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Early Church History

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1. Discuss the beginning and the ending of the Roman Empire. In what ways did the Empire conquer and control? * The republic formed around 500 BC and around 100 BC it started to drift toward a dictatorship, 27 BC-180 BC Roman Empire held peace, a decline set in around 200 BC. Under Constantine Ist (306-337) he moved the capital to Byzantine, renamed Constantinople. Theodosius(379-395) last ruler of the united empire. From 376-410 the Goths (Ostrogoths and Visigoths, later) attacked and sacked Rome. Last Western emperor abdicated in 476.

What was the downfall of the Roman Empire?
* The invading army reached the outskirts of Rome, which had been left totally undefended. In 410 C.E., the Visigoths, led by Alaric, breached the walls of Rome and sacked the capital of the Roman Empire.

* The Visigoths looted, burned, and pillaged their way through the city, leaving a wake of destruction wherever they went. The plundering continued for three days. For the first time in nearly a millennium, the city of Rome was in the hands of someone other than the Romans. This was the first time that the city of Rome was sacked, but by no means the last.

* One of the many factors that contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire was the rise of a new religion, Christianity. The Christian religion, which was monotheistic ran counter to the traditional Roman religion, which was polytheistic (many gods). At different times, the Romans persecuted the Christians because of their beliefs, which were popular among the poor.

2. Research the Apostle Paul’s three missionary journeys. List the dangers he faced on each and the progress he made in spreading the Gospel.

First missionary journey
The author of the Acts arranges Paul’s travels into three separate journeys. The first journey,[Acts 13–14] led initially by Barnabas, takes Paul from Antioch to Cyprus then southern Asia Minor (Anatolia), and back to Antioch. In Cyprus, Paul rebukes and blinds Elymas the magician[Ac 13:8–12] who was criticizing their teachings. From this point on, Paul is described as the leader of the group.

They sail to Perga in Pamphylia. John Mark leaves them and returns to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas go on to Pisidian Antioch. On Sabbath they go to the synagogue. The leaders invite them to speak. Paul reviews Israelite history from life in Egypt to King David. He introduces Jesus as a descendant of David brought to Israel by God. He said that his team came to town to bring the message of salvation. He recounts the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He quotes from the Septuagintto assert that Jesus was the promised Christos who brought them forgiveness for their sins. Both the Jews and the ‘God-fearing’ Gentiles invited them to talk more next Sabbath. At that time almost the whole city gathered. This upset some influential Jews who spoke against them. Paul used the occasion to announce a change in his mission which from then on would be to the Gentiles. [Ac 13:13–48]

Antioch served as a major Christian center for Paul’s evangelizing.

Second missionary journey

Saint Paul delivering the Areopagus sermon in Athens, by Raphael, 1515. This sermon addressed early issues in Christology. Paul leaves for his second missionary journey from Jerusalem, in late Autumn 49, after the meeting of the Council of Jerusalem where the circumcision question was debated. On their trip around the Mediterranean sea, Paul and his companion Barnabas stopped in Antioch where they had a sharp argument about taking John Mark with them on their trips. The book of Acts said that John Mark had left them in a previous trip and gone home. Unable to resolve the dispute, Paul and Barnabas decided to separate; Barnabas took John Mark with him, while Silas joined Paul. Paul and Silas initially visited Tarsus (Paul’s birthplace), Derbe and Lystra. In Lystra, they met Timothy, a disciple who was spoken well of, and decided to take him with them. The Church kept growing, adding believers, and strengthening their faith daily. [Acts 16:5]

In Philippi, certain men were not happy about the liberation of their soothsaying servant girl, who had been possessed with a spirit of divination, and they turned the city against the missionaries and Paul and Silas were put in jail. After a miraculous earthquake, the gates of the prison fell apart and Paul and Silas were able to escape but remained; this event led to the conversion of the jailor. They continued traveling, going by Berea and then to Athens where Paul preached to the Jews and God-fearing Greeks in the synagogue and to the Greek intellectuals in the Areopagus. Around 50–52, Paul spent 18 months in Corinth.The reference in Acts to proconsul Gallio helps ascertain this date (cf. Gallio inscription).[13] Paul met Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth who became faithful believers and helped Paul through his other missionary journeys. The couple followed Paul and his companions to Ephesus, and stayed there to start one of the strongest and most faithful churches at that time. In 52, the missionaries sailed to Caesarea to greet the Church there and then traveled north to Antioch where they stayed for about a year before leaving again on their third missionary journey.

Third missionary journey

Paul began his third missionary journey by traveling all around the region of Galatia and Phrygia to strengthen, teach and rebuke the believers. Paul then traveled to Ephesus, an important center of early Christianity, and stayed there for almost three years. He performed numerous miracles, healing people and casting out demons, and he apparently organized missionary activity into the hinterlands. Paul left Ephesus after an attack from a local silversmith resulted in a pro-Artemis riot involving most of the city. During his stay in Ephesus, Paul wrote four letters to the church in Corinth admonishing them for their pagan behavior. Then Paul went through Macedonia into Achaea and made ready to continue on to Syria, but he changed his plans and traveled back through Macedonia because of Jews who had made a plot against him. At this time (56–57), it is likely that Paul visited Corinth for three months. In Romans 15:19 Paul wrote that he visited Illyricum, but he may have meant what would now be called Illyria Graeca, which lay in the northern part of modern Albania, but was at that time a division of the Roman province of Macedonia. Paul and his companions visited other cities on their way back to Jerusalem such as Philippi, Troas, Miletus, Rhodes, and Tyre. Paul finished his trip with a stop in Caesarea where he and his companions stayed with Philip the Evangelist before finally arriving at Jerusalem.

How did the Roman Empire at that time help Paul in preaching the risen Lord?

One of the main causes for the Fall of the Roman Empire was Christianity. Life and the future seemed hopeless for the millions of people who were ruled by Rome where an early death was almost inevitable. Christianity taught the belief in an afterlife which gave hope and courage to the desperate. Eventually the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, proclaimed himself a Christian and issued an edict promising the Christians his favor and protection. Attitudes in the Roman Empire changed from being antagonistic to becoming pacifistic.

Why was Paul so well equipped for his missionary role?

Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “…entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.

3. Examine the term “Messiah.” What did the children of Israel expect in their Messiah?

Messiah (Hebrew: מָשִׁיחַ, Modern Mashiaẖ Tiberian Māšîăḥ; in modern Jewish texts in English sometimes spelled Moshiach; Aramaic: משיחא, Greek: Μεσσίας, Syriac: ܡܫܺܝܚܳܐ, Məšîḥā, Arabic: المسيح‎, al-Masīḥ, Latin: Messias) literally means “anointed [one]”. In standard Hebrew, the Messiah is often referred to as מלך המשיח (Méleḫ ha-Mašíaḥ in the Tiberian vocalization, pronounced Méleḵ haMMāšîªḥ), literally meaning “the Anointed King.”

Messiah [mɪˈsaɪə]
1. (Non-Christian Religions / Judaism) Judaism the awaited redeemer of the Jews, to be sent by God to free them 2. (Christian Religious Writings / Theology) Jesus Christ, when regarded in this role 3. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) an exceptional or hoped for liberator of a country or people [from Old French Messie, ultimately from Hebrew māshīach anointed]

Why were they confused and disappointed?
The Jews have never changed their perspective on what they expect of the Messiah, not for 4000 years.

For one thing, though, the Messiah was never supposed to be God or God incarnate. The Jews expect a human Messiah. The idea that God could become human is againsst very basic beliefs of Judaism.

The Messiah would be Jewish, and his father (biological father) would be a descendent of David.

The Messiah would rebuild (physically) the temple, and all the Jews would return to Israel. There would never be wars again.

These things would all happen within the Messiah’s life time, there is no such thing as a second coming.

4. How did Alexander the Great militarily conquer the civilized world? At the age of 20, Alexander assembled forces in Greek Cities in Corinth that recognised him as their Leader. His Army mainly consisted of Macedonian soldiers and also some Greeks. He then invaded the Persian Empire, but whilst he was at war in Thrace, some Greek cities rebelled, which brought him back South. Whereupon he captured the city of Thebes and demolished it as a warning to other Greek cities of what would become of them if they tried to resist his rule.

In 333 BC Alexander advanced south from Cilicia into Syria, after defeating the Persians at the River Granicus, he defeated Darius III at Issus. He then proceeded through Phoenicia to Egypt, where they accepted him as their liberator from Persian Rule.

Determined to rule the World, Alexander pursued conquering north, through Syria and Mesopotamia and defeated Darius at Gaugamela in 331 BC. After Darius fled he was then killed by his own men. Now occupying Susa and Persepolis, Alexander was the master of the Persian Empire. Still determined to conquer the World he continued through what is now Afghanistan to the Indus River Valley and reach Punjab in 326BC. Averse to his will, but convinced by his men that they had reached the end of the world, Alexander turned back.

What effect did his rule have on world culture?
Alexander the Great is without doubt one of the greatest military leaders of history. Not only did Alexander of Macedon conquer enormous areas of the known world but also he demonstrated dynamic leadership and masterful strategy on a large scale and tactics on the battlefield. During his life, he ruled the largest empire the world had ever seen, which stretched from ancient Greece to India. The son of King Phillip II of Macedon, Alexander was educated by the philosopher Aristotle and first led Macedonian troops at age 18. Many times Alexander was worshipped as a god in some of the countries he ruled. He had a huge impact on world history spreading the seeds of western culture and philosophy across the world and has legends and stories about him in over 80 languages.

He was head strong, violent, extremely brave, politically cunning, loved by his men, and a gifted leader. Few individuals have had the sort of impact on history that Alexander did. With his death, what was called the Hellenic Age becomes the Hellenistic. No longer was Greece a minor collection of city states, but a mighty empire. The western world, for better and for worse, became almost a single place, united by a common culture that left its mark on language, literature, and politics.

Alexander extended the boundaries of European civilization as far as India, and left behind a definite impact on the history, art and religion of the areas he conquered. Alexander sparked what is known as the Hellenistic period. This period was the pinnacle of Greek influence in the ancient world; the Hellenistic period was the time after Alexander’s death when Greeks, Persians and other cultures were mixed together with Greek culture being the main influence. Before his death, Alexander created a unified ruling class for his huge empire; he placed a mixture of Persians and Greeks in charge of different satrapies in his empire.

5. Reflect upon the period of peace (paxRomana) in Rome. How did this time of peace help the expansion of Christianity? Pax Romana, ( Latin: “Roman Peace”) a state of comparative tranquillity throughout the Mediterranean world from the reign of Augustus (27 bc–ad 14) to that of Marcus Aurelius (ad 161–180). Augustus laid the foundation for this period of concord, which also extended to North Africa and Persia. The empire protected and governed individual provinces, permitting each to make and administer its own laws while accepting Roman taxation and military control.

6. What were the stages of religious pluralism in the early Roman Empire?

The Roman Empire could be a dangerous place for early Christians, whose emerging doctrine flew in the face of established Roman religion.

Hostility toward Christians fluctuated throughout the empire due to local events or individual officials’ actions. Periods of peace were shattered by incidents like the great Rome fire of A.D. 64, which Emperor Nero blamed on Christians, or by the threat of external invasion, which often caused communities to close ranks.

Christianity was punishable by death during this era, yet pardon was available to those willing to renounce their religion by offering sacrifice to the emperor or Roman gods. The offering of sacrifices became a particularly contentious issue and a kind of religious litmus test. Honoring Rome’s gods and goddesses was considered a civic obligation and, at times, a law.

But many Christians refused to break with their faith. They were often executed and then hailed by their coreligionists as martyrs.

During Emperor Decius’s short reign (A.D. 249 to 251), all Christians were required not only to offer sacrifice, but also to acquire official certificates from witnesses to their offering.

Perhaps the most comprehensive of such anti-Christian hostilities were the early fourth century persecutions by the co-emperors Diocletian and Galerius. Fortunately for the Christian faithful, they were to be the last.

In 313 Constantine I and Eastern Roman Emperor Licinius ratified the Edict of Milan, which finally ensured tolerance for Christians throughout the Roman Empire.

7. List the emperors who persecuted Christians, and discuss each one.

Nero

A sick Emperor who burned and inflamed the vast lands of the Roman Empire (concentrated in Rome) and blamed the Christians on the cause of such calamity. He forbid Christianity and who was caught were persecuted and condemned to death.

Diocletian

According to Eusebius, Diocletian was tolerant of most religious beliefs and organizations for the first nineteen years. His own wife and daughter and other members of the imperial household and staff were Christians.1 However, his junior co-ruler, Galerius, found ways to convince him that Christians were seditious toward the State, and this resulted in Diocletian making a series of edicts to persecute Christians. Eusebius relates that Diocletian became very ill and mentally deranged.

Galerius

Galerius was the main instigator and the worst of the persecutors. Lactantius, a Christian and tutor to the imperial court, informs us that Galerius’ mother manipulated the superstitious Galerius to hate Christians.5 But enough was enough. In God’s sovereignty and wisdom he decided to end this cruel chapter of the early church’s existence. Eusebius (263-339 AD) tells the story of how Galerius had a change of heart. The record is found in his The History of the Church.

Maximinus Daia

Despite Galerius edict of toleration, Maximinus Daia, the tyrannical ruler of the eastern part of the Empire, found sneaky ways to persecute Christians. But his days were numbered. His is another example of the truth, “pride comes before the fall.” He boasted that, “his devotion to the idols and his attack on (Christians) prevented any famine or plague or even war from occurring in his time.” But then a terrible time of famine and disease afflicted the Empire. He also held a war against the country of Armenia, who up to that point had been allies of Rome. Eusebius relates,

8. What happened when Constantine came to power?
Constantine’s conversion was a turning point for Early Christianity, sometimes referred to as the Triumph of the Church, the Peace of the Church or the Constantinian shift. In 313, Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan legalizing Christian worship. The emperor became a great patron of the Church and set a precedent for the position of the Christian emperor within the Church and the notion of orthodoxy, Christendom, ecumenical councils and the state church of the Roman Empire declared by edict in 380. He is revered as a saint and isapostolos in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Church for his example as a “Christian monarch.”

What was his vision, and how did it change the history of Christianity? Constantine Sees a Vision of the Cross in the Sky
Before the Battle at Milvian Bridge

The night before he was to launch an attack on his rival, Maxentius, just outside of Rome, Constantine received an omen…

What sort of omen Constantine received is a matter of dispute. Eusebius says that Constantine saw a vision in the sky; Lactantius says it was a dream. Both agree that the omen informed Constantine that he would conquer under the sign of Christ (Greek: en touto nika; Latin: in hoc signo vinces).

Lactantius:
Constantine was directed in a dream to cause the heavenly sign to be delineated on the shields of his soldiers, and so to proceed to battle. He did as he had been commanded, and he marked on their shields the letter X, with a perpendicular line drawn through it and turned round thus at the top (P), being the cipher of CHRISTOS. Having this sign, his troops stood to arms.

Perhaps the most important thing that Constantine did for Christians was to declare religious tolerance, thus allowing Christians (and others) to worship openly. He also gave the main Christian Church of his time state patronage, making it socially and politically desirable for some, to become Christians. He convened and chaired the Christian Council of Nicaea in 325.

How did Emperor Constantine refer to himself?

Constantine later claimed to have had a vision on the way to Rome, during the night before battle. In this dream he supposedly saw the ‘Chi-Ro’, the symbol of Christ, shining above the sun. Seeing this as a divine sign, it is said that Constantine had his soldiers paint the symbol on their shields. Following this Constantine went on to defeat the numerically stronger army of Maxentius at the Battle at the Milvian Bridge (Oct AD 312). Constantine’s opponent Maxentius, together with thousands of his soldiers, drowned as the bridge of boats his force was retreating over collapsed.

Constantine saw this victory as directly related to the vision he had had the night before.

Henceforth Constantine saw himself as an ’emperor of the Christian people’. If this made him a Christian is the subject of some debate. But Constantine, who only had himself baptized on his deathbed, is generally understood as the first Christian emperor of the Roman world.

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