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The Christian Chronology – 2nd Century Mail Stones

Early Christianity
1012 - TL2

105 – c born. Died 165.

107- 3rd Persecution of Christians, under Trajan (98-117), Ignatius of Antioch martyred in Rome. According to Severus, after Trajan discovered that Christians were guilty of no great crimes, he forbade any additional cruelty against them. Ignatius stressed the role of the local bishop as the focus of unity. He claimed that the bishop was God’s representative on earth. By Ignatius’ time, the churches of Asia Minor were ruled by monarchial bishops, assisted by presbyters and deacons. In a letter to the Ephesians, Ignatius wrote, “Be ye subject to the Bishop and Presbytery … For even Jesus Christ, our inseparable Life, is the manifest Will of the Father; as also Bishops, to the uttermost bounds of the earth, are so by the will of Jesus Christ.” Ignatius is the first writer known to apply the adjective Catholic to the Church: “Where so ever the bishop shall appear, there let the people also be: as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” (Smyrneans.)

From various letters (written around the year 107):

  • On the deity of Christ: “…being united and chosen through his true passion, according to the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ our God.” (Ephesians) “There is one physician, both fleshly and spiritual, made and not made; God incarnate; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible, then impassible; even Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Ephesians.) “…God himself appearing in the form of a man, for the renewal of eternal life.” (Ephesians)
  • On the identity of the Son and the Logos: “God has manifested himself by Jesus Christ his Son; who is his eternal word.” (Magnesians.)
  • On the Trinity: “Be subject to your bishop, and to one another, as Jesus Christ to the Father, according to the flesh: and [as] the Apostles [were subject] both to Christ, and to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost.” (Magnesians.)
  • On baptism: “For our God Jesus Christ … was born and baptized, that through his passion he might purify water, to the washing away of sin.” (Ephesians.)
  • On the eucharist: “… obeying your bishop and the presbytery with an entire affection; breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality; our antidote that we should not die, but live forever in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians.)  “I desire the bread of God which is the flesh of Jesus Christ (of the seed of David), and the drink that I long for is his blood, which is incorruptible love.” (Romans.) “For there is but one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ; and one cup in the unity of his blood; one altar…” (Philadelphians.)
  • On Sunday: “For if we still continue to live according to the Jewish law, we do confess ourselves not to have received grace. … no longer observing Sabbaths, but keeping the Lord’s day in which also our life is sprung up by him…” (Magnesians.)

Ignatius was martyred under Trajan’s persecution in 107. He warned influential Christians in Rome not to try to obtain his release from prison. That would deprive him of suffering in union with the Lord. In his Ecclesiastical History (Book VI, Chapter 8), Socrates reported that Ignatius introduced responsive chants into the church in Antioch after a vision of angels “hymning in alternate chants the Holy Trinity.” We know from the second century account The Martyrdom of Ignatios that Ignatius’ relics were revered, even at that early date. For there it is written, “only the harder portions of his holy remains were left, which were conveyed to Antioch and wrapped in linen, as an inestimable treasure left to the holy Church by the grace which was in the martyr.”

Hegesippus (see 170 below) related that Simeon, son of Clopas, when 120 years of age, suffered martyrdom under Trajan. Simeon, reportedly, was a son of the Lord’s uncle, and had been bishop after James the Just. Hegesippus also indicated that it was about this time that the heretics moved with vigor to corrupt the Church, the last of the apostles having died. He also listed many of these heretical groups: the Simoniani, Cleobiani, Dorithiani, Gortheani, Masbothaei, Menandrianists, Marcionites, Carpocratians, Valentinians, Basilidians, and Saturnalians – many of whom were resisted by second century apologists such as Irenaeus and Hippolytus.

110 – Marcion, leader of a heretical sect, born. Died 165. Marcion rejected the Old Testament God, the creator of this miserable world, and hence he rejected the Old Testament also. He believed it impossible that Jesus, the redeemer of mankind, had been born of a woman. Papias, bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, lived in this era. He is the source of the tradition that Mark’s gospel was based on Peter’s testimony. Papias was a chiliast . Eusebius of Caesarea was of the opinion that Papias learned his millennialism from a certain John the presbyter. According to this view, others (including Irenaeus – see 177 below) understood Papias – incorrectly – to have gotten his view from the apostle John, and so were convinced there would be a literal millennium.

112 – Pliny the Younger (61/62 – 113), governor of Bithynia, wrote a letter to the emperor Trajan. He stated that the Christians “are accustomed on a stated day to meet before daylight, to sing antiphonally a hymn to Christ as to God, and to bind themselves by a sacrament not to commit any wickedness.”

115 – Trajan narrowly survived an earthquake that devastated Antioch.

115 – Revolt of the Jews of Cyrene.

116 – Hadrian expelled the Jews from Cyprus after suppressing their revolt, in which many (traditionally 240,000) Greek inhabitants of the island were massacred.

118 -  4th Persecution of Christians, under the emperor Hadrian (117-138). According to Severus, Hadrian set up “images of demons” on the temple mount and Golgotha. Hadrian also set guards to prevent Jews from approaching Jerusalem.

122-7 – Building of Hadrian’s wall.

124 – The anonymous Epistle to Diognetus, an apology for Christianity written to a pagan, “my lord Diognetus.” The author made it plain that the Word is not “some servant of” God’s, or “some angel or prince.” In fact, the Word was God: “as God he sent him, as man to men he sent him” who was “the artificer and constructor” of creation. The author contrasts the “transient flame” of martyrdom Christians sometimes experience with the unending torment those who have been unable to see through “the deceit and error of this world” will endure.

125 – Papyrus 52 was written around this time. It is the oldest extant New Testament fragment, containing parts of John 18:31-33 and 37-38.

126 – Quadratus wrote an apology for the Christian faith, addressed to the emperor Hadrian (as did Aristides around the same time). In his apology, Quadratus mentioned that some of those healed by Jesus were still living.

127-42 – Ptolemy, an astronomer, geographer, and mathematician flourished in Alexandria. His earth-centered model of the universe held the field until 1542, when Copernicus supplied a solar-centered model. Ptology’s estimate of the earth’s circumference was 30 percent below the actual value.

130 (132?) – The emperor Hadrian (117-138) rebuilt Jerusalem, calling it Aelia Capitolina (after himself – Aelius Hadrian). He erected a temple to Jupiter there. A special tax was levied on the Jews to pay for the upkeep of the temple Jupiter Capitolinus.

130 – A certain Aquila produced a new, very literal Greek translation of the Old Testament. Aquila was a disciple of the Rabbi Akiba and a proselyte to Judaism. The purpose of his translation was to supplant the Septuagint. (Incidentally, Rabbi Akiba supported Bar-Kochba, believing that he fulfilled Messianic prophecies.)

130 – The Epistle of Barnabas  was written sometime between the fall of Jerusalem (70) and this date. Known only in a Latin version for most of history, the complete Greek text was brought to light in 1859 with the discovery of Codex Sinaiticus. The epistle explains Old Testament events and practices in an allegorical manner, applying them to Christ and the Church. Barnabas identifies the one who became incarnate for our salvation with him to whom God said, “Let us make man in our image.”

135 – Another Jewish rebellion began, this one led by Bar- Kochba. According to Justin, “In the recent Jewish war, Bar-Kochba … ordered that only the Christians should be subjected to dreadful torments, unless they renounced and blasphemed Jesus Christ.”

136 – Second conquest and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. More than 500,000 put to the sword. The emperor Hadrian forbade the Jews to return to the Jerusalem, and they dispersed over the earth.  In this year the Alexandrian philosopher Valentinus, a baptized Christian, but Gnostic thinker, moved to Rome. He left the Christian community in 140, when another was chosen bishop of Rome. After departing Rome around 160, Valentinus continued to develop his religious philosophy, reportedly writing The Gospel of Truth. His system, like other Gnostic views, supposed a fundamental dualism between good and evil and salvation through gnosis. He was refuted by Irenaeus and Hippolytus. Basilides was another Gnostic philosopher from Alexandria. The school he founded, known as the Basilidians, still existed in Alexandria in the fourth century. Basilidians are thought to be the first to celebrate Jesus’ baptism on January 6 (or Jan 10), keeping an all-night vigil. Basilides used the term “Abraxas” (thought to have magical significance) for God.

Still another Gnostic group saw Simon Magus (Acts 8.9-24) as the true God or Father. God had generated the first thought (Ennoia) to create the angels, who, in turn, were to create the universe. Through jealousy, the angels imprisoned Ennoia in human flesh, and she was doomed to transmigrate to a new body upon the death of the old one. To free her, God had entered creation in the form of Simon, and he offered salvation to mankind in exchange for their recognition of his deity. Mithraism became increasingly popular within the Roman empire, particularly among soldiers, from around this year. In 307, Diocletian dedicated a temple to Mithra at Carnuntum on the Danube. Mithra was a sun god, and his faith emphasized loyalty to the emperor. After the emperors became Christians, Mithraism faded. Mithra had been the most important Persian god prior to Zoroaster’s time. Mithric sanctuaries were caverns. Only men attended the ceremonies of this faith, and there was, apparently, no religious hierarchy.

140 – Justin Martyr wrote his Apology to the emperor Antonius Pius (138-61). He gave a description of the Sunday service:

  • “On the day called the Feast of the Sun, all who live in towns or in the country assemble in one place, and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the Prophets are read as time permits. Then, when the reader has ended, the President instructs and encourages the people to practice the truths contained in the Scripture lections. Thereafter, we all stand up and offer prayers together … 
  • “Our prayers being ended, we salute one another with a kiss. Then bread, and a cup of wine mixed with water, are brought to him who presides over the brethren. He, taking them, offers praise and glory to the Father of all through the Name of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and giving thanks at great length for that we have been counted worthy to receive these gifts from God; and when he finishes the prayers and thanksgivings all the people present cry aloud, Amen. Amen in the Hebrew tongue means, So be it. 
  • “After the President has given thanks and all the people have said Amen, those among us who are called deacons give to all present, sharing it among them, the bread and wine mixed with water over which thanks has been given, and carry it also to those who are absent. And this food is called eucharist by us, of which it is not right for any one to partake save only he who believes that the things taught by us are true, and is washed with the washing that is for the forgiveness of sins and regeneration, and so lives as Christ commanded us.”

Justin rejected pagan mythology, but respected Greek philosophy. He believed in free will, and so was critical of the Gnostic doctrine that predestination was independent of morality. He also believed that the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy was a strong proof that Jesus is the Messiah, and so rejected Marcion’s negative view of the Jewish scriptures. Justin believed in a literal thousand-year reign of Christ on earth, accepting the canonicity and literal interpretation of the Apocalypse.

Justin viewed baptism as a bath of repentance and knowledge of God, through which the Spirit is imparted, a replacement for circumcision, and the doorway to the remission of sins. The eucharist is the new sacrifice foretold by Malachi. He interpreted the words “Do this” to mean “offer this.” He associated the eucharist with Christ’s passion and he believed in the Real Presence: “We do not receive these as common bread or common drink. But just as our Savior Jesus Christ was made flesh through the Word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food that has been eucharistized by the word of prayer from Him (that food which by process of assimilation nourishes our flesh and blood) is the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus.”

Justin regarded the Septuagint as the only reliable Old Testament text. He viewed Mary as the antithesis of Eve. Our fall was through a disobedient virgin, but our salvation is through an obedient one.
140 – Aristo of Pella wrote his Disputation of Papiscus and Jason, a dialogue between a Jew and a Christian regarding the truth of the Christian faith. This work is now known only through second-hand references.

144 – Marcion (see 110) excommunicated by the presbyters in Rome. Marcion, a wealthy shipper, had donated 22,000 sesterces to the church in Rome. It was returned to him as he left.

155 – Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, visited Rome and found the Romans did not celebrate Easter as it was done in the East (see year 190). This was when Anicetus was bishop of Rome.

157 Polycarp was burned at the stake in Smyrna. A year later, the anniversary of Polycarp’s martyrdom was celebrated. The first “saint’s day” thus began.

157 Montanus, leader of a heretical sect, flourished. He was a Phrygian. Together with two women, Prisca and Maximilla, he entered ecstatic states and spoke as moved by the Holy Spirit. They were chiliast, believing that the New Jerusalem would land in Phrygia. They taught that disagreement with their ecstatic utterances was blasphemy against the Spirit. The sect he founded continued to exist at least until 722.

160 – By this year, the grave of Peter was marked by a shrine. The annual celebration of Easter may have began in Rome around this year (see 190). It had been celebrated in Asia Minor much earlier. Tertullian was born. He died in roughly 230. Claudius Apollinaris bishop of Hierapolis in Asia (160-180). Apollinaris related that an army of the Emperor Antoninus (Marcus Aurelius) (161-180) was sent rain on account of the prayers of Christians, while the enemy force was struck by lightning bolts. Apollinaris also remarked that the Lord was crucified on the Passover, the 14th of Nisan, not on the day after. The Last Supper, he stated, occurred before the Passover, as John relates (John 13.1). During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, a certain Alexander the Paphlagonian generated a mystery spectacle involving a holy serpent named Glycon.

165 – Death of Justin Martyr. Tatian. Sometime before Justin’s death, a native of Mesopotamia (called an Assyrian) named Tatian converted to Christianity after an investigation into philosophy. His conversion may have occurred in Rome, where he met Justin. Tatian authored a harmony of the gospels, known as the Diatessaron, and an apologetic Address to the Greeks. After Justin’s death, Tatian became enamored of an ascetic Gnostic sect known as the Encratites, or the “self-controlled,” which had apparently arisen about the year 166. Tatian moved to Antioch and attracted disciples to this heresy until his death in 172.

165-180 – The Plague of Antoninus. Smallpox was introduced into the western part of the Roman Empire, possibly by Roman soldiers. According to Galen, one-fourth to one-third of the population of Italy died of smallpox during this period.

167 – According to the Venerable Bede, the bishop of Rome, Eleutherus, received a request for baptism from a British king in this year.

168 -Theophilus (died 181 or 188) became bishop of Antioch. Though reportedly the author of commentaries on the gospels and the book of Proverbs, his sole surviving work is apologetic in character, addressed to his pagan friend Autolycus. (Theophilus also seems to have written a chronology of the world, based on Biblical dates. The historian John Malalas (d. 538) cited a Theophilus, whose identity is otherwise uncertain, as a source in his historical writings.)

 170 – Melito of Sardis (died 177, under Aurelius’ persecution) traveled to Palestine where he obtained a list of books in the Hebrew Old Testament. His list omits Esther. That Melito believed in the deity of Christ is evident. He wrote, “…our Lord Jesus Christ … is perfect reason, the Word of God; He who was begotten before the Light; He is creator together with the Father; He who is the fashioner of man; He who is all in all; …in the Father, the Son; in God, God.”

  • “For there is no need, to persons of intelligence, to attempt to prove, from the deeds of Christ subsequent to his baptism, that his soul and his body, his human nature like ours, were real, and no phantom of the imagination. For the deeds done by Christ after his baptism, and especially his miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in his flesh. For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise, he gave us sure indications of his two natures: of his Deity, by his miracles during the three years that elapsed after his baptism; of his humanity, during the thirty similar periods that preceded his baptism, in which, by reason of his low estate as regards the flesh, he concealed the signs of his Deity, although he was the true God existing before all ages.” 
  • Melito derived the word Pascha from the Greek paschein, to suffer. In his Peri Pascha, which dates to approximately 165, he wrote, “He came on earth from heaven for suffering man, becoming incarnate in a virgin’s womb from which he came forth as man; he took on himself the sufferings of suffering man through a body capable of suffering, and put an end to the sufferings of the flesh, and through his spirit incapable of death he became the death of death which is destructive of man … this is he who in the virgin was made incarnate, on the cross was suspended, in the earth was buried, from the dead was resurrected, to the heights of heaven lifted up.”

170 – Hegesippus flourished around this time. He was an early chronicler of Church history. Dionysius of Corinth wrote, “it was the custom of the Romans … from the beginning … to assist all the brotherhood in various ways and send contributions to churches in every city, thus relieving the want of the needy.” Dionysius mentioned the martyrdom of both Peter and Paul in Rome.
~175 - In the latter half of the second century, the Epistula Apostolorum was written. The work depicts Jesus commanding his followers to observe the Pascha “until I return from the Father with my wounds.” The Pascha in view appears to have been observed on 14/15 Nisan.

177 – 5th Persecution of the church, under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180). About this time also Gnostic heretics disturbed the churches of the Rhone valley. These churches were largely Greek, having close connections with the churches of Asia Minor. The Gnostics provoked much of the work of Irenaeus of Lyons. Irenaeus, a pupil of Polycarp, was elected bishop of Lyons, then called Lugdunum, in Gaul. Born in 130. Died 200. Irenaeus believed that the plan of the new covenant is the “recapitulation” of the original creation: by Adam’s sin, the likeness to God had been lost, but the image had been retained. By faith in Christ, man may recover the lost likeness. For him, the history of salvation is a progressive education in which God has gradually brought man forward in a long process by the gospel. Irenaeus, like Justin Martyr, believed that Christ will reign on earth for a thousand years, and he vehemently protested against attempts to allegorize away the millenarian proof texts. Irenaeus argued against the Gnostic doctrine of a secret teaching by appealing to apostolic succession — if there had been such a teaching, the apostles would have passed it on to their successors. The apostles, he claimed, taught the Rule of Faith (very similar to our Apostles’ Creed).

  • Irenaeus wrote, “The tradition of the Apostles is manifest throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were, by the Apostles, ordained bishops in the churches, and the succession of those men to our own time. If the Apostles had known hidden mysteries, they would have delivered them, especially to those to whom they were committing the churches themselves. For they were desirous those men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men.”
  • Irenaeus viewed baptism as the seal of eternal life and new birth unto God, through which the Holy Spirit is imparted. He wrote, “… he came to save all persons himself; all, I mean, who by him are regenerated unto God: infants and little ones and children and youths and older persons.” (Since infants are said to be born again, this seems to be a reference to infant baptism.) For Irenaeus the eucharist was the “new oblation of the new covenant” offered to God throughout the world. Irenaeus associated the eucharist not closely with Christ’s passion, as Justin did, but sees it primarily as an offering of first fruits. But Irenaeus did identify the bread and wine with Christ’s body and blood.
  • Irenaeus held that Mary was not sinless. He is the earliest source for the church’s observance of Pentecost as a special feast day. 
  • With regard to the deity of Christ, Irenaeus wrote, “The sacred books acknowledge with regard to Christ, that as He is the Son of man, so is the same Being not a [mere] man; and as He is flesh, so is He also spirit, and the Word of God, and God.” 
  • “But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the Churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that Church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition.” St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies (3,3,2). The last line in that passage may also be translated, “For to this Church, on account of more potent principality, it is necessary that every Church (that is, those who are on every side faithful) resort; in which Church ever, by those who are on every side, has been preserved that tradition which is from the apostles.” This expresses the idea that the church of Rome is faithful because of the faithful everywhere. 
  • He does state that Peter had been in Rome, and that Linus had been the first bishop there, having been jointly ordained by Peter and Paul. 
  • Irenaeus mentioned a group of Gnostics who honored images, giving the impression that the use of images was relatively unknown in the Church in his location and time. He affirmed that the charismata were still active in his day, noting that demons were expelled, the future predicted, and the dead raised by members of the Church. In refuting one of the Gnostics’ peculiar interpretations of scripture, Irenaeus related the tradition he had received from those who had known John (and other apostles) to the effect that Jesus had been nearly fifty years old when he was crucified.

179  – Conversion of Bardesanes (154-222) to Christianity. Unfortunately, he was influenced by Gnostic thought, denying the immediate creation by God of the universe and Satan, introducing a series of intermediate beings instead. Bardesanes thus became a leading figure in Syrian Gnosticism. Mandaeanism  originated sometime during the first three centuries in the Middle East. In this religion, salvation is of the soul alone, through esoteric knowledge. There is a system of intervening spiritual beings (Archons) between the soul and God. In these points, Mandaeanism is similar to Gnosticism. Unlike many Gnostic systems, however, sexual promiscuity is forbidden and marriage is encouraged. Mandaeans consider Jesus a false messiah, but they have great respect for John the Baptist.

180 – Before this time, Christianity was established in North Africa, as witnessed by the Latin Acts of the Martyrs of Scillium, written around 180. Rhodon, about who little is known, wrote works against the Cataphrygians and the Marcionites. Theophilus, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, attested that the churches in Palestine and Alexandria observed Easter on a Sunday – which contrasts with the practice of thee churches in Asia Minor (see 190 below).

185 -Tertullian (160-230), a native of Carthage, converted to Christianity.

According to Jerome, he was a priest. Yet it is clear that he was married. Tertullian was the first Christian theologian to write in Latin. In contrast to Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian held that Mary’s womb was opened at Christ’s birth, believing this to have been prophesied in Exodus 13:2.

  • He assumed that Mary had normal sexual relations with Joseph and that Jesus’ brothers were the children of her union with Joseph.  Tertullian regarded the 2nd commandment’s provision against graven images as binding upon Christians. However, he does admit that some images are innocent and are not idols – such as the bronze serpent, which was symbolic of the cross (On Idolatry). In a letter written sometime between 200 and 206, Tertullian argued against infant baptism. His reason was not that infant baptism is not of apostolic origin. Instead, he seems to hold that there is no forgiveness of sins committed after baptism.
  • He argued that the unmarried should put off baptism until they marry; that single persons should delay baptism until old age; that widows and widowers should wait until they remarry or are confirmed in continence.  From the Catholic Encyclopedia article on baptism: “The threefold immersion is unquestionably very ancient in the Church and apparently of Apostolic origin. It is mentioned by Tertullian (De cor. milit., iii), St. Basil (De Sp. S., xxvii), St. Jerome (Dial. Contra Luc., viii), and many other early writers.” Tertullian believed in the literal millennium, lasting for a literal 1000 years, centered in the new Jerusalem which will come down from heaven. 
  • He used the phrase “Vicar of Christ,” but his reference is to the Holy Spirit (The Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter 28). In reference to the Matthew 16, Tertullian wrote (op. cit., Chapter 22), “Was anything withheld from the knowledge of Peter, who is called ‘the rock on which the church should be built,’ who also obtained ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’ with the power of ‘loosing and binding in heaven and on earth?’ Was anything, again, concealed from John, the Lord’s most beloved disciple, who used to lean on His breast to whom alone the Lord pointed Judas out as the traitor, whom He commended to Mary as a son in His own stead?” Notice that Tertullian made no distinction between Peter and John in the degree of their knowledge. He also makes no claim for Peter’s supremacy.
  • Tertullian taught that the Son derived his substance from the Father and that the Spirit proceeded from the Father through the Son. In a work against a certain Praxeas, who taught that the Father, Son and Spirit were one person, he described the Trinity as being “susceptible of number without division.” In the same work, Tertullian indicated that the bishop of Rome (Victor) initially “acknowledged the prophetic gifts of Montanus, Prisca and Maximilla” but was persuaded by Praxeas to follow the example of the former bishop of Rome. Praxeas himself was persuaded to renounce his patripassionism, but he soon returned to teaching that error. In The Prescription against Heretics, Tertullian warned against arguing Scripture with heretics, because they will never be convinced. The guide to true interpretation, and confidence in doctrine, is to be found in the transmission of the apostolic tradition through the Church. In a work sometimes attributed to Tertullian, the author identified March 25 as the date of Jesus’ crucifixion, stating, in agreement with John’s chronology, that the date was also 14 Nisan.

In his On the Apparel of Women, Tertullian argued for the inclusion of the Book of Enoch (1 Enoch) in the canon.  Tertullian became a Montanist in ~200. Jerome wrote, “After remaining a presbyter of the church until he had attained the middle age of life, Tertullian was, by the envy and contumelious treatment of the Roman clergy, driven to embrace the opinions of Montanus.” (See 157 above.)

185 -Maximus, bishop of Jerusalem (185-196). He wrote a work on the origin of evil.

189 – Victor became bishop of Rome. Died 199. Victor was the first Latin bishop of Rome. During Victor’s tenure, the Monarchian controversy arose as a revolt against the Logos theology of Justin Martyr. Justin had taught that the Logos was “another God,” meaning “another in number, not in will.” Christians had argued against Gnostics that there was only one first principle, the creator God, a single monarchia, but the Logos theology prejudiced this argument. To circumvent Justin’s incipient ditheism, Sabellius propagated the view that the Father and the Son are one and the same, the distinction being in name only. Sabellius’ doctrine is often called modalism, because the Father, Son and Spirit are modes of the same being. In the West, it was called Patripassianism, meaning that the Father suffers.

190 – Victor demanded conformity from the churches of the East in the date of Easter. He claimed his method for setting the date for Easter was established by Peter and Paul. The churches of Asia Minor regarded this as autocratic and took offense. Polycrates (130-196), bishop of Ephesus, wrote to Victor, supporting his Paschal practice by citing the example of the evangelist Philip, the apostle John, the martyred bishop Polycarp, and others. He added, “I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than man.’ ”  Irenaeus of Lyons also wrote to Victor: “And those presbyters who governed the church before Soter, and over which you now preside, I mean Anicetus [(155-66)] and Pius [(140-55)], Hyginus [(136-40)] and Telesphorus [(125-36)] and Xystus [(115-25)], neither did themselves observe, nor did they permit those after them to observe it. …Neither at any time did they cast off any for the sake of the form. But those very presbyters before thee who did not observe it, sent the eucharist to those of the churches who did. And when the blessed Polycarp went to Rome, in the time of Anicetus, and they had a little difference among themselves likewise respecting other matters, they immediately were reconciled, not disputing much with one another on this head. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe it, because he had always observed it with John the disciple of our Lord … and neither did Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe, who said he was bound to observe the practice of the presbyters before him.”

Irenaeus also pointed out that the difference in observance of the Pascha (Easter) resulted in differences in fasting. The ability to disagree on the question of the fast but to live in peace, he wrote, “confirms the agreement in the faith.”

The distinction between the churches that did ‘observe it’ and those that didn’t may refer to the practice of observing Easter on a Sunday: the churches in Asia Minor (known as Quartodecimans) observed the 14th of Nissan as Easter, regardless of the day of the week that fell on. There is disagreement over the precise meaning of Irenaeus’ words “to observe”. In one interpretation of the events (proposed by Karl Holl in 1927), Pascha was not observed in any form or on any date in Rome in Anicetus’ time (circa 155), but was introduced in about 165 when Soter was bishop. [Some historians argue that Victor did not excommunicate the churches in Asia minor, but Roman congregations that followed Asian practice, based on the unlikelihood that Victor’s predecessors sent the eucharist all the way to Asia Minor.]
190 - About this time, of Clement of Alexandria became head of the catechetical school in Alexandria, and served there through 203. Born about 150. Died about 215. Clement was a lay theologian. The central principle of his theology was the doctrine of creation. Because creation was good, God has implanted the seeds of truth in all creatures. Hence, there was much to learn from the Greek philosophers. Clement’s Stromata describe the attributes of the Christian Gnostic. He held that marriage is not an inferior spiritual state to celibacy, and he rejected demands that all Christians be teetotalers or vegetarians. In his view, the church is a school where the lapsed can be restored. Clement saw the spiritual life as a never-ending process — education does not end with death, and all will need to be purified before entering God’s presence. Clement rejected the millennial interpretations of Irenaeus and Justin. (According to Gwynne’s The Christian Year, Clement mentioned that Christ’s birthday was observed in his time. This observance may have been on January 6, in distinction to the December 25 observance begun in Rome in the fourth century.)

192 - In a work from around this year, Tertullian mentioned the observance of the Easter vigil.

198 – A council meeting in Caesarea of Palestine, led by Theophilos of Caesarea and Narcissos of Jerusalem, with Kassis of Akkar and Karos of Akka present, discussed the issue of the Pascha (Easter). They determined to celebrate Pascha on a Sunday, and wrote to other churches to inform them of their decision: “The day we celebrate, those in Alexandria also celebrate. … We have exchanged letters with them so that we may celebrate together on this holy day.” In the early church, it was common in Asia, Cilicia, northern Syria, and Mesopotamia to observe the Lord’s crucifixion on the 14th of Nisan (April), using the Hebrew lunar calendar, and his resurrection on the 16th. But churches in Greece, Italy, Africa, Egypt, Palestine, and Pontus commemorated the passion always on a Friday, and the resurrection on a Sunday. (See 190.)

198 – Zephyrinus became bishop of Rome. Died 217. The Monarchian controversy continued. Hippolytus opposed Sabellius with the doctrine that the Father and Son are two distinct persons. Callistus, an emancipated slave and archdeacon of the church, had been exiled to the mines of Sardinia sometime between 188 and 193. The emperor Commodus (d. 193), at the urging of his Christian concubine Marcia, ordered a general release for all Christians exiled to Sardinia. So Callistus was allowed to return. (In those days, the Church considered concubinage marriage as long as the Christian concubine acted as if it were.) Apparently at Callistus’ urging, Zephyrinus attempted to steer a middle course between the Monarchians and the adherents of the Logos theology. He stated, “I know one God, Christ Jesus, and beside him I know no other who was begotten and passable” and “the Father did not die but the Son.” Hippolytus is said to be the last Roman theologian to write in Greek. The transformation of the West from Greek to Latin was complete by the time of Constantine. ( year 366.)

  • In his The Apostolic Tradition, written sometime between 215 and 217, we read, “And first baptize the little ones; and if they can speak for themselves, they shall do so; if not, their parents or other relatives shall speak for them. Then baptize the men, and last of all the women; they must first loosen their hair and put aside any gold or silver ornaments that they are wearing: let no one take any alien thing down to the water with them.” This clearly indicates the practice of the time at Rome to have been infant baptism, and the mode was probably immersion.
  • Hippolytus also gave an account of the preparation of candidates for baptism before Easter. These preparations were the root of the later Lenten fast. Baptism itself was by triple immersion: one immersion for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, following a confession of each. Confirmation involved both the laying on of hands by the bishop (while he invoked the Holy Spirit to fill those just baptized) and the application of oil (chrismation).
  • The Apostolic Tradition shows the influence of Judaistic prayer forms on early Christian worship. It was probably written in opposition to Zephyrinus’ lax regard for traditional ceremony. Hippolytus comments somewhere that his archenemy Callistus and his followers, at least, held to the apostolic tradition. 
  • That the eucharist was not understood to be mere symbolism is seen from the command to keep it safe from animals and the unbaptized. “For it is the body of Christ to be eaten by them that believe and not to be thought lightly of.”
  • The Apostolic Tradition also contains apparent references to the sign of the cross: “when tempted always reverently seal thy forehead. For the sign of the passion is displayed and made manifest against the devil if thou makest it in faith.” And it states that the bishop was “chosen by all the people.”
  • Hippolytus defended millenarianism. In the face of the growing reaction against this doctrine at Rome, which may have been led by the priest Caius, Hippolytus explained that the thousand years of Revelation 20.2-5 are not to be taken literally, but are symbolic of the splendor of the kingdom. Caius is the source for the following information about Cerinthus’ (see 100? above) millenniumism: “By means of revelations which he pretends were written by a great apostle, [Cerinthus] brings before use marvelous things which he falsely claims were shown him by angels; and he says that after the resurrection the kingdom of Christ will be set up on earth, and that the flesh dwelling in Jerusalem will again be subject to desires and pleasures. And, being the enemy of the Scriptures of God, he asserts, with the purpose of deceiving men, that there is to be a period of a thousand years for marriage festivals.” This passage has been interpreted to imply that Caius believed Cerinthus was the author of the book of Revelation. Caius also engaged in a dispute with the Montanist Proclus. In that debate, Caius mentioned the existence of memorial chapels to Peter and Paul in Rome. 
  • In a commentary on Daniel, Hippolytus stated that Jesus was born on Wednesday, December 25, in the 42nd year of the Emperor Augustus (2 BC?). He identified March 25 as the date of Christ’s crucifixion, believing this to have occurred on Nisan 14, following John’s chronology. 
  • Hippolytus is also the first author to state that Peter had been bishop of Rome. His lost Chronicon is quoted to that effect by Eusebius.