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History of Christianity

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Conflicting ideas:

One is forced to talk about the "histories" of Christianity rather than of the "history" of the religion. This is particularly true of the very early Christian movement:

bullet There is one history taught by religious historians which is based on the documents of the time -- including the few books that made it into the Bible and the hundreds of others (incluing about 40 gospels) that were excluded. Historians speak of many Christian faith groups teaching conflicting views of Jesus, God, morality, religious obligations, etc. Men and women led house churches. No central authority existed. Tthe congregations were almost completely decentralized. In the early years, there would often be multiple congregations in a single city following Pauliine Christianity, Gnostic Christianity or Jewish Christianity.


The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Jesus selected Peter to be the temporal ruler of the church. Peter traveled to Rome, presumably with his wife, and reigned there as the first Pope. Una Fides, a Roman Catholic apologetics web site, claims that:

"History proves that from that time [of the disciple Peter] on, both in the East and the West, the successor of Peter was acknowledged to be the supreme head of the [entire Christian] Church." 1.

Catholicism teaches that Peter, Paul and the other apostles ordained bishops as their successors; those bishops, in turn, ordained their successors. Thus, the church's current bishops can trace their ordination through an unbroken line from the apostles; this is called the "apostolic succession."

bullet There is the conflicting view of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS; the Mormons). Their founder, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), taught a theology of restorationism: He preached that the true Christian church died out in the early 2nd century CE, and did not survive in any form until he personally restored it as the LDS Church, early in the 19th century.

bulletThe "Two by Twos" church (a.k.a. Irvinites, The Jesus-Way, No-Name Church, etc) teach that their group was founded by Jesus. They maintained a very low profile since the first century CE. It survived until today as the only true Christian church. They feel that they have been continually persecuted by other Christian groups "which from the earliest times have diluted and perverted the true gospel." 2

bullet Many Christian denominations teach that they alone are the true church. They believe that they alone can trace their lineage directly back to the primitive, first century Christian church. They view the tens of thousands of other Christian denominations in the world as having split away from their own church at some point in history. 

Each of the above denominations tends to view very early Christianity as movement which agreed on almost everything. However, historians view the early Christian movement as composed of many faith groups which taught widely varying beliefs. Sometimes multiple Christian congregations would co-exist in a single city, and would agree on little -- much like today.

The group that publishes this web site is in a lose-lose situation. No matter what we write, we are severely criticized. For example, some Roman Catholics write us Emails stating that in 1054 CE, the Eastern Orthodox churches broke away from their church. Eastern Orthodox Christians also write us; they  maintain that it was the Roman Catholic church which broke away from Eastern Orthodoxy in the 11th century. If we write that the two wings of early Christianity simply drifted apart and finally split from each other, we are criticized by nearly everyone. But that seems to be what actually happened.

We expect to add many more essays to this section in the future.

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Topics covered in this section:

bullet A brief overview of the life of Yeshua (Jesus) and of church history
Very early Christian history: 4 BCE to 300 CE
bullet Three quite different overviews, as seen by: 

bullet Conservative Protestants

bullet Religious historians & liberal Protestants

bullet Roman Catholics 
bullet Detailed history:
bullet The Jesus Movements (7 BCE to about 170 CE)

bullet The Gnostic Christian movement (Pre-Christian to 5th century CE)

bullet The Gospel of Q (circa 50 to 85 CE)

bullet The Gospel of Judas (covers the role of Judas among Jesus' followers)

bullet Later Christian history (301 CE to the present time):
bullet301 to 600 CE

bulletThe Gospel of Barnabas (apparently a medieval forgery)

bulletMuch more to come later.
bullet Current status:
bulletFamilies of Christian denominations

bulletIndividual Christian faith groups

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Site navigation:

 Home > Christianity > History, beliefs, etc. > here

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Peter - or - Christ -- the Rock?" at:
  2. Benton Johnson, "Christians in Hiding: The 'No Name' Sect," published in M.J. Neitz & M.S. Goldman, Eds., "Sex, Lies and Sanctity: Religion and Deviance in Contemporary North America," JAI Press, Pages 37-55.
  3. Gregory J. Riley, "One Jesus, many Christs," Harper SanFrancisco, (1997), Page 4. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  4. book cover image Bart D. Ehrman, "Lost Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew," Oxford University Press, (2003) Read reviews or order this book

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Copyright © 1997 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-AUG-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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