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The Early Church in the Period of the Apologists: 120-220

Justin Martyr, Marcion, Clement of Alexandria, Polycarp, Tertullian, and Origen

  • 130 d. Papias
  • 130 Conversion of Justin Martyr. Justin loved philosophy, and had studied many philosophies and pagan religions in his search for truth. He was an apologist, and taught that the seeds of truth (logos) could be found in all religions, but that only Christianity taught the whole truth
  • 144 Marcion excommunicated for rejecting the Old Testament, rejecting most of the New Testament, and teaching that Christ only appeared to be human (Docetism). His challenge helps the church realize the necessity of formally recognizing the canon
  • 150 b. Clement of Alexandria. He was an apologist who used Plato to support Christianity, and tried to reach gnostics by showing that only the Christian had real "gnosis." He helped establish the allegorical method of interpreting scripture. His works make up a large proportion of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II
  • 155 Polycarp was martyred in Smyrna by being burned to death. Polycarp declared, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?" The only known writings to survive are parts of letters he wrote to the Philippians
  • 156 Possibly the beginning of the Montanist movement. They were an aescetic movement with apocalyptic visions. They claimed the Spirit spoke directly through their prophets and prophetesses
  • 160 b. Tertullian. He objected to Justin's use of philosophy to defend Christianity, saying "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?." Late in life he became a Montanist and wrote Against Praxeas, which helped the church understand the Trinity
  • 161 Marcus Aurelius becomes emperor. He abandoned Trajan's passive approach and actively sought Christians to persecute them throughout the empire
  • 165 Justin is martyred
  • 180 The end of Aurelius's reign
  • 185 b. Origen. Pupil of Clement of Alexandria, he further develops the allegorical method. This and his desire to relate to the Neoplatonists in Alexandria led him away from orthodoxy in some matters. But he is still important to the church. On First Principles is the first systematic theology
  • 202 Septimius Severus tries to unite the empire under one religion, the worship of the Unconquered Sun. Both Jews and Christians refuse and are vehemently persecuted
  • 202 Irenaeus is martyred(?)
  • 202 Clement of Alexandria flees to Syria until his death in 215
  • 216 b. Mani, founder of Manichaeism. He fused Persian, Christian, and Buddhist elements into a major new heresy

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Broken into three sections, this authoritative collection of writings by the Early Church Fathers is essential for understanding patristic thought. Series I of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers consists of eight volumes of the writings of St. Augustine, the greatest and most influential of the early Fathers, as well as six volumes of the treatises and homilies of St. Chrysostom. The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series II contains in fourteen volumes the works of the Greek Fathers from Eusebius to John of Damascus and the Latin Fathers from Hilary to Gregory the Great. The Ante-Nicene Fathers represent the first primary sources of Christian history following the canon of the New Testament, and include writings from the Apostolic Fathers as well as various third and fourth century sources.

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