Home Church Community

Statement of Beliefs

Contact Us

Search Our Site

Bible Study Resource

Printer Friendly Version

Foundations for Christianity:
202 Foundations of Our Theology
and Hermeneutics

Early Church Biographies and Information

"Barnabas, Saint - Christian apostle. He was a Cypriot and a relative of St. Mark; his forename was Joseph. Several passages in the New Testament relate that Barnabas was a teacher and prophet in the church at Antioch and the companion of St. Paul on his first missionary journey. He is said to have been martyred in Cyprus. One of the oldest noncanonical Christian writings (about 2d cent. A.D.) is a letter attributed to Barnabas." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Polycarp, Saint - c.A.D. 70-A.D. 156?, Greek bishop of Smyrna, Father of the Church. He was a disciple of St. John, who appointed him bishop. Thus he linked the apostles and such 2d-century Christian expositors as St. Irenaeus. St. Polycarp was a close friend of St. Ignatius of Antioch. As a very old man, Polycarp went to Rome to discuss the problem of dating Easter. He died a martyr in Smyrna. His one surviving work, the Epistle to the Philippians, has been the subject of controversy. Some scholars have maintained that the letter is really two-one written c.115, enclosing St. Ignatius' epistles, and the other written c.135 to warn the Philippians against the teachings of Marcion. He was in his time the mainstay of Christianity in Asia Minor." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Ignatius of Antioch, Saint - d. c.107, bishop of Antioch and Christian martyr, called Theophorus [Gr.,= God-bearer]. He was probably a convert and a disciple of St. John the Evangelist. On his way to Rome to be martyred by the wild beasts of the amphitheater, he wrote the important letters to the churches in Rome and in Asia Minor, and to St. Polycarp. The seven epistles are an invaluable testimony to the beliefs and internal organization of the early Christians. St. Ignatius is the first writer to stress the virgin birth. He firmly denounced Docetism and viewed the mystery of the Trinity as an assumed doctrine of faith. The only guarantee against heresy, he taught, is the church united under a bishop. St. Ignatius is the first in Christian literature to use the word Catholic." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Irenaeus, Saint - c.125-c.202, Greek theologian, bishop of Lyons, and Father of the Church. Born in Asia Minor, he was a disciple of St. Polycarp. Irenaeus went to Rome to plead for leniency toward the Montanists (see Montanism) and for those Eastern Christians who were threatened with excommunication because they did not observe the Roman date for Easter. He remained in the West and died in Gaul. He was the earliest Father of the Church to systematize Christian doctrine and is cited frequently by later theologians. Only two of his works survive-neither in the original Greek. Against Heresies establishes Christian doctrine against the Gnostics and incidentally supplies much information on Gnosticism. The Epideixix is a concise exposition of Christian doctrine (tr. by J. P. Smith Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, 1952)." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Papias - fl. A.D. 130, early Christian theologian said to have been bishop of Hieropolis and a friend of St. Polycarp. Papias' five-volume work, Oracles; or, Explanations of the Sayings of the Lord, survives only in fragments quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea and St. Irenaeus. These are valuable sources for the history of the church." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Justin Martyr, Saint - c.A.D. 100-c.A.D. 165, Christian apologist, called also Justin the Philosopher. Born in Samaria of pagan parents, he studied philosophy, and after his conversion in Ephesus to Christianity at about the age of 38, he went from place to place trying to convert men of learning by philosophical argument. He opened a school of Christian philosophy at Rome, where he and some disciples were finally martyred under Marcus Aurelius. Of his writings (in Greek), only two undisputed works remain, the Apology (with an appendix called the Second Apology) and the Dialogue. The Apology is a learned defense of Christians against charges of atheism and sedition in the Roman state; it contains an exposition of Christian ethics and invaluable records of the customs and practices of 2d-century Christianity. The Dialogue sets forth in the form of an argument with Trypho (or Tryphon) the Jew a philosophic defense of Christian beliefs, particularly with reference to Jewish writings; it has references to the Gospels that have been of much interest to students of the Bible." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Tertullian - (Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus) c.160-c.230, Roman theologian and Christian apologist, b. Carthage. He was the son of a centurion and was well educated, especially in law. Converted to Christianity c.197, he became the most formidable defender of the faith in his day. His Latin is vigorous and effective and reflects his juridical training. Sentences of his that have become proverbial are "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church," and "It is certain because it is impossible" (often quoted incorrectly as "I believe it because it is impossible"). Some of Tertullian's opinions differed from the main stream of Christian thought, particularly his more rigorous view of sin and its forgiveness. After long defending the Montanists (see Montanism), he left the church (213) to join them; he later established his own sect, known as Tertullianists. Tertullian's most important writings are Apologeticus, Ad Nationes, and De Praescriptione." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Other Important Figures and Writings

"Patristic literature - Christian writings of the first few centuries. They are chiefly in Greek and Latin; there is analogous writing in Syriac and in Armenian. The first period of patristic literature (1st-2d cent.) includes the works of St. Clement I, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp, and Papias, the writing known as the Shepherd of Hermas (see Hermas, Shepherd of), the Didache, and the first Christian Pseudepigrapha. The writers of the 3d cent., often called the ante-Nicene Fathers, are principally St. Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, St. Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, and St. Cyprian. The last two of these are the earliest Fathers to write in Latin. As Christianity established itself, the interest shifted from apologetics to the new theological questions and to sermons and exegesis of Scripture. In the 4th and 5th cent. the number of writers increased greatly. The chief writers in Greek were Eusebius of Caesarea, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril (of Jerusalem), St. Cyril (of Alexandria), and St. Athanasius. Among the Latin Fathers were St. Hilary of Poitiers, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Jerome (who set a standard for later Latin in the Vulgate), Cassian, Salvian, St. Hilary of Arles, St. Caesarius of Arles, and St. Gregory of Tours. The list in the West is closed conventionally with St. Gregory I, although St. Bernard of Clairvaux is often called the last of the Fathers. The canon of Greek Fathers is closed with St. John of Damascus. There is a monumental collection of the Fathers (to Innocent III in the West and to the fall of Constantinople in the East) by Jacques Paul Migne; the Greek texts are accompanied by Latin translations. There are several collections of the Fathers in English, including new editions recently undertaken, and innumerable individual translations." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Didache - early Christian work written in Greek, called also The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. Dates for its composition suggested by scholars have ranged from A.D. 50 to A.D. 150. Discovered in 1875 by Bryennios, Greek Orthodox metropolitan of Nicomedia, it is an invaluable primary source for the primitive church. The first part is a collection of moral precepts, perhaps based on rabbinical teachings (there are many quotations from the Old Testament); the second portion gives directions for baptism and the Eucharist; the third contains directions for bishops and deacons. The Didache may be of composite authorship. A short work, it has been published in English translation in collections of patristic literature." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Hermas, Shepherd of - Christian apocalyptic work, composed in Rome c.A.D. 139-A.D. 155. It is a collection of revelations given to Hermas, a devout Christian, by an angel (Shepherd) and is divided into three sections: Visions, Mandates, and Similitudes. The teachings are concerned mostly with matters of penance, morals, and the condition of the church; they were highly regarded by early Christians. The book is extant in fragments of the original Greek and in complete Latin and Ethiopic texts. It has been published in English translation in collections of patristic literature." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Athanasius, Saint - c.297-373, patriarch of Alexandria (328-73), Doctor of the Church, great champion of orthodoxy during the Arian crisis of the 4th cent. (see Arianism). In his youth, as secretary to Bishop Alexander, he took part in the christological debate against Arius at the Council of Nicaea (see Nicaea, First Council of), and thereafter became chief protagonist for Nicene orthodoxy in the long struggle for its acceptance in the East. He defended the homoousion formula that states that Jesus is of the same substance as the Father, against the various Arian parties who held that Jesus was not identical in substance with the Father. Made bishop of Alexandria upon the death of his superior, he faced a conspiracy led by Eusebius of Nicomedia to return the condemned Arius to Egypt. When Athanasius refused to yield, a pro-Arian council held at Tyre (335) found him guilty of sacrilege, the practice of magic, dishonest grain dealings, and even murder. Athanasius appealed to Constantine who demanded a retrial, then unaccountably ordered Athanasius into exile-the first of five." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Sabellius - fl. 215, Christian priest and theologian, b. probably Libya or Egypt. He went to Rome, became the leader of those who accepted the doctrine of modalistic monarchianism, and was excommunicated by Pope St. Calixtus I in 220. Opposing the orthodox teaching of "essential Trinity," Sabellius advanced the doctrine of the "economic Trinity." God, he held, was one indivisible substance, but with three fundamental activities, or modes, appearing successively as the Father (the creator and lawgiver), as the Son (the redeemer), and as the Holy Spirit (the maker of life and the divine presence within men). The term Sabellianism later was used to include all sorts of speculative ideas that had become attached to the original ideas of Sabellius and his followers. In the East, all monarchians came to be labeled Sabellians." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Constantine I, Roman emperor - or Constantine the Great, 288?-337, Roman emperor, b. Naissus (present-day Ni, Serbia and Montenegro). He was the son of Constantius I and Helena and was named in full Flavius Valerius Constantinus…When Diocletian and Maximian resigned in 305, Constantius and Galerius became emperors…Constantius died at York the next year. There, his soldiers proclaimed Constantine emperor, but much rivalry for the vacated office ensued…When Galerius died in 310, still another claimant to the imperial throne appeared in Maximin (d. 313), who allied himself with Maxentius against the alliance of Licinius and Constantine. While Licinius attacked Maximin, Constantine moved into Italy against Maxentius. The rivals for Italy met (312) at the Milvian or Mulvian Bridge over the Tiber near Rome. Before the battle Constantine, who was already sympathetic toward Christianity, is said by Eusebius of Caesarea to have seen in the sky a flaming cross inscribed with the words, "In this sign thou shalt conquer." He adopted the cross and was victorious. Maxentius was routed and killed. The battle is regarded as a turning point for Christianity…In 313 Constantine and his fellow emperor, Licinius, met at Milan and there issued the so-called Edict of Milan, confirming Galerius' edict of 309, which stated that Christianity would be tolerated throughout the empire. The edict in effect made Christianity a lawful religion, although it did not, as is sometimes believed, make Christianity the official state religion. No longer having Maximin to contend with, Licinius challenged Constantine, and a brief struggle followed. Constantine, victorious, took (315) control over Greece and the Balkans, and the uneasy peace that followed lasted until 324, when Licinius again vied with Constantine. This time Licinius lost his throne and ultimately his life…Constantine was now sole ruler of the empire, and in a reign of peace he set about rebuilding the strength of old Rome. Constantine continued to tolerate paganism and even to encourage the imperial cult. At the same time, however, he endeavored to unify and strengthen Christianity…In 314 he convened a synod at Arles to regulate the Church in the West, and in 325 he convened and presided over a council at Nicaea to deal with the troubles over Arianism (see Nicaea, First Council of). Thus Constantine evolved the idea of the ecumenical council. In 330 he moved the capital to Byzantium, which was rebuilt as Constantinople, a city predominantly Christian and dedicated to the Virgin. He seems to have favored compromise with Arianism, and in 335, in defiance of the Council of Tyre, he exiled St. Athanasius…As the founder of the Christian empire, Constantine began a new era. He was an absolute ruler, and his reign saw the culmination of the tendency toward despotic rule, centralized bureaucracy, and separation of military and civil powers evolved by Diocletian…Historians differ greatly in their assessments of Constantine's motives and the depth of his Christian conviction. Early Christian writers portray him as a devout convert, although they have difficulty explaining his execution in 320 (on adultery charges) of Crispus, his son by his first wife, and Fausta, his wife. Some later historians see him as a political genius, expediently using Christianity to unify his empire. An intermediate interpretation pictures him as a pagan gradually converted to Christianity (he was baptized on his deathbed), using his new belief for personal ends much as earlier emperors had used the imperial cult." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Augustine, Saint - Lat. Aurelius Augustinus, 354-430, one of the four Latin Fathers, bishop of Hippo (near present-day Annaba, Algeria), b. Tagaste (c.40 mi/60 km S of Hippo)." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001…St. Augustine's influence on Christianity is thought by many to be second only to that of St. Paul, and theologians, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, look upon him as one of the founders of Western theology…his best-known work is the City of God (after 412)…Augustine regarded all history as God's providential preparation of two mystical cities, one of God and one of the devil, to one or the other of which all humankind will finally belong…Against Donatism St. Augustine directed two works, On Baptism and On the Correction of the Donatists, in which he formulated the idea, since then become part of Roman Catholicism, that the church's authority is the guarantee of the Christian faith, its own guarantee being the apostolic succession… The most important and vitriolic controversy in which St. Augustine was involved was his battle against Pelagianism. The Pelagians denied original sin and the fall of humanity. The implication of this aroused Augustine, who held that humanity was corrupt and helpless. From his writings the great controversies on grace proceed, and as professed followers of Augustine, John Calvin and the Jansenists developed predestinarian theologies." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Origen - 185?-254?, Christian philosopher and scholar. His full name was Origines Adamantius, and he was born in Egypt, probably in Alexandria. When he was quite young, his father was martyred. At the age of 18, Origen became head of the catechetical school of Alexandria, where he had studied under Clement of Alexandria…His interpretation of the Scriptures in preaching and lecturing won him wide acclaim. Later (c.230) the bishops of Jerusalem and Caesarea ordained him, but Demetrius, his own bishop, ordered him deposed and banished from Alexandria. In Caesarea, Origen founded (231) a new school that became even more illustrious than the one in Alexandria…Origen was imprisoned, tortured, and pilloried; this experience probably caused his death some time after his release. Learned in Greek philosophy, he was a most erudite and profound biblical scholar as well. According to St. Jerome he wrote 800 works. Extant are letters, apologies, and exegeses. His critical edition of the Bible, the Hexapla, is famous in the history of textual criticism; this was a parallel edition of six Hebrew and two Greek versions. None of these remains in its original form. Origen's system of theology is given in his De principiis [on first principles], known through a Latin version of Rufinus. The chief of his apologies is Contra Celsum [against Celsus]. Origen attempted to synthesize the fundamental principles of Greek philosophy, particularly those of Neoplatonism and Stoicism, with the Christianity of creed and Scripture so as to prove the Christian view of the universe to be compatible with Greek thought. Before St. Augustine, Origen was the most influential theologian in the church. His threefold plan of interpreting Scripture (literal, ethical, and allegorical) influenced subsequent exegetical works. In spite of Origen's fame as an apologist for Christianity, there was question as to his orthodoxy. His somewhat recondite blending of pagan philosophy with Christian theology led to his condemnation by Justinian in the Monophysite controversy. There is good reason to believe that he was often the victim of misquotation and unfair interpretation." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Clement of Alexandria - (Titus Flavius Clemens), d. c.215, Greek theologian. Born in Athens, he traveled widely and was converted to Christianity. He studied and taught at the catechetical school in Alexandria until the persecution of 202. Origen was his pupil there. He probably died in Caesarea, Cappadocia. Clement was one of the first to attempt a synthesis of Platonic and Christian thought; in this his successors in the Alexandrian school were more successful. Only a few works survive. He attacked Gnosticism, but he himself has been called a Christian Gnostic. Although Clement remained entirely orthodox, in his writing he strove to state the faith in terms of contemporary thought. He was long venerated as a saint, but Photius, in the 9th cent., regarded Clement as a heretic. Because of Photius's contentions the name of Clement was removed from the Roman martyrology." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Cyprian, Saint - 200?-258, Father of the Church, bishop of Carthage (c.248), and perhaps a disciple of Tertullian. Converted in his middle age, he rose quickly to become the most powerful bishop in Africa…He recognized the preeminence of the Church of Rome, but fell into sharp dispute with Pope Stephen I on the validity of baptism conferred by heretics or schismatics; Cyprian believed persons so baptized had to be rebaptized upon entering the church. The question was settled in favor of the Roman teaching, after Cyprian's martyrdom in the persecution of Valerian. He is mentioned in the canon of the Mass." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Clement I, Saint - or Clement of Rome, d. A.D. 97?…(A.D. 88?-A.D. 97?), martyr; successor of St. Cletus. He may have known the apostles Peter and Paul and was a highly esteemed figure in the church…He was succeeded by St. Evaristus." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Arius - c.256-336, Libyan theologian, founder of the Arian heresy. A parish priest in Alexandria, he advanced the doctrine famous as Arianism and was excommunicated locally (321). He was declared orthodox in Asia Minor, where he had fled (323), but he was anathematized by the Council of Nicaea (see Nicaea, First Council of) and banished by Roman Emperor Constantine (325). But in the reaction after Nicaea, he came into imperial favor. The emperor had ordered the Athanasians at Alexandria to receive him at communion when he suddenly died." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Arianism - Christian heresy founded by Arius in the 4th cent. It was one of the most widespread and divisive heresies in the history of Christianity. As a priest in Alexandria, Arius taught (c.318) that God created, before all things, a Son who was the first creature, but who was neither equal to nor coeternal with the Father. According to Arius, Jesus was a supernatural creature not quite human and not quite divine. In these ideas Arius followed the school of Lucian of Antioch…Because of his heretical teachings, Arius was condemned and deprived of his office. He fled to Palestine and spread his doctrine among the masses through popular sermons and songs, and among the powerful through the efforts of influential leaders, such as Eusebius of Nicomedia and, to a lesser extent, Eusebius of Caesarea. The civil as well as the religious peace of the East was threatened, and Roman Emperor Constantine I convoked (325) the first ecumenical council (see Nicaea, First Council of)… Eusebius of Nicomedia used this fear of Sabellianism to persuade Constantine to return Arius to his duties in Alexandria. Athanasius, chief defender of the Nicene formula, was bishop in Alexandria, and conflict was inevitable. The Eusebians managed to secure Athanasius' exile…" - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Eusebius of Nicomedia - d. 342, Christian churchman and theologian, leader of the heresy of Arianism. He was bishop of Nicomedia (330-39) and patriarch of Constantinople (339-42); Eusebius was powerful because of his influence with Roman Emperor Constantine I and particularly with the emperor's son, Constantius II. He sheltered Arius in 321 and fought his condemnation at Nicaea (see Nicaea, First Council of). Eusebius signed the Nicene formulary but was exiled by Constantine shortly afterward. Eusebius' influence on the emperor's sister Constantia, however, soon won him his reprieve (328). As adviser to Constantius, a committed Arian, he systematically advanced a moderate Arianism throughout the empire." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Eusebius of Caesarea - or Eusebius Pamphili, c.263-339?, Greek apologist and church historian, b. Palestine. He was bishop of Caesarea, Palestine (314?-339). In the controversy over Arianism, Eusebius favored the semi-Arian views of Eusebius of Nicomedia, and he once gave refuge to Arius. A simple baptismal creed submitted by Eusebius at the First Council of Nicaea (325) formed the basis of what became known as the Nicean Creed; it was amended with the Greek word homoousios [consubstantial, of the same substance] to define the Son's relationship with the Father. Eusebius considered this addition to the creed as reflecting the ideas of Sabellius, which he opposed. Although he signed the formulary, he later did not support it. His works include a universal history entitled the Chronicle, the Ecclesiastical History, and the apologetic works Praeparatio Evangelica and Demonstratio Evangelica." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Nicaea, First Council of - 325, 1st ecumenical council, convened by Roman Emperor Constantine the Great to solve the problems raised by Arianism. It has been said that 318 persons attended, but a more likely number is 225, including every Eastern bishop of importance, four Western bishops (among them Hosius of Córdoba, president of the council), and two papal legates. The chief figures at the council were Arius and his opponent, Athanasius. The council adopted, as a test of faith, a formula that seems to have been based on a simple baptismal creed presented possibly by Eusebius of Caesarea; this was not, however, the creed generally circulated today as the Nicene Creed (see creed). The formula included the Greek word homoousion [consubstantial], which was used concerning the Son and the Father. The word, suggested probably by Hosius, became the touchstone of orthodoxy and the bugbear of Arianism, for it established the divinity and the equality of the Son to the Father. The creed was accepted by all the bishops except two, who were banished along with Arius to Illyricum. The council ruled on other questions as well, attempting to standardize the date of Easter and granting patriarchal authority to the bishop of Alexandria. The First Council of Nicaea was significant as the model and the original of great councils. The test it adopted provided a universal statement of faith in place of the earlier and varying baptismal formulas." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.