Post Origenist developments in Christian thought and the rise of Arianism

Origen was so outstanding a mind, so radiant a spirit, and so stimulating a teacher and author, that for more than a century after his death he profoundly moulded the minds of Christian thinkers, especially in the eastern portions of the Roman Empire. From those who came after him and who were deeply indebted to him, two main streams of thought issued which came into conflict with each other and which late in the third and through much of the fourth and fifth centuries led to the most serious...

The coming of the Arabs and Islam

The disintegration of the Roman Empire which had been seemingly halted by Justinian was hastened, as we have more than once suggested, by the spectacular irruption of peoples from the south-east, the Arabs, the bearers of a new religion, Islam. Moslems reckon their era as beginning with the Hegira, A.D. 622, the traditional (but erroneous) date of Mohammed's flight from Mecca to Medina. Within a century of that year the Arabs had overrun about half of what had once been the Roman Empire and...

The Waldensees

More numerous than the followers of Arnold of Brescia and more lasting as a fellowship were those who were known as the Waldensees or the Vaudois. The origin of the name is in debate. It is said to have been from the vaux or valleys or vallis densa, shaded valley, in which the Waldensees long persisted. It is also conjectured to have come from Peter Waldo, or Valdez. Peter Waldo, a rich merchant of Lyons, became impressed with the brevity and insecurity of life and went to a theologian to ask...

The Dominicans

The Dominicans, officially the Order of Preachers (Ordo praedicatorum) or the Preaching Brothers (Fratres Praedicatores), like the Franciscans, arose early in the thirteenth century. The two had many similarities. They also displayed marked differences. At times they were unfriendly rivals. In contrast with the Franciscans, whose founder was deeply distressed by the drift towards the universities, from the outset the Dominicans were dedicated to teaching, and scholarship as well as to...

The Cluny movement

The revival was given conspicuous leadership by the monastery of Cluny and its abbots. Cluny was north of Lyons, not far from Macon and the Rhone River. Its first abbot and real founder was Berno. A Burgundian, Berno had already made a record as abbot of another monastery where he had held to the strict observance of the Benedictine rule. So many youths were attracted by his zeal that he deemed it necessary to begin an additional house. This he did in 910 at Cluny on land given by William the...

The conflict over the relation to Judaism

It was natural that the first major conflict within the Church should be over the issue of whether Christianity should remain within Judaism as one of the many sects of that faith, or whether its genius demanded that it become an independent and distinct religion. If Christianity were simply a variant of Judaism, Gentile converts to it should submit themselves to circumcision as an accepted initiatory step for admission to the Jewish community and as essential to sharing in the special covenant...

The first Crusade

What is called the First Crusade began in 1096, the immediate outgrowth of an appeal by Pope Urban II in a stirring sermon at a synod at Clermont, in France, in November of the preceding year. The congregation, deeply moved, is said to have boomed out Dens vult (God wills it) and this was made the slogan of the enterprise. The Pope had been asked by the Eastern Emperor for aid against the Seljuk Turks. He was nor the first Byzantine Emperor to seek such help. A predecessor had made a similar...

The Justinian era

The decline of the Roman Empire which had been so marked in the fifth century seemed to be halted in the sixth century and for a brief time that realm flowered again. The central figure in the revival was the Emperor Justinian I, who reigned from 527 to 565, dying in his eighties. A nephew of his predecessor, Justin I, an Illyrian peasant who had come to Constantinople in his youth to seek his fortune and had risen to the throne in 518 at the age of sixty-six, Justinian had been the real power...

Christ and the Logos

In the second and third centuries widely divergent views of the relation of Jesus to God were put forward, even by those who regarded themselves as being within the Catholic Church. A group of these convictions centred on the identification of Christ with the Logos. Not all those who made that identification agreed as to precisely what it implied. Some, including the convert, Justin Martyr, whom we have earlier mentioned, whose spiritual pilgrimage had led him through Greek philosophy to...

Dionysius the Areopagite

By the end of the fifth century Christian mysticism was beginning to be profoundly moulded by Neoplatonism, an influence which has persisted into our own day. Very potent were the writings ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagite, mentioned in The Acts of the Apostles as a convert of Paul at Athens. Dionysius was not their author, for they seem to have been composed either in the last quarter of the fifth century or the first half of the sixth century, perhaps by a monk or a bishop. Some of the...

The man Jesus

What manner of man was Jesus No one can fully enter into the consciousness of another or completely understand him. No two human beings are exactly alike. The differences are often subtle and yet the very qualities which elude observation and precise description may be the most important. How impossible it must be, therefore, adequately to understand and to describe one who stood out so markedly from his contemporaries and from all men, both before and since. In the first century and through...

Risen ascended expected and yet still present

The answer came on what Christians hail as the first Easter and in events which shortly followed that Easter. By it the judgement of man by the cross was not lightened or revoked, but Christians have been convinced that in it faith in God was vindicated, and God was seen not to have been defeated but to have triumphed and to have revealed the fashion in which His sovereignty is exercised. The records, which have reached us, do not make dear the precise sequence of events on that first Easter....

Innocent III

The climax of the Papacy is usually regarded as having been reached under Lo-tario de' Conti di Segni who under the title Innocent III reigned 1198 to 1216. Of aristocratic Lombard lineage on his father's side and of the Roman nobility on his mother's side, he was born not far from Rome in 1160 or 1161. Educated in Paris, the main centre for the study of philosophy and theology, and at Bologna, noted for its emphasis on law. Innocent III was one of the most learned men of his day and was...

Constantine espouses Christianity

In what must have seemed an unequal contest between naked, ruthless force and unarmed, passive resistance, it was not the imperial government but Christianity which emerged victor. Presumably this would have been the eventual outcome, for Christianity was clearly proving itself the stronger. As it was, the individual who was preeminent in the surrender of the state was Constantine. Constantius Chlorus, the father of Constantine, was governing Britain, Gaul, and Spain as C sar when the...

Great Popes of the twelfth century

Here is not the place for a complete list of the Pontiffs under whom the Papacy attained its greatest power. We must, however, pause to mention those who were outstanding. Some of them reigned in the twelfth century. Innocent II (1130-1143), supported by Bernard of Clairvaux, was dominant as against the Holy Roman Emperors of his reign and triumphed over two rivals who claimed the Papacy. He told the bishops that they held their sees of him as vassals held their fiefs of their sovereigns and...

The suppression of the heresies

One of the striking features of the movements of these centuries which the Catholic Church branded as heresies was that they either completely died out or, in the case of the Waldensees, dwindled to small groups. This disappearance appears to have been due in part to inherent weakness and the lack of an effective organization and in part to measures adopted by the Catholics. It is of the actions taken by Catholics of which we hear most. In spite of the corruption within its ranks, the Catholic...

The unpromising rootage of Christianity

When we come to the area in which Christianity began, we must remind ourselves that even there, in that geographically circumscribed region, the roots from which it sprang appeared to promise no very great future for the faith. It is one of the commonplaces of our story that Christianity was an outgrowth of the religion of Israel. Israel was never important politically. Only for a brief time, under David and Solomon, between nine hundred and a thousand years before Christ, did it achieve a...

The consummation of the Kingdom

Did Jesus expect the kingdom fully to come within history Did he look for the transformation of society, either gradually or by progressive stages, until it would entirely conform to the will of God Or did he expect history to be consummated abruptly in judgement to be followed by a display of the power of God in condemnation of the wicked and their separation from those who had conformed to God's will The answer is not clear and appears to be a paradox. Jesus obviously believed the kingdom to...

The Montanist movement

A movement quite distinct from both the Gnostics and the Marcionites, but which had wide vogue in the latter part of the second century and persisted for more than two centuries and which brought division in the Church, took its name from Montanus, of Phrygia, in Asia Minor, who flourished in the second half of the second century. Because of the region of their origin, the Montanists were often referred to as Phrygians. They represented a revival of the prophets who were prominent in the first...

The continued monasticism of the Byzantine Church

We have had occasion more than once to note the prominence and something of the place which monasticism held in the Byzantine branch of the Catholic Church. That monasticism had been partly shaped by Basil. Theodore the Studite had added to it. Monks were prominent in the life of the Church and the community and were much less susceptible to control by the c saropapist state than was the ecclesiastical hierarchy, even though technically the bishops were drawn from the monasteries. The contrast...

Christianity Takes Shape in Organization and Doctrine

Two of the most striking features of the history of Christianity in the first five hundred years of its existence were the development of visible organization and the intellectual formulation of belief. The two were so intimately interrelated that the course of their growth can best be treated together. By the time that the majority of the population of the Roman Empire had adopted the Christian name, the main features of the structure of the Christian community had appeared and the major...

Marcion and the Marcionites

A movement sometimes classified, probably mistakenly, with Gnosticism, and even in starker contrast than the latter with Judaism, was that begun by Marcion. Marcion is said to have been a native of Sinope, a seaport in Pontus, on the south coast of the Black Sea, the country of the famous Cynic, Diogenes. He is reported to have been the son of a bishop and thus to have been reared a Christian. He came to Rome, a man of considerable wealth, about the year 138 or 139. He joined himself to the...

Renewed theological activity under the Carolingians

The intellectual and religious revival made possible by the Carolingians was accompanied by fresh theological activity and controversies over doctrine. Indeed, as at so many other periods in the history of the faith, innovations in Christian belief and the consequent debates were evidences of vitality. One of the controversies centred in Spain. For a time after the Arab conquest the churches which survived south of the Pyrenees, and they were many and strong, were in part cut off from Rome. In...

The Carolingian revival

Christian living and the inner life and unity of the Church were furthered by the great Carolingians. For about two centuries the Carolingians brought under their sway much of Western Europe including at the widest extent of their realms the larger portions of what are now France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Western and Southern Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, perhaps half of Italy, slight footholds south of the Pyrenees, and much of the east coast of the Adriatic. Their rule stretched from...

The Great Alexandrians Clement

While Tertullian was writing in Carthage there was beginning to flower in Alexandria a school of Christian thought which was to contribute even more than did he to the intellectual formulation of the Christian faith. Alexandria was one of the chief cities of the Roman Empire. Founded by Alexander the Great in the fourth century before Christ, it had become a cosmopolitan centre of commerce and of Hellenistic culture. Here was one of the great libraries of the world. Here Greek and Oriental...

Earthen vessels The exceeding greatness of the power

In one of his most famous passages, Paul declares that we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency or exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not of us. In another letter he speaks of the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that...

The rise of monasticism

What is the perfect Christian life Can it be lived If so, how Does it entail the transformation of all human society Can individuals be immersed in a prevailingly or partially un-Christian society without compromising their principles and be fully Christian To be fully Christian, is it necessary to withdraw from society If so, must one live alone, or must those intent on the complete Christian life seek it in community with others If life in community is necessary, can there be a community, a...

Retrospect and prospect

The four and a half centuries covered in the preceding four chapters may seem disheartening for any who would share the dream of Jesus for the coming of the kingdom of God. What had happened to that vision with its confident assertion that the reign of God was at hand Any student who seeks to understand the nature and the course of human history and especially any Christian who is concerned with the fashion in which the God in Whom he believes deals with men and with what can be expected in...

Early Christian views of Christ

The early Christians, including those who had been his most intimate companions, came to cherish very exalted views of Jesus. They named him Messiah, Christ, the anointed one. They called him Kyrios (Kupto ), Lord. Indeed, the only creedal affirmation which seems to have been asked of the first converts was subscription to the declaration, Jesus is Lord. While to those reared in a Greek or a non-Jewish Oriental background this term would bring to mind the many lords of the mystery religions...

The development of catholic organization and doctrine

The popularity of Gnosticism, the teaching of Marcion, and the Montanist movement forced others who regarded themselves as Christians to develop a tighter organization and to give added attention to the clarification and formulation of their beliefs. At the outset, in the middle of the first century or earlier, all that was required for admission to the Christian fellowship represented by the Church was repentance, the affirmation that Jesus is Lord, baptism, and the reception of the Holy...

The unique relation to

One of the most difficult and mooted questions about Jesus is what he conceived himself to be. Did he regard himself as the Messiah If so, what did that mean to him Why did he so often call himself the Son of Man Much ink has been spilled in the prolonged discussions of these issues. Across the centuries the relation of Jesus to God has engaged some of the best minds among his followers and is still a subject of debate. That is partly because of the paucity of our records, partly because of the...

Crucified dead and buried

Under these circumstances it is not surprising that Jesus was arrested and executed. He himself had been expecting that outcome, for he was too clear-headed not to see that if carried through the course, which he was pursuing could have no other climax. Indeed, he had declared that it was of the very essence of his mission, that apart from it his unique relationship to God could not be understood. What is difficult and perhaps impossible fully to ascertain is the course of thought by which...

Judaism summarized

This brief description of Judaism may seem to be a dry summary of bare facts. If it is no more than that it has failed to give a true picture of that religion. Perhaps no words can do Judaism justice or fully disclose the inwardness of the faith. The Jewish scriptures themselves do not attempt to compress all into a simple or brief formula. Indeed, words fail adequately to convey what a high religion, or perhaps any religion, means to those who have been really caught by it. Yet certain...

The slow decline of the Papacy

Never again, as we have suggested, was the Papacy to be so potent in so many phases of the life of Europe. After Innocent III a decline set in which slightly less than two centuries later was to bring the See of Peter to a nadir that, while not as low as that of the tenth century, was in sad contrast with the purposes cherished for it by the great Popes of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The decline was not sudden. The thirteenth century saw several strong and high-minded Pontiffs, and some...

The Papacy attains its height as a legislative and administrative structure

In the last half of the twelfth and the fore part of the thirteenth century the Papacy reached the high point of its power in Western Europe. Never before had its influence been so strong in so many aspects of the life of that region. Never again did it make its weight felt so potently in so many phases of the culture of that area. This apex of Papal might came as a climax to the religious revival which had captured the Holy See. It also paralleled the crest of the urge to attain the perfect...

The continuation of the Christological controversy

So long as Cyril of Alexandria and John of Antioch lived, the peace which had been effected between the theologies which they represented was fairly well preserved. However, that peace proved to be only a truce. After death had removed them from the scene the struggle broke out with renewed fury. Here were two tendencies which could scarcely be reconciled. The one, represented by the scholarship which had been strong at Antioch, stressed the historical study of the Gospel records of the life of...

The effort to purify the Church through the papacy

Could all Western Christendom be really Christian More than once we have called attention to the problem. Western Europe had adopted the Christian name by mass action, usually tribe by tribe. Baptism had become a social convention. A vast distance separated the living of the ordinary Christian from the high demands of Jesus for discipleship. Could that distance be narrowed In the preceding two chapters we have noted efforts which deepened the living of minorities. Some were monastic. Others...

The Augustinian Hermits

Augustine or the Augustinian Order sprang from several communities in Italy which early in the thirteenth century sent colonies into Germany, Spain, and the south of France. They were among those movements towards the semi-hermit life which abounded in Italy late in the twelfth and in the fore part of the thirteenth century and were expressions of the religious awakening of those decades. In general they followed the rule ascribed to Augustine of Hippo, for, as we have...

The conversion of Augustine

The appeal of Neoplatonism and Manich ism as rivals of Christianity is vividly demonstrated in the spiritual pilgrimage of Augustine of Hippo (354-430). Born in North Africa of Latin stock, of a devoutly Christian mother, Monica, and a pagan father who became a Christian only late in life, as a youth Augustine was given Christian instruction. His mother did not have him baptized because, accepting the belief that baptism washed away sins committed before it was administered, she wished him to...

The tension between the early Christians and the world

From the beginning, Christians felt themselves in opposition to what they called the world. They recognized the antagonism between Jesus on the one hand and, on the other hand, the state in which they were set and which had brought about the crucifixion of Jesus and the chronic persecution of his followers. This contrast found dramatic expression in Augustine's City of God with its sharply drawn distinction between the city of the world and the city of God, but that famous book was the more...

Reaction under Julian and the competition of old and new faiths

The numerical triumph of Christianity in the Roman Empire was not yet fully accomplished. First came a brief attempt to restore paganism by Julian, one of the family of Constantine. There was also the continued competition of historic paganism, reinforced by the mounting disasters to the Empire. To this were added new religious faiths and the inroads of barbarians with their cults. As, from the vantage of the accomplished fact, we may think that the victory of Christianity in the Mediterranean...

Further first century spread of the faith

In those first early vigorous years Paul was by no means the only one who spread the faith through the Empire. We hear more about him than of any other, but in various ways we obtain glimpses of many. Peter traveled, for we hear of him in Antioch, and what seems to be reliable tradition speaks of him as being in Rome and dying there as a martyr. Not all its representatives agreed on the essence of the faith. We read of Apollos, who, as a missionary, differed in his message from that of Paul but...

The geographic extension of the faith continues

In spite of the old and the new resistance, the spread of Christianity continued. By the close of its first five centuries Christianity had become the professed faith of the overwhelming majority of the population of the Roman Empire. The Jewish communities held to their ancestral religion, and here and there, usually in remote rural districts or mountain valleys, the ancient pagan cults lingered. In some groups and areas Christians were a smaller element than in others. Many of the nominal...

Early reform efforts by Bishops

Here is not the place even to name all the bishops who were active in trying to lift the level of Christian living in their dioceses. To enumerate them would extend these pages far beyond any reasonable length. As fairly typical of many we must pause to speak briefly of a few who were active early in this period. We must especially name two who, although in different countries, were contemporaries. In England in the tenth century that recovery continued from the destruction from the Viking...

The spread of Christianity in Scandinavian outposts in the Atlantic

The Viking explosion of the ninth and tenth centuries planted Scandinavian colonies, largely Norwegian, on westward-lying islands as far away as Greenland. In the latter part of the tenth and the fore part of the eleventh century Christianity was carried to them and their populations accepted it, but in some instances not without hesitation and with divided counsels. The Orkney, the Faroe, and the Shetland Islands had something of a Christian population before the coming of the Vikings. The...

Paul missionary at large

Outstanding in carrying the faith into the non-Jewish, and especially the Hellenistic world was a Jew whose conversion is closely associated with the death of Stephen. This was Saul, or, to use the name by which he is best remembered, Paul. We know more about Paul than we do of any other Christian of the first century. Not only does The Acts of the Apostles make him and his mission its main theme, but we also have, most fortunately, a number of his letters, which give us intimate pictures of...

The profound effect on the religious life

As was to be expected, Christianity had a profound effect upon the religious life or the Roman Empire and its people. Christian apologists devoted much of their energy to denouncing the pagan cults in which the Empire abounded and would have no compromise with them. As we have suggested, there was some carry over from paganism in the attitudes and practices of many Christians, but there was not the deliberate and easygoing syncretism which was so marked a feature of the contemporary religious...

The setting of the great recession

The seeming triumph of Christianity in winning the professed allegiance of the Roman Empire carried with it a major threat. In the preceding chapters we noted the fashion in which Christianity was imperilled by the extent to which a large proportion of those who bore the Christian name were compromising with the non-Christian environment in which they were immersed. We also saw the manner in which the Church was being interpenetrated by ideals which were quite contrary to the Gospel, especially...

Augustine and Pelagianism

While the conflict over Nestorius and between the Alexandrian and Antiochene schools was raging in the eastern part of the Catholic Church, another struggle was being waged mainly in the Western portions of the Church. It seems to have been characteristic of the Latin West that this was primarily over the nature of man rather than, as in the Hellenistic East, over the relation of the human and the divine in Christ. One of the striking facts of the history of Christianity is that after the fifth...

Heretical movements

In centuries which saw so much ferment in the religious life of Western Europe, it is not surprising that movements arose which could not be reconciled with the Catholic Church. We shall probably never learn even the names of all of them. Of those which we know, we must take the space to mention only the more prominent. We hear of heresies in the tenth and eleventh centuries, but in the twelfth century they reached more formidable dimensions. As we enter upon their description it is well to...

The revival of the Byzantine Church and strains in relations with Rome

As we hare suggested, recovery to Christianity from the disasters which accompanied the disintegration of the Roman Empire began in the Eastern branch of the Catholic Church in the ninth century. It was well under way by 950, when the decisive upswing in the Western branch of the Catholic Church was about to become noticeable. The revival in the Byzantine Church was associated with the period which was spanned by the Macedonian dynasty, 867 to 1056, a period of about two centuries. The...

The resurgence of Arianism

The Council of Nicsa from which so much had been hoped did not bring enduring peace to the Catholic Church. Indeed, no council which has claimed to be inclusive or ecumenical has ever done so. Here and there a regional council has helped to restore unity in a particular area or in a segment of the Church, but many, perhaps most, of even these have failed. Ecumenical councils have either hardened old divisions or have led to new ones. They have usually been marked by bitterness and...

The augmented power of the Papacy and Gregory the Great

In the general disorder, the Papacy, under some very able men, markedly increased its power and extended the geographical range of its authority. In principle, as we have seen, even before the year 500 its claims were sweeping. Whether those claims would be implemented depended upon the opportunity and upon the ability of the individuals in the Papal chair. The political disorders offered the challenge. Some Popes were weak and did not rise to the occasion. Indeed, as we are to see, towards the...

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...

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...

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...

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 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 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...