Saturday, October 13, 2018

Church Chronology: Years of Growth Despite Persecution (64-313)

64-66 Nero initiates first persecution by the Roman state of Christians, in the city of Rome.
81-96 Domitian, emperor, initiates the second persecution of Christians, also in the city of Rome.
90 Letter of Clement
100 Didache (Teaching of the Twelve): first Christian document outside New Testament to discuss structure of Christian communities.
100s. New form of Christian writing: the apology, a defense of Christian theology and practice against Olympian attacks.
100s Increasing popularity of Gnosticism: teachings of a higher secret knowledge needed for salvation from the body and material world.
110 Martyrdom of Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, in Rome. The Greek word for martyr means witness. Eventually it came to be said of Christians who had witnessed to Christ unto death. The word confessor was said of Christians who had suffered persecution for their witness to Christ but survived.
155 Martyrdom of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, in Rome
165 Martyrdom of Justin Martyr, theologian, in Rome. Best educated Christian apologist, his defense influenced Origen of Alexandria.
ca 177-202 Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon: defended knowledge of the Bible, and the ordinary Christians who knew and practiced it, from Gnosticism. Affirmed three standards of truth needed by Christians for salvation: (1) canon of biblical books, (2) creeds summarizing key biblical truths, and (3) bishops developing a normative understanding of the Bible and normative creeds summarizing its key truths. This third standard eventually displaced the freedom of individual Christians and local congregations as well as the inspired words of gifted teachers and prophets.
185-251 Origen of Alexandria: excellent Greek education, brilliant thinker, first systematic theologian.
202 Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas, Carthage
249-251 Decius initiates first universal persecution of Christians. Under his command, Origen was arrested, tortured, and later died of his wounds.
303-313 Diocletian initiates the widest, most severe, and last universal persecution of Christians by the Roman state.

Source: Hans Kung, The Catholic Church: A Short History (New York: Modern Library, 2001, pp. xi-xii, 17-30; translated by John Bowden).

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