Friday, September 2, 2011

Church History A.D. 201 – A.D. 300

Church History A.D. 201 – A.D. 300
I’m going to use a bit of artistic license today.

So that it’s easier to get into the picture of what Christianity was like in the 3rd century A.D, I am going to attempt to go back in time using a time machine.

I am only 22 years old so hopefully I can start at the beginning of the century and live all the way through until I’m 122 years old and the century passes away.

So here we go, I am now entering the time machine. I will see you in the 3rd century!
To my delight, I find myself not in rainy England, but in sunny Greece, in the city of Athens. By the looks of the clothing that the native Greeks wear, I perceive that I have been successful in making my way back in time to the 3rd century.

I always travel with my Bible, so this was no exception. In fact, I was holding my Bible in my hand, actively declaring that I was a Christian.

Minutes after I had arrived in Athens people started to stare at me, I presumed that this was only because of my strange attire and modern clothing.

But a strong man came up to me, and tugging on my sleeve, pulled me aside, and told me to follow him. So I followed.

The man took me to his house. I don’t believe the man was much older than me, but the way that he composed himself and the way that he walked and he talked, gave the impression that he was much wiser and manly than I, or indeed any of the men seen in our day.

The man ushered me into his house, where was his wife and family. The man introduced himself as Leonidas.

Leonidas told me that he too was a Christian, and that he was the Archbishop of the Church there at Athens.

Leonidas also invited me to stay at his house and to worship at his church. He warned me however that it may be prudent to be a bit hush-hush about being a Christian as it is not strictly legal at that time in the Roman Empire, yet it has been overlooked in Athens to the present time.

I stayed with Leonidas for many years. I went regularly to worship at his church. The service was quite different to what I was used to and seemed somewhat more primitive, especially since they seemed to have no set canon for the New Testament, but often used apocryphal books in addition to our known New Testament. But surprisingly I found much religious nourishment from these books.

A year after I arrived in Athens (202 AD) it was told me of some travellers from the provinces of Italy, that the Emperor Severus had declare that it was illegal to convert to Christianity. After hearing this news Leonidas expressed concerns that we as a church should be careful that we do not publish our faith to strangers so much for fear that we may be reported to the Emperor himself.

It was about this time that there was talk among the Christians that there was scholar in Alexandria named Origen, who started up a religious school where he taught pupils about doctrine. I had a mind to go and see this great man, but I feared the journey.

I had the pleasure to meet a missionary, (I believe this was a few years later) who had been the England and even beyond, to Scotland which was quite wild land in those days. I told him that I had interest in the British Isles, but I couldn’t tell him that I actually came from a future England as he would think I was insane.

Also at that time it was heard of a bishop in Rome called Hippolytus who challenged the authority of the pope, and claimed that the pope had no authority to pardon certain terrible sins. But in Athens we only heard rumours of the pope and he did not have quite so much say over what happened in our church.

As time went by, I found myself falling in love with Leonidas’s daughter Persephone, and I asked Leonidas to give me his daughter’s hand in marriage. He heartily agreed and we married within the space of 3 months. I then moved into my own home, and attempted to lead my family in a biblical manner as the men of the day did.

The years rolled by, my wife bare to me 3 daughters and 2 sons, whom I loved very much.

In the year 250, my father in law Leonidas passed from this life into glory and Elder Olympius became Archbishop of Athens in his place.

Olympius was of the opinion that we ought to renew our ties with Rome, which I felt was already beginning to fall into some heresies. But I never challenged Olympius, in thinking back I wonder whether I should have done.

Later on I heard of a man named Mani who believed that he was in a line of prophets including Buddha and Jesus. He thought a bit too high of himself I think. He seemed to believe that there was no religion except that you should do good and not evil, and thus people of any religion could be saved. The man had many followers, but he died, and so did his “religion”.

Well, time goes by, and eventually the church is discovered by the Emperor, and a number of us men are taken captive and put in prison. (Myself included).

Eventually we are put on trial at Rome, and sentenced to death. We were to be burned to death at the stake.
As I was dragged to the place of the execution, I prayed that the Lord would grant me a speedy journey from time into eternity, and I thanked God that He counted me worthy to die as a martyr for His names sake.

The last thing I remember is my family watching my execution, and I exhorted them to be strong and to carry on in the faith at all costs.

And I closed my eyes on this life.
I woke up in my bed the next morning. It seemed that my century in Athens was merely a dream, and yet so vivid.

I looked up in my history books to see whether the history of the time was correct, and it was. But I was sad to see that there was no mention of me in any accounts of the time.

I was pleased, however, to read that the church in Athens did not die under that persecution, but it still lives even to this day.
So that’s it for today, we have very little history covering this time period, but it is certain that there were many persecutions through that time, yet the church continued to grow and to prosper.

I have dramatised this account to an extent, but the basic history is still very accurate.

In our next session we will read about how Christianity had it’s great breakthrough under Emperor Constantine, and we will hear about some great church fathers too.

I pray that the Lord will bless His word, and that He will give each and every one of us the desire to give our lives unto Him if He so desire us to.