This week, we received a theological question that was worthy of being answered.
From: Jim B.
How far back does Christian church go? Send me more info. Probably Christian church goes back 500 hundred years or more. People must know the truth.
Jim, thank you for your great question. In fact, the Christian church goes back much further than 500 years. In Matthew 16:13-18 we read:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ”Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, ”But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, ”You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, ”Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Jesus told Peter that He would build His church starting with Peter. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul referred to Peter, along with James and John to be pillars of the church (2:9).
The first community of Christians were in Jerusalem and led by Peter, James and John (Acts 1:15-19). From Jerusalem, the next Christian church was established at Antioch, located today in the very southern tip of Turkey, not far from Syria. After Antioch, came the church in Galatia, located today in Turkey.
The Roman Catholic Church considers Peter to be the first pope of the church that was established during his journey to Rome. Peter was also reported to have been martyred by Roman Emperor Nero in AD 67. The Christian church was confined to Catholicism from the time of Peter until the Protestant Reformation in 1517. Once the Protestant schism took place, a number of different denominations were started.
For more information on the history of the Christian church, I recommend Introducing Early Christianity – A Topical Survey of Its Life, Beliefs & Practices.
Laurie Guy provides an illuminating, broad-brush survey of the early church in its first four centuries.
From the apostolic fathers to the great ecumenical councils, we see the church undergoing persecution and martyrdom and then rising to favor under Constantine, shaping its ministry and order while worshiping and developing its understanding of doctrine. Baptism and Eucharist, asceticism and monasticism, and the developing roles of women unfold in this thematic account of the rise of Great Tradition Christianity.
Richly illustrated and filled out with maps, charts and close-up windows on related topics, Introducing Early Christianity will inform the curious and enliven courses in early church history.
Paperback, 310 pages
About the Author: Laurie Guy is lecturer in church history and New Testament at Carey Baptist College, Auckland, New Zealand.