Church Timeline

YearEvent
33Jesus is crucified, rises from the dead, and ascends into heaven
 Holy Spirit falls upon the apostles at Pentecost
 Peter preaches to Jews assembled in Jerusalem from around the Roman Empire – spanning the entire Mediterranean region and into modern day Iran
33-60sApostles carry the Gospel to remote parts of the known world
 Simon Magus – the “father of all heretics” – follows Peter in his travels and draws followers to himself by proclaiming that the Spirit of Christ actually left Jesus and came to him after the crucifixion.
 The heresy of Docetism – which states that Jesus was pure spirit and only appeared to have a physical body – begins to take hold.  John denounces this belief as being “of the antichrist” in his first letter (1 John 4:2-3)
64Nero blames Christians for the great fire of Rome, Paul & Peter are executed
70Emperors Vespasian & Titus besiege and destroy Jerusalem to put down the Jewish revolt
80sThe three largest cities in the Roman empire – Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch – also begin to emerge as the de facto regional centers of authority, also known as “sees,” in the early Christian church.  Bishops of the sees in Rome and Alexandria eventually took title of Pope, while the bishop of Antioch assumed the title of Patriarch.
90sPersecution of the church intensifies and martyrdom is common.  The original apostles, except for John, have all been martyred.
 All New Testament writings are completed.
100sEvidence suggests that the Old Roman Symbol, precursor of the Apostle’s Creed, begins to be adopted by other churches as a statement of faith.
140sGnostic ideas have infiltrated the early church, as evidenced by the teaching of Valentinus of Rome.  Gnosticism held that since all matter is inherently evil there can be no bodily resurrection.  Borrowing from Plato, they believed that the world was created by the Demiurge and that the body is the prison of the soul.  As such, salvation was not accomplished by Christ’s atoning death, but was only achieved by acquiring secret knowledge that helped one to liberate the soul from the body.
145Marcion is condemned as a heretic for proclaiming that Old Testament God is not the Father of Christ but rather an evil, lesser god known as the Demiurge.  He also teaches that Christ only appeared to have a human nature (Docetism)
150sMontanus teaches continued prophecy and revelation through the Holy Spirit.  He was condemned by many bishops but there was not a formal, church-wide condemnation.
 Monarchianism flourishes, the general belief that God is singular in person rather than three.  This belief later develops into movements that were subsequently condemned as heretical: Adoptionism and Modalism.
168Justin Martyr, a prolific writer and church apologist, is executed.
170sIrenaeus writes “Against Heresies,” refuting gnosticism and the teaching of Valentinus
177Athenagoras, another early apologist, writes that the Father, Son, and Spirit are “united in essence,” which gives rise to the concept that they are homoousios – the same substance.
190sDispute over the proper day of the week on which to celebrate Easter threatens to divide the Western and Eastern churches. 
 Theodotus of Byzantium teaches the Adoptionist heresy – the idea that Jesus was merely a man like us who was adopted by God as His Son at His baptism.  According to Theodotus, Jesus did not become “God” until after his resurrection.
 Clement of Alexandria embraces the classical Greek understanding of cosmology, teaching that matter is eternal and not created by God.
200sTertullian is one of the first to formalize the term Trinity, writing extensively against both Gnostics and Monarchianists (Praxeans / Sabellius).
 Origen, a disciple of Clement of Alexandria, develops an allegorical framework for interpreting Scripture.  Also teaches the subordination of God the Son to God the Father.
220Sabellius declared a heretic for his teaching that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are merely different manifestations of God over time.  Also known as Modalism and associated with Patripassianism.
250sIntense persecution of the church under Emperor Valerian.
 A new religion known as Manicheism takes hold in the East and quickly spreads across the Roman Empire.  It combined elements of “Gnostic Christian” belief with elements of Buddhism and Zoroastrianism.
268Paul of Samosata, the Bishop of Antioch, is excommunicated as a heretic for teaching that Jesus was merely a man who was adopted by God as His Son.  He held that Jesus was a man who became divine rather than God becoming man, who achieved His divine status by virtue of the manner in which God the Father effectively gave a part of His essence to Christ.  Paul taught that the man Jesus was infused with the divine Logos and subsequently reasoned that this gave Jesus the “same essence” as God the Father.   To refute this heresy the Synod of Antioch officially rejected the term homoousios, the notion that God and Christ were of the “same” essence.  The gravity of this decision was not lost upon the First Council of Nicaea in 325AD, which officially reversed the position of the Church on the notion of “sameness” in order to refute Arius.
290sEusebius endorses the use of the term homoiousios, or “similar substance,” to try and reconcile the “homoousians” and the “homoians” who refused to use the term “ousia” (essence) because they believed that the Father is “incomparable” and hence the Son cannot be “equal” but only “similar.”  As usage of “homoi” became more accepted, this set the stage for the rise of Arianism.
300Emperor Diocletian persecutes the Church across the Roman Empire.
312Emperor Constantine converts to Christianity after securing a great victory under the banner of the Cross – becoming the first Christian Emperor.  He also legitimizes the Christian faith throughout the Roman Empire.
320sArius of Alexandria declares that prior to the Incarnation, the second person of the Trinity – the Son of God – was actually the first being created by God.  This placed the Son above all other created things, but also made the Son less than (“similar to”) and therefore subordinate to God the Father.  Arius’ teaching sharply divided the church.
325The Council of Nicaea is called by Emperor Constantine to settle the Arian controversy, and it adopts a creedal statement that acknowledges the “same substance” (homoousios) of Father and Son, which is believed to be the only non-material substance in the universe.  The Council also officially condemns any notion of their “similarity” (homoiousios) since Arius had used this terminology to justify his position of the Son being a created being rather than fully God.
339Emperor Constantius II appoint Eusebius – a proponent of Arius – as bishop of the new capital city, Constantinople.  He opposed the Nicene creed, and in 350 he banished Pope Liberius of Rome for two years for supporting and endorsing the Nicene position on the “sameness” of God the Father and God the Son.
348Ulfilas is sent by Bishop Eusebius to spread to Gospel to the Goths (Eastern Europe), who converted them and became their bishop.  He was a proponent of Arianism who also taught that the Holy Spirit was merely the power of God, rather than a member of the Godhead.
357Nicene Creed is formally rejected by the Council of Sirmium.
 Arianism continues to flourish and spread under direction of Eusebius.
380In a stark reversal, Emperor Theodosius I deposes the pro-Arian bishop of Constantinople and issues the “Edict of Thessalonica” which made Arianism illegal throughout the Roman Empire.
381Emperor Theodosius I convenes the First Council of Constantinople, which not only reaffirmed the doctrine of the Nicene Creed, but also officially declared the full participation of the Holy Spirit as the third member of the Godhead.  Unlike the prior Council of Nicaea, though, this council only included representation from the Eastern bishops from Asia minor and the Middle East (those under the authority of Antioch), excluding those under Roman and Alexandrian authority.

In addition to the doctrinal decrees of this council, it attempted to officially establish Constantinople as a peer to the church in Rome by virtue of being located in the capital of the Roman Empire.  This effectively elevated it in status and authority over both Antioch and Alexandria, creating competition and tension between the sees that would eventually result in all out schism.
400sWestern Roman empire begins to collapse as Visigoths and Vandals – who have embraced and propagated Arian theology in the wake of Ulfilas’ teaching – progressively conquer and sack parts of the Roman Empire.  Their conquest results in the suppression and persecution of Catholics in the regions, which are those who subscribe to the official theology of the Roman Empire and in particular the church in Rome.
428Nestorius is appointed Bishop of Constantinople.  He opposed the common practice of honoring Mary as the “Theotokos,” the Mother of God, and argued instead that she be honored solely as the Mother of Christ.  His emphasis on Christ’s human nature brought him into conflict with the bishops of Rome and Alexandria, resulting in him being accused of heresy and subsequently deposed in 431.  His ideas, however, took hold in the East and spread throughout Asia and even as far as China.
450sOngoing debate around the dynamics between Christ’s divine & human natures further divides the church.  The Council of Chalcedon was convened in 451 to settle the controversy, but a second attempt to elevate Constantinople above both Alexandria and Antioch resulted in a schism that resulted in the formation of the Oriental Orthodox Church.
 Atilla the Hun conquers Europe while the Vandals continue to conquer territories around the Mediterranean.  The Vandals sack Rome in 455.
493Ostrogoths conquer Western Roman Empire and establish the kingdom of Italy, effectively completing the dismantling of the Roman Empire and establishing Arian theology throughout the former Empire…with the exception of Rome itself.

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