A. Ralph Johnson




A.  The value of church history

      1.   Church history helps us to understand the present.

Questions like, “Where did all of the denominations come from?” or “Why must we have separation between church and state?” find their answers in church history.  A study of the past is essential for a proper understanding of the present.


2.   Church History helps us avoid the mistakes of the past 1Cor. 10:6, 11

      Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it.


3.   Church History gives us hope and encouragement to persevere. Rom. 15:4


B.   Three periods of church history

1.   Ancient Church History.  BC 4- 476

      (From the Birth of Christ to the fall of the Western Roman Empire.)


2.   Medieval Church History. 476 -1517

      (From the fall of Western the Western Roman Empire to the Protestant Reformation)


3.   Modern Church History. 1517 to the present.

      (From the Protestant Reformation to the present.)


C.  Major influences on church history.


1.   Empires predating and effecting Ancient Church History.

a.       Assyrian, BC c. 700

The Northern ten tribes of Israel were dispersed and foreigners with other religious beliefs introduced.  This became the mixed heathen and Israelite religion of the Samaritans.


b.      Babylonian, BC 606

1)   The captivity and destruction of the temple altered the nature of Jewish worship from focus on the temple to the synagogue.  This became the basis for Christians meeting in congregations.

2)      The captivity in Babylon became likened to suppression of Christians under Rome.


c.       Persian, BC 538

They conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to return


d.      Grecian, BC 330

1)      Their Language became the universal tongue of communication.  That in turn, became the language of the Bible and world evangelism.

2)      The influence of Greek Philosophers posed some of the basic issues of the early church.


e.       Roman, BC 63

1.      The Roman government, laws and financial system became the direct framework in which the church began and continued for over 400 years.

2.      The pagan religious system was mostly Greek in origin but was the religion of the State and dominated through its laws.

3.      The networks of roads and commerce became the lines along which Christianity traveled rapidly.

4.      The Roman Empire covered the known world West to East from the Atlantic Ocean to India, and north to South from England to North Africa, one great area open to Christianity


5.      Geography

Church History involved people.  People settled in places where they could find food and have access to resources.  Therefore they commonly settled in valleys, along rivers, and near coastlines.


However, they also needed protection.  Mountain ranges and large bodies of water served to isolate and divide peoples into nations.  Invasions moved across water and through valleys.


6.      Weather

Weather affected crops for food and water to drink.

Weather sometimes affected the outcome of military actions.  Ships were destroyed or armies mired down or were spooked by superstition because of storms.


7.      Disease

Whole populations of cities and countries were sometimes devastated by disease.  Armies were weakened.  These diseases may have been passed from person to person, or through insects such as fleas (plague) or mosquitoes (malaria etc).


8.      Inventions

Inventions for increasing productivity in agriculture, mining, processing

Inventions in harnessing power sources.  Fire, Wind, fossil fuels (oil, coal), electricity, atomic energy.

Inventions in communications.  Writing, printing, telegraph, radio, television.

Inventions relating to travel. (Ships, land vehicles and flight) 

Inventions of war.  (Spears, swords, bows, catapults, explosives (including delivery means –guns, cannons, rockets etc.)


9.      Trade (silk, metals, furs, gold, diamonds, pearls, oil).  These provided incentives to invade and conquer.


10.  Wars and battles often decided the course of history.  There were various motives –to gain minerals, to expand control, plunder, to extend religion.

Example, the battle of Tours, France turned back the Saracen Musalims who otherwise could have made all of Europe Islamic. 


11.  Religion and philosophy. 

a.       Grecian thinking had tremendous influence. 

1)      Plato (427-347 B.C.)

2)      Aristotle, his pupil  (384-322 B.C.)

3)      Pyrrho (365-275 B.C.)

4)      Epicureans, founded by Epicurus (340 BC)

5)      Stoicism, founded by Zeno (280 BC)

6)      Cynics


b.      With regard to Church History, the writings and history of the Jews had great impact.

1)      Sadducees, who controlled the temple, descendents of the Maccabees.  Denied the resurrection, angels and spirits.

2)      Pharisees, devoted to the law and the traditions, especially superficially.

3)      Essenes, a cloistered sect living in the wilderness near the Dead Sea.

4)      Eclecticism, founded by Philo, a Jew of Alexandria, contemporary of Jesus.











4 BC


Jesus’ life and crucifixion. 

Church begins 33 AD

> John the Baptist 

> Jesus Christ

Tiberius 14-37





Caligula 37-41





Claudius 41-54




John, the apostle 100?

Nero 54-68 (Persecution)

Galba 68-69

Otho 69

Vitellius 69



Jerusalem destroyed 70 A.D.

Josephus priest/historian

Vespasian 69-79




Hermas 58-100?

Titus 79-81




> Ignatius 67-110

Domitian 81-96




> Polycarp 69-155

Nerva 96-98



Apostle’s Creed 100?

Clement of Rome 92-101?

Trajan  98-117 (Persecution)




Barnabas’ epistle 110?





Jews revolt  135

> Justin Martyr 100-166

Hadrian 117-138




> Irenaeus 115-200?

Antonius Pius 138-161




Diognetus 133?





Tertulian 150-240?





Clement of Alexandria


Marcus Aurelius  161-180





Commodus  180-193




Hippolytus 198-236 ?

Carculla  211-217




> Origen 185-254

Maximin 235-238




Cyprian 200-258

Decius 249-251





Gallus 251-253





Valerian 253-260





Diocletian 284-305

Maximian 285



Eusebius 260-340

Constantine 306-337

Galerius 292




Edict of Milan Toleration 313




Council of Nicaea 325

Athanasius 328-373

Capitol moved from Rome

to Byzantium 330

Constantine baptized

and died 337





Valens 364-378


Council of Laodicea 363

Basil the Great 329-379


Theodosius 378-395


Council of Constantinople 381

Gregory Naziazen 330-390




Council of Carthage 397

Ambrose 340-397

Visgoths under Aleric sack Rome  403-410



Pelagianism 411-430

Nestorianism 428-431

Chrysostom 347-407

Jerome 340-419

Vandals conquer Spain and North Africa, and sack Rome 439-458



Council of Ephesus 431

Augustine 354-430

Huns under Attila devastate Northern Italy 433-453



Council of Chalcedon 451

Pope Leo I   440-461 claimed apostolic succession

St. Patrick in Ireland 432




King Clovis, King of the Franks, baptized 496

Herulie, under Odoacer, depose Romulus Augustus Western Rome falls 476

Zeno 474-491




II Constantinople  Council 553

Justinian calls Pope John II “Lord of the church” 533




Mohammed 570-632






Pope Gregory, The Great 590-604


Phocus called Boniface “Head of the Church” 607





Muhammad 613 



Charles Martel Muslim defeat in France at

Battle of Tours 732




Pope given "Donations of Constantine"


Charlemagne crowned “Emperor of the West” 800




Pope Gregory V 996-999




Turks take Palestine 1070

Pope Gregory VII Hildebrand 1020-1085


Great Schism between East and West 1054


Crusades 1096-1291

Albigensians 1,100




Inquisition 1231

Thomas Aquinas 1225-1274

Magna Carta 1215



Babylonian Captivity 1309-1377

Wycliffe, Lollards 1320-1384

Hundred Years War 1337-1453



Great Schism of the West 1382-1417


Black Death 1348-1400



Council of Pisa 1409


Renaissance 1350-1600



Council of Constance 1414-1414

> John Huss burned 1415




Council of Basel 1431-1449

Gutenberg printed Bible 1450





> Savonarola



Turks capture Constantinople 1453


Reformation 1517-1555

Martin Luther 1483-1546 95 Theses 1517





> Crammer 1489-1556





John Calvin 1509-1564