Wednesday, December 05, 2007



1. Introduction
2. The Timeline of the Post Apostolic Age of Mission
(Map 3: The Roman Empire at its Greatest Extent, AD 117)
3. Extraordinary People
4. Influental Post-Apostolic Church Leaders
5. Missionary Strategy during the Time of Persecution
6. Expansion of Mission Ministries from 100-312 AD
7. Early Centers of Missionary Activities from Jerusalem to the West (100-312 AD)
8. Early Centers of Christianity from Jerusalem to the North and East (100-312 AD)
(Graphic 1: Centers of Early Christianity in Roman Empire)
9. Early Centers of Christianity in Africa (100-313 AD)
10. Times of Persecution
11. More Bible Translations between 100-313 AD
12. Missionary Activity during the “Era of Imperial Persecution” (100-313 AD)



This period of time goes from around 100- Constantin’s edict of tolerance in 313 AD. This period is a time of constant waves of persecution. It is also known as the age of persecution. Churches founded by the apostles were challenged especially in terms of teaching. Church- fathers and leaders with spiritual authority gained influence in the development of the churches. This lead to the establishment of the New Testament Canon and was not the result of a deliberate decree by an individual or a council near the beginning of the Christian era. The collection of New Testament books took place gradually over many years by the pressure of various kinds of circumstances and influences, some external and others internal to the life of congregations. Different factors operated at different times and in different places. Some of the influences were constant, others were periodic; some were local, and others were operative where the Church was planted.

By the end of this age of persecution most of the books in todays New Testament were in ciruclation and accepted, except the book of revelation.

2. The Timeline of the Post Apostolic Age of Mission.

112 - Traditional date of martyrdom of Sharbil, Babai, and Barsamy in Edessa, Mesopotamia
112 – Beatus, the first known missionary in Switzerland, a Scottish evangelist, dies at the lake of Thun.
117 - Emperor Hadrian executes thousands of soldiers who had converted to Christianity
166 - Bishop Soter writes that the number of Christians has surpassed the Jews
174 - First Christians reported in Austria
180 - Pantaenus preaches in India
196 - Bar Daisan writes of Christians among the Parthians, Bactrians (Kushans), and other peoples in the Persian Empire
197 - Tertullian writes that Christianity had penetrated all ranks of society in North Africa
200 - First Christians are reported in Switzerland and Belgium
206 - Abgar, King of Edessa, embraces the Christian faith
208 - Tertullian writes that Christ has followers on the far side of the Roman wall in Britain where Roman legions have not yet penetrated
250 - Denis (or Denys or Dionysius) is sent from Rome along with six other missionaries to establish the church in Paris
280 - First rural churches emerge in northern Italy; Christianity is no longer exclusively in urban areas
295 - Dudi (David) of Basra evangelizes in India
300 - First Christians reported in Greater Khorasan; an estimated 10% of the world's population is now Christian; the Bible is available in 10 different languages
301 - Armenia accepts Christianity as state religion
306 - The first bishop of Nisibis is ordained

Map 1: The Roman Empire at its Greatest Extent, AD117 [1]

SPAIN, GAUL, ASIA MINOR - each area consisted of a number of Roman provinces. 43AD etc - territories captured by Rome after the Birth of Jesus black area - after the Battle of Teutoberg 9AD part of Germania lost to Rome.

3. Extraordinary People

They [the Christians] love everyone, but are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and gain life. They are poor and yet make many rich. They are short of everything and yet have plenty of all things. They are dishonored and
yet gain glory through dishonor. Their names are blackened and yet they are cleared. They are mocked and bless in return. They are treated outrageously and behave respectfully to others. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when punished, they rejoice as if being given new life. They are attacked by Jews as aliens, and are persecuted by Greeks; yet those who hate them cannot give any reason for their hostility. (From an anonymous Letter to Diognetus, sometime in the second century)

4. Influental Post-Apostolic Church Leaders[2]

1. Ignatius: Served during the early second century, ministry in Constantinople, and in Asia Minor. Possibly martyred in Rome early in the second century. In love to the Lord, he begged that his execution not be put off.

2. Polycarp: (c70-c155 AD) A disciple of the Apostle John, labored in Asia Minor. At his martyrdom he was commanded, “Swear [allegiance to Rome] and I will set you free.” Polycarp responded, “For eighty-six years I have been His servant, and He has never done me wrong: how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” He was burned alive.

3. Justin Martyr: (c100-165 AD) Born in Samaria, he taught in Rome as a learned apologist for the Christian faith. Refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods, he and six of his students were put to death.

4. Irenaeus: (115-?) Born in Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey), was sent by Polycarp to help spread the gospel in Gaul (now France). He sponsored great missionary activity and witnessed fiery persecution upon Christians. His multi-volumed work, Against Heresies, exposed the inroads of false doctrine at the time.

5. Tertullian: (150-c229 AD) He boldly taunted the might of the Roman Empire and courageously defended believers. He coined the word “Trinity.” He ministered in Carthage (North Africa). He wrote the familiar phrase, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” An important note from Into All The World, by Dr. J. Gordon Holdcroft, BP missionary: “About the year 200 AD, Tertullian made a list of on-Roman nations that have believed. He refers to North Africa, Spain, Gaul, and Britain; and to these he adds the names of Sarmatians and Dacians, Germans, and Scythians, and many remote nations.”

6. Origen: (c.185-251 AD) One of the greatest theologians of his time, giving the church its first orderly statement of Christian faith. His work was in Alexandria (Egypt), later in Caesarea, Palestine.

7. Cyprian: (d.258 AD) He became a Christian in 246 and was a rich and cultured man of North Africa. “A second birth created me a new man,” he testified. In time, he was appointed bishop of Carthage, suffered martyrdom in 258.

5. Missionary Strategy during the Time of Persecution

1. During this period of time most of the propagation of the gospel in the Roman Empire was made by average Christians. The backbone of this development was on a laymen-mission-movement.
2. Christian Writers. There were several good Christian writers to defend Christianity, at the same time attacking the Emperor (Tertullian).
Justin the martyr (born around 100 AD) was a philosoph. In his writings he introduced Christianity as the highest developed philosophy.
Clemens of Alexandria, born around 150 AD, tried to merge Greek philosophy with Christian teaching and biblical revelation
3. Christian Schools. During this time the churches founded several schools. The m ost famous one is the School of Catechism at Alexandria. It is save to say this is the oldest Christian Theological Seminary. Patanaeus himself, his headmaster, traveled to India for mission trips (during 180-190 AD).
4. Bible Translations. During this period of time much of the bible was translated into several new languages (Latin, Armenian, etc).

6. Expansion of Mission Ministries from 100-312 AD

Egypt. In this time Christianity was already rooted in this country. During the time of Athanasius Fermentius was dedicated as bishop of Ethiopia. However, at this point there are several different traditions in place, therefore to draw historical conclusions from this event for the position of the church in Egypt compared with the one in Ethiopia does not seem justified.

North Africa. Here Carthago was the major center of Christianity and Mission efforts. Tertullian, one of the important teachers of the church with the Latin Rite of Rom, was in fact from this place. As the gospel was only taught and spread in Latin the spread of Christianity remained limited on the colonists of Rom. In places where the gospel shall take roots the missionary ahs to adjust to the local traditions of a country and its language.

Spain, France, West of Upper Rhine – Germany, Vienna and Britannia. Thanks through Irenaus and Pothinius efforts, both close friends of Polykarp, who was disciple of John the Apostle, Christianity was introduced among the Franconians. During this period of time also Brittania came under the influence of Christianity.

Armenia. Christianity early took firm roots, obviously as a result of the successful work of early Caucausian Christian churches. After initial contacts with centers of early Christianity at Antioch and Edessa and following performed miracles by Gregory the Illuminator, a son of a Parthian nobleman, Armenia under the name of „Kingdom of Oshorene“ accepted Christianity as its state religion in A.D. 301.

Edessa. On the basis of new historical evidences available, it is possible to establish the fact that there was a Christian church in Edessa (Western Mesopotamia) in the first century, and not only there but also in other places in Mesopotamia.

Persia and India. The earliest centers of Christianity in the East were: Edessa (35 AD), Arbela in Parthia, and India. As long as the Roman emperors considered the Christians as enemies of Rome, the Persian emperors were inclined to consider them as friends of Persia. It was not until after Constantine’s death in AD 337 that the Christians began to be persecuted in the East.

China. There are traditions that Christianity found its way to China in the first century like through the ministry of the apostle Thomas. Some other reliable report mention Arnobius who wrote in 300 AD, stating that the Gospel had been preached in China. A definitely more reliable report comes from Patriarch Yeshuyab II in about 635 AD from an excavated inscription by him which was found in an excavation in 1625 AD. The dates seem to depend on how much valued the work of the pre-Nestorian Eastern Church is valued and defined as Christian mission undertaken by the Syriac Eastern Church.[3]

7. Early Centers of Christian Missionary Activities (100-312 AD)

1. Jerusalem. From this city the world wide mission began.

2. Ephesus. This city gained in significance as a mission center through the ongoing ministries of Paul and John in this city.

3. Rome, Italy. Rome was one of the earliest centers in Christianity. It is possible that the gospel was brought there when certain Jews, resident at Rome, returned from Jerusalem as Jewish-Christian believers following the preaching of Peter at the first Pentecost (Acts 2:10). However that may be, at any rate by the time that Paul was brought as a prisoner to Rome to be tried before Caesar, a considerable number of Christian believers were there, and Acts reports that a group of them came from the city about 40 miles to meet him a the Forum of Appius and at Three Taverns, two way-stations on the Appian Way (Acts 28:15). By the 7th decade the number of believers in the metropolis had attracted the attention of the Emperor Nero, and Tacitus (Annals 15:44) refers to them as a 'huge multitude' who had suffered persecution. By the middle of the 2nd century the Christian Church was firmly established in Rome, and outposts had been planted still farther to the west in Gaul as well as across the Mediterranean in North Africa. Important writers from Rome were:

Marcion ~140 - 150 AD
Valentinus gnostic ~140 - 150 AD
Justin Martyr apologist ~150 - 160 AD
Hippolytus bishop, the first antipope ~200 - 235 AD

4. Lyons, Gaul. At the time of Caesar, the settlement at Lyons was a village inhabited by fishermen and boatmen at a spot where the Saône narrowed. This early dwelling site bore the name of Condate. In 43 BC Lucius Munatius Plancus, a former lieutenant of Caesar, founded a military colony, Lugdunum, on the nearby hill of Fourvière, overlooking the Rhône-Saône confluence. The Roman emperor Augustus subsequently made Lyons the capital of the Gauls, while his son-in-law, Agrippa, created a network of roads converging on the city. In the 2nd century AD, Lyons was a cosmopolitan center of trade. The missionaries who established the church there, from which the Christian faith spread little by little to other parts of Gaul, had come from Asia Minor. Many of the members of the Lyons church bore Greek names. Irenaeus, originally of Asia Minor and representing the Eastern tradition, was a living bond between Asia and Gaul Furthermore, the church at Lyons used the Greek language, though the mother tongue of most of the population was a Celtic dialect.

8. Early Centers of Christianity from Jerusalem to the North and East (100-312 AD)[4]

Antiochia. Syria. This city was cosmopolitan. It soon replaced Jerusalem as missioncenter through the laboring of both apostles Paul and John in this city. Antioch was founded by Seleucus I Nicator, around 300 BC near the Mediterranean in modern Turkey, as a center for military control and for the diffusion of Hellenic culture in Syria. It was the center of the Seleucid Kingdom until 64 BC, when it was annexed by Rome and made the capital of the province of Syria. Antioch was one of the earliest centers of Christianity; it was there (according to Acts 11:26 and ~40 AD) that the followers of Christ were first called Christians. It served as the headquarters for the missionary journeys of St. Paul (47-55). Other important writers from Antioch were:

Ignatius 2nd or 3rd bishop of Antioch ~110 CE
Theophilus 6th bishop ~180 CE
Serapion 7th bishop ~200 CE

Edessa, Syria. The town lies in the fertile plain of Haran, ringed by limestone hills on three sides. It controls the strategic pass to the south, through which runs a road from Anatolia to northern Mesopotamia, which has been used since antiquity. The town in the 2nd millennium BCE was probably the chief city of a Hurrian state destroyed by the Hittites in the 14th century. Traditions of its earliest foundation associate the site with the legendary king Nimrod, and Muslim legend associates the place with Abraham; a cave beneath Urfa's citadel is said to be Abrahams's birthplace. The Aramaic name, Urhai, was changed to Edessa when it was refounded as a military settlement in the 3rd century BCE.
Freeing itself from imposed Hellenism, Edessa, as capital of the principality of Osroëne, was one of the main centers of Syrian culture; it figured prominently in the conflicts between Parthia and Rome. Since its people did not speak Greek, like their neighboring Syrians in Antioch, it is not surprising that the Christianity of Edessa began to develop independently, without the admixture of Greek philosophy and Roman methods of government that at an early date modified primitive Christianity in the West and transformed it into the amalgam known as Catholicism.

Map 2: Centers of Early Christianity in Roman Empire to the 2nd century AD [5]

Extent of Christian communities by the 1st century CE
Extent of Christian communities by 185 CE (the time of Irenaeus)
Early centers of Christianity
Early centers of Christianity; with a link to more information
Boundary of the Roman Empire for most of the 1st and 2nd centuries CE

We know that there was a church in Edessa early in the second century and that the bishops of Edessa traced their succession to Serapion, Bishop of Antioch from 190 to 203.[6]
Also the coins of Edessa from 180-192 show a cross on the king's headgear. There is a Syrian tradition, however, that the apostle Thomas was their first patriarch. In a book called Eclesiastike, purporting to contain the preaching of the apostles, the writer, Bar Aurai, maintains that the apostle Thomas preached Christ in the East in the second year after His ascension.

South India. Thomas was on his way to India, he 'states, and "We have reason to believe it true, what the Syrian writers sand fathers say, that they regard St. Thomas to be their first patriarch, and accordingly they called themselves St. Thomas Christians."[7] The Mar Thoma Church of south India holds to this day that Thomas came to them to preach the gospel and to found their church.
Djondishapur, Mesopotamien. The Sassanian dynasty of Persia, farther south, conquered Parthia in 226 and throughout that century was at intermittent war with Rome. In 258, the Sassanian king, Shopur I, captured Antioch and brought many learned scholars and doctors, among whom were Christians, back to Beth Lapat of Khuzistan, near Susa. Here they were ordered by the king to build a new city, Djondishapur, the future Eastern cultural, academic and medical center of learning. It was here that many of the east bound missionaries received their training in theology and medical lore. Later some of them were to testify that like Abraham they had left the land of Ur to bear witness for God.

9. Early Centers of Christianity in Africa (100-313 AD)[8]

Christianity found its roots in Africa long before it dominated the countries in Europe. The Ethiopian court (governing officials) was first introduced to Christianity in approximately the year 42. In apostolic times, Philip converted an Ethiopian eunuch who was the treasurer of “Candace”. “Candace” is not an actual name but a title given to the queens of the African monarchy of Meroe, in Nubia, in the modern Sudan. [8]
After the Ethiopian received an explanation of the passage, he requested that Philip baptize him, which Philip obliged. Yaw Davis, an Ethiopian researcher found out that the name of this Queen was Gersamot Hendeke VII (very similar to Kandake) She was the Queen of Ethiopia from the year 42 to 52. [9] The Ethiopian court was introduced to Christianity in the 1st century.[10] -
The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia is sometimes thought of as a Coptic Church originating from missionary advances from Egypt, but it is rather an Orthodox Church brought to Ethiopia from Syria by two travelling Christian merchants in the fourth century. However, because there were some links to Alexandria at least in the beginning the Orthodox Church in Africa felt under the jurisdiction of the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa.
The patriarchat of Alexandria was established by St Mark in AD 62. In the first few centuries it was confined to North Eastern Africa. The North Western part was under the jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome. Theologically, Ethiopian orthodoxy nourished a strong sense of identity with the Jewish heritage of the church. Replicas of the Ark of the Covenant are placed in all churches, which are typically styled after the Temple in Jerusalem. The church in Ethiopia survived the Islamic conquests. To the present the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is an example of an ancient Christian communion that developed independently of either Byzantine or Roman patterns and expressed markedly African patterns of life and thought. [11]

A very interesting fact with respect to Christianity is that Christianity became the official state religion of Ethiopia in the year 320 (the 4th century) during the rule of Emperor Ezana.[12]

Alexandria. Egypt. This city more than all other one became the spiritual and most influental center of Christianity in Christian mission activities. Acts: 18:24-28, speaking about Apollos seem to indicate the early development toward this direction. Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BCE on the mouth of the Nile, was the metropolis of Egypt, destined to become one of the chief centers of Christianity, the rival of Antioch and Rome. Since the time of the first Ptolemies it boasted two great libraries of learning, the Museion and Serapeion. At Alexandria the religious life of Palestine and the intellectual culture of Greece met and mingled, and prepared the way for what became the first school of Christian theology. Originally designed only for the practical purpose of preparing converts for baptism, the catechetical school was under the supervision of the bishop. But in the city which was the home of Philonic theology, of Gnostic speculations, and of Neoplatonic philosophy, the school soon assumed a more learned character, and became, at the same time, a kind of theological seminary. It had at first but a single teacher, afterward two or more, but without fixed salary, or special buildings. The teachers gave their voluntary lectures in their homes, generally after the style of the ancient philosophers. The early heads of the school were:

Pantaenus ~180 - ~190 CE
Clement ~190 to 192
Origen 193 to 215
Didymus the Blind 348 to 398

10. Times of Persecution
Nero (64 AD). (first persecution:. Goal eliminate all Christians)
Domitian (81-96 AD)
Trajoan and Hadrian (108 AD)
Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD)
Septimus Severus (193-211 AD)
Maximus (235-238 AD)
Decius (249-251 AD)
Valerian (253-260 AD)
Aurelian (270-275 AD)
Diokletian (284-303 AD)

Despite heavy persecution, the Rome government could not really hinder the gospel from spreading and the Christian churches from growing.

11. Bible-Translations, Textbooks for Mission Ministries (100-313AD)

The New Testament (Greek: Καινή Διαθήκη, Kainē Diathēkē) was written in Koine Greek after c. AD 45 and before c. AD 140. Origen's Hexapla placed side by side six versions of the Old Testament, including the 2nd century Greek translations of Aquila of Sinope[9] and Symmachus the Ebionite[10] According to an early tradition translations in Syriac from what was l later was called the PESHITTA ("simple" or "in common use") were in use already since the 1st century AD.[13]

Map 3: Ancient & Early Translations of the Bible [10]

New Testament Translation were finished between the 2nd and 4th century in the languages: Syriac, Old Latin, Coptic and Gothic. Except in some parts of the Syriac version the translations were made from Greek texts. [10] Translations for the Sahidic Coptic Bible translations begun in Alexandria in about 200 A.D, for the Latin version (Vulgata) in Carthage at the same time.The Bohairic Coptic Bible translations written in Alexandria around 300 A.D.[14]

12. Missionary Activity during the “Era of Imperial Persecution” (100-313 AD)

Official End of Roman Persecution. In 311 A.D. Emperor Galerius issues the Edict of Toleration, commanding that Christians be tolerated. This officially ends the Roman persecution. In 313 A.D. Emperor Constantine issues the Edict of Milan, granting Christians total freedom. Now they may meet freely for worship and openly propagate their faith.
Development of Views and Practices. During the persecution, the title Catholic (meaning "universal") is applied to the organized church throughout the Roman Empire. Some leaders begin advocating the concepts of apostolic succession (the idea that the apostles'authority is passed to key church leaders) and the primacy of Peter (the idea that Peter was the foremost apostle). Some leaders in the eastern segment of the church develop the allegorical (as opposed to literal) method of interpreting the Bible. This method and the influence of Greek philosophy cause some leaders to reject and attack chiliasm (the view known today as Premillennialism)the original eschatological position of the church. Some leaders begin writing and preaching anti-Semitic concepts. A cycle of feast days develop: Easter is observed universally by 300 A.D., some observe Christ’ birthday on December 6, and some begin the practice of Lent. The fish becomes a symbol of Christianity. Some begin baptizing infants. Construction of church buildings begins in the early 300s. Some begin to regard communion as a sacrifice. Some begin praying to dead saints.
Development of Organization. Around 125 A.D. local assemblies begin elevating one elder in authority over others. He is called the monarchal (ruling) bishop of the local church. These bishops are equal in authority with each other. By the 200s, local churches throughout the Roman Empire are grouped into divisions paralleling the diocesan political divisions of the empire. The bishop of the largest local assembly in the largest city of each church diocese receives the title of metropolitan bishop and has authority over the other bishops in his diocese. By 313 A.D. the church is well organized and large (perhaps some sixty million members).[15]
The Romans recovered their losses and finally in 303 signed a treaty of peace with the Persians making the Abaros River, a tributary of the Euphrates, the boundary between the two empires. The Roman backed the king, Terdat, had been restored to the throne of the Osrohene Kingdom of Lesser Armenia, a small country of northern Mesopotamia, and in 301 he declared his kingdom a Christian state, the first in history, with Gregory the Illuminator as the Church's head. After King Terdat embraced the gospel his people became Christians.[16]

New Mission Fields. Early 300s A.D. Celts of Britain become true believers in Jesus before the Angles and Saxons invasion. 432-461 A.D. Ireland converts to Celtic Christianity through the missionary work of Patrick, a British, Celtic Christian. By 496 A.D. the king of the Franks and his people adopt Christianity. Columban, an Irish Christian, leads in the evangelization of Scotland. By the end of this time about 1/4 of the Romans Empire total population were Christians. Adolf Harnack concluded as follows: Countries, in which about halve of the population were Christians were: Asia Minor, Thrazien, Cyprus, Edessa, including Armenia. Countries, where Christians made up an essential part of the population were: Antioch, the northern part of Syria, Egypt, Rome, parts of North Africa, where Roman governors were residing and Numbian (Upper Egypt). Countries, where Christians only were sparsely spread: Palaestinia, the Arab Peninsula, certain parts of Mesopotamia and Greece, northern and middle Italy, North-West Africa, Mauretania and in the West of Lybia, Tripolitania.[17]
[2] htm
[6] Cyril's Letter in Christology of the Later Fathers, p. 353. See also A. Harnack, History of Dogma (New York: Dover Publications, 1961), IV, 175-186.
[7] Malech, 51.
[8] http://www.chec
[10] We are familiar with Ethiopia from passages in the Old and New Testaments of the bible. Genesis 2:13 refers to 4 rivers that flowed out of Eden. One of these is the River Gihon which is the river that encircles Cush (sometimes in the bible Cush and Ethiopia are used interchangeably). The Gihon is another name for the Blue Nile River of Ethiopia.
[12]Further, the Ethiopians commemorated the event (acceptance of Christianity as the state religion) by removing the image of the crescent from their coins and replacing it with the Christian cross!!
[13]Aquila of Sinope was a 2nd Century AD native of Pontus in Anatolia known for producing a slavishly literal translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek around 130 CE. He was a proselyte to Judaism and a disciple of Rabbi Akiba (d. circa 135 AD).
[15] Symmachus the Ebionite (fl. late 2nd century) was the author of one of the Greek versions of the Old Testament that were included by Origen in his Hexapla and Tetrapla, which compared various versions of the Old Testament side by side with the Septuagint. Some fragments of Symmachus' version that survive in what remains of the Hexapla inspire scholars to remark on the purity and idiomatic elegance of Symmachus' Greek, which was admired by Jerome, who used it freely in composing the Vulgate.

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