Apostolic Age of the history of Christianity is traditionally
regarded as the period of the Twelve Apostles, dating from the Great
Commission of the
Apostles by the risen
Jesus in Jerusalem around 33
AD until the death of the last Apostle, believed to be John the
Apostle in Anatolia c. 100. Traditionally, the
Apostles are believed
to have dispersed from Jerusalem, founding the Apostolic Sees. It
holds special significance in Christian tradition as the age of the
direct apostles of
Jesus Christ. One major primary source for the
"Apostolic Age" is the Acts of the Apostles, but its historical
accuracy is questioned by some and its coverage is partial, focusing
especially from Acts 15:36 onwards on the ministry of Paul (an apostle
to the Gentiles, but not one of the original twelve apostles – Rom.
1:1; 11:13) and his companions, and ending around 62 AD with Paul
Rome under house arrest.
According to most scholars, the followers of Jesus
were composed principally from apocalyptic Jewish sects during the
Second Temple period of the 1st century. Some Early Christian
groups were strictly Jewish, such as the
Ebionites and the
early-church leaders in Jerusalem, collectively called Jewish
Christians. During this period, they were led by James the Just.
According to Acts 9:1–2, they described themselves as 'disciples of
the Lord' and [followers] 'of the Way', and according to Acts 11:26 a
settled community of disciples at
Antioch were the first to be called
Saul of Tarsus, commonly known as Paul the Apostle, persecuted the
early Jewish Christians, such as Saint Stephen, then converted and
adopted the title of "Apostle to the Gentiles" and started
proselytizing among the Gentiles. He persuaded the leaders of the
Jerusalem Church to allow
Gentile converts exemption from most Jewish
commandments at the Council of Jerusalem.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Paul's
influence on Christian thinking is more significant than any other New
Testament author, however the relationship of
Paul the Apostle
Paul the Apostle and
Judaism is still disputed today (see the link for details). After the
Destruction of the
Second Temple in AD 70 during the First
Jewish-Roman War, or at the latest following the
Bar Kokhba revolt
Bar Kokhba revolt of
132, Jerusalem ceased to be the center of the Christian church, and
its bishops became "suffragans" (subordinates) of the Metropolitan
bishop of Caesarea. In the 2nd century, Christianity established
itself as a predominantly
Gentile religion that spanned the Roman
Empire and beyond.
2 Early leaders
3 Jewish background
3.1 Religious climate
3.2 Relationship with the Essenes
5 Circumcision controversy
6 Apostolic Church in Jerusalem
7 Saint Thomas Christians
8 See also
11 External links
Cenacle on Mount Zion, claimed[by whom?] to be the location of the
Last Supper and Pentecost. Bargil Pixner claims the original Church
Apostles is located under the current structure.
The apostolic period between the years 30 and 100 produced writings
attributed to the immediate followers of
Jesus Christ. The period is
traditionally associated with the apostles, hence the tags "apostolic
times" and "apostolic writings". The early church associated the New
Testament books with the apostles. Modern "liberal" scholarship has
cast doubt on the authorship of some
New Testament books—however,
most accept that the
New Testament books were written during this
period. In the traditional (and scholastically accepted) history of
the Christian church, the
Apostolic Age was the foundation of the
Apostolic Age is particularly significant in Restorationism, which
claims that the period exhibited a purer form of Christianity that
should be restored to the church as it exists today.
The unique character of the
New Testament writings, and their period
of origin, is highlighted by the paucity of their literary form in
later writing. Once the canon of the
New Testament began to take
shape, the style ceased to be used on a regular basis. Non-canonical
writings persisted, but died out within a historically short period of
time. Early patristic literature is dominated by apologetics and makes
use of other literary forms borrowed from non-Christian sources.
St. Peter, by Rubens
The relatives of
Jesus lived in
Nazareth since the 1st century. Some
of them were prominent early Christians. Among those named in the New
Testament are his mother and four of his brothers: James, Simeon,
Joseph and Jude. According to the Gospels, some of the family opposed
the mission and religion of Jesus. The relatives of
accorded a special position within the early church, as displayed by
the leadership of James in Jerusalem.
According to 19th-century German theologian
F. C. Baur
F. C. Baur early
Christianity was dominated by the conflict between Peter who was
law-observant, and Paul who advocated partial or even complete freedom
from the law. Later findings contradicted this hypothesis. The
allegedly continuous conflict was not supported by the available
evidence. However, theological conflict between Paul and Peter is
recorded in the
New Testament and was widely discussed in the early
Marcion and his followers stated that the polemic against
false apostles in Galatians was aimed at Peter, James and John, the
"Pillars of the Church", as well as the "false" gospels circulating
through the churches at the time.
against Marcionism's elevation of Paul and stated that Peter and Paul
were equals among the apostles. Passages from Galatians were used to
show that Paul respected Peter's office and acknowledged a shared
James D. G. Dunn has proposed that Peter was the "bridge-man"
between the two other prominent leaders: Paul and James the Just. Paul
and James were both heavily identified with their own "brands" of
Christianity. Peter showed a desire to hold on to his Jewish identity,
in contrast with Paul. He simultaneously showed a flexibility towards
the desires of the broader Christian community, in contrast to James.
(This balance is illustrated in the
Antioch episode related in
According to modernist higher criticism scholars who emerged since the
18th century in Protestant Europe:
Early Christianity was a Jewish
eschatological faith. The
Book of Acts
Book of Acts reports that the early
followers continued daily Temple attendance and traditional Jewish
home prayer. Other passages in the
New Testament gospels reflect a
similar observance of traditional Jewish piety such as fasting,
reverence for the
Torah (commonly translated as "the Law" in English
translations of the Bible) and observance of Jewish holy days. The
earliest form of Jesus' religion is best understood in this context.
However, there was great diversity in local variations, as each
succeeded or failed in different ways. Regardless,
Jesus was a pious
Jew, worshipping the Jewish God, preaching interpretations of Jewish
law and accepted as the
Jewish Messiah by his disciples.
Proponents of higher criticism claim that regardless of how one
interprets the mission of Jesus, that he must be understood in context
as a 1st-century Palestinian Jew, stemming from the 12 tribes of the
Holy Land. Orthodox and
Catholic Christianity, including the
Church Fathers, on the other hand, tend to place a sharp distinction
between Israel (which the Church claims to be the heir of) and the
Pharisees (i.e., "Jews", forefathers of modern Judaism), as well as
placing a central focus on his divine nature.
See also: Cultural and historical background of Jesus
The religious climate of 1st century Judea was quite diverse with
numerous variations of Judaic doctrine, many attempts to establish an
ideal holy community and divergent ideas about Israel's future hopes.
Modern scholars place normative Rabbinic
Judaism after the time of
Jesus; see also School of Jamnia. The
Pharisees were but one sect and
did not have the overwhelming influence in 1st century Judea
traditionally attributed to them. The ancient historian
four prominent groups in the
Judaism of the time: Pharisees,
Essenes and Zealots.
Jesus dealt with a variety of sects,
most prominently discussing the Law with
Pharisees and debating about
bodily resurrection with the Sadducees.
Jesus also directly associated
with John the Baptist, who is often associated with the Essenes.
Relationship with the Essenes
Scholars such as
James Tabor state that
Essenes and early Christians
had a number of similar beliefs. The
Essenes practised baptism,
believed in a New Covenant, were messianic and believed themselves a
remnant of the faithful preparing the way for the reign of God's
glory. They called their group by names that would later be used by
Christians, such as The Way and the Saints.
Jesus preached a number of
doctrines similar to Essene Halacha. They followed a charismatic
leader who was opposed and possibly killed at the instigation of the
John the Baptist
John the Baptist seems to have risen out of this
Some scholars, such as Carsten Peter Thiede, dispute this
Early Christian leaders did not have to visit
have heard of Essene beliefs and read their texts. The various Jewish
groups, including Christians and Essenes, were interconnected and
simultaneously adopted some practices and beliefs while rejecting
others. While some similarities exist, there are many differences and
similar parallels can be also drawn between the early Christians and
Pharisees, and other Jewish sects. Many features of Christian faith
have no parallels in the texts from Qumran, and some that do are
fundamentally distinct from Essene practices and beliefs. Notably,
John's act of penitent baptism bears little resemblance to the daily
baptismal ritual of the Essenes.
Peter Baptizing the
Centurion Cornelius, by Francesco Trevisani
The Roman centurion Cornelius of
Caesarea Maritima is traditionally
considered the first
Gentile convert. His conversion, as documented in
Acts 10, carries great significance. Cornelius was referenced by both
Peter and James in arguing for the inclusion of Gentiles in the
Council of Jerusalem. His conversion is broadly considered to have
been the beginning of a broader mission to the Gentiles, who would
come to eclipse the Jews among Christians.
The story of Cornelius' conversion is thematically connected with, and
parallels, the conversion stories of the Samaritans, Paul of Tarsus
Ethiopian eunuch in Luke-Acts. The Ethiopian was an outsider
and castrated, whose presence in worship assembly would have been
prohibited under the Mosaic law (Deut 23:1). This is consistent with
the theme of Luke, advocating a "universal" faith and mission.
Ethiopia was considered in antiquity to be the southernmost end of the
world. Thus, the Ethiopian's conversion can also be interpreted as a
partial fulfillment of the mission presented in Acts 1 to bring the
Gospel to the "ends of the earth". Some scholars assert that the
Ethiopian eunuch was the first
Gentile convert, stating that those
resisting this conclusion are doing so to preserve the traditional
interpretation of Cornelius as the first convert. Regardless of the
primacy of either convert, this episode relates Luke's view of how
(through Phillip) the
Gospel reached the "ends of the earth" and the
mission to the Gentiles was initiated.
Main article: Circumcision controversy in early Christianity
Circumcision in the Bible
Circumcision in the Bible and
Paul of Tarsus
Paul of Tarsus and Judaism
Saint Paul, by El Greco
Disputes over the Mosaic law generated intense controversy in early
Christianity. This is particularly notable in the mid-1st century,
when the circumcision controversy came to the fore. Alister McGrath
stated that many of the
Jewish Christians were fully faithful
religious Jews, only differing in their acceptance of
Jesus as the
Messiah. As such, they believed that circumcision and other
requirements of the Mosaic law were required for salvation. The
increasing number of
Gentile converts came under pressure from Jewish
Christians to be circumcised in accordance with Abrahamic tradition.
The issue was addressed at the
Council of Jerusalem
Council of Jerusalem where Saint Paul
made an argument that circumcision was not a necessary practice,
vocally supported by Peter, as documented in Acts 15. This position
received widespread support and was summarized in a letter circulated
While the issue was theoretically resolved, it continued to be a
recurring issue among Christians. Four years after the Council of
Jerusalem, Paul wrote to the Galatians about the issue, which had
become a serious controversy in their region. There was a burgeoning
Judaizers in the area that advocated adherence to
traditional Mosaic laws, including circumcision. According to McGrath,
Paul identified James the Just as the motivating force behind the
movement. Paul considered it a great threat to his doctrine of
salvation through faith and addressed the issue with great detail in
Apostolic Church in Jerusalem
See also: Apostolic see, Jerusalem in Christianity, and Greek Orthodox
Patriarch of Jerusalem
In 66, the Jews revolted against Rome.
Rome besieged Jerusalem for
four years, and the city fell in 70. The city was destroyed,
including the massive Temple, and the population was mostly killed or
removed. Though, according to Epiphanius of Salamis, the
Cenacle survived at least to Hadrian's visit in 130. A scattered
population survived. Traditionally it is believed the Jerusalem
Christians waited out the
Jewish–Roman wars in Pella in the
Decapolis. The Sanhedrin (of Judaism) reformed in Jamnia.
Prophecies of the Second Temple's destruction are found in the
synoptics, and are part of the argument for Supersessionism. After
the Bar Kokhba revolt,
Hadrian barred all Jews from Jerusalem which
was renamed Aelia Capitolina, hence the subsequent Jerusalem bishops
Jerusalem received special recognition in Canon VII of Nicaea in 325,
without yet becoming a metropolitan see, and was later named as
one of the Pentarchy, but the later was never accepted by the Church
Saint Thomas Christians
Thomas the Apostle
Thomas the Apostle brought Christianity to the southern Indian Malabar
Coast, reputedly in AD 52 and from this developed the Saint Thomas
Christian tradition or "Thomasine Christianity". These Syrian Malabar
Nasrani Christians maintained a unique Christian identity until the
arrival of the Portuguese in the 17th century.
List of events in early Christianity
Antilegomena, early writings of which the Christianity is disputed
Catholic Encyclopedia: Dispersion of the Apostles: "The object of
the feast (so Godescalcus) is to commemorate the departure
(dispersion) of the
Apostles from Jerusalem for the various parts of
the world, some fourteen years after the Ascension of Christ."
^ Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church ed. F.L. Lucas (Oxford)
entry on Paul
Catholic Encyclopedia: Jerusalem (A.D. 71–1099): "As the rank ..."
^ Bargil Pixner, The Church of the
Apostles found on Mount Zion,
Biblical Archaeology Review
Biblical Archaeology Review 16.3 May/June 1990
^ Brown (1993). p. 10.
^ Brown (1993). pp. 10–11.
^ Taylor (1993). p. 224.
^ Keck (1988).
^ Pelikan (1975). p. 113.
^ citation needed
^ White (2004). pp. 127–128.
^ Ehrman (2005). p. 187.
^ Wylen (1995). pp. 133, 136.
^ Tabor (1998).
^ Thiede (2003). pp. 189–192.
^ Freedman (2000). p. 285.
^ Mills (1997) pp. 22–23.
^ McGrath (2006). p. 174.
^ McGrath (2006). pp. 174–175.
^ a b c d "Jerusalem." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the
Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
Catholic Encyclopedia: Jerusalem (A.D. 71–1099): "Epiphanius (d.
403) says that when the Emperor
Hadrian came to Jerusalem in 130 he
found the Temple and the whole city destroyed save for a few houses,
among them the one where the
Apostles had received the Holy Ghost.
This house, says Epiphanius, is "in that part of Sion which was spared
when the city was destroyed" — therefore in the "upper part ("De
mens. et pond.", cap. xiv). From the time of Cyril of Jerusalem, who
speaks of "the upper Church of the Apostles, where the Holy Ghost came
down upon them" (Catech., ii, 6; P.G., XXXIII), there are abundant
witnesses of the place. A great basilica was built over the spot in
the fourth century; the crusaders built another church when the older
one had been destroyed by Hakim in 1010. It is the famous Coenaculum
Cenacle — now a Moslem shrine — near the Gate of David, and
supposed to be David's tomb (Nebi Daud)."; Epiphanius' Weights and
Measures at tertullian.org.14: "For this Hadrian..."
^ Eusebius, Church History 3, 5, 3; Epiphanius, Panarion 29,7,7–8;
30, 2, 7; On Weights and Measures 15. On the flight to Pella see:
Bourgel, Jonathan, "The Jewish Christians’ Move from Jerusalem as a
pragmatic choice", in: Dan Jaffe (ed), Studies in Rabbinic
Early Christianity, (Leyden: Brill, 2010), pp. 107—138
P. H. R. van Houwelingen, "Fleeing forward: The departure of
Christians from Jerusalem to Pella," Westminster Theological Journal
65 (2003), 181–200.
^ Jewish Encyclopedia: Academies in Palestine
^ Harris, Stephen L. Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield.
^ Schaff's Seven Ecumenical Councils: First Nicaea: Canon VII: "Since
custom and ancient tradition have prevailed that the Bishop of Aelia
[i.e., Jerusalem] should be honoured, let him, saving its due dignity
to the Metropolis, have the next place of honour."; "It is very hard
to determine just what was the "precedence" granted to the Bishop of
Aelia, nor is it clear which is the metropolis referred to in the last
clause. Most writers, including Hefele, Balsamon, Aristenus and
Beveridge consider it to be Cæsarea; while Zonaras thinks Jerusalem
to be intended, a view recently adopted and defended by Fuchs; others
again suppose it is
Antioch that is referred to."
Encyclopædia Britannica "Quinisext Council". Encyclopædia
Britannica. Retrieved February 14, 2010. "The Western Church and the
Pope were not represented at the council. Justinian, however, wanted
Pope as well as the Eastern bishops to sign the canons. Pope
Sergius I (687–701) refused to sign, and the canons were never fully
accepted by the Western Church".
^ A. E. Medlycott, India and The Apostle Thomas, pp. 1–71, 213–97;
M. R. James, Apocryphal New Testament, pp. 364–436; Eusebius,
History, chapter 4:30; J. N. Farquhar, The Apostle Thomas in North
India, chapter 4:30; V. A. Smith, Early History of India, p. 235; L.
W. Brown, The Indian Christians of St. Thomas, pp. 49–59
Brown, Schuyler. The Origins of Christianity: A Historical
Introduction to the New Testament. Oxford University Press (1993).
Dunn, James D.G. Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry
into the Character of Earliest Christianity. SCM Press (2006).
Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the
Bible and Why. HarperCollins (2005). ISBN 0060738170.
Keck, Leander E. Paul and His Letters. Fortress Press (1988).
McGrath, Alister E. Christianity: An Introduction. Blackwell
Publishing (2006). ISBN 1405108991.
Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan. The Christian Tradition: The Emergence of the
Catholic Tradition (100–600). University of Chicago Press (1975).
Tabor, James D. "Ancient Judaism: Nazarenes and Ebionites", The Jewish
Roman World of Jesus. Department of Religious Studies; University of
North Carolina at Charlotte (1998).
Taylor, Joan E. Christians and the Holy Places: The Myth of
Jewish-Christian Origins. Oxford University Press (1993).
Thiede, Carsten Peter. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish Origins of
Christianity. Palgrabe Macmillan (2003). ISBN 1403961433.
Volp, Ulrich. Idealisierung der Urkirche (ecclesia primitiva).
European History Online
European History Online (2011), retrieved: 1 March 2013.
White, L. Michael. From
Jesus to Christianity. HarperCollins (2004).
Wylen, Stephen M. The Jews in the Time of Jesus: An Introduction.
Paulist Press (1995). ISBN 0809136104.
Schaff's History of the Christian Church, Volume I, Apostolic
Christianity in the apostolic age
A history of Christianity in the apostolic age
History of Christianity: Early Christianity
Cultural & historical
background of Jesus
the 2nd century
History of Christianity
Centuries:1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th
15th 16th 17th 18th 19th 20th 21st
Ministry of Jesus
and Apostolic Age
Paul the Apostle
Council of Jerusalem
Councils: Nicaea I
Church of the East
Fall of Constantinople
Bernard of Clairvaux
Vatican I and II
Diet of Worms
Book of Concord
Three Forms of Unity
First Great Awakening
Neo- and Old Lutherans
Second Great Awakening
Third Great Awakening
Genocide by ISIL