Church and society in documents, 100-600 A.D.
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Those who wrote in Greek are called the Greek Church Fathers. Athanasius of Alexandria was a theologian, Pope of Alexandria , and a noted Egyptian leader of the 4th century. He is best remembered for his role in the conflict with Arianism. John Chrysostom , archbishop of Constantinople, is known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking , his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders, the Divine Liturgy of St.
John Chrysostom , and his ascetic sensibilities. After his death or, according to some sources, during his life he was given the Greek surname chrysostomos , meaning "golden mouthed", rendered in English as Chrysostom. Chrysostom is known within Christianity chiefly as a preacher , theologian, and liturgist, particularly in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Outside the Christian tradition Chrysostom is noted for eight of his sermons which played a considerable part in the history of Christian antisemitism and were extensively used by the Nazis in their ideological campaign against the Jews.
Those fathers who wrote in Latin are called the Latin Church Fathers.
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Ambrose of Milan  was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. He is counted as one of the four original doctors of the Church. The Desert Fathers were early monastics living in the Egyptian desert; although they did not write as much, their influence was also great.
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Among them are St. Anthony the Great and St.
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A great number of their usually short sayings is collected in the Apophthegmata Patrum "Sayings of the Desert Fathers". The first efforts to create a proto-monastery were by Saint Macarius , who established individual groups of cells such as those at Kellia founded in The intention was to bring together individual ascetics who, although pious, did not have the physical ability or skills to live a solitary existence in the desert.
At Tabenna around , Saint Pachomius chose to mould his disciples into a more organized community in which the monks lived in individual huts or rooms cellula in Latin but worked, ate, and worshipped in shared space. Guidelines for daily life were created, and separate monasteries were created for men and women. This method of monastic organization is called cenobitic or "community-based. In Catholic theology, this community-based living is considered superior because of the obedience practiced and the accountability offered.
The head of a monastery came to be known by the word for "Father;" — in Syriac , Abba ; in English, " Abbot. Pachomius was called in to help organize others, and by one count by the time he died in there were thought to be 3, such communities dotting Egypt, especially the Thebaid. Within the span of the next generation this number increased to 7, Orthodox monasticism does not have religious orders as in the West,  so there are no formal monastic rules; rather, each monk and nun is encouraged to read all of the Holy Fathers and emulate their virtues.
There is also no division between the "active" and "contemplative" life. Orthodox monastic life embraces both active and contemplative aspects. The earliest phases of monasticism in Western Europe involved figures like Martin of Tours , who after serving in the Roman legions converted to Christianity and established a hermitage near Milan , then moved on to Poitiers where he gathered a community around his hermitage. He was called to become Bishop of Tours in , where he established a monastery at Marmoutiers on the opposite bank of the Loire River , a few miles upstream from the city.
His monastery was laid out as a colony of hermits rather than as a single integrated community. John Cassian began his monastic career at a monastery in Palestine and Egypt around to study monastic practice there. In Egypt he had been attracted to the isolated life of hermits, which he considered the highest form of monasticism, yet the monasteries he founded were all organized monastic communities. About he established two monasteries near Marseilles , one for men, one for women.
In time these attracted a total of 5, monks and nuns. Most significant for the future development of monasticism were Cassian's Institutes , which provided a guide for monastic life and his Conferences , a collection of spiritual reflections. The monastery combined a community with isolated hermitages where older, spiritually-proven monks could live in isolation. Athanasius Apol. Little else is known, though there is plenty of speculation. For example, it is speculated that this may have provided motivation for canon lists , and that Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus are examples of these Bibles.
In order to form a New Testament canon of uniquely Christian works , proto-orthodox Christians went through a process that was complete in the West by the beginning of the fifth century. The first council that accepted the present canon of the New Testament may have been the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa in ; the acts of this council, however, are lost. A brief summary of the acts was read at and accepted by the Council of Carthage and Council of Carthage After legalisation in , the Church inside the Roman Empire adopted the same organisational boundaries as the empire: geographical provinces, called dioceses , corresponding to imperial governmental territorial division.
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The bishops, who were located in major urban centres as per pre-legalisation tradition, thus oversaw each diocese as Metropolitan bishops. The bishop's location was his "seat", or "see. Constantine erected a new capital at Byzantium , a strategically placed city on the Bosporus. The Second Ecumenical Council , held at the new capital in , elevated the see of Constantinople to a position ahead of the other chief metropolitan sees, except that of Rome. The divisions in Christian unity which led to the East—West Schism started to become evident as early as the 4th century.
Although is the date usually given for the beginning of the Great Schism, there is, in fact, no specific date on which the schism occurred. The events leading to schism were not exclusively theological in nature. Cultural, political, and linguistic differences were often mixed with the theological.
Unlike the Coptics or Armenians who broke from the Church in the 5th century and established ethnic churches at the cost of their universality and catholicity, the eastern and western parts of the Church remained loyal to the faith and authority of the seven ecumenical councils. They were united, by virtue of their common faith and tradition, in one Church. Disunion in the Roman Empire further contributed to disunion in the Church. Emperor Diocletian divided the administration of the eastern and western portions of the empire in the early 4th century, though subsequent leaders including Constantine aspired to and sometimes gained control of both regions.
Theodosius I , who established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, died in and was the last emperor to rule over a united Roman Empire; following his death, the division into western and eastern halves, each under its own emperor, became permanent. By the end of the 5th century, the Western Roman Empire had been overrun by the Germanic tribes, while the Eastern Roman Empire known also as the Byzantine Empire continued to thrive.
Thus, the political unity of the Roman Empire was the first to fall. In the West, the collapse of civil government left the Church practically in charge in many areas, and bishops took to administering secular cities and domains. In the East, however, imperial and, later, Islamic rule dominated the Eastern bishops of Byzantium. In the 4th century when the Roman emperors were trying to control the Church, theological questions were running rampant throughout the Roman Empire.
Theology was also used as a weapon against opponent bishops, since being branded a heretic was the only sure way for a bishop to be removed by other bishops. After Constantine built Constantinople, the centre of the empire was recognised to have shifted to the eastern Mediterranean. Rome lost the Senate to Constantinople and lost its status and gravitas as imperial capital. The bishops of Rome sent letters which, though largely ineffectual, provided historical precedents which were used by later supporters of papal primacy. These letters were known as ' decretals ' from at least the time of Siricius — to Leo I provided general guidelines to follow which later would become incorporated into canon law.
In the 4th century, the early process of Christianization of the various Germanic peoples was partly facilitated by the prestige of the Christian Roman Empire amongst European pagans. Until the decline of the Roman Empire , the Germanic tribes who had migrated there with the exceptions of the Saxons , Franks , and Lombards had converted to Christianity. Wulfila or Ulfilas was the son or grandson of Christian captives from Sadagolthina in Cappadocia.
In or , Wulfila became the first bishop of the Christian Goths. Between and , Wulfila translated the Bible into the Gothic language. The Armenian , Georgian and Ethiopian churches are the only instances of imposition of Christianity by sovereign rulers predating the council of Nicaea. Conversions happened among the Grecian-Roman-Celtic populations over centuries, mostly among its urban population and only spread to rural populations in much later centuries.
Consequently, while the initial converts were found among the Jewish populations, the development of the Orthodox Church as an aspect of State society occurred through the co-option of State Religion into the ethos of Christianity, and only then was conversion of the large rural population accomplished. The Germanic migrations of the 5th century were triggered by the destruction of the Gothic kingdoms by the Huns in — The great persecution fell upon the Christians in Persia about Though the religious motives were never unrelated, the primary cause of the persecution was political.
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When Rome became Christian, its old enemy turned anti-Christian. For the first three centuries [ clarification needed ] after Christ it was in the West that Christians were persecuted. The Parthians were too religiously tolerant to persecute, and their less tolerant Sassanian successors on the throne were too busy fighting Rome, so Persian emperors were inclined to regard them as friends of Persia. It was about that an ill-advised letter from Christian Emperor Constantine to his Persian counterpart Shapur II probably triggered the beginnings of an ominous change in the Persian attitude toward Christians.
Constantine believed he was writing to help his fellow believers in Persia but succeeded only in exposing them. He wrote to the young shah:. It was enough to make any Persian ruler conditioned by years of war with Rome suspicious of the emergence of a fifth column. Any lingering doubts must have been dispelled when about twenty years later when Constantine began to gather his forces for war in the East. Eusebius records that Roman bishops were prepared to accompany their emperor to " battle with him and for him by prayers to God whom all victory proceeds ".
When the persecutions began shortly thereafter, the first accusation brought against the Christians was that they were aiding the Roman enemy. The shah Shapur II's response was to order a double taxation on Christians and to hold the bishop responsible for collecting it. He knew they were poor and that the bishop would be hard-pressed to find the money. Bishop Simon refused to be intimidated.
He branded the tax as unjust and declared, " I am no tax collector but a shepherd of the Lord's flock. A second decree ordered the destruction of churches and the execution of clergy who refused to participate in the national worship of the sun. Bishop Simon was seized and brought before the shah and was offered gifts to make a token obeisance to the sun, and when he refused, they cunningly tempted him with the promise that if he alone would apostatize his people would not be harmed, but that if he refused he would be condemning not just the church leaders but all Christians to destruction.
At that, the Christians rose up and refused to accept such a deliverance as shameful. In , Simon was led outside the city of Susa along with a large number of Christian clergy. Five bishops and one hundred priests were beheaded before his eyes, and lastly he was put to death. Sometime before the death of Shapur II in , the intensity of the persecution slackened. Tradition calls it a forty-year persecution, lasting from — and ending only with Shapur's death.
When at last the years of suffering ended around , the historian Sozomen , who lived nearby, wrote that the multitude of martyrs had been "beyond enumeration". Several important factors help to explain the extensive growth in the Church of the East during the first twelve hundred years of the Christian era. Geographically, and possibly even numerically, the expansion of this church outstripped that of the church in the West in the early centuries.
The outstanding key to understanding this expansion is the active participation of the laymen — the involvement of a large percentage of the church's believers in missionary evangelism. Persecution strengthened and spread the Christian movement in the East. A great influx of Christian refugees from the Roman persecutions of the first two centuries gave vigour to the Mesopotamian church.
The persecutions in Persia caused refugees to escape as far as Arabia, India, and other Central Asian countries. Christianity penetrated Arabia from numerous points on its periphery. Northeastern Arabia flourished from the end of the 3rd to the end of the 6th and was apparently evangelized by Christians from the Tigris-Euphrates Valley in the 4th century. The kingdom of Ghassan on the northwest frontier was also a sphere of missionary activity. In fact, by many churches were also in existence along the Arabian shore of the Persian Gulf and in Oman, all connected with the Church of the East in the Persian Empire.
Arabian bishops were found among those in attendance at important church councils in Mesopotamia. The agents of missionary expansion in central Asia and the Far East were not only monks and clergy trained in the mesopotamian monastic schools, but also in many cases Christian merchants and artisans, often with considerable biblical training. They frequently found employment among people less advanced in education, serving in government offices and as teachers and secretaries and more advanced medical care.
They also helped to solve the problem of illiteracy by inventing simplified alphabets based on the Syriac language. Persecution often thrust Christians forth into new and unevangelized lands to find refuge. The dissemination of the gospel by largely Syriac-using people had its advantages, but it was also a hindrance to indigenizing the church in the new areas.
Because Syriac never became dominant, competition from ethnic religions was an issue. For these reasons of political vicissitude, in later centuries Christianity suffered an almost total eclipse in Asia until the modern period. The golden age of early missions in central Asia extended from the end of the fourth to the latter part of the 9th century. Christianity had an early and extensive dissemination throughout the vast territory north of Persia and west and East of the Oxus River. Cities like Merv , Herat and Samarkand had bishops and later became metropolitanates. Christians were found among the Hephthalite Huns from the 5th century, and the Mesopotamian patriarch assigned two bishops John of Resh-aina and Thomas the Tanner to both peoples, with the result that many were baptized.
They also devised and taught a written language for the Huns and with the help of an Armenian bishop, taught also agricultural methods and skills. Benedict of Nursia is the most influential of Western monks. He was educated in Rome but soon sought the life of a hermit in a cave at Subiaco , outside the city.
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He then attracted followers with whom he founded the monastery of Monte Cassino around , between Rome and Naples. In , he wrote his Rule of St Benedict as a practical guide for monastic community life. Its message spread to monasteries throughout Europe. They functioned as agricultural, economic and production centers as well as a focus for spiritual life. During this period the Visigoths and Lombards moved away from Arianism for Catholicism. Little is known about the origins of the first important monastic rule Regula in Western Europe, the anonymous Rule of the Master Regula magistri , which was written somewhere south of Rome around The rule adds legalistic elements not found in earlier rules, defining the activities of the monastery, its officers, and their responsibilities in great detail.
Irish monasticism maintained the model of a monastic community while, like John Cassian , marking the contemplative life of the hermit as the highest form of monasticism. Saints' lives frequently tell of monks and abbots departing some distance from the monastery to live in isolation from the community. Irish monastic rules specify a stern life of prayer and discipline in which prayer, poverty, and obedience are the central themes. Yet Irish monks did not fear pagan learning. Irish monks needed to learn Latin , which was the language of the Church. Thus they read Latin texts, both spiritual and secular.
By the end of the 7th century, Irish monastic schools were attracting students from England and from Europe. Columba and his followers established monasteries at Bangor , on the northeastern coast of Ireland, at Iona , an island north-west of Scotland, and at Lindisfarne , which was founded by Aidan, an Irish monk from Iona, at the request of King Oswald of Northumbria.
Columbanus , an abbot from a Leinster noble family, traveled to Gaul in the late 6th century with twelve companions. Columbanus and his followers spread the Irish model of monastic institutions established by noble families to the continent. A whole series of new rural monastic foundations on great rural estates under Irish influence sprang up, starting with Columbanus's foundations of Fontaines and Luxeuil , sponsored by the Frankish King Childebert II.
After Childebert's death Columbanus traveled east to Metz, where Theudebert II allowed him to establish a new monastery among the semi-pagan Alemanni in what is now Switzerland. One of Columbanus' followers founded the monastery of St.
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Gall on the shores of Lake Constance , while Columbanus continued onward across the Alps to the kingdom of the Lombards in Italy. There King Agilulf and his wife Theodolinda granted Columbanus land in the mountains between Genoa and Milan, where he established the monastery of Bobbio. As the political boundaries of the Western Roman Empire diminished and then collapsed, Christianity spread beyond the old borders of the empire and into lands that had never been Romanised. The Lombards adopted Catholicism as they entered Italy. Although Ireland had never been part of the Roman Empire, Christianity had come there and developed, largely independently from Celtic Christianity.
Christianity spread from Roman Britain to Ireland, especially aided by the missionary activity of Saint Patrick. Patrick had been captured into slavery in Ireland, and following his escape and later consecration as bishop, he returned to the isle to bring them the Gospel. The Irish monks had developed a concept of peregrinatio. Soon, Irish missionaries such as Columba and Columbanus spread this Christianity, with its distinctively Irish features, to Scotland and the continent. Although southern Britain had been a Roman province, in the imperial legions left the isle, and the Roman elite followed.
Some time later that century, various barbarian tribes went from raiding and pillaging the island to settling and invading. These tribes are referred to as the "Anglo-Saxons", predecessors of the English. They were entirely pagan, having never been part of the empire, and although they experienced Christian influence from the surrounding peoples, they were converted by the mission of St. Augustine sent by Pope Gregory I. The native inhabitants were persecuted until the Frankish King Clovis I converted from paganism to Roman Catholicism in Clovis insisted that his fellow nobles follow suit, strengthening his newly established kingdom by uniting the faith of the rulers with that of the ruled.
The Germanic peoples underwent gradual Christianization in the course of the Early Middle Ages , resulting in a unique form of Christianity known as Germanic Christianity. The East and West Germanic tribes were the first to convert through various means. However, it was not until the 12th century that the North Germanic peoples had Christianized.
In the polytheistic Germanic tradition it was even possible to worship Jesus next to the native gods like Wodan and Thor. Before a battle, a pagan military leader might pray to Jesus for victory, instead of Odin, if he expected more help from the Christian God. Clovis had done that before a battle against one of the kings of the Alamanni , and had thus attributed his victory to Jesus. Such utilitarian thoughts were the basis of most conversions of rulers during this period.
Cosmas Indicopleustes , navigator and geographer of the 6th century, wrote about Christians, bishops, monks, and martyrs in Yemen and among the Himyarites. It is unclear when Christianity reached Tibet , but it seems likely that it had arrived there by the 6th century. The ancient territory of the Tibetans stretched farther west and north than the present-day Tibet, and they had many links with the Turkic and Mongolian tribes of Central Asia. It seems likely that Christianity entered the Tibetan world around , the time of a remarkable conversion of the White Huns. A strong church existed in Tibet by the 8th century.
Carved into a large boulder at Tankse , Ladakh , once part of Tibet but now in India , are three crosses and some inscriptions. These inscriptions are of 19th century.