Biblical Studies/History of the Roman Catholic Church

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This is a study guide for the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

The importance of history[edit | edit source]

1.Sources of history

  • Books: both by those "participating" in history, and those "observing" history
  • Audio and video recordings
  • Newspaper, magazine, and internet news articles
  • Artifacts
  • Oral history

2.Why do we study history?

  • To make sure that we don't repeat the mistakes of the past
  • To repeat the successes of the past
  • To maintain and use a database of experiences that will allow us to infer courses of action when we encounter new situations
  • To understand that events in the past effect current events; chronologies (timelines) only give us the foundational facts

3. The role of the church in the world has changed over time

Models of church[edit | edit source]

  1. Servant: Church acts to serve all people
  2. Herald of God's Word: Church spreading the gospel throughout the world
  3. Institution: A corporate structure which is organized with particular rules and a hierarchy which then allows it to grow and continue over time
  4. Community of Disciples: Church acting in such a way so as to show how Jesus wants us to live
  5. Sacrament: Church, unified, acting to bring God into the world
  6. Body of Christ/People of God: Church acting to bring Christ into the world

The earliest church[edit | edit source]

  1. Paul went on three missionary trips
  2. Paul got in trouble and said he was a Roman citizen, which he was.
  3. When he got to Rome, he was persecuted

Paul's Mission[edit | edit source]

Paul acted as a missionary to spread Christianity around the areas of Rome, Israel and North Africa, he made 3 trips and after that he revisited the areas he had visited to preach again and to monitor the conditions of the area.

Paul's primary motivation is always to bring as many as possible to salvation through Christ. In Rome Paul wanted to also accomplish : 1. Make Christianity larger and more influential. 2. Wants Roman Citizens to send him as missionary into Spain.

In Spain, Paul didn't do well because of the different culture, religious beliefs, and language. In 50 AD, the Council of Jerusalem established that you don't have to follow Kosher laws to be Christian.

Persecutions[edit | edit source]

Demand for conformity lead to Persecution lead to Martyrs.

Two major persecutions

a. Mid 2nd century.
b. Starts in 303 with clergy, then all Christians in 305; ends in 311

As Paul was persecuted by people by his teachings, newly baptized Christians too faced the same, their persecution in the Roman society led to deaths; these Christians were forced to profess Pagan Religions at that time and Christians too refused to offer offerings to Pagan gods before competitions and wars. In 285, Diocletian rises to power and splits the Roman Empire into East(Constantinople) and West(Rome) and has a leader for each which is called the Augustus and a Caesar who is the vice leader.

306 Diocletian abdicates which means a new Caeser needs to be chosen. The people want Constatine to become Caesar but on the way down to Rome, the other one dies..

The Battle of the Milvian Bridge, October 28, 312

Constantine sees the Greek letters chi and rho, which is the symbol for Christianity. God told him to put it on everything he could find. This is the first time someone fought with Christianity. The Edict of Milan, 313, made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire.

Constantine[edit | edit source]

a) He wants the empire to be unified, and he trys Christianity to do that.

   1) He gives them money and land.
   2) He makes church officials government officials too.

The Church endorses the Empire in return for the things that it has given to them.

The Church begins to develop a theology.


Heresy- a teaching that is contrary to the essential teachings of a religion.

Gnosticism- All matter is inherently evil, therefore Jesus cannot be man. Arianism- Jesus is man, not God. Monophysitism- Jesus was fully human but then was taken over by a divine nature, and then was fully God.

The Creed

A creed was written to stamp out these heresies, to make it unified.

A creed is a statement of beliefs.

In 324 Constantine called a council in his seaside resort of Nicea. He paid for all the bishops to come. It took six months.

On 14 June 325, they came up with the Nicene Creed.

Arianism continued for another fifty-five years.

A Christian Empire

380 Theodosius made Christianity the only legal religion in the empire.

May 381 the Constantinopolitan Creed was written, it expanded the part about the Holy Sprit, and it used a narrative style for better use in liturgy. It clarified the anti-Arian language of Nicea. Arianism goes away.

Monasticism Isolated from society to seek God because monastics want to escape the imperial influence on Christianity.

The first known monk was St. Anthony of Egypt, he spent eighty years in the desert, and started monasteries.

Hermetic Monasticism: Serve God through work and prayer.

Communal Monasticism: community of monastics

Women greatly influenced the great people of the church. convent- where women are bound together by vows of religious life.

St. Basil came up with a system of monastic life.

St. Basil's Rule 1) Eat only what you need. 2) Own only what you need. 3) Obey the abbot.

Rule of St. Benedict ORA ET LABORA A monks life should be a balance of prayer and work.

Basil's rule was generally used in the east, and Benedict's in the west.

PAX ROMANA Economic stability Organized society System of defense National identity

West After the fall of the empire Christianity is the only unified thing in the west. Conglomeration of Barbarian tribes. Uses: Latin, Basilicae, Benedictine monks.

East Byzantine Empire The empire controlled the church in the east "Patriarchs" and the empire appointed them Uses": Greek, Eastern basilicae, Basilian monks. Justinian was the last strong emperor 527-565

  • He establishes the Justinian Code "laws"
  • It was the basis of all early European law and the Napoleonic Code.
  • It made divorce harder, and you couldn't sell your family.