Fr Thomas Pallippurathukunnel
i. Definition of history
Aristotle: it is an account of the unchanging past.
Thomas Carlyle It is nothing but the biography of great man.
Voltaire:a picture of crimes and misfortunes,
Beccario:(18th c.) That nation is happiest which is without history.
These definitions either represent a complex picture or a distorted picture. But a simple definition is that that history is the study of a past. It is the story of mankind depicting what had, happened, why they had happened and the principles, which governed these happenings. It is the study of events in men’s struggle for progress.
ii. The characteristics of history
1. History is humanistic. It is fundamentally concerned with human actions.
2. What is important in history is event. Historian has nothing to do with assumption (something, which did not happen).
3. History is concerned with change. Historians are concerned with change, when, how and why changes take place.
4. History is time and Place oriented. Events are noted with reference to date and place.
5. History is scientific. History is based not only, upon enquiry into evidences of events but also upon a rational analysis of data.
6. History is an independent branch of study. It; is self-explanatory, for it exists of its own, reflecting upon the human experiences in the past and prompting a better understanding of the present.
iii. The scope and. purpose of history
The scope and purpose of history have been looked upon differently from historian to historian and from age to age. The most satisfactory definition of the purpose of the history is that of Arnold Tonnbee’s. It is, a search for “light on the nature and destiny of man. History is any, integrated narrative, description or’ analysis of past events or facts written in a spirit of critical inquiry for, the whole truth).
- During the Age of the classical civilization of Greece and Rome, a scientific purpose was imparted to history. It was looked upon as a branch of study m based upon enquiry and analysis.
- The medieval Church restricted the purpose of history to the explanation of how the divine will expressed itself in the human actions
- In the modern times it was treated as a study of all changes that had taken place in the universe.
Individual historians have given importance to one particular aspect or other of history.
1. Herodotus and Thucydides gave importance to truth and their connection between causes and consequences.
2. Freeman laid emphasis upon the political aspect of history.
3. Karl Marx laid emphasis upon economic factors.
4. Traumas Carlyle: upon the role, of great men.
iv. History is a Science and an Art
History is a science. Like science it began to recognize the importance of truth and systematized knowledge. It is an art for it attempts a realistic interpretation of events and imparts knowledge of intellectual utility.
Certain attributes of history are scientific in character.
i. Like science it deals with nature, for man, the subject of all historical studies, is the greatest work of nature.
ii. History employs scientific method of investigation and aims at the attainment of truth.
iii. History is a social science discussing social relations. It deals with the conditions of mankind living in social state; it seeks to discover general laws, which governs these conditions and which bring about such developments like progress or decay of civilization or fall of states.
History is not experimental, but science is experimental. History deals with the events that had happened and cannot be repeated. It is not subject to experimentation. Science deals with visible objects like leaf, rock light etc. In science the importance is the observation of laws of regularities. Scientists can forecast and eclipse, but the historian cannot predict famine and war.
Method of science is inductive of history is deductive. In science general propositions are derived from practical cases eg. When heat is applied iron expands. In historical process many developments are analyzed and particular conclusions are arrived at. Eg. Inefficiency of administration an empire had declined.
History is an art. Like art it is concerned with hum values. The task of historian is reconstruction of the past. He comes across distorted versions, incomplete balance, and sympathy of an artist so that he can do justice to his theme of study.
History is of intellectual utility. For an understanding of the problems of present day, politicians administrators and diplomats seek explanation from pages of history. Though history cannot predict the future the conclusions it furnishes are used for ‘Practical guidance.
History is an art as well as a science. It is an art in regard to the subject of treatment, method of composition and. intellectual utility. It is a scientific method of enquiry and, seeks to find out the truths.
V. The uses of history
The uses of history are almost endless. It may be read for hundred reasons, eg. for amusement, etc. To understand its more important values, we must approach it on an elevated level, and measure it not in relation to individuals but to societies and nation. It is actually a bridge connecting the past with present and pointing the road to the future. It more than a guide for men in their daily life; it is a creator of future. The conception which men have of their record in generations past shape their dreams and ambition for the generation to come. eg. The new. Italy, of which Mussolini dreamed, was partly a reincarnation of Rome of Caesars.
History is a maker of nations. To give a people a full sense of their future we need first the historians who give them a full sense of their past, eg. Cooper’s historica1 romance “The Spy” helped immeasurably in making America a nation.
History is ‘a continuing inspirits. It tends to make each individual a sharer in the great deeds, ideas and movements of his ancestors or forerunners.
To sum up it reflects the thought over centuries which had forgotten. It helps to understand the human behaviour and serves as guide for the study of human conduct. It enables to understand the present in order to prepare himself to face the problems of future.
George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The beauty of the cities ‘and the magnificence of the monuments are better appreciated when the stones behind them are known.
Lord Acton: “the prize of all a history is the understanding of modern times, for history explains the present in the light of the past by indicating the ideals and forces which are at work around us.”
John Seeley: “when we learn history, we do not learn the past, but the future.”
VI. The limitations of history
- The history of mankind is not complete
- All history is not really authentic (based accounts)
- Those who are interested in the study of history are limited. So no wide popularity as some other sciences
- People are not habituated to drawing lessons from history. Hegel says: the one thing one learns from history is that nobody ever learns anything from history.
- History does not repeat No two events are alike
VII. Intellectual and educative value of History
1. 1t teaches us by examples of times and men, the wisdom that had been acquired through the ages
2. It furnishes examples of great men who faced challenges and attained –success ultimately, eg Europeans to discover the remote lands.
3. It serves as introduction to other branches of study. Eg. To biography, politics, etc.
VIII. Kinds of history
The history can be divided:
1. Chronologically, prehistoric, historic. And historic can be ancient, medieval and modern.
2. Based on the events political, cultural, etc.
IX. History and allied subjects
Geography, politics, economics, sociology, biography, etc.
About 2000 years ago Jesus Christ was put to death on a cross in a small and obscure Roman province of Judea. Today in the twentieth century faith in the risen Christ has grown to become the faith of nearly a thousand million people
How does this belief in Jesus Christ become a worldwide faith? How has it outlived the mighty Roman Empire? And also the other European emperors? How did the Christian churches, denominations, movements, doctrines and beliefs we know today come into being? How has the faith in Jesus been passed on from generation to generation and from country to country? These are the questions which are answered in the Church History.
Church History treats of the growth in time and space of the church founded by Jesus Christ. Vincent of Lerins compared the growth of the Church with that of the human body and of the seed which is sown. Here the growth involves no injury to its peculiar qualities nor alteration of its being. As the grain of wheat germinates, sprouts and produces corn, yet remains wheat, so the church manifests herself in changing forms during the course of history, but remains always true to herself The noticeable features of this growth are the following:
1 The ability of the christian faith periodically to reform and renew itself Christianity has an inexhaustible capacity to revive after periods of stagnation or decay
2. A tremendous impulse to evangelize – to share with others the good news of forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, eg. Monastic enterprises, sermons, missionary societies, social services etc.
3. An ability of faith to respond to different pressures and to various threats to its existence – Christianity has been able to adjust to changing historical and cultural situation without altering the essentials of its message, eg. Fierce persecution has led to the purifying of the faithful. Heresy and aberrations have led to the clarifications of beliefs
Church History is a theological discipline because its subject matter is derived from and rooted in faith And in this respect it differs from a history of Christianity. Its theological point of departure refers to::
1. The Church’s divine origin through Jesus Christ
2. The hierarchical and sacramental order founded by Christ
3. The promised assistance of the Holy Spirit
4. The eschatological consummation at the end of the world.
These are the essential elements in which the essential identity of the church consists, i.e., her continuity in spite of changing outward forms.
The historical character of the Church rests ultimately on the Incarnation of the Word and its entry into the human history. It rests above all on the fact that Christ willed His Church to be a society of human beings- people of God- under the leadership of men- Apostles (papacy and episcopate) Thus the Church depends on human actions and weakness. But the Holy Spirit preserves her from error and maintains holiness within her. It is testified by the miracles. And it is in the cooperation of these divine and human factors in time and space that Church History has its origin.
The beginning and end of Church History rest on a theological basis. It begins with the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and ends with the second coming of Christ. Therefore, Church History is the manifestations of the Church within this period. These manifestations can be:
1. external- spread of the Church and her relations with various states, non-christians etc
2. internal – developments and establishing of dogmas in the struggles against heresy, the proclamation of faith by preaching of the Word, fulfilling of her sacramental nature by the celebration of liturgy and administration of sacraments etc.
The relevance of Church History. Church History is the understanding of the Church and therefore an integral part of Ecclesiology. One who studies the growth of the Church in the light of faith enters into her divine and human nature and understands her as she is not as she might be. He learns to know the laws by which she lives and gains a clear view of her from within. He feels with the Church. Then he will stand fast in every crisis. For this a strictly scientific investigation and impartial presentation of facts are required. From this the church historian can and must draw conclusions which will be important for the understanding of the present day and modern problems. For eg. the history of the councils throws light upon the present councils. Church History also makes clear the original meaning of ecclesiastical institutions and opens the eyes to the need for reform in the Church. J. A. Mohler says: “We can not understand the Church at the present day if we have not first understood the whole of the Christian past”.
Ecclesiastical historian must have a love of history. He must bring to his task a christian feeling and christian faith and spirit. He must have the faith to explain it. Thus he becomes the interpreter of the working of the Holy Spirit upon earth. In his search for truth he has to judge impartially men and events
The division of Church History cannot be based on the divine plan of salvation, because its details are not known to us, though we have the outlines of Revelation. It cannot be based on the relationship between the Church and her milieu, for the Church is not identified with any civilization. Therefore, any division into periods must take into consideration this truth – the inward and outward growth of the Church, brought about by the Holy Spirit in cooperation with human free will, is achieved by her constantly coming to terms with civilization. In her spreading, in her penetration of mankind and civilization, people and societies, the Church makes use of the historical circumstances and adapts herself to them. Therefore, Church History is something midway between universal history and history of salvation
A universally accepted division was not yet found. The usual three fold division is this: 1. Ancient – Pentecost -692 (Trullo); 2. The Middle Ages 692 – 1517 (Lateran V); 3. Modern/Contemporary 1517 – present day.
The method of Church History
The Church History makes use of historical method. Sometimes the tension between faith and historical fact may confront the ecclesiastical historian with difficult decisions. Here he should be honest (scientific honesty) because church history is both theology and historical science. The application of the historical method is to be carried in different stages.
First church history is bound by its sources. Therefore one has to search out the sources, test for genuiness, and establish the dates and facts which form the framework of all history.
Secondly church history must be presented not as a series of unconnected events but as a process. Events must be seen in their causes and consequences. Here the facts are grouped together based on the judgment of values, eg. Golden Age, Reform.
In the third stage Church History as a whole can be understood only as the history of salvation. Its ultimate meaning can be understood only by the eye of faith. It is the abiding presence of Logos in the world and the fulfillment, in the people of God, of Christ’s community in which ministry and grace work together. It is the Growth of the body of Christ.
Church History is also called the theology of Cross, because the growth of the church is sometimes hindered by internal or external causes, i. e., she suffers sickness, failures of men, persecution, etc. The church is in constant renewal, simper reformanda. She has only a provisional character and awaits perfection at Paruosia.
The Evolution of Church History: The writings of Church History
The historian Altaner says: “the sense of history, which was comparatively active when the gospels and Acts of the Apostles described the work of Christ and His Apostles, remained almost without expression in the period when the church was developing out Christ’s revelation and was acquiring its historical character in the midst of struggles and persecutions”.
In the early Apostolic period we have the genuine and ancient Acts of Martyrs: eg. Martyrium Polycarpi, The Acts of Justine the martyr, The Acts of Scillitani etc
Then we have the Apology of Hegesippus and Ireneus. Later we have the World Chronicle of Sexus Julius Africanus (+240), Hippolitus of Rome (+235). In 303 Eusebius of Caesarea published the World Chronicle which set the pattern of the type of Christian historiography for more than a thousand years.
Eusebius of’ Caesarea (260 339) is the Eather of Church History. In 324 he published his Ecclesiastical History (Gk) in ten volumes. It is a precious document of the ancient church. In this he describes in chronological order:
I – III Books: the activities of Christ, the Apostles and of the post apostolic Period.
IV – VII contain lists of bishops of the apostolic churches of Rome Antioch and Jerusalem, an account of the heresies, of great ecclesiastical writers, and of persecutions by Jews and the pagans.
VIII – IX are devoted to the “Persecutions of our days”.
X – is devoted to the victory of Christianity under Constantine. It has also a supplementary account of the martyrs of Palestine and the laudatory life of Constantine by the same author.
Eusebius’ work is the important historical source for the first three centuries. He was followed by three or four historians who all treat more or less of a common period.
1. Socrates (+439). He was a lawyer of Constantinople and he grouped the ecclesiastical events of the years from 305 to 439. He is more impartial, less involved in theological conflicts.
2. Sozomen (+425) also a lawyer. He was superior in literary skill. He presented the events in the period from 324 to 425.
3. Theodore of Cyrus was a versatile writer. He described events perceptively and vividly of the years 323 -428. He included many synodal decisions and letters and other documents. He is sometimes inexact in his chronology.
4. Evagrius Scholasticus (+600). He published ecclesiastical History. In it he re1ated the Christological disputes of the period 432 544.
In the Western Church Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius was translated in 400 by Rufinus of Aquilea, who added two move books. Historia Tripqrtia was the translation of the three successors of Busebius. In 392 Jerome published the first catalogue of christian writers, comprising 135 names. In the fourth century Epiphanius made also a list of bishops.
De Civitate Dei of St. Augustine is a kind of philosophy of history. His conception of history as a struggle between the kingdom of God and that of the world strongly influenced the political ideology of the Middle Ages.
In the middle ages we do not find any history worthwhile. Yet a few names could be mentioned.
Vincent of Beauvais + 1264 – Speculum Historiae, a part of his great medieval encyclopedia ‘Speculum Triplex’.
St. Antonine +1459 Summa Historialis
In the second part of 15th century onwards there arose a critical sense and return to the sources of things. The invention of printing press gave historical studies a new impulse.
During the Protestant Revolution Church History became an important battlefield of apologetics. There were abuses on both sides.
The Lutherans at Magdeburg published Ecclesiastica Historia (1559 1574) in 13 volumes, one for each of the first thirteen centuries. This work is commonly known as Magdeburg Centuries. Though it abounds in documents, it is strongly anti-Catholic and antipapal. In reaction to this, Cardinal Caesar Baronius (1588 1607) wrote “Annales Ecelesiastici” in 12 volumes up to 12th century Innocent III annals = narration of events year by year.
In 17th century we see a critical sense in the study of sources. The Benedictines of St. Maur edited the Patristic work. The Jesuits on their part began to publish Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandists in 1643. During this period Valuable works were published in Italy and France. For example, “Memories pour server a 1 Histoire Ecclesiastique” (16 vols. 16931712, Paris), “Histoire des Empereurs”, (6 vols,16901738, Paria).
In 19th century valuable historical works were produced in Germany:
Protestants: Neander, Baur, Herzog, Adolf von Harnack (+1930) Heussi – Kompendium der Kirchengeschichte. Schaff Philip – History of the Christian Churches, 7 vols, N.Y. 1889 -1892.
Catholics: F.L. Von Stolberg – 15 vols. upto 433
Von Kera added 30 vols. upto 12th c.
Brischer added 8 vols. 50 years
Mohler, Hefle of Tubingen
Von Pastor History of the popes 40 vols, 1906 – 53.
Jesus Christ and the world at His birth
By the birth of Jesus Christ human history received an entirely new orientation. The whole history is divided into before Christ (B.C.) and after Christ (A.D.). When we consider the events after the birth of Christ we are tempted to ask certain questions:
1. Why did Christ select this particular moment to come incarnate into this world?
2. What was the world like at the time of His birth?
3. What was the relationship between His life and message and the religious experiences of His contemporaries?
When St. Paul wrote: “the Saviour came in the fullness of time” (Gal 4, 4.) he answered to some of these questions. By this he means that all history prior to the Incarnation was merely God’s plan of preparation for the birth of His Son. It also means that there were certain positive and negative elements which were propitious for the foundation and spread of Christianity.
There were three worlds or cultures at the time of Christ’s birth:
1. The Roman world which represented the political factor.
2. The Greek world represented the intellectual factor.
3. The Jewish world represented the religious factor.
1. The Roman world.
The Roman Empire extended from Syria to Atlantics, from English Channel and Danube to the sands of Sahara. It had a political supremacy and was well organized under Augustus Octavian. Octavian ended the civil war with his victory at Actium in 31 B.C. He inaugurated the “Pax Romana” from 31 BC to 180 AD. During this period Roman Empire enjoyed its longest period of domestic peace and high level of prosperity. But there were drawbacks: misery slavery brutality etc. no charity, no sense of social obligation.
2. The Greek world
Greece dominated in the intellectual sphere. As a result of the conquest of Alexander the great, Greek culture influenced other cultures of Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Asia Minor. Greek became the language of the educated and Greek ideas and ideals found general acceptance. So the lower class resisted Hellenism. Rome also recognized the cultural superiority of Greece and began to reshape their society long Greek lines. They looted Greek arts and adorned their houses. Greek slaves were appointed as tutors of the Romans. Cicero went to Rhodes and Athens for education. Virgil and Horace imitated Homer.
3. The Jewish world.
We have to make distinction between the Jews in Palestine and Jews in Diaspora. Both had a longing for the promised Messiah but it was more rooted in the political distress of the people than in religious motives. For more than a half century they had lived under the Roman domination (from 67 BC onwards). This was considered as a divine punishment. Herod the Great was the ruler and he was hated by the Jews because of his pledge to protect the Roman interests. He was also a foreigner (Idermaean). He took Jerusalem by Roman assistance in 37 BC. He could not win the hearts of the people. After the death of Herod the Great (40 4 BC) the empire was divided between his three sons Archalaus, Herod Antipas and Philip Then the Jews appealed to Rome to free them from Herodian dynasty. Thus Augustus sent procurators to govern Judea (eg. Pontius Pilot 26 36 AD). But this arrangement failed to bring civil peace. The Jews hated the Romans because the latter levied taxes and their soldiers settled in Jerusalem. In 60 AD there was a great rebellion of Jews but it failed. In.70 AD Jerusalem fell to Titus. Between 67 BC and 39 AD around 200,000 Jews were perished by violence.
The religious situation of the Jews
It was characterized by the peculiarity of their religious convictions they hold fast to faith and religion even at the cost of heavy sacrifices and isolation from other people. The belief in one God, Jewish, was the central point. They believed in the immediate intervention of God through prophets. They also believed that they were the chosen people of God, God had made a covenant with them and the salvation for others was from them. They had a hope of a Saviour and redeemer who would establish in Israel the kingdom of God. The expectation of Messiah was the chief source of strength in the times of peril. They saw in the messiah a liberator from the Romans. Yet there were some who believed in the religious mission of the Messiah.
Importance of law
For a Jew the law was of decisive importance and the task of daily life. Observance of the law was the daily task and its transgression was punished and its fidelity was rewarded. The law was given through Scriptures and they are interpreted by the Scribes.
The Eastern Mystery Religions
They began to penetrate westwards. They claim to be able to give the individual a liberating answer to his questions about his fate in the next world. They claimed that by ordering his way of life in this world, he could find eternal salvation.
The common characteristics of mystery religions:
1. Belief in a blessed immortality
2. A symbolic initiation ceremony
3. A sacrifice
4. A dramatic scene
5. A sacred meal.
1. Mystery cult of Mithras
It originated in Iran, developed in Cappadocia and then spread to West. It was essentially a masculine cult and most of its devotees were Roman soldiers. Its main figure was the Persian god Mithras, who stole a bull belonging to the moon and slew it on the orders of Apollo. The representation of this event is the central motif of the image which set up in all Mithraic temples. The blood of a bull was sprinkled over the believers, who were thus initiated and became entitled to expect salvation. The candidate for initiation prepared himself by undergoing various tests of courage and ritual washings; after his reception he proceeded through seven grades to that of a full disciple of Mithras. As Mithras was taken up by the sun-god Helios in the chariot of the sun, so did the disciple hope to be raised up in glory in the next world. The members of the cult were also united in a sacred meal, which prefigured, to those who partook of it, a happy life together in the hereafter.
2. The cult of Isis and Osiris in Egypt
In Egypt goddess Isis was honoured every year by a solemn procession. She was believed to have brought morality and civilization to mankind. She was regarded as the inventor of agriculture and writing, as foundress of law and civil order, a protectress of the persecuted and liberator from every kind of distress. Osiris is figured as her husband. He was the ancient Egyptian god of vegetarian who died and rose again, as the annual sowing and growth of the crops-symbolically signify. His death was mourned by his worshippers, his resurrection celebrated with joy. In his dying, man saw his own death expressed, but like Osiris he would rise again to a new life after death.
3. The cult of great mother in Asia Minor
She is the fertility goddess Cybele. She was connected with a male divinity, the Nature hero Attis, her lover. According to the myth Attis was unfaithful to her, wherefore he was cast into a frenzy, from which he died. He was awakened to new life and reunited with the Great Mother. This myth became the basis of this cult. Their priests are called Galli. These, by ecstatic dancing and flagellation, brought on their own “mystical” frenzy, in which there were driven even to self castration. In the rite of initiation, the candidate (mysta) symbolically relived the fate of his god in death and resurrection; he was sprinkled with the blood of a bull and then entered the “bridal chamber”, which he left as one reborn. At a sacred meal he made his profession as a ‘mysta’ of Attis, and a priest proclaimed to the initiated the joyful tidings: “be comforted, ye mystae! Salvation came to the god. So also shall we be partakers of salvation after tribulation”. Here, too, the promise of salvation was the deciding motive for joining the cult.
The positive features in the Hellenistic religion which helped the preaching of the now faith in Jesus:
1. The feeling of emptiness on account of the failure of ancient religions
2. A deep desire of redemption – eternal salvation was promised by the Saviour.
3. The strong tendency to monotheism – this was apparent in the Hellenistic religion.
The positive elements in Jewish religion:
2. The expectation of Messiah
3. The Jews in Diaspora prepared the Septuagint.
4. They preached monotheism and the Ten Commandments and the foundation of Christian morals.
5. The synagogues, where christian missionaries found God fearing people, were ready to receive their message.
Jesus Christ and the Church
The history of the church has its roots in Jesus Christ. Therefore His life and work, by which the Church was founded, are a necessary preliminary to the history of the church.
The sources of Christ’s life: the writings of N.T the first three gospels, Acts of the Apostles and some letters of St. Paul They are not intended to be a historical biography of Christ. The gospels are the outcome of the apostolic preaching. The evangelists presented Jesus as vivid in their hearts. The N.T tat writings bear witness to the life and work of Christ and prove that earthly Christ was the same Christ who is the Saviour of the world. So they are a kind of outline of the life of Jesus.
The historical data from the gospels
– Birth of Christ tour or five years before the beginning of christian era.
– thirty years of secret life
-three years of active life, baptism
-supreme law of Jesus’ religion: unconditional love of God and neighbour.
-other doctrines: purity of mind and intention against outward observance of law; inward union with the Father; silent conversation with the Father; joy over the repentance of the sinners; blessedness of the poor; ‘consolation to the lowly, depressed , blind, lame, etc.; and finally the call to all to follow him and his discipleship requires self denial.
-those followed are called to form a new community and His message bound them together. They are brothers in a religious family. They prayed together. This community is the Church. Ecclesia= those who are called
Church = the lord’s house
From the disciples he dejected twelve. They were the object of his special attention end had special position. They were to continue his mission. The content of his mission wan the proclamation of the kingdom of God. He gave them Power to fulfill it. He chose Peter for a special task. He was rock foundation on which his church should stand. Thus the foundation was prepared. It would now grow in space and time.
The primitive Church at Jerusalem
The important source of the primitive church is the acts of Apostles (7 chapters). It is not a complete picture of events because the author chose for his subjects only what served his purpose. Only about fifteen years of the origin and growth of the community arc described there.
Actually it was resurrection of Christ that brought together the scattered disciples and united them in a community sharing the same belief and profession of faith.
The events narrated in the Acts are the following:
2. Election of Mathias
4. Opposition from the Jews 5: 29
5. Election of deacons
6. Martyrdom of Stephen
7. Journey of the apostles
8. Conversion of Paul
9. Persecution by Herod
10. James the Younger bishop of Jerusalem
11.Gospel to the gentiles- conversion of the chamberlain of queen of Ethiopea by Philip and that of Cornelius by Peter.
12. The name Christians Act 11, 26.
13. Jerusalem council (49) whether circumcision is necessary for salvation was discussed and decided:
“We shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” 15, 11.
The Church: Organization, Belief and Piety
The Disciples of Christ had formed themselves into a special community which had the name Congregation, Assembly, Ecclesia (Acts 5, 11, 8.1.). This community was convinced that Christ was the true Messiah and led their own individual religious life and this conviction brought them together and they organized a religious community. This community had from the beginning a hierarchical order in which not all were of equal rank.
The hierarchical order:
1. College of Apostles. The Apostles are distinguished in a unique way to carry out the special task entrusted to them by Christ. Their number was twelve which was considered sacred and Mathias was elected in the place of Judas. The characteristics of the election of Mathias are the following: prayer and God’s decision was sought by means of lot. This shows that the call to the office of an Apostle is by the supreme authority of God.
The tasks of the Apostle are the following
– To bear witness to the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
– To lead the community in the liturgy solemnities of cult
– To administer baptism
– To preside at the religious meal
– To lay hands on those who were consecrated for special tasks.
– To be mediators between Christ and the Church through the exercise of priestly functions.
Peter was the head of the Apostles: Peter occupied a leading place among the twelve. It was given by Christ. We see Peter exercising this in the primitive Church:
– conducts the election to the college of Apostles
– Spokesman of the disciples at Pentecost Acts 2.15.
– preaches after healing of the lame. 3.1.
– Spokesman before the scribes and elders. 4.8
– Spokesman before the Sanhedrin. 5, 20
– appears with judicial authority in the episode of Ananias and Sapphire 5.3.
– His decision to admit Cornelius to baptism. It has a great significance – gospel is also to Gentiles.
– In Jerusalem council Peter’s attitude was the deciding factor in the dispute as to whether the gentile christians were subject to Mosaic law or not.
2. The Elders. They are not so clearly defined in the Acts (11 39). It was not a new name for there were elders in the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. In the primitive church the elders are always found in the company of Apostles as leaders of ‘ the congregation. They also took part in the decisions of Jerusalem council (15 2ff). So they were assistants to the apostles in the administration.
3. The Deacons: Their appointment was not by election, but was done by prayer and imposition of hands. No name was given to this group in the Acts of the Apostles, but their work is described by the verb “to serve” (6 2). They were appointed to assist the apostles in their work, to take over the services of the tables among the poor of the community.
The existence of apostles elders and deacons shows that there was already in the primitive church a division among the members into different groups consecrated by a religious ceremony for special tasks apart from the main body of the faithful. This division between laity and clergy was not felt a separating gulf because the Jews also had priesthood whom they respected.
Faith of the early Christians
The resurrection of Christ was the pivot upon which the apostolic message hinged. So all those who wished to follow the gospel had to accept it. The fact of resurrection both as a historical event and as part of the faith was confirmed by the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (2.1ff). The Pentecost gave its final clarity and direction to apostolic message. Then on the apostles began to preach that the Risen Lord was Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus, the Saviour. The early christians believed that Jesus was the Saviour called by God for the salvation of men (5.31).They also believed that only grace of the Lord (15 111) could save them not the circumcision.
Forgiveness of sins. It was the first step to salvation through Jesus Christ. Prayer and inner conversion were necessary for removal of sins.
The reception of the Holy Spirit. It was a proof and confirmation that salvation had already begun for its members. After the Pentecost the descent of the Holy Spirit repeated continually. Eg. In Samaria 8 1ff. Cornelius 10 44; 4 31. It was the Holy Spirit who gives the inner and supernatural strength. It was also the cause of missionary zeal – Stephen, Philip.
Thy Rites of early christians
I. Baptism was the basis of the membership in the community. It was followed by the reception of the Holy Spirit, by laying on of hands.
2. Breaking of the Bread: This refers to the liturgical celebration of the last supper of the Lord. It took place in the houses of the faithful (I Cor.10 16). The faithful met on the first day of the week to break the bread (Acts 20, 7). Here we note a liturgical development among the first christians. They gathered on Sundays because it was the day of Lord’s resurrection and they hoped that He would come on the same day of the week.
3. Fast day: They fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays. The passion of the Lord began on Wednesday and the Lord died on the cross on Friday.
4. The anointing of the sick: ref. James 5, 14ff.
5. Works of Charity: The early christians manifested their love and enthusiasm in the works of charity. They were of one heart and one soul and they shared everything in common (Acts 4, 32). This christian enthusiasm was nourished by the expectation of the parousia. They were indifferent to the goods of this world and it made them free and unselfish.
St. Peter, his missionary activity and death in Rome
According to Mk. 1, 16-18 Simon and Andrew were the first men called by Christ. According to John 1.44 they lived in Bethsaida. Peter was married (M.1, 30-31, 1Cor 9,5). It was Andrew who brought Simon to Jesus (Jn.1, 40). Peter was the head of the Apostolic College. After the ascension of the Lord he took the leadership of the community in his hand. He was the spokesman, performed miracles and opened the door of the church to the gentiles.
Peter was imprisoned by Agrippa II and was to be executed. But he was set free by an angel and went to another city (Acts 12). The Acts concludes the account of Peter’s activity in Jerusalem with these mysterious words: “He went to another place”Actsl2, 17. His route to Rome, the time of his arrival there and the length of his stay are not known from the Acts. 1n 49 he was in Jerusalem then he went to Antioch Acts 15, 17.
The basis of the Roman tradition concerning St. Peter
1. The letter of Clemet: It is the first letter of pope Clemet, the third successor (88-97) of Peter. While speaking of the martyrdom of female christians under Nero, Clement writes: “Peter, who because of unjust envy suffered tribulations not once or twice but many times, and thus became a witness and passed on to the place of glory which was his due” (I Cor. 5,l 4; 6,1 2). So according to this, St. Peter might have got martyrdom under Nero in the midsixties. Clement did not give details of the martyrdom because he presupposed that his readers had known about it.
2. The letter of Ignatius of Antioch: St. Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch (98 – 110) became martyr under Trojan. In his letter to the Ramans he wrote: “I do not command you as Peter and Paul do”. This means that Peter stayed in Rome for a lengthy period and he had a special relationship with the Roman congregation.
3. A combined text of Ascensio Isaiae (4, 2 – 3) and a fragment of the Apocalypse of Peter. Ascensio Isaiae (100) written in prophetic style says: “one of the twelve will be delivered into his hands; the community founded by the twelve will be persecuted by Nero”. The Apocalypse of Peter (125 – 150 discovered in 1886) says: ” see Peter, to thee have I revealed and explained all things. Go then into the city of fornication and drink the chalice that I have foretold to thee”.
4. The Gospel according to St. john: Jn. 21, 18-19 says about martyrdom of Peter but there is no mention of the place.
5. The first Epistle of St. Peter: I Pet.5, 13 Peter indicates lose as his abode (Babilon = Rome).
The Tomb of St. Peter
There is a difference of opinion concerning the location of the tomb of St. Peter.
1. Vatican Hill
i) Tacitus’ account of Nero’s persecution, Annales 15, 44, 5.
ii) The first epistle of Clement.
iii) The account of Gaius. Gaius was an educated and active member of the Roman congregation. He says: “I can show you the tropaia (a victory monument) of the Apostles for if you will go to the Vatican hill or as the r ead to Ostiav that you will find the triumphal tombs of those who founded this congregation”. Gaius lived during the time of pope Zephyrinus (199 – 217). So about 200 the conviction at Rome was that St. Peter’s tomb was on the Vatican Hill.
As opposed to this, an entry in the roman liturgical calendar of 354, supplemented by the so called Martyrolegium Hieronymianum (after 431), states that in 258, on 29 June, the memory of peter was celebrated at the Vatican, that of Paul on the road to Ostia, and of both in catcombas
2. On the via Appia under the Basilica of St. Sebastian:
An epitaph composed by pope Damasus (366 – 304) says that the two apostles had once “dwelt” there, which probably means that their bodies had once been buried there. There was about the year 260 a shrine of the two apostles on the Via Appia under the basilica later known as St. Sebastian’s, which in the fourth century was still called ecclesia apostelerum. Excavations in 1917 proved the existence of suck a shrine about the year 260, in which both apostles were honoured refrigeria (memorial service). Though no grave was found out, other signs force us to the convulsion that the visitors were convened that it was the burial place of the apostles.
1. Same hold that the actual burial – place of both apostles was on via Appia, their bodies having been translated to Constantine’s basilicas only after these were built.
2. Others held that the burial place was Vatican Hill and the relics had been brought to St. Sebastian’s for safety during Valerian’s (253-260) persecution and had remained there until their translation to the now basilicas.
3. Yet others deny the possibility of translation to the Appian Way, because the Roman law strictly forbids opening of graves. Perhaps a substute shrine may have been built here when the persecution of Valerian made the visitors to the real tombs impossible.
4. Still a fourth opinion was that there may have been on Via Appia a centre of veneration of the apostles belonging to some schismatic group, perhaps the Novatians, who living in Rome itself, could not deist from such veneration.
Therefore in the third century there was no certain knowledge about the burial place of St. Peter.
Excavations of 1940-49 under Petrine Basilica.
There discovered a vast necropolis (cemetery) reached by street of tombs ascending to the west from which one arrived at numerous mausolea (magnificent tomb). Many of them are richly adorned. One among then is purely christian, with ancient mosaics, and a representation of Christ-Holiest a very valuable piece of early christian iconography. The mausolea was built in 130-200. This is below and in front of the “confessio of St. Peter.
Tradition puts his martyrdom in 67 and gives June 29 as the exact date. This date had a symbolic character. It was the day on which the Romans celebrated the founding of their city by Romus and Romulus. The early Christians transferred it to the feast of St. Peter and Paul, the founders of the new christian Rome.
Only through a series of striking events could the Jewish christians arrive at a knowledge that they had an obligation to carry the gospel of good news of Jesus to the gentile world. The shocking events were:
1. Baptism of Bthiopean chamberlain by Philip. 8, 2639.
2. Baptism of Cornelius 10, 1-11,18.
Then on christian communities were formed outside Jerusalem, in Antioch and Damascus. It was at Antioch that the followers of Christ received the name christians (11 – 26). It was to arrest the christians at Damascus that Paul came to Damascus.
Paul was born of a Jewish family at Tarsus in Cilicia. His ancestors came from Galilee. His father possessed a Roman citizenship. He knew the Greek ‘koine’, the common language of the Mediterranean region. He had his training as a teacher of law in the school of the Pharisee Gamaliel (22,3). He Persecuted the christians and took part in the martyrdom of Stephen (36), which he confirmed in his letters (Gal.1, 13ff; I Cor. 15, 9).
Paul might have converted in 38 AD cf. Acts 9, 3 18; 22, 3-16; 26, 12-30. Paul calls this apparition of the Lord as a supernatural call to grace. From that moment on wards he became an ardent follower of Christ and dedicated himself fully to the service of the Lord.
Mission of St. Paul
St. Paul began to proclaim the message of Christ in the synagogues of Damascus and then in Jerusalem (9, 20; 22, 2629). At both places he not with strong opposition. So he withdrew to Tarsus. Then after some years’ of silence he preached in Antioch. He was convinced that he was called to preach good news to the gentiles. And he selected the Roman expire as his mission field. He made three missionary journeys.
1. The first missionary Journey (45-48)
His companions were Barnabas and Mark. They first went to Cyprus and worked in the city of Salamis. Then they went to Asia Minor, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe. Everywhere they had opposition and sometimes physical violence. But some accepted the gospel and thus christian congregations were formed there and suitable leaders were appointed for them.
Paul did not impose circumcision and Jewish ritual prescriptions upon the gentile christians. But the Jewish christians demanded circumcision as an essential condition for salvation (15, 1-5). This dispute sometimes hindered Paul’s missionary work. It was settled in council of Jerusalem (49). There the Pauline thesis “the Mosaic Law has no binding force for the gentile christians” was accepted. Paul also collected money from the new congregations for those poor of Jerusalem community. It testified the mutual bond between the gentile and Jewish christians. The first missionary journey ended in 48. They returned to Antioch.
2. The second missionary journey 50-53
Paul’s companions were Silas and Timothy. The visited places where Paul preached gospel and founded congregations during his first missionary journey. Then he went to the coast in northern Troas. After that in a dream he was called to Macedonia. Here Luke joined the group. They sailed to Philippi. There they had opposition from the Jews. They went to Thessalonica and stayed there one month. They also preached in the synagogues. After visiting Athens they went to Corinth where a few Jews and many pagans accepted gospel. Paul stayed there eighteen months. The Jewish couple Aquilla and Priscilla had greatly promoted his work thus Corinth became one of the main centers of Paul. Then Paul went to Ephesus and after a short stay there he returned to Palestine by sea.
3. The third missionary Journey 53-58
Ephesus became the center of Paul’s missionary activity. He worked there two years. He had success as well as difficulties. A new congregation separated from the synagogue was formed. From Ephesus Paul wrote letters to the faithful in Corinth and Galatia. In 57 he left for Macedonia and Greece. After a short stay in Troas he visited Corinth from where he wrote to the Romans. In this letter he mentioned his intention to visit Rome (Rom.15, 24-29). After visiting the various congregations founded by his and after a sorrowful farewell to the elders of Ephesus he returned to Jerusalem about the time of Pentecost in 58.
In Jerusalem Paul was arrested and as he had appealed to the emperor he was taken to Rome. In Rome he resumed his missionary work in the possible way. Some believed him (Acts28 23). Luke concludes the activity of Paul in Rome with this statement: “this salvation of God has been sent to the gentiles, they will listen” (Acts 28, 28).
Acts is silent about the subsequent activities of Paul. In Rome his trial ended with an acquittal. Then he went to Spain and visited the Hellenistic East. During this period he gave directions for organizations of his congregations and warned them against false doctrines. During the reign of Nero, Paul was again imprisoned and was beheaded probably in 67 AD. The place of his martyrdom is known “Tre fontane” (Three fountains) as his beheaded head touched three places water spring spouted from there.
The characteristics of the Pauline congregation
1. Paul occupied a unique place, he was the highest authority, the chief judge and law -giver.
2. The congregation had a hierarchical order. Paul assigned duties such as care for the poor and conducting of religious worship to certain persons by imposition of hands and prayer on them. They were called presbyters or e1ders (Acts 14, 23). The elders of Ephesus were referred to overseers (Episcopoi). Paul also speaks of deacons having special duties in the congregation as a distinct office from that of episcopoi and presbyters. These office bearers (episcopoi, prebyters, and deacons) were local leaders and remained with the community.
3. Charismatically gifted persons: They had gift of tongue and prophecy. They appeared in the assembly for the worship. Sometimes it became dangerous because of the overestimate of gifts.
4. Unity with other communities: Pauline congregations were not independent. They were closely linked with their founder and the Jerusalem community.
5. Charitable works: Pauline congregations had the consciousness of being one church. They assisted the poor of Jerusalem.
The religious life of Pauline Congregation
i. Its centered on the belief in the risen Lord.
ii. The admission to the community was by baptism.
iii. On the first day of the week they regularly met together for worship. Songs of praise, hymns and psalms.
iv. Eucharistic celebration (Lord’s Supper) was the central point and climax of the service. Details were not mentioned. The breaking of the broad was the participation in the body and blood of Christ. It nourished and constantly reaffirmed the inner unity of Pauline congregations.
v. Proclamation of gospel. In the assemblies gospel was preached. Pauline congregations had also difficulties. The difference between pagan and christian morality was evident. The latter demanded greater effort. There were signs of disunity. Against all these Paul warned the faithful and asked them to keep unity, peace and brotherly love.
The development of the hierarchy
The apostles appointed a group of elders to watch over the community. They were referred to in the NT as presbyters (elders) or episcopoi (overseers). Authors generally agree that these two words are synonymous. Whether there were bishops or priests opinions are divided. The prevailing opinion is that they were priests.
This word was first used in the church in 58 AD cf. Act 20, 28: “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians to feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own blood”.
St. Paul speaks of the qualities of episcopoi:
I Thim. 3, 2-7: “a bishop must above reproach, husband of one wife, temporate, sensible, dignified, and hospitable an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent, but gentle not quarrelsome and no lover of money”.
Tit. 1, 7-9: “a bishop as God’s steward must be blameless must not be arrogant or quick-tempered, or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain but hospitable, a lover of goodness, master of himself, upright, holy and self-controlled.
In the second century episcopoi’s position became clearer. They were the heads of the community of faithful. They became the centre of the community. Hippolitus (235) says: “the faithful should elect the bishop”.
Didaschalia apostolorum (3 c.) catholic teaching of the twelve apostles and holy disciples of our Lord Saviour (full title) published by a bishop in Syria speaks of the qualities of the bishop: “bishops were allowed to marry. Elders were elected by the bishops to help the latter. Baptism was reserved to the bishop. But elders and deacons administered baptism with the permission of the bishop”.
Later in the light of the decisions of Nicea I and Chalcedon certain changes were introduced with regard to the election of the bishops. The right of the electing a bishop was reserved to the bishops of the neighbouring dioceses. Then the opinion of the faithful was sought out. Polycarp was elected bishop after having enquired about him by sending the deacons.
The synod of Ancira (314) decreed that when a bishop was not acceptable to the community he had to retire to the priesthood. The synod of Arles (314) decreed that there should be seven bishops to consecrate a new bishop. It also decreed that there should be at least three if not seven, but the absentees should inform about their consent with the signature of the archbishop.
Once a bishop was appointed to a see, he should not go from there. There were strict rules regarding the transfer of the bishops.
Bishops were simple pastors and were not distinguished by any of the external trappings (mitre, cozier, etc.). During the persecution bishop stood out as the leader, teacher of the community, director of the divine worship and administrator of the sacraments.
The head of the Jewish community was called presbyter. In the Qumran community too we found presbyters. The presbyters were in charge of the synagogue.
In the church in the beginning there was no distinction between episcopoi and presbyteroi. But St. Ignatius says: “The Eucharistic celebration should be under the leadership of the episcopoi. This shows that episcopoi were the successors of the apostles.
In the third century we find a distinction between episcopoi and presbyteroi. In the absence of the bishop, presbyter could give blessing in the agape. Eusebius speaks of 46 presbyters, seven deacons and seven sub-deacons in Rome besides the bishop.
Deaconate originated with the election of those seven men mentioned in the Acts 6, 1-6. Though originally intended for the care of the poor many other activities fell to their lot as time went on. Deacon became the bishop’s right hand man, assisting in the celebration if the Eucharist in the administration of baptism and in the temporal administration of the diocese. Didaschalia speaks of them: “the bishop’s ears, mouth, heart and soul”.
Subdioconate: Subdioconate came into existence to assist the deacons. It originated in the apostolic time. The number of deacons was seven. When the community became large, deacons took assistants (subdeacons).
In the Western church in the third century other lesser orders came into existence:
Lector (reader) educate members of the community who would read the scriptures at the divine services.
Acolytes assisted the sub-deacons.
Exorcists to take care of those who were supposed to be possessed.
Porter to keep the door.
Besides these there was deaconess also to help in the baptism of women.
Formation and maintenance of the Clergy
We do not find a formation as we have today. Yet the apostles trained their co-workers in the ministry of the word and administration of the sacraments. At first more stress was laid on the virtue of the candidate. The will of the people was sought out when one is appointed. It was people who determined their bishop. This election would be ratified by other bishops.
Promotion to the priesthood was done considering the satisfactory account of oneself in the lower orders, fifty age for bishop, thirty for the priests. Self castrated eunuchs, neophytes, slaves were excluded from clerical state.
Celibacy was not obligatory in the first three centuries. A married person (once) could become deacon, priest and bishop. But they were not allowed to marry after the ordination. Second marriage was tolerated for the laity but considered unworthy of the clergy. There were people who had attraction to virginity and this liking for celibacy grew gradually more common. In 305 synod of Elvira (Spain) made celibacy obligatory for bishop, priests and deacons.
Maintenance of the clergy: The words of the Lord “the labourers have the right to their maintenance” was the principle. Since there was a strong community spirit, there was no problem. There were generous contribution, offerings at Mass, monthly collections, etc. (Tertullian)
Developments of parish, diocese, archdiocese, Patriarchate
The word parish comes from the Greek word Paroikia = community of pilgrims, those near the house of God. When the number increased christian centers also increased. In the beginning private houses were used for Eucharistic celebration. In the second century onwards these communities were known as parish. Each parish was given the name of a martyr. In 300 there were twenty parishes in Rome. Communities were again formed outside the cities and the church in the city became its centre. Bishop appointed Priests to the parishes. Thus there were many parishes under a bishop.
The parish system spread rapidly throughout the East. In the West we see a gradual development. In Rome bishop was the leader of the Eucharistic service. He was consecrating bread and wine even if there were other churches in the city. Consecrated bread was sent to other churches. Priests had obtained permission from the bishop to consecrate bread and wine. In the fifth century laity began to own parishes and they used to pay the priests and gained the income of the parish.
Diocese or provinces: Different parishes are formed into a diocese. The word comes from the Greek Diokein = to govern. Diocese is a place which is governed. The sixth canon of Nicea I speak about the division. Diocese is known by the name of the place where bishop resides. The bishop of the capital had some authority over the others and from fourth century onwards was referred to as metropolitan (metropolis = capital).
Patriarchate: Different metropolitan churches were grouped into a new system called Patriarchate. Patriarch means head of a family or race. In the OT Abraham and Jacob were called patriarchs. The early christian centers Rome, Alexandria and Antioch were known as patriarchates. The sixth canon of Nicea I refer to this. When Constantinople became the capital of the Roman Empire it demanded the second place among the patriarchates. Later Jerusalem (451) also was given the patriarchal title. Thus there were five ancient patriarchates and were known as Pentarchy of the church. Rome had the first place.
1. Rome: As the see of St. Peter Rome had preeminence among the patriarchates. The councils also approved it. The one who is in communion with the Roman see was considered to be in communion with the rest. Roman primacy is clear from the attitude of the authority which the popes displayed in their dealings with the other churches. Pope Clement (86-97) in 96 interferes in a split in the church at Corinth. Pope Victor (189-199) showed himself superior of the whole church on the occasion of the dispute about the date of Easter. Pope Stephen (254-257) in 256 forbade the bishops of Africa to rebaptize heretics. Dionisius (257-68) in 260 corrected the bishop of Alexandria for errors concerning the Trinity. These are indirect evidences. There are direct evidences:
Ignatius of Antioch (110), says: Roman church as presiding in love, presides in the chief place of the Roman territory.
Ireneus (185), while speaking against the innovations of the Gnostics, ascribeds to roman church potentior principalities on account of its being founded by St. Peter and Paul. St. Cyprian says: Petri cathedra atque ecclesia princioalis unde unitas sacerdotalis exorta est.
2. Constantinople: In the fourth century Constantinople was a suffrogan to Heraclea. In 324 when Constantine mad it the new capital it became known as new Rome. Constantinople 1 381 assigned to it the second place. The 28th canon of Chalcedon 451 approved it. The 21 st canon of IV Constantinople (869870) officially confirmed it. Again it was confirmed in the council of Florence in 1439. Pope Leo 1 (440-461) was against it. Chalcedon decreed that Constantinople had the right to take decisions on the Byzentine church. From 6th century onwards. Constantinople’s patriarch was called ecumenical patriarch. Pope Gregory the great (590-604) opposed it but the title was used by the patriarch with the consent of the emperor. Constantinople had authority over the whole Asia Minor.
3. Antioch: Canon 6 of Nicea I speaks in a vague way about the privileges of Antioch Canon 6 of Constantinople I determined the rights of Antioch.
4. Alexandria: Most ancient patriarchate. Nicea I, c.6 speaks of the ancient custom according to which the Alexandrian patriarch had power over Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis. Canon 2 of Constantinople I determined the rights and jurisdiction of Alexandria.
5. Jerusalem: had great importance. It was first a suffrogan to Caesarea. Nicea had given certain privileges to it and Chalcedon 451 conferred on it the patriarchal title at the request of their bishops. Three provinces of Palestine were given to it.
Different factors in the formation of patriarchate.
1. Apostolic origin
Rome -St. Peter
Constantinople -St. Andrew
Antioch -St. Peter
Alexandria St. Mark
Jerusalem St. James
2. Ecclesiastical importance
Rome- see of Peter
Constantinople- Basilica of the Great Wisdom
Antioch -centre of Theological School
Jerusalem centre and pilgrimage
3. Political importance
Rome- capital of Roman Empire
Constantinople -new capital
Antioch -capital of Orient
Alexandria- capital of Illyricum
Jerusalem- residence of roman governor
Intellectual Opposition Heresy and Schism
As the christians were known to the world, there arose an intellectual opposition in the second half of the second century. Though the opposition was a danger to the individual christians, it contributed to the development of christian doctrines in so far as it has forced the Church to reexamine her intellectual resources and to define with greater clarity and distinction.
i. Opposition of the Pagans.
The two famous pagan opponents of christianity were Lucian and Celsius. Lucian used to ridicule the christians and spread calumnies against them. Celsius in his book “The True God” written in 178 attacked the Church most viciously. The work was burned in 488 by the order of emperor Theodosius. Origen quoted the text in refuting Celsius. The following are the arguments of Celsius: (i) The official Roman religion is essential (ii) the Christians are the enemies of the empire (iii) ridiculing the christians he hindered the pagans from becoming christians (iv) he put forward refutations of the christian doctrine especially against Incarnation and redemption. Celsius presented Christ and the Apostles and the christians as vagrants who pride themselves on their own importance. He considered christian doctrines as mere ill-digested borrowings from traditional wisdom and insidiously points out that their attitude presents a danger to the City.
2. The Challenge of Religious Philosophy.
The third century is noted for its philosophical revival. The pagan philosophers tried to make their philosophy more attractive and to show that it is superior to christianity.
It appeared in Alexandria in the first half of the third century. It was founded by Ammonius Saccas (174- 242), an apostate. But the chief exponent of this movement was Plotinus (+270), a disciple of Saccas. He lectured in Rome and preached a kind of Trinity.
a) One: It is not intelligible, formless, no attributes contained all beings.
b) Nous: It is the emanation of One and the exemplar of all things. It received the Being contained in the One in the form of
c) World-Soul: It is the emanation of Nous, and created the universe.
Man is a union of body and soul and this union is accidental. Body is the instrument of the soul. The sou1 existed in the WorldSoul before its union to the body. Plotinus is not clear about whether the soul is distinct from World-soul and souls or not. In the body there is a danger of domination of matter. Therefore one has to fight to preserve its union with the world soul. If it keeps itself free of matter it will be able to rise to the contemplation of Intelligence (Nous) and ultimately to the ecstasy of a facial vision of One. This vision is only in the next life where soul will enjoy immortality on being freed from matter by death.
It was an attempt to fuse Greek philosophical ideas with the elements of various oriental religions: Persians, Babylonian and Indian. The empress Julia Donna, wife of Spetimus Severus (193-211) asked a certain Philostratus to present the ideal fusion of all religions personified in some great figure. Thus Philostratus wrote the biography of a certain Appollonius of Tyna, lived in the first century. He presented the latter as a perfect philosopher who traveled from Spain to India and asserted that all religions were same. During the persecution of Domitian (81-96) he was tried, but disappeared from the tribunal and appeared to two of his disciples who thought that he had risen from the dead. He was presumed to be disappeared from the temple while the virgins sang: “Leave earth and come to heaven”. This was an effort to provide the pagans with a counter attraction to Christ.
It is a collection of systems – a fusion of hellenistic ideas with Jewish religious ideas and certain elements of christian revelation. It started in the first decades of the second century. The basic question of Gnosticism was how can man find the true knowledge, which will explain the riddle of the world and the evil there in as well as the riddle of the human existence. Gnosticism claimed to bring to religious minded people a valid interpretation of the world and of themselves. They had a liturgy and its forms were borrowed from Eastern Mystery cults and christianity. They made use of its symbolic content skillfully. They organized their adherents to a close-knit community and propagated their doctrines by sacred hymns and fascinating novels. Gnostic cells were formed inside the Church to conquer the Church from within.
Gnosticism taught a dualism. This dualistic conception of being is expressed as the opposition between god and Matter, between Light and Darkness. There are intermediate beings called Eons which are pure spirits and pure lights. Eons together with god of Light formed the kingdom of light. One of the Eons, Demiurge, tried to raise himself above his status and was expelled from the kingdom of light. He then created universe and man. He rebelled against God. Demiurge is the God of OT. The souls of men belong to the world of light, but are imprisoned in matter. So man has to fight to free the soul. Gnosis is the secret knowledge that will enable them to do that.
Result of gnostic teaching
(i) Denial of original sin
(ii) Destruction of the doctrines of incarnation & Redemption.
(iii) Christ is only an Eon.
(iv) They divide the people into three classes:
a) Spirituals -who have the secret knowledge (gnosis).
b) Uneducated christians -who were forced to live a asceticism.
c) Pagans who had no hope of salvation.
Different groups of Gnosticism
1. Syrian group: The centre was Antioch. Their leaders were Menander and Satornil. Menander proclaimed himself the redeemer.
2. Basilidian School: Its centre was Alexandria and its leader was Basilides who claimed to have secret doctrines which the redeemer had entrusted to Mathias after the ascension.
3.Valentinians: Its centers were Egypt, Alexandria and Rome. Its leader was Valentinus. This sect was most dangerous to christianity.
Works of Gnosticism
By the victory of christianity, the Gnostic literature were destroyed but some of them are preserved being quoted in the antignostic writings of Ireneus, Tertullian, Hippoliyus, clement of Alexandria, Origen and Epiphanius.
i) Pistis Sophia
iii) Books of Jeu-alleged revelations of Christ his disciples.
Discovery of Gnostic remains
The excavation of 1945-46 discovered an extensive library of a gnostic community near upper Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi, in the vicinity of the former Pachomean monastery of Chenoboskian . It contained in 13 papyrus manuscripts more than 40 unknown works in the Coptic language mostly direct translations from Greek. The translation was done either at the end of the fourth century or in the beginning of the fifth century. The Greek originals were written in the second century. Their titles seem to be christian apocrypha, but the contents are quite new, eg. Apocryphal gospels of Thomas Philip gospel of Egyptians, of Truth, Acts of the Apostles, Peter, Mathias, etc.
Marcian was a son of the bishop of Synope, south coast of Black Sea. He came to Rome in 140 and joined the christians who supported him with money. In 144 he left Rome since his peculiar ideas were not accepted there. He wanted to purify the Church from Judaism. Therefore he founded a new church with bishops, priests and laity and liturgy. This church lasted till fifth century. He made a distinction and opposition between God of OT and God of NT. Christ is God of love and mercy. Consequently he denied all OT books and those books which looked favourably on OT. He accepted only gospel of Luke minus his infancy narrative. He also accepted moat of the Pauline epistles. In the East he won many followers. His church was well organized with strict morals and fu11 pledged members. They abstained from matrimony meat and wine. But Marcianism was regarded as a most dangerous enemy of the Church. St. Polycarp of Smyrna called Marcian “primogenitus Satanae“.
This sect appeared in Phrygia, Asia Minor about 172. Montanus a Phrygian and two of his female disciples, Maximilla and Priscilla claimed to have received the charisma of prophecy. The monatanists gave more importance to visions and revelations. According to him the time of the paraclete had begin with the coming of Montanus the new Jerusalem was going to be inaugurated and last for a thousand years. For it all must live in continence. They showed excessive respect for virginity. They deny the possibility of forgiveness of sine after baptism especially sins of fornication, murder and idolatry. Therefore they had postponed baptism. No statues, no paintings were allowed. Pope Zephyrinus (199-217) excommunicated them. This movement spread very quickly. In Rome Tertullian joined into it and left the Church in 207. It ended by the fifth century. Maximilla said: “after me there will be no prophecy but the end”.
In the first century there was no dispute about the doctrine of Trinity. But when it was explained some went astray in the second century.
1. Dynamic Monarchianism or Adoptionism
Monarchianism appeared as a continuation of Jewish monotheism treating the Father Son and the Holy Spirit merely as powers of one god in the Judaic sense of the word. So it is the unique divine person who was manifested in Jesus Christ. Mons=alone arkho=rule.
According to Adoptionism Christ is a mere man, but God’s power operative in him in a special way at baptism. Therefore it denied the divinity of Christ. The first exponent of this doctrine was an educated leather merchant Theodotus of Byzantium who came to Rome about the year 190. According to him Christ was a mere man but had been filled with the power of god at baptism. Thus Christ was divine only in a wide sense. He tried to prove from Scripture t that Jesus until his baptism led a life of simple but very upright man on whom the Spirit of Christ then descended. Pope Victor (189-99) excommunicated him.
Theodotus the Younger, a disciple of Theodotus of Byzantium taught that Melchizedech Was superior to Christ and the actual mediator between god and man.
Paul of Samosata, the bishop of Antioch was its exponent in the East. According to him god is one in nature and in person. Christ is a mere man in whom the impersonal word (wisdom of god) dwelt as in a temple. Christ might therefore be looked upon as an adopted son of god. Hence it has got the name Adoptionism. In 269 Paul was condemned. His followers were also called Paulicians.
2. Modalist Monarchianism or Sabellianism
It denied the real distinction between the three divine persons. One god revealed in different ways or modi as Father Son and the Holy Spirit. Father suffered on the cross. For them Christ was really Father Himself appearing in a different way. From the identification of the father with the suffering Christ they are called Patripassionists or Modalists.
The first representative of this doctrine was Noetus from Smyrna in Asia Minor. According to him there is only one god who became man and suffered on the cross. He was condemned in 190.
Sabellius, another representative of this doctrine gave it a systematic character. He attributed to one godhead three modes of operation. Father expressed himself as Son and Spirit. As Father God was creator and law giver, as Son he was operative in Redemption as Spirit he conferred grace and sanctification. In Rome he had opposition from Hippolitus who criticised the pope Callistus of his laxity towards Sebellianism and declared himself antipope.
The Date of Easter
The Asiatic church celebrated Easter on 14 Nisan following the Johannean tradition But the Churches outside Asia especially Rome celebrated Easter on Sunday following the 14 Nisan. Pope Anacletus (155-166) asked the asiatics to conform to Roman usage. Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna journeyed to Rome and persuaded the pope to drop his demand. But he did not agree. Pope Victor (189-199) renewed the request of Anicetus and he ordered to hold synods to settle the question. All churches except Asia led by bishop Polycratus of Ephesus sided Rome. Pope then excommunicated Asian church. It was a severe measure. Eventually the Asians also accepted the Roman custom. In 325 – council Nicea I – it was decided that Naster was to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon after the Spring Equinox (March 21). The difference in the date showed a difference in the concept of Easter. Those who celebrated it on Sunday were commemorating the Resurrection, the others regarded Easter as a commemoration of redemption (Death and Resurrection).
The Schism of Novatus and Novatian
After the persecution the apostates and the compromised created a serious problem. There was a dispute with regard to the readmission of the apostates. In Africa bishop Cyprian had to face the laxity of certain clergy Novatus was its leader. Cyprian wrote a strong exhortation De Unitate on the authority responsibility and solidarity of the bishops. In Rome the church faced a rigoristic movement under the learned priest Novatian (once strong supporter of Cyprian) who declared himself antipope to Cornelius (251-253). He rejected the readmission of the lapsed. A Roman synod excommunicated Novatian. Novatian formed a new church which demanded rebaptism from those who obeyed the pope. The Novatians built up a network of small congregations calling themselves cathari (pure ones) to distinguish themselves from other churches. Novatian made great propaganda by sending his followers to different parts of the world and he consecrated bishops. In Africa Cyprian opposed him. Novatus the leader of lax party joined Novatian. They had only one thing in common, i.e., the opposition to lawful authority. This schism lasted for two centuries more Novatian died in the persecution of Valerian about 258.
Rebaptism of Heretics
Here is the question is about the Christians who had been baptized in some heretical or schismatical sects. According to Tertullian a heretic could not validly baptize. Three garthagian synods (220 255 256) and two Asia Ninor synods (230) followed his opinion. Cyprian also shared this opinion.
Pope Stephen (254 257) considered Cyprian’s view an innovation and asserted that according to tradition heretics who are converted have only to be reconciled by laying on of hands but do not have to receive baptism. So baptism by heretic was valid. Dionisius of Alexandria shared Rome’s view. The Africans bishops supported Cyprian. Steaphen threatened them with excommunication. But disputes were forgotten in the presence of the persecution of Valerian under whom Stephen was martyred. Cyprian was martyred in 258.
Manichaeism claimed to be the most universal of all religions and promised true redemption to all nations. Its founder is Mani or Manes a Persian. Until recent discoveries our information about it was from its opponents (Cyril of Jerusalem, Augustine, etc.). Writings on Manichaeism were discovered in 1900 and 1930. In 1900 some texts of Manichaeism were discovered from the caves of Turfan in the Chinese province of Turkestan. They were written in Parthian or Persian and contain fragments from Mani’s book of Giants liturgical documents certain confession formularies a type of catechism and dogmatic texts. In 1930 there discovered a Manichaean library in Medinet Madi in Upper Egypt which contain letters and sermons of Mani (Homilies) fragments of a text book of Manichaeism (Kephalia) and an important large volume of Psalms. These texts are translated from Syriac into Coptic about 400.
Details of Manichaeism from the new findings
The founder Mani was born on 14 April 216 in Selucia Ctesiphon from a family related to the princely family of Arsacids. During his life in Babylonia he came in touch with all shades of religion practised there (Mandasans, Mazdaism, etc.).
In 240 Mani received the revelation that he was destined to be the missionary and herald of a new religion. He believed that his mission was the continuation of that of Zoroaster, Budha and Jesus and he was the supreme revealer in whom the total truth was made manifest.
Mani came to India and preached in the province of Beluchistan. Then he returned to Persia and won the favour of the king Shapur (241 273) who allowed him to spread his doctrines throughout the kingdom of Sassanid. During the reign of the king Bahram I he met opposition from the magi and was put to death in 277. His followers described the manner of his death as crucifixion but the term was meant only his martyr’s death for his beiief (Handbook of CH. HIS, p.262). Following this event his followers fled to west India, China and persisted till 14th century.
Writings of Manichaeism
1. The Great Gospel from Alpha to Tau. It is an album of pictures.
2. Treasure of life.
3. The book of mysteries (24 Chapters).
4. His letters.
Mani preached a radical dualism concerning God. There are two highest Beings or Principles of equal rank: one of Light and the other of Darkness. Both are unbegotten, eternal, had equal power, irreconcilable. The reign of Light or Good lies in the north and of the Darkness or Evil in the south. The realm of light is ruled by a king called Father of Greatness, of evil by the Prince of Darkness who commands numerous demons. There arose a conflict between the two. The Father of greatness created the first man with his five sons who went out to battle with the reign of Darkness but was conquered by evil. The first man then begged the Father of Greatness for help. The Father emitted from himself after a series of intermediately emanations, the living spirit who freed the first man from evil and redeemed him.
Man is a mixture of light and darkness. As soon as he is aware of it his redemption begins. The Father of Light helps him for it. For, he sent heralds of true religion to earth, who taught correct knowledge. They are Buddha in India, Zoroaster in Persia, Jesus in Judea and Mani is the last one. The first three did not establish their message in writing consequently their religion especially christianity quickly fell into pieces or were falsified. Mani preached the highest and perfect gnosis. The rejection of it is the refusal of salvation. His religion is universal and it comprises all earlier religions but is beyond them.
Manichaeans abstained from everything which links men to matter. The perfect manichaean renounces this world. He binds himself by the triple seal of the mouth hands and womb. Man would find salvation through the doctrine of these three seals.
1. Seal of mouth- signaculum oris- one refrains from impure words and pleasure.
2. Seal of hands- signaculum manuum- One rejects the menial works.
3. Seal of womb- signaculum. Sinus- One rejects marriage and practices absolute sexual continence.
On account of the strict ethics there was a division among them:
1. Electi- those who bind themselves by the triple seal
2. Hearers- Audientes- Catechumens- They serve the elect and give them food and clothing. They hope to be born sometime in the body of an elect and attain salvation.
Hearers were obliged to Mani’s Ten Commandments:
1. To avoid idolatry
2. To avoid lying
3. To avoid greed
4. To avoid murder
5. To avoid adultery
6. To avoid theft
7. To avoid bad teachings
8. To avoid witchcraft
9. To avoid religious doubt
10. To avoid laziness.
They would ultimately join the elect in heaven after a series of purifying incarnations in the next life. Unbelievers would wander about till the end of time and would then be cast into hell.
The structure of the Manichaean church
Their hierarchy is consisted of:
1. Supreme head- He is the head of the apostles or king of the religion. His residence is in Babylon. Mani is the first head.
2. Twelve apostles
3. 72 bishops (teachers of truth)
4. 360 priests
5. Deacons (electi). They are men and women.
6. Hearers- lowest grade.
They had rites resembling baptism and Eucharist. Their only feast was that of Mani’s execution and entry into heaven. They had given a high rank to Jesus but did not recognize God of OT as God of light. Manichaeans could not be members of other religions. St. Augustine was a Manichaean once. A crusade was proclaimed against Manichaeism by pope Innocent III in 1208. By the 14th century the last heirs of Manichaeism had been finally suppressed by the inquisitions.
During the first decades history of the Church there was no hostility towards the christians from the part of the Roman empire. The emperors intervened in the conflicts between the Jews and the christians and protected the latter whom they viewed as politically harmless. But there was hostility from the part of the Jews and the pagans.
The Jews hated the christians, because the Jewish christians were considered apostates. Secondly, the Jews accused the christians of sexual immorality in their nocturnal meetings, of revolting practices in their religious worship.
The pagans hated the christians on account of the aversion of the christians from everything connected with pagan worship. Secondly, the christians considered their God as the only true God and redeemer of the world. Thirdly, the christians out themselves off absolutely from their pagan surroundings and they were considered enemies of the classical culture.
Besides, the christians had to face the opposition of the intellectuals. The Jewish historian Flavius Joseph did not give a prominent position to Christ. In the middle of 2 C. some even wrote against christianity, Celsus wrote the Mary was a prostitute, and the repudiation of Christ was a myth. The epicurean philosopher Lucian ridiculed christianity causes of Persecution
1. We should not look upon every roman emperor or governor, under whose rule the christians were put to deathm as a man who persecuted them in blind rage solely because of faith.
2. the initiative for reprisals against the christians did not come primarily from th e state authorities. It was contrary to the principles of roman religious policy to proceed with the power of the state against the adherents of a religious movement solely because of their belief.
It is true that the emperor cult slowly became an essential component of the state religion. But the conscious rejection of emperor worship on the part of the christians was seldom the motive for proceedings against them by the state in the 1C. The pagan state power took notice of the special character of the christianity only because of the disturbances that occurred between the christians and Jews or pagans. Then it stepped to control it. Only then the authorities become convinced that the religious peace was being disturbed by the christians who constituted a treat to the religious policy of the empire. Therefore, the primary cause of persecution was rather the claim to absoluteness made by the christians religion itself. The second cause was the hostile attitude of the pagan population
The source for the history of the persecutions is the account of the christians. A detailed history of persecution from the pagan point of view does not exist. The number of the persecutions was said to have been ten which prefigured in the ten plagues of Egypt.
In 59 A D. Paul was brought before the Roman procurator Porcius Festus. This was the first occasion when a Roman state power was concerned with a Christian. He was brought before the Roman authority because of his claim to be Roman citizen. Proceedings ended with an acquittal. Here Paul’s religion was not regarded as offending against the existing laws or public orders.
The antichristian attitude may be dated to the beginning of Claudius’ reign (41-54). Actually it was not directly against the christians, but against the Jews. The emperor’s order affected the christians who were converted from Judaism. Eg.1. Order forbidding the Jews in Alexandria to invite thither fellow countrymen from Syria or Egypt. 2. Expulsion of Jews from Rome because of conflict among themselves.
I. Nero (54-68)
The earliest example of the persecution of the christians by the Roman authority was the persecution after the burning of the City under Nero in 64, Tacitus in his ‘Annales’ reports that there was persistent rumour circulating among the people that Nero himself was responsible for the conflagration on 16 July 64, which destroyed several districts of the City completely and others in part. To get rid of this suspicion, the emperor diverted it onto the Christians, “who on account of their misdeeds were hated”. Some men, who had been arrested and charged, were bribed to denounce the Christians as the actual culprits. Therefore the christians were arrested in large numbers and executed. Some christians were sewn into the skins of animals and thrown to wild dogs, others were clothed in inflammable materials and used as living torches after dark in Nero’s gardens which he threw open to the public for spectacle. Tacitus though against the christians and believed that they deserved punishments on account of their crimes, reported that they were unjustly accused of arson. His report shows that at Rome in the seventh decade of first century there had been a considerable number of the christians. (ingene multitudo). It is clear that the motive of the precaution by Nero was not his belief that the christians constituted a threat to the state. In carrying out his plan he made use of the hostile attitude of the population towards the christianity, but he was not aiming at the christian faith as such. Later christian apologists generally regarded him as the first Roman emperor who persecuted christians from religious motives. Lactantius says that Nero’s objective was the complete extirpation of christianity.
The christian writer who mentioned the events under Nero was Clement of Rome. Without naming Nero directly he says that not only did Peter and Paul suffer a violent death, but also a great number of the elect among them women, had died after cruel tortures.
Lactantius is the only writer who says that the persecution under Nero included the whole Roman empire. This is improbable, for other sources are silent on this matter. Some assumed that a general edict of persecution was issued by Nero. No source speaks of a persecution in the East. Besides in the beginning of sixties christianity was not an important religion that the state should take legal measures against them. No later Roman authorities did base their attitude. Nero’s action had no legal foundation, but sprang from the arbitrary will of the ruler who thereby hoped to cleanse himself from the suspicion of arson. Nevertheless Nero’s persecution influenced the public to have a feeling against the christians. From that time on, to be a christian was to be an outlaw in the eyes of the people. In the future the state could find support from the public opinion to face the question whether the state should take action against the christians or tolerate them. Slowly this view if christianity acquire force of a principle of law by which the legal position q f the christians in the empire was largely determined.
2 Domitian (81-96)
Melito Sardes in his apologia for the emperor Marcus Aurelius mentions Domitian as an opponent of christianity In his letter to the Corinthians Pope Clement refers to the persecutions that had prevented him from writing them sooner. Epictetus a non christian says that the christians went foolishly and thoughtlessly to their death. Dio Cassius reports that the consul Flavius Clemens and his wife Domittilla had been accused and condemned on account of godlessness and with them many others who favoured Jewish practices. The accusation of godlessness makes intelligible the motive behind Domitian’s action. It was the emperor’s claim to absoluteness for his own person expressed in the emperor cult.
The extent of persecution and the number of its victims: The words of Dio Cassius “many others” refer to good number of Christians. As to the extent of persecution we do not have any source. It is said that Domitian persecuted the christians towards the end of his reign, because the christians refused to pay temple tax and pay homage to him.
3 Trojan (98-117)
The correspondence between the emperor and his governor of Bithynia, Pliny the younger, helps us to understand the attitude of the Roman authority towards christianity at the beginning of the second century. The governor asks the emperor officially what principle he should follow in certain border line cases when dealing with the christians. This shows clearly that in the Asiatic province, numerous christians were denounced to the authorities as christians, tried and examined, and if they remained true to faith executed. The emperor answered the governor in the form of a rescript it is called the rescript of Trajan.
Pliny informs the emperor about the situation of the Christian religion in his province. He was concerned with the christians because many of them did not obey the imperial decree banning the hectairies, associations unrecognized by the state. These Christinas were denounced to the governor sometimes even anonymously. He examined them and then ordered then with threats of death penalty to give up their religion. Only when they obstinately persisted in it did he have them put to death with the exception of those who were Roman citizens who were transported to Rome.
The letter of Pliny shows that he was unaware of any law or decree of the state as a norm in the proceedings against the christians. So he asks: Does the mere name of christian suffice as grounds for persecution or must other crimes be proved? Trajan’s answer confirms that there was no general law regulating proceedings against the christians. He did not establish a universally valid norm but gave certain directions:
1. Christians were not to be sought out.
2. Anonymous accusations were to be ignored
3. Denounce christian should be examined
4. If denied christianity, he was not punished
5. If on examination one confessed christianity and persisted in it, he was to be punished.
No christian lost life in Bithynia, but two bishops Simon of Jerusalem (crucified at the age of 120) and Ignatius of Antioch (thrown to the wild beasts in 110) were put to death.
4. Hadrian (117-138)
In answer to a letter of the proconsul of Asia Proconsularis asking the directions in the dealings with the christians, Hadrian gave certain directions. He reaffirmed the norms of Tvajan. He condemned anonymous denunciations of christians. Only when someone vouched with his name for the accusations was a christian to be brought to trial, and only when it could be proved that the accused “had offended against the laws” was the governor to pronounce sentence according to the gravity of the offence. So christians could be punished only if they could be proved to have committed crimes against the existing laws of the state. Hadrian does not indeed exclude the possibility of prosecution for merely being a christian, but he appears to have demanded proof that the accused had offended against Roman law So the rescript of Hadrian was only a guidance. But Nomen Christianum itself was worthy of punishment. No martyrdom was mentioned under Hadrian.
5. Antonius Pius (138-161)
Under Antonius Pius there was a change in the relation between christianity and the Greco-Roman world. Formerly christianity was linked with Judaism and christians were persecuted in connection with the conflict between Judaism and the empire. Then christianity was considered a Jewish heresy. Gradually christians began to appear to pagans as a different group, as curious be a who disturbed peace by their magical powers etc.
Martyrdoms: three christians at Rome (ref. Justin the martyr Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna was condemned to death at the stake and burnt in the theatre.
A survey of the Persecution from Nero to Antoniua Pius
1. There was no general law that governed the attitude of the state towards the christians.
2. Out of the hostile attitude of pagans, there developed an opinion: “beingchriatgian is incompatible with the Roman way life”.
3. This formed a maxim: adherence to christianty is a crime, and can be punished.
4. Persecutions during this period were local and sporadical.
5. The number of victims was relatively small.
6. Marcus Aurelius (161-180)
Some writers ascribed to Aurelius an edict favourable to the christians. But this is not true. He despised the christians in his heart. In 176-177 he issued an edict which could be indirectly employed against the christians (introduction of an unknown cult). Melito Sardes, Athanagoras, etc. say: the christians were hunted, robbed and persecuted. Their report was confirmed by a series of individual martyrdoms in the empire. In Rome the philosopher Justin and a group of the christians were put to death between 163 and 167 after a trial. Eusebius speaks of the martyrdom of three bishops in the East between 160 and 170. Bishop Dionisius of Corinth speaks of the martyrdom of the bishop of Athens Publios (161-170) in his letter to the church of Athens. Bishop Sergius of Laodicea was executed about the year 164, also bishop Thraseus of Eumenia, and a group of christians from Pergamum.
In the summer of 177 when the representatives of all Gaul were assembled in Lyons for the festival of the imperial cult the popular rage suddenly vented itself on the christians who were accused of atheism and immorality. The mob drove a group of christians into the market place. There were examined and sent to prison. During the trial ten christians abjured their faith, the rest were condemned to death. Before execution they were cruelly tortured. Bishop Potheimos of Lyons died in gaol after brutal ill-treatment, the others were thrown to wild beasts. The bodies of the executed were not handed over to the families for burial, but were burnt and the ashes scattered in the Rhone. The number of victims was about fifty. Sometimes the christians were sentenced to forced labour in the mines instead of death.
1. Public opinion against the Christians, eg. Lyons.
2. General discontent of the population. The endless compaigns of emperor laid many burdens on the people the constant threat of hostile invasion irritated the people at frontier. People were aggravated by natural disasters such as overflowing of the Tiber and the outbreak of plague. Its result was organized massacre (pogroms). The absence of the christians at the ceremonies of propitiation to avert the pestilence caused popular anger.
3. The opposition of the church to the pagan culture and the Roman state became a parent in the background of the disputes with the Gnostics.
4. The montanist movement. Their exalted desire for martyrdom and fanatical refusal of everything pagan.
Commodus, son of Aurelius, (180-192) was tolerant towards christians. Christians held influenced offices at his court. It was due to the influence of his wife Marcia though not baptized had friendly relations with the christians of Rome.
A survey of the persecution under Aurelius shows that the attitude developed under Trajan still continued. Christians were condemned only when they were denounced to the authorities. And the profession of christian faith sufficed for their condemnation.
7. Septimus Severus (193-211)
He was the founder of the Syrian dynasty. Tertullian says: the emperor publicly demonstrated his good will towards individual christians. Christians held influenced positions at court. The first ten years of his reign were peaceful the bishops could even freely meet in synods to discuss the question on Easter date about the year 196.
In 202 he changed his attitude to christianity. He issued an imperial edict forbidding conversion to Judaism to christianity under pain of heavy penalties The activities of the church was supervised by police. This edict hindered the missionary work.
The reason to publish this edict: Severus realized that christians would become a universal organized religion and would be a threat to the state. So he wanted to hinder further growth of the church. The refusal of some christians to do military service strengthened him in his conviction that the christians were dangerous to the maintenance of the order of the state.
In Alexandria and Carthage where there were large christian communities the persecution affected catechumens and newly baptized persons, for they particularly transgressed the new edict. The teachers of christian school of Alexandria were compelled to leave the town in 202. Six pupils of Origen who were working there were executed (two of them catechumens). In 203 a group of catechumens were arrested and were heriocly suffered martyrdom. eg. Perpetua, her slave Felicitas, etc.
Christians as individuals were persecuted. Three christians of Carthage were condemned to death at the stake another died in prison. Augustine refers to the martyrdom of Gudentius in 203. Tertullian wrote a work: “To the martyrs” addressed to the christians in prison (197). He refers to the flight of the christians including clergy to escape arrest some obtained safety by bribing the police.
Christians were brought from other places to Alexandria and were executed. Among them were Leonidas, father of Origen, the virgin Potamiaina, her mother Marcella, soldier Basilides, etc. Some find the coming approach of antichrist in the persecution of Severus. In Cappadocia the governor persecuted the christians because of the conversion of his wife to the new faith.
From 211 to 249 was a period of religious toleration. It was inaugurated by Garacalla (211-217). In 212 he granted Roman citizenship to all free men in the empire. His successors Heliogabelus (218-222) and Severus Alexander (222-235) followed the same method Maximus (235-238) changed the policy since his reign was short, nothing happened. Philippus Arabo (244-248) was sympathetic towards the christians.
A survey of persecution in the first half of the third century shows that there were phases of really a peaceful coexistence and sometimes of positive toleration. Only twice (Septimus Severus and Maximus) a systematic policy against christianity was observed.
8. Decius (249-251)
One of the cruel Persecutions of christianity. In Dec 249 itself he ordered to arrest christians. In 250 Jan. bishop Fabian of Rome was put to death. In 250 he issued a general edict summoning all on the empire to take part in a general sacrifice to the gods- a supplicatio. This was to invoke the protection of gods for the well-being of the empire. Commissions were set up to see the sacrifice was performed and to issue everyone a certificate or libellus. Before a certain date the libellus was to be exhibited to the authorities. Anyone refusing to sacrifice was thrown into prison and was tortured. This was a serious attack on the church.
What was the motive of such a decree? The opportunity to determine the exact number of the christians or the expectation of a mass return to the old state religion? The latter may be the motive. In Egypt and North Africa those who obeyed the edict far exceeded those who refuse it. Ref. Bishop Dionisius of Alexandria, Cyprian of Carthage. Origen who refers to the laxity says: the heroic days and former spirits have gone. In Alexandria some christians performed sacrifice some denied that they had even been christians still others fled. Many offered sacrifice on the point of arrest others endured a few days in prison refusing to sacrifice until they were due to appear in court some submitted only after torture. In North Africa some secured the certificate through bribery or other means. They were called libellatici. There were others called thurificati who offered incense. Those who offered a full sacrifice before the image of gods were called sacrificati. The number of lapsi was large. St. Gyprian speaks of two bishops in North Africa and many others who fell away. One of these bishops even persuaded the majority of his flock to offer sacrifice. He also speaks of two Spanish bishops who were libellatici.
In contrast to these there were christians in every province who were ready to die for their belief. Cyprian gives an account of it. He speaks of the christians in prison including many women and children who were ready to die for the faith. There were exemplary women among his clergy. Cyprian does not mention the name of all martyrs but only two, Lucianus and Gelarinus.
In Egypt bishop Dionisius speaks of fourteen martyrs, ten of them died at the stake and four by the sword. He mentions that many christians died of hunger and cold.
Bishop Alexander of Palestine, bishop Babylas of Antioch were put to death. Origen died a martyr’s death after a cruel torture. In Asia Proconsularis five christians were put to death. Gregory of Nyssa speaks of the persecution in Pontus.
The Decian persecution ceased rapidly. It was because of the departure of emperor for the Danubian provinces to fight against the Goths and his death on the battle field prevented its rapid resumption.
The Roman government gained no tangible and lasting success by this calculated and systematic attack on the church. Many of those who left faith, were received into the church, many libellatici were atoned for their fault by a new confession of faith.
Trebonius Gallus (251-253) arrested Cornelius, the head of the christian community in Rome and was exiled to Civita Vecchia where he died in 253.
9. Valerian (253-260)
In the first years of his reign he was well disposed towards the christians. His household was one of God’s communities. In the fourth year he changed his attitude and introduced a short but extremely harsh and violent persecution.
Dionisius of Alexandria blames Macrianus, emperor’s minister who may have suggested the idea of remedying the precarious financial state of the empire by confiscating the property of the wealthy christians. Valerian was probably also impelled by the threatening situation of the empire in general.
In 257 he issued a public edict ordering all bishops, priests and deacons to offer sacrifice to the gods. Any of them celebrating divine worship or holding assemblies in the cemeteries were to be punished with death. Bishops Cyprian and Dionisius were arrested and many christians in African provinces were condemned to forced labour in mines.
In 258 he issued another edict: It took further decisive step. Clerics who refused the sacrifice were to be immediately put to death. The leading laity was also included in this. Senators and members of the order of knights were to lose their rank and possessions. If they refused to offer sacrifice, they were executed and their wives were banished. The aim of this policy was to eliminate the clergy and the prominent members of the christian communities. Thus deprived of leaders christians were condemned to insignificance.
Result: The victims were numerous especially among the clergy. Bishop Cyprian was beheaded. Pope Sixtus was put to death together with his deacons. Bishop Dionisius of Alexandria was condemned to exile. Deacon Lawrence also was put to death also many others. Socrates says: Novatian also died during the reign of Valerian for his christian convictions. In Egypt and North Africa the number of victims was high.
The persecution ceased with the tragic end of the emperor who was taken prisoner by the Persians in 259 and soon died.
A survey of the persecution of Valerian shows that the christians stood firm in faith. They met this trial with far more calm determination than they had displayed in the time of Decius.
Gallienus (260-268) issued an edict in favour of the christians. With this there began a period of glory and freedom (Eusebius). Places of worship were restored. Preaching and building new churches were allowed. It lasted fourty years.
10. Diocletian (284-305)
During the period of peace (260-300) the christians enjoyed freedom of belief, worship and preaching (Eusebius). But it was not a guarantee for a permanent tolerance (freedom) because no law defended the christians. Even during this period a christian could be denounced and suffer persecution. Even Eurelian (27075) prepared an edict of persecution and its application was prevented by his sudden death.
In the first years of his reign Diovletian was tolerant towards the christians. He had christians as high officials. His wife and daughter had inclination towards christianity. For 18 years Diocletian was busy with the reforms and the defence of the empire. He did not want to molest the christians because he had unity and security of the empire at his heart.
In 297 Diocletian divided the empire into two, keeping the last where he lived for himself. He put his colleague Maximian in charge of the West with its headquarters in Milan. He further divided the empire into four prefectures, thirteen dioceses and 101 provinces. Each emperor had an assistant with the title of Caesar. The emperors would rule for twenty years and then they would be succeeded by their respective caesars. Diocletian received Galerius, Maximian took Constantius. Each had separate court and was responsible for each one section. But there remained only one empire and all decrees had to be signed by four rulers.
East Nicomedia C. Asia Minor Orient -Galerius-Caes.
Roman Empire 297 Italia -Maximian-emp.
West Milan C. Gallia -Constantius-Caes.
After having finished the reform in the empire, Diocletian turned towards the christians and violently persecuted them. The causes: Lactantius in one place says that Galerius persuaded Diocletian, in another place he names Hierocles as originator and adviser of Diocletian. But most probably Diocletian persecuted the christians with his full freedom and personal responsibility. He was convinced that christianity was against his work of reconstruction of the empire. Perhaps Galerius and Hiercles might have confirmed him in the line. The hostility of the people and the educated to christianity also recommended this.
In 300 Diocletian published a decree ordering all soldiers to offer sacrifice to the gods or to leave the army. Then in 303 February he published an edict (I Edict) in the name of four rulers:
1. To destroy all christian places of worship
2. To surrender and burn all the sacred books
3. To forbid all the assemblies for divine worship
4. To degrade the christians.
As a result of this christians were enslaved and they lost their privileges and ranks. In the meantime a fire broke out in the imperial palace in Nicomedia. Galerius blamed the christians. It followed a persecution. A church was demolished, a certain christian (Euethios) who tore the edict was soon executed. Then distinguished christians were forced to offer sacrifice to gods. Even his wife and daughter had to do it. Many clerics were also persecuted. Bishop Anthimus was executed. There were also people who left the faith.
In 303 itself Diocletian published the second edict ordering to rob the christian communities. Eusebius speaks of the situation. The prisons were filled with bishops, priests, deacons etc.
In the same year (303) another edict was published which contained the detailed proceedings against the clergy. Any one who offered sacrifice could be free and those who refused it would suffer torture and death.
The fourth edict was published in 304 which inaugurated one of the cruelest persecutions. It imposed sacrifice to gods an all without exception. Its refusal would bring cruel persecution. Six or seven million christians suffered. The list of martyrs is endless: St. Sebastian, Pancratius, Agnes, pope Marcelline, etc.
In 305 Diocletian and Maximian, the two emperors abdicated according to the norm of Diocletian, i.e., 20 years of reign. In the West Constantius Chlorus became the emperor and his Caesar was Severus. In the East Galerius became emperor and his caesar was Maximinus Daia. In 306 Constantins died and his son Constantine became the emperor. In 307 Maximian, the former emperor of the West declared himself and his son Maxentius, co rulers of the I Italian prefecture having deposed Severus. In 310 Maxentius deposed his father. But in 312 Constantine degeated Maxentius. It is known as the Milvian Bridge Battle on 28 October 312.
On 30 April 311 Galerius published the edict of toleration in the name of four rulers ordering the cessation of persecution. It is stated that the earlier measures were for the good of the state and to restore the old Roman laws and manner of life. By this Christians were permitted to exist and to hold their religious assemblies provided that they do nothing disturbing the public order. They were asked to pray to their God for the welfare of the empire, the emperor and themselves. This tolerance opened to the christians the gate to a brighter future.
Galerius was succeeded by Licinius who followed the method of toleration, but his caesar Maximinus Daia renewed persecution. He made use of the following methods:
1. False propaganda against the christians
2. Petitions of pagans to emperor and his rescripts were published in towns
3. Arrested many christian and imposed death punishment.
But towards the end of 312 Maximinus Daia also changed his hostile attitude, but the christians did not believe him.
Emperor Constantine and the liberation of the Church
Constantine was born in 285. He was the son of Constantius and Helena. A few years after his birth, his father left Helena and married Theodora, step daughter of Maximian. His family had positive relations with the christian circles. It is clear from the christian names in their family.
In 306 Constantine became emperor following the death of his father. On 28 October 312 he defeated Maxentius in the battle of Milvian Bridge. This event marked the turning point in Constantine’s attitude towards christianity. It is said that some time before the battle Constantine saw in bright day light a cross in the sky with the Greek words, “In this sign thou shalt conquer“. And the following night Christ appeared to him with the cross and told him to have it copied and to carry it as protection in war. This is the version of Eusebius. But Lactsntius says that Constantine had a dream exhorting to put God’s heavenly sign on the shields of the soldiers and give the battle.
In 313 Constantine and Licinius discussed the new political situation when they met at Milan to celebrate the marriage between Licinius and Constantia, his sister. On that occasion Constantine published the edict of Milan (313) which a new era for the christians began. The clergy were exempted from military service. Bishops were given civil jurisdiction. Permission was given to build churches. However Licinius did not shoe much favour towards the christians. By 320 he exerted pressures on the christians, put restrictions on freedom of worship and preaching. He closed the places of worship, arrested bishops and priests and condemned them to death.
Constantine accomplished his new religious policy in three stages:
1. 312-320. During this period he hardly touched paganism, but exalted the church with increasing energy.
2. 320-330. In this stage he brought the church into public life and attacked polytheism. In 321, July 2, he declared Sunday as national holiday. In 324 he defeated Licinius, but spared his life at the request of Constantia and assigned Thessalonica as his place of detention. Later Licinius was executed for treasonable plot. Sunday was dedicated to god sun. Constantine raised that day to the rank of a festival. Christians were appointed to the higher administrative posts of the empire. Constantine presented to Militiades, bishop of Rome, the palace of the family of the Laterani, the property of his wife. He arranged for the building of the Lateran basilica. In 325 he convoked the first ecumenical council at Nicea. On that occasion he celebrated the 20th anniversary of his reign. On 18 September 324 he began to rebuild the old Byzantium. On 17 May 330 he inaugurated the capital in Constantinople and celebrated the 25th year of his rule.
3. 330 338. The final stage. He broke all relations with the old religion. On 15 July 335 he celebrated the 30th year of his rule. He died in 338. He received baptism at his death bed from an Arian bishop.
The forces that drove Constantine to do these things:
1. His revolutionary character. Julian speaks of Constantine: “a wicked innovator and tamperer with the time hallowed laws and the sacred ethical traditions of our fathers”. He aimed at unification and promoted uniformity in the church.
2. His christian conviction. This conviction was not mild and gentle as in the spirit of the gospels. He conceived of God as being as quick to wrath as he himself was.
3. His fear of God
4. A true consciousness of his mission. The emperor and kings of the ancient world believed that they had a divine mission and they are elected and protected by the gods. Constantine chose his god for himself and his choice was sealed by a vision. He was convinced that he was called to become a prophet.
5. Iron will to rule. In the service of faith it was an irresistible force. In 314 in his address to the synod of Arles he called himeelf famulus Dei.
Constantine was extoled as new Moses and the apostle of of God. Paintings and statues showed him the protector of the christian religion. He felt himself to be bishop of all mankind, a God -appointed pope (cf. Eusebius). He felt himself that he stood on the same rank as the apostle of the Lord. At his express wish he was buried in the new capital as the thirteenth apostle with cenotaphs of the Disciples of Christ (Sepulchral monument to persons buried elsewhere) six and six, to right and left of his grave (Eusebius). Constantine died in 338.
From the liberation of the Church to the synod of Trullo (692)
After the liberation of the church in 313, the emperors considered themselves heraids of the new religion. Emperor Gratian (374-383 West) renounced the title and trappinas of Pontifex Maximus and removed the alter to the goddess Victory from the senate. Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395 East) imposed Nicean creed as the official belief of his subjects in 380. He issued a series of decrees in favour of the christians and declared pagan sacrifice high treason. His successors Arcadius (395-408), Theodosius II (408-450) continued the work of complete eradication of paganism. St. Pulcheria, sister of Theodosius Il had infiuenced the latter for it. By the middle of 5th c. the number of pagans had been very much reduced. Marcian 450 -457, Leo 1 457-474, Zeno 474-518, Justine 518-527 Justinian 1 527- 565.
The eastern part of the Roman empire reached the height of its splendour under Justinian. He with his wife Theodora wanted to restore the old empire in its fulness. But he did not succeed completely. He is known for his codification of Roman canon law. It was a masterpiece that surpassed all previous efforts in comprehensiveness, clority and order. Most of the European countries even today had the influence of Justinian Code. Justinian commonded all pagans to be baptized under pain of confiscation of all their goods and the privation of civil rights. The result of it was 70000 conversions in Asia Minor.
Justinian code 529, Justin II 565- 578, Tiberius 11 578 -582, Maurice 582 -602, Phocas 602 -610, Heraclius 610 -641
Decline of Byientine Empire
After Justinian the empire began to decline. The Lombards took most parts of Italy. The Avars also threatened the empire from north, the Persions attacked from the East in 570 and came up to Chalcedon. Chosroes 11 (589-628) took Asin Minor, Syria, Palestine and most of Egyrt and sent an ultimatum to Emperor Heraclius in 610 demanding the surrender of Conotantinople. In 610, after having commeded himself to God he declared a crusade against the Persians. After nine years fighting he achieved the purpose, but both parties were weakened and by the 7th c. most of their disputed territories were taken by the Mohemedans. The Perdisn Empire disappeared and Constantinople was diminished.
Arius under whose name this heresy has come tuto the Church history, was a priest in the church of Alexandria. He had his theological formation.probably at the school of Antioch and was a pupil of the Antiochene priest Lucian. He was ordained in 310 and was pastor in Baucalis in Alexandria.
From 318 through 319 Arius expounded in his sermons and teaching an idea of the Logos and his relation to the Father, for which he found a considerable following within his congregation, in a part of the clergy, and especially among the consecrated virgins; whereas others decisively rejected it. His bishop Alexander decided to examine it in a theological discussion in which both sides could express and justify their ideas. Arius stated that “the Son of God was created out of nothing (nonbeing), that there was a time when he did not exist, that, according to his will, he was capable of evil as well as of virtue, and that he is a creature and created”. His opponents insisted on the consubstantiality and eternity of the Son with the Father. Alexander finally accepted the second view and ordered Arius never to propound his opinion again.
Since Arius resolutely refused to comply, Alexander excommunicated him and his clerical adherents. Arius did not intend to recognize the excommunication and leave the church; instead, he wanted to bring his ideas to victory within the Church. He knew that outside Egypt also there was no unanimous opinion in this theological question, and a considerable part of the episcopate sympathized with his theses. He found protection of Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia and Eusebius of Caesarea (for a short time). Bishop Alexander summoned, probably in 319, a synod of all Egyptapparently 100 bishops. He made known the result of their deliberations in an encyclical to all the bishopd of the Catholic Church: Arius and his supporters in the Egyptian and Libyan clergy were excluded from the church, because of their “errors which dishonoured Christ”.
Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia consoled Arius “You think correctly, but pray that all may think in the same way”. Arius had meanwhile left Egypt and finally-after a brief stay with Eusebius of Caesarea -arrived in Nicomedia which now became a center of Arian propaganda. In 320 Eusebius convoked a synod at Bithynia and sent a circular to all bishops which called for the restoration of ecclesiastical communion with those who had been condemned, since they were orthodox; piessure should be put on Alexander to receive them back. Arius drew up a profession of faith according to which only the Father is eteraal, he alone is without beginning, but the Son is God’s perfect creature, he does not possess his being together with the Father, since the Father existed before the Son. He wrote a book entitled Thalia or Banquet, a mixture of prose and verse, in which he recruited for his ideas in popular form.
Bishop Alexander sent circulars and letters to all bishops about the heresy of Arius. Pope Silvester was also informed of the events in Alexandria and of the excommunication glexandrians clerics. (Ephiphanius was acquainted with a collection of some seventy letters of Alexander relating to is matter). It was also known to emperor Constantine, probably through the bishops of the East, and it seems that he was not informed about the entire seriousness or about the theological significance of the quarrel.
Bishop Hosius of Cordoba, the episcopal adviser of Constantine, came to Alexandria to reconcile Arius with his bishop and to stop all public discussion of the controverted point. But it was not at all practicable. He went back to Nicomedia to report to the emperor on the failure of his mission. Soon both understood that there was only one possible way of restoring peace to the church: to summon the entire episcopate of the church to a great synod. The early sources all attribute to Constantine the initiative for this solution. The synod took place at his command.
The invitations to the bishops specified Nicaea in Bithynia as the place of meeting and May 325 as the date for beginning the deliberations. The number of the participants in the council is not clearly established. Busebius says there were more than 250; Athanasius, also an eyewitness, on one occasion gives the round figure of 300, but elsewhere he gives 318. Later historians uphold this laft number, especially since it had a biblical mystical prototype: Abraham’s troop of retainers amounted to 318 (Gen.14,14). Only five bishops and two priests, Vitus and Vincent, representative of the pope, represented the West. There were theological experts -periti -like deacon Athanasius of Alexandria. The solemn opening took place on 20 May. 325.
The emperor addressed the assembly emphasizing peace and harmony within the Church. Then the doctrine of Arius was discussed and the Fathers condemned it. The council approved a creed (nicean Creed) which declared the Son to be consubstantialto the Father, true God and true man. After the adoption of the Creed, the Fathers took up the other points of the. In the matter of the date of Easter they agreed on the practice of the greater part of the church, which celebrated the solemnity of the resurrection on the Sunday after 14 Nisan.
The council had a solemn and impressive closing. The emperor gave a splendid banquet for the council Fathers in his palace at Nicomedia. He gave them also presents and admonished them to maintain peace among themselves and recommended himself to their, prayers. Soon afterwards, he sent a comprehensive report on the Council “to the churches” not represented at Nicaea.
Nicaea I was the first council in history which possessed an ecumenical character since to it were invited bishops from all the geographical areas of christianity. The emperor convoked it and the bishop of Rome consented to him by sending his own representatives.
After the council two bishops, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Thegnis of Nicaea informed the emperor that they withdrew their assent to the creed of 325. The emperor sent these bishops into exile in Gaul and gave their former sees to prelates loyal to Nlcaea. But from the beginning of 328 a reversal in the emperor’s attitude began to appear concerning individual representatives of the pro-arian faction. In that year the exiled bishops Eusebius and Theognis were permitted to return from banishment and again occupy their former sees. Eusebius even gained emperor’s ear and favour and finally occupied the position of theological adviser of the emperor. It was due to the influence of Constantine’s stepsister, Constantia.
Soon after his return from exile, Eusebius energetically and methodically assumed the leadership of the Arian faction. Instead of attacking the Creed, he wanted to eliminate the leading personalities of the opposition. Bishop Eustathius of Antioch was accused of immoral character and disturbor of religious.peace. At the synod of Antioch in 331 the friends of Arius deposed Eustathius whom the emperor exiled to Thrade. Eight bishops more were exiled. Then Arian party turned against Athanasius who had been elected to the see of Alexandria in 328.
Division in the Church
In the universal church there are two kinds of divisions: first one is according to the liturgicval rites. Second one is according to the doctrinal differences. The churches founded by the apostles professed the same faith, but developed adapting customs and traditions of the place. Hernce diversity could be seen in explaining the faith and in their worship. Thus different particular churches were formed with their own liturgical traditions. The main liturgical rites are the following: Roma, Antiochean, Alexandrian, Byzentine, Chaldean, Armenian.
These liturgical rites were developed centered on the early christian centers: Roman, Antioch, Alexandrian, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Persia, Armenia. Out of these seven centers the first five were in the Roman Empire.
In 297 Emperor Diocletian (284-305) divided the empire into East and West for administrative purpose. During the time of Constantine the empire came under one emperor, but again it was divided after the death of emperor Theodotius 1 (+395). Thereafter the churches in the Eastern Empire were known as Eastern or Oriental churches –Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and Constantinople. The churches outside the Rome empire-Persia, Armenia and India-also belonged to this group. The Roman Church was the only Christian centre in the western empire and it was known as western church. It is called Latin Church its liturgy being Latin.
Division according to the doctrinal differences
In her very beginning there had been in the church of God certain rifts (1cor 11: 18; Gal 1:6). Such quarrels were condemned by St. Paul. They however, did not divide the church. In subsequent centuries More widespread disagreements appeared in the church and large communities became separated: from the full communion with the church. Such separations took place in 431, 451, 1054, 1517 and 1533.
1. Nestorian church
Nestorianism was born in the patriarchate Constantinople but grew in the soil of Persia. Nestorius, an Antiochean monk, became patriarch of Constantinople in 428. He taught that it was incorrect to refer to Bl. Vergin as mother of God (Theotokos), for she was mother only of the human element in Christ, not of his divine personality. Hence he was accused of holding two persons in Christ. Reports about his teaching spread throughtout the empire. In his Easter circular and in a special pastoral letter, Cyril of Alexandria reacted to it. Both appealed to Rome. In 430 Pope Celestine in a Roman synod condemned Nestorian teaching. He wrote four letters: 1. to Nestorius to retract his teachings within ten days, 2. to the church of Constantinople, 3. to Bishop John of Antioch, 4. to Cyril of Alexandria appointing him papal legate to receive retraction of Nestorius.
Cyril drew up twelve propositions (anathamas) which Nestorius had to retract within ten days under pain of deposition. The phrase of Cyril in this like “one is the nature of the incarnate Word is heretic (monophysitism). Nestorius reacted by sending Cyril a set of twelve counter-anathamas.
Council of Ephesus 431. Emperor Theodosius II, in agreement with Pope Celestine (422- 432) convoked a general council at Ephesus on 22 June 431. 159 bishops attended the council. Nestorius was condemned and deposed. Shortly after the first session of the council the papal legates arrived and confirmed the decree against Nestorius. John of Antioch with 42 bishops came even later, distrustful of Cyril and Alexandrian theology, organized a pseudo-council and excommunicated Cyril as heretic and appealed to the emperor. Cyril on his part excommunicated John and his followers.
The emperor approved the decisions of both parties. Both Nestorius and Cyril were deposed. But later Cyril won the favour of emperor through the influence of his (emperor’s) sister Pulcheria and generous gifts. Nestorius was deposed and exiled to the Egyptian deserts where he died in 450. After two years of negotiations in 433 Cyril and John were reconciled.
The recent study on Nestorius shows that Nestorius was not a Nestorian and was unjustly condemned in the council of Ephesus. When we study Nestorianism we have to make distinction between the personal teaching of Nestorius, Nestorianism as historical teaching, and theoretical nestorianism.
1. The personal teaching of Nestorius.
Nestrius was accused of the following:
1. He proposed the title Christotokos to Mary instead of theotokos. When Nestorius became patriarch of Constantinople therl.was a controversy about the title Theotokos. Some preferred to call Mary Anthropotokos. Then Nestorius proposed as a compromise the title Christotokos -mother of Christ. His criticism of Theotokos was well-intentional. He was trying to conteract the abuse of the title by the Arians -who denied the divinity of Christ -for Arius (+335) taught that the Word is not eternal, but first and noblest of creatures -and Appollinarista (Acco. to Appollinaria of Laodicea 310-390, Christ was one person and had only on nature. The word was made fleah means that Christ took a body, not the word was made man. The Word which is consubstantial with God, is united to an incomplete humanity. In the composite being of Christ the Word plays either the role of soul in the body or that of the spirit in the body). But Nestorius disregarded the fact that the title Theotokos had a history of 200 years of orthodoxy. It was an expression of faith in the true divine sonship of Christ and was based on the Communicatio idiomatum = communication of properties. It is the attribution of properties of both natures of Christ, together or separately, to the same person in Christ. It is the first important consequence of the hypostatic union. The subject of attribution in Christ is the second person of the Holy Trinity, to whom both divine and human natures are belonging. As the natures so their properties too may be rightly attributed to the very same person.
2. Nestorius seems to speak of union in Christ as union of wills = moral union. He wanted to affirm the gratuity of order of salvation and that the union was according to the good pleasure of God. The term used was conjunction. He also wanted to say that the Incarnation was not out of necessity of nature (appollinaristic conception of Incarnation.
3. Nestorius was accused of holding doctrine of two persons in Christ. The terms used in the christology of Nestorius were the following:
1. Physis= nature in general
2. Ousia=nature in general
3. Hypostasis=person, nature
The controversiat term is hypostasis which means person and an individual Perfect nature = the particular nature preserving the property. Nestorius used the term hypostasis in the meaning of individual perfect nature. So when he says that Christ has two hypostasis, he means that Christ has two natures preserving the nature of Godhead and that of manhood. If Christ had only one hypostasis, he is neither God nor perfect man. He has complete hypostasis like the Father and complete hypostasis like Abraham.
2. Nestorianisma as a historical reality Is the position of the bishops who rejected the union agreed upon by John of Antioch and Cyril of Alexandria in 433. Here Nestorianism accepted two natures and two hypostases. It rejected Ephesus and communicatio idiomatum and the title Theotokos.
3. Theoretical Nestorianis is contrasted with Monophysitism which is equally theoreticl. It means that in Christ there are two persons and two natures.
Through nestorianism was born in Constantinople, it grew in Persia. The Persian Church had its origin in the first century itself. It was through the Jews that gospel reached there. There were Persians at Pentecost among those who had listened to St. Peter. They returned to Persia and spread the good news.
St. Thomas also preached gospel in some of the places of the Persian Roman Empire. Grigen speaks about the apostolate of St. Thomas in Persia. Now it is believed that St. Thomas preached in Mesopotamia (Persia proper), and his disciple Addai in Edessa and his disciple Mari in Seleucia Ctesiphon (cities on the either side of river Tigris). In all these places the medium of communication was Syriac because it was the commercial language of the Middle East.
2. Monophysite Church
Monophysitism is simply the extreme opposition of Nesorianism. Nestorianism is called after a man, but monophysitism is a definition of a heretical idea. As soon as Nestorius began to divide Christ into two persons, his opponents began to insist on the unity of our Lord to such a degree that they confused his humanity with his divinity as one thing. They declared Christ one person with one nature. In Christ the humanity was absorbed in the divinity as a drop of wine would be in an ocean of water.
The first home of Monophysitism was Egypt. The phrase of Cyril “one nature incarnate of the Word of God” became their watchword. When Cyril reconciled with John of Antioch, some of his followers accused him of compromising with Nestorianism. They are the first monophysites. Cyril died in 444 and Dioscorus, his archdeacon succeded him.
The trouble began with Eutychus, superior of a monastery with 300 monks.He had influence at the royal court. He began to teach that Christ is not consubstantial with other men and had not the same nature as we have. At incarnation the two natures were fused into one. As soon as Eutychus began to propagate this new doctrine, the Eastern theologians opposed him. (Theodoret of Cyrus, Flavian, etc.).
In 446 in a synod at Constantinople, Eutychus was found guilty and was deposed and excommunicated. Eutychus then, wrote letters justifying his ideas, to the Pope, Dioscorus, etc. The emperor Theodosius decided to convoke a synod at Ephesus to revise the judgent of the synod of Constantinople. Pope Leo 1 (440-461) sent his legates with a dogmatic letter -Tome -which contained the catholic doctrine=our Lord is one person having two natures of God and of man; each nature is real, complete + perfect.
The proposed council met on 8 August 449 at Ephesus. The majority of the bishops present (350) were followers of Dioscorus. Dioscorus presided over the meeting and made the synod do all he wished. iutychus was declared innocent. Bishop Flavian and others were maltreated. Flavian died a few days afterwards. The papal legates were threatened and they signed the acts. Emperor approved the council. But Pope Leo in a local synod in Rome protested against the synod and declared it invalid. This synod is known as Robber Synod.
At pope’s wish Marcian, the successor of Theodosius convoked a council on 8 Oct. 451 at Chalcedon to settle the question of Our Lord’s nature. 630 bishops attended it. The papal legates presided. Dioscorus was condemned; the dogmatic letter of Leo was approved with the acclamation “Peter has spoken by Leo”. The doctrin of two natures and one person is defined. Those who did not accept Chalcedon are called Monophysites.
Was monophysitism – the heresy – the real motive of the monophysite quarrels? Many historians see in them a political motive, working under guise of a theological dispute. The christians of Egypt and Syria refused to accept thedecrees of Chalcedon and they sympathised with Dioscorus and saw in his deposition an attack on St. cyril and Ephesu. Egypt and Syria were the two provinces in the East. They were not really loyal to the empire. Both kept their own languages had ancient civilizations of their own. The emperor and his soldiers were foreigners to them. This feeling of patriotism and antiimperialism made them to refuse a council which was convoked by the emperor and in which their patriarch was condemned and deposed.
Besides it was a matter of national honour to the Egyptians. Ephesus and Robber synod were a great triumph for them, where their patriarch had deposed the patriarch of Constantinople. But Chalcedon reversed the process. Pat.of Const. deposed their pat. So Egypt rose to defend its patriarch and persuaded Syria and Palastine to join them in the common cause against the emperor.
Chalcedon could not put an end to the problem raised by Eutychus. It started a long crisis in the Church. As its consequence a considerable number of Eastern churches remain separated from the universal Church. The Alexandriam church supported almost unanimously despite his condemnation. In Jerusalem the pro-chalcedonian bishop was deposed and amonophysite bishop was elected. In Antioch also a Peter the Fuller, a monophysite became the patriarch. He added to Trisagion “who was crucified for us”.
Attempts to reconcile the Monophysites
1. Acacian schism (484-519)
In 482 emperor Zeno published Henoticon, a document drawn up by patriarch Acacius of Const. to reconcile the monophysites by showing that to be antichalcidon and monophysite were not the same thing. The Henoticon contained orthodox faith and declared as symbols of faith the creed of Nicea-Const, 12 anathamas of Cyri 1decrees of Ephesus, condemnation of Nestorius and Eutychus. But it rejected Chalcedon in order to please the monophysites.
The publication of Henoticon satisfied most of the east except the fanatic monophysites.But the Pope and the West rejected it for its repudiation of Chalcedon. Pope Felix ll (483-492) sent legates to Const. to settle the question, but Zeno treated them harshly. Pope, then, held a synod in Rome and excommunicated Acacius. Acacius removed the Pope’s name from diptychs. It is known Acacian schism and lasted thirty years. It ended in 519 when emperor Justin l and people of Const. forced patriarch John 11 (518- 520) to subscribe Chalcedon. Patriarch emperor and bishops signed the formula of Pope Hormisdas (514-523) condemning Nestorius, Eutychus, Acacius and Dioscorus.
2. Three Chapters (544 -554)
Theodore of Askidas, bishop of Caesarea made an attempt to reconcile the monophysites. He wanted to make it clear that to accept Chalcedon does not mean becoming a Nestorian. The monophysites hated Theodore of Mopsuetia, Diodore of Tarsus. Therefore Askidas persuaded emperor Justinian to publish an edict condemning three documents 1. The person and writings of Theodore of Mopsuetia. 2. Writings of Theodoret of Cyrus, 3. Letter of lbas to Bishop Maris. This is called the Three Chapters. The emperor published the edict in 544.
The West refused to accept the condemnation. Pope Vigilius was brought to Constantinople in 547 and condemned the Three Chapters by force in 548. When the western bishops protested, the pope withdrew the condemnation (judicatum). In spite of the disapproval of the pope, and excommunication, Justinian convoked a general council on 5 May 553 at Constantinople.165 bishops attended it. Pope attempted a compromise sending a document condemning 60 propositions from the works of Theodore and forbidding further condemnation. The council rejected it. The pope, then, worn out with the long strife, gave in, confirmed the acts of the council and condemned the Three Chaptersin 554. The sick pope died on his return journey at Syracuse in June 555.
The monophysite Churches
Egypt, Syria and Jerusalem continued to be monophysites. In the 6th cent. national monophysite churches were formed in Armenia, Syria etc. At present there are five monophysite churches.
After the council of Chalcedon there had been several attempts to make a balance between the Nestorians and the Monophysites. In spite of the difficulties that emperor Heraclius (610- 641) faced during the attack of Persians and the Mohemedans made efforts to reconcile the Monophysites of Syria and Egypt. He accepted Monothelitism as good means.
Chalcedon decreed that in Christ there are two natures. In 616 patriarch Sergius of Constantinople (610-638) began to preach that there is only one principle of operation and one will in Christ. This will and principle are both human and divine-theandric. Th monophysitex patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch agreed with Sergius by 633. After five years Heraclius published a decree – Ecthesis -drawn up by Sergius professing belief in one will, summoning all christians to do likewise and forbidding further discussion.
St. Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem and St. Maximos the confessor opposed the Ecthesis. Sergius wrote to Pope Honorius I (625-638) who misunderstood the issue. Honorius reply upheld Sergius opinion and commended him for trying to silence those who spoke of two principles of operation in Christ.
In 638 Herallius published a formula prepared by Sergius, where no mention of one operation is made. It was accepted by most of the Oriental bishops. But the Western bishops and pope Severinue (640) strongly objected it. In 648 emperor Constans II (641- 655) withdrew the formula and issued a religious edict, the Typos, forbidding all criticisms of Monothelitism. Pope Martin 1 (649-655) condemned the Ecthesis, Typos and monothelitism after careful investigation by a Lateran synod. Constans had the pope arrested and brought to Constantinople. There he was tried for high treason, ill-treated and banished to Cherson (654) and in southern Russia where he died in 655.
Council of Constantinople 111 (680-681)
At the suggestion of Emperor Constantine IV a council was convoked in Constantinople to settle the problem of Monotheitism. Pope Agatho (678-661) approved it and sent legates explaining clearly the doctrine of two operations in Christ. The conucil sat from November 680 to September 681. On the basis of Agatho’s epistle and passages the council recognized the doctrine of two operations and two wills in Christ as the teaching of the church. The council condemned Sergius, three other bishops of Constantinople and pope Swegius.
The Maronites of Lebanon preserved Monothelitism and they were eventually reunited to the Catholic Church in 12th c and 15th century.
Pope Honorius and Infallibility
The case of Honorius was one of the main arguments against the papal infallibility in Vat I. In his two letters to Sergius pope is supposed to have admitted Monothelitism, because he speaks of one will in Christ. He admits one will in so far as the human will never contradicts the divine. He says that there is only one operator of the divine and human in Christ, but whether he works by one operation or two is none of our business. He was afraid to make a decision, lest he should be accused of Nestorianism or Monophysistism.
In his second letter the pope emphasized the unity of two natures and asked to avoid subtleties about one or two operations. Therefore what Honorius affirmed was correct. He was not a theologian and could be blamed for his negligence and ignorance to safeguard the pure doctrine.
Council of TruIlo (692)
The V and VI ecumenical councils enacted no disciplinary canons. Therefore the emperor Justinian II convoked a council called Trullan from the domed hall (gk.Trullos) which is also called Quinisext from its purpose of completing the other two councils (Quini sext = Latin for fifth-sixth and refers to a synod called the sacred Trullan synod, held in 692 which covered the disciplinary problems that had been passed over during the fifth and sixth councils). It was not approved as ecumenical by the popes because its canons were according to the practices of the Greek Church. Justinian ordered to arrest the pope Sergius (687701) but failed. He, a decade later, invited Pope Constantine (708-715) to visit Constantinople. Pope came and was received with enthusiasm and devotion. He was the last pope to visit Constantinople.
Donation was a heresy which holds that the efficacy of a sacrament depends on the worthiness of the minister. The starting point was the election of Cocilian to the see of Carthage in 312. A section of the community under the leadership of a widow, Lucilla contested the validity of Cecilian’s consecration on the grounds that one of the consecrating bishops, Felix Apthungi, was guilty of traditor. They elected Majorinus as bishop, who was soon succeeded by Donatus. Donatus was an energetic and efficient man and became the organizer of this schismatic group to which history has given his name.
On 15 April 313 the Donatists appealed to Constantine. Their case was brought before Rome and three successive synods,, Rome -15 Feb. 314, Arles -1 July 314, Milan 10 Nov. 316, declared that their claims were groundless. Cecilian was reinstated and Donatus was excommunicated.
In 317 the emperor promulgated a very severe law against the Donatint who had to hand over their churches. It followed a violent persecution. Finally their obstinency forced the authorities to tolerate them by an ediet (5 May 321). (Again on 15 August 347 the emperor published an edict ordering union of catholics and Donatists). In spite of the persecutions the Donatists spread in Africa. They claimed to be the pure wheat in the field. Donatus felt himself to be the Primate of Africa. In 336 they could convoke a synod of 270 bishops. Donatus died in exile in 355. He was succeeded by Parmenian (355 391).
In 361 Emperor Julian ordered the restoration of Donatist church as it had been before 347, at the request of the Donatists. It followed the expulsion of the catholics from their churches, ill-treatment of the clergy, desecration of catholic churches, and dishonorable treatment of Donatists who had gone to the Catholic Church.
During the period of Parmenian there flourished Donatist theological literature. He wrote two books “New Psalms” which make the basic doctrine of their confession, and “adversue occlesiam traditorum, which in five books presented a comprehensive and also original ecclesiology of the Donatists. According to Parmenian the true church can be recognized by this, that, as the bride of Christ, it possesses a fivefold dowry:
1. The cathedra-the power of the keys entrusted to the Bishops
2. The angel -who stirs the water at baptism
3. The Holy Spirit
4. The baptismal font
5. The baptismal creed without which the baptismal font cannot be opened.
Since these five gifts altogether can be found only in the Donatic community, the catholics are branches torn from the tree of the Church. Catholics through their recourse to the power of the state against the donatists, automatically betrayed the true church, so they have to be rebaptized after due penance.
In 373 the donatist baptism was prohibited and their worship was forbidden in cities and villages. In 377 an imperial edict was published against them. In the last decade of 4th century situations advantageous to Donatism was changed because of two factors:
i) personal- the election of Primian as successor to Parmenian was a poor choice. There formed an opposite group under Maximian.
ii) Political- their bishop had political alliance with Gildo against Rome.
St. Augustine and Donatiste- St. Augustine was born in Numidia (Africa) in 354 Nov 13. His father Patricius was a pagan and mother Monica was a christian. After his education in his country he went to Italy where he met Ambrose. In 387 he received baptism from St. Ambrose. In 391 he was ordained priest and in 396 he was consecrated bishop of Hippo. He died on 28 August 430.
St. Augustine made great efforts to restore unity in the church for which he made contacts with the Donatists. He addresseed them brothers, since to a great extent they agree with the Catholic Church in doctrine and liturgy. It was also agreed to receive the bishops and priests to the catholic church with the rank they then held.This was for those who had not Performed rebaptism. The synod of Carthage in 401 decided: It left to the individual bishop the decision on the reception of Donatist clerics, but provided a new criterion for this: “when it seems useful for pax chriatiana”. In 402 three Donatiet bishops became heads of catholic congregations. The synod of Carthage in 403 determined to try a dialogue on the highest plane. The donatist bishops were invited. It was not realized. Bishop Primian declined saying: “it is contrary to the dignity of the son of martyrs to meet with the descendents of traditores”.
The protagonist of this heresy was a British monk, Pelagius. He was a resident at Rome between 390 and 400. There he acquired a reputation and even fame among the christian nobility and in Christian circles by his exemplary life and many came to him for spiritual direction. According to him every man is capable of attaining perfection by his own efforts. For this grace is a help, but, not necessary.
In 410 Pelagius and his companion Coelestius went to Africa. After a short stay there, Pelagius went to Palestine and Coelestius preached the new doctrines openly in Africas Pope Zosimus (417-18) received a letter from Pelagius justifying his teaching. Bishop of Jerusalem also sent another letter justifying Pelagius. Coelestus presented the pope a libellus containing his doctrine. Pope demanded a review of the African judgment against Pelagius since their doctrines caused disturbances in Rome. Emperor Honorius banished Coelestius and Pelagius from Rome in 418 and forbade the further spread of their teachings. The pope Zosimus in his “epistola tractoria” condemned Pelagianism. Pelagius ended his days in an Egyptian monastery and Coelestius continued his teaching.
A groap of Italian bishops declined to sign the Tractoria. Bishop Julian of Aeclanum was its leader. He questioned Jerome and Augustine and attacked Augustine personally. Augustine refuted the false doctrine of Julian. Julian accused Augustine of Manichaeism.
Pelagianism collapsed between 420 and 430. a group of deposed bishops signed Tractoria In 430 Coelestius and Julian sought readmission to the church. In 431 council of Ephesus condemned Pelagianism. Julian led a wandering life. In 439 he tried to restore his see of Aeclanum. Pope Leo 1 (440-61) again condemned him. He died in Sicily in 450.
The doctrine of Pelagianism
1. Adam was created mortal, and would have died even if he had not sinned.
2. The sin of Adam affected him alone.
3. At birth we are in the state of Adam before his sin.
4. The human race does not die by the sin of Adam, nor does it rise again as a result of Christ’s redemption.
5. Man can live without sin and observe all the commandments.’
6. Original sin is a bad example of first parents.
7. There is no original sin in children.
8. Grace is not necessary to do good.
St. Augustine refuted the doctrine of Pelagius. In 415 he wrote a book De natura et gratia against it. In the beginning both Pelagius and Coelestius escaped condemnation deceiving pope. They satisfied pope that they were orthodox by avoiding any reference to original sin. In 418 at Carthage a synod of 218 bishops condemned them. Augustine wrote another work De gratia Christi et de peccato originali. pope Sosimus by his epistle Tractoria appealed to all bishops to recognize the error of Pelagianism. Finally the council of Ephesus condemned Pelagianism in c.l and 4.
It is not a heresy, but a name given to certain erroneous attempts to modify some exaggerations into which St. Augustine fell in his polemical (controversial) writings with Pelagianism.
According to St. Augustine grace is something irresistible and invincible. If God wanted to save everybody, they would all be infallibly saved. If some are not saved this must be due to their not hazing received the necessary grace from God. God’s salvific will is not universal, but particular. He predestines some to heaven, gives them a special gift of perseverance and they are saved. The rest are infallibly lost. Nobody has a right to grace because of the original sin.
Augustine’s view on grace was the opposite extreme to Pelagiu. On his attempt he minimised the role of the man’s own efforts.The monks of the African monastery of Adrumentum challenged him. They asked: if everything was to be attributed to grace, where as the responsibility for sin? Why strive for perfection? Augutine seemed to lead them to a kind of fatalism which would destroy the ascetical endeavour that was at the heart of monasticim. Augustine wrote two books: De gratia et libero arbitrio and de Correptione et gratia (426-427). Here he insisted on the necessity of cooperating with grace.
In southern France abbot John Cassian (+435) spoke against Augustine. For him God’s salvific will is universal. Predestination was not absolute, i.e., solely an act of predilection, but in accordance with God’s knowledge of merits and sins of each. Grace is necessary for salvation but once in the state of grace, there is no need of a special grace of preseyerance; there is only one kind of grace for all. Cassian went wrong in holding that we could merit the grace of conversion by our prayers and good works.
The synod of Orange (529)
Aransicanum II a town on the Rome.
The controversy on the doctrine of Augustine was put to an end by the synod of Orange in 529. It approved a colleition of Augustinian texts and defended thegratuitous nature of grace. Its doctrine can be summed up thus: “man does nothing good which God does hot enable him to do” c. 20.
Priscillian a Spanish priest, began about 370-75 to spread an extreme form asceticism. His programme resembled encratism (an early christian heretical sect abstaining from meat, wine and marriage) and smacked (taste of Gnosticism. It derogated everything concerning the human body and exalted the spirit. He forbade marriage. He was condemned at the council of Saragosa in 380 and was banned by the edict of Gratian. Thereafter he went to Rome and thence to Milan, but both pope Damasus and St. Ambrose repulsed him.
Priscillain then turned for help to civil authorities. He appealed to the usurper Maximus who appeared in Gaul, but his opponents, bishop Itacius and Hydacius persuaded Maximus to have Priscillian tried. Priscillian and six of his companions were condemned to death.
The Priscillians had gatherings of men and women. The fast on Sundays and stay away from the church during Lent for super stitious reasons. They had the custom of taking Eucharist to home. They shun church during twenty-one days precedine Epiphany and stay at home or in the mountains and go about with bare foot. They claimed to be electi Dei.
Monasticism is one of the signs of church’s vitality. It should not be identified with virginity. During the persecution martyrdom was valued as the supreme example of devotion to God and was held to be the final stage in the spiritual ascent of a christian soul called to perfection.
The late third and early fourth centuries saw the beginnings of monastic asceticism in christianity. As a result of general toleration of christianity in the Roman empire, martyrdom became less and less frequent. There was a relaxation in the spiritual life of the church. In this new situation the flight from the world appeared to be the most favourable condition for attaining perfection. Thus in the 6th century there arose curious distinction among the Irish monks between red martyrdom and white or green martyrdom (life of renunciation and mortification).
There is considerable debate as to where monasticism began. The first monks were individuals who retreated to the desert in Egypt and Syria. Sometimes these retreats were only temporary, and then became permanent.
St. Antony of Egypt 251 356
St. Antony, a Coptic peasant from Egypt is usually called the first monk or the father of monks. Antony was converted to a life of perfection at 18 or 20 on the day when he entered a church and heard a reading of the passage where the Lord says to the rich young man “if you want to be perfect, go and sell all you possess, give to the poor and come and follow
Antony gave himself up to a solitary life. His long carrier can be divided into three stages:
1. First he established himself in the immediate neighbourhood of his village. There he profited from the advice of an old and experienced man.
2. Then he lived in a small abandoned Roman fort for nearly 20 years.
3. Finally he settled even deeper in the desert. In the desert Antony spent his life, writing, keeping vigil and praying. Twice he left the desert and went to Alexandria, one during the persecution of Diocletian to give courage to the christians, second to defend orthodoxy at the time of Arianism. Many visited him in the desert to ask for the help of his prayers, the curing of diseases, for advice etc. Antony composed no rule he was simply supervising the activities of his disciples. He died at the age of 105 in 356.
Anchorite means hermit or person who lived in solitude. This is the oldest and most rudimentary form of monastic organization. Hermits lived in separate cells but close to each other, meeting regularly for prayer or mutual support, yet retaining their essential autonomy. Some preferred no contact at all with others.
Anchorite monasticism sometimes led to eccentricities, because each monk set his own standards. Sometimes a spirit of rivalry replaced genuine asceticism. Some had severe penances and self-inflicted bodily punishment. In the 5th century in Syria some hermits ate nothing but grass, others hobbled their legs with iron chains, still others took to living atop pillars reaching up to fifty feet in height, whence their name “pillar saints or stylites. St. Simon the Stylite (395-461) achieved the record of 36 years on his tiny platform.
Cenobetic monasticism or Pachomean cenobetism
Communal monasticism was begun about 320 by Pachomeue (290-345). It put accent on life in common and known as cenobetism( koinos bios). He was a converted soldier. He founded his first community at Tab- ennisi in Upper Egypt.
Pachomeus was against extremism. He insisted on regular meals and worship and aimed to make his communities self-supporting through such industries as the weaving of palm-mats or growing fruits and vegetables for sale. Entrants to his community had to hand over their personal wealth to a common fund, and were only admitted as full members after a period of probation. To prove their initial earnestness they were required to stand outside the monastery door for several days. Part of qualification for full membership was to memorize parts of the Bible. The illiterate were taught to read and write.
The Pachomean monastic rule contained 194 articles defining precisely the rhythm of the monks’ daily life, work, and prayer in common and discipline. Surrounded by an enclosure, the Pachomian monastery comprised a chapel and outbuildings and a series of houses grouping a score of monks (20) under the authority of provost (head of a religious community) assisted by a deputy. Three or four houses made up a tribe, the whole owing obedience to the superior, who, with his assistant, looked after the spiritual direction of the community and the smooth working of the general services. These included a bakery, kitchen, infirmary etc. The different houses delegated every week the requisite number of monks to staff them.
Pachomeus established a second monastery at Pboou and at his death there were nine convents for men and two for women. The first women’s convent was established about 340 near Tabennisi by his sister Mary. These convents were formed a congregation under the authority of a superior general installed at Tabennisi and later at Pboou. It was Pachomeus who appointed the heads of each monastery. They gathered round him at a chapter general twice a year, at Easter and on 13 August. There was a chief bursar who helped the superior in the handling of business affecting the congregation as a whole.
The Basilian Community (330-379)
Basil, one of the Cappadocian fathers was born in 330. His father was the son of St. Macrina, and his mother was the daughter of of a martyr. Out of 10 children three sons were bishops: Basil, Gregory of Nyssa and Peter of Sebaste. One daughter, Macrina, was the model of ascetical life. He fought against Arianism. He could be called the founder of Eastern monasticism and one of the pillars of the Oriental Church (St. John Chrysostom).
From Egypt monasticism spread quickly over the Near East. It appeared in Palestine with St. Hilarion of Gaza in 307. About 335 St.Epiphanius founded a monastery. In Asia Minor the pioneer of monasticism was Eustathius who became bishop of Sebaste in 356. In Asia Minor the most important Greek promoter was St. Basil. About 357, soon after his baptism Basil embraced monasticism. His attention was turned to monasticism by his sister Macrina who fostered the monastic life on family estates at Annesi in Pontus. Basil visited the disciples of Eustathius and then journeyed to Egypt, Syria and Mesapotamia to observe the monks there. Returning home he formed a community for which he composed his longer rules and shorter rules, consisting of ascetical and moral precepts on various aspects of monastic life. Basilian rule stressed the community element: meals, work and prayer in common within the same house. The number of the monks in a house was reduced. Obedience was considered as a cardinal virtue alongside poverty and chastity. He emphasized charitable service to others as part of the monk’s routine. For this he introduced the practice of monks labouring in hospitals. A system of regular prayer seven times daily was prescribed. Basil became bishop of Caesarea in 365. He died in 379.
Monasticism in the West
Monasticism first appeared in the East. It was brought to the West by St.Athanasius. While he was in exile in the West between 340 and 346 he was accompanied by two Egyptian monks. During his exile he wrote the life of St. Antony. This helped to spread the ideals of monasticism. It was translated into Latin which influenced St. Augustine. In the West monasticism had the support of great church leaders such as St. Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, etc.
The name of St. Jerome (347-419) deserves special mention. After three years training in the desert of Chalcis near Antioch (375-377) he came to Rome. His propaganda for asceticism met with great success. But due to opposition and criticism he had to leave Rome in 385 with his disciples. He settled at Bethlehem and a monastery for women was founded by St. Paula. Another one was founded at Jerusalem by St. Melania.
In the West monasticism was stimulated by St. Martin of Tours, who died in 379. Martin took up the hermit’s life after military service and lived in a solitary cell near Liguge, in France. Many others joined him and he set up a community. In 372 he became the bishop of Tours against his will. The distraction of his visitors compelled him to retreat to a monastery which was also a nursery for bishops. Sulpicius Severus wrote the biography of Martin. After the death of Martin many churches were dedicated to him. Probably he is the first non martyr to be venerated as a saint.
St. Augustine introduced a. new aspect of monasticism; the arrangement whereby a group of celibate clergy lived together and served the local church. In 388 he gathered a group of his friends to live together in an ascetic community devoting themselves mainly to study. They continued after Augustine was made bishop of Hippo in 395. It has the root of the cathedral chapters..
Many bishops like Augustine turned their episcopal residence into monastery imposing on all his clergy monastic renunciation and the vow of poverty. Eg. St. Eusebius of Vercelli, St. Martin of Tours (patron saint of Gallican monasticism), St. Ambrose, etc.
Monastic communities took part in the warfare. Organized and armed crowds of monks took sides in theological disputes and overawed the councils by their presence eg. Ephesus (449). Monks also destroyed pagan temples and harassed and murdered pagans and the heretics.
St. Patrick (389-461) and Celtic Monasticism
Patrick, the great missionary of Ireland, was born in Roman Brittan, as a son of a deacon and magistrate, Calparnius. The details of his life are disputed and overlaid with many pious legends. His writings, The Confession and A letter to the soldiers of Coroticus give a few information about him. At the age of 16 he was sold by raiders as a slave in Ireland. After six years of service as a shepherd he escaped and eventually reached home again. During his captivity, he was deeply convinced of his faith and decided to evangelize Ireland. Once in dream he heard the voice of Irish calling: “we beseech you to come and walk among us once more”.
Patrick returned to Ireland as bishop in 432 and spent the next 30 years ministering there. He encouraged learning and began to emphasize ascetic life and monasticism. As a result, the basic unit of the church became the monastery led by the abbot rather than the bishop’s diocese. Priority was given to the Celtic mission which produced great numbers of monks who evangelized Western Europe during the 6th and 7th centuries.
St. Benedict of Nursia (+547)
Very little is known of the life of Benedict apart from the information provided in a biography by Gregory the Great. This book made Benedict’s rule widely known and followed. Benedict was born at Nursia, in Umbria (North-central Italy) and studied at Rome before withdrawing to live as a hermit. He founded several small monasteries, but had little success until he moved to the monastery at Monte Cassino. He died at Monte Cassino about 547. When the Lombards destroyed the monastery, the monks fled to Rome and brought his rule to Pope Gregory.
The rule of Benedict is based on two activities: prayer and work. He insisted that the monk should remain in the same monastery where he had taken his vows. The abbot was the spiritual head of the monastery and exercised all the normal discipline. These monasteries were centers of spirituality and learning. The same rule with enlargement is still used today. It is said that Benedict’s rule owes a great deal to another monastic rule of similar date, known as the ‘Regula Magistri’- Rule of the Master.
Pope Gregory the Great (590-604)
Gregory may be the most influential pope in the period between Constantine and the Reformation. He comes from a Roman aristocratic family and began his carrier in public administration. Then he turned away from public life and became a monk. He was the first Pope who had been a monk.
As pope he claimed the universal jurisdiction over Christendom. He criticized the patriarch of Constantinople for using the term “Ecumenical Patriarch“, asserting that such a title belonged to the bishop of Rome. When the patriarch refused to agree, Gregory dropped the dispute and began to call himself “servant of the servants of God”.
Gregory sought to develop ties with the pagan and Arian and christian Germanic kingdoms. He sent a team of monks to the kingdom of Kent in Brittan. The christianization of the Anglo-Saxons and. the victory of Roman church over the Celtic church were the long term result of Gregory’s missionary policy.
The pope had come to enjoy great power in Rome and Italy as result of the decline and eventual disappearance of the Western Roman Empire and through extensive landholdings in and around Rome. The origin of the papal state goes back to this period, though legally it was established in the 8th century.
Gregory also was the pioneer to look West and not East for protection. During the Lombards’ invasion the governor at Ravenna was unable to help the pope, Gregory found protector in the Lombard queen Theodelinda, who was a catholic christian. Eventually the Lombards became catholics. He also had influence among the Visigoths in Spain, who had accepted Catholicism.
The Franks were not christians. About 500, Clovis, the first ruler of the Franks decided to accept catholic baptism, following his marriage to a catholic princess. Clovis agreed to accept Christ if the christian God gave him victory over another tribe with whom he was at war. Clovis won the battle against Alemanni, and then with 3000 warriors, he was baptized. This points up the general pattern of early mediaeval conversions. The change to Christianity was essentially a matter of royal policy. The ruler’s conversion decided the religion of his subjects. Catholic queens and princesses did much for the conversion of their husbands and their kingdoms. Clove’s conversion laid foundation for an important alliance between the papacy and the Franks.
Gregory wanted to reform the church, but the Merovingian rulers of Gaul thwarted him by appointing laymen as bishops and selling church appointments. They assumed that the church was freely at their disposal.
The conversion of the Anglo-Saxons was a great achievement of Pope Gregory. There is a story about it. Gregory while a monk in Rome, one day saw some attractive young children in the slave market. On inquiring who they were, Gregory learned that they were Angli from England, and they were pagans. He replied that these young lads were not Angles, but “angels”. In 595 he ordered to purchase Anglo-Saxon slaves to be brought to Rome for training as clerics. In 596 he sent a team of 40 monks to England who arrived there before Easter 597. The Jutish king Ethelbert, whose wife was a catholic, accepted catholicism. His own kingdom Kent and other two of Essex and East Anglia – belonged to him – became christian. In 597, pope appointed Augustine, leader of the team, as archbishop of the church of England. Ethelbert gave the archbishop his own palace in Cantebury, which became the first episcopal centre in England.
Archbishop Augustine tried to unite the Celtic church with Rome, but failed on three basic issues: i. his requirement that the Celtic church adopt Roman method of arriving at the date of Easter. ii. Adopt the Roman tradition of baptism, iii. and joins his mission to convert the Anglo-Saxons. There were reasons for the tension between them. The celtic bishops took offence when Archbishop Augustine refused to stand to greet them. They refused to accept him as their archbishop. Even before the arrival of Augustine, the celts were christians, their bishops attended the council of Arles in 314. Because of the foreign invasion the celtic christian population retreated to the South West. The long period of isolation and the hatred of the foreign invaders were the major barriers to unity between Augustine and the British church. The British church finally fused with Roman christianity during the course of the following century
Preaching and piety in the early church
It is not very clear how the clergy carried out the pastoral duty in the early church. There were 3000 sermons and catechesis between Nicea and Chalcedon; they come from 30 authors and aore than half of them belong to John Chrysostom and Augustine.
There was no catechism for children before the end of 6th c., although the practice of infant baptism was steadily growing. In families there was domestic catechesis by the parents on which Chrysostom and Augustine much insisted. Later it was considered an episcopal task. The official catecheis was more and more reserved to the clergy; only in the East are isolated lay catechists mentioned, and special aptitude was demanded in them. At Antioch it was mostly imparted by priests; At Carthage a deacon was entrusted with the introductory catechesis at the admission into the catechumeanate; priests probably likewise shared in the baptismal catechesis for the competences in North Africa, since they had the right to preach. In the majority of other localities in East and West the bishop was regarded as the teacher of the catechumens.
In De catechizandis rudibus, St. Augustine gives a systematic guidance to the catechists. The kernel of all catechesis had to be the history of salvation. It must be made known to the hearer in its most striking events, in the creation of Adam, the deluge, the covenant of God with Abraham, the priestly kingship of David, the deliverance from the Babylonian captivity, and the all decisive Christ event. This should show not only the inner connection of OT and NT, but impart a universal view of all history, as it was framed in God’s plan of salvation. The catechesist must represent the love of God for mankind. It should lead to the Christ event = which especially was to be made known with such warmth and forcefulness that the catechumen came to the faith by hearing, achieved hope by infound love by hoping. The hearer should be admonished to guard faith, hope and love. The Augustinian catechism was entirely oriented to the positive expositions of salvation history and renounced polemic and rhetorical ornament. There exist also explanations of the baptismal creed and the Lord’s Prayer.
Logos catechetikos of Gregory of Nyssa- deals with methodical questions, such as the adaptation to the individual situation of the hearers, but he preferred philosophical justification of the truths of faith.
Cyril of Jerusalem – to make salvation history the center of the instructions in the preparation of the candidates for baptism. The dogmatic exposition was carefully joined to the moral catechesis. The simple language, informative, etc.
Johh Chrysostom preferred moral catechesis
Theodore of Mopsuetia -preferred sacramental catechesis. He emphasized on the eschatological character of baptism and Eucharist: with baptism the new life begins, and the Eucharist nourishes it.
Ambrose of Milan -mystagogic. He placed great importance on the understanding of the symbolic content of the sacramental rites, which he tried to explain by means of the typological interpretation of the OT events, figures, and individual books, especially Song of Songs and Psalms.
Slowly the catechumanate was restricted to the lent and there needed a follow up afterwards. The Trinitarian and Christological controversies also occasioned the need of dogmatic sermons. Then there were also sermons on occasions of ordination funerals, church dedications, etc.
From the 4th c. the right to preach was more and more attached to the office of priest or bishop. Asterius (+341) may be the last ‘lay preacher’.
Basil preached on Scripture in a lively language, explained the account of creation.
Gregory Nazianzon- model of christian eloquence
Gregory of Nyssa.
Jerome – his homilies on Scripture.
Devotion of Christ was the center of all piety. Christocentric baptismal piety- Eucharistic piety- devotion to the passion of Christ- veneration of cross-popular pilgrimage to Jerusalem. the visit to the Holy Sepulcher and Mount Calvary became a part of the religious celebration of the Holy Week in Jerusalem in the 4th c. -later way of the cross. The christocentric piety was also manifested in prayer to Christ
Forms of Asceticism
Universal call to holiness was the theme of the preaching of the pastors. Both monks and lay persons are called upon to strive for the same perfection since there is only a single ideal of perfection for all christians, which must be realized everywhere. Hence aloofness from the world is for all christians the basic ascetical disposition. Fasting was especially recommended as one possibility of its realization. Almsgiving was another one which was presented as the way to interior freedom vis- a -vis wealth and property. Some people renounced totally the wealth and life of luxury and led a specific ascetical life remaining in their family. Then they joined an ascetic group or a community of nuns or monks or were admitted into the clergy. The Fathers of the church praised this kind of life and virginity.
Cult of Martyrs and saints
After the liberation of the church the cult of martyrs became very significant. The martyrs were regarded as the perfect imitators of Christ, who had given witness to the Lord by their blood and now crowned. Their dignity and nearness to the Lord made them the advocates of the faithful on earth and the protectors of the individual as well as of the community, which chose them as patrons. Out of this esteem grew the strong interest in the grave (tomb) and relies of the martyrs. Their graves were distinguished from other graves by a special cult building, erected as martyrion or memoria respectively or as a basilica over the grave, which were different from the churches within the walls. The community assembled in these cemetery churches on dies natalis martyris to celebrate the Eucharist. Along this there were efforts to rediscover the tombs of those martyrs who had fallen into oblivion in the shadow of an especially vivid martyr-figure, or concerning whose martyrdom tradition often supplied only a summary account. The invention of such tombs was often due to a vision or information provided in a dream.
A new phase of the cult of martyrs began with the translation of the remains of martyrs to the churches within the city walls. The Roman law prohibited the burial in the city. The first transfer of a martyr’s body was that of, St. Babylas to Antioch in 354. In Milan Ambrose did it without dispensation, but other bishops had to ask a dispensation. In home greatest care on the martyr’s tombs and the buildings belonging to them was given. The place of the new burial in the city church was close to the altar because the most faithful followers of Christ, who had offered their life in a total sacrifice, should be in closest touch with the spot on which the memorial of Christ’s sacrificial death was celebrated. Hence altar and martyr’s tomb were at the time brought together, both in theory and practice, into that intimate connection which would later be the rule everywhere according to liturgical law where there was a christian altar.
But this aim could be realized only if relics of martyrs were supplied to those churches which did not have it. So it was necessary to multiply the relics by division into small and minute parts. The transfer, the placing of the relics in the altar was celebrated solemnly. Since there numerous demands, a substitute was established in the so-called “second class relics”- things which were brought into contact with the martyr’s tomb or the place where the relics were disposed. There were parallel collections of relics in private circles which often led to the doubtful abuse and church could not eliminate it completely.
The conviction of the intercessory power of the martyrs led many christians to want to be themselves buried as close as possible to a martyr’s grave. From this burial ad sanctos people expected aid for themselves at the hour of resurrection. Augustine’s statement that the place of burial of itself guaranteed no help for a dead person, but only the prayer of the living who commended him to the intercession of the martyrs, did not satisfy the people. So the church had to regulate by law burial inside the church and reserve it for a small circle of persons -bishops, priests, and a few lay persons of high rank.
The cult of martyrs as an early christian form of piety was not promoted by laity or monastic circles but by the church and its theologians. There are numerous sermons in honour of martyrs, which extol their dignity, power of intercession, the example of their love of Christ and miracle working efficacy of their relics. The church not only allowed the interment of their body inside the church, their memorial days were listed in the liturgical calendar and admitted their names into the text of the Eucharistic prayer.
The cult of saints began in the first half of the fourth century and reached full development in its last two decades. It was an extension of the cult of martyrs to a group of dead whose life and actions enabled them to be compared to the martyrs in some degree, because it likewise represented an outstanding profession and witness for Christ. They included first of all, those who in time of persecution had suffered for the faith in prison, under torture, or in exile, but the desired confirmation by a bodily death was denied them. With such confessors were soon associated individual ascetics and monks, whose life was willingly ranked as unbloody martyrium, and finally also those who especially proved themselves in the Arian troubles or in the missions as courageous adherents and zealous preachers of the orthodox faith. Martyrium sine cruore was granted to them. Their feasts were admitted into the calendar and liturgical celebration of the day of their death was accorded to them. Eg. Ambrose, Basil, Antony, Athanasius, the Stylites, etc. Memorial chapels and churches were built over their graves even by individuals; their relics were at times fought over. Their life and activities were spread out with colourful details and appealing popular fantasies. Some lives of saints are mere collections of miracles.
In the christian cult of saints were also included some outstanding persons of the OT, Moses, Abraham, David, etc. Here there are two difficulties; first there is recognition of Judaism, second in their lives the inner relationship to witnessing for Christ seemed to be lacking. Christian preaching theoretically countered this difficulty with the argument that they were christians before the appearance of Christ, because their life served the ultimate goal of his coming and thus the violent death of some of the prophets could be understood as anticipated martyrdom and hence a christian celebration in their memory was justified.
The cult of Mary had spread long before theology had clarified the questions regarding her sanctity and virginity. People besought the protection of the Theotokos at least at the beginning of the fourth century. Bishop Severian of Gabala says that Mary should be invoked, before the Apostles and the martyrs. In the West her cult was theologically clarified and justified especially by Ambrose and Augustine. The oldest Marian feast was celebrated in Constantinople even before the council of Ephesus on 26 December. Churches were dedicated to her from this time onwards. Ephesus opened the way for the complete development of the cult of Mary.
Early christian pilgrimage
Another field of christian popular devotion is found in the pilgrimage system- 1 pilgrimage to holy places specially in the Holy Land and to the tombs and relies of saints. In the preConstantine period individual christians undertook pilgrimage, motivated by theological and exegetical interests or by the desire to pray at the holy shrines. During the time of Constantine and Helena the visit to the Holy places was encouraged. The sites of the pilgrimage were the placed related to the events from Christ’s life. The cult of christian saints began only with the discovery of Stephen’s grave in 415, and the cult of Mary was discernible in Jerusalem still later. The real pilgrimage guide was the Bible. The pilgrim reports, the liturgical observances of the Holy Week and the finding of the Cross etc produced tasting effects on the devotion of the pilgrims.
The second type of pilgrimage was the visit to the grave and relics of the saints. In the fourth century in the East there developed great pilgrim centers: shrine of Babylas in Antioch,, shrine of Simon the Stylite, grave of Thecla in Seleucia, of St. John at Ephesus. In West there were a number of places -the tombs of the martyrs, two apostles Peter and Paul etc.
The basic attitude for the pilgrimage should be a disposition to follow Christ and imitate the saints. The desire to have healing or a favour can not be excluded.
Pagan customs in christian popular piety
It was difficult to supplant deep rooted pagan practice in the newly converted. At times they were mixed with christian practices and compromised the purity of devotion. People were much attracted to the pagan magics and superstitions. The church warned against such practices. In rural districts there were cults of trees, springs, rocks etc. Again and again the synods attacked such practices often without success. The attractions of the pagan feasts could not be dispelled. Christians participated in feasts in the pagan temples.
Refrigerium was a pagan cult of the dead. It was a meal to which came the relatives of a deceased person on the third. seventh, and ninth days after the burial, on the anniversary of the death, and on the great memorial of the dead, the Parentalia in February. The christians retained this meal of the dead in a simple form without opposition from the church and added to it, a christian feature when they had a part of the foods brought turned over to the poor. But in the fourth century this meal at the graves often assumed again, even among the christians, the noisy and unbridled form of pagan celebrations for the deceased. Chrysostom not only blamed the loud lamentation of the relatives and wailers at a christian funeral as pagan behaviour, which contradicted the belief in the resurrection. He also disapproved the pomp which some christians displayed there. The meals were finally transferred into churches on the memorials of the martyrs and in some places, especially in Italy and North Africa, degenerated into great revels with dancing and song. At Milan St. Ambrose abolished them. Other bishops of North Italy followed him, whereas they continued at Rome, even in St. Peter’s. In Africa at the synod of 393 in Hippo forbade the custom. Augustine enforced the synodal decrees and recommended that the foods hitherto destined for the memorial meal in the church be used fir an agape at the graves of the dead in the cemetery and that gifts be given to the poor and the needy at the same time, for that was the christian way, in addition to the liturgical celebration for the dead, to recall the deceased.
Despite the directions and exhortations of the bishops the traditional feeling of paganism was carried like a subtle poison in the blood of the christians: the desires of the world, the pride in one’s own virtues, the instinctive shrinking back from a crucified God, the strong protest against the basic attitude of humilitas. Adherence to these made many christians remain semichritians for years. Augustine often spoke of this basic danger to the christian.
The laity in the church
The divisions of the christians into laity, clergy and monks existed at the turn of the fourth century. It became more precise in the course of the century and gradually became a law. In this process a clear change in the previous importance and position of the laity within the church became perceptible. After the persecution the glory of martyrdom passed ever more to asceticism and monasticism and this unintentionally created a clear distance between itself and the mass of the believers. Further, because of the differentiation of functions and expansion of its tasks and authority in the care of souls and administration, the clergy gained such power in authority and public respect. And monasticism promoted the idea that effort to work out its salvation directly in this world was doubtful in principle. Finally the lifestyle of some lay persons in the fourth and fifth centuries caused a rather skeptical evaluation of the lay element. The change was not same everywhere, but there was a shifting within its previous spheres of duty. In the basilica the place of the people was now clearly distinct from the place of the clergy. In procession there developed a certain order of precedence, whereby the clergy, the monks, the virgins, and widows went ahead of the people. In the pastoral spheres, lay persons still took part in the preparation of the catechumens for baptism, especially widows in the instruction of the women. In the case of necessity lay persons could baptize, but women should not administer baptism, any more than they might instruct men.
The right of the laity in choosing of their clergy continued in principle and was still, especially exercised in the election of the bishop. The form of their collaboration was not precisely fixed. For the most part it consisted of an acclamation of the candidate proposed. The people were supposed to be consulted in the transfer and deposition of a bishop. Sometimes the emperors intervened in the election of bishops without regard for this right of the laity.
Gradually the right to teach was reserved to the clergy. Thus the lay preaching virtually ceased. Pope Leo I expressly forbade it and extended the prohibition to monks also. Parallel to this limitation of an official teaching activity of the laity there developed, however, a growing share of the laity in the theological literary work of the time. Eg. Lactantius, Arnobius, etc. Well to do and influenced lay persons played considerable role in ecclesiastical life. They promoted ecclesiastical construction and founded charitable institutions and supported the church’s care of the poor. In certain churches lay persons were called upon for the administration of church property. In North Africa seniors laici were elected by the community as a sort of ecclesiastical council
Lay apostolate was justified in the always recognized general priesthood of the laity. Augustine and Chrysostom speak of the field of duties of it- the exemplary day-to-day christian life, help for the fellow christian religious and moral danger, missionary work among the pagans or heretics of his circles of acquaintances. The lay apostolate should be exercised in close collaboration with the clergy-payer, advice, and criticism of the laity- says Chrysostom.
The fell of the Western Roman Empire 476 It was a great change.
The factors and events that contributed to it are the following:
1. Internal factors
i. depopulation. In the middle of 2nd c. its population was 80 mi1lion and by the 7th c. it was down to about 10 million. Its causes are: a. plague. In 166 there was dreadful plague and it wiped out almost half of the population. This plague returned from time to time. b) Slavery. The neighbouring tribes beyond the Rhine-Dhanube frontier, carried off thousands of people to use them as slaves. c) The deplorable low standard of morals. Divorce was so common and people no longer bothered of marriage. Children were unwanted. Abortion and abandoning of new born were widely practiced. Slaves who were majority were not allowed to marry or to have family.
ii. Financial situation. The financial situation was not better. The gold and silver were coined. Since there was a shortage of these metals, baser metals had to be mixed with it and this led to a devaluation of money. The increase of bureaucracy and the defense of empire demanded heavy taxes from ever-decreasing number of the tax payers. The rich got exemption and the poor suffered a lot on account of heavy taxes. The magistrates had to collect the taxes. If they could not collect the required amount they had to pay themselves. Therefore all shunned the honourable and responsible positions in the society. No public work had been done.
I. External forces: the migration of Nations
Beyond the Rhine-Danube frontiers in the North there were tribes of the Germanic or Teutonic race. The Romans called them barbarians because of their primitiveness. These people were strong and warlike. They fought among themselves and. against the Romans. They frequently changed their abode. The chief tribes were: the Goths, the Vandals, the Burgundians, the Germans, the Lombards, the Franks, and the Huns. By migration we mean that these tribes left their own places completely and transferred themselves and all they had t their new territory.
The Goths. There are two groups of Goths: the Visigoths (West) and Ostrogoths (East). The Visigoths lived on the north side of Black sea. In 375 the Huns attacked them. The Visigoths wanted to settle in the empire north of the capital. Since they were not allowed they wanted to settle by force. Theodosius permitted them to settle in Thrace and enrolled 40,000 of them in the imperial army. Emperor Arcadius was against them. But they fought and founded a visigothic kingdom that covered Liberian peninsula and half of France. On their way they plundered Rome for three days.
The post apostolic age
The development of the church’s organization
In the post-apostolic period there was progress in ecclesiastical organization and it was observable everywhere. Individual congregation is clearly defined as regards its significance and function as part of the Church’s organism. The christians of a city were now everywhere joined together in separate congregations or leval churches. Among them Rome stood first.
All christians belonged to the local congregations. They joined with all his brethren in the Eucharistic celebration, at which the unity of christians in meet clearly apparent. Ignatius of Antioch explains of this unity by various images and comparisons: the congregation is like a choir whose singers praise the Lord with one voice, or like a company of travelers following the directions of its Lord. In the first letter of Clement the unity of the congregation is symbolized by the harmony of universe or by time arrangement of the human body, in which each member has its appropriate function. Hermas sees it in the image of a tower built upon the cornerstone that is Christ.
There was constant warning to safeguard the unity since there were tendencies to dispute and petty jealousy which sometimes led to divisions in the community. Schism and heresy were therefore considered as the great enemies of unity in the early church.
Leaders of the Congregation
According to the letter of Clement to Corinth, the leaders of the Congregation were divided into two groups: one bore the double designation of elders (presbyters) and overseers (episcopi) the other was represented by the deacons.
In the Shepherd of Hermas there found the two names overseers or elders for the holders of leading offices in the Church, deacons and teachers being mentioned as well.
The Didache names only overseers and deacons
Polycarp names only elders and deacons.
The letters of’ Ignatius distinguishes clearly between the three offices of overseers, elders and deacons. Every congregation had only one overseer or bishop, to whom the college of elders (priests) and deacons was subordinated. This shows that in Antioch and in a number of congregations in Asia Minor there existed in the second decade of the second century a monarchical episcopate: the government of the church was assigned to one bishop, but this was not the case everywhere. The one office, which in apostolic times bore the double designation of episcope or presbyter, was divided into two and the term overseer or bishop reserved exclusively for the holder of the highest office, in the congregation.
The Apostolic Fathers partly worked out the theology of ecclesiastical offices of the authority of which is ultimately derived from God. He sent Christ who gave the apostles the commission to proclaim gospel. The apostles in their turn appointed overseers and deacons whose places were to be taken at their death by other approved men who would continue their work among the faithful. Thus Clement of Rome regarded the authority of heads of congregations as based upon Christ’s commission to the apostles, from whom all power of government in christian communities must be derived by uninterrupted succession.
Theology of episcopate according to St. Ignatius. He speaks about the complete and unconditional bond between the bishop and congregation. The latter was one with its bishop in thought and prayer; only with his did it celebrate agape and Eucharist. All should obey his as Christ did to his father. Nothing should take place in the congregation without the bishop. Even baptism and marriage were reserved to him. The presbyters and the deacons had a share in his authority. The bishop represented Christ.
Two factors worked together in order in that the bishops and his assistants might fulfill their official duty: i. apostolic – God given origin of their authority, ii. Guidance through the divine Spirit.
The working of the Holy Spirit was not limited to the leaders only, it could be felt everywhere among the faithful. There were tensions between these of laity who were favoured by the Spirit and the leaders of Congregation.
The individual congregations did not exist in isolation and self sufficiency. They formed a new people and were united under the banner of Christ, as one body -the Church of Christ. Ignatius of Antioch was the first to call this international community of tie faithful “Catholic Church”, whose visible bishop was Christ
WORSHIP, SACRAMENTS AND SPIRITUAL LIFE
The first christian community was formed in Jerusalem. Christ was the centre of this community. It was Christ and His events that united the early christians together. Though they accepted christianity, they did not completely left their old Jewish traditions and customs. So too the other christians. The early christians formed their own communities cular customs of the place. Thus there formed communities with special features of the place. Those are called particular churches. Each particular church had its own liturgy, disciplinary laws, etc. We find a development in the worship, sacraments and spiritual life of these communities.
1. Holy Eucharist
Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper (Mt.26, 2629; Nk.14, 22-25; Lk.22, 15-20; I Cor.11, 23-26). It was on the Passover of the Jews.
The present mass has developed from two originally separate services, one Jewish, the other christian. The first part- the liturgy of the catechumens- is based on the procedure used in the synagogues. The second part – the mass of the faithful-comes from specifically christian community as ceremony of the Breaking of the Bread. The Jewish christians first attended the prayer in the synagogues and then they participated in the Breaking of the bread, which was usually conducted in the private houses. As the christians separated from the Jews, the two services came to form one. St. Paul did so in Troas (Acts. 20.7-11).
Description of St. Justine the Martyr
Justine was born around 100/110 in Nablus (Palestine) and was beheaded with six companions in 163/167 (165). He gives a detailed description of the Eucharist about the year 150. The christians gathered on Sunday (on the day named after the sun”). Then the “memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read aloud”. The reading in followed by the homily of the president and then come the prayers in common “for ourselves, for the newly baptized and for all others wherever they may be”. After this the catechumens left. The service of prayers and readings was terminated by the kiss of peace. The second part of the ceremony began with the bringing in of the sacrificial gifts though it is not clear who brought the broad and chalice with wine and water to the president. The essential element of this part is the prayer the president, which is called Eucharistia and in which he sends up praise and honour to the Father through the name of the Son and the Holy Spirit and gives thanks that the faithful had been given those gifts. The whole congregation confirmed and ratified the “Eucharistia” of the president with the Hebrew word “Amen”. The consecrated Eucharistic gifts were given by the deacons to all present, to be consumed, and portions were also taken to those who were absent. Justin emphasizes that only the baptized could receive this food, which was itself called Eucharist.
Two features stand out in an especially clear manner in this Eucharistic liturgy: i. the social character, it draws all the participants into the actual liturgical action and they ratify expressly the thanksgiving uttered by the leader and also share as a whole in the Eucharistic meal. Moreover, the Eucharistic prayer is primarily one of thanksgiving. Hence the word eucharietia became a technical term for the christian celebration of Mass. ii. The idea of sacrifice. Though there is no explicit mention of this idea in Justin’s Apology, it was by no means unknown to him and Eucharistia could certainly include for him the idea of sacrifice. Ireneus speaks more clearly on this point, emphasizing especially that the gifts of bread and wine, which by God’s word have become Christ’s flesh and blood, represent the pure sacrifice of the Now Covenant.
Hippolitus of Rome, the first anti-pope, accused pope Calistus (217-222) declared himself pope in 217 and remained so till his death in 235. (Urban 222-230). Pontianus (230-235). He met pope Pontianus in the prison and got martyrdom together with him in.235.
Hippolitus in his Church Order, gives a double description of the celebration of Mass, explaining firstly how it is carried out in connection with the consecration of a bishop and secondly how the christian community celebrates Mass with its new1y baptized members. He gives a text of the Eucharistic prayer in full. In it only the beginning, end and the words of consecration are fixed, the rest depends on the inspiration and favour of the celebrant.
Hippolitus’s liturgy was intended as a guide and model formulary, the structure and fundamental ideas of which could be retained, but which might be varied and developed in detail. The bishop could therefore still on occasion freely create and shape the text, so that various types of Eucharistic prayers of thanksgiving were possible for the celebration of Mass in the 3rd c. Hippolitus does not mention Trishagion. But the form of Mass presented by Hippolitus can be regarded as a basic outline of the Eucharistic liturgy as it was generally celebrated in the Church in those days.
Tertullian (153-220) says that the faithful provided bread and wine for the sacrifice. The Eucharistic great prayer was addressed to the Father “Per Christum Jesum“‘. He explicitly stresses that Christ, with the words “hoc est corpus meum” makes the broad his body; but he does not clarify the position of Our Father and the place of kiss of peace in the Mass. The Eucharist was received under both kinds. The faithful could take consecrated, bread to home in order to receive it privately when they were prevented from attending divine worship. He does not name Sunday as the day preferred for celebrating the Eucharist, but he does mention Wednesday and Friday as days of the Stations, together with Mass. The Mass was also celebrated at the funeral and on the anniversary of the death. Since the second century the time for Mass had been in the early morning before sunrise. St. Cyprian celebrated Mass daily. If there were several churches in a town Eucharistic celebration was conducted only in the bishop’s church and sacred bread was taken to other churches by the deacons.
In the early church Eucharistic celebration was in the Private houses. Towards the end of the second century were constructed for the purpose. Music, incense, vestments, candles, bells etc were unknown in the first three centuries.
2. The discipline of the secret (disciplina arcane)
This is a modern term for the early christian custom of keeping secret from the urinated (catechumens) the most important actions and texts of liturgical worship, especially baptism, the Eucharist, the Our Father, and the creed, or referring to them in the presence of unauthorized persons in veiled terms only. It began probably in the second century. Justin, Tertullian and Hippolitue speak about it. After the fifth century this practice died with that of the catechumanate.
Agape was one of the earliest forms of charitable activity. It was a meal in the Christian community intended to strengthen community spirit among their members of different social rank. It also provided material help to the poor and the needy within the community. They were held either in the private house of a well to do member of the congregation or in promises belonging to the church with the bishop presiding. The bishop could be represented by a priest or s deacon. The president inaugurates the meal with a payer said over the gifts that had been brought. The absent, sick and the widows were given their share of gifts. Abuse crept into it and it was forbidden. Finally the council of Trullo (692) forbade it conducting in the church.
The baptism instituted by Christ was entirely different from those Jews and John the Baptist. It is a new birth (Jh.3, 5) and it demanded a metanoia. Christ entrusted his apostles the administering of baptism (Mt.28, 19). In the time of apostles baptism was conferred in a simple manner. It was enough to represent of ones own sins and to profess the christian faith. Baptism was preceded by the exhortation on the redemptive work of Christ and was followed by the imposition of hand with a prayer to receive the Holy Spirit.
Didache (2 c.) gives a detailed description of baptism. Immersion in living (flowing) water is desirable, but in exceptional cases it suffices to pour water thrice over the head of the person to be baptized. The Trinitarian formula is essential.
In the early church a preparatory fast was prescribed to the baptized and the minister and also to the congregation, since a new member is incorporated into the community. Ignatius of Antioch qualifies baptism as a suit of armour. For him the healing power of the baptismal water is founded upon the sufferings of Christ. The epistle of Barnabas connects Cross and Baptism. According to Shepherd of Herman (140) baptism in the foundation of the christian’s life.
In the second century there was a period preparation for baptism. Tertullian called it catechumanate. In the third century this period became long and strict. It could last two years.
Hippolitus of Rome in his Apostolic Tradition speaks about the practice of baptism in the third century. The catechumanate was for three years. During this period they should prove themselves worthy of receiving baptism. Baptism was given by immersion of the head three times in the water. Confirmation was followed. Usually baptism was administered twice a year, at Easter and Pentecost. The baptized received while garment and they wore it for a week. Later a lighter candle was given to the baptized to show Christ is exemplar.
Godparents can be seen from the time of Tertullian (2 c.). Symbolic acts like blessings, renunciation of Satan, exorcistic anointing, receiving of baptismal name are of later origin, probably in the third century. During the persecution the children of christian parents received baptism. Later baptism was postponed because the sinners were given severe punishments and baptism required only simple penance. There is evidence about infant baptism in the second century. Justin the martyr and Hippolitus speak about it.
5. The Penitential discipline of the early church
Christ instituted the sacrament of penance by giving the power to forgive sins to the apostles (Jo.20,22-23). The Fathers of the Church qualified the penance as the second baptism
In the apostolic period the view prevailed was that every sinner can obtain forgiveness again if he does penance. This conviction of the possibility of penance and reconciliation of the sinner with God and with the community also persisted in the sub-apostolic period. The conversion of the sinner is expressed in prayer of repentance,, fasting and almsgiving and an integral part of it consisted in confession of sinfulness before God and the community of the brethren. In the sub-apostolic period, too, penance was always something that concerned the community. The authorities attended to ecclesiastical discipline and excommunicated the obstinate sinner, that is, they excluded him from participation in religious life and broke off all association with him until he did penance. During the sinner’s time of excommunication the community tried to help him by its impetrative prayers.
Shepherd of Hermas (140) describes penance as the last chance to receive God’s mercy. It blots out post-baptismal sins. Among the penitential practices for the sinner, Hermas reckons confession of sins, payer, fasting, almsgiving and the humility with which he takes all these exercises upon himself. Hermas says that penance is not only a matter at between God and the sinner, but involves the church. The sinner is excluded from the church.
According to Ireneus of Lyons and Clement of Alexandria Penance is the second means to obtain salvation. Ireneus (140/160-200). Clement of Alexandria (150-215), Tertullian says that one can reconcile with God even at the death bed.
Sacraments of penance was administered differently in different places. In the African church a severe discipline was prevalent (St. Cyprian). Rome followed a mild form and Hippolitus accused pope Calixtus of his laxity. (St. Cyprian 200/10-258)
In the fourth century there arose the problem of lapsi. Synods in Rome and Carthage had decreed that lapsi could be reconciled after a long period of penance. Novatian was against it.
Those who committed capital sins (heresy, adultery, murder) had to undergo a long period of penance. They had to wear rough clothes and fast. They had to confess publicly before the bishop. The bishop or the priest forgives sins by imposing hands on the penitent.
In the third and fourth centuries in the Eastern Churches penitents were divided into groups, St. Basil (330-379) speaks about it:
1. Flentes (those who weep) they had to stand at the entrance of the church for four years begging the prayers of those who enter the church.
2. Audientes (those who hear) for five years, they could participate the first part of the Mass and then they had to leave.
3. Prostrati (those who kneel) for seven years. It is not clear whether this group remained in the church for the whole Mass or went out before the communion.
4. Consistentes (those who stand) for four years. They stood with the faithful for the whole time, but did not receive Holy Communion. cf. Gregory Thaumaturgus.
Thus a murderer was excluded from receiving sacraments for twenty years. And only after this period of penance he was admitted to the church and to receive Holy Communion.
In the West there was no such division, but the penitents were given separate place in the church. The Ash Wednesday is a remnant of the penitential discipline of the Western church. In the beginning the bishop used to give penance, but when the number increased he appointed one priest each in each diocese to give penance. He could hear confession and give penance.
In the Greek Church in the fourth and fifth centuries monks were giving absolution. The newly converted Anglo-Saxons were against the public confession and public penance. The Irish monks who did missionary work among these people had the practice of private confession and private penance. It could be repeated.
There is no much evidence to prove the practice of private penance in the first centuries. St. Augustine favoured it and he proposed private penance for private sine. Pope Gregory (590-604) followed St. Augustine.
Public penitents had to wear rough clothes and they had to leave their job. If he is a bachelor, he is not allowed to marry; if married, is not allowed to live with his wife. So the consent of the other party was required. In the Roman church the penitents were received to the church on Maundy Thursday. In the East it could be in any three days after Thursday.
In the first centuries the priests who did capital sine were asked to do public penance. In the fourth century they were sent out of their office, but not from the church, and they were not included among the penitents. They could receive Holy Communion as laymen.
The reason for the strict discipline in the early church was the moral laxity prevalent in the Roman Empire. There was the possibility that the faithful of going back to their old ways of life in the face of persecution. It was necessary to have a strict discipline to persist in true faith.
6. The religious and moral life
The early christians had a high moral standard which was praised by all. Their religious and moral life was quite different from others. St. Justin says that the christians led a life of truthfulness and chastity, they loved their enemies and went courageously to death for their beliefs. Bishop Theophilus of Antioch says: “among the christians is to be found prudence, self-control, sobriety is practiced, monogamy observed, chastity preserved, injustice abolished, sin with its root destroyed, justice is practiced, the law is kept and piety is in evidence all the day long. God is recognized and truth is considered the greatest good”. The letter to Diognetus has a hymnic chapter on the Christian’s daily life: “every foreign place is their home, and their home is a foreign place to them;… they dwell on earth, but their conversation is in heaven; they love all men and are persecuted by all; they are poor and enrich many. They are despised and are thereby glorified. They are insulted and they bless; they are mocked and show honour to those that mock them; punished with death, they rejoice as if they were awakened unto life. In brief, what the soul is to the body, the christians are to the world (ch.5.6).