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Early Christianity is a period in the history of Christianity, generally reckoned by church historians to begin with the ministry of Jesus (c. 27-30) and end with the First Council of Nicaea (325). It is typically divided into two periods: Christianity in the 1st century which is known as the Apostolic Age (c. 30–100) and the Ante-Nicene Period (c. 100–325).Christians in the Roman Empire were persecuted until Emperor Constantine I's toleration and promotion of Christianity.
The earliest followers of Jesus were an apocalyptic, Second Temple Jewish sect of Jewish Christians in the Roman province of Judea. Throughout the 2nd and 3rd century, Christianity spread to various settlements in around the Mediterranean Basin, Southern Europe, North Africa, Anatolia, and in the east reached the Caspian Sea. A variety of strains developed in, for example, Alexandria, Antioch, Judea, and Rome. One strain, later known as Pauline Christianity, included Gentiles (non-Jews) and God-fearers (non-Jews who partially adopted Hellenistic Judaism) and departed from Jewish Christianity and Jewish customs (a decision affirmed in the Council of Jerusalem c. 50). This proto-orthodox Christianitygradually became an independent religion, evolving into the dominant strain of Christianity which condemned other early Christian sects and Jewish Christians as heretics. As proto-orthodox bishops across the Roman and Persian Empires assembled into an organized network, around 180 they began referring to the it as the Great Church. The First Council of Nicaea refined the doctrine of the Great Church, but splinter groups of Gentile Christianity such as Arian Christianity continued to exist as did Jewish Christian groups who continued to follow the Law of Moses. In 380, the remaining mainstream of Nicene Christianity would become the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Early Christians generally used and revered the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) as a religious text, mostly in the Greek (Septuagint) or Aramaic (Targum) translations.Orthodox Christianity developed the canon of the New Testament, including the canonical gospels, Acts, letters of the Apostles, and Revelation, all written before 120. Important practices included baptism, which made one a member of the Christian community, and the communal meals, from which the Eucharist developed – the participation in Christ's death and resurrection.
Adoptionism, also called dynamic monarchianism, is a Christian nontrinitarian theological doctrine which holds that Jesus was adopted as the Son of God at his baptism, his resurrection, or his ascension.
The concept of the Christ in Christianity originated from the concept of the messiah in Judaism. Christians believe that Jesus is the messiah foretold in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. Although the conceptions of the messiah in each religion are similar, for the most part they are distinct from one another due to the split of early Christianity and Judaism in the 1st century.
Christology, translated literally from Greek as "the word of Christ", is a branch of theology that centers around the study of the nature (person) and work of Jesus Christ. It studies Jesus Christ's humanity and divinity, and the relation between these two natures; and the role he plays in salvation.
The Gospel According to Mark is one of the four canonical gospels and one of the three synoptic gospels. It tells of the ministry of Jesus from his baptism by John the Baptist to his death and burial and the discovery of the empty tomb – there is no genealogy of Jesus or birth narrative, nor, in the original ending at chapter 16, any post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. It portrays Jesus as a heroic man of action, an exorcist, a healer, and a miracle worker. Jesus is also the Son of God, but he keeps his identity secret, concealing it in parables so that even most of the disciples fail to understand. All this is in keeping with prophecy, which foretold the fate of the messiah as suffering servant. The gospel ends, in its original version, with the discovery of the empty tomb, a promise to meet again in Galilee, and an unheeded instruction to spread the good news of the resurrection.
The Gospel According to Matthew is the first book of the New Testament and one of the three synoptic gospels. The core of its story, tells how Israel's Messiah, rejected and executed in Israel, pronounces judgement on Israel and its leaders and becomes the salvation of the gentiles.
Gospel originally meant the Christian message itself, but in the 2nd century it came to be used for the books in which the message was set out. The four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John comprise the first four books of the New Testament of the Bible and were probably written between AD 66 and 110. All four were anonymous, almost certainly none were by eyewitnesses, and all are the end-products of long oral and written transmission, They are a subset of the genre of ancient biography but ancient biographies should not be confused with modern ones, and often included propaganda and kerygma (preaching); yet while there is no guarantee that the events which they describe are historically accurate, in the quest for the historical Jesus scholars believe that it is possible to differentiate Jesus' own views from those of his later followers. Many non-canonical gospels were also written, all later than the four canonical gospels, and like them advocating the particular theological views of their various authors.
Matthew the Apostle, also known as Saint Matthew and as Levi, was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. According to Christian tradition, he was also one of the four Evangelists and thus is also known as Matthew the Evangelist.
The resurrection of Jesus, or anastasis is the Christian belief that God raised Jesus after his crucifixion as first of the dead, starting his exalted life as Christ and Lord. In Christian theology, the death and resurrection of Jesus are the most important events, a foundation of the Christian faith, and commemorated by Easter. His resurrection is the guarantee that all the Christian dead will be resurrected at Christ's second coming. For the Christian tradition, the bodily resurrection was the restoration to life of a transformed body powered by spirit, as described by Paul and the Gospels, that led to the establishment of Christianity.
Ebionites is a patristic term referring to a Jewish Christian movement that existed during the early centuries of the Christian Era. They regarded Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah while rejecting his divinity and his virgin birth and insisted on the necessity of following Jewish law and rites. They used only one of the Jewish–Christian gospels, the Hebrew Book of Matthew starting at chapter three; revered James, the brother of Jesus ; and rejected Paul the Apostle as an apostate from the Law. Their name suggests that they placed a special value on voluntary poverty. Ebionim was one of the terms used by the sect at Qumran who sought to separate themselves from the corruption of the Temple. Many believe that the Qumran sectarians were Essenes.
The nativity of Jesus, nativity of Christ, birth of Christ or birth of Jesus is described in the Biblical gospels of Luke and Matthew. The two accounts agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, his mother Mary was betrothed to a man named Joseph, who was descended from King David and was not his biological father, and that his birth was caused by divine intervention.
The historicity of Jesus relates to whether Jesus of Nazareth was a historical figure. Virtually all scholars who have investigated the history of the Christian movement find that the historicity of Jesus is effectively certain, and standard historical criteria have aided in reconstructing his life. However, scholars differ on the beliefs and teachings of Jesus as well as the accuracy of the details of his life that have been described in the gospels. Despite this, very few scholars have argued for non-historicity and have not succeeded due to abundance of evidence to the contrary.
Historical Jesus is the reconstruction of the life and teachings of Jesus by critical historical methods, in contrast to Christological definitions and other Christian accounts of Jesus. It also considers the historical and cultural contexts in which Jesus lived.
Jewish Christians were the followers of a Jewish religious sect that emerged in Judea during the late Second Temple period (first-century). The sect integrated the belief of Jesus as the prophesied Messiah and his teachings into the Jewish faith, including the observance of the Jewish law. Jewish Christianity is the foundation of Early Christianity, which later developed into Christianity. Christianity started with Jewish eschatological expectations, and it developed into the veneration of a deified Jesus after his earthly ministry, his crucifixion, and the post-crucifixion experiences of his followers.
The Christ myth theory is the view that "the story of Jesus is a piece of mythology", possessing no substantial claims to historical fact. Alternatively, in terms given by Bart Ehrman paraphrasing Earl Doherty, "the historical Jesus did not exist. Or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity."
John of Patmos is the author named as John in the Book of Revelation, the apocalyptic text forming the final book of the New Testament. The text of Revelation states that John was on Patmos, a Greek island where, by most biblical historians, he is considered to be exiled as a result of anti-Christian persecution under the Roman emperor Domitian.
Bart Denton Ehrman is an American New Testament scholar focusing on textual criticism of the New Testament, the historical Jesus, the origins and development of early Christianity. He has written and edited 30 books, including three college textbooks. He has also authored six New York Times bestsellers. He is currently the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Christianity in the 1st century covers the formative history of Christianity, from the start of the ministry of Jesus to the death of the last of the Twelve Apostles.
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.
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.
Oral gospel traditions, cultural information passed on from one generation to the next by word of mouth, were the first stage in the formation of the written gospels. These oral traditions included different types of stories about Jesus. For example, people told anecdotes about Jesus healing the sick and debating with his opponents. The traditions also included sayings attributed to Jesus, such as parables and teachings on various subjects which, along with other sayings, formed the oral gospel tradition.
The ante-Nicene age... is the natural transition from the apostolic age to the Nicene age....
The New Testament contains twenty-seven books, written in Greek, by fifteen or sixteen different authors, who were addressing other Christian individuals or communities between the years 50 and 120 (see box 1.4). As we will see, it is difficult to know whether any of these books was written by Jesus' own disciples.
Baptism and the Eucharist were both deemed important to the life of the community. The former was the means of initiation. The latter was a key component in the continued development of the believer and a central element in Christian worship.