated in the Near East as a synthesis of Eastern and Greek ideas before the advent of Christianity. It reached the height of its influence as a Christian sect in the middle of the 2d century AD, when it was represented by the Egyptian teachers BASILIDES and VALENTINUS. As Christian orthodoxy was defined in the period that followed, gnosticism began to decline and gradually was pushed to the periphery of the Christian world or driven underground by the persecution of church leaders. Some Gnostic tendencies found their way into later Christian monasticism, while others survived among the MANDAEANS and adherents of MANICHAEISM.

             Modern scholars continue to study the Nag Hammadi documents for an understanding of gnosticism. Some emphasize its charismatic spirituality and transcendental radicalism, and others see it as a chaotic amalgam of escapist myth and unhistorical speculation. Few would deny its direct formative influence in the life of early Christianity or its general impact on Judaism and Christianity as a part of the cultural milieu in which those religions worked out their institutional identities.


107 A.D.   Ignatius (An Elder of Antioch of Syria) Wrote 7 letters on the way to his death.

       324 A.D.     Eusebius’ History Lists 7 letters and quotations which do not contain any of the “Catholic” Doctrine or terminology

            380-390?    Collection of “Ignatius” letters appears thru an unknown person Contains 7 letters thought to be copies of Ignatius’ letters acknowledged to be greatly modified by addition of text, omitting text, and modifying text. Additionally,  8 letters known to be fakes passed as original letters. [All sources, including the Catholic Encyclopedia, state the original letter’s text can not be determined and the unknown person responsible was [dishonestly] attempting to support his personal beliefs.  Syric Versions of three of the 7 listed letters from around 550 A.D. do not contain any “Catholic” ideas either. Since Ignatius was an elder of Antioch of Syria many years before his execution in 107 A.D.; It is not likely he believed or wrote any of the corrupt doctrines attributed to him.  (Apostolic Fathers, Vol  1, Pg 45 - 131, The Catholic Encyclopedia, pg 644 - 647, Eusebius pg 107, 120-122)

190A.D Irenaeus “Against Heresies” (An Elder of Lyons, France)

                 Writes a series of Books against the false teachings of his day.  Mostly against a variety of Gnostics.  Writings from Eusebius Ecclesiastical History (324-339A.D.),    Hippolytus (170-235A.D. Most of the first book) do not reflect any “Catholic” terminology or doctrine. His writings clearly reflect:

              1. Christ and the Bible as the only rule of faith.

              2. No Additions, deletions, or modification of scripture.

              3. The ability for every person to understand the scripture.

              4. Uses “the Church” to designate the Body of Christ.

              5. Only Bible based doctrines reflected and mostly by quotation of New Testament scriptures.

              6. Irenaeus idea of “Apostolic succession” is the faithful passing down of scripture as given in the New Testament by Apostles. [Not the passing down of infallible inspiration or the office of the Apostles to others.]

              7. Comments on the practice of false teachers supporting their position by creating forgeries of scripture and early writings of Apostles.

 

       390?A.D.   Latin “Collection” of All five books of “Against Heresy” appears containing additions supporting the idea of a single Bishop ruling each church as the head, being the only person capable of understanding the scripture for his church because of Apostolic Succession [inheriting office and infallibility of Apostles],  the bishop of Rome being the proper authority to determine policy, practice, and interpretation of the scripture [inheriting Peter and Paul’s Apostleship]; Use of “Catholic Church” as the designation for the body of Christ.

172A.D.  Montanism was a Christian apocalyptic movement that arose in the 2d century. It took its name from Montanus, a Phrygian, who, shortly after his baptism as a Christian (AD 156 or 172), claimed to have received a revelation from the Holy Spirit to the effect that he, as representative prophet of the Spirit, would lead the Christian church into its final stage.  Montanus founded a sect of enthusiasts who preached the imminent end of the world, austere morality, and severe penitential discipline. They forbade second marriages, denied the divine nature of the church, and refused forgiveness for sins that persons committed after baptism. Montanus called for less church hierarchy and more charismatic prophecy. He regarded a life of seclusion and contempt of the world as the only true Christian ideal.  Montanism did not disappear until about the 6th century.

220 A.D. Tertullian Corruption:

    1. Churches Started by an Apostle are given pre-eminence over the remaining churches.

    2. Apostolic Succession:  Apostolic Church Bishops are said to be inspired, becoming the keepers of infallible truth (take the place of Apostles)

    3. Large City Bishops (Diocesan) are given rule over country Bishops.

    4. Beginning of "Systematic Theology". Man's attempt to systemize, rationalize, formulate the Bible into a single unit of doctrine.  This diverted attention from the Bible and God's system to a man's explanation of it.

    5. Indulgences of the Saints and Martyrs starts

 

250 A.D.  Cyprian Corruption:  Asserted that The Bishop at Rome was preeminent [writings also thought to be corrupt since such parts are not found until after 390A.D. Also] Encouraged infant baptism, demanded penance for sin [Wanted Christians who denied Christ during persecutions to  pay for disloyalty]

311 A.D.  End of the Persecution of Christians by Roman                Empire

313 A.D.  Christian Faith De-Criminalized by "Edict of Milan"

320 A.D.  Arianism was a 4th-century Christian heresy named for Arius (c.250-c.336), a priest in Alexandria. Arius denied the full deity of the preexistent Son of God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ. He held that the Son, while divine and like God ("of like substance"), was created by God as the agent through whom he created the universe. Arius said of the Son, "there was a time when he was not." Arianism became so widespread in the Christian church and resulted in such disunity that the emperor Constantine convoked a church council at Nicaea in 325. Led by ATHANASIUS, bishop of Alexandria, the council condemned Arianism and stated that the Son was consubstantial (of one and the same substance or being) and coeternal with the Father, a belief formulated as homoousios ("of one substance") against the Arian position of homoiousios ("of like substance"). Nonetheless, the conflict continued, aided by the conflicting politics of the empire after the death of Constantine (337).

323 A.D.  Roman Emperor Constantine supports the Christian Faith and rules the church

 

324 A.D.   Eusebius’ History  (324 - 339 A.D.)

 

325 A.D.  The Council of Nicene called by Roman Emperor Constantine:

        1. Standardize Christian belief by edict, not scripture

        2. Nicene Creed established

340 A.D.   Apostles Creed in Greek as a confession      during Baptism. A product of the Western churches (Latin).  Roman Empire temporarily split into West (Rome)  and East (Constantinople) which started a division among Western and Eastern churches.

341 A.D.  Council of Antioch: Established Metropolitan Bishops as supervisors over their providence’s.

 

381 A.D.  Roman East Emperor Theodius calls Council of Constantinople:

            1. Establishes Patriarchs (Primary Bishops) who rule over large geographical boundaries and the churches within: Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Antioch.

            2. The church at Rome's beliefs are declared to be the official beliefs and all others are declared non-existent.

            3. Metropolitan bishops are made Archbishops and rule over city and country bishops.  Archbishops are ruled by Patriarchs.

 

380-390?  Collection of corrupt & fake “Ignatius” letters promoting “Catholic” ideas:

        1. Make a head Elder to rule the church; called a "Bishop"

        2. The Bishop rules for Christ as head of the church. Salvation and righteousness is to obey the Bishop.

        3. The Bishop must give permission for marriage, baptism, etc..

        4. The establishment of authoritative church meetings,  councils, and creeds.

        5. Use of term “Catholic” for the church.

 

 

390 A.D.  Apostles Creed in Latin, Rufus creates the legend of the Apostles writing the creed on Pentecost. (This is Known to be false)

1. Collection of corrupt (and fake?) Irenaeus letters promoting “Catholic” ideas

2. Fake Apostle Matthew letter, “Apostolic Constitutions” promotes use of Holy Water

3. Honoring Relics [body parts or clothes of Martyr or Saint] common

4. Burning of Candles  and incense common

 

411 - 430 A.D.  Augustine began to develop the "Original Sin" theology

414 -444 A.D. Mary the "Mother of God" theology began to develop by Cyril

 

446 A.D. Leo I: Secures edict placing Rome 1st from Western Emperor Valentinian III.

 

451 A.D. Roman East Emperor Marcian calls Council of Chalcedon:

       1. Marriage forbidden to many Clergy, monks & virgins (Deaconess)

       2. Church at Constantinople elevated in position second to Rome. (Roman Patriarch Leo I: controlled this Council and resisted Constantinople as 2nd in authority while maintaining Rome as 1st)

 

500?A.D.  Worship of Icons in Eastern churches is common

 

529 A.D. Synod of Orange made:

       1. "Original Sin" theology official

       2. Lessened the value of baptism and man's free will & choice ; Benedictine Monastic Order Established

 

590 - 604 A.D. Gregory I (The Great) Secured Rome's supremacy over the Catholic Church by:  Exercising authority over the Roman Emperors, Dominating the four other Patriarchal churches.  Making the Roman Bishop the highest spiritual authority over churches, Emperors, Synods, and Councils.

593 - 594 A.D.  John the Faster (Patriarch of Constantinople) assumed the Title of Ecumenical (Universal) Bishop.  Gregory I vehemently opposed this as arrogant, too superior, too independent, characterize this as the spirit of the antichrist. 

607 A.D.  Boniface III Secured a decree from the Roman Emperor Phocas against the Bishop of Constantinople ordaining the title of Universal Bishop belonged exclusively to the Bishop of Rome, the head of all the churches. This begins the Medieval Age in which the Catholic Church rules supreme with the Bishop of Rome acting as the Pope ruling the East and Western Catholic Churches.

The Next Lesson:  "The Medieval Church"  600 - 1300 A.D.


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