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Copy of Christianity: The First 2000 Years
Transcript of Copy of Christianity: The First 2000 Years
(cc) image by jantik on Flickr
Arguably the most influential political figure in the history of the church, Constantine became emperor following the death of his father Constantius in 306. On the eve of the decisive battle against his rival for the throne, Constantine claimed he had two visions. The first, a cross of light and the inscription “CONQUER BY THIS” and the second, a special insignia to be carried as a standard in the forthcoming battle. (MacCulloch, 2009:189)
Victory, elevation and conversion were all achieved and the western Roman Empire had a Christian emperor.
The following years saw the church thrive under Constantine’s patronage, churches were built, church lands were exempted from taxes and bibles produced, all at lavish expense.
“All of these actions transformed a small, poor, marginal community into a powerful social force.” (Mullin,2008: 55)
In 324 Constantine invaded and conquered the east and united the empire. By 330 he had built his new Christian capital, Constantinople.
Although Constantine’s patronage of the Church took it from persecution to prominence in a few short years, Mullin (2008) also argues that in moving the capital of his new Christian empire to Constantinople and effectively demoting Rome, Constantine laid the foundations for the later fundamental fractures between the Eastern and Western churches.
Constantine The Great: 272-337
Martyrdom of Paul c64
Death of Stephen in
of Jerusalem: 70
“No man, other than Jesus, has shaped Christianity more than Saul.” (Shelley, 2008: 19)
Yet Paul remains one of Christianity’s most unlikely champions. Educated in the strict Pharisaic tradition, fluent in Greek and a citizen of Rome, the tent-maker from Tarsus not only witnessed but seemingly, approved of the execution of Stephen (MacCulloch, 2009: 97). Yet it was this background which made Paul uniquely qualified to bridge the gap between Jewish, Hellenic and Roman society following his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus.
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4)
While the early Palestinian Christians believed in strict adherence to Jewish law and tradition as well as believing in Christ, Paul’s own past put him at odds with this doctrine and he spent the remainder of his life preaching that salvation could only be achieved through the divine mercy of Christ.
His three missions took him to Cyprus, the eastern Mediterannean, Macedonia and Greece and finally to Rome where he was executed c64 C.E. His seven letters or Epistles to various Christian communities across the Mediterranean form the earliest surviving parts of the New Testament and offer a unique insight into the lives of the earliest Christians.
Paul’s message did not die with him and has endured through 2000 years of Christian history.
First Council of Nicaea: 325
Convened by Constantine in an attempt to reach a common concensus on theological differences between various Church factions, particularly the controversial christological debate over the relationship
between God the Father and Son.
Constantine's personal attendance ensured almost unanimous support for his own proposal that the Son was 'homoousios' or 'of one substance' with the Father. MacCulloch, (2009: 214) argues that this level of state interference in ecumenical matters was unprecedented.
"Nicaea has alway been regarded as one of the milestones in the history of the Church and reckoned as the first council to be styled 'general' or 'oecumenical'." MacCulloch (2009:215)
First Council of Constantinople: 381
Granted Constantinople honorary precedence
over all churches except Rome.
Upheld use of the Nicene Creed in the Eastern Church
with the addition of the controversial 'filioque' in the West, a decision which would echo down the centuries.
Council of Ephesus: 431
Mary proclaimed as 'Theotokos' or 'Mother of God'.
this was strongly opposed by Nestorius, Patriarch of
Council of Chalcedon: 451
Delineated the 'Hypostatic Union' or two natures
of Christ. Accepted by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches and later by many Protestant churches but not recognised by the Oriental Orthodox Church.
2nd Council of Constantinople: 553
Convened by Emperor Justinian with the aim of condemning certain Nestorian
teachings and mainly attended by the Eastern bishops.
Pope Vigilius' acceptance, albeit under duress, caused a schism
within the Western Church with the ecclesiastical provinces of
Milan and Aquilea breaking communion with Rome, in the case of Aquilea,
for more than 100 years.
3rd Council of Constantinople: 680-1
Quinisext Council: 692
Not recognised by the Western Church and attended
only by the Eastern bishops.
Reassserted Orthodox views on the rights of married
men to become priests.
The Quinisext Council has never been accepted as ecumenical
by the Roman Catholic Church.
2nd Council of Nicaea: 787
The 7th and final ecumenical council restored
the veneration of icons thus ending the first Iconoclasm
Christianity: The First 2000 Years
The East/West Schism: 1054
3rd Crusade and capture of Jerusalem by Saladin
4th Crusade and
sack of Constantinople
Martin Luther 1483-1546: Father of The Reformation
The dawn of the second millennium of Christianity saw a westward shift in the balance of power within the church, with the rise of a Christian Europe with the Papacy at its spiritual and political heart. In contrast the, previously dominant, Byzantine Empire was declining in influence as Constantinople faltered against the rising Islamic tide.
Against this backdrop of political reversal of fortune, centuries old theological debates continued with the 'filioque' as the most significant area of contention with East and West still unable to reach a consensus on the balance of the Trinity. Mullin (2008: 96) argues that while there were significant political disputes between Rome and Constantinople, ‘The filioque controversy did reflect two very different theological trends.’
Conflicts which had raged for centuries refused to lessen and in 1054 both churches excommunicated each other resulting in a schism that has lasted for almost a thousand years.
When the Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, pinned his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg in 1517 he could not have known that it would signal the birth of a doctrinal debate that would fundamentally split the Western Church.
Initially, Luther had railed against the financial abuses of the church, particularly the sale of indulgences, whereby the wealthy could 'buy' time out of purgatory with a contribution to a worthy cause. His own study of scripture had led him to develop his famous doctrine of justification by faith alone. Shelley (2008: 239-242) states that the implications of this were monumental.
Luther’s belief was that if salvation came purely by faith there was no need for the intercession of priests, bishops or a hierarchical church, as all authority came directly from scripture. His reforms swept through Germany and his inevitable excommunication followed in 1521. His lifetime saw the birth of the Reformation and the establishment of what came to be known as Protestantism, changing the denominational map of Europe and beyond forever.
Augustine of Hippo
publishes 'City of God'
John Wesley breaks with the
Fetter Lane Moravians and forms what will become the Methodist Church: 1739
William Booth founds
The Salvation Army: 1865
Birth of the Pentecostal
Church in Los Angeles: 1906
Henry VIII declares himself
head of The Church of England:
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) writes
his 'Summa Theologica'
The first Baptist church is
founded in Amsterdam with
John Smyth as Pastor: 1609
George Fox founds The Society of Friends: