пятница, 13 октября 2017 г.

Some events and dates in first century church history

Researching for church history I have been looking into some events and dates in the life of the New Testament church. I thought that some of these might be of interest to others. Also, writing them up as a blog post is a convenient way of storing and updating information.

Mary, the Mother of the Lord. Many will know that the words spoken by the Lord on the Cross to John were indeed fulfilled and that it is with the Disciple Whom Jesus loved that his mother is most closely associated after the Lord's ascension. Mary was among the 120 in the Upper Room. She then lived on in Jerusalem until the 40s CE. Hippolytus from Thebes, a church historian from the 7/8th century, says that Mary lived for another 11 years after the Lord's Passion, placing the end of her earthly life somewhere between 41 and 48 CE. An alternative, later date might be 64 CE. In the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions Mary's passing is known as the Dormition or the Assumption of Mary. The sources for this church teaching are somewhat later and would best be covered in another post.

James the Brother of the Lord. There were at least three James among the Apostles: the brother of John, James the Less and James the brother of the Lord. The latter was possibly a cousin or half-brother via Joseph. He was not initially a believer, but the risen Christ appeared to him and by Acts 15 James was the established leader of the Jerusalem church (what would later be known as the bishop) and, it appears, zealous for the observance of the Old Testament law by Jewish Christians. He was known as James the Just and was famous for his constancy in prayer. He was martyred in 62 CE.

John the Apostle. John the Apostle was present at the Last Supper and at the Cross. He was a witness to the Risen Jesus, as he writes in his Gospel. John was with Peter in the temple in Acts 3. And it would seem that he served in Jerusalem until something like 64 CE when he moved to Ephesus (modern Turkey). It was from here that he was exiled to Patmos, where he received the Apocalypse (book of Revelation), which is addressed to seven churches of Asia Minor (the area around Ephesus). According to strong tradition John returned from Patmos and served the churches of Asia minor into the reign of Emperor Trajan (98-117 CE).

The Jewish church. The development and eventual demise of Jewish Christianity is very interesting for various reasons. In the run-up to the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 the Jewish Christians, following the words of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse escaped from Jerusalem to Pella (Jordan), which became a new centre for Jewish Christianity. Some did return and the church in Jerusalem remained Jewish until the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135, after which time the bishops and members of the Jerusalem church were all Gentiles (the city was renamed Aelia Capitolana and Jews banned from entering). By the mid-1st century the relationship between synagogue and church became strained. From 90 the synagogue prayers included a curse on the "minim" which is taken to refer to Christians. By the time of Justin Martyr (early 2nd century) Christians were mainly Gentile and in his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin defends the position that it is the Christian church, Jew and Gentile, and not the physical descendants of Jacob to whom the title 'Israel' belongs. Jewish Christianity did continue to exist into the V century and writers such as Jerome refer to those who contained to observe the Jewish laws while believing in Christ. The Jewish Christians were called Nazarenes, while the Ebionites espoused a sub-Christian heresy along the lines of adoptionism (Jesus the man was adopted as God's son at his baptism). 

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