第三课 早期基督教 公元313-590年
Lesson 3: Ancient Christianity 313 – 590 A.D.
I. World conditions 世界概况
A. The Roman Empire 罗马帝国
Control of Europe of Europe kept getting weaker – It was hard to take care of all the countries around the Mediterranean ocean. There was also the constant threat of invasion from warlike European peoples. Emperor Constantine moved the Empire’s international headquarters from to in 326. Sometimes there was one ruler for Europe and another for , Africa, and the .
Religion – Constantine and later Emperors made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. They outlawed heathen religions, which fell out of fashion and began to disappear.
Civilization – Learning and culture continued to disappear in Europe, but prosper especially in Asia and . The Eastern countries prospered while became poor.
B. Invasion from barbarian peoples 野蛮人入侵
– Who were these invaders who threatened ? German people with names like the Visigoths, the Burgundians and Franks, the Angles and Saxons took over large areas of Europe from the .
II. Conditions for Christianity 基督教的情况
A. In the Roman Empire 在罗马帝国
No more persecution – The Roman Emperors from faraway Constantinople (modern , ancient ) gave Christians freedom to worship as they wanted. Emperor Constantine gave huge amounts of money and land to the church. He even financed massive church construction projects.
Government involvement - in 325 organized a convention of all Christians at Nicea to settle an argument about what the Bible taught about the Triune God and who Jesus is. In 380 Emperor Theodosius made a law that everyone in the Empire must become Christian.
B. Outside the Empire 罗马帝国之外
Missionary outreach in – Christians sent many missionaries to spread Christianity to German tribes. St. Patrick in 433 carried brought news about Jesus to . Monks from carried the gospel to and .
Missionary outreach to – Merv (Merw) is the ancient name of one of the world’s most famous ancient cities. It was in what’s now the country of . It was an oasis in the desert. It was a commercial center on the . 200,000 people lived there in 1100 A.D., making it (for a little while) one of the largest cities on the planet. It was an ideal headquarters for missionary trips to as far away as .
a. , after all, already had more people than all of . We’re not sure when the first Christians got to . But already in 550 Christian missionary monks were smuggling silkworms from Serinda () to . The Bible book of Acts concentrates on Christianity’s spread to the west. Greater missionary work was going on to the east, travelling the Silk Road all the way to and the .
b. The earliest formal mission work in , that we know of, was around 636. Christian monks brought the news about Jesus to the Chinese imperial capital of Ch’ang-an (Xian). Christianity lasted over 200 years there. They arrived in the early days of the new Tang dynasty. The Emperor, Taizong, was surprisingly open to all kinds of foreign influences. He permitted Christianity in his kingdom.
c. Monasteries spread across . They used local building styles. You can still see what’s left of one in , in a pagoda built in the 600s. It’s called a Daqin (Tachin or Syrian) monastery.
d. By the 700s Chinese Christians had their own national leader, Bishop Adam. He translated parts of the Bible into Chinese.
Ambitious mission work carried Christianity to all parts of and ,, and by the 500’s.
The Eastern headquarters for missionary work was in Selucia, part of modern-day . It was at the center of the world’s trade and communication highways. It was midway between civilizations the looked to the Atlantic, as well as those that faced the .
III. Organized Christianity develops. 有组织的基督教发展
A. Powerful influences on Christians 对基督徒的强有力的影响
Converts – Government decree forced many former heathens to become Christian. A lot of them brought non-Christian beliefs and attitudes with them. Christians could not or did not teach heathen converts enough of the Bible’s teachings. Non-Christian practices of worshipping local gods fit right in with the worship of saints and Mary.
Monk lifestyle – Monks put the Christian emphasis on what you did for God. They refused marriage, food, money, and the comforts of life to impress God. This led more and more people to look for peace with God by becoming monks. In the East being a monk meant living by yourself. In it meant living with other monks.
Monks brought progress – Monks were the main missionaries for Christianity. Their commitment to God was an example other Christians needed. Monks encouraged worship and prayer. Monks took care of poor and needy people in society. They kept education alive in their culture. This was because of Benedict, one of the leaders in organizing a monk lifestyle. Famous leaders like Augustine gave monks positive publicity.
Influential leaders – 有影响的领导者
Origen (185-254) – this third century “religious fanatic” gave up his job, slept on the floor, ate no meat, drank no wine, fasted twice a week, owned no shoes, and reportedly castrated himself for the faith. He was also the most prolific scholar of his age (with hundreds of works to his credit), a first-rate Christian philosopher, and a profound student of the Bible.
Athanasius from (293-373) was the main leader for Bible truth at the international convention of Christians in Nicea in 325. Authorities banished him five times for defending the truth of the Bible.
Jerome (340-420) started an important monastery in Bethlehem and there translated the Bible into Latin (Vulgate). It was the Catholic church’s official Bible until recently.
Ambrose (340-397) was a bishop of Milan. He used the threat of excommunication to get a Roman Emperor to repent about abusive policies for which he was responsible.
Augustine (354-430) was the bishop of Hippo in North Africa. He was the main defender of the Bible teaching about salvation by grace against the followers of Pelagius.
Development of the position of Pope – Rome was a natural center of importance for European Christians. People had treated the Bishop of Rome as Head Judge for international differences of opinion. After the Empire’s headquarters moved to Turkey, the Bishop of Rome claimed Peter was the first bishop of Rome. Leo I (440-461) claimed universal authority over all other bishops.
B. Arguments in the church 教会内的争端
Arianism – Arius was the bishop of Alexandria in Egypt. He started teaching:
a. that Jesus was not eternal God but was the first created being who then created the universe,
b. Jesus was not 100% God,
c. Jesus wore a human body and achieved moral excellence.
Note: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons believe many of these things today.
Pelagianism – Pelagian introduced dangerous teachings (360-420). He was a solitary monk from Britain who moved to North Africa from Rome. He put a lot of his teachings into writing. He believed:
a. People have the natural ability to be and do good.
b. There are no such things as urges and instincts to sin that Adam and Eve passed down to all their descendants.
c. He believed it is possible for people not to sin. He believed some people have lived without sin.
d. People do not need the Holy Spirit or His Law and Gospel to lead them to Jesus.
Nestorianism – Nestorius (died - 451) was the bishop of Constantinople. He believed:
a. That Jesus was not 100% God and 100% human at the same time
b. That, when Jesus became human, God adopted Him as God’s Son.
C. Methods Christians used to decide what was right in doctrinalquestions 基督徒决定教义问题对错的方法
They summoned Christian leaders to international conventions (church councils)
a. The first leader to do this was the Roman Emperor Constantine in 326 at Nicea.
b. Other famous international conventions – Council of Constantinople (381); Council of Ephesus (431); Council of Chalcedon (451)
c. Ongoing problems - influence of Greek philosophy and questions about who Jesus really is in the Eastern church.
They put together an official list of the Bible books and made unified doctrinal statements.
a. Canon of the Bible – This is the official list of Bible books. Augustine put the full list of New Testament books together in 367. He did it to combat the Montanists who claimed what they received from God in trances was also God’s Word.
b. Ecumenical creeds – This means public statements about God that all Christians agree are correct: Apostles’ Creed (about 150); Nicene Creed (325); Athanasian Creed (around 500)