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Christianity- The first 400 Years (2 OF 3)
by "The Legacy"
Ital333, Prof. Barbara Nucci, March 1999

        Strangely enough, the first mention of the Christian movement by a non-Christian Roman writer was by Pliny the Younger, governor of the province of Bithynia (modern Turkey) at the beginning of the 2nd Century, more than 100 years after Jesusí death.(Wilken, introduction; xii) 

A Chronology of
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60,000 BC - 1300 AD

1300 AD - 1998 AD

       Either earlier writings have been destroyed as "heretical" by the Roman Catholic church or the Christians were considered to be simply another cult of the low-born and not worthy of note.   Emperor worship had been instituted by the Romans after Augustusís death, but by the 2nd Century, Mithraism and Christianity were beginning to undermine the old "gods."(Hearder, 34)  In spite of the appeal of the Eastern religion of Mithras, Christianity proved to be popular with the common masses and with the upper society women, perhaps due to the Christian belief in spiritual equality of men and women.  The impact of these women on Roman society was eventually great.(Chadwick, 58)

        The young Christian group was already fighting an enemy more threatening than Rome: the ability to maintain the integrity of Jesusí message.  It was, in many cases, a losing battle.  As early as 56 AD, Paul wrote to the four-year old church at Corinth, warning them against allowing the practices and teachings of other religions to infect their worship.  Also,  there were complaints against Christians made by businessmen, makers of idols or providers of sacrifices to pagan gods, who were unhappy over loss of revenue due to Christian teaching.  Paul dealt with this problem in Ephesus as early as 56 AD(Nelson, Acts 19:23-4), and Pliny dealt with it a hundred years later.(Wilken, 15)  When Pliny investigated the charges, he found them to be "innocuous", but nevertheless, executed all those who refused to renounce Christianity, with the exception of Roman citizens who were sent to Rome for judging by the emperor.   

        Though most churches had the New Testament in written form by the 2nd Century, it was read by the leaders and relayed to the common man orally.(Bowie, 15)  The various interpretations led to many heated debates and political machinations.  In 251 AD, Cornelius was elected as bishop of Rome and declared that there was no effective baptism outside the church.(Chadwick, 119)   This declaration effectively invested all power over the eternal soul in the Roman church and purportedly changed the grace offered to all sinners through Jesusí sacrifice to a salvation which could be denied or granted at the whim of a human being.

        With Constantineís edict of 313 AD and the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, events were set into motion which eventually led to the complete split between the western church in Rome, the parent of Roman Catholicism, and the eastern church which fathered the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches.   Strangely enough, the edict which eliminated the persecutions of Christians almost proved to be the death blow to Christianity.  The emperorís acceptance of Christianity made it a "popular" religion, and new converts were often only vaguely aware of its true meaning and brought with them the trappings of their pagan religions.(Chadwick, 126)


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