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Since the 19th century, historians have learned much more about the early Christian community. Early texts such as the Didache (in second-millennium copies) and the Gospel of Thomas (in two manuscripts dated as early as about 200 and 340) have been rediscovered in the last 200 years.
- 1 History
- 2 Practices
- 3 Beliefs
- 4 Orthodoxy and heterodoxy
- 5 Religious writing
- 6 Spread of Christianity
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 External links
At first, the Christian church was centered in Jerusalem, in an "upper room" perhaps where the Cenacle is today, and leaders included James, Peter, and John. The major primary source for the Apostolic Age (c.30-c.100) is the Acts of the Apostles, but its historical accuracy is disputed. Following the Great Commission, the missionary activity of the Apostles, including Paul of Tarsus, spread Christianity to cities throughout the Hellenistic world, such as Alexandria and Antioch, and also to Rome and even beyond the Roman Empire. The term "Christian" was first applied to members of the church at Antioch according to . The New Testament includes letters written by Paul to churches, such as those in Thessalonica and Corinth, during the years 50-62, see also Seven Churches of Asia. Early Christians continued the Jewish practice of reverence for the "Jewish Scriptures", using the Septuagint translation of Hellenistic Judaism that was in general use among Koine Greek-speakers, or the Targums in use among Aramaic-speakers, but added to it their own writings.
In 70 the Second Temple was destroyed, and in c. 135 Jews were expelled from the renamed pagan city after the Bar Kokhba revolt. Among those who left the city were most of the Christian population. Following this time, early Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea records that ethnically Jewish leadership of the church in Jerusalem (literally those "of Hebrew descent" and "of the circumcision") was replaced by Gentile leadership. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia these were Suffragan bishops appointed by the Metropolitan bishops of the capital in Caesarea. Similarly, Claudius had expelled the Jews from Rome in 49, though Nero allowed their return but turned against "Christians" (according to Tacitus) after the Great Fire of Rome of 64, the beginning of persecution by Roman authorities. Historians debate whether or not the Roman government distinguished between Christians and Jews prior to Nerva's modification of the Fiscus Judaicus in 96. From then on, practising Jews paid the tax; Christians did not.
Early Christianity spread from city to city in the Hellenized Roman Empire and beyond. As Christianity spread further during the 2nd century, notable proto-orthodox leaders and writers of this time include Irenaeus of Lyon, Polycarp of Smyrna, Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, and Justin Martyr. The 2nd century was also the time of several who were later declared to be major heretics, such as Marcion, Valentinius, and Montanus. During the third century, Christianity further increased in numbers (Robin Lane Fox suggests that Christians composed about 2% of the Empire by 250). Teachers of this period, including Origen in Alexandria and Tertullian in North Africa, expressed in their writings doctrines seen as Trinitarian. Anthony the Great and others established Christian monasticism, and Gregory the Illuminator was responsible for Armenia becoming the first officially Christian country. Following the conversion of Constantine the Great (just prior to the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312), the Roman Empire tolerated Christianity with the Edict of Milan in 313, leading later to the adoption of Christianity as the state religion in 380 by Theodosius I (see Edict of Thessalonica) and the rise of Christendom in the Byzantine empire.
What started as a religious movement within first century Judaism therefore became, by the end of this period, the favored religion of the Roman Empire, as well as a significant religion outside the empire. According to Will Durant, the Christian Church prevailed over Paganism because it offered a much more attractive doctrine and because the church leaders addressed human needs better than their rivals. The First Council of Nicaea marks the end of this era and the beginning of the period of the first seven Ecumenical Councils (325 - 787).
From the writings of early Christians, historians have tried to piece together an understanding of various early Christian practices including worship services, customs and observances. Early Christian writers such as Justin Martyr (100 - 165) described these practices.
The following rituals, which would later be defined as sacraments, existed in the early church.
Early Christian beliefs regarding baptism were variable. In the most usual form of early Christian baptism, the candidate stood in water and water was poured over the upper body. In other words, it was immersion, not submersion. Tertullian describes the rite as a triple immersion, preceded by a fast or vigil, a confession of sins, and renouncing the devil, and as followed by anointing, the imposition of hands, and a symbolic meal of milk and honey, the whole of the rite being normally presided over by the bishop, with Easter and Pentecost as the proper seasons for baptism in the early Christian period, though in case of necessity baptism might be administered at any time and by any male Christian. The theology of baptism attained precision in the 3rd and 4th centuries.
While it is clear that infant baptism began to be widely practiced by at least the third century, the origins of the practice are controversial. Some believe that the apostolic church practiced infant baptism, arguing that the mention of the baptism of households in the Acts of the Apostles must have included infants. In the second century, Irenaeus may have referred to it,
The third century evidence is clearer, with both Origen and Cyprian advocating the practice. Tertullian 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.
Early Christians, as part of the Lord's supper, consecrated bread and wine which became the Body and Blood of Christ. Where pagans would sacrifice animals for religious reasons, Christians would perform the Eucharist, or unbloody re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ.
The early church featured two or three levels of clergy, overseers (bishops), elders (presbyters, perhaps interchangeable with bishops), and deacons (assistants). By the year 200, only bishops had the authority to ordain priests.
Imposition of hands
After baptism, the officiating Apostle or priest would lay hands on the subject's head to introduce the Holy Spirit into the believer.
By the third century, a system of public penance served as a "second baptism": the sinner, either voluntarily or under threat of excommunication, would undergo penance for a period whose length depended on the gravity of the sin, and which involved a rigorous course of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, during which the penitent was excluded from the Eucharist.
The first worship services were liturgical gatherings, which followed essentially a "Christianized" synagogue liturgical framework, and met in sections of homes quartered off especially for worship. Christians considered each other to be brothers and sisters, each contributing their respective gifts to the community. Gatherings featured hymns, prescribed prayers, and readings, especially from the scriptures (Old Testament). The first thirty to sixty years would not have known the writings of the "New Covenant" as they had not yet been written, Christ's teachings being transmitted through the liturgy, its hymns and prayers and through oral Tradition. Eventually, once they had become known, Paul's epistles and later the gospels and other texts were read during the initial liturgical services. The Lord's Supper comprised a communal meal with prayers in memory of Jesus. Services were known as agape feasts or love feasts.
Second century sources, such as the Didache, specify that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are for the baptized only. In his First Apology, a letter of defense written to Roman emperor, Antonius Pius, 161-180, Justin described a newly baptized member of the community sharing in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, which was restricted to the baptized.
Despite Ignatius' rejection of Judaizing (see above), Christianity continued many of the patterns of Judaism, adapting to Christian use synagogue liturgical worship, prayer, use of Sacred Scripture, a priesthood, a religious calendar commemorating on certain days each year certain events and/or beliefs, use of music in worship, giving material support to the religious leadership, and practices such as fasting and almsgiving and baptism.
Christians adopted as their Bible the Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures known as the Septuagint and later also canonized the books of the New Testament. There are however many phrases which appear to be quotations and other statements of fact, in the early church fathers, which cannot be found in the Bible as we know it. For example, in Clement's First Letter he states that Paul "reached the limits of the West", and also appears to quote a variant form of Ezek 33.
At worship, early Christians greeted each other with a holy kiss. Church leaders restricted the practice to keep the worshipers from taking pleasure in it, such as specifying that the lips be closed.
Many practices which later became characteristic of Christian worship had not yet developed. Singing was generally without instrumentation and was normally in unison. Many Christians had lost their lives rather than offer a mere pinch of incense to the emperor as to a god, and so the use of incense was strongly frowned upon even in Christian worship. These practices and others, such as the use of elaborate vestments and grand buildings, became popular only once the Peace of the Church changed the political situation and the growing prosperity of worshippers made them possible.
Christians proclaimed a God of love who enjoined them to share a higher love with one another. Some interpreted the Old Testament as revealing primarily a God of justice, whereas the New Testament, particularly the letters of Paul and the Gospel of John, revealed a more loving God. Parallels are found in Pharisaic and Rabbinic Judaism. Paul of Tarsus is represented in as equating the Unknown God of the Greeks as revealed in the Christian God. Early Christian communities welcomed everyone, including slaves and women, who were generally shunned in Greco-Roman culture, but there were other exceptions, such as in Epicureanism.
Christian groups were first organized loosely. In Paul's time, there were no precisely delineated functions for bishops, elders, and deacons. A Church hierarchy, however, seems to have developed by the early second century (see Pastoral Epistles, c 90 - 140). These structures were certainly formalized well before the end of the Early Christian period, which concluded with the legalization of Christianity by Constantine's Edict of Milan in 313 and the holding of the First Council of Nicea in 325, when the title of Metropolitan bishop first appears.
Some first-century Christian writings include reference to overseers ("bishops") and deacons, though these may have been informal leadership roles rather than formal positions. The Didache (dated by most scholars to the early second century),) speaks of "appointing for yourself bishops and deacons" and also speaks about teachers and prophets and false prophets. Bishops were defined as spiritual authorities over geographical areas.
By the end of the early Christian period, the church of the Roman Empire had hundreds of bishops, some of them (those of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and, it seems, the chief bishops of other provinces) holding some form of jurisdiction over others.
Jerusalem was the first church and an important church center up to 135, for example see the Council of Jerusalem and Early centers of Christianity#Jerusalem, and it became significant again in the post-Nicene era, the Council of Nicaea having confirmed the tradition by which it was given "special honour", though without metropolitan authority. Some believe Rome was recognized as the first city of the church, Alexandria second, and then Antioch, the three Petrine Sees, whose special authority was recognized by the First Council of Nicaea. (See also Papal supremacy.) This belief grew into one of the primary causes of the Great Schism and is still disputed today by the Orthodox and Protestants. When the city of Constantinople was founded (officially in 330), this too became an important Christian centre within the empire, since the emperor resided there and made it his New Rome. Constantinople (Byzantium) is generally associated with the Byzantine Empire (330-1453).
Christian monasticism started in Egypt. The first monks lived in cities and villages, but only received great renown as they left for the wilderness and became hermits (eremetic monks). By the end of the early Christian era, Saint Pachomius was organizing his followers into a community and founding the tradition of monasticism in community (cenobitic monks).
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 in 325 he was identified as God in the fullest sense, literally 'of the same substance, essence or being', hence in the further wording of the Creed, "Θεόν αληθινόν εκ Θεού αληθινού" Theón alēthinón ek Theoú alēthinoú 'true God from true God'.
The first and second-century texts that would later be canonized as the New Testament several times imply or directly refer to Jesus' divinity, though there is scholarly debate as to whether or not they call him God Within 20–30 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", the savior who would return from heaven and save his faithful, dead and living, from the imminent destruction of the world. The Synoptic Gospels describe him as the "Son of God", though the phrase "Son of Man" is more frequently used in the Gospel of Mark; born of the Virgin Mary by the agency of the Holy Spirit, and who will return to judge the nations. The Gospel of John identifies Jesus as the human incarnation of the divine Word or "Logos" (see Jesus the Logos) and True Vine. The Book of Revelation depicts Jesus as the "Alpha and Omega, 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. The book has many other images, in particular that of a fearsome beast whose worshippers and those who receive its mark "will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb" ( ), an effect not attributed to the Lamb itself. The book speaks of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God as reigning with him for a thousand years before the final defeat of Satan and the Judgement at the Great White Throne. The Epistle to the Hebrews describes Jesus as the mediator of the New Covenant.
The term "Logos" was used in Greek philosophy (see Heraclitus) and in Hellenistic Jewish 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 (see also Monarchianism).
The Trinity is a post-New Testament doctrine. However, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are associated in various New Testament passages. The Great Commission of possibly reflects the baptismal practice at Matthew's time. Baptism has been in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost since the end of the first century. speaks of baptism "in the name of Jesus Christ", which some interpret as another method of baptism, while others do not, since "in the name of" is used elsewhere in Acts to mean not a form of words but "by the authority of", "for the sake of". Aside from this verse, Matthew does not equate Jesus with God nor does he specify inequality either, though he indicates a special relationship between them. One of the elements virtually universal among diverse early Christians was the understanding that Jesus the Son was uniquely united with God the Father.
According to the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the Trinity was revealed to the disciples by revelation and in religious visions called theoria during the Theophany and the Transfiguration of Jesus called the Tabor Light or uncreated light.
The close of the early Christian era is defined as the First Council of Nicea, which gave the trinity its dogmatic form. But the term trinity (coined by Tertullian) and concepts related to the trinity existed earlier in the church. The phrase "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" became common, especially at baptism. Another trinitarian formula, "Glory to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit," was common even before the Arian controversy. However, this earlier formula does not express the co-equality of the three persons.
The Council used the Greek term homoousios (literally "of the same substance, essence or being") to express its view of the relation of the Son to the Father. However, it also appears in the early Christian era as used by Origen, Paul of Samosata, and Alexander of Alexandria though not without controversy, see for example Synods of Antioch. Various Christian writings refer to Jesus as a man and as God, but it was this Council that gave official sanction to the common Trinity formulation using this term.
Many, including Oneness Pentecostals and some Restorationists, styling themselves as restoring early Christian practice, reject the trinitarian concepts of the early church, and generally place no importance in the post-apostolic writings of the Church Fathers on the subject. (See below in the discussion on the Church Fathers.)
Kingdom of God
The Apostles believed that Jesus would soon return to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. The general term for this set of beliefs is parousia (or Second Coming).
Among early Christians there was a widely accepted belief that Christ's return would establish not the general resurrection but a thousand-year kingdom, with the general resurrection following (a belief known as chiliasm or premillenialism). Chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation is the main source of this teaching, though it may owe something to the Book of Daniel and to ideas popular in late pre-Christian Jewish apocalyptic literature, especially 2 Esdras and the non-canonical Books of Enoch
Early Christians inherited their belief in a future resurrection of the dead from Judaism, although it was not a universally accepted doctrine among Jews and there was no agreement whether the resurrection included the physical body, only a spiritual body or just the soul. The Christian resurrection belief, however, developed gradually towards an increased emphasis on the resurrection of the flesh, a process that can be witnessed already in the New Testament. Whereas Paul believed in a the resurrection of a spiritual body denying any future for the flesh, Luke had the resurrected Jesus insisting that he was resurrected with flesh and bones. The emphasis on the resurrection on the flesh became even more pronounced in the first two centuries as Christianity succeeded in the mainly Greek eastern Mediterranean world.
Apologists defended the resurrection of the dead against pagan philosophers, who considered the soul worthy of perfection but not the body. Origen, however, who attempted to synthesise Platonism and Christianity, appears to have supported the idea of an ethereal rather than corporeal resurrection.
The ancient Jewish picture was of the sky as a firmament, a dome covering the earth. But the prevailing picture in early Christian times was that of the earth as a sphere with one or more other spheres, containing the stars, rotating around it. They sometimes described the souls of the dead waiting underground for the general resurrection. They described gehenna (roughly, hell) as a subterranean fire, see also Lake of Fire. In some Hellenic traditions, influential in the Alexandrian church, souls escaped the material world of the earth and returned to the spirit realm above.
Prayer for the dead
The Encyclopaedia Britannica states: "The well-attested early Christian practice of prayer for the dead ... was encouraged by the episode (rejected by Protestants as apocryphal) in which Judas Maccabeus (Jewish leader of the revolt against the tyrant Antiochus IV Epiphanes) makes atonement for the idolatry of his fallen soldiers by providing prayers and a monetary sin offering on their behalf ( ); by the Apostle Paul's prayer for Onesiphorus ( ); and by the implication in that there may be forgiveness of sins in the world to come."
That early Christians prayed for the dead, believing that the dead were thereby benefitted, is attested since at least the second-century inscription of Abercius, and celebration of the Eucharist for the dead is attested since at least the third century. Specific examples of belief in the communion of the living with the dead through prayer are found in many of the Church Fathers
The Greek word "Hades", which, like the Hebrew word "sheol", is generally used of the abode where the dead are reckoned to be, appears several times in the New Testament. In the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus ( ), the dead rich man "in Hades" (16:23), speaks of being "tormented in this flame" (16:24), and is said to be separated by a "great gulf" from Abraham (16:26), in whose bosom Lazarus is said to be placed (16:22). The word "Hades" was used in (as in the Septuagint) to translate the word "sheol" of the Hebrew text of the Psalm there quoted.
Early Church Fathers who wrote in Greek, such as Hippolytus of Rome in his book on Hades, continued to use the term "Hades". Early Christian writers in Latin also used either the Greek word "Hades" itself or employed as its equivalent the Latin word "infernus", the Roman word for the underworld, as Jerome did in his translation of the New Testament.
Angels and Satan
Early Christians understood angels to be active in supporting the church and Satan to be actively opposed to it. Hippolytus, for example, recounts angels physically scourging the first antipope to force him to repent. Christian writers commonly saw Satan (or Beelzebub, see Mark 3) as the author of heresies. In , Satan, rather than Abraham, is named as the father of those Jews who rejected Jesus. See also Rejection of Jesus.
The word "angel" is derived from Greek ἄγγελος, the basic meaning of which is "messenger". Visitations from the "angel of the LORD" in the Old Testament are taken by many to be pre-Incarnation manifestations of Christ. Accordingly, Justin Martyr spoke of Christ as "King, and Priest, and God, and Lord, and angel, and man, and captain, and stone, and a Son born, and first made subject to suffering, then returning to heaven, and again coming with glory, and He is preached as having the everlasting kingdom". He interpreted as Christ the Angel who spoke with Abraham in , and argued for the divinity of Christ.
Orthodoxy and heterodoxy
Traditionally, orthodoxy and heresy have been viewed in relation to the "orthodoxy" as an authentic lineage of tradition. Other forms of Christianity were viewed as deviant streams of thought and therefore "heterodox", or heretical. This view was dominant until the publication of Walter Bauer's Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im ältesten Christentum ("Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity") in 1934. Bauer endeavored to rethink early Christianity historically, independent from the views of the church. He stated that the second century church was very diverse and included many "heretical" groups that had an equal claim to apostolic tradition. Bauer interpreted the struggle between the orthodox and heterodox to be the "mainstream" Roman church struggling to attain dominance. He presented Edessa and Egypt as places where the "orthodoxy" of Rome had little influence during the second century. As he saw it, the theological thought of the Orient at the time would later be labeled "heresy". The response by modern scholars has been mixed. Some scholars clearly support Bauer's conclusions and others express concerns about his "attacking [of] orthodox sources with inquisitional zeal and exploiting to a nearly absurd extent the argument from silence." However, modern scholars have critiqued and updated Bauer's model. For example, subsequent analysis of Bauer's geographical model have generally fallen against Bauer such as in Egypt.
Perhaps one of the most important discussions among scholars of early Christianity in the past century is to what extent it is appropriate to speak of "orthodoxy" and "heresy". Higher criticism drastically altered the previous perception that heresy was a very rare exception to the orthodoxy. Bauer was particularly influential in the reconsideration of the historical model. During the 1970s, increasing focus on the effect of social, political and economic circumstances on the formation of early Christianity occurred as Bauer's work found a wider audience. Some scholars argue against the increasing focus on heresies. A movement away from presuming the correctness or dominance of the orthodoxy is seen as understandable, in light of modern approaches. However, they 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. The current debate is vigorous and broad. While it is difficult to summarize all current views, general statements may be made, remembering that such broad strokes will have exceptions in specific cases.
One conception about Jesus that was found among second and third-century Christians was that which Adolf von Harnack called "Adoption Christology": Jesus was regarded as "the man whom God hath chosen, in whom the Deity or the Spirit of God dwelt, and who, after being tested, was adopted by God and invested with dominion". This stream in early Greek theology regarded Christ as a man gifted with divine powers. First represented by the Ebionites, it was later developed by the Monarchians, such as Theodotus of Byzantium and Paul of Samosata. It conflicted with the claim, as in the Gospel of John, that Jesus is the eternal Logos, hence the term Alogi.
Arianism, declared by the Council of Nicaea to be heresy, denied the full divinity of Jesus Christ, and is so called after its leader Arius. It has been called the most challenging heresy in the history of the Church.
Arius, born probably in Libya between c. 260 and 280, was ordained a priest in Alexandria in 312-313. Under Bishop Alexander (313-326), probably in about 319, he came forward as a champion of subordinationist teaching about the person of Christ.
Arius appears to have held that the "Son of God" was not eternal but created by the Father as an instrument for creating the world and therefore not God by nature, different from other creatures in being the one direct creation of God. The controversy quickly spread, with Arius seeking support from other disciples of his teacher Lucian of Antioch, notably Eusebius of Nicomedia, while a local synod under Alexander excommunicated Arius. Because of the agitation aroused by the dispute, Emperor Constantine I sent Hosius of Córdoba to Alexandria to attempt a settlement; but the mission failed. Accordingly, in 325, Constantine convened the First Council of Nicaea, which, largely through the influence of Athanasius of Alexandria, then a deacon, but destined to be Alexander's successor, defined the coeternity and coequality of the Father and the Son, using the now famous term "homoousios" to express the oneness of their being, while Arius and some bishops who supported him, including Eusebius, were banished.
This council marks the end of the Early Christian period and the beginning of the period of the First seven Ecumenical Councils.
The Ebionites ("poor ones") were a sect of Jewish Christians who flourished in the early centuries of Christianity, especially east of the Jordan. They emphasized the binding character of the Mosaic Law and believed Jesus was the human son of Joseph and Mary. They seem to have been ascetics, and are said to have rejected Paul's epistles and to have used only one Gospel.
Early in the common era, several distinct religious sects, some of them Christian, adhered to an array of beliefs that would later be termed Gnostic. One such sect, that of the Simonians, was said to have been founded by Simon Magus, the Samaritan who is mentioned in the first-century and who figures prominently in several apocryphal and heresiological accounts by Early Christian writers, who regarded him as the source of all heresies.
The most successful Christian Gnostic was the priest Valentinus (c. 100 - c. 160), who founded a Gnostic church in Rome and developed an elaborate cosmology. Gnostics considered the material world to be a prison created by a fallen or evil spirit, the god of the material world (called the demiurge). Gnostics identified the God of the Hebrew Bible as this demiurge. Secret knowledge (gnosis) was said to liberate one's soul to return to the true God in the realm of light. Valentinus and other Christian gnostics identified Jesus as the Savior, a spirit sent from the true God into the material world to liberate the souls trapped there.
While there appear to be Gnostic elements in some early Christian writing, Irenaeus and others condemned Gnosticism as a heresy, rejecting its dualistic cosmology and vilification of the material world and the creator of that world. Gnostics thought the God of the Old Testament was not the true God. It was considered to be the demiurge and either fallen, as taught by Valentinus (c. 100 - c. 160) or evil, as taught by the Sethians and Ophites.
The Gospel of John, according to Stephen L Harris, both includes Gnostic elements and refutes Gnostic beliefs, presenting a dualistic universe of light and dark, spirit and matter, good and evil, much like the Gnostic accounts, but instead of escaping the material world, Jesus bridges the spiritual and physical worlds. Raymond E. Brown wrote that even though gnostics interpreted John to support their doctrines, the author didn't intend that. The Johannine epistles were written (whether by the author of the Gospel or someone in his circle) to argue against gnostic doctrines.
The Gospel of Thomas has some Gnostic elements but lacks the full Gnostic cosmology. The scene in John in which "doubting Thomas" ascertains that the resurrected Jesus is physical refutes the Gnostic idea that Jesus returned to spirit form after death. The written gospel draws on an earlier oral tradition associated with Thomas. Some scholars argue that the Gospel of John was meant to oppose the beliefs of that community.
Some believe that there were at least three distinct divisions within the Christian movement of the 1st century: the Jewish Christians (led by the Apostle James the Just, with Jesus's disciples, and their followers), Pauline Christians (followers of Paul of Tarsus) and Gnostic Christians. Others believe that Gnostic Christianity was a later development, some time around the middle or late second century, around the time of Valentinus. Gnosticism was in turn made up of many smaller groups, some of which did not claim any connection to Jesus Christ. In Mandaeist Gnosticism, Mandaeans maintain that Jesus was a mšiha kdaba or "false messiah" who perverted the teachings entrusted to him by John the Baptist. The word k(a)daba, however, derives from two roots in Mandaic: the first root, meaning "to lie," is the one traditionally ascribed to Jesus; the second, meaning "to write," might provide a second meaning, that of "book;" hence some Mandaeans, motivated perhaps by an ecumenical spirit, maintain that Jesus was not a "lying Messiah" but a "Book Messiah", the "book" in question presumably being the Christian Gospels. This however seems to be a folk etymology without support in the Mandaean texts. A modern view has argued that Marcionism is mistakenly reckoned among the Gnostics, and really represents a fourth interpretation of the significance of Jesus. Gnostics freely exchanged concepts and texts. It is considered likely that Valentinius was influenced by previous concepts such as Sophia, or by Simon Magus, as much as he influenced others.
In 144, the Church in Rome expelled Marcion of Sinope. He thereupon set up his own separate ecclesiastical organization, later called Marcionism. Like the Gnostics, he promoted dualism. Unlike the Gnostics, however, he founded his beliefs not on secret knowledge (gnosis) but on the vast difference between what he saw as the "evil" deity of the Old Testament and the God of love of the New Testament, on which he expounded in his Antithesis. Consequently, Marcionists were vehemently anti-Judaism in their beliefs. They rejected the Jewish-Christian Gospel according to the Hebrews (see also Jewish-Christian Gospels) and all the other Gospels with the single exception of the Gospel of Marcion, which appears to be a redacted version of the Gospel of Luke.
From the perspectives of Tertullian and Epiphanius it appeared that Marcion rejected the non-Lukan gospels, however, in Marcion's time, it may be that the only gospel he was familiar with from Pontus was the gospel of Luke. Although it has been suggested by some that Marcion's gospel pre-dated canonical Luke the dominant scholarly view is that the Marcionite Gospel was a redaction of canonical Luke in order to conform to Marcion's anti-Jewish stance.
Marcion argued that Christianity should be solely based on Christian Love. He went so far as to say that Jesus’ mission was to overthrow Demiurge—the fickle, cruel, despotic God of the Old Testament—and replace Him with the Supreme God of Love whom Jesus came to reveal. Marcion was labeled a gnostic by Irenaeus. Irenaeus labeled Marcion this because of Marcion expressing this core gnostic belief, that the creator God of the Jews and the Old Testament was the demiurge. This position, he said, was supported by the ten Epistles of Paul that Marcion also accepted. His writing had a profound effect upon the development of Christianity and the canon.
About 156, Montanus launched a ministry of prophecy, criticizing Christians as increasingly worldly and bishops as increasingly autocratic. Traveling in his native Anatolia, he and two women preached a return to primitive Christian simplicity, prophecy, celibacy, and asceticism. Tertullian, "having grown puritanical with age", embraced Montanism as a more outright application of Christ's teaching. Montanus's followers revered him as the Paraclete that Christ had promised, and he led his sect out into a field to meet the New Jerusalem. His sect spread across the Roman Empire, survived persecution, and relished martyrdom. The Church banned them as a heresy[when?], and in the 6th century Justinian ordered the sect's extinction.
Early Christians wrote many religious works, some of which were later canonized as the New Testament of today.
Oral tradition and first written works
Christian testimony was entirely oral for roughly twenty years after Jesus' death. Christians passed along Jesus' teachings, proclaimed his resurrection, and prophesied his imminent return. Apostles established churches and oral traditions in various places, such as Jerusalem, Antioch, Caesarea, and Ephesus. These traditions gradually developed distinct characteristics.
When those who had heard Jesus' actual words began to die, Christians started recording the sayings in writing. The hypothetical Q document, a collection of Jesus' sayings, is perhaps the first such record (c 50).
At about the same time, Paul of Tarsus also began writing (or dictating) letters ("epistles") to various churches that would later be considered scripture. Some scholars think Paul articulated the first Christian theology: namely that all people inherit Adam's guilt (see Original Sin) and can only be saved from death by the atoning death of the Son of God, Jesus' crucifixion.
Gospels and Acts
The Gospel of Mark was written during c. 65-70, possibly motivated by the First Jewish-Roman War. The Gospel of Matthew was written c. 80-85 to convince a Jewish audience that Jesus was the expected Messiah (Christ) and a greater Moses. The Gospel of Luke, together with Acts (see Luke-Acts) was c. 85-90, considered the most literate and artistic of the gospels. Finally, the Gospel of John was written, portraying Jesus as the incarnation of the divine Word, who primarily taught about himself as a savior. All four gospels originally circulated anonymously, and they were attributed to Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John in the 2nd century. Various authors wrote further epistles and the Apocalypse of John.
Epistles by other hands than Paul's circulated in the early church. Many of them, including one written as late as c 150, were eventually included in the New Testament canon. Many later epistles concern issues of church leadership, discipline, and disputes.
Several apocalypses circulated in the early church, and one of them, the Book of Revelation, was later included in the New Testament.
Debates about scripture were underway in the mid-second century, 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. Similarly, in the third century a shift away from direct revelation as a source of authority occurred. "Scripture" still had a broad meaning and usually referred to the Septuagint among Greek speakers. Beyond the Torah (the Law) and some of the earliest prophetic works (the Prophets), there was no universal agreement to a canon, but it was not debated much at first. By the mid-second century, tensions arose with the growing rift between Christianity and Judaism, which some theorize led eventually to the determination of a Jewish canon by the emerging rabbinic movement, though, even as of today, there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Jewish canon was set, see Development of the Jewish Bible canon for details. Some scholars argue that the Jewish canon was fixed by the Hasmonean dynasty (140-37 BCE).
Regardless, throughout the Jewish diaspora newer writings were still collected and the fluid Septuagint collection was the primary source of scripture for Christians. Many works under the names of known apostles, such as the Gospel of Thomas, were accorded scriptural status in at least some Christian circles. Apostolic writings, such as I Clement and the Epistle of Barnabas, were considered scripture even within the orthodoxy through the fifth century. 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 second century Christians held onto a strong preference for oral tradition as clearly demonstrated by writers of the time, such as Papias.
The acceptance of the Septuagint was generally uncontested (even the Peshitta appears to be influenced). Later Jerome would express his preference for adhering strictly to the Jewish canon, but his view held little currency even in his own day. It was not until the Protestant Reformation that substantial numbers of Christians began to reject those books of the Septuagint which are not found in the Jewish canon, referring to them as biblical apocrypha. In addition, some New Testament books were also disputed, see Antilegomena.
Fathers of the church
From an early date the title "Father" was applied to bishops as witnesses to the Christian tradition. Only later, from the end of the fourth century, was it used in a more restricted sense of a more or less clearly defined group of ecclesiasical authors of the past whose authority on doctrinal matters carried special weight. According to the commonly accepted teaching, the fathers of the church are those ancient writers, whether bishops or not, who were characterized by orthodoxy of doctrine, holiness of life and the approval of the church. Sometimes Tertullian, Origen and a few others of not unimpeachable orthodoxy are now classified as Fathers of the Church.
The earliest Christian writings (other than those collected in the New Testament) are a group of letters credited to the Apostolic Fathers. These include the Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistles of Clement, as well as the Didache. 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 (died 98 to 117) advocated the authority of the apostolic episcopacy (bishops).
Post-apostolic Fathers defined and defended Christian doctrine. The Apologists became prominent in the second century. This includes such notable figures as Justin Martyr (d. 165), Tatian (d. c. 185), and Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-211/216). They debated with prevalent philosophers of their day, defending and arguing for Christianity. They focused mainly on monotheism and their harshest words were used for ancient mythologies. Fathers such as Irenaeus advocated the role of the apostolic succession of bishops in preserving apostolic teaching.
The Church Fathers themselves were conscious of being a part of an ongoing tradition, and frequently appealed to earlier writers to defend their opinions. As the centuries passed, the result was a growing body of religious literature which was customarily used for devotional purposes and theological argumentation. It is these Church Fathers who form our most important sources for understanding the development of early Christianity, and their importance to their immediate successors explains their ongoing importance today. At the Protestant Reformation, the reformers frequently appealed to the church fathers in defense of their propositions, though they also showed a willingness to disagree with them. By contrast, the Restorationists later viewed the Church Fathers as entirely suspect, and appealed in support of their views either to supposed new revelations or else to the New Testament directly without reference to later Christianity.
Rules and creeds
The term Rule of Faith is used to describe outline statements of Christian belief that circulated in the second-century Church and were designed to make clear the essential contents of Christian faith, guide the understanding of scripture, and distinguish orthodox belief from heresy. While, unlike the creeds, which were later, they varied in wording, their identical essential content was held to have descended unchanged from the Apostles.
Originally, candidates for baptism accepted a short formula of belief, which varied in detail from one place to another. "By the fourth century these formulas had become more uniform and were everywhere tripartite in structure, following ".
The early Christian era ends with Emperor Constantine convening the Council of Nicaea, where the original version of the Nicene Creed was formulated.
Spread of Christianity
Early Christianity spread from city to city in the Hellenized Roman Empire and beyond. Apostles traveled extensively and establishing communities in major cities and regions throughout the Empire. The first communities, outside of Jerusalem, appeared in Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, and the political center of Rome. The original church communities were founded by apostles (see Apostolic see) and numerous other Christians soldiers, merchants, and preachers in northern Africa, Asia Minor, Arabia, Greece, and other places. Over 40 were established by the year 100, many in Asia Minor, such as the seven churches of Asia. By the end of the first century, Christianity had already spread to Rome, India, and major cities in Greece, Asia Minor and Syria, serving as foundations for the expansive spread of Christianity throughout the world.
- History of Christianity
- Early centers of Christianity
- List of events in early Christianity
- Constantine I and Christianity
- Constantinian shift
- History of Christian Torah-submission
- Council of Jerusalem
- Ante-Nicene Fathers
- Early Christian art and architecture
- Christianity in the 1st century
- Christianity in the 2nd century
- Christianity in the 3rd century
- E. Glenn Hinson, The church triumphant: a history of Christianity up to 1300, Mercer University Press, 1995.
- Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.
- Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia Ecclesiae, Book IV, Chapters 5–6.
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Jerusalem (A.D. 71-1099): "As the rank..."
- Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians: In the Mediterranean World from the Second Century AD to the Conversion of Constantine, London: Viking, 1986, ISBN 978-0670808489.
- Wylen, Stephen M., The Jews in the Time of Jesus: An Introduction, Paulist Press (1995), ISBN 0809136104, Pp 190-192.; Dunn, James D.G., Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70 to 135, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (1999), ISBN 0802844987, Pp 33-34.; Boatwright, Mary Taliaferro & Gargola, Daniel J & Talbert, Richard John Alexander, The Romans: From Village to Empire, Oxford University Press (2004), ISBN 0195118758, p. 426.;
- Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972
- Bowker, John (ed.). The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. New York: Oxford University Press. 1997
- Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article submersion
- Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Baptism
- Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Infant Baptism
- Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D.; John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion; Jordan Bajis; Bryan Chapell; Gregg Strawbridge (response to objections)
- "He (Jesus) came to save all through means of Himself — all, I say, who through Him are born again to God and children, infants, and boys, and youths, and old men" (Adversus Haereses, ii, 22, 4)
- Paul King Jewett, Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace, (Eerdmans 1978), page 127.
- Homilies on Leviticus 8.3.11; Commentary on Romans 5.9; and Homily on Luke 14.5
- "The delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary ... that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? ... For no less cause must the unwedded also be deferred - in whom the ground of temptation is prepared, alike in such as never were wedded by means of their maturity, and in the widowed by means of their freedom - until they either marry, or else be more fully strengthened for continence" (On Baptism 18).
- Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Penance
- The word "Agape" in the inscription has led some to interpret the scene as that of an Agape feast. However, the phrase within which the word appears is "Agape misce nobis" (Agape, mix for us, i.e. prepare the wine for us), making it more likely that Agape is the name of the woman holding the cup. A very similar fresco and inscription elsewhere in the same catacomb has, in exactly the same position within the fresco, the words "Misce mi Irene" (Mix for me, Irene). A reproduction of this other fresco can be seen at Catacombe dei Ss. Marcellino e Pietro, where it is accompanied by the explanation (in Italian) "One of the most frequently recurring scenes in the paintings is that of the banquet, generally interpreted as a symbolic representation of the joys of the afterlife, but in which it may be possible to discern a realistic presentation of the agapae, the funeral banquets held to commemorate the dead person." Agape, like Irene, may thus be the name of the person buried where the fresco was painted.
- ...after we have thus washed him who has been convinced (converted to Christianity) and has assented to our teaching, we bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized person, ...so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. ... And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion....And this food is called among us Eucharistia or [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. ... we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone. The First Apology of Justin.
- Bruce Metzger Metzger, Bruce. The canon of the New Testament. 1997
- Canon VI of the First Council of Nicea, which closes the period under consideration in this article, reads: "Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop ..." As can be seen, the title of "Patriarch", later applied to some of these bishops, was not used by the Council: "Nobody can maintain that the bishops of Antioch and Alexandria were called patriarchs then, or that the jurisdiction they had then was co-extensive with what they had afterward, when they were so called" (ffoulkes, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, quoted in Volume XIV of Philip Schaff's The Seven Ecumenical Councils).
- "Since there prevails a custom and ancient tradition to the effect that the bishop of Aelia is to be honoured, let him be granted everything consequent upon this honour, saving the dignity proper to the metropolitan" (Canon 7)
- Gerard Mannion, Richard Gaillardetz, Jan Kerkhofs, Readings in Church Authority: Gifts and Challenges for Contemporary Catholicism, p. 211
- Dag Øistein Endsjø Primordial landscapes, incorruptible bodies. Desert asceticism and the Christian appropriation of Greek ideas on geography, bodies, and immortality. New York: Peter Lang 2008.
- In recent centuries some have posited for parts of the New Testament dates as late as the third century, early Christians attributed it to the Apostles themselves and their contemporaries (such as Mark and Luke).
- Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, (Eerdmans, 2005), page 650.
- Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, (Eerdmans, 2005), page 204.
- See Raymond E. Brown's "Does the New Testament call Jesus God?" in Theological Studies, #26, 1965, p. 545-73 for a good summary of the debate.
- "Alogi or Alogoi", Early Church.org.uk.
- "Alogi", Francis P. Havey, The Catholic Encyclopedia Volume I, 1907.
- Encyclopædia Britannica, "Trinity".
- 3:6, 4:18, 5:40, 9:27-28, 16:18; cf. "The phrase 'baptized in the name of Jesus' is simply Luke's way to distinguish Christian baptism from other baptisms of the period, such as John's baptism (which Luke mentions in Acts 1:5, 22, 10:37, 11:16, 13:24, 18:25, 19:4), Jewish proselyte baptism, and the baptisms of pagan cults (such as Mithraism)" (Trinitarian Baptism); "baptism is differentiated elsewhere in narratives by being described as 'in the name of Jesus,' as opposed to the 'baptism of John' and so forth" (Jesus Name Baptism?). ,
- The Oxford Companion of the Bible, "Trinity".
- History of Dogma II.III.2, Adolf von Harnack. 'Jesus Christ, who is the Saviour. . . sent by God "in these last days," and who stands with God himself in a union special and unique.'
- "The Difference Between Orthodox Spirituality and Other Confessions", Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, OrthodoxFaith.com 2003. "Thus the disciples of Christ acquired the knowledge of the Triune God in theoria (vision of God) and by revelation. It was revealed to them that God is one essence in three hypostases."
- "The Blessed Trinity", G.H.Joyce, The Catholic Encyclopedia Volume XV, 1912.
- The first two writers listed are mentioned in Catholic Encyclopedia: Homoousion as applying the word precisely to the relation between Christ and the Father.
- History of the Christian Church Vol. 2 p.381, Philip Schaff, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.): "The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm, or millenarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgement. It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius, while Caius, Origen, Dionysius the Great, Eusebius (as afterwards Jerome and Augustin) opposed it."
- Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Millenarianism
- Not all Jews believed in resurrection. The Sadducees rejected all scripture but the Torah and denied the resurrection as an innovation. According to Josephus, the Pharisees believed in the immortality of the soul
- 1 Cor. 1.29, 1 Cor. 15.50, Col. 2.11.
- Luk. 24.39.
- Dag Øistein Endsjø. Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Christianity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2009.
- Catharine P. Roth, Introduction, On the Soul and the Resurrection: St Gregory of Nyssa, St Vladimir's Seminary Press (1993), page 14.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica: Purgatory
- For the text of the inscription see Daily Life of Christians in Ancient Rome, p. 170
- Gerald O' Collins and Mario Farrugia, Catholicism: the Story of Catholic Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003) p. 36; George Cross, "The Differentiation of the Roman and Greek Catholic Views of the Future Life", in The Biblical World (1912) p. 106; cf. Pastor I, iii. 7, also Ambrose, De Excessu fratris Satyri 80
- Gerald O'Collins and Edward G. Farrugia, A Concise Dictionary of Theology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000) p. 27.
- Henry Clarence Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans (1979), page 381.
- Against Plato, on the Cause of the Universe.
- For instance, Tertullian in De anima, chapter 7.
- For instance, the Latin translation of Origen's De Principiis by Rufinus Book IV, chapter I
- "In Latin, St Jerome translated Hades as infernus, the Roman name for the underworld and thus an exact cognate" (Christian History
- Church History 5.28.7-12, Eusebius.
- "Monarchians", John Chapman, The Catholic Encyclopedia Volume X, 1911.
- "Who is the angel of the Lord?", gotQuestions?.org.
- "An Angel You Ought to Know", Loren Jacobs, Jews for Jesus.
- "The Angel of the Lord: Who Is He?", Biblical Artefacts And Studies.
- Dialogue with Trypho 34, Justin Martyr.
- For a detailed study of the significance Justin saw in the title of "Angel" given to the Messiah in the Septuagint version of Isaiah 9:6, the then most widely known version of that text, see "Christ As Angel: The Reclamation Of A Primitive Title", Günther Juncker, Trinity Journal 15:2 (Fall 1994): 221–250.
- Ehrman, Bart (2003). Lost Christianities. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 173.
- Hunt (2003). Pp 10-11.
- Roberts, Manuscript, Society and Belief in Early Christian Egypt pp.51-52
- Esler (2004). Pp 893-894.
- History of Dogma II.III.3
- Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Adoptianism
- Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3): article Arianism
- Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3): article Arius
- Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Ebionites
- Understanding the Bible, Stephen L Harris. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.
- The Community of the Beloved Disciple, Raymond E. Brown, Paulist Press. (French translation: La communauté du disciple bien-aimé Les Éditions du Cerf, Paris 1983 ISBN 2-204-02000-1), pp. 117-134
- Beyond Belief,Elaine Pagels, 2003.
- No Longer Jews: The Search for Gnostic Origins, Carl B. Smith, Hendrickson Publishers (September 2004). ISBN 978-1565639447
- Macuch, Rudolf (1965). Handbook of Classical and Modern Mandaic. Berlin: De Gruyter & Co.. pp. 61 fn. 105.
- "MARCION", Encyclopædia Britannica 1911 ed., Volume VI7, p. 693.
- John Knox, Marcion and the New Testament: An Essay in the Early History of the Canon (ISBN 0-404-16183-9) was the first to propose that Marcion's Gospel may have preceded Luke's Gospel and Acts
- Ehrman, Bart (2003). Lost Christianities. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 108.
- Metzger, Bruce. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origins, Developments and Significance. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- "Marcion and Marcionite Gnosticism", Cky J. Carrigan, Ph.D., On Truth, November 1996.
- Metzger, Bruce. Canon of the NT ISBN 978-0-19-826180-3; The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 characterized Marcion as "perhaps the most dangerous foe Christianity has ever known."; Harnack's Origin of the New Testament: "Marcion, on the contrary, treats the Catholic Church as one that “follows the Testament of the Creator-God,” and directs the full force of his attack against this Testament and against the falsification of the Gospel and of the Pauline Epistles by the original Apostles and the writers of the Gospels. He would necessarily have dealt with the two Testaments of the Catholic Church if the Church had already possessed a New Testament. His polemic would necessarily have been much less simple if he had been opposed to a Church which, by possessing a New Testament side by side with the Old Testament, had ipso facto placed the latter under the shelter of the former. In fact Marcion’s position towards the Catholic Church is intelligible, in the full force of its simplicity, only under the supposition that the Church had not yet in her hand any “litera scripta Novi Testamenti.”"
- It may be that he employed an amanuensis, only occasionally writing himself, for example see , , , , , . Joseph Barber Lightfoot in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians writes: "At this point [ ] the Apostle takes the pen from his amanuensis, and the concluding paragraph is written with his own hand. From the time when letters began to be forged in his name ( ; 3:17) it seems to have been his practice to close with a few words in his own handwriting, as a precaution against such forgeries… In the present case he writes a whole paragraph, summing up the main lessons of the epistle in terse, eager, disjointed sentences. He writes it, too, in large, bold characters (Gr. pelikois grammasin), that his handwriting may reflect the energy and determination of his soul."
- Harris (1985). Pp 263-268.
- White (2004). Pp 446-447.
- Philip R. Davies in The Canon Debate, page 50: "With many other scholars, I conclude that the fixing of a canonical list was almost certainly the achievement of the Hasmonean dynasty."
- Swete's Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, page 112
- Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Fathers of the Church
- Ephesians 5-6, Magnesians 2, 6-7, 13, Trallians 2-3, Smyrnaeans 8-9
- Richardson (1953). Pp 16-17.
- Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Rule of Faith
- Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Creed. The verse cited contains the tripartite formula "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit".
- Franzen 29
- Vidmar, The Catholic Church Through the Ages (2005), pp. 19–20
- Hitchcock, Geography of Religion (2004), p. 281, quote: "By the year 100, more than 40 Christian communities existed in cities around the Mediterranean, including two in North Africa, at Alexandria and Cyrene, and several in Italy."
- Bokenkotter, A Concise History of the Catholic Church (2004), p. 18, quote: "The story of how this tiny community of believers spread to many cities of the Roman Empire within less than a century is indeed a remarkable chapter in the history of humanity."
- Berard, Wayne Daniel. When Christians Were Jews (That Is, Now). Cowley Publications (2006). ISBN 1561012807.
- Boatwright, Mary Taliaferro & Gargola, Daniel J & Talbert, Richard John Alexander. The Romans: From Village to Empire. Oxford University Press (2004). ISBN 0195118758.
- Dauphin, C. "De l'Église de la circoncision à l'Église de la gentilité – sur une nouvelle voie hors de l'impasse". Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. Liber Annuus XLIII (1993).
- Dunn, James D.G. Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70 to 135. Pp 33–34. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (1999). ISBN 0802844987.
- Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. HarperCollins (2005). ISBN 0060738170.
- Endsjø, Dag Øistein. Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Christianity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2009.
- Esler, Phillip F. The Early Christian World. Routledge (2004). ISBN 0415333121.
- Harris, Stephen L. Understanding the Bible. Mayfield (1985). ISBN 087484696X.
- Hunt, Emily Jane. Christianity in the Second Century: The Case of Tatian. Routledge (2003). ISBN 0415304059.
- Keck, Leander E. Paul and His Letters. Fortress Press (1988). ISBN 0800623401.
- Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan. The Christian Tradition: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600). University of Chicago Press (1975). ISBN 0226653714.
- Pritz, Ray A., Nazarene Jewish Christianity From the End of the New Testament Period Until Its Disappearance in the Fourth Century. Magnes Press - E.J. Brill, Jerusalem - Leiden (1988).
- Richardson, Cyril Charles. Early Christian Fathers. Westminster John Knox Press (1953). ISBN 0664227473.
- Stark, Rodney.The Rise of Christianity. Harper Collins Pbk. Ed edition 1997. ISBN 0060677015
- Stambaugh, John E. & Balch, David L. The New Testament in Its Social Environment. John Knox Press (1986). ISBN 0664250122.
- Tabor, James D. "Ancient Judaism: Nazarenes and Ebionites", The Jewish Roman World of Jesus. Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (1998).
- Taylor, Joan E. Christians and the Holy Places: The Myth of Jewish-Christian Origins. Oxford University Press (1993). ISBN 0198147856.
- Thiede, Carsten Peter. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish Origins of Christianity. Palgrabe Macmillan (2003). ISBN 1403961433.
- Valantasis, Richard. The Making of the Self: Ancient and Modern Asceticism. James Clarke & Co (2008) ISBN 9780227172810.
- White, L. Michael. From Jesus to Christianity. HarperCollins (2004). ISBN 0060526556.
- Wright, N.T. The New Testament and the People of God. Fortress Press (1992). ISBN 0800626818.
- Wylen, Stephen M. The Jews in the Time of Jesus: An Introduction. Paulist Press (1995). ISBN 0809136104.
- Early Christians
- Early Christian Writings
- Christian Classics Ethereal Library
- Early Church Texts
- The Early Christians in Their Own Words (free Ebook - English or Arabic)
- Catholic Encyclopedia: The Fathers of the Church
- PBS Frontline: The First Christians
- "The Old Testament of the Early Church" Revisited, Albert C. Sundberg, Jr.
- The Jewish Roman World of Jesus
- From the Jesus-people to Early Christianity - 30 - 110 AD
- First Christians and Rome
- Cave in Jordan Said to Have Been Used by Early Christians Biblical Archaeology Review
- Ángel F. Sánchez Escobar: A History of the Early Christian Church (for the text, click on links at foot of the page)
- Professor Edwin Judge on the early Christians from the Centre for Public Christianity