Early Christianity

Early Christianity

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Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 before 325
First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325...

. The New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

's Book of Acts
Acts of the Apostles
The Acts of the Apostles , usually referred to simply as Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; Acts outlines the history of the Apostolic Age...

 and Epistle to the Galatians
Epistle to the Galatians
The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, often shortened to Galatians, is the ninth book of the New Testament. It is a letter from Paul of Tarsus to a number of Early Christian communities in the Roman province of Galatia in central Anatolia...

 records that the first Christian community
Christian Church
The Christian Church is the assembly or association of followers of Jesus Christ. The Greek term ἐκκλησία that in its appearances in the New Testament is usually translated as "church" basically means "assembly"...

 was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James
James the Just
James , first Bishop of Jerusalem, who died in 62 AD, was an important figure in Early Christianity...

, Peter and John
John the Apostle
John the Apostle, John the Apostle, John the Apostle, (Aramaic Yoħanna, (c. 6 - c. 100) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of James, another of the Twelve Apostles...

.

The first Christians were all Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 or Jewish proselyte
Proselyte
The biblical term "Proselyte", derives from the Koine Greek προσήλυτος/proselytos, as used in the Septuagint for "stranger", i.e. a "newcomer to Israel"; a "sojourner in the land", and in the New Testament for a convert to Judaism from Paganism...

s, either by birth or conversion, referred to by historians as the Jewish Christians
Jewish Christians
Jewish Christians is a term which appears in historical texts contrasting Christians of Jewish origin with Gentile Christians, both in discussion of the New Testament church and the second and following centuries....

. Paul of Tarsus
Paul of Tarsus
Paul the Apostle , also known as Saul of Tarsus, is described in the Christian New Testament as one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with the writings ascribed to him by the church forming a considerable portion of the New Testament...

, after his conversion
Conversion of Paul
The Conversion of Paul the Apostle, as depicted in the Christian Bible, refers to an event reported to have taken place in the life of Paul of Tarsus which led him to cease persecuting early Christians and to himself become a follower of Jesus; it is normally dated by researchers to AD 33–36...

, claimed the title of "Apostle to the Gentiles". Paul's influence on Christian thinking is said to be more significant than any other New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 author. By the end of the 1st century
Christianity in the 1st century
The earliest followers of Jesus composed an apocalyptic, Jewish sect, which historians refer to as Jewish Christianity. The Apostles and others following the Great Commission's decree to spread the teachings of Jesus to "all nations," had great success spreading the religion to gentiles. Peter,...

, Christianity began to be recognized internally and externally as a separate religion from Rabbinic Judaism which itself was refined and developed further in the centuries after the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple.

As shown by the numerous quotations in the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 books and other Christian writings of the 1st centuries, early Christians generally used and revered the Jewish Bible as Scripture, mostly in the Greek (Septuagint) or Aramaic (Targum
Targum
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art and the national sport of South Korea. In Korean, tae means "to strike or break with foot"; kwon means "to strike or break with fist"; and do means "way", "method", or "path"...

) translations. As the New Testament canon developed
Development of the New Testament canon
The Canon of the New Testament is the set of books Christians regard as divinely inspired and constituting the New Testament of the Christian Bible. For most, it is an agreed-upon list of twenty-seven books that includes the Canonical Gospels, Acts, letters of the Apostles, and Revelation...

, the Letters of Paul
Pauline epistles
The Pauline epistles, Epistles of Paul, or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen New Testament books which have the name Paul as the first word, hence claiming authorship by Paul the Apostle. Among these letters are some of the earliest extant Christian documents...

, the Canonical Gospels and various other works were also recognized as scripture to be read in church. Paul's letters, especially Romans
Epistle to the Romans
The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, often shortened to Romans, is the sixth book in the New Testament. Biblical scholars agree that it was composed by the Apostle Paul to explain that Salvation is offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ...

, established a theology based on Christ
Pauline Christianity
Pauline Christianity is a term used to refer to the Christianity associated with the beliefs and doctrines espoused by Paul of Tarsus through his writings. Most of orthodox Christianity relies heavily on these teachings and considers them to be amplifications and explanations of the teachings of...

 rather than on the Mosaic Law, but most Christian denominations today still consider the "moral prescriptions" of the Mosaic Law
Biblical law in Christianity
Christian views of the Old Covenant have been central to Christian theology and practice since the circumcision controversy in Early Christianity. There are differing views about the applicability of the Old Covenant among Christian denominations...

, such as the Ten Commandments, Great Commandment
Great Commandment
The Great Commandment, or Greatest Commandment, is an appellation applied to either the first, or both, of two commandments which appear in , and...

, and Golden Rule
Golden Rule
Golden Rule may refer to:*The Golden Rule in ethics, morality, history and religion, also known as the ethic of reciprocity*Golden Rule savings rate, in economics, the savings rate which maximizes consumption in the Solow growth model...

, to be relevant. Early Christians demonstrated a wide range of beliefs and practices, many of which were later rejected as heretical
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

.

History



The earliest followers of Jesus composed an apocalyptic
Apocalypticism
Apocalypticism is the religious belief that there will be an apocalypse, a term which originally referred to a revelation of God's will, but now usually refers to belief that the world will come to an end time very soon, even within one's own lifetime...

, Second Temple Jewish sect
Second Temple Judaism
Second Temple Judaism refers to the religion of Judaism during the Second Temple period, between the construction of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 515 BCE, and its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE This period witnessed major historical upheavals and significant religious changes that...

, which historians refer to as Jewish Christianity. The first part of the period, during the lifetimes of the Twelve Apostles, is called the Apostolic Age
Apostolic Age
The Apostolic Age of the history of Christianity is traditionally the period of the Twelve Apostles, dating from the Crucifixion of Jesus and the Great Commission in Jerusalem until the death of John the Apostle in Anatolia...

. In line with the Great Commission
Great Commission
The Great Commission, in Christian tradition, is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples, that they spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. It has become a tenet in Christian theology emphasizing missionary work, evangelism, and baptism...

 attributed to the resurrected Jesus
Resurrection appearances of Jesus
The major Resurrection appearances of Jesus in the Canonical gospels are reported to have occurred after his death, burial and resurrection, but prior to his Ascension. Among these primary sources, most scholars believe First Corinthians was written first, authored by Paul of Tarsus along with...

, the missionary activity spread Christianity
Early centers of Christianity
Early Christianity spread from Western Asia, throughout the Roman Empire, and beyond into East Africa and South Asia, reaching as far as India. At first, this development was closely connected to centers of Hebrew faith, in the Holy Land and the Jewish diaspora...

 to cities throughout the Hellenistic world and even beyond the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. Though Paul's influence on Christian thinking
Pauline Christianity
Pauline Christianity is a term used to refer to the Christianity associated with the beliefs and doctrines espoused by Paul of Tarsus through his writings. Most of orthodox Christianity relies heavily on these teachings and considers them to be amplifications and explanations of the teachings of...

 is said to be more significant than any other New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 author, the relationship of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism
Paul of Tarsus and Judaism
The relationship between Paul of Tarsus and Second Temple Judaism continues to be the subject of much scholarly research, as it is thought that Paul played an important role in the relationship between Christianity and Judaism as a whole...

 is still disputed.

Early Christians suffered sporadic persecution because they refused to pay homage to the emperor as divine
Imperial cult (ancient Rome)
The Imperial cult of ancient Rome identified emperors and some members of their families with the divinely sanctioned authority of the Roman State...

. Persecution was on the rise in Asia Minor towards the end of the 1st century, as well as in Rome in the aftermath of the Great Fire of Rome
Great Fire of Rome
The Great Fire of Rome was an urban fire that occurred beginning July 19, AD 64.-Background:According to Tacitus, the fire spread quickly and burned for six days. Only four of the fourteen districts of Rome escaped the fire; three districts were completely destroyed and the other seven suffered...

 in AD 64.

During the Ante-Nicene period
Ante-Nicene Period
The Ante-Nicene Period , or Post-Apostolic Period, of the history of early Christianity spanned the late 1st century to the early 4th century, with the end marked by the First Council of Nicaea in 325. Christianity during this time was extremely diverse, with many developments difficult to trace...

 following the Apostolic Age, a great diversity of views emerged simultaneously with strong unifying characteristics lacking in the apostolic period. Part of the unifying trend was an increasingly harsh rejection of Judaism
Anti-Judaism
Religious antisemitism is a form of antisemitism, which is the prejudice against, or hostility toward, the Jewish people based on hostility to Judaism and to Jews as a religious group...

 and Jewish practices
Judaizers
Judaizers is predominantly a Christian term, derived from the Greek verb ioudaïzō . This term is most widely known from the single use in the New Testament where Paul publicly challenges Peter for compelling Gentile believers to "judaize", also known as the Incident at Antioch.According to the...

. Early Christianity gradually grew apart from Judaism during the first two centuries and established itself as a predominantly gentile religion in the Roman Empire
State church of the Roman Empire
The state church of the Roman Empire was a Christian institution organized within the Roman Empire during the 4th century that came to represent the Empire's sole authorized religion. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches claim to be the historical continuation of this...

.

What started as a religious movement within 1st century Judaism became, by the end of this period, the favored religion of the Roman Empire
State church of the Roman Empire
The state church of the Roman Empire was a Christian institution organized within the Roman Empire during the 4th century that came to represent the Empire's sole authorized religion. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches claim to be the historical continuation of this...

, as well as a significant religion outside the empire. According to Will Durant
Will Durant
William James Durant was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife Ariel Durant and published between 1935 and 1975...

, the Christian Church
Christian Church
The Christian Church is the assembly or association of followers of Jesus Christ. The Greek term ἐκκλησία that in its appearances in the New Testament is usually translated as "church" basically means "assembly"...

 prevailed over Paganism
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 because it offered a much more attractive doctrine and because the church leaders addressed human needs better than their rivals.

Practices


From the writings of early Christians, historians have tried to piece together an understanding of various early Christian practices including worship
Worship
Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something, for example, Christian worship.Evelyn Underhill defines worship thus: "The absolute...

 services, customs and observances. Early Christian writers such as Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr, also known as just Saint Justin , was an early Christian apologist. Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue survive. He is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church....

 (100 – 165) described these practices.

Baptism



Early Christian beliefs regarding baptism probably predate the New Testament writings. It seems certain that baptism was practised by numerous Jewish sects and certainly by Jesus and his disciples and was integral to nearly every manifestation of the religion of the Jews. John the Baptist had baptized many people before it was done in the name of Jesus Christ. Many of the interpretations that would later become orthodox Christian beliefs concerning baptism can be traced to apostles such as Paul, who described baptism as a burial (Romans 6:3,4; Colossians 2:12). On the basis of this description, it was supposed by some modern theologians that the early Christians practised baptism by submersion (Matthew 3:13-17). This interpretation is debated between those Christian denominations who advocate immersion baptism
Immersion baptism
Immersion baptism is a method of baptism that is distinguished from baptism by affusion and by aspersion , sometimes without specifying whether the immersion is total or partial, but very commonly with the indication that the person baptized is immersed completely...

 exclusively and those who practice baptism by affusion
Affusion
Affusion is a method of baptism where water is poured on the head of the person being baptized. The word "affusion" comes from the Latin affusio, meaning "to pour on" . Affusion is one of three or four methods of baptism, in addition to the greater wetting of total immersion baptism and...

 or aspersion
Aspersion
Aspersion , in a religious context, is the act of sprinkling with water, especially holy water. Aspersion is a method used in baptism as an alternative to immersion or affusion...

 as well as by immersion. Yet the Didache
Didache
The Didache or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles is a brief early Christian treatise, dated by most scholars to the late first or early 2nd century...

, one of the earliest Christian writings on liturgical practices, mentions that baptism may occur by pouring water on the head three times using the trinitarian formula (i.e., in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit).

While some believe that infant baptism
Infant baptism
Infant baptism is the practice of baptising infants or young children. In theological discussions, the practice is sometimes referred to as paedobaptism or pedobaptism from the Greek pais meaning "child." The practice is sometimes contrasted with what is called "believer's baptism", or...

 began to be widely practised at least by the 3rd century
Christianity in the 3rd century
The 3rd century of Christianity was largely the time of the Ante-Nicene Fathers who wrote after the Apostolic Fathers of the 1st and 2nd centuries but before the First Council of Nicaea in 325...

, the origins of the practice are controversial. Some believe that the Church in apostolic period practised infant baptism, arguing that the mention of the baptism of households in the Acts of the Apostles
Acts of the Apostles
The Acts of the Apostles , usually referred to simply as Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; Acts outlines the history of the Apostolic Age...

 most definitely would have included children within the household. In the 2nd century
Christianity in the 2nd century
The 2nd century of Christianity was largely the time of the Apostolic Fathers who were the students of the apostles of Jesus, though there is some overlap as John the Apostle may have survived into the 2nd century and the early Apostolic Father Clement of Rome is said to have died at the end of the...

, Irenaeus
Irenaeus
Saint Irenaeus , was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, then a part of the Roman Empire . He was an early church father and apologist, and his writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology...

, bishop of Lyons, may have referred to it.

The 3rd century evidence is clearer, with both Origen
Origen
Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

 and Cyprian
Cyprian
Cyprian was bishop of Carthage and an important Early Christian writer, many of whose Latin works are extant. He was born around the beginning of the 3rd century in North Africa, perhaps at Carthage, where he received a classical education...

 advocating the practice. Tertullian
Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

 refers to the practice (and that sponsors would speak on behalf of the children), but argues against it, on the grounds that baptism should be postponed until after marriage.

Interpretation of the baptismal practices of the early church is important to groups such as Baptists and Anabaptists, who believe that infant baptism was a later development, yet the early Christian writings mentioned above, which date from the 2nd and 3rd century clearly show that the early Christians did maintain such practice.

Organization


Christian groups were first organized loosely. In Paul's time, there were no precisely delineated functions for bishops, elders
Elder (Christianity)
An elder in Christianity is a person valued for his wisdom who accordingly holds a particular position of responsibility in a Christian group. In some Christian traditions an elder is a clergy person who usually serves a local church or churches and who has been ordained to a ministry of Word,...

, and deacons. A Church hierarchy, however, seems to have developed by the early 2nd century (see Pastoral Epistles
Pastoral epistles
The three pastoral epistles are books of the canonical New Testament: the First Epistle to Timothy the Second Epistle to Timothy , and the Epistle to Titus. They are presented as letters from Paul of Tarsus...

, c 90 - 140). These structures were certainly formalized well before the end of the Early Christian period, which concluded with the legalization of Christianity
Edict of Milan
The Edict of Milan was a letter signed by emperors Constantine I and Licinius that proclaimed religious toleration in the Roman Empire...

 by Constantine
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

's Edict of Milan
Edict of Milan
The Edict of Milan was a letter signed by emperors Constantine I and Licinius that proclaimed religious toleration in the Roman Empire...

 in 313 and the holding of the First Council of Nicea in 325, when the title of Metropolitan bishop
Metropolitan bishop
In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis; that is, the chief city of a historical Roman province, ecclesiastical province, or regional capital.Before the establishment of...

 first appears.

In the post-Apostolic church, bishops emerged as overseers of urban Christian populations, and a hierarchy of clergy gradually took on the form of episkopos (overseers; and the origin of the term bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

) and presbyter
Presbyter
Presbyter in the New Testament refers to a leader in local Christian congregations, then a synonym of episkopos...

s
(elders
Elder (Christianity)
An elder in Christianity is a person valued for his wisdom who accordingly holds a particular position of responsibility in a Christian group. In some Christian traditions an elder is a clergy person who usually serves a local church or churches and who has been ordained to a ministry of Word,...

; and the origin of the term priest), and then deacons (servants). But this emerged slowly and at different times for different locations. Clement, a 1st century bishop of Rome, refers to the leaders of the Corinthian church in his epistle to Corinthians
First Epistle of Clement
The First Epistle of Clement, is a letter addressed to the Christians in the city of Corinth. The letter dates from the late 1st or early 2nd century, and ranks with Didache as one of the earliest — if not the earliest — of extant Christian documents outside the canonical New Testament...

 as bishops and presbyters interchangeably. The New Testament writers also use the terms overseer and elders interchangeably and as synonyms. The Didache
Didache
The Didache or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles is a brief early Christian treatise, dated by most scholars to the late first or early 2nd century...

 (dated by most scholars to the early 2nd century),) speaks of "appointing for yourself bishops and deacons" and also speaks about teachers and prophet
Prophet
In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

s and false prophet
False prophet
In religion, a false prophet is one who falsely claims the gift of prophecy, or who uses that gift for evil ends. Often, someone who is considered a "true prophet" by some people is simultaneously considered a "false prophet" by others....

s.

Post-apostolic bishops of importance include Polycarp of Smyrna
Polycarp
Saint Polycarp was a 2nd century Christian bishop of Smyrna. According to the Martyrdom of Polycarp, he died a martyr, bound and burned at the stake, then stabbed when the fire failed to touch him...

, Clement of Rome, and Irenaeus of Lyons
Irenaeus
Saint Irenaeus , was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, then a part of the Roman Empire . He was an early church father and apologist, and his writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology...

. These men reportedly knew and studied under the apostles personally and are therefore called Apostolic Fathers
Apostolic Fathers
The Apostolic Fathers are a small number of Early Christian authors who lived and wrote in the second half of the first century and the first half of the second century. They are acknowledged as leaders in the early church, although their writings were not included in the New Testament...

. Each Christian community also had presbyter
Presbyter
Presbyter in the New Testament refers to a leader in local Christian congregations, then a synonym of episkopos...

s, as was the case with Jewish communities, who were also ordained and assisted the bishop; as Christianity spread, especially in rural areas, the presbyters exercised more responsibilities and took distinctive shape as priests. Lastly, deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

s also performed certain duties, such as tending to the poor and sick. In the 2nd century, an episcopal structure becomes more visible, and in that century this structure was supported by teaching on apostolic succession
Apostolic Succession
Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were...

, where a bishop becomes the spiritual successor of the previous bishop in a line tracing back to the apostles themselves.

By the end of the early Christian period, the church within the Roman Empire had hundreds of bishops, some of them (Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, "other provinces") holding some form of jurisdiction over others.

Jerusalem was the first church and an important church center up to 135. The First Council of Nicaea recognized and confirmed the tradition by which Jerusalem continued to be given "special honour", but did not assign to it even metropolitan authority within its own province, still less the extraprovincial jurisdiction exercised by Rome and the other sees mentioned above.

Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 came into prominence only after the early Christian period, being founded officially in 330, five years after the First Council of Nicaea, though the much smaller original city of Byzantium
Byzantium
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

 was an early center of Christianity largely due to its proximity to Anatolia.

Sabbath


According to Bauckham, the post-apostolic church
Ante-Nicene Period
The Ante-Nicene Period , or Post-Apostolic Period, of the history of early Christianity spanned the late 1st century to the early 4th century, with the end marked by the First Council of Nicaea in 325. Christianity during this time was extremely diverse, with many developments difficult to trace...

 contained diverse practices as regards Sabbath.

Women


Elizabeth Clark describes the attitude of the Church Fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

 towards women as "ambivalent". The attitudes paralleled rules in Jewish law regarding a woman's role in worship. The early church did, however, allow women to participate in the worship, something that was not allowed in the Synagogue (where women were restricted to the outer court).

Beliefs


Early Christian beliefs were based on the apostolic preaching (kerygma
Kerygma
Kerygma is the Greek word used in the New Testament for preaching . It is related to the Greek verb κηρύσσω , to cry or proclaim as a herald, and means proclamation, announcement, or preaching.The New Testament teaches that as Jesus launched his public ministry he entered the synagogue and read from...

), considered to be preserved in tradition
Sacred Tradition
Sacred Tradition or Holy Tradition is a theological term used in some Christian traditions, primarily in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox traditions, to refer to the fundamental basis of church authority....

 and, according as was produced, in New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 scripture.

Divinity of Christ



Most Christians identified Jesus as divine from a very early period, although holding a variety of competing views as to what exactly this implied. Early Christian views tended to see Jesus as a unique agent of God; by the Council of Nicaea
First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325...

 in 325 he was identified as God in the fullest sense, literally 'of the same substance, essence or being'.

The 1st and 2nd-century texts that would later be canonized as the New Testament several times imply or indirectly refer to Jesus' divinity, though there is scholarly debate as to whether or not they call him God Within 15–20 years of the death of Jesus, Paul, who authored the largest early expositions of Christian theology, refers to Jesus as the resurrected "Son of God
Son of God
"Son of God" is a phrase which according to most Christian denominations, Trinitarian in belief, refers to the relationship between Jesus and God, specifically as "God the Son"...

", the savior who would return from heaven
Second Coming
In Christian doctrine, the Second Coming of Christ, the Second Advent, or the Parousia, is the anticipated return of Jesus Christ from Heaven, where he sits at the Right Hand of God, to Earth. This prophecy is found in the canonical gospels and in most Christian and Islamic eschatologies...

 and save his faithful, dead and living, from the imminent destruction of the world
End times
The end time, end times, or end of days is a time period described in the eschatological writings in the three Abrahamic religions and in doomsday scenarios in various other non-Abrahamic religions...

. The Synoptic Gospels
Synoptic Gospels
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in the same sequence, and sometimes exactly the same wording. This degree of parallelism in content, narrative arrangement, language, and sentence structures can only be...

 describe him as the "Son of God", though the phrase "Son of Man
Son of man
The phrase son of man is a primarily Semitic idiom that originated in Ancient Mesopotamia, used to denote humanity or self. The phrase is also used in Judaism and Christianity. The phrase used in the Greek, translated as Son of man is ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου...

" is more frequently used in the Gospel of Mark
Gospel of Mark
The Gospel According to Mark , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Mark or simply Mark, is the second book of the New Testament. This canonical account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one of the three synoptic gospels. It was thought to be an epitome, which accounts for its place as the second...

; born of the Virgin Mary
Mary (mother of Jesus)
Mary , commonly referred to as "Saint Mary", "Mother Mary", the "Virgin Mary", the "Blessed Virgin Mary", or "Mary, Mother of God", was a Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee...

 by the agency of the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

, and who will return to judge the nations
Last Judgment
The Last Judgment, Final Judgment, Day of Judgment, Judgment Day, or The Day of the Lord in Christian theology, is the final and eternal judgment by God of every nation. The concept is found in all the Canonical gospels, particularly the Gospel of Matthew. It will purportedly take place after the...

. The Gospel of John
Gospel of John
The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...

 identifies Jesus as the human incarnation of the divine Word or "Logos" (see Jesus the Logos) and True Vine. The Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

 depicts Jesus as the "Alpha and Omega
Alpha and Omega
The term Alpha and Omega comes from the phrase "I am the alpha and the omega" , an appellation of Jesus in the Book of Revelation ....

, the first and the last" who is to come soon, who died and now lives forever and who holds the keys of death and Hades
Hades
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...

. The Epistle to the Hebrews
Epistle to the Hebrews
The Epistle to the Hebrews is one of the books in the New Testament. Its author is not known.The primary purpose of the Letter to the Hebrews is to exhort Christians to persevere in the face of persecution. The central thought of the entire Epistle is the doctrine of the Person of Christ and his...

 describes Jesus as the mediator of the New Covenant
New Covenant
The New Covenant is a concept originally derived from the Hebrew Bible. The term "New Covenant" is used in the Bible to refer to an epochal relationship of restoration and peace following a period of trial and judgment...

.

The term "Logos" was used in Greek philosophy (see Heraclitus
Heraclitus
Heraclitus of Ephesus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor. He was of distinguished parentage. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom...

) and in Hellenistic Jewish
Hellenistic Judaism
Hellenistic Judaism was a movement which existed in the Jewish diaspora that sought to establish a Hebraic-Jewish religious tradition within the culture and language of Hellenism...

 religious writing (see Philo Judaeus of Alexandria) to mean the ultimate ordering principle of the universe. Those who rejected the identification of Jesus with the Logos, rejecting also the Gospel of John, were called Alogi
Alogi
The Alogi were a group of Christian heretics in Asia Minor that flourished around 170 CE. What we know of them is derived from their doctrinal opponents, whose literature is still extant, particularly St. Epiphanius of Salamis...

 (see also Monarchianism
Monarchianism
Monarchianism is a set of beliefs that emphasize God as being one person. The term was given to Christians who upheld the "monarchy" of God against the Logos theology of Justin Martyr and apologists who had spoken of Jesus as a second divine person begotten by God the Father before the creation of...

).

Adoptionists, such as the Ebionites, considered him as at first an ordinary man, born to Joseph and Mary, who later became the Son of God at his baptism
Baptism of Jesus
The baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of Jesus Christ's public ministry. This event is recorded in the Canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. In John 1:29-33 rather than a direct narrative, the Baptist bears witness to the episode...

, his transfiguration
Transfiguration of Jesus
The Transfiguration of Jesus is an event reported in the New Testament in which Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant upon a mountain. The Synoptic Gospels describe it, and 2 Peter 1:16-18 refers to it....

, or his resurrection
Resurrection of Jesus
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus states that Jesus returned to bodily life on the third day following his death by crucifixion. It is a key element of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures"...

.

Orthodoxy and heterodoxy


In the orthodox main stream of the church, the categories orthodoxy
Orthodoxy
The word orthodox, from Greek orthos + doxa , is generally used to mean the adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion...

 and heresy
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

 were created, and "orthodoxy" was depicted and projected into the past as the authentic lineage of tradition. Other forms of Christianity were viewed as deviant streams of thought and therefore labeled as "heterodox", or even called heretical.

Perhaps one of the most important discussions in the past century among scholars of early Christianity is to what extent it is still appropriate to speak of "orthodoxy" and "heresy". Higher criticism drastically altered the previous perception that heresy was a very rare exception to the orthodoxy.

Some orthodox scholars argue against the increasing focus on heterodoxy. A movement away from presuming the correctness or dominance of the orthodoxy is seen as understandable, in light of modern approaches. However, these orthodox scholars feel that instead of an even and neutral approach to historical analysis that the heterodox sects are given an assumption of superiority over the orthodox movement.

Religious writing



Early Christians wrote many religious works, some of which were later canonized as the New Testament of today.

Defining scripture


Debates about scripture were underway in the mid-2nd century
Christianity in the 2nd century
The 2nd century of Christianity was largely the time of the Apostolic Fathers who were the students of the apostles of Jesus, though there is some overlap as John the Apostle may have survived into the 2nd century and the early Apostolic Father Clement of Rome is said to have died at the end of the...

, concurrent with a drastic increase of new scriptures, both Jewish and Christian. Debates regarding practice and belief gradually became reliant on the use of scripture other than what Melito referred to as the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

, as the New Testament canon developed
Development of the New Testament canon
The Canon of the New Testament is the set of books Christians regard as divinely inspired and constituting the New Testament of the Christian Bible. For most, it is an agreed-upon list of twenty-seven books that includes the Canonical Gospels, Acts, letters of the Apostles, and Revelation...

. Similarly, in the 3rd century a shift away from direct revelation as a source of authority occurred, most notably against the Montanists. "Scripture" still had a broad meaning and usually referred to the Septuagint among Greek speakers or the Targums among Aramaic speakers
Aramaic of Jesus
It is generally agreed that the historical Jesus primarily spoke Aramaic, perhaps along with some Hebrew and Greek . The towns of Nazareth and Capernaum, where Jesus lived, were primarily Aramaic-speaking communities, although Greek was widely spoken in the major cities of the Eastern Mediterranean...

 or the Vetus Latina
Vetus Latina
Vetus Latina is a collective name given to the Biblical texts in Latin that were translated before St Jerome's Vulgate Bible became the standard Bible for Latin-speaking Western Christians. The phrase Vetus Latina is Latin for Old Latin, and the Vetus Latina is sometimes known as the Old Latin Bible...

 translations in Carthage. Beyond the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 (the Law) and some of the earliest prophetic works (the Prophets), there was not agreement on the canon
Biblical canon
A biblical canon, or canon of scripture, is a list of books considered to be authoritative as scripture by a particular religious community. The term itself was first coined by Christians, but the idea is found in Jewish sources. The internal wording of the text can also be specified, for example...

, but this was not debated much at first. By the mid-2nd century, tensions arose with the split of early Christianity and Judaism, which some theorize led eventually to the determination of a Jewish canon by the emerging rabbinic movement
Rabbinic Judaism
Rabbinic Judaism or Rabbinism has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century CE, after the codification of the Talmud...

, though, even as of today, there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Jewish canon was set
Development of the Jewish Bible canon
Rabbinic Judaism recognizes the 24 books of the Masoretic Text, commonly called the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible, as authoritative. Evidence suggests that the process of canonization occurred between 200 BCE and 200 CE. A popular former theory is that the Torah was canonized c. 400 BCE, the Prophets c....

. For example some scholars argue that the Jewish canon was fixed earlier, by the Hasmonean
Hasmonean
The Hasmonean dynasty , was the ruling dynasty of Judea and surrounding regions during classical antiquity. Between c. 140 and c. 116 BCE, the dynasty ruled semi-autonomously from the Seleucids in the region of Judea...

 dynasty (140-137 BC).

A problem for scholars is that there is a lack of direct evidence on when Christians began accepting their own scriptures alongside the Septuagint. Well into the 2nd century Christians held onto a strong preference for oral tradition
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

 as clearly demonstrated by writers of the time, such as Papias.

Koine Greek
Koine Greek
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....

 spread all over the Empire, even up the Rhone valley of Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

; Roman satirists complained that even Rome had become a Greek city. Thus the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Septuagint) was the dominant translation (even the Peshitta
Peshitta
The Peshitta is the standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition.The Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated into Syriac from the Hebrew, probably in the 2nd century AD...

 appears to be influenced). Later Jerome
Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

 would express his preference for adhering strictly to the Hebrew text and canon, but his view held little currency even in his own day. It was not until the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 that substantial numbers of Christians began to reject those books of the Septuagint which are not found in the Jewish Masoretic Text
Masoretic Text
The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible and is regarded as Judaism's official version of the Tanakh. While the Masoretic Text defines the books of the Jewish canon, it also defines the precise letter-text of these biblical books, with their vocalization and...

, referring to them as biblical apocrypha
Biblical apocrypha
The word "apocrypha" is today often used to refer to the collection of ancient books printed in some editions of the Bible in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments...

. In addition, some New Testament books were also disputed, known as the Antilegomena
Antilegomena
Antilegomena, a direct transliteration from the Greek , refers to written texts whose authenticity or value is disputed.Eusebius in his Church History written c. 325 used the term for those Christian scriptures that were "disputed" or literally those works which were "spoken against" in Early...

.

Fathers of the church



Since the end of the 4th century, the title "Fathers of the Church" has been used to refer to a more or less clearly defined group of ecclesiastical writers who are appealed to as authorities on doctrinal matters. Orthodoxy of doctrine, holiness of life, approval by the Church and antiquity are traditionally considered conditions for classification as a Father of the Church, but modern writers sometimes include Tertullian
Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

, Origen
Origen
Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

 and a few others.

Apostolic Fathers



The earliest Christian writings (other than those collected in the New Testament) are a group of letters credited to the Apostolic Fathers
Apostolic Fathers
The Apostolic Fathers are a small number of Early Christian authors who lived and wrote in the second half of the first century and the first half of the second century. They are acknowledged as leaders in the early church, although their writings were not included in the New Testament...

. These include the Epistle of Barnabas
Epistle of Barnabas
The Epistle of Barnabas is a Greek epistle containing twenty-one chapters, preserved complete in the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus where it appears at the end of the New Testament...

, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistles of Clement, as well as the Didache
Didache
The Didache or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles is a brief early Christian treatise, dated by most scholars to the late first or early 2nd century...

. Taken as a whole, the collection is notable for its literary simplicity, religious zeal and lack of Hellenistic philosophy or rhetoric. Fathers such as Ignatius of Antioch
Ignatius of Antioch
Ignatius of Antioch was among the Apostolic Fathers, was the third Bishop of Antioch, and was a student of John the Apostle. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology...

 (died 98 to 117) advocated the authority of the apostolic episcopacy (bishops).

Spread of Christianity


Early Christianity spread from city to city in the Hellenized Roman Empire and beyond into East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

 and South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

. Apostles traveled extensively and establishing communities in major cities and regions throughout the Empire. The original church communities were founded by apostles (see Apostolic see
Apostolic See
In Christianity, an apostolic see is any episcopal see whose foundation is attributed to one or more of the apostles of Jesus.Out of the many such sees, five acquired special importance in Chalcedonian Christianity and became classified as the Pentarchy in Eastern Orthodox Christianity...

) and numerous other Christians soldiers, merchants, and preachers in northern Africa, Asia Minor, Armenia, Arabia, Greece, and other places. Over 40 were established by the year 100, many in Asia Minor, such as the seven churches of Asia
Seven churches of Asia
The Seven Churches of Revelation, also known as The Seven Churches of the Apocalypse and The Seven Churches of Asia , are seven major churches of Early Christianity, as mentioned in the New Testament Book of Revelation and written to by Ignatius of Antioch...

. By the end of the 1st century, Christianity had already spread to Greece and Italy, even India
Christianity in India
Christianity is India's third-largest religion, with approximately 24 million followers, constituting 2.3% of India's population. The works of scholars and Eastern Christian writings and 14th century Portuguese missionaries created an illusion to convert Indians that Christianity was introduced to...

, serving as foundations for the expansive spread of Christianity throughout the world. In 301 AD, the Kingdom of Armenia became the first to declare Christianity as its state religion, following the conversion of the Royal House of the Arsacids in Armenia.

In spite of at-times intense persecutions, the Christian religion continued its spread throughout the Mediterranean Basin
Mediterranean Basin
In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin refers to the lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, which supports characteristic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub vegetation...

. There is no agreement as for how Christianity managed to spread so successfully prior to the Edict of Milan
Edict of Milan
The Edict of Milan was a letter signed by emperors Constantine I and Licinius that proclaimed religious toleration in the Roman Empire...

 and Constantine
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

 favoring the creed and it is probably not possible not identify a single cause for this. Traditionally this has not been the subject of much research, as from a theological point of view the success was simply the natural consequence of people meeting the what theologians considered the truth. In the influential book, The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark
Rodney Stark
Rodney Stark is an American sociologist of religion. He grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota in a Lutheran family. He spent time in the U.S. Army and worked as a journalist before pursuing graduate studies at The University of California, Berkeley...

 argues that various sociological factors which made Christianity improving the quality of life of its adherents were crucial for its triumph over paganism. Another factor, more recently pointed out, that may have contributed to the success of Christianity was how the Christian promise of a general resurrection of the dead
Resurrection of the dead
Resurrection of the Dead is a belief found in a number of eschatologies, most commonly in Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Zoroastrian. In general, the phrase refers to a specific event in the future; multiple prophesies in the histories of these religions assert that the dead will be brought back to...

 combined the traditional Greek belief that true immortality depended on the survival of the body with practical explanations of how this was going to actually happen at the end of times.

See also

  • Ante-Nicene Fathers
    Ante-Nicene Fathers
    The Ante-Nicene Fathers, subtitled "The Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325", is a collection of books in 10 volumes containing English translations of the majority of Early Christian writings. The period covers the beginning of Christianity until before the promulgation of the Nicene Creed...

  • Christianity in the 1st century
    Christianity in the 1st century
    The earliest followers of Jesus composed an apocalyptic, Jewish sect, which historians refer to as Jewish Christianity. The Apostles and others following the Great Commission's decree to spread the teachings of Jesus to "all nations," had great success spreading the religion to gentiles. Peter,...

  • Christianity in the 2nd century
    Christianity in the 2nd century
    The 2nd century of Christianity was largely the time of the Apostolic Fathers who were the students of the apostles of Jesus, though there is some overlap as John the Apostle may have survived into the 2nd century and the early Apostolic Father Clement of Rome is said to have died at the end of the...

  • Christianity in the 3rd century
    Christianity in the 3rd century
    The 3rd century of Christianity was largely the time of the Ante-Nicene Fathers who wrote after the Apostolic Fathers of the 1st and 2nd centuries but before the First Council of Nicaea in 325...

  • Christian Torah-submission
  • Constantine I and Christianity
    Constantine I and Christianity
    During the reign of the Emperor Constantine the Great, Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. Constantine, also known as Constantine I, had a significant religious experience following his victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312...

  • Constantinian shift
    Constantinian shift
    Constantinian shift is a term used by Anabaptist and Post-Christendom theologians to describe the political and theological aspects of the 4th-century process of Constantine's legalization of Christianity. The term was popularized by the Mennonite theologian John H...

  • Council of Jerusalem
    Council of Jerusalem
    The Council of Jerusalem is a name applied by historians and theologians to an Early Christian council that was held in Jerusalem and dated to around the year 50. It is considered by Catholics and Orthodox to be a prototype and forerunner of the later Ecumenical Councils...

  • Early centers of Christianity
    Early centers of Christianity
    Early Christianity spread from Western Asia, throughout the Roman Empire, and beyond into East Africa and South Asia, reaching as far as India. At first, this development was closely connected to centers of Hebrew faith, in the Holy Land and the Jewish diaspora...

  • Early Christian art and architecture
    Early Christian art and architecture
    Early Christian art and architecture is the art produced by Christians or under Christian patronage from about the year 100 to about the year 500. Prior to 100 there is no surviving art that can be called Christian with absolute certainty...

  • History of Christianity
    History of Christianity
    The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion, its followers and the Church with its various denominations, from the first century to the present. Christianity was founded in the 1st century by the followers of Jesus of Nazareth who they believed to be the Christ or chosen one of God...

  • Christian primitivism
  • Society for the Study of Early Christianity
    Society for the Study of Early Christianity
    The Society for the Study of Early Christianity is a professional association of ancient historians and Biblical scholars, established within the Ancient History Documentary Research Centre at Macquarie University...

  • Split of early Christianity and Judaism
  • State church of the Roman Empire
    State church of the Roman Empire
    The state church of the Roman Empire was a Christian institution organized within the Roman Empire during the 4th century that came to represent the Empire's sole authorized religion. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches claim to be the historical continuation of this...


External links