Church History 2nd Century

Church History
Lecture 3 – The Second Century
The Challenge of Greek Philosophy
See pages 120-140 of Latourette, plus class handouts
Greek Culture
 Many gods (polytheism) often in a hierarchy
 Sexually promiscuous, homosexuality accepted
 Widespread use of drugs & prostitution in religion
 Ecstatic worship
 Mystery religions
 Philosophy (Aristotle, Plato, Socrates)
 Sharp distinction between spirit(good) and matter (evil)
 Mystical and symbolic, numerology, astrology
 Strong belief in “Fate”: prophecy, Sibyls, oracles
The Tension For New Converts
 Very hard to find the balance
 Either totally rejected Greek culture and
went to the opposite extreme (e.g.
compulsory celibacy)
 Extremism / legalism
 Or tried to synthesize Greek culture and
the Christian faith (and sometimes
became heretical)
 Anti-nomianism (rejection of the law),
syncretism (mixing up paganism and
 Gnosis = knowledge
 Gnosticism = salvation by knowledge
 No sin, only ignorance of divinity / spirituality
 Sharp distinction between spirit and matter (dualism)
 This world created by an evil god “demiurge”
 True God is love and is unknowable
 Many layers of spirit beings
 Many different kinds of Gnosticism
 Some very strict morally, others allowed promiscuity as
the body ‘did not matter” and what was done in the body
did not affect the spirit.
 Marcion (110-165AD) a wealthy shipping magnate
went to Rome and about 138 AD started teaching that:
The “God of the Old Testament” was evil and was the
That Judaism was the religion of this “evil god” and the
otherwise unknown God of love was revealed in Christ
That only the letters of Paul and the gospel of Luke
were the Scriptures
An attempt to return to pure grace and to the pure
gospel untainted by law
Tended to ‘cut and paste’ the Bible
Forbad marriage, strict celibacy
Simon Magus & Babylonian Religion
 Simon Magus was a magician from Samaria (see
Acts 8:9-24) who tried to buy the power to
confer the power of the Holy Spirit
He is mentioned as having great occult powers
by many early church fathers
Early church fathers taught that Simon Magus
was the source of all heresies
Simon Magus taught that knowledge conferred
supernatural powers
Had a system of ‘divine emanations’
Simon was worshipped by his followers
Taught Babylonian occult mysteries in Rome
Supposedly fell to his death in a confrontation
with the Apostle Peter in Rome
 Montanus was from Phrygia, Montanism flourished
in the second half of the second century
Stressed the spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues and
prophecy, lived very holy lives
Was popular in Phrygia and North Africa
Expected the imminent return of Jesus Christ and a
literal 1000 year reign (known as chiliasm)
The great apologist Justin Martyr eventually joined
Not so much a heresy as an extreme. Montanus and
his two female prophets tended to see themselves as
anointed and infallible
The Danger Of Defining The Faith
 Every attempt to ‘standardize’ Christianity tends
to also factionalize it.
 There is a strong tension between truth and love
– if we emphasize truth too much we can end
up being judgmental and unloving but if we
emphasize acceptance to much we can admit
rampant heresy.
 Many disputes were completely unnecessary
(such as the long dispute over the date of
celebrating Easter)
 Other disputes (such as that over celibacy) come
from cultural over-reaction
The Rise Of The Bishop Of Rome
 The notion of Apostolic Succession
 The ‘primacy of St. Peter” – many good popes at first
esp. Leo the Great
Rome was where Peter and Paul were and was the
center of the Roman Empire
Jerusalem, Carthage, Alexandria and Constantinople
were competitors for a while
Acts seems to support Rome as the place where the
gospel ends up
At first was just ‘first among equals’
Gradually increased in power as center of empire
shifted to Constantinople and the pope was no longer
overshadowed by the Emperor and his court.
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