The Early Days of the Developing Christian Church
The Holy Spirit moved through men to establish Christianity, possessing them with the words that attracted society to empower their brotherhood, only to contradict man’s free will to seek desires to harness this empowerment over society for selfish gains. This caused deep insult to true Christianity in many instances throughout the earlier days of the Church. Many times fear was placed upon society for claiming their Christian faith as well as the intense accusations of not being Christian enough. This fear should not be confused with the presence or influence of God or of Christ but rather with the intentions of man. The Christian Church is established by men and the aspect of its rule over society was then through men. Christ was not sent to us to establish a church or set the rules of the church. He came to teach us the blessed nature of the Father and through us individually in the Holy Spirit. The early history of Christianity began with a mission of man, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to spread the Word, however, the darkness of spiritual warfare turned many men to use their influence over society to tarnish the original plan of Christ.
Once Christ was crucified by the Romans, during the Roman Empire, the mission to establish Christianity became that of the Apostles. This was the beginning with the aide of free will of the men who made the decision to form a brotherhood of man under a unified presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was introduced to them in a day of Pentecost, an agricultural festival celebrating the first fruits of the harvest in which foreign men attended from all across the Mediterranean basin in the city of Jerusalem, city of the Jewish religion. “Before Pentecost there were only 120 Christians in Jerusalem, and their gathering was a large ‘upper room’, otherwise unidentified, but probably the same chamber where Jesus had instituted the Last Supper” (as cited in Maier, 1974, pg 16, para 1). The Apostles and a small society within Jerusalem, including Mary, mother of Jesus, becomes a dramatic approach to such a small amount of people creating such a huge response in the later days and spread of Christianity as it certainly manifests question to whether man alone is capable of such influence over society.
At this time the Holy Spirit appeared as a gust of wind that blew across the festival of foreigners that gathered in Jerusalem, following flames that were witnessed by the Apostles, and at that time a miracle was performed. Though many of the travelers were foreign with many different languages, they were able to understand each other. “In Luke’s record the miracle of Pentecost was not primarily rushing sounds, tongues of flame, or instant linguistic genius, but the arrival of God and the Holy Spirit who could inspire and transform a man in such a way” (as cited in Maier, 1974, pg 21, para 3). On this day of Pentecost in this mixed society of people, three-thousand people became Christians. “Not even Jesus’s preaching drew such a response… or there would have been more believers than the lonesome 120 Christians before Pentecost” (as cited in Maier, 1974, pg 21, para 4). The history of the first days of Christianity challenges that the church was not completely responsible for the spread of Christianity in the individual heart of the society, but it led to the establishment of the church.
Within the first few decades of the spread of Christianity, the weight fell upon the Apostles, and with the aide of the wisdom of elders and others, they formed a group that was semi organized in order to be able to draw in donations to redistribute to the poor and needy of the community as an outreach, and also to formulate certain rules of doctrine over their newfound Christian religion. The main goal was of course was to give the people of the world the knowledge of “the way” of total salvation through the spreading of their faith. Still, it was not without interruption of power struggles within for the politics of man became apparent as to who knew the best ways to do so and the appropriate things to be teaching. The beginning establishment of the organization of men to spread the Christian faith was from the start riddled with discrepancies of power struggles between men.
Even more than the struggle within the men of the church, were the conflicts that were faced in the society that they were attempting to teach to during these first missions into the world. Paul is a true example of how a person can condemn the Christians enough that the direction that he chose for his life was to persecute them. What better choice in men than a man who knew the minds of those who persecute, to form his highly educated gift of debate to defend the faith once he received his change of heart given to him from the Holy Spirit on the road to Damascus on his way none other than to persecute the Christian society. Paul’s influence over men with his intelligence, using his deep understanding of the Jewish prophetic doctrine and his ability to debate, combined with his bilingual skills and his protected class- status of Roman citizen, was able to bring about the first primitive congregations of Christians in cities peppered across the Mediterranean basin, ending with Rome, the capital of the then Roman Empire under the Emperor Nero. Eventually Nero persecuted the Christians and had Paul put to death with Peter, another Apostle that was in Rome establishing the faith. (Maier, 1974) Another conflict in the earliest days of the spread of Christianity is found with Ananos, the high priest of Jerusalem in the Jewish religion, as “convened the high council of judges and brought before them James, the brother of Jesus (called the ‘Messiah’), and several others” (as cited in Arnold, 1970, pg 62 para 2). This interjected the emotion of fear in society in claiming their Christian faith. The execution of the Apostles and other martyrs over the beginning few decades was to be the incomprehensible irrationality that persecuted Christians for merely believing in their own salvation.
At this point in the history of the Christian Church, the human element becomes apparent and fear becomes a contributing factor of the outcomes of countless situations; either in fear to be a part of, or fear of, the Christian community. “Based in part on prior research showing that fear, threat, and anxiety decrease cognitive capacity and motivation, we hypothesize that under high(vs. low) threat, people will seek to curtail open-ended information searches and exhibit motivated closed-mindedness (one aspect of the need for cognitive closure)” (as cited in Thorisdottier & Jost, 2011). The attraction of the open-ended information that the Salvation in Christianity attracted people initially brought upon secondly close-mindedness due to the extreme fear that was posed in the persecution of the Christian community. It stands to wonder the circles carried about of acceptance then persecution throughout the ages, what limits in cognitive ability in the community suggests alternate sequences of events. As “…open-mindedness is essentially a matter of assessing one or more sides of an intellectual dispute in a fair and impartial way” (as cited in Baehr, 2011, para 1), it is plausible to think that the relevant facts throughout history on the fear factor that stumped society also placed limits on the Christian faith in truth to be exonerated. In order to overcome the persecution, certain challenges would have to be enforced into the minds of non-believers, and most of them became entrenched in their positions of finding fault in the Christian faith rather than simply and fairly examining it. This combined with the building of wealth, helped to sway the hearts of power seeking individuals
The church continued to grow following the death of the Apostles and the original members of the faith, “in classical literature as the scapegoats Nero tried to pin the blame on for the catastrophe” (as cited in Cheetham, 1982, pg 5, para 3), of the extreme fires that destroyed much of the city of Rome. Still, this display of unfounded hate did not displace Christianity as it thrived in the community. Domitian became emperor of Rome and “Finally, he showed himself the successor of Nero in enmity and hostility to God…he was in fact, the second to organize persecution against us…” (as cited in Williamson, 1965, pg 125, para 2).
In the earlier days of the Christian church, the structure was somewhat informal. The titles given to the leaders of each city’s congregation were with less significance in meaning than later noted in the official history of succession of bishops and popes. The leader of the church in Rome in the beginning was the Apostle Peter, followed by Linus and Cletus. However, “while it may be convenient to describe them as ‘popes’, it must be kept in mind that this title did not exclusively designate the heads of the Roman Church until the ninth century at the earliest” (as cited in Cheetham, 1982, pg 8, para 1). The third leader elect of the church in Rome was Clement, a man of higher class and culture, attracting a wide variety of social class in the community to the Christian church. Clement’s strong leadership skills were derived mainly from his stance that he took on the observance of the Apostles. “Clement invokes the example of the Apostles, whom he had almost surely known in his youth” (as cited in Cheetham, 1982, pg 9, para 2). Christian worship at this time took place in the homes of the wealthier Christians.
Immigrants from Syria, Asia Minor, and Egypt flooded Rome in the early second century. “The Bishops of Rome were glad to receive visits from such pillars of the eastern churches as Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna, the representative of Christian congregations far larger and more solid than those of Italy and the whole western part of the Empire” (as cited in Cheetham, pg 10, para 3). Ignatius was the first to call the Christians “Catholic” the Greek word meaning universal. (Cheetham, 1982) The Catholic Church was faced with great hurdles of heresies that developed to encourage their own followers, combining Jewish theology with magic or universal levels of cosmologies. There were also periods that certain emperors, such as Antonius Pius (138-61) persecuted Christians for being different than his philosophical intellect that he wished for his rule. (Cheetham, 1982). Christianity was protected by the Catholic Church that insisted on the original path that the Apostles set for them.
The political nature of the Church then was power in hierarchy. The bishops of the church were to make decisions for the future of the Church, and it became a slow climb into the ranks. Such a decision would be in the disagreement among bishops of several lands on the actual day of Easter. Many of the Palestine bishops assembled, and “composed a lengthy review of the traditional Easter festival which had come down to them without a break from the Apostles…” (as cited in Williamson, 1965, pg 234, para 1), and they also agreed with the bishop in Alexandria who answered the letters, “to ensure that we keep the holy day in harmony and at the same time” (as cited in Williamson, 1965, pg 234, para 2). Irenaeus, a Christian from Smyrna, wrote five books “slashing denunciation of the heretics” (as cited in Cheetham, 1982, pg 11) and claimed Rome as the center of the Church, even though not as strong as those churches in Asia, they were founded by two great Apostles. “All roads led to the city and the center of the Empire; it was there that all the traditions and experiences of the church were gathered, examined and reconciled” (as cited in Cheetham, 1982, pg 11). The politics of the city then began to change dramatically outside of the politics of the Church that caused many great beginnings for the establishment of the Catholic Church and the power over society.
The Roman Emperor was called off to different wars as the Empire was under pressures from potential conquerors, so he delegated seats to care for sections of the Empire called Augustus. In the year 305, Constantine was promoted to Augustus, and he enforced that the persecution of the Christians become lax with new toleration laws, as he had a Christian wife. (Cheetham, 1982). Constantine and “his soldiers entered the city [of Rome] with the emblem of the cross displayed on their shields” (as cited in Cheetham, 1982, pg 16, para 3). He found that politically speaking, Christianity would benefit his rule as it was something that he thought the people would need, a combination of both the unifying factor and the intellectual and emotionally fulfilling religion. Constantine then awarded Silvester, then the Bishop of Rome, the name of universal Pope “bequeathing to him and his successors Rome and all the provinces in the west and he would take up rule in the east (Cheetham, 1982). He then built the first two great basilicas adjoining the Lateran Palace as well as the grave site that honored the Apostle Peter at the Vatican cemetery. (Cheetham, 1982). At this period of time, even though there would have been a rush to join the Christian faith as a sense of security in society under Constantine, as nice of a thought in building the congregation to a larger size, not all of the new members would be with the right intentions.
The papacy gained power as they maintained a direction for the Christians of the Roman Empire upon the collapse of the Empire. They did this through their strong leadership as bishops from each early established church reported to the pope elected in Rome. Not only did this allure Christians to feel guided, but it attracted political agendas from the conquerors. “The adoption of Roman Christianity ensured that medieval Europe would inherit crucial cultural elements from classical Roman society, including the Latin language and the institutional Roman church” (as cited in Bentley, Ziegler, & Streets, 2008, pg 260, para 3).The politics were instituted as a part of the church with somewhat of an arrangement between Clovis, a Frank, and the Carolingians as Charlemagne vowed to protect the papacy, creating a foothold in the political ring for the pope elect. For example, “the Carolingians received recognition and backing from the popes, including the award of Charlemagne’s imperial crown of the hands of Pope Leo III” (as cited in Bentley, Ziegler, & Streets, 2008, pg 260). This stage of the Christian Church was a conversion from Christianity as a personal journey to a political authority with all aspects of men’s agendas for power included, as well as securing a future for the Christian Church.
Once established, Christianity took on a face of not the victim, fighting and fearing for its existence, but rather that of the persecutor. Oppressive measures to rid the land of heresies were manifested through the hierarchy of the papacy. Bishops were faced with the decisions of exhuming bones of the dead who were later presumed to not be Christian enough, and to burn them in fires joining actual live peoples believed to be heretics. “Though both had been dead for more than thirty years [two names are given], the Inquisition ordered their bones to be exhumed and their property confiscated” (as cited in O’Brien, 1973, pg 97, para 3). Everyone seems to have jumped on the band wagon of purposely pocketing presumed heretics’ fortunes and possessions, condemning them to death. “The worst greed was by the civil magistrates who either shared with the Inquisitors, or as in France, pocketed all the spoils on condition of bearing all the expenses. But in either case the financial tie-up was harmful to religion and undermined confidence in the Inquisition as a court of even-handed justice” (as cited in O’Brien, 1973, pg 78, para 1). The confiscation policy of heretics’ possessions became the center of purpose of claiming heretics and the quarreling among those involved over the confiscated properties became utter outrage in society. “For the Apostle says, ‘A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition avoid.’ Those are held captive by the Devil who, leaving their Creator, seek the aide of the Devil, and so the Holy Church must be cleansed of this pest” (as cited in O’Brien, 1973, pg 115, para 5). Unfortunately the meaning behind the words was misinterpreted by the evil greed that takes hold of the free will of men who confuse themselves with the fact that the original doctrine, original words developed by men, were not to be mistaken for the original message of Christ, upon which Christianity was devoted to.
The early days of the Christian Church were full of trial and error of men who attempted to establish a lifeline to the teachings of Christ to the people of the world in for future generations. The society of the generations that were succumbed by the trials were influenced in that they were part of the political movements that revolved around the establishment of the Christian Church both in persecutions, upon where martyrs were honored, and for the political agendas of the Emperors and leaders of the lands. In the beginning days, the world has never witnessed such of some of the most miraculous conversions that took place; miracles in the beginning as a gift from God to ensure the start of Christianity. The early history of Christianity began with a mission of man, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to spread the Word, however, the darkness of spiritual warfare turned many men to use their influence over society to tarnish the original plan of Christ.
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