Christianity in the 2nd century was largely the time of the development of variant Christian teachings, and the Apostolic Fathers who are regarded as defenders of the developing proto-orthodoxy. Major figures who were later declared by the developing proto-orthodoxy to be heretics were Marcion, Valentinius, and Montanus.
The Apostolic Fathers were Christian theologians who lived in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, who are believed to have personally known some of the Twelve Apostles, or to have been significantly influenced by them. Their writings, though popular in Early Christianity, were not included in the canon of the New Testament. Many of the writings derive from the same time period and geographical location as other works of early Christian literature which came to be part of the New Testament. Some of the writings found among the Apostolic Fathers appear to have been highly regarded as some of the writings which became the New Testament.
The term proto-orthodox Christianity or proto-orthodoxy was coined by New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman and describes the Early Christian movement which was the precursor of Christian orthodoxy. Ehrman argues that this group from the moment it became prominent by the end of the third century, "stifled its opposition, it claimed that its views had always been the majority position and that its rivals were, and always had been, 'heretics', who willfully 'chose' to reject the 'true belief'." In contrast, Larry W. Hurtado argues that proto-orthodox Christianity is rooted in first century Christianity.
Heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs, in particular the accepted beliefs of a church or religious organization. A heretic is a proponent of such claims or beliefs. Heresy is distinct from both apostasy, which is the explicit renunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is an impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things.
While the Jewish Christian church was centered in Jerusalem in the 1st century, Gentile Christianity became decentralized in the 2nd century.
Although the use of the term Christian is attested in the Acts of the Apostles (80–90 AD), the earliest recorded use of the term Christianity (Greek: Χριστιανισμός) is by Ignatius of Antioch about 107 AD, who is also associated with modification of the sabbath, promotion of the bishop, and critique of the Judaizers.
Christians are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The words Christ and Christian derive from the Koine Greek title Christós (Χριστός), a translation of the Biblical Hebrew term mashiach (מָשִׁיחַ).
Acts of the Apostles, often referred to simply as Acts, or formally the Book of Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; it tells of the founding of the Christian church and the spread of its message to the Roman Empire.
Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures of Judaism, called the Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with over 2.4 billion followers.
Eastern and Western Mediterranean Christians had a history of differences and disagreements dating back to the 2nd century. Among the most significant early disagreements is Quartodecimanism. Until the late 2nd century there was a difference in dating the celebration of the Christian Passover/Easter between Western churches and those of Asia Minor. The churches in Asia Minor celebrated it on the 14th of the Jewish month of Nisan, the day before Jewish Passover, regardless of what day of the week it fell on, as the crucifixion had occurred on the day before Passover according to the Gospel of John. At the time, the West celebrated Easter on the Sunday following the 14th of Nisan.
Quartodecimanism refers to the custom of early Christians celebrating Passover beginning with the eve of the 14th day of Nisan, which at dusk is biblically the "Lord's Supper." 1 Corinthians 11:20
Easter, also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day after his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent, a 40-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.
Nisan on the Assyrian calendar is the first month, and on the Hebrew calendar is the first month of the ecclesiastical year and the seventh month of the civil year. The name of the month is of Assyrian-Babylonian origin; in the Torah it is called the month of the Aviv. Assyrians today refer to the month as the "month of happiness." It is a spring month of 30 days. Nisan usually falls in March–April on the Gregorian calendar. In the Book of Esther in the Tanakh it is referred to as Nisan. Karaite Jews interpret it as referring to the month in which barley was ripe.
Victor, the bishop of Rome, attempted to declare the Nisan 14 practice heretical and excommunicate all who followed it.On this occasion Irenaeus and Polycrates of Ephesus wrote to Victor. Irenaeus reminded Victor of his predecessor more tolerant attitude and Polycrates emphatically defended the Asian practice. Victor's "excommunication" of the Asians was apparently rescinded, and the two sides reconciled as a result of the intervention of Irenaeus and other bishops, including Tertullian. Both Tertullian and Irenaeus were pupils of Polycarp, who was a student of the Apostle John and, according to Polycarp's own written words, was also a "hearer" of the other Apostles. Polycarp was a bishop in Smyrna.
Pope Victor I was Bishop of Rome and hence a pope, in the late second century. He was of Berber origin. The dates of his tenure are uncertain, but one source states he became pope in 189 and gives the year of his death as 199. He was the first bishop of Rome born in the Roman Province of Africa—probably in Leptis Magna. He was later considered a saint. His feast day was celebrated on 28 July as "St Victor I, Pope and Martyr".
Irenaeus was a Greek bishop noted for his role in guiding and expanding Christian communities in what is now the south of France and, more widely, for the development of Christian theology by combating heresy and defining orthodoxy. Originating from Smyrna, now Izmir in Turkey, he had seen and heard the preaching of Polycarp, the last known living connection with the Apostles, who in turn was said to have heard John the Evangelist.
Polycrates of Ephesus was an Early Christian bishop who resided in Ephesus.
Eusebius later claimed that synods and conferences of bishops were convened, which ruled "without a dissenting voice" in support of Easter on Sunday. A uniform method of computing the date of Easter was not formally addressed until 325 at the First Council of Nicaea. Today, the date still varies between West and East, but this is because the West later adopted the Gregorian calendar over the Julian calendar.
A reform of the date of Easter has been proposed several times because the current system for determining the date of Easter is seen as presenting two significant problems:
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in the Bithynian city of Nicaea by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325.
Western Christianity is a religious category composed of the Latin Church and Protestantism, together with their offshoots such as Independent Catholicism and Restorationism. The large majority of the world's 2.4 billion Christians are Western Christians. The original and still major part, the Latin Church, developed under the bishop of Rome in the former Western Roman Empire in Antiquity. Out of the Latin Church emerged a wide variety of independent Protestant denominations, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism, starting from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, as did Independent Catholicism in the 19th century. Thus, the term "Western Christianity" does not describe a single communion or religious denomination, but is applied to distinguish all these denominations collectively from Eastern Christianity.
The development of doctrine, the position of orthodoxy, and the relationship between the various opinions is a matter of continuing academic debate. Since the Nicene Creed came to define the Church, the early debates have long been regarded as a unified orthodox position against a minority of heretics. Walter Bauer, drawing upon distinctions between Jewish Christians, Pauline Christians, and other groups such as Gnostics and Marcionites, argued that early Christianity was fragmented, with various competing interpretations, only one of them eventually coming to dominate.While Bauer's original thesis has been criticised, Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman have further explicated the existence of variant Christianities in the first centuries.
The earliest of the divergent teachings which developed in the second century were generally Christological in nature. Docetism held that Jesus' humanity was merely an illusion, thus denying the incarnation; Arianism held that Jesus, while not merely mortal, was not eternally divine and was, therefore, of lesser status than God the Father.Many groups were dualistic, maintaining that reality was composed into two radically opposing parts: matter, usually seen as evil, and spirit, seen as good. Orthodox Christianity, on the other hand, held that both the material and spiritual worlds were created by God and were therefore both good, and that this was represented in the unified divine and human natures of Christ. Trinitarianism held that God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit were all strictly one being with three hypostases.
In the middle of the 2nd century, three unorthodox groups of Christians adhered to a range of doctrines that divided the Christian communities of Rome: the teacher Marcion; the pentecostal outpourings of ecstatic Christian prophets of a continuing revelation, in a movement that was called "Montanism" because it had been initiated by Montanus and his female disciples; and the gnostic teachings of Valentinus.
The Gnostics claimed to have received secret teachings (gnosis) from Jesus via other apostles which were not publicly known, or in the case of Valentinius from Paul the Apostle. Gnosticism is predicated on the existence of such hidden knowledge, but brief references to private teachings of Jesus have also survived in the canonic scripture (Mark 4:11) as did warning by the Christ that there would be false prophets or false teachers. Irenaeus' opponents also claimed that the wellsprings of divine inspiration were not dried up, which is the doctrine of continuing revelation.[ citation needed ]
Christianity differed from other Roman religions in that it set out its beliefs in a clearly defined way,although the process of orthodoxy (right belief) was not underway until the period of the first seven ecumenical councils.
Irenaeus was the first to argue that his "proto-orthodox" position was the same faith that Jesus gave to the twelve apostles and that the identity of the apostles, their successors, and the teachings of the same were all well-known public knowledge. This was therefore an early argument supported by apostolic succession. Irenaeus first established the doctrine of four gospels and no more, with the synoptic gospels interpreted in the light of the Gospel of John.
Early attacks upon alleged heresies formed the matter of Tertullian's Prescription Against Heretics (in 44 chapters, written from Rome), and of Irenaeus' Against Heresies (circa 180, in five volumes), written in Lyons after his return from a visit to Rome. The letters of Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna to various churches warned against false teachers, and the Epistle of Barnabas, accepted by many Christians as part of scripture in the 2nd century, warned about mixing Judaism with Christianity, as did other writers, leading to decisions reached at the First Council of Nicaea, which was convoked by Emperor Constantine at Nicaea in 325 in response to further disruptive polemical controversy within the Christian community, in that case Arian disputes over the nature of the Trinity.[ citation needed ]
In the post-Apostolic church, bishops emerged as overseers of urban Christian populations, and a hierarchy clergy gradually took on the form of episkopos (overseers, bishops), presbyters (elders), and then deacons (servants).
While Clement and New Testament writers use the terms overseer and elder interchangeably, an episcopal structure becomes more visible in the 2nd century. This structure was enforced by the teaching of apostolic succession, where a bishop becomes the spiritual successor of the previous bishop in a line tracing back to the apostles themselves.
Each Christian community had presbyters or "elders," 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. Deacons performed certain duties, such as tending to the poor and sick.
Much of the official organizing of the ecclesiastical structure was done by the bishops of the church. This tradition of clarification can be seen as established by the Apostolic Fathers, who were bishops themselves.
The Catholic Encyclopedia argues that although evidence is scarce in the 2nd century, the primacy of the Church of Rome is asserted by Irenaeus of Lyons' document Against Heresies (AD 189).In response to 2nd century Gnostic teaching, Irenaeus created the first known document considered to be describing apostolic succession, including the immediate successors of Peter and Paul: Linus, Anacleutus, Clement, Evaristus, Alexander, and Sixtus. which the Catholic Church currently considers these the successors of Peter and the first popes, and through whom latter popes would claim authority.
Jerusalem had the prestige of being the city of Christ's death and resurrection,and was the center of the Apostolic Age, but it experienced decline during the years of the Jewish–Roman wars (66-135). Traditionally it is believed the Jerusalem Christians waited out the Jewish–Roman wars in Pella in the Decapolis. Jerusalem's bishops became suffragans (subordinates) of the Metropolitan bishop in nearby Caesarea, and the Holy Land did not regain significance to greater Christianity until the pilgrimage of the Empress Helena c. 326.
Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire until 330, was the most important Christian center in the Western Roman Empire. Antioch, Alexandria, and others were important centers of Christian thought in the Eastern Roman Empire. Christianity also spread outside of the Roman Empire.
The community and seat of the patriarchate according to Orthodox tradition was founded by Saint Peter and then given to Saint Ignatius, in what is now Turkey.
The Christian biblical canon is the set of books Christians regard as divinely inspired and thus constituting the Christian Bible. Although the Early Church used the Septuagint, the apostles did not otherwise leave a defined set of new scriptures; instead the New Testament developed over time.
The writings attributed to the apostles circulated among the earliest Christian communities. The Pauline epistles were circulating in collected forms by the end of the 1st century AD. Justin Martyr, in the early 2nd century, mentions the "memoirs of the apostles", which Christians called "gospels" and which were regarded as on par with the Old Testament.A four gospel canon (the Tetramorph ) was asserted by Ireanaeus, who refers to it directly.
The oldest list of books for the New Testament canon is the Muratorian fragment dating to c. 170. It shows that by 200 there existed a set of Christian writings somewhat similar[ vague ] to what is now the 27-book New Testament, which included the four gospels. Thus, while there was debate in the Early Church over the New Testament canon, the current books of the New Testament were accepted by almost all Christians by the middle of the 2nd century,[ vague ] with the exception of James, Hebrews, and 2nd Peter. However, these 3 books were also agreed upon and recognized as canon by church leadership shortly thereafter. Following Eusebius, the disputed books are referred to as the antilegomena.
The Church Fathers are the early and influential theologians and writers in the early Christian Church, who had strong influence on the development of proto-orthodoxy. They produced two sorts of works: theological and apologetic, the latter being works aimed at defending the faith by using reason to refute arguments against the veracity of Christianity.
In the face of criticism from Greek philosophers and facing persecution, Apologists wrote to justify and defend Christian doctrine. Justin Martyr's works represent the earliest surviving Christian apologies of notable size.
The earliest Church Fathers (within two generations of the Twelve apostles of Christ) are usually called the Apostolic Fathers, for reportedly knowing and studied under the apostles personally. Important Apostolic Fathers of the 2nd century include Pope Clement I (died 99), Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 – c. 110), and Polycarp of Smyrna (c. 69 – c. 155). In addition, the Shepherd of Hermas is usually placed among the writings of the Apostolic Fathers although its author is unknown.
Ignatius of Antioch (also known as Theophorus) was the third Bishop or Patriarch of Antioch and a student of the Apostle John. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of the theology of the earliest Christians. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, the role of bishops, and Biblical Sabbath.He is the second after Clement to mention Paul's epistles.
Polycarp of Smyrna was a bishop of Smyrna (now İzmir in Turkey). It is recorded that he had been a disciple of John. The options for this John are John the son of Zebedee traditionally viewed as the author of the fourth Gospel, or John the Presbyter.Traditional advocates follow Eusebius in insisting that the apostolic connection of Papius was with John the Evangelist, and that this John, the author of the Gospel of John, was the same as the Apostle John. Polycarp, c 156, tried and failed to persuade Anicetus, Bishop of Rome, to have the West celebrate Easter on 14 Nisan, as in the East. He rejected the pope's suggestion that the East use the Western date. In 155, the Smyrnans demanded Polycarp's execution, and he died a martyr. Legend states that the flames built to kill him refused to burn him, and that when he was stabbed to death; so much blood issued from his body that it quenched the flames around him.
The Shepherd of Hermas was popular in the early church, considered a valuable book by many Christians, and considered canonical scripture by some of the early Church fathers.It was written at Rome, in Greek. The Shepherd had great authority in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It was cited as Scripture by Irenaeus and Tertullian and was bound with the New Testament in the Codex Sinaiticus , and it was listed between the Acts of the Apostles and the Acts of Paul in the stichometrical list of the Codex Claromontanus . Other early Christians, however, considered the work to be apocryphal.
Those who wrote in Greek are called the Greek Church Fathers. Famous Greek Fathers of 2nd century (other than the Apostolic Fathers) include: Irenaeus of Lyons and Clement of Alexandria. Irenaeus of Lyons (c.130–c.202 AD) was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyons, France. His writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology, and he is recognized as a saint by both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. He was a notable early apologetic. He was also a disciple of Polycarp, who was said to be a disciple of John the Evangelist. His best-known book, Against Heresies (c. 180) enumerated heresies and attacked them. Irenaeus wrote that the only way for Christians to retain unity was to humbly accept one doctrinal authority—episcopal councils.Irenaeus was the first to propose that all four gospels be accepted as canonical.
Clement of Alexandria (c.150–c.215) was a Christian theologian and the head of the noted Catechetical School of Alexandria. Clement is best remembered as the teacher of Origen. He used the term "gnostic" for Christians who had attained the deeper teaching of the Logos.He developed a Christian Platonism. He presented the goal of Christian life as deification, identified both as Platonism's assimilation into God and the biblical imitation of God.
Church Fathers who wrote in Latin are called the Latin Church Fathers. Tertullian was the first Latin Father and only well known such father of the 2nd century. Tertullian, who was converted to Christianity before 197, was a prolific writer of apologetic, theological, controversial and ascetic works,and sometimes known as the "Father of the Latin Church". He is said to have introduced the Latin term "trinitas" with regard to the Divine (Trinity) to the Christian vocabulary (but Theophilus of Antioch already wrote of "the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom", which is similar but not identical to the Trinitarian wording), and also probably the formula "three Persons, one Substance" as the Latin "tres Personae, una Substantia" (itself from the Koine Greek "treis Hypostases, Homoousios"), and also the terms "vetus testamentum" (Old Testament) and "novum testamentum" (New Testament). In his Apologeticus , he was the first Latin author who qualified Christianity as the "vera religio" and systematically relegated the classical Roman Empire religion and other accepted cults to the position of mere "superstitions". Later in life, Tertullian is thought by most to have joined the Montanists, a heretical sect that appealed to his rigorism.
By the latter half of the 2nd century, Christianity had spread east throughout Media, Persia, Parthia, and Bactria. The twenty bishops and many presbyters were more of the order of itinerant missionaries, passing from place to place as Paul did and supplying their needs with such occupations as merchant or craftsman.
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 consume his body. Polycarp is regarded as a saint and Church Father in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches. His name 'Polycarp' means 'much fruit' in Greek.
Marcion of Sinope was an important figure in early Christianity. Marcion preached that the god who sent Jesus into the world was a different, higher deity than the creator god of Judaism. He considered himself a follower of Paul the Apostle, who he believed to have been the only true apostle of Jesus Christ.
Marcionism was an Early Christian dualist belief system that originated in the teachings of Marcion of Sinope in Rome around the year 144.
Cerinthus was an early gnostic Christian, who was prominent as a heresiarch in the view of the early Church Fathers. Contrary to the Church Fathers, he used the Gospel of Cerinthus, and denied that the Supreme God made the physical world. In Cerinthus' interpretation, the Christ descended upon Jesus at baptism and guided him in ministry and the performing of miracles, but left him at the crucifixion. Similarly to the Ebionites, he maintained that Jesus was not born of a virgin, but was a mere man, the biological son of Mary and Joseph.
The authorship of the Johannine works—the Gospel of John, Epistles of John, and the Book of Revelation—has been debated by scholars since at least the 2nd century AD. The main debate centers on who authored the writings, and which of the writings, if any, can be ascribed to a common author.
The pastoral epistles are three 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 the Apostle to Timothy and to Titus. They are generally discussed as a group and are given the title pastoral because they are addressed to individuals with pastoral oversight of churches and discuss issues of Christian living, doctrine and leadership. The term "pastorals" was popularized in 1703 by D. N. Berdot and in 1726 by Paul Anton.
The First Epistle of Paul to Timothy, usually referred to simply as First Timothy and often written 1 Timothy, is one of three letters in the New Testament of the Bible often grouped together as the Pastoral Epistles, along with Second Timothy and Titus. The letter, traditionally attributed to the Apostle Paul, consists mainly of counsels to his younger colleague and delegate Timothy regarding his ministry in Ephesus (1:3). These counsels include instructions on the organization of the Church and the responsibilities resting on certain groups of leaders therein as well as exhortations to faithfulness in maintaining the truth amid surrounding errors.
Heresy in Christianity denotes the formal denial or doubt of a core doctrine of the Christian faith as defined by one or more of the Christian churches.
Against Heresies, or On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis, sometimes referred to by its Latin title Adversus Haereses, is a work of Christian theology written in Greek about the year 180 by Irenaeus, the bishop of Lugdunum.
The Ante-Nicene Period of the history of early Christianity was the period following the Apostolic Age of the 1st century down to the First Council of Nicaea in 325. During this period proto-orthodoxy developed.
Early Christianity spread from the Eastern Mediterranean throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. Originally, this progression was closely connected to already established Jewish centers in the Holy Land and the Jewish diaspora. The first followers of Christianity were Jews or proselytes, commonly referred to as Jewish Christians and God-fearers.
Historiography of early Christianity is the study of historical writings about early Christianity. Historians have used a variety of sources and methods in exploring and describing the history of early Christianity, commonly known as Christianity before the First Council of Nicaea in 326.
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 books of the canon of the New Testament were written before 120 AD.
Traditionally in Christianity, 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 challenged by the publication of Walter Bauer's Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im ältesten Christentum in 1934. Bauer endeavored to rethink Early Christianity historically, independent from the views of the current church. He stated that the 2nd-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" Church of Rome struggling to attain dominance. He presented Edessa and Egypt as places where the "orthodoxy" of Rome had little influence during the 2nd 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.
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers. There is no definitive list. The era of these scholars who set the theological and scholarly foundations of Christianity largely ended by AD 700.
The term "Great Church" is a term of the historiography of early Christianity describing its rapid growth and structural development 180–313 AD and its claim to represent Christianity within the Roman Empire. The term is primarily associated with the Roman Catholic account of the history of Christian theology, but is also used by non-Catholic historians.