Lesson 2: Ancient Christianity 100 – 313 A.D
I. Influences of society 社会影响
A. The Roman world 罗马帝国
The Roman Empire was greatest from 98-117 A.D. It ruled from England to North Africa, the southern border of Germany to Iran. It was just too much area for one government to rule.
Slavery - In Rome the ratio was 1:3 slave to free. In the Empire it was 1:5. When the Empire had 50-60 million people, there may have been 10-12 million slaves. Owner could treat slaves harshly. One Roman writer said slaves “were in a much worse state than cattle.” Slavery was temporary.
Family - among ruling and wealthy class divorce and sexual sin was destroying the families. Among slaves there was no family life.
Barbarians - German tribes began to put pressure on the empire’s borders and threaten invasion.
Edict of Toleration - after severe persecutions, the Roman Emperor gave Christians freedom from execution in 311 A.D. Edict of Milan in 313 allowed freedom of religion and Christianity.
B. Influences on Christians对基督徒的影响
Growth – Christianity spread to all areas of the Middle East, North Africa, Spain and France. There were many strong congregations in Turkey. All New Testament books were written by 100. Church leaders were quoting from them. The first complete list of Bible books, as we have them today, came around this time.
Christian identity – Jesus had the greatest appeal among slave. Rich and poor people were Christians together. Government leaders and the soldiers who guarded the Emperor even became believers.
Leaders and spreaders of the faith - Greek philosophy influenced leaders’ explanations of the Bible
a. Apostolic Fathers - students of the apostles. 使徒教父——使徒的学生。
- Clement of Rome, had studied under Paul and Peter. He became the main leader of Christians in Rome from 92-101. He wrote a famous letter to Corinth.
- Polycarp was the apostle John’s student. Enemies of Jesus tied him up to a post and burned him alive in Rome when he was 86. Christians looked to him as a leader in teaching and understanding the teachings of the apostles.
b. Apologists – wrote books defending the Bible’s teachings against the bad publicity Christianity suffered during persecutions. These were people like Justin Martyr (100-165); Tertullian (160-230). Origen (185-254) was a teacher and writer of Bible explanations.
II. Life among Christians 基督徒的生活
A. The good things 好的方面
Commitment – During persecutions sometimes 75% of Christian groups had given in to the pressure to leave Christianity. Now that Christianity was legal, what should Christians who stayed faithful do when those people came back?
Example - Even non-Christians noticed the love Christians showed each other and outsiders, John 15:12.
Worship - by the 150s almost all Christian groups got together early Sunday mornings. They used prayers, hymns, Bible section readings and explanations, Lord’s Supper. By 200 Christians had a formal outline that they used when they worshipped. The first half of worship time was open to anyone. Only those who’d studied and committed to Bible truths could stay for the Communion part of service time, which was later.
Creeds – public statements of the main Christian truths, Matthew 28:19,20. Early in Christianity’s history Christians used these statements when they gathered for group baptisms. Christians were using the Apostles’ Creed in Rome before 150 A.D.
Unity – Christians formed a unified system of group leadership. There were bishops, presbyters (this is where the word “priest” comes from), deacons. They had a unified statement of what they believed, the creed. They all accepted the same New Testament books as the Bible. They started using the word “catholic” (universal) to describe everyone who believed Bible truth. Anyone who believed things the Bible did not teach were “heretics.” There were four main international Christian leaders. They headed Christian groups in the Roman Empire’s four biggest cities: Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem.
B. The bad things 不好的方面
Beginnings of monks living alone in deserted places (asceticism). This is where the word “hermit” came from. They believed that when a Christian gives up rights like sex, food, money, and the comforts of life, this would earn special privileges from God. They went to extremes. Some ate nothing but grass. Others lived in trees. Still others refused to wash.
Legalism - stress on rules for a higher level of Christian living. Monks started living together in groups or monasteries. They organized prayer services seven times a day through the night. They picked special days when to go without food. They gave away all their money and possessions to poor people. They devoted themselves to studying and copying the Bible. By the 400s practically every Christian leader was either a monk or had a close connection to a monk lifestyle.
Different levels of Christianity – “requirements of the gospel” were for regular Christians to obey. “Advice of the gospel” was for people who wanted a higher level of holiness. They became monks obedient to special, harder rules, I Timothy 4:1-3.
Lord’s Supper – By the 200s leaders were giving a different emphasis to Holy Communion. They taught it was more about the message we send God than the message God is sending us. They believed going to the Sacrament could earn God’s blessing for the participant and even people the participant prayed for.
Christian leaders higher than average Christians – Christian leaders used the ignorance of normal Christians to make whatever rules they wanted. People viewed church leaders as better Christians than average believers.
Priests had special privileges – People believed only the priest could make the Sacrament of Holy Communion official.
International Christian leaders compete – The highest Christian leaders in the biggest cities around the Mediterranean ocean fought for highest honors.
C. Threats to Bible truth. 圣经真理的威胁
Gnostics – By 200 the Gnostic group used Greek philosophy to claim special “knowledge” outside the Bible. They were physics who believed in special, essential information from “spirit guides.” They denied God created the universe. They denied Jesus ever had a body. They told people that whatever you want to do with your body is OK.
Supporters of Marcian (100-160) taught that the Old Testament God was different from the New Testament God. They taught the Old Testament God was evil because he created the world, man, and sin. Marcion believed the Old Testament God was evil because he used the Jews to kill so many other people. Another God of love sent Jesus. Marcion got rid of Matthew, Mark, Acts, Hebrews, 1^st^ and 2^nd^ Timothy and Titus. They refused to use wine in Holy Communion and taught that sex and marriage were giving in to your evil urges. Marcion’s wrong teachings forced Christians to list all the official Bible books.
Supporters of Montanus – He lived before 200 A.D. in Turkey. He predicted that Jesus would shortly return to set up a worldwide kingdom. He said Christians should have higher standards and better self-discipline. He taught that he and two ladies were getting messages directly from God for people. They would go into a trance so the Holy Spirit could use their voices to communicate with them. This also forced Christians to organize and formally accept the New Testament Bible books.