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Persecutions, Heresies and Growth Church History – 3 rd & 4 th Centuries.

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Presentation on theme: "Persecutions, Heresies and Growth Church History – 3 rd & 4 th Centuries."— Presentation transcript:

1 Persecutions, Heresies and Growth Church History – 3 rd & 4 th Centuries

2 Persecution By Rome Christians seen as atheists for having no visible gods Christians seen as ‘anti-social’ – haters of society, for not participating in pagan festivals Christians seen as secretive, unpermitted assemblies, Communion misinterpreted as literal cannibalism Many thought that Christian neglect of the ‘old gods that made Rome strong’ was causing the decay of the Roman Empire Lack of loyalty to the Emperor as a god and as Kurios – Lord of all the earth, would not bow to the Roman Standard

3 The Ten Persecutions The First Persecution, Under Nero, A.D The Second Persecution, Under Domitian, A.D. 81 The Third Persecution, Under Trajan, A.D. 108 The Fourth Persecution, Under Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, A.D. 162 The Fifth Persecution, Commencing with Severus, A.D. 192

4 Ten Persecutions cont’d The Sixth Persecution, Under Maximus, A.D. 235 The Seventh Persecution, Under Decius, A.D. 249 The Eighth Persecution, Under Valerian, A.D. 257 The Ninth Persecution Under Aurelian, A.D. 274 The Tenth Persecution, Under Diocletian, A.D. 303

5 Reactions To Persecution Some gave up being Christians and sacrificed to idols (apostasy) Some bribed the officials to give them certificates (libelli) saying they had sacrificed when in fact they had not done so. Others paid pagans or friends to sacrifice for them Others hid and fled the persecutions ‘flee to the hills’ Some volunteered themselves as martyrs believing that if they did so all their sins would be instantly forgiven Others did not volunteer for martyrdom but accepted it when it came to them Through martyrdom and the witness of the character of the Christians the Church grew mightily ‘the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church’ (Tertullian Apologeticus)

6 Theology of Persecution What to do with those who lapsed under pressure? Was volunteering for martyrdom a form of extremism? Could you commit (sometimes gross) sins prior to martyrdom and have them expunged by your death? Did the relics of the martyrs have spiritual power e.g. to drive out demons?

7 Types Of Apostasy Sacrificati Those who had actually offered a sacrifice to the idols. Christians that made sacrifices, especially to Roman gods, were only offered absolution on their deathbeds. Thurificati Those who had burnt incense on the altar before the statues of the gods. From Latin thurificare - "burn incense“ Libellatici Those who had drawn up attestation (libellus), or had, by bribing the authorities, caused such certificates to be drawn up for them, representing them as having offered sacrifice, without, however, having actually done so. A two year sanction was imposed as penance. From Latin libellus - "little book; letter; certificate“libellus Acta facientes Those that made false statements or other acts to save their lives. From Latin - "those doing the acts"

8 Traditors & Donatism Traditor, pl.traditores (lat), is a term meaning the one(s) who had handed over. This refers to bishops and other Christians who turned over sacred scriptures or betrayed their fellow Christians to the Roman authorities under threat of persecution. During the persecution of Diocletian between 303–305 A.D., many church leaders had gone as far as turning in Christians to the authorities and had handed over sacred religious texts to authorities to be burned. Later some traditors would be returned to positions of authority under Constantine, sparking a split with the Donatist movement.bishopssacred scripturesRoman authoritiesDiocletianburnedConstantine Donatist While many church members would eventually come to forgive the traditors, the Donatists were much less forgiving. They proclaimed that any sacraments celebrated by these priests and bishops were invalid. They refused to accept the sacraments and spiritual authority of the priests and bishops who had fallen away from the faith during the persecution. As a result, many towns were divided between Donatist and non-Donatist congregations.sacraments

9 Church Organization At first apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers – itinerant ministries that founded the churches and which held churches to a common faith Later – bishops, presbyters (elders) and deacons – locally based, administered the already established church in a particular city

10 Some Early Theologians Tertullian Clement Origen Read the section on pages “Tertullian and the Trinity” and discuss it in your groups

11 Arianism Jesus was created. The Son has a beginning but God is without beginning Saw the Trinity as pagan or “Sabellianism” (three gods, or one god in three modes) Arianism became popular and the dispute led to the Council of Nicea

12 The Holy Spirit? A spiritual force A creature? (e.g. an angel?) Or God? Much debate surrounded this issue as the Arians did not see the Holy spirit as God. Eventually ‘ the Cappadocian theologians’ defined this position, defeating the Arians and showing that the Holy Spirit was indeed God.


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