HistoricalProcesses Regarding Christian Teachings and Practices
FirstName and Last Name
ManyChristian teachings and practices can be traced in the historicaldevelopment of Christianity in different parts of the world. Theancient practices range from ways of administering baptism, namingof a Christian child, receiving of the sacrament of Eucharist, theprocedure of burying the dead and administration of other sacramentslike penance, ordination of church ministers among others. QuintusSeptimius Florens Tertullian, a Christian author from Carthage,Africa defends some of the practices during the first two centuriesof Christian movements. He strongly defends the old process ofbaptism even though majority of the practices were not written in thescriptures. The introduction of the scriptures as guidelines inpracticing Christianity contradicts some of the unwritten traditionssuch as the necessity of a president to preside over baptism, penanceand other processes in the church. Differences in the Christianpractices during the first two centuries and after the publication ofthe New Testament clearly show evolution and development that hastaken place since the death of Saint Peters. This paper clearlydescribes the historical process regarding the Christian teachingsand practices in the first two centuries if Christian movement. Inaddition, it explains the differences in the practices according toTertullian publication and the New Testament.
Christianityis a monotheistic religious conviction that is based on the life andteachings of the son of God, Jesus Christ who is the epicenter.Christianity has a population of more than 2.4 billion, a number thatrepresents 33 percent of the world’s population.1Christianity is a religion that arose from the eras of Abraham and itstarted as a second sanctuary Judaic in mid- first century. Itoriginated in Judea and widen to Europe, Egypt, Mesopotamia andIndia. By 4thcentury, research shows that Christianity had become a state churchin Rome and later spread to other regions of the earth through theeffort of missionaries and colonizers.
Duringthe historical development of Christianity, it experienced manyschisms and theological conflicts that have led to the rise of manydifferent churches and denominations. Catholic (the conservatives),Eastern Orthodox (the conformists) and Protestantism form the largestdenomination of Christianity. Many churches have common beliefs andpractices that make Christianity a unique religion from otherreligions like Islamic, Hinduism and Buddhism. Baptism is a commonritual in churches. It is a ritual act where water is poured on thecandidate before he or she joins the faithful in the church. Thebeliefs on baptism and its procedure of administration vary from ondenomination to another. Tertullian describes some process thatchurches utilized at the onset of Christianity. He notes thatbaptisms were carried out in large water bodies such as rivers, seas,lakes, and large ponds. The baptism candidate would only receive thesacrament in presence of a congregation under the powers of apresident.2The candidates would solemnly profess that they disown the devil, hispomp, and his angels. They would then be immersed in water threetimes, a sign of making a pledge before the Lord to serve him andobey his commands. The church ministers would take up the new- bornto taste the milk and honey mixture, from then they would abstainfrom every day bath for a whole week. The new- born would alsoreceive the sacrament of the Eucharist from the presidents whopresided over their baptismal process. After baptism, as Tertulliannotes, the new- born had an obligation to make offerings for the deadas birthday offers.3They would join the congregation in rejoicing from Easter toPentecost periods. The baptized would also ensure that either wine orbread do not fall onto the ground. From the baptismal teachings, thebaptized would have sad feelings in case anyone accidentally dropsbread or wine onto the ground.
Inthe New Testament, baptism remains a ritual which has a spiritualsignificance in strengthening the faith of an individual and it islinked to salvation. Baptisms can also be a purely symbolic act foran external declaration of the spiritual change in a person. In theNew Testament, baptism goes beyond the use of water. In Luke 3:16,the scriptures shows that Jesus would baptize the Christian with theHoly Spirit and with fire.4The baptism with fire is not a common practice among differentchurches, however, Christians believe that Christ himself on hissecond coming will baptize with fire. The Holy Ghost that fall onJesus during his baptism at River Jordan remains a symbol andassurance to Christians that during baptism, the Supreme Beingdescends on the candidate. The New Testament recognizes the threetrinities of God. In Mathew 28: 19, 20, Jesus commands his disciplesto go to the earth and baptize people in “the name of the Father,and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, the trinities of God.”5Jesus confirms to his disciples that anyone who accepts and receivessacrament of baptism is saved. The sacrament of penance is alsoevidence in the New Testament when Peter, in the Acts 8, teachesabout repentance before baptism, confirming that he or she who isbaptized is clean before God. The intake of sacrament of Eucharist isvisible in the New Testament when the disciples eat the last supperbefore the suffering and death of Christ and the breaking of thebread at Galilee after the resurrection of Jesus.
Atthe second century, other practices that marked the gradualdevelopment of Christianity including the culture of prayer, beliefin death life after death, the communion of saints, and the day ofjudgments. Some practices that Christians started practicing at thefirst and second century that are not found in the New Testamentinclude the Christmas day which was set on 25thDecember,the Sunday Sabbath, the Valentine’s Day and Easter Sunday.Baptizing babies is also not found in the scriptures. The scripturestates that one must repent before baptism a process that a babycannot undertake. A baby can neither repent nor understand the roleof baptism before receiving the sacrament.
Inconclusion, a variety of practices continues to define Christianityand help the theologians to trace its history. The baptism, as ritualamong other practices, sets an environment for a believer tounderstand his or her role in the church and in promotingChristianity. The traditional beliefs played a big role in developingthe historic practices that are found in the scriptures.
Afew hundred years ago Christianity was a hated religious movement inEurope and the western world. It took effort and many sacrifices tomake Christianity as a religion to be accepted and widely spread inthe Roman Empire, and later becoming the largest and most influentialreligion in the whole world as today.6Thosedays of the first apostles there was a general expectation that beingpart of the Christian movement will entail some degree ofpersecution. The ultimate persecutions come at the end of the firstcentury and that period was commonly referred to as Martyrdom. HowChristianity becomes the most powerful and influential religion ofthe whole world still remains a puzzle to many. Scholars stilldebates on how and why this transformation occurred citing numerousresistance, persecutions and setbacks that befallen the Christians ofthose day. Certainly it was one of the most important transformationsthat occurred in the history of Christian religion.7In this paper we ought to give account of what led to thistransformation citing what roles the martyrs played in the earlyChristian life and especially in the growth of Christian religionmovement.
Thereare a number of aspects to justify the growth and spread ofChristianity. Guanine faith and conviction of Romans converts toChristianity played a great role in Christian movement. In the earlydays, the followers of Jesus like Peter, Paul among others spreadChristianity through the Roman Empire and was said to haveestablished a church in Rome.8Christians were mostly staying in the east: Antioch, Alexandria inEgypt, and Jerusalem. Their massages of unity before God madeChristianity to gain adherent among the Jews and non-Jews bringingthem together as Christians. Those days, Christianity was illegal anddiffused and thus most activities of Christians were kept undergroundhence we cannot speak of a united Christianity. Justin Martyr,Tertullian, Clement of Rome, and Clement of Alexandria known as theFathers of the Church helped to define the doctrines of Christianitythat are in use today in many churches. Their writings help toconvince many people to accept and adopt Christianity though Romanauthorities who were against Christianity opposed these writing.Persecution of Christians were based on the believe that Romanscities, towns, empires, and societies were protected by the gods andin exchange, the Romans were to offer sacrifices to the god-something Christians were against and so Romans pagans feltChristians put themselves and those of the people around them indanger. In addition, Christians rebuffed to sacrifice and worship theRomans Empires hence they were viewed as traitors.9The fact that Christians held exclusive meeting to conduct prayersmade them be suspected of treason.
Thethird century was marred with disaster which most of the peopleblamed on the Christians. This may have encouraged others to acceptChristianity. At the time of plague, Christian had taken care of thesick much better and those were healed become automatically Christianconverts. Moreover, the Christians treated the poor fairly and theirmassage of charity, faith, and equality before God gave majority hopemaking them to support and accept Christianity much easily. Majorityof the Christian converts in the early Romans Empire were women andbeing that they had the full mandate of bringing up the children,majority of the children grew up knowing Christian religion.Persecutions themselves influenced majority to accept Christianity.Persecutions were made public and the martyrs use these events torenounce other gods other than their Christian Faith (God) and whensentence to death, they face their sentence fearlessly and assured ofeternal life- an act that made many to believe in their faith.10For example, the faith of Perpetua – a noble young Roman woman whowas nursing a baby at the time of her conviction convinced many. Herfather pleaded with her to renounce her faith for her life to bespared to no avail. She was thrown to the beast but survived andlater killed by the sword. Her killers hand was trembling and she hadto direct the sword to her throat to slain. Her faith and contemptfor death to gain eternal life influenced those who were watching atthe Amphitheatre, the act was spread in writing to those willing toconvert to Christianity to encourage and inspire them.
Conversionof the Emperor Constantine to Christianity kind of sponsored theChristianity movement. He is said to have had a dream and seen avision instructing him to war against his rival Maxentius in theChristian faith- his soldiers worn the battle at the Milvian bridge.11Believing that Christ had intervened in his victory, he met otherEmpires and made Christianity legal, returned all confiscatedproperties to Christians and lifted all the restrictions of Christianwarship. He put up a new city called Constantinople filled withchurches dedicated to Christians. The Emperor sponsored theconstruction of new churches, promoted Christians government offices,and exempted the Christian clergies from paying taxes. When he died,he was baptized in his death bed, berried at the church of the HolyApostles and named the Thirteenth Apostle.
Afterthree centuries of constant persecution of Christians, the Christianchurch finally found piece in the Romans Empire under the rule ofConstantine. However, around 318 AD, a major theological controversy(Arian controversy) arose concerning Jesus’ Deity. Arius- a teacherand a priest in Alexandria city began to challenge the teaching ofothers including his church leader bishop Alexander. Arius said andmaintained that “If the Father begot the Son, he that was begottenhad a beginning of existence and from this it is evident that therewas a time when the Son was not.12It therefore necessarily follows that he had substance fromnorthing.” This statement and other Arius’s teachings led todoctrinal debate in the 4 AD leading to the division of theChristians in the Roman Empire. The dispute arose between BishopAlexander and Arius regarding the definition of the divinity of theSon (Jesus) and the Father (God). The disagreement spread to thewhole Roman Empire and the entire Eastern Church disrupting peace andunity among Christians. Constantine the Empire at that time convenedthe first ecumenical council consisting of bishops and leaders ofChristian church at Nicaea to get a solution to the dispute.13
Althoughthere were many controversies issues that were debated on at Nicaea,the main dispute was whether “the word of God was coeternal withGod.” According Arius creating and begetting have the same meaningand therefore the Son was created by the Father. He teaches that Sonwas co-eternal with God/Father which contradicted the scripture thatthe Son (Jesus) was one with the Father (God) and was Himselfeternal. Arius also asserted that there was a time when He was noteternal which was contrary to the Bishop Alexander’s teaching thatJesus and God possess equal eternity. The main issue at stake wasthe true nature of Jesus – whether God and the Son were the sameDevine or whether the Son was a created being.14According to Arius Jesus/Son/Word were created being and these werethe standings of Arius teaching. Being a great popularize and aneffective teacher who combined his eloquent preaching style withflair of public relations, this controversy spread faster affectingthe entire Roman Empire. It is important to note that these teachingof Arius are similar to today’s teaching of the Jehovah Witness.Bishop Alexander disagreed strongly to Arius’s arguments, convenedsynod that condemned Arius teaching, dismissed him of his duties, andejected him. He sent letter to other bishops regarding Ariusexclusion from the fellowship.
Ariusand his followers did not take the verdict of the synod calmly. Heappealed to the people of Alexander, friends and protuberant bishopsand soon riots broke on the street of Alexander with people chantingArius slogan. The theological squabble become too much in the entireEmpire forcing the Constantine to intervene. Constantine invitedChristian bishops from entire Empire royal palace at Nicaea regardingthe controversy to find a lasting solution to the controversy.15They tackled and agreed on many issues but Arius controversy proveddifficult to solve. There were those who supported Arius view, thosewho disagreed, and those who were neutral. Eusebius statement thatstated “the Son, the Word/Logos of God, was no more than merecreature” provoked many bishops and majority agreed that Arianismshould be rejected on clear terms. They tried to use biblical wordsbut that failed because Arius had used the same words howeverimposing foreign meanings on them. The council agreed on a creed asthe only way to support Christian faith and the same time excludeArianism in clear terms.16Homo-ousios a Greek word specifically become the center of discussionin the debate. The word was proposed because it would clearly excludethe Arianism which was the born of contention. Majority did not agreeon that citing the fact that it would give loophole to argument thatGod was One. However, due to lack of a better word to replace it thecouncil accepted the word in condition it will be revised in thefuture. The use of the word homo-ousios eliminated and excludedArianism, it also affirmed that Jesus Christ was equally and fullyGod17.
Inconclusion, the creed was accepted by almost every bishop thatattended and they penned their signs except two and Eusebius. Thosewho refused to sign were deposed.18Constantine and the council hoped to bring an end to the controversy,restore peace and unity. However, surprisingly, creed and declarationof the council did not end Arian controversy that continued for overfifty years before it finally come to an end. It is also important tonote that the creed formed the basis of Christian church doctrinefollowed and practiced by Roman Christian church.
Littleis known about the early years of Empire Constantine. He was born inNaissus in 280 at a region called Balkans. Constantius Flavius aRoman army officer and Helena the daughter of the innkeeper were hisparents. Flavius later divorced Constantine mother and marriedTheodora- his commanding officer daughter.19At the age of thirty one years, Constantine was already destined torule. He was a young army commander with 40,000 soldiers in hiscommand. His career to the entire Roman Empire and while crossingthe Alps with his troop, Constantine had a dream of a cross of lightwith the word conquer shining in front of the Sun which later becomehis salvation. Later, he defeated his enemy- Maxentius whose army wasfour times more than his own, captured Rome and was acclaimed thenext Empire of Rome. It is said that before the battle God hadvisited him in a dream instructing him to carry the cross to thebattle which, he promptly instructed the soldiers to put that mark intheir shields. He therefore believed that he won the battle by theDevine help. He wrote, “God does not allow people to wonder in theshadows but reveal to them salvation: I have experienced this inothers and in myself, for I walk not in the way of righteousness. …But the Almighty God, sit in the court of heaven, granted me what Idid not deserve.”20
Hisconversion to Christianity marked the beginning of legalizingChristianity and suppression of persecution of Christians. He visitedLucinius in his palace to discuss with him issues regarding freedomof worship and issued edict that allowed Christians to worshipfreely.21He ordered the governors to return all properties grabbed fromChristians during the persecution. According to Eusebius, all human(Christians) beings were unbound from the harassment of the dictatorsparticularly those who had hope upon Christ. Even though Constantinesupported Christians, his authenticity was questioned he did notmake Christianity the state religion and also allowed pagans tosacrifice at the Arch of Constantine to celebrate Milvian Bridgevictory.
Constantinedefeated Licinius becoming the ruler of the entire Roman Empire. Hemoved capital city to the east, build magnificent churches dedicatedto Christians. The city becomes famous as Constantinople.22In this city Christianity become more popular as the state-church.During the Arius controversy that endangered the unity of the entireEmpire Constantine wrote a letter to both Alexander and Arius askingthem to solve their difference amicably. Later he invited council ofbishops to get solution to this controversy- leading Nicene Creed. Hepresided at the council, however found himself at disadvantaged sidesince he could not follow some subtle issues. Initially, Constantineaccommodated paganism religion after his converting for the sake ofharmony. To give way to Christianity and weaken the paganism in theRomans Empire, he accused the important pagan’s religion leadersfalsely, ordered their arrest and had the killed. He later bannedpagan sacrifice especially in the Constantinople city-established aschurch-state.23Constantine made up excuses to seize the valuable metals of paganstemple and used these treasures in building projects. Using excusesof exorcism demonic effects, Constantine had a pagan templedemolished and by the end of 337 he had managed to cripple the paganreligion in the Roman Empire.24
Delayedbaptism of Constantine was one of the contradictory factors manyscholars cited regarding his faith. He was baptized in his death bedhowever, his decision was not unusual since those days peoplebelieved that one cannot be forgiven after baptism. Being a leader,he had many flows and therefore getting baptized in the final hourwas the best him to be cleansed of his sins. Constantine persisted inbehavior as a usual Roman Emperor when he ordered the killing of hisfirst-born son and his younger wife. He also ordered the killing ofhis preferred sister’s spouse and no body understood his reasonsfor doing that.
Constantinesupport for the early Christian church laid the foundation for thedoctrine that allowed the religious and political leaders to worktogether and in peace performing God’s will. 25Thesedoctrines were clear on the following terms not to separate thechurch from the government and at the same time ensured the churchand the state does not fuse as one. His reign transformed the Romanculture-crucifixion stopped and battle by gladiators as punishmentalso ended. As the first Christian Empire, Constantine transformedthe world ever. He laid foundation and set numerous guides forforthcoming Emperors to shadow. Nonetheless, Christianity growth waspreordained Constantine did a lot make the processed achieved muchfaster.
ThomasN Finger, ChristianTheology. Volume I Volume I (Scottdale,Pa: Herald Press, 1985), 256-843.
R.P. C Hanson, TheSearch for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy,318-381 (GrandRapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2005), 563 – 1203.
Castelli,Elizabeth Anne. Martyrdomand memory: Early Christian culture making.(Columbia University Press, 2004) 243 – 645.
Irvin,Dale T., and Scott Sunquist. Historyof the World Christian Movement: Volume 1: Earliest Christianity To1453.(Vol. 1. A&C Black, 2002) 645 – 723.
ThomasDadson, "Constantine the Great and Christianity. ChristopherBush Coleman," TheAmerican Journal of Theology 21,no. 3 (1917): xx, doi:10.1086/479864.
Hans A.Pohlsander, "The Christianity of Constantine the Great by T. G.Elliot," TheCatholic Historical Review 84,no. 3 (1998): xx, doi:10.1353/cat.1998.0035.
1Tertullian, Quintus S. F. Tertullian: The Crown. (Parker, 1842), 249.
2Tertullian, Quintus S. F. Tertullian: The Crown. (Parker, 1842), 258
3 Ibid., 259
4Harvey, A E. The New English Bible: Companion to the New Testament. (Oxford, Eng: Oxford University Press, 1970), 87.
6 Castelli, Elizabeth Anne. Martyrdom and memory: Early Christian culture making. (Columbia University Press, 2004) 243 – 645.
8 Irvin, Dale T., and Scott Sunquist. History of the World Christian Movement: Volume 1: Earliest Christianity To 1453. (Vol. 1. A&C Black, 2002) 291 – 463.
9 Ibid., 326 – 332.
10 Irvin, Dale T., and Scott Sunquist. History of the World Christian Movement: Volume 1: Earliest Christianity To 1453. (Vol. 1. A&C Black, 2002) 384 – 389.
11 Castelli, Elizabeth Anne. Martyrdom and memory: Early Christian culture making. (Columbia University Press, 2004) 243 – 645.
12 Thomas N Finger, Christian Theology. Volume I Volume I (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1985), 226-243.
13  R. P. C Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381 (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2005), 163 – 183.
14 R. P. C Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381 (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2005), 163 – 183.
15 Ibid., 193
16 R. P. C Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381 (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2005), 189 – 192.
17Thomas N Finger, Christian Theology. Volume I Volume I (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1985), 256
18 Ibid., 243
19 Thomas Dadson, "Constantine the Great and Christianity. Christopher Bush Coleman," The American Journal of Theology 21, no. 3 (1917): xx, doi:10.1086/479864.
20 Hans A. Pohlsander, "The Christianity of Constantine the Great by T. G. Elliot," The Catholic Historical Review 84, no. 3 (1998): xx, doi:10.1353/cat.1998.0035.
21 Ibid., 3
22 Thomas Dadson, "Constantine the Great and Christianity. Christopher Bush Coleman," The American Journal of Theology 21, no. 3 (1917): 3, doi:10.1086/479864.
24 Hans A. Pohlsander, "The Christianity of Constantine the Great by T. G. Elliot," The Catholic Historical Review 84, no. 3 (1998): 2, doi:10.1353/cat.1998.0035.
25 Thomas Dadson, "Constantine the Great and Christianity. Christopher Bush Coleman," The American Journal of Theology 21, no. 3 (1917): 3, doi:10.1086/479864.