EARLY CHURCH HISTORY
A Study of the History of the Early Church
in the First Six Centuries
Notes from a course taught by
Dr. James B. North
Cincinnati Bible Seminary, Cincinnati, Ohio
NOTE: The class notes are preceded by a general outline/table of contents. Much more detailed
notes follow this introductory section.
I. First Century Context ………………………………. 6
A. Christianity and Other Religions.
2. Mystery Religions.
B. Spread of Christianity.
C. Organization of early Church.
D. Relations with the Roman Empire.
1. Religio licita/illicita.
2. Nero (54-68).
3. Domitian (81-96).
II. Imperial Persecution (96-202) ……………………….. 10
A. Nerva (96-98).
B. Trajan (98-117).
C. Hadrian (117-138).
D. Antonius Pius (138-160).
2. The Apologists.
a. Justin Martyr (100-165).
b. Athenagoras (176).
c. Epistle to Diognetus.
E. Marcus Aurelius (160-180).
1. Thundering Legion.
2. End of the Pax Romana.
F. Commodus (180-192).
G. Septimus Severus (193-211).
– 2 –
III. Bishop, Creed, and Canon ……………………………. 15
A. Office of Bishop.
1. Ignatius (30-107/115).
3. Irenaeus (130-200).
1. Marcion (144).
2. Muratorian Fragment (170).
IV. Early Third Century: Heresy and Order ………………… 19
1. Philo (20 BC–50 AD).
2. Pantaenus (?-190).
3. Clement (150-215).
4. Origen (184-254).
B. The West.
1. Easter controversies.
2. Monarchians–Sabellius (215 ?).
3. Hippolytus (170-236).
4. Callistus (217-222).
5. Tertullian (160-220).
V. Later Persecution ………………………………….. 23
A. Decius (249-251).
2. Cyprian (?-258).
B. Valerian (253-260).
C. Diocletian (284-305).
1. Tetrarchy formed.
2. Persecution in 303.
D. Galerius (305-311).
VI. Constantine ……………………………………….. 27
A. Political Background.
1. Rise to become Augustus.
2. Disputes and wars.
3. Constantine’s victory in the West.
4. Constantine and the Church.
5. Battles with Licinius.
B. Was Constantine a Christian?
1. Favors granted to the Church.
2. Developing Church structure.
– 3 –
1. Background in Africa.
2. Attempts at resolution.
VII. Arianism and Nicaea ………………………………… 33
A. Arius (250-336).
B. Council of Nicaea.
1. Called by Constantine.
2. Nicene Creed.
C. Later Troubles.
2. Athanasius (296-373).
a. Eustathius of Antioch (324-330).
b. Marcellus of Ancyra (? – 374).
VIII. From Constantine to Theodosius ………………………. 37
A. Division of the Empire.
1. Political reunification.
2. Religious problems.
a. “Dedication” Council.
b. Council of Sardica.
B. Julian (361-363).
2. Cappadocian theologians.
C. Jovian (363-364).
D. Valentinian (364-375).
1. Valens (364-378).
2. Theodosius (379-395).
E. Gratian (375-383).
F. Valentinian II (383-391).
G. Council of Constantinople.
2. Justina and chapel.
– 4 –
a. Monks at Callinicum
b. Mob at Thessalonica.
IX. Monasticism ……………………………………….. 42
A. Impulses of Monasticism.
2. Greek philosophy.
3. White martyrdom.
B. Monasticism in the East.
1. Anthony (251-356).
2. Pachomius (290-346).
a. Coenobitic monasticism.
b. Vow of obedience.
3. Basil (330-379).
a. Rule of Basil.
b. Extreme severities.
4. Simeon Stylites (390-459).
C. Monasticism in the West.
1. Jerome (342-420).
2. Martin of Tours (335-397).
3. Honoratus (350-429).
4. Benedict of Nursia (480-550).
5. Cassiodorus (485-580).
X. Augustine and the Fifth Century ……………………… 47
A. Augustine (354-430).
1. Political division and the sack of Rome.
2. Augustine’s early life.
3. Pelagius (? – 419).
4. City of God.
B. Roman Claims.
C. Theological controversy.
XI. Celtic Christianity ………………………………… 53
2. Christianity in Gaul.
3. Christianity in Britain.
4. Ninian (360-432).
– 5 –
5. Patrick (389-461).
B. Political Pressures.
1. Roman needs.
2. Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.
3. Gildas (500-570) and Ambrosius Aurelianus.
C. Form of Christianity.
1. Different cultural base.
2. Celtic monasticism.
5. Love of books–Columban (521-597).
6. Columbanus (550-615).
XII. Christianity and the German Tribes ……………………. 57
A. Early German activity.
1. Work of Ulfilas.
2. Visigoths–Alaric, Aistulf.
3. Vandals–Gaiseric (428-477).
4. Burgundians–Gundobad (480-516).
5. Franks–Clovis (481-511).
1. Emperor Honorius (395-423).
2. Aetius and the Huns.
3. Ricimer (456-472).
4. Odovacer (476-493).
1. Zeno (474-491).
2. Acacian schism (482-519).
3. Ostrogoths–Theodoric (475-526).
XIII. Justinian and the Byzantine Empire ……………………. 60
A. Eastern politics.
2. Anastasius I (491-518).
3. Justin I (518-527).
B. Justinian (527-565).
1. End of Acacian schism.
2. Theodora (500-547).
3. Reconquest of the West.
6. Fifth Ecumenical Council.
– 6 –
XIV. Gregory the Great …………………………………… 65
A. Empire Affairs.
1. Justin II (565-578).
B. Gregory the Great and His Times.
1. Early life.
2. Gregory’s career as a diplomat.
3. Gregory’s career as a churchman.
4. Ways Gregory exercised leadership.
5. Gregory the Great’s diverse roles.
C. Transition to the Middle Ages.
EARLY CHURCH HISTORY NOTES
I. FIRST CENTURY CONTEXT.
A. Christianity and Other Religions.
a. Judaism of 1st century was not monolithic.
1) Variety of sects w/i 1st century Judaism.
a) Basic Info.: Monastic, ascetic, arose ca.
150 B.C. and lasted about 200 yrs. Never left
Palestine. Josephus first mention. Qumran
a center. Est. 4,000 members. Dualistic
theology; Teacher of Righteousness.
b) Alleged Relation to Christianity: John in
Wilderness of Judea; Jesus tempted in
Wilderness–near Qumran. Is Essene Judaism
the backdrop of Christianity? Is Jesus
following model of Teacher of Righteousness?
Consensus is there are similarities but not
a direct relationship.
b. Other characteristics of 1st century Judaism:
1) Since captivity Judaism steered clear of
2) Diaspora Judaism with synagogues was a recent
3) Strong anti-Semitism (Jews clannish, monotheism).
4) Some attracted to Judaism and monotheism.
– 7 –
2. Mystery Religions.
a. Widespread in Empire but associated with specific
1) Phrygia … Attis, Cybele.
2) Egypt ….. Serapis, Isis, Osiris.
3) Persia …. Mithraism.
b. Items in Common:
1) Secret initiation ceremony (cf. Masonic orders).
2) Promise of salvation through particular deity
3) Promised the initiate contact (“personal
relationship”) with deity.
4) Focus on young god (m/f) who dies and is brought
back to life, bringing great blessings.
5) Cult of Magna Mater–Taurobolium ceremony: Bull
is sacrificed on grate over pit. In pit priest
or initiate “baptized” in blood, thus partaking
of strength and vitality of deity. Phrase, “Reborn
from eternity” popular terminology.
c. Relationship to early Christianity.
1) In 1920s many noticed similarities–Christianity
original or borrow from mystery religions?
2) Since WW II known that most evidence for mystery
religions is post-Christian.
a) 1st evidence for Taurobolium ceremony is not
until A.D. 143.
b) First citation of “Reborn from Eternity”
phrase is not until 4th century.
3) Similarities suggest Mystery Religions borrowed
a. Platonism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Atomism.
b. Asked big questions–What is life and its meaning?
c. Growing dissatisfaction with philosophy in classical
period (e.g. Lucretius).
1) Pessimism; religious options not answering big
2) Seneca (4 B.C.–A.D. 65): Many obsessed with
death; pervasive air of despair.
d. Many early X’s spoke kindly of philosophy as
preparation for greater revelation of Christ.
a. General information:
1) Complex system; embryo state in 1st century.
2) Recognizable only in X’n form–Gnostics thought
of themselves as only true X’s.
3) Major threat to 2nd century X’ty; nearly won out!
4) Significant teachers: Valentinus, Basilides,
– 8 –
b. GNOSTIC THEOLOGY: Dualistic; spiritual superior to
physical. Hierarchy with emanations (aeons) between
God and Demiurge or lesser god who created world.
People are combination of flesh and spirit. Gnostic
theology an attempt to explain and deal with that
fact. A-historical; purely speculative. Jesus came
with special gnosis which will free man from body
and help him ascend to God. Salvation by knowledge,
not atonement. Jesus less savior than a teacher.
Some Gnostics thought early church corrupted pure
teaching of Jesus–others thought apostles themselves
c. Gnostics and the Incarnation.
1) Docetism–Jesus only seemed to be human (1 John
seems–no pun intended–to address this heresy).
2) Cerinthus (1st century Gnostic):
a) Jesus human with Spirit inhabiting him at
b) Spirit left before death on cross (instead
of “My God, my God …”-“My power, my power
why have you forsaken me?”
c) John and Cerinthus at baths (Papias via
d. Belief that flesh is evil led to 2 tendencies in
1) Ascetic–body must be conquered.
2) Libertine–body evil; indulge; “it doesn’t
B. Spread of Christianity.
1. The “fullness of times” (Gal. 4:4).
a. Unified empire–no customs/passport barriers.
b. Latin official language; Greek language of commerce.
c. Jewish concentrations in every major city.
d. General dissatisfaction with philosophy.
2. Major Cities–Christianity prob. there by mid-century
(Ephesus, Alexandria, Antioch, Rome).
3. Apostolic travels (acc. to tradition):
a. Thomas to India.
b. James to Spain (buried Campostello?; San Diego = St.
c. James, Paul, Joseph of Arimathea to Great Britain.
d. Peter to Rome.
e. Note 1 Cor. 9:5–“Right to lead wife as Peter and other
1) Some married.
2) They traveled.
– 9 –
f. Adolph Harnack in MISSION AND EXPANSION OF EARLY
CHURCH says X’ty pops up everywhere but with no
documented origins. Result of “small people”–
businessmen, soldiers, etc.
4. Christianity an urban phenomenon.
a. Urban for most part with exception of Palestine.
b. Paul went to cities and their synagogues for an
c. Urban vs. Rural populations:
1) Urban populations more receptive to change.
2) Rural population held longer to paganism; paganus
–word itself means “rural dweller!” Paganism
was religion of countryside. May have been due
to Christianity conquering the cities.
C. Organization of the Early Church.
1. General Officers: Authority throughout church (cf. Gal. 1).
c. Evangelists (itinerant).
d. Teachers (itinerant–cf. 3 John’s mention of
2. Local Officers: Authority only in local church (cf. Phil.
a. Bishops/Elders: Same office, always plural, used
interchangeably in NT (Acts 20; 1 Pt. 5; 1 Tim. 3).
b. Deacons: Servants of the church.
3. Problem: General officers died out fairly soon–what then?
D. Relations with the Empire.
1. Christianity first viewed as sect within Judaism.
a. Roman tolerance–accepted religions of new regions
b. Religio licita–a “licensed religion.”
1) Judaism accepted because of antiquity.
2) Concern about resistance movements cloaked in
3) New religions unlicensed because of this concern.
2. Nero (54-68).
a. Great Fire of Rome (64).
1) Set by Nero as means of urban renewal.
2) Feared receiving blame; Christians became
b. Neronian Persecution.
1) Evidently limited to Rome.
2) Paul and Peter probably killed by Nero.
– 10 –
3) If Paul imprisoned twice it probably straddled
4) Evidence exists that 1st and 2nd century remains
are buried under St. Peter’s!
c. Nero committed suicide in 68–persecution ended.
3. Domitian (81-96).
a. Began persecution of Christians in 91–Not limited to
b. Believed to be personal vendetta because of family
history with Jews.
c. Flavius Clemens, D.’s cousin, condemned to death w/
official charge of “atheism” = Christian? Flavius
Domitilla, Clemens’ wife, exiled to island in Tiber
II. IMPERIAL PERSECUTION (96-202).
A. Introduction: Five Good Emperors.
1. Nerva (96-98).
2. Trajan (98-117).
3. Hadrian (117-138).
4. Antionius Pius (138-160).
5. Marcus Aurelius (160-180).
B. NERVA (96-98).
1. Domitian was assassinated in 96 with no heir.
a. 3 ways of choosing an emperor:
1) Inheritance–genealogical descent.
2) Army intervention (e.g. Vespasian).
3) Chosen by Senate.
b. Nerva chosen by Senate–died in 98 of natural causes.
1) Had no children.
2) Adopted a son (Trajan) who had proved himself
2. Established an important precedent:
a. Trajan adopts Hadrian.
b. Hadrian adopts Antonius Pius.
c. Antonius Pius adopts Marcus Aurelius.
C. TRAJAN (98-117).
1. Five good emperors maintain a general policy of
a. Not an organized policy.
b. Depended largely on local factors (cf. Pliny to
– 11 –
2. Pliny’s letter to Trajan.
a. Mere fact of being a Christian punishable.
b. Christians NOT to be sought out.
D. HADRIAN (117-138).
1. Hadrian’s letter to Minucius Fundanus (ca. 124).
a. Proceed vs. X’s if accusers present specific charges.
b. Slandered w/o proof–charges dismissed, informant
2. Justin Martyr uses this document in his apology.
a. Christians punished if they break law.
b. Justin: Christians do not break the law.
c. Persecution invalid (Justin overlooks fact that merely
being a Christian is against the law).
E. ANTONIUS PIUS (138-160).
1. Same policy toward Christians continues (2 episodes):
a. Alexandria (ca. 155)–Persecution instigated by Jews.
A-P wished to intervene but influential Jews too
1) Willing to save X’s–not seen as threat.
2) Shows X’s as being small and politically
insignificant so as not to merit A-P’s protection
and political fall-out.
b. Polycarp of Smyrna.
1) Local persecution instigated by Jews.
2) Polycarp first hid in city, removed to country,
3) Police Chief attempts to get Polycarp to offer
4) In amphitheater the Proconsul (also a friend) is
unable to get Polycarp to recant.
5) Famous quote: “Eighty and six years have I served
my king and he has never done me wrong. How can
I blaspheme him who saved me?”
6) Burned at stake–acc. to local legend flames did
not touch him but heat baked his body.
2. Era of the Apologists (ca. 120-220).
1) Early Apologists–Quadratus (ca. 124); Aristides.
2) Aims of Apologists:
a) Show Christians innocent of moral slanders.
b) Prove Christians innocent of political
c) Prove Christianity morally and culturally
– 12 –
b. Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165).
a) Born in Samaria (Shechem) of pagan parents
and became a
professional student and philosopher.
b) Seaside introduction to Christianity.
c) First apology (155) addressed to Antonius
d) Second apology protested the execution of
e) In 165 Justin attended a hearing vs. X’s &
intervened; Argued with judge–ordered to do
2) First Apology.
a) Rational argument that Romans had nothing to
lose with Christianity.
b) Stressed superior lives of Christians.
c) Mentioned unusual charges and dispelled them
(untrue; actually what Roman gods had done!)
d) Showed validity of X’ty because of OT
e) Paganism itself a pale imitation of
X’ty–Plato and others got their good stuff
f) Concludes apology by re-asserting that
rumors are false and then describes 2nd
century worship practices: (Prayers, kiss of
peace [men-men/ women-women], baptism as
initiation into fellowship, LS, Scripture
reading, Sermon by “president” [one
c. Athenagorus (176).
1) Addressed Marcus Aurelius.
2) Answered charges of immorality and atheism.
3) Christianity a respectable philosophy and highly
4) Finds it ironic that X’s accused of things Roman
5) Only purpose of sex is to have children:
a) Picked up by Augustine?
b) Became standard Roman Catholic position.
6) X’s against murder and says abortion is murder.
7) Charge of sexual promiscuity groundless as X’s
believe in only 1 marriage (regardless of death,
d. Epistle to Diognetus.
1) No idea who Diognetus is or who wrote it or when
2) Short and written in excellent Greek.
3) Allegory of Christians as “soul of Roman world”
– 13 –
F. MARCUS AURELIUS (160-180).
1. Church liked both Antonius Pius and Marcus Aurelius.
a. Both men excellent statesmen–M-A a world-class Stoic.
b. Ironic as both men intolerant of Christianity.
2. The Thundering Legion incident (Christian version).
a. M-A leading a campaign north of Danube in 172.
b. Enemy massing–looked bad; troops pooped due to
c. Christians in ranks prayed–huge rainstorm came–
thunderbolt drove the enemy away.
d. Eusebius (Book 5, ch. 5) and Tertullian note this.
e. Other info. says 12th legion called Thundering Legion
in time of Augustus.
f. Suetonius, M-A refer to this but not prayers of
3. End of PAX ROMANA.
a. Empire at peace for about 200 yrs. (30 BC to 170 AD).
1) No significant outside threat (some internal
2) Germanic tribes from north and Parthians/Persians
3) Romans started asking, “Why?”
a) Gods angry because of Christians and their
b) Pagan revival began–favor of gods must be
c) Empire forced to worship the old gods.
b. Onset of Empire-wide persecution.
1) Lyon and Vienne persecution (Rhone Valley, 170s).
a) Pothenus, bishop of Lyon killed in 177.
b) Irenaeus appointed as his replacement.
c) Blandina: 13 yr. old slave girl tortured and
thrown to wild beasts who refused to eat her
(too bland! sorry, bad joke); placed in hot
metal chair–survived; hung in net and gored
by wild bull who killed her (3rd time a
2) M-A could not understand Christian refusal to
acknowledge old gods.
a) Roman conclusion: Christians really are
b) ILLUST. WW II situation with J.W.’s refusal
to salute flag and say pledge of allegiance.
Most Americans unable to understand why
J.W.’s would not do these simple things.
Must be subversive. War-time hysteria.
Even Supreme Court ruled vs. J.W.’s; 1946
– 14 –
3) M-A, an enlightened emperor, was in favor of
extermination of Christians for subversiveness.
a) Emperors concerned about stability/unity
b) Better emperors tended to persecute; lesser
ones tended to let it ride!
c) Church liked M-A even though he was harshest
persecutor to date; hated his son who was
G. COMMODUS (180-192).
1. Life and times:
a. 19 yrs. old when emperor; fancied himself an athlete.
b. Incompetent, bribed Praetorian Guard, scorned Senate.
c. Economy of empire goes into tail-spin during his
d. Crisis reached in 192–treasury empty–solution was to
kill wealthy Patricians and confiscate wealth.
e. On 1/1/193 he was to reinstate office of consul with
himself clad in gladiator suit; strangled nite before
by wife, mistress, and wrestling partner.
2. Mistress Marcia and Callistus.
a. Commodus’ mistress is a Christian!
b. Intervenes on behalf of many X’s in state-owned mines
in Sardinia copper and lead mines.
c. Drafted lists of names with emperor’s name underneath.
d. Callistus: A slave who embezzled money from owner and
could not repay. On run. Broke up synagogue
services, arrested, sentenced for execution. Master
intervened–sent Sardinia. Name not on Marcia’s list
but added at Sardinia. Goes back to Rome where he
becomes bishop of Rome (217-222).
H. SEPTIMUS SEVERUS (193-211).
1. Life and times:
a. Commodus had no son; chaos after his death.
b. S-S, a general, marched on Rome and became emperor.
c. Attitude toward Christianity: Not opposed to X’ty at
first. At turn of century his feelings change.
Empire still going down the tubes. Needs more men in
army just as church is teaching clergy celibacy.
Christians also raising questions about military
service at this time.
2. Edict of Septimus Severus (202).
a. Christians prohibited from proselytizing (Jews also).
b. Christians ordered to worship the gods.
c. Empire-wide, particularly harsh in N. Africa and Egypt
where many X’n radicals live.
– 15 –
d. In Alexandria Leonidas, father of Origen, is killed.
3. Christianity at end of 2nd century:
a. Quite strong despite persecution.
b. Tertullian: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of
the church” is reflective of this entire period.
III. BISHOP, CREED, AND CANON.
A. Office of Bishop.
1. Ignatius of Antioch (30 ?–107/115).
a. Life and times:
1) Status in Antioch: Bishop not “one” of elders but
“the” bishop of Antioch. Acc. to Origen he is
2nd bishop of Antioch, following Peter. Eusebius
says there is another one after Peter and that
Ignatius is the 3rd.
2) Became bishop about 69 A.D.
a) Life overlaps apostles–yet becomes THE
b) May have been in Antioch when Paul visits!
b. Arrest and martyrdom.
1) Arrested in Antioch while Trajan is emperor.
2) Literally walked to Rome.
3) On the way wrote 7 letters and visited Smyrna.
a) Wrote Ephesus, Rome, Magnesia, Trallis from
b) Wrote Smyrna, Polycarp, Philadelphia from
4) Roman Christians asked not to intervene in his
c. Unity of the church a big concern to Ignatius.
1) Church remains united by loyalty to bishop
2) Makes consistent distinction between bishop &
3) Each church has 1 bishop over plurality of
4) Unity of church personified in person of bishop
who takes place of God as authority figure;
elders like apostles.
a) Trallis: Obey bishop as Jesus Christ.
b) Magnesia: As Lord did nothing w/o father; so
people should do nothing w/o bishop.
c) Only valid LS done by bishop or his
d) No baptisms or love feasts w/o bishop’s
e) Bishops of various places listed in letters
–is this a standard practice at this time?
– 16 –
f) No bishop identified at Rome–do they have
d. Monarchial Episcopate (1-ruling bishop).
1) Ignatius explains this as if accepted practice.
2) Why did this develop?
a) Government by committee inefficient in
b) One man, with accepted authority, responds
3) M-E will become uniform by at least 200 A.D.
a) First evidence in Rome is about 135-140.
b) Ignatius silent about bishop of Rome in his
c) Was James “the bishop” of church in
Jerusalem? (Acts 15).
4) Was M-E accepted practice in Ignatius’ day?
a) Some say yes–mentioned only casually as
if it is a normal practice.
b) Some say no–Ignatius mentions it too often.
He is pushing an innovation.
5) No reference in Ignatius to “Apostolic
a) Would really have bolstered his case–not a
b) Earliest reference is Irenaeus (ca. 180).
c) 4 bishoprics with best “apostolic
succession” list–Antioch, Jerusalem,
Alexandria, and Rome (only 1 in W.).
2. Spread of Montanism (threat of false teaching).
a. The rise of Montanus.
1) Converted ca. 156 in Phrygia and began that same
day to speak in tongues and prophesy.
2) Claimed paraclete speaking through him.
3) Priscilla and Maximilla, disciples, did same.
a) Phrygia long a seed-bed of ecstatic
b) Many mystery religions began in Phrygia.
b. Why did Montanism spread?
1) Church becoming stale–reaction to
2) Resistance to rise of monarchial episcopate.
3) Rigorist brand of X’ty appealed to many.
3. Irenaeus (130-200).
a. Spent boyhood in Smyrna; knew Polycarp who knew John;
went to Rome then Lyon where he became bishop.
b. AGAINST HERESIES–written against Gnostics.
1) Responds to Gnostic claim of pure Christianity.
2) Irenaeus says true faith in churches apostles
established; observe what they teach.
3) Lists apostolic succession of Rome.
– 17 –
4) “Every church must be in harmony with this church
(Rome) because of its outstanding pre-eminence.”
5) Appeals to fact that Rome is microcosm of entire
Christian world. If new teaching is not accepted
universally it will be thrown out when it reaches
Rome. Rome is least common denominator. Bottom
Line: Gnosticism false because it doesn’t agree
B. Development of Creeds (Purpose: distinguish orthodoxy from
1. Early Roman Baptismal Creed (150).
a. Interrogative creed; triune immersion after each
b. Baptism done with person kneeling and being leaned
c. Problem: Didn’t say enough as Gnostics could agree
2. Old Roman Creed (200).
a. Key phrases: “Born of virgin Mary” … “Crucified and
buried” … “Rose from the dead” … “Resurrection of
b. Gnostics would have had a real problem with this
3. Apostles’ Creed (650).
a. Traced in present form to Spain, ca. 650.
b. Tradition says Apostles chanted this at Jesus’
ascension, being led by Peter.
c. Called Apostles’ because it contains apostolic
1. Marcion (144).
a. Biography: Native of Sinope, Pontus. Allegedly guilty
of “gross immorality” and cast out by “Bishop father.”
Arrived in Rome in 140 with some wealth. Became in-
fluential in Rome. Excommunicated in 144 because of
his theology. Contributions over past 4 yrs. were
b. Marcion sets out to prove his correctness.
1) Est. first known “canon.”
a) Only Luke (minus first 2 chapters).
b) 10 letters from Paul (except Pastorals and
2) Roman church and others drew up their list in
– 18 –
2. Muratorian Fragment (170).
a. Discovered by Muratori in 18th century (?).
b. Content: Begins by saying, “And the third gospel is
Luke and fourth is John.” Lists most of rest of NT
(except Hebrews, James, 1-2 Peter). Includes the
Revelation of Peter” in add. to Revelation.
a. Content: “4 gospels, no more and no less … must be
4 because there are 4 winds and 4 corners of the
earth.” May indicate universal acceptance in I.’s day
of 4 gospels if he could offer such simple logic.
b. Irenaeus was the first to represent Gospel writers
1) Man …. Matthew.
2) Eagle .. Mark. —– 3) Ox ….. Luke. John and Mark switched in
4) Lion … John. —–/ Middle Ages.
4. Origen (ca. 225).
a. Origen took survey of churches and made 2 lists.
1) Homologomena–“same word about”–universal
acceptance. (4 gospels, Acts, 13 of Paul’s,
1 John, 1 Pet., Rev.)
2) Antilegomena–disputed, spoken against, no
agreement. (Heb., 2 Pet., 2-3 John., James,
Jude, Epis. of Barn., Shep. of Hermas, Didache,
Gospel of Hebrews.)
b. Nicaea (325) did not address Canon issue.
1) 3rd Council of Carthage (397) first to come up
2) Athanasius of Alex. has same 27 books.
5. General Observations:
a. By 200 A.D. there was general agreement on Canon.
1) Four gospels and Acts.
2) 11 of Paul’s letters (Philemon and 2 Tim. still
3) Hebrews generally accepted as were 1 John, 1
Peter and Rev.
b. What makes a book worthy of canonicity?
1) Apostolic authorship or association:
a) Mark ….. connected with Peter.
b) Luke ….. associated with Paul.
c) James and Jude written by brothers of Jesus.
2) Is it compatible with other recognized apostolic
books? (James, Jude, Hebrews).
c. Church and Canon.
1) Catholic view:
a) Church decides canon.
b) Church interprets Bible.
c) Church takes precedence over Bible.
– 19 –
2) Protestant view:
a) Quality of writings “rise to the top.”
b) Church acknowledges what is already there.
IV. EARLY THIRD CENTURY: HERESY AND ORDER.
A. The East/Alexandria.
1. Alexandria itself:
a. Exemplified the transfer of Greek culture in the
b. Christianity most likely came to Alex. quite early.
c. Perhaps the outstanding intellectual center of world.
2. Philo (20 B.C.–50 A.D.).
a. Blended Judaism and Greek philosophy.
b. Use of allegory (cf. circumcision not taken
1) Found affinities in Greek philosophy from OT.
2) Had a developed “logos” teaching.
3. Pantaenus (?–190).
a. Stoic philosopher orig. from Sicily; convert to
b. Set up first organized theological school in
Alexandria (ca. 180).
c. Converted a young Clement of Alexandria.
4. Clement of Alexandria (150-215).
a. Born to pagan parents; came from Athens.
b. Converted between 180-190 in Pantaenus’ school.
c. Took over school in 190 and headed it until his death.
d. What Philo did for Judaism, Clement did for
1) Blended X’ty and Philosophy.
2) Philosophy taking a beating in orthodoxy’s battle
with Gnosticism which had deep philosophical
3) Clement called church back to philosophy to
rescue church from unappealing “fundamentalist”
e. Clement’s approach: Establishes that he is NOT a
Gnostic–X’ty a matter of faith not knowledge.
“Simple believer is saved no matter how ignorant he
is, but mature X’n will want to go beyond “elementary
teachings.” This is the “Christian Gnostic.”
Christianity is the “true philosophy.” Understood
risk of loss of identity as bridge to culture. This
– 20 –
raises the question: When you begin to express X’ty in
philosophical terms do you compromise the faith?
5. Origen (184-254).
a. Biography: 2nd generation X’n; Leonidas, his father,
killed in Septimus Severus persecution in 202;
Educated well in philosophy; student of Clement of
Alex.; took over Clement’s school when Clement left
town during a persecution; continued Clement’s love
affair w/ philosophy; Profuse writer–Hexapla,
commentaries on 50 of 66 books.
b. Origen was most influential in his theology.
1) First Principles–1st systematic of X’n theology.
2) Heavy use of allegory; promoted use of deductive
3) Every text has 3 meanings (like man):
a) Body …… literal …… least important.
b) Soul …… moral …….. more important.
c) Spirit …. allegorical .. most important.
4) Most problematic topic–relations within the
a) Father and son “homousios.”
b) Origen father of this thought later to be
declared orthodox at Nicaea.
c) BUT, Origen has subordinationist language
also–does not allow prayer to Christ–“the
2nd God.” Father of strand of thought later
known as Arianism/Subordinationist.
5) Influential theory of atonement (Patristic
a) Ransom negotiated with the devil.
b) Satan didn’t realize he couldn’t hold Jesus.
c) God knew this but willing to have Satan
d) Predominant theory until Anselm’s
B. The West.
1. Easter Controversies.
a. When should Easter be celebrated? Two approaches:
1) Asia Minor: Followed Jewish calendar and Pass-
over on Nisan 14. Lunar cycle–Easter “moves
around”; Adherents known as Quartodecimanians,
or “The Fourteenthers.”
2) Other Formulas: Not tied to Jewish reckoning.
As early as A.D. 120 in Rome there are different
celebrations. In 150 Polycarp of Smyrna came to
Rome to discuss this with bishop of Rome.
“Agreed to disagree.” By end of 2nd century
Bishop Victor of Rome became intolerant and ex-
communicated the Quartos. First time a bishop
– 21 –
excommunicates someone outside his jurisdiction.
Polycrates of Ephesus protested. Irenaeus of
Lyons supported Smyrnaens, even after his stated
support of Rome on other matters.
b. Continues to be an issue until Nicaea (325).
1) Decision: 1st Sunday after 1st full moon after
2) Abandoned after decision of Nicaea, but church
returned to it later.
2. Monarchians–Sabellius (d. 215?).
a. Two types of Monarchians:
1) Adoptionists: Focused on Peter at Pentecost:
“God has made his Lord and Christ.” Adoption
of man Jesus to be Lord and Christ.
2) Modalists: Identified with Sabellius. One God
who has 3 modes of appearing. Sabellius spoke in
Greek tragedy terms of one God using “3 masks.”
A.K.A. Patripassianism–the Father suffers on the
b. Orthodox Christianity later condemned these forms of
3. Hippolytus (170-236) and Callistus: Relation of Church and
State to Culture.
a. Hippolytus’ views on Godhead:
1) In 210s Hippolytus wrote against Monarchianism.
2) Went in other direction with Di-Theism (2 Gods);
later condemned as heresy.
b. This issue became a personal matter between Hippolytus
1) Callistus elected bishop of Rome in 217-222;
Hippolytus was outraged!
2) Hippolytus was member of established family;
Callistus was a former slave.
3) Hippolytus identified with old contacts from
Asia Minor–He was last Western theologian to
write in Greek when not his native language.
c. Callistus represented a new Western element in
Christianity, centered in Rome.
1) Advocated a non-rigorist approach to murderers,
adulterers, and apostates (Christians only–not
an issue for pagans becoming a Christian).
2) Developed and nurtured contacts with gov’t and
d. Hippolytus becomes a schismatic (222-235) by forming
his own church.
1) In 235 a new persecution breaks out.
2) Hippolytus and Pontianus, bishop of Rome
(230-235) both arrested and sent to Sardinia.
3) Hippolytus and Callistus (and followers) work
out their differences; Hippolytus accepted back
– 22 –
into church, although Hippolytus dies in the
4) Hippolytus was the most significant theologian
in the West in the Third Century.
4. Tertullian (160-220).
a. North African who wrote in Latin because of the Roman
colonial influence. Latin began to replace Greek as
Westernization of church continues.
b. First definite reference to Christianity in Carthage
is A.D. 180.
c. Biographical: Tertullian was the son of a centurion.
Became a lawyer in Rome. In 195 he observed some
Christian martyrs which sparked his interest in the
faith. Converted, returned to Carthage.
d. Tertullian and Montanism:
1) By 207 Tertullian is apparently a Montanist.
2) Identified with the rigors of Montanism, but not
the charismatic element.
3) Montanism had anti-philosophical bent: “What has
Athens to do with Jerusalem?”
4) Strong apocalyptic flavor–world filled w/ doom.
e. Tertullian’s later life:
1) In 211 Tertullian officially joins Montanism and
is hereafter regarded as schismatic.
2) Condemned Callistus’ edict of non-rigorism.
3) Died in 220 of natural causes, but totally out of
harmony with the Western Church.
4) Ironic as he became greatly influential in
f. Tertullian’s Against Heretics (A.D. 200): Heretics
have no right to interpret Scripture as this belongs
to the Church. Truth handed down by Christ and
Apostles to the Church.
g. Tertullian and Trinitarian issue:
1) Insisted Father is God. Son is God Spirit is
God. Yet not 3 gods, but one!
2) Formula: “One substance in three persons”–this
has been traditionally interpreted as this: “The
substance cannot be divided and the persons
cannot be confused.”
5. Contrasts: East and West in Early Third Century.
a. East: focused on speculative issues; West:
b. Both wrestling with issue of “How wide is the Church?”
and whether to be Rigorist or Non-Rigorist.
c. Both Tertullian and Origen die excommunicated!
1) Tertullian shapes Western theology.
2) Origen contributes to both orthodoxy and heresy.
3) Both highly revered by Church in later years; not
regarded as heretics; not named saints either!
– 23 –
V. LATER PERSECUTION.
A. Period of relative peace during first half of Third Century.
1. Alexander Severus (222-235).
a. Emperor–not a Christian, but sympathetic.
b. Had a private chapel with busts of gods–included
a bust of Jesus.
2. Maximus the Thracian (235-238).
a. Brief persecution erupts when he becomes emperor.
b. Specifically aimed against Christian leaders–both
Hippolytus and Pontianus captured in this one.
c. Apparently limited to Rome and Palestine.
3. Philip the Arabian (244-249).
a. Some feel he was a Christian–Eusebius did. Likely
he was not.
b. He did carry on a correspondence with Origen.
B. DECIUS (249-251).
1. One of the better emperors of Roman empire; point of
interest–it seemed the better rulers were less tolerant of
2. Decius decreed in 250 that all citizens must publicly
worship the state gods; Jews the only ones exempted; Christians
were not exempted.
a. Those sacrificing were given a libellus–certificate.
b. People were required to carry this document.
c. Flourishing black market trade in bogus libelli.
d. Many Christians bought these counterfeits which
raised the issue of apostasy.
3. Many Christians “lapse” and sacrifice to the gods.
a. Rationale of some:
1) False gods don’t exist–not really worshipping.
2) Simply a civic act–being a good citizen.
b. Many Christians hid out in the countryside.
1) Ethical question–being deceitful in non-
profession of faith?
2) Were leaders putting life before ministry?
3) Many Christians urged their leaders to hide.
4. Decius is killed in 251 fighting Goths along Danube River.
a. 1st emperor killed by enemies of empire within the
borders of the empire.
b. This ends the most thorough persecution to date–it
was brief but intense.
c. Decius’ successors not interested in continuing it.
d. Origen was captured in Palestine and tortured, but
not killed. However, he died in 254 largely from
– 24 –
e. Those like Origen who confess their faith and live
to tell about it were called Confessors, in contrast
to those who “lapsed.”
C. Lapsarian Controversy.
1. Lapsed Christians wanted to re-activate their membership
a. Callistus had laxed requirements earlier, forgiving
murderers, adulterers, and apostates.
b. Three responses to this issue:
1) Hard-liners: No forgiveness–only remedy is
2) Soft-liners: Lapsed particularly need the
forgiveness of the church.
3) Moderates: Acceptance, but only after period of
trial penance (2-3 years).
2. Penance issue.
a. Only public offenses (“reproach on church”) required
a priest or bishop to absolve sins.
b. Developed into Roman Catholic penitential system.
c. Confessors in a unique position to mediate God’s
1) Earned credibility by virtue of experience.
2) As a whole, Confessors were soft-liners!
3) Confessors undermine hard-liners development
of penitential system.
3. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (248-258).
a. Cyprian was a well-educated rhetorician in the second
most important city in the West–Carthage.
b. Cyprian a Moderate–he was not sympathetic to the
soft-liners, although plenty of hard-liners thought
Cyprian was soft.
1) Same issue being fought over in Rome; complicated
by the death of Fabian, bishop in Rome.
2) After the persecution Rome elects a bishop–two
candidates: Cornelius (Moderate) and Novatian
3) Cornelius won a close election; Novatian
supporters protest and appeal to Cyprian to
mediate. Cyprian determined Cornelius was duly-
4) Novatian protested decision–schism developed;
Novatians created a schism in Carthage,
appointing a hard-line bishop.
c. Novatian schism dies out and many seek to return–a
problem arises with those evangelized by Novatians
and baptized in Novatian Church. Orthodox Church
asked–“Is baptism of a schismatic church valid?”
– 25 –
“Do they need to be rebaptized?”
1) Cyprian says NO–not properly baptized.
2) Stephen, bishop of Rome (254-257) disagrees with
Cyprian saying they should be treated as
a) Validity of sacraments does not depend on
morality and orthodoxy of administrator.
b) Proper words and right intent all that is
needed for valid sacrament.
d. In discussing the invalidity of Novatian baptism,
Cyprian began asking questions about church structure.
1) Outside the bishop there are no valid baptisms
(cf. Ignatius’ view).
2) Cyprian slogan: “Extra ecclesiam nulla salus” =
“Outside the church there is no salvation.”
3) Cyprian defines “church” as people gathered
under their rightful bishop.
4) Bottom line: Schismatics are not Christians.
D. Valerian (253-260).
1. Persecution of Christians: Valerian’s reign peaceful at
first, but in 257 persecution began with a new twist.
a. Wealth of Christians was now being confiscated.
b. Began with finance minister, Macrianus, himself a
member of one of the Egyptian mystery religions, who
was motivated by jealousy and finances.
c. Church buildings exist though church is still illegal.
1) Funerary societies often had buildings.
2) Christians established legal funerary societies.
3) Own cemetery and erect funeral chapel (“church”).
4) Many examples of this by mid 3rd century.
2. Valerian edicts:
a. First edict in 257.
1) Prohibited Christians from worshipping or
gathering in cemeteries.
2) Forced Christians to make sacrifices to gods.
b. Second edict in 258.
1) Ordered execution of clergy who had not
sacrificed to the gods.
2) Allowed confiscation of Christian property.
3) Cyprian was killed in this persecution (258).
c. Valerian was captured and killed by Persians (260).
E. Period of Relative Peace and Gradual Acceptance (260-303).
1. Gallien (260-268).
a. Did not continue his father’s persecution.
b. In 260 issued an edict authorizing Christian worship
and possession of cemeteries.
– 26 –
c. Legal acknowledgement of Christianity, but still short
of formal legalization of religion.
2. Aurelian (270-275).
a. At Antioch a problem developed when Paul of Samosata
was deposed as a schismatic. He refused to leave and
turn over the church to his excommunicators.
b. Christians in Antioch appealed to Aurelian; Paul of
Samosata forcibly removed by emperor’s troops.
1) Emperor intervenes in internal affairs of an
2) Aurelian policy: “Christian church buildings
belong to those who are in communion with the
bishop of Rome.”
3. Roman Empire was reaching a crisis point economically,
politically, and militarily.
a. Gaul and Syria separated from the empire.
b. Many upstart military emperors began to spring up.
c. Diocletian in 284 stalled decline. Rome officially
fell in 476, but would have fell ca. 290 if not for
F. Diocletian (284-305).
1. Reformed the Roman Empire.
a. Reformed government, military, and financing system.
b. Reached conclusion that empire was too large for one
man to govern effectively.
1) Maximian made co-ruler with Diocletian in 286;
2) Diocletian took East–deemed most important (made
Nicomedia capital of east); Maximian given Gaul
and the west.
c. Four prefectures formed:
1) Gaul ………. Constantius.
2) Italy ……… Maximian.
3) Illyricum ….. Galerius.
4) East ………. Diocletian.
2. Years of 284-303 of Diocletian’s reign relatively peaceful
for Christians; 303–persecution erupts.
a. 303–persecution, apparently motivated by Galerius.
1) His wife and mother-in-law are Christians.
2) Lactantius suggests that in a sacrifice in 303
Galerius saw Christians “crossing themselves”
while intestines were being read. This messed
up the reading (“bad vibrations”).
3) 303–Diocletian “fired” Christians in military
and the government.
b. Between Feb. 303 and Feb. 304 there were a series of
– 27 –
1) Against Christian worship–confiscated Christian
books and vessels; buildings destroyed; no per-
secution of people.
2) Ordered arrest of all clergy.
3) Ordered clergy to sacrifice to gods or die.
4) Ordered all citizens to sacrifice to gods.
c. In Nicomedia there was a church building directly
across the street from the palace.
1) Had a steeple higher than any point on palace.
2) Mysterious fire broke out in imperial kitchen.
3) Severe persecution unleashed in that region.
d. Persecutions varied in intensity and enforcement.
1) Edicts covered whole empire but more rigorously
enforced in prefecture of the East and Illyricum.
a) More Christians in East than West.
b) East: 10-15% of population; West: 5-10%.
2) Italy: enforced considerably less than in East.
3) Gaul: 1st edict was enforced, the other 3 were
not (Constantius’ 1st wife was a Christian).
3. Persecution continued for some time.
a. Diocletian retired in 305 (as does Maximian).
1) Galerius and Constantius become Augustae.
2) Severus (West) and Maximin (East) become
3) Maxentius in West and Constantine in East
passed over with tensions.
4) In 306 Constantius became ill and calls
Constantine to his side in York, Britain. He
dies and Constantine is acclaimed Augustus of West.
b. Civil War erupts between various claimants to the
1) Chaotic time, particularly in the West; per-
secution of Christians, particularly in the
2) Even pagan society by this time deplored the
needless slaughter and social disruption;
question policy of persecution.
c. Spring 311–Galerius issues Edict of Toleration.
1) Motivated by political and social necessity.
2) Still despised Christians.
d. Fall 311–Maximin (Augustus of East) begins per-
secution, but in Spring 312 issues his own edict
A. Biography: Born about 285 to Constantius (a high-ranking army
officer who would become an augustus of the West–prefecture of
Gaul) and Helena, a commoner and a Christian. Constantius re-
married, but Constantine was not disowned as usually happened,
– 28 –
and was allowed to stay with his mother. When Constantine was
ten years old he moved to Nicomedia and was schooled there.
B. Rise to Power.
1. Augustus of the West.
a. In 305 Diocletian retired; Constantine was expected to
become one of the caesars, but was passed over.
b. In 306 Constantius became sick and summoned
Constantine; Constantius dies and Constantine becomes
Augustus of the West.
c. Married life:
1) 1st wife–Minervina–one son; divorced her.
2) 2nd wife–Fausta, daughter of Maximian–3 sons.
d. By 311 Constantine is dominant in the West; Maxentius,
son of Maximian, heads the prefecture of Italy.
1) Constantine was advised to be content.
2) Constantine was not content–wanted it all!
a. In 312 Constantine takes his army to Italy.
1) Fights 4 battles with armies of Maxentius.
2) Constantine’s son cuts off Rome’s grain supply
b. Summer 312–Constantine’s famous vision.
a) Lactantius and Eusebius.
b) Lactantius uses only 31 words to record it;
If he was inventing it he would probably
needed more words. Likely passed on to him.
2) Vision: At high noon Constantine saw a Chi Rho
symbol in sky and above it the words: “In this
sign conquer” (either in Greek or Latin). Con-
stantine believed the God of the Christians would
guarantee his success if he would fight under the
Christian banner. Chi Rho printed on soldiers’
shields. Battle standard had Chi Rho symbol.
c. Conquest of Rome:
1) Maxentius holed up in Rome; his army is roughly
the size of Constantine’s.
2) Maxentius abusive of Roman citizens (tax/rape)
and is hated in Rome.
3) Maxentius offers sacrifices; seers proclaim,
after looking at animal intestines, “The enemy of
Rome will be destroyed!”
4) An over-confident and thrilled Maxentius goes out
to battle Constantine.
5) Battle: Armies meet 5 miles out of Rome on bend
in the Tiber River. Constantine forced
Maxentius’ army into this bend–great slaughter.
Maxentius escapes with survivors and heads for
Rome. Constantine’s cavalry heading for Rome via
– 29 –
another route. Arrive at same time at Milvian
bridge. Maxentius killed in this battle on
October 28, 312–Constantine is the only augustae
in the West out of 7 several years earlier!
6) October 29, 312–Constantine enters Rome in
triumphal procession and is accepted by the
Senate. For first time in history no pagan sac-
rifice is offered when new emperor takes throne!
7) Constantine regards himself as Christian emperor.
a) Suppresses emperor cult; presents Lateran
palace to bishop of Rome.
b) Lateran palace becomes residence of the
bishop of Rome for next 1,000 years. Next
to LP is Praetorian Guard barracks. PG is
dissolved, barracks destroyed. Land given
to bishop of Rome. St. John’s Lateran built
here. Becomes papal residence until the
d. Consolidating his position.
1) In consolidating his position, Constantine sent
letters to Africa regarding the church.
a) Church lands to be returned to churches.
b) Bishop of Carthage appointed overseer of
relief funds for Africa.
c) Clergy exempt from taxes.
2) Constantine going out of his way to show favor to
3. Constantine and Licinius.
a. Licinius–another claimant in the East.
1) Feb. 313–Constantine and Licinius meet in Milan
and agree to share empire as soon as Licinius
finishes conquering Maximian.
2) Licinius marries Constantine’s sister:
3) They draft EDICT OF MILAN (313)–part of which
gives full religious freedom to ALL religions.
4) Interesting phrase in edict: “So that by this
means, whatever divinity is enthroned in heaven
may be favorable to us.” This wording is
deliberately generic probably because Licinius is
a Sol Invictus worshipper.
b. Licinius fights Maxentius on April 30, 313 at Plains
1) Licinius wins; Maxentius survives and escapes to
Asia Minor; Licinius pursues.
2) Late Summer catches up with him in Syria;
Maxentius dies before battle is fought.
3) Licinius supreme in East; kills all prospective
rivals including son and daughter of Maximin, son
of Gallerius, Gallerius’ wife, daughter of
Diocletian, and Diocletian’s wife.
– 30 –
c. Battles with Licinius.
1) Disputes: Jurisdictional disputes begin in
first yr. of co-rulership.
a) Boundary dispute in Balkans between E. and W.
b) Tensions over Christian toleration–Licinius
is less tolerant.
c) Until 321 Constantine and Licinius had been
naming 2 consuls to Rome; in 321 Constantine
names both! In 322 Licinius names himself
and son consuls in the East.
2) Persecution: Licinius adopts unofficial policy of
harassment against Christians.
a) Churches closed because of poor ventilation.
b) Men and women not permitted to worship
together to safeguard public morality.
c) No males could instruct female catechumens.
d) Christians prohibited from visiting prisons.
e) Synods of bishops outlawed.
f) No OFFICIAL persecution, but some young,
eager officials did kill some Christians
with Licinius’ approval.
3) Final Battle: In 323 the Goths invade Balkans;
Licinius is elsewhere–Constantine shoves Goths
a) Licinius becomes suspicious, thinking C. is
using Goth invasion as excuse to get his
army in the East to subdue Licinius.
b) 7-3-324–Battle at Hadrianople–C. wins; L.
escapes to Asia Minor and begins to mass
troops for another battle.
c) Constantine pursues and on 9-18-324 there is
another big battle–Constantine wins again!
d) Licinius allowed to live, but is killed in
late Fall when he continues to plot vs. C.
e) Entire empire now under one ruler–first
time since 293.
C. Was Constantine a Christian?
1. Two positions:
a. Jacob Burckhardt, The Age of Constantine, insists
Constantine was a political opportunist who used
Christianity for selfish purposes (consensus of 19th
b. This century the feeling is that Constantine was
genuine in his conversion.
1) Christianity numbered about 10% of the empire:
a) East (10-15%); West (5-10%).
b) A politician would be unwise to join this
kind of minority for political purposes.
2) In response Burckhardt cites general population’s
disdain of persecution and were ready to tolerate;
– 31 –
In other words, toleration is one thing,
conversion is another.
2. Favors granted to Christianity suggests Constantine was
genuinely a Christian.
a. Exemption of taxes to clergy (e.g. declared exempt
from bachelor tax–priests were celibate).
b. Clergy also had secular employment–declared exempt
c. As early as 314 Christian symbolism begins to appear
on coinage; by 323 all pagan symbols on coins extinct!
d. In 313 bishop-tried cases granted recognized legal
e. Churches allowed to inherit property.
f. Constantine’s children were educated as Christians.
g. When the capital is moved to Byzantium (330) C. gives
church prime real estate to build churches.
h. Eusebius tells of C.’s authorization of 50 Bibles to
be published, funded by empire treasury. Codices
Sinaiticus and Vaticanus believed to be two of these.
3. Two arguments against Constantine being a Christian.
a. Sol Invictus: legalized by Aurelian about 275. In 315
C. erected a major arch in Rome in favor of Aurelian’s
rule. On that arch C. is pictured standing next to
sun god. (May be an attempt to pacify Licinius who is
Sol Invictus worshipper.)
1) In 321 Sunday declared an official Roman holiday.
2) Birthday of “unconquered sun” (Dec. 25) was made
a holiday by Aurelian in 270s.
3) About the time of Constantine’s death (337) this
date becomes associated with Christians.
4) Most feel this is Christian syncretism–may just
be a “baptizing” of pagan elements and
observances lose pagan connotations.
b. In Spring 337 Constantine develops a mortal illness.
1) Constantine baptized (sprinkled) on his deathbed;
dies on 5-22-337.
2) Some say Constantine not serious about being a
Christian and this late baptism proves it, but
delayed baptism a real trend at this time.
3) Those who delay are those who have the most
confidence in what baptism procures.
c. A Conclusion: While Constantine was serious about his
commitment to Christianity, he also hoped Christianity
would help unify a divided empire. Constantine was
shocked to learn that Christianity was divided!
4. Church under Constantine.
a. Christianity responded to this favorable treatment
with unprecedented growth. Being a Christian becomes
a status symbol.
– 32 –
1) Millions of people become Christians.
2) In 325 approximately 10% of empire is Christian;
by 400 90% is! This out of 50-75 million total!
b. Tremendous strain is put on the church–results in a
rapidly developing hierarchy.
1) Each of the 127 provinces had several large
cities; one is capital–usually the largest.
2) Bishop in chief cities in the provinces naturally
looked to bishop in capital.
a) Church in that city usually larger and more
b) Metro-politan = Greek meaning “mother city.”
3) Authoritarian lines develop this way during the
a) One metropolitan or archbishop per province.
b) Groups of provinces governed by five
c) Patriarchate must rest on an apostolic
d) This whole schema fed into papal authority.
Patriarchate: Region: Apostolic basis:
Alexandria …….. Egypt, Libya …………… John Mark
Antioch ……….. Syria, Eastern Asia …….. Paul
Jerusalem ……… Jerusalem (honor ……….. Apostles
position; little power)
Constantinople …. Western Asia Minor and ……. Fudged!
Greece (replaced Ephesus)
Rome ………….. Entire West ……………. Peter
f) Church structure mirrored secular government
of the empire!
1. Background in Africa.
a. Controversy in Carthage over who is rightful bishop;
began during Diocletian’s persecution–confiscation
of sacred writings.
1) Traditores–those who handed over sacred writings
or Word (= Jesus).
2) Replay of lapsarian question–what to do with the
b. In 311 bishop of Carthage dies–who will replace him?
1) Archdeacon Caecilian chosen.
2) Numidia’s bishop traditionally involved in the
consecration of the bishop of Carthage (it took
3 bishops to consecrate another bishop).
3) Rivalry existed between Carthage and Numidia; in
– 33 –
311 the bishop of Numidia is left out; ethnic
slant to this also–Carthage = old Roman stock,
Numidia = native Berbers.
4) Felix, one of the 3 consecrating bishops, is a
5) Numidia says a consecration by a traditore in-
validates; Numidia selects Majorinus who soon
dies; Donatus replaces him as bishop of Carthage.
2. Attempts at resolution.
a. In 312 when Constantine’s men come to make bishop of
Carthage head of relief work, they come back to Rome
asking, “Which bishop?”
1) Constantine called a council in Rome at Lateran
Palace of both Italian and Gallic bishops.
2) Caecilian’s election is confirmed.
3) Donatus protests and demands another hearing.
4) 314–Another council in Arles with just Gallic
bishops; Caecilian is again confirmed.
5) Conclusion: Validity of sacraments does not
depend on the one administering them.
b. Donatus still not satisfied.
1) 316: Constantine sent soldiers to close Donatist
2) 321: Constantine abandons forced unity approach.
3) 347: Donatists join anti-Roman marauders–the
3. Several layers to the Donatist controversy:
a. Surface–validity of sacraments.
b. Ethnic rivalries at work–Carthage vs. Numidia.
c. Church structure issue–sectional or universal?
d. Nationalistic element–replay of Punic Wars.
e. City (Carthage) vs. Country (Numidia).
4. Observation: The Donatist issue persists for another 350
years until Muslims over-run the area. The Muslims are
able to do this because of disunity.
VII. ARIANISM AND NICAEA.
A. Arius (250-336).
a. Originally from Libya; educated in Antioch by Lucian.
b. Lucian developed the Antiochene school of
c. Antiochene school emphasizes the historical Jesus;
tended to downplay allegorical interpretation.
d. Lucian’s Christology is subordinationist–Jesus is
less than God.
– 34 –
e. 311-312–Lucian is martyred in Nicomedia during the
Great Persecution. His thinking became more credible
because of his martyrdom.
2. The debate begins.
a. Arius located in Alexandria, Egypt after his education
at the Baucalis church.
b. In 313 Alexander becomes bishop of Alexandria after
Arius is appointed.
c. Arius’ preaching becomes controversial–in 318 a
council of 100 bishops called (from Egypt and Libya) and
Arius is excommunicated along with 5 other priests, 6
deacons, and 2 bishops (from Libya).
d. Arius alerts the Antioch “alumni association” and the
debate thickens; Arius points to writings of Origen.
3. QUOTE: “A heresy often starts out as the vehement
assertion of an authentic but partial aspect of revelation
which, developed unilaterally, soon becomes deformed and
compromises the balance of theology as a whole.” (Jean
Danielou and Henri Marrou, The First Six Hundred Years, p.
B. The Doctrine of Arianism.
1. Arius concerned about Sabellianism (“3 masks”).
a. 318–Heard Alexander make a Sabellian comment–
b. Arius attacks “homousias” and seeks to protect the
place of The Father but does so at expense of The Son.
2. Nuts and Bolts of Arianism.
a. Focused on two key texts:
1) Prov. 8:22–“The Lord possessed (or formed) me in
the beginning of his way.”
2) John 14:28–“The Father is greater than I.”
b. Arius asserted the Father alone is eternal.
1) If Jesus is created, then there was a point in
time when he did not exist.
2) Thus, The Father alone is the true God.
3) Son, however, is pre-eminent over all creation.
c. Slogans of this period:
1) “There was when he was not!”
2) “There was not when he was not!”
3) “Begotten, not made!”
4) “Homousios” vs. “homoiousios” (homo = same;
homoi = similar).
d. Different levels of this controversy:
1) Theology is definitely at issue.
2) Rivalry of Antioch and Alexandria.
– 35 –
3. Later developments.
a. Arius goes to Palestine and Asia Minor after his
1) Local synods vindicate Arius’ position.
2) Eusebius of Nicomedia and Eusebius of Caesarea
both vindicate Arius and “restore” him to
3) Alexander of Alexandria claims outside inter-
ference and draw others into controversy.
b. Matter festers until Council of Nicaea (325).
C. Council of Nicaea (325).
1. Involvement of Constantine.
a. Constantine sent Hosius, bishop of Cordova, Spain
(definitely a Western-thinker) to assess matter.
b. Hosius talks to another Hosius and a young Athanasius
and is convinced of their non-Arian thinking.
c. Constantine still fears civil war and calls a general
council of bishops.
1) First “ecumenical council” (from Greek oikomene;
cf. Luke 2:1ff.) at Nicaea.
2) 318 bishops attend–100 from Asia Minor; 30 from
Syria; 20 from Egypt; 3 or 4 from the West (not
the bishop of Rome); Arius is present and makes
3) Met in hall of imperial palace–expenses paid by
Constantine; May 20–July 25, 325.
a) Eusebius of Nicomedia argued for Arianism.
b) Athanasius and 2 others for non-Arianism.
2. The Council itself.
a. Arian issue.
1) Strong anti-Arian flavor–Constantine himself a
2) Eusebius of Nicomedia proposed an openly Arian
creed, but it was thrown out.
3) Eusebius of Caesarea proposed a creed which
simply used Biblical terms which predated the
Arian controversy; since it was still open to
Arian interpretation it was not accepted.
4) Eusebius of Caesarea’s creed was reworked and the
result was The Nicene Creed.
5) All bishops present signed the document except
for two–the ones from Libya who had been ex-
communicated earlier. Arius and these 2 bishops
were exiled by the council.
6) The majority of bishops were semi-Arians and
signed with “fingers crossed” on June 19, 325.
b. Other issues discussed (second month).
1) Easter–the date and celebration of.
2) Morals of the churches.
– 36 –
3) Organization of the churches.
4) Analysis: Church has changed from a persecuted
body to a group struggling to keep its house in
c. Specific canons adopted at Nicaea:
1) #11–Lapsed may be restored after 12 yrs. of
2) #2—Warning not to allow recent converts to
3) #4—Ordination of bishop must be done by 3 other
bishops (already an est. practice).
4) #6—Bishops of Libya, Egypt, Pentapolis (near
Sinai) to be subject to bishop of Alexandria
“because this is the custom in Rome.”
5) #15–No bishop, priest, or deacon can be
transferred from one city to another; “to
transfer is spiritual adultery.” This
begins to change only in 9th century.
6) #17–Taking of interest or usury prohibited.
7) #20–On Sundays and from Easter to Pentecost one
is permitted to pray standing up.
8) #?–Apparently celibacy of clergy is discussed
and agreement reached with Eastern custom of
bachelor becoming priest cannot take a wife,
but married man could keep wife (strict
celibacy in West); a married priest could
never become a bishop.
d. At conclusion of council Constantine threw a huge
banquet–Eusebius says it was like a dream.
D. Post-Nicene troubles.
1. General dissatisfaction.
a. Most bishops signed but in private protested.
b. Many of the semi-Arians grouped together with Eusebius
of Caesarea as spokesman.
c. Constantia, sister of Constantine, may have intervened
and in 327 the exiles were recalled.
d. Constantine and Arius meet; Arius agrees to an ambigu-
ously worded compromise and returns to leadership
2. Athanasius (296-373).
a. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria (328-337).
b. Athanasius will not let Arius resume his ministry.
c. Athanasius adopts a firm anti-Arian policy and many in
rural Egypt resent Athanasius.
3. Semi-Arians attack pro-Nicene figures:
a. Eustathius of Antioch (324-330).
1) Charged with immorality; woman with a baby
produced at hearing–Eustathius thrown out.
– 37 –
2) Eustathius had made snide remarks about Helena
the empress and her pompous visits to Palestine–
“Helena had been a maid in a tavern.”
3) Eustathius deposed and exiled in 330.
b. Marcellus of Ancyra (?-374).
1) Charged with espousing Sabellianism.
2) Deposed and sent into exile in Rome.
1) Acknowledged anti-Arian leader.
2) Accused of strong-arm tactics and hiring a hit-
man for murder (murder charge unfounded).
3) Accused of sexual immorality.
4) Arraigned at Council of Tyre in 335–stacked with
Arians; a fact-finding commission had been sent
to Alexandria; Athanasius condemned and deposed.
5) Athanasius went to Constantinople and spoke with
Constantine who set aside the Tyre decision; C.
summoned Tyre members for “discussion.” C. was
swayed against Athanasius with a false story
about threatening to cut off Egyptian grain
supplies to Constantinople; C. sent Athanasius
into exile without a hearing in 336. This was
the first of five exiles for Athanasius!
6) In 336 Arius invited to emperor’s court. In
course of hearings he gets attack of diarrhea and
dies in bathroom.
4. Constantine’s favor to the Church encourages huge in-
fighting and power struggle within an increasingly
a. Situation worsens when Constantine dies in 337 and his
sons come into power.
b. Constantine’s sons:
1) Constantine II (337-340) …. Gaul (Nicene).
2) Constans (337-350) ………. Italy (Nicene).
3) Constantius (337-361) ……. East (Semi-Arian).
VIII. FROM CONSTANTIUS TO THEODOSIUS.
A. Division of Empire.
1. When Constantine dies his 3 sons come into power
(see VII, D, 4, b just above).
2. These brothers kill off the competition, then turn against
each other and in turn get turned on by others!
a. 340–Constans kills Constantine II and takes over West.
b. 350–Magnentius, general in West, revolts and kills
c. 353–Constantius defeats Magnentius; empire once again
has a single ruler.
– 38 –
B. Religious Problems during this Period.
1. Constantine II sent Athanasius back to Egypt in 337.
a. This outraged the semi-Arians.
b. In 339 Athanasius is exiled to Rome; takes 2 monks
with him and monasticism is introduced into the West;
Athanasius writes a biography of St. Anthony.
c. Athanasius and Marcellus meet in Rome and both ask for
an impartial hearing. They are declared innocent.
2. The “Dedication Council” in Antioch (341).
a. Met on occasion of dedicating a church building.
b. Discussed Ulfilas, a Gothic or half-Gothic Christian,
who converted to Arianism.
c. At this council Ulfilas is consecrated to go to the
1) Creates Gothic alphabet and translates Scripture
2) Book of Kings intentionally left out because of
its (and Goths’!) war-like nature.
3) Ulfilas’ work highly successful–Arian Christ-
ianity spreads to Germanic peoples.
3. Council of Sardicia (343).
a. Called by Constans and Constantius in Sardicia,
b. It was intended to be an ecumenical council to hammer
out unity; largely failed.
c. Athanasius and Marcellus come; they are accepted by the
West, but not by the East.
d. East and West got there but refused to meet together.
1) Separate councils held; issued anathemas.
2) This council (Western) established appellate
jurisdiction to bishop of Rome; backdated into
Nicene Council records, canon #6.
C. Julian (361-363).
1. Political background.
a. None of Constantine’s 3 sons themselves had sons;
Constantius groomed Julian to become caesar but is
eventually distrusted; sent to German frontier but
b. In 361 Constantius calls Julian East to fight in
Persia; the Armies of the Rhine refuse to let Julian
go East and acclaim him the new emperor.
c. Major face-off in the works; on the way to battle
Constantius dies of natural causes; Julian becomes
emperor of a united empire.
– 39 –
2. Julian the Apostate.
a. Julian had prepared for priesthood earlier in life;
studied in Athens and had been exposed to pagan
b. In 361 he publicly pushed paganism–hereafter known
as “Julian the Apostate.”
c. Attempted a grand revival of paganism.
1) Recalled all Christian exiles–stir up disunity!
2) Effort boomerangs–Christians unite against the
first pagan emperor in years.
3) Tried to copy Christian organization and apply
it to paganism–failed.
4) In 363 Julian planned major campaign against the
Persians; on way East, in Grove of Daphne
(Antioch) he planned a huge pagan festival.
Christians had been meeting here. Locals
boycotted–1 old pagan priest showed up and 1
goose got sacrificed.
d. Julian dies in battle against the Persians in 363.
3. Cappodocian Theologians.
a. Included: Basil of Caesarea (Asia Minor); Gregory of
Nyssa; Gregory of Nazaianzus.
b. Basil became bishop of Caesarea in 370–made great
contributions in resolving Arian controversy:
1) Emphasized no contradictions in Godhead.
2) Defined problem–East and West using different
3) Attempted to moderate between Nicenes and Semi-
Arians rather than defend the Nicene position.
4) His open attitude persuaded many Semi-Arians and
helped establish orthodoxy.
c. Gregory of Nyssa–also contributed to Arian solution.
1) Popularized the phrase: “God in 3 persons.”
2) Helped obliterate lines between Nicene and Semi-
3) By the end of the 4th century Arianism
D. Two Emperors.
1. Jovian (363-364): When Julian dies Jovian is selected by
the Senate, but dies an accidental death in 364.
2. Valentian (364-375).
a. Valentinian chooses brother Valens to rule East.
1) Valentian …….. Nicene (West).
2) Valens ……….. Semi-Arian (East).
b. Valens (364-378) is not a dogmatic Arian–moderating.
Killed in a Gothic revolt in 378.
– 40 –
E. Theodosius (379-395).
1. Political background:
a. In 376 the Goths revolted; In 378 Valens and the
imperial army are wiped out at Hadrianople.
b. Theodosius puts down the revolt; made emperor in 379;
sends Gothic soldiers to Egypt and sends Egyptian
soldiers to Gothic frontier.
2. Theodosius and state religion.
a. Feb. 380–issues edict–“All subjects will follow the
religion which Peter brought to Romans.” Edict
encourages all to become Christians.
b. July 380–issues edict–All churches must be
surrendered to Nicene bishops; this effectively closes
down Arian churches.
c. 383–Promised exile to Arians and all other groups who
dare to assemble in violation of catholic doctrine.
d. Feb. 24, 391–All forms of pagan worship, sacrifice,
and prayer are outlawed. Christianity becomes the
official religion of the Roman state.
F. Gratian (375-383).
1. Becomes emperor in the West after father’s (Valentinian)
death; Senate confirms him.
a. Refused title of Pontifex Maximus–“great bridge-
builder”–the high priest of paganism.
b. Cuts off all state funds to pagan temples.
2. 382–The altar of victory, a Roman god, is removed from
Senate chamber; Senators protest.
3. 383–Gratian is killed by Spanish general, Magnus Maximus.
a. MM is an upstart without much popular support.
b. Priscillian, a heretic, had been condemned by church
leaders but his movement was growing.
c. MM arranges a council and puts Priscillian on trial;
found guilty and condemned; Priscillian and 6 others
are executed by MM.
d. In doing this MM hopes to gain favor of the church;
marks first time a Christian is executed by the state
because of heresy; establishes a tradition of “witch-
hunting” of heretics.
G. Council of Constantinople (381).
1. This is the second ecumenical council.
a. Called by Theodosius.
b. 150 bishops present–all from East.
c. No Egyptian bishops present.
– 41 –
2. Council dealt with four matters:
a. Reaffirmed the Nicene Creed.
b. Denounced Macedonianism (after Macedonius).
1) Macedonius did to the Holy Spirit what Arius had
done to Jesus; HS is subordinate to Father and Son.
2) Those holding this heresy are called “Pneumata-
machoi” = “those who fight against the Spirit.”
3) Macedonianism condemned at this council.
4) Altered Nicene Creed to accommodate this change:
“… and in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the
Father”; phrase understood differently:
a) East understood HS proceeded through Son.
b) West understood HS proceeded from the Father
and the Son (both equal).
c) Gave rise to double-procession and single-
d) East’s understanding has definite shades of
e) Filoque–Latin for “through the Son”; by
late 6th century copies of this revised
Constantinople creed had this word in it;
Eastern copied did not.
5) 36 Macedonianist bishops walk out when this
doctrine is condemned.
c. Denounced Apollinarianism (after Apollinarius).
1) Apollinarianism a reaction to Arianism which
said Jesus is subordinate–A’ism rectifies this
by going to other extreme–Jesus is full deity,
but not fully human.
2) Reasoning: Eternal Logos not subject to change,
but humans are; therefore Jesus must not have had
a human will.
3) Council reasoned that what the Logos did not
assume he could not redeem; Apollinarianism
4) Apollinarianism is a classic case of theology
in pendulum swing.
d. Church organization.
1) Declared: “The bishop of Constantinople has
primacy of honor after bishop of Rome since
Constantinople is `New Rome.'”
2) Rome is #1, Constantinople is #2–why Rome?
3) Primacy of Rome is guarded because of its
status as the old capital of Rome.
1. Election of Ambrose.
a. The bishop of Milan, an Arian, dies in 374 (Milan is
by this time the functional capital of Rome).
b. Some army folks want another Arian; tense situation.
– 42 –
c. The election of bishop is supervised by governor of
the province; matters so tense that crowd chooses a
non-Christian governor as bishop–he is baptized one
d. Ambrose eventually named bishop.
2. Valentinian dies in 375 and Gratian assumes power.
a. Gratian influenced by Arian mother Justina.
b. Justina disappointed in Ambrose’s selection and
provides a chapel in Milan for Arians.
c. Gothic soldiers were to cordon off another chapel in
Milan, but Ambrose and others stage sit-in; Justina
gives up efforts.
3. Ambrose and Valentian II (383-391).
a. Valentian comes to throne at age 12 when Gratius dies.
b. 384–Senate of Rome requests return of Altar of
Victory; Senate has Symmachus present petition to
Milan. Valentian II is ready to give in, but Ambrose
challenges Symmachus in Valentian’s presence. Ambrose
told Valentian that if he allowed return of pagan
statue he would be excommunicated.
4. Ambrose and Theodosius.
a. Theodosius came to the West in 388.
b. Monks in Mesopotamia incite Christians to burn a
synagogue and Gnostic church bldg; Jews complain;
Governor tells bishop to rebuild it; Bishop refuses;
Matter reaches Milan in 388; Theodosius orders re-
c. Ambrose stopped a worship service and told Theodosius
to leave if he didn’t change his mind about the order.
d. 390–Theodosius is in Milan again; In Thessalonica
there had been a chariot race and a popular charioteer
had been justly jailed for wrongdoing; mob went to
release him but general refused; mob killed general
and word reaches Theodosius; Theodosius orders troops
to gather citizens in Chariot Hippodrome and kill
them; changes his mind, but the rescinded order does
not reach Thessalonica in time. 3,000 Christian
civilians are killed. Next Sunday as Theodosius came
to church Ambrose refused to let him in–had to do
public penance. Theodosius held out for 8 months–
then knelt on steps of Milan church and begged Ambrose
e. 391–Theodosius makes Christianity the state religion.
A. Impulses and Antecedents.
– 43 –
1. Impulses and antecedents in Scripture:
a. “Love not the world” = abandon the world.
b. “Crucify yourself” = inflict pain on self.
2. Greek philosophical influence.
a. Stoics: passion in life are to be overcome; goal is to
attain an emotional even-keel; this was broadened in
monasticism to include more than emotions.
b. Gnostic ideology was defeated in Christendom, but here
it comes in the back door–flesh is evil, spirit good.
3. White martyrdom.
a. Persecutions end with Constantine; thus martyrdom ends
and there is no way to prove yourself spiritually.
b. Monasticism fills this need in 4th century; known as
“white” martyrdom as opposed to “red” martyrdom.
a. Rapid growth of Christianity since Constantine meant
that many were becoming Christians for less than ideal
b. Quality of church life declines–“worldly church.”
c. Many head into monasticism to avoid compromise with
B. Monasticism in the East.
1. Anthony (251-356).
a. Biography and background.
1) First classical monk; father of Monasticism.
2) Born in central Egypt, orphaned at young age but
inherited large family farm which supported him.
3) Age 20–went to church service where a gospel
account was being read, walked in the door and
heard, “Sell all you have and come follow me.”
Knew Lord was speaking to him! Sold all and did
this; lived for 15 years as an apprentice monk
under an older hermit monk.
4) 285–goes to desert to live alone.
1) Spent much time in prayer, contemplation, and
2) Claims to have “wrestled with the Devil.”
3) Anthony’s reputation as a holy man led to many
seeking him out to be taught.
4) 305–organizes a community of hermits–engaged
in the “laura” stage of monasticism–physically
together but living separately as hermits.
c. Some monastic terminology:
1) Stage 1: Greek “anchorite” and Latin “eremitic”
applied to monks; “hermit” comes from Latin.
2) Stage 2: “Coenobitic” = monks in communal life.
– 44 –
2. Pachomius (290-346).
1) Born in Egypt; veteran soldier; becomes monk 317.
2) Soon realized he was not cut out to be a hermit.
1) 320–established first monastery in Southern
Egypt along the Nile.
2) Began coenobitic (common life) monasticism.
3) Pachomius drew up rules for monastic life–known
as the Rule of Pachomius.
a) Regular clergy … monks (regula–rule).
b) Secular clergy … priests (parish work).
4) Rule of Pachomius had 3 key elements: celibacy,
poverty, and obedience to the abbot (“father”)
of the community; obedience element added and
stressed by Pachomius.
5) Pachomius made manual labor a part of the monk’s
6) Coenobitic monasticism (monasteries) became main-
7) By end of his life Pachomius had established 11
monasteries–2 of which were made up of women.
3. Hilarion (291-371).
a. Son of pagans; went to Alexandria for school;
b. 306–returned to Palestine in Gaza and became a
hermit; attracted some followers.
c. Hilarion helped spread monasticism beyond Egypt to a
4. Basil (330-379).
a. Established a monastery in Pontus in 358.
b. Revised the Rule of Pachomius to become the Rule of
Basil which became standard for Eastern monastics.
c. Changed the purpose of monasticism.
1) Saw it here-to-fore as self-centered.
2) Turned it outward to involve monks in ministry.
d. Rule of Basil has these four tendencies:
1) Suppresses anchorites (hermits).
2) Moves monasteries from deserts to cities.
3) Emphasizes learning of all types.
4) Limited time spent in prayer and devotion
(reduced to 8x per day).
e. Rule of Basil and prayer.
1) Some Scriptural precedent:
a) Ps. 119:164–“7 times a day I praise thee.”
b) Ps. 119:62–“Rise at midnight to praise
thee” (night office).
2) Eight times of prayer (varies Summer to Winter).
a) Lauds …… Daybreak.
b) Prince ….. 6:00 A.M.
– 45 –
c) Tierce ….. 9:00 A.M.
d) Sext ……. 12:00 Noon.
e) None ……. 3:00 P.M.
f) Vespers …. Sundown.
g) Complive … Darkness (“lights out?”)
h) Matins ….. 2:00 A.M. (night office)
f. Basil declared monasteries should not have more than
1) Tried to keep monasteries under rule of the
bishop but was unsuccessful.
2) Tried to make each monastery self-supporting;
5. Simeon Stylites (390-459).
a. Some of the strange ascetic practices of this period:
1) One meal per week.
2) Sleep deprivation–one method was to stand all
night in water up to your chin.
3) Some monks made small cages in which it was im-
possible to sit, stand, or lay out; one monk
lived this way for 60 years!
b. Background of Simeon.
1) At age 23 Simeon was a cave hermit for 40 days;
chained his right leg to a stone; one Summer he
buried himself up to his chin daily.
2) At age 33 (423) he built a pillar 6 ft. high with
a platform 4 ft. square and stayed there the rest
of his life; rarely came down; changed pillars
occasionally–last one was 60 ft. high. Simeon
never took a bath during these 36 years. His
followers cherished worms that fell from his
body. Constantly cut himself for bugs to feed
on; did sit-ups for devotion–one follower
counted 1,244 forehead to toes before lost count!
c. Many of these extremists were preoccupied with sex and
1) Many never took a bath–fear of seeing own body
and having lust aroused.
2) Some prided themselves on how long it had been
since they had seen a woman.
3) Modern monastery of Mt. Ethos (Macedonia) is all
male and will not even allow female animals on
4) Women were seen as the symbol of sex; Adam &
Eve’s sin was sex; women seen as instruments of
5) Middle Ages: Children often given to monasteries
at birth (called oblates); some grew up never
having seen a woman. One young man who had never
seen a woman saw one and asks abbot, “What was
that?” “A demon!” abbot replies. Young man:
“Prettiest thing I ever did see!”
– 46 –
6) One of the exercises monks would sometime engage
in was to spend night naked in bed with a naked
woman–showed ability to stifle desire. Many
failed this test.
C. Monasticism in the West.
a. Introduced into West by Athanasius when he brought two
monks to Rome during an exile there.
b. Marcellina, cousin of Ambrose, was consecrated as a
virgin in 353.
2. Jerome (342-420).
a. Studied in Rome and became a Christian; went home to
Northern Italy to be a monk.
b. Later went to Palestine to be a hermit monk.
c. 382–returned to Rome and launched major propaganda
campaign to enlist others to monasticism; great
success, particularly among women; virginity made an
ideal–many men become upset! Jerome’s life is
threatened in 385.
d. 385–returned to Palestine, joined by Roman ladies who
began monasteries; had been commissioned to do a Latin
translation–later known as The Vulgate.
3. Martin of Tours (335-397).
a. Drafted in army at age 15 by his father to keep him
from becoming a Christian–still became one!
b. Established first monastery in Gaul–360.
c. 370–becomes bishop of Tours; later the patron saint
d. First non-martyred saint in the West.
e. Martin a part of the episcopal phase of monasticism
where bishops establish monasteries for their own
4. Honoratus (350-429).
a. Born in the West, traveled East and was exposed to
monasticism and brought it back West with him.
b. Established monastery at Lerins, France.
1) This monastery developed a reputation for
2) Vincent of Lerins (d. 450) made the Canon of
Vincent–orthodoxy is “that which has been
believed everywhere, always, and by all.” The
test of ecumenicity, test of antiquity, and test
of universal consent.
5. John Cassian (360-435).
a. Most significant person in Western monasticism since
– 47 –
b. Established two monasteries near Marseilles, France.
c. Compiled the Rule of John Cassian–became the basis of
6. Benedict of Nursia (480-550).
a. Founder of Western monasticism–organized it and gave
it its flavor through the Middle Ages.
b. Born 480 to son of distinguished Italian family;
educated in Rome; disgusted with sensual lifestyle;
holed up in cave outside of Rome for next 25 years.
Cave: Subiaca–swamped by devotees.
c. Developed 12 monasteries of 12 monks each; 1 abbot for
each of them; developed a rule for them.
d. Went South in 525 to avoid internal struggle in ranks
of his followers. Found an abandoned temple–became
Monte Cassion–“headquarters” of Benedictine
monasteries; monasteries were independent but
structured under the Rule of Benedict.
e. Rule of Benedict:
1) Emphasized humility and poverty.
2) Nothing said about a vow of celibacy–indicates
it was probably assumed by this time.
7. Cassiodorus (485-580).
a. In the Roman civil service; retired in 540; went to
Southern Italy and turned family home into a
b. Cassiodorus loved books–collected as many old manu-
scripts, religious or otherwise, as he could; trained
monks to copy books in a scriptorium.
1) Preserved stuff otherwise lost.
2) Developed techniques for copying.
3) Monasteries now become manuscript repositories;
monasteries traded manuscripts to copy.
4) Monasteries eventually become in the Middle Ages
the nearest thing to higher education there was.
X. AUGUSTINE (354-430) AND THE FIFTH CENTURY.
A. Happenings in the Roman Empire:
1. Theodosius was the last emperor of united empire (379-395).
a. Honorius (395-423) a. Arcadius (395-408)
b. John (423-425) b. Theodosius II (408-450)
c. Valentinian III (425-455) c. Marcian (450-457)
2. The Germanic tribes are live threat throughout this period.
a. Visigoths invade Greece briefly in Arcadius’ reign;
led by Alaric, Visigoths go west up the Adriatic;
– 48 –
Stilicho, leader of the Western armies, keeps
Visigoths from further advances by pulling troops out
of the Rhine and Britain.
b. In 406 several Germanic tribes push west; Vandals go
through Gaul into Spain; Honorius feels betrayed by
Stilicho at this latest advance into the empire–
Stilicho is a half-Vandal himself! Stilicho’s army,
keeping Visigoths contained, “allowed” Vandals into
West. Stilico is assassinated.
c. With Stilicho dead his army is confused; Visigoths
push into Italian peninsula; In 409 Visigoths beseige
Rome–first time since Hannibal 625 yrs. earlier that
a foreign army reached gates of Rome!; 500 pounds of
gold given to Visigoths to make them leave; They
return in 410 with the same demands, but Rome is
unable to comply; Rome captured by Visigoths–first
time occupied by foreigners in 800 years!; Alaric dies
in 411 in Southern Italy; troops bury him secretly by
diverting a river, burying him, returning the river to
its normal course.
B. Augustine’s biography:
1. Early life.
a. Born in Tigaste, North Africa, to a patrician family;
oldest of three children; Mother (Monica) is a
Christian, father is not; at 16 sent to Carthage Univ.
b. Monica urged Augustine not to be baptized until he had
sown his wild oats; Monica still has many pagan
concepts; at Carthage Univ. Augustine loses whatever
Christian inclination he had, largely due to mother’s
superstitious view of Christianity.
c. At 17 he takes a mistress and lives with her faith-
fully for 15 years; has one son–Adeodatus; never
records the name of his mistress!
2. Spiritual odyssey.
a. Manichee: Manichees held “gnostic” viewpoint; was a
Manichee for 9 years; Attracted to Manichee
explanation of evil–matter = evil, but leaves it
because it does not explain WHY there is evil.
b. Neo-Platonist: Not fully satisfying either.
3. Conversion to Christianity.
a. Moved to Rome against Monica’s wishes; soon discovered
Rome no better than Carthage.
b. Learns of a teacher vacancy offered by Symmachus, a
pagan in Milan; Monica catches up with him in Milan;
Monica hears Ambrose preach and urges Augustine to
hear him; he does and is impressed–begins to
– 49 –
c. At mother’s urging he throws un-named mistress out,
keeping the son; however he later takes another one!
d. In 386 Augustine is converted under the preaching of
Ambrose; On Easter Sunday he and son are baptized by
Ambrose; returns to Tigaste, North Africa in 387;
becomes a monk and starts a monastery.
e. In 391 while passing through Hippo-Rhegius he is
ordained; 395 made ass’t bishop; becomes bishop in 396
and remains so until his death in 430.
f. Wrote Confessions (ca. 400). Written in form of a
prayer to God; highly influential work.
4. Augustine and Donatist problem.
a. As bishop of Hippo, Augustine took hard line against
the Donatists, attacking them on several counts:
1) Prided themselves on being “the true church”;
rebaptized all in-coming “catholics”; Augustine
showed Donatists not saints they claim to be!
2) Augustine declared Donatists not continuing in
sound doctrine because of narrowness! Developed
a formula for evaluation:
a) “One holy, catholic, apostolic church.”
b) Donatists fail to meet any of 4 adjectives!
3) Catholic church is the true church because of its
a) Begins distinction between visible and in-
b) Paradox: “Church that is w/o spot and blemish
must always pray `forgive our sins.'”
b. 411–Orthodox and Donatist Council.
1) Augustine there, as were 600 bishops–all from
North Africa; indication of church strength then.
2) Many Donatists abandon their position, largely
due to Augustine’s writings.
3) Some Donatists survive until Muslim invasion
C. Augustine and Pelagius.
1. Pelagius, a British monk, arrives in Rome about 410.
a. Finds morally lax atmosphere and blames it on the
teaching of original sin and its determinism.
b. Rejected notion that nature of man is so corrupt that
it cannot obey God; Jesus not just redeemer but
example–“Be ye perfect!”
c. Some suggest Pelagius was a stern moralist, able to
live a rigid lifestyle himself and expected others to
do the same.
d. Pelagius’ teachings encouraged a “self-induced
morality”–a sort of “bootstraps religion.”
– 50 –
2. Pelagius and many others flee to Carthage after Visigoth
invasion of Rome.
a. Here Augustine counters his teaching.
b. The doctrines of total hereditary depravity and
original sin were formed by Augustine in this context.
c. Augustine able to score big points because of the
widespread practice of infant baptism; reasons it is
useless unless original sin is a reality.
3. Splinter parties emerge as a result of this debate:
Yes–tendency to sin
4. Augustine and Sex:
a. Sex itself is evil; desire for children only excuse
for having it.
b. All methods of birth control is bad; position of
church developed out of this thinking; birth control
condones and promotes lust, making sex an end in itself
and nullifying its original purpose.
c. Augustine more strict than Catholic Church; Augustine
would say, “Rhythm method is cheating!”
5. Augustine’s City of God–his most influential work.
a. Grew out of confusion over Visigoth invasion of Rome;
Everyone is asking, “WHY?”
1) Pagans: gods are angry because temples are being
abandoned due to Christian influence.
2) Augustine writes to answer this charge.
3) Begins work in 412, finishes in 427.
b. POINT: Greatness of Rome not due to its gods, but to
God’s purpose for Rome.
1) Rome an earthly city subject to decay like every-
2) The sack of Rome is not an argument against X’ty,
but for it–proves nothing is permanent!
3) The Church/City of God will last forever!
c. Radical shift in Western historiography or under-
standing of history.
1) Greeks: history is cyclical, repeats itself.
2) Augustine: history is linear; starts at a point
and follows God’s purposes; history has meaning!
D. Roman Claims (West).
– 51 –
1. Roman Church gaining prestige during Augustine’s time.
a. Damasus (bishop of Rome, 366-384) in 382 called a
synod at which the phrase “primacy of church at Rome”
used for first time. “The apostolic see” first used
by Damasus also.
b. Innocent I (401-417) thanks the church at Carthage for
informing Rome of a synodal decision.
1) Carthage merely informing Rome.
2) Innocent I misunderstands and commended Carthage
for asking guidance of “The Apostolic See.”
2. Apiarus, Rome, and Carthage.
a. Apiarus, a Carthage priest, was deposed in 417 by a
council; Apiarus appealed to Rome and bishop Zosimus
b. Zosimus, citing Council of Sardica, demands that
Apiarus be reinstated; Zosimus also refers to Nicene
Creed (connected to Council of Sardica); Carthage does
not have the edited copy (done at Sardica).
c. Meanwhile … Zosimus dies; Apiarus repents and is
reinstated at Carthage irrespective of Roman decision.
d. Apiarus falls into same sin a few years later, de-
posed, again appeals to Rome and bishop Celestine I
e. There is a rehearing and Rome decided Apiarus should
be reinstated; Carthage ignores Rome’s claim to have
E. Theological Controversy (East).
1. Situation in the East generally during this period.
a. There are some major theological areas of disagreement
that have been left unresolved.
b. Much of this unrest is intertwined with church
politics which greatly fuel theological discussion.
1) Rome is the only patriarchate in West.
2) In East there is Jerusalem (honorary),
Constantinople, Antioch, and Alexandria which all
strive for dominance.
a. Two bishops figure prominently.
1) Cyril–bishop of Alexandria in 412 (412-444).
2) Nestorius–bishop of Antioch in 428 (428-431).
b. Nestorius concerned about the use of theotokos (God-
bearer) for Mary.
1) If Jesus is God then Mary is the mother of God.
2) Mary cannot be mother of God the Father, but Son.
3) Suggests christotokos (Christ-bearer) instead.
4) Nestorius declared the infant in the cradle was
not deity–it’s just Jesus; adult Jesus is full
deity, not baby–doesn’t say when shift happened.
– 52 –
c. Cyril objects and the 3rd Ecumenical Council is
called–at Ephesus in 431.
1) Called by Theodosius II, emperor in the East.
2) Alexandrian bishops on time, Antiochenes late;
Nestorius refuses to attend; council begins with
anti-Nestorians and Cyril there in strength.
3) Decree that Jesus has 2 natures–divine and human.
4) Nestorianism condemned and Nestorius is deposed
as bishop of Constantinople.
5) 198 bishops are present and they all sign Antioch
is still absent; 4 days later 43 Antioch bishops
arrive and reject the decision, forming a
counter-council that denounced Cyril.
a. Cyril, victorius at Council of Ephesus, pushed the
condemnation of Nestorius to extremes.
1) Acknowledged the 2 natures in the abstract.
2) Declared incarnate Lord had one nature–divine.
b. Eutyches of Constantinople termed this position
1) Similar to Apollonarianism.
2) Much opposition to Monophysitism.
c. 449–another Ephesus council called by Theodosius II.
1) Wife of Theodosius II was sympathetic to mono-
2) Dioscurus (444-454) placed in charge of this
council as a monophysite.
3) Dioscurus brings in a large number of Egyptians
who cause riots in Ephesus; bishop of
Constantinople gets beaten up.
d. Leo of Rome is asked for his position in the
1) Letter of his views sent to council.
2) Being anti-monophysite it was ignored.
3) Leo termed this council latrocinium–“synod of
4) Though called as an ecumenical council, it was
not accepted as one in retrospect.
4. Council of Chalcedon (451).
a. Theodosius II dies, leaving no son; has a sister–
Pulcheria–whoever marries her becomes the emperor.
b. Marcarion wins her–both are opposed to the mono-
physite position–call the Council of Chalcedon.
1) 500 bishops attend–all from East; only 5 from
West, 3 of these from Rome and 2 refugees from
2) Dioscorus deposed.
3) Monophysite position condemned.
4) Letter of Leo read and approved; a statement of
what nature of Christ is not rather than what is.
– 53 –
c. Graph: How the pendulum shifts.
1) Whoever says what the nature of Christ is gets
2) Safest course (cf. Leo) is to state what the
nature is not.
3) Leo condemns BOTH Nestorianism and Monophysitism.
4) Positively, Leo states:
a) Jesus is 100% God (vs. Arius, Nestorius).
b) Jesus is 100% Human (vs. Apoll., Mono.).
c) There is no controversy in affirming Jesus
as “very God” and “very Man.”
5) Leo’s statement becomes orthodoxy!
6) East debates the nature of Christ (Nestorianism
and Monophysitism) while West debates the nature
a) East ….. abstract.
b) West ….. practical.
e. Two canons from Chalcedon:
1) #17: The civic status of a city determines its
2) #28: Constantinople (a.k.a. “New Rome”) has a
status similar to “Old Rome” (revision of an
XI. CELTIC CHRISTIANITY.
A. Beginnings of Celtic Christianity.
1. Background of the Celts.
a. Originate in Eastern Europe and migrate to Western
Europe about 500 B.C.
b. Pre-literate people; no archaeological remains as they
built exclusively with wood.
c. Between 500-400 B.C. Celts over-run most of Europe–
Spain, Gaul, Northern Italy, British Isles.
d. Celts constitute a series of related tribes–not one
– 54 –
2. Christianity in Gaul.
a. In the second century Christianity reached the Rhone
River valley and Lyon; Celts living there impacted.
b. Martin of Tours a prominent figure–known as “Apostle
of Gaul” (mid/late 4th century).
1) Established first monastery (360).
2) Became bishop of Tours (370).
c. Near Marseilles a monastery was established at Lerins
which became the major center of education for Gallic
religious leaders; Eastern monastic influence felt.
3. Christianity in Britain.
a. Venerable Bede ( ), historian of British history,
mentions that King Lucius sent a request to Rome for
missionaries (ca. 167).
1) Likely hagiography as there is no king in England
at this early date.
2) Likely a germ of truth, however, as 167 is a good
date for arrival of Christianity.
b. The Council of Arles (314) had 3 bishops from Britain
(London, York, and ?).
c. Athanasius (325) says British churches accepted the
4. Ninian (360-432).
a. First significant missionary to the Scottish people.
b. Apparently the son of a converted Scottish chieftain;
educated in Rome, returning to Scotland about 400.
c. On return he met Martin of Tours; Ninian established
a monastery because of this–it was called Whithorn.
d. Ninian’s work was not overly successful.
5. Patrick (389-461).
a. Early life is disputed; apparently born in NW England,
son of a deacon named Calpernicus (married clergy?!)
b. Kidnapped by pirates and sold as a slave to Ireland.
c. Had a vision; escaped Ireland; may have gone back to
England or perhaps Gaul.
d. Ends up at Lerins (412-415?); left there and by 432 is
in Ireland as a missionary; Celtic Christianity will
continue with elements of Eastern monasticism for
centuries–Patrick at Lerins is the link!
e. Historical analysis: Part of confusion over Patrick is
the place of Palladius, a monk from Gaul who goes to
Ireland in 431 to combat Pelagianism; some say he went
there to help Patrick, others say he got there before
Patrick and Patrick joined him. NOTE: If Palladius
goes to Ireland to combat Pelagianism there are
Christians there; Patrick may not have started his
ministry from scratch.
f. Patrick established his “see” in Armagh, later it
became the “primal see.”
– 55 –
B. Political Pressures.
1. Roman status.
a. By the early 5th century Rome cannot defend Britain
against the Picts (Scotland).
b. The last Roman officer in Britain revolted against
Rome in 406, took troops to Gaul where he established
a small kingdom.
c. In 409 Britons request Roman protection–denied.
d. Britain begins to recruit soldiers from “Germany”
(Angles, Saxons, Jutes).
2. Angles, Saxons, Jutes.
a. Their recruitment by Britain in the 5th century for
protection against the Picts resulted in a huge
b. A,S,J subdivide Britain into various kingdoms.
1) A septarchy–7 kingdoms.
2) Kent the only Jute kingdom; Canterbury, the
capital of Kent, became dominant.
c. Native population of Britain is virtually wiped out;
Christianity begins to die out; Celts made no attempt
to evangelize the Germans; as Celts die out Britain
reverts to paganism.
d. Ireland is untouched by German migration and
Christianity develops in isolation for at least 150
years; develops some unique forms.
3. Gildas (500-570).
a. The Fall of Britain documents the A,S,J genocide.
b. This document, while not completely reliable, does
contain a solid core of data.
c. Tells of Ambrosius Aurelianus (ca. 450) who rallied
the Celts in SW England; defeats Saxons; British
Christians maintain a pocket in Devonshire. May be
the basis for the Arthur legends.
d. Wales and Devonshire/Cornwall becomes the seed-bed for
later Christian expansion and influence westward.
C. Form of Irish Christianity.
1. Christianity in Ireland: Problem and Solution.
a. The problem:
1) First land area exposed to Christianity that did
not have a base in Roman culture; bound to take
some alternate forms.
2) Cities crucial for Roman X’ty; Rural Ireland
unable to support diocesan form of X’ty.
b. The solution:
1) Adopt a model more appropriate to native locale.
2) Monastery system with abbots/chieftains–abbots
most often chieftains who function as bishops.
– 56 –
2. Shape of Irish Christianity.
a. Some unique forms:
1) Double monastery–both sexes; divided by a thick
wall; these were always headed by an abbess!
2) Celtic monasticism has a definite Eastern flavor,
weird stuff and all (e.g. a monk who did not say
“amen” after grace received 6 lashes.
3) Poverty and solitude valued; hermitism not unknown
4) Peregrinatio, “spiritual wandering” is popular;
St. Brendan allegedly traveled quite far West by
boat (Iceland? Greenland? Nova Scotia?).
1) Public confession of major sins is not the trend;
private confession of all sins to priest is.
2) Put strain on priest to compe up with meaningful
penance; result: The Penitential–list of all
possible sins with the appropriate penance.
3) Sliding scale worked out based on seriousness of
sin, degree of will involved, position in life of
sinner (priest, monk, layman, etc.)
4) Sinner had option of substituting a longer,
milder penance fora shorter, more severe one.
c. Love of books.
1) Illustrated copies of the gospels–e.g. 1st
letter huge, adorned elaborately in fine detail.
2) Fascination with unusual words–made lists of
unique words in Greek texts and other manuscripts
and tried to work them into current usage.
3) In the 7th and 8th centuries Celtic Christianity is
the intellectual high mark of all Europe.
d. Tonsure–arrangement and length of hair.
1) Roman X’ian tonsure bald on top, hair on sides.
2) Celtic tonsure shaved everything on back half of
head behind the ears.
3) In late 6th and early 7th Roman X’ty re-enters
England and customs collide–2 forms become focus
of ridicule and friction.
e. Easter–when to celebrate it?
1) Celtics accepted European form on 84 yr. cycle.
2) Ireland (in isolation) kept this form; in 455
Rome changed from an 84 yr. cycle to 18 yr.
cycle. When Roman missionaries arrive later they
have a problem. Rome argues her authority over
3. Columban (521-597).
a. Irish monk, became monastic leader–bibliophile in
extreme; made copy of every book he could get.
b. Story: A visitor from Jerusalem arrived at his
monastery with a book about Jerusalem; placed it in
the library while he was there. Columban asked
– 57 –
permission to copy it. Was refused. Copied it
secretly. Venerable Bede records that a monk saw him
and reported him to the abbot. Visitor demanded to
keep both copies. Matter brought before a local wise
man–“just as calf goes with cow, so book with copy.
Columban angry and tells clan which attacks abbot of
monastery and his clan–3,000 killed. Columban later
repents and vows to convert one soul for each one
killed. Recruits 12 others and goes to Scotland,
establishing a monastery on island of Iona in 563.
This becomes the foot-hold for spread of Christianity
to Scotland and Northumbria.
4. Columbanus (550-615).
a. Same name as Columban–some variations (cf. above).
b. Wandering Irish monk who goes to Gaul in 590 and
established several monasteries.
1) Outspoken in condemning local morality.
2) Often forced to move; each time he moved he
planted a new monastery.
c. Roman Christianity adopted the Irish penitential
system through this influence; when Irish Christianity
became extinct with the Viking destruction of
monasteries, the penitential system lived on!
XII. CHRISTIANITY AND THE GERMAN TRIBES.
A. Early German activity.
1. Work of Ulfilas.
a. Consecrated for work among the Goths at Council of
Antioch in 341.
b. Goths eventually accepted Christianity; spread to
other Germanic peoples through them.
c. Arian form of Christianity was what was passed on.
d. Visigoths, Vandals, Burgundians, Lombards all come
into empire as heretic Christians.
2. Germanic migrations.
a. At least 3 major tribal groups migrated westward out
of Russia beginning about 500 B.C.
b. May have been pushed westward by the Huns; by 372 the
Huns coming through are definitely pushing Goths and
a. After the invasion of Italy, the Visigoths come out of
Italy in 411 and meet Vandals moving from the Rhine to
b. Visigoths eventually move into France and Spain,
settling mostly in Spain.
– 58 –
a. Tracing their migration:
1) Move from Rhine to Pyrenees about 411.
2) Cross from Spain to Africa in 429.
3) At the gates of Hippo-Rhegius in 430; as
Augustine lays dying city besieged by Vandals.
4) Attack Rome from Carthage in 455.
1) Vandals are narrow-minded, bigoted Arian
Christians hostile to Catholic Christianity.
2) Churches of North Africa never fully recover from
the Vandal onslaught and its aftermath.
a. Filter into Gaul behind first the Vandals, then the
b. Cross Rhine about 413; much of the basis for Wagner’s
tale of the rings comes from this Burgundian movement.
c. Eventually settle in Switzerland, SE France.
d. Gundobad (480-516), king of the Burgundians who are
1) Early 6th century issues a compilation of Bur-
gundian law applying to his people; Roman law
applicable to natives.
2) Allows inter-marriage with other peoples; one of
more tolerant tribes in this regard.
3) Several princesses convert to Catholic X’ty.
4) Gundobad’s son and successor converts to Catholic
X’ty in 516–first of Germanic kings to do so.
1) Move into Netherlands about 350; enrolled as a
Federatae; move into France in early 5th century.
2) Come into empire as heathens–too far north (like
the Angles, Saxons, Jutes) to be reached by X’ty
from other tribes.
3) Made no distinction between themselves and the
4) Rome favors the Franks because they were not
tainted with Arian teachings; this resulted in
the Franco-Papal alliance and later the Holy
b. Clovis (481-511).
1) In 492/493 he marries Chlotilde, a Burgundian
Catholic Christian, niece of Gundobad.
2) Chlotilde moved Clovis toward faith.
3) In 495 Clovis faced an important battle and vowed
to become a X’ian if he won; he did and became a
X’ian in 496.
4) Most of the Franks become Christians through
Chlotilde and Clovis.
– 59 –
1. Emperor Honorius (395-423).
a. At his death in 423 John rules (423-425), then
Valentian III (425-455)–a nephew of Honorius.
b. By this time the Roman empire has largely been
reduced to the Italian peninsula.
2. Rome meets Attila the Hun.
a. Aetius (d. 455) becomes ruler of Roman armies; his
mother is a Hun, father Roman.
1) Because of this Hun association, Attila demands
sister of Valentinian as his bride.
2) He was refused.
b. Attila invaded Europe and Roman and Germanic tribes
unite to fight him.
1) 451–Battle of Chalons–after one week the Huns
are defeated and pushed back.
2) Rather than go East they turn toward Italy.
c. Leo I (bishop of Rome) goes North with a small group
of bureaucrats and bodyguards to negotiate with
Attila to stay out of Italy.
1) Attila accepts a payment of gold and leaves.
2) Attila leaves for three reasons:
b) Fear of being bottled up by Aetius’ army.
c) Knew Rome unhealthy in Summer–malaria.
d. Valentinian II assassinates Aetius in 455 because he
is half-Hun and he distrusts him; Valentinian III is
killed because of this.
3. Next three Roman Emperors (West).
a. Ricimer (456-472).
b. Romulus Augustulus (475-476).
c. Odovacer (476-493).
1) Displaced Romulus Augustulus.
2) Sent the crown of the emperor to Constantinople
saying, “We don’t need this.”
3) The “fall of Roman empire” is usually dated at
476 because of this.
1. Zeno (474-491).
a. Monophysite teaching lives on despite condemnation.
b. Presented a problem to emperors who are afraid the
religious division will lead to political division.
c. Zeno, in 482, issued a decree of union, also known as
1) Unsuccessful attempt to ignore last two councils.
2) Reaffirmed creeds of Nicaea and Const’ple, ignored
next two (Ephesus and Chalcedon) to avoid conflict.
– 60 –
3) Any definitive statement about the nature of
Christ is avoided.
4) Bishop of Rome refused to sign the Henoticon as
it condoned heresy by refusing to accept the
formulations of Ephesus and Chalcedon.
d. Resulted in the Acacian Schism (482-519).
1) Felix III splits with Acacius, bishop of
2) Henoticon is the issue.
3) Temporary schism.
2. Ostrogoths (475-526).
a. Ostrogoths = “east goths”; Ruled by Theodoric, an
1) Zeno, emperor in East, sends Ostrogoths to
destroy Odovacer in West.
2) By 493 he had captured all of Italy except for
Ravenna, Odovacer’s capital; besieges it,
Odovacer surrenders, truce is planned; Odovacer
killed in celebration.
b. Theodoric rules Italy (493-526) with enlightened
tolerance–no persecution of orthodox Christians.
1) Romans run government.
2) Ostrogoths man the army.
c. Theodoric involved in “marriage diplomacy.”
1) Married a sister of Franks’ ruler.
2) Gave his sister to king of Vandals.
3) Gave his daughter to king of Visigoths.
4) Gave another daughter to king of Burgundians.
d. 523–Theodoric learns that Justin is planning an anti-
1) Orders John I (bishop of Rome) to Constantinople
to soften Justin’s plans.
2) John I is unsuccessful; Theodoric imprisons him
3) Theodoric dies that same year.
e. Arianism is still held in the West by Vandals and
1) By the end of 6th century Visigoths convert to
orthodox (Catholic) Christianity.
2) 589–3rd Council of Toledo–death-knell of
Arianism in the West.
XIII. JUSTINIAN AND THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE.
A. Eastern Developments.
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1. Theological issues in the East at this time:
a. Nestorians are sliding from the scene.
b. Monophysites are still strong in three regions:
2. Eastern politics:
a. Zeno dies in 491; no son, but Ariadrie is widow.
1) People of Constantinople want emperor who is a
strong Chalcedonian ruler.
2) Demanded an orthodox Roman emperor.
b. Anastasius I (491-518).
1) Ariadrie marries Anastasius I–he meets these
qualifications; he is 60 years old.
a) Lives on for 27 years!
b) Begins as a strong Chalcedonian; drifts to
a more tolerant stance characteristic of
Zeno–this done out of desire for unity.
c) Encouraged the Monophysites.
2) Chariot races in Hippodrome, Constantinople.
a) Factions w/i chariot racers–known by their
b) 2 dominant ones–blues and greens (whites &
reds less dominant).
c) Blues: represented aristocratic, Chalcedon-
ian orthodoxy; Greens: represent lower
classes who side with Monophysites.
d) All Constantinople sided with one of these
two teams–often resulted in street riots.
3) As Anastasius leaned toward more moderate
position, his life was threatened; survived
several attempts on his life; died in July 519.
c. Justin I (518-527).
1) Originally from Illyria (Yugoslavia); illiterate
peasant who joined army and rose through ranks.
2) Wife Euphemia had been his slave and concubine
before he married her.
3) Succeeded by nephew Justinian.
B. Justinian (527-565).
1. End of Acacian Schism.
a. Justinian had vision of re-establishing Roman empire.
b. First step: unify the Eastern and Western churches.
c. “Formula of Union” adopted with bishop of Rome.
1) Clear statement: Church of Rome is supreme
tribunal of all questions of faith and dogma.
2) Said of Rome: One apostolic church in which true
apostolic faith has been kept in keeping with
– 62 –
2. Theodora (500-547).
a. Procopius, historian, was laudatory of Justinian and
1) Procopius also wrote The Secret History which did
not circulate until after his death.
2) Filled with attacks on several people, including
Justinian and Theodora.
b. OF THEODORA: Child of bear-keeper in circus (synon-
ymous with immorality); had a least one illegitimate
child; became mistress of Libyan governor; practiced
prostitution to get back to Constantinople; meet
Justinian and marries him eventually; Euphemia, the
current empress, refuses to allow this marriage–done
after her death according to Procopius; Theodora
became paragon of loyalty and faithfulness; all agree
on her outstanding beauty; at one point established a
reformatory for prostitutes.
c. 532–Theodora saved Justinian’s life.
1) Usual chariot races in Constant’ple–with riots.
a) Charioteers arrested–one man from each
party is condemned to die as punishment.
b) Before verdict is carried out, mob reclaimed
two men and put them in sanctuary in church.
c) Gov’t besieged the church and the people
d) Emperor besieged in his palace.
2) Theodora shamed Justinian into calling out troops
who cleared the streets killing 30,000 resisters.
3) During riot the church building burned; rebuilt
as Hagia Sophia–great architectural wonder.
3. Justinian is the significant emperor in the East in this
a. Renamed the Byzantine Empire.
1) Byzas–name of Greek trader who originally
established settlement known as “Byzantium.”
2) Became Constantinople in 330.
b. Other accomplishments:
1) Completed a revised law code–Justinian Code.
2) Reformed the army (made them “lean and mean”).
3) Reformed government bureaucracy.
4) Re-minted coinage.
5) Raised taxes and established effective means for
6) Kept peace with Persian Empire by paying yearly
4. Reconquest of the West.
a. Justinian’s concern is not just to reconquer West but
to do so for orthodox Christianity as Germanic peoples
who control West at this time are Arian.
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b. Planned to attack North Africa first, then Sicily,
Italy, and Europe.
1) Hildaric on the throne in N. Africa; in 530 some
dissidents (under Gelimer) depose Hildaric and
2) This gives Justinian the excuse to invade to
restore the rightful ruler.
3) 533–16,000 men invade–unprecedented amphibious
4) Gelimer completely taken by surprise; kills
5) Dec. 533–decisive battle which defeats Vandals.
c. Theodoric dies in 526; soon followed by Amalasuntha,
mother of Theodoric’s 8 yr. old grandson.
1) Amalasuntha killed; Justinian’s excuse to invade.
2) 535–Sicily falls quickly.
3) Campaign to take Italy takes 18 yrs. and greatly
taxes strength of Byzantine Empire.
a) Southern Italy, Naples fall quickly.
b) By time reaches Rome things slow down; there
is offensive/counter-offensive and Rome
changes hands 7 times.
c) Italy ravaged–put it back into Stone Age.
d) Justinian ultimately wins, but the Byzantine
Empire is greatly weakened.
5. Church-State Relations.
a. West is developing idea that church is independent of
state and superior to it.
b. Eastern Church has much closer Church-State relations.
1) “Isapostolos”–title given Constantine–equal to
2) Eastern emperors maintained a virtual theocracy.
3) Early councils were all called by emperors (this
determined whether or not they were ecumenical).
c. Caesaropapaism–“Caesar and Pope.”
1) Term came into use during Justinian’s time.
2) Patriarch of Constantinople still exists;
functions as “Secretary of Religion” and is
subject to appointment.
3) Clear understanding in the East that the Church
is subject to the State–not same understanding
in the West.
6. Justinian and Paganism.
a. A few centers of pagan religion have survived,
particularly in Greece.
b. 529–Justinian closed last classical school in Athens.
c. To be a teacher one must now be orthodox Christian;
pagan teachers go East into more tolerant Persia.
d. Pagan thought–cf. Aristotle and mathematics–highly
influences Moslem world (and ours–Arabic numerals).
– 64 –
a. Justinian was a Chalcedonian; in 527 he applied
stringent measures against Monophysitism; soon began
to back off (529).
1) Theodora a firm Monophysite; likely influenced
2) Theodora evidently quite influential–in 530s she
subsidized Monophysite cause with state money.
b. In 535 the Patriarch of Constantinople died; Justinian
chose Anthimus–sympathetic to Monophysites.
1) Stalwart Chalcedonians not happy.
2) About same time Agapetus, bishop of Rome, comes
to Constantinople on other business.
3) Persuaded Justinian to replace Anthimus with a
Chalcedonian patriarch; Justinian sees this as
politically helpful in light of his plans to
4) Agapetus dies while in Constantinople of natural
causes; Ostrogoth ruler in Rome appoints new
bishop, Silverius (536-537).
5) Theodora tries to get Vigilius elected–he
promised to support Monophysitism; Vigilius goes
to Rome and in 537 replaces Silverius.
6) Once installed, Vigilius is a firm Chalcedonian;
Theodora seeks revenge.
c. In 532 Jacob, a Monophysite, becomes bishop of Odessa.
1) Goes to Syria and begins a good work.
2) Does job so well that there are Syrian Jacobites
in existence today.
d. 540s–“Lesser Monophysites” attack Chalcedon on
1) Willing to accept Christological statement.
2) However, must ban writings of other “closet
Nestorians” approved by Chalcedon.
a) Theodore of Mopsuestian (350-428).
b) Theodore of Cyrruhus (393-458).
c) Ibas of Edessa (435-457–bishop dates).
3) If emperor condemns these writings the Lesser
Monophysites agree to live with Christology of
4) 546–Justinian prepares “Edict of 3 Chapters” and
these three men and their writings are condemned.
a) Commands Vigilius to come to Constantinople
and approve edict.
b) Theodora encourages this to get back at
Vigilius; he refuses to come.
c) Italian bishops not interested in condemning
the works of these three men.
d) Vigilius eventually arrested and brought to
e) 548–Vigilius forced to approve edict; West
protests; he backs off and suggests council.
– 65 –
8. Fifth Ecumenical Council (553).
a. Second Council of Constantinople.
1) Vigilius refuses to be a part of this council.
2) Only 160 bishops arrive.
3) Duly condemns work of the three theologians.
4) Vigilius stoutly declares he will not condemn
them; jailed again.
b. When Vigilius finally consents, he is returned to
1) Vigilius dies in Sicily on return trip–555.
2) Justinian chooses a new bishop of Rome–offers
Pelagius the position if he accepts the decisions
of the 5th Council; Has difficulty with other
c. By the time Justinian dies, Syria, Armenia, and Egypt
had refused religious leadership of Byzantine Empire.
XIV. GREGORY THE GREAT.
A. Empire affairs.
1. Justin II (565-578).
a. Followed Justinian; poor ruler; strongly orthodox and
b. By 572 Justin II is persecuting Monophysites.
2. Ongoing problems with Persians in the East and with peoples
along the Danube River.
a. These peoples:
1) Lombards (West) …… Germanic and Arian.
2) Gepids (West) …….. Germanic and Arian.
3) Avars (East) ……… Asiatic.
b. Justin II had Lombards and Avars eliminate Gepids;
Avars strengthen and push Lombards into the empire.
c. Justin II allows Lombards to move west toward Italy.
d. Justinian’s efforts at reconquest of the West are
erased when Lombards take Northern Italy (Po River
Valley) in 571.
e. Italy will be fighting the Lombards for next 200 yrs.
1) Theological problems (Arianism vs. orthodoxy).
2) Ethnic problems (Germanic presence).
3) Economic problems (more war ravages).
B. Gregory the Great and His Times.
1. Early life of Gregory the Great.
a. Born in Rome in 540; direct descendent of Felix III;
family included Boethius; grew up Ostrogoth struggle.
b. Attacked the study of classical Latin writers.
c. 573–becomes city prefect of Rome (“mayor”); very year
the Lombards threaten the city.
1) Had widespread civil authority (100 mile radius).
2) Responsible for food supplies; water and sewer.
– 66 –
2. Gregory’s career as a diplomat.
a. Could have risen far in civil government; 575 father
dies and he abandons political career.
b. Gregory gave away his immense wealth, established six
monasteries and became a monk.
c. 578–ordained deacon by bishop of Rome.
d. 579–Pelagius II sends him on a mission to Const’nple;
purpose: convince East to send money and troops to
defend against the Lombards.
e. Stays in Constantinople for six years; returns in 586
and learns that East is unable to help.
3. Gregory’s career as a churchman.
a. 590–Plague devastates Rome.
1) Bishop of Rome–Pelagius II–dies and Gregory is
elected new bishop of Rome.
2) Must still be approved by Constantinople; elected
in Feb. but receives confirmation in late Summer.
3) Plague continues: In April Gregory organizes pen-
itential effort to induce God to remove plague.
As procession moves through Rome it reaches
Hadrian’s tomb. Later legend tells of a vision
of archangel Michael sheathing his sword and
ceasing plague. An angel now rests on top of
b. Gregory as bishop of Rome is major transition from
early church to the Middle Ages.
1) Gregory, practically, is the first pope; he
represents the power of the papacy in the modern
2) Gregory’s accomplishments regarding Rome and the
a) Provides food supply when local government
b) Collects taxes and distributes funds in the
absence of government (this is done because
Lombards have cut off Ravenna, capital city,
from rest of Italy).
c) 595–Gregory arranges a peace with Lombards;
peace lasts for 100 years.
d) Gregory ends up being a power broker because
of Byzantine govt’s inability to do so.
4. Ways in which Gregory exercises leadership.
a. Church Administrator.
1) Does same sorts of things he did as “mayor” of
Rome earlier in his career.
2) Handles revenues of Church’s vast real estate
holdings and commercial interests.
– 67 –
1) Used church officials to oversee clergy affairs–
acting as metropolitan of all Italy.
2) Central Italy drawn together largely under his
3) Constantly asserts Rome’s claims to universal
4) Concerned about orthodoxy:
a) Urges Egyptian bishops to suppress Donatism.
b) Keeps a Lombard/Arian from becoming bishop
c) 602–newly born son of king and queen of the
Lombards receives orthodox baptism and is
c. Relationship with Constantinople.
1) Italy is still a part of Byzantine empire.
2) Gregory believes Rome is chief over all churches,
East and West; bishops everywhere subject to Rome.
3) 588–problem develops–John the Faster, in East
at Constantinople, assumes title, “Ecumenical
Patriarch”; when Gregory becomes bishop in 590 he
protests. Much bitterness between the two.
4) Gregory acknowledges Eastern ruler’s civil
authority; is respectful and diplomatic.
d. Relationship with Western Rulers.
1) Referred to rulers of Franks, Burgundians, etc.
as “sons”; gave them orders; did not do this to
2) Gregory had become convinced the future of the
Church is with the West and not East (learned
during 6 years at Const’nple.
e. Evangelization of England.
1) Tradition: Gregory loved puns. Walking through
the Roman marketplace saw handsome men being sold
as slaves. Asked, was told they were Angles.
“They are not Angles, but angels!” What country?
Deira. “De ira, saved from wrath” (literal
meaning). Who is their king? Aella. “Ah,
2) Early in his career Gregory set out for England;
stopped to eat lunch; locust jumped on page of
his book. Locust = locu sta (“stay in your
place”); messenger arrives telling him of death
of Pelagius II and that he was needed in Rome.
3) 596–sent an Augustine with 12 monks to England
to do missionary work.
a) Bertha, daughter of Frankish king, marries
Ethelbert, king of Kent.
b) Augustine is able to build on Bertha’s
c) Spring 597–Ethelbert converts and many
others; SE England rapidly evangelized.
– 68 –
4) England now brought into Roman orbit.
a) Christianity still present in the Western
b) Augustine learns of this and makes contact;
meet at Wessex.
c) Western Christians are surprised at Rome’s
claim of authority over them.
d) Celtic Christians and Roman Christians are
not united until 664.
e) Roman-oriented English Christianity later
influenced continental Christianity and its
relation to Rome during the Middle Ages.
5. Gregory the Great’s diverse roles.
1) Gregory signed all his letters, “Gregory, servant
of the servants of God.”
2) Wrote THE PASTORAL RULE on how to be a good
bishop; widely read through the Middle Ages.
3) Shed a positive light on Rome.
1) Wrote biography of Benedict.
2) Former monk; established at least 7 monasteries.
3) 593–Lombards attack Monte Cassino; monks flee to
Rome; Gregory learns of Benedict from these
monks, some of whom knew him personally.
4) 596–Augustine leaves for England and a
Benedictine monastery is established.
5) Gregory put monasteries under papal jurisdiction.
1) Has a reputation as a theologian although he is
not a deep intellectual.
2) Understood theology as practical application.
3) Favors veneration of relics–stresses the need
to determine their authenticity.
4) First Western theologian to make a significant
point about purgatory (idea is already current).
C. Transition to the Middle Ages.
1. Gregory was a transition figure to Middle Ages.
a. Gregory contributes to the step backward intellect-
ually by his lack of emphasis on academics and his
focus on pastoral concerns.
b. Faithful to Augustinian corpus of theology and passes
it on with little variation; beginning of “dogma to be
believed, not faith to be understood!”
2. Gregory’s confidence in doctrine, dogma and authority is
typical of the Medieval Church.
[Roddy Chestnut; 147 Green Acres Dr.; Stafford, VA 22554; 703-659-2456 (office).]