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Christianity:  the 100's

Overview: What happened in this century?


c. 100 John, the last original Apostle, probably died in Ephesus in this year, plus or minus several years.
100 also The Epistle of Barnabas was written by this year. The Didache may have been written by this year. Both are Apostolic Fathers books.
100 also The Elkesaites emerged at this time. They were a Jewish Christian group who lived east of the Jordan River and taught a docetic version of Jesus. They are an early example of the many people who had a problem with the incarnation (God becoming flesh).

The Big Picture: Development of Canon, Creed, & Clergy
From the time of Jesus to the end of the Fourth Century, Christianity developed as an institution. Three aspects undergirded Christianity: the Canon, Creed, and Clergy. While some view this institutionalization of Christianity as a negative development, it was necessary. Think of it this way:
  • The Canon, or Scripture, was the message given to the Apostles from God by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it was the standard by which to measure true Christian faith and practice.
  • But who was to define and interpret the faith? The Clergy. In addition, the Canon is long (think Old and New Testaments) and so an abridged or shortened version of the major teachings was needed.
  • this was the Creed. Why was an abridged or shortened version necessary? Two reasons: to quickly defend against heresies--once you have a Creed you can immediately see where a heresy is wrong--and to serve as a measure and instruction for people becoming Christians.
Therefore, to protect against heresies and instructe the faithful, the Canon, Creed, and Clergy developed. No one decided in the year 100 that the church neeed to create the 3 C's, they just happened naturally from the time of Jesus to the end of the Fourth Century.


Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, was martyred by being fed to wild animals in Rome. He had been arrested in Antioch and taken to Rome. Along the way he wrote 7 letters: 6 to Christians in 6 different cities and one to Polycarp, a fellow bishop. These writings are considered part of the Apostolic Fathers. [Note: This year was given by Eusebius, the first Church Historian who lived in the 300s. Some date it as late as 117.]
  • In one of Ignatius' seven letters, the letter to Smyrna, he used the term "catholic," which means "universal" or "complete". This is the first time "Catholic" was used to describe the Church.
  • Development of Clergy: Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, in a letter to the churches in Smyrna, wrote "Let no one do any of the things appertaining to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. . . . It is not lawful either to baptize or to hold an agape [Christian "love feast"] without the bishop; but whatever he approve, this is also pleasing to God, that everything which you do may be secure and valid."
112 Letter from the Roman Emperor Trajan to Pliny the Proconsul (governor) in Bithynia (Turkey) that established the Roman reaction toward Christians for the next 140 years. In this letter, the emperor states "They are not to be hunted out. If they are denounced and convicted, they are to be punished, but he who denies that he is a Christian and proves it by supplicating our gods, although suspect in the past, may gain pardon from penitence." To be sure, many Christians were persecuted, but they were not sought out en masse until 250. For excerpts of their letters, go here.

The Big Picture: Why were Christians persecuted by the Romans?
The Romans persecuted Christians primarily because the Romans saw them as a threat to the established (Roman) order. Therefore, all conquered people (except for the Jews) had to worship the emperor (or the gods) once a year; first, this showed loyalty to the Roman government and, second, this showed loyalty to the Roman gods. Failure to do so constituted a potential threat to the government through rebellion and by angering the gods. Since Christians believed in one God and would not worship the emperor/gods, they were persecuted. Often Apologists wrote to the Emperor to prove that Christians could be good Roman citizens and yet not worship the Emperor or gods.

The Big Picture: Apologists
The word "apology" technically means "a defense." Christian apologists were people who defended Christianity against heresies and literary attacks and rumors. By the middle of the Second Century, Christianity had become so prominent that non-Christian thinkers began to attack the central ideas of Christianity in an attempt to disarm it. A new position developed within Christianity, men who wrote responses which defended the faith, ergo, the Apologists. Among the most prominent Christian apologists were Quadratus (d. 124), Tatian (d. c.160), Justin Martyr (d. 165), Theophilus (d. c. 175), Athenagoras (d. 2nd Century), Aristides (d. 2nd Century), and Tertullian (d. c.225)


Quadratus wrote his apology and addressed it to the Emperor. This was one of the first known Christian Apologies. The date of his death is unknown. Only one sentence has been discovered of his apology. To read it, click here. This sentence was reported in Eusebius' "Church History," written in the early 300s. Eusebius also wrote "Aristides also, a believer earnestly devoted to our religion, left, like Quadratus, an apology for the faith" also addressed to the Emperor.
  • More details: Find out who the bishops of Rome (popes) were during the first 100 years after Jesus. Click here.
c.125 The earliest known fragment from a New Testament book dates from around this year; it has been dated between 100 to 150. Parts of John 18:31-33 and 37, 38 were discovered in Egypt in 1920; it is known as P52. While not the original copy of John, it may have been copied from the original. To see a copy, go to here. To read more about P52, click here.


Papias died in this year. He may have been a disciple of the Apostle John and was a companion of Polycarp.
132 The Jews revolt against Rome and win their land back.
135 The Romans recapture Jerusalem and force the Jews to leave. Except for a brief time in the early 600s, the Jews will not regain control of Jerusalem until the year 1948.
140 The Shepherd of Hermas was written between this year and 155.
140 also Around this year, Marcion arrived in Rome.

The Big Picture: Canonization of the New Testament
Marcion came under the influence of a Gnostic named Cerdo and began an attempt to synthesize Christianity with Gnosticism (see late First Century for an explanation of Gnosticism and Docetism). To Marcion the Old Testament represented the lower, inferior god of Gnosticism. Therefore, he rejected anything from the Old Testament. In addition, he compiled his own "scripture" which consisted of a stripped-down version of the Gospel of Luke and 10 letters of Paul (shorn of any OT references or influences)(I & II Timothy and Titus, known as the Pastoral Epistles, were not included). Marcion's movement lasted for several centuries. This was an important movement for the development of Christianity, because it helped caused Christians to realize that they needed to construct the new Christian scripture (which would supplement the OT) instead of letting someone else, like Marcion, do it. The process of deciding the eventual 27 books which comprise the New Testament took over 200 more years (go to the years 357 and 390 for more information). To see a list of different lists comprised during this period, go here. To learn more about Marcion, go here.


Marcion was excommunicated.
c.150 Tatian compiled the Diatessaron, a single biography of Jesus compiled from the Four Gospels. One significance of this work is that it signified that Christians acknowledged only four Gospels.
155 Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, martyred in this year. Polycarp initially fled his Roman persecutors but changed his mind and allowed himself to be captured. At his trial, the proconsul asked him to curse Christ, whereupon Polycarp replied "Fourscore and six years have I served Him, and he has done me no harm. How then can I curse my King that saved me." He was stabbed and burned to death. While a Bishop, Polycarp travelled to Rome, in part because of the Quartodecimian controversy (involving the dating of Easter), and also wrote a letter to the Philippians.
  • More details: To find out more about the Easter Controversy and why Easter moves on the calendar, go here.
  • More details: Polycarp may have met or been instructed by the Apostle John. Go here.
  • More details: To find out more about Polycarp's letter to the Philippians and to read an excerpt, go here.

The Big Picture: Veneration of Relics
The veneration (adoring and honoring) of relics dates at least from this time. Polycarp was concerned that Christians would venerate his body and so asked that it not be buried to that the location could not become a shrine. In later times, and especially in the Middle Ages, relics become very important cause of pilgrimages. The Second Council of Nicea in 787 pronounced that everyone should venerate relics and that no altar should be consecrated unless it contained a relic.

155 also

The First Apology by Justin Martyr appeared; it was addressed to the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius. Justin later wrote Dialogue with Trypho while the Second Apology was addressed to the Roman Senate. To read a quote from Justin, click here.


Montanus came into prominence. He focused on the Holy Spirit and taught that the age of the Paraclete had come and that the Paraclete spoke through him. He also taught that the New Jerusalem would soon appear. Montanus and two others, Maximulla and Priscilla, claimed to be able to forgive sins. This movement spread from Asia Minor into Europe and North Africa. It was eventually condemned as a heresy. Monatanism lasted for several centuries.


Tatian died, he had been a disciple of Justin Martyr; Marcion died.
165 Martyrdom of Justin Martyr, one of the early Christian Apologists. He, along with other Christians, refused to sacrifice to the emperor and so were scourged and beheaded. In response to the command to sacrifice to the emperor, Justin replied “No one who is rightly minded turns from true belief to false.”
c.170 Development of Canon: The Muratorian Fragment is the earliest attempt to define the Christian Scriptures (later known as the New Testament). This was a reaction to Marcion, see the year 140 above. The first complete list of the NT books dates from 367 in a letter Bishop Athanasius wrote. The early church leaders took a long time because they wanted to ensure that no spurious or heretical books made it into the new Christian Scriptures, only those came from God. The main criterion used was that a book had to be linked with an Apostle or Jesus. Even though some books were popular, such as Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache, they were not included because they did not have a link with an Apostle or Jesus. To learn more about the development of the Canon, Creed, and Clergy, go to “The Big Picture” after the year 117.To read the Muratorian Fragment and to see which books it proposes, go here. To see the list in a chart form, go here.


Theophilus died. He was an apologist and one of his apologies has survived, Apology. To read a portion of his Apology, go here. Also, while Theophilus did not coin the word “Trinity,” he came close. To see how close, go here. [Tertullian was the first to coin the word "Trinity in the Third Century.]


A persecution of Christians occurred in Lyons and Vienne, in present-day France.
177 also Athenagoras wrote "A Plea for the Christians" and addressed it to the Emperor. As part of his defense, he wrote against the accusations against Christians of eating babies (a misunderstanding of the words of the Lord's Supper) and incest (because they had secret meetings and called each other "brother" and "sister").


Celsius wrote True Discourse, an attack on Christianity; this was the first literary attack on Christianity that has been discovered. Of all the attacks on Christianity during this period, this work has remained the most intact. While the work itself has not been discovered, Origen (from the Third Century) quoted extensively from it. In this work, Celsius propagates the rumor that Jesus was the son of Mary and a Roman soldier Panthera, among many other attacks on Christianity. To read a small part of Celsius' attack, click here.
  • More details: To find out more about the myth of Mary and Panthera (a rumor circulated that he was the father of Jesus), go here.
c. 185 Development of Creed and Clergy: Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, wrote Against Heresies, in which he made an appeal to the supremacy of Rome for all Christians. To read a portion, click here. Acknowledgement of Rome as the head of Christian will not occur for hundreds of years. He also included what could be an early form of a Christian creed. To read it, click here. To learn more about the development of the Canon, Creed, and Clergy, go to “The Big Picture” after the year 117.


Development of Creed: The Old Roman Symbol had developed by the late Second Century. It is a creed which was possibly used during baptisms. To read it, click here. To learn more about the development of the Canon, Creed, and Clergy, go to “The Big Picture” after the year 117.


A theological school existed in Alexandria, Egypt, for at least the next 50 years.
193-211 Rule of Septimius Severus, Roman Emperor. He attacked Christianity by persecuting converts to Christianity. After his reign, Christians enjoyed peace until 250 (with some exceptions here and there).
197 In this year, Tertullian penned the most famous quote concerning the persecutions which Christians endured: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
  • More details: Tertullian described the worship practices of his church. To read about it, go here.
  • More details: A number of smaller heresies developed in the next centuries. To learn more, go here.

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