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Chapter 2 THE EARLY CHRISTIANS The early Christians, by their tremendous faith in Jesus and imitation of his life, transformed the Roman world and its values.

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Title: Chapter 2 THE EARLY CHRISTIANS The early Christians, by their tremendous faith in Jesus and imitation of his life, transformed the Roman world and its values.


1
Chapter 2 THE EARLY CHRISTIANS The early
Christians, by their tremendous faith in Jesus
and imitation of his life, transformed the Roman
world and its values.
2
CHAPTER 2 THE EARLY CHRISTIANS
  • The early Christians endured some of the harshest
    conditions and persecutions ever suffered in
    Christianity.
  • While some abandoned the Faith when the
    challenges were overwhelming, many Christians,
    fortified and guided by the Holy Spirit, endured
    until the end.
  • They often worshipped in secret, yet shared their
    material goods with friends and strangers alike,
    striving to live an upright life in the midst of
    an often depraved society.

3
CHAPTER 2 THE EARLY CHRISTIANS
  • They set about the great task of building a new
    civilization.
  • In the face of a hostile world, the Christians
    offered a radical new vision of human society.
  • Many reforms in the Church, including those of
    Vatican II, have looked back at the early
    Christians as models of holiness, simplicity, and
    fraternity.

4
PART 1 Beliefs and Practices The Spiritual
Life of the Early Christians
  • Christ did not leave his Church with a fully
    developed theology and disciplinary practice.
    These beliefs and practices emerged through
    centuries of theological, philosophical,
    cultural, and historical development under the
    guidance of the Holy Spirit.

5
PART 1 Beliefs and Practices The Spiritual
Life of the Early Christians
  • These eternal truths were passed on and developed
    within the living and changing body of believers.
  • While the earliest Christians remained closely
    associated with the Jewish Tradition, later
    events, such as the Council of Jerusalem, the
    destruction of the Temple, and the influx of
    Gentiles into the Church, altered the ethnic
    makeup of the Christian community.

6
BAPTISM
  • Jesus was baptized by St. John the Baptist with a
    baptism of repentance, but it was Jesus who
    instituted the Sacrament of Baptism in the Holy
    Spirit.
  • In Baptism a believer (is)
  • Forgiven original and actual sins
  • Begins a new life in Christ
  • Incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ
  • Has a baptismal character imprinted on the soul.

7
BAPTISM
  • In the earliest Church, adult converts were
    baptized immediately. However, in time, a period
    of instruction called the Catechumenate was
    developed.
  • The Catechumens would be baptized at the Easter
    vigil or on the Saturday before Pentecost.
  • Vatican II reinstated the Catechumenate to bring
    back these beautiful customs of preparation for
    reception into the Church.
  • While the practice of infant baptism goes back to
    the time of the Apostolic Fathers, the practice
    became universal and very common by the third
    century.
  • Baptism has always been administered when a
    person is in danger of death and in such a case,
    anyone, including a non-believer, can administer
    the Sacrament, as long as the Trinitarian formula
    is used and the intention to baptize is present.
  • The unbaptized (especially catechumens) who die
    for the Faith receive graces through martyrdom
    which is called Baptism of Blood.

8
AGAPE AND THE EUCHARIST
  • The Agape (love in Greek) Feast refers to an
    early Christian religious meal that was
    celebrated in association with the Eucharist.
  • Because of abuses, as detailed by St. Paul, it
    was discontinued, but the ritual of the Mass or
    Eucharist continued to develop gradually over
    time.
  • The Rite of Mass included Scripture readings,
    singing of Psalms and hymns, common prayers, a
    collection for the poor, and a homily, and
    concluded with the Eucharist, which repeated the
    words of the Institution Narrative and
    Consecration.
  • The Eucharist (thanksgiving in Greek) was the
    central act of Christian worship and culminated
    with Holy Communion.
  • All early Christian documents that teach about
    the Eucharist indicate that the early Christians
    considered the Eucharist to be the true Body and
    Blood of Christ present under the appearances of
    bread and wine.

9
CHURCHES
  • The earliest Masses were celebrated in private
    homes and in the catacombs.
  • Some Roman Emperors allowed Christian churches to
    be built, but most of these were destroyed in
    subsequent persecutions.
  • After the Edict of Milan (AD 313) the Emperor
    Constantine began a building program favorable to
    Christians, and Roman architectural design, such
    as the basilica, was transformed into Christian
    churches.

10
HOLY DAYS
  • For early Christians, Wednesdays and Fridays were
    days of fasting and penance.
  • Christians at first kept the Jewish custom of the
    Sabbath (Saturday) as the primary day of worship,
    but it was soon replaced with Sunday as the
    holiest day of the week because it represented
    both the day of the Resurrection and of
    Pentecost.
  • It was the first day of creation and of the
    re-creation in Christ.
  • Feast days were developed throughout the years,
    with the Feast of the Epiphany being one of the
    first to be celebrated.

11
THE PAPACY
  • Christ made St. Peter the head of his Church,
    conferring upon him the responsibility and
    supreme authority of guiding the Church after his
    departure.
  • There are several historical documents that
    indicate the Bishop of Rome was regarded as the
    supreme authority on Church matters from the very
    beginning.
  • Pope St. Leo (d. AD 461) was instrumental in
    centralizing the Churchs governance based on the
    preeminence of the Bishop of Rome. While the
    political significance of Rome had diminished in
    favor of Constantinople, and the Patriarchs of
    Constantinople and Alexandria had increased their
    political importance, the Church councils still
    deferred to Rome before making a decision.
  • Pope St. Gelasius I (d. AD 496) was the first to
    use the title Vicar of Christ.

12
THE EPISCOPACY
  • From the beginning of Christianity, the Bishops,
    as successors of the Apostles, were responsible
    for shepherding and guiding the flock.
  • Bishops baptized, celebrated the Mass, celebrated
    weddings, ordained priests, and engaged in all of
    the sacramental work of the Church.
  • St. Ignatius of Antioch (AD 107) wrote, Wherever
    the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude
    also be even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there
    is the Catholic Church.

13
PRIESTHOOD
  • The word priest is an English contraction of
    the Greek word presbyteros often translated as
    presbyter.
  • In the early Church these were the elders.
  • The full understanding of the sacramental role of
    priests, subordinate to the bishop, developed
    over the centuries. However, there is evidence
    that by the second century, priests were being
    ordained to celebrate the Mass.

14
MONOTHEISM
  • Christians believe in only one God (monotheism).
  • Because their pagan neighbors were polytheistic
    (worshiped many gods), the Christians had to
    reject the Roman cult of worship and its acts of
    sacrifice and public worship.
  • Christian artists could not work in pagan
    temples. Christian teachers could not teach
    mythology, nor could they serve as Roman judges
    or magistrates.
  • Many Christians were martyred because they
    refused to adore the images of emperors, who
    proclaimed themselves gods.

15
THE SCRIPTURES
  • The canon of the Bible was developed in the
    earliest centuries of Christianity.
  • The Old Testament canon was based on a Greek
    translation of Scripture called the Septuagint.
  • After much discussion, a definitive New Testament
    canon was declared at a large synod in Rome AD
    382, and by the fifth century the entire Western
    Church possessed the complete canon.
  • Finally, in the Council of Trent (AD 1546) the
    Church made its definitive statement concerning
    the canon of Scripture.
  • The Catholic Church never considered the
    Scripture as authoritative apart from its
    legitimate interpretation by the magisterium of
    the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit.

16
THE SCRIPTURES
  • The Scriptures, while extremely important in the
    life of the Church, were never seen as a complete
    record of everything that Jesus and the Apostles
    did nor the sole source of Revelation. It is the
    Tradition of the Church expressed in Christian
    literature, liturgical practices, and statements
    that clarify and interpret Scripture. Scripture
    is a vital and central part of a broader
    tradition.

17
SLAVERY AND CHRISTIANITY
  • Slavery was an ancient and widespread institution
    during the time of Christ. It is estimated that
    two of the seven million inhabitants of the
    Italian peninsula were slaves at the time of the
    Emperor Augustus, and the hardships and cruelties
    of Roman slavery are well known.
  • Jesus never spoke directly about slavery, but it
    is clear that the Gospel implicitly condemns
    slavery as a grave offence against humanity, as
    it undermines the dignity of the human person,
    and is inconsistent with Christs two great
    commandments.

18
SLAVERY AND CHRISTIANITY
  • Slaves in the early Christian community were
    welcomed, not as slaves, but as brothers, equal
    in dignity, and as full and equal members of the
    community.
  • It was not Christianitys purpose to abolish
    slavery, and the Christian community did not have
    the moral authority or power to make such as
    change. Rather, Christianity slowly undermined
    the institution of slavery.
  • St. Paul taught slaves to obey their masters and
    masters to treat their slaves with charity.
  • Slaves rose to the highest position in the
    Church. Three of the first four immediate
    successors of St. Peter, Sts. Linus, Anacletus,
    and Clement I, were former slaves.

19
NON-VIOLENCE
  • Jesus taught non-violence and prayer in the face
    of persecution.
  • While some early Christian writers forbade
    Christians to be members of the Roman army and
    participation in war, some Christians did serve
    in the Roman army.
  • One soldier, St. Maurice, was a leader of a
    legion. He and his entire legion (almost 6000
    men) were executed for refusing to sacrifice to a
    pagan god.
  • In time, the just war theory was developed.
  • St. Augustine was one of the first theologians to
    argue that war is permitted in the case of
    self-defense.

20
NON-VIOLENCE
  • This doctrine was further developed by St. Thomas
    Aquinas. He stated that war is acceptable if
  • It is initiated on the authority of a sovereign
    (a legitimate government or ruler)
  • The cause is just
  • Those waging the war have good and right
    intentions
  • The war will not bring about more harm than that
    perpetrated by the enemy.
  • It was later added by the Spaniard Francisco de
    Vitoria, that the war must be waged by the proper
    means.

21
THE STATE
  • In the early Church, Christians would not fulfill
    the laws that violated the teachings of the
    Church (e.g., participation in pagan cults,
    emperor worship, and service in the Roman army),
    although they obeyed all of the just laws issued
    by the Romans.

22
MONEY MATTERS
  • From the beginning, early Christians looked after
    the needs of the Christian community.
  • They engaged in education, medical care, and the
    distribution of alms.
  • Christians were expected to be honest in commerce
    and to avoid usury.

23
SEXUAL ETHICS ABORTION AND CONTRACEPTION
  • The early Christian Fathers universally rejected
    abortion and infanticide, both of which were
    prevalent in Roman society.
  • These practices violently rejected the dignity of
    the human person and violated the Fifth
    Commandment, Thou shalt not kill.
  • The use of contraception was also rejected. The
    Church Fathers taught that procreation within
    marriage was good and blessed, and one of the
    intrinsic purposes of the marital act.
  • Many of the methods of artificial contraception
    available today were practiced in the Roman
    times. The Church opposes them today on the same
    grounds that it opposed them then.
  • Even ancient Greek philosophy saw artificial
    contraception as an unnatural violation of the
    natural end of sexual relations.

24
WOMEN
  • While Roman and Greek cultures regarded women as
    inferior, Christianity improved the condition of
    women in society both individually and as a
    group.
  • It changed the perception of women by recognizing
    them as spiritual equals.
  • The Blessed Virgin Mary was honored from the
    beginning as singularly blessed by God and
    conceived without Original Sin, and instrumental
    in the salvation of all people.
  • Several women were instrumental in the conversion
    of Europe.
  • Several Christian wives and mothers were vital in
    the conversion of their husbands and children.
  • Christian women also suffered equally for their
    faith and purity during the early persecutions of
    Christianity.

25
PART II Important Writings of the Early
Christian Period THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS
  • The title Apostolic Father is given to a number
    of the earliest Christian writers.
  • These men came immediately after the Apostles,
    and some had direct links to the Apostles or to
    the communities established by them.
  • Writing about religious or moral themes, their
    writings record early Christian doctrine and
    spirituality.

26
APOLOGISTS
  • Apologetics (from the Greek meaning defense)
    defends and explains the Christian Faith.
  • The first period of apologetics dates from the
    beginning of Christianity until the Fall of the
    Roman Empire AD 476.
  • During this period the apologists faced attacks
    from Judaism, Gnostic heresies, and various pagan
    religions.
  • The title apologist refers to anyone who writes
    an apologetic work.
  • Due to the work of apologists, Christianity began
    to gain converts from the educated and elite
    classes in Roman society.
  • For many Jews, Christianity, which rejected the
    need of circumcision and other Jewish practices,
    denigrated and desecrated the Law and the God of
    Abraham.

27
APOLOGISTS
  • One apologist, St. Justin Martyr defended
    Christs teachings as a fulfillment of the Jewish
    Law and prophets.
  • A great deal of apologetics was addressed to the
    pagan culture of the Roman empire, carefully
    explaining Christian beliefs and practices, as
    well as the benign and benevolent existence of
    Christianity in the empire.

28
THE DIDACHE
  • The Didache was a short exposition of Christian
    morals, doctrine, and customs that was composed
    in the first century.
  • Its sixteen chapters cover Christian moral life,
    Baptism, fasting, prayer, the Eucharist, and
    Church hierarchy.

29
TERTULLIAN
  • Tertullian (AD 160AD 225) received an education
    in Roman law. Converting to Christianity, he
    wrote numerous works demonstrating that
    Christianity formed no threat to the Roman
    Empire, but rather was an asset.
  • His works won him the title, Father of Latin
    Theology.
  • Tertullian later joined a heretical Montanist
    sect and broke from the Church.

30
ST. HIPPOLYTUS AND THE APOSTOLIC TRADITION
  • St. Hippolytus (AD 170- AD 236) was possibly the
    most important theologian of his time. He wrote
    and spoke against many heresies, but he himself
    broke from the Church. Later, before dying a
    martyrs death, he was reconciled with Pope St.
    Pontian and the Church.
  • His two most important works The Refutation of
    Heresies and The Apostolic Tradition have
    survived.
  • The latter work describes the passing down of the
    faith from one generation to the next and
    provides insight into the rites of ordination,
    Baptism, and the Eucharist of the third century.
  • This work is also the source of the second
    Eucharist Prayer used in the Mass.

31
PART III Martyrdom as the Greatest Testimony to
Christianity
  • Early Christians found that they had to be
    prepared to die for Christ.
  • Those who did lose their lives quickly became the
    most venerated of all Saints.
  • The word martyr comes from the Greek meaning
    witness.
  • Their lives, actions, and words strengthened and
    edified other Christians, and even their deaths
    deeply affected those who witnessed them.
  • Christians understood martyrdom as an honor and a
    privilege as it was a direct participation in the
    sufferings of Christ.

32
CONCLUSION
  • The early Christians, by their tremendous faith,
    transformed the Roman culture and its values.
  • Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church grew as an
    institution and as a community of believers.

33
THE CATACOMBS
  • A Catacomb is an underground series of tunnels,
    chambers, and tomb which served as burial places,
    shrines, and places of worship in the earliest
    church.
  • They have been discovered in Rome and throughout
    Italy, France, and Northern Africa.
  • In Rome alone there are over sixty catacombs and
    they account for hundreds of miles of tunnels.
    The catacombs of St. Callixtus are four stories
    deep, include four miles of galleries, and
    contain the remains of sixteen Popes and dozens
    of Christian martyrs.
  • The tombs are often adorned with religious
    inscriptions and Christian art.
  • Large rooms called crypts, where prominent
    figures such as Popes or martyrs were buried,
    were converted into small churches.

34
THE CATACOMBS
  • Catacombs were used for the celebration of
    Baptism and the Eucharist.
  • Shunning the Roman practice of cremation and
    showing their belief in the resurrection of the
    body, early Christians showed their strong sense
    of community by preferring to be buried together.
  • The tombs of martyrs became popular places of
    prayers and inscriptions show that these Saints
    were asked to intercede for the believers.
  • Eventually these catacombs were abandoned and
    forgotten only to be rediscovered in the
    sixteenth century. The information gained from
    the catacombs serves to give us a clear idea of
    everyday Christian beliefs and practices in the
    early Church.

35
THE EARLY GROWTH OF CHRISTIANITY
  • Because of its large Jewish populations, Asia
    Minor became the first great area of growth in
    Christianity.
  • Many Jews converted to Christianity due to the
    missionary efforts of St. Paul and the Apostles.
  • By the end of the first century, the first
    Christian churches were confined to the Easter
    Roman Empire, with the exception of Christian
    communities found in Rome and in other parts of
    Italy.
  • By the end of the third century, Christianity and
    Judaism had officially separated and Christianity
    became largely a religion of the Gentiles. Its
    informal center had shifted from Jerusalem to
    Rome, and the scene was set for the Constantine
    (AD 312) and the embrace of Christianity as the
    official religion of the Roman Empire.

36
CHRISTIAN SYMBOLS
  • The cross was one of the earliest and most
    widespread Christian symbols.
  • By the third century, the Sign of the Cross was
    deeply rooted in the Christian people.
  • Another ancient symbol is that of the fish. It
    recalls the multiplication of the loaves and
    fishes, as well as Christs appearance to seven
    of his disciples after the Resurrection.
  • The Greek word for fish is ichthys and is an
    acrostic for the Greek phrase Iesous CHristos
    THeou Yios Soter which means Jesus Christ, Son
    of God, Savior.

37
The End
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