Church Education Trust



Church History

History is a living subject, still unfolding and being recorded. The present has its roots in the past. History has much to teach use but man is often slow to learn the lessons it teaches hence history tends to repeat itself as the same mistake are made. Much of the Bible is historical writing; the object of recorded Biblicial history is stated in 1 Cor. 10: 11.

Church History begins in the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles is the. first volume. It begins with the account of the birth of the Church. Church (ecclesia) has a root meaning "called out". Abraham was called out from his country and family (Genesis 12:1); Israel was called out from Egypt (Hosea 11:1); the Christian church is a body of people called out from the world.

a.The Fulness of Time.

"When the fulness of time had come God sent forth His Son" (Gal.4:4).

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15).

History is inevitably concerned with time; dates figure largely. The time referred to here is the time when, in God's providential overruling of human affairs, the world was ripe for the revelation of Christ and the spread of the Gospel. The birth of the Christian church was a new movement of the Holy Spirit, and its timing was significant.

The Gospel was preached in a world providentially prepared. Three nations were the main contributors to this preparation, Israel, Greece and Rome. A superscription on the Cross was written in the languages of these three peoples.

Isreal was a nation specially prepared to receive the Gospel. It owed its origin to the intervention of God; it had received a special revelation of God; Its whole history was overruled by God. The result was an intensely religious people conscious of a special relationship with God and preaching a strict monotheism.

Its religion was based on a collection of sacred books and embodied in a religious society. This was at first conceived as a nation. But with the exile the nation lost its Independence. The exile had the effect of purifying Israel of idolatry. It also gave rise to the idea of a sacred congregation, a community within a community. Ezekiel had his group of people in Babylon, to whom he was a

Later on synagogues were built. The main features of the synagogue were the reading of the law and the Prophets and an explanatory sermon preached on the scriptures. The Dispersion meant that synagogues were built in many Gentile cities.The Synagogue made an impact on the community many Gentiles were attracted to the Jewish Synagogues. They are referred to in the Acts of the Apostles as "man that feared God."(e.g. Acts 13:16).


The main direct contribution of Greece was its language. Athena in the 5th century B.C. spoke Attic Greek; produced great writers and later great philosophers; these taught men to think; they saw the deficiencies in the current religion; they discussed the problems of the nature of God, His relation to the universe, the meaning and end of human life, the ideals of human society. Greek philosophy posed the questions, but could not supply the answers.

Alexander of Macedon spread the Greek language and Greek culture. The Greek language became the common language of the world, the "Koine", the language of the N.T. Scriptures. During the 3rd century B.C. the Jews of the Dispersion translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, the Septuagint (LXX).

The Greek language is ideally suitable for expressing the doctrines of the Christian faith and defining Christian truth; it is a graceful and elastic language with a rich vocabulary and capable of expressing fine shades of meaning. The fact that the Greek language was the common language of the Roman world also meant that the apostles had no language difficulty in preaching the Gospel in different countries.


Rome contributed in practical ways; one vast empire under central control; an excellent road system providing communications to all parts of the empire; a remarkable postal system. The civilised world was knit together to a degree impossible before. Many people travelled; books were common and cheap. It was also a world at peace; the Augustan age brought the establishment of peace after 100 years of strife and bloodshed.

Finally the world of the Apostolic period was in a terrible state of moral degradation and in desperate need of a gospel which could meet the problem of sin.


Roman Emperors (A. 33 -. 68 A.D. 

AUGUSTUS 27 B.C. - 14 A.D.

The history of the Church in the apostolic age is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. The story proceeds in fulfil-(Luke 2:1) ment of Acts 1:8. 

TIBERIUS 14 - 37 A.D.(Luke 3:1)  

(i) The Church in Jerusalem (""to the Jew first"
 Romans 1:16); Acts 2 - 7 and 12.

(ii) In Judaea and Samaria; Acts 8: - 11:18.

(iii) Antioch (in Syria); Acts 11:19-30.

GAIUS (Caligula); 37 - 41 A.D.  

(iv) Unto the uttermost part of the earth; Acts 13 - 28.

(a) The first missionary journey (Acts 13 - 14);
   Cyprus, Galatia. 46 - 47 A.D.

CLAUDIUS  41 - 54 A.D.

(b) The Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15) 48 A.D.

(c) The second missionary journey (Acts 15:36 - 18:); Syria, Cilicia, Troas, Macedonia, Achaia (Greece). 48 - 51 A.D.

NERO 54 - 68 A.D.

(d) The third missionary journey(Acts 19 - 21:17); Ephesus - Macedonia - Greece - Macedonia - Troas - Miletus - Jerusalem, 53 - 59 A.D.

(e) Paul's trials in Jerusalem and Caesarea and imprisonment in Caesarea (Acts 21:18-24) 59-61 A.D.

(f) Trials before Festus and Herod Agrippa II (Acts 25 - 26) 61 A.D.

(g) The voyage to Italy; imprisonment in Rome (Acts 27 - 28). 62 - 64 A.D.


The first persecution came from the sect of the Sadducees (Acts 4 - 5). The second was led by the Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus. All persecution of the Church in the first thirty years came from the Jews, except the one carried out by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12).

The first persecution by the Romans was carried out by Nero following the great fire of Rome in 64 A.D. Nero, suspected of having caused the fire sought to divert suspicion from himself by accusing the Christians and began a persecution which continued till his death in 68. A large number of Christians perished and terrible cruelties were inflicted upon them.

The Organisation of the Early Church.

From the beginning the twelve apostles were naturally recognised as the leaders of the new movement. In course of time other men were accepted as apostles, e.g. Paul and Barnabas.
As the number of converts increased, the Twelve found it necessary to appoint men to assist them in the work.

The first men so chosen were appointed to superintend the distribution of help to the poorer members of the community and were termed "deacons". Later on, when churches were established in cities outside Palestine, we read of elders being appointed in every church (Acts 14:23). The elders (presbuteroi) are also called "bishops" (episcopoi), i.e. "overseers" (Acts 20: 17,28, Phil. 1:1) more than one being at work in one church.

In the New Testament the two terms are clearly used in reference to the same person. Prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists are also mentioned as assisting in the work of the Church.

B. 68 - 100 A.D,

VESPASIAN 69 - 79 A.D.

This period marks the beginning of the transition from the apostolic to the sub-apostolic age. It began with an event which was decisive for the severance of Christianity from Judaism. War between the Jews and the Romans had already broken out in 66. In 70 A.D. Jerusalem was captured and destroyed by the Romans after one of the most terrible sieges in history; the temple was destroyed; the daily sacrifice ceased; the dominion of the priesthood and Sanhedrin was at an end. The Pharisees reconstituted the Sanhedrin under Rabbis instead of priests at Jamnia.

TITUS 79 - 81 A.D. 

By this time most of the apostles had died. James, the brother of John, had been put to death by Herod Agrippa I in 44 A.D. James, the Lord's brother was put to death in 62. Paul and probably Peter, were martyred in the Neronian persecution in 67-68.

DOMITIAN 81 - 96 A.D. 

The outstanding exception we know of was John, who lived on to about the end of the century. Some further persecution occurred during this period, particularly during the reign  of Domitian; in this persecution John was banished to Patmos, but on Domitian's death in 96, he was allowed to return by Nerva (96-98 A.D.) to return to Ephesus, where he died. With his death the apostolic age comes to an end.

Of the other apostles, Andrew is said to have evangelised Scythia, and Thomas Persia, while Bartholomew went to India. In the West, the Gospel had spread to Gaul and Spain.

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