Early Christian Churches (AD 100-313) || Church_History_2

Early Christian Churches from AD 100 to 313 faced great persecutions in history. During this time, Roman emperors considered Christianity as an illegal religion. However, this period ended with the end of persecution in AD 113.

In Spite of the persecutions, Christianity continued to grow rapidly. Great leaders arose to defend the faith.

During this period, many heresies arose. Great polemicists were there who declined the heresies and taught the true doctrine in the Church.

The organized form of the Church was developed during this period. Worship patterns and doctrinal development began.

In spite of all the situations, Christianity reached a very high level. Many significant developments in Christianity occurred during this period.

Political Situation

During this period, the Roman empire expanded its territories in the largest region. At the same time, many problems arose in the Roman emperor internally and externally.

Their territory was so large. As a result, they could not administrate effectively. They didn’t have a good economic policy. Technologies like today we have were not there at that time. It was difficult to have good communication with all the territories.

Many emperors were weak. Their procurators in the provinces were also often corrupt. Weakness spreads in all ranks in society. People became more corrupted. Their moral life was going down. Disregarding marriage, sensuality and other immoral acts were common in society.

Dishonesty has become so severe in all aspects of society. Businessmen and the government were also deceiving people in many ways. People’s dishonesty cut the higher pick point.

Diocletian (284-305) became more aware of the weakening of the Roman emperor. So, he appointed four Caesars to administer effectively. But things went the opposite way. All four of them wanted to be the emperor. They had a power struggle with each other. Finally, Constantine became victorious and grasped all powers.

Christians were blamed all the time for every problem. They thought Christians are going against the gods (they are not worshiping other gods) and bringing the curse. Therefore, Christians faced severe persecution in that period.

Spread of Early Christian Churches

In spite of the extreme restriction, Christianity during this period spread to all geography and all social ranks.

In Asia

Antioch became a great mission center. Pliny the governor of Bithynia wrote about the growth of Christianity. He wrote to Trajan; People from all groups and ages are following the Christian faith. No persecution is able to stop it.

Edessa the eastward from Antioch became the first Christian state. We find the first Church building mentioned over there. And the first translation of the gospel from Greek to another language happened there.

By AD 100, gospel reached the region. And by AD 225, there were more than 20 bishops.

Armenia became the first nation to make the Christianity a national religion (AD 300). Idols were totally destroyed there. And many priests also accepted the Christian faith.

When Pantaenus of Alexandria visited India in AD 180, he found that Christianity was already there. There, he found the gospel of Matthew in Hebrew. Bartholomew had left that gospel over there. (There is a different view that India was present India or not).

In Africa

Christianity reached Africa through Egypt. Probably, Mark took the gospel in Africa. Within a short period, Christianity spread rapidly in Africa. The Alexandrian Church became the leading Church in Africa.

First Christian theological school is the school of Alexandria. It was founded before AD 180, and flourished by Clement and Origen. The oldest New Testament written about AD 180 was found there. In the third century, the New Testament was translated into the Coptic language here.

The monastic movement started from here. Persecution was so severe that thousands of Christians became mysteries. However, Christianity in Africa was outstanding. North Africa produced great leaders like Tertullian and Cyprian.

In Europe

The Church in Rome became the most influential and outstanding Church in Europe. As a result, the Gospel reached different parts of the European world. It grew with the apostolic traditions.

By the middle of the third century, many Christians were there in Spain. The famous bishop Hosious (256-257) is from Spain. Hosious became the advisor of Constantine the Great later.

Christianity reached Gaul (France) through the trade routes. The influence of Christianity over there was so significant. It brought forth great leaders like Irenious the bishop of Lyons. Christianity reached Britain too. Probably the Roman soldiers took the gospel over there.

Apostolic Fathers

The Apostolic Fathers are the hearers of the apostles and the bearers of the apostolic traditions. It includes the second-century Church leaders and some of the early writings as well. Most of the Apostolic Fathers were bishops, leading the people. They were Teachers, Apologists, and Polemicists

Apostolic Fathers defend Christianity from heresies. They developed the true doctrine, they also defended the Christian faith from false charging. Their writings also dealt with Church problems. They wrote about the church order, sacraments, catechism, etc. Churches before the cannon in the fourth century considered some of their writings as scripture.

Some of the notable Apostolic Fathers are following. Clement of Rome. Ignatius of Antioch. Polycarp of Smyrna. The Shepherd of Hermas. The Didache. The Epistle of Barnabas.

External Attacked in Early Christian Churches: The Persecution

Churches in this period went through the greatest persecution ever faced in history. However, it didn’t happen continuously for all the 200s years. The Church also had fever under some empires or in some regions for a short period of time in between.

Persecution took place in two forms; local persecution, and general persecution. Local persecution went up to AD 249. In this period, persecution occurred only in some provinces and places under some authorities only.

General persecution took place from AD 250 to 313. In this period, the empire declared the edict of persecution. They thought that Christians were the cause of the decline of the empire. Therefore, Christians had severe persecution under the empire all over the Roman world.

In spite of all these, Christianity continued growing. Christianity developed its organized form during this period. Many great Church leaders, apologists, and theologians arose. However, it also brought negative results. Thousands of Christians became Martyrs. Hundreds/ thousands probably left their faith. It also caused the great schism in Church History.

Internal Attacked in Early Christian Churches: The Heresy

Church during this period was attacked internally as well. Many heresies arose in the Church. Many of them denied the divinity of Christ and many of them His humanity. However, the great people called Polemicists were there in the Church. Polemicists countered the heresy and developed the true doctrines. Their writings played a very significant role and are doing so in present days.

I would like to list some major heresies here. They are: (i) Gnosticism. (ii) Marcionism. (iii) Manichaeism. (iv) Montanism. (v) Monarchianism.

Apologists in Early Church

The word “apologist” came from the Greek “apologein” meaning “to defend.” These are the people who defended the Christian faith during persecution. They wrote to the emperors and rulers to stop the persecution. Christians do not deserve it; they are good citizens, they are not against the empire.

Apologists were well educated and philosophers. They were converts from other religions. The main purpose of their writings was to prove the innocence of Christians.

These are some of the well-noted apologists. (i) Aristides. (ii) Justin the Martyr. (iii) Irenaeus. (iv) Tertullian of Cartage. (v) Cyprian of Carthage. (vi) Clement of Alexandria. (vii) Origen of Alexandria.

Life of the Early Christian Churches

During this time, the Church keeps moral life at a high level. They focused on two areas; asceticism and legalistic practices.

Asceticism includes fasting, fellowship, self-denunciation, solitary living, and self-punishment.

Legalistic practices developed slowly. Church set certain times and dates of fasting and prayer. They also set the specific rule of almsgiving. Christianity slowly filled with legalism.

The concept of double standard started during this period. They developed the idea of the requirement of the gospel and advice of the gospel. The gospel is for all Christians. But the advice of the gospel was for those who go for higher experience. They used to think that they are maintaining a higher level of holiness by ascetic and self-denial.

Worship in the Early Church

Sunday was the day of worship in the early Christian Churches. Sunday is the day of Jesus’ resurrection and the first day of creation as well. Justin Martyr also wrote about Sunday as Christian’s day of assembly and communion. The doctrine of the Apostles (AD 250) also maintains the same thing.

The Church worship started to be conducted in a liturgy. They used to conduct the Church worship service on Sunday at daybreak. And they used to have Lord’s Supper in that fellowship. The Church took Baptism and Lord’s Supper as the means of the forgiveness of sin.

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