This era of Christianity begins with the peaceful death of the apostle John, who died at a ripe old age in the city of Ephesus where he had long served his church. Timothy may have buried the Apostle John, but he would have also been quite old, and would not have lived much longer.
And so with the death of the apostle John, so died the days of the Apostles, and there was no first hand information about Jesus. So it was at this time that people began collecting all kinds of information and literature about Jesus. The Four gospels and a number of other accounts of Jesus life would begin to be read as Scripture in the Church. Before these times, the only Scripture would be the Old Testament, and a number of apocryphal texts.
The New Testament was not compiled during this period, but it was all agreed that the writings about Jesus at that time bore authority.
The population of Christianity grew and grew throughout this century. In fact Wikipedia states that in the year 166 “Bishop Soter writes that the number of Christians has surpassed the Jews ” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_the_2nd_century)
But with the rise in population, there was also a major rise in heresies. Main heresies seemed to be as to whether Jesus was really God, or whether Jesus was really Human, which are still very much present to this very day.
It was also during this time that the Catholic Church began, and the Eastern Orthodox also had its root in this century.
The Shepherd of Hermas was a very influential book at the time, which was an allegorical Christian book.
There was persecution on every hand by the Romans, who resisted the Christian religion.
So as you can see it was a very interesting time.
The second Epistle of Peter was supposedly written during this time. Certain Christian scholars believed that Peter was not actually the author of the second Epistle and that it was written in the early 2nd century. Personally I have no reason to believe that the authorship of this epistle is invalid, but I must accept what the experts say, as it is not given to me of the Lord to dispute them.
An important figure at this time was Ignatius of Antioch.
Ignatius was a student of the Apostle John, and was appointed as the bishop of Antioch, which at the time was the base of the Christian faith, and what was discussed at Antioch had weight with all the Christians in the world.
But the bishop of Antioch was not a pope, as the early church realised that no human could ever be infallible.
Ignatius was eventually martyred by the Romans and given to be eaten by lions.
Years 111 – 120
Bishop Polycarp was of importance in those days. He was the bishop of Smyrna and was taught by the Apotle John.
Polycarp was eventually martyred, being burned at the stake. The Catholics made him a Saint, but God made him something even greater!
At that time the structure of the church was much different to what we have now. There were no pastors, and definitely no youth ministers! And the top of the church was the Bishop, and then there were the Elders, and then the Deacons. Each church would have been independent but would have an Apostolic father with some oversight to their doctrines. The Bishop would be the head of the church and would be responsible before God for the welfare of the Church. The Bishop would preach and teach. The Elders would also be ordained to preach and teach, and would not necessarily be old in years, but would be an expert in the Faith and in doctrine. The Deacons would not be preachers, or if so very rarely, but they would be in charge of the daily running of the building, and they would be in charge of the worship.
Years 121 – 130
Not only were the Christians being persecuted by the Romans, but they began to be persecuted by fellow Jews.
Rabbi Tarphon was of priestly lineage and attempted to burn all copies of the gospels of Jesus’ life that he could find, and also persecuted the Christians themselves.
Years 131 – 140
There was a Jewish Rabbi called Rabbi Akiva who believed that Simon Bar Kosiba was the Messiah. Bar Kosiba seemed to really like this idea, and decided to lead a rebellion against the Romans. He was apparently of Royal lineage and must then have been some kind of relation to our Lord Jesus Christ. But he pretended to be the Messiah. But we know that all attempts to be like God must fail, and in the same way, so failed this rebellion. And from then on Simon Bar Kosiba was known as a deceiver.
Years 141 – 150
It was about this time that the Shepherd of Hermas was written.
At this time Marcion of Sinope attempted to become the Bishop of Rome (the position which became known as Pope) but was rejected, so he went off and started his own sect, and taught that the old testament was all false and he had his own version of the gospel that he believed was the only truth. This brought the Catholic Church to attempt to agree on some select books that they would name as the inspired New Testament. Over time this became the 27 books that we have in our Bibles this day.
Years 151 – 160
A sect very present at this time was Montanism, which was named after its founder Montanus. It was an early form of the Charismatic movement, and people began speaking in tongues and great emphasis was placed on the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit. But the sect was labelled as a heresy at that time. It’s strange that it has come back after all these years, yet no-one has labelled it a heresy!
Years 161 – 170
Legend tells that at this time Lucius of Britain, learns about Jesus, and asks for missionaries to come to the British Isles and teach them about Jesus.
Years 171 – 180
The Dietessaron was a very interesting piece of work. It was an ancient book written during this period, and the author attempts to join 4 Gospels together to form one continuous string of events. It is interesting to see the whole life of Jesus spread in from of you. I have not read the book but would be really interested in it.
There was a persecution of the Church at Lyon at that time. The Roman Emporer at the time was Matcus Aurelius.
It was also during this time that the Christian movie “The Robe” was based.
Years 181 – 190
Apollonius the Apologist was martyred in Rome at this time. An apologist was a Christian who used the learned style of arguing that the Greeks and learned Romans used, and tryed to prove the Scriptures using that method.
Also of importance during this period was Saint Irenaeus who was a student of Polycarp. Irenaeus was one of the earliest Christians to attempt to make sense of the prophesies in the book of Revelation. Revelation would have been important to him as the author was the Apostle John who was the teacher of Polycarp, who was in turn Irenaeus’s teacher, so he would have learned a lot about the Apostle John.
At this time Pope Victor 1 changed the language of the Mass from Greek to Latin, which it has remained to this day.
Years 191 – 200
Natalius Takes bishopric in Rome over a small heretical group, and challenges the pope’s authority, he is eventually reconciled to the current pop and has to beg for mercy.
Also of importance at that time was Polycrates of Ephesus who differed with the pope on doctrines concerning the Passover.
Sextus Julius Africanus was a Christian historian at that time, and although most of his works are not known now, he has had a lot of influence on later historians.
We have come to the end of our second sermon on the History of the Church. We have heard about the growth of the church, but we have also learned about the growth in heresies, and the shaping of the Catholic Church as it is today. The Catholic Church didn’t apostatize all in one go, but it was a gradual decline right up until the time of Luther and Calvin.
But in spite of all that oppose, God has always been faithful to the Christian faith and He has never let it waiver and die, but the Church has steadfastly grown and been nourished throughout history.
I pray that The Lord will use this study for the furtherance of the Gospel and that it will be of some profit to someone’s soul!