The Novatian and Donatist divisions

More serious were two schisms, one which began in the third century and which is usually given the name of Novatian, and the other which had its origin in the fourth century and is called Donatist. For both the primary source was dissatisfaction with what they regarded as the lax moral practices of the majority and both came into being as protests against the lenient treatment of those who had denied the faith in time of persecution. In its earlier days the Church maintained rigorous standards...

Financing the church

How were the churches maintained financially From the very outset the churches cared for the poor and the widows. This was true not only in the immediate circle of each congregation, but churches also came to the rescue of other churches which were suffering from special or chronic stress. Moreover, some of the apostles drew their support from their fellow-Christians. For a brief time in the first church in Jerusalem all the Christians shared in a community of goods. In that church the widows...

Christian philanthropy

Gifts of individuals to the public weal were not a Christian innovation. Many nonChristians had been very generous. Indeed, in the Roman Empire benefactions by private individuals and public officials were a commonplace. Through them baths, temples, theatres, roads, bridges, aqueducts, markets, schools, and libraries were constructed and games and other public amusements were provided. However, in the use of money for the general welfare, Christianity brought five significant innovations. It...

The Cathari or Albigenses

A movement further removed from the faith of the Catholic Church than the Waldensees was that of the Cathari (Pure) or, as they were known from one of their chief centres, Albi, in the south of France, Albigensees. In some places they also were called Patarini or Patarenes, although that appellation was not confined to them and was sometimes made to include all heretics. Like the Waldensees, they flourished in the twelfth century and were most numerous in Northern Spain, Southern France, and...

Psalms hymns music

The Epistle to the Ephesians enjoins the use of psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. Some of these hymns are to be found in the New Testament itself, imbedded in its text. From a very early date, perhaps from the beginning, Christians employed in their services the psalms found in the Jewish Scriptures, the Christian Old Testament. Since the first Christians were predominantly Greek-speaking, these psalms were in a Greek translation. We hear of at least one form of service in which, after...

Hildebrand as Pope Gregory VII

Hildebrand was the sole survivor of the band of able reformers who had gathered about Leo IX, for Peter Damian had died a few weeks before. At the funeral of Alexander II in the great church of St. John Lateran the crowd began to shout Hildebrand for our Bishop. The mob carried him forcibly across the city to St. Peter's and there, with scant regard for the procedure which had been prescribed by Nicholas II and which he himself had supported, the cardinals hurried...

Second and third century spread

We know even less of the spread of Christianity in the second century than we do of its propagation in the first century. Yet it is clear that it continued to grow in numbers of adherents and that before A.D. 200 Christians were found not only in all of the provinces of the Empire but also outside the Empire in Mesopotamia. In the third century the expansion of Christianity was still more marked. It was gathering momentum. Moreover, in that century the illnesses of society which were later to...

Admission to the church

As we have seen, admission to the Church was through baptism. In the first few decades of the Church, baptism might be administered on a simple profession of faith in Christ. Thus on the famous day of Pentecost, often regarded as the birthday of the Church, when about three thousand are reported to have been added to the fellowship of the disciples, the injunction was to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Whether all were baptized on that day is not explicitly stated, but we...

Religious rivals for the allegiance of the Grsco Roman world

Although conditions in the Graco-Roman world favoured the spread of a faith, they did not necessarily mean that Christianity would be the religion which would triumph. The competitors were many. Several of these appeared to have a marked advantage over Christianity. Indeed, at its outset, Christianity seemed to be one of the least of many rivals and with no promise of success against the others. We cannot undertake here even to name all the contenders for the religious allegiance of the...

The Cistercian movement

In the twelfth century the leadership in creative, vigorous monastic life passed to the Cistercians. As we have suggested more than once, each great revival of the monastic life tended to be followed by decline. A leader of naming devotion and high idealism would attract youth, and austerity would characterize the first years of the new house or houses. Then would come popularity and wealth, either through the labour of the monks themselves or by gifts from devout admirers, zeal would wane, and...

Ethical ideals and moral discipline in the church

Throughout the first five centuries, as through their successors, the records disclose a marked gulf in Christians and the Christian communities between professed ethical ideals and motivation for moral action on the one hand, and performance on the other, together with continuing efforts to close the gulf either by bringing the ideals down to a level attainable in performance or by inducing performance to conform to the ideals. In the New Testament, the motive and basic principle of action is...

Conflict with the religious leaders

This uniqueness of Jesus and the revolutionary contrast of his teaching with the traditions of his people were the source of much of the conflict, which brought Jesus to his death. The fashion in which Jesus brushed aside some of the customs and prohibitions most cherished by the Pharisees appeared to these self-constituted guardians of Judaism to threaten all for which they and their forefathers had fought against the surrounding world of paganism. What seemed to them to be his disregard of...

Varieties of Judaism

When Christianity came into being, Judaism was not all of one pattern. In it were to be found several trends, schools, and sects. Not all of them were important in the development of Christianity. We need notice, therefore, only those which were significant for the history of that faith. A trend of primary importance was towards the penetration of Judaism by Hellenism. The Jews were widely scattered in the Mediterranean world. Here they fell under the influence of the Greek thought which was so...

Christianity begins to overflow the borders of the Empire

Well before the end of the third century Christianity had begun to gain adherents among peoples beyond the Roman Empire. As was to be expected, this was through contacts with Christians in the Roman Empire and was largely along the trade routes, which irradiated from the chief commercial cities of that realm. Close commercial and cultural relations existed between the cities of Syria, such as Antioch and Damascus, where strong churches sprang up in the first century, and the Tigris Euphrates...

The continued development of the structure of the Catholic church

While these developments were taking place in the thought of Christians about their faith, and, as we have suggested, in part through the struggle to arrive at a common mind on the issues which were raised, the structure of the Catholic Church was continuing to grow. While this growth was in part from the effort to reach unanimity on central features of the Christian faith, it was profoundly affected by the patterns of the state and the society in which the Church found itself and by the...

The spread of Christianity in the West

One of the striking features of these centuries of disorder in Western Europe is the fashion in which, in spite of the near-anarchy, Christianity continued to spread. While many factors contributed to this expansion, it would not have been except for the inner vitality of the faith. In Italy, Spain, and Gaul the native pagan cults which survived at the end of the fifth century disappeared and those imported by the invaders, except for Islam, were replaced by Christianity. More serious than...

The new Testament ideal of the Church

After his death and resurrection a fellowship of the followers of Jesus came into being which was called the Church. Beliefs about it arose almost immediately and it took a variety of visible forms. The ideal of the Church appears again and again in the early Christian documents which compose the New Testament and which reflect the convictions of leaders in the primitive Christian fellowship. To these leaders the Church was to be inclusive and one. They shared the purpose of Jesus which was...

The final stages of the Christological controversy Monotheletism

The lack of unity among Christians, and especially between Monophysites and the majority, which Justinian had failed to eliminate, continued to pose a major problem to both Church and state, and Emperor after Emperor wrestled with it. The issue became urgent when, in the seventh century, Arab invaders bearing a new religion, Islam, began their conquests. The Emperors believed it imperative to have Christians and the Empire present a common front against the invader. A fresh approach was made...

Monophysites of Egypt Nubia and Ethiopia

We have already had occasion to note the winning of the peoples of Egypt to Christianity. We have seen that the faith seems first to have found rootage in Alexandria in the Greek-speaking elements of that cosmopolitan Hellenistic city and that the head of its Christian community became one of the chief patriarchs in the Catholic Church. We have noted that before the end of the fifth century the faith became rooted among the native Egyptian stock and in time was the dominant religion of the...

The growing power of the Church in an age of disorder

As the structure of the Roman Empire disintegrated, invasions multiplied, wars and disorder increased, and life and property became progressively unsafe, the Church stepped into the breach and took over some of the functions for which society had been accustomed to look to the state. It emerged as the protector of the weak, the poor, the widows, and the orphans. That was notably the case in Gaul. Here in the fifth and sixth centuries the bishops were largely recruited from the Gallo-Roman...

The Donation of Constantine and the Pseudo Isidorian Decretals

Two other literary creations of this era need to he noted, for, while largely forgeries, they were made to strengthen the authority of the Papacy in an age when the Church in Western Europe was in danger of falling apart into a welter of tribal, royal, and feudal churches, dominated by secular princes, and when the unity provided by the See of Peter afforded cohesion. One of these was the Donation of Constantine. Probably written about the middle of the eighth century, it purported to be from...

The council of Nicsa

Then the Emperor Constantine stepped in. He had recently come over to the side of the Christians and, after a long, hard struggle had united the Empire politically under his rule. The dispute over Arius threatened the disruption of what, along with the Empire, was the strongest institution in the Mediterranean world, the Catholic Church. Constantine had already intervened in the affairs of the Church over the Donatist controversy. He now felt impelled to act in this much more serious division....

The main features of the Western Europe in which Christianity was set AD 500 AD 950

The first few generations after the fifth century witnessed a progressive disintegration of what remained of the Roman Empire and of Gr co-Roman civilization in the West. The invaders established themselves in various parts of the Roman domains. At the outset their rulers usually prized Roman titles conferred on them by the Emperors and regarded themselves as still within the Empire. Actually, however, they were heads of kingdoms which for most practical purposes were independent. In Italy the...

The Great Alexandrians Origen

Clement's successor as head of the catechetical school in Alexandria, Origen, was to be much more influential than he. His was, indeed, one of the greatest of Christian minds. Origen was born of Christian parents, probably not far from the year 185. A precocious child and the oldest of seven sons, he was instructed by his father in the Scriptures and in Greek learning. Possessed of an eager mind, he perplexed his father by questions about the deeper meanings which he believed lay behind the...

The iconoclastic controversy

The major dispute in the Greek or Byzantine wing of the Catholic Church after the seventh century was not over the nature of Christ, but over the use of images in Christian worship. In this the West also became involved, although it was not as badly divided as were the Greeks. The controversy broke out in 726 and raged, with intervals of comparative quiet, for over a century, until 843. It was concomitant with the recovery of the Byzantine Empire from the internal disorder from which the realm...

The defeat or the Arians

The seeming victory of Arianism, due as it had been to the Emperor Constantius, was illusory. However, the reversal of the tide did not come quickly. In 361 death removed Constantius. As we have seen, his successor, Julian, sought to restore paganism and was, accordingly, not averse to the weakening discord in the Church. Athanasius was able to return to Alexandria, but within the year Julian ordered him again into exile, his fourth, for his success in winning pagans to the Christian faith. On...

The Gnostic threat

A somewhat related threat, Gnosticism, had wide vogue in the first few centuries of Christianity. Foreshadowings of it are recorded in the first century and in the second century it attained major proportions. As we saw earlier, Gnosticism was not a phenomenon which was to be found only in the guise of Christianity, but was widely prevalent in the Mediterranean world into which Christianity was ushered. This pagan Gnosticism was protean, taking many forms and drawing from a wide variety of...

Sex women children marriage and the family

In that important realm of human life which embraces the relations between the sexes, the status of women and children, marriage, and the family, Christianity wrought significant modifications. Women were prominently and favourably mentioned in the cherished records of the life of Christ. While Paul would not allow them to speak in the meetings of the churches, he declared that in Christ Jesus there could be neither male nor female, and in the churches of the first generation women were...

Further Christological controversies Apollinaris Nestorius Cyril

The general acceptance in the Catholic Church of what came to be called the Ni-cene Creed did not bring peace. That creed had been concerned primarily with the Trinity and with the relations within the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There remained the problem of the relation of the divine and the human in Jesus Christ. Here was to be the storm centre of a controversy which was to continue into the seventh century. It was to issue in divisions some of which persist into the present....

Persistent opposition and persecution

It is one of the commonplaces of history that in its first three centuries Christianity met persistent and often severe persecution, persecution which rose to a crescendo early in the fourth century, but that it spread in spite of opposition and was even strengthened by it. The tradition of martyrdom has entered deep into the Christian consciousness. The faith centres about one who was executed as an alleged threat to the established order and throughout its course it has been punctuated by...

The further development of monasticism

In the fourth and fifth centuries monasticism spread widely and monks multiplied. Monks and monasteries were especially numerous in the East, notably in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Syria, partly because in the latter two countries pre-monastic asceticism had been strong in Christian circles. In Mesopotamia they seem to have had beginnings which were quite independent of influences from Egypt. They may have been indebted to Manich an monasticism and through that to Buddhist and Hindu...

Conditions favourable to the spread of religion

At the time when Christianity came into being, much in the basin of the Mediterranean favoured the spread of religions, either new or old. Jesus was born in the reign of Augustus. After a long period of wars which had racked the Mediterranean and its shores, political unity had been achieved and the Roman Empire had become roughly coterminous with the Mediterranean Basin. Here and there it was soon to spread beyond it. Augustus was the first Emperor. Building on the foundations laid by his...

Why the phenomenal spread of Christianity

Why was it that Christianity had this amazing expansion How shall we account for the fact that, beginning as what to the casual observer must have appeared a small and obscure sect of Judaism, before its first five centuries were out it had become the faith of the Roman state and of the vast majority of the population of that realm and had spread eastward as far as Central Asia and probably India and Ceylon and westward into far away Ireland Why of all the many faiths which were competing for...