The Third Century
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201 A flood destroyed the Christian church in Edessa.
202 6th Persecution of the Church, under Septimius Severus (198-211). Leonides, the father of Origen (see 211 below) was martyred and his property confiscated.
Alban, a Roman soldier, killed in Verulamium during this persecution, in 209. First British martyr. Executed for sheltering a Christian priest.
203 Perpetua, her slave girl Felicitas and four male slaves martyred at Carthage, killed by wild beasts. All but one had been catechumens when arrested and were baptized in prison. Felicitas gave birth there. Perpetua and one male slave, Saturus, experienced visions while imprisoned.
210 Minucius Felix, a North African, wrote his Octavius. An apology for the Christian faith, the Octavius is noted for its excellent Latin.
211 Origen “Adamantius” became head of the catechetical school in Alexandria. He left the school in 232 or 233. Born in Alexandria around 185, Origen had been taught by Ammonius Saccas, the same person who later taught Plotinus (see 244 below). Many speculate that Ammonius was the originator of Neoplatonism. Later, Origen had been instructed by Clement of Alexandria. Origen died in Tyre in 253 or 254. His death was largely due to the harsh treatment he received in prison in Tyre during the Decian persecutions (from about 249).
Origin compiled the Hexapla, six translations of the Old Testament in parallel columns including the Hebrew, a transliteration of the Hebrew into Greek, and the four main Greek versions. He considered the Old Testament canon to consist of those books in the Greek Bible, but since this included books not available in Hebrew, Origen advised that the additional scriptures not be cited in disputations with the Jews. His method of interpreting scriptures was largely allegorical and conveyed spiritual truth -- the literal sense was of little moment to him. Like Clement, he rejected a literal millennium.
He believed that all souls existed before they united with the flesh. All souls but one fell away from God; and it was this one faithful soul that God chose to unite with his Logos to form the Son of Man. Origen believed in the freedom of the will, and did not exclude the possibility that the redeemed may fall away, even in heaven. On the other hand, Origen held that the devil himself will be saved. Many of his views, particularly on the pre-existence of souls and universal redemption, were condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553. Eusebius of Caesarea later reported that Origen had castrated himself, but Origen’s own commentaries on Matthew’s gospel make that seem very unlikely.
Origen was opposed to Monarchianism, either in its modalistic form, or in the view that the Son was simply a holy man filled to a unique degree with the Spirit. He taught that while the Father and the Son are one in power and will, they are two distinct realities (similar to Justin’s Logos theology). They are distinct as the archetype and the flawless image. But, in Origen, the Son is lower in being than the Father and is subordinate to him. The Son is begotten, not made, and his generation is eternal, not in time. He is the mediator between the created world and the Supreme Father.
Origen insisted Mary needed redemption from her sins, like all other humans. Unlike Tertullian, he believed Mary remained a virgin for the rest of her life. He believed Jesus’ brothers are Joseph’s sons, not hers.
About words: Much of the debate concerning the Trinity and Christology centered on the meaning of the words hypostasis and ousia. They were synonyms originally, the former Stoic and the latter Platonic, meaning real existence or essence. But Origen frequently used hypostasis in the sense of individual subsistence or individual existent.
In his Commentary on Romans, written between 233 and 244, Origen wrote, “It is also due to this [hereditary sin] that the church has a tradition from the apostles to give baptism even to infants.”
Origen’s interpretation of Mt 16.17-18 is at variance with papal claims to supremacy over the church. Origen saw the Rock as Christ (1 Cor 10.4), and all who have faith in Christ like Peter as ‘rocks.’ According to Ep 2.2, all the apostles (and the prophets) are the foundation on which the church is built.
Eusebius reported (Book VI, Chapter 33) that Origen was instrumental in correcting the Christology of Beryllus, the bishop of Bostra in Arabia. Beryllus’ teachings had occasioned discussion with other bishops and eventually resulted in a conference, which Origen attended. Apparently, Beryllus had taught that the Son did not exist before his human life and did not possess divinity of his own.
Origen both stated that The Book of Enoch (1 Enoch) did not “circulate in the Churches as divine” (Against Celcus, Book V, Chapter LIV) and quoted it as Scripture (De Principiis, Book IV, 35).
211 Apollonius, an opponent of Montanism, flourished.
212 Full citizenship extended to all free inhabitants of the empire.
216 The emperor Caracalla (211-217) took vengeance on the city of Alexandria. His wrath was fiercest against the literary community there, because of certain sarcastic verses that had been written about him for murdering his brother Geta.
217 Callistus (217-222) became bishop of Rome, to Hippolytus’s horror. At some time and in some fashion that is now obscure to us, Hippolytus was also ordained bishop of Rome - speaking in an anachronistic manner, he was an “anti-pope.” Yet he was, soon after his martyrdom, considered a saint of the Church.
The Monarchian controversy continued. Tertullian, in Africa, argued that God is one substance consisting in three persons (terminology eventually adopted by most of the church).
Callistus was the first bishop of Rome known to have quoted the “Rock” passage in Matthew as applicable to his own office, around the year 220. Some believe that Tertullian’s On Modesty was written as a response to an order by Callistus that penance be imposed on those who committed sexual sins, in preparation for their restoration to communion. Writing as a Montanist, Tertullian was opposed to their restoration, and in On Modesty he put an argument based on Mt. 16.18 into Callistus’ mouth. Tertullian did not have Callistus claiming a primacy over the church, however, but simply that bishops (“every Church akin to Peter”) had the power to forgive sins. Tertullian argued that this power was personal, belonging to Peter alone. The interpretation of the passage was further developed by Siricius (384/5).
220 Around this date, Hippolytus established the date of Christ’s birth as Dec. 25 (see 198). In the East, January 6 was the date assigned for this event. The East adopted the Western view during the fourth century.
cult of the Syrian sun god Sol to Rome in around this year.
Hippolytus introduced a method for computing the date of Pascha
(Easter) that involved a 112-year cycle.
222 Julius Africanus went on an embassy to the emperor Severus to gain his support for the building of Nicopolis in Palestine (formerly Emmaus). Africanus is best known for his chronology, in which he states that the time from Adam to the sixteenth year of Tiberius (29/30 A.D.) is 5531 years. It would thus seem that 1 A.D. is year of the world 5501 in Julius’ chronology. Nevertheless, the chronographer George Synkellos (see 808-10) stated that Africanus dated the creation of the world to 1 A.M. (anno mundi, year of the world -- 5501 B.C.), the Flood to 2262 A.M. (3240 B.C.), the Exodus to 3707 A.M. (1795 B.C.), the Incarnation to 5500 A.M. (2 B.C.), and the crucifixion to 5531 A.M. (30 A.D.).
Africanus was also architect for the library Severus built in the Pantheon in Rome, completed in around 227, and he corresponded with Origen, arguing that the book of Susanna (included in the Septuagint text of Daniel) was spurious.
Papyrus 45: 1st
(Caesarean), Acts (Alexandrian):
967: Chester Beatty
230 From about this year, the bishops of Rome were interred in the Catacomb of San Callisto (“the crypt of the popes”) on the Appian Way.
231 A private house in the city of Dura-Europas on the Euphrates was adapted for Christian worship. This is the earliest known example of a church with religious pictures on the walls. The art appears to have been influenced by similar work in a synagogue in the same city. Depicted on frescoes are Adam and Eve, the Good Shepherd and his flock, the Samaritan woman at the well, Christ walking on the water, the raising of Lazarus, the resurrection of Christ, the healing of the paralytic and David’s victory over Goliath.
232 Dionysius, later to become bishop of Alexandria, succeeded Heraclus as head of the catechetical school in Alexandria.
235 Persecution under the emperor Maximin (235-238). At this time, the bishop of Rome, Pontian, and Hippolytus were exiled to Sardinia. Pontian died soon thereafter, and Hippolytus in about 238.
240 The Pythian games had been introduced into many cities of the Roman Empire by this year. These were athletic contests held every four years in honor of Apollo, and were originally associated with the oracle at Delphi.
241 End of the records of the Fratres Arvales. This was a pagan priesthood or college in Rome which offered annual sacrifices for the fertility of farmlands.
a school in Rome. Plotinus’ philosophy emphasized the
of God, and His incomprehensibility (due to His simplicity). Nous
is emanated from God and contains ideas of both classes and
The two Souls (corresponding to Plato’s World Soul) proceed from the
[The interpretation of Plotinus which sees Nous and Soul as emanated
been questioned by modern philosophers - in particular, see Lloyd
Material creation exists at the bottom of this chain and is the
of evil. Curiously, Plotinus criticized the Gnostics for their
for material reality, considering it worthy of high value as the image
of intelligible reality. Plotinus taught that the soul can rise
union with God through purification, the rejection of sense perception
in favor of philosophy and science, a stage which is beyond discursive
thought, and a final stage of mystical union which is beyond
Vladimir Lossky points out that whereas Plotinus viewed union as
and the removal of distinction, Christian mysticism sees God’s
as due not to His simplicity, but as absolute, and thus union with God
is a “going forth from being as such.” Plotinus died in 269 or
His chief disciple was Porphyry, a critic of Christianity, who offered
Neoplatonism as a cultured alternative to Christianity among the upper
247 The 1000th year of Rome celebrated.
247 Dionysius, a former pupil of Origen, became bishop of Alexandria (247-64).
Late in this year or
in Alexandria initiated a persecution of Christians in
Some historians theorize that this spontaneous persecution may have
caused by the emperor Philip’s (244-49) unpopular tax reform, and his
association with Christians: Philip purportedly attended Holy Week
at Antioch, where bishop Babylas had him stand among the penitents.
248 Cyprian, a lawyer who converted to Christianity in 246, became bishop of Carthage. His rapid elevation to the episcopate aroused opposition, led by Novatus, a presbyter. Novatus arranged to have Felicissimus, a deacon, ordained as bishop of Carthage. Felicissimus tended to be more lenient than Cyprian toward those who lapsed during persecution.
249 In around this year, a council in Smyrna determined that heretics must be rebaptized before they could enter the Church.
249-51 7th Persecution of the Church, under the emperor Decius (249-251). The bishops of Rome (Fabian (236-50)), Antioch (Babylas), and Jerusalem were martyred.
Decius killed the emperor Philip in 249, then, by mid-December of that year, promulgated an edict requiring sacrifice to the gods. It is possible that Decius was distancing himself from Philip’s pro-Christian stance, thus demonstrating his loyalty to the empire’s traditional sacred rites. He required that everyone possess a certificate proving he had sacrificed to the gods (Jews, however, were excepted from this requirement, and from the edict requiring sacrifice). Many Christians either sacrificed or purchased certificates of sacrifice from commissioners, which some consider just as bad.
250 In about this year, Babylas, bishop of the church in Antioch, was martyred.
250 In a letter to Paul of Samasota, Dionysius of Alexandria frequently referred to “the Theotokos Mary (h qeotokoV Maria ).”
Diophantos of Alexandria flourished around this year. He was the first to introduce symbolism into algebra.
250? Papyrus 72: Bodmer 5-11+, pub. 1959, “Alexandrian” text-type: Nativity of Mary; 3Cor; Odes of Solomon 11; Jude 1-25; Melito’s Homily on Passover; Hymn fragment; Apology of Phileas; Ps 33,34; 1Pt 1:1-5:14; 2Pt 1:1-3:18; Jude 1-25
Papyrus 77: Mt 23:30-39
Gn 24:13-46:33, Enoch 91-105;
The uncial 0189: Ac 5:3-21
250 Gothic raids into Asia minor.
251 A plague, most likely measles, arrived in the western Roman empire. It continued for about 15 years, though the worst was over by 260. At one point 5000 people died of measles a day in Rome.
251 Two rival candidates vied for the vacant see of Rome. Novatian, a priest who had been prominent in the church since Fabian’s death, held that the church cannot forgive or accept those guilty of murder, adultery or apostasy. Cornelius, (251-53, reportedly a less capable man) held that the bishop could remit even grave sin. Novatian’s view was foreshadowed by that of Hippolytus and Tertullian against Callistus (see 217). Cornelius had precedence in Paul’s treatment of the incestuous Corinthian and in Irenaeus’ view that an adulterous Christian woman could be restored by repentance.
won the election
an election by the congregation), and the followers of Novation formed
their own communities, which eventually withered away. Cyprian of
Carthage, after initial hesitation, ended in communion with
In his On the Unity of the Catholic Church, written on behalf of Cornelius, Cyprian interpreted Matthew 16.18 as giving no special privilege to Peter. In his view, Christ singles Peter out as a symbol of unity. The other apostles were exactly what Peter was. Cyprian himself was constantly entitled, “Most glorious and most blessed Pope.”
Cyprian referred to him as “brother,” as did Cornelius in reply.
The bishops of Rome did not begin calling their fellow bishops “sons”
Letter XL, Cyprian
had a role in the election of bishops: “nor shall we cease to command
to lay aside their pernicious dissensions and disputes, and to be aware
that it is an impiety to forsake their Mother; and to acknowledge and
that when a bishop is once made and approved by the testimony and
of his colleagues and the people, another can by no means be
This is from a letter to Cornelius, newly elected bishop of Rome, in
Cyprian described how he dealt with the followers of Novatian.
also Letter LI.
at least, enjoyed a
as bishop: “Since I have made it a rule from the beginning of my
episcopate not to decide things on my own account without consulting
[the presbyters] and having the agreement of the people.”
In a work entitled The Lapsed, Cyprian recounted the story of a young (nursing) Christian girl who was made to partake of a pagan sacrifice. Thereafter, the girl was no longer physically able to keep down the bread and wine of the eucharist. This is early evidence of paedocommunion.
a false bishop
by heretics, they dare even to set sail and carry letters from
and blasphemers to the chair of Peter and to the principal Church, in
sacerdotal unity has its source; nor did they take thought that these
Romans, whose faith was praised by the preaching Apostle, and among
it is not possible for perfidy to have entrance. …For, as it has
been decreed by all of us - and is equally fair and just -that the case
of every one should be heard there where the crime has been committed;
and a portion of the flock has been assigned to each individual pastor,
which he is to rule and govern, having to give account of his doing to
the Lord; it certainly behooves those over whom we are placed not to
about nor to break up the harmonious agreement of the bishops with
crafty and deceitful rashness, but there to plead their cause, where
may be able to have both accusers and witnesses of their crime…”
St. Cyprian, Letter to Cornelius of Rome, LIV,14.
251 In May, Cyprian of Carthage presided over a council of African bishops held in Carthage. The council dealt with the question of how to deal with Christians who had sacrificed to idols or who had procured certificates (libelli) proving they had done so. The council determined that those who had sacrificed were to do extended penance, and to be readmitted to communion on their deathbeds. Those who procured libelli were also to do penance for varying periods. (Cyprian had gone into hiding during the Decian persecution. In his absence, some of those who had stood firm in the church (the “confessors”) reconciled those who had apostasized on relatively easy terms.) The council also condemned Felicissimus, the rival bishop of Carthage.
plague struck North
feared that this would be interpreted by the pagans that “the gods”
angered and would lead to a renewal of Decius’ persecution.
In May, Cyprian presided over a council of 66 bishops in
Carthage. One question before the
council is obscure, but the council determined that the mercy and the
grace of God is
not to be refused to anyone born of man. Later,
Cyprian responded to a query from Fidus, a rural
asked whether infant baptism should be delayed until the eighth day. Cyprian replied that there should be no
delay. He saw no reason to run the risk
of the child’s eternal damnation. Fidus
seems to have been motivated to delay baptism because of the impure
of newborn infants! (Epistle
From the epistle: “But
if anything could hinder men from obtaining grace, their
more heinous sins might rather hinder those who are mature and grown up
older. But again, if even to the
greatest sinners and to those who had sinned much against God, when
subsequently believed, remission of sins is granted – and nobody is
from baptism and from grace – how much rather ought we to shrink from
an infant who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being
after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted
the contagion of
the ancient death through his very birth, and he comes,
therefore, the more
easily to the reception of the remission of sins in that it is not his
the sins of another that are remitted.” Infant communion, as
well, was the custom at Carthage.
The larger question the council faced was again how to deal with Christians who had sacrificed to idols or who had procured certificates (libelli) proving they had done so. The council determined “that peace is to be given to those who have not withdrawn from the Church of the Lord, but have not ceased from the first day of their lapse to repent, and to lament, and to beseech the Lord” (Letter 53, from the bishops to “to Cornelius their brother”). The council thought this course wise given the probability of renewed persecution under the emperor Gallus (251-53).
Rome. Stephen was a member of the Julian family. He
decided that Spanish congregations in Merida and Leon should receive as
their bishop one who had lapsed during Decius’ persecution. The
congregations appealed from Stephen to Cyprian of Carthage (bishop
Cyprian called a council which decided in favor of the Spanish.
When the Novatianist bishop of Arles refused to give the sacraments to the lapsed who had later repented, Stephen failed to act against him. The bishop of Lyons wrote to Cyprian about the matter, and Cyprian asked Stephen to excommunicate the bishop of Arles. Stephen resented Cyprian’s interference.
255 A compilation on the bishops of Rome, known as the Liberian Catalogue, had been written by this time.
255? Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, met with the presbyters and teachers of the Church in the district of Arsinoe for three consecutive days to discuss chiliasm. A certain Coracion, under the influence of a bishop Nepos of Egypt, had been the chief local proponent of a “millennium of bodily luxury upon this earth” [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 7.24]. After the discussion, Coracion confessed himself to have been in error and completely convinced by the arguments presented against chiliasm.
Dionysius later wrote a book entitled On the Promises, directed against Nepos’ teachings, which presented his own view that Revelation was not written by John the Beloved. Dionysius stated that some reject the book, “pronouncing it without sense or argument,” and claim that Cerinthus the heretic was its author, but that he himself could not reject it, “as many brethren hold it in high esteem.” He added, “I do not reject what I cannot comprehend.”
256 Cyprian held a council of 86 bishops in September of this year which held that baptism performed by the Novatianists was ineffective. (This was the third council on this topic, the first having been held in the autumn of 255.) Stephen of Rome argued against Cyprian in favor of the validity of baptism administered by wicked persons. To bolster his authority, Stephen invoked the “Thou art Peter...” text to affirm his position as Peter’s successor (the first time this was done -- but see Callistus above and Siricius, 384/5 below). (The attribution of such a statement to Stephen was clearly made by Firmilian, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, in a letter to Cyprian (Epistle 74).) Cyprian held a different opinion: “In the person of one man he gave the keys to all, that he might denote the unity of all; the rest, therefore, were the same that Peter was, being admitted to an equal participation in honor and power, but a beginning is made from unity that the church of Christ may be shown to be one.”
bishop of Rome,
to Judas, complained of his “audacity and pride,” and ridiculed his
to be the “successor of Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church
Book 6, section 15 of the Apostolic Constitutions agrees with Cyprian’s council of 256. “Nor indeed are those who are baptized by them initiated, but they are polluted, not receiving the remission of sins, but the bond of impiety.”
256 The Franks crossed the Rhine.
256 The Persians under Shapur I sacked Antioch in Syria.
257 8th Persecution of the Church, under Valerian (253-259). Edicts were published demanding outward conformity with paganism and Christians were forbidden to hold worship services, under penalty of death. In 258, Valerian began to put the clergy to death - St. Cyprian was martyred in that year. He also attacked prominent laymen, but remitted the death penalty in exchange for a denial of Christ. The persecution continued through 260. Given the troubles of the day, Valerian had sought to foretell the future via human sacrifice and other rites. When his efforts failed, blame fell on the Christians within the imperial family. Thus, his desire to restore the efficacy of pagan religious efforts motivated Valerian’s persecution.
257 On August 30, the proconsul Aspasius Paterus sent Cyprian into exile at Curubis (Kurba) on the Gulf of Hammamet.
258 On June 29 of this year, the remains of Sts. Peter and Paul were transferred to the ad Catacumbos on the Appian way. The feast of Saints Peter and Paul in the Roman calendar dates from this year and commemorates this event.
258 Cyprian was brought back from exile, tried, and executed.
258 Xystus II (Sixtus II), bishop of Rome (257-58), was arrested while saying mass in the catacombs. He was executed, along with his deacons. As he was being arrested, Xystus charged St. Lawrence with care of the poor. Lawrence was subsequently arrested himself. In prison, he converted a baptised a blind man, pouring water from a vessel three times over the man’s body. The blind man was healed. Lawrence, refusing to sacrifice to idols, was burned with hot irons, beaten, and laid on a hot iron sheet, where he died.
258 The Alemanni pushed through the Alps into the Po River valley. As a result, Verona, Como and Aquileia were fortified with stone from tombs.
From this year, a
feast of Peter and Paul
was celebrated in Rome on June 29.
258 Bishop Anatolius of Laodicea
published the first known Paschal (Easter) table used in the East to be
based on the 19-year Metonic cycle.
259 Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, became involved in a dispute in Libya between adherents of the Logos theology (see above, year 189) and some modalistic Monarchians. Dionysius argued that the Son and the Father are as different as a boat and a boatman, and denied they are of the same substance. The Libyans appealed to Dionysius of Rome (260-68), who assembled a synod to consider the issue. He rebuked the Sabellians and those who separate the Godhead into three gods or consider the Son a creature or work. In his Defense of the Nicene Definition, Athanasius quotes Dionysius of Alexandria to say, “And I have written in another letter a refutation of that false charge they bring against me, that I deny that Christ was one in essence with God.” Dionysius did repent of using the expressions “the Son was made,” and that “He is not eternal.”
Writing against the Sabellians, Dionysius of Rome gave the following exposition of the Trinity:
“Next, I may reasonably turn to those who divide and cut to pieces and destroy that most sacred doctrine of the Church of God, the Divine Monarchy, making it as it were three powers and partitive subsistences and god-heads three. I am told that some among you who are catechists and teachers of the Divine Word, take the lead in this tenet, who are diametrically opposed, so to speak, to Sabellius’s opinions; for he blasphemously says that the Son is the Father, and the Father the Son, but they in some sort preach three Gods, as dividing the sacred Monad into three subsistences foreign to each other and utterly separate. For it must needs be that with the God of the Universe, the Divine Word is united, and the Holy Ghost must repose and habitate in God; thus in one as in a summit, I mean the God of the Universe, must the Divine Triad be gathered up and brought together. For it is the doctrine of the presumptuous Marcion, to sever and divide the Divine Monarchy into three origins, - a devil’s teaching, not that of Christ’s true disciples and lovers of the Savior’s lessons, for they know well that a Triad is preached by divine Scripture, but that neither Old Testament nor New preaches three Gods. Equally must one censure those who hold the Son to be a work, and consider that the Lord has come into being, as one of things which really came to be; whereas the divine oracles witness to a generation suitable to Him and becoming, but not to any fashioning or making. A blasphemy then is it, not ordinary, but even the highest, to say that the Lord is in any sort a handiwork. For if He came to be Son, once He was not; but He was always, if (that is) He be in the Father, as He says Himself, and if the Christ be Word and Wisdom and Power (which, as ye know, divine Scripture says), and these attributes be powers of God. If then the Son came into being, once these attributes were not; consequently there was a time, when God was without them; which is most absurd. And why say more on these points to you, men full of the Spirit and well aware of the absurdities which come to view from saying that the Son is a work? Not attending, as I consider, to this circumstance, the authors of this opinion have entirely missed the truth, in explaining, contrary to the sense of divine and prophetic Scripture in the passage, the words, ‘The Lord created me a beginning of His ways unto His works. (Prov. 8.22)’ For the sense of ‘He created,’ as ye know, is not one, for we must understand ‘He created’ in this place, as ‘He set over the works made by Him,’ that is, ‘made by the Son Himself.’ And ‘He created’ here must not be taken for ‘made,’ for creating differs from making. ‘Is not He thy Father that hath bought thee? hath He not made thee and created thee? (Dt. 32.6)’ says Moses in his great song in Deuteronomy. And one may Say to them, O reckless men, is He a work, who is ‘the First-born of every creature, who is born from the womb before the morning star, (Col. 1.15 and Psalm 110.3)’ who said, as Wisdom, ‘Before all the hills He begets me? (Prov. 8.25)’ And in many passages of the divine oracles is the Son said to have been generated, but nowhere to have come into being; which manifestly convicts those of misconception about the Lord’s generation, who presume to call His divine and ineffable generation a making. Neither then may we divide into three Godheads the wonderful and divine Monad; nor disparage with the name of ‘work’ the dignity and exceeding majesty of the Lord; but we must believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Christ Jesus His Son, and in the Holy Ghost, and hold that to the God of the universe the Word is united. For ‘I,’ says He, ‘and the Father are one;’ and, ‘I in the Father and the Father in Me.’ For thus both the Divine Triad, and the holy preaching of the Monarchy, will be preserved.”
260 The emperor Valerian taken prisoner by the Persian emperor Shapur I. The prince of Palmyra (who had gained independence after Valerian’s defeat) seized control of the Eastern provinces of the empire until 272, when they were regained by the emperor Aurelian.
260 Paul of Samosata became bishop of Antioch in Syria. He disdained the Logos theology, and spoke of Jesus as a mere man who was uniquely inspired at his baptism (Adoptionism). In his view, the Word and the Spirit were manifestations of the Father. According to Simeon of Beit Arsam, Paul had said, “I too, if I wish, shall be Christ since I and Christ are of one and the same nature.” Theodore of Mopsuestia quoted Paul as follows: “I do not envy Christ because he has been made God. For what he was made, I was made, since it is in my nature.” It was reported that at Antioch psalms were sung in praise of Paul rather than of God.
Paul was condemned by a synod in Antioch in 268 (264?) presided over by Helenus, bishop of Tarsus. Dionysius of Alexandria and Firmilius of Caesarea were invited to attend the synod. Paul held onto his power because he was favored by the Palmyra government. When Aurelian (270-75) regained control of the Eastern provinces, he declared the church building to be the legal property of whomever the bishops of Italy and Rome should decide. It appears that Aurelian’s concern was loyalty on the part of the Antiochian bishop, and he chose to employ the bishop of Rome to guarantee that loyalty. Paul has been viewed as the ancestor of Arianism.
Gregory Thaumaturgus (213-270) was present at the council which condemned Paul of Samosata. Though a student of Origen, Gregory’s view of the Trinity was orthodox. His Exposition of Faith is considered a forerunner of the Nicene Creed:
“There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is His subsistent Wisdom and Power and Eternal Image: perfect Begetter of the perfect Begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son. There is one Lord, Only of the Only, God of God, Image and Likeness of Deity, Efficient Word, Wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and Power formative of the whole creation, true Son of one Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal, and Eternal of Eternal. And there is One Holy Spirit, having His subsistence from God, and being made manifest by the Son, to wit to men: Image of the Son, Perfect Image of the Perfect; Life, the Cause of the Living; Holy Fount; Sanctity, the Supplier, or Leader, of Sancitification; in whom is manifested God the Father, who is above all and in all, and God the Son, who is through all. There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abideth ever.”
261 The emperor Gallenius proclaimed toleration for Christians by edict. This, in response to petitions from Christian bishops, also restored confiscated churches and cemeteries. Before this time, churches could not own property, since Christianity was illegal. Churches now began to receive money and property bequeathed in wills.
262 The temple of Artemis in Ephesus destroyed by Gothic invaders.
262/3 Porphyry became a disciple of Plotinus in Rome about this year. He arranged Plotinus’ writings into six books of nine chapters each, the Enneads. Porphyry placed great stress on Plotinus’ doctrine of salvation as an ascetic process involving turning one’s attention from the lower to the higher, ending in the knowledge of God. Porphyry stressed the need for asceticism - abstinence from meat, celibacy, avoidance of frivolous entertainment, etc. Porphyry also wrote fifteen books against Christianity, answered by Methodius, Eusebius of Caesarea, and others, and burned in 448. Socrates, the fifth century church historian, states that Porphyry was an apostate from Christianity.
268 The Juthurigi and the Alemanni advanced to within 70 miles of Rome in this year, and again in 270. In consequence, a high wall was built around Rome.
269 The Goths invaded the Balkans. Romans defeated them at Naissus.
270 Goths were permitted to settle in Dacia (that is, the territory north of the Danube). The emperor Aurelian withdrew Roman rule from Dacia.
274 Born in southern Babylonia, Mani (216-274) died after being imprisoned by the Persian emperor, Bahram I, at the instigation of Zoroastrian priests. Mani was the founder of Manichaeanism, a religion which was to rival Christianity for adherents, reaching Rome early in the fourth century. A gnostic religion, Manichaeanism held that matter is intrinsically evil, the prison of the soul. Salvation was through gnosis, an inner illumination in which the soul gained knowledge of God. The righteous went to paradise at death, but the wicked (those who procreate, own possessions, drink wine, etc.) are reborn. Good and evil were independent principles, and both were held to continue indefinitely.
274-5 The Emperor Aurelian (270-75) promoted Sun worship as the official cult of the empire.
275? Papyrus 47: 3rd Chester Beatty, ~Sinaiticus, Rv9:10-11:3,5-16:15,17- 17:2
283 A fifteen-year-old girl named Pelagia, living in Antioch, threw herself off a rooftop to preserve her virginity.
284 Diocletian became emperor. Ruled through 305, when he abdicated.
286 St. Anthony (251-356) began the first monastic community, in Egypt.
286 On February 6, Julian of Homs (Emessa) was martyred. A Christian physician, Julian slipped into prison to attend to Bishop Silouan and two disciples, who had been imprisoned and tortured for forty days. Julian’s activity was reported to his father, as a staunch pagan, who turned him over to the governor. Julian was tortured for eleven months, during which time his father sent many to entice him away from the faith. But Julian persevered in the truth, converting those who had came to convert him. Finally, his father hired a blacksmith to drive nails into his feet and head. Julian died in a cave outside the city where he had gone to pray. His relics were removed to Emessa, where they were rediscovered in the 1970s.
286 Diocletian divided the empire into East and West. He appointed Maximian Augustus in the West. The capital in the East was Nicomedia; in the West, Milan. A subordinate, called a Caesar, was appointed for each Augustus. Their cities were Trier in the West and Salonica in the East.
During Diocletian’s reign, the civil diocese of Italy was divided in two. Milan was made capital of the northern diocese. The church accommodated itself to this civil change, and the bishop of Milan assumed jurisdiction over northern Italy (Italy annonaria). Rome’s jurisdiction was limited to the southern diocese.
286 The Forum in Rome burned. It was restored under Diocletian.
Other 3rd century
The following uncials:
Mt 10:17-23, 25-32; Lk
The earliest Syriac translations of the gospels were made during the third century: Syrus Curetonianus and Syrus Sinaiticus. Known collectively as Vetus Syra, Syrus Curetonianus appears to be a revision of Syrus Sinaiticus. They differ in style from the Peshitta, which dates from about a century later (see 400 above).
300 Early in the fourth century the celebration of 25 December, the Sun god’s birthday at mid-winter, as Christ’s birthday began somewhere in the West (see 336 below). Also, St. Peter’s basilica was built on the site of Peter’s grave (see 330).
300?The Apostolic Constitutions were written around this time. Ecclesiastical canon 35 gave an indication of the role of the bishop within the Church: “The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head and do nothing of consequence without his consent; but each may do those things which concern his own parish and the country places which belong to it. But neither let him who is the first do anything without the consent of all. For so there will be oneness of mind and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.”
85 gave the following
list of the
of Scripture: “Let the following books be esteemed
holy by you, both of the clergy and laity. Of the Old Covenant: the
books of Moses-Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy;
of Joshua the son of Nun, one of the Judges, one of Ruth, four of the
two of the Chronicles, two of Ezra, one of Esther, one of Judith, three
of the Maccabees, one of Job, one hundred and fifty psalms;
of Solomon-Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs; sixteen
And besides these, take care that your young persons learn the Wisdom
the very learned Sirach.
But our sacred books, that is, those of the
Covenant, are these: the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John;
the fourteen Epistles of Paul; two Epistles of Peter, three of John,
of James, one of Jude; two
Epistles of Clement; and
to you the bishops by me Clement, in eight books; which it is not fit
publish before all, because of the mysteries contained in them; and the
Acts of us the Apostles.” [Note that Revelation is absent
from the New Testament canon.]
ecclesiastical canon of the Constitutions prohibits most
marrying after ordination: “Of those
who come into the clergy unmarried, we permit only the readers and
they have a mind, to marry afterwards.”
The 50th ecclesiastical canon required triple immersion for baptism: “If any bishop or presbyter does not perform the three immersions of the one admission, but one immersion, which is given into the death of Christ, let him be deprived.”
Book 6, section 15 of The Apostolic Constitutions urges infant baptism: “Do ye also baptize your infants, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The Apostolic Constitutions also contain clear evidence that infant communion was practiced in the church.
about 300, most books were in the form of scrolls.
Scrolls had severe limitations. For
instance, a book the size of Matthew’s gospel would
fit on a scroll. A codex, formed by
folding sheets of papyrus
or vellumin the middle and sewing them together at the spine, could
much larger works. Codices also eased
the task of locating a given passage. Around 600, the words in
books were separated by a space -- a development associated with the
Irish. In around 800, the Carolingians introduced punctuation