Sketches from Christian History

This series provides an overview of Christian history beginning with the early church and continuing into the modern era.

Five Key Dates to Remember

A.D. 30: The death of Christ

A.D. 50: The Jerusalem Council where the early church declared the gospel was for Gentiles as well as Jews (Acts 15).

A.D. 64: Rome burns (As a result Peter and Paul lose their lives at the hands of Nero).

A.D. 70: Jerusalem falls as Rome destroys the city and the Temple. Many Jews flee to Masada and make their last stand against the Roman government on this mountain.

A.D. 100: The death of the last of the 12 apostles—John (the only one to die of natural causes).

Seven Dates to Remember

A.D. 100: The death of the Apostle John

A.D. 196: The Easter Controversy. A disagreement among the early Christians concerning the day to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Western Christians prefer Sunday; the eastern Christians prefer it linked with the Jewish Passover regardless of the day.

A.D. 200: The church recognizes 23 New Testament books as canonical, but it is unlikely these were gathered in one book (I and II Peter, III John, and Jude were later accepted).

A.D. 261: The first church building was erected called a "basilica." Previously, Christians met in homes.

A.D. 295: The phrase "catholic" is used to mean all churches that agree with the teaching of the apostles as a whole as opposed to the heretical groups that follow a "secret revelation" or knowledge based on one teaching.

A.D. 312: Constantine becomes emperor of Rome and stops the killing of Christians. The persecution of Christians has been sporadic since A.D. 100, with times of relative peace, and then times of severe persecutions, depending on the emperor in charge.

A.D. 313: The Edict of Milan. The official Roman decree that Christianity was now legal throughout the Roman Empire.

A Review of the dates so far:

A.D. 30: The death of Christ

A.D. 70: Jerusalem destroyed

A.D. 100: John's death

A.D. 100 - A.D. 312: Era of the Martyrs

A.D. 261: First church building

A.D. 313: Edict of Milan

Four Key Dates to Remember

A.D. 410: The fall of Rome. Barbarians (nomadic German tribes living in the Roman Empire) became frustrated with how the Empire was treating them. Alaric, their leader, asked the Empire for land so his people could settle. When refused, Alaric led an attack on Rome in A.D. 410 and won.

A.D. 476: After the initial fall of Rome in A.D. 410, the emperor of Rome was not removed. The people of Rome struggled against the barbarians for the next several years. In A.D. 452 Attila the Hun attacked Italy, and before he reached Rome was persuaded by the Roman Bishop, Leo, to retreat. In A.D. 455 the Vandals attacked Rome. This time Leo could not persuade the barbarians to retreat and Rome was "vandalized." In A.D. 476 a barbarian named Odovacer deposed the last Western emperor. The Western Empire ceased to exist. Only the Eastern Empire remained. Many historians date the beginning of the Middle Ages as A.D. 476.

A.D. 520: Benedict and his sister Scholastica form religious communities in remote areas of Italy. Benedict writes his communities' rules called "the Rule of Benedict" and his sister formed a convent near the Benedictine monastery. This particular order is important because in A.D. 599 forty-one Benedictine monks were sent to Britain as missionaries and 10,000 Anglo-Saxon barbarians were converted to Christianity.

A.D. 570: The birth of Mohammed. His followers, called Moslems, have fought "Christians" for centuries. All of the crusades were battles between the Moslems and the Catholics.

Most religious historians view Islam as having been founded in A.D. 622 by Muhammad the Prophet (circa A.D. 570 to 632) in Mecca, when the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) read the first revelation to Muhammad. Followers of Islam are called Muslims. "Muslim" is an Arabic word that refers to a person who submits themselves to the Will of God. "Allah" is an Arabic word which means "the One True God." An alternate spelling for "Muslim" that is occasionally used is "Moslim." Some Western writers in the past have referred to Islam as "Muhammadism"; this is offensive to many Muslims, as its usage can lead some to the concept that Mohammed the prophet was in some way divine.

Five Key Events You Should Know

A.D. 570: The birth of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. His followers, called Moslems, have fought Catholics for centuries. All of the crusades were battles for control of the Holy Land.

A.D. 754: The Donation of Pepin. Pepin III, a Frankish battle-chief, gave part of Italy (the papal states) to the pope. In return, the pope granted Pepin the church's approval and a royal title.

A.D. 800: Charlemagne crowned "Charles Augustus, supreme and peaceful Emperor" by Pope Leo on Christmas Day, A.D. 800. This emperor of the church, called Charles the Great, became the first Emperor crowned by a pope. This became known as "The Holy Roman Empire."

A.D. 1054: The Roman Church excommunicates (officially) the Eastern Church.

A.D. 1095: The crusades begin.

Two Key Dates to Remember

A.D. 1095: The beginning of the crusades; the Roman Catholic Church attacks the Muslims in Palestine.

A.D. 1291: The end of the crusades with the fall of the city of Acre into Muslim hands.

Three Events You Should Know

A.D. 1311 - 1312: Council of Vienne—Pope Clement V convened this council to disband the Knights Templar (an order of crusader monks) and give their property to the king of France.

A.D. 1414 - 1418: Council of Constance—Pope John XXII summoned this council to end the Great Schism and reform the Catholic Church. It elected a new pope and declared that a church council "holds its power direct from Christ; everyone... is bound to obey it." This view became known as counciliarism.

A.D. 1438 - 1445: Council of Florence—This council technically reunited Catholic and Orthodox Churches. However, Orthodox lay people rejected the reunion. The council also claimed (against the Council of Constance) that the pope was superior to church officials. The council recognized seven sacraments womb to tomb - baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, ordination, and last rites.

The Catholic Church was considered the church of Jesus Christ at the beginning of the Middle Ages and some of the greatest theologians of all time (Augustine, Jerome, Aquinas, etc.) were all part of the Catholic Church. However, as the church gained money and power during the Middle Ages, some Catholics sought to reform the church, believing she had departed from Scripture. Often, these attempts at reform failed, but the people who sought to bring the church more in line to Scripture during the Middle Ages were pre-Reformation (1517) reformers.

This day is one of the most important in the history of the Christian church. It is considered the turning point in the history of the church. It is often called Halloween (All Hallows Eve), but it is better called Reformation Day because of the desire to reform the church of Jesus Christ.

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