“Over 60 years ago I went to Cambridge [University in UK] to study theology with view to going into ministry and I didn’t realise that my Faith would be almost destroyed by the study. I tend nowadays to call theological colleges theological cemeteries. Many young Christians have lost their faith through studying theology. They taught me how to read the Bible with a pair of scissors and we were cutting up the Bible into pieces and no much was left…” David Pawson, Minister and Bible teacher for over 60 years.
Christianity originated in the middle east not but western views have messed up our interpretation of the Bible e.g miracles, supernatural acts such as in the Gospels and Acts are explained away (‘cut out’) and said to be unrepeatable. Its intellectual Christianity with very little on living out true Faith. Now we have many theories concerning the last days e.g pre, mid and post tribulation; amillennials, premillennials, post millennials etc. Too complicated? My point exactly!
Its changing slowly so before you attend a Bible school (I am for education) do enough research!
Back to Church history
The First 500 years [Years 1 to 500 AD]
Jesus is born around year 1 AD [*]is baptised in water at 30 (year AD 30) and the Holy Spirit comes upon him after which he recruits 12 disciples and leads a charismatic life (teaching with authority, performing miracles, healing the sick, casting demons, raising the dead etc) according to Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. He is crucified at 33, buried and rises again three days later, and baptises the First Church the Holy Spirit 50 days later. Suddenly they too began to be like Jesus in words and deeds – bold, healed cripples, cast demons, raised the dead, dynamically interpreted Scripture, proclaimed the Kingdom of God as the book of Acts narrates up to AD 60.
The Jewish ‘politburo’ decision – with the Holy Spirit – to allow non-Jews (Gentiles) to become Christians without adopting Jewish culture and religious ceremonies like circumcision in Acts 15 was key in Christianity spreading to the whole world. Paul gave it wings.
The Roman empire was the world super power which colonised or ruled Israel, Asia Minor (Turkey Syria etc), north Africa and most of Europe (England, Wales, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland etc).
In AD 64 the Empire headquarters is burnt and Nero blames it on Christians, persecutes them. ln AD 70 Rome destroyed Jerusalem as predicted by Jesus (Matthew 24v1-3). By then Christians had suffered unspeakable things. Philip and Andrew were crucified. Bartholomew and James were beheaded. Thomas was stabbed to death in India like Mathew in Ethiopia. Peter was crucified upside down after he refused to be executed like His Master…. Paul’s head was chopped with a sword after he had written so many letters eg Romans, Corinthians, Philippians, Timothy etc.
Apostle John lives to old age, is thrown into boiling oil but survives, is imprisoned in Patmos island where he wrote Revelation, the last book of the Bible around AD 95.
The book of Revelation became a source of comfort/inspiration for the waves of persecution in the next 200 years when Christianity was an illegal religion just as it inspires the Church in China, middle east and many underground churches across the world today.
Many were tortured, skinned and burnt alive, dragged by horses as a sport, thrown to beasts for refusing to say “Caesar is lord” or to let Christ be counted with other gods/religions and for refusing to make state sacrifices as demanded.
And some gave in / sold out, bribed the officials to survive, and later some compromised truth to fit the intellect.
By the year AD 200 the First Church (earliest) letters and writings had been compiled into the New Testament to be the primary reference for battles against doctrinal corruption, Gnostics (intellectual religion) and false prophets/apostles.
Christian writers like Tertullian emerged and fought with their pens. They organised conferences or councils to discuss the key issues that later led to popular memorised confessions called creeds.
If we had time and space we would talk about the likes of Decius in 250 AD, Dicletian Persecution 303 AD etc.
In AD 312 Roman Emperor Constantine got converted to Christianity and for the first time in centuries Christians were tolerated, ending the physical persecutions and sufferings but not the mental (information wars?) and spiritual battles.
As a Christian Constantine organised the Nicaean council – a conference over whether Jesus was Man or God. In year 388 AD Christianity became the only official religion or state church of the whole empire and by 500 AD most fierce battles had ceased [ and absence of major persecutions?] seemed to be slowing her fire and vitality.
Footnote* There is about 3 to 4 years difference depending on the calendars.
….to be continued
This is part 3 of #ThisGospel a Church history series by Talent Mbedzi (Whatsapp +27624740015 for previous/next parts) to bridge the knowledge gap.