The First Century
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14 Augustus died on August 19.  On September 17, the Senate in Rome decreed that Augustus Caesar was one of the gods, and it named Tiberius emperor.  (If Luke 3.1 dates “the reign of Tiberius Caesar” from this year, his fifteenth year was 28/29 A.D.)

30, 33? Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

39/40 Philo of Alexandria (15/10 BC - 45/50) led an embassy of Jews from Alexandria to the emperor Caligula (37-41) in Rome.  The Jews of Alexandria were then the subject of a Roman pogrom, which Philo and his companions hoped to end.  Caligula, however, cut Philo off as he spoke.  Philo later told his fellow ambassadors that God would punish Caligula, who was soon assasinated.

Philo was a theologian who sought to harmonize Jewish theology with Greek (largely Platonic) philosophy.  Many ideas found in later Christian theology are present in Philo, though sometimes in a form unacceptable to the Church.  Philo taught that Greek philosophy had been plagiarized from Moses.  He believed that the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint, dating from the third century BC) was divinely inspired.  Philo referred to the Logos (the residence of the Platonic Ideas) as the first-begotten Son of God - though, in his view, the Logos was definitely below God, distinct from the Godhead.  He interpreted the theophanies of the Old Testament as appearances of the Logos (as for the Fathers they were Christophanies).  He stressed the allegorical interpretation of scripture, though this must be balanced.  With the later Eastern mystical theologians, Philo discussed the incomprehensibility of God in essence, and how knowledge of God can be attained in an ecstatic state.

In some ways, Philo was more akin to the Gnostics and Manichaeans.  For instance, like Plato, Philo viewed the body as the prison for the soul.  This reveals a distinctly non-Christian view of matter.

41 Jerusalem expanded.  New city walls were built, bringing the site of Jesus’ crucifixion within the city.

42James, the brother of John, was beheaded (Acts 12.2).

43 The emperor Claudius (41-54) conquered Britain.

Barnabas brought Saul to Antioch (Acts 11.25-26).

44 Death of Herod Agrippa I, King of Judea and Samaria (Acts 12.23).

45 The church in Antioch sent famine relief to the Christians of Judea by the hands of Saul and Barnabas (Acts 11.29).

47-49 First missionary journey of Saul and Barnabas (Acts 13-14).

49 According to the Roman historian Suetonius (70-122) in his The Twelve Caesars, Claudius “expelled the Jews from Rome since they rioted constantly at the instigation of Chrestus.”

49/50   The council of Jerusalem was held (Acts 15).  As a result, Gentiles were not required to be circumcised.

Death of Helena, queen mother of the kingdom of Adiabene, a Jewish state in northern Mesopotamia.  Adiabene was frequently allied with Persia in wars against Rome.

The emperor Claudius promoted the cult of the Great Mother (Magna Mater) of the Gods and her consort Attis.  The two had been introduced into the Roman pantheon around 200 B.C.

50 Paul’s second missionary journey began, with Silas (Acts 15.40).  Paul and Silas visited Philippi (Acts 16.11-40), meeting Lydia, the seller of purple, and being rescued from prison, with the consequent conversion of the Philippian jailor (Acts 16.33); Thessalonica, where there was a riot on their behalf (Acts 17.5); Boroea, where the Jews willingly examined the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah (Acts 17.11); Athens, where Paul preached in the Areopagus (Acts 17.22-31); Corinth, where he met Aquila and Priscilla, refugees because of Claudius’ expulsion of the Jews from Rome (Acts 18.2); and Ephesus, Caesarea, and Jerusalem before returning to Antioch (Acts 18.22).

51 Paul wrote the epistles to the Thessalonians, from Corinth.

53 Paul’s epistle to the Galatians written from Antioch (?).  Beginning of the third missionary journey.  Paul in Ephesus, 53-55/56.  (Acts 19)

55 Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, from Ephesus.

55/56 Paul departed Ephesus (Acts 20.1), visiting Macedonia and Corinth. 2Corinthians written from Macedonia.

57 Paul wrote Romans from Corinth.  Departed Greece (Acts 20.3), and after passing through Troas (Acts 20.7-12), and preaching to the presbyters of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20.18-35), came to Jerusalem (Acts 21.17), ending the third missionary journey.

57-59 Paul imprisoned in Caesarea (Acts 23.33-26.32), under Felix and Festus.

60 Paul arrived at Rome (Acts 28.16).

61/62 Paul wrote the epistles entitled Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians and Philippians.

62 According to tradition, James the Just, bishop of Jerusalem, was killed in the temple by an angry mob, apparently struck in the head with a sledgehammer.

Tradition has it Bartholomew was martyred in Kalyana, a city state on the west coast of India, near modern-day Bombay.  Bartholomew was skinned alive and crucified.

Paul tried and acquitted in Rome.

63-66 Paul traveled to Macedonia, Asia Minor, Crete, and possibly Spain.  1 Timothy and Titus written.

641st Persecution of Christians, under Nero.  When Rome burned for six days, Nero (54-68) blamed the Christians.  In 62, Nero had married Poppea Sabina, a proselyte to Judaism.  Of Nero’s persecution, Tacitus wrote, “First Nero had self-acknowledged Christians arrested.  Then, on their information, large numbers of others were condemned.  ...Their deaths were made farcical.  Dressed in wild animal’s skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be ignited after dark as substitutes for daylight.”  Suetonius was more succinct:  “Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.”

A third century legend has it that Simon Magus (Acts 8.9-24) and St. Peter had confrontations in Rome.  Simon, wishing to gain an advantage over Peter and to impress Claudius with his ability to fly, fell to his death from the top of the Roman Forum.

64 The church in Alexandria founded by St. Mark, the disciple of Peter.

64 Herod’s temple in Jerusalem completed.  See 20 BC and 66.

66Jewish rebellion began and war between the Romans and Jews ensued.  Jerusalem was taken in 70 and destroyed, as was Herod’s temple.  Later, in the second century, Justin Martyr would teach that this destruction was the judgment of God upon a nation that had rejected its Messiah and failed to discern that, under the new dispensation, the temple sacrifices were abrogated.

67 Some date the book of Revelation to this year.  Most place it toward the end of Diocletian’s reign (81-96).

Paul’s second trial in Rome. 2 Timothy written.

66 First known public reference to Mithraism in Rome.  King Tiridates of Armenia visited Nero in Rome.  To Nero he said, “I have come to thee, my god, to worship thee as I do Mithras.”

67/68 St. Paul martyred on the road from Rome to Ostia.  Beheaded by the sword.  About this same time St. Peter also martyred, crucified upside down.

69 According to tradition, St. Andrew was crucified in Patrae, on the Peloponnesus peninsula.

69Ignatius became bishop of Antioch in Syria. 

69Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, was born.  He died in around 157.  Irenaeus stated that Polycarp had known St. John at Ephesus.  Polycarp was martyred and was noted for doing nothing to provoke the authorities, but waiting quietly for them to come arrest him.  Irenaeus wrote, “Polycarp also was not only instructed by the Apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also by Apostles in Asia, ordained Bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, having always taught the things which he had learned from the Apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true.”

70  Near this date, R. Jochanan ben Zaccai founded a rabbinical school in Jamnia (Palestine). 

Matthew and Mark’s gospels were probably written shortly after this year.  Luke’s gospel may have been composed as late as 80.

72 Tradition has it Thomas was stabbed to death by Brahman priests in Mylapore, India.

79 According to tradition, Jude and Simon were torn apart by a Persian mob after this date.  Simon had joined forces with Jude after a trip to Britain.  Jude had been in Armenia.

80 The Coliseum at Rome opened.

90 The Jewish Synod of Jamnia established the Hebrew canon, the modern Protestant Old Testament.  Esther, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, and Ezekiel were nearly left out of the canon, while Sirach was a strong but unsuccessful contender for inclusion.  Rabbis at Jamnia also articulated the theory that every letter in the Hebrew has a meaning.  It is thought by many that, as a natural consequence of this view of scripture, a standard text was chosen around this time and non-standard readings were suppressed.

The language of the early church was Greek, and the version of the Old Testament in use among both Christians and Jews of the diaspora was the Septuagint.  The Septuagint contains books (sometimes termed “the Apocrypha”) not included in the Jamnian canon.  As the Septuagint’s prophecies of the Messiah frequently were used polemically by Christians, the translation fell out of favor among the Jews.  In time, non-Palestinian Jews accepted the decisions of Jamnia.  New translations of the Old Testament scriptures were made based on the Jamnian standard text.

90 According to tradition, Philip was crucified upside down (like Peter) in Hierapolis, Asia Minor.  (Some say that Philip the apostle and Philip the evangelist were two distinct individuals, and it was Philip the evangelist who was buried at Hierapolis.)

90 According to Hippolytus, Matthew died a natural death, in Hierees, Persia.

92Clement elected bishop of Rome.  Served through 100.  He wrote a letter to the Corinthian congregation which had deposed its old clergy and replaced them with new men.  He asked that they retain the former clergy on the grounds that these stood in due succession from the apostles.  “The Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that contentions would arise about the office of the Episcopate; and for this reason, being endued with perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those already mentioned, and handed down a succession, so that when they should depart, other approved men should succeed to their ministry.”  (~97.)

In 2 Clement, which may be a second century document, it is written, “Brethren, we ought so to think of Jesus Christ as of God ... for if we think meanly of him, we shall hope only to receive some small things from him.”

93 2nd Persecution of Christians, under Domitian (81-96).  The apostle John banished to Patmos.

Flavius Josephus (37/38-100) published his Antiquities of the Jews.  Book 18 refers to Jesus Christ.  Scholars believe the statement was tampered with by Christians at a later date, because it refers to Christ as divine.  Josephus had been a leader of troops against the Romans in Galilee during the war (66-70).  When captured, he predicted that Vespasian would become emperor, a move that saved his life.  Josephus wrote a history of the war, and, because of the favoritism he received from the Roman emperors, was detested by his fellow Jews as a traitor.

100 Around this time St. John died at Patmos.  (Eusebius, Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria agree that John lived into the reign of Trajan, which began in 98.)  The Didache, written in this era, indicates worship was on Sunday:  “Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one.”  Note also the implication that the communion was regarded as a sacrifice.

100? Around this time the heretic Cerinthus flourished.  He taught that the world was made, not by God himself, but by a lower being.  He also claimed that Jesus was simply the natural son of Joseph and Mary, and that a separate supernatural being, the Christ, came upon Jesus at his baptism and departed at his crucifixion.  According to the third century bishop Dionysius of Alexandria, “the doctrine he taught was this: that the kingdom of Christ will be an earthly one.”  Cerinthus “was himself devoted to the pleasures of the body and altogether sensual in his nature.”  In Dionysius’ day, some claimed that Cerinthus wrote the book of Revelation.