In this page we will look at the Early Church. This look at the Early History of the Church was drawn from the writings of the Early Church Fathers Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire as well as other respected Academic works. In addition I have included some writings of a Roman Governor in Asia Minor in about 112 AD also some quotes from Justin Martyr's "Dialog with Trypho. If you have any questions as to a particular source please feel free to email me.
In Paul's two visits to Jerusalem many accusations were brought against him regarding the Torah. The Torah was an elaborate set of rules and festivals which "Law Abiding" Jews were to keep. This Torah was developed over the centuries by the Priests and the civil authorities or governments to enforce the Ten Commandments and edicts of the Prophets. Some refer to these Laws as that which was added onto through transgression. Peter agrees with Paul that this code is of no use to man, and only forces one to put to no avail the word of God (The Ten Commandments) by the traditions (Laws) of men. Many have mistaken his renouncing of the Torah of the Jewish people as a renouncing of the Ten Commandments.
The province of Judea had never been a credit to Rome. Elsewhere in the empire, Roman government, if sometimes unimaginative, had generally been successful, or at least peaceable. With all the resources of the Roman Empire against them, the rebels had no chance of success. Besides, they chose the worst possible moment for themselves, when Rome had just made a durable peace with its eastern enemy Parthia. For a time, it is true, the Jewish insurgents were given a lucky reprieve by the prolonged Roman civil wars after Nero's death. But the end was bound to come, and the obliteration of Jerusalem and its Temple by Vespasian's son Titus in 70AD marked the end of the nation's life in Judea for more than eighteen hundred years. When the Jewish people, because of this rebellion, fell into total disgrace with the Roman occupying power, the Christians in their midst urgently needed to convince the Romans that they themselves lacked any taint of Judaism. The Jewish Christians, despite all th eir efforts to prevent this, became discredited in Roman eyes along with the all Jewish peoples, and so they dwindled gradually into a scattering of insignificant sects, which failed to survive into the modem world. The Gentile Christians, on the other hand, lived on to become the dominant force and theme of the modern Christianity. Within the first two decades following the revolt, it was the Pagan converts who produced all four Gospels.
The Romans needed terrible atrocities to win the war. Bodies were left unburied for several years. There are three reports that children were wrapped in Torah scrolls and burned alive (Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 57a-58b; Lamentations Rabbah 2.2; Seder Elijah Rabbah 151). This may be exaggerated, but the Roman legionaries were perfectly capable of the worst of what now would be classed as War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity.
It was a human catastrophe; the Jewish casualties were estimated at 580,000. The Christian author Hieronymus (second half fourth century) writes that the "citizens of Judea came to such distress that they, together with their wives, children, gold and silver remained in underground tunnels and in the deepest caves" (Commentary on Isaiah 2.15). Archaeologists have been able to confirm this statement, when they found human remains, cooking utensils and letters in caves at Marabba`at and Nahal Hever.
Slowly but surely, the Romans gained the upper hand. Simon made his last stand at Bethar, three hours south-west of Jerusalem. The siege lasted a long time, until the summer of 135AD, the rebels never surrendered, but died from starvation and thirst. Among the dead bodies, the legionaries recognized that of Simon, the son of Kosiba. The final utter defeat of Judea was seen by many Christians as a sign that Judea was rejected by her God. The "Church" was seen as the new Israel, God's holly city.
After the Jewish defeat, Hadrian tried to root out Judaism. He forbade the conquered to possess or teach Torah. The province Judea was renamed Palestine; Jerusalem was called Aelia Capitolina. The temple to Jupiter was erected on the site of the Jewish Temple, the goddess Aphrodite received a new home on the place where the Christians had venerated the tomb of Jesus, and before the southern gate of Aelia, the Romans erected a marble statue of a pig. Even worse, the Jews were not even allowed to see their ancestral hometown. Rabbi Aqiba violated this edict, and after some time in prison, the old man was tortured to death. The Gentile Pagan converts of Rome tried ever more desperately to separate themselves from the fate of the Jewish people. So began the slow process of the adoption of pagan customs and traditions renamed with Christian names and emphases.
As I read the various historical documents I find a rather puzzling fact confronting me. This fact is that early Christians were considered a dangerous cult. In fact the same arguments we use today against cults, and our loved ones involvement in them, were used against Christians by parents and civil authorities through out the first and second centuries. It was not on a spiritual level but a common sense level. Parents would plead with their children not to follow this path to sure destruction "come to your senses" was often heard by devote Christians in the first and second centuries. Christian elders seem to hold a mysterious power (Brain Washing, Programming) over their children leading them in to communal living with the cult, were they sold all they had and gave the money to the elders of the Church. Parents pleaded to the Senate and Emperor to put an end to this cult. Christians were arrested, their writings banned, and their Children taken away to be taught a more sensible way of life that respected the age-old traditions of the Nation. Wild Claims were made about Christian conspiracies to overthrow the government, burn Rome to the ground. Some claimed Christians had sex with the dead, others said they drank the blood of Roman babies, still others said they had sex with each other's children in a thing called a love feast. To any sensible person it was clear that this cult or movement was dangerous, snubbing its nose at all the time-honoured traditions of good sensible people, leading the citizens of the Roman World to sure doom and ruin. Pliny the Younger was governor of Pontus/Bithynia, which was adjacent to the Seven Churches of Revelation, he governed from 111-113 AD. Pliny displays the exact attitude that I am speaking of. Here are his words to the Emperor Trajan in about 111AD.
"They asserted however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food--but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition. I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to w arrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded."
Pliny calls Christianity a depraved superstition that is spreading like a disease. He talks about reforming Christians "curing" them deprogramming and saving them from themselves. May God have mercy on the two women that were tortured and put to death by this man and the many others who fell martyr to this man. Here is another example of the attitude that I speak of, we find it in the Books of Porphyry a Philosopher in the late third century.
"Some persons, desiring to find a solution to the baseness of the Jewish Scriptures rather than abandon them, have had recourse to explanations inconsistent and incongruous with the words written, which explanations, instead of supplying a defence of the foreigners (Jews), contain rather approval and praise of themselves(Christians). For they boast that the plain words of Moses are "enigmas", and regard them as oracles full of hidden mysteries; and having bewildered the mental judgement by folly, they make their explanations. As an example of this absurdity take a man whom I met when I was young, and who was then greatly celebrated and still is, on account of the writings which he has left. I refer to Origen, who is highly honoured by the teachers of these doctrines. For this man, having been a student of Ammonius, who had attained the greatest proficiency in philosophy of any in our day, derived much benefit from his teacher in the knowledge of the sciences; but as to the correct choice of life, he pursued a course opposite to his. For Ammonius, being a Christian, and brought up by Christian parents, when he gave himself to study and to philosophy straightway conformed to the life required by the laws. But Origen, having been educated as a Greek in Greek literature, went over to the barbarian recklessness. And carrying over the learning which he had obtained, he hawked it about, in his life conducting himself as a Christian and contrary to the laws, but in his opinions of material things and of the Deity being like a Greek, and mingling Grecian teachings with foreign fables. For he was continually studying Plato, and he busied himself with the writings of Numenius and Cronius, Apollophanes, Longinus, Moderatus, and Nicomachus, and those famous among the Pythagoreans. And he used the books of Chaeremon the Stoic, and of Cornutus. Becoming acquainted through them with the figurative interpretation of the Grecian mysteries, he applied it to the Jewish Scriptures. "
Here a respected philosopher in Rome is calling Christianity obscured. He says Christians say that the Jewish Torah is full of Oracles and hidden mysteries. What is probably the most interesting about this text is that Christians are clearly separated from the Jews. The plain words of Moses (613 laws of Torah) are enigmas which he says is a quote. It becomes plain that he perceived Christians as fools who believed in mysticism and oracles not in well founded studies such as philosophy and Science, they were as reckless and perhaps more dangerous than the Barbarians.
The early bishops were considered equals, and the honourable servants of the people. When an Bishop's seat became vacant by death, a new Bishop was chosen among the church by the vote of the whole congregation. This was the way by which the Christians were governed for more than an hundred years after the death of the Apostles. The Christians were no more interested in the business of this world than they were the pleasures. They could not justify the defence of persons or property with their Christian belief of unlimited forgiveness and a refusal to judge others. They were offended by the use of oaths, by the pomp of magistracy and Royal Splendour. They were known for and by, an active dislike of the political system and of public life. They could not be convinced that it was proper, for a Christian, on any occasion to shed the blood of their fellow man, not for justice, for war; not even if a criminal or hostile attempt threatened the peace and safety of the whole community. Whil e they practised civil obedience, they did so only if did not contradict their faith, they generally refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defence of the empire, even upon threat of death. This would all change in the fourth century.
We can find out more about the ways of Christians in the first and second century by looking at the correspondence from this time. What Pliny's letter reveals about Christianity is very telling, very telling indeed!!!!! Here we are given a clear picture of Christianity in Asia Minor in 111AD just a few years after the death of John. Claims by various Christian Churches that they worship as the first Christians did are not founded in Truth as shown by this text. We are told that Christians met once a week, not in the morning or at dawn, but before dawn, . We are told that after they meet they gathered for a meal. We know they discussed the Ten Commandments because we are told that they bind themselves by an "oath" to not commit a crime. Since we know Christians did not sacrifice to the Emperor, that was in fact a crime, the "oath" they took not to commit a crime was restricted to the Ten Commandments. Since we know from other sources that Christians did not take oaths, this "oath" t hat is referred to, must be a dedication to the Ten Commandments. Look at the points of this "oath" commandments 7,8 & 9 are mentioned specifically. The Jewish religion, at this time, was an excepted religion and many Roman citizens were Jews, Paul is but one example. Judaism was known to Pliny Younger, we can discern from this letter that these Christians did not keep the Jewish civil code, only the Ten Commandments. If they had of kept all the 613 laws of the Torah Pliny would have called them Jews, not a depraved cult. We also notice that there is no mention of the sacrament, which is so prominent in Christianity today. The order of events appears to have been meet before dawn, sing a hymn to Jesus, talk about God's word, and then depart for a meal latter that day. The meal was most likely the Lord's Supper, or a re-enactment of the Last Supper. I Corinthians 11: talks about this meal. Notice that it is bread and wine which are eaten at a communal meal not a sacrament at a cere mony. Also notice that some people have performed this task by themselves and not waited for all to gather. This Bread and wine was self-given at a communal meal it was not a sacrament placed in ones hand or mouth by a priest or minister. The current method of communion as seen in many religions today where the Priest or Minister gives the sacrament was most likely developed as a solution to the very problem that Paul speaks of in I Corinthians 11:.
While most people see Anti-Semitism as something started by the Nazis the reality is far more enduring and stretches back to the second round of Pagan persecutions. Jewish Scholars of the first and second century were routinely involved in the persecution of Christians. As an excepted Religion Jews were free to practice their religion. There was a short time after the second revolt where the Torah was banned but that was short lived and in the early third century Jews were given full citizenship in the Empire. Christians on the other hand were seen as a dangerous spin off cult. Much like the government views the Branch Dividian's or any one of a dozen other spin off Christian cults. To understand this we must look at the Roman law concerning worshipping the God's. Jews did not have to worship Saturn or Diana they only had to say Caesar is Lord after that they were free to worship as they saw fit. Jews did not see saying Caesar is King or Lord as a violation of Torah. They saw Chris tian claims that the 613 Laws of the Torah were of no use to man as Blaspheme. A Blaspheme that was turning Jews away from Judaism to Christianity. To the Pharisees, Christians were far more dangerous to Judaism than the Romans. While it was legal to be of Jewish belief Christianity was a dangerous and illegal cult. Slaves or non Romans that were found to be Christians were put to death if they refused to reform as Pliny calls it. Roman citizens that were Christian were given trials upon discovery, at these trials local Pharisees would often give testimony on the true nature and the sound understanding of the Torah, to refute Christians claims that Jesus was the messiah prophesied in the Torah and there for a long established and accepted God not a depraved cult of Atheist. Pharisees testimony was that there were no hidden meanings in Torah, no Oracles, no great mystery it was all straight forward common sense laws for men to follow to achieve perfection, much like Roman Law and Greek Philosophy. Jesus was a man, a trouble maker stirring up the Jews against Rome that was why he had been put to death by Pilot. He was no more God than any other Jew who stood against Rome. The Jews were trying to gain favour with the Romans so as to re-establish the Jewish State. There was much lobbying of the Senate and the Emperor for Judea to be re-established. All this would come to an end with Constantine who hated the Jews. He enacted Laws to punish Jews for a wide range of offences that only a Jew could be convicted of. Jews of this time like the Romans thought Christians were atheist's and a dangerous cult. Here is an example, Trypho, in Justin Martyr's "Dialog with Trypho" displays the attitude I am speaking of, here are his words.
"This is what we are amazed at," said Trypho, "but those things about which the multitude speak are not worthy of belief; for they are most repugnant to human nature. Moreover, I am aware that your precepts in the so-called Gospel are so wonderful and so great, that I suspect no one can keep them; for I have carefully read them. But this is what we are most at a loss about: that you, professing to be pious, and supposing yourselves better than others, are not in any particular separated from them, and do not alter your mode of living from the nations, in that you observe no festivals or sabbaths, and do not have the rite of circumcision; and further, resting your hopes on a man that was crucified, you yet expect to obtain some good thing from God, while you do not obey His commandments. Have you not read, that soul shall be cut off from his people who shall not have been circumcised on the eighth day? And this has been ordained for strangers and for slaves equally. But you, despising this covenant rashly, reject the consequent duties, and attempt to persuade yourselves that you know God, when, however, you perform none of those things which they do who fear God. If, therefore, you can defend yourself on these points, and make it manifest in what way you hope for anything whatsoever, even though you do not observe the law, this we would very gladly hear from you, and we shall make other similar investigations."
Here we are given a clear picture of the of Roman and Jewish perspective on Christianity as lived by Justin in Asia minor 167AD only 55 years after Pliny had murdered the two deaconesses. Trypho say that there are no Sabbaths and no feasts that are kept by Christians and that they do not follow God's commandments. We must understand that to a Jew, all 613 laws of Torah are "commandments". This belief is corrected by Justin latter in the Dialogue when he says Christians did honour the ten commandments. If we continue further in the dialogue we find Justin saying this.
"I also adduced another passage in which Isaiah exclaims: "'hear my words, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given Him for a witness to the people: nations which know not Thee shall call on Thee; peoples who know not Thee shall escape to Thee, because of thy God, the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified Thee.'(3) This same law you have despised, and His new holy covenant you have slighted; and now you neither receive it, nor repent of your evil deeds. 'For your ears are closed, your eyes are blinded, and the heart is hardened, ' Jeremiah(4) has cried; yet not even then do you listen. The Lawgiver is present, yet you do not see Him; to the poor the Gospel is preached, the blind see, yet you do not understand. You have now need of a second circumcision, though you glory greatly in the flesh. The new law requires you to keep perpetual sabbath, and you, becau se you are idle for one day, suppose you are pious, not discerning why this has been commanded you: and if you eat unleavened bread, you say the will of God has been fulfilled. The Lord our God does not take pleasure in such observances: if there is any perjured person or a thief among you, let him cease to be so; if any adulterer, let him repent; then he has kept the sweet and true sabbaths of God."
There it is again, commandments seven, eight and nine. In fact here the commandments are referred to as the true Sabbaths of God. Notice he says Christians must keep this true Sabbath perpetually. and still further in he says this
""By reason, therefore, of this laver of repentance and knowledge of God, which has been ordained on account of the transgression of God's people, as Isaiah cries, we have believed, and testify that that very baptism which he announced is alone able to purify those who have repented; and this is the water of life. But the cisterns which you have dug for yourselves are broken and profitless to you. For what is the use of that baptism which cleanses the flesh and body alone? Baptize the soul from wrath and from covetousness, from envy, and from hatred; and, lo! the body is pure."
This is the concept that was unacceptable and incomprehensible to both the Romans and the Jews. Justin and other Christians did not keep the commandments or laws by the will of their hands, rather the law was written on their hearts or their soul as Justin states. It was the Holly Spirit acting in them that allowed them to keep the commandments with their hands not the will of their minds but the gift of the Father for their baptism and absolute faith even unto death.
While the Jews may have participated in the persecution of Christian, it was not done maliciously, in fact they were only serving the Courts and the Law as good citizens, the Jew of the time also thought Christianity was a depraved cult leading people to ruin. In the centuries to come they would pay the price ten fold for the minuscule part they played in the martyring of the earliest of saints. Ironically it was their cohorts, the descendants of the Pagan persecutors who would latter turn on the Jewish people.
Christianity continued in this form for 30yrs at which time it began the slow move towards the various Religions we know today.