Timeline of Church History (Ante-Nicene Era (100-325))
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The History of the Church is a vital part of the Orthodox Christian faith. Orthodox Christians are defined significantly by their continuity with all those who have gone before, those who first received and preached the truth of Jesus Christ to the world, those who helped to formulate the expression and worship of our faith, and those who continue to move forward in the unchanging yet ever-dynamic Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church.
Ante-Nicene era (100-325)
- 107 Martyrdom of Ignatius of Antioch; crucifixion of Apostle Symeon, second Bp. of Jerusalem.
- 108-124 Persecution under Emperor Trajan, continuing under Emepror Hadrian.
- ca.110 Apocalypse of Peter, apocryphal work, considered Scripture by Clement of Alexandria and the list in the Muratorian Canon.
- ca.110-112 Roman magistrate Pliny the Younger, imperial governor of the province of Bithynia et Pontus, writes to Emperor Trajan for instructions regarding official policy concerning Christians (Epistulae X.96; Book 10); the contents of the letters were to become the standard policy toward Christians for the rest of the pagan era, also containing the earliest external account of Christian worship, and reasons for the execution of Christians.
- ca.117-138 Rylands Library Papyrus P52 is generally accepted as the earliest extant record of a canonical New Testament text, dating somewhere between 117 A.D. and 138 A.D.
- 120 Beginning of time of the Apologists: Justin Martyr, Aristides, Tatian, Athenagoras of Athens, Theophilus, Minucius Felix, Tertullian and Quadratus, writing to defend the Church against internal heresies, and to defend the faith before the Jews, and before the larger pagan world, using Greek philosophic concepts and terms.
- 124 Apostles Quadratus and Aristides present Christian apologies to Emperor Hadrian at Athens.
- 128 Aquila's Greek translation of the Old Testament.
- 130 Conversion of Justin Martyr.
- 132 Jews, led by Bar Kochba, whom some identify as the Messiah, revolt against Rome.
- 135 Christmas instituted as a feast day in Rome.
- 136 Emperor Hadrian crushes Jewish resistance, forbids Jews from returning Jerusalem, and changes city name to Aelia Capitolina; first recorded use of title Pope for the bishop of Rome by Pope Hyginus.
- 144 Excommunication of Marcion for his heretical rejection of the Old Testament and for his semi-Gnostic teachings, particularly Docetism.
- 150 Justin Martyr describes Divine Liturgy.
- 155 Martyrdom of Polycarp of Smyrna.
- 156 Beginning of Montanism.
- 165 Martyrdom of Justin.
- 166 Pope Soter inaugurates in Rome a separate annual feast for Pascha, in addition to the weekly Sunday celebrations of the Resurrection, which is also held on a Sunday, in contrast to the Quartodecimans.
- ca. 170 Emergence of Muratorian Canon.
- ca. 175 Tatian’s Diatessaron harmonizes the four canonical gospels into single narrative.
- 177-180 Persection under Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180).
- 180 Irenaeus of Lyons writes Against Heresies ; Saint Dyfan first martyr in British Isles (at Merthyr Dyfan, Wales); death of Scillitan Martyrs in North Africa.
- 180-192 Theodotion's Greek translation of the Old Testament.
- 190 Pantaenus founds the Catechetical School at Alexandria.
- 193-211 Symmachus' Greek translation of the Old Testament.
- 195 Bishop Saint Elvan dies at Glastonbury.
- 196 Syriac gnostic philosopher Bardaisan writes of Christians amongst the Parthians, Bactrians (Kushans) and other peoples in the Persian Empire.
- 197 Quartodeciman controversy; Tertullian writes Apologeticus, his most famous work, including the phrase "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church" (Apologeticus, Ch.50).
- 200 Martyrdom of Irenaeus of Lyons.
- 202 Emperor Septimus Severus issues edict against Christianity and Judaism; Martyrdom of Haralampus of Magnesia.
- 202-210 Persecution under Emperor Septimius Severus (193-211).
- 203 Martyrdom of Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas in Carthage's amphitheatre.
- 206 King Abgar IX converts Edessa to Christianity.
- 208 Tertullian writes that Christ has followers on the far side of the Roman wall in Britain where Roman legions have not yet penetrated.
- ca. 209 Martyrdom of Alban in Britain.
- 210 Hippolytus of Rome, bishop and martyr and last of Greek-speaking fathers in Rome, writes Refutation of All Heresies (Philosophumena), and Apostolic Tradition, the latter containing the earliest known description of the rite of ordination; also writes against Sabellianism, a type of Monarchianism.
- 215 Conversion of Tertullian to Montanism.
- 220 Sextus Julius Africanus writes the Chronographiai, a history of the world up to year 217.
- 225 Death of Tertullian.
- ca.225-250 Didascalia Apostolorum, "Teaching of the Apostles", oldest extant manual of church order describes church life at that time; circulated widely in Persia, being translated early on from Greek into Syriac.
- 227 Origen begins Commentary on Genesis, completes work on First Principles.
- 232 Heraclas becomes Pope of Alexandria.
- 235-238 Persecution under Emperor Maximinus Thrax; martyrdom of St. Hippolytus of Rome.
- 238 During reigns of Gordian and Philip the Arab the church proclaims the faith openly and increasingly attracts well-educated converts.
- 240 Church at Dura-Europos built (earliest identified Christian church).
- ca.240 Origen's Hexapla of the Old Testament, largest critical production of antiquity.
- 244 Plotinus founds Neoplatonist school in Rome, whose system is developed in conscious opposition to Christianity, however whose teachings indirectly influenced Augustine of Hippo and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and hence medieval theologians and mystics.
- 246 Paul of Thebes retreats to the Egyptian desert and becomes first Christian hermit.
- 246-247 Two Councils of Arabia.
- 247 Rome celebrated its thousandth anniversary this year, witnessing a period of increased persecution of Christians.
- 248 Origen writes in Against Celsus that the Roman empire is a Divine Will.
- 249-251 Persecution under Emperor Decius.
- 257-260 Persecution under Emperor Valerian (253-260).
- 255-256 Three Councils of Carthage.
- 258 Bp. Cyprian of Carthage martyred.
- 260 Paul of Samosata begins his heretical preaching against the divinity of Christ; Synod in Rome condemns Sabellianism and Subordinationism.
- 262 Porphyry of Tyre becomes disciple of Neoplatonist Plotinus in Rome.
- 263 Porphyry of Tyre writes Philosophy From Oracles, an anti-Christian book.
- 264 Excommunication of Paul of Samosata.
- 265 The word "Homoousios", "of the same substance", to define relationship between Father and Son, used for first time by Modalist Monarchians of Cyrene, playing an important part in defining Orthodoxy at Nicene Council in 325.
- 274-275 Persecution under Emperor Aurelian.
- 270 Before 270, Gregory Thaumaturgus sees first known apparition of the Theotokos; Death of Gregory Thaumaturgus; Porphyry of Tyre writes Against the Christians, a powerful anti-Christian book, causing several Christian contemporaries to try and refute him, and which was later banned and burned in 448; first priest ordained in Seleucia-Ctesiphon.
- 272 Martyrdom of Sabbas Stratelates ("the General") of Rome and 70 soldiers.
- 284 Diocletian becomes Roman emperor, persecutes Church and martyrs an estimated one million Christians; martyrdom of Cosmas and Damian, Andrew Stratelates ("the General") and 2,593 soldiers with him in Cilicia; the Era of the Martyrs dating system, currently used by the Coptic Church, had its beginning on this date, its year one.
- 285 Anthony the Great flees to the desert to pursue a life of prayer.
- 286 Martrydom of Maurice and the Theban Legion.
- ca.300 Bp. David of Basra undertook missionary work in India, among the earliest documented Christian missionaries in India.
- 300 By this date, the Chrisitan population is about 6,200,000, or 10.5% of the population of the Roman Empire (based on population of 60 million).
- 301 Gregory the Illuminator converts King Tiridates I of Armenia to the Christian faith.
- 302 20,000 Martyrs burned at Nicomedia.
- 303 Outbreak of the Great Persecution (303-311), as Diocletian and Galerius launch the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire; martyrdom of George the Trophy-bearer.
- 305 Martyrdom of Panteleimon and Catherine of Alexandria. Martyrdom of Bishop Ianouarios of Beneventio of Campania and his Companions.
- ca.305-311 Lactantius writes Divinae Institutiones, the first systematic Latin account of the Christian view of life.
- 306 Martyrdom of Demetrius of Thessaloniki.
- ca.306 Synod of Elvira in Spain, requires continence of all clergy, and severe disciplinary penalties for apostasy and adultery, becoming the pattern in the west.
- 308 Pope Marcellus, a rigorist, opposes more lenient treatment of the Christians who had lapsed under the recent persecution.
- 310 Armenia becomes first Christian nation; persecution of Christians under Persian King Shapur II (310-379).
- 311 Galerius issues Edict of Toleration ending persecution of Christians in his part of the Roman Empire; rebellion of the Donatists in Carthage.
- 312 Vision and conversion of Constantine the Great; defeat of Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge, making Constantine Emperor of the West; martyrdom of Lucian of Antioch, who had completed a recension of the Septuagint and the Four Gospels in Greek, and inspired the development of the School of Antioch and Biblical textual study.
- 313 Edict of Milan issued by Constantine the Great and co-emperor Licinius, officially declaring religious freedom in the Roman Empire, specifically naming religious toleration for Christianity, restoration of property to Christian churches, and legal recognition.
- 314 Council of Ancyra held; Council of Arles condemns Donatism.
- 315 Council of Neo-Caesaria held; Constantine the Great abolished crucifixion in the Roman Empire.
- 316 Lactantius writes "De Mortibus Persecutorum", a graphic account of the lives and horrible deaths of those who persecuted the church.
- 318 Publication of On the Incarnation by Athanasius the Great, influencing the condemnation of Arianism; beginnings of Arian Controversy.
- 318 Pachomius the Great, disciple of Anthony the Great, organizes a community of ascetics at Tabennis in Egypt, founding cenobitic monasticism.
- 319 Translation of relics of Theodore Stratelates ("the General").
- 320 Expulsion of Arius by Alexander of Alexandria; martyrdom of Forty Martyrs of Sebaste.
- 320-21 Licinius' measures against Christians in the east enforced.
- 321 Constantine declares Sunday a holiday in honor of the Resurrection.
- 323 Constantine the Great builds church on the site of the martyrdom of Peter in Rome.
- 324 Constantine defeats Licinius and becomes sole emperor.
- Some of these dates are necessarily a bit vague, as records for some periods are particularly difficult to piece together accurately.
- The division of Church History into separate eras as done here will always be to some extent arbitrary, though it was attempted to group periods according to major watershed events.
- This timeline is necessarily biased toward the history of the Orthodox Church, though a number of non-Orthodox or purely political events are mentioned for their importance in history related to Orthodoxy or for reference.
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The following are published writings that provide an overview of Church history:
From an Orthodox perspective
- Eusebius of Caesarea (Bishop of Caesarea), Geoffrey Arthur Williamson, Andrew Louth. The history of the church from Christ to Constantine. Transl. Geoffrey Arthur Williamson. Penguin Classics, 1989. 434pp. ISBN 9780140445350
- Schmemann, Alexander. The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy.
- Ware, Timothy. The Orthodox Church: New Edition. (ISBN 0140146563)
- Tsai, Kathryn (Dr). A Timeline of Eastern Church History. Divine Ascent Press, CA, 2004. ISBN 0971413924
From a Heterodox perspective
- Boer, Harry R. A Short History of the Early Church. (ISBN 0802813399)
- Cairns, Earle E. Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church. (ISBN 0310208122)
- Chadwick, Henry. The Early Church. (ISBN 0140231994)
- Collins, Michael, ed.; Price, Matthew Arlen. Story of Christianity: A Celebration of 2000 Years of Faith. (ISBN 0789446057)
- Eusebius Pamphilus; Cruse, C.F. (translator). Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History. (ISBN 1565633717)
- Gonzalez, Justo L. A History of Christian Thought, Volume 1: From the Beginnings to the Council of Chalcedon. (ISBN 0687171822)
- Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity, Volume 1: The Early Church to the Reformation. (ISBN 0060633158)
- Hall, Stuart G. Doctrine and Practice in the Early Church. (ISBN 0802806295)
- Hurtado, Larry W. (Dr.). Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005. (ISBN 9780802831675)
- Hurtado, Larry W. (Dr.). The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins. Cambridge 2006.
- Noll, Mark A. Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity. (ISBN 080106211X)
- Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Volume 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600). (ISBN 0226653714)
- Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church. (ISBN 156563196X)
- Wace, Henry; Piercy, William C., ed. A Dictionary of Christian Biography: Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D. With an Account of the Principal Sects and Heresies. (ISBN 1565630572)
- Walton, Robert C. Chronological and Background Charts of Church History. (ISBN 0310362814)
- History of Orthodox Christianity (QuickTime movies)
- Timeline of Patriarchal History. Order of St. Andrew the Apostle. Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. (Pop-up Video Presentation, in Sections)