Era 1: Early Church (1): Persecutions (AD 30–300)


VOLUME ONE. The Early Church to the Dawn of Reformation

1/      Introduction

·         Why should we study church history?

·         Does studying history affect the interpretation of the Bible? If yes, how?



2/      The Fullness of Time

Judaism in Palestine—Diaspora Judaism—The Greco-Roman World

·         Why did the Jews want someone to lead them against the ruling Roman Empire?

·         What is the right response if the government suppresses your religion?

·         Which one of the following is more important, and why? [a] find out the values in the world which is against the Bible and avoid conforming to the world, or [b] find out the values in the world which agree to the Bible and use the information to spread the gospel.

3/      The Church in Jerusalem

Unity and Diversity—Religious Life—The Waning of the Jewish Church

·         After Acts 11, the focus switches to Gentiles and missions. What happened to the original church in Jerusalem?

·         Should a present-day Jewish Christian follow the Jewish tradition like keeping the Sabbath? Why?

4/      Mission to the Gentiles

The Scope of the Mission—Paul's Work—The Apostles: Facts and Legends

·         In what way was the gospel spread in the 1st-c?

·         Should Christians who are not full-time pastors go to missions? Why?

·         In the first two centuries, when newly formed churches taught people about the gospel, where did their authority come from, that is, how did the people know the teaching in the church was correct? What about the churches today?

5/      First Conflicts with the State

A New Jewish Sect—Persecution under Nero—Persecution under Domitian

·         Why did the Roman government persecute Christians?

·         Should Christians rebel or join a revolution if the ruler is a tyrant?

6/      Persecution in the Second Century

The Correspondence between Pliny and Trajan—Ignatius of Antioch, the Bearer of God—The Martyrdom of Polycarp—Persecution under Marcus Aurelius—Towards the End of the Second Century

·         How should Christian respond when persecutions come from other groups/religions? What about persecution from the government?

·         Are there different forms of persecution in today’s society?

7/      The Defense of the Faith

Base Rumors and Lofty Criticism—The Main Apologists—Christian Faith and Pagan Culture—The Arguments of the Apologists

·         Against whom do we defend our faith?

·         What are their reasons when non-believers attack Christianity?

·         How far should we isolate ourselves from the “pagan culture”?

8/      The Deposit of the Faith

Gnosticism—Marcion—The Response: Canon, Creed, and Apostolic Succession—The Ancient Catholic Church

·         What were the main teachings of Gnosticism?

·         When someone spread their “gospel” to us, how do we know if it is true/legitimate or not?

·         What does “Catholic” mean?

9/      The Teachers of the Church

Irenaeus of Lyons—Clement of Alexandria—Tertullian of Carthage—Origen of Alexandria

·         Which beliefs of these Church Fathers are not Biblical? How did this happen to mature Christians like these?

·         Will these non-biblical beliefs reduce the credibility of their theological arguments?

10/    Persecution in the Third Century

Persecution under Septimius Severus—Under Decius—The Question of the Lapsed: Cyprian and Novatian

·         Why did God allow 3 centuries of Roman persecutions?

·         How were the lapsed Christians dealt with? Are these treatments proper? Should the treatment be similar for today? Why and why not?

11/    Christian Life

The Social Origins of Early Christians—Christian Worship—The Organization of the Church—Missionary Methods—The Beginnings of Christian Art

·         Which practices in early church are still found in the church today?

·         Which practices in early church were different from the practice of today? Are these differences important? Should we follow the ancient ways?

12/    The Great Persecution and the Final Victory

·         How do we see God’s providence at work in the victory of Constantine?