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CHURCH HISTORY

greatly enlarged and improved), the translation of the latter (1892 ff.) being the most useful text-book in English. Of modern Roman Catholic works may be mentioned those by J. A. Möhler, T. B. Alzog, F. X. Kraus, Cardinal Joseph von Hergenröther and C. J. von Hefele (edited by Knöpfler.)

In addition to these general works on church history should be named the histories of doctrine by Harnack, Loofs, Seeberg and Fisher; and on the early Church the works on the apostolic age by Weizsäcker (1886, English translation 1894), McGiffert (1897), and Bartlet (1899); Renan’s Histoire des origines du christianisme (1867 ff., in 7 vols., translated in part); Pfleiderer’s Urchristenthum (1887); S. Cheetham’s History of the Christian Church during the first Six Centuries (1894); Wernle’s Anfänge unserer Religion (1901; Eng. tr. 1902 ff.); Rainy’s Ancient Catholic Church (1902); Knopf’s Nachapostolisches Zeitalter (1905); Duchesne’s Histoire ancienne de l’Église (vol. i., 1906).  (A. C. McG.) 

In the following account of the historical evolution of the Church, the subject will be treated in three sections:—(A) The ancient Church to the beginning of the pontificate of Gregory the GreatHistory of the Christian Church. (A.D. 590); (B) The Church in the middle ages; (C) The modern Church.

A. The Ancient Church

1. Origin and Growth.—The crucifixion of Jesus Christ resulted in the scattering of his followers, but within a short time they became convinced that he had risen from the dead, and would soon return to set up the expected Messianic kingdom, and so to accomplish the true work of the Messiah (cf. Acts i. 6 ff.). They were thus enabled to retain the belief in his Messiahship which his death had threatened to destroy permanently. This belief laid upon them the responsibility of bringing as many of their countrymen as possible to recognize him as Messiah, and to prepare themselves by repentance and righteousness for the coming kingdom (cf. Acts ii. 21, 38, iii. 19 sq.). It was with the sense of this responsibility that they gathered again in Jerusalem, the political and religious metropolis of Judaism. In Jerusalem the new movement had its centre, and the church established there is rightly known as the mother church of Christendom. The life of the early Jewish disciples, so far as we are able to judge from our meagre sources, was very much the same as that of their fellows. They continued faithful to the established synagogue and temple worship (cf. Acts iii. 1), and did not think of founding a new sect, or of separating from the household of Israel (cf. Acts x. 14, xv. 5, xxi. 21 sq.). There is no evidence that their religious or ethical ideals differed in any marked degree from those of the more serious-minded among their countrymen, for the emphasis which they laid upon the need of righteousness was not at all uncommon. In their belief, however, in the Messiahship of Jesus, and their consequent assurance of the speedy establishment by him of the Messianic kingdom, they stood alone. The first need of the hour, therefore, was to show that Jesus was the promised Messiah in spite of his crucifixion, a need that was met chiefly by testimony to the resurrection, which became the burden of the message of the early disciples to their fellow-countrymen (cf. Acts ii. 24 ff., iii. 15 ff., v. 31). It was this need which led also to the development of Messianic prophecy and the ultimate interpretation of the Jewish Bible as a Christian book (see Bible). The second need of the hour was to bring the nation to repentance and righteousness in order that the kingdom might come (cf. Acts iii. 19). The specific gospel of Jesus, the gospel of divine fatherhood and human brotherhood, received no attention in the earliest days, so far as our sources enable us to judge.

Meanwhile the new movement spread quite naturally beyond the confines of Palestine and found adherents among the Jews of the dispersion, and at an early day among the Gentiles as well. Many of the latter had already come under the influence of Judaism, and were more or less completely in sympathy with Jewish religious principles. Among the Christians who did most to spread the gospel in the Gentile world was the apostle Paul, whose conversion was the greatest event in the history of the early Church. In his hands Christianity became a new religion, fitted to meet the needs of all the world, and freed entirely of the local and national meaning which had hitherto attached to it. According to the early disciples Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, and had significance only in relation to the expected Messianic kingdom. To establish that kingdom was his one great aim. For the Gentiles he had no message except as they might become members of the family of Israel, assuming the responsibilities and enjoying the privileges of proselytes. But Paul saw in Jesus much more than the Jewish Messiah. He saw in Christ the divine Spirit, who had come down from heaven to transform the lives of men, all of whom are sinners. Thus Jesus had the same significance for one man as for another, and Christianity was meant as much for Gentiles as for Jews. The kingdom of which the early disciples were talking was interpreted by Paul as righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom. xiv. 17), a new principle of living, not a Jewish state. But Paul taught also, on the basis of a religious experience and of a distinct theory of redemption (see McGiffert’s Apostolic Age, ch. iii.), that the Christian is freed from the obligation to observe the Jewish law. He thus did away with the fundamental distinction between Jews and Gentiles. The transformed spiritual life of the believer expresses itself not in the observance of the Jewish law, but in love, purity and peace. This precipitated a very serious conflict, of which we learn something from the Epistle to the Galatians and the Book of Acts (xv. and xxii.). Other fundamental principles of Paul’s failed of comprehension and acceptance, but the belief finally prevailed that the observance of Jewish law and custom was unnecessary, and that in the Christian Church there is no distinction between the circumcised and the uncircumcised. Those Jewish Christians who refused to go with the rest of the Church in this matter lived their separate life, and were regarded as an heretical sect known as the Ebionites.

It was Christianity in its universal form which won its great victories, and finally became permanently established in the Roman world. The appeal which it made to that world was many-sided. It was a time of moral reformation, when men were awaking to the need of better and purer living. To all who felt this need Christianity offered high moral ideals, and a tremendous moral enthusiasm, in its devotion to a beloved leader, in its emphasis upon the ethical possibilities of the meanest, and in its faith in a future life of blessedness for the righteous. It was a time of great religious interest, when old cults were being revived and new ones were finding acceptance on all sides. Christianity, with its one God, and its promise of redemption and a blessed immortality based upon divine revelation, met as no other contemporary faith did the awakening religious needs. It was a time also of great social unrest. With its principle of Christian brotherhood, its emphasis upon the equality of all believers in the sight of God, and its preaching of a new social order to be set up at the return of Christ, it appealed strongly to multitudes, particularly of the poorer classes. That it won a permanent success, and finally took possession of the Roman world, was due to its combination of appeals. No one thing about it commended it to all, and to no one thing alone did it owe its victory, but to the fact that it met a greater variety of needs and met them more satisfactorily than any other movement of the age. Contributing also to the growth of the Church was the zeal of its converts, the great majority of whom regarded themselves as missionaries and did what they could to extend the new faith. Christianity was essentially a proselytizing religion, not content to appeal simply to one class or race of people, and to be one among many faiths, but believing in the falsity or insufficiency of all others and eager to convert the whole world. Moreover, the feeling of unity which bound Christians everywhere together and made of them one compact whole, and which found expression before many generations had passed in a strong organization, did much for the spread of the Church. Identifying himself with the Christian circle from the 2nd century on, a man became a member of a society existing in all quarters of the empire, every part conscious of its oneness with the larger whole and all compactly organized to do the common work. The growth of the Church during the