Category Archives: Early Church History

#332 – A History of the Catholic Church – The Illuminator And The Emperor

gregorytheilluminator

Continuing our history of the conversion of Armenia, we look at the religious and political reasons that motivate that country’s shift from paganism to Christianity. We begin our movement into the Great Persecution with a look at Diocletian’s desire to promote devotion to the Roman gods and his persecution of the Manicheans.

Links:

Image: Image of Gregory the Illuminator

See last episode for links on Armenia

Map of the spread of Christianity by 300 AD

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#332 – A History of the Catholic Church – The Illuminator And The Emperor

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#331 -A History of the Catholic Church – Marked With The Seal

saintmaurice

In the years prior to the outbreak of the Great Persecution, the martyrdoms of the Theban Legion and Saint Maurice, Saint Maximilian, and Saint Marcellus demonstrated that it was difficult for the Christian soldiers to serve both Christ and the Emperor. In this episode, we also begin our look at how Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity.

Links:

Image: Saint Maurice by Matthias Grünewald

Donald F. O’Reilly, The Theban Legion of St. Maurice, Vigiliae Christianae, 32, 1978, 195-207

The Passion of St. Maximilian of Tebessa

David Woods – The Origin of the Cult of St. Maximilian of Tebessa

The Passion of St. Marcellus of Tingis

Agathangelos – History of St. Gregory and the Conversion of Armenia

Saint Gregory the Illuminator

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#331 – A History of the Catholic Church – Marked With The Seal

#330 – A History of the Catholic Church – The Thundering Legion

thunderinglegion

The ascension of Diocletian as Emperor brought with it significant changes in the political structure of the Roman Empire – changes that would affect the nature and structure of the Church as well. Christians will wrestle over whether service in the Roman Army is acceptable.

Links:

Image: Image of the Thundering Legion from the Column of Marcus Aurelius by Cristiano64

Eusebius on the Thundering Legion

John Helgeland, “Christians and the Roman Army A.D. 173-337”, Church History, Vol. 43, No. 2, June 1974, pp. 149-163

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#330 – A History of the Catholic Church – The Thundering Legion

#329 – A History of the Catholic Church – The Manifestation Of Our Lord

solinvictus

The History of Religions and the Chronology Theory attempt to explain why Christians in the Roman Empire began to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th and whether there is a relationship between the celebration of the birth of Christ and the pagan celebration of the birth of Sol Invictus. The origins of Christmas and Epiphany are somewhat murky, but do shed light on the life of early Christians.

Links:

Image: Image of the Adoration of the Magi from 4th century sarcophagus

History of Religions Theory presented by Joseph F. Kelly in “The Birth of Christmas”

The Calculation Theory presented by Andrew McGowan in “How December 25 Became Christmas”.

Pope Benedict presents his support of the Calculation Theory in “The Spirit of the Liturgy” pp. 107-109.

Kurt Simmons in The Origins of Christmas and the Date of Christ’s Birth argues against both the History of Religions and Calculation theories – instead asserting that Biblical and historical evidence show likelihood of 25th of December date for Christ’s birth.

Susan K. Roll, “Towards the Origins of Christmas”, 1995.

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#329 – A History of the Catholic Church – The Manifestation of our Lord

#328 – A History of the Catholic Church – Sol Invictus

solinvictus

As Christianity expanded and developed in the Roman Empire it would use pagan images and symbols to express Christian theology – Christ as the Good Shepherd, Christ as the Philosopher, Christ as the Unconquered Sun. But the Christians did not simply adopt these images, they gave to them particularly Christian meanings to show how the message of Christ was different that anything that had ever happened before.

Links:

Image: Image of Christ as Sol Invictus in the Tomb of the Julii

Via Saleria Sarcophagus showing Christ as the Philosopher and as the Good Shepherd

Sarcophagus showing Jesus Christ as philosopher raising Lazarus from the dead

Coin of Vespasian with image of Sol

Coin of Caracalla with image of Sol Invictus

Coin of Aurelian with image of Sol Invictus

Coin of Probus with image of Sol Invictus

Image of Apollo riding chariot at Orbe Bosceaz, Switzerland

More information about the Tomb of the Julii/Mausoleum M and Saint Peter’s Basilica – including map of the necropolis

Sarcophagus of La Gayole

Steven Hijmans – “Christ or Sol in Mausoleum M of the Vatican Necropolis?”

Robin M Jensen, “Towards a Christian Material Culture”, The Cambridge History of Christianity: Origins to Constantine, Vol 1, New York: Cambridge, 2006, pp. 568-589.

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#328 – A History of the Catholic Church – Sol Invictus

#327 – A History of the Catholic Church – Holding Festival In Our Whole Life

oxyrhynchushymn

Music occupied an important place in the life of the Early Church. Good music moved the Christian closer to God, whereas bad music led the Christian astray. Some musical instruments were praised, others were condemned. There was no part of the Christian life that music did not touch.

Links:

Image: Section of the Oxyrhynchus Hymn

An example of ancient Greek music in a Chromatic scale

A presentation on ancient Greek music in the Enharmonic scale and Dorian mode

An example of ancient Greek music in an Enharmonic scale

An example of the Greek Aulos/Auloi instrument

The Oxyrhynchus Hymn as it might have sounded

The Phos Hilaron Hymn

W. J. Holleman, “The Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1786 and the Relationship Between Ancient Greek and Early Christian Music”, Vigiliae Christianae 26, 1972, 1-17.

Christopher Page, The Christian West and its Singers: The First Thousand Years, Yale University Press, Yale, 2010.

Kristen L. Southworth, Music in Early Christianity and Its Cultural-Historical Context

Calvin R. Stapert, A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church, William , Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2007.

David VanBrugge, An Analysis of the Ancient Church Fathers on Instrumental Music

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#327 – A History of the Catholic Church – Holding Festival In Our Whole Life

#326 – A History of the Catholic Church – Natalia And The New Eve

annunciation

Just as the Early Church arose from its belief that Christ has risen from the dead, so did the Church believe that those Christians who died would inherit eternal life – first those who were martyrs and then the rest of the faithful. These saints, especially the Virgin Mary, would play an important role in the spiritual life of the Church and in the teaching of its doctrines.

Links:

Image: Painting of the Mary nursing Jesus in the Catacomb of Saint Priscilla

Examples of Acts of the Martyrs

Carvings of prayers to the saints from the catacombs

Painting of the Annunciation in the Catacomb of Saint Priscilla

Painting of the Adoration of the Magi from the Catacomb of Priscilla

Image of the Adoration of the Magi from a Christian sarcophagus

The Sub Tuum Praesidium Prayer

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#326 – A History of the Catholic Church – Natalia And The New Eve

#325 – A History of the Catholic Church – If You Wish To Be Perfect

anthonyofthedesert

The Little Peace of the Church meant a near forty year pause in the empire wide persecution of the Christians. During this time, the number of Christians continued to grow, but it meant a end, at least temporarily, to the possibility of martyrdom. Thus, Christians like Paul of Thebes and Anthony of the Desert will seek new opportunities to seek God and wrestle with the Devil.

Links:

Image: Cave of Saint Anthony of the Desert by LorisRomito

Saint Jerome’s Life of Saint Paul the Hermit

The Monastery of Saint Paul of Thebes

Statue of Saint Paul in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica

Saint Athanasius’ Life of Saint Anthony

Saint Anthony Resource Page

38 Sayings of Saint Anthony

Statue of Saint Antony in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica

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#325 – A History of the Catholic Church – If You Wish To Be Perfect

#324 – A History of the Catholic Church – Divine Procurator

gregorythaumaturgus

The Synod of Alexandria finally discovers a way to solve the problem of Paul of Samosata but it will require persuading a pagan Emperor to help. Christian bishops begin taking large roles in Roman civil society with mixed results.

Links:

Image: Gregory Thaumaturgus

Patrick Hurley. “Some Thoughts on the Emperor Aurelian as “Persecutor”.” Classical World 106.1 (2012): 75-89.

Millar, Fergus. 1971. “Paul of Samosata, Zenobia and Aurelian: The Church, Local Culture and Political Allegiance in Third-century Syria”. The Journal of Roman Studies 61. Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies: 1–17.

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#324 – A History of the Catholic Church – Divine Procurator

#323 – A History of The Catholic Church – The Dionysii

dionysiusofrome

Different understandings about the nature of the relationship between the Father and the Son create new tensions for the Church as Sabellianism moves into Alexandria and causes problems both for Dionysius of Alexandria as well as Dionysius of Rome. Just as that issue is resolved, Paul of Samosata comes to Antioch.

Links:

Image: Bishop Dionysius of Rome by Mattana

Dionysius of Rome “Against the Sabellians”

Michael Slusser – “Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus”, Expository Times, Vol 120, No 12, pp. 573-585.

Daniëlle Slootjes. “Bishops and Their Position of Power in the Late Third Century CE: The Cases of Gregory Thaumaturgus and Paul of Samosata.” Journal of Late Antiquity 4, no. 1 (2011): 100-115.

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#323 – A History of the Catholic Church – The Dionysii